AT FIRST glance, the survey of candidates being conducted by the We Are Guåhan organization seems like a good idea.
“Specifically,” they say, “we are interested in learning candidates’ views on (a) the proposed acquisition of government of Guam and privately-owned lands; (b) the proposed dredging of reef at Apra Harbor; and (c) funding for civilian infrastructure."
These are fine ideas on which the candidates will certainly have some thoughts. But then We Are Guåhan presents them with five yes or no, take it or leave it questions allowing for no contextual analysis, no shades of opinion, and no information about what the candidates really think.
Here are the questions:
- Do you support the Department of Defense getting more land?
- Do you support the destruction of over seventy (70) acres of coral reef to accommodate a nuclear aircraft carrier?
- Should the Department of Defense pay for impacts on our water system, wastewater system, roads, port, schools and hospital?
- Do you believe most people on Guam will benefit economically from the buildup?
- Do you support the military buildup?
There they are, five yes or no questions. And in bold type the survey says “any other answer will be deemed nonresponsive.”
Well, that’s a little tough. The military buildup and its impact on our island is a big, complex issue. Only a couple of these questions can easily be answered with a yes or no, and probably none of them should be. The answers need a bit more explanation. Any candidate who responds that succinctly is not being fair with these issues, or with the public that may look to them for guidance.
We think We Are Guåhan is painting itself into a corner with a survey such as this. Some of the questions contain pejorative words or are structured to produce a particular answer. Nobody is going to say they support the “destruction” of coral reef, for example. That is, unless it is militarily necessary to home port an aircraft carrier here and the dredging and enlarging of the harbor is unavoidable.
As with most controversial issues, some give and take must be allowed in order to reach a community consensus on what should be done. We don’t know whether consensus on the buildup is what We Are Guåhan seeks, or whether they are simply trying to brand candidates with a label – for or against, yes or no.
If we were running for public office, we would decline to respond to any survey or question that only allowed for such an arbitrary response. Complicated issues require a little more time, a few more words than a mere up or down, a show of hands.This survey is a disservice to the candidates, and to the public.