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  • Writer's pictureSen. Donna Frett-Gregory

Working for Results: 2023 2nd Quarter Report

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

A Message From The Senator

Fellow Virgin Islanders, as always, I greet you with gratitude and humility as I continue to work on your behalf in the 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands. The last three months have been filled with challenges that we have worked to confront, address and resolve.

The most pivotal of those challenges was the longstanding vexing issue of the Water and Power Authority through the enactment of Bill No. 35-0070. Called into Special Session by Governor Bryan, it was critical that we faced this issue head on. Although unimpressed with the Authority’s leadership in addressing the operations of the authority, it is critical as a leader to make the tough decision. To that end, an amendment in the nature of a substitute was offered by myself with the support of 10 of my colleagues. The amendment established guardrails for the V.I. Water and Power Authority to include the submission of detailed monthly reports to the Legislature, engaging with a turnaround company to right size the authority, and a ban on hiring executive and administrative personnel until the turnaround company is in place. The measure also allowed the government the line of credit needed to jumpstart recovery projects in the territory. With this flexibility the intent is to see an uptick in disaster-related projects and revenues territory wide.

While there have been challenges, as a territory in the post-pandemic era, we had the first full Virgin Islands Carnival. To say that it was an overwhelming and profound success would be an understatement. Carnival aficionados, Virgin Islanders in the diaspora and people just seeking a vacation descended in our territory by the thousands during Carnival week in St. Thomas. Businesses were filled to capacity, and I am certain that when the final tally is released, we will see an increase in revenue collection. Additionally, two weeks prior, the Virgin Islands hosted the successful UberSoca Cruise for a day of activities on St. Thomas. I was elated to be a part of these festivities.

In the upcoming quarter, legislation to address access to quality healthcare will be vetted as well as legislation to address how we handle behavioral issues of children in kindergarten through third grade. It is clear that we still face challenges but collectively we can address them. It is my pledge to you that I will continue to provide results. As I close, I would like to thank the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative (N.O.B.E.L.) Women for recognizing me as a “Shining Star” Honoree during their annual legislative conference. It is always humbling and warming to be recognized for the work that you do without expectations. I look forward to continuing the work we began together.

Legislative Highlights

Legislation Now Law:

Act No. 8717: Establishing the Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance

The USVI has had decades-long challenges with proper maintenance in our school systems and poor management of our school facilities. Act No. 8717 establishes the Bureau of School Construction and Maintenace, who will be responsible for year-round maintenance of school facilities and coordinating long term plans to construct safe, well-equipped, modern school facilities. While the Bureau becomes responsible for school maintenance, the Commissioner of the Department of Education can focus on academic achievement in a manner that works to optimize student success.

Act No. 8716: Establishing the Local Food and Farm Council

Senator Frett-Gregory remains committed to the success of the Territorial Agriculture Plan, ensuring a thriving and sustainable local agricultural industry. Act No. 8716 establishes the Local Food and Farm Council, which provides necessary oversight and direction of the Territorial Agricultural Plan. The council will be responsible for making recommendations regarding existing agricultural laws. The council will also collaborate with community stakeholders to research, explore and enhance food security options, and will conduct community outreach programs, perform engagement surveys, and host town hall meetings.

Resolution 1903: Honoring and Commending Mr. Kelly Charleswell, Sr.

Resolution 1903 acknowledges and celebrates Mr. Kelly L. Charleswell, Sr., "Pupa Kelly," an outstanding Virgin Islands musician. Mr. Charleswell, Sr. has created renowned musical hits throughout the territory and the greater Caribbean for decades. Of all his musical contributions, he is best known for his electrifying role as the guitarist and lead singer for the awesome Jam Band. Mr. Charleswell, Sr. also used his talents to help mold future musicians in his role as the band teacher at the Joseph Gomez Elementary School for over 27 years. On top of this, he was an active entrepreneur who owned and operated 2 recording studios which allowed our territory’s musicians to create music and advance in the industry. With Resolution 1903, we publicly recognize Mr. Charleswell, Sr. for his profound impact on music, music education and Virgin Islands culture.

Act No. 8714: Federal Home Loan Bank

Act No. 8714 enables Virgin Islands insurers to become members of a Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York provides a source of funding to its members and ensures that property insurance in the Virgin Islands is safeguarded in the event of natural disasters. With this legislation, homeownership becomes more of an attainable goal for Virgin Islanders.

Legislation In The Pipeline:

Bill No. 35-0027: Honoring Myron Corbett

Bill No.35-0027 posthumously honors Mr. Myron Corbett for his impactful role in youth development and mentorship through sports and the arts. He served as a phenomenal coach to both the Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS) Varsity Women’s Basketball Team and the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Women’s Basketball Team. Under his direction, the CAHS and UVI teams soared, becoming the winners for 11 championship games and making it to the final four, respectively. Many of the high school athletes earned 4-year scholarships to attain a college degree under his leadership. In addition, he was instrumental in the nationally recognized television program “Graffiti Street” through which students developed transferrable skills and were able to travel internationally and gain cultural exposure. Through this legislation, we honor and commend a leader whose contributions have been transformative for hundreds of youths in our community.

Bill No. 23-0044: Fair Chance Act

The Fair Chance Act removes automatic disqualification from a job for applicants with a criminal history. In this way the legislation eliminates barriers to employment and makes the hiring process more equitable. Formerly incarcerated individuals with stable and meaningful employment are less likely to return to jail, have boosted mental health and strengthened ties to the community. With this legislation, the United States Virgin Islands will join 35 states in the nation and the District of Columbia in creating policies for fair chance to employment.

Bill No. 35-0082: Removing Suspension and Expulsion Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd Grade

This legislation protects students. Studies show that removing students from classroom instruction negatively impacts student achievement and continued removal from classroom instruction increases the risk of dropping out of school and the likelihood of future involvement with the criminal justice system. This legislation establishes new parameters for discipline that integrates consultation with mental health professionals to remove cases of suspension and expulsion for young students in Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd Grade.

BR No. 23-0042: Revenge Porn

Revealing sexually explicit images or videos of a person without their consent causes emotional and mental distress that impacts personal and professional relationships. This impact often stays with the victim for years to come. This legislation makes non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images a crime, joining 48 states and 2 other territories of the United States.

Chairing the Committee on Budget, Appropriations and Finance

As Chair of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations and Finance, Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory has held 10 meetings in this quarter, 9 of which were Budget Hearings. During the March 9th Committee Meeting, testimony was heard from the Office of Management and Budget regarding the status of Amercian Rescue Plan Act funding, premium pay distribution and the $500 social security stipends. Separately, the Office of Management and Budget testified on the Compliance Agreement between the USVI and the US Department of Education due to the Virgin Islands’ designation as a “high-risk grantee” and shed light on the areas of non-compliance. In the meeting, one (1) bill was heard to raise the retirement pension for members of the National Guard from $100 to $300 and was approved unanimously.

During Budget Hearings, Senator Frett-Gregory and colleagues meet with government agencies intent on determining their budgetary needs moving into the next fiscal year. These detailed meetings allow the senators of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations and Finance to allocate appropriate funding for government agencies to perform optimally. Thus far the committee has held 9 meetings and remains focused on passing a balanced budget for the government of the Virgin Islands. Budget Hearings are scheduled to continue through August.

Senator In the News!

Senator Frett-Gregory Awarded N.O.B.E.L. Women 2023 National Shining Star

The National Organization of Black Elected Legislative (N.O.B.E.L.) Women recognized Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory as a 2023 National Shining Star Award Honoree during its annual legislative conference. N.O.B.E.L. Women is a non-profit, non-partisan organization composed of Black women legislators committed to increasing and promoting the presence of Black women in government, non-profit, and corporate leadership in the United States. The award recognizes women whose causes greatly contribute to their communities. Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory was selected for her commitment to civic engagement, charitable causes, and impact on governmental relations. The Senator is humbled by the national recognition and remains focused on commitment to development within the Virgin Islands.

Senator Donna Frett-Gregory At Work

Mitchell Motel Site Visit and Tabletop Meetings

Overwhelmed by the deplorable state of what used to be “Mitchell Motel” in the Contant area of St. Thomas, Senator Frett-Gregory hosted a site visit and follow up tabletop meetings with necessary stakeholders. After years of neglect, the building has become an unsafe shelter for the homeless and is ridden with environmental health and public safety concerns, including piles of trash and debris, abandoned cars and overgrown shrubbery. Senator Frett-Gregory convened the Commissioners of Health, Department of Property and Procurement, Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Human Services to collaboratively determine a comprehensive plan that addresses the concerns of Mitchell Motel. Both the homeless who utilize the building as well as the residents living in the neighborhood deserve resolve from the vexing challenges with the site.

Taxicab Commission Tabletop Discussion

Senator Donna Frett-Gregory alongside Senator Angel Bolques, Jr. hosted a meeting with taxi drivers, the Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission, and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to discuss the challenges taxi drivers face with day-to-day operation. Throughout the discussion taxi drivers expressed a desire to appoint new board members and feelings of frustration due to poor communication and insufficient services from the commission. Since the meeting, Senator Frett-Gregory continues conversation with other senators and appropriate stakeholders to find solutions to address the challenges.

First Session of the British Virgin Islands Fifth House of Assembly

Senator Frett-Gregory joined the members of the 35th Legislature in attending the Swearing in and First Session of the BVI Fifth House of Assembly. With the proximity and shared history between The USVI and BVI, it is important for each territory’s leaders to maintain a workable professional relationship. Senator Frett-Gregory enjoyed the hospitality and true professionalism of the BVI and continues to keep opportunities for the BVI and USVI to collaborate and mutually benefit at the forefront.

Older American’s Month Mock Session

Senator Frett-Gregory joined the members of the 35th Legislature in the Mock Session that featured senior citizens in our community in recognition of Older Americans Month. During the session Ms. Marjorie Gerard represented Senator Frett-Gregory. Ms. Gerard is a spirited older American who expressed her opinions on pressings issues and gave valuable insight to concerns in our community. The Mock Session for Older Americans remains a highlight that centers the opinions of the elderly who are so vital to our community, but often unheard. Senator Frett-Gregory thanks all the seniors who participated and staff both at the Legislature and the Department of Human Services for facilitating this activity.

DFG In The Community

Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack Groundbreaking Ceremony

The opening of the Clinton Phipps Racetrack is a product of Bill No. 34-0224, now Act No. 8577, which provided the appropriate zoning change and ratified the agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands and Southland Gaming of the Virgin Islands. In the 34th Legislature, Senate President Frett-Gregory moved Act No. 8577 on behalf of the Governor. The Groundbreaking Ceremony allows the community to see progress on this legislative measure. The Senator remains optimistic about the return of horse racing to the community and looks forward to the racetrack’s timely development.

UVI 13D Research & Strategy Innovation Center Grand Opening

The Senator joined in the community excitement surrounding the opening of The University of the Virgin Islands 13D Research & Strategy Innovation Center. The site features state-of-the-art presentation platforms and tools for nursing and aviation, a 3d printer, a Creativity Lab, an Artificial Intelligence Zone, creative workspaces, and a brand-new café to be home to the University’s Culinary Arts Program. With these tools, scholars and creatives have resources to push their personal and professional development to new heights in ways never seen before within the territory. The Senator applauds the university for this development and remains optimistic about its educational benefit and possibilities for economic development.

Vendor’s Plaza Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Senator Frett-Gregory attended the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the opening of the newly designed Vendor’s Plaza, along with the Visitor’s Center complete with air conditioning, cultural artwork, informational brochures for visitors and a public restroom. These features help to revitalize downtown and add to an overall enjoyable experience for both tourists and locals as they traverse through the area. Vendor’s Plaza also now features kiosks reserved for entrepreneurs with locally made products. As a sponsor of the Virgin Islands Pride Act that seeks to ensure locally made products are at the forefront of our tourism product, Senator Frett-Gregory welcomes the development of Vendor’s Plaza and the larger downtown area.

71st Anniversary of US Virgin Islands Carnival

The 71st Anniversary of U.S. Virgin Islands Carnival was an awesome celebration of our culture and traditions. Marking the beginning of the festivities with the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of Carnival Village in honor of the impactful Mr. Kelly “Pupa Kelly” Charleswell, Sr, whom the Senator proposed Resolution 1903 to honor and commend, added to the sentimentality of the Carnival Season. Other season highlights include spectacular performances in the Pupa Kelly Musical Arena, reconnecting with so many members of our community, the Annual Food Fair celebration entitled “Knights Delight”, in honor of Goldine Burton-Knight and both the Children’s and Adult’s parades. Carnival remains one of the Senator’s all-time favorite personal cultural events. It allows Virgin Islanders locally and abroad to return to Virgin Islands shores or tune in virtually and celebrate the beauty and strength of being a Virgin Islander.

The Great Debate by Elections Systems of the Virgin Islands

Senator Frett-Gregory attended the “Great Debate,” hosted by the Elections System of the Virgin Islands. During the debate, team leaders Attorneys Michael Joseph and Devin Carrington delivered well-thought-out points exploring whether it is time for the Virgin Islands to establish its own constitution or change its status (for example independent, US state or commonwealth). Senator Frett-Gregory enjoyed the debate as well as the way it sparked conversation within the community. As a legislator, the Senator acknowledges how our political status impacts our quality of life and remains focused on the development of the Virgin Islands.

Virgin Islands Flag Day

Senator Donna Frett-Gregory alongside her colleagues of the 35th Legislature attended the Virgin Islands Flag Day Ceremony. Senator Frett-Gregory takes pride in the history and culture of the Virgin Islands and acknowledges how recognition of VI Flag Day helps us celebrate our Virgin Islands identity.

Empow(Her) Pop Up Shopping Festival

Senator Frett-Gregory served as a guest speaker and joined in the uplifting community event, entitled “Empow(HER) Pop Up Shopping Festival”. The event created an avenue for local female entrepreneurs to showcase their crafts and wares to gain revenues for their businesses. All in attendance were able to connect and learn more from one another. Senator Frett-Gregory's remarks highlighted the strength and the importance of such a movement, reminding women of the community to continue to rise in support of one another.

2023 Commencement Ceremonies

Graduation ceremonies are joyous celebrations that commemorate the ending of one journey to launch the beginning of a next chapter in life. Senator Frett-Gregory is pleased to have joined in commencement ceremonies of her local alma maters- the University of the Virgin Islands and the Charlotte Amalie High School. Senator Frett-Gregory is especially honored to have joined in graduation festivities this year as the Keynote Speaker for the Charlotte Amalie High School Graduation. In her speech, Senator Frett-Gregory shared with the 224 graduates 3 distinct Pearls of Wisdom to take with them on their upcoming journey. These pearls focus on identifying goals for your life, staying prepared and taking advantage of every opportunity and giving oneself grace to preserve mental and emotional wellbeing, despite the curveballs and challenges they may face. She extends this message to all graduates, as they are tools that helped her navigate through her life and wishes them success on the next steps of their journeys.

UVI Nurses Pinning Ceremony

In addition to the graduation ceremonies, Senator Frett-Gregory attended the Nurses Pinning Ceremony at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) to congratulate and extend well wishes to the 2023 graduates of UVI’s Nursing Program. Sustaining our healthcare system is vital for community well-being. Senator Frett-Gregory acknowledges that completing a Nursing Degree is no easy feat and celebrates the hard work, dedication and resilience of the 2023 Nursing graduates.

Caribbean POSH Weekend

The Caribbean POSH weekend event is designed as a networking event for Caribbean women to inspire and empower one another. The event highlights pressing issues influencing the personal and professional well-being of female entrepreneurs in the Caribbean to educate, collaborate and mobilize growth for women in the Caribbean, particularly in the areas of fashion, entertainment, marketing and retail. Senator Frett-Gregory is pleased to have joined event attendees this year in the first ever Caribbean POSH to be hosted in the US Virgin Islands as a panel guest discussing fashioning change in Caribbean communities.

Blanket Donation to the Roy Lester Schneider Regional Medical Center

Senator Frett-Gregory, in conjunction with the DFG Community Impact Foundation of the VI, Inc., donated blankets to assist the hospital with its low blanket supply. Without sufficient blankets, patients suffer through disturbances that impact their recovery and lead to negative experiences while receiving treatment. These blankets will improve the quality of care in the medical system in our community.

Kids Kitchen

In conjunction with the DFG Community Impact Foundation of the VI Inc., Senator Frett-Gregory is executing the 3rd Annual "Kids Kitchen.” This initiative offers free meals and positive engagement on Summer Saturdays for children throughout the St. Thomas/St. John District. Each year we grow one step closer to our long-term goal of providing hot meals to children in all communities of the Virgin Islands each Saturday during the Summer in an effort to tackle food insecurity. Kids Kitchen is well underway and has already been present in the Paul M. Pearson Gardens and Lovenlund communities. Kids Kitchen is scheduled to continue through August 5 and the program kindly welcomes any interested volunteers, especially high school students in search of community service hours.

Radio Appearances

Though social media has become the most popular means for staying connected in younger demographics, Senator Frett-Gregory has not forgotten about those who prefer to communicate through traditional methods such as radio broadcasts. She is always available for radio appearances that give constituents opportunities for interaction and to be transparent regarding transparency regarding her legislative developments. This quarter the Senator has been featured on “Pass It On,” with Senator Roosevelt David on WSTA.

Get In Touch

Our office is always open to the entire Virgin Islands community to share concerns, ask questions, and collaborate on projects that will positively impact our territory. You can reach us right here on the website via "Get Involved" or you can:

· Call us at (340) 693-3686

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