Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It's that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.
I have to admit that some of the events of this past week have been particularly gratifying for me, seeing people come together and say enough is enough, we are in a mess and we have to stop counting on our politicians to fix it and get us out of it. I had Tina Sablan come in and read her letter for last week's Food For Thought, then this past Wednesday she held a community forum at Garapan Elementary school where any interested community member could come and share their thoughts and concerns. The issues that came out of this first community forum aren't new; I've been talking about most of them for the past 5 years. The need to have an elected Attorney General, downsizing of the legislature and turning it into a part time body, and drastically cutting the size of our government. And the one thing that tells me that this movement has momentum this time is that it's not being done during an election time. We have learned that our politicians will tell us absolutely anything to get elected; therefore I am always skeptical when I see these types of forums or rallies when they pop up in conjunction with a political party or an election. You might recall that we were promised if a certain candidate were elected, he would do away with the fuel surcharge on our C.U.C. bill as soon as he took office. It didn't happen, and less than a year later our C.U.C. bill over doubled in many cases. Another candidate promised to give us 4 more years of the same if we re-elected him, fortunately we didn't give him that opportunity. The point is that unfortunately we really can't believe anything our politicians tell us; they have proven that time and time again, they will say anything to hang on to power.
The thing that makes these community meetings and forums unique is that politicians or political parties are not organizing them, regular people, just like you and I, are organizing them. If real change is to happen, that is where it needs to start, and where the work needs to take place. If we continue waiting for our politicians to change things and improve anything, there will be nothing left to fix by the time they realize they need to get serious about it. The proof of these statements is recorded in the House and Senate records. Go back as many years as you'd like and see what they really have accomplished. If it is left up to them, they will never downsize the legislature or turn it into a part time body. A large part of the reason is that it is far too lucrative right now for the Tinian and Rota members of the Senate, and they are not about to give up that kind of money or those perks. If true change and real improvements are to take place, time and history have taught us that it will have to come from the grass roots level, our politicians simply don't have the will or integrity to truly fix the problems, since they have become a major part of the problems, and have structured things so that they handsomely benefit as a result.
It seems that people have truly had enough of politics as usual and realize that in order for any of us to survive, we must make some major changes in our government and in our way of doing things. There seem to be many things coming together all at once conspiring to make things very difficult for us in the CNMI, but if true change happens and people wake up and realize they need to play a key role, then this may be a blessing in disguise. It doesn't mean it will be easy by any means, if anything this will be a very hard and painful process for everyone involved, but most things that are worthwhile are worth fighting for. I believe that this will be a year of change in the CNMI unlike any we've ever seen before, but if the change is well thought out and well planned, this may be a year that things actually begin turning around here.
I had some people come to me concerned over a column they saw in the Pacific Times newspaper this past week. The headline to the column said, new car sales down by 50% - good! Now if you're in the automobile business, there is nothing good about that news at all, it means your profit margins are either seriously eroded or gone altogether. And that means that you're going to have to make some very hard decisions on cutting back on expenses and probably even cutting back on jobs. Charles Reyes Jr. who just happens to be the Governor's Press Secretary wrote the column. He was not writing it in his official capacity, and I'm fairly certain it wasn't sanctioned or approved by his boss. But unfortunately when your job is the Governor's Press Secretary, many people automatically assume that anything you say, especially when it's in the press, is in connection with your job or is the Governor's stand on the issue. His whole premise for writing the article was that he believed people are better off never borrowing money for anything, and that if you don't have to pay any interest, you will have more money in the end for yourself. While there may be merit to some of the things he had to say, the last thing that businesses want to hear when they're suffering and struggling is that someone in government is happy they are suffering and struggling. Charles attitude and sentiments probably didn't sit well with anyone in the banking or loan business, or anyone who sells furniture, appliances or anything that might require financing. These businesses are probably all trying to calculate whether it's worthwhile to stay in the CNMI at all right now. They need to know that they have a sympathetic government behind them, one who understands their plight and is doing everything in it's power to improve the situation for them. After all, as businesses prosper, they pay more money in taxes and hire more employees, all of which puts more money into the government tax base. Under Charles premise from the article, one has to wonder if he'd be happier if we were all going back to a subsistence living, fishing, farming and raising coconuts. I bring this up for a couple different reasons, I talked to Charles about this article and he assured me that he was writing it as a private citizen, and it had nothing to do with his professional responsibilities. But I also feel that it is important for government officials or even employees to realize just how important their dependence on business is, for without the private sector, they would all be unemployed and living on food stamps. It seems like some of them forget that they ultimately work for us, the taxpayer and businessperson. In order for any of us to survive this current economic crisis, it is going to require all of us pitching in, doing what we can and helping each other to survive. Being happy that anyone's business is down by 50% isn't an attitude that we really need at the moment.
I'm Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.
My commentary that airs on radio stations KZMI - 103.9 FM & KCNM - 101.1 FM