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EDITORIAL: 911 & Umatac v. politics & FestPac

By Nancy I. Maanao

(Tumon, Guam) The pricetags for the ruling party's war claims behemoth and the fancy accommodations they want in Honolulu for FestPac nearly match the cost of two priority projects the government of Guam has failed to fund the past nine years.

The Guam Legislature recently authorized Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero a blank check to pay war claims to only a fraction of eligible recipients. The estimated cost is upward of $10 million. It would be irresponsible of us not to note that the entire local program is completely unnecessary, as Congressman Michael San Nicolas is on the verge of getting the real program passed through the national government. The local effort is nothing but a ruse to take credit for the issue.

The other bill they passed allows the governor to spend upward of $700,000 to send 100 delegates to FestPac next year, and to host a fancy reception while in Honolulu.

These are strikingly similar pricetags to two priorities of Christmas past times in Guam: the $11 million needed to replace the island's emergency communications system (E911, as it is called), and the $700,000 needed to keep F.Q. Sanchez Elementary School in Umatac open nine years ago.

The debate on the E911 system happened at the end of 2010, when Guam Fire Department officials revealed that the system was on its last leg. Motorola, the company which outfitted the antiquated system, no longer manufactured the parts needed for it; so the government of Guam could only procure a new system, or maintain the final two working batteries it had at the time and hope for a miracle.

Rather than prioritizing the money needed for this critical system, GovGuam chose the hope-for-a-miracle option. It's nearly a decade later, and apparently that $11 million is somewhere in the kitty; but it's not going to fund the E911 system that allows people to literally call for help during emergencies. Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, the majority of senators, and Ms. Leon Guerrero thought it better to blow the money on war claims, even though the federal government is in the advent of authorizing the payments using Section 30 money that's been set aside for this very effort.

Merry Christmas, Guam. Our leaders are idiots. For Christmas, we all got the news that if you had an emergency, well, tough shiz. You couldn't call 911 for some time; the system was down. Ten years of hoping and praying for a miracle had failed to keep the parts together.

At the start of 2011, the board of education under then-chairman Francis Santos and then-superintendent of education Dr. Nerissa Underwood, looked at the Department of Education's operations and wanted to shut down F.Q. Sanchez Elementary School in Umatac. The savings? Some $700,000.

There was a huge uproar from the residents there. They took great pride in their school. The kids there had after school programs, and they didn't have to worry about transportation, because they could just walk home. Parents were very much involved. Teachers were very much committed.

But in the spirit of fiscal austerity, Mr. Santos's argument won the day. They shut down FQ Sanchez Elementary School, despite the constant political refrain that education is a top priority.

Nearly 10 years later, and look what $700,000 means to the political leadership today. Not one member of the Guam Legislature during the debate on the disgusting FestPac bill said anything about FQ Sanchez, despite the ironic similarity in the pricetags. All things being equal, you would think that political leaders who got into office by claiming their support of public education would throw $700,000 toward reopening a school in Umatac, than toward United Airlines for the flights of 100 people to attend FestPac in Honolulu.

These examples of warped priorities among the political class say everything that needs to be said about the Guam Legislature and Ms. Leon Guerrero's administration. They're out of touch. They have no idea what's going on in the real world. And they're idiots.

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