Supporters say GRTA board nominee a 'passionate' advocate

DUENAS: Evelyn Duenas, the governor's nominee to the Guam Regional Transit Authority board, appeared before the Legislature on Thursday for her confirmation hearing. Post file photo

If given the opportunity to serve on the Guam Regional Transit Authority board, Evelyn Duenas has a list of areas she believes need improvement.

From improving on-time performance to improving the response and resolution of rider complaints, Duenas told lawmakers during a confirmation hearing Thursday that she wants to be part of the solution.

Having been a paratransit rider for more than 30 years, Duenas said she is committed to helping improve services.

"I listen to the needs of other riders and I am not afraid to insist that their service problems are resolved," Duenas testified.

Interim GRTA Executive Manager Celestin Babauta supported the nomination.

"She is knowledgeable, an advocate (who is) recognized as a strong representative of paratransit riders at the federal level. She has made some disturbing comments in the past, but who in this room have lived a perfect life?" Babauta said.

An audio recording from a 2015 GRTA board meeting revealed Duenas screaming and shouting during the public comment period after an individual expressed concern about Duenas' behavior on the bus.

Duenas allegedly caused delays

Fellow paratransit rider Rodney Calimlim told lawmakers the paratransit is a "lifeline" that supports his independence.

He told lawmakers he has experienced delays in pickups and drop-offs, and said the delays were because of Duenas.

"She gets preferential treatment. Not everyone gets the same treatment as she does," Calimlim said.

"Yes, she's a friend, but I don't think she's ready to be a GRTA board member for this time, until she can show she really has compassion and really has the drive to improve the services for everyone, not just for herself, but for everyone that takes the paratransit."

Support for confirmation

Bureau of Women's Affairs Executive Director Jayne Flores urged lawmakers to vote in favor of the confirmation.

"She is a passionate, intelligent advocate for persons with disabilities," Flores testified. "Evelyn describes herself as assertive, and that is the perfect quality for a person who represents the population that is often marginalized."

Flores said Duenas represents the majority of GRTA riders and her assessment would be "invaluable" to making the transit system better, more reliable and in tune for all its patrons.