Food For Thought 7-18-08
Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.
I understand that the Fitial administration has its hands full right now with more problems than they can handle at one time, but to me that still doesn’t let them off the hook for certain promises they made to us a couple years ago. Their promise to get rid of the fuel surcharge for CUC when they came into office was an absolutely ridiculous promise that I knew there was no way they could ever keep. So I never put any stock in that promise in the first place. But there were other promises that I did expect them to keep, and have been extremely disappointed that their word seems to be about as dependable as the CUC engines and generators.
Before the Governor even took office he promised to come in each Wednesday morning that he was on island to answer any questions and keep the record straight about what was going on. He did fairly well with that for a couple months, then started having back problems so he stopped coming in. But even after he has recovered from his back surgery, I think he’s only been in studio one or two times in the past year. I don’t know if he’s been upset at some of the things I’ve said about his administration in my commentary, or if he just really doesn’t want to have to face some of the questions he knows I’ll have, but I’ve been disappointed that he didn’t live up to his promise of transparency and being accountable to the people in that way. I’m sure he doesn’t like having to come up with answers for many of the problems that we’re currently embroiled in, but isn’t that what we elected him to do, come up with answers and tell us what is going on?
This Governor also promised to end deficit spending and to finally have a balanced budget and only spend what we were taking in, and they claimed they actually accomplished this a year ago or so. But if that is really true, then how is it that we accumulated another $30 million deficit last year alone? You can’t just stop paying some of your obligations and pay only the ones you can afford and call it a balanced budget; it just doesn’t work that way. This administration has certainly tried to spin things in a favorable way, but that doesn’t mean that it was really the truth. The truth is in the figures and the audits, and the last one just pegged our cumulative deficit at $218 million. It’s spiraling out of control and in spite of the measures that have been enacted, it really hasn’t put a dent in our negative cash flow. We need to make much more substantial cuts and stop the needless spending immediately. We still haven’t figured out that we can’t afford to go to stateside conferences and spend money like it grows on trees.
Then what about the promises of prosecutions having to do with the messes that were uncovered at Marianas Public Land Authority, did they forget about those, or are they just waiting for the statute of limitations to run out? It’s been over 2 ½ years, just exactly how long does it take them to build a case? For the longest time we were told they were waiting for the report from the Office of the Public Auditor, but then that report came out saying they had found numerous instances of questionable if not outright illegal activities. But that report has been out for well over a year and still not a single word from the administration or the Attorney General’s office about any follow up or prosecutions for the financial atrocities that took place at that autonomous agency. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been told by the administration to just be patient, there would be an announcement any day now. That was over a year ago!
It’s just more of the same old same old, lots of talk, but never any follow through or results. Why is there such a hesitancy to prosecute white collar crimes in previous administrations? Is there some unwritten code that as long as you don’t prosecute the guys who came before you then the next guy who comes along won’t prosecute you for all your misdeeds either? Of all the promises that were made by this administration and consequently broken, this is the one that disappoints me the most. I expected they wouldn’t really follow through on the rest, but I thought they were as outraged as I was about the blatant corruption and money grabbing that took place at MPLA during the last administration, and I thought they were serious about holding them accountable for it. This administration has proven that they are no more serious about following up the OPA’s recommendations than any other administration has been.
I guess I’m just a bit confused about why we wouldn’t want to go after those who have taken advantage of their positions and misused the taxpayer’s money. We all know it isn’t because we have such a surplus of cash at the moment. This won’t be the first time I’ve suggested such a thing, and it most likely won’t be the last, but can you tell me what the point of even having an Office of the Public Auditor is if we are never going to follow up on their recommendations or make any prosecutions as a result of their investigations? I mean really, why bother staffing the office and having an operating budget for them? If all of their findings just wind up collecting dust anyway and we never see any follow up, then why spend the money and go through the exercise in the first place? Is it just so that we can pretend to be a society of law and order? Is it so that we can appear to respect the law?
And why do we go through the pretense of having enforcement agencies? Sure we have made laws and supposedly we expect those laws to be upheld and enforced, but I think we all know they’re not. So why should we have Fish & Wildlife officers if the Attorney General’s Office is just going to recommend plea bargains for those the Fish & Wildlife officers catch violating our laws, and they only wind up with 6 month sentences all suspended except for the 4 days already served and $25 fines? Couldn’t we save a lot of money if we did away with those jobs since we’re obviously not serious about enforcing anything anyway?
And if the Attorney General’s office can’t be bothered actually taking a case to trial and following the recommendations of the Office of the Public Auditor, why have it then? We could save a bunch of money if we didn’t have to pay all those “over the salary cap” lawyers up there. And why have a court if the judges are just going to slap everyone on the wrists anyway and tell them not to do it again? Just think of all the money we’d save by not paying those salaries and for their office staff. And why have a jail if we really can’t afford to put prisoners in it anyway and don’t have the stomach to actually give out real sentences?
I realize that this may seem absurd to some to even contemplate doing something as extreme as getting rid of all these agencies, but seriously, if we’re not going to get serious about utilizing them, then why have them in the first place? Seriously, what are we really accomplishing if we are not going to utilize them? I believe if you take a look at just how many of the Office of the Public Auditor’s recommendations that have actually been followed up on or been prosecuted over the last 6 years, you will quickly see what I mean. It’s not that their work isn’t good or that they’re not thorough, it’s just that there is no will to actually follow through on their recommendation and push through with prosecutions. I believe if you ask the Public Auditor himself, you will also find that he has been very frustrated by the lack of follow through on any and all of their investigations during his time in the office.
I believe that the Governor, the Department of Public Safety and the rest of the enforcement agencies, the Attorney General’s Office, the courts and the jails would all try to tell us that they are all doing a great job. It kind of reminds me of the Emperor’s new clothes. A scam artist convinced the Emperor that he would make him clothing of the finest material, it was so fine that he couldn’t even see it. The Emperor, being the pompous and vain dictator he was, wanted only the finest for himself, so he paid the scam artist and then went parading around in his new clothes. As he walked down the streets the people all laughed at him as he was prancing around naked. I think all the administration and all these agencies would try convincing us they are all doing a great job, when in reality they are all parading around naked, not accomplishing a thing. I would love to be proved wrong about any of this, please just show me a successful prosecution of any of the former MPLA board members or their questionable attorney and I’ll issue a public apology. But in the meantime, I’m going to go around saying that we’ve been lied to over and over and over again, and that somebody is prancing around naked!
Food For Thought is now available online at www.fftsaipan.blogspot.com and if you want it by e-mail distribution please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.