Park ‘Friends’ seminars set

Friendsvinp The Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park organize dozens of fascinating workshops and activities during the winter season.  Upcoming events will feature author and photojournalist Cristina Kessler showing how to write a nature journal (Jan. 15), linguist Elroy Sprauve explaining interest patterns and expressions and the history of language on St. John (Jan. 22), and professional photographer Steve (buy his book!) on how to use your camera to make underwater photos (Jan., 22).  Session fees are $25-$70 for non-members of the Friends.  Call 340-779-4940 to register.

VI legislature to be Webcast

A non-commercial radio station, WIUJ (102.9FM) plans to broadcast sessions of the Senate on the Internet.  "The whole world will be able to hear what’s going on," Leo Morone, the station general manager told the St. John Source.  Live streaming of legislative hearings and meetings will begin next month, he said.  The Web site is www.wiuj.com.

Inner Visions at Maho Jan. 3

The Inner Visions Reggae Band plans a number of appearances at Maho Bay this winter.  The first date for the just-returned-from-world-tour group is Monday, Jan. 3.  Details at www.maho.org/maho.htmlInner Visions also plans to return to its performing roots by playing at Fred’s in Cruz Bay Wednesday or Friday nights. Call 776-6363 to confirm the schedule.

Inner Visions also has a date for New Year’s Eve.  The band will perform at Foxy’s Famous Ole Year’s Party on Jost Van Dyke.  Details at www.foxysbar.com.

Changes rile local residents at meeting

Dozens of people who attended a meeting to talk about how St. John could affect a new VI Constitution ended up hearing complaints from native and Caribbean-born residents that they don’t have opportunities.

"The bottom line is we have some racial problems," Monique Matthias told the Island Council Planning Committee session at the Legislature building.  She and other locals complained that the Committee’s work was excluding them, and they didn’t like it, according to a report published by the St. John Source

Matthias said vacation villas include advertisements only for restaurants like the Lime Inn, owned by mainland transplants.  She claimed, "There’s no card for Uncle Joe’s Barbecue," a Cruz Bay eatery known and loved by locals as well as visitors. Grasshopper Pickering said locals can’t get jobs in restaurants and shops.  Another woman said that with commercial space rents going for thousands of dollars a month, she has no chance to sell baskets.

The Committee had hoped the meeting would generate information to create a draft document related to the Constitutional Convention scheduled for 2006.  However, after several hours of discussion, the Source reported,  "The people at the meting voted to scrap (that idea).  It remains unclear how the project will proceed."

Steve Simon’s New Year’s Eve party

EppsSteve Simon, the Great Cruz Bay entrepreneur behind the Jazz in the Moonlight concerts, is planning a year-end gala.  You can "dance to the sweet Jazz sounds of the Caribbean’s hottest Jazz band ‘Steve Simon and the Jazz Islanders’," he announced. "And then sit back and enjoy the amazing ‘Diva of all Divas’, Ms. Maryel Epps, as she brings her R&B inspired Jazz show to St. John (Listen to a sample of Maryel Epps.)" Doors open at 8:30 p.m., tickets are $35. Simon said he’ll be offering, "great music, dancing and an amazing show with free party favors and a free champagne toast at midnight followed by a spectacular Fireworks Show." E-mail him at stevesimon@jazzinthemoonlight.com.

Electricity charge rejected

A rate hike included in bills from the Water and Power Authority has been canceled.  The Public Services Commission said a charge for increased fuel costs could not be justified, according to a report by the Virgin Islands Daily News.  A consultant with the Commission, Jim Madan, called the hike "an enormous increase."  He said material supporting it included a "substantial amount of computational errors."  WAPA has the authority to raise rates when it expects fuel costs to rise.  But, the executive director of the agency, Alberto Bruno-Vega, conceded he expects oil prices will be dropping.  The PSC said it will review WAPA’s calculations at its meeting in January.  The agency estimated that the average residential and commercial bill would increase $6 and $15.