Saturday, November 28, 2009

Apathy Creeps Into Guam's Buildup-Impact Review Period

Apathy Creeps Into Guam's Buildup-Impact Review Period

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Friday, 27 November 2009 15:55

Library, Mayor's Office Indicate Low Public Interest

Holiday Stupor Could Cut Into 90-Day Deadline

GUAM - As the clock ticks on the 90-day review and public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), Senator Judi Guthertz is making every effort to give people the chance to review the categorized, thousands-page, multi-volume document. This week she announced the opening of a reading room for the public.

Her office conference room at the Guam Legislature in Hagatna contains a hard copy of the DEIS for public review.

According to Guthertz, local leaders are becoming concerned that there is public apathy about reviewing the DEIS.

Underlying Reasons For Putting Off Impact Review

Elected officials' concern is well founded, owing to the serious nature of the subject matter and the tight window of opportunity to comment.

Causes for procrastination, aloofness or disinterest may be manyfold: (1) the sheer magnitude of the document; (2) the perhaps misguided sense that the voices of everyday citizens won't matter; and (3) the fact that the holiday season has taken hold of our time and attention.

While the island may be winding down the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday has us in the clutches of retail sales for a Christmas season that won't let up until after New Year's.

Urging Participation

But local leaders cannot underscore the imperative of public input enough.

As Governor Camacho reminded attendees during his address at a recent forum in the Legislative Hearing Room called The Military Buildup And Beyond: The Guam Perspective, the public is highly encouraged to read the Draft EIS and to make comments so that the US Department of Defense can enter them on record.

Camacho admonished his audience and news watchers not to think they're voices wouldn't register over the din of Defense Department priorities.

Meanwhile, public libraries, mayors' offices, reading rooms and an official Joint Guam Program Office website are dedicated to getting the information into public hands. At the Legislature's buildup conference last week, the Governor even mentioned having it distributed on compact disk.

Neglected In Hagatna

To take the temperature of library patrons in Hagatna, Guam News Factor caught up with an employee of the Nieves M. Flores Public Library as this individual and their coworkers were closing up for the afternoon. When asked whether they've seen much DEIS traffic, this worker replied, "not really." The worker said that whenever they walk by the section in the library where the DEIS hard copy is stored, they don't see anyone there.

While Guthertz tells Guam News Factor that the opening of the DEIS reading room at her office inside the Guam Legislature building in Hagatna "had nothing to do with any perceived sense of apathy," she doesn't deny that there are signs of it out there.

On Wednesday, Guthtertz told the Factor, "The only thing I have seen is the single comment by the Mayor of Dededo in the newspaper about only one person coming into her office to read the document. So, I have not heard anything or seen anything, other than that single story, which would indicate public apathy."

"The 'reading room' has been open to the public since first thing Monday morning when we placed the binders on the table in the conference room," Guthertz said. "That conference room, along with all of the office rooms, are open to the public during regular business hours."

On Wednesday, Guthertz and Senator Rory Respicio, who share the same office, decided they should publicize the fact that the reading room is open for everyone to use -- "from a sense of public service."

"Our approach has always been that this building is the 'peoples' building'," Guthertz said. "We will never permit any meeting here to be closed to the media or the public. So, following that approach, it fell naturally that the paper copy of the DEIS should be available to the public."

No Excuses - Just Do It!

"The fact remains that the public should, indeed, review the document. The executive summary is not that long. This buildup will forever change the way we live. The public needs to review the document and participate by submitting comments no later than February 17."

John Dela Rosa contributed to this report.

Here is recent the news release announcing the opening of the public reading room at Guthertz' office:

November 25, 2009

Another Reading Room For Reviewers Of Guam Military Buildup Environmental Impact Statement

HAGATNA - In an unusual appeal for citizen involvement, a variety of local officials, ranging from the governor to senators and island mayors have been urging their constituents to crack the books and personally review the recently released draft environmental impact statement on the Guam military buildup.

The idea is those who will have to live with the results of the massive buildup should find out what's in it and have a chance to influence its outcome.

In the latest development, a hard copy of the draft EIS is will be available for public reading in the conference room at the Legislative Building in Hagåtña inside the senatorial offices of Senator Judi Guthertz and Senator Rory Respicio.

The document, which runs many thousands of pages, is available at local libraries and mayor's offices as well as at several websites.

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