Buenas yan i pas hu gaige giya hamyo.
Kandit, since Guam’s preparations for Typhoon Mawar, has had a standing policy not to criticize Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero through the typhoon, and in its wake, until a semblance of stability returns. We assigned that threshold at 50 percent power restoration. Today, Guam Power Authority surpassed the mark, restoring 53 percent of customer demand for electricity.
GPA’s linemen are the MVPs of the disaster recovery effort. They are restoring power in record time. Two decades ago, in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Pongsona, it took the GPA of yesteryear an average of two to three months to restore power, with some going six to eight months without.
We also have many blessings to count. No lives were lost. Most homes were spared complete destruction. And the federal disaster assistance pipeline began flowing even before the typhoon got here.
This is because of the excellent work Governor Leon Guerrero did in preparing Guam for the disaster. She did not hesitate to prepare us, taking a risk by warning us early about the possibility of a disastrous typhoon. In all my years of experience in the government – to include several years as head of the Joint Information Center working closely with former Governor Eddie Calvo – I have never seen a governor more decisive and caring for the plight of those most vulnerable prior to storms than Governor Leon Guerrero.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about her leadership following Typhoon Mawar’s passage. The disaster recovery has been a disaster, partly due to forces beyond the governor’s control, but completely due to the governor’s thus-far inability to manage the recovery process despite the challenges.
Yes the cell phones went down, but what about the loud speakers and the availability of GovGuam workers for boots-on-the-ground daily canvassing of neighborhood with pamphlets to spread the essential information? This is not a new concept, but one built into the emergency response protocol during the North Korean missile crisis. I know this to be true, because I personally built that in, foreseeing the possibility that islandwide cell service and radio communication would go down as early as 2014.
In the absence of communications, rumors will abound, and dangerous information will go viral. This is Crisis Communications 101. It is literally taught at a school in Maryland that Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense spends a great deal of money sending employees to. And it is a fundamental truth of disaster management.
But it wasn’t just the lacking communication. It is abundantly clear that – for whatever reason – the governor and her Emergency Operations Center are not being faithful to the Guam Emergency Response Plan. That plan has won national recognition for its efficacy in previous typhoons, earthquakes, tsunami scares, and the North Korean missile crisis in assembling and executing the best disaster responses in the country.
Significant gaps in operations have dangerously stalled progress that should have been made within days of the typhoon. Why did it take so long to get water to the dialysis centers? Why – to now – are people dependent on insulin in the dark about how they can store their medicines? What about other critical operations and information needed by those who rely on medical, physical, and pharmaceutical therapy?
Why are people – who have lost their homes from the typhoon – being turned away from the emergency shelters by the superintendent of education?
What about services for people with disabilities, to include transportation, therapy, and basic services?
The unnecessary rush and lines for gas is a prime example of a significant operational shortfall in the EOC.
The hoarding of information about what federal programs the administration is working on to alleviate financial burdens, like housing, food stamps, and cash welfare serves no proper purpose. Let people know what you’re working on!
And how about life after Mawar? It is abundantly clear the EOC has not included the necessary private sector support function for the planning of the return of tourism, the road to construction recovery, and the strained relationship with the military brought on by the dismal attitude and non-participation of Rear Admiral Benjamin Nicholson.
The disaster recovery requires emergency management skill. It requires someone who knows what they’re doing; which more often than not refers to someone who has done this before. This is not a burn on Ms. Leon Guerrero, but a simple recognition of this shortcoming. We cannot afford any longer to be led by someone who is very obviously struggling with on-the-job emergency management training.
And that’s why we believe there is a simple, and reachable solution for Governor Leon Guerrero. Governor, you can remain the face of the operation, but it may be a good idea to step aside quietly and allow one of two people to actually lead operations and communications:
Within your cabinet is the governor with the most experience helping the people of Guam to recover from typhoons: Former Governor Carl Gutierrez. Mr. Gutierrez, who now heads the Guam Visitors Bureau, led us through three super typhoons: Paka, Chata’an, and Pongsona, and the several typhoons in between. He was visible. He was in charge. He knows how to do this.
The other person works right next to you, governor: your lieutenant governor, Joshua Tenorio. Mr. Tenorio was the deputy chief of staff for Governor Gutierrez. In fact, it was Mr. Tenorio who led the post-Pongsona disaster recovery effort as the Governor’s Authorized Representative. Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio knows how to lead us through a typhoon recovery.
Use one of them.
Don’t make it Jim Moylan. He’s our congressman, and he’s doing absolutely nothing.
The disaster recovery is far from over. When people stop looking for places to do laundry, they will be looking for ways to buy food to restock what they threw away. And when that dust settles, the now-unemployed will look for jobs. And as that is happening – if not all the recovery coordination cylinders are fired up – there will be a great gap between the people who need to feed their families, and the tourism-dependent companies that can hire them, but can’t open because of government inefficiency or a failure to see that now is the time to reach out to our markets with a plan that should have been written last week by the governor herself.
Governor, this is only a suggestion. It is made with the utmost concern and care for the people of Guam. No matter what you decide to do, Kandit remains by your side to support your leadership in this most dark hour in our island’s recent history.
God bless you and may our Lady of Mount Carmel pray for us. May San Jose pray for us. May San Isidro pray for us. May San Francisco de Borja pray for us. And May Santa Marian Kamalen pray for us. I pas hu Gaige giya hamyo. Good night.