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Calderon Misses Premier Conference

Governor was one of 17 missing this year’s National Governors Conference in Rhode Island


August 16, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon’s eleventh hour cancellation of her attendance at this year’s 93rd annual National Governors Conference in Providence, Rhode Island was evidently so sudden that her name–misspelled as Calderin–remains on the program with her party affiliation as "Democrat."

"Thirty-eight governors attended this year’s National Governors Association (NGA) conference which means there were 17 absent," Keri Minehart, public affairs associate of the NGA, told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS from Washington.

The 55 NGA members include the governors of the 50 states and those of five offshore jurisdictions: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the five offshore jurisdictions, only the governor of Guam attended with the other four absent.

In her absence Gov. Calderon was in some pretty good company but she still caused some raised eyebrows and came in for some criticism. In addition to the other four territorial governors absent, 13 stateside governors were absent including some of the biggest.

The 13 state governors absent included those of Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas. One attendee noted that among them are three states with large Puerto Rican communities–Florida, New Jersey, and New York.

Attendance at the annual NGA conferences is never perfect but the absence of Calderon resulted in several comments from a number of attendees present. "With all of the problems Puerto Rico is having in federal relations–both with the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill–the NGA conference affords a new governor of the island a unique opportunity to make some new and valuable friends as well as to try to influence them," said a gubernatorial aide from a state whose industry has a large stake in Puerto Rico.

With the outcome of future congressional action on the Calderon administration’s proposed amendment to federal Internal Revenue Code section 956–the centerpiece of her economic development program–anything but clear, the support of key governors from home states of the companies that would benefit is considered crucial.

A number of attendees in Providence noted the absence of Rossello since he has left office. Of course, former Gov. Pedro Rossello is a hard act to follow, in more ways than one. During his tenure as NGA vice chairman, the organization held its annual summer meeting in Puerto Rico in 1996. "One has to give Rossello his due," said one veteran observer. "He was not only faithful in his attendance but rose to high levels of leadership and in the process made many friends for Puerto Rico. They, in turn, often backed his agenda in Washington through their, in some cases, large Congressional delegations."

Gov. Calderon has repeatedly emphasized her intention not to declare an affiliation to any national political party. Which is not to say that she will shun involvement in national politics. Following New York Gov. George Pataki’s visit to Vieques in support of the Calderon administration’s position of an immediate and permanent stop to U.S. Navy training exercises there, Gov. Calderon publicly stated she will support him in his reelection bid. Ironically, her party affiliation on the NGA website is listed as "Democrat."

Not the only missed opportunity

Meanwhile powerful Chairman James V. Hansen (R-Utah) of the Committee on Resources of the U.S. House of Representatives invited all of his other 51 committee members, including Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, to join him on a fact-finding mission to the three Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Iceland, and Norway, according to Bill Johnson, his legislative director. Jose Cruz, Acevedo’s press secretary, said that the Resident Commissioner would not be participating and had decided to remain in Puerto Rico during the present Congressional recess.

While the number and names of participants has not been finalized, Delegate to Congress Donna Christian-Christensen (D-USVI) announced she would be joining the chairman for the Denmark portion of the mission. "The trip will permit me more bonding with the chairman," said Dr. Christian. "Also, I am very interested in speaking with Danish officials about restoring the air link between Copenhagen and St. Croix in the USVI," said Dr. Christian. Thousands of Danish tourists have annually visited St. Croix, which belonged to Denmark before 1917.

Hansen’s committee has jurisdiction over matters regarding the insular areas of the U.S., including Puerto Rico. The Utah Republican has established a reputation for himself as a hardliner in the dispute between the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Government over the military exercises on the island of Vieques.

Hansen is an arch-defender of the U.S. Navy and, in fact, has moved to eliminate the return to the Commonwealth of the excise taxes collected on rum produced in Puerto Rico. Their total is expected to exceed $300 million this year. Hansen has emphasized that the elimination would not apply to the USVI, which also benefits from the same provision.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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