The Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency and its programs for local artists who create murals, paintings and sculptures are the intended beneficiaries of the Percent for the Arts fee that the Guam Regional Medical City is required by law to fork out as part of the approval of its development of the island's only private hospital.

As part of the conditions for its construction of GRMC, which received government of Guam tax breaks, the private hospital's Philippine-based owner was required to contribute $1.5 million to the government toward supporting artists, directly and indirectly, including artists who paint on canvas and murals and who create sculptures. GRMC agreed to pay the equivalent of 1% of the cost of the project. The council, also called CAHA, is the designated administering entity for the funds.

As part of getting its certificate of occupancy cleared, before it could open for business, GRMC was supposed to pay outright the $1.5 million, but it negotiated to pay the amount in installments.

The issuance of prior Percent for the Arts payments from GRMC had been routinely delivered to CAHA. The law specifically says, part that at least 1% of the overall construction, remodeling or renovation cost of a building that is owned by the local government or received government support "shall be reserved for the design, construction, mounting, maintenance and replacement, and administration of works of art by CAHA in the public area of such a building."

However, the latest installment of GRMC's contribution, a $400,000 check issued recently, wasn't delivered to CAHA.

Not expecting the check would take a detour, Francis Guerrero, the chairman of CAHA, said in a council meeting last week:

“Where is the check?”

Instead of being delivered to the council, as was the norm, the latest check went to Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio's office. The Guam Daily Post learned the council was given only a copy of the check because the real check was set aside for Guam's delegation to travel to Hawaii for the Festival of Pacific Arts in 2020. The government of Guam plans to send a whopping 100-member delegation to the festival in Hawaii next year.

“FestPac is a core mandate of CAHA,” the lieutenant governor stated.

However, Guam's Percent for the Arts law, under the "How It Works" subsection makes specific reference to artwork that can be collected, hung and/or displayed. It states, in part: Guam's 1% Percent for the Arts program is dedicated to placing visual art of the highest quality by contemporary and traditional artists where the people of Guam can appreciate it. "In so doing, the Territory of Guam is building a significant art collection of historic value for its people," the law states.

In response to a request for comment, the lieutenant governor’s office issued a brief statement saying the check was being set aside to help cover the cost of sending Guam’s delegation to the 2020 Festival of Pacific Arts in Honolulu. GovGuam plans to send a 100-member delegation to the festival.

We take issue with this decision that brushes aside the core goal of the Percent for the Arts law which clearly states, a developer's contribution should go toward "building a significant art collection of historic value" to Guam and its people.

The legislative oversight committee that has oversight over CAHA needs to wake up. The Guam Office of Public Accountability must help to ensure this check is deposited into the CAHA account and not withheld for cashing until next year – for Guam to travel to a performing arts festival.

The other thing to point out is considering the various vital public services that are constantly short of GovGuam funds, the 100-delegation size is excessive, taking in mind the high costs associated with trips to Hawaii. Hawaii sent 35 delegates to the 2016 festival Guam hosted. 

It's not necessary for Guam to triple its 2019 presence compared to Hawaii's in the 2016 festival.

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