• The Star Staff

Gov’t transition hearings to continue Tuesday

By John McPhaul


Ramón Luis Rivera Cruz, chairman of the incoming government transition committee, said Sunday that hearings will resume Tuesday.

“We are trying to hold a good process, because there is a reality, and it is impossible that in 30 days you can visit or hold public hearings for 125 agencies,” Rivera Cruz said. “For this reason, many will be held in executive meetings. In others, the agency’s report will be received. Those that are smaller, that perhaps do not have a very big situation to analyze, the report is received. As they are sworn reports, they are accepted.”

“We are only taking the big [agencies in hearings]; that’s why on Tuesday we have Economic Development [and Commerce] along with its components,” the mayor of Bayamón said. “The idea is to try to finish by Dec. 24, and by then enter the stage of writing the report that will be presented to the [incoming] governor [Pedro Pierluisi].”

Regarding the priorities for the incoming government, Rivera Cruz said “the most important thing is how to change thinking within government agencies.”

“How to develop teamwork,” he said. “So that the agencies are not seen as private figures, but rather that they see themselves as a whole in the service of the people of Puerto Rico.”

“And within that context of the most important ones, the ones that I believe the [elected] governor should give more attention, more sensitivity, is the Department of Education,” Rivera Cruz said. “The internal situation of Education is scary. After that comes the Department of Health; we are experiencing a pandemic. It is a department that requires a total re-engineering. Those two for me are the main two.”

“We have been teaching students virtually for almost a year,” the transition committee chairman continued. “Everyone knows that although many teachers have made an enormous effort, we have many areas of Puerto Rico that do not have access to the internet and we have other areas of Puerto Rico where there is access [but] the internet is constantly dropping. It happens to us all the time. There are no classes that day. And that is perhaps the most effective way for students to prepare [with reliable web access].”

Among the issues needing urgent attention in the Education Department, Rivera Cruz said, are “[t]he facilities; we are talking about the physical structures of the department -- nothing has been fixed.”

What is known as short columns in schools is part of the design of some schools that prevents them from being resistant to an earthquake, he noted.

“A study of the short columns was commissioned in all the schools,” Rivera Cruz said. “[The] Education [Department and the] Public Buildings [Authority] did absolutely nothing.”

Students who live in areas where the earthquakes at the beginning of this year damaged schools, or where there is a risk of catastrophic damage in the event of more earthquakes, are the ones who have not attended classes in person for the longest time, the transition committee chairman stressed.

.Those students cannot return to damaged schools or those with the so-called short columns, since those schools have not been repaired, he said.

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