With the exception of Ordot-Chalan Pago Mayor Jessy Gogue, Piti Mayor Jesse Alig, Agat Mayor Kevin Susuico and Agat Vice Mayor Christopher Fejeran, the mayors and vice mayors in the Mayors' Council of Guam have done it again.
Instead of solving pressing problems that have festered in their villages for years – even decades – they have taken up the cause of defending the 25% gross receipts tax increase that has hurt consumers' ability to afford basic necessities while private-sector paychecks have not kept pace with the increased cost of living on the island.
This is the same mayors' council whose members – at least some of them in the leadership – advocated for casino "House of Cards" gambling at the Liberation Carnival and took unnecessary trips to foreign festivals on the public's tab.
These are some of the same mayors' offices who encourage senior citizens to play bingo instead of encouraging or hosting more meaningful activities, such as organizing events for our youths to hear and learn the fading stories of our senior citizens' life struggles and endurance, including from our wartime past.
There are so many issues the mayors' constituents are more concerned about than keeping a higher tax intact. There are pressing issues many of the mayors have yet to meaningfully address. We hope the mayors' council will reconsider advocating to keep a higher burden on taxpayers.
Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares, head of the mayors' council, and other mayors and vice mayors who agree with her asserted in an Aug. 14 letter to the legislative leadership that village mayors are the “first-responders” to the problems raised by residents, who expect the mayors to fix broken streetlights, repair village roads, clean up illegal dumps, get rid of stray and dead animals or provide funeral assistance. “The list goes on,” the mayors' council letter states.
Reversing the tax increase, they assert, would cause a $58 million government of Guam budget shortfall in a year.
And yet, with the existing powers the mayors have, they've not been able to perform some of their duties.
Trash, old tires and junk cars are dumped recklessly on roadsides, in the boonies, on abandoned properties and even in people's yards.
Unrestrained pets and stray dogs run rampant all over Guam, yet of the 19 mayors, only one – Alig – has recently issued a ticket against a resident. This despite every mayor's power to issue citations for letting pets roam free and attack people; and for piling up trash and thus exposing residents to the spread of diseases and possibly contaminating their source of drinking water.
But instead of sticking to resolving their constituents' major issues, most mayors found it necessary to advocate maintaining a financial burden on them.
Mayors, please do the right thing.
You are adequately paid to work on what's more important to the taxpayers who fund your and your staffers' paychecks.
If the mayors' offices are underfunded, senators should really look at consolidating the smaller ones and reducing the number of them from 19 to about 10, with the bulk of the council's budget going to the villages with the largest populations.
That would be one way to remedy the apparent lack of funding for major villages, such as Dededo, Yigo and Tamuning.
Let's reallocate the budgets and reverse the higher tax at the same time.