It’s no surprise that Guam residents are growing weary on the roller-coaster ride to the Guam Island Fair and Liberation Day Carnival.
The debate over Bill 101, which lays out the rules and regulations for games of chance at the carnival, raises questions that concern the entire community.
Passage of the bill, followed by the governor's expected signature, will clear the way for the Mayors' Council of Guam to open bids from vendors interested in sponsoring those games.
MCOG Executive Director Angel Sablan has said the funds raised from the winning bidders are needed to pay for all the Liberation Day festivities.
Senators sought to fine-tune the rules and regulations with amendments.
Speaker Tina Muña Barnes’ amendment raised concerns. Sen. Mary Torres warned that the amendment would make gambling legal again, if only at the carnival, despite the prohibition against it.
Sen. Telena Nelson pointed out that Sen. James Moylan’s initial bill to revive the games of chance at the carnival stated, “The intent of this legislation is not to authorize gambling.” That line has since been removed, she said.
In a statement released Friday, Nelson stated, "Under the guise of a penniless carnival, which had other options for funding, carnival organizers and some public officials placed their bets on gambling as a primary solution, and didn’t care to look down safer avenues."
Surely, there are ways besides gambling to raise money for a carnival that is supposed to be family-friendly. Our leaders were elected to find solutions to these kinds of challenges.
Resorting to gambling to raise money for a community event sends the wrong message to our island’s young people. Many teens work hard to raise money through bake sales, car washes, gift wrapping, and other activities.
To be clear, we are not suggesting that leaders use these methods, which have much smaller revenue goals. What we are suggesting is that leaders try different approaches to raising funds for the carnival.
Every year, leaders have a chance to find innovative ways to raise money for the carnival. This year it might be too late to get it right.