A measure authored by Senators Telo Taitague, Joanne Brown, and Tony Ada which removes multiple voting rights for members of the Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB), received support from representatives of the tourism industry during a public hearing held Friday.
Currently, Guam law allows GVB members – natural persons, partnerships, and corporations – to acquire multiple voting rights in the election of individuals to serve on the GVB Board of Directors, on the basis of one (1) vote for each annual contribution of One Hundred Dollars ($100.00). Contributing members may be present and may vote by proxy, provided written authorization is communicated in advance to GVB.
If passed, Bill 81 removes such a method of selecting members to serve on the GVB Board of Directors which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for small businesses across our tourism industry to have a seat at the table. The measure further eliminates opportunities for well-funded members of GVB to monopolize or otherwise unfairly influence decisions involving the use of taxpayer resources, particularly revenues of the Tourist Attraction Fund.
According to former GVB board member Monte Mesa, “the results of the GVB membership [Board of Directors] each election year, should not be controlled by a few persons or a few businesses who have purchased up to 10 memberships or more to control the voting outcome of the GVB Membership Directors election. The election does not truly represent the broader interest of the GVB general membership but only allows a few members to control the elections of the four (4) membership representatives each election year.”
Businessman Roberto Fracassini shared that “due to the voting system now in effect that allows proxy votes to be counted, small companies like mine and single individuals like me, have no possibilities. In effect, big corporations can easily present proxy votes in big quantity in support to their selected candidates, while small companies can’t. I therefore recommend to change the GVB voting system and allow to consider proxy votes only in exceptional cases. If these changes are made, small companies and individuals who have a demonstrated knowledge and experience in the field of Guam tourism, will have the possibilities of being elected as Board Members and therefore provide good service to the community of Guam.”
Tourism executive William Nault commented: “When a person or an entity can purchase votes because they possess the means to purchase more votes, the process tends to become more ‘favored to certain interest’ rather than to provide a full and fair representation to the industry players. Tourism should not be politicized and should be placed in the care of those with the interest of the industry as its main interest and of importance. Having a fair and a meaningful election will bring about more who will be interested in becoming more involved and will create more ideas and solutions that will help our industry as well as our island.”
“I support this bill. This is what we need for the small business owners,” added businessman Ken Haga.
“The changes proposed in Bill 81 will help diversify membership on the GVB board particularly at a time when an unprecedented global public health emergency has compelled communities such as ours to reimagine and rebuild our product. Moreover, a one-vote-per-member system provides a level playing field for all types of businesses that support our tourism industry and ensures they have a role in the decision-making process, notwithstanding the size of their company’s bank account,” Senator Taitague stated.
She added: “With Bill 81, more entrepreneurs from across the industry – small businesses such as food vendors, crafters, musicians, recreation enthusiasts and so much more – will finally have an opportunity to serve on the GVB Board and provide ideas that prioritize Guam as a safe, family-friendly, and culturally rich destination.”
(Senator Telo Taitague Release)