Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Get Ready for Halloween with a ...WRITING Contest!

WrittenWyrdd is sponsoring a writing contest. 1,000 words of horror (but not slasher stuff). A pile of green if you're the winner. Read details at the WrittenWyrdd blog.

Or you could try to win the $10,000 lottery at Gena Showalter's site, promoting the book INTERTWINED. That seems like a lot of money to give away to promote a YA book.

A stormy Pacific

Wendy's been doing a good job blogging about Ketsana (a/k/a Ondoy), the typhoon that caused devastation in the Philippines.

Today Ken is blogging about a tsunami that washed over American Samoa as we slept last night. Western Samoa also got hit. Reports put an earthquake between 7.9 and 8.3 on the Richter Scale-and if I got this right, time would have been about 7 hours ago for the quake, a bit later for the tsunami.

Several people are already reported as dead or missing, and an entire village may be underwater, with more reports of greater damage and loss expected.

There was a Pacific-wide tsunami alert (already cancelled now), but no one I've talked to knew about it. We need a better warning system.

Angelo is tracking Tropical Storm Melor-heading this way.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saipan-A Blogger's Paradise!

Saipan is an interesting place to live. It is also a blogger's paradise! Lots to chat about in today's news.

You can read a good blog post at Ken's SOS site on Fitial's plan to take over DPH by declaration of a state of emergency. And Doctor Cornett's very small hammer rant(they're still not getting it) at the Tribune.

Fitial extends the state of emergency at CUC. He's had the state of emergency in effect since May 2008--that's 1 year and 4 months already.

This new emergency declaration seems to contradict earlier reports.

When the Aggreko generators were turned off, we were told CHC was in much better shape, that CUC's power generation could definitely replace what Aggreko had provided.

The Saipan Tribune reported, on September 1, 2009, as follows:

“Today, we can safely pronounce that the Saipan power production crisis is over,” Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said in a brief ceremony in the main control room of CUC's power plant in Lower Base yesterday.

And the entire reason for the state of emergency declaration in the first place was all about that power generation issue, wasn't it? Well, that was the original excuse, but in August 2009 Fitial said it's also about hiring adequate personnel.

Of course, CUC needs to hire adequate personnel. What or who is adequate personnel? The Legislature is trying to wean the CNMI government from its dependence on cheap foreign labor; and Fitial is addicted to cheap foreign labor.

So because he disagrees with the CNMI Legislature's policies and decisions for the CNMI (which limit how many foreign workers an agency or department may have), he declares a state of emergency at CUC?

We are all captives. Fitial is determined to prove that we need our fix; we have a right to cheap, foreign workers who are underpaid and get no permanent rights and are kept forever powerless. And we're all going to suffer power black-outs and worse if we don't buy into Fitial's view of the situation.

I have no problem with hiring technicians from foreign countries; I just think we need to pay them on scale with what we would pay for local/US hires. And then maybe there will be a greater incentive, a real incentive for our residents to enter the workforce, get skills, and do the work. And we'll be treating our foreign work force with the respect they deserve.

In the meantime, we're still in a state of emergency-which is to say that Governor Fitial refuses to follow the procurement laws, the hiring laws, and whatever laws the CNMI Legislature passes. First CUC, next CHC. Those "states of emergency" are convenient for grabbing power, neh?

Then there's the bit about how the OPA has referred cases for more than $2.6 million dollars in misspent tax money for collection to the AG's Office.

1. $739,346 from Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission to UNNAMED CONSULTANT. (Why the hell don't we name names?)

2. $195,971 from Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission to "3 other individuals". (Why the hell don't we name names?)

3. $392,178 from Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission to ??? themselves??? for questionable travel expenses in 1996 to 2001.

Perhaps it should be called the Tinian Casino Gaming No-Control Commission?

4. $1.3 million from CNMI to "different professional service contractors." (Why don't we name names?)

5. $100,000 improper payments from CNMI??? to "a surveying contractor on Tinian." (Why don't we name names?)

6. $75,000 misused by former Finance Secretary (1995-1997). (Who was that?)

7. $$$ double payments from (now defunct) MPLA to "officials of...MPLA" for per diem, etc. 1992-1994.

8. $40,000 misspent by CPA.

9. $$$ unspecified overpayments to former officials of CUC.

NEARLY ALL of these are past the statute of limitations. The AG has said so specifically about #8 and #9. But the same can be said for #3, #6 and #7. So now we have to ask, when were these violations of law first reported to the Attorney General's Office? Why does the AG not proceed with diligent action (or are they always getting the cases too late to recover the funds)?

Why does it take so long for the OPA to find these misappropriations and misspent accounts?

And why aren't we at least identifying who is behind the problem at each instance, so we have names? And why do we want casinos when the Tinian Gaming Commission is one of the biggest drains on our limited tax resources?

Patrick Calvo
Found guilty on charges of sex abuse of a minor. His defense was that his 14 year old daughter was lying. This might work in some cases, but she's been a model student and otherwise fine person, and his other daughters came forward and testified against him also. For those victims from the earlier 2000 case who did not see justice when the case against Calvo was dismissed, this must be a small victory, too.

This is, after all, SaipanWriter! Walt Goodridge held a writer's workshop on Sunday, September 27, 2009.

Joe (Mango) Race brought up National Novel Writing Month! Yay! Interested in spending a month noveling? It's happening here in Saipan, as around the world, thanks to NaNoWriMo. Sign up. We write in November. (I'm the municipal liaison. If you need more information, contact me.)

And then there's Swine Flu in Yap
It must be bad, because the schools have now closed for 3 weeks.

But what's not in the news? the Philippine disaster-typhoon Ketsana. Thanks to Wendy for highlighting this story for the past 2 days.

And my own little off-topic "flashback" contribution:
I just found this bit about George W. Bush's favorite painting. This is such a laugh! As Art Blogger Bob says--narcissistic and stupid.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What's In A Name?

Today's Variety has a small article about medical referral at CHC. I read it, and saw the photo of the "manager for medical referral services" that accompanied it. Ronald D. Sablan.

Ronald D. Sablan? Have we forgotten?

Photo from Marianas Variety

This is the same man who borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from EDLF/CDA for the Pacific Gardenia and never paid it back. Never even tried to pay it back. By the time CDA got a judgment, the total, with interest and late charges, was $2.4 million owed by Ron D. Sablan!

At the time that CDA sued in 2004, they alleged a scheme of deception and mismanagement, all for the purpose of enriching Ron D. Sablan.

As of last Jan. 20, Sy's Corporation and its officers Ronald, Maria Ana, and Jeannette Sablan owe CDA over $2.4 million, and are more than five years delinquent in their payment, according to CDA's legal counsel.

“CDA's rights and interests.will be irreparably injured unless a receiver [or trustee] is appointed to take charge of the business affairs of Sy's [Corporation] and to take possession of its property until a final decision or order from this court is issued following foreclosure, selling the assets or otherwise disposing of this action,” attorney F. Matthew Smith said.

Court records showed that Jeannette Sablan-the sister of hotel general manager Ronald Sablan-has already agreed to the proposed appointment of a trustee on June 17.

In the motion he filed last week, Smith claimed that spouses Ronald and Maria Ann Sablan have been mismanaging the assets of Pacific Gardenia Hotel and Sunset Bar and Grill.

CDA, Smith said, has been informed that the Sablans are maintaining separate sets of accounting books and had presented fictitious books to CDA in the past. Sy's Corporation is reportedly operating without a CNMI business license due to unpaid taxes, and owes employees over $100,000 in back wages. Further, all checks payable to Sy's Corporation are being diverted and deposited directly into the personal accounts of the Sablan couple, Smith said.

Even his sister claimed he fraudulently mismanaged the corporation that ran the Pacific Gardenia. Her attorney, Bob O'Connor, also spoke on the matter.

“The obvious purpose in filing the petition [for bankruptcy] was to avoid the receivership and to allow Ronald Sablan to continue to siphon into his own pocket all of Sy's Corp's hotel and restaurant revenues,” O'Connor said.

And when Ron D. Sablan filed for bankruptcy, he conveniently omitted another mortgage debt. Attorney Bruce Mailman represented that creditor.

LPP lawyer Bruce Mailman accused Sablan and his wife of fraud, in connection with their filing of a bankruptcy petition in court in Nevada. In that petition, Mailman said the Sablans made no mention of its debt from LPP regarding defaulted loans originally obtained from the company's predecessor-in-interest, the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Ron D. Sablan not only cheated EDLF/CDA and his creditors, he also faced numerous complaints for cheating his foreign contract workers, failing to pay them.

According to attorney F. Matt Smith, Ron D. Sablan was to blame for this problem, as well:

Smith further maintained that the payment of back wages allegedly owed the former hotel employees was not the problem of the hotel's new receiver, but of Sablan.

“It is not the receiver’s responsibility to pay old back wages that cannot be verified and that were not accrued under his watch,” Smith said. “The fact is that since the receiver took over, Pacific Gardenia employees are finally getting regular pay checks."

He noted that Sablan negotiated the back wages with the Department of Labor and the involved workers without court approval and without guaranty that the amounts negotiated were accurate or in order.

“This is a Ron Sablan problem and not a receiver problem,” said Smith.

Ron D. Sablan resigned his position as chairman of HANMI (the hotel association). He filed for bankruptcy. And he appealed the judgment against him!

It took years to finally resolve the appeal; and finally Ron D. Sablan decided he could dismiss the appeal and let CDA have the properties it had foreclosed to try to recoup some of the money owed. But of course, by then, it became impossible for CDA to find any investor who wanted the Pacific Gardenia building and could pay a reasonable price for it.

The Pacific Gardenia building sits as an empty eyesore (one of many) on Beach Road in Chalan Kanoa.

And Ron D. Sablan, who has NOTHING to recommend him as a manager (and NO EXPERIENCE in the medical field, either, that I can find a trace of)--Ron D. Sablan, who in fact has A LOT to recommend against him ever holding any position of responsibility again--is now managing the CHC office for medical referral services?

I'm outraged.

I'm also wondering if he weren't a Sablan, would he have gotten this job?

I'm also wondering what date he was hired. And if there is any coincidental relationship between his being hired and Kilili's decision that we need to delay implementation of U.S. immigration here.
UPDATE: Apparently no connection here. Ron Sablan apparently was hired 2 years ago, before P.L. 110-229, the law for federalization of our immigration and creation of the delegate position.

And even if there is no connection, nothing worse than just an out-and-out hire of him, it still makes me angry.

Friday, September 25, 2009

CNMI's 2009 Election-some basic information

The election will be on November 7, 2009, with polls open from 7 AM to 7 PM, according to the CNMI Election Commission. It's not all that easy to get comprehensive information about the election.

The CEC doesn't list all of the candidates on its website; nor do the CNMI newspapers. I've e-mailed to the CEC for a list of all candidates, and I'm waiting on their response. In the meantime, here's what I've put together so far from the scattered reports in the newspapers and the campaign advertising by the Covenant and Republican parties and the (Pan)Guerrero/Camacho and (Kumoi) Guerrero/Borjaindependent campaigns.

(Just click to enlarge.)

I'm sure there are mistakes and omissions. Please feel free to add information in the comments.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CNMI's Dialysis Center

We're supposed to have a new dialysis center at the Commonwealth Health Center. With all of the change orders, it appears that about $22 million dollars of federal and CNMI money was spent building it.

Photo from of CNMI Public Auditor's 2007 Report.

But what we have is a structure that is "built" but not used for dialysis because it is unsafe. The Variety reports today that CNMI Secretary of Public Health Joseph Kevin Villagomez signed off on the project, certifying that the structure was acceptable because of instructions from the "facilities engineer." Who was that facilities engineer? The newspapers don't say.

Joe Kevin Villagomez's role in signing off, though, is being questioned. Shouldn't he have also exercised independent professional judgment?

The problems reported with the new facility:
1. The reverse osmosis (RO) system contains bacteria.
2. The water storage tanks of the reverse osmosis system may be carbon media tanks, not multi-media tanks. Labels on the tanks were changed to disguise the flaw.
3. There is a suspicion of irregularities in materials used in construction: PVC fittings and pipes of the RO system were glued so that excessive glue flaked into the system and would subject patients to possible harm.
4. Public Health officials has told lawmakers that the dialysis center's certification for the RO system was forged.
5. The CNMI sued the contractor Leo A. Daly Company for defective design, and have alleged the facility is useless for its intended purpose. (This lawsuit is only for $10 million, though.) One of the alleged defects (reported in August 15, 2009 Tribune article) is failure to meet stress tests for earthquakes.

And we don't have staff for it.

The CNMI Legislature recently convened two public hearings on the delivery of health services in the CNMI. The House Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) invited public health and private doctors to a daytime session, but no one came, according to the today's Saipan Tribune. In contast, the public hearing in the evening, open to the public, drew a small group of about 30 people.

Photo from CNMI Public Auditor's 2007 Report.
What I find interesting is the focus of the hearing: reported as a look at hiring doctors and the necessity of paying for head hunters. Perhaps it's an issue with reporting, but we certainly have much more serious problems than paying head hunters to find us doctors (even at $25,000 / doctor).

In a recent survey, several major problems at CHC were noted, including mismanagement, poor procurement practices, and inadequate billing/accounting and records procedures, along with a doctor shortage.

In Tuesday's KSPN news, Ralph Torres made some remarks that seem unclear: yes he wants to find an experienced person to handle the situation at DPH, and yes, joe Kevin Villagomez has experience. It's not clear to me whether he thinks joe Kevin would be up to the job, but for his health issues that have made him leave island for months now; or whether he was acknowledging that "experience" comes in different varieties and needs to be scrutinized, too.

It's not clear if he just does't like Pete Untalan, either. He reported that Pete said the dialysis center would be open in August and here it is September; but the August 15, 2009 Tribune has Pete saying it will be open in October, with a nephrologist due to arrive on September 23, 2009.

And think of all the earlier times when we've heard that the dialysis center will be opened!

I guess we need Legislative oversight of administration functions; but we also need to recognize that the Legislature's job is making laws, not carrying them out. It's unrealistic to expect the Legislature to take over this problem and fix it. Especially, when you consider that the Legislature's often repeated "solution" is to throw money at the problem, as Ralph Torres says we need to do here.

Nor is the Legislature to be relied on to get things done promptly. They've known about the problems with the dialysis center since at least September 2003, as this flashback from September 2, 2003 shows. The Legislature is a political body that changes with seasonal voting. They get involved with hot topics, but also can cool off before the work is finished.

What do we need to do?

I think we need to start at the beginning and review all that's been done.

So here's a summary of the history of the CNMI Saipan dialysis center, as taken from the newspapers (note, Haidee does a similar thing, in summer 2009, and the link is later, but rather than re-writing and analyzing, yet, I'm just giving the blow-by-blow):


"The California-based Transpacific Renal Network has given recognition to the renal hemodialysis section of the Commonwealth Health Center as one of the top units that provide quality care to patients undergoing dialysis.

Public Health Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez said such accomplishment shows the commitment of the hospital in making sure that the best possible care is provided to the people in the community....Dr. Hilmer Negrete, director of hemodialysis unit of CHC, said the team has to submit regular progress report to each patient undergoing dialysis treatment to Transpacific Network."

2000-03-06: 51 dialysis patients costing $5 million / year.

2001-09-07: In 2001, we have 2 nephrologists--Dr. Negrete and Dr. Zahid.

2002-06-11: Rota and Tinian to get dialysis centers at $1million apiece.

“We found out that, if you build a structure and the structure is certified by Medicare, then at least 80 percent of the operational funds will come directly from the Medicare and that is the federal funding we are eyeing. So, to ensure that we can tap these funds, we will make sure that the buildings for the dialysis centers are Medicare-certified,” he said.

Earlier, lower chamber lawmakers said that Rota and Tinian dialysis patients are presently inconvenienced by the need to travel to Saipan, the location of the nearest CNMI dialysis center, to receive treatment.

“Responding to the needs of dialysis patients in Rota and Tinian requires the construction of dialysis centers on these islands. By using the un-appropriated Public Law 12-64 funds on Rota and Tinian, patients need not make the arduous trip to Saipan to avail themselves of dialysis care,” said House Floor Leader Jesus T. Attao, the bill's author.

As broken down in the proposed measure, $1 million would go toward a new Department of Public Health Building and Dialysis Center on Rota and another $1 million for a similar building on Tinian.

2002-08-28: Saipan to get dialysis center; this project is estimated to cost $5.6 million.

"On the Department of Public Health building expansion, this will entail the construction of the extension that would house 24 to 25 new dialysis machine units at the CHC.

Bids for the project were received in April and a contractor has already been selected and notified that it would be awarded the project. However, a notice to proceed has yet to be issued pending the release of several construction permits.

“The government has been applying for the building permits and all the permits necessary to start the project, rather than have the contractor obtain the permits, to eliminate unnecessary delays in the project,” said Jordan."

2002-10-26. Project finally underway. Estimated cost for project between $5 and $6 million. Dr. Hofschneider as DPH secretary. Estimated completion date: 4/18/2004. Current situation: 90 patients.

Hofschneider said the project's contractor is AIC Marianas Incorporated, while the construction management contract has been awarded to SSFM, whose principal is John Gentry and whose fee is about $250,000... Jordan said the DPW released the Notice to Proceed to the contractor last Tuesday and the expansion project is expected to be finished in 540 days, with some additions and deletions to be made on the project.

... Although the budget for the project is between $5 and $6 million, Hofschneider expressed hope that some money would be left to be used as additional funding for the water needs of the building, parking and a new MSO building. This (sic) related projects are estimated to cost $4 million.

Note--this is going to lead to problems later.

2002-11-08: CNMI Government (through Chuck Jordan), keeping track of CIP projects including the dialysis center (CHC expansion) project.

2003-02-07. Groundbreaking for the dialysis center/CHC expansion project. Cost now estimated at $10 million. 93 dialysis patients. Estimated opening of new facility-2 years. That would be early 2005.

2003-06-10. CNMI starts new program for peritoneal dialysis. Now 96 patients.

2003-09-02. Problems about design noted. Change orders being sought. It appears that the issues are the inclusion of improved water system and parking lot, which were not part of the original plan.

What did I mention up above?

2004-01-31. Construction of dialysis center is on schedule, despite some design problems.

2004-03-04. Hofschneider asks U.S. Congress to provide $1.1 million to buy equipment for new dialysis center. Says CNMI only budgeted for building the facility, not equipping it.

2004-10-22. Kagman wastewater project funds reprogrammed to dialysis center.

2004-10-29. CNMI Congress considers reprogramming request; wants assurances. Information confusing; Leo Daly out-Tanuguchi Ruth in.

2004-11-02. Joint House and Senate Committee to probe dialysis center construction issues; Governor Fitial asks for Public Auditor's office examination, also. This article says $11 million given from Covenant 702 funds. Project 40% complete.

2004-12-24. Did we really pay $50,000 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the construction of the dialysis center? Stanley Torres says so. Where is the Army Corps of Engineers report?

... And then this recap of the finances:

The reprogramming bill came following findings that the public health project's over $11-million funding had been depleted, even as construction work was only about 40 percent completed.

Originally, the government allotted some $11.8 million in Capital Improvement Project funds for the dialysis center. Of that amount, the Department of Public Health awarded a $5.6-million contract to AIC Marianas to construct the facility.

The contractor had repeatedly asked for change orders, totaling over $4 million, allegedly due to faulty design. About $2 million had been spent for two architectural and engineering designs, while other expenses reportedly went to administrative activities.

2005-08-03. In the meantime, CHC gets a few more dialysis stations.

2005-09-18. Also meanwhile, the CNMI provides competent care and exceeds average U.S. standards, according to Dr. Zahid. Good data here.

2006-02-04. Governor Fitial's administration asks for reprogramming of more funds for dialysis center. Project now 70% completed.

2006-04-11. DPH Secretary Joe Kevin Villagomez says dialysis center will open in October 2006.

“It's going very well. There's a lot of involvement in this project,” he said, adding that there would be medical staff that would be assigned to the new building.

2006-07-07. Dialysis center to be named after Dr. V. (It helps when you're the lieutenant governor and get to sign the law naming the facility after your father.)

2006-07-28. Opening delayed to November 2006, to secure Medicare certification.

2006-10-18. Cost of dialysis center now said to be $15 million. Joe Kevin Villagomez enlists political support, like this:

“Our money was well spent,” Rep. Manuel Tenorio said.

2006-10-19. The new building is used as bait to seek more funding for CHC! See, we did a great job and now need to upgrade the rest of the old building... or something like that.

2007-06-08. Inspector General's Report identifies management issues with the dialysis center project.

2007-07-11. Joe Kevin Villagomez says we should privatize the dialysis center building; it's still not open. (This sounds like a scam to me--some way to get a private business some additional cash at government expense.)

2007-10-05. Both CNMI nephrologists have recently left the CNMI; a Guam doctor will be visiting.

2007-12-20. Ribbon cutting and new dialysis center officially opens. Umm, does it?

2007 Public Auditor's Report at page 6 says this:

A joint evaluation of the Saipan Public Health Facility Project (Project) by the Department of the Interiors' Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and OPA showed serious deficiencies in the contracting process, including the failure to adhere to established procurement regulations and the lack of qualified and experienced officials to administer the Capital Improvement Project (CIP) program, which significantly affected construction costs and time frames.

2008-01-26. CNMI spending $8.8 million /year for 96 dialysis patients.

2008-02-07. Children's Clinic and immunizations moved to new dialysis center wing.

2009-05-18. CNMI once again without a nephrologist. Other concerns about CHC raised by Ed Propst.

2009-05-19: Untalan responds: Those concerns are just one person's opinion; Diabetes Prevention Program still operational.

In a recent letter by Rep. Ralph DLG. Torres to DPH Secretary Kevin Villagomez, the former asked for some information on several matters at the CHC.

These include updates on the status of nephrology, updates on dialysis machines to be replaced, local expenditure for Fiscal Year 2009, data as to the number of dialysis patients, the status of the Hemodialysis Center and other issues.

A copy of the letter was sent to Saipan Tribune. Secretary Villagomez has yet to respond to e-mail inquiries about it.

2009-05-23. Legislator asks for information from Secretary of DPH. See, the Tribune does read the letters submitted!

2009-06-06. FDA Certification for dialysis center forged. Information revealed in BUDGET HEARING!

Acting Health Secretary Pete T. Untalan told the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration certification of the reverse osmosis water system at the new dialysis center was “forged” by an individual previously connected with the U.S.-based Severn Trent.

Severn Trent supplied the reverse osmosis water system unit to Saipan Ice, which was one of the subcontractors of AIC Marianas, the main contractor for the construction of the new dialysis building in Garapan.

Saipan Ice's sales supervisor Lito Dizon and AIC Marianas project engineer Ding Lacap separately said in telephone interviews that they're not aware of the forgery and that nobody had told them about the issues that just came about.

Medicare requires the CNMI Department of Public Health to have an FDA-certified reverse osmosis water system for it to operate the new dialysis center, which has yet to open three years after its construction was completed in 2006.

“We found out just a few days ago that the reverse osmosis system is not FDA-certified,” Untalan told the legislative committee chaired by Rep. Ray N. Yumul (R-Saipan) during yesterday's hearing on DPH's Fiscal Year 2010 budget.

(This certification is needed for Medicare approval. Why did it take this long to figure this out? Weren't we seeking Medicare approval back in 2007?)

2009-06-08. Cost for dialysis center now reported at $22 million.

2009-06-09. CNMI Legislature to ask Public Auditor to investigate.
Have they read the existing OIG report or the OPA's 2007 report?

2009-06-12. CNMI to sue over $22 million "fiasco." Good review of situation here.

2009-06-16. The local newspapers finally catch up to the 2007 OIG/OPA report.

2009-06-16. Matt Gregory, former CNMI AG, now files suit as a private attorney against Leo Daly for $10 million on behalf of the CNMI.

We have an Attorney General's Office, but we use a private firm for this. Why? Oh, because the OAG is understaffed. But why not use the money and hire another Assistant Attorney General instead of paying private attorney rate fees? (OMG!)

In my opinion, Gregory should have brought this action while he was the CNMI AG. And his failure to do it then should be reason enough NOT to hire him and pay him more money to do it now.

2009-06-17. Haidee Eugenio continues to dig for the full story.

2009-06-19. The CNMI is not pursuing criminal charges for the dialysis center fiasco. And Juan Reyes at DPW identified as the "expenditure authority" (for at least some of the time? or all of the time?).

2009-07-21. Representative Ralph Torres says we'll have one full-time nephrologist for Saipan/CNMI next month (August 2009).

2009-08-15. Grand opening of dialysis center set for October 2009. It will be old before it is in use!

2009-09-19. Pete Reyes and Arnold Palacios think we need a law establishing a "corporation" as the solution!

The lawmakers said a bill establishing a corporation for public healthcare and related public health services will in the long-term provide a foundation for a high quality, efficient and market-oriented public healthcare delivery system.

Without any analytical basis; without reference to the real studies of the problems done; without regard to the problems we've had from corporations like MPLC. How is a corporate structure going to address the problems! Sheesh. Just like privatizing seems to be a method for economic graft, this is nothing but political graft--imho.

Somewhere in all of this was a report that there were three contractors/project designers(?) involved--Leo Daly, Tanaguchi Ruth, and an unnamed third. Who is the third contractor? Perhaps I missed that information somehow.

Where do we go from here?

CNMI FY 2010 Budget

It seems that the Legislature has adopted a new method for the budgeting process--one that starts with a spending cap, so there is some basic agreement by all, and then moves to the final budgeting/parceling out the money.

The House finally introduced the budget bill, H.B. 16-275 this week for FY 2010 (beginning on October 1, 2009). Although this is a very late introduction, they've almost made up for the problem.

They have now passed it.

It pares down the budget from last year, but without following Fitial's plan for employee austerity Fridays.

It also provides for some payments to the NMI Retirement Fund, as required by the recent court ruling. Regardless of who is to blame for the mess, it's important that the mess be cleaned up, and this budget bill seems to begin that process.

The prompt passage by the House still gives the Senate a little time to review and vote on the budget, but not much. Let's hope the Senate acts quickly and responsibly.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On CNMI Immigration and Federalization of It

Ken Phillips is blogging again at SOSaipan. Good thing. From him, we get this lovely observation:

"This whole transition to federal control has had a somewhat surreal quality, like a community theater production of Waiting for Godot under the palms."

And in today's Marianas Variety newspaper, we get Diego Benevente. His take is that 1) the federalization law will be beneficial "in the long run;" 2) but the time to prepare for it is too short.

Several thoughts come clashing into my head at once on reading this:
* we'll have had 1 and 1/2 years to prepare for it by 11/28/2009. If we can't do the job in that amount of time, more time won't help.
* when I say we, I mean we--both the CNMI and the U.S. The U.S. government is our government, just as the CNMI government is our government.
* The CNMI has done little to prepare for federalization of our immigration except complain and try to stop it.
* Diego Benevente and other CNMI politicians are in a position to criticize the U.S. government for not getting things done? The guys who took years to pass a budget? The guys who never corrected the CNMI's immigration issues in decades?

Diego Benevente complains about the uncertainty caused by the change to U.S. immigration. There is a simple solution to help address this concern. The CNMI Legislature can pass a law that grants the maximum status of two years to aliens who are here. This would protect our current labor force without violating the CNRA cap on new admissions; it would provide stabiilty and a means for planning for businesses and people; it would lessen anxiety.

It might even go a long way toward redressing some of the grievances our alien workers have against us.

Would the CNMI Legislature do something this simple? Something within their means? Or will they only be concerned about their image in the newspapers? Never mind the people who have lived here for many years and who may now be out of status due to circumstances. Never mind that we still have some control and the means to take precautions. Better to rant about the predictions of a coming storm than put up typhoon shutters and lay in stores of water and candles. Better to complain about the U.S. not doing what it needs to do; better to seek delay of what is "beneficial" to the CNMI!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Still Waiting for CUC...

Typhoon Choi-Wan didn't hit Saipan. There were no reports of damages to homes. Some banana plants toppled, but, by all accounts, this was a mild storm, with wind and rain, but nothing terribly serious.

The electricity at my house went out during the storm--sometime Monday night. It's now Wednesday morning, and CUC has yet to even visit my house to assess the problem.

I've called. The trouble desk lines are almost always "busy" so you can't get through. On at least one occasion, the phone actually rang (no busy signal) and then rang and rang and no one picked up. On the few occasions when I did get through, the guys answering (Joe and Bill) were courteous, but had nothing to tell me. I have no idea where in the queue of complaints our little segment of San Vicente is. I have no idea when a crew might get to us. I'm still waiting for the promised --we'll call you when the CUC crew is coming--call.

I enlisted support from my family. My sister-in-law managed to learn a bit more--which neighbors are still without power--and she spoke with Tony Muna personally. But that's not much more than I already knew and still no idea of when; not much greater reassurance than the trouble desk provided.

Today's newspaper gives a sunny report that CUC is on top of the situation of power outages from the storm. But I think that is optimistic, and not entirely accurate.

What bothers me most about this power outage, besides the inconvenience and loss of food in the fridge, is that this was a MILD storm. If this is the level of response from such a minor weather event, what can we expect if we have a serious storm or typhoon that actually hits us?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Guam Hiring 20,000 Skilled Contract Workers???

According to the Inquirer Global Nation, Guam is finalizing plans to hire 20,000 contract workers from the Philippines to help with the military build-up there. But thanks to the internet where comments can often be shared quickly, there appears to also be reason for skepticism and concern.

Emmanuel GeslaniSep 10
Every time DOLE/POEA officials announce that Guam will need 20,000 workers their public statements just give illegal recruiters more credence as they go around the country enticing people to work in Guam. Roque should stop talking about Guam as this has been old news since two years ago and up to now POEA hasn't come up with a standard employment contract. What's this I hear that POEA will select only 10 agencies to handle Guam deployment? Shades of Taiwan and Korea again--"money changing hands" to be selected.

We've seen our share of recruitment scams here in the CNMI. We've heard stories about government officials getting kick-backs on hiring deals. We know the CNMI's economic road is littered with broken promises.

We hope Guam doesn't drink from the same dirty puddle.

And for those hoping to get hired, or hoping for anything--REMEMBER: IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Back To School

Congratulations to all of the students who are heading back to school!

Each year the Marianas Office of MLSC sponsors a "Back To School Project." MLSC collects donations in cash and in-kind from local attorneys (and anyone else who wants to donate) and then distributes school supplies to needy children in grades one through 12.

You can read more about it at the DAY IN COURT blog.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

James Santos has "landed"

James Santos has arrived in federal prison in Victorville USP. USP means United States Penitentiary.

According to the Department of Justice:
The United States Penitentiary (USP) - Victorville in Adelanto, California, is a high security facility housing male inmates. It is part of the Victorville Federal Correctional Complex (FCC).

USP Victorville is located approximately 85 miles northeast of Los Angeles on Interstate 15.

Both Joaqina Santos and Timothy Villagomez are still listed as "in transit." I'm surprised that James Santos is in a "high security" facility.

It's also ominous to read on the website that this facility is in need of correctional officers. They're hiring and giving a 15% incentive. I wonder what that's about.