Facing a tough issue, the governor showed leadership

ADELUP: Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero offers her perspective to local cultural and environmental groups during a meeting Tuesday at Adelup, as buildup advisor Carlotta Leon Guerrero is seated next to her. There were tense moments in the meeting when activists called out the governor for not calling for a total pause on the Live-Fire Training Range Complex on Andersen Air Force Base. Post file photo

As the island's highest elected official, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero had various options for how to react during a meeting with a group of environmental, cultural and pro-Guam independence activists Tuesday afternoon.

Some of the activists talked over her. They repeated their points numerous times. There were some raised voices, too, in the audience.

The governor could have cut the meeting short. She could have walked out. She could have handed off the meeting to her senior aides, including buildup adviser Carlotta Leon Guerrero and chief of staff Tony Babauta, who were present during the meeting.

She could have just let the activists say their piece, and she could have just kept her responses short to avoid prolonging the meeting, which is the easy route for some politicians.

Instead, she singlehandedly explained in the meeting that stretched for a few hours why she's not going to do what the activists are asking her to do, which is to call on the Department of Defense to completely pause or halt the development of the Live-Fire Training Range Complex on Andersen Air Force Base's Northwest Field. This firing range is an integral part of the U.S.-Japan agreement to relocate nearly 5,000 Marines from Okinawa to their future Guam base. This agreement has been in place for years.

Lou Leon Guerrero passionately explained to the activists that it's for reasons of the nation's security – including Guam's – that she supports the military's expansion on Guam.

She mentioned that Guam faces potential military threats from China and North Korea, nations that have made public that our island is within range of their missiles. On Wednesday, after she held the meeting, it became public that China's lone military aircraft carrier had recently passed by the Philippine Sea near Guam.

"I do support the military buildup. I don't support it for the economic reasons. I support it for the national security reasons," Lou Leon Guerrero said through interspersed "No's" and concerned faces among members of an audience that had just spent the last two hours articulating their reasons for opposing military buildup projects for cultural and historical reasons.

Not everyone on Guam is expected to agree with the governor.

But what we learned from her meeting with the buildup activists on Tuesday is that she won't back down – even when facing a group that didn't agree or wasn't pleased by what she was trying to explain.

That was a moment when she showed leadership.

Recommended for you