As we go into the eighth month of the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration and the 35th Guam Legislature, our politicians' true colors are starting to shine through: it is the politicians vs. the people.
The government’s finances are still very fragile after the abuse they suffered at the hands of the Calvo-Tenorio administration. Even though then-gubernatorial candidate Lou Leon Guerrero promised to use her business background to make changes that would stabilize the government, the people have yet to see any such actions. In fact, the actions we are seeing taking place in both the administration and the Legislature are the exact opposite of promises made to the people during the campaign. The politicians promised to roll back taxes. Now that the campaign is over; they want to keep them and add more. A line from the Tom Clancy book "The Hunt for Red October" seems to apply here: “I'm a politician which means I'm a cheat and a liar, and when I'm not kissing babies, I'm stealing their lollipops.”
The actions of our politicians speak so loud we can’t hear the words they are saying.
At a time when most residents of Guam are struggling from paycheck to paycheck in an effort to make ends meet, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero passed out pay raises to the executives in her administration like there is no tomorrow. Following her lead, all the autonomous agencies are bestowing mind-blowing pay raises on their managers as well. The governor herself confirmed her plans to continue giving out raises to politically well-connected insiders when she announced she plans to raise the salary of Maj. Gen. Esther Aguigui, adjutant general of the Guam National Guard, later, and that more pay raises for her staff will be coming despite the government’s financial condition. She is hoping that the people won’t notice the huge difference between her campaign promises and her actions as governor.
The Consolidated Commission on Utilities tried to sneak large pay raises and bonuses to their top managers in an executive session with no public notice and got caught. Executive Director Angel Sablan and the Mayors' Council of Guam tried to sneak his massive pay raise through without public notice and got caught. Airport Executive Manager Tom Ada gave himself a massive pay raise as one of his first actions as he sat in the pilot’s seat at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, and many other autonomous agency heads also seem to be following Adelup’s lead as they help themselves to outrageous starting salaries outside public view.
Their actions to put their personal welfare ahead of the welfare of the people they claim to serve reminds me of a story about a ship called the Evening Star that sank in 1899. The crew, realizing the ship was sinking, took to lifeboats and abandoned ship leaving the passengers to go down with the ship.
People point out to me that this kind of activity always happens after every election. That’s just the way Guam politicians are, and there is nothing we can do about. I understand that sentiment. I remember an incident that happened during the 2018 election campaign with a politically well-connected Leon Guerrero-Tenorio insider who told me that my actions were “destroying the natural order of things and that I had better stop and get with the program.”
Albert Einstein once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
I don’t care how much I upset those who view themselves as members of the “entitled elite.” I refuse to sit idly by while our children leave our island looking for the “quality of life” being denied them by the greed of our local politicians.
The time has come for the people to stand up and hold our politicians accountable for their actions. By doing so, we can make Guam a paradise our children will want to stay on. By standing up and staying vigilant, we can begin to take control of our government out of the hands of politicians, before they’ve stolen all the lollipops.
Ken Leon-Guerrero is spokesperson for Guam Citizens for Public Accountability.