GUAM PORT PRIVATIZATION BILL PASSED

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 12) – Guam lawmakers passed nearly two-dozen bills during session Wednesday, including a bill that allows the port to privatize its cargo operations.

They narrowly rejected a controversial bill that would have rezoned property along Tamuning's Farenholt Drive for use as a convenience store.

Bill 165, by Sen. Tony Unpingco, allows the government-run commercial port to hire a private company to manage and operate the port's cargo-handling equipment.

Supporters of the change, including port officials and the port users group, have said it will give the port access to greater resources for its cargo operations and will allow the port to focus its efforts on other aspects of it operations, including applying for more federal financial assistance.

Supporters have cited the success of similar contracts at the Guam Power Authority, which uses private managers at some power plants, and the Guam Waterworks Authority, which recently privatized the management of its wastewater operations.

One of the bills passed Wednesday makes it illegal to send or receive e-mails or text messages while driving and another establishes stiff financial penalties for bars and businesses that break the rules for selling alcoholic beverages.

The failure of zoning Bill 120 is a setback for the Ko family, who bought a former medical office in Tamuning, but who have been unable to open their planned convenience store because of zoning problems.

Village leaders supported the zone change, Tamuning residents testified in support of it, and former Sen. Carl Gutierrez has said the only reason the lot wasn't rezoned as commercial in 1992 is because the land's owners were unavailable when adjacent lots were given a legislative zoning change.

But the zoning bill received the support of only seven senators on Wednesday – one shy of the number needed to pass.

The Ko family did not return a message for comment yesterday, and bill sponsor Vice Speaker Eddie Calvo was out sick.

Legislative rezoning of property has been controversial since there already is an established administrative process for zone changes, through the Guam Land Use Commission.

However, senators on Wednesday passed a bill that zones ancestral land in Dededo. Ancestral land, which is former military-held land returned to its original owners, has no zoning designation and is in administrative limbo, which is why lawmakers have granted requests to establish an official zone for some properties.

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