Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hellraising in Hagatna

 Even though almost everyone in the world will probably tell you that democracy is the greatest system of government in the world, that doesn't mean that people don't loathe it. People will generally loathe their own particular forms of democracy and only praise or love it when its existence is being shaded or overshadowed by some competing alternative. But even though they may loathe the ideas of Senators, Mayors, Governors or Presidents as being positions that are often held by cheats and liars, they tend to either tolerate or like the people who actually hold those positions. In a purely commonsensical level you might assume that since Congress is so incredibly unpopular, people would be in a hurry to vote out all incumbents and bring in fresh blood. You may think that since nearly everyone on Guam complains about Senators or Governors as being self-interested crooks who don't do anything more than wave by roadsides, no one in Guam's history would ever get re-elected. You would be completely wrong on both accounts. The unpopularity for the governing body or irritation with the system doesn't always affect the leaders themselves. Often times people like them or connect to them, even if they are spitting fiery tirades at the system they belong to.
 
This has come to mind because of the recent controversy over pay raises for elected officials and cabinet members. You can check out the articles and statements below to learn more about what is going on.

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Pay raise flap not over: San Nicolas to reintroduce bill in next Legislature
by Shawn Raymundo
Dec. 11, 2014
Pacific Daily News

During the next Legislative term, Sen. Michael San Nicolas, D-Dededo, will reintroduce a bill to repeal a recently enacted law that gives elected and appointed officials pay raises.

Bill 435-32 was aimed at repealing Public Law 32-208, which raised the annual salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members and senators based on recommendations from the Competitive Wage Act of 2014. In addition to their raises, the officials will receive retroactive payment dating back to January.

San Nicolas introduced the proposed legislation Tuesday.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, D-Piti, and San Nicolas were the only lawmakers in favor of the bill. The nine remaining senators voted against it.

Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan as well as Sens. Tina Muña Barnes, D-Mangilao, and Mike Limtiaco, R-Tamuning, were absent from Tuesday night's session.

"We always ask 'where are we going to find the money?' But yet we can find it when we're talking about raises and pay being retroactive?" San Nicolas asked Tuesday, referring to sessions held in the past over funding issues with various agencies.

San Nicolas said, although his bill had minimal support at the end of this term, he would like to hear input from the new senators who will be part of the upcoming Legislature.

The four new senators and other incumbent lawmakers will be sworn in next month.

"I think it will be good for us to get the perspective of the newly elected senators and weigh in on it," he said.

Unlike the pay raise bill, which senators passed on Nov. 21 in a 10-1 vote, San Nicolas said he will make sure his bill in the 33rd Legislature goes through the proper procedure of introduction, public hearing and then deliberation on the floor.

"We're definitely going to put that through the full course," San Nicolas said.

San Nicolas slammed lawmakers Tuesday night for not holding a public hearing prior to passing last month's bill. He wanted his bill to receive the same treatment.

Implementation

Under the new law that Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio enacted late last month, senators received a nearly 40-percent raise, as they will soon be taking home an annual salary of $85,000. The governor and lieutenant governor now have their salaries set at $130,000 and $110,000 respectively.

Gov. Eddie Calvo told members of the media yesterday he would like to see the retroactive payment and paychecks reflecting the raise go out before Christmas.

He said, however, it all depends on when GovGuam's fiscal team completes its financial review of the raises.

"I'm waiting for my fiscal team; I told them just get it calculated," Calvo said. "And I told them I'd like to do it before Christmas."

The fiscal team includes the Department of Administration and Bureau of Budget and Management Research.

Calvo added that he, along with his appointed officials, deserve a raise and added that his Cabinet members were cheated earlier this year when lawmakers excluded themselves and the appointed officials from the Wage Act raises.

The Wage Act, submitted to senators in January, included recommended pay raises to government of Guam employees.

"I think my people deserve a raise," Calvo said, adding, "I believe I do deserve a raise."

Calvo said he plans to use the raise to help pay for his kids' college education and would also contribute to various charities.

Calvo also said he instructed Tenorio, who was acting governor, to call the Legislature into special session last month because senators weren't moving forward with legislation to get Cabinet members their raises.

"I've been preaching on this since January, since (senators) first tinkered around with it. I've always been wanting to get this thing on the floor," Calvo said. "Obviously no one's moving on it so I decided moving on it."

Public reaction

On Tuesday, San Nicolas cited several issues around the island that should be addressed before the elected officials and Cabinet members receive raises. He pointed out that the transit system is underfunded, and there are many roads in need of repairs.

Island resident Pauline Gumataotao, who works as a clerk in Piti, agreed with San Nicolas that elected officials shouldn't be getting pay raises while the island faces issues with its infrastructure.
"There's a lot of stuff that needs to be fixed up," she said, such as "buildings that are eyesores and roads that need to be fixed."

She said only Cabinet members who can prove to the public that they have been working hard to make improvements to the island deserve a pay increase.

Resident Jared Aguon, a 24-year-old delivery driver for Luen Fung Enterprises, a food supply company, doesn't agree with the raises either because he said they already earn enough money.
"I don't like it," he said. "I don't think they need the pay raises. The wealthy is already wealthy."
Even with the pay raises, Calvo said GovGuam is in position to take care of the needs of the island. He added that during his first term in Adelup, he has been able to improve government agencies such as Guam Memorial Hospital and the Guam Police Department.

"This doesn't mean we neglect the goals of those agencies," Calvo said.

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Hafa Adai,
My name is Shannon Siguenza and I am a 28 year old resident of Agana Heights. I teach psychology at the high school level and dedicate much of my time to community rugby and other community organizations to improve our island and restore balance to an island that is far from healthy. This is not my first time writing to the 32nd Guahan Legislature. Through experience, I’ve found that not all of my messages make it into the hands of their intended recipients; that, or as a regular everyday person, my concerns weren’t important enough for your time or energy. It is truly my hope that these words meet the eyes of each member of the legislature. I pray these words sit in your conscience and that your hearts make decisions as quickly as your hands emptied our pockets.
A servant is a devoted and helpful follower or supporter. It is my understanding that being a public servant would require helpfulness and support that benefits the public. After all, it was only through the people’s help that you possess any power at all. Our island is in need of so many things, it is no secret to anyone. YOU are the people the island depends on to support us in our needs, to help us in our struggles, to devote yourselves to improving the island for generations to come.
Our public school system is failing! FAILING! Proof that you are aware of this too, is the number of you in the government who send your children to private schools. And you ask us to trust in the public school system that you won’t send your own children to? Teachers are working with few resources, if any, while sports and afterschool programs lack attention and funding. A few weeks ago, I watched a heart breaking video of a boy slamming a girls head on a sidewalk. More disturbing than the act itself, was the fact that someone stood there and FILMED it, instead of calling for help or assisting in some way. Education dictates the movement of a people! The improvement, the growth and restoration of our island depends on our youth being knowledgeable and empowered! How have you devoted yourself to helping us achieve this?
The Guam Memorial Hospital and Behavioral Health and Wellness Center are hurting so badly. The vicious cycle that is created through a lack of education and a lack of community support is poisoning every part of our daily lives. As you continue to fail us, the uneducated and struggling members of our community live each day without purpose, unproductive and at risk for substance abuse which leads to an array of more problems. What have you done to provide our people with better health and behavioral wellness options?
Culture and language education and perpetuation programs also have the power and ability to restore a society that is barely hanging on to its last thread and yet, these programs have been neglected too. Not only do these programs restore identity and empower individuals, they also help with tourism, which is widely known to be our islands main source of income. What have you done to help our people with opportunities to know their culture and history and to share that unique heritage as a means to sustain the island?
As leaders, you often blame the failures in our broken systems on a lack of funding. There is no funding to give each teacher more than a ream of paper each quarter. There is no funding for sports programs. There is no funding for medical professionals and programs. There is no funding for behavioral health professionals. There is no funding for culture and language perpetuation and education. There is no funding.
As a public servant, someone who is supposed to support us in our needs, help us in our struggles, can you truly justify your recent legislation for pay increases? Are these pay raises part of your devotion to us? Do they, in any way, fulfill the promises that you made when you were asking for our help in the way of votes and support? Do these pay raises help the island? There is no doubt in my mind that you know the answer just as well as I do. I’m calling on you to be that servant that you promised you would be. Taking those raises is plainly as evil as stealing the food off a starving child’s plate.
I know that some of you work extremely hard and that some of you deserve better pay for the work that is done for the island. We all deserve better, but the larger question is CAN WE AFFORD IT?
Please consider all that is truly good for Guahan and her people and take appropriate action concerning the law to raise wages. Introduce a new law re-appropriating that money toward a greater need in our government, like the hospital, behavioral health and wellness, or schools. I am also appalled by the fact that many of you denied the pay raise earlier this year to save our government money and ensure that other government workers received their raises. If you did this in good faith, then why should you also be given retro pay for this time in which you refused a raise? I urge you to also repeal your retro pay.
I close with a reading from Matthew 25: 35-40:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
The righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison to visit you?
The King will reply, ‘Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Be greater than those that came before you, because there are thousands of futures that lay in your care. I hope that your decisions will move the entire island and her people in a direction that is good for ALL of us.
Saina Ma’ase’,
Shannon Siguenza


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Raises show imprudence, greed

Dec. 4, 2014

Season's Greetings from The F.I. Report. Here we go again; a special legislative session was convened at the request of Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio. Our senators voted to give themselves (and other elected and appointed officials) fat, retroactive pay raises.

Do you recall if there was a public hearing to discuss the merits of the bill? I don't. It was passed and signed into law in record time and without shame it seems. Man tai mamalao.

Two years ago, senators voted themselves a raise from $55,000 to $65,000. Now it will be $85,000 a year -- with back pay.

The governor's pay will go from $90,000 to $130,000, while the lieutenant governor's will go from $85,000 to $110,000.

Wow!

Host of problems

Our kids are brawling on campuses, classrooms are vandalized and we can't seem to improve school security. Our health care system is substandard and GMH cannot pay its bills.

Our streets become increasingly unsafe because of a shortage of police officers. Police cars and fire engines need regular maintenance, but there is no money for oil changes. The Department of Corrections is vastly overcrowded and ever so closer to federal receivership.

Our educators are struggling to meet student demands and often have to dip into their own pockets for supplies. The air conditioners and vehicles need maintenance, but there is no budget for the basics.

The Hagåtña library is closed because of a failed air-conditioning system, while they await a $600,000 grant from the Department of Interior.

All these failings are evidence of continuing fiscal problems. They don't fund necessities, yet blithely delude themselves that we are operating in the black.

How can they justify the fat, retroactive pay adjustments? Are they imprudent or just greedy?

The pay raise will cost additional millions of dollars but the lieutenant governor does not know how much. He responded to a KUAM interview question concerning the cost of the pay increase, plus back pay: "It's not a single, well it is going to cost $5 million, but will cost X but we don't know the X yet but we'll get that answer to you."

Are you confused like I am? Bad move for a gubernatorial hopeful who might plan to run in four years.

Shouldn't salary increases be a reflection of good performance? I'm searching but don't see it.

What'll be next?

I can't help but wonder what's next. Borrow more money to pay for operational expenses?

I suggest that the pay raises be axed and that some courageous senator introduce a bill to retroactively reverse the fat pay checks.

I applaud Sen. Mike Limtiaco for voting against it. He cast the one and only opposing vote.
We are not out of the financial woods, folks -- we have borrowed to the maximum allowable limits and the monthly payments of additional millions of dollars is just around the corner.

During the urgent "special session," Vice Speaker Benjamin J. Cruz inquired about the funding source for these raises. According to KUAM, my old friend Tony Blaz said, "We're very confident, vice speaker, we're very confident we'll work within our resources and we have our due diligence at BBMR we're going to do our part."

Did Tony answer the question? I think not. Just how are we going to pay for the early Christmas presents?

All about timing

"Timing is everything!" my FBI recruiter once said to me as I hesitated at his recommendation for me to report to the FBI Academy the following week.

For this maneuver, their timing was exceptional. The call for the special session, the vote without a public hearing, the vote to pass and the quick signing of the bill into law was accomplished within days after the General Election.

Matson lines just announced a rate increase, so the cost of rice, Spam and ramen will go up. Our wise leaders will be eating steaks and lobsters while the rest of us count our pennies.

By next election, we will have forgotten about their slick maneuver. They are counting on poor collective memory, but we shall remind them.

I welcome your comments.
Frank Ishizaki is a retired FBI special agent, chief of police, Homeland Security adviser, director of Corrections, senator and CSI. He can be contacted at friendscrimelab@live.com.

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‘Pay raises deserved’

GOV. Eddie Calvo yesterday said the recent pay raises for elected officials and political appointees established by P.L. 32-208 was a move he supported, and he believes he and his appointees deserve a raise.

“I believe my people deserve a raise,” Calvo said. “I do believe I do deserve a raise but a raise that was not calculated by me but by a group that the government of Guam paid good money for.”

On Dec. 3, Simon Sanchez High School teacher Andre Baynum started circulating a petition online pleading with politicians to repeal the new law with respect to elected officials.

More than 800 people yesterday signed the petition as of 7 p.m. Baynum wrote that the law is “an affront to the general public on Guam who continue to endure substandard results on social and economical issues facing the island.”

Baynum told Variety he thought the pay raises are “unconscionable.”

Calvo, however, said the pay raises are deserved for the people in the government and are needed to stabilize inequities among the wages between autonomous agencies and line agencies.

The timing of the bill, Calvo said, was to ensure the issue was not politicized as it was in the beginning of the year. “Unfortunately, Sen. (Michael San Nicolas) has politicized the issue again.”

San Nicolas introduced a bill to repeal P.L. 32-208 on Tuesday but the measure failed to pass during Tuesday’s special session.

Not forgotten

Calvo said he has not forgotten about the other issues on Guam, including dilapidated roads and the condition of Guam Memorial Hospital. He said under his governance, he’s been able to repair roads, add police equipment, add police officers and improve conditions at the hospital.

“Rome was not built in a day,” Calvo said. “I’m seeing improvement and obviously we have to do a lot more but it also means as we improve, we pay the people the fair worth of their salt.”

All the government employees received wage increases according to the Hay Group’s study completed in 2010 and the elected officials were initially taken out at the beginning of this year. Calvo said he has been fighting for this raise since the beginning of the year and he advised the legislature in February not to tinker with the Competitive Wage Act of 2014.

However, now that the act has been tinkered with, Calvo said continued tinkering will further cause inequities among government employees’ salaries. “My recommendation is this: If they’re going to continue to fool around and kill off the portions that we put back, then maybe we should consider everything,” Calvo said. “Then maybe we consider just taking everybody’s pay increase away and look at autonomous agencies and start from square one. I don’t think we should do it but in order to create harmony and equity, to ensure we don’t cause an imbalance.”

Calvo said he’ll donate his salary as he and his wife decide.

On retroactively paying the salaries, the governor also said they should have been paid since the beginning. “I think these hard-working government employees that were excluded in January were cheated,” he said.

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