The only people we can depend on are the people

   “There is only one force in the nation that can be depended upon to keep the government pure and the governors honest, and that is the people themselves. They alone, if well informed, are capable of preventing the corruption of power, and restoring the nation to its rightful course if it should go astray. They alone are the safest depository of the ultimate powers of government.”                              --Thomas Jefferson

 

  Over the past couple of months the people of Guam are learning the truth behind this statement by former president Thomas Jefferson.

 

  It all began with news stories about top managers and attorneys for Guam Power Authority (GPA) and Guam Waterworks Authority (GWA) receiving massive pay raises and bonuses behind closed doors. The situation was made worse as the Consolidated Commission on Utilities  tried to keep the raises in place, and refusing to release the minutes and recordings that took place illegally in executive session, so the people could learn the basis for those massive raises and bonuses.

 

 This was not an isolated incident. Earlier this year the public learned the Mayor’s Council of Guam (MCOG)  gave Angel Sablan, their executive director, a massive $22,000 a year pay raise. What makes this situation appear worse than raises given to the utility managers, is the fact the raise appears to have been given (based on meeting minutes) to soothe Sablan’s sense of jealousy after reading about the new administration’s director salaries in the newspapers. He pointed out to the mayors in their Feb. 6, 2019 meeting, that he was the lowest paid of any government of Guam’s directors. I guess the mayors felt sorry for him and gave him a $22,000 pay raise — at taxpayers’ expense — to make him feel better.

 

It is not just the cost of the salaries that is a concern. There are also the associated costs for benefits and retirements that are draining the limited cash reserves of a government in deep financial trouble.

 

 Guam is a small island, and workers have an annual average salary of $28,400. All the costs of those outrageously high salaries and benefits come out of taxes and utility payments paid by people. Many of whom work several low wage service sector jobs that don’t have benefits or retirement plans, just to be able to survive from paycheck to paycheck as they struggle to make ends meet.

 

You would have thought our politicians all learned their lessons after the beatings they took in public and through the media in the years over the “Super Secret Massive Retroactive Pay Raises” politicians gave themselves after the 2014 election. But as we are seeing with the new administration, and the endless stream of pay raises, the lessons were quickly forgotten.

 

It seems that our politicians need a reality check.

 

I have petitioned the MCOG to roll back Angel Sablan’s $53,000  pay raises back to the 2014 level) with the MCOG.

 

The act of filing that petition should help spread the word among politicians and their politically well-connected insiders, that people are going to cast a very dark view on the future of politicians, who put their personal financial security needs first, over the financial security needs of the people.

You would have thought our politicians all learned their lessons after the beatings they took in public and through the media in the years over the “Super Secret Massive Retroactive Pay Raises” politicians gave themselves after the 2014 election. But as we are seeing with the new administration, and the endless stream of pay raises, the lessons were quickly forgotten.

Whatever happened to the “public service” work ethic that President John Kennedy spoke about when he challenged the Americans with the words: “Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country.”

 

I am pleased to say I see those words lived every day by teachers in our classrooms preparing the next generation to lead our island into the future. I see it in the eyes of police officers patrolling the streets in the dark hours of the night, no matter the weather, to make sure we are safe. I see it in the focused attention guiding the hands of construction workers laying block with care, because they know they are building someone’s dream.

 

I see it in photos in the media, in the proud looks in the faces of volunteers who spent part of their weekend cleaning up trash at a beach or a park, or painting a bus stop, making Guam a more beautiful place for visitors and residents alike.

 

I see it in the faces  of waiters and waitresses, who always have a smile despite the work long hard hours as they try to make their customers dining out experiences special. I see it in the dedication of volunteers delivering meals to senior citizens, and those medically not able to take care of themselves. I see it in the eyes of very young athletes looking at their coaches in anticipation, as they get ready for a game at the village baseball field. I hear it in the voices of volunteers who line the course at 5K handing out cups of water as they encourage the runners to keep going.

 

I saw it in the dedicated focus of a power line crew replacing a downed main power line in the howling winds and pouring driven rains of a passing tropical storm. I saw it in the patience of a clerk at Rev&Tax taking time to explain to a senior citizen how to fill out file a form. I saw it in a determination in the faces of guys up to their waists in cold muddy water trying to fix a major water line break before people start waking up to get ready for work.

 

  I am pleased to see the spirit in our nurses and doctors at Public Health and Guam Memorial Hospital as they struggle to battle the growing wave of chronic diseases that are slowly destroying the life and health of our families.

 

  The only place I don’t see the public service spirit is among politicians and politically well-connected insiders who are looking at government of Guam like their personal ATM. Their goal is to get as much out of it as they can before the display reads: “OUT OF CASH.”

 

 

 

 

Ken Leon-Guerrero is the spokesperson Guam Citizens for Public Accountability (www.guamc4pa.org)

 

 

 

 

 

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