Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Renewed Effort for Puerto Rican Statehood May Involve Christensen

by Ananta Pancham

St. Thomas Source

Dec. 22, 2008 -- Looking to put the decades-old issue of status to bed once and for all, representatives of Puerto Rico's pro-statehood party are turning to the federal government for a push in the right direction -- and the fate of their attempts might just rest on V.I. Delegate Donna M. Christensen.

In late 2007, HR 900 -- sponsored by New Jersey Rep. Jose Serrano and dubbed the Puerto Rico Democracy Act -- made it through the House's Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, which Christensen chairs, but has not been voted on by the House or U.S. Senate. Still, one Puerto Rico official says the bill, which calls for a federally mandated referendum, is not dead in the water just yet.

Bolstered by support from Puerto Rico's governor-elect Luis G. Fortuno, the bill will resurface once the nation's economy is more stable, and could possibly make its way back into Congress and Christensen's hands.
Though she is unsure whether she will continue to sit at the helm of the Insular Affairs Subcommittee when Congress reconvenes next year, Christen said the issue of status has always been an important one for Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, both unincorporated U.S. territories.

"I think the people of the territory should continue to track the progress of this proposal as it makes its way through the House," she said during a recent interview. "It might give us some ideas, and help us decide what we want to do as the question of status keeps coming up."

Congress's stamp of approval on Puerto Rico's referendum proposal could have some positive effects for the Virgin Islands, according to Puerto Rico Sen. Kenneth McClintock, recently on St. Thomas for a government conference.

"When the (federal) government passes a new economic-stimulus package, there could be some Office of Management and Budget-sponsored proposals in there that could go under the radar, and impact both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands," he said. "For example, the rum tax cover over that the territories benefit from -- that should be approved automatically, but it isn't, so we'll be able to keep a closer eye on that."

Much like the Virgin Islands, issues such as voting rights and citizenship are also concerns for the citizens of Puerto Rico, McClintock said.

"If we were to become a state, we would cease being participants in the military affairs of the nation without being able to participate in the election of the commander in chief," he said. "We would also get automatic equal protection in all federal benefits, like Medicaid, which we have been struggling with."
Puerto Rico has sent more "active-duty forces" to the Middle East on a per-capita basis than all the U.S. states -- except Nevada -- put together, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune.

Puerto Rico's congressional representatives could also help to pull Virgin Islands' issues to the forefront, McClintock said.

"We would suddenly have two U.S. senators and six U.S. representatives who would know what being part of a territory is all about," he added. "Those persons clearly comprehend what it's like to be a second-class citizen, and would therefore be more amendable to territorial issues."

The support for the bill is there, and continues to build not only on the local level, but on the national level as well, McClintock said. The first step in that process began with the drafting and approval of the territory's constitution, which showed that an island with "funny names, a funny language and funny-looking people" was able to take on Congress, he said.

This year, the Democratic Party's official platform -- dubbed "Renewing America's Promise" -- pledged the support of the White House and Congress to "work with all groups in Puerto Rico to enable the question of Puerto Rico's status to be resolved in the next four years."

Though local referendums held in 1967, 1993 and 1998 showed the Puerto Rican public favored maintaining the territory's commonwealth status, Fortuno's election and a recent poll taken by members of Puerto Rico's New Progressive Party shows a 15-percent increase in support for a federally mandated referendum, according to McClintock.

"So, the logical question is, why don't we experiment with it to see if it works?" he said.

Recent stats also show about a 10-percent increase in the number of voters leaning toward statehood -- as opposed to the 46 to 48 percent of citizens who supported the idea during the referendums, McClintock said.

"This definitely suggests that things are getting better for us," he said. "Don't worry -- we're not going to lose our language. With the millions of Hispanics living in the U.S. -- including the four million in Puerto Rico -- it's just not possible."

But before a new bill gets introduced -- and McClintock says there's no set timeline for when that will happen -- Puerto Rico's government also has some housekeeping to do, including balancing its budget and making sure the territory staves off any further economic downturn.

"Seven out of the past eight years we've had a budget deficit, despite the fact that our constitution strictly prohibits it," McClintock said. "Our outgoing administration recently spent over $10 billion, even though we were only collecting about $7.5 billion in revenues."

While it's no easy task, as soon as the territory gets itself on better financial footing, it will be time to get back to Washington and lobby for the referendum proposal.

"We have to really dig ourselves out of the hole in the next couple of years, so we can get this proposal passed as soon as we can," McClintock said. "We're ready to go up and lobby, and in the meantime, we're trying to maintain excellent relationships with all the players involved, like Delegate Christensen. And we will be sitting down with her in 2009 when the new legislation is drafted and sponsored."

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Caroline Kennedy for U.S. Senate?

By: Phillip Arroyo

As a result of Senator Hillary Clinton's appointment as Secretary of State by President Elect Barack Obama, an array of rumors and potential candidates have risen to fill the New York senate seat left vacant by Clinton. The loudest name being mentioned is Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, who apparently is the frontrunner among all possible candidates to occupy one of New York's senate seats. If appointed by New York Governor Patterson, she will still have to campaign in 2010 in order to be elected. Caroline has lived a great deal of her adult life out of the political and public spotlight but has now taken center stage after revealing her intention of running for the same senate seat that her uncle, Robert Kennedy, held during the mid sixties.

Caroline Kennedy is an American author and attorney. She is the daughter and only surviving child of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. was born in New York City and is named after her maternal aunt Caroline Lee Radziwill and a maternal great-grandmother. An older sister was stillborn in 1956.

Her brother John Jr. was born in November 1960 and died in a plane crash along with his wife and sister-in-law in July 1999. Another brother, Patrick, died of a lung ailment two days after his birth in August of 1963. She lived in the Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown until a few months after her third birthday, when her family moved into the White House after her father's inauguration as President of the United States in 1961.

At the White House, she attended kindergarten in classes organized by her mother and was often photographed riding her pony Macaroni around the grounds of the White House. Vice President Lyndon Johnson also gave her a Yucatan pony named Tex. A photo of a young Caroline with Macaroni in a news article inspired singer-songwriter Neil Diamond to write his hit song "Sweet Caroline," a fact he revealed only when performing it for her 50th birthday in November 2007.

Historians described Caroline's young personality as "a trifle remote and a bit shy at times" yet "remarkably unspoiled. "She's too young to realize all these luxuries," Rose Kennedy said of Caroline. "She probably thinks it's natural for children to go off in their own airplanes. But she is with her cousins, and some of them dance and swim better than she. They do not allow her to take special precedence. Little children accept things."

The day of her father's death, nanny Maude Shaw took Caroline and John Jr. from the White House (who at the time, had not been told of the incident) to the house of their maternal grandmother, Janet Lee Bouvier. Bouvier insisted that Shaw be the one to tell Caroline. That evening, the children were brought back to the White House, and with Caroline in bed, Shaw broke the news to her.

In late November 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy moved her family out of the White House, back to Georgetown. However, their home soon became a popular tourist attraction in Washington, and they moved to New York City in mid-1964 where they lived in a penthouse apartment on Fifth Avenue, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where Caroline attended the Brearley School and Convent of the Sacred Heart.

In May 1967, she and her mother christened the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy in a widely publicized ceremony in Newport News, Virginia. In 1975, she was visiting London to complete a nine-month art course at the Sotheby's auction house.

On Sunday, January 27, 2008, Kennedy announced in a New York Times op-ed piece entitled, "A President Like My Father," that she would endorse Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Her concluding lines were: "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans." This was the first time she had endorsed a presidential candidate other than when she endorsed her uncle, Ted Kennedy, in 1980.

Kennedy spoke during the first night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, on August 25, 2008, introducing her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy.

On June 4, 2008, Obama named Caroline Kennedy, along with Jim Johnson and Eric Holder, to co-chair his Vice Presidential Search Committee. On August 19, 2008, filmmaker Michael Moore called on Caroline Kennedy to "Pull a Cheney" (as in Dick Cheney who headed President George W. Bush's vice presidential vetting committee in 2000), and name herself as Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate. On August 23, 2008, Obama announced that Senator Joe Biden of Delaware would be his running mate. Kennedy addressed the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, introducing a tribute film about her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy.

She received her A.B. from Radcliffe College at Harvard University in 1979 and her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1988, after graduating from Concord Academy in Massachusetts in 1975.