AT A GLANCE: Calvo on Helping Families
NOTE: The Governor addressed many issues in his State of the Island Address last Thursday. One of these issues was government services, and how it is important to embrace public service as a way to help people who need care. Below are excerpts of the Governor’s address that speak to this point. You can view these portions of the address by clicking on the headings we have provided below. You can also view a powerful video of how the Calvo Tenorio administration helped the Quinata family of Umatac. Sirena Quinata Duenas recently was helped by the Department of Public Health and Social Services with her bout against breast cancer. To view this video, click here.
I want you to see that you are the difference. And, boy, what a difference you’ve made. It was three years ago that I took my oath right here. Somewhere around the island the lone working ambulance was responding to a waiting list of 9-1-1 calls. The small emergency room lobby, with its broken chairs and blinding fluorescent lights, was packed. There wasn’t enough blood supply in the back in case someone needed it to live.
Your relatives and friends raised money for heart surgery in the Philippines. Putting aside your pride, you wondered why you felt like you had to beg just to get the government to pay even part of your tax refund. It’s not like you could have bought a plane ticket with the I-O-U the government gave you that year, and every year before that. The government that was four years delinquent to pay you, was the same one cutting your power for the very same thing: non-payment.
Imagine the lights going out for an unpaid bill, while it’s the government that actually owes you enough money to pay your rent for a year. Seven thousand dollars. That’s the average GovGuam owed to each and every taxpayer the day I took office. That’s also enough to go to college for two years at GCC. Or you could have traded in your car for the one you really want. For some of you, GovGuam owed more than that, and still cut off your power. What an irony of injustice.
And just before I took office, you wondered how GovGuam could hold your refunds but afford pay increases. You were right. GovGuam couldn’t afford it then. Not while it was floating $17 million in outstanding checks at the bank right down the street.
For every 100 Guamanian adults who wanted to work, 87 of them had a stable job. The other 13 couldn’t get hired. That was 10,000 Guamanians out of work and looking for a better way. Imagine two UOG Fieldhouses packed with people. That’s how many were unemployed at the start of 2011. The last time that many of us were jobless was in the year 2000.
And if you thought it was bad that 10,000 people couldn’t find work… at that time, nearly twice as many were struggling without a high school diploma. And just six months before that night, 600 more had just dropped out of high school. That’s the size of an entire school. That many 18-year-olds had just walked away from the chance of completing an education and getting a good job.
The picture in our minds right now is true. Guam was darker. Our villages looked more empty. And if we can remember what we thought about our future back then, the idea today may be melancholy and, worse, mediocre.
Whenever I think about how we manage these offices you’ve entrusted us with, one word comes to mind: TRUST. And it’s not just about trusting me. I know if there was anything in the government that would be hardest to fix, it would be to restore the people’s trust in their own government. It’s a trust that has been broken with every empty promise.
I’ve spent the past three years trying to restore your faith that you own this government, not the politicians. Service and a commitment to excellence have been our themes instead of authority and bureaucracy. And we’ve been very well aware that the only way to restore your trust is to fulfill all the empty promises of the past.
We worked like crazy, and sometimes against stiff opposition, to meet our goals for you. But today, look at the state of your government. It is now normal for your tax refund to be paid within weeks of filing for it. For two decades before, it was normal for you to wait three years for one. The deficit’s gone. Line agency vendors are getting paid quicker. We paid our employees for the debts they had been owed for two decades. We implemented the first across-the-board pay hike in over 20 years. We cut our own salaries when times were tough and sacrifice was required. We held employees accountable and rewarded those who performed with excellence. We jump-started the 20-year-old Lada Estates project so that senior citizens could have affordable living communities. We salvaged the Tiyan Parkway from a disastrous conclusion. We ended the embarrassing receivership at DISID and Behavioral Wellness. We opened up the operations of the government to the white hot light of the media and public scrutiny. We have never shied from the tough questions… never refused public information… never closed our doors. Transparency has been a cornerstone value of ours, marked by an attitude of accessibility to us and our administration in our offices, out in your neighborhoods, and on social media.