Despite that I am a Democrat and disagree with our President on many issues, I recognize that there is significant value in President Trump’s upcoming visit to the territories that turn the United States into a Caribbean nation, the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
First of all, it provides the President and his staff an invaluable opportunity to see for themselves the enormous trail of destruction that Hurricane Irma left behind her in the Virgin Islands, especially in the islands of St. John and St. Thomas, and in Puerto Rico, especially in the island municipality of Culebra. As someone who ocassionally as Acting Governor when Governor Fortuño was off the island was called upon to survey the damage left by tropical storms and hurricanes, I can attest to the fact that videos, photos and bureaucratic reports cannot convey the intense aftermath of a major storm.
Second, in the case of two remote territories, a presidential visit and the ensuing coverage, remind our fellow Americans that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands exist and are as entitled to assistance in the post-Irma as Texas in recovering from Harvey and Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in recovering from Irma, too.
Third, it provides an opportunity for the President to be briefed regarding all that Puerto Rico and Governor Rosselló are doing, while tending to its own losses, in helping out our fellow territory of the Virgin Islands as well as other Caribbean neighbors, supplying and feeding thousands, evacuating fellow Americans and fellow Caribeños and even helping extricate Canadians, Filipinos and other citizens of the world who encountered the wrath of the hurricane.
Fourth, it will provide the President an opportunity to engineer a major infrastructure project in which the Trump administration can demonstrate his commitment to the Caribbean territories, with a concrete project in response to the devastation of St. Thomas and another one in Puerto Rico.
What could the Puerto Rican pilot project be? I would suggest a national pilot project to hurricane-proof the island-municipality of Culebra that would include replacing aerial electricity wires with underground power lines, rebuilding cell towers to withstand at least 160 mph winds that would survive 95% of the storms that may hit Culebra, taking advantage of as many roofs as possible to generate solar power and install as many windmills as possible to generate wind power, which with the batteries now available in the market could create an islandwide micro grid disconnected from Puerto Rico’s electric grid. Damaged wood homes could be rebuilt in concrete, with solar water heaters, solar power panels, rainwater collection and storage systems, and designs to maximize natural light and ventilation. In private structures as well as light posts, Puerto Rico’s 2006 Dark Sky Law which I authored should be followed to protect sea life and bring back thestars to Culebra’s skyscape, while roads should follow the specifications of Fort Buchanan’s exemplary streets.
During his barely hours-long fly-in to the places where the United States becomes a Caribbean nation, President Trump, the president and experienced developer, can leave a lasting legacy of enduring hurricane-proofing.