It's been said that trust takes years to build, seconds to lose and forever to repair.

While we've all heard a lot about the $145 million shortfall in government revenues expected for fiscal year 2019, we've heard very little about the "trust deficit" – the belief, among so many of our people, that those in power won't tell us the truth. Though not measured in dollars and cents, a "trust deficit" also grows over time, but it can be far more dangerous to a community than budget cuts.

Think about that for a second.


Big problems, small politics

If we can't trust that "Condition of Readiness 4" means we are safe from a tropical storm or typhoon; if we can't believe that the law will apply fairly to everyone; if government can reach into your pockets without proving it's been responsible with the money it has already taken from you, how can any government operate legitimately? How can we keep quiet and allow it to?

I'm not writing this letter to disagree with Gov. Eddie Calvo or his experts. I know that this projected shortfall is real. But I feel a deep sense of frustration on Guam. Our people won't keep quiet. They want change and that has to start with each of us.

But at a time when our problems seem so big and our politics feel so small, how do we begin the hard work of regaining the trust we have lost?

While that question may sound complex, I think we start with the lessons my mom taught me – the same lessons I try to teach my girls now:

1. Tell the truth even when it hurts. Not telling the truth will hurt more in the long run.

2. Be true to your word. If we can trust you in small matters, we are probably going to trust you with big ones.

3. Admit your mistakes, take responsibility for them and, most importantly, prove that you're working to fix them.

Rebuilding trust


I'm not a perfect person. Like many people, I have won and lost trust. I've learned hard lessons, and I try hard for continued improvement.

Government can and should do the same thing. This will take open and honest partnership – rebuilding trust not just between the branches of our government but, more importantly, between government and the people we serve.

As we approach the fiscal 2019 budget session, let's all work to regain the trust this government has lost – because the biggest deficit of all is the one that can't be paid down with money.


Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee is running for re-election.