Dignitaries packed the Legislative Chambers on St. Thomas Monday night, to listen to Governor Albert Bryan’s 2nd State of the Territory Address.
In office for a year now, many were anxious to hear the Governor’s plans to address concerns, and continue to move the Virgin Islands forward.
Everything from crime, to tourism, infrastructure improvements, education, and everything in between, Governor Albert Bryan laid out his priorities in his State of the Territory Address.
Governor Bryan entered the Legislative chambers to resounding applause, and began his State of the Territory Address, “Last January, the Lieutenant Governor and I took the helm of a government that was in a state of distress. The Government of the Virgin Islands had less than a few days of cash on hand,” said Bryan.
Bryan then spoke of the many issues the territory faced when his administration took office, from budget woes, to a tourism industry struggling from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, “The Bryan-Roach Administration knew fully that solving each one of these issues would not be possible within the first twelve months of taking office. However, I can confidently report this evening that the state of our territory is on the mend.”
The Governor said an important part of stabilizing the Government of the VI and restoring public trust is transparency, “Lieutenant Governor Roach and I have committed to leading an Administration that is honest, transparent and certainly accountable.”
In what was a nearly two-hour address, Governor Bryan laid out his plans.
He talked about his administration’s successes after serving a full year in office, a role he took when the territory’s government was unstable and the islands were recovering from the devastating effects from hurricanes Irma and Maria.
He spoke of plans to address homelessness, “Housing and mental health services are the keys to addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness, and for the first time, we are putting significant resources to work to address these basic needs.”
Bryan said his administration is removing homeless people from the streets and connecting them to the health and social services they deserve. Also, they’ve identified locations for temporary supportive housing, like the Villa Morales property on St. Croix, which they’ve recently purchased.
He also spoke about efforts to improve the deplorable roads, “We are making steady progress daily on reconditioning and repair of our roads. For every road project in progress, there is another one out for bid and two more being designed. We are ensuring that we only dig once, and that is before we pave the road, not after.”
Speaking of driving, during his address, Bryan was happy to announce that, effective January 31st, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will provide Virgin Islanders with the option of online vehicle registration, so waiting in line each year at the BMV will be a thing of the past.
Improving emergency medical response on the islands was also an issue Bryan said they are working to do, “We can no longer accept people dying waiting on an ambulance, and so we are placing the help where it is needed.”
Governor Bryan said his administration has created plans for the full integration of Emergency Medical Services into the Virgin Islands Fire Service, and will soon have individuals cross-trained as multi-role firefighters.
He also spoke about the territory’s police department and their ongoing efforts to address gun violence, “Last year the Virgin Islands Police Department, through its Virgin Islands Crime Initiative, removed 150 illegal firearms from our streets and made 75 arrests… We will not stop fighting until we bring those responsible to justice and until we rid our community once and for all of these illegal weapons.”
And of course, Governor Bryan addressed the energy crisis on the islands, surrounding the Water and Power Authority (WAPA).
He says he’s dedicated to ensuring reliable and affordable energy which is crucial to sustaining a strong economy, “Nothing about the rate adjustment request and the process has been easy for you, nor for me,” said Bryan, which brought chuckles from the crowd. “As ratepayers, all of us have grown frustrated with the cost and the reliability provided by WAPA, and we can all agree that the billing system is a mess complete mess and it must be cleaned up. We must now though hold WAPA accountable to this new plan.”
Governor Bryan also spoke about the positive news surrounding tourism and what needs to be done to attract more visitors to the VI.
He spoke about the plans to rebuild schools and fix the islands’ educational system. As well as plans to rebuild the Juan Luis Hospital on St. Thomas, “In May of last year, FEMA officially determined that the damages to Juan F. Luis Hospital were significant enough to meet the threshold for complete demolition and replacement of the existing structure. Just last month, we secured $10 million dollars from FEMA to design and rebuild the permanent hospital.”
Governor Bryan ended his address on a positive note, “In our community, our good news has started to outweigh our bad news. We have laid a strong foundation in our first year, and I fully expect to realize continued dividends in the upcoming months from those efforts. We are now on the road to recovery with a pathway to prosperity that is clearly defined.”
He ended his State of the Territory Address by saying, “God bless you and God bless the Virgin Islands of the United States,” to which everybody in attendance stood and applaused.
USVI News spoke with several Senators following the speech, to get their reaction. While not all the Senators we spoke with agreed with everything Governor Bryan had to say, they do agree they’re hopeful for a better future for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Tune in to USVI News on air and online, for the next several weeks, to hear their various responses.