By Lee Webber
Having lived here since the fall of 1968 and having watched the operations of the government of Guam, it is not hard to understand why our Department of Education school facilities (other government facilities like GMH – save Adelup, the Legislature and key department head areas) are in such ill-repair.
The community as a whole has grown to accept far less than proper care of the facilities and no one – not the teacher’s union, the administrators, legislators, any governor or the employees seem to possess the desire and willpower to say enough is enough and force the administration to fix the schools and other facilities and keep them that way for our children, government employees and the taxpaying public (except for Tumon Bay which receives more than ample attention).
It seems to be a negative attitude that seriously includes most everyone; or maybe people are simply afraid to challenge the public employees – the elected and appointed officials – who are actually responsible for ensuring proper maintenance.
The single-largest problem in this area is that the government is consumptive in nature and as such spends 90+% of its revenue on payroll because that is directly attached to votes; and politicians need votes to get re-elected.
In the private sector that is normally not the case. If you walked into a grocery store and the meat and vegetables were rotten, the cans bent and boxes had been opened, you wouldn’t shop there.
Or, if the bathrooms were dirty or the sinks fell off the wall and on-to-your feet you’d tell all your friends to stay clear of that place.
But you only have one government and the elected and key appointed officials know that and appear to run it to their advantage as far as they can.
In the private sector, employees and managers are generally selected from the same pool of people island-wide. That being the case, why is it that PayLess, the malls and shopping centers, and the majority of small, medium and large businesses not suffering from this same problem?
They are hiring the same people from the same pool of potential employees to work there!
In the private sector there is this idea called, “management by walking around,” where the boss or supervisor (many times both) actually spend some regularly scheduled time wandering around the areas for which they are responsible.
For the governor and senators that is literally everywhere.
When was the last time you saw the governor, lieutenant governor, or senators walking around in your government work place? When was the last time they used your bathrooms, drank from your water fountains or ate in your cafeterias?
When was the last time you saw any of them doing a ride along in a police patrol car, ambulance or fire engine?
Better yet, when was the last time you saw any of them using a public park bathroom! Or, eating lunch in one of the public parks to see how things were in that area?
It is time that government officials (elected and appointed) spent some average-person time in the areas mentioned above and see what is really happening and then get things fixed and keep them that way.
Government staffing needs to be reduced (through well-planned retirement plans and leveraged buyouts) and time taken to see what agencies and departments can be privatized similar to what they did with Guam Telephone Authority.
Our small island government needs to learn to run more responsibly and within its means, improving the quality of life for every resident.
Let’s make Guam great again!
Lee P. Webber is a businessman and civic advocate, the former publisher of the Pacific Daily News, a former president and publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser, and a former director of operations for USA Today International/Asia