- Category: Editorials | Columns
07 Jan 2010
A house divided
WITH the full backing of the then-board of regents, NMC President Carmen Fernandez implemented a curious employment policy that resulted in wholesale terminations, non-renewals and resignations, leaving the CNMI’s only institution of higher learning with a skeletal professional team.
To tidy it up, no explanations were offered. This is, of course, a standard contractual arrangement, and no cause needs to be offered. It is taken at face value that the arrangement simply did not work out and no additional reason is needed. But when it occurs on a grand scale with no justification and no apparent sense of what direction the college president is taking NMC, it becomes a problem.
Official reports are sometimes studded with embellishments and no one notices. There are times however, when reporting is critical as, for example, when college accreditation is involved. The report becomes crucial to approval or disapproval. What some NMC officials allege is that the representations made to WASC to secure a reinstatement of accreditation were not accurate, and this is another big problem.
Now the new chairwoman of the board of regents is surely one of the most qualified persons to hold that position. But some claim that she cannot serve in that capacity because she also is a practicing attorney. This is scraping the bottom of the barrel on the part of those looking for any reason to cling to the status quo while ignoring the deleterious effects of a problematic employment policy at the college.
Speaking about requirements, shouldn’t college regents have college degrees?
The leadership of Fernandez, in any case, is clearly divisive. Perhaps her replacement, if it ever comes to that, will have to deal with the same problems and controversies, but then again, we won’t know until we get there.
Meanwhile, the governor has just rewarded one of the Republican turncoats in the last elections with a job at CPA, as its executive director no less. This is the same person who, as the MPLA executive director of a GOP administration, was given the boot in 2006 by the governor, who cited the “many abuses” in the public lands agency.
We’re pointing this out because among the several losing candidates in the last elections who campaigned on a platform of change — only to support the governor in the runoff — is a former education commissioner who has yet to get his “prize.”
THERE remains the problem of what to do about the CNMI’s dwindling revenue base and how government services will fare under worsening circumstances. The Public School System is the only government agency flush with funds, thanks to the feds. But what is to become of the hospital, CUC, and the Department of Public Safety, yet another crucial agency rife with internal and external problems?
Will austerity measures be enough? Don’t hold your breath. Expect the inevitable tax and fee increases, and further cuts in services.
Expect to hear “we told you so” — a lot.
INAUGURAL planning is underway with a promise of more money to be spent on festivities that the commonwealth cannot afford. The governor shouldn’t be deprived of a celebration after a hard-fought election, but depending on “contributions” from the private sector will, once again, raise questions about the loyalties of this administration.
Considering the state of the CNMI, the governor and the other elected officials should set an example by holding simple and inexpensive inaugural ceremonies.
But no. The administration and most of the newly elected officials are still used to the extravagance that has brought this government to its knees. They will cut the salaries of rank and file government employees, burden the private sector with more fees and higher taxes, but they can’t even be sworn in without the fanfare that the CNMI can no longer afford.
THE Fitial administration promised to make significant changes to its department line-up. We can only hope that this time around, the governor will finally value competence over party loyalty.
Everyone is hoping that his second term will result in positive changes that will ease the difficulties posed by a severe contraction of the economy, which is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
If the good people of the commonwealth can be assured of their security and health, they can muddle through with less. But if each day is darkened with the prospect of burglaries, assaults and other actions that threaten their security, and there is no relief to be found, even at the hospital, then more people will leave these islands.
And things will not improve for the administration either.
But right now, the opportunity is there for the administration to do better in the next five years. It all depends on the decisions the governor will make in the weeks ahead.
We remain hopeful.