Guam Governor Delivers State Of The Islands Address

Calvo sets 'tone of hope for the island’s future'

By Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 6, 2017) – Gov. Eddie Calvo’s seventh and penultimate annual speech to the residents of Guam on Monday set a tone of hope for the island’s future as he laid out plans to improve several aspects of the territory.

Throughout his tenure in office, the governor has consistently looked to prepare Guam for the future by advocating for projects, programs and policies his administration believes will benefit the island for generations to come, he said. He noted that seven years ago, he told Guam’s residents that the island would reach its “greatest heights with or without the military buildup.”

“Seven years later, and I’m reporting to you for the seventh time that the state of our island is strong,” he said. “It is growing stronger. And if this trend continues along this trajectory over the next decade, we will bring more families out of poverty; … we will produce more of the food we eat … more roads will be paved and modernized; and the citizens you and I know today as our children and grandchildren – they will compete against the best in the world … and win.”

While most of his State of the Island address was reminiscent of previous speeches by touching on ongoing promises and plans, his speech Monday had a more ominous tone regarding Guam’s efforts to hold a decolonization vote.

“The task forces on independence, free association, and statehood — all are active and preparing outreach for a vote of self determination,” he said. “Legal uncertainties, however, remain. We do not yet have an opinion from the attorney general on the infamous 70-percent provision in the plebiscite law. But that may be because we’re still waiting on the federal court to rule on a case that challenges our ability to do this.”

During last year’s speech, Gov. Calvo announced his plan to hold the plebiscite in tandem with the General Election. The plebiscite never got scheduled because of the ongoing federal court case in which a resident has challenged the native inhabitant provision of the law.

Calvo, however, did go on to state that “come hell or high water” he intends to hold a self-determination vote before he leaves office, leaving the charge of taking the outcome of the vote to Congress to the next governor.

Calvo continued to spell out the remainder of his six major priorities for the island that includes the plebiscite vote as well as the continued efforts to revitalize Hagåtña.

The governor delivered his State of the Island address from the newly renovated Guam Congress Building in Hagåtña. Calvo is the first governor in more than a quarter of a century to deliver the annual address from the restored session hall.

Using the completed reconstruction of the historic Legislature building as an example of building for the future, Calvo reminded the dozens of island dignitaries, government officials and lawmakers that they can continue to revitalizing the capital district by working together.

“A concurrent priority is the development of this city. With the help of this legislature, we are going to finish what we started and completely revitalize Hagåtña,” Calvo said. “Think about this area we're in and picture the entirety of the capital bringing wonder and pride to us all.”

Before leaving Adelup at the end of 2018, Calvo would like to see ground broken in the construction of his proposed palasio building and government center in the island's capital. He told naysayers and those who doubt the feasibility of the projects that it’s too late.

“I’ve been told that this is all a pipe dream … or that we weren’t capable of making it happen. I will take great pleasure in bursting this bubble when I say, too late haters, it’s already happening,” he said. “Look at the renovated Chamorro Village and the Paseo Stadium. Look at the museum next door. Look at this building we’re in now. Gosh, you really haven’t seen anything yet.”

The governor also touched on legislation his administration authored last year to borrow funds to raze and reconstruct the public hospital’s z-wing, which is dilapidated and has gone unused in recent years.

“We can be modernizing Guam Memorial Hospital while Hagåtña is under construction. All we need is for this legislature to authorize the capital investment, and we will break ground on a plan that will renovate all the patient areas, expand clinical services, and give everybody in need access to cancer, diabetes and heart care,” he said. “This proposed $100 million modernization is a financial investment because GMH will be put on the path of self-sustainability.”

Calvo said he intends on reintroducing the measure and looks forward to the legislature’s debate on it.

Calvo also expressed support for a legislation Speaker Benjamin Cruz, D-Tumon, has authored to borrow $50 million that would fund village road repairs. All he asks is for Cruz and the legislature to consider an amendment to include a provision that tacks on four more cents per gallon on the liquid fuel tax.

“We can fund this by adding four cents to the per gallon liquid fuel tax if Speaker Cruz is open to an amendment on his bill, Calvo said. “If we can get this done by the end of March, we can break ground on the first roads of this program by summer.”

Upon addressing his string of removing convicted immigrants from the island’s prison, Calvo received raucous applause from his Cabinet and many of the dignitaries in attendance.

“It has become crystal clear to me that no matter what help we offer, there are a few people among us who just won’t stop hurting others and taking what isn’t theirs,” Calvo said. “The only way to get through to these criminals is to meet their aggression head on with the full force of the law. So we started by shipping a bunch of criminals back to where they came from. No longer our problem.”

Later the governor lamented the unfunded federal mandates the U.S. has imposed on Guam, specifically regarding the closure of the Ordot dump. He said the federal courts have continued to test the island’s patience and has burdened taxpayers.

“Really, we’re all fed up. Our people should not be treated this way. The federal court has tested all the patience left in the attorney general and I,” Calvo said. “Hearing after hearing, no matter what we do to make right by our people and their health, the Court is unrelenting in sticking it to our people and letting an outside receiver make ridiculous profit at our expense.”

He then announced that that Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over the contamination of Guam’s natural resources relative to the current Agent Orange issue.

“The federal government has been welcomed to join in our efforts toward prosperity, but instead has chosen — as it has for decades — to do whatever it takes to stifle our progress. We can’t have that,” the governor said. “We have to stand up for ourselves. And none of us should be afraid.”

Guam is flourishing and becoming more prosperous thanks to its own people, the governor went on to state, and he instructed Guamanians to criticize those who say otherwise or “ridicule” Guam’s efforts to progress. He also made a jab new editorials from Pacific Daily News.

“Sometimes these editorials want to give us an inferiority complex, they’re taking orders from Gannett,” Calvo said, referring to the PDN’s parent company.

“So the next time someone makes fun of our island, or ridicules our effort, or diminishes all that makes us happy … I want you to be able to look around this island … then look ‘em straight in the eye and say, proudly … ‘We did this without you.’”

Pacific Daily News
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