CNMI After Super Typhoon Yutu

Hafa adai. Apologies, it’s been the better part of a calendar year since I’ve been active and posting. Yet, I’m still drawing a solid number of daily page views – most significantly to my posts: How to Form an LLC in Saipan and Climate Crisis Parts 1 & 2. Thank you for your interest.

Obviously I haven’t posted anything about Super Typhoon Yutu hitting Saipan and the CNMI. For any interested, my first-hand account was presented and published by notable national weather experts Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson on their ever-popular Weather Underground website. One of my original photos was also published (with permission, of course).

The CNMI is in for a long journey to recovery. It won’t be fast, it won’t be easy. But it will be done. Here, I am presenting my proposal CNMI: Accelerating Disaster Recovery.

I’ve sent this to many local leaders and am currently in discussion to find ways I can assist. I’m available to help the CNMI in any ways I can. Please feel free to contact me directly, or leave a Disqus comment. I’d look forward to further dialogue. Thank you.


CNMI: Accelerating Disaster Recovery

How a three-way trade program with incentivized volunteerism can: increase opportunities, create work and impactful solutions, enhance quality of life for locals, support local businesses, capture more money within the localized economy, and improve the performance value of each dollar to a minimum of 5x.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands faced back-to-back extreme weather events from Typhoon Mangkhut damaging much of Rota, and a short six weeks later the world’s strongest storm of 2018, Super Typhoon Yutu, destroyed much of Tinian and Saipan. The CNMI has been hit by the strongest storms on the planet in two different calendar years – and barely three years apart.

Yutu’s winds at landfall have only been exceeded by four other landfalling tropical cyclones in world history.

Yutu Recovery Proposal 12-2018

This PDF is available for viewing and download here:

Thank you for visiting, and be sure to add a comment if you have anything you wish to share.

david Saipan

  • Patrap


    Recovery is best documented by those who experienced it.

    Great stuff.


  • WXcolorado

    Thank you, I’ll save this

    • Glad you stopped by, cheers.

  • Reed Michaelson @ Los Angeles

    First this is a great program. Introducing yourself (as you have) is important.
    I noticed some information given more than once, try to read through and consolidate that. You could even have a section with a heading “What I have to Offer”.

    I am sorry that this is jumbled, I added notes as they came to me.

    Some notes:
    1) If you have education or Pre-CNMI experience that relates, make sure to mention it (all in one place – put the details in an appendix).

    2) Add references (as endnotes to the entire document). For example, you mention details, many of which would have come from FEMA. If you refer to me, I am best described as a “Retired University Professor, Dr. Martin Katz.”

    3) Page 3, Paragraph 2, last sentence: I think this should be more like “Every payment to outside contractors, workers, and suppliers permanently harms the CNMI economy.” I am not sure about the exact wording, the “localized” is not grammatically correct and you should minimize the use of the passive voice, as it weakens your impact. The passive voice is versions of the word “be” (like “is”, “are”, “were”, and so on).
    3a) Same paragraph written more strongly:
    Congress built inefficiencies into disaster recovery processes. For example, the FEMA regulation: “Individuals can only use money to restore
    items to pre-disaster, not original, condition. Repairs and rebuilding may not improve a
    home above its pre-disaster condition, unless such improvements are required by current building codes.”

    Every payment to outside contractors, workers, and suppliers permanently harms the CNMI economy. Most people would be surprised at the resources available within the CNMI. The CNMI should strive to retain as much recovery money as possible.
    3b) Congress’ deliberate hampering of true recovery is a separate issue from retaining recovery funds in the CNMI, so it should be a separate paragraph (it took me 2 rewrites before I noticed that).
    3c) There is an app called Grammarly that is very helpful in finding errors, weak phrasing, and so on it can be downloaded for use in an app within most browsers (you can cut and paste text into it. Go to for more information. The free version works quite well. I think it is worthwhile to pay for the premium version (for me, but I know you don’t have the money). I also have it installed into Microsoft Office. It doesn’t interface with Disqus.
    3d) Eliminate the phrase “direct quote from”. It is implied by putting the person’s name and position after the quote.
    3e) Page 15, column 2: I think “Summaritan’s Purse” is a misspelling. Is it “Samaritan’s Purse” or “Summarian’s purse”?
    3f) Most paragraphs should be 3 sentences. Avoid paragraphs withe 1 sentence or over 5 sentences.

    4) Page 3, paragraph 3 could be stronger by making it more direct: “My proposed disaster recovery program at least triples the value of recovery dollars:”
    4.1) “Increase opportunities” what kind? for whom? Perhaps “Increase work and training opportunities in the CNMI”
    4.3) “Enhance the quality of life in the CNMI”
    4.5) “Put more money in the CNMI economy”

    5) Make sure to emphasize that people are gaining work experience.

    6) Make sure to emphasize the reduction in petty crime when people’s time is occupied as a volunteer.
    6a) Also mention that people with volunteer experience are more likely to be admitted to CONUS (do you call it “Mainland”?) colleges and universities.

    7) Add in evaluation letters someplace in the program. Those letters can serve as references when the person applies for a job, even if it is not in a related area.
    8) The CNMI debris isn’t all trash. Sorting it as reusable, recyclable, and trash is important. Landfills are a limited resource, especially on an island.
    9) Every construction contractor and subcontractor (welding, mechanics, concrete, masonry, plastering, rough carpentry, plumbing, windows, electrical, painting, roofing, and water sealing) needs both apprentices and unskilled workers. Maximize the number of apprentices. After one year of experience, an apprentice can do the work with little supervision (essentially a journeyman).
    a) Make sure that all contractors are licensed and insured in at least one state or territory, and require CNMI registration.
    b) The CNMI non-resident contractor registration fee (for example $5,000) can be waived in return for taking on apprentices (for example $1000 per CNMI apprentice)
    c) No outside workers who are not registered contractors should be allowed to work in the restoration.
    d) Event planners can easily learn general contracting, except for the contract law part (which gets book learned).
    e) The CNMI environment isn’t suitable for lettuce, but it is suitable for root vegetables, cabbages, and wheat, provided irrigation is available (the parts for drip irrigation can mostly be produced locally from recycled polyethylene, polypropylene, and PETE). The government can choose a tropical fruit tree for each island to specialize in.
    10) The islands need some resources permanently:
    a) Concrete factory (mixes cement, sand, aggregate, pigment, and fiber) and concrete trucks. The skills to operate them are not that hard to learn (especially if a person knows how to drive).
    b) Steel forming factory. Higher skill level, but you probably have enough recyclable steel on the island to provide for “rough” steel uses (beams, sheet metal, and so on). This should run on Electricity.
    b1) Plastic molding.
    c) Wind turbine manufacturer and trained installation technicians. Solar panels and most of the turbine parts would be imported, but replacing one of your Diesel generators with Wind and Solar would save the CNMI a lot of money.
    d) Each island needs at least one commercial construction materials warehouse.
    e) The college must teach classes in automobile repair and appliance repair. Even electrical motor and transformer rewiring should be part of the experience for a 2 year mechanic’s degree.
    f) Hazardous materials waste site.
    g) Cannery (especially for fish).

    11) Barter and community currency are taxable as income under IRS regulations. Even gift certificates for meals are taxable at the fair market value of the meal.
    11a) One trick is that if there is a cost for a training program and that training program is required to keep a job that pays for living expenses, the costs for the training program is not taxable. As long as the living expenses income is kept below the federal minimum taxable wage, then the person doesn’t have to file federal taxes.

    12) Closed or abandoned buildings are great places for trade students to practice their craft. In particular, abandoned buildings make great canvases for art students. An abandoned building with an art exhibition on the outside is a tourist attraction instead of an eyesore.

    13) You need a way to convert CCs to $s. A 10% tax on the conversion should be enough to keep most of the money local and provide some funding for the CNMI government.

    14) You reference quotes with links (page 12). Any text copied from the links should be in an appendix. Putting the text where you have it interrupts your flow.

    15) Page 14, column 2, paragraph 2: “Work contacts could be written to
    include a mandatory usage of, say, 20% locals as trainees and incentivized volunteers.” Some things CNMI doesn’t have any control over (such as the electrical restoration project that FEMA already contracted). The rest should have close to 50% locals.

    16) Page 14, column 2, paragraph 4, the beginning of the first sentence is garbled.”This is a highly circumstantial opportunity to set a new course for infrastructure
    improvements and economy in the CNMI.” should be more like “Our current circumstances provide a special opportunity …”
    16a) Remove the “When” from each sentence. These are all present tense, so either use “Now” or use “in the coming year” and use a lettered list.
    16b) The last line on the page is Great!

    17) Page 15, paragraph 1 is too technical. Eliminate all of the Meteorological jargon. Just keep the first sentence and the last two. Include a reference to the other information.
    17a) Page 15, column 2, paragraph 1:
    The world’s strongest cyclones hit the CNMI in two of the past four years. Our changing climate makes these cyclones the new normal. Science needn’t conflict with theology, Pope Francis wrote a letter describing the threats of climate change and mankind’s responsibility to address our ways of living.
    17b) Give a reference for “Capsule Hotel” (or at least the name of the hotel in Tokyo).
    17c) Page 15, column 2, paragraph 3, remove the second sentence. See if you can shorten the first sentence to “Please excuse the prostitute in the following anecdote, she is just an example of a worker offering services on credit.”
    17d) Page 16, paragraph 4 (summary of the anecdote) should not be in italics, because the text returns to your own words.

    18) Somewhere put in the macro-economics argument “Every dollar spent at a local business goes to pay the business person, the business person’s employees, the suppliers, and the landlord. While part of that dollar might leave the Commonwealth, enough stays in local circulation that economists estimate that the dollar adds three dollars to the local economy. To the extent that people send their money to relatives overseas, that multiplication breaks.

    “Economists also say that every dollar spent on education, preventive healthcare, infrastructure, creating new businesses, or making the Commonwealth more attractive to tourists adds an estimated five to ten dollars to the local economy.”

    18b) Somewhere mention the unemployment rate in the CNMI before this year’s cyclone damage. Those people who are physically and mentally healthy could be doing the work in the tourist industry that was being done by visitors before the Yutu.

    19) The word “anyway” doesn’t have an S at the end (unless that is the way it is spelled in the CNMI dialect).

    20) When discussing your qualifications, make sure it is clear that you moved to the CNMI to help with economic development. Emphasize that you see your skills as more important after the cyclones than before and you will be around while you feel you are needed. Offering you help isn’t enough if you won’t be around to see projects through.

    21) Last column. Second paragraph, shorten the part about yourself and don’t volunteer to head anything up (you want to be an employee of the Office of Planning and Development and this proposal is your “in”). Remove the list of agencies and instead put “Office of Planning and Development or any more appropriate agency”

    21b) The proper word for a Community Currency is “Scrip”.

    21c) Separate the bold section of the last paragraph into a separate paragraph.

    21d) Whatever you estimate in external funding, people will consider that a promise (no matter how you word it). Make sure it is realistic. If you are giving an estimate, cut it in half (since you are saying it is a minimum). If you can turn 1/2 million into 2 million through proper spending, I would call it 1.5 million. If you think that the CNMI can raise 5 to 20 million over 3 years, but only if the redevelopment is done frugally and with mostly local labor, make that clear.

    I think training local labor is essential to the future of the CNMI.

    21e) What is the common language in businesses in the CNMI?
    For example, in California 90% of business is done in either English or Spanish (there are neighborhoods with a specific ethnicity and not everybody speaks either English or Spanish).

    I know the CNMI is more diverse.
    Because of the large tourism industry, polylingualism is an important asset. Courses in English, Chamorro, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Hindi, Thai, and Vietnamese for non-matriculating students at the university might be a good idea. Chamorro and Filipino are for community cohesion and respect. Hindi, Thai and Vietnamese are to try to attract future tourism. Also, a course in various asian customs would be useful.

    22) Restaurants serving traditional Chamorro food would be a unique experience for tourists. As in the CONUS, it is a good idea to offer Vegan plates at all restaurants. Visiting tourists will probably already have exposure to McDonalds (Mu-‘ca-do-na-ru is Japanese for hamburger) and other US junk food, so providing some junk food at specialty restaurants is a good idea. Chilean, Argentine, real Mandarin Chinese, Polynesian, Filipino, Indonesian, and real Japanese would also be possible specialties.

    A distillery using only native or locally grown grain might be a good investment (but it takes 2 years, minimum). Most modern distilleries use stainless steel fermenting aging vats, but you could line the inside of the aging vats with a local wood, with bamboo, or charcoal from either.

    A music club featuring local talent and any Chamorro or Polynesian instruments or songs would be a big draw.

    An arboretum of local plants would be a tourist attraction.

    A history of the NMI museum would be a tourist attraction.

    Two meat animals that almost anybody can raise with very little training and a little cash up front for stock and feed are chickens and swine. To raise chickens commercially, at least one farm has to have an incubator and sell chicks to other farmers. More details if you want them.

    23) Only locally owned businesses should be qualified to accept, or change community currency.
    23a) Given that the Casinos are bad for the locals (except as employers) and that Catholicism is important on Saipan, I would say that the casinos would not be qualified for CC.
    23b) A program that pays off college loans to employees of the Commonwealth (at say $5000/year) will attract engineers (and so on) to the Commonwealth.
    23c) Commonwealth and private jobs can pay a percentage of salary as CC, even to foreign workers..

    24) According to the Wikipedia article on Saipan, the CNMI doesn’t protect citizen and permanent resident worker’s jobs by requiring the equivalent to an H1 visa. An H1 visa requires that the employer show that there are not qualified locals for the job and that the pay for the foreigner be higher than what would be paid to locals for similar work.

    Under Trump, this has been causing some friction between DC and the CNMI. It is likely that foreign workers without US issued visas will not receive any US assistance, except for this immediate survival assistance.

    24a) Tourists almost always prefer when the hotel and attraction staff they come in contact with are locals who speak the tourist’s language (or at least English).

    25) Advise the government (not in this document) not to become too reliant on China. China is still totalitarian and has a currency that is fixed (at an artificially low value) relative to the dollar. The fixed Wan (pronounced the same as the Japanese Yen) is a deliberate move to dump Chinese products on the US. The value of the Wan versus the dollar can change by Chinese central government decree.

    • You’re awesome. I always value your incredible knowledge and input. Thanks!