FITIAL’S SECRETIVE, HEAVY-HANDED STYLE WORRISOME

Editorial

FITIAL’S SECRETIVE, HEAVY-HANDED STYLE WORRISOME

Marianas Variety

SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (Feb. 28) - A new administration is in place, which is a huge improvement already. What the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands now needs to see is an improved way of doing things on Capitol Hill but so far the new leadership has yet to demonstrate that it knows how to do so.

The selective disclosure of information continues.

This, of course, should not be, and has not been, a problem with the independent press. It just means we have to work harder to get all the data you need about your government, and we will. But we would also like to remind administration officials that whenever they refuse to provide information to this newspaper, they are punishing not us, but the readers of the islands’ most widely circulated publication. This fact was somehow lost to the previous administration, which is another reason why it is no longer in power.

Now consider the new administration’s announcement of the Micro Games cancellation and the fast-track passage of the bill to abolish Marianas Public Lands Authority.

The governor, to be sure, has valid reasons for scrapping the games but he could have avoided all the resulting uproar if, before going public with his decision, Department of Community and Cultural Affairs (1) had consulted with the local sports organizations; and (2) advised them of the government’s inability to raise the needed funding as well as of its willingness to hear possible solutions to this problem.

The administration could have avoided the ill will generated by what many in the community consider the governor’s one-sided and insensitive decision to cancel the games. It was, in short, a glaring public relations failure and another unwanted distraction from the administration’s more pressing tasks.

The bill to abolish Marianas Public Lands Authority was also mishandled by the administration. First, there were the selective leaks to favored media outlets. Then a public hearing was held, but instead of eliciting encouraging comments from the people, most of the testimony heard indicated widespread mistrust over the proposal to give the governor control over public lands. After assuring the people that their concerns would be heard, the administration and its allies in the Legislature railroaded the bill’s enactment anyway.

For the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ sake, the new administration, as we have said before, must avoid the mistakes of its predecessors. And it can do so with more transparency, more thoughtful public pronouncements, more careful planning in policy implementation, and more willingness to listen to the people who will be affected by the decisions the governor makes on their behalf.

It is still not too late to do things better.

March 1, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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