- [The educational element of this new
constitutional initiative in the US Virgin
Islands is being spearheaded by Dr. LaVerne
Ragster, president of the University of the
Virgin Islands, and also a member of the Board of
Trustees of Island Resources Foundation . .
from the VI Source at
Constitutional Convention Seeks Input on Changing V.I. Organic Act
by Molly Morris
[Photo caption: Tregenza Roach, convention 2008
coordinator, and LaVerne Ragster, UVI president. ]
July 22, 2006 - How would you structure the
government under which you live? Virgin Islanders
now have a unique opportunity to participate in
answering that question.
The territory got a jump start Friday in
determining its future as the University of the
Virgin Islands announced its public education
program in support of the territory's fifth
UVI President LaVerne E. Ragster welcomed
the press and other community representatives to
the initiation of the program and the launch of
its new Web site, www.itsourfuture.vi, at a
Friday morning briefing.
She stressed the significance of the
project, reflecting back on the territory's first
convention in 1965, when Ragster said she was
just entering high school.
Though the previous four attempts - in 1965,
1972, 1978 and 1980 - to replace the Revised
Organic Act of 1954 have not succeeded, each has
Ragster thanked Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone,
who sponsored the initial supporting legislation
in 2006, and Sen. Louis Hill, who amended that
bill to postpone the convention to 2007 and to
provide a $100,000 appropriation to UVI for an
She introduced Tregenza A. Roach, USVI
Constitution 2008 coordinator, an example "of an
informed citizen." Ragster said Roach possesses
all the qualities they hope to see in those
persons running for delegates to the convention.
Roach, a UVI alumnus, is an active member of
the community. An attorney and former Board of
Education executive director, he currently
teaches several classes in constitutional law,
journalism and humanities.
"We are involved in history, in an historic
moment," Roach said. "We are privileged to be
able to participate; everybody in the territory
should be involved."
He pointed out the Web site's dialog
section, where people can express their ideas and
questions. The site starts the dialog with
questions such as: What is the present political
status of the Virgin Islands? What is a
Constitution? How will the adoption of a
Constitution impact my life and the lives of the
people around me? Though the site has only been
up about 24 hours, Roach said people are already
replying to the question, "If you could change
one thing about the government, what would you
However, Roach noted the importance of
contacting people who are not on the Internet. He
asked the group Friday for ideas. He said there
will be a series of town meetings, feature
lectures, panel discussions and other gatherings.
A door-to-door neighborhood campaign was
suggested, an idea Roach welcomed, contingent on
Hill, whose legislative amendment moved the
convention forward a year, said Friday, "It is my
intent that should a constitution be adopted to
move [the process] all the way to the U.S.
Congress and president, to sponsor a bill for
more legislative funding."
Hill was clearly pleased at Friday's event.
"I'm excited," he said. "I can't imagine how we
could have moved forward the way it was initially
set up. It would have been a disaster."
Hill was concerned about the 2006 elections
and what he described as the electorate not
"having all the information they need to make an
educated decision on the issue."
Ragster and Roach said they hoped to get
delegates with a good sense of the actual task at
hand, with knowledge of V.I. history and an
ability to work with others.
Roach's convention 2008 team comprises
Marilyn Krigger, Rupert Ross, Paul Leary, Joanne
Buzzuto, Malik Sekou, Basil Ottley, Velma
Abramson, Patrice Johnson and Raul Carrillo.
There will be 30 delegates for the
convention: 13 from the St. Croix district;13
from the St. Thomas-St. John District; and four
elected at large, two from each district.
Each delegate must be a U.S. Citizen, a
qualified voter and a resident of the Virgin
Islands for not less than three years prior to
the election date. They must file with the Board
of Elections by May 16, 2007.
Roach said, "Sometimes we take our time here
for granted. There are so many things we can
engage in on a regular basis.
"To be involved in the making of history,
think of Rothschild Francis or David Hamilton
Jackson-people who wanted things to be better,
motivated by the interest in the whole. It's
about cohesion, giving value to what you think. I
believe no matter what, we have more in common
than we do apart."
Regarding the territory's status, Roach
said, "We are only going to engage in status from
the point of view of people who don't even
understand what our status is now. Our
territorial relation to the U.S. is a separate
questionWe are focused on how you would
structure the government under which you live
The fifth convention will convene at 10 a.m.
July 23, 2007, at the Early B. Ottley Senate
Hall. The deadline to adopt a new constitution is
July 27, 2008.
(For a complete history of prior
conventions, see "Constitutional Conventions:
What's Gone Before.")
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