1987 was a CNMI midterm election year, and the campaign rhetoric, as usual, was blistering. One of the senatorial candidates complained about his opponent’s attacks on the candidate’s father and uncle (elected officials both). The candidate was also quoted by Variety as saying, “The U.S. isn’t the only game in town…. The Russians would be glad to have us and they wouldn’t be telling us what to do all the time and how to run our own business.” Variety noted that the candidate “had been drinking when he made the statement,” but “despite being asked three times if he ‘really meant that on the record’…each time [he] said that he wanted to be quoted as ‘standing up for [his island] and letting the United States know that we won’t be pushed around….” Eventually, Variety reported, “several of his friends who had been listening to the interview came over and hustled him away.” Two weeks later, the candidate sent a letter to the editor stating that we published a “misleading, inaccurate article.”  Sure. The candidate then accused the Variety reporter of supporting the candidate’s opponent. Of course.

There were also allegations of “enhancing one’s personal fortune” while in office. These included the purchase of an official government vehicle that was used by an elected official who later sold it to the government for a higher price.

Another candidate for office was described as a “political tyrant” — “a carbon copy of Little Hitler.”

On Capital Hill, the public auditor told lawmakers that 53 government employees were overpaid and should return the overtime and holiday compensation they had received. The FBI, for its part, was investigating whether a U.S.-based company’s payment of $350,000 (worth over $840,000 today) to the local housing authority was a bribe.

In an editorial, Variety thundered, “We should be ashamed of ourselves!”

Why?

“Our public beaches and parks are rapidly becoming havens for rats and other vermin — not nice places to enjoy the gifts of Nature. Stinking smells of garbage and blowing papers are replacing fresh aromas of clean sea air and blowing palm fronds because of the trash being dumped on the ground and into the sea.” The editor recommended that the CNMI “enact and strictly enforce a tough anti-littering law on Saipan. Officers should patrol the parks and beaches to keep the peace, but also to make sure that all litter is picked up.”

Now that’s an idea whose time has…never mind.

On MV’s op-ed page, the weekly poll question was, “Would you be willing to pay an additional tax on fuel for better roads?” According to the editor, “We have had no responses thus far to our question….” Asking taxpayers to pay an additional tax for a public service that they believed they were already paying for…hmmm.

In a paid political advertisement, a political party asked voters, “Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to think about clean water — because the people in charge did?”

A senatorial candidate said his and his party’s goal “is nothing less than the forging of a new leadership with honor and dignity to resolve the problems of the present and meet the demands of the future.” He promised “courageous, responsible leadership and fiscal responsibility” — the “trademarks of a fighter for the people….”

Two other candidates said they “care about our children’s future” and “will not rest until the voice of the people is heard once again in our island government.” Not to be outdone, another candidate vowed not to rest “until everyone who wants a job has a job and is earning a decent living.” Yet another candidate said he was for “honest and clean government.”

Another political ad proclaimed: “CORRUPTION, FRAUD, BRIBERY. Is This Doing Government ‘RIGHT’? Restore Honesty to our Government on November 7.”

Back on Capital Hill, a lawmaker proposed the creation of an ad hoc committee to review the government deficit and to prepare a deficit reduction plan. He said the government “cannot legally incur deficits and Commonwealth officials have never officially recognized that deficits do in fact exist.” He said the ad hoc committee “should be empowered to call hearings, subpoena documents and persons….”

Hearings and subpoenas! That should “solve” the problem, right?

Finally, good news from Nov. 13, 1987:

“Effective with this issue…Marianas Variety joins a select group of newspapers which are available on-line. Up to 34 news stories which appear in the newspaper each week can be accessed by customers of Saipan Computer Services through modems.”

It was a brave new world.

Send feedback to editor@mvariety.com

Editor

Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His three books are available on amazon.com

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