“PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN AM. SAMOA”
If leaders really care about our future, the message they would get out of the 2020 Census is that a lot of people decided they no longer wanted to live in the territory. When you factor in that our population was projected to be 63 thousand last year, we actually lost 14K to net out-migration, not just 6. With a trend like that, Am. Samoa is fast becoming a museum if nothing is done soon.
Rather than admit that we have a problem, leaders are collectively going through the first stage of grief, which is denial. Somehow, some way, the experienced folks at the Census Bureau, who've been doing this since 1790 with proven statistical tools, got it wrong. Unfortunately for the ASG, any attempt to dispute their numbers just comes off as blatantly biased for obvious reasons, no matter how legitimate.
As most of us who have gone through all of the stages of grief at some point in our lives know, the sooner we accept reality and responsibility, the sooner the healing process can begin. A question that may be helpful for our leaders to ask, at that point, is why do people leave never to return and what can they do to attract people to come, stay and raise a family?
To me, it's not always about the money, which is primarily what the ASG is fretting about right now.
For me, it's the little things that count. When schools are closed down because they're condemned as unsanitary, people want to leave. When parents are waiting for hours at LBJ to have their children seen for emergencies, people want to leave. When roads are decrepit, filled with potholes for years on end and flooded every time it pours, people want to leave. When one or two businesses are favored during the procurement process while the rest are hung out to dry, people want to leave. When there are rolling blackouts, polluted drinking water and fire trucks that show up late to the scene because the trucks don't work, people want to leave. When taxes, regulation and an anti-business attitude strangle folks' entrepreneurial spirit, people want to leave.
It pains me to list the above because I hate to knock all the great work that a lot of awesome people in the ASG have done and continue to do for our people every day, I really do. But the truth is that these things are actually not so "little", and our leaders treat them as such. The attitude can sometimes be that we should just be grateful to have a hospital, to have electricity, to have phone service, internet, etc. Stop complaining.
But conservatives like to say that the most damning judgment voters can pass on a governing party is not the one they deliver at the ballot box... but rather the one they demonstrate with their feet when they decide they've had enough and leave.
Our approach in A.S. to providing services critical to a good quality of life has always been one that puts government in the driver's seat rather than the customer. That has always been understandable given our history and geographical constraints. But times have changed and so has technology; we're not condemned to a future where things have to be "just the way it is", and the 2020 Census is telling us it's time to try something new.
Otherwise come 2030, expect to count another 14K off the books.