The use of geographical terms such as “island” does not accurately reflect the “proper designation of a city or state” in our Federal System of Government. The confusion over our Governmental Responsibilities that should be shared between the “State Legislature and the Local Municipal Councils” needs to be clarified and exercised more. I’m sure most readers will agree our Municipal Councils are dysfunctional to say the least. I have often had people ask me “what does the Municipal Council do” in dismay because WE the People almost never hear of any “Local Legislation” (Ordinances). Believe it or not readers, we actually have it backwards because on the mainland the State Governments actually look to Local Governments for funding but it’s the other way around in the CNMI. There have been entirely too many issues that were addressed at the State level when they should be an issue for the Local Government.
The recent issue over the “Community Chest Funds” actually shinned a light to illuminate the need for the Local Municipal Councils to be more assertive and part of the Government’s activities because the Community Chest Funds should actually be in the hands of the “Mayor & Municipal Council” and not the State Level Lottery Commission. It is absolutely ridiculous for a State Lottery Commission who are appointed Republican emissaries to be allowed to dictate Local Community Chest Funds & Needs. First, they let the Governor give the Community Chest money to IPI to control and now they have given a ridiculous three-year extension for IPI to pay. IPI already owed 37 million and after this year another 20 million, 9 million in Taxes already due and if you add the three-year extension of 20 million for each year IPI will owe the CNMI 126 million — talking about Ka uku!!!
It is absolute MADNESS to extend this large amount of money and WE the People don’t get ANY collateral from IPI like “a guaranteed percentage of ownership in the Hotel & Casino.” Does this Lottery Commission think WE the People are stupid or what because they are now literally giving a 126 million LOAN with no collateral? The next Legislature with the Democrats MUST go-back and fix everything that has to do with IPI because they are just playing the “stall-game” that does not have any concern for protecting the interest of the People in IPI. That contract with IPI is with the PEOPLE, not the Lottery Commission who does NOT have the authority to make decisions for ALL of the People in OUR contract with IPI.
The basic structure of our Government’s Operations, including funding, is taught in High School Government yet we couldn’t get that right because of the “power grabbing efforts” to control ALL the money at the state level. One of the things our Republicans have done is to “hog-all-the-power & money” over the past two decades to control all the revenues at the State Level when some of the Government Revenues should be collected at the Local Level. WE only pay “State Taxes & Fees” in the CNMI when these Taxes & Fees should be “SHARED” between the State & Local Government, like everywhere else in America, duh.
The Mayor and Municipal Council should have their own budget from revenues that they generate and not be depending upon the State Legislature to give them every penny. Local Government in Cities on the mainland create their own revenues and State Governments create their own SEPARATE revenues… But our Municipal Councils are totally dependent upon the State Legislature which is dead WRONG! The Republicans in the CNMI have turned everything into a “State Issue” because even the Casino for Saipan was supposed to have been negotiated by the Mayor and Municipal Council, and not our State Legislature. The State’s only obligation was to “allow for a casino” but the actual deal was supposed to have been made by Saipan Local Officials. The city of Las Vegas earns money for the city to use and the State Government only gets a piece of the pie that is controlled by Local Officials. But we all know that the kind of money and power that comes with a casino was going to corrupt and it did. From the casino’s very conception the State Legislature totally eliminated the Mayor & Municipal Council true role in Governing over Saipan. The Casino was for the City of Saipan technically but it was treated like a State Issue even putting the Community Chest Fund for Local Municipalities under a State Lottery Commission so they can manipulate the funds, which they did and are still making ridiculous state deals that should be Local deals.
Just look at how Tinian and Rota have to suffer because there is NO Local Funding for the island only State Funding from the Legislature. Heck, they even make ALL of Rota goods come through Saipan which is ridiculous when they could come straight from Guam which is the main reason goods cost so much on Rota. In fact, when the tern “Local Government” is used in reference to our Government it is interpreted as being “the State Level Government over all of the CNMI” which is wrong because Local Government is really the Mayor and Municipal Council — a lesson we should be introducing at the Junior High Level and re-teaching (reinforcement & scaffolding) in the study of our Federal System at the 10th grade level in Social Studies. But there are no Local Resources, something former Commissioner Torres recognized we needed over two decades ago and to this day there are only two — my book People & Villages and Don Ferrell’s History Book.
WE the People can also forget about this Republican Mayor fighting against this Republican Governor to rectify the structure between State & Local Governments which we can fix with a Democrat in the next election. But one of the first things the next Municipal Councils on all three islands can do come January is to “start collecting fees from Tourists, not Locals, to enter certain Tourist Sites on all three islands” and the Legislature can’t do a darn thing about. It’s time to assert “Local Sovereignty” which none of the Municipal Councils have ever challenged in the past but just went along with the Legislature out of ignorance. But they are now being EDUMACATED as we teasingly say in my culture (look it up), so they can start taking more control of “Local Matters & Funding.” It’s time to make our State Government work with our Local Government, which is another “check & balance” within the Federal System that has never been exercised in the CNMI. One of the first thing our next Legislature and new members of the Municipal Council need to do in concert is to “transfer the entire Community Chest issue & funds to the Mayors and Municipal Councils” on each island. The Community Chest Funds should be shared by all three islands based on the “Federal Standard and Expectation of Apportionment by Population Totals” which is equal and fair. The Municipal Council also need to work with the Legislature to be empowered to identify “Public Places for Marijuana Usage.”
In simple terms it’s time to “reform the structure of our Government to allow the Mayor and Municipal Councils to play a much bigger and more appropriate role in our Government at the Local Level.” To be continued: One People One Direction.
The writer is a retired teacher, former CNMI Board of Education Member, James Madison Fellow (U.S. Constitutional Scholar) and a Fulbright-Hays Foreign Scholar who resides in Kagman III.