Enact Policies to Stop Gentrification, the Rise of Poverty and Violence on Guam

Enact Policies to Stop Gentrification, the Rise of Poverty and Violence on Guam

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Problem:  On Guam there has been an alarming rise of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, crime, and violence towards both the ecosystem and the people. Our island is experiencing a rise in Gentrification and we demand that policies be made by our leaders to end this disaster. 

 With poor and failing infrastructure that severely impacts daily life and threatens our safety, our U.S. Legal Colony/ Territory, Guam aka Guåhan has many challenges and problems that have increased year after year. The poverty rate on Guåhan is nearly twice as high than the overall US rate (23.0 per cent versus 14.8 per cent) and effects a heavy reliance on need-based federal programs for fundamental services (US Government Accountability Office, 2009). Compared to the United States, territories are assessed a lower federal insurance reimbursement rate that attempts to account for the disparate poverty levels between the US territories and states (Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, 2017). Guam and other US territories are required to contribute a non-federal share to access these funds. This has been a persistent challenge to territorial economies struggling to survive and has resulted in disparities in health care services (Stayman, 2009; Rodriguez-Vila et al., 2014). Gross Domestic Product assesses a region’s economic health and standard of living. Guåhan’s net imports are greater than its exports for every year from 2007 to 2016 thus signaling an economy in trouble (Osman, 2012). US grant assistance has offset this negative trade balance. However, such short-term assistance is insufficient to address long-term, structurally based deficits. Long-term efforts for economic revitalization and attention to the impact of US policies on Guåhan are needed to address the problem. Indeed, public debt has doubled from almost 1 billion to 2.5 billion from 2005 to 2015 and most of this debt is used to comply with federal requirements and court orders (US Government Accountability Office, 2017). Currently, tourism and the military are Guåhan’s major sources of income. While important to Guåhan's economy, these income sources exacerbate issues of contented space and challenge the island’s sustainability and its impact on local residents (Crisostomo, 2013; Dames et al., 2013; Letman, 2016). One of the ways that tourism and the military has negatively impacted the island is the rise in the cost of living and inflation of rent, water, food and goods etc.. to accommodate visitors and settlers who usually make a higher income than the majority of Guam's local citizens, many who live in Poverty. Although tourism and the military is important to Guam's economy as its major sources of income, there needs to be policies enacted that will reduce the already raised cost of rent, water, food, goods etc.. that the majority of Guam's residents who live in poverty cannot keep up with or afford at all since there is already a low minimum wage on Guam. This rise in the cost of living on Guam has heavily contributed to a rise in poverty and homelessness on Guam and has forced many local citizens including many indigenous people of Guam (Chamorros) to move off of the island into places with a better economy. Another way that tourism and the military has negatively impacted the island is the rapid increase of land grabs from indigenous people. While some indigenous Chamorro families on Guam willingly sold their land to settlers in the tourism industry or the military, there are many indigenous Chamorros like former Senator and 2022 Nobel Peace Nominee Hope Cristobal who have been fighting for their families land that was forcefully taken by the military and then given to foreign investors for the tourism industry, build up or kept by the military with compensation as little as $1.00 for each acre which the locals had no choice to negotiate. And now more foreign investors continue to prey on local land owners to try to take more land. This has resulted in major gentrification of the indigenous Chamorros of Guam, as well as poor care for the environment. Hope Cristobal who also chairs the Northern Guam Soil and Water Conservation District Board shared in a public hearing for Resolution No 55-36,  introduced by Sen Sabina Perez 2021 that the contamination in Guam is more severe than at any other U.S. domestic base in the world which is partially caused by careless construction and disposal management all over Guam but mostly caused by the Military who has over 100 toxic chemical dumpsites on Guam and has allowed toxic hazardous waste to leak into our aquifer that supplies over 80% of the islands drinking water. Currently there is an increase in the risk of more contamination to our drinking water due to the new northern Guam firing range being built close to the aquifer while destroying the last pristine limestone forest on Guam that is home to endangered species and ancient historical sites. The military's Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) has indicated that they are aware of the harm that the build up will cause to the environment, our dinking water, our economy and they also admit to contributing to a rise in poverty and homelessness through inflation. This information that the military has written themselves in their SEIS needs to be made more accessible to the public. Local residents have noticed that the military's website with the SEIS has been having "having technical difficulties" not allowing anyone to open their files and therefore this crucial information is not made accessible to the public as it should be. This crucial information should also be shared by our local government as a way to help warn and prepare local residents for what is to come. Along with the rise in poverty from the rise in the cost of living and gentrification, there is a also rise in substance abuse, crimes and violence on our island. The proportion of clients admitted to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse with drug dependence as the primary diagnosis is increasing. Overall, close to half, or 48.4% of all clients seen at the DMHSA presented with dependency problems involving illicit drugs. The association between illicit drug use and criminal behavior remains highly significant. Illicit drug use within a community is often associated with property crime. In 2005, 1468 burglaries were reported to the Guam Police Department, representing a 13.6% increase from the previous year and a 47.4% increase from 2001. Methamphetamines play a major role in criminal behavior linked to illicit drug use on Guam. Methamphetamines (“ice”) accounted for 24% of local arrests for drug violations. With regards to federal arrests, in 2003, methamphetamine accounted for majority (>90%) of cases on Guam, unlike the US mainland, where methamphetamine was involved in less than 20% of drug-related federal sentences. (Guam Substance Abuse Epidemiological Profile, 2006). While poverty has gone hand in hand with substance abuse, so does corruption in the government where many local police officers and even judges and lawyers have been found to protect drug dealers in the community. And while the rate of poverty, gentrification and substance abuse increases on Guam, so does the rate of violence and of sexual assault on Guam. Guam has the second-highest number of sexual assaults per capita in the nation, and a conference in 2017 highlighted the factors that contribute to that alarming statistic. (Hosted by the Guam Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence, the “2017 KNOW MORE Conference: Focus on Empathy to Address Sexual Assault) Jusuf cited the FBI’s unified crime report, which shows that the national rate for reported rape is 25.2 per 100,000 people. But on Guam, there are 64.2 reported rapes per 100,000 people, she said. “Of the 50 states, only Alaska, with a rate of 87.6 reported rapes per 100,000 people, has a higher rate than Guam,” Jusuf told conference participants. "Why?" Economic survival, she said, also plays a big factor in the failure to report rape or sexual assault if the perpetrator is among the providers in the household. Along with that, majority of the perpetuators on Guam hardly get any legal punishment. Most Abusers or Rapist on Guam serve little or no time in jail. Rape or sexual assault is still considered a taboo topic for many in the community, adding that families do not talk about it because of guilt, shame and fear of embarrassment for the family. Jusuf said sexual assault statistics tell only part of the story, since many cases are believed to be unreported by victims and their families. To stop the increasing rate of abuse and sexual assault on Guam which predominantly happens to women and children, there must be aggressive actions taken to increase the prevention and end of violence, poverty and substance abuse by supporting programs and nonprofits that are already doing the work but need more funding and support, and there must be more legal action taken without the constant corruption in the system that has failed our people. There are more than 60 families who complained about being forced into homelessness as all the permanent shelters on Guam are currently full and they are having trouble finding a new home to rent because of the increase in costs and temporary nature of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA)Program (Guam Daily Post, 2022). More and more families are becoming homeless, especially women and children who are fleeing abuse from the head of household. All shelters on Guam are full besides the temporary shelters which only houses clients for 90 days. They then give clients ERA checks to use for rent but they are only accepted by landlords who are willing to take these checks from the ERA program but currently there is a growing number of landlords who are refusing to accept ERA checks and are accommodating more settlers or those with a higher income as the cost of living rises. Our islands Non profits that provide shelter do not have enough funding to keep their programs running. Lastly another problem that goes hand in hand with the rise in poverty is the waste crisis we have on Guam where majority of Guam's citizens are in poverty and cannot afford to pay for proper waste disposal and contribute to excessive waste pollution. And while other neighboring islands in Micronesia like the FSM that has not just banned plastic bags but disposable styrofoam and all plastic food service items, Guam has only been able to ban the sale of plastic shopping bags and the waste crisis on Guam still continues to rise. Although various organizations initiate cleanups in public places, Guam’s beaches, parks and sidewalks remain strewn with trash weeks later. Laws regarding the proper disposal of waste exist. Offenders who are found littering can be fined $200. In 2010, the Legislature passed “the Guam Beverage Recycling Container Act,” a law meant to encourage locals to recycle glass, metal, or plastic drink containers by returning them for a 5- cent rebate per container. Although Guam is listed alongside 10 states with bottle recycling laws, the status of implementation remains unclear. In June 2013, the Sabrina Cruz-Sablan, special projects coordinator for the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, told the Mayors’ Council of Guam that no funding mechanism existed to implement the program. Another difficulty dealing with recycling concerns the ban on foreign garbage China implemented. Guam’s local recycling industry collects 42,000 tons of recyclables each year. But the China ban has forced recycling companies worldwide to rethink about how they can process the recyclable materials they receive. Guam needs Funds for its Own Recycling Systems and there needs to be More Bans on un-recyclable disposable products. With better support for programs and nonprofits that educate the community on these issues and take direct action towards the waste crisis , we can create a better life for generations to come. Our island is suffering high rates of poverty, gentrification, substance abuse, crime, violence on the ecosystem and violence on the people and all of these issues must be aggressively and quickly handled by every single person who calls this island of Guåhan/ Guam their home. 

We ask that these policies quickly be made by our Government to help our island of Guåhan/Guam that is currently suffering high rates of poverty, gentrification, substance abuse, crime, violence on the ecosystem and violence on the people.

1: Promote and Fund More Education and Promote Decolonized Education in all our Schools– greater spending on education and training for public schools  and charter schools can enable higher-skilled workforce. There has been a huge shortage of teachers on Guam because less and less teachers are willing to work for the system that has not supported teachers and students as greatly as it should. Especially on Guam where the island is short of over 200 certified teachers for public schools. Some public high school students have had to retake classes because only Aids and Substitutes were available for the whole semester causing the students to not get credits for the semester that they had no certified teacher available. With poor education, poverty and substance abuse increases. State schools are failing and government mandated education forces everyone to learn the same and often useless material despite the unique interests and learning styles of each individual. The curriculum is designed more to serve the purposes of corporations and the government than those of the student. The current colonial established indoctrination/education system has shown to fail in many areas. It is time to diversify materials and content, teach to learning outcomes that address power and social justice; design assessments that allow diverse students to demonstrate mastery in diverse ways; involve students in the creation of decolonized knowledge, content, and curriculum; embrace diverse language usage in interactions, decolonized writing and tests; involve oneself at the institutional, local, state and national levels to advocate for equity and implement education on Indigenous Rights in the classroom and Ancestral Wisdom. Proper Sex Education is also part of Ancestral Wisdom and should be taught to prepare children for the realties of the world that they would otherwise learn through Social Media and Entertainment. Especially with a rise in rape and molestation amongst children, It is Extremely important that all children are taught how to protect themselves and know what to do in situations of abuse. 

2:  Promote and Fund More Green Jobs – Lift people out of poverty and reduce environmental impact at the same time while also moving people with non eco-friendly jobs into sustainable green jobs to ensure job security. 

3: Promote and Fund Renewable Energy , “New Energy” Technology and Safe Rain Water Collecting Systems - Lessen the High Cost of Energy and Water while reducing Environmental Impact at the same time (as Palau's/ Belau's government has done since 2019 where majority of their residents receive free small solar panels and rain water collecting tank systems to help lessen cost of energy and water while reducing environmental impact) 

4: Promote and Fund all Programs and Non Profits on Guam that Provide Resources and Shelter for the Homeless and those in Poverty - Lift people out of Poverty and improve the livelihoods of our people. We currently have no more permanent shelters available on Guam as there is not enough funding to keep the programs running. We need to act quickly.

5: Promote and Fund All Prevention Programs and Non Profits on Guam that are directly working with Survivors of Sexual Assault, Trauma, Violence and Drug/ Substance Abuse - Lift people out of addiction and abuse and improve the livelihoods of our people. We must take aggressive action towards this as it is increasing the rate of trauma that is passed on to future generations.

6: Ban Non-Recyclable Disposable Waste as FSM did and Promote and Fund All Programs and Non Profits on Guam that are working directly towards Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change - Reduce our Environmental Impact through education and action so future generations can sustain themselves. According to Scientist in 2022 we have already done irreversible damage to the Earth and have less than 3 years to act quickly before we do every irreversible damage left. Federated States of Micronesia banned the importation of disposable single-use plastic and styrofoam food service items in order to promote sustainable packaging. FSM president David Panuelo signed the emergency regulation in 2020 stating that FSM-based businesses are no longer allowed to bring in plastic disposable straws, non-reusable plastic cups and single use plastic shopping bags into the country. Guam must do the same as we see a huge waste crisis that continues to grow. We must also demand that more support goes towards the vital work being done on the island to create environmental sustainability and address climate change.

7: Lower the Cost of Water, Food, Gas, Goods, Rent, Housing etc.. while also Raising the Minimum Wage - An absolute Must to help improve the livelihoods of our people to prevent poverty and gentrification. The cost of living on Guam is too high. In 2015, Palau’s president, Tommy Remengesau, announced a reduction in the number of charter flights between China and Palau, in response to environmental and social concerns. At its peak in 2015, 169,000 tourists arrived in Palau and the country’s power, water and sewage systems struggled to cope. There was huge inflation, and the price of food and rent skyrocketed. Locals struggled to survive and the government had no choice but to reduce the flooding of tourist they received yearly, mainly from China to end the inflation in the cost of living. China put a ban on Tourism to Palau because of Palau's Independent stance but Remengsau saw this as “a blessing in disguise”, giving Palau a chance to reevaluate its approach to tourism. President Remengesau was very clear about the direction which is “High-value, low-impact sustainable tourism.” For Guam it is not the Tourism industry that has caused a huge inflation in the cost of living, but the Military Build Up which has caused landlords and businesses to raise prices and profit off the build up while also pushing people in the lower class, mainly local and indigenous residents, into poverty. Our Leaders Must act immediately to ban the rise in the cost of living and also increase the minimum wage ($9.25) which is not a living wage on Guam.

8: Return Land Back to all the Indigenous people of Guam who are Fighting for their Land to be Returned and Ensure that All Guam War Reparation Claims Be Paid Now - The military, which currently is building a new Marine Corps base in Dededo, has said the ongoing buildup will result in the military holding less land than it currently occupies - a "net negative" commitment. And in 2018 Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo introduced a bill that would require the military to maintain a public online inventory of the land it plans to return under that net negative commitment. The bill did not pass. There needs to be more pressure to push this bill once again and allow our indigenous land owners to have their land returned...their Land which was taken from them by force by the U.S. Military after the war with very little compensation given to the locals by the military in return as low as $1.00 per acre for some families. The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission in Washington, D.C., has announced that 32 World War II survivors from Guam have been approved to receive $10,000 each under the war reparations program. While this is certainly good news for the survivors, the approval represents fewer than 1 percent of the 3,656 Guam applications filed. That is an injustice. The claims should be quickly reviewed, approved and paid. The reparations, which are being paid using money that would be allocated to Guam anyway, will come too late to help most of those who survived wartime atrocities. Now the compensation will be paid, but it will be paid using Guam's Section 30 revenue -taxes withheld from the paychecks of federal and military personnel who work on Guam. Sadly, each week we lose more survivors. We need to speed up the process, so those who suffered can see some compensation while they are still with us.

9: Require and Enforce Proper Inclusionary Zoning Laws - Require developers to include 50% affordable units in their development regardless of the year in which they are established, while providing developers, who abide by the inclusionary zoning laws, with the incentive of tax abatements to offset the cost of building more affordable housing.

10: Control the Amount of Settlers who can move to Guam and buy Land- As more and more indigenous people on Guam fall into poverty, more landowners are catering to military or foreign settlers who have a higher income. Less indigenous people are owning land on their own island and more settlers from America, Asia or elsewhere are owning land on Guam. This gentrification needs to stop and measures need to be taken to control this tragedy that is happening at a rapid rate. 

11: Remove All Corrupt Politicians and Government Workers who Continue to Protect Perpetrators and Criminals or are Perpetrators and/or Criminals Themselves - There's a long list on Guam but better to start now than never. From police officers to judges, social workers, lawyers ,senators and so on, we have seen so much corruption here and we cannot allow them to steal justice from us and future generations.

12: Make Free Public Transportation More Accessible to the Public - Lift people out of transportation poverty and give them better access to meeting needs like Health Care, Substance Abuse Recovery and so on..

13: Promote Indigenous Healing and Stop Ignoring Indigenous and other forms of Holistic Science- While modern science and the medical industrial complex has done a lot to help people, there are still many things that some of the pharmaceutical drugs and treatments cannot do as well as indigenous and holistic medicine and healing. The problem for the corporations is that indigenous holistic medicine and healing is often free or cost little while pharma drugs and treatment make a huge profit. We can heal more people suffering from mental health issues, substance abuse, addiction, sicknesses, diseases, injuries, trauma etc.. if we promote Indigenous and Holistic medicine and healing just as much as we promote the medical industrial complex. 

14: Promote and Fund All Programs and Non-Profits on Guam that continue to carry on our Indigenous Culture - On an Island that has suffered the longest amount of time of Colonization in the Pacific, Guam has been through many challenges, gentrification, trauma, abuse and the oppression of our people, culture and indigenous language. It is very important that we value and promote our culture and language for generations to come.

15: End the Censorship of Free Speech and Promote Independent Non-Bias Media-  We rely on the media to be informed about what’s going on in the world. It shapes our thoughts, values and beliefs about society. With consolidated corporate control of the media, we don’t get the whole picture. Without accurate, honest, transparent and diverse information we can’t make informed decisions about our lives. A handful of corporations own the media and their influence is not transparent to viewers. Their intrinsic conflict of interest limits our access to diverse perspectives. Our vision for the Media Sector would be that Everyone has access to a wide range of diverse and accurate information from sources that are transparent about their funding and which include in-depth analyses and honest debates about controversial issues. An example of bias controlled media would be how the military has public affair officers that work within our local news media outlets and controls what kind of information gets out to the public. We must end this.

16: Educate the Public more Properly and Transparently on Dangers and Threats to our Ecosystem, Economy and People by Sharing Crucial Information like the Military's SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement) for example- The Government and Mainstream News Media Outlets continue to fail to properly address some of the most harmful threats to our ecosystem, economy and people. For example The Military's SEIS which was written by the military themselves describes how they admit that their build up will contribute to contamination of our drinking water, our land and increase deforestation, displacement, gentrification, homelessness and much more. This crucial information has not been properly given to the public as it should. We demand that the government takes this and all threats to our island and its people seriously and educates our island properly about it with 100% transparency.

17: Make Vasectomies part of Free Healthcare Benefits and make it Mandatory Procedures for All Men who are “Not Ready to be Fathers” as well as all Registered Rapist and Pedophiles and Provide Free Birth Control  - With a high rate of sexual assault and poverty on Guam and no abortion doctors available to the public, We must take more serious measures on preventing unwanted pregnancies of our women and girls. Vasectomies are a great way to do that and they are reversible and if the government is going to make laws to make abortions a crime, then they need to show an equal amount of control over men's bodies. And Birth Control must be provided under free healthcare for all. 

18: Accept Every Childs Testimony of Abuse and Molestation and Stop Housing Children, including Foster Children and Adopted Children, with Abusers/Rapist - What seems to be a consistent problem in the foster and adoption system through CPS and the government is that many children who are removed from their families are put in homes with abusers and molesters. According to a John Hopkins study, children in the Foster Care and Adoption System are 4x more likely to be molested. Indigenous, P.O.C. and Black children make up the majority of children who end up in the foster system and are abused.  And many of the children who are removed from their homes are not removed because of abuse but because of poverty. And what's worse is that the courts do not accept a child's testimony when they say they are being abused or raped. We need to end poverty and substance abuse so children can have safe homes with their biological family. Unless the biological family members are abusing or molesting them, there must be actions taken to keep children with their families who just need to get out of poverty and substance abuse. And we Need the Courts to accept Children's testimonies when they say what is happening to them.

19:  Provide Universal Free Healthcare Services- With the rise in cost of living on Guam, what also should have changed was the qualifying limit for benefits and healthcare services. More people should qualify for these benefits and services and there should be more social workers hired to accommodate the increasing rate of poverty. There are currently less than 14 social workers on Guam handling every single applicant's paperwork for public benefits like Medicaid and FoodStamp and that is not enough. If the government just used a small percentage of the Billions that the military spends in one year, We could provide free healthcare for all And end poverty. 

20: Give Rapist, Pedophiles and Human Traffickers Much Longer Sentences and Rehabilitation - Rather than getting a shorter sentence ( or no sentence) in prison than drug dealers (as is usually the case), our rapist, pedophiles and human traffickers must have much longer sentences, as long as 20 to 30 years to make the severity of the problem more clear to the community creating a safer place for our people, predominantly our women and children who make up the majority of survivors of assault and trafficking. 

We demand that our leaders in our government on Guam take aggressive action to address all these issues. And if it is too much to ask for any of our leaders, then we suggest they reconsider their position as a Leader on our Island where we Teach our Children the Sacred Promise of our Inifresi, our Guam Pledge, to protect and defend the beliefs, the culture, the language, the air, the water and the land of the Chamorro, which are our inherent God-given rights.

Ginen i mas takhelo’ gi Hinasso-ku,
i mas takhalom gi Kurason-hu,
yan i mas figo’ na Nina’siñå-hu,
Hu ufresen maisa yu’ para bai hu Prutehi
yan hu Difende i Hinengge,
i Kottura,
i Lengguahi,
i Aire,
i Hanom yan i tano’ Chamoru,
ni’Irensiå-ku Direchu ginen as Yu’os Tåta.
Este hu Afitma gi hilo’ i bipblia yan i banderå-hu,
i banderan Guåhan.



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