Former Senator-at-Large St. Johnian Almando Rocky Liburd has thrown his political hat in the ring this year running for lieutenant governor on the independent ticket with Kenneth Mapp, who is making his bid for governor.
St. Johnians often get set on the back burner, but now you will have a St. Johnian in the seat, said Liburd. Implementation comes from the executive branch. A lot of laws have to go through the governors office, and if I am elected, it will be me up at Government House.
The veteran politician held the Senator at Large position for 15 years until he was unseated by Craig Barshinger in 2004 in a close race that came down to a difference of about 400 votes in the St. Croix District, sealing Barshingers victory. Liburd won the St. Thomas-St. John District vote by about 2,000 votes.
Since leaving his public service role, Liburd has stayed busy as a management consultant for private businesses through his company Facilitation Enterprises LLC, but said that it will be an historic event if he is elected as the lieutenant governor.
History will be made, because in the history of the V.I., the lieutenant governor has never been a St. Johnian, he said. For the first time, if I am elected, a St. Johnian will sit in the high, decision-making seat next to the governor.
Shake Up Expected at VIPD
Mapp and Liburd have already drawn controversy from critics by advocating for an international search to change the leadership of the V.I. Police Department.
We have to do something about the police department, Liburd said. We have been criticized for our stance, but we stand firm. People have a right to feel safe in their homes.
We are saying that we will look for leadership throughout our government, but we will go outside the V.I. if necessary, he added. We will not limit ourselves to just here. We will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
In addition to also pledging to revamp the V.I. Department of Education, Liburd said he is committed to St. John-specific concerns.
No Capital Improvement Funds for Trash The St. John Capital Improvement Fund payed for trash haulers years ago because there was a backlog, and haulers were getting upset, he said. We had to pay them because we had to have the garbage hauled, and it came out of the Capital Improvement Fund.
Now, however, it shouldnt come out of the fund anymore because the Waste Management Autho-rity deals with garbage hauling and they are funded by the government, Liburd continued. Taking monies from the Capital Improvement Fund needs to be a thing of the past.
Repealing 1936 Tax Law
Liburd has been a staunch supporter of repealing the 1936 federal law which mandated that the V.I. government revaluate commercial and private properties and could result in staggering increases in property taxes.
The record shows that in 2004, after the court decision citing the 1936 law, I wrote to Delegate Donna Christensen to get support to repeal the law, he said. I have been asking the delegate to move forward on this issue ever since. I am not a Johnny-come-lately on this issue.
The law on the books right now is not fair, Liburd continued. I still urge the repeal of the 1936 law. I wrote about it when I was in the senate and I continue to do so.
While in the V.I. Senate, Liburd supported initiatives to revaluate property every five years instead of yearly, and also proposed maintaining current property tax rates while citizens appeal to the V.I. Tax Accessors Office over increased rates.
The V.I. Property Revaluation program, being conducted by Virginia-based contractor Bearing Point, is still underway on St. John as private property inspections continue being conducted. The program is expected is be complete by next month.
Commercial property inspections were completed last year, and the new rates some as much as 200 percent higher should appear on the next tax bill.
Opening Roads in VINP
Opening roads within the V.I. National Park is another issue that Liburd has been a proponent of for years.
I have been working on this issue for years and years, he said. If elected, I would be in the position to open some of these roads. We dont want to open all of the roads, but we need at least one access.
As lieutenant governor, I would be in the position where we wouldnt have to ask the governor to open these roads, Liburd added. We could start negotiations to move towards opening these important access roads. It would be a big help to the island.
Inspiring younger people to be active in government is crucial for the future of the territory, Liburd explained.
I am committed to giving the younger people, who feel like they are left out, management and leadership positions in government, he said.
Mapp has been a friend and associate for years, Liburd explained of his running mate.
Its not like we just met up recently, said Liburd. Mapp and I served in the senate together in the 20th Legislature. He then became the lieutenant governor and we worked on many projects together over the years.
We have a mutual respect for each other and he is the best prepared to run the government, the lieutenant governor candidate continued. Mapp is a no-nonsense person and he is a man who can stay with a project until it is complete. He has been in both the private and public sectors, and that is what is needed to run this government.
Liburd, who has twice served as V.I. Senate President, said he comes with a proven track record.
Proven Track Record
I managed the V.I. Senate, an institution with a budget of more than $16 million, he said. Ive served the people on all three islands and I have the commitment to do what is right. If you check my track record, it surpasses everyone else who is running for lieutenant governor.
His best attribute is being able to work with a variety of people, Liburd explained.
Most importantly, I bring the ability to work with people, he said. I am a consensus builder. This is important because we have to come together to form a team that moves this government forward.
Although no one is perfect, Liburd said he believes that he can make a difference in the V.I. government.
I may not be perfect, but I am committed, he said. I believe that my serving with Mapp will bring about the kind of change that we need in the territory.
Mapp, who has an advanced business degree from Harvard University, has both public and private sector experience, Liburd explained.
He has worked as a police officer, served in the senate, and as the lieutenant governor, headed the Public Finance Authority, and was the commissioner of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Liburd said of his running mate. He has worked with numerous private sector businesses and would bring his wealth of experience to the role of governor.
Liburd and Mapp are currently organizing a campaign event on St. John, tentatively scheduled for mid-June.
Current V.I. Lieutenant Governor Vargrave Richards, a democrat, has announced his bid for governor as, but has not announced a running mate. John de Jongh is also running for governor with Greg Francis on his ticket for lieutenant governor.