By Tina Sablan
It feels like a brand new day in the Marianas. Leila Staffler and I join our fellow Democrats in extending our sincerest congratulations to Governor-elect Arnold Palacios and Lieutenant Governor-elect David Apatang on their decisive victory, which truly is the victory of the people.
I am proud of the strength and unity of our coalition, and the focused determination we showed in this runoff election. Democrats, Independents, as well as Republicans rallied to make sure that we would see the change in leadership that we so badly need in our commonwealth.
And together, we won.
Every vote mattered in this election. I am grateful beyond measure to every citizen who showed up to vote, and especially the people who voted for Leila and me on November 8 and who delivered the critical margin of victory for Arnold and Dave in the runoff.
Arnold and Dave are coming in with so much goodwill and hope from all corners of the islands. I have been hearing this sentiment every day, everywhere I go. People are yearning for change, yearning for a fair and trustworthy government, and they are looking to Arnold and Dave, and the coalition of leaders we’ve brought together, to light the way.
People will be paying very close attention to the transition, because it will demonstrate the kind of leadership we will be able to expect from the Palacios-Apatang administration.
Typically and historically, the transition process has been a time of fear and trepidation for some. A time of jockeying for jobs and contracts. Calling in favors. Waging vendettas.
It is my hope and expectation that this transition will be different. Because Arnold and Dave have promised to be different. They’ve promised to rebuild trust. They’ve promised to heal.
It is essential that the transition reflect the values and commitments to good governance outlined in the Unity Pledge that we signed and unveiled a little over a week ago.
These are the values of fairness, integrity, transparency, and fiscal responsibility. These are the commitments to open up the books and be honest with the people about the true fiscal condition of our government and where we go from here. The commitment to end the culture of political intimidation, cronyism, and nepotism in our government. To ensure fairness in government hiring and contracting. To restore the merit-based system of public employment, and accept applications for political appointments as well. To exercise due diligence and care in considering all appointments to positions of authority, including but not limited to our law enforcement agencies.
We need ethical, qualified people in leadership across our government.
As Arnold and Dave and Leila and I often said during the campaign, good governance starts at the top. It’s the leadership that sets the tone. It’s the leadership that upholds the law. It’s the leadership that models the conduct that is expected of public servants at every level of government.
But the leadership can’t do it all alone at the top. Arnold and Dave will need help. They will need honest, capable women and men willing to serve and willing to lead. They will need people to be vigilant and engaged and speak up if they see something wrong, and if they have ideas for how things could be better.
We should expect more of our government, and our leaders. And we should also expect more of ourselves, as citizens, to do our part in building a better community where everyone can thrive. We have many problems facing our government and our commonwealth, but these problems are solvable. We can fix our problems and make the Marianas the amazing place it has always had the potential to be.
The people have given the new Palacios-Apatang administration a clear mandate, and placed in them their trust that Arnold and Dave will be faithful to their promises. And we should all, as citizens, help them right the ship of our government and set our commonwealth on a new course to a safer, healthier, more equitable, and more beautiful future.
Christina “Tina” Sablan is a member of the CNMI House of Representatives. She most recently was the democratic candidate for governor of the Commonwealth. She and her beloved dog, Rosie, are residents of Susupe, Saipan.