The possible members of Puerto Rico’s new Oversight Board

by | Jul 14, 2016 | Federal Government | Comments

In an attempt by President Obama to remind the citizens of Puerto Rico that the United States has not forgotten about their current debt crisis, he has signed off a rescue bill for this territory.  The US Senate recently passed this bill, the PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act).  This act will establish an Oversight Board to plan and manage the response to the nearly 70 billion dollar debt engulfing Puerto Rico.  As romantic as this new legislation sounds, the governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla, admits this while needed,  is not consistent with our country’s basic democratic principles.”

Two individuals who who are presumed to fill two of the available seats are Senator Bill Nelson (D) of Florida and Senator Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey.  Nelson has shown to have much sympathy for the people of Puerto Rico and was quoted: “the truth is somewhere in the middle. Puerto Rico has just been hit by one thing after another. They don’t have the same kind of Medicaid reimbursement that other states have. That’s not fair,” he said. “They’ve got high unemployment and therefore less tax revenue coming in and that’s hurt them as well. And now, compounding everything is the Zika crisis.”

Although Puerto Rico might not welcome the bill with open arms, it is safe to assume this one board member will have a positive impact.  Menendez has also been mentioned as a potential choice.  His views on the board are displayed in the following:  “I’ve said from the beginning that any solution needs a clear path to restructuring.  It needs an oversight board that represents the people of Puerto Rico — their needs, their concerns — and acknowledges and respects their democratic rights as Americans.”

Various names have been mentioned to fill the three remaining available positions of the Oversight Board.  Some of these include: George Pataki, Kevyn Orr, and Richard Ravitch.  Pataki who is a former New York Governor and maintains a residence in Puerto Rico.  Orr is a credible member who worked closely with Detroit’s bankruptcy troubles as Emergency Manager.  Ravitch, has maintained several titles such as heading the New York City Urban Development Corp.

Ironically enough, the provisions of this bill do not allow input taken from the actual Puerto Rican government.  Instead of treating Puerto Rico like a part of the US, the government is forcibly giving a board of advisors that will “fix the problem.” This seems to put into question just how effective this board will be once it has the debt issues fixed and leaves the government there left to dry upon leaving.

Correction: Senators Bill Nelson and Robert Menendez have been a pointed to a Congressional Task Force on economic development, not the Oversight Board.