GUAM ELECTED OFFICIALS MUST GET DUMP CLOSED

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Dec. 15, 2008) U.S. District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled last week that because the government of Guam failed to produce a viable plan to finance a $20 million "deposit" for projects to close Ordot dump and open a new landfill, it will have to pay from the General Fund. This failure again demonstrates elected officials' repeated disregard for the needs of this community. Their inability to come up with a plan -- despite guidance from the court-appointed receiver Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. -- puts critical government services at risk.

If senators and the governor can't cooperate and produce a viable financing plan before Jan. 5, the extraction of $20 million from the General Fund will leave them scrambling for where to make cuts -- if they could ever summon the political will to make those decisions.

Early Saturday morning, lawmakers approved emergency legislation -- Bill 402 -- that allows Gov. Felix Camacho to borrow money for the start of landfill construction projects.

But the legislation forces Camacho to look at pledging compact-impact money and other funding sources before using Section 30 money as a security, which the federal receiver has recommended.

Sen. Rory Respicio said, "The general consensus was that the Legislature must pass something. Not passing something would not send the right message to the community."

But passing a bill just for the sake of passing legislation doesn't send the right message either.

The only right message is the Ordot dump must be closed and a new landfill must be opened, and the government of Guam must do everything it can to make that happen.

The inability of elected officials to make tough decisions is why GovGuam solid waste operations are under federal receivership. They had decades to close the Ordot dump and failed to do so. Even after a federal consent decree was imposed, they failed to meet its deadlines.

Whether Bill 402 will be the means for the government of Guam to put together a workable financing plan before the Jan. 5 deadline remains to be seen, given the conditions lawmakers put into the legislation.

Ultimately, the plan must be viable and not endanger government services. That must be the focus of local government officials. Because if they fail to do so, the federal government and its receiver will move forward with the process and do it for them.

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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