GUAM GOVERNOR GUTIERREZ: NO GOVERNMENT CRISIS

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGÅTÑA Guam (May 9, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---The governor yesterday accused the Pacific Daily News of manufacturing a government crisis that he said does not exist. (See: Government Of Guam In Crisis)

In his weekly radio address, Governor Carl Gutierrez said government agencies are not in a crisis, but are going through tough times.

But some residents and officials said a crisis does exist.

"It is in a crisis. They just don’t look at it the way we see it," said Tamuning resident Gary Story, who said he is concerned about rising utility rates and infrastructure problems.

Guam lawmakers yesterday said that they disagree with the governor, and that the government is in a crisis caused by failed management.

Senator Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, said she believes the administration is trying to deflect accountability for the government’s problems.

Won Pat said she believes the governor’s actions are in response to stories in the May 6 Pacific Sunday News that illustrated the problems facing several government of Guam agencies.

"I think a lot of people woke up when they saw that article Sunday," Won Pat said. "You hear, sporadically, that this is happening at (Guam Waterworks Authority), then weeks later you hear about the other agencies. But, when you finally put all of them together and you show them the whole picture, then it shows, of course, that it points right to the (governor)."

Gutierrez last week declined several requests by the Pacific Daily News to comment on problems in government agencies and referred questions to Bureau of Budget and Management Research Director Joe Rivera.

Yesterday’s radio address was the governor’s first statement on the topic since the requests. He did not return a call for comment yesterday.

Marcia Mendiola of Tamuning said she does not believe the government is in a crisis, but that it soon will be.

"It’s very close," she said. "I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s getting to the point that it will be a crisis -- especially the sewer and the water."

In an open letter to Guam residents Monday, Archbishop Anthony Apuron said he believes media reports have been developed to cause undue distress, fear and hysteria in the community.

The headline on Page 1 of the Pacific Sunday News said, "Hospital urged to boil water," and the story’s first paragraph stated, "A recent water break in Apra Heights continues to affect numerous residents at the Naval Hospital complex and in several villages around the island."

In his letter, Apuron said he found the headline to be misleading because it did not specify that Naval Hospital was urged to boil water. He said he believed the headline referred to Guam Memorial Hospital and wrote he believed he "had been misled."

"I’m not trying to tell the media what to do and what not to do," Apuron said at his office yesterday. "If I’m blowing it out of proportion... I’m just trying to call attention to the fact that responsible reporting has to be uppermost too in any kind of media."

Apuron issued another statement yesterday, saying he plans to meet with leaders in the Legislature and in the administration to find solutions to the island’s problems.

Although the governor and the archbishop issued statements with similar messages, administration officials and Apuron said it was not a collaborative effort.

"I don’t think that the media has created the crisis. The governor created the crisis by putting people in key government positions that are not qualified. That’s failure of management," said Speaker Tony Unpingco, R-Santa Rita.

Senator Mark Forbes, R-Sinajana, during a speech on the session floor, also said the administration is the cause of the government crisis.

He said the government’s budget and the drop in the number of tourists cannot be blamed for the government’s problems.

"When I was a kid, we had no Japanese tourists at all, but we could still drink the water," Forbes said.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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