Law enforcers get speedy action on 18% pay hike while educators get less solid answers

GOVERNOR'S COMPLEX: The Ricardo J. Bordallo Governor's Complex at Adelup is seen Nov. 29, 2021. The governor approved pay raises for nearly 1,000 law enforcement personnel while teachers and other educators continue to wait. Kevin Milan/The Guam Daily Post

With billions of congressional pandemic aid dollars at her disposal or within her discretion, it absolutely was reasonable for Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to make $17 million of these funds available to the Mayors' Council of Guam.

Last week, Del. Michael San Nicolas pressed for the governor to direct money from the American Rescue Plan to the MCOG, arguing Congress intended to give financial support to the counties and nonentitlement units in the country.

Nonentitlement units are local governments that typically serve fewer than 50,000 people, such as villages, towns or townships, according to guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Unlike the 50 states, Guam’s government isn’t broken down into administrative levels, like counties, that have elected legislative bodies and executive managers.

But following the “spirit” of the federal law would mean local mayors, the closest thing Guam has to nonstate government leadership, should receive some $50 million from the ARP, San Nicolas argued.

The ARP and other federal grants, bond revenues, local appropriations and tax incentives, have been commingled to pay for Investment para Hamyo, the governor’s $1.9 billion plan to recover and grow Guam’s economy after the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To illustrate just how much this figure amounts to, $1.9 billion is enough money to pay for:

• Building 100 new public schools and giving all Guam Department of Education employees a 200% raise, or

• Giving $12,350.81 to each of the 153,836 residents counted in the 2020 census, or

• Suspending local taxes for three years.

So whether it ends up being $50 million or $17 million, directing some of this money away from Adelup, and closer to individual village residents, wouldn’t jeopardize even the loftiest of goals coming from Leon Guerrero and her administration.

It makes sense for some of the aid, especially this small portion of the billions of dollars given overall, to be tailored to the unique needs of our different villages.

Malesso’ residents looking to return to the workforce probably could use a gas voucher more than other Guamanians who live closer to a hotel or commerce hub.

And perhaps the businesses of Dededo could benefit if their in-village families had vouchers that could be redeemed in their stores to help support the jobs they’ve just reinstated.

Angel Sablan, executive director of the MCOG, told The Guam Daily Post the council and administration have been working on remitting the money to mayors' offices for months now.

Part of that time has been spent coordinating training for MCOG staff to account for the federal funds properly, so there won’t be any concerns when auditors or Congress assess the island’s use of the bailout money down the road.

Adelup also is working to make sure mayoral offices and the council count as nonentitlement units, given Guam’s centralized form of government, according to Sablan.

Waiting to spend this money until after both of these ongoing processes are complete is the wise move.

It’s encouraging to learn the governor involving our mayors wasn’t only a reaction to valid concerns raised by our delegate.

And the congressional aid earmarked for county governments will be used for village-based improvements - another positive detail shared.

Sablan said the council was told some $30 million will be spent on repairing roads, building bus stops and increasing the number of streetlights.

Through the course of the pandemic, Adelup has been pressured, as the governor admits, by San Nicolas, senators and the media to be more transparent about the use of this unprecedented amount of federal aid.

Leon Guerrero herself has said she has a deliberate approach, and doesn’t favor rushing to announce what isn’t finalized.

No one advocating transparency is asking her to jump the gun in the process.

But knowing the information about the MCOG involvement sooner would have reassured more people – even the governor’s critics – that she is reasonably sharing the aid given to Guam.

After all, “hamyo” in Investment para Hamyo, includes mayors, their offices and village residents.

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