Port GM speaks out against modernization legislation - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Port GM speaks out against modernization legislation

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - While legislation to move forward with the modernization of the Port Authority of Guam awaits a vote by lawmakers, it doesn't appear to have the support of port management. General manager Joanne Brown isn't taking lightly to the substituted version nor is she holding back on her feelings toward the port's oversight chair.

It was earlier this week when lawmakers moved a substituted version of bill 283 to the voting file. The measure aims to update the port master plan but appears to be much different from the version originally introduced and discussed during a public hearing last month. Brown said, "And some of the language contained in it which we find very concerning almost tries to administrate how we operate the port."

However it was yesterday when Republican lawmakers tried to move it out of the voting file and back into the Second Reading File. Senator Brant McCreadie made this motion in order to convene in the Committee of the Whole so the port can speak on the changes. "And I would like for them to be able to express their concerns to this body so we can make a better educated decision and I do believe that we teeter on the fact that if this bill goes through this process and gets passed and goes to the governor it may be a vetoed bill," she said.

The bill's author and committee chair Senator Tom Ada opposed the motion, saying his colleagues already had an opportunity to raise an objection. "But nobody asked any questions so why now are we going to go back to a Committee of the Whole why now bring it back so my objection stands I don't see why we should go back into a Committee of the Whole for that matter," he said.

The motion eventually failed. According to Senator Ada, the changes to the bill include adding in two CIP projects for the F1 wharf and Gulf Pier in place of funding to renovate the Agat Marina and Harbor of Refuge. The substitute version also includes a provision requiring the port for the next two years to provide a status report every six months to the legislature and the Governor's Office on the progress being made on capital improvement projects, after those two years the port would then be required to file the report annually.

"I understand the need to ensure that our wharfs are prioritized," Brown said. "I don't need Senator Tom Ada to put in legislation to tell the Port of Guam that we need to do that. We are already doing that."

Brown says the changes to Bill 283 were never discussed during the public hearing or were ever brought to her attention until she received it on Tuesday. She even made her way to the legislature yesterday to raise her concerns but was denied as well.

"This type of language that he has into place for example because the Port has been granted responsibility over the marinas with this type of language for example, short of mitigation of a natural disaster or threat to public safety, we could not address funding to maintain or repair the marinas on Guam," he said.

She says the Port has pursued federal funds for the improvements to the marinas - most of which haven't been addressed in decades but only in the past few years. "But we would not have the flexibility nor would our board to be able to determine that as a priority or authorize funding for it - there's something wrong with that," she said.

She says the port is an autonomous agency and this new language in the bill doesn't allow it to genuinely operate as one but instead put constraints on management and the board. "Senator Tom Ada who has almost no presence here at the Port Authority of Guam in the time I had been here, somehow he knows how to better operate the Port than the board or the men and women who work here at the Port of Guam. I'm sorry, I don't agree with that," she stated.

She further accuses Ada of being less than cooperative in dealing with the Port and addressing legislation that the agency actually needs. She noted, "I think he should prioritize and look primarily at what he can do to assist and facilitate as a legislator and oversight chair to help the Port then to become an obstruction as to administratively control the Port from the Guam Legislature. There's a basic separation of powers issue here."

She adds it may be Ada's name on the bill, but it's the men and women at the Port who are actually behind this effort which all are for nothing as a result of this substituted version. Essentially she says Bill 283 is inappropriate. "As I said before, if Senator Ada wants to administrate the Port he's certainly can be appointed to the Port, he can be appointed by the board to serve as the general manager or he can run and be the governor of Guam. I understand they need a candidate on that side of the isle short of that, It's inappropriate to even attempt to try and do this," she said.

She says while having disagreements on issues is a normal part of the dialogue, she even believes Ada is "intentionally" trying to make her job more difficult. "I don't know if its personal, I don't care if he likes me or not, I don't care particularly for Senator Ada and his actions but at the end of the day I've got a job to do. I have things to the public, to my board to the governor and the men and women of this port that I have to be accountable to regardless of who I like and dislike," she said.

Brown says the bill essentially tries to administrate the port through legislation, and with her experience in the Guam Legislature - six terms as a senator - she simply isn't buying into this bill. Brown meanwhile says the bill is so reprehensible that she's writing to Governor Eddie Calvo with all her concerns and asking him that should the bill pass to not sign it into law. 

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