Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen announced her bid for reelection and named a new school for St. John as one of her top priorities for 2008 at a Wednesday, January 9, press conference highlighting her 2007 accomplishments and looking forward to her goals for this year.
In 2007, Christensen introduced H.R. 53, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enter into a lease agreement with the V.I. government on behalf of the V.I. National Park, providing land for the construction of a new school on St. John.
The bill passed Congress, and Christensen believes H.R. 53 will pass the Senate, she explained.
“The Senate will insist on having a hearing, which is one of the reasons I wanted to have a discussion with the Secretary of the Interior [Dirk Kempthorne] before I left Washington, D.C. in December to try to get him not to oppose it,” said Christensen. “We’re going to work very hard at it, so I think it will pass.”
Kempthorne is currently opposed to the bill, Christensen continued.
“I really want to try to have him be here and see the property and speak to St. John residents before the Senate hearing,” said the delegate. “The Secretary gets a sense of urgency and the need to move the school out of Cruz Bay, and when he sees the property we’re talking about — which is not an original part of the park — and when he gets a sense of how much of St. John is the park, and the pressure the local population is under between development and the park, I think he’ll soften his opposition.”
It will likely take years before a school is constructed, and the process needs to begin soon, the delegate added. Virgin Islands residents opposed swapping government-owned cays with the VINP, and the only way to move forward with obtaining land for a new school is through a land lease with the park, Christensen explained.
The delegate discussed several other issues at the press conference, including the bill passed last year giving the authority back to the V.I. government to manage and levy property taxes, and problems with the U.S. Postal Service, which Christensen vowed to continue to work on.