Our friends in the Navy took us all by surprise last week. After a year of controversy and, frankly, their mishandling of the military buildup, the Navy finally acknowledged our pre-eminent role in this. We started formal discussions on the buildup, and we were in the driver’s seat from the start. Ray and I laid out our concerns. We talked about Pagat. We talked about land. We talked about championing some long-standing political issues for Guam.
By the time we were done talking, the Navy was immediately prepared to make fair and reasonable concessions. It turns out, the Navy has been listening to the people all along. They’re not taking Pagat village. They’re not even affecting it or restricting its access. And as for war reparations, political status, compact impact, visa waivers and even our EEZ? The Defense Department recognizes that we don’t have voting representation in Congress, and we don’t have any lobbyists in the federal agencies. They’re going to partner with us and help us to get what we want. Unknown to many is that they worked with Congresswoman Bordallo last year and advocated for war reparations in the House of Representatives.
The most promising concession they made, though, was on the shrinking of the federal footprint. Ray and I said from the campaign that we didn’t want the federal government to have any more land without giving any back. We already live in an island with limited land resources. We need all the real estate we can get.
We immediately started thinking about what that land could mean for you. I know that, as this buildup continues, everything will become more expensive, especially housing. We’ll need more schools and health centers. Over the next few months, when we iron out details of land returns, I’ll be calling in the Superintendent of Education and my housing directors to plan this out. I’d like to see the struggling young mothers and fathers have a real shot at the Guamanian Dream of homeownership for their families. These ideas are still fresh, but the return of land opens up a realm of possibilities for affordable housing.
It also means more real estate for more public schools. Now, if you’re a parent in the northern schools, you see how crowded students are. We need more schools up north, but there isn’t too much land left over. I’ll be working with the Yigo, Dededo, Tamuning, Mangilao and Barrigada mayors and vice mayors about these possibilities.
I’m very happy about these unprecedented turn of events last week. It’s still early, but it is nice to dream about all that can happen. After all, part of our Guamanian Dream was preserving Pagat village and getting land back. As it turns out, dreams do come true.