Election Day: St. John’s Unique Race

cruz bay st john sept 2018

Hello everyone and happy Tuesday! Well, despite being a little blog in the Caribbean, we have to acknowledge that today is a big day in the United States. Now we try to not wade into politics, but today we’re going to break that rule just a tad today. 

Chelsea Baranowski, the owner of Lime Inn, approached us a few months back and asked if we would have any interested in running a story on St. John’s Senator At Large race. At first, we were hesitant because News of St. John is a blog about tourism, not politics, but the Senator At Large position is a unique one to the Virgin Islands. Therefore, we obliged. :)

So please take a few minutes to learn a bit about our government down here on St. John. And a big thanks to Chelsea for putting this together for us! Have a great day everyone! -Jenn 

St. John’s Senator At Large Race by Chelsea Baranowski

As in the US, it’s a big year for elections in the Virgin Islands, senatorial and gubernatorial races are underway. With the population at a lower number, voter turnout is crucial, and the political scene’s jargon is perpetually graced with the word “recovery.” The excitement of this election is definitely in the air. How did our current leaders handle life through and in the first year after Irma and Maria? Are those the people we want to stand beside us as we walk through the next 2-4 years of recovery and reinvigoration? And what do these leaders mean for the future of the Virgin Islands?

The Senator at Large on St. John is a unique role. First and foremost, it is the only position in the Senate that is held for a St. Johnian. Secondly, it is considered the ‘swing vote,’ where in a total of 15 Senators in the Virgin Islands, 7 are from the St. Croix district, 7 from the Thomas-St. John district, and 1 Senator at Large for St. John. While St. Thomas and St. Croix have relative population sizes (in the 50,000 person range pre-storms), St. John has a much smaller 5,000 (pre-storm). The senator-at-large for St. John is responsible for ‘territorial affairs’ as a whole as are other Senators but is required to reside on St. John and have, as one candidate said, “St. John-aligned values.”

I had the pleasure of speaking to all five candidates this year for Senator at Large, only three of whom still remain in the race after the primaries. Stacie January and the incumbent, Brian Smith, lost in the Democaratic primaries, and Steven Payne advanced. The other two candidates, Sherry Ann Francis and Angel Bolques, ran as Independents and, similar to the US, were not a part of the primary race. Steven Payne is a police officer with the kind of charisma that is present in good politicians, yet he remains down to earth and connected. Angel Bolques is a thoughtful and intelligent young man, forward thinking in his approach, while still thinking locally minded. Sherry Ann Francis is strikingly bright, with a legal background, and seems an enthusiastically hard worker. All are people who could make this position work.

We have buildings and infrastructure to repair. From our clinic to our school to our fire house, not only do we still need walls and windows, we need new systems, good systems, to carry us into the future. We need a resilient level of tourists, and options for them when they get here, both high end and economical visitors. Spending money at local businesses will naturally boost the economy and, of course, taxes. And we need to diversify so new industries are enticed to join forces in this recovery.

Government agencies have left, the urgency in support has waned, and just over a year after Irma we have an election to embolden people to create meaningful change. Even at this obvious moment of slight uncertainty, election time is aspirational. Candidates remind you that we actually have some say in our future, and THEY are the person to achieve that future. My speaking with the candidates was no different, and at such a strange juncture, don’t we all want to believe them? They are all very bright, powerful in their own right, and aware that there is a need for strong leadership in our continued recovery. Yet, voter turnout for the primaries was very low, in Cruz Bay 22 people voted for Brian Smith, 66 for Stacie January, and 99 for Steven Payne. Not the turnout candidates want to see, but with a staggering five candidates running for Senator at Large, the public is simply not prepared. For many years there have been one to two candidates running for office. This year shows a new trend. And for good reason, we have a lot on our plate when it comes to Virgin Islands as a whole, and, specifically, St. John.

All candidates were actively pro-St. John, as their constituents, they must be. Payne, Bolques, and Francis were all eager to say “Yes!” we are ready for visitors to come back and had various plans for encouraging their return. All candidates advocate for better medical facilities on St. John that could help our visitors, especially elderly, the young, and the expecting, feel more comfortable during their time on St. John. “We need dialysis machines, we need places for women to have their babies, we need these facilities for our visitors and our locals,” said Mr. Payne. All also advocate for the betterment of such buildings as the Battery (white government building visible upon entering Cruz Bay) and the Annex (the still destroyed building at the roundabout) using funds already appropriated by the federal government. All candidates discussed the potential for a museum at the Battery for visitors and locals to experience Virgin Islands history. Bolques even mentioned the idea of a boardwalk around Battery Point, and the importance of beautifying downtown Cruz Bay, to boost visitors. “If you don’t have a flourishing economy, you can’t support the infrastructure,” he says.

As for Caneel, the Senator at Large has no real power in the matter, but their relationship with Stacy Plaskett, our Delegate to Congress, could mean more concessions for the people of St. John. “I will create a relationship with Delegate Plaskett, and I will keep trying and pushing and calling to get information, I will be that person” Francis tells me.

I look forward to voting, and I welcome a time when we can be proud of our politicians for the people of St. John, the people of the Virgin Islands, and the people who come to visit and enjoy. -Chelsea

New Restaurant Opens On Island!

Shaibu and Julie recently opened Shaibu's Gourmet Grab and Go at the Marketplace.

Shaibu and Julie recently opened Shaibu’s Gourmet Grab and Go at the Marketplace.

Hello everyone and happy Monday! Today we’d like to tell you about a great new restaurant on island! We’re super excited about this one, and I know you all will be too!

For those of you who’ve been traveling to St. John for quite some time, you may be familiar with Oasis Private Chefs. Well Oasis’s owner, Shaibu Abdulai and his wife Julie, recently opened a new gourmet grab and go on the second floor of the Marketplace in Cruz Bay. We tried it last week, and it was delicious!

Shaibu’s Gourmet Grab and Go offers St. John residents and visitors a quick, healthy lunch alternative. Its rotating menu features several vegan and vegetarian options (you can add fresh, local fish, chicken or other protein to all dishes), as well as a variety of local drinks, juices and smoothies, all of which are made fresh daily.

“The whole concept with our rotating menu is to keep it fresh and keep variety in our lives,” Julie told me last week.

Check out a few pics…

shaibu teas and more shaibu lunch options smoothie sign shaibu

Looks great, right??

The grab and go shop – which has a few tables outside for those of you who prefer to “dine in” – is located in the space formerly occupied by Etta’s West Indian Cuisine, which is directly across from the St. John Biz Center in the Marketplace. It is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

So the next time you are lucky enough to be on island, please take a moment to check out Shaibu’s Gourmet Grab and Go. I promise you will not be disappointed!

Have a wonderful Monday everyone!

St. John On TV Again Tonight!

Cinnamon Bay beach September 2018

HGTV must really love St. John because w’re going to be featured again tonight!

Tonight’s episode of Caribbean Life features a couple house hunting along with Amanda Arquit of Cruz Bay Realty. Here is the official episode description straight from HGTV:

A stressed-out couple from St. Petersburg, FL, that recently discovered St. John on a trip feels an island with no traffic lights is the perfect place to relax and unwind. They’re open to finding a property with rental potential that has plenty of space for their large family and friends to visit, as well as a pool and magnificent view.

And here are a couple of sneak-peek pics courtesy of Cruz Bay Realty’s Facebook page:

amanda hgtv 2 amanda hgtv 1

Tonight’s episode airs at 10 p.m. EST on HGTV. It will repeat Monday morning at 1 a.m. EST.

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Beach Update: Hawksnest

hawksnest street sign november 1 2018

Hello everyone and happy Friday! We receive lots of emails asking us the status of the beaches. So rather than simple tell you how great they all look, we’ve decided to show you.

Our first stop is over at Hawksnest. We spent some time there Thursday afternoon, and it looked absolutely gorgeous. See for yourself…

hawksnest sign november 1 2018

hawksnest sidewalk november 1 2018

hawksnest bay november 1 2018 hawksnest november 1 2018 hawksnest beach november 1 2018

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?? Well guess what? It’s even better in person. Come visit us!! :)

That’s all we have for you today, folks. Have a fantastic weekend!

Happy Halloween!

2018 halloween

Happy Halloween everyone! Here’s a quick rundown of tonight’s festivities:

Mongoose Junction:

mongoose junction 2018 halloween

Dog House Pub:

dog house halloween 2018


drink pet costume contest 2018

drink halloween 2018

Tap & Still:

tap & still halloween 2018

Skinny Legs:

skinnys halloween 2018

The Beach Bar Has Started to Rebuild!!

Beach Bar Street Sign Oct 29 2018

Well folks, this is a story that we’ve been yearning to share with you all for so very long! Work has finally begun on The Beach Bar’s rebuild! How exciting is that??!!

So let’s cut straight to the chase. Yes, it’s taken awhile for the rebuild to start, perhaps a bit too long in some people’s minds. But it’s really not anyone’s fault for that. As we have said in the past, the building sustained a ton of damage during Irma. It’s also a very old building, which means everything has to be brought up to code. Then there’s insurance claims, dealing with banks, coming up with new plans, etc. Unfortunately things take time. So let’s not dwell on the timeframe. Let’s just be happy it’s happening!

For those of you who’ve been viewing The Beach Bar’s webcam in hopes of seeing some progress, you probably saw a lot of movement Monday. That’s because step one is to remodel and redesign the kitchen area. This means that The Beach Bar can serve more of us more efficiently. Such great news.

Beach Bar Construction Oct 29 2018 Beach Bar Construction Oct 29 2018

So you will see lots of that happening in the upcoming days. You will likely even catch a glimpse of the new permanent roof being installed and a brand new bar being poured. All exciting stuff folks.

As far as a timeline, we are still hearing sometime in December barring any unforeseen delays.

Now I’m sure your next question is: When will the Rum Hut reopen? Well they, too, need to start work. And hopefully that will happen soon. And as far as their timeline is concerned, we’re hoping sometime around the holidays. We will let you all know more when we know more.

In the meantime, please feel free to check out the progress yourselves by logging onto The Beach Bar’s webcam at www.beachbarstjohn.com/bar-cam. You may even see me pop in from time to time! And if you want to see more than a dozen webcams scattered around the island, please check out our webcam page at www.newsofstjohn.com/2018webcams

Have a great Tuesday everyone!