Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Short Takes

The tangentangen is full of brown, crackling, dried seed pods. Breadfruit trees are laden with huge ripe fruits. The nights are still cool and comfortable for sleeping, but the days have become hot and close--the kind of heat that leeches the energy out of you and makes you want to take a nap.

Immigration -- There may be a court challenge to the CNMI's recent enactment, P.L. 17-1. If you are an alien in the CNMI or an employer of foreign workers in the CNMI, and you want to join forces in challenging the law, you might see a lawyer now. Low income persons can apply for help at MLSC. Others with middle or more income could check private lawyers like Mark Hanson, Rob Torres, Steve Woodruff, Colin Thompson, Richard Pierce (or any attorney of your choice).

CNMI politics--Still as disruptive as ever. The AG's office seems to be an arm of the Governor's Office, rather than an office serving the interests of the people. I now favor an independently elected AG. I worried that this would only make the office more political; but it now seems to be so political that "more" is impossible. I worried that legal work is not well-understood by the community and the opinions publicly stated would often lead to unconstitutional and unfair results; but the office is being used for unconstitutional and unfair results in the hands of the Governor, without accountability, so the people may be a better choice! I realize that the people re-elected the Governor, so there is little likelihood of real improvement with an elected AG; but it is remotely possible that such election would provide a measure of independence that is currently not present, and that would be healthy.

The CNMI budget--We're going to see the new CNMI Constitutional provision in play this year, and it won't be pretty. Governor Fitial will have a proposed budget by April 1. But the pressure on the Legislature to pass a budget by October 1 may force concessions no one likes.

Some ideas for what our CNMI Legislature could be focusing on now:
1. We have too many government employees--and the cuts should be at the top first, where expense is greatest. Constitutional protections may apply to those in office, but if our CNMI Congress would pass legislation now that lowers these salaries, we will at least see savings in the future. Do it!
2. They could change to a part-time Legislature. And eliminate the municipal councils. We don't need so much government. We can't afford so much government.
3. They could LEGISLATE a list of essential public services, so that the Governor cannot unilaterally decide who gets money and who doesn't based on his own preferences, all under the guise of what is essential, if and when the budget doesn't pass. No more continuing resolution.

We want a rational process, not unmitigated and unrestricted politics.

Community--The SSHS Manta Ray Band concerts on 3/26 and 3/27 were a success. Great performances, reasonably good attendance, successful fundraising. Just one small complaint: fundraising should be transparent. When you've set a specific goal ($140,000) for your trip to Carnegie Hall, you should be telling and showing exactly how close you are to the goal, on a regular basis. You shouldn't dodge specific questions like 'how much more do you need to reach your goal?'with vague assertions like 'we're close.'


Anonymous said...

I am agreement 110%, it is too bad that"common sense" will not prevail. as always, this is one word that is not in the "local" dictionary.
Your observations and "legal opinions" are always so welcomed and respected. (even if sometimes I am not in total agreement)
Thank you.

Captain said...

Sorry, but attribute that first comment to me.(wrong button)

Swivel Chair Lawyer said...

We have too many government employees--and the cuts should be at the top first, where expense is greatest. Constitutional protections may apply to those in office, but if our CNMI Congress would pass legislation now that lowers these salaries, we will at least see savings in the future.

Jane, that is exactly the wrong direction, and pandering to the Politics of Envy.

First, if you look at total numbers, it is not the key management officials where the do-nothing jobs lie (for the most part), because there just aren't that many of them.

The bulk of personnel costs goes to low-paid workers.

Also, a very strong case could be made that the key management and professional employees are underpaid. People with real skills are part of a nationwide or worldwide market place. Don't treat them right and they move on.

That is the ultimate reason that our CHC, OAG, and CUC are so messed up. It's not merely "politics," but just plain maltreatment, incompetence, poor working conditions, and low pay.

Your "solution" would actually make things worse. We have already tried underpaying doctors, lawyers, and engineers for a decade or more. (Not counting recent professional graduates, their pay is fine.)

It hasn't worked. First pay the key employees, so we can get started fixing things. Otherwise, matters will continue to get worse and worse.

An elected AG is worthless without budget control and an adequate salary -- the same as an associate judge.

I'll grant you our legislature is bloated, considering the size of our population. We need a 3-person Senate and 7-member House.

Maybe you should draft some constitutional amendments to change the AG and legislature, and once they've been critiqued, have Tina circulate them?

Anonymous said...
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Saipan Writer said...

deleted spam.

Swivel chair-I agree in part with what you're saying, but not completely.

Our justices and judges are at the high end of the pay schale, even for judges.

We do need doctors and they deserve payment consistent with their professional level-but the problems with retention have less to do with salary and more to do with management.

And the real salary cuts should start with the overpaid legislators. I agree mostly with Zaldy's take--it's about content. We should prioritize what we need, what we must have the most and pay those reasonable salaries that won't leave them open to corruption and will invite the more talented to participate. (the police, for example). And we should eliminate the jobs that exist just for political payback.