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McNinch grades Guam’s three branches of government

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[Download PDF:Dr. Ron McNinch Rotary Speeh]

IN AN assessment of officials’ performance in 2011, a political analyst has graded each of Guam’s three branches of government – giving the Executive branch the highest grade with an “A-” and a “C-” to the Legislature.

 

University of Guam Professor Dr. Ron McNinch shared his thoughts and views on local politics and government yesterday with members of the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay.

In his discussion, McNinch spoke about the three branches of government and explained his assessment of each area while also addressing deficiencies.

“Politics and government is always great to study on Guam,” McNinch said as he began his remarks. “In fact if there was a Super Bowl of politics, Guam would probably make the playoffs each year, no doubt,” he jokingly added.

Judiciary

The Judiciary of Guam received a “B.” According to McNinch, the Judiciary of Guam “had done exactly what it is supposed to do,” but unlike many other state-level judiciaries, the Guam Judiciary has a large law enforcement-based bureaucracy that muddles its role somewhat, he stated.

He said the Judiciary would receive a solid “A” rating, but that the problematic law enforcement role drops the rating to a “B.” He also suggested this could be improved by better coordination with the Executive branch.

Executive

The Executive branch received an “A-” for doing “exactly what they need to be doing,” McNinch reiterated.

McNinch spoke positively about the Calvo-Tenorio administration, lauding it for its efforts to compromise with the Legislature; its communication and transparency; and its pragmatic solutions to issues.

“They had an active communication plan; they actively communicated to the community what their goals were ... and they were very transparent,” McNinch stated.

“Instead of going to the courts for a lot of issues, they sought very pragmatic solutions and sought to solve problems,” he added, citing the difficult bond issue as one of the problems the Calvo-Tenorio administration fought through.

Legislature

McNinch then delved into the Guam Legislature and explained why he gave this branch a “C-.”

“There is an old saying: ‘Love your congressman, hate the Congress,’ and nothing could be more true about this than the Legislature,” McNinch stated.

“As a body, the Legislature gets a ‘C-’ because some of the senators have done very well – they’ve done exactly what they’re supposed to do – and others haven’t and that’s been to our detriment somewhat,” he continued.

Majority leader Rory Respicio and Minority leader Frank Blas Jr. were commended by McNinch as “great senators,” along with Sens. Tom Ada and Tony Ada.

“They’ve been really low-key,” McNinch said of the Ada senators. “But they’ve been serving the role that the Legislature was really designed to do.”

He also praised Sens. Dennis Rodriguez and Mana Silva Taijeron.

But McNinch also pointed out the problems that plagued the branch.

Among those problems was an overall lack of focus.

“For example, the Speaker also chairs the education committee, the largest budget item,” McNinch said. “While this oversight area has a large support staff, it is difficult to manage two major dominant legislative roles.”

Another problem was the misconception that producing a number of bills means senators are doing their job.

According to McNinch, senators have the false belief that the quantity of bills matters. In 2011, 404 bills were introduced.

“That’s a lot of bills to consider, and a lot of these bills are long and complex,” McNinch stated, suggesting each senator should be limited to one bill per month during their term.

“Guam cannot operate on 360 bills every two years, and really, most of these bills aren’t needed anyway. I think that we need to re-examine what the Legislature is doing and how it’s doing it.”

The last tenet of missteps McNinch pointed out was how the Legislature handled the military buildup.

“Finally, the Legislature obsessed on the military buildup to the detriment of both the community and the buildup itself,” he stated. “The buildup was an opportunity for Guam to rationally plan its economy. It was an opportunity to say, ‘here’s what the future is going to be like’ ... and we fumbled that.”

He said the Legislature seemed to rely mainly on social media for its direction in this area.

“Instead of making a plan, we relied on Facebook,” he said. “Using Facebook to guide public policy is one of the worst things you can do in the government – our citizens deserve better than that.”

Suggestion

As a result, McNinch suggested the creation of a Guam Constitution in order to address existing issues.

“Guam should have a constitution ... that resolves many of these boundary issues, and we could do it,” he said. “My suggestion is to use the Organic Act and don’t change anything.”

Because the Organic Act is already an accepted federal document, McNinch recommended adding an amendment clause. After it gets approved, he suggested holding an amending convention to pass a bi-cameral system with better-defined roles.

“That’s the rational way to do it,” he said.

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