Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Feb 21) – The government of Guam's bleak financial picture provides every reason for elected officials -- at all levels of government -- to find ways to cut expenses and ensure that limited budgets are used for priority items.

But there are 11 mayors and vice mayors who are refusing to follow that sensible strategy. Instead, they're going to use thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to pay for their junket to the Philippines. The airfare for the 11 comes out to US$560 per ticket, for a total of US$6,160. At this point, it's unclear if any of the mayors and vice mayors will file per diem to cover food and lodging, but they can file for it if they choose to do so.

The officials say the benefits from the trip, for a meeting of the recently conceived Association of Pacific Island Local Governments, will outweigh cost -- learning from other governments about common concerns and problems.

But what will our mayors and vice mayors really learn from this trip -- or any other subsequent trips for the group's meetings -- that they don't already know? And do they really need to spend more than US$6,000 to send 11 people to find out?

The plain truth is that this money can be much better spent in the villages to address the many problems each village has. How much paint to cover graffiti or spruce up bus stops could US$560 buy? How much fuel for lawnmowers and bushcutters would it purchase? Take a look around your village. What needs to be fixed or improved? Aren't those things much more deserving of that money? Don't mayors and vice mayors owe that to the very people who elected them?

And the mayors owe about US$72,000 in past-due power bills to the Guam Power Authority. How can they rationalize spending US$6,160 on a trip when they owe so much for utility bills?

Even if the government wasn't in such dire financial straits, this junket wouldn't be a good idea, so given the reality of current circumstances, the trip is highly irresponsible.

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