Well folks, I hoped to have more good news to share with you all today, but sadly I do not. Congresswoman Stacy Plaskett announced her intention to reintroduce the Caneel Bay bill despite the public’s intense opposition. Rather than me tell you how disappointing this is, I am going to leave it up to the experts.
The Virgin Islands Daily News posted the following editorial on Saturday. The Virgin Islands Daily News is a Pulitzer Prize-wining newspaper. Here it is in its entirety:
Plaskett is still pushing her Caneel bill and still refusing to answer questions
It was puzzling and disappointing to see Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett’s announcement that she intends to reintroduce her bill in the U. S. House of Representatives giving Gary Engle and CBI Acquisitions a 60-year, no-bid deal to continue operating the Caneel Bay Resort on St. John. It is a sweetheart deal that has potential to do more harm than good to the National Park and St. John’s economy.
Plaskett’s bill would provide an economic windfall for one person while depriving Virgin Islanders of the opportunity hurricanes Irma and Maria have provided to chart their own course for Caneel Bay’s future.
Delegate Plaskett has never answered the questions that were raised in a Daily News editorial published Nov. 1, 2018. However, we will continue to press for answers that will shed light on her bill and on anything that could explain why she is so ardently backing a bill that even her colleagues in Congress are questioning.
These are those questions that were posed to her three months ago:
• Why does your bill require no minimum rent?
• Why does your bill contain no legal obligation for CBIA/Engle to rebuild and reopen Caneel Bay Resort?
• Why does your bill contain no timeline for CBIA/Engle to rebuild and reopen Caneel Bay Resort?
• Why does your bill contain no financial penalties if CBIA/Engle fail to rebuild and/or reopen Caneel Bay Resort within a fixed timeline?
• Why does your bill contain no legal restrictions on CBIA/Engle “flipping” an extension and selling it to an established hotel company or anyone else for hundreds of millions of dollars?
• Why does your bill require that rent from Caneel Bay go to the “General Treasury” instead of “for visitor services and resource protection within the Virgin Islands National Park” as provided for in the 2010 law?
• Please provide a detailed description of your economic analysis explaining why you believe a 60-year extension is required.
• Please provide background information you have on CBIA’s financial stability and its ability to secure the financing necessary to rebuild Caneel Bay Resort.
H. R. 4731 would result in a $3 billion grant to CBIA (without competitive bidding) from Virgin Islanders and the federal government.
Plaskett and Engle should be willing to provide truthful and complete answers to these and any other questions raised by everyone affected by Plaskett’s bill.
Joe Kessler served as president of Friends of the VI National Park for nearly 17 years before his retirement last month. He wrote the following op-ed piece that appears in the Virgin Islands Daily News today:
Lack of accountability is written into Caneel legislation
Thank you very much for the editorial on the Caneel Bay Resort legislation and our delegate’s failure to answer basic questions about this legislation. The editorial asks very important and pertinent questions, but the answer is really quite simple. The reason HR 4731 does not require any accountability on the part of CBI Acquisitions is that CBIA’s lobbyists, who have so far been paid over $660,000, wrote the legislation that the delegate introduced.
It was made abundantly clear at the town hall meeting held on the subject of the Caneel legislation several months ago that the bulk of the St. John community opposes the legislation and feels that it is not in the best interests of either the people of St. John or the Virgin Islands National Park.
Delegate Plaskett should respect the views of the St. John community and refrain from reintroducing the bill.
Some pretty valid questions in my opinion…
So, the people of St. John are not backing this piece of legislation. A person who spent nearly 17 years working to preserve the Virgin Islands National Park is not backing this piece of legislation. Only six percent of you are backing this legislation, according to our January 9th poll. Plaskett is refusing to answer any questions. Plaskett is refusing to listen to her constituents. Makes you wonder why this bill continues to get air…
Perhaps it’s time for us all to rally and contact our congresspeople and media again…