Friday, December 23, 2005

Junkets and other junk

Reprinted without permission from the Marianas Variety:

ACCORDING to a recent article in Marianas Variety, PSS and the Board of Education are giving two MHS staff an all-expenses paid excursion to the nation’s capital, spending over $8,500 in only two days (not including flight time, layovers, stopovers, etc.).
I’m puzzled how two lower-level employees of the CNMI government are authorized to blow through that much cash on a, here comes a bad word, JUNKET (because that’s what it is, right?) when even our very own governor is cutting back on these types of excursions (even though he did send the AG in his place).
I’m assuming the aforementioned employees are flying first-class, staying at a first class hotel (let’s say, the Watergate) and traveling to and from the convention via chauffeured limo. For $8,500 they better bring back a heck of a lot of souvenirs, seeing as their spending money runs to $1,350 — EACH — per day! Sweet grandmother’s spatula! That’s a lot of “I (heart) DC” T-shirts! And a whole lot of mini-Lincoln Memorials and White House postcards, too!
Here’s a revolutionary idea — BUDGET the trip! Whoa! You mean actually fly coach, stay at a youth hostel, and experience DC’s fine Metro subway system? And while they’re at it forgo the champagne and caviar and actually EAT AT SUBWAY! Or Mickey D’s; you get the point. Basically, they’d only rack up around $4,000. Can’t be done? Or can it? If they really have to, they can sell plate lunches on Beach Road or do car washes, that sort of thing. Like other school groups do to raise funds for off-island trips. And give the money back to PSS to buy books, school supplies, that sort of thing. Maybe remit some payments to their vendors.
Better yet, give me the $8,500. I’ll spend it RIGHT HERE ON SAIPAN. You see, I have not had a full-time job in 6 months (what’s referred to in today’s job market as “long-term unemployment”) and could use that $8,500 (or the balance of $4,500 saved by the counselors flying coach) to pay for rent, my car loan, groceries, gas, utilities etc. I’ll personally account for every penny of it, too. I might eat at Subway myself.

Finasisu, Saipan
March 18, 2005

I AM writing to respond to the letter by Rick Vaughn last week, which criticized a trip taken by two PSS employees to Washington, D.C. He imagined that they flew first class, stayed at the Watergate Hotel, and rode in a chauffeured limousine to the conference.
In reality, they flew coach on the approximately 12 hour flight from Narita to Detroit and then on to D.C. They stayed at the Days Inn, and they rode the Metro bus and the subway.
I know this because I know the people who took the trip and talked to one of them. I also called PSS central office and had it confirmed by the acting commissioner.
The trip was federally funded, and the CNMI was required to send staff as part of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind initiative.
I hope Mr. Vaughn, who seems to have a vivid imagination and a lot of time on his hands, will do his own fact checking before writing any more fanciful letters to the editor.

Capitol Hill, Saipan
March 22, 2005

YOU stated in your letter that I seem to have a fanciful imagination and a lot of time on my hands.
I think my imagination is no more fanciful than those who believe that because something is “federally funded” (and what isn’t, here in the CNMI?) means that it’s free money to do with whatever they want. Many people here on these islands disparage the federal government and hate the idea of paying taxes but that is exactly where all these “federal funds” come from. After my letter appeared in the Variety (and Tribune) last week many people approached me, telling me that they agreed 100 percent.
“Locals,” too, and plenty of ‘em. Now, I may not be “local,” as my friend Jim Davies put it the other day in his letter, but still have mouths to feed and bills to pay. Something in me tells me that these “federal funds” could be better spent instead of being pocketed or fed into poker machines. I know for a fact that the people who write these federal grants (where the funds are requested from the Bush administration in D.C.) do not actually see the fruit of their efforts. And I’m not sure the students at MHS will, either.
If you actually believe what someone told you over the phone from PSS Central Office, then I can believe what they told me through the Variety from the very same office. Maybe I’m not the only one with a fanciful imagination. Or maybe I’m just being a realist. If you believe I have too much time on my hands, help me get a job.

Finasisu, Saipan
March 24, 2005

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