Chamber's support for buildup meets criticism - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Chamber's support for buildup meets criticism

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by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - The back-and-forth between the Guam Chamber of Commerce and the We Are Guahan Coalition over fourteen points in support of the military buildup has created a bit of friction between members of the island's business community and coalition members who feel that the buildup will marginalize the people of Guam. With time ticking for comments to be submitted on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and buildup plans underway, we delve into the two-step the Chamber has to dance with all the special interests.

For president of the Guam Chamber of Commerce David Leddy, the Chamber's list of fourteen reasons why Guam needs the military build up is entrepreneurial in spirit.  "As with any island-based economy with very limited natural resources, our options are limited, and the military economy has always co-existed with the tourism economy so we presented the fourteen reasons simply to demonstrate the positive attributes that could be derived from its growth," he said.

However, We Are Guahan members don't see eye to eye with the Chamber. They fired back with a fourteen-point rebuttal of reasons we do not need the military buildup.  The Coalition boasts some 3,000 members, including Facebook fans. Cara Flores Mays is a core member who works as a self-employed web developer.

"As a businessowner, I do stand to benefit from the buildup, however I don't think it is good for our island. There is the idea that there will be more tax revenue coming in, and of course there will be more tax revenue, but there will also be a huge increase in service demand," said Mays.

Mays says the Coalition's concerns are many, but from an economic standpoint they fear the very heart of the island's economy would be in jeopardy.  "I would say there needs to be a balance between what is best for the community. I don't know how the tourists will feel about it, but we will no longer be able to promote ourselves as a family friendly destination if our red light district grows," she said.

The Chamber president meanwhile welcomes differing opinions but wants it clear that the organization is against land condemnation.  "Our Chamber members are people who live and work here in Guam and make their living in Guam. The Chamber though it's the voice of the business community, the local business community- first and foremost we are an advocate for our community and we do not want the people of Guam marginalized in this buildup process," said Leddy.

Yet Mays maintains that the Chamber's math overall just doesn't add up, saying, "If you balance the increased revenue with the increased demand and that's just a small portion of it, I'm just wondering how the Chamber manages that equation and how we end up benefiting from the increased tax revenue. I'd like to see that done; I'd like to see the math done on that."

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