GUAM BUILDUP HEARING DRAWS MIXED

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EMOTIONS
Some Chamorros feel they’ve given enough to military

By Amritha Alladi HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 30, 2009) – Guam residents voiced a range of concerns at yesterday's public hearing on Resolution 258, which demands the military use negotiations of "good faith" to obtain private lands, as opposed to condemning the lands under eminent domain.

Sen. Judith Guthertz, chairwoman of the Legislature's buildup committee, had introduced the resolution after Joint Guam Program Office Director retired Marine Col. John Jackson recently stated "every option is on the table" to obtain Guam lands for the military buildup.

And Guam residents brought all their concerns -- and personal stories -- to the table yesterday, in response.

Gloria B. Nelson, wife of former Sen. Ted Nelson, brought tears to the eyes of those listening, as she retold the story of how her family had suffered "enough" through numerous relocations during the war years. The condemnation of lands would further add to that suffering, she said.

"Through the repeated condemnation of our homes, our identity and sense of self is also condemned," Nelson said. "In the Chamorro spirit of inafa maolek, if I have something you need and I can give it, I will offer. But I have nothing left to give."

About 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents will be shifted from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. Per the preferred alternative listed in the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the main cantonment area, the Defense Department may require an additional 680 acres of private lands.

In other passionate testimony supporting the resolution, Catherine McCollum of the Colonized Chamorro Coalition said her family continues to fight for their lands in Tiyan and Ritidian.

She recalled how her Filipino grandfather acquired land "through the right way" by marrying her grandmother, who was Chamorro.

"That was a good thing because in those days, a Filipino could not own property. You had to be married to a local," she said, referring to "outsiders" acquiring land on Guam.

Superior Court of Guam Judge Steven S. Unpingco said he, too, objected to land condemnation. As a Sasayan Valley landowner, he said the proposed site of the firing range east of Andersen South should at least be dismissed on the same grounds the use of existing DOD lands has been dismissed: environmental protection.

JGPO public information officer Capt. Neil Ruggiero told the Pacific Daily News last week the Defense Department has tried to utilize its own property for the military realignment, but must follow federal environmental laws and planning processes to determine the best locations for the facilities and ranges necessary for the military realignment.

"We have also learned that it may be wise to develop property near existing bases to allow functions to be grouped together in one location and eliminate the need to travel from one range or training area to another. This will ease impacts, such as traffic, on the surrounding community."

Guthertz said she was assured two years ago by JGPO Executive Director Retired Maj. Gen. David Bice the military wouldn't use condemnation to obtain lands, and would utilize the 40,000 acres already belonging to the Defense Department.

But a recent statement Jackson made on TV contradicted the previous assurance, according to Guthertz, and the resolution is an attempt to make certain the federal government negotiates with the landowners instead of resorting to condemnation, she said.

Guthertz hadn't received a response from Bice until Dec. 24:

"During the EIS process, DOD personnel, especially those in a position of leadership, must refrain from taking any action that could be viewed as pre-determining the manner in which a decision would be implemented or otherwise limit choices among reasonable alternatives," Bice's letter stated. "Should I or other DoD personnel testify regarding the proposed resolution, our testimony could be interpreted as pre-decisional actions indicating that alternatives contemplating the acquisition of non-DoD lands will be selected."

Bice wasn't at yesterday's hearing.

Local businessman James Adkins urged Guam's senators not to challenge the military, because buildup plans are hanging by a thread.

"The military is starting to look at some of the things that are being said by our senators that they do not want the military here. You couple that with the other things that are going on in Japan (and) we are not sure that we will even get this buildup," Adkins said.

He said the buildup would be the primary solution to resuscitate Guam's economy.

"We have to have something to bring cash money back onto the island," Adkins said. "We are spending more money than we are bringing in. Now's not the time to go and challenge (the military)."

JGPO public information officer Capt. Neil Ruggiero told the Pacific Daily News last week the Defense Department has tried to utilize its own property for the military realignment, but must follow federal environmental laws and planning processes to determine the best locations for the facilities and ranges necessary for the military realignment.

"We have also learned that it may be wise to develop property near existing bases to allow functions to be grouped together in one location and eliminate the need to travel from one range or training area to another. This will ease impacts, such as traffic, on the surrounding community."

Guthertz said she was assured two years ago by JGPO Executive Director Retired Maj. Gen. David Bice the military wouldn't use condemnation to obtain lands, and would utilize the 40,000 acres already belonging to the Defense Department.

But a recent statement Jackson made on TV contradicted the previous assurance, according to Guthertz, and the resolution is an attempt to make certain the federal government negotiates with the landowners instead of resorting to condemnation, she said.

Guthertz hadn't received a response from Bice until Dec. 24:

"During the EIS process, DOD personnel, especially those in a position of leadership, must refrain from taking any action that could be viewed as pre-determining the manner in which a decision would be implemented or otherwise limit choices among reasonable alternatives," Bice's letter stated. "Should I or other DoD personnel testify regarding the proposed resolution, our testimony could be interpreted as pre-decisional actions indicating that alternatives contemplating the acquisition of non-DoD lands will be selected."

Bice wasn't at yesterday's hearing.

'Not the time'

Local businessman James Adkins urged Guam's senators not to challenge the military, because buildup plans are hanging by a thread.

"The military is starting to look at some of the things that are being said by our senators that they do not want the military here. You couple that with the other things that are going on in Japan (and) we are not sure that we will even get this buildup," Adkins said.

He said the buildup would be the primary solution to resuscitate Guam's economy.

"We have to have something to bring cash money back onto the island," Adkins said. "We are spending more money than we are bringing in. Now's not the time to go and challenge (the military)."

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