When you get stuck along Beach Road, better take the Middle Road. This is a website for those who choose to tread Saipan's off the beaten path. * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * +

Jul 25, 2008

Surrender and declare victory

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs has awarded the CNMI government a $333,000 grant to assist the CNMI's labor and immigration enforcement efforts. This is the same grant that Governor Fitial rejected last year, accusing OIA of "outrageous" behavior by attaching conditions that were "unprecedented, unnecessary and unproductive." He accused OIA of holding the grant funds "hostage." OIA defended the conditions as normal, reasonable and necessary accountability provisions designed to ensure that the funds would be properly spent for their intended purposes. See story here.

Well, the grant that Fitial has now accepted has the same conditions that were attached to the grant that he rejected last year. And rather than complain about the "outrageous" conditions, the Governor thanked OIA Director Nikolao Pula "for supporting the CNMI's strong law enforcement efforts by awarding us with these needed grants." In fact, the primary difference between the grant that he rejected last year and the one that he has now accepted is that OIA was offering $420,000 last year, and has since reduced the grant to $333,000.

So what has changed between then and now? And here's a more interesting question: How much of this grant money, which will be used in part to fund attorneys and paralegals for the Office of the Attorney General, will be used to support the CNMI's lawsuit against the very federal government that is providing the funds?

Jul 23, 2008

PSS Politics or What (Sequel)

Saipan Tribune reports today that there are three applicants for the Public School System Commissioner position. Earlier we had a post on this, and yes, former PSS associate commissioner Rita Sablan is one of the three that has turned in her application. Again, Sablan competed with retired PSS Commissioner David M. Borja and lost by one vote during the BOE election two years ago. Sablan filed a lawsuit against the decision at that time.

Ambrose Bennett and Debra Ellen are the other applicants as of today.

Well, do we now know who will be the next PSS commissioner? Any idea?

Read on our earlier post regarding this issue.

Jul 22, 2008

"Sue the federalizer jerks for the stench of their evil deeds!"

The Saipan Tribune reported recently that the CNMI Attorney General's Office is suing Danny Aranza, former director of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs, in connection with a $130,000 contract to develop a port security plan. According to the news story, which can be found here, the report by Aranza's company plagiarized federal regulations.

The first question is how you can plagiarize federal regulations, which are supposed to be used and followed by those who are affected by them. Wouldn't the CNMI government want the report to state the requirements that had to be followed?

The more interesting question has to do with Aranza's history with the CNMI. Aranza led OIA during the Clinton Administration's push for federalization. A Saipan Tribune article in which then-Speaker Ben Fitial calls Aranza a "jerk" over the federalization issue can be found here. Actually, the Marianas Variety's version of the same story is even more amusing. In it, which unfortunately is not available online, Fitial calls Aranza a "jerk" seven times.

Not to be cynical, but might Aranza's support for federalization lead some to wonder whether this lawsuit is an attempt to punish the "federalizers" for the "stench of their evil deeds", to paraphrase one well-connected person's hilariously melodramatic recent comment on this very blog? (That quote proves that even humorless people can be very funny.) Could this be part of the strategy to fight federalization, and indeed the "evil federalizers" themselves, in the courts?

Jul 21, 2008

The Commitments

Blog polls are not scientific, in part because the people who respond to them are self-selected, and may not be representative of the community at large. Still, a couple of recent polls conducted on this blog and Glend558 may be worth looking at.

The poll on Glend558 asks: “Will you support a candidate in the next election if they support Fitial filing a lawsuit against the federal government?” The poll was conducted in response to the CNMI Legislature’s resolution to support the governor’s lawsuit (it has been referred to committee, where it will probably die a slow death). The results of the poll are astounding. As of today, 85.3% of those who responded say they would not support any candidate who supported the governor’s plan to sue the federal government.

This site’s poll asks whether people think Fitial could win a lawsuit challenging the federalization of immigration and labor, and fully 70% have responded “Fat chance.”

Numerous posts on this site and others have focused on the drawbacks of filing suit against the feds, and the seeming lack of any legal merit to it. There are many arguments against filing. A lawsuit will make it uncertain, perhaps for several years, whether foreign investors will be allowed into the CNMI, and whether employers will have access to foreign workers. Not knowing who’s in charge or what the rules will be will discourage private investment. Many have also pointed out that we should be working with the Department of Homeland Security to help draft the regulations to implement the new federal law, so we can get regulations that are favorable to our economy. A lawsuit will limit the degree of cooperation between the local government and the feds, and likely result in less favorable consideration.

Other posters have pointed out that the government can’t afford the cost of litigation, which the Fitial Administration has said will be $50,000 a month, and most believe there is little or no chance that the CNMI would win.

Fitial cannot even argue that the new law will harm the CNMI until the regulations are drafted and about to go into effect on June 1, 2009, only about six months before a new governor is inaugurated. Whoever the new governor is could withdraw the previous governor’s lawsuit, just as Fitial did with Babauta’s lawsuit to claim our cover-over money from the feds.

So here is the question: would you be more inclined or less inclined to support a candidate for governor who publicly committed to the following statement:

If I am elected governor, my first official act will be to withdraw any lawsuit filed against the federal government over the federalization of immigration in the CNMI.

Jul 16, 2008

Of CUC and Shutdowns...

Ming Palace shuts down, so they told us.

The ire of CUC bills have been plaguing establishments in the CNMI.

This renowned 24-hour diner griped about the utility bills that soared from $4,500 to over $9,000 just for one restaurant. The manager shared that the management has exhausted all cost-saving measures for the store. "I don't even know now which lights to turn off since most of them are," the manager said. The management said, it has been the worst the store has faced since its existence on Saipan. Then, the manager walked down the memory lane during the golden days of the CNMI. The management said it wouldn't want to raise the prices of the food in the restaurant because it knows that the people have lesser purchasing power nowadays.

Another establishment, a department store, will be downsizing and reducing its store area. The management has cleaned up the owner's backyard where the store will keep stocks et. al. The owner said the bill is just killing the business gradually. Thus, before it dies out, the management decided to reduce the store area and rent just one little space to make it work.

A little hotel used to pay $7,000 for CUC power. Then the management decided to use generator at night again to save from the grueling power bills. The AC's are on at night for the tenant's sleeping pleasure. Then in the morning they use CUC power. At first some pencil pushing saw the potential savings the hotel could reap from the measure, however, the little hotel's current power bill reached to a staggering $10,000 for last month's usage. The owner fainted in disbelief. The hotel had to pay the CUC bill plus the fuel for generators.

A small home or apartment tenant was happy to live in a building with generator. The owner of the building does not charge extra for generator. That should make the tenant happy. Last month usage reached 590 kwh for 31 days. The total bill due was around $160. Due to intermittent power outage, the tenant thought of saving a little because of the generator. New CUC bill came with less usage for the month which was 544 kwh. However, the tenant's bill was $210.

So much stories to tell out there...

So what's yours?

Jul 13, 2008

A Glass Wall for the Legislature?

A more transparent Legislature? Or should the Legislature hold office in a glass house? This is the call of current Rep. Tina Sablan for more signatures to make this initiative a reality-- in time for the November election ballot.

This brings me to wonder what the Legislature's role in all these commotion up on Capital Hill. What is its role on the lawsuit being filed or about to be filed against the US government? Do lawmakers have its say on the current issues facing the Commonwealth at all? Should they intervene? I guess I'm a bit lost. Kindly enlighten me....

Going back to the transparency issue, is making it open really the issue?

Quoting the "freshman lawmaker" from the Trib, “I am convinced that it is up to the people of this Commonwealth to rise up and demand the transparency and accountability they deserve from their elected officials, and to take direct action to apply the Open Government Act to the Legislature through the popular initiative process,” she added.

Click here for the entire story from ST.

Jul 9, 2008

A Text for Recall?

Got this message today. I don't know with you, but I did get one.

It was a text message that said, "If u want to get the CNMI back on track, recall Fitial. Pass it on."

Would such rare "phenom" occur on this island? Would it work at all?

You tell me....

Jul 7, 2008

Quotable Quotes: Fitial on 2009 Election

(From Saipan Tribune)

“If the people still need me, I am here for them,” said Fitial in an interview with the media shortly after the completion of the Liberation Day Parade on Friday.
More story here....

Jul 3, 2008

"Don't hold your breath," but would green cards for long-term guest workers be good for the CNMI?

The following conversation was overheard recently at one of the water coolers here at Saipan Middle Road World Headquarters:

He said: "Did you here that Jim Benedetto said that CGWs shouldn't hold their breath hoping to get green cards?"

She said: "Yeah. He's been pretty consistent over the years in saying that workers shouldn't count on the hope that they'll get green cards."

He said: "OK, but let's forget for a minute about whether it's likely that CGWs will eventually be able to apply for green cards. If they were allowed to apply for green cards, would it be good for the CNMI?"

She said: "I guess that depends on who you are. It would be good for you if you were a foreign worker."

He said: "OK, but what if you were a business owner?"

She said: "Wouldn't most business owners prefer the way things were before the federalization law passed?"

He said: "Maybe, but that's not an option anymore. The feds have made it clear that the CNMI will eventually have to phase out its guest worker program and just follow the federal rules. They'll probably extend the phase-out for at least five years after 2014, maybe more. But eventually it will be phased out."

She said: "So what's your point?"

He said: "The only hope in the long term of business owners being able to keep their best CGWs is to give them green cards. Otherwise, they'll eventually have to leave."

She said: "But if you give them green cards, they can go to Guam or Hawaii or California."

He said: "Yeah, but if you don't give them green cards, they'll eventually have to leave unless they can qualify for a visa under U.S. standards, and some people--although I don't know if I trust these particular people--are saying that most CGWs probably can't. If these people are right, then giving CGWs green cards is the only hope under the new law of being able to keep the best long-term employees. If you're an employer, wouldn't you rather have a chance of keeping your long-term workers, even if they suddenly had more bargaining power and you had to pay them more, than not having a chance to keep them?"

She said: "I guess, but I'd probably like the old system even better."

He said: "Like I said, that's not an option. That's why giving CGWs green cards is probably the best option now for employers."

She said: "What about criminals and people like that."

He said: "They wouldn't qualify. You'd have to meet certain standards, and it would only be a one-time thing for workers who have already been here for, say, five years."

She said: "What about from the standpoint of locals? Do we want Filipinos to take control over our islands?"

He said: "Well, for one thing, that could already happen when their U.S. citizen children are old enough to vote. But if you give them green cards, a lot would leave."

She said: "Well, how would it help the locals?"

He said: "It would help the locals if you didn't have all of this cheap labor. The way things have been, pay is too low outside of government if you're a local, and in order to get a job in government, you have to kiss up to whoever's in power. If you changed the system, maybe locals who have left will come home, and maybe a lot of CGWs would leave to find better opportunities stateside. Businesses would have a shot at keeping the CGWs that they want to keep, but they'd have to compete for them just like employers have to do in Guam."

She said: "Well, I don't think it's going to happen. And also, those workers signed a contract and it was always understood that they would have to go home."

He said: "I know. I'm not saying that it's going to happen. Maybe it will and maybe it won't. And I'm not saying that the workers are entitled to get green cards. I'm just saying that if they did get green cards, maybe it would be the best thing for the CNMI, including the locals and the business owners. And maybe if we all recognized that this would be good for all of us, then we could really unite as a community--locals, businesses, CGWs, even the human rights activists--and lobby for it in Washington. And maybe if we all speak with one voice, rather than contradict each other like we usually do, they'll actually take us seriously for a change."

She said: "Well, if you could get the Chamber and Wendy Doromal and Taotao Tano all holding hands and pushing for this in DC, that might make an impression. But it will never happen."

He said: "Maybe it will never happen. But it should happen."

Jul 1, 2008

Quotable Quotes: On CUC $5.1M Deal

(From Saipan Tribune)

Muna replied, “We made a mistake. We learned from our lesson, and we're not going to do it again.”

More story on this page.

Translate: saipanmiddleroad.blogspot.com


About this site

This site is the Saipan Middle Roaders' blog--the wannabes, the frustrated ones, and the repressed ones...

There are several thoughts that have been written on paper, online or on the walls of every NMI building's bathrooms.

This site is for the geeks, for the shameless bitches, and for the restless drunks.

This site is for everyone.


Posts on this weblog are entirely the authors' opinions and views only.