By Troy Torres
As residents worry about Covid-19's impact on their futures, senators voted late at night to approve into the budget bill $500,000 to the office that funds Sen. Amanda Shelton's brother's office.
The money was taken from the fund used to get rid of abandoned vehicles throughout the island. Sen. Sabina Perez led the effort against taking this money and giving it to Ms. Shelton's brother - Austin Shelton's - office. Joining Ms. Perez were Sens. Jim Moylan, Telo Taitague, Therese Terlaje, Louise Muna, Kelly Marsh Taitano, and Vice Speaker Telena Nelson.
"Every year, the people of Guam pay an annual vehicle registration fee, and those funds go into a special lockbox called the Recycling Revolving Fund. The law is clear on how these funds must be used: Guam EPA administers the fund to assist Mayors to remove abandoned vehicles and tires, clean up illegal dump sites, and subsidize recycling efforts on Guam.
"This is the law, and no legislature has ever violated it.
"I am deeply saddened that the RRF is now being raided in direct violation of the law. Without a public hearing, $500,000 is being removed from the RRF and given to UOG without a formal budget submission and without board oversight and accountability." - Ms. Perez
The $500,000 will now go to what's called a G3 Initiative within the University of Guam, if the Legislature passes the bill as is, and the governor signs it. That initiative is led by Mr. Shelton. When asked what the money will be used for, Mr. Shelton's office explained it will fund conferences and off island travel.
Ms. Perez's disgust of her colleagues's actions and Ms. Shelton's obvious conflict of interest was joined by minority Sens. Telo Taitague and Jim Moylan, who each issued statements.
“It is absolutely disturbing that 8 senators felt it was okay to fund a new initiative using the limited resources that our people pay into the Recycling Revolving Fund specifically for recycling efforts and waste removal. With our hospitals requiring more doctors and nurses to fight COVID, public health pleading for more resources, and dozens of unemployed EMT-certified Guamanians – why $500,000 is being prioritized for the Guam Green Growth Initiative over recycling efforts and COVID response is beyond comprehension,” Senator Taitague stated.
“Moreover, senators have an obligation to follow the very laws that we and our predecessors have put forward. We can’t disregard this important responsibility even if a new program that we seek funding for involves our relatives and friends.” - Ms. Taitague
Mr. Moylan also sought to protect funding for the removal of abandoned vehicles. He questioned how money for hotel conferences and off island travel was more important than the safety, economic, and environmental hazards of abandoned vehicles.
"Why are we raiding the RRF, when our island has a serious issue with abandoned vehicles, white goods, and other junk items scattered throughout our villages? Why are we providing the G3 Initiative these monies, when other than holding conferences and off island travel, a clear expenditure plan was never provided?" - Mr. Moylan