Blues Festival lineup announced

Bluesfest The 8th annual St. John Blues Festival is scheduled March 17-21.  This year, the name sponsor is Johnnie Walker.  Other supporters include First Bank, Holiday Homes, and the USVI Department of Tourism.

Organizer and founder (he really is a busy guy) Steve Simon and his wife, Helen,
will offer six-days of music from one end of the island to the other.
The ‘big show’ will, as usual be in Coral Bay on Saturday night.  But
during the week, you can count on Festival performers offering free
live music at venues like the Beach Bar, Shipwreck Landing, and the ball field in Cruz Bay.

Simon has a lineup of artists including Deanna Bogart, JT Laureitsen, the Ford Blues Band, and  E,G. Knight.  See the full list at http://www.stjohnbluesfestival.com/new/schedule2010.htm#schedule.

who’s also produced and performed in blues shows in Iraq and Saudi
Arabia said this is the biggest thing he’s ever done.  And, he
promised, it will rock.

The Blues Festival’s Web site is at http://www.stjohnbluesfestival.com/bf/blueshome.htm.

VIs’ $6 Million ad campaign

Viad An ad agency’s multi-million dollar idea for U.S. Virgin Islands Tourism is now on display.  In ads produced by Atlanta’s JWT
advertising agency, the slogan, “You, Unscripted” has begun appear in
TV spots and print ads. It is meant to stress that visitors can create
their own unique experiences in the VI's.

Tourism said it will spend  $6 million to spread the campaign, using television, magazines, newspaper and Internet for media. 

You can see examples of the print ads and the 30-second TV spots at http://www.usvimarketing.com/.
The ads will target a range of market segments including: Bridal and
Romance, African American, Dive, Culture & Heritage, Sailing &
Yachting and Meetings & Incentives.

“The concept of offering
travelers an unscripted vacation experience was conceived through
research that revealed our potential visitors seek the freedom to
indulge in a personalized vacation experience," said Commissioner of
Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

How you can save Maho Bay


The Trust for Public Land is asking for donations to help acquire the Maho Bay Camps real estate.  While the Trust has been in negotiations with owners of the land who lease it to the Camps, the Trust doesn’t yet have all the funds that will  be needed. The land is already on the market.

Stanley Selengut, the genius/entrepreneur/good green guy who created the Camps has told Conde Nast Traveler that when the lease expires in 2012, “One of three things will happen: A developer will subdivide his Shangri-la, or a luxury hotel chain will drop anchor there, or a deus ex machina—a land trust or an Oprah—will step forward with cash in hand to buy and then donate the land to the national park.”

The Trust for Public Land hopes the third option will occur.  John Garrison, the local field office director for TPL, said the fund he wants to create will be used for land appraisals as well a purchase.  He told the Virgin Islands Daily News, “There’s no guarantees, but we’ll give it our best shot.”

To contribute, send checks to TPL’s Maho Bay Campaign, 116 Montgomery St., 4th floor, San Francisco, Ca. 94105.

Court blocks VI try for property taxes

Court_seal If you own property on St. John, you may have thought you'd have a Virgin Islands tax bill to pay next month. 

It appears you can fuggetabout it.

A federal appeals court has rejected the Virgin Islands government’s renewed effort to collect property taxes from 2006. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against arguments from the Governor and the Tax Assessor finding the VIs have failed to obey orders to reform the property tax assessment system, specifically to offer a fair and timely process for tax appeals.

The Appeals Court said it agreed with the District Court that there was little evidence “to suggest that the Board of Tax Review is maintaining reliable records“ and that “certain good faith attempts” to establish an appeals system is not enough.

“In other words, procedural due process requires at a minimum that the taxpayer have both notice of the appeal and the right to participate,” the Court said. It found that process lacking.

Last fall, the District Court held the Virgin Islands in contempt for issuing tax bills without getting court approval of a new tax assessment system.  The government appealed the contempt order and, earlier this year, demanded payment of the previously-sent bills be made next month.

James Derr, a St. Thomas attorney for plaintiffs successfully arguing to block the government, said the Appeals Court decision was clear. As you can see, we won on all points.”

He wrote in an e-mail, "This means that both the contempt and the order to recall the 2006 bills are back in place." He added, "It should be interesting to see what the Government does now.”

St. John-based VI Unity Day Group hailed the Appeals Court decision.  A founder of the group, Coral Bay's Loreli Monsanto, told The Inquiring Iguana, "We're all winners on this one.  Now we'rt waiting for the Governor's next move."

Gov. John deJongh had no immediate comment on the decision
against his administration. In fact, there was nothing at all on his
Web site. It was a blank page at http://www.governordejongh.com/.

Pine Peace does it again

For the second month in a row, the VI Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs has tagged Pine Peace Market as the cheapest grocery store on island. 

The DCLA’s latest food basket of 32 items cost $83.12 at the store, located at the bottom of Jacob’s Ladder.  The Virgin Islands Daily News said the government agency report found Dolphin Market in Cruz Bay was the most expensive, at $86.53, while Starfish Market’s tab was $86.24.

Dolphin being the high-price operator continues to be worrisome.  With the Roundabout construction, it's very difficult for people to park anywhere near the store.  Which has to mean lower sales volume, which clearly has meant higher prices.  How long can this go on?

Read the Daily News story: http://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/index.pl/article_home?id=17636004

New gate house for Caneel

Gerald Singer reports the a grand new guardhouse at Caneel
is completed, after several months of hammering, stone chipping, and
construction.  But he’s perplexed as to why it was built, replacing a
more modest stone-faced kiosk at the entrance to the Virgin Islands resort.

we saw it being built in February, the project appeared to have three
different buildings. One of them looked big enough to be a guest room,

Anyway, Singer says the structure is done but wonders what was the need?  When we showed some photos of the project in progress, one commenter may have hit the nail on the head when he suggested it was related to Homeland Security,
like the silly black gates at the ferry.  They certainly will protect
you from terrorists coming to the island via the dock, but do nothing
at all if you come by dinghy, on either side.

Singer's blog is St. John LifeRead it here.

Beach book banned?


The author of half a dozen books about St. John is having a problem. 

Gerald Singer says the National Park Service is stiffing him and won't sell the latest version of his St John Beach Guide.  A resident of the island since 1969, he first published the book in 1994. 

The self proclaimed “world;’s foremost authority on St. John’s beaches” immediately ran into a roadblock getting the Park to sell the book.  The problem: it had photos a pen-and-ink-drawing of a young lady sunbathing, apparently topless (the picture was from the back), and there was an image of two donkeys in a field.

At the time, the Park Service was trying to discourage nude sunbathing at Salomon Beach.  And the Service was trying to cull the free-range donkeys who can eat a lot of vegetation. Those issues were resolved and the books went on sale. 

But his latest revision, updated last year, is still not on the shelves at the Park building.  He submitted the book for approval to be sold.  “In January, it will be three years since I made that first request and the book still has not been approved,” Singer complained on his blog.  He’s been told the process has not been completed.  Previously it took about a month.

New (used) ferries on the way

New ferry boats come soon is what the VI Government wants us to believe – as soon as St. John’s ferry operators complete the paperwork.  (I believe the Virgin Islands government is still waiting for reports on how much money the ferries collected and spent last year.)

Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls told a Senate Finance Committee hearing his department has snagged $1.5 million in Federal Highway Administration (FHW) funds to allow Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services of St. John to purchase used ferry boats, the Virgin Islands Daily News reported.  Smalls said his agency will also go after any ferry money that may be available from the feds this year, too.

Read moreNew (used) ferries on the way

St. John Magazine plans debut

Here’s more evidence how the island is moving upscale in its attraction for the wealthy vacationer. 

St. John is going to get a new magazine, but it’s not for locals. 
St. John Magazine will be published twice a year, according to its publisher, Malinda Nelson.  She is also Publisher of the St. John Tradewinds, a local newspaper. 

The magazine will be "designed to be a treasured keepsake," according to promotional material for the venture available online at www.stjohnmagazine.com.
The media kit for advertisers said St. John Magazine will not be free, but will be sold on newsstands throughout the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.  Quantities of the magazine are also expected to be sold resorts and villa management companies on island.

Read moreSt. John Magazine plans debut

Inner Visions returns to Maine

St. John’s internationally-known reggae band, Inner Visions, is again touring the States.  Its next stop is Great Salt Bay along the banks of the Damariscotta River in Maine

It’s the fourth time the five St. Johnians have played there during the summer, where it’s certainly cooler than the Caribbean. 

As many as 500 people turned out for the concert last year.  A promotional release for the concert says Caribbean-themed food and drink will be available along with fresh oysters from the River.  The concert is from 3 to 6 p.m.

Read moreInner Visions returns to Maine