17 Feb 2017
- By Ambrose M. Bennett - Activist
WHEN I arrived in the Marianas back in the late 80’s the CNNI was behind the times in many ways and to a large degree I actually liked the laid back way of life.
Heck, there were no Red Lights and no four lane roads and to a large degree the Kagman peninsular was a cow pasture. So one could say the CNMI would be considered “archaic” when compared to the rest of the U.S. socially and economically which is why so many of our youth still can’t wait to leave for “modern” living styles and expectations (good jobs/careers with high pay). I have witnessed the transformation of the CNMI from an archaic community to one that is now teetering on becoming a fully modern community. At my age I really understand how some may feel hating to see old traditions and practices fall by the way-side to give way to progress and modernization but that’s life’s cycle on planet earth. The old must give way to the new or be devastated into extinction.
Like it or not modernization is a natural force of mankind that we can’t ignore and must adapt too as there are serious consequences when we fail to adapt to the winds of change. I will reiterate the valuable lesson we should have learned about Sugar Dock over a decade ago “adapt to the need to grow and the winds of change because to not do so is futile.” We saw and learned what happened to Sugar Dock’s chance for change when we said NO to change. We could have a great new dock, a ferry carrying people & cars to Tinian, and a NEW and better place for swimming equipped with a diving board or platform and bleachers for people to sit and watch — progress waits on NO ONE!
The reset button for Legislature in 2017 has given us (the People) a chance for new beginnings on a lot of things and hopefully things will get even better (more productive) on the Hill as the CNMI is still in a transition mode from being an archaic community and destination for tourists to a modern society that is desperately trying to catch up with the rest of America in the quality of life which is driven and decided by our economy. The Governor has also pushed the re-set button with his call for resignations as one can only assume and hope that he intends on making his administration more productive and responsible to the needs of the People. Don’t stop trying Governor and please get people based on their attributes/merits not their politics.
Our Legislature and our Governor are really doing a good job from what I can tell but there is still room for even more improvements especially in the area of “speed” in the development of plans, reaction time to social and economic phenomenon that need legislation and the ability to create the reforms necessary for growth and change. The Governor even promised that we will have a lot of new things to look forward to in the coming year. While he didn’t elaborate on what we should be looking forward to as we go from archaic to modern I would like to share some of my thoughts.
First and foremost we must continue to “diversify” our economy expanding the base as much as we can. Being a Tourist destination, it is now “who has the best swimming pool” (the best attractions) figuratively to attract tourists. We have taken a significant step with the casino that will surely have a great “novelty effect” for some years to come but time is this industries biggest enemy because time brings change in people and their behavior. The need for new and repeat clientele is the key for casino destinations which is why we saw Las Vegas move more to a “family format” of attractions. Legalization will complement the casino and surly expand our Tourist Market (economic base) and decrease our dependency on a single industry, a lesson we should have learned from the loss of the Garment Industry.
Economists will tell you that a one crop economy is extremely risky and we learned the dangers when we lost the one industry we had (Garment Industry). Our economy took a nose dive that we are just now recovering from driven mostly by a NEW industry that is attracting NEW tourists from a different country — the casino and the Chinese. But we must still continue to diversify our economic base as our dependency upon China is “fragile” and dependent upon national and world leaders and events that we have no control over. Prudence demands that our leaders continue to work to expand our economic base and billions in the Legalization Industry are literally staring us in the face like a gift horse.
Legalization will surely be a move to diversify our economy that will help to rush in the modernization of our social fiber with good high paying careers for locals (only U.S. citizens can participate in the Marijuana Industry) while expanding our economic base. People are aware of the billions in recreational and medical marijuana but the HEMP Industry is the real future worth more billions than recreational and medical put together. Marijuana prices are already slowing falling from competition and YES, Hemp will eventually be worth more than recreational & medical marijuana which is why I have been pushing for Hemp production to be part of our Legalization Law. Hemp is better than plastic, better than fiberglass and it makes better paper products, better biodegradable products like drinking bottles & fast-food containers, shopping bags, fuel, car & motorcycle fenders and a host of other products as the entire tree is used. See: hempproducts.com you’ll be surprised. The CNMI can become a major exporter of Hemp Manufactured Products.
Another critical issue that I have been harping on for years that I hope can be fixed in 2017 is the establishment of an “address system” especially now that all the streets have a name. I am already working to get someone in our Legislature to sponsor a Bill that I had drafted for a member but they didn’t follow through. So go figure as using landmarks and knowing where so-an-so live from the lack of an address system as being archaic in America at this point in time. Addresses are the next step to creating more good Local Postal worker jobs with mail delivery to our door. It’s called PROGRESS!
There is now a proposal for the Marpi area to be rezoned for Tourism and if we are truly going to have a modern Tourism Industry it is time for an island-wide “camera system” especially in Garapan and at all Tourists sites. I have been harping on this from time to time after incidents for over a decade to protect our Tourists who bring us MONEY!!! The casino is surely going to attract criminals and a camera system will deter and virtually eliminate much of the crimes that are taking place in locations frequented by tourists. The value of camera technology is playing a critical role in law enforcement throughout America and yet we only have the archaic system of “old fashion detective work” — no technology.
Finally, will someone PLEASE repeal the “double-dipping law” if we are to maximize the local workforce. It does not make any sense to maintain this law when there is no longer a retirement fund! Repealing this law will also do a lot to entice locals in returning from the mainland and it will allow some retirees to really earn a decent living again while they still can work. Many agencies need these employees and their valuable experience.
FYI readers, this letter was really inspired by the DEPARTMENT of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Commissioner Clyde Norita who told us in plain English “WE DO NOT HAVE A 911 SYSTEM, which is decades old so we are ARCHAIC when it comes to the most important emergency service.” If we are archaic when it comes to responding to emergencies that tells me we need to do something quick fast and in-a-hurry to modernize the system that we depend upon to save lives as there is nothing more important than saving lives!!! The CNMI needs a LOT of money to put it simple if we are to go from archaic to a fully modern society and the best thing on the horizon that can yield the new revenues we need and expand our economic base is Legalization. One people one direction for modernization and FULL Legalization with HEMP!!!!
The author is a resident of Kagman, Saipan.