Several faipule urge ASPA to hurry up with streetlights — help us win election
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Several faipule asked representatives from the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) during a hearing this week to hurry up with the installation of street lights around the island — before the Nov. 3 elections.
Two ASPA representatives appeared before the House Government Operation committee this week to discuss several issues raised by representatives during the regular session. One of the issues raised was the status of streetlights.
ASPA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Wallon Young told them that ASPA received over 6,000 streetlights last week and their line crews are now starting to install them around the whole island. According to Young, 5400 streetlights are for Tutuila, while the rest are for Manu’a and Aunu’u.
The installation work is only conducted on the weekend including Sunday and after busy hours during weekdays in order to avoid congesting traffic.
Rep. Gafatasi Afalava told ASPA representatives that this is a tough time for representatives because election is around the corner and their constituencies are complaining over the problem of no streets lights on the roads in many villages.
“Election is near where voters will choose their leaders including their representatives in the House of Representatives for the next two years,” Gafatasi said.
“This is a big challenge for us but the delay in the installation of street lights tells us that you don’t even care. Please, bear with us and help us to win the election by installing streets lights for our constituents,” he pleaded.
Gafatasi said that even one streetlight installed in each village would be enough to send a message that representatives are doing their job. So many do not understand the reason for the delay in installing streetlights.
“Please, send some men to fix street lights up in my village. Election is near and I don’t want to lose my seat during the upcoming election,” Gafatasi concluded.
Saole representative, Rep. Titiali’i Kitara Vaiau echoed Gafatasi’s statement and asked ASPA representatives to remember his district especially people of Aunu’u island. He told the committee that despite Aunuu being a small island, people need more streetlights around the island.
Titiali’i said that the only way for him to return to the seat for the next two years is for ASPA to quickly install streetlights for his district and also for Aunu’u island.
“Voters now-a-days have a bad habit of blaming honorable representatives for every single problem in the district like no street lights on the road in the village. I keep telling my constituency not to depend on your representative to do the work for you, if you have called ASPA to do something for you — make sure to follow up on that work,” Titiali’i said.
Fofo representative Andra Samoa also expressed concerns with the lack of streetlights.
She told the committee that her district is one of the critical areas on island where drugs are allegedly being distributed among many people near to the location of four schools. She said that the schools are surrounded with the sources of drug distribution and that’s why she supports the recommendation of quickly installing streetlights for these areas.
Samoa stated that one of the things she has noticed was that Leone is one of the areas on island where people are breaking some of the street lights so that it would be dark and thus make it easier for them to commit crimes such as distributing drugs or breaking into residences or school buildings, as well as making it harder for people to identify them when committing these crimes.
Committee chairman, Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Fu’e Allen requested that ASPA representatives give their first priority to areas where government offices are — such as the Court House, Fono House and the Government building in Utulei, which is the Bay area.
Faimealelei also said many people are asking questions about the reason behind the delay for installing streetlights to some of the villages where there are totally no street lights on the road.
OTHER ISSUES DISCUSSED IN HOUSE CHAMBER
This week’s discussion in the House of Representatives also centered on the ban of BINGO games under the current emergency declaration for COVID-19, with Speaker Savali Talavou Ale pointing to some mixed signals from the government regarding the game of chance.
He said only occasional BINGOs for religious purposes and charity are authorized under the law.
But at the same time the government requires permits for BINGO games. He questioned how the government can issue permits for an activity which is not allowed under the law.
Permits for any fundraiser including BINGO games are issued by the Revenue Division of Treasury and cost $5.
During the cabinet meeting last week, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga said that BINGO games should not be allowed while the territory is facing a pandemic, and that it also takes money out of people’s hands.
Lolo said permits are required for BINGO and if permits are being issued, this should be stopped.
It was noted that while churches are the main sponsors of BINGO games, there is one BINGO operation in Tuala-uta that is not affiliated with a church, but instead it is run by a family.
The attitudes and language used by some of the police officers while stopping a family BINGO game in the Iliili area was also noted. Rep. Vesi Talalelei Fautanu Jr said that he was very disappointed with the way police officers used very rude and unprofessional behavior. He said that Police Commissioner must be made aware of these problems and he needs to address this problem with his new police officers.
Vice Speaker and former cop, Fetu Fetui Jr supported Vesi’s statement and told the chamber that this is not a new issue regarding police’s attitude towards members of the community. He recommended that Police Commissioner, Le’i Sonny Thompson address the issue about police behavior when dealing with members of the community.
He said that these new cops need to be educated on how to deal with elderly people and the right attitude they should use when approaching members of the public.
“INDIVIDUAL ENROLLMENT FOR MEDICAID” IS THE ANSWER
The Director of the local Medicaid Office, Sandra King Young has told representatives that if American Samoa were using individual enrollment for Medicaid rather than presumptive enrollment, the local match for the $84 million in Medicaid funding that Congress approved last year for American Samoa would be $17 million rather than $30 million.
American Samoa is the only part of the United States that is not using individual enrollment.
King Young said during a recent House hearing that American Samoa’s Medicaid program was set up in 1982 using presumptive enrollment. At the time 88 percent of the population was born here and the LBJ Hospital was the only health care provider.
Today American Samoa-born has dropped to 46% while 54% are born outside of the territory.
In addition Medicaid patients can now be taken off island for treatment and there are independent contractors providing medical equipment and other services for which Medicaid pays.
Only US citizens and US nationals can qualify for Medicaid.
King Young said she understands the reluctance of LBJ Hospital to transition to individual enrollment because it will leave them without a way to cover health care costs for non-US citizens and nationals that use hospital services.
However, the Medicaid Director suggested that it’s time for the territory to move towards individual enrollment.
She said a decision needs to be made on this question so that the territory can take advantage of the increased funding that Congress has made available for the Medicaid Program.