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St. Croix’s Linval Joseph Inks New Deal With The Vikings Worth $50 Million And Good Through 2022

MANKATO, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings have locked up another core piece of their defense, signing Linval Joseph to a four-year contract extension that puts him under team control through the 2022 season.

Joseph’s agency, SportsTrust Advisors, announced the agreement Saturday. Then the Vikings confirmed it a few hours later after Joseph met general manager Rick Spielman to sign the deal . There was no rush, with two years remaining on the current contract, but Joseph was happy to have the added security even if his market price could have risen with another strong season.

“This game don’t last forever, at the end of the day,” Joseph said after the team’s night practice at Minnesota State University. “It was a great opportunity.”

NFL Media reported that Joseph’s new contract is worth as much as $50 million, with $31.5 million in guaranteed money. He joined the Vikings as a free agent in 2014 after leaving the New York Giants, who drafted him in the second round in 2010 out of East Carolina. Joseph is a native of St. Croix whose family moved to Florida when he was 10.

This is the third extension the Vikings have done since training camp began, having previously signed defensive end Everson Griffen and cornerback Xavier Rhodes to new long-term deals, all through the 2022 season. Free safety Harrison Smith is signed through 2021.

“I feel like we have something special. We have a lot of guys who want to work. Once you have guys like that, that’s how you build a great team,” Joseph said, adding: “I feel like I’m a part of something, and that’s a great feeling. Right now I just want to grow. I want our team to grow. And I want to win that big ring.”

This is Joseph’s fourth year with the Vikings, all under coach Mike Zimmer, who recently called Joseph the best nose tackle he’s “ever been around” in 24 seasons in the NFL.

“He’s a great person, wants to be really good,” Zimmer said. “Probably works as hard as anyone on the football team in the offseason.”

The 6-foot-4, 329-pound Joseph was picked as an injury replacement last year for the Pro Bowl. He was credited by Vikings coaches with 100 tackles, the team’s first defensive tackle to reach that milestone since Henry Thomas in 1991. He matched his career high with four sacks and tallied 36 quarterback hurries, his most since joining Minnesota.

Joseph’s greatest value, though, is his unique ability to occupy multiple blockers, who would often be overpowered in a one-on-one situation, to allow a linebacker, a defensive end or a safety to swoop in for the big play.

“Hopefully all of our guys on defense feel the same way. It’s not about individual statistics. It’s about us collectively doing our job,” Zimmer said.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, here are the terms for the new contract:

1. Signing bonus of $6 million, half of which will be paid within 10 days of signing and the other half of which will be paid on March 15, 2018.

2. Fully-guaranteed 2017 roster bonus of $4 million, due within 10 days of signing.

3. A fully-guaranteed base salary of $1.15 million for 2017.

4. A $5 million roster bonus for 2018, guaranteed for injury only at signing. It becomes fully guaranteed on March 15, 2018, with half paid on March 17, 2018 and the other half paid on September 1, 2018.

5. A $1.15 million base salary for 2018, guaranteed for injury only at signing and fully guaranteed as of the third day of the 2018 league year.

6. A 2019 base salary of $8.9 million, which is guaranteed for injury only at signing and fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2019 league year.

7. A 2020 base salary of $11.15 million, $5.3 million of which is guaranteed for injury only at signing and fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2020 league year.

8. A non-guaranteed base salary of $10.65 million for 2021.

9. A non-guaranteed base salary of $11.9 million for 2022.

10. 46-man roster bonuses totaling $500,000 per year for 2019 through 2022.

11. $100,000 workout bonuses for 2018 through 2022.

The end result is $11.15 million fully guaranteed of signing, and $31.5 million guaranteed for injury at signing. He’ll make $11.15 million in 2019, $17.4 million through the first two years, $26.9 million through 2019, $38.65 million through 2020, $49.9 million through 2021, and $62.4 million through 2022.

Under a new-money analysis, the $12.5 million annual average makes Joseph the eighth highest-paid defensive tackle.

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ANOTHER BOONDOGGLE! Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty Touts Her Department’s Participation In Upcoming National BJ Convention In New Orleans

ANOTHER BOONDOGGLE! Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty Touts Her Department's Participation In Upcoming National BJ Convention In New Orleans

GUARANTEED! NO MAINSTREAM NATIONAL “ORGANIC MEDIA” ATTENTION FROM BJ CONVENTION: By devoting precious tourism dollars to such a small scale, segmented, fringe audience, Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty is virtually guaranteeing that the U.S. Virgin Islands beautiful product will not come before the largest audience possible — which translates to a small-scale promotion — and less people being made aware of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix than should be if Nicholson-Doty had chosen more wisely.

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Does the U.S. Virgin Islands need more black journalists living and working here in order to get a better rap in the national travel press?

Well, Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty must have a short memory.

Because it was a black journalist writing for a national travel magazine who reviewed St. Thomas as a “one-story Newark, New Jersey.”

Tourism says that it wants to build links with “the important African-American community” by supporting this year’s National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention, taking place August 9 through 13 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Department will host the convention’s popular Founders Reception, where reporters and editors are immersed in a cultural presentation while being updated on what’s new in the destination.

“Participating in NABJ is an important part of building our relationship with the African-American community, and it’s also an integral component of our national outreach,” Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said, claiming that “black reporters, editors and producers continue to have a huge impact across the national media landscape.”

While in New Orleans, the Commissioner will meet with local and national media and also address more than 50 travel agents and meeting planners at a travel industry luncheon to attract travel to the territory from the state of Louisiana and the south-central region.

Nicholson-Doty said she will also participate in a NABJ panel about film and television where she will unveil the Department’s new Real Nice ad campaign. She will exhort producers and directors to consider the U.S. Virgin Islands as a convenient yet exotic location for shooting television shows, commercials, documentaries and features.

The Department will also bring two communications students from the University of the Virgin Islands to the convention to participate in educational workshops to sharpen their skills and network with some of the top players in the industry.

Supporting the Department’s events in New Orleans with prize giveaways are Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort and The Buccaneer.

The National Association of Black Journalists’ (NABJ) annual convention brings together media professionals from across the United States and beyond for unparalleled networking opportunities, educational sessions and job recruitment.

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1975, NABJ is the largest organization of journalists of color in the United States. The Association provides training, career development and support to black journalists worldwide.

NABJ strives for credible journalism that comprehensively portrays the voices and experiences of African-Americans and people from the black diaspora for a society and world that values them.

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FOR THE BIRDS? Mapp Went To Denver Airport To Find Ways To Reduce ‘Bird Strikes’ On Aircraft Flying To To St. Thomas And St. Croix

CHARLOTTE AMALIE –  Is this for the birds?

Or not?

Gov. Kenneth Mapp says that he wants to improve airport operations at the Cyril E. King International and Henry E. Rohlsen airports in St. Thomas and St. Croix.

Most importantly, Mapp said that he saw a “grave danger” to aircraft flying in to the territory from “bird strikes.”

So he said that he spent all of last week in an “an educational immersion at Denver International Airport” so that he personally can tweak airport operations territory-wide to make sure that pigeons, seabirds and pelicans do not adversely affect tourism to the islands.

“I love to fly,” Mapp admitted. “Everywhere but back to the territory where I am governor. We also discussed the feasibility of building a chunnel between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas with Denver airport officials. I told them that my campaign theme was ‘A Time To Build’ and I intend to live up to that promise — if it costs the federal government all the money they have left.”

The one-term governor said that he led a government delegation, which included senior officials and the leadership of the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA), and that “the visit featured the sharing of intelligence and best practices by the executive team at the country’s sixth busiest airport.”

In addition to a tour of the airfield and control tower, Virgin Islands and Colorado officials spent an entire day focused on the multiple processes that help the airport deliver more than $26 billion in economic benefits to the Rocky Mountain state.

Kim Day the CEO of Denver’s airport, described it as a “complex organism.” The airport processes close to 60 million passengers a year, has 35,000 badged employees, and is responsible for 115,000 indirect jobs.

The USVI team learned how Denver officials continually invest in the passenger experience, including shopping and dining, technology and entertainment.

Denver officials also shared details of their capital improvement program to accommodate year-over-year growth, as well as elements of their legal and procurement processes. Improving safety and security, enhancing operational efficiency, upgrading aging systems and transforming the passenger experience were priorities.

Mapp said the “tremendous learning experience” went beyond his expectations – from discovering how the Denver airport handles issues with its own neighboring landfill, to mitigating the challenges faced by bird strikes, to dealing with regulatory issues and leveraging public-private partnerships.

Earlier in the week in Atlanta, the Virgin Islands team, which included additional representatives from the Waste Management Authority, met with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to discuss the decades-old regulatory issue concerning the landfill near St. Croix’s airport. “We were heartened to note the similarity of a landfill coexisting within Denver’s airport and the regulatory solution which was arrived at with the FAA. This is an issue the USVI has been trying to resolve since 1983. It has cost us millions of dollars in direct spend and millions more in the suspension of federal funds for airport improvements.”

Governor Mapp noted that Denver International Airport’s focus on “rebuilding the new, replacing the old and caring for the current” resonated well with his team as they prepare to holistically elevate the passenger experience at USVI airports. He added that “moving the Virgin Islands airports to the next level by becoming a real, exceptional experience for visitors” should no longer be a concept. “We must act, and act strategically.”

Kim Day, CEO of Denver International Airport, saw this visit as the first step in leveraging synergies between her office and the USVI. “The world is becoming smaller, in the way we all think about it. Millennials think nothing about getting on a plane and going to Europe for the weekend. … So, as the world becomes smaller, smaller airports have a great opportunity to raise their flag and be recognized as a great place to go. Plus, I’ve got to say, you (are) recognized as an unbelievable place to visit. You’re already on this list of everybody’s bucket list. If we can help you improve your airport, that’ll help you get the capacity to be ready for all those great visitors that are going to be coming to you in the next few years.”

George Merritt, senior vice President of Government and Community Affairs with Denver International Airport, lauded the insight of the USVI team to visit Denver.

“There’s no substitute for actually visiting a place, really doing a deep dive with the people who have gone through an experience and getting their lessons learned … there is no substitute for actually getting on the ground and seeing a project that you want to model after. We did that as part of our project. I took our City Council, we went to Europe and saw Heathrow and saw the Amsterdam airport. So the value that your team gets out of it is to sit down here, have a day to really study and not have any distractions and learn about this – and see it in a concrete way.”

A highlight for the USVI delegation, Mapp said, was learning of the strong demand for nonstop flights between Denver and the Territory, and how tourism officials can work with airlines and the airport to increase airlift to the destination.

The governor said a taskforce would now be formed to develop a formal partnership between VIPA and the Denver International Airport.

“We have a good path forward – Ms. Day has offered, and I have accepted, an exchange of managers and directors from the Virgin Islands Port Authority to come to Denver to get on-the-ground training and experience … and she is prepared to send her managers to spend a week or two working with our teams in the territory.”

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BIR: Mapp’s ‘Timeshare Tax’ Draws A Lawsuit About Its Legality As Territory Scrambles To Rob Peter To Pay Paul

BIR: Mapp's 'Timeshare Tax' Draws A Lawsuit About Its Legality As Territory Scrambles To Rob Peter To Pay Paul

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — With the territory banned from the bond market — it has to find a way somehow to continue to make payments on $2 billion in bond debt.

To that end, Gov. Kenneth Mapp has decided to order BIR Director Marvin Pickering to slap a higher room tax rate on people who stay in timeshares in the Virgin Islands.

The territorial government faces persistent budget holes because of borrowing and deficit spending.

Its bonds continually get low ratings, it is having trouble borrowing, and some say it’s on the road to a Puerto Rico-style fiscal crisis. So, its leaders are finding new ways to plug those holes and reassure the bond market.

As a result, some vacationers in the territory will have to pay a new $25-a-day fee for using a timeshare here.

“The island is always looking for revenues, like every other place,” said Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chief counsel, Tamarah Parson-Smalls. “The governor has sent down a five-year plan, and this is just one small portion of his plan to ensure that the territory is self-sufficient.” But the new fees have provoked the ire of some island visitors.

Kathy Kuchinski of Florida said she and her husband were already thinking of dumping their week-long timeshare.

“And then we heard about this extra tax, plus, you know, we still pay for airfare. We said, ‘Forget it!’” she said.

The fee is officially called the Environmental/Infrastructure Impact Fee, but it’s not dedicated to the islands’ degraded environment, such as its coral reefs, or crumbling infrastructure. Instead, most of it goes to the government’s general fund.

Advocates for the timeshare industry are suing.

“Timeshare tourists have the same impact as any other tourist to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and therefore it is discriminatory to single out timeshare owners for this impact fee,” said Robert Clements, the vice president of regulatory affairs for the American Resort Development Association-Resort Owners’ Coalition, which filed a lawsuit in federal court in May.

Timeshare owner Monica Richard of Massachusetts stays a week or two every year. Paying the fees – an extra $175 a week – will mean her family will cut back on charter boat trips and eating out at the islands’ fancy restaurants.

“Or just spending money on island that we could use to support the local businesses and now it’s going to need to go to the government,” Richard said.

Clements predicts the fee will ultimately cause tourism to decrease. But the government is undeterred, and  has started to collect the money. The new fees are expected to net an extra $19 million a year.

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Puerto Rico Government Workers Will Be Furloughed For 1st Time in Island’s History

Puerto Rico Government Workers Will Be Furloughed For 1st Time in Island's History

SAN JUAN — A federal control board overseeing Puerto Rico’s crisis-wracked finances announced Friday that it will impose furloughs for the first time in the U.S. commonwealth’s history.

Furloughs of up to two days a month will start Sept. 1 and apply to all government employees except police, said Natalie Jaresko, the board’s executive director. She said these will continue until the end of fiscal year 2018.

“Where we are today is still very concerning,” she said.

The meeting turned contentious after the announcement, with Puerto Rico officials rejecting the board’s decision.

“There will be no furloughs. You can take that to the bank,” said Christian Sobrino, the Puerto Rico governor’s representative to the board, as he sat on stage next to board members during the public meeting.

Rossello did not return a message for comment but said in a statement that he would make a public address Friday afternoon. He said on Thursday that he would go to court to fight furloughs that he argues would affect more than 138,000 employees and lead to a $600 million negative economic impact in the next two years.

 Board chairman Jose Carrion warned that going to court could lead to deeper furloughs if implementation is delayed.

“We do not consider this a recommendation as the government alleges,” he said.

Jaresko said the furloughs are not permanent and that Puerto Rico’s government has the power to end them earlier than forecast if it meets a couple of conditions, including the required $218 million in savings.

 The board had originally proposed furloughs of two days a month for teachers and four days a month for other government workers as a way to cut government spending by up to $40 million a month. In addition, the board is expected to vote in upcoming weeks on whether to eliminate all Christmas bonuses.

More than a dozen of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities already have implemented their own furloughs in recent months as they struggle with shrinking budgets.

The board on Friday also briefly talked about reforming Puerto Rico’s public pension system, which faces nearly $50 billion in liabilities. Board members said all newly hired employees will be enrolled in Social Security. Currently, teachers and police officers in Puerto Rico do not receive Social Security and depend solely on the public pension system.

The board also said the system will face a 10 percent cut.

“Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation where honoring 100 percent of the obligations is not workable,” said board member Ana Matosantos.

Sobrino disputed that, saying that a bill currently being debated by Puerto Rico legislators will protect the system from any cuts. He also warned that if no action is taken, the system will become insolvent in the next couple of weeks.

Puerto Rico is mired in a 10-year recession and seeking to restructure a portion of a $73 billion public debt load in a bankruptcy-like court process that recently began.

“The simple fact is that Puerto Rico’s government has run out of money,” said board member Andrew Biggs. “It will have to raise taxes and reduce spending.”

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SPECIAL REPORT: Shunned From Bond Market, Territory Will See If It Can Float Itself Out Of Its Cash Crisis

SPECIAL REPORT: Shunned From Bond Market, Territory Will See If It Can Float Itself Out Of Its Cash Crisis A nurse stands next to closed toilets at the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center in Estate Diamond near the Sunny Isle Shopping Center on St Croix. (PHOTO BY: Alvin Baez/Reuters)

CHRISTIANSTED — For a glimpse at the precarious financial health of St. Croix, visit its public hospital.

Pipes underneath the emergency room collapsed in May, causing waste water to back up through the drains.

Now workers and visitors – even patients – use portable toilets set up on the sidewalk.

The hospital doesn’t have the cash for new plumbing.

For years the Virgin Islands funded essential public services with help from Wall Street. Investors lined up to purchase its triple-tax-exempt bonds, a form of debt free from municipal, state and federal taxes.

Now the borrowing window has slammed shut. Trouble in neighboring Puerto Rico, which recently filed for a form of bankruptcy after a string of debt defaults, has investors worried that the Virgin Islands might be next.

With just over 100,000 inhabitants, the protectorate now owes north of $2 billion to bondholders and creditors.

That’s the biggest per capita debt load of any U.S. territory or state – more than $19,000 for every man, woman and child scattered across the island chain of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John.

The territory is also on the hook for billions more in unfunded pension and healthcare obligations.

“We have a government that we can’t afford, and now all of it is converging,” said Holland Redfield, a former six-term St. Croix senator who hosts a radio talk show about politics in the territory. “We’re getting to the point where we may have a potential meltdown.”

Ratings agencies have downgraded the islands’ credit ratings deep into junk territory. With the U.S. Virgin Islands shut out of the credit markets after a failed January bond issue, officials are scrambling to stabilize its finances after years of taking on debt to plug yawning budget holes.

The government proposes to slash public spending by 10 percent. It recently hiked taxes on liquor, cigarettes, sugary drinks and vacation timeshares. And it has threatened to auction homes and businesses of property-tax deadbeats.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp is quick to reassure bondholders that they get first crack at one of the territory’s largest funding sources: rum taxes. The money pays debt service before heading to government coffers, a protection called a lockbox.

The Virgin Islands has “never been late on a payment, much less defaulted on a bond or loan agreement,” Mapp said during his State of the territory address in January.

But how these islands will recover from years of budget deficits and a severe liquidity crisis remains to be seen. The territory lost its single-largest private employer five years ago when a refinery shut down.

Gross domestic product has declined by almost one-third since 2008. At times this year the government was operating with just two days’ cash on hand.

Locals live with pitted roads, crumbling schools, electricity outages and deteriorating medical care.

At the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center, plumbing troubles are just the beginning. Doctors have stopped performing some vital procedures, including implanting pacemakers and heart defibrillators, because the facility can’t pay suppliers for the devices, officials say.

“We have gone from bad to worse, and the patients are the ones who are suffering,” said Dr. Kendall Griffith, an interventional cardiologist who recently left the island to take a job in a Georgia hospital. “It’s forcing physicians to make hard decisions.”

Forgotten Islands

Before Puerto Rico imploded under $70 billion in debt and $50 billion of unfunded pension liabilities, few in Washington noticed troubles brewing in the other inhabited U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Residents of these places are U.S. citizens, but they can’t vote in presidential elections and their Washington delegates are non-voting figureheads. Despite high poverty rates and joblessness, the territories receive just a fraction of the federal funding allocated to U.S. states for entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid.

To bridge the gap, some have turned to the bond market. Bond issues typically fund infrastructure and capital projects. But in the case of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, officials increasingly relied on borrowed money to fund government operations.

Debt loads for both territories have grown to staggering proportions, now surpassing 50 percent of their respective GDPs. That’s higher than anywhere in the nation and sharply above the state median of 2.2 percent, Moody’s Investors Service found.

(For a graphic on U.S. territory debt, see: tmsnrt.rs/2h8TGIo)

Bond buyers for years whistled past the territories’ shaky finances, comforted in the knowledge that these governments couldn’t seek bankruptcy protections available to many municipalities.

“There was an idea that because of the lockbox structure and the fact that the territories did not have a path to bankruptcy, they had to pay you,” said Curtis Erickson, San Francisco-based managing director of Preston Hollow Capital, a municipal specialty finance company.

That all changed in 2016 when Congress passed legislation known as PROMESA giving Puerto Rico its first access to debt restructuring. The move sparked a ferocious battle among creditors to see who would shoulder the largest losses.

Investors quickly surmised the U.S. Virgin Islands might pursue the same strategy. In December, S&P Global Ratings downgraded the territory by a stunning seven notches to B from BBB+, putting it well below investment grade.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is adamant that S&P and other ratings agencies overreacted. The territory has been unfairly “tainted by Puerto Rico’s pending bankruptcy,” and has no intention of pursuing debt restructuring, said Lonnie Soury, a government spokesman.

In addition to tax hikes and budget cuts, he said the current administration is looking to do more with its tourism and horse racing industries to boost development.

Big Debts, Few Options

In the meantime, the U.S. Virgin Islands is trapped in a circle of hock that’s making it tough to maneuver.

The government and its two public hospitals, for example, owe a combined $28 million to the territory’s water and power authority, known as WAPA. In turn, WAPA owes about $44 million to two former fuel vendors.

Then there’s the $3.4 billion of unfunded liabilities for public pensions and retiree healthcare. The pension fund is 19.6 percent funded and projected to run out of money by 2023.

Pensioners can wait months before their annuities start, because the government is behind on its contributions. St. Croix resident Stephen Cohen, 67, said it took almost a year after he retired as a high school biology teacher before he received his first check in 2016.

(REUTERS NEWS SERVICE)

SPECIAL REPORT: Shunned From Bond Market, Territory Will See If It Can Float Itself Out Of Its Cash Crisis

A nurse pushes a patient in a wheelchair through a hall of the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center (PHOTO BY: Alvin Baez/Reuters)

SPECIAL REPORT: Shunned From Bond Market, Territory Will See If It Can Float Itself Out Of Its Cash Crisis

SPECIAL REPORT: Shunned From Bond Market, Territory Will See If It Can Float Itself Out Of Its Cash Crisis