Bryan administration to focus on delivering promises, reducing debt
Last November, the United States Virgin Islands elected a new governor. Democratic Party nominee Albert Bryan Jr. and his running mate Senator Tregenza Roach won the gubernatorial runoff election on November 20 against the Independent incumbent Kenneth E. Mapp
The Bryan-Roach ticket finished first, ahead of Mapp during the General Election on November 6, with roughly 38% of the vote to Mapp’s 33.6%. The runoff election was precipitated by the territories election law stating a candidate must secure 50% of the vote outright if he/she is to win the general election.
Once Bryan and Mapp advanced to the runoff, candidates who lost the general election almost all endorsed Bryan over Mapp. Adlah “Foncie” Donastorg who finished third in the general with 16% did not publicly endorse any candidate, although her running mate, Senator Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, did publicly endorse Bryan. The fourth place candidate Warren Mosler’s running-mate, Ray Fonseca, did publicly endorse Mapp, however, Mosler stated he’s continue “to advise against voting for Governor Mapp under any circumstances.”
Bryan has held many different positions inside and outside government. Some of his recent positions include being the founder and president of Aabra Group, an eight-year tenure as Labor commissioner, and chairman of the Economic Development Authority and the Government Development Bank.
For many voters, Bryan represented a fresh start for US Virgin Island politics. He has stated that one of his most important goals while in office will be to restore the islander’s confidence in government. To this end, Bryan stated in a wide-ranging interview with the St. Thomas Source he will “restructure government to promote accountability and transparency. I intend to begin the process of instilling a true performance-based management culture within the Government of the Virgin Islands.”
Mapp says the trust between islanders and their government has eroded because “there is little confidence that the Government of the Virgin Islands is capable of keeping the promises it makes to its workers, vendors, and taxpayers.”
These issues are most obviously represented in the islands’ rising debt and collapsing retirement fund. The incoming Bryan-Roach administration made it a point of emphasis during their campaign to press the outgoing Mapp on his shortcomings regarding these issues.
Bryan and Roach believes “[the US Virgin Island’s] can no longer continue to spend more than we have.” Bryan is hoping to implement a conservative budget that will significantly reduce the debt the islands currently hold. He does not believe in long-term borrowing practices for short-term goals, something the territory has done repeatedly over previous administrations.
Bryan also strongly believes the government and the territory itself must be accountable to their past mistakes and can only rectify these issues themselves. He does not think the implementation of a financial control board, like the one instituted for Puerto Rico, is necessary or applicable to his territories financial woes.
“Elected officials continue to gloss over the underlying weaknesses of our economy, which prevents us from taking the collective action required to address those challenges. The austerity measures that [Puerto Rico’s Oversight Board] insist on are not always in the best interest of the Puerto Rican people.”
Rather, Bryan believes they serve overseas bond investors, and that is something he will not tolerate for the US Virgin Islands. Bryan is all about serving his citizens, “I love these Virgin Islands and care about our people.” He continued, “too many Virgin Islanders feel left behind and abandoned by this government. I believe I can provide the leadership to modernize our government and instill a renewed sense of purpose.”
Part of Bryan’s modernization plan calls for a total reorganization of the territories Government Employee Retirement System (GERS). In order to save it from insolvency, the Bryan administration is proposing freezing new entries into the GERS program until enough capital can be raised to cover the current 3 billion dollar shortfall. New applicants will be placed in an entirely different system that will be part defined benefits and defined contribution plan.
There are three areas of focus that Bryan’s administration will focus on to raise the needed capital. They include, boosting rum exports, the hosting of gaming internet sites, and lastly, pursuing “intellectual rights on cannabis research for pharmaceutical products.”
Bryan is a proponent for the legalization of medical marijuana because of its proven health benefits, especially for use in cancer patients. However, Bryan is not—currently—in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Bryan and Roach are ambitious and adamant about affecting real change on the territory moving forward. They are optimistic that the Democratic wave that also swept the islands legislature will help advance their agenda.
Only time will tell, but the new administration and islanders alike appear optimistic this election will help lead the territory and its people forward to greater prosperity.