Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Party lines

I'm not a party goer, but CNMI politics fascinate me. The local Republican Party, despite the best efforts of peacemakers, appears to be divided down the middle. The Covenant(s?) are mainly split-off Republicans. The Democrats' factions have pushed them to the brink of extinction. A lot of politicians, especially on Saipan, have given up and call themselves Independents.

Not that it matters: the popular style on all fronts is to talk like a Reagan Republican and act like the stereotype of an anti-business, pro-entitlement Democrat. Personal and family ties and animosities seem to matter more than political platforms so there's constant movement from one label to another.

So what's going on with the Covenant(eers?)

Power play

From the outside looking in, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Tim P. Villagomez appear to be at odds. Villagomez, a former Commonwealth Utilities Corporation head, was overseeing the administration's efforts to salvage that hapless agency. Now that long-time Fitial business associate Antonio Muna has been installed as Executive Director, he seems to be out of the loop.

I'm a faithful reader of the Marianas Variety and Saipan Tribune, but the Covenant(ans?) don't air their laundry in public. Imagine my surprise when I read in the 'whoever's in power' mouthpiece Pacific Times that the Lt. Governor hasn't made up his mind about running for another term. Earlier media reports made it sound like a done deal.

Subtext messaging

A realignment, purge would be too strong, seems to be happening. I have to rely on the problematic PTimes again, because I didn't see anything in the local papers, but apparently the Covenant Party elected new officers April 11, with Finance Director and Fitial associate Eloy S. Inos as chair.

The Governor's recent takeover of the Commonwealth Ports Authority just makes it more interesting. Board Chairman Rex Palacios had installed himself in an office at the airport to micro-manage CPA: check out Department Public Safety Director Clyde K. Norita's parting shot when he resigned from the CPA.

Ah, politics

The takeover shouldn't have come as a surprise; the Governor laid out his plans in his last speech as House Speaker (Saipan Tribune):

"The lieutenant governor (Timothy P. Villagomez) and I have agreed to share responsibility. He will practically run the government, while I focus on seven major agencies that impact the economy," the outgoing speaker told his fellow lawmakers during the last session of the 14th House of Representatives Friday.

These agencies, according to Fitial, are the Commonwealth Ports Authority, Commonwealth Development Authority, Marianas Visitors Authority, Marianas Public Lands Authority, and the departments of Commerce, Labor, and Finance.

CPA and MPLA have been focused; look for the Commonwealth Development Authority to be the next autonomous agency in the executive portfolio.

The Commonwealth has always had a strong executive branch, but this administration is pushing the envelope. The Governor has fought for almost unlimited reprogramming authority and that now includes the CPA. Well, according to the Variety, the Tribune doesn't seem to think that's very important.

Building a better wheel

The Legislature has been in full retreat, but seems to be digging in on the rash of CPA Executive Orders. The House, anyway, Senate President Pete P. Reyes has been 'slow' to react.

Enter House Majority James Norita, with a legislative initiative to "prohibit any governor from using his or her emergency powers under the CNMI Constitution or commonwealth law to declare a state of emergency over a government agency simply because such agency is experiencing financial difficulties or hardship." (Marianas Variety)

Fine sentiments, Counselor, but why is it necessary? The CNMI Constitution is very specific: "Section 10: Emergency Powers. The governor may declare a state of emergency in the case of invasion, civil disturbance, natural disaster, or other calamity as provided by law, and may mobilize available resources to respond to that emergency."

1 comment:

Lil' Hammerhead said...

If Tim hasn't made up his mind.. he better tell that to the folks putting out the bucks to print "friends for Tim 2009" campaign paraphernalia.. they haven't gotten the "hold" notice yet.