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Samoa News Editorial: Welcome to American Samoa — Land of the Potholes

Whenever I go over or at the very least try to avoid potholes on our roads — my vehicle rattling, tires and suspension thunking — I think … damn government, all that money for infrastructure... and this is all we get: POTHOLES. Where did the money go?

It would be easy to say it’s been misused by the past administrations, including the standing one that many in our community view as merely a continuation of the Gov. Tauese Sunia regime, with Gov. Togiola Tulafono not able to find a voice separate from the Sunia power-politics.

Who hasn’t heard of the Las Vegas call by a former governor that diverted funds from the Fagaima-Ottoville road project, which was supposed to cure the area’s flooding during torrential rains? A problem still there today. (BTW: This is separate issue from the flooding that creates the Mormon Lake in front of the Ottoville LDS Stakehouse or Church and the Hope House Mud Bath whenever it rains buckets.)

Is it true? Don’t know, and quite frankly not the point.

The point here is the needs of “the Public” seem to have been ignored for the needs of a few, in this case, whoever the government administration belongs to at the time.

A case in point: the newly renovated Tauese Ocean Center. The concept is fantastic, the center gorgeous — but why is the building located next to, if not on — the fuel dock, next to a now defunct hotel that should be condemned?

Why not renovate a building in Futiga Village, which has the road that takes you to the Fagatele Bay Sanctuary trails? Wouldn’t it have been a more common sense location, especially if you consider the jobs that could be offered to youth in the village to ‘manage’ certain aspects of it, like acting as guides to the sanctuary?

This would at the least have allowed the village to ‘co-own’ the concept, and see it as having real economic value in terms of pay checks to villagers, while teaching them the rich ocean and land history that belongs to all of us by virtue of our shared culture and homelands.

Added value would have been selling Tauese Ocean Center tours to tourists and residents, with possible trail walks of the sanctuary area. Transportation owned by the villagers of Futiga could have been targeted to bring the people to the center.

It would, of course, have necessitated repairing the Futiga main road, which has some of the worst potholes on island, but surely worth the expense?

This is what a partnership of government, private sector and community (villages) that we keep hearing about, can accomplish.

Instead, right now, we are looking at a center that is a ‘monument’ to the Fagatele Bay Sanctuary manager, her federal partners — Coral Reef Advisory included, and the current governor.

Then there is the Airport Road — called Pothole Central by those of us who have to use it everyday, which I suspect is 99% of the Public, because it’s the road that gets you to and from the airport, ASPA, banks, Tafuna High School, the fast food restaurants, PX, Army Reserve, stadium, etc.

I’m sure no one forgets the embarrassment we felt during the Pacific Arts Festival — colorful bushes inside white painted tires along the side of the road, highlighting our pothole ridden roads to our visitors — and that was 4 years ago.

Welcome to American Samoa, Land of the Potholes.

There is a road construction project right now that’s been given to Whitehorn Construction Company, which we all hope will solve this “Public” problem — but completion is slated for 2014 or 2015, and has been awarded to a company that bid $4 million below the Department of Public Works engineers’ estimate of what the project should cost.

And while I understand the reason they were given the bid (who doesn’t want to save $4Mil), I hope it doesn’t disintegrate into a project completed by ‘change orders’ that end up using up that $4Mil savings, plus. (I hear it’s a common occurrence with ASG development projects — change orders that end up doubling the cost of a project.)

I could also focus on the Marisco lawsuit and its ‘potholes’ of personal buys by some of the members of the task force using Public funds (vehicles and kitchenwares), or on the 1602 LITC program — with its potholes of individuals cashing in on Public funds, albeit federal, with allegations of unfair processing of applications by supervising bank officials and board members to benefit themselves, their families and special friends.

But the point here again, is that in the big picture of big money we are given very little consideration when it comes to solving the problem of “potholes” — yet we are the ones that ultimately pay for the mismanagement of our Public resources, because after all, we suffer the potholes: We ultimately pay for them — whether in vehicle repair bills or in lost income for our families to make ends meet; or in loss of trust and hope in our leaders. 

What has happened to our government? To our community and government leaders? What has happen to us? Have we become so used to the ‘potholes’ that we now accept them as ‘our way of life’? Expressing marveled delight when they are repaired, “God bless them!”

What happened to a government that should be providing us “basic protection and empowerment of all”?

Noted by George Lakoff and Glenn W. Smith in their Op Ed, “Romney, Ryan and the Devil's Budget”,Reader Supported News (22 August 12), it is “the American ideal of The Public and the freedom that it provides for all of us. America was born with a great soul, a moral view of Democracy in which citizens care about their fellow citizens and join together to take responsibility not just for themselves but for each other, for America as a union, a joint enterprise.”

To wit, the writers say, the government's job is to carry out that moral vision and “to do so it created what we call The Public, the provision of basic protection and empowerment for all.”

And, I think the two treaties our forefathers signed, which have carried us to where we are today (a U.S. territory), envision the same moral premise — that we are in this together — it’s our government, our culture, our islands — it’s our way of life, the fa’a Samoa — American Samoa is ‘a joint enterprise’.

What did our forefathers sign us up for?

In explaining “the American Public”, I again quote from Lakoff and Smith’s op-ed:

From the beginning of America, the Public provided roads and bridges, public schools, hospitals, a national bank, a patent office, police, a justice system, public buildings and records, and more. Since then the Public has expanded as public needs have expanded — sewers, clean water, public transportation, public health and disease control, scientific research, the internet, GPS, an energy grid, parks, and much, much more.

The Public provides freedom, the freedom to use what the Public provides to live a decent life and to start businesses. Without the public, there would be no American way of life, no freedom to live a decent life, to run or work in businesses, or work as a public servant. The Public carries out the work of America's soul.

Of America’s soul, the writers say:

America's soul resides in our relation to one another, the way citizens have from the beginning joined together to form a government whose mission is to protect and empower everyone equally, and to use that government for the sake of The Public, the system that provides the basic means for our freedom to live decent lives and pursue happiness of all kinds, whether it comes from wealth or making music, or becoming a doctor, a scientist, a businessman, an athlete, a teacher, or whatever you find fulfilling.

The Public is what unites us in a common enterprise, and the destruction of The Public is a destruction of the bonds that hold us together.

…The biggest lie is that Democracy is about personal freedom alone, about the "liberty" to seek your own interests with no responsibility for the interests or well-being of your fellow citizens. The biggest lie is a moral lie.

Amene.

In November, let’s vote for ‘no more potholes’.

(Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News: http://www.readersupportednews.org/)



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