The public hearing for Bill 256-34 reminded me of the old saying: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Manhita Farms LLC's presentation to build an egg farm is full of "good intentions."
I am sure Guam YTK's presentation to build a fish processing plant was full of "good intentions"; just as I am sure Guam Resource Recovery Partners' presentation to build a waste-to-energy plant was also full of "good intentions" at the time. But as we taxpayers have learned the hard way, times change!
Soon, Supreme Court of Guam judges will decide if they believe taxpayers owe Guam YTK nearly $20 million for a project never built on land never paid for, on a lease that never had legal authorization to extend beyond five years. Soon the Superior Court of Guam will decide whether GRRP's $20 million lawsuit, against GEDA and taxpayers for not replacing the voided contract with a new one, will be allowed to proceed.
What happens when times change for Manhita Farms?
The allure of real estate development
John Limtiaco of Manhita Farms told me he has learned that farming is hard work and not as profitable as they had hoped. I am concerned that one morning, after Bill 256 passes, Manhita may decide that real estate development is easier and a lot more profitable than farming; and Manhita Farms will become Manhita Gardens, a 200-unit gated luxury residential subdivision catering to those with subsidized military housing allowances. After all, real estate development is easier and a lot more profitable than farming.
In addition to not paying rent for 100 years and authority to subdivide and rent if Bill 256 passes, Manhita also would enjoys massive benefits at taxpayer expense due to the qualifying certificate issued by GEDA allowing it to avoid paying property taxes for 10 years and waive 75 percent of its income taxes for 25 years.
With this set of politically inspired public asset "giveaways," GEDA actually hampers economic development in northern Guam. What other land developer is going to get 100 years' free rent on 50 acres of prime land less than a mile from the Andersen main gate and the future Marine Base main gate, with no property taxes for 10 years and the ability to waive 75 percent of its income taxes for the next 25 years?
Only those land developers who are related to the chairman of the board of GEDA, who is related to the governor of Guam.
This QC and Bill 256 remind me of the famous Mark Twain quote: "No man's life, wealth or property are safe while the legislature is in session."
This deal stinks so bad, the Legislature has eliminated the download feature from its YouTube recordings, so people like me can't use video clips of senators "in their own words" voting to support the latest ripoff of Guam's taxpayers.
Politics at its worst
Bill 256 is pork barrel politics at its very worst, and public assets are at a very high risk of being plundered by a small, politically well-connected group of insiders. With so many senators leaving the Legislature looking for new jobs in their next life, and so many others running for higher office looking for big-bucks donors, there becomes the very real possibility that eight senators will be willing to put their own personal future financial security ahead of the future financial security of the people.
My only hope as a community advocate and taxpayer is that eight senators stand up against this bill to prevent politically well-connected special-interest insiders from enriching themselves at the expense of the hardworking people of Guam who struggle from paycheck to paycheck trying to make ends meet.
Ken Leon-Guerrero is spokesperson for Guam Citizens for Public Accountability.