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Stop ‘doing something,’ please



Live from Saipan By Zaldy Dandan

Saipan — I worry whenever a politician and/or elected official says s/he is worried about the people. What usually comes next from that politician/elected official are legislative proposals that are popular, hence, usually moronic. The lower-this-increase-that-ban-this-restrict-that variety never goes out of style. Never works either.


And thanks (?) to the constantly updated, 24-hour feedback loop that is the social media/online commentaries, the most idiotic if not lunatic suggestions and/opinions are a virtual deluge that drowns out the few, the very few, drip drops of sensible, insightful comments.


A recent Northern Marianas media survey confirmed what many of us know already. Most people get their news online — where everyone is a reporter, photographer, videographer and socio-economic-political analyst slash philosopher.


Which is probably why, nowadays, many politicians and elected officials sound unintelligent — including and especially those who are actually intelligent. Today, most of the time, they sound like hand puppets, but less entertaining.


You know they know better, but they can’t say so. Instead, they have to sound as concerned and upset as the loudest of their mindless and often unhinged constituents.


Most voters are babies — babies who vote and post anonymous online comments. And they believe that politicians/elected officials are sugar daddies/mommies. Voter says buy me this, buy me that, do this, do that. Sugar daddy/mommy says “yes dear, of course dear.”


Most voters don’t want intelligent officials, whatever that means. They want rainbows and ponies. Low prices. High wages. Low taxes. Freebies. Handouts. Subsidies. Job security regardless of one’s competence or lack of it.


All the conveniences that s/he needs — paid for by someone else.


In early July here in the Northern Marianas, the biggest issue was the “high” fuel rate charged by the government utilities corporation, CUC. The rate is called the Fuel Adjustment Charge or FAC which is usually pronounced like a word with an exclamation point at the end.


FAC!


Global fuel prices had been rising because of several factors beyond anyone’s control in the Marianas. Based on its policy, in effect for so many years now, CUC had to raise the FAC so it could continue to afford to buy the now more expensive fuel for its power plants.


Of course, no one remembers that the FAC went down when global oil prices were plummeting. That’s how the FAC works. It goes up and down depending on the global oil prices. Its main purpose is to provide CUC with fuel money.


Many years ago, there were rolling blackouts on Saipan because CUC couldn’t afford to buy fuel for its power plants. The FAC was the solution to that problem.

In late June and early July, fuel prices were up significantly, as all motorists knew, and CUC also had to pay more for fuel and so it announced a significant increase in the FAC.


The result was a collective uproar that sounded like so many crying babies.

The usual verbal brickbats were hurled at CUC and, depending on one’s politics, at this or that government official. “Inconsiderate.” “Uncaring.” “Greedy.” Some are unprintable.


It’s an election year and so politicians have to “do something.” “Talking” is still “doing,” right?


And so, a lawmaker “urged” CUC to stop collecting the FAC, but she didn’t say how CUC could pay for fuel. Other lawmakers conducted not just one but two public meetings to “find a solution.”


Actually, everyone knows what the solution is if the problem is to shield the public (that is, voters) from the vagaries of the global oil market: the government subsidizes the FAC. We are talking about millions of dollars — and a government that is also (surprise!) CUC’s biggest delinquent customer. The very same government facing possible financial ruin once the federal American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA funds have all been spent. Why? Because the local tourism-based economy remains in tatters.


To its credit, the executive branch remains focused on efforts to revive tourism and the economy in general. As for the CNMI Legislature — well, not so long ago, lawmakers voted to give themselves a pay raise, but ended up taking a pay cut. You can’t make this stuff up.


Perhaps lawmakers should just hold more meetings and oversight hearings to get to the bottom of the latest outrage trending online.


Zaldy Dandan is editor of the NMI’s oldest newspaper, Marianas Variety. His fourth book, “If He Isn’t Insane Then He Should Be: Stories & Poems from Saipan,” is available on amazon.com/.



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