by Nick Delgado
The 2009 Island Conference on Public Administration: The Military Buildup and Beyond kicked off at the Guam Legislature today with key officials providing their input on how they feel the relocation of U.S. Marines will impact the island. It's a conference that drew hundreds of both on- and off-island guests in hopes to find a true understanding of what this buildup really means for those both inside and outside the gate.
Hinasson Taotao Guahan ("The Guam perspective") started with a key address by Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roger Natsuhara, who announced, "I encourage all of us to be creative in our thinking. Listen to each other and be ready to work together in order to be successful in our One Guam approach. This would require cooperation from agencies across the federal government."
Natsuhara says the Department of Defense is working hard in the nation's capitol to help bring great results to this buildup. Chairperson of the Committee on the Military Buildup Senator Judi Guthertz (D) says this conference differs from the previous military forums, as it does not focus on economic or contractual opportunities.
She told KUAM News, "This conference is focusing on those subjects that are of interests to the civilian community here, in terms of the lives they lead and how the build up may change their lives."
Guthertz says this conference shines light on public safety and health issues. Guthertz also hopes to identify what the public's major concerns so that Guam's unique identity she says does not drastically change.
Local businessman Leo Macaraeg says the forum was very informative, noting, "The question is: are we ready for that? To receive this additional population that will be staying permanently on this island."
Then there's the group who attended today's conference but are not in favor of the buildup, such as local resident Tony Artero. "I hope that when I do turn in my comments, someone would reckon that we are going and doing the wrong thing. We're going about it wrong and we're heading into a worst possible scenario for Guam. That's the way I see it," he shared.
However, Natsuhara says he will continue to work with both local and federal leaders as they remain committed to doing whatever it takes to make the realignment a success. "By working with you and your leaders and partnership with the federal government," the official stated, "I know we can continue to make Guam a great place to live for all of its residents."
The conference continues tomorrow in the Legislature's Session Hall in Hagatna.