Speech draws mixed reactions from senators

By Theresa Merto
Pacific Daily News

Brian Forde/Pacific Daily News/bforde@guampdn.com

Legislature: Gov. Felix Camacho is greeted by Guam Supreme Court Justice Frances Tydingco- Gatewood after his State of the Island Address yesterday at the Guam Legislature.



While Democratic senators said Gov. Felix Camacho's State of the Island Address did not provide enough specifics, Republican senators praised it.

 Long on promises, short on specifics. That was Speaker Ben Pangelinan's reaction to Gov. Felix Camacho's State of the Island Address presented yesterday at the Guam Legislature.

"He has been a good steward, I think. He has managed the policies of past legislatures," said Pangelinan, D-Barrigada. "(But) I haven't seen any new ideas. I think they have been an extension of some of the old ideas and some of the policies that have been drafted."

Several Republican senators yesterday, however, praised the governor's speech.

Camacho touched on issues in his address including the economy, education, privatization of government agencies and reorganization and called for greater cooperation from the Legislature.

"I find it a little insincere on the governor's part to say that he wants bipartisanship after hanging a Blackmail Budget banner," Pangelinan said after the address. He was referring to the banner hung during a press conference last year announcing his reluctance in signing the fiscal 2004 budget.

"But we'll continue to work with the governor, vigorously debate the ideas presented and, as we've seen in the past, we'll see this body come together in bipartisan cooperation," he later said.

Sen. Mark Forbes, R-Sinajana, said he thought the governor accurately portrayed how difficult the past year has been.

"He noted ... that many, many things still need to be done. And he asked for a call to action to try to bring everybody together, to move forward and address those issues," he said.

Forbes said the governor hit many important points, including a push for the construction of seven new schools in three years.

"We have to really make a better investment in education and make some very significant improvements to the conditions that children in Guam attend the schools in and conditions where the hardworking teachers and other staff work every day," Forbes said.

"So I am pleased to see that it looks like there is going to be some attention from the administration's side on that."

Forbes said building the seven new schools is realistic as long as the government continues to receive the level of funding from the federal government.

"The cost of an elementary school is not prohibitive, especially if you are focusing on building smaller, more community-based schools, (which) are quite affordable," Forbes said.

Pangelinan, who introduced a bill Monday to borrow money to build public schools, said a high school costs about $28 million to $35 million, an elementary school costs about $8 million and a middle school costs about $16 million.

"If (the governor) is going to build one of each, you are talking about $60 million. I don't know where he is going to get the money," Pangelinan said. "That is why I say (the speech) is long on promise and short on specifics."

Public safety
Sen. Lou Leon Guerrero, D-Tamuning, said she was "expecting more" than what was presented.

"In a society, when you say we are doing better, you give the people some kind of statistics to prove that. I didn't see any substance in this way," Leon Guerrero said.

"He talked about how we are a safer community because no prisoner escaped. To me, that is not an indicator."

Camacho said he was "proud" to announce that the past year was one of Guam's safest years in history, saying not a single prisoner escaped from the Department of Corrections.

"He didn't mention what's our domestic violence cases now versus a year ago, crime in drug abuse, thefts, burglaries, homicides. Where are those hard numbers?" Leon Guerrero asked.

"Because if you go out there and talk to people, they're not feeling safer. You hear about burglaries. You hear (about) women's purses being snatched. The tourists don't feel secure. That's what I mean -- there was no substance to back up his words about the recovery of our island."

There were eight homicides in 2003 and in 2002, according to Pacific Daily News files. In 2002, there were 13 traffic-related fatalities and 24 last year, files state.

Leon Guerrero said she also was concerned about the governor's answer to water and wastewater problems that continue to plague residents -- from the lack of water in high elevated areas to the recent boil-water notice for Asan that lasted more than a week.

"His whole answer is, well we need to sell (Guam Waterworks Authority)," Leon Guerrero said. "To me, that is not an answer. What are you doing now?"

Sen. Robert Klitzkie, R-Yigo, had a different take on the speech, saying it was "upbeat and optimistic."

"That's what I like. I like to get on board with things like that," Klitzkie said.

This article was published with the permission of the publisher of the Pacific Daily News, Guam. Any republication of this article without the explicit permission of the Pacific Daily News is in violation of federal copyright laws.



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