Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'm moving!

I signed a lease for a new apartment this afternoon. I'm going to move out of my place in Gualo Rai...well, right now. I'm pretty excited. The apartment is in a great location. I'll write all about it in a future blog.


Yesterday I took the morning off to go to Managaha. Well, sort of. Even though I was technically off, I still took pictures of fish and coral. I shot some video, too.

The fish at Managaha are amazing! There was a school of Bluefin Trevali circling around the snorkling tourists. They must have been about two feet long each.

Now, we could kill those 8 fish and have one hell of a BBQ or we could charge 200 tourists $50 per day to go swimming with them. Which one do you think is better?

New Blog on the Block

There is a great new blog in the CNMI and one has to wonder, why didn't we think of this earlier? The blog is simply called "Saipan This Week." Contributors are invited to write up a blurb about an upcoming event and then a calendar of events is pasted onto the bottom of each post. That way, the reader can read about a new event and easily see how it fits into all of the other events going on in the Saipan.

Cool!

Hopefully we'll continue to add contributors and this blog will really take off as the source to find what is going on in Saipan!

If you would like to contribute an event or become a regular contributor, please contact the webmaster at SaipanThisWeek@gmail.com.

Inter-Island Soccer Action this weekend!

The Guam National Soccer Team is visiting Saipan again this weekend for another game against a CNMI team. The last time Guam was in Saipan, the CNMI National Team, made up of local US passport holders, came close to tying the much younger and fitter Guam team. Guam only managed a 3-2 win.

This time around Guam will face a team composed of the best soccer players the CNMI has to offer, regardless of nationality. This new team has Filipino, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Bangladeshi, and American players.

The game is this Sunday, June 3 at Ada Field in Susupe. The game starts at 3 PM.

This should be a really exciting game! This new CNMI International team beat the CNMI National team 3-0 in a friendly match two weeks ago. They are going to give Guam a run for their money.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Interview Questions

I've been contacted by someone doing a research paper who needs information about life in the CNMI. She emailed me a list of interview questions and when I started writing, I realized that most of the questions were rather large in scope. I think books could be written on some of her questions.

There is no way that I alone could do justice to the questions she is asking, so can some of you bloggers and/or readers help a brother out? Can you respond to some of her questions in the comments section of this post? If you are a blogger, can you add a link to your blog?

Answer any of the questions you want.

Thanks in advance, here are the questions:

1. First, can you give me a brief background about yourself and how/ why you came to live on Saipan? (i.e., did you move there for work, family, adventure?)

2. How would you explain life on Saipan to someone who has minimal knowledge of CNMI . What are some of the unique and defining points of CNMI culture and your experiences there?

3. What are the demographics of Saipan? Does U.S. policy seem to have influenced them in any way?

4. What sort of environmental impacts has U.S. government and militarization had on Saipan and CNMI that you know of? What other environmental problems does the region face?

5. What sort of cultural and economic impacts has the U.S. had?

6. What is your personal opinion on U.S. involvement in the Northern Mariana Islands? Does your opinion seem to be shared by the majority of residents? Why or why not?

7. In researching Saipan, I’ve noticed that there seems (at least on the internet) to have been a movement to preserve Chamorro culture and promote Chamorro pride. Does this seem to be a correct interpretation? Have there been any social movements in the realm of indigenous people’s awareness or movements towards independence from the U.S.? Was the establishment of the Mariana Islands as a U.S. Commonwealth a welcomed move by the majority of residence?

8. In recent years CNMI garment industries have been the center of labor rights controversies, most recently in an article put out by Ms. Magazine. Do you have any opinion on these matters? How significantly does the garment industry seem to impact life in Saipan?

9. Part of what lead me to you for an interview was the fact that you keep what seems to be a pretty prominent blog about your experiences in Saipan. Why did you decide to start this blog, what were you hoping to accomplish?

10. As a blogger, you have likely come across the very critical and anonymous saipansucks.com, where criticisms of CNMI range from allegations of nepotism and corruption to racism and unregulated sexual abuses. AS someone who has never been to Saipan, this is one of the first sites that comes up in research and is more detailed than many others. However, as someone who has no connection with CNMI, I feel it is important to get a balanced view of these controversial issues. Does there seem to be any discussion or majority opinion on these issues in Saipan? Do you have any personal response to these criticisms?

Monday, May 28, 2007

H.B. 15-38, CS 1 SUMMARY

I have a digital copy of both H.B. 15-38, CS 1 and the Committee Report that goes along with it. This is the controversial bill that has everyone on the island pissed off on at least one provision.

Having my own reservations, I spoke to Cinta at great lengths about this bill last night. She assured me that this is a working draft. She has already had input from many sources and is now seeking the input of the general public.

Click HERE for a digital copy of the bill. I've copied and pasted the Committee Report below.

There will be a public hearing to discuss this tonight. The House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations will be holding a public hearing on Saipan to hear testimonies, written and oral, on House Bill 15-38, CS 1 know as the Commonwealth Employment Act of 2007 on May 29, 2007 at 5:30 p.m. in the House Chambers, Saipan.

The House Chambers are up on Capital Hill. Here is the summary:

Below is a summary of changes to House Bill 15-38, A Bill for an Act to Repeal and Re-enact Chapters 4 through 8 of Division 4 of Title 3 of the Commonwealth Code (Nonresident Workers Act), to amend 4 CMC § 5708(a), (b) and (c); and for other purposes. The House Standing Committee on the Judiciary and Government Operations, with the assistance of the JGO Task Force, has made substantial changes to the original bill and will report the bill as House Bill 15-38, CS 1, A Bill for an Act to Repeal and Re-enact Chapters 4 Through 8 of Division 4 of Title 3 of the Commonwealth Code; and for Other Purposes.


SECTION 1 of H.B. 15-38, CS 1 renames the title of the Act to the “Commonwealth Employment Act of 2007.” This change was made to reflect the fact that the Act covers, and should cover, more than just the terms and conditions of employment for foreign nationals. The Act must also reflect the need to promote the hiring of local residents by mandating workforce participation levels and a preference for local workers, among other things.

SECTION 2 lays out the findings and purpose of the Legislature in enacting HB 15-38, CS1.

SECTION 3 of H.B. 15-38, CS 1 provides for the recodification of Title 3, Division 4 of the Commonwealth Code. The Committee feels that a recodification to more clearly divide the parts of Division 4 into Citizenship, Entry and Deportation, and Employment components is advisable to create a more user-friendly code. The Commonwealth Law Revision Commission has been consulted regarding this change and empowered to adjust the statutory codification if necessary to achieve this objective.

SECTION 4 of the bill is the reenactment of the Non-Resident Workers Act as Part 3, Chapters 1-6 of Division 4, the “Commonwealth Employment Act.” The Committee finds that this Act should not apply to persons admitted to the Commonwealth as tourists, or to persons employed illegally, i.e. without the approval of the Department of Labor, or to those persons employing others illegally in the Commonwealth, unless specifically indicated. It is the intent of the Legislature that persons illegally employing others or illegally employed be prohibited from using the terms of this Act to receive or avail themselves of a legal right or benefit. This Act shall not bar any other remedy provided by law. It is also this Committee’s strong sentiment that illegal employers should be identified and prosecuted vigorously under existing provisions of law.

Chapter 1 retains much of the current law establishing the power and duties of the Director of Labor and the Director of Employment Services within the Department of Labor. The Committee finds that it is necessary and proper to add a penalty provision for violation of §4403 Conflicts of interest. The penalty provision has been added to mirror the penalty imposed for violation of the moratorium on hiring (3 CMC §4607, which was adjusted slightly from the current provision). The Committee intends the $2,000 fine to be a mandatory minimum fine upon conviction. The period of imprisonment (up to 5 years) is at the discretion of the court. The Committee also finds that the 5 year bar to re-employment is critical to maintaining integrity in public employment without indefinitely penalizing persons convicted.

Chapter 2 has been created by the Committee to separate and more clearly define the Commonwealth’s employment preference for resident workers. The Chapter reaffirms the general employment preference for residents and re-enacts the exceptions for foreign national employment in agencies of the government.

Section 4511 defines terms necessary for the implementation of the Act. The term “domestic helper” is defined more clearly. It is the intent of the Committee to prevent employers from using domestic helper exemptions for other workers such as farmers and office employees. The purpose of exempting domestic helpers from the moratorium and the exit requirement is to preserve the relationship between employers and important household staff.

A new subsection (b) was added to §4522 to allow for a Secretary’s exemption from the job vacancy announcement requirement for certain projects.

Section 4524, which did contain job categories reserved for resident workers, was deleted. The Committee feels that workforce participation levels (§4525) and a stricter moratorium (§4601 et seq.) are a better way to promote local hiring. The new §4524 contains a provision mandating compliance with the “Resident Worker Fair Compensation Act” (4 CMC §9501 et seq.).

Section 4525 enacts workforce participation requirements. Certain positions must be filled by 50% citizens and permanent residents. The category of “human resources personnel” was added to this list. All other positions shall be filled by at least 20% citizens and permanent residents. The section prohibits the Secretary from waving any of the workforce participation requirements and exempts employers of fewer than ten or fewer foreign national employees from compliance.

Section 4526 allows for the continuation of light manufacturing waivers and for an exemption from the 20% requirement for particular construction projects of limited duration.

Section 4528 clarifies the process for a qualified citizen or permanent resident to challenge the decision of an employer to hire a foreign national worker instead of that citizen or permanent resident.

Section 4532 updates the exceptions permitting the employment of foreign nationals in various government agencies in light of Public Laws 14-89, 14-91, and various other public laws, as well as recent developments in the labor force of the CNMI. The section provides an exemption for foreign language instructors, special education instructors, and head start personnel in the Public School System. The section provides for an indefinite exemption for U.S. certified physicians and dentists. The section also contains an exemption for nurses and technical staff. It is the intent of your Committee that this Act should supersede but be entirely consistent with Public Law 15-45, relating to the status of foreign national nurses graduating from the Northern Marianas College. Textual, rather than substantive alterations of P.L. 15-45 have been made consistent with the spirit of P.L. 15-45 to ensure expedient codification and clarity in application. The only addition to P.L. 15-45 made through this Act is to allow nurses who attend private vocational nursing schools in the CNMI to get the same exemption from the 2 year experience requirement as NMC graduates. There is an exemption for the Northern Marianas College for foreign language instructors, research scientists, and other technical employees. There is an exemption for the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation for engineers, mechanics, and utility technicians. The Department of Commerce has an exemption for part-time census takers. Finally, there is an exemption for foreign language translators for specific agencies in the government. This list of agencies should be strictly adhered to in the exemption process.

The Committee received comment on this section from the Public School System (PSS). The Committee agrees with PSS that the positions of special education, head start, and foreign language instructors can be difficult to fill with U.S. citizens. The Committee feels, however, that this exemption should not be available indefinitely and that PSS should be better prepared to recruit U.S. citizens for those positions when the provision expires in 2010. Consistent with actions of the 15th Commonwealth Legislature (in defeating H.B. 15-182), the Committee declines to extend an exemption for the Department of Public Works (DPW). The Committee finds that the exemption for government translators should be strictly limited to the listed agencies.

Sections 4533 and 4534 work together to require government agencies that hire foreign nationals to submit and implement a manpower training plan to convert to resident workers and then penalize those agencies that fail to submit a plan by suspending their privilege of hiring foreign national workers. The Committee finds that the Office of Personnel Management shall approve no new contracts for foreign national workers for suspended agencies.

Chapter 3 continues the moratorium on the hiring of foreign national workers. It is the intent of the Committee to repeal and re-enact those portions of Public Law 11-76 that relate to the moratorium on the hiring of foreign national workers. It is the intent of the Committee to preserve the intent of P.L. 11-76 through this repealed and re-enacted Moratorium on Hiring of Foreign National Workers (§§4601-4607 herein) and through Chapter 7 of Division 5 of Title 4 of the Commonwealth Code (4 CMC §5701 et seq.).

Section 4601 should not be read as limiting the exemptions available to the government in §4532. The government’s hiring authority for foreign national workers shall continue until it expires as provided in the Act.

As proposed, Chapter 3, Section 4602(a) permits the renewal of contracts for foreign national workers and allows for foreign national workers to return to the CNMI as renewals after their six month exit required under §4953. This effectively enables employers to retain good employees, subject to the six month absence. The Committee feels that without this provision, foreign national workers would be considered “replacements” after their six month absence and in many cases would be barred from entry. Section 4602(b) expands the number of exempted job categories but simultaneously removes the Governor’s exemption from the moratorium. The Committee feels that the governor’s exemption is subject to abuse. The Committee also removed fishermen from the list of exempted job categories. The Committee feels it is appropriate at this time to make fishing positions subject to the moratorium in order to promote local involvement in the fishing industry. The exemption for major new development was amended to provide a lower investment amount and to encourage the development of the tourism industry. A legislated exemption was added to cover light manufacturing.

As stated supra, the penalty provision in §4607 now matches the penalty for violation of §4403.

Chapter 4 is reserved.

Chapter 5 retains the current provisions of law regarding certification pre-clearance (currently Chapter 8 of Division 4 of Title 3). Few substantive changes have been made. It is the Committee’s intent that agreements already in place such as the Philippine Oversea Employment Agency (POEA) and with the Chinese Economic Development Association (CEDA) fall under §4802 if applicable.

Chapter 6 defines the terms and conditions of employment of foreign nationals.
Section 4911(b) establishes a definition for a “bona fide” non-profit religious affiliate. It is the intent of the Committee to limit entries for religious activities under the new §4927 (infra) to such organizations. The Committee finds that a broad entry provision for religious activities is subject to abuse.

Section 4911(c) defines “debarment” as the temporary or permanent prohibition pursuant to an administrative order, on employment by an employer of foreign national workers.

Section 4911(e) defines “Foreign national worker.” The definition takes into account the purpose of the Act, which is to regulate all foreign national employment, with very few exceptions. The definition should be strictly construed to avoid a situation where foreign nationals are admitted to perform work or services without an employment contract. It is the intent of the Committee to protect both employers and foreign national employees through the contract process. The exceptions to the definition are included and may be further defined by the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the immigration director and the Attorney General. The Committee finds that the Act shall not apply to consular and other employees of foreign governments, foreign investors, persons employed by foreign business associations having their principal place of employment outside the CNMI, artistic, cultural, educational, and scientific presenters or performers remaining in the CNMI for less than 21 days, or tourists. The Secretary may further define the term by regulation consistent with the section.

Section 4922 now requires that affidavits that are executed outside the CNMI must be attested to under penalty of perjury inside the CNMI at orientation. This incorporates the intent of S.B. 15-65. The section also requires a standard health insurance contract as a condition of entry and requires that copies of any recruitment agreements used in hiring the foreign national worker be attached to the application.

Section 4924 empowers the Department of Labor to develop a bonding or other surety requirement for employers of foreign national workers. Due to past problems in this area, the Committee is reluctant to leave the traditional bonding requirement in place without strict oversight. Section 4924 requires yearly reporting to the Legislature for this purpose. Additionally, the Committee feels that a so-called “judgment bond,” i.e. a bond that is payable immediately upon entry of an order of the Department or a court, is preferable to the current system. The Committee intends for the Department to develop adequate safeguards by regulation to ensure that bonds are payable.

Section 4925 now requires that the entry permit be provided to the foreign national worker at orientation (§4934).

Section 4926 requires a foreign national worker to submit proof of earnings in excess of 150% of the federal poverty guidelines for the State of Hawaii prior to sponsoring immediate family members for first-time entry. The Committee finds that requiring a foreign national worker to earn sufficient income before bringing family members into the Commonwealth for the first time serves the important government interest of maintaining the public welfare and not overburdening public institutions and services in the Commonwealth. The Legislature further finds that §4926 does not conflict with the Federal District Court’s ruling in Kin v. N. Mariana Islands, 3 N.M.I. 608 (D.N.M.I. 1992), because it shall have only prospective application.

Section 4927 is a new section designed to provide for a statutory, rather than regulation-based, entry permit for religious activities. It is the intent of the Legislature to supersede CMNI Immigration Regulation §§5.40.1-625(l) and (m). Any valid permits issued prior to the effective date of this Act shall remain in force until their expiration, unless otherwise prohibited by law. The Committee added this section because of a general consensus that the current framework for entry for religious purposes is inadequate and subject to abuse. The Committee finds that requiring the employing organization to meet minimum legal requirements serves an important state interest of preventing abuse of the religious activity permit process. The Committee feels that, as a matter of diligent security policy, persons entering under this section should be employed by identifiable religious organizations. The Committee in no way wishes to impair the free expression of religious belief by persons or groups present in the Commonwealth, nor does it wish to unduly burden their employment of religious professionals for that purpose.

Section 4931(a) restricts employment of a foreign national worker to one employer. Part time or second jobs are now prohibited. The Committee feels that given the current state of the CNMI’s economy, all possible measures should be taken to promote and encourage the employment of a local workforce.

Section 4931(b) shall supersede the decision of the CNMI Superior Court in Office of the Attorney General v. Xu Wang Zheng, Civil Action 05-0524(E) (2006). Ensuring the prompt and accurate identification of foreign national workers will reduce the strain on labor and immigration resources and protect foreign nationals who are in the Commonwealth legally. The Committee finds that during travel by plane or boat during working hours it is particularly important for foreign national workers to have all appropriate identification in their possession.

Section 4931(c) is in large part a re-enactment of existing law, but does give employers the option, by contract only, to include a termination with notice clause to be used in the event of an increase in the minimum wage. The Committee feels that this is fair to employers who may be caught in unaffordable contracts should the law change.

Sections 4931(g)(1) and 4932 work together to require that every foreign national worker, upon entry to the Commonwealth, shall have a standard level of medical insurance coverage. The Committee finds that when a foreign national worker reaches the appropriate level of compensation, any deduction by the employer for medical insurance premiums is for the primary benefit of the foreign national worker and is consistent with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Committee feels that these amendments are in the best interests of employers, foreign national workers, and the Commonwealth Health Center. The Committee heard testimony about employers who, in the past, have been forced to pay very large amounts in medical expenses for conditions they had no way of detecting and/or preventing. The Committee received numerous comments from the hotel and tourism industry, as well as other industries, on the subject of medical insurance. The task force assisted in developing a replacement for the current medical coverage provision. Above all else, mandatory medical insurance coverage will provide basic healthcare coverage and prevent employers, foreign national workers, and the Commonwealth Center from having to bear the crippling cost of serious medical procedures. It is the intent of this Committee that the medical insurance provisions of this Act be superseded by any employer coverage act or universal health coverage legislation enacted by this or any future legislature.

Section 4931(g)(2) increases the housing deduction an employer may make for upper-income foreign national workers. The Committee finds that this provision is fair and appropriate given the state of private rental market in the Commonwealth. The Committee received comments supporting this provision from the task force members.

Section 4931(l) is a new provision that will require each employer of more than ten employees to submit a manpower plan for increasing the percentage of resident employees in the employer’s workforce.

Section 4932(b) of this Act shall supersede the decision of the Superior Court in American Construction, Inc. v. Salgado, Civil Action No. 95-1043 (1995). By reducing the responsibility of the employer to provide medical coverage to a 60 day period following termination of employment and adopting a more streamlined hearing process, it is the intent of the Committee to provide for the fair and expedient resolution of labor matters and to protect former employers from excessive medical bills due to protracted labor disputes. The Committee feels that efforts have been made to expedite the complaint and hearing process and therefore a corresponding decrease in the medical coverage period is appropriate.

Section 4934 requires an orientation for newly arriving foreign national workers. Informing non-residents early on of their rights and responsibilities is critical to the effort to reduce the frequency of labor abuses, protracted labor disputes, permit revocations, and the loss of legal status. The Committee invites the attendance and input of the federal ombudsman at orientation sessions to ensure the most effective presentation possible. Section 4934 requires the entry permit to be delivered during the orientation session. For too long permits have been issued and given to employers or agents of employers only to become last before reaching the permit-holder. The Committee finds that delivering entry permits directly to the foreign national worker at the time of orientation will ensure: (1) that the worker receives the permit directly, and (2) that the worker attends the session. The Committee finds that employers or their representative should attend the orientations at least two times per year to remain informed of developments in the labor laws. The Committee feels that no foreign national should begin work until they have attended the orientation. The foreign national worker must attend within one week of arrival, unless the Secretary, pursuant to subsection (e) needs to reconfigure the orientation schedule. The sanctions for violation of §4934 are contained in §4964(d). The Committee worked with the Department of Labor and the Office of the Federal Ombudsman in developing this section.

Section 4936 prohibits all transfers, except those granted pursuant to administrative or judicial actions. Consensual and Expiration transfers will no longer be permitted. The Committee finds that this prohibition is necessary because of widespread abuse of the transfer process. The Committee received many comments on this provision. It is the intent of the Committee to end only consensual and expiration transfers and not to interfere with the due process rights of foreign national workers or disallow the use of administrative transfers. The Committee received comments from the Office of the Attorney General on this issue and was diligent in addressing due process concerns. The Committee does not intend to limit due process rights provided under the U.S. and CNMI Constitutions.

Section 4937 requires large employers to give notice of reductions in force and offers a strong disincentive to hiring workers just prior to reducing force. The Committee finds that this provision is consistent with H.B. 15-131, now pending in the Legislature, but should be superseded should 15-131 become law.

Section 4938 will place employers and foreign national workers on notice of their legal rights and responsibilities and require mediation in appropriate circumstances.

Section 4939 shall supersede 3 CMC §4442, as overruled in Gorromeo v. Zachares, Civil Action No. 99-0018 (D.N.Mar.I 2000) and re-enacted through Public Law 14-84 (2005). The Committee finds that §4939 this Act fairly balances the need for health and safety inspections of worksites employing foreign national workers with the privacy rights of employers and employees in the Commonwealth.

Article 4 of Chapter 6 clarifies the administrative hearing process for foreign national workers. The section replaces the current 3 CMC §§4441and 4444-4446 with a more detailed model. Section 4943 clarifies the mediation requirement. The Committee has attempted to amend Article 4 to expedite and streamline the hearing process in order to more expeditiously resolve labor complaints.

Section 4951 under Article 5 is intended to protect foreign national workers who, during a contract term, must leave the Commonwealth for personal, medical, or other reasons from suffering from adverse actions to their immigration or employment status while they are absent. The Department should develop a user-friendly system for notification that is not unduly burdensome on employers or foreign national workers.

Section 4953 imposes periodic exit requirements (6 consecutive month absence in every 54 month period) for foreign national workers that are similar, though not identical, to the periodic exit requirements of United States law which generally require a one year absence after two consecutive 3 year periods. See, e.g., 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(iii). Exemptions are provided for professional and executive positions and for domestic helpers.

Section 4956 permits the Division of Immigration to develop a re-entry program for those foreign national workers who have pending administrative or judicial actions in the CNMI. This provision is enacted to ensure that foreign national workers receive adequate due process in pursuing violations of this Act and other Commonwealth and U.S. law. The Committee recognizes that it may not grant powers or limitations to the U.S. District Court; however, the Committee finds that the time requirements of the section should be interpreted as subordinate to an order of the federal court or agency in a civil or criminal proceeding.

Section 4961 is a clarification of the former 3 CMC §4424, which established accounts for the proceeds of the “Commonwealth Non-Resident Worker Fee Fund.” The recipients and distribution have been clarified and the section now expressly does not replace or remove the fee imposed under 3 CMC §4347. Proceeds from that provision should continue to go to the Deportation Fund.

Section 4962 limits the effect of foreign national worker status vis-à-vis citizenship, naturalization, or permanent residence. The section also limits the amount of time in which a foreign national worker may file a complaint to one year, unless the actionable event was not immediately discoverable. In such cases the foreign national worker shall have one year from discovery (based on reasonable diligence) to file.

Section 4963(a) of the Act is intended to end the practice of foreign national workers (formerly non-resident workers) entering the Commonwealth under the Non-Resident Workers Act and then starting businesses in the Commonwealth. The Committee finds that the intent of this Act is to regulate foreign national employees, not foreign national business owners, investors, or employers. To this end, the new Act precludes the use of this Act for entry for business owners, investors, and employers. Such persons will need to qualify for entry under other provisions of Commonwealth law, e.g. as a Foreign Investor (See Chapter 9 of Division 5 of Title 4 of the Commonwealth Code.) The Committee finds, however, that under current 3 CMC §4437(h), the provision that the new 3 CMC §4963(a) replaces, workers who first entered the CNMI for employment purposes prior to July 28, 1987, were permitted to have a financial interest in, operate, or engage in business, or become employers. For this reason, this Act, pursuant to §4963(a), is intended to allow a transition period for those foreign nationals to convert their status to foreign investors or other entry status. The Committee finds that the Department of Labor should, in consultation with the Department of Commerce, develop a five year transition plan to achieve this objective. The Committee finds that §4963(a)(2) should expire and automatically repeal two years from the effective date of the Act.

Subsection (b) requires all foreign national workers to be at least 18 years of age.

Subsection (c) requires employers to be financially capable of employing foreign national workers.

Subsection (e) prohibits a foreign national worker from beginning work until he has received an entry permit at an orientation session.

Subsection (g) bars “pre-employment” relationships.

Subsection (m) allows, upon approval of Secretary in consultation with the Attorney General, to permit tourists to work in very limited circumstances involving human trafficking cases or other court proceedings.

Subsection (n) bars “sponsorship” arrangements.

Subsection (o) bars related companies of a debarred employer from hiring foreign nationals.

Section 4964 updates and clarifies sanction and penalty provisions for violations of the Act. Subsection (l) allows the Division of Revenue and Taxation to deduct from an employer’s NMTIT rebate for failure to pay repatriation costs.

SECTION 5 is a global amendment to ensure consistency throughout the Code.

SECTION 6 of the Bill amends the current 4 CMC §5941 Long term business certificate; conditions provision. The Committee feels that it is important to include the Departments of Labor and Public Health in the coverage of the bond so that employers do not reclaim bond funds prior to settling repatriation and medical obligations.

SECTION 9 provides for the effective date to be January 1, 2008, and restricts the Act to prospective application.


Several Important Aspects of H.B. 15-38, CS 1

The Act will fully repeal Public Law 11-33 (Limited Immunity for Illegal Aliens), codified as Chapter 5 of Division 4 of Title 3 of the Commonwealth Code (3 CMC §§4501-4507), and Public Law 11-66 (Non-Resident Compensation and Repatriation), codified as Chapter 7 of Division 4 of Title 3 of the Commonwealth Code (3 CMC §4701-4704). The Committee finds that these two provisions of law have run their effective course and no longer adequately meet the demands of the foreign national labor force in the Commonwealth.

It is the intent of the Committee that this Act shall not conflict with Chapter 5 of Part 1 of Division 1 of Title 6 of the Commonwealth Code (Human Trafficking and Related Offenses). This Act shall in no way limit the authority of the Commonwealth to bring an action pursuant to that chapter. The Committee referenced the Human Trafficking and Related Offense Act in the findings of the bill itself to ensure that that provision and this Act do not conflict.

It is the intent of the Committee that the following bills from the Fifteenth Commonwealth Legislature be subsumed in and generally pre-empted by this Act: House Bills 15-24, 15-46, 15-93, 15-107, 15-167, 15-182, and 15-232, and Senate Bills 15-2 and 15-65.

The Committee intends for this Act to be consistent with the decisions of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands in Sagana v. Tenorio, No. 03-15779 (9th Cir. 2004), and Kei v. Amer. Int. Knitters Corp. 789 F.Supp. 1074 (D.N.M.I. 1992).

NMIFA Women's League Championship Game

While EJ slept on Saturday, her soccer team earned a spot in the finals of the NMIFA Finals. The Final game was this morning. I took some pictures at the game:

soccer girlsKatie BusenkellPenalty kickSamisoccer champsSoccer championship gameSoccer fansCNMI Soccer TeamSoccer picsCNMI SoccerSoccer High KickFacing the WallSaipan Womens Soccer


The pictures aren't in any particular order. The ladies played two full halves and a sudden death overtime without anyone scoring. The Championship was decided with penalty kicks. I hate when that happens!

EJ's team ended up not winning (I can't bring myself to say that they lost). The opposing Goal Keeper blocked three of their penalty kicks. I need to get her on my coed team this summer!

My favorite picture from today's has to be this one of Zoey and Nikki:

Saturday, May 26, 2007

On Being Colorblind

Flame Red Sky
I often wonder what I'm missing. It sucks to be colorblind. I see pink, purple, and orange. Is that right?

So last night was the final night of the Taste of the Mariana Islands. I went with EJ. It was weird to think that last year I went with Emily, Jeremy, and Qamar and that they all live off island now. Hmmm...

I was also there to accept a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of Beautify CNMI.

MVA Tourist AwardThe certificate reads:
In recognition of its valuable contributions toward the Garapan Tourism Belt Transformation Project & beautification programs and support of the CNMI's travel industry.
Thanks, MVA!

...and then here are a few photos with friends:

Beach Road ModelKaipat Family

Passed, Signed, and Delivered

The Iraq War appropriations bill that contained language raising the minimum in the CNMI and American Samoa was signed by President Bush on Friday.

The minimum wage is currently $3.05 in the CNMi. 60 days from yesterday, it will increase $0.50 to $3.55. 10 months later, it will increase another $0.50 to $4.05. It will increase $0.50 per year after that until it reaches the new federal level, $7.25.

The argument that the CNMI does not fall under US Federal Minimum Wage laws is no longer true. It will be very interesting to see if the doom and gloom continues, or if the Chamber of Commerce was just blowing smoke up everyone's ass. Let the games begin.

You just can't make some stuff up

There is a story on CNN.com about an 11 year old boy who shot and killed a 1,050 lb hog. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the story:
"It feels really good," Jamison said. "It's a good accomplishment. I probably won't ever kill anything else that big."

(snip)

Mike Stone is having sausage made from the rest of the animal. "We'll probably get 500 to 700 pounds," he said.
God Bless America!

I wonder if the wild pigs in the Northern Islands get that big?

Making the pages of World Soccer Magazine

World Soccer Magazine didn't credit me as being the photographer for this photo, so I am going to illegally reprint their page here. Here's the deal, you don't sue me and I won't sue you.

This picture was taken on the day of our first scrimmage against the Saipan All-Stars. Yeah, we lost that game. And the next game. Then we lost the game against Guam in Saipan. Then we lost the game against Guam in Guam. Then we lost again to the All-Star team last week.

Man, we suck.

It's all good. I'm a Red Sox fan. We'll win one of these days.


...Yankees suck.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Saipan Sucks guy has a blog!

Alright, so he doesn't really have a blog, he just contributed something to a blog. Still! You can imagine my excitement when I found something written by William Betz, with William Betz' name actually attached to it!

Everyone knows that I take issue with the website that shall not be named (except in this post title). Written anonymously, unless of course you do a search for the webmaster, this website is written with an anti-CNMI, pro-terrorist agenda.

Everyone also knows that I'm a racist and a propagandist. The CNMI is a heavenly paradise and those bitter haoles who say otherwise should be put to death, stoned with katupak. Plus, I've lived here for over 14 months.

Article LXIX of the constitution says that anyone with more than 25% indigenous blood who grew up in the Mainland ceases to be haole as soon as they move back to the CNMI and wear zorries 300 days in a row.

Alright, enough with my attempt at humor and sarcasm. Betz, buddy, give us a fucking break. The minimum wage bill is set to be signed by the President this weekend and I'm sure immigration reform isn't too far away. Whether the local people like it or not, this place is going to be cleaned up.

If it hadn't already been printed in the newspapers a dozen times, I'd be the first one to say that I'm really disappointed that our local leaders couldn't do it for us first. The Legislature is too busy changing street names and handing out resolutions to actually work on solving any problems while the Executive Branch doesn't feel it necessary to enforce any existing laws.

For example, the Litter Control Officers don't want to hand out litter citations because they feel bad for the litter bugs! Never mind that thousands of people have spent countless hours cleaning up after those slobs. I'm sure the other enforcement offices have the same "I feel bad for the criminal" mentality.

So yeah, we have problems. A lot of problems. But we've had enough of the bullshit. I'm not talking about your bullshit, either. I'm talking about the homegrown bullshit. Hell, I've only been here for 14 months and I'm sick of the bullshit. It is time for a change, which is why I am forming the CNMI Jedi Party.

So can you give us a god damn break? Could you write an article about Beautify CNMI, the public forums, or our exploding blogosphere once in a while?

In conclusion:

Mr Betz: Tear. down. that. website.

< / rant >

Looks like everyone is getting a raise

50, 000 people cheer while 20,000 moan:

Bill on increasing minimum wages in American Samoa and CNMI advanced by US Reps

The U.S. House of Representatives has advanced this morning the federal supplemental bill, that outlines spending for the Iraq war and includes provisions to increase minimum wages in American Samoa and CNMI.

Efforts to amend the bill, seeking a one-time 35 cent per hour hike was unsuccessful.
As it stands now, minimum wages will increase 50 cents per hour 60 days after the enactment and every year thereafter for the next 8 years.

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni says that the final language of the bill was negotiated between Congressional leadership and the White House and there were no chances to offer a lower wage increase.

Reports from Washington this morning states that both the U.S. House and U.S Senate is expected to approve the supplemental today and the measure will then go to President Bush before the weekend.
Courtesy of Radio New Zealand International

I literally laughed out loud when I read the Saipan Tribune article on this story. The Governor is saying that he would support the increase if it exempted the garment factories (and the maids, farmers, and fishermen). Where have you been, Governor? The increase is happening because of the garment factory abuses. Why would they even consider exempting them?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

EJ Lee: Give Angelo that puppy

I'm trying to convince EJ to give me this little puppy, Arizona, when he is old enough to be given away. So far she just keeps telling me no.

Damn it, EJ, give me that dog!

10 days and counting

In 10 days I'll be in Majuro! Never heard of Majuro? Majuro is in the Marshall Islands. Never heard of the Marshall Islands? Well, Godzilla is from the Marshall Islands (the most famous island in the Marshalls is Bikini.)

Majuro is an atoll; it has a very narrow circular strip of land surrounding a large lagoon. This will be my first visit, so I don't really know what to expect. According to the Internet, this is the airport:

I'm going with Jesse Borja and Reina Camacho to represent MINA at a Micronesians in Island Conservation Retreat. I'll be there from Monday to Saturday. I'm sure we'll be busy, but I'm going to do my best to get in at least one dive. Just one! Just so I can say I did it!

Speaking of Scuba, Mike Tripp has promised to start posting to his Saipan Scuba Diving Blog. He's got some pretty cool stuff on there, like pictures and underwater video.

1st Annual Grand Fiesta Pop Music Festival

I'm always amazed at the people who say there is nothing to do on this island. I feel like the opposite is true; there is ALWAYS something to do on this island. Why, even as I type this, I'm skipping soccer practice...and missing out on the Thursday Night Street Market.

Tomorrow at this time people will be playing ultimate frisbee. Also tomorrow night, Karidat has a fundraiser at Aqua Resort and Grand Hotel has their Friday Night Food Court between 6-9, where they are going to award Beautify CNMI with yet another generous donation.

Saturday morning the women have their soccer semi-finals, Beach Road Magazine has their Car Rally, the Japanese Community will be cleaning up the Okinawa Memorial and planting Flame Trees, and then later on is the last night of the Taste of the Marianas. Sunday is just as busy.

Another great upcoming event is the Grand Fiesta Pop Music Festival, the preliminaries of which have already been going on for a couple of weeks. This is a contest to find local songwriters and to give them a chance to get into the studio. There was an open call for composers to submit original pop song demos and the field of 26 has already been trimmed down to 15.

This coming Tuesday, May 29, the First Cirlce band will perform all 15 songs starting at 7 PM. Judges are going to narrow the top 15 down to the top 10 and the winners are going to record a compilation CD. Grand Fiesta has already worked out a deal with local radio station KWAW to play all 10 songs on the radio for at least a month. The compilation CD will be available locally for purchase.

This is a great way for local artists to get heard. I know that no one is going to get the type of exposure that they would on American Idol, but Grand Fiesta is going to promote the hell out of these artists for an entire month and they get the chance to get some free studio time.

The whole things concludes with a concert at the end of July. There will be prizes in several categories, but the grand prize winner will win $1000. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

I expect to get yelled at for this

I just created a new poll to decide once and for all who is Saipan's sexiest female blogger. It needed to be done. I'll leave it up for a week and then I'll put up another poll.

Perhaps Saipan's least funny blogger?

The candidates for Saipan's Sexiest Female Bloggger are EJ, Bev, Cinta, Jane, Brenda, Deece, Melissa, Bree, and Boni.

The winner gets, well, nothing. The loser gets to go out on a date with Brad.

Speaking of blogging, this guy had many nice things to say about our island.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On Ripples of Hope

Ripples of Hope is the latest stateside organization trying to help the victims of human trafficking in the CNMI. They contacted me several months ago and I made a few suggestions to them.

Even though they are dealing with a very controversial topic, for to help victims of human trafficking in the CNMI, one has to admit that human trafficking occurs, I suggested that they try to stay as non-political as possible. If they want to help, then help. Figure out what it is that a stateside organization can do to help the people here and then do it. I suggested that they hook up with a local organization in the CNMI and help provide them with funding.

I believe that is one of the things they plan on doing.

They are promoting themselves on DailyKos and Blogger. I recommend checking them out and educating yourselves on what statesiders think of the CNMI.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I live to serve the children

I've had three straight workdays of working with local kids.

Last Friday I spoke to three (out of four) of Jeff Turbitt's 12th grade English classes at Saipan Southern High School. Jeff didn't really make it clear ahead of time why he wanted me to speak to them or what he wanted me to talk on, but I ended up talking about what they were going to do after high school, going to college as a Chamorro, my work experience, blogging, Beautify CNMI, and the importance of communication skills. I think it went well. Jeff mentioned it on his blog, too.

Yesterday I participated in a cleanup of South Laulau Beach with 6th graders San Vicente Elementary. They removed 160 lbs of mostly picnic trash from the beach and had a sand castle contest.

This morning I went on a field trip with 8th graders from Hopwood Junior High School. We visited the Kagman Educational Island and then removed 1,350 lbs of marine debris from Tank Beach.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The people I admire most

The Saipan Blogosphere has been tagged! Is there anyone who hasn't reported 7 random facts/habits about themsleves? Oh, just Cinta? Well, I think she was too busy watching reruns of the OC. Yeah, right.

Dr. Khorram, er, um, I mean David, is trying to create his own blogging craze. I'm going to help him out. Here are the rules:

1. Write down all the different people that you admire
2. Explain why
3. Find a common thread between all the people
4. Go jump in the ocean

There is no need to tag other people.

So.

In the tagging game, Walt and Dr. Khorram, er, um, I mean David, wrote about how they had to stop and think about what there were going to write.

Not me. I can crank out random fact after random fact after random fact. I'm only 28, but I've done a lot in those 28 years. I've been in a slightly uncomfortable state for most of my life, mostly because I've been schlepped around the globe since I was three years old. Coming up with stuff you don't know about me is pretty easy.

This one is a little bit harder. Who do I admire? For several of the people I admire, there are things I loathe about them, while some of the people that I wish were dead, have my respect in other regards. Only one person comes to mind as someone that I admire with no reservations, while only one person comes to mind who I truly, well, you know.

In his autobiography Travels, Michael Crichton wrote about how he went to some new age dirty hippy retreat and had to pick out two tarot cards from a deck. He had to pick out the one he liked the most and the one he liked the least. They went around the room and each person had to explain their choices.

Then they had to do the opposite. They had to explain what they liked about the card that they didn't like and they had to explain what they didn't like about the card that they liked.

This mental excercise is kind of like that...for me, anyways.

So, here it goes:

The person who I love and admire above all others is my mother. I loved and admired my father, but I had a few problems with Ramon. Both my parents taught me how I want to live my life, but more importantly, they also taught me how I don't want to live my life. I'll follow that train of thought with my shrink in about 20 years.

I admire Drs. Barry Allen, Lee Lines, Bruce Stephenson, and Mike Gunter at Rollins College. I want to be JUST LIKE you guys.

I admire Michael Moore. OK, better make that two people I admire with no reservations.

I admire George W. Bush and Karl Rove. Even though these two ass jockeys were able to really pull one over on America...twice...I think that Democrats have a lot to learn from them.

Other people on my list include Jesus Christ, Malcolm X, and anyone wearing a Red Sox uniform. On a side note, anyone who trades a Red Sox uniform for pinstripes deserves no less than (insert really bad punishment here).

The common thread?

The inability to keep quiet and keep still while others screw up the world around them. These are people who see an injustice and then take action seeking change...even if they end up screwing up the world even more. I guess I just like loudmouth activists. (I could make a joke about George W. Bush being unable to sit idly by while the peacemakers of the world try to turn the US into a nation full of sissies, but I won't).

(splash)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A tragic accident

The car accident that killed Vinae Sablan Deleon Guerrero happened right outside my apartment. I didn't hear it happen, but I saw it as I left for yesterday's soccer game. I stopped at Subway for some chow and snapped these two pictures from the parking lot.

The white sedan was the car Vinae was driving. The big white truck truck with the blue stripe right behind, on the left side, is the truck that ran into her. You can see that it got scratched up a bit, but wasn't damaged nearly as much as the car.

The newspaper reports that the truck was traveling northbound and that the car was either pulling out into traffic or changing lanes. The police report hasn't been finalized yet, but my guess is that she was pulling out into traffic to head south, when the truck hit her while traveling north. How fast must the truck have been travelling to completely collapse the driver's side of the car?

I didn't know Vinae, but I can only assume that she was a smart, young, beautiful person. What a tragic day.

Chamorros? That sounds delicious!


Stupid frickin' Guam gets to go on the Colbert Report?!

Mummy, I want to go on the Colbert Report! I want to go on the Colbert Report, NOW!

OK, quick question. Colbert mentions that there are four protectorates. I thought there were five? Guam, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and us, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands?

Are we the stepchild of the US protectorates or what?

And just because I can:



And another one:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hitting the Big Time

Local personality Bruce Bateman is about to become very famous in the Mainland. In a recent entry, Dailykos writer Dengre recounts some comments from one of Mr. Bateman's latest Saipan Tribune columns. The title is "Meet the face of drunken evil..."

I'm not going to reprint what Bruce wrote or what Dengre wrote about Bruce, but I will say that as a result of Dengre's post, there is an online movement to lobby Keith Olbermann to make Bruce one of his "Worst Persons in the World."

They are asking people to write to Olbermann with "Bruce Bateman Nominee for Worst Person" in the subject line. They ask you to email your nomination to countdown@msnbc.com.

I'm not going to defend or attack Bruce's words. In fact, I doubt if he cares that people across the US are trying to get him named as "The Worst Person in the World."

I just want to congatulate him for making it to the Big Time! Go Bruce!

Edit:

The Bald Wonder wrote a post about Bruce hitting the Big Time. I have to agree with what Jeff says. Although he has an "off" sense of humor, Bruce is a pretty good guy. In fact, I think a lot of the stuff he writes he writes with the express intent of pissing off people like Dengre.

Tag, I guess it is my turn

Alright, alright. I was tagged by Steve and Missy and Yvonne. Here is goes, 7 random facts about Angelo:

1. I am one of eight children (that my parents know about). My father had Tiana from his first marriage; His marriage to my mother, his second and her first, resulted in Alex and me; My father's third marriage resulted in Abraham, Solomon, and Ramon (Memong); and my mother's second marriage resulted in Kevin and Catie.

2. I have lived on three continents (North America, Europe, and Asia) and visited a fourth. I plan to visit all seven continents before I die. I should probably get Australia out of the way while I'm living on this side of the world.

3. When I was in the second grade or so, my Mom took my brother Alex and me, to a haunted house at the Worcester Science Center (I think it is called the New England Science Center now) for Halloween. There was a palm reader or some sort of psychic and she told me that I was really good at sports. At that point in my life I was the kid who always got picked last to be on the kickball team. At the time I thought she was a fraud. Who knew that one day I'd get five varsity letters and play on the frickin' CNMI National Football Team! (I don't think I've ever relayed that story to anyone)

4. I took 5 AP classes my Senior year of high school and got a 1470 on the SAT (when I took the test there was no writing section, so it was scored out of 1600, not 2400). I got a 3 in AP English and a 4 in AP Physics, AP Chemistry, AP Psychology, and AP Calculus I. AP English was the last English class I ever took; My ACT was so high that I placed out of English in college. Considering I haven't taken an English class since I was 17, it is ironic that I now spend most of my days writing. When I was at the University of Richmond I failed two classes and received several D's, proving that test scores do not accurately predict success in college. When I got my second degree at Rollins College, my lowest grade was a B- (thanks, Pedro!). My proudest (academic) moment at Rollins College was when I got a 111 on my Ecology mid-term. My grade was a good 30 points higher than the next grade.

5. I've been fired from two jobs.

6. In the fifth grade my Social Studies classroom had a poster with a picture of every single US president. One day I decided to blacken out some of George H.W. Bush's teeth and to draw a bandage and a mustache on his head. I got in trouble for being "disrespectul." That was the beginning of my political career.

7. One day I was hiking with my father along the shallow water between Paupau Beach and Wing Beach. I noticed that a hotel had installed concrete stairs over the limestone rocks to make it easier for the tourists to get to the water. I told my father that I thought that the cliffs should have been left natural, that the tourists would enjoy their visit more if they had to climb down the rocks. He told me that was the reason that I had to come back to Saipan. That was the beginning of my environmental career.

Is that OK? Alright, I tag Steve, Amy, John Coggin Honda, Tony, Alex, Mom, and Laura.

Friday, May 18, 2007

More on Open Government

Last month Tina Sablan and some of her family members and friends submitted a Letter to the Editor asking the CNMI House and Senate members for a "full disclosure of all expenditures that have been made by your office in the last two years."

I think that Justo Quitugua and Stanley Torres were the first two lawmakers to submit their budgets. I just got an email informing me that Cinta Kaipat posted her 2006 expenditures and her 2007 expenditures on her blog. She invites the public to call her office if they have any questions or if they need to speak with her directly.

I love Cinta's blog. It gives her a great avenue for communicating with people on a personal level and as a lawmaker. Cinta writes about her life and her public service, but she also writes about her job. Her blog allows anyone in the world to comment on anything and everything she is doing. Want to make a comment about pending legislation? Put it on her blog. I think every lawmaker should be forced to be that open with the public.

Oh yeah, in her blog she has also pledged to draw up legislation to repeal the law exempting the Legislature from "public scrutiny."

What can I say?

I know,

You go, girl!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A hastily written review of Digg.com

Evil doctors have sharks with frickin' lasers attached to their heads; Jedi political activists have guppies with frickin' lightsabers in their fins.

Confused? Look up.

Thanks, Rick!

Digg.com is a popular social networking website popular with office workers. Instead of making sure that their TPS reports have the new covers, they're surfing through Digg for interesting articles, videos, and pictures.

The concept of Digg is very simple. Users simply sign in to Digg, which allows them to submit websites that they think are interesting. The submitter gives the link a title and writes a short blurb about it. Once the link is submitted, that counts as one "digg."

Other users are able to browse through Digg to find articles on a number of topics. If they find an article that they like, they can go ahead and "Digg" it, too. Digg then tallies the votes, takes into account the timeframe, and lists the articles in a number of different categories such as "most diggs," "upcoming stories," "newest," "oldest," and so on.

Digg users browse through the website using the search feature or the lists of different categories, which are continuously being updated with new numbers. The idea is that the good articles will rise to the top and the bad articles will fade into obscurity. You also have the option to "bury" an article, which helps it disappear from the rankings faster.

This website is so popular that usually when a website makes it to the front page it crashes from too much traffic. Yeah, it is that popular.

I think that Digg has enormous potential for generating traffic, especially traffic that is interested in your topic. For example, early this morning I "Dugg" the post on the Beautify CNMI blog that has the anchor scraping across the living coral reef at Dimple. There was no trickery involved what I did, only people interested in a "Video of an anchor illegally dragged across a living coral reef" clicked on the link. Even though only four people Dugg it, I still got about 30 hits.

What makes Digg even more intriguing is that it is a social network site. Diggers are able to add other users as friends. Once someone is your friend you are able to see all the articles they Dugg. From that page, it is no problem for you to just go ahead and Digg all of the articles that they Dugg. This aspect of Digg is what makes it so great. You can add 300 friends and they'll get pinged evertime you Digg something. I'm sure some mathemetician somewhere has some idea of how to track that.

Another way to get all of your friends Digging the same article at the same time, would be to create an email list of Diggers. When an article is ready to be Dugg, send out a mass email and have everyone Digg it at the same time. Enought hits in a short enough period of time will put any article on the front page of Digg. Hello, traffic!

Digg is going to be the next big thing in promoting our blogs and life in the CNMI, so if you are reading this, please go ahead and sign up for Digg. You can register at http://www.digg.com/register. Shoot me an email to let me know when you are ready to start Digging articles. At the next blogger meetup I'll show you how to add a Digg button to your mainpage.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Improving Beach Access and Protecting Turtles

Improving Beach Access: Mariana Island Nature Alliance (MINA) and Coastal Resource Management Office(CRMO) are set to open a new concrete staircase at Obyan Beach tomorrow.

Funded with a grant from US Fish and Wildlife Services, MINA and CRMO are finished with the latest phase of a project to better manage and protect the Green Sea Turtle nesting site at Obyan Beach.

Several months ago vehicular access to the beach was blocked off and three Green Sea Turtle education signs were installed near the parking lot. Concrete stairs and an emergency access gate were recently installed to help improve beach access.

CRMO and MINA will turn over the keys to the gate at a ceremony today at 10 AM. Department of Public Safety and Emergency Management Office will be on hand to accept the keys.

To complete the project, native vegetation and shrubs will be planted around the beach access to help reduce beach erosion. CNMI Forestry is currently propagating the plants. They will be planted during the onset of the rainy season in June with the help of the local Boy Scout Troop and other Beautify CNMI volunteers.

CRMO has also earmarked funds for the construction of two additional staircases to further enhance beach access for divers and locals.

The grant from USFW Service will also pay for a coral reef teacher education camp in August. MINA will train local teachers how to include coral reef education in their curriculum to meet their standards.

Remember, we're doing this for the children....and for these little guys:

Going home this summer?

I was looking up flights home during the summer. I found a roundtrip from Saipan to Orlando for $1579 on Northwest. Anyone know of any better deals?

On Redistricting and Collecting Ballots

This post is long, boring and mostly about local politics. I don't recommend reading it. For pictures of local girls playing volleyball, click HERE.

In the last 36 hours I've been asked to sign petitions on open government and runoff elections and I've read Supreme Court No. CV-07-0015-OA, a request for Amicus Curiae briefs and a scheduling order for hearings on redistricting.

I can't find the wording of the petitions online, so let me just pretend that I can remember what they said.

The first petition seeks to extend the Open Government Act to the Legislature, which exempted itself a few years back. Seems like a good idea to me. The Saipan Blog endorses this petition. Sign the petition and vote YES!

(please ring the victory bell)

The petition to force runoff elections is a different story. Although at first glance it seems like a good idea, I have a few issues with this petition. It deserves some discussion.

This petition is popular because of what happened in the CNMI gubernatorial election in 2005. The winner, Ben Fitial, garnered less than 30% of the vote. Second place was only 99 votes behind Ben and Third place was only 100 votes behind Second. This did not give Ben the mandate that would have made his time in office a whole lot easier...theoretically.

The group gathering signatures argues that if this Amendment gets on the ballot and passes, this situation, where the winner does not have a clear mandate to govern, would be avoided in the future because a runoff election would be declared in races where the winner does not get 50% + 1.

I don't know if that is a very strong argument. A good politician would be able to mend the fences with his political rivals. I'm not convinced that voter remorse has that much effect on the running of the government once the elections are over. Take a look at George W. Bush, for example. Even though he lost the popular vote and stole Florida in 2000, he was able to paint himself as a leader in the wake of September 11 and was polling a 90% approval rating for several months (until he blew all that good will on Iraq. Oops!)

There is also no way of knowing if we'll ever have such a close election again. What if next time the top vote getter garners 49.9% of the vote, while the rest is split between three or four candidates. Is it really worth spending taxpayer money on another election?

I know that Fitial's 28.1% of the vote left some people with the impression that he did not deserve to win. Well, what if he had won 35%, winning by 10 points? Or how about 45%, winning by 20 points? Would that count as a mandate? Would that put the people's nerves at rest?

I think this initiative is a good start. I endorse signing the petition to get it on the ballot. That will give us several months to debate and discuss, then we can vote in November. If it has merit, we'll vote YES, if there are problems, then maybe we can come up with something better in time for 2009.

The major challenge for both petitions, though, will be collecting enough signatures in time for the June 6 deadline, which is in exactly three weeks. They need 7000 signatures for the runoff initiative and 3000 signatures for the Open Government initiative. They'll need to collect about 350 and 150 signatures for each petition respectively per day for the next 21 days in order to get their initiatives on the ballot. Good luck!

Alright, that's enough babble about the petitions. What I really want to talk about is the Redistricting initiatives.

This is something that I'm familiar with. In 2005 I was working with a non-profit that was trying to amend the Florida Constitution's redistricting laws. I chaired a steering committee of volunteers, consisting of Democrats and Republicans, that gathered over 45,000 individually signed petitions in a seven county area in only a few months. This was part of a state wide effort that eventually collected over 3 million petitions, only to have them all thrown out on technicalities.

Redistricting is a hot issue in the US. I won't get too deep into the details, but the Voting Rights Act of 1964 legalizes gerrymandering to help get minority candidates elected. What this means in the South is that districts are created with ridiculous shapes, encompassing every Black and Hispanic neighborhood, and only the Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, spanning several counties. This has put the Democratic Party at a perpetual disadvantage. While it guarantees that a minority candidate will be elected to office, it ensures that every surrounding district will be Republican.

That system is not fair. It gives Republicans an unfair advantage, but try taking away that easily reelected minority vote and well, you probably see where I'm going with this.

Alright, that's enough about Florida. I'm just trying to point out that Redistricting is a hot button issue and that efforts to change the rules usually fail. It failed in Florida three times. It failed recently in Ohio, too.

Saipan is a little different. Gerrymandering currently isn't a problem here. They don't have the type of GIS data that they have in the mainland (but they will someday), but even if they did the CNMI constitution states that districts have to be "contigous and compact."

The problems identified by the group pushing this initiative are that Saipan is overrepresented in the House, that the districts weren't redrawn after the 2000 Census, and that Saipan has multicandidate precincts.

They are seeking to do several things:

1. They want to redraw the districts on Saipan.
2. They want Saipan to have less representation in the House.
3. They want to reduce the total number of seats in the House.
4. They want each district to have only one Representative.
5. They want it done next year.

First of all, it is going to be difficult to keep this from being painted as a waste of taxpayer money. Not only is the group asking the government to foot the bill for their attorney fees, but they are asking that this be done in time for the 2009 election. That would mean that a lot of money would be spent to redraw the districts for just one election. They'll have to be redrawn again after the 2010 Census. Some will argue that due to our current economic situation, now is not the time for this. You'll have to argue that it is Constitutionally mandated that this happen, Freedom, Patriotism, and so on and so on.

As for #2 and #3, good luck with that. I would drop it. You want this issue to be about redrawing lines, not reducing the size of the legislature and Saipan's influence. Let those be two separate issues. (I would like to see the Senate cut to 3 seats and the House cut to no more than 7 seats)

What you really need to focus in on are #1 and #4, redrawing the districts so that each district only has one Representative. The way the system is set up now, where Precinct 1 and 3 have over 20 candidates per election cycle, is an invitation for disaster. There is no way a voter can make an informed choice when he has so many candidates to choose from. My bet is that most people probably vote for the candidate that they know best (or are most closely related to) and check the rest of the boxes next to the names of that candidate's fellow party members.

This system allows bum candidates to ride the coattails of good candidates. In the end, the voters lose. Creating a system where only one person represented a district would have a myriad of benefits. During elections there would be fewer candidates for the voter to choose from, because of the smaller districts the candidate would be more likely to live near all of his constituents, and best of all, he wouldn't be able to pass the buck onto the other Representatives in his district.

The Supreme Court is accepting briefs until June 1 and there will be a public hearing on June 12. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Worth keeping an eye on this one

I received this message this morning:

The nucleus of a potential tropical storm is present south to southeast of Guam (see attached IR sat photo). The formation of a significant tropical cyclone is possible within 075 nm either side of a line from 8.7N 145.7E to 11.6N 142.2E within the next 12 to 24 hours according to the Navy models/forecasts. While not a direct threat to CNMI at this point it does bare watching especially if the system spins up and potentially curves northward.
Click on the image to bring up a larger version. Guam and the CNMI are outlined on the map.

Monday, May 14, 2007

This one is for my Mom

Alright, so I wasn't going to do an update, but in honor of Mother's Day and the woman who gave me life, here is what Angelo has been doing the last week:

Saipan Miss Gay Earth Pageant
That's hot: Bakala-kala!

On Wednesday night, after receiving the prestigious EPA Environmental Award, I had the honor of judging the Miss Gay Earth Beauty Pageant. The Saipan Tribune wrote an article and published photos from this event.

The bakalas (I just learned that word) have been helping us with our cleanups and have been promoting Beautify CNMI within their community. We were more than happy to participate in their beauty pageant, especially since we were able to watch the bikini contest:


They even gave me two free beers. What a great night!

On Thursday and Friday I visited classrooms at Garapan Elementary School and Saipan International School to talk about pets and how to act around dogs. Contrary to some opinions, we weren't spreading liberal tree hugger bullshit propaganda. We were just helping the kids not get bit. Here I am with Mr. Steinberg's 4th grade class at SIS:

Saipan International School
Party animals: Woof, woof! If you can't tell, the kids are acting like dogs.

We also had our monthly Beautify CNMI! meeting on Thursday. It was very productive and we finished the meeting with new committees to combat vandalism and to promote the creation of a parks system in the CNMI. This is the press release I issued about the two new committees:

The Trails and Parks Committee, headed by RC&D Coordinator Ken Kramer, who has experience building trails in the Adirondacks of New York, hopes to create a system of hiking, bird watching, and nature trails connecting the various existing trails and protected areas on Saipan from Marpi in the north to Susupe Lake in the south. This idea started with community members and the Beautify CNMI Coalition will coordinate with government and private land owners to create this system of interconnected wildlife corridors and protected areas with possible funding from different sources, including USDA Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. This trail/park system has many potential benefits, including improving and promoting ecotourism, protecting habitat, and provided more opportunities for local recreation.

The Micronesia Mural Challenge Committee, headed by Officer Tricia Seman of Department of Public Safety, aims to reduce the amount of vandalism occurring in the CNMI. They are going to work with school aged children during the summer of 2007 to paint murals depicting island life, the Micronesia Challenge, and the 2008 Year of the Coral Reef. Artists will be able to submit a proposal containing a sketch and a list of materials and winners will be chosen based on artistic merit. Special consideration will be given to areas that are prominent, graffiti prone, and related to Beautify CNMI, the Micronesia Challenge, and coral reefs. The chairs of the different Beautify CNMI committees will choose which projects get approved. This committee already has a generous $2000 donation by MVA. They will be soliciting more donations of paint and paint supplies from local businesses.
I posted the meeting minutes on the Beautify CNMI blog. Thanks, Ruth, for taking the minutes!

Saturday was a really fun day. I started off watching EJ play in a soccer game. Her team, the green team, played the blue team.


The Matrix: You can't plan a shot like this. Cool, huh? That's EJ and Francine looking on. Why don't you get into the game girls? Afraid of Zoey? Yeah, me too.

I really enjoy watching the women play. Some of the girls played in college and about 1/4 of each team was on the National Team that played against Guam last month. There is a lot of talent on every team...and it is a lot of fun watching former teammates compete.

And even though this is a recreational league the girls aren't afraid to take a direct free kick in the gut:

Saipan womens soccersaipan soccer wall
Take one for the team: It takes a champ to take one of Emily's balls in the gut....wait, that came out wrong.

After EJ's game, we went down to PIC for a 3 vs 3 soccer tournament. I played with Morgan Rose and Jersh. Our team ended up 3rd out of 5 teams, while EJ's team came in last. EJ scored one goal in the tournament...against me of all people. Dang it!

My favorite part of the tournament was when EJ tripped Dale by kicking him in the back of the heel. He regained his balance, but then EJ kicked him again and he fell flat on his face. The situation was even funnier knowing that Dale was EJ's sixth grade teacher. (Oh my gosh, he he he he!)

I had to leave the tournament before it ended to get to the Boonie Dog Pet Show up at the airport (don't worry, my team had already been knocked off). The Pet Show was co-sponsored by PAWS and Beautify CNMI...but most of the credit goes to Katie Busenkell, who is probably drinking herself silly as I write this.

The event was more succesful than we could have ever imagined. I didn't get a final dog count, but there must have been at least 40 different "competitors." Even EJ brought her little rat dog out to compete in the "silliest purebreed" category.

After the pet show I drank a few beers with some friends and talked about the usual stuff that people talk about over beers, then I met up with EJ and just about everyone else who lives on this island at the Taste of the Marianas. I posted a few pictures of this event last year (Dr. Khorram, er, um, Dave, is in one of the pitures!), but I didn't bring my camera this weekend. I'll get pictures next weekend.

By the time I was done eating it was already 10 PM. I skipped the open mic night at Porky's Bar. Bree, I'm sorry! Please forgive me!

Sunday was mother's day. I was a good little boy and called my mother, Donna, in Florida, not once, but TWICE!

Sunday was a rainy day, a day meant for sleeping...well, a day meant for sleeping AFTER you go diving:


Photo Credit: Mark Robertson.

EJ and I met up with Mark, Ron, Mary, and Susan for a Wing Beach dive at 9 AM...which turned into 10 AM. Wing Beach was too rough, so we went to Laulau Beach instead.

It was a great dive. We stayed relatively shallow, so we were able to stay down for about 57 minutes. At the beginning of the channel that leads to shore we ran into Laulau's resident baitball of big eye scad. Even though I was running very low on air, we sat at the bottom and watched it for a few minutes.

This was EJ's first dive since she earned her Open Water certificate over a year ago and she did a really good job of not dying. Go EJ! There was one point where she surfaced, though. One moment she was next to me, the next moment she looked like Winnie the Pooh holding onto a balloon, floating up to the surface.

Oh yeah, Flat Stanley came on our dive, too! You all know Flat Stanley, right?

flat stanley and a fishFlat Stanely and CoralFlat Stanley and a baitball
Photo Credit: Mark Robertson.


Needless to say, after driving around to the north end of the island, then around the back end of the island to get to Laulau, and then spending almost an hour under the water, we were late for our Mother's Day BBQ with the Kaipats and FMI. Sorry, Cinta. Sorry, Marites.

We went straight to the BBQ after our dive, said hello, had a bite to eat, and then left with the intention of dropping off EJ's rented BCD, picking up some sodas, and going back to the BBQ to play softball.

It wasn't meant to be. We got back to my apartment and fell asleep. Oh well, we can hang out next Mother's Day.

When I finally woke up I grabbed some Subway and drove over to the Kaipat house. We spent the evening watching kid's movies.