Governor's Thanksgiving Cabinet Meeting
A Cabinet meeting was hosted by Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga on Wednesday, November 22, 2017 at the Department of Agriculture conference room which was filled with members of the cabinet, traditional leaders and relevant support staff.
The meeting began with introductory remarks by Chief of Staff HTC Fiu Saelua who welcomed the gathering with traditional salutations before calling on Deacon Malaki Timu to lead the gathering in a hymn and prayer.
Honorable Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga then opened his remarks in the spirit of Thanksgiving and extended his sincere thanks and appreciation to the Cabinet members and all ASG employees for their service to improve the standard of living for the people of American Samoa and continuing to implement the directives of the administration.
Governor Lolo next introduced the newly appointed Administrative Law Judge Marie Alailima Lafaele who replaces ALJ Toetagata Albert Mailo. The Governor welcomed her to the Cabinet and thanked her for accepting his appointment with advice to “put the people of the Territory first” in the performance of her duties.
Governor Lolo next reported on a very successful trip to Las Vegas where he met with the President of Star Kist Samoa and discussed a variety of economic development issues. Congresswoman Aumua Amata was also present for these meetings. The Governor also detailed his travels to Salt Lake City where he met with the Governor of Utah and Federal Reserve officials to discuss ways to improve TBAS and how to expedite ASG's request for a routing number for the bank. He explained that the Federal Reserve gave provisional approval to issue a routing number for TBAS granted that American Samoa addresses issues that include amendments to comply with Federal Reserve requirements. Another major issue relates to our political status as an unorganized and unincorporated territory. He stated that once these issues are addressed, TBAS will receive a routing number. Governor Lolo asked the Cabinet and ASG employees to continue to support our local bank for the people of the Territory.
Governor Lolo next discussed recent fund-raising events and extended his sincere appreciation to the committee headed by Directors Samana and Tuimavave and all for a very successful fund raiser to help the victims of recent hurricanes that devastated several states and two territories. Secretary of Samoan Affairs PC Mauga Asuega was given the opportunity to enumerate the monies collected and he explained that with an original hopes were to raise $50,000, a total of $144,456.24 has been collected to date. Once the remaining pledges of $1,635 is collected and the remaining 194 cases of donated tuna are sold at $6 per case to raise $1,164, a final grand total of $147,255.24 will be collected of which 50% will be given to the local Red Cross and the other 50% will be donated to assist victims of the two recent hurricanes including the residents of the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Governor Lolo next detailed plans for the upcoming Christmas season and asked Directors and their respective departments and agencies to fully support the Governor's 5th Annual Senior Citizens Christmas Program scheduled for December 7. Chief of Staff Fiu Saelua informed the Cabinet that agencies will provide gifts for the Senior citizens which will be presented during the Governor's annual Christmas celebration scheduled to be held at the DYWA hall in Pago Pago. He asked Directors to attend the annual event as they will be helping to serve lunch to the honored guests. TAOA Director Evelyn Lili'o spoke and described this year's event which will feature a Senior Citizen King and Queen Pageant.
Governor Lolo and First Lady Cynthia Moliga will conduct their annual Christmas visitations to the Hope House, LBJ hospital and the Tafuna Correctional Facility on December 11th and 12th with a request to Directors to join the Governor and First Lady to help give out the presents.
The Governor also asked Directors to support the upcoming Territorial Annual Christmas Program. The Director for the Arts Council and Museum Paogofie Fiaigoa announced that the annual program will take place December 17th to the 20th. 56 groups have currently been registered to perform during the evening programs which are scheduled to be televised live on KVZK-TV.
Preparations for the 2 Samoa Talks were mentioned with the delegation preparing for the meetings with their counterparts in Samoa being finalized.
Governor Lolo next announced that he has called for a 2nd Special Session of the 35th Legislature to discuss important bills. The special session will take place at the Fono Guest Fale on November 27, 2017 at 10 am.
The Governor announced three major construction projects now underway or soon to be underway which included the new Fono building, renovations to the Department of Public Safety Central Station in Fagatogo and new extension and renovation to the Museum. In order to reduce costs, much of the work will be executed by the Department of Public Works.
Next were reports from semi-autonomous agencies starting with the American Samoa Power Authority. Reporting on their behalf was Mr. Paul Young who said that they recently asked the ASPA Board of Directors to delay increases in utility rates for a six-month period due to difficult economic conditions currently faced by the people of American Samoa. He also indicated that the Ottoville underground project will start in the first quarter of 2018.
CEO Faumuina John Faumuina next reported for the American Samoa Medical Center Authority (LBJ Hospital) and spoke about the opening of a new clinic for patients with chronic kidney disease. This clinic was established to address the critical situation of a significant rise in the number of people with diabetes in order to prevent and impede kidney disease (kidney failure), which results in the need for dialysis. CEO Faumuina explained that the hospital has records of all residents with diabetes and the clinic will be contacting them to come in to manage their conditions.
For the American Samoa Community College, President Rosevonne Pato reported that the upcoming graduation will take place on Friday, December 15. She also reported that ASCC is in the process of putting together mini courses that offer 1 college credit for specific skill-sets in the trades and other fields. She encouraged Directors to recommend specific skillsets that require college credits in order to include in their mini-courses. These mini-courses (and the initiative itself) are also intended as an alternative for our people (at much cheaper cost and in classroom settings) to the courses currently offered to local residents by other colleges and universities using expensive online platforms. Governor Lolo added that departments should encourage their employees to take courses at the ASCC in fields that are directly related to their jobs.
For the Development Bank of American Samoa President Ruth Matagi-Fa’atili provided an update describing recent Board training held in Las Vegas which was useful to upgrade skills. She stated that the 2018 Budget has passed and an audit for 2016 has been completed and is awaiting final disposition. DBAS lines of credit are available to help local businesses and plans to lower interest rates in the upcoming year for refinancing of current loans are being sought. DBAS is also encouraged with positive developments for the Territorial Bank of American Samoa.
On behalf of the Shipyard Authority, CEO Moefaauo Bill Emmsley reported work continues to improve and upgrade facilities at the site. Measures also continue to make sure all workers certified and licensed.
In closing, Governor Lolo stressed the need for departments to focus on our responsibilities in cleaning and maintaining clean conditions of assigned zones under the directive of the Island-wide Cleanup Program. Governor Lolo also spoke about plans to begin a much needed resurfacing of the field at the Veterans Memorial Stadium following the completion of the high school football season to ensure the safety of our local athletes.
Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Mauga's offered his final remarks and wished all a happy Thanksgiving and speaking on behalf of the Governor extended appreciation and gratitude to everyone for all the hard work during the year to serve the residents of American Samoa.
A final prayer by Deacon Timu concluded the Cabinet meeting before complimentary Thanksgiving lunch was served by the Department of Agriculture.