Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Guam First Commission

The Guam First Commission was proposed several years ago as a means through which the Guam Legislature could help participate in the planning of the military buildup for Guam. Since the announcement of the buildup, all information and planning had happened through the Governor's office, and they had been far more secretative than probably necessary about what was happening. He created the CMTF or the Civilian Military Task Force to oversee things, but much of the information that the CMTF collected or reports they made weren't for the public, but were rather to the help the military with the writing of their Draft Environmental Impact Statement. It seemed that Camacho saw the buildup as his baby, his legacy for the island, something that he would shepherd through and be the one responsible for all the fantastic things it would bring to the island.
As he kept everything close to his chest, the Legislature, for political reasons as well as general concern, wanted in on the loop. Federal officials would come on island, decisions were being made and the Legislature, the representatives of the people were being quizzed on what was going on, but didn't really know. The Guam First Commission was supposed to change all that, by intending to give the Legislature and the "people" a spot at the negotiating table. It was a way of calling for the island to unify over something crucial, and doing it in such a way that while no one could be against it, the Governor would never agree to it. Just as no American President wanted to leave Vietnam because of the sitgma of being a Commander and Chief who lost a war (especially against a weaker, racialized people), no Governor wants to be the one who decreases the authority or power of the office. Whatever your thoughts may have been when you were in the Legislature or somewhere else, once you get into that office, your mindset shifts on what you think are the acceptable or unacceptable limits of executive power.

Camacho's failure was shown the last year in office, when people started to turn on the buildup, not against it, but worry more about it than be orgasmic over it, he could not lead them. He had entrenched himself in position where there was little left that he could do. He had not been upfront, forthright, not honest, hoping that the buildup, the less that was said, would have more chance of staying the dream it seemed to be. If he wanted a different approach it was far too late to change anything, he had gambled on things going perfectly (because the military always speaks in such ways and takes advantage of people's assumptions of them having things together), and looked weak and foolish when it started to crumble. The final insult to Camacho and his inability to adapt, was when he released the fact that a consultant had been hired to help the people of Guam with the DEIS, but that the help they were providing was almost insulting. Although it may have made sense when the contract was signed long before, in the context of very antagonistic, anti-buildup public hearings and the formation of a very influential group which was critical of the buildup, the fact that this consultant was hired to show the people of Guam how to "write their comments" was almost insulting. The people of Guam wanted leadership, but Camacho at the end was not able to provide it. He made a weak effort calling on DOD to shift their timeline, that Guam wasn't ready, and although this was a huge shift in rhetoric compared to just a year earlier, it was too little too late.

Camacho had resisted the Guam First Commission on the basis that it was inorganic, that it gave powers to the Legislature that belonged to the Governor, and that it would interfere with the ability of the Governor to do his job. He had requested an opinion from the former AG when the bill first emerged, but it was not released since the Governor made clear he never had any intention of starting the Commission, even if the bill became law (which it did over the Governor's veto). Now Calvo wants to start the Guam First Commission and the AG has released the opinion publicly saying it is inorganic.

The genesis of the Guam First Commission is one based on pettiness with good intentions. It was an attempt by the Legislature to find someway to lead or be involved in the buildup process, which Camacho was hording to himself. And because of the way it was formed, what motivations created it, the law itself, the commission itself is very confusing. Different people could read the public law in radically different ways, some as something which is incredibly powerful, others as having little to no power. It has massive responsibilities in attempting to lead Guam on Federal-Territorial issues, such as the military buildup or war reparations and self-determination, but it is unclear if it has any actual power to carry out those responsibilities. It is just a commission which recommends things? Or one which transmits information? Or one which actually as the ability to tell the governor of Guam what his strategy should be for dealing with certain issues? Part of the problem is that since this commission was formed, not through the best thinking but, as a I said earlier, a mixture of pettiness and good intentions, very little attention was paid in the Legislature to the actual law and the commission. If the Legislature is serious about this commission and it creating the means for Guam to have a unified government where it deals with the Feds, then it cannot simply moan and complain that the AG is just wrong on the inorganic issue. While I am not someone who gives a crap about what is or isn't inorganic, and it is pathetic that Guam lives under the shadow of an act of Congress in terms of what it can and can't do to govern itself, what this shows is that the Guam First Commission law should be revisited. That the Legislature should take this opportunity not to back off, but rather look again at this commission and what it is supposed to do, and refine it, change it to make sure it isn't just the cheap political stunt it began as.

1 comment:

Desiree Taimanglo Ventura said...

great blog post miget! i'm using this for discussion in one of my classes.


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