Why the Chamber of Commerce is wrong about the military buildup
by John Davis
Guam - First things first, it was We Are Guahan that released the 14 Reasons Why We Don't Need the Military Buildup as a response to the Guam Chamber of Commerce's 14 reasons Why We Need the Military Buildup. It was not the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice as the PDN reported. In response to all the inaccurate information being put out by GVB, the Department of Labor and the Chamber, I have come up with this article.
The Chambers number 1 and 2 reasons Guam needs the military buildup is:
1) "Too many people leave Guam and never come back because there is no opportunity for them here. The buildup offers the opportunity to reverse this trend, offering an alternative for those that have left island to now return to their roots."
2) "To get and keep good jobs one needs better skills and now there is a lot of help for training and education
Wrong! Jobs available as a direct result of the military buildup will be offered equally to all U.S. Citizens according to JGPO. This means that Guam's skilled labor workforce does not have to be exhausted before military contractors look outside Guam for help. While I'd like to think skilled laborers on Guam would have a better shot at being hired for construction positions, the truth is, military contractors (some hired from off-island too) will look to the 5 thousand skilled laborers from Hawaii come time for positions to be filled. Guam's skilled labor force may be small, but if we train and train and train, opportunities to be hired for these jobs will increase because right now, federal contractors will hire those with experience on federal jobs, which means those 5 thousand skilled laborers waiting to come to Guam from Hawaii will have a better shot at being hired for these jobs and Guam's skilled labor force will be overlooked. If you're a teacher, police officer, business owner or operator, nurse or doctor, you should want to come back to Guam, not for economic opportunity, but to help offset the impact on your brothers and sisters here as a result of the military buildup. People first, opportunity later. I have consistently said that our leaders should push for guarantees that Guam's workforce be depleted before contractors and businesses begin recruiting workers from outside Guam.
The Chambers 3rd reason Guam needs the military buildup boasts Entrepreneurship.
3) "The buildup will create many new opportunity for those with small businesses; it will also create new ideas for products and services that will benefit us all."
WRONG!! Those who already own smalls businesses have to compete with rising costs of goods, materials and services no matter what you call them. This results in business owners passing on additional costs to consumers, as if we didn't know it already. The buildup doesn't ensure there will be avenues afforded to local entrepreneurs so they can maintain or create businesses, if this were true then a local firma would have been awarded the 50 million dollars to Hawaii's AHL Setiadi Gushiken Joint Venture. This is federal government money going to an off-island firm. Does anyone else read between the lines? Federal money being paid to an off-island contractor means money paid to this contractor will not stay on Guam, making it even worse for business sector hopefuls to get their piece of this so-called economic opportunity.
The Chambers 4th reason Guam needs the military buildup speaks of revenue.
4) "Our Government desperately needs more income in order to provide the services our people depend on. The increase in public revenues and private investment will help upgrade our social infrastructure such as education, healthcare, public safety and our social/cultural programs.
Wrong!! The cost of construction materials have already gone up, the cost of laborers have already gone up, the cost of power, water and sewer have already gone up, which is why our Government constantly finds themselves in the red trying to cut paychecks for Government employees, pay vendors and consistently fund public services. If our government struggles to make ends meet on a daily basis, how will additional revenue be generated with 80,000 more people on island? The levels needing to be funded will go up, but the actual funding realized for these government commitments will stay the same because no one in the federal government has assured the people of Guam will be taken care of in writing. DEIS bullet points that the Chamber is in love with don't guarantee economic prosperity for the Chamber or the people of Guam.
It's funny that the Chamber's 5th and 6th reasons Guam needs the military build up are related to infrastructure improvements.
5) "We know local infrastructure such as roads, utilities and ports of entry will finally be upgraded and the Federal Government will assist getting this done."
6) "By the military working with our own solutions for garbage, the solutions may be less costly for all of us."
WRONG!! The upgrades needed for roads, schools, utilities and ports of entry will be funded by the Government of Guam. The Federal Government will assist by dealing out long-term, low-interest loans. These loans will only further break the backs of our people because even with these types of handouts, our government will have to pay debt service on these loans. Our government debt stands at half a billion dollars, any additional borrowing for upgrades will only increase our debt. How does the government generate money to pay off debt? Raise the cost of fees and services; just take a look at the fiscal year 2007 Revised Budget for the Government of Guam.
If the military wanted to help the island find solutions to our trash problems, they would have subsidized the closure of Ordot Dump and the Construction of a new landfill. We didn't create it and why should the people be responsible for a disaster the federal government created. In fact, the military recently received a permit to continue operations at the Anderson landfill for another 2 years, what makes the Chamber think the military will be a customer of the new landfill? There's nothing in writing. Lastly, sewer upgrades needed at the Hagatna and Northern Sewer treatment Plants are a direct result of the military buildup. If Guam were left alone, GWA could realistically accomplish necessary upgrades over a longer period of time, saving us all money. The federal government hasn't even acknowledged that issue, yet they fund STP upgrades for the unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico? Maybe the Chamber can tell the people why the feds haven't signed off on these needed upgrades? Didn't think so.
The Chamber's 7th reason Guam needs the military buildup makes it seem like people will flock to Guam once all the Marines arrive.
7) "A greater number of visitors mean new markets to attract; greater diversity to stabilize the ups and downs of Asia. The buildup offers a whole new customer demographic that our hotels can market to."
WRONG!! There will be no new markets to attract. Tourism numbers have been consistently low for several years now. Some still blame it on the 9-11-01 terror attacks, but the reality of it is our leaders have not done a good job at marketing Guam as the best destination in this part of the world. There will not be new visitors because incase the Camber didn't notice, these "visitors" are going to be enlisted military personnel, which means they won't do much flying due to possible deployments. When these "visitors" do deploy, they won't be taking Continental Airlines either. The will be packed in to a MAC flight up at the Anderson Air Force Base. Lastly, the DEIS does not contain a guarantee from the federal government ensures tourism will increase; these are merely Guam Visitors Bureau projections. Besides, who wants to take a vacation in a sardine can called Guam?
The Chamber's 8th and 9th reasons Guam needs the military buildup are combined, but these statements are also major reasons why the Chamber is once again, WRONG!!
8) "There are more than 10,000 Guamanians wearing the military uniform. There are thousands of veterans who chose to defend their Nation and Guam, many paying the ultimate sacrifice – support of the buildup is one way to recognize their sacrifices… gives them a voice."
9) "Guam also has a large number of retirees and more military will bring greater services for those who have served."
WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!! SO what do we tell the families of those patriots and veterans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice when the federal government decides to take their land to construct training areas or housing areas or missile defense systems? We should not allow our fallen brothers and sisters' memories to be forgotten. Those memories are more precious than the "voice" the chamber says they have. If our fallen brothers and sisters really had a voice, I'm sure they would say keep the Marines in Okinawa, Pay War Claims, PARS and Compact Impact. Most of all they would say leave our land alone! Lastly, our veterans are going to see a completely new Veteran's Clinic up at Naval Hospital, thanks to the federal government. In this new facility, there will be state of the art equipment to handle veterans needs that have been looked over by our own local government for so long, but we don't need the buildup to be able to realize this facility, it was going to happen any way, Just ask the late Statesman Senator, Tony Unpingco, he fought for it to be built. We really don't need the buildup to take care of our own veteran's, the U.S. Government just needs to step up to the plate and show us the money.
The Chambers 10th reason Guam needs the military buildup is all bout healthcare.
9) "The relocation of the Marines to Guam and the expected population growth will bring new investment in facilities, equipment and expertise. Investment in a new hospital and new services will save lives which can create further economic development within multiple sectors."
WRONG AGAIN!! Who will build this new hospital? GovGuam. Who will pay these experts? GovGuam. Who will ultimately invest in a new hospital with 500 additional beds? The people of Guam. How will building a new hospital be financed? By GovGuam. Loans, which means higher cost of healthcare, higher cost of materials and supplies and higher cost of personnel unless the federal government guarantees they will build the new hospital, furnish the new hospital and supplement the general Fund so the Government can pay additional physicians needed to handle the population growth.
The Chambers point #11 states "People will have an opportunity to sell, lease or negotiate the value of their property for the benefit of today's and future generations. No property will be transferred without just compensation."
WRONG!! (If you have a buzzer, now's the time to use it, ha!) David Bice has consistently stated that publicly or privately owned land being looked at by the federal government for housing or training facilities can be leased to the federal government, can be sold to the federal government or can be ACQUIRED by the federal government at fair market value. Who dictates fair market value for land acquisitions? The housing market? Nope, the federal government will have the power and will use leverage to get the lowest price for land needed for training facilities and housing areas. Remember, if it is "known" that your property is going to be a firing range or near a firing range, your property value as well as the property value of land around you will drop, creating the perfect scenario for the federal government to ACQUIRE additional Guam land. Lastly, if people want to sell, let them sell, if they want to lease, let them lease, but I guarantee you that any locally owned property near a potential training area or housing facility is not for sale. I repeat, the land is not for sale. That's according to families like the Nelson's, Unpingco's, Taitano's, Cepeda's and over 200 Tiyan landowners looking a obtaining deeds to these same properties after their Tiyan land was taken for use by our own government. So, tell me again how this buildup will be prosperous?
The Chambers point number 12 indicates "With a larger population more facilities and services will be available for all people, such as recreation, sports competition and entertainment venues and facilities."
WRONG AGAIN! (Queue buzzer). The DEIS merely indicates the need for MORE facilities and MORE public services. Guam will have to hire more doctors and nurses, build more schools and an additional hospital and offer more public services. What the DEIS does not say is how the needs will be funded. Well, I'll tell you how they will be funded, by our Government of Guam, not the U.S. Federal Government, not the DOD or the DON, the burden to build more schools, hire more doctors and fund more government services will lie solely in the hands of the Government of Guam. What happens when the government needs to collect more revenue to fund construction of schools, hiring of doctors, nurses and school teachers? Fees for government services increase, which I believe is unfair taxation towards the people of Guam because we did not ask for 8,000 Marines and 9,000 dependents and some 63 thousand military support personnel. Remember Chamber members, the influx of some 80 thousand people to Guam was not our request and if Japan and the United States complete their transaction on the military relocation by May 2010, in case you do not think this is official already, will you then support additional taxation on Guam businesses and residents. Does the Chamber support a 150 dollar vehicle registration fee? What about a 3 thousand dollar fee for a liquor silence or a 500-dollar fee for a business license?
Lastly, the increase in those seeking public services won't just be locals, they will be military dependents and migrants on Guam for the construction boom, but has the federal government addressed issues like Compact Impact reimbursements owed to GovGuam to the tune of 400 million dollars? Nope, which is why I continue to say the federal government must first payoff all debt owed to GovGuam and the people of Guam and then fund every project, service, upgrade and downgrade completely, that's 100 percent federal funding, not grants, low interest loans or matching grants, the feds should pay for everything. Again, the main reason is Guam didn't ask for the buildup, the buildup asked for Guam.
The Chambers 13th reason why Guam needs the buildup states "With more people traveling to and from Guam, this will increase travel opportunities targeting lower pricing and expanded travel options."
WRONG AGAIN AGAIN! (Queue buzzer again again, ha!)
Hopefully the Chamber can tell the people of Guam, which one of us will be financially able to take advantage of these so-called travel opportunities? The only people from Guam that can actually afford to take advantage of these travel opportunities are those like the Governor, the staff at the Guam Visitors Bureau and members of the Chamber. Maybe they have the money, but the last time I checked, there were no low or middle-income families taking off-island vacations and there were barely any tourists coming to Guam. In fact, I wonder if any of the Chamber members can fork out 3 thousand dollars for a round trip ticket to Washington D.C.? I can't, that's why I haven't seen my dad for the last 26 years, because even with the construction boom in the 1980's my family couldn't afford to take an off-island vacation. So, how am I supposed to afford it now with the rising cost of fuel worldwide, the rising cost of goods and services worldwide and the increased famine and poverty levels worldwide? The Chamber says it will get better, but I say it will be more of the same, the feds get what they want and the people of Guam will be left behind and forgotten.
The Chamber's 14th reason why Guam needs the military buildup states "Many of those who will end up living on Guam will help the University of Guam fulfill many of its priorities. It will help the Guam Community College serve a broader market; and to help us acquire more qualified teachers. GovGuam will benefit from the increased revenues that will come from the buildup which can help provide needed upgrades to improve our education."
WRONG AGAIN AGAIN AGAIN! (Go ahead, reach for the buzzer.) So the Chamber thinks that 18 thousand H2-B workers will attend college at the University of Guam? Nope. Will any of the 18 thousand H2-B workers attend college at UOG? Nope. This is why GCC and the GCATA are gearing up to train our local skilled workforce, but it's the same individuals that contend when the construction boom is over, all the skilled laborers brought in from outside Guam will leave. So who will end up living on Guam? At least 8,000 Marines, 9,000 dependents. Will GovGuam benefit from increased revenues? Nope, because there will be none. Our government will be forced to borrow money to pay for infrastructure, utility and school upgrades over the next couple of years, so any potential for increased revenue will be offset by increased debt service payment for GovGuam loans. Who will ultimately pay for these loans? The people of Guam. Where's the avenue for prosperity in that Chamber members?
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