Guam – The search is on for a district office for Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas. As local voters’ unanswered federal concerns mount in the opening weeks of San Nicolas’s first term in the US House of Representatives, the mail is piling up on a local senator’s doorstep.
“We’re just trying to help,” Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee (D) told Newstalk K57 morning radio host Patti Arroyo, live on air, on Friday.
It started with breaking bread: a warm, convivial letter from Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee (D) to Guam’s lone representative to Congress, Mike San Nicolas. But communication has degenerated into hard-to-manage expectations spanning the 8,000 miles between Biscoe Lee on Guam and San Nicolas in Washington, DC and is now echoing through a concerned community.
Since the congressman has been having difficulty finding a professional space to accommodate the budgetary and federal security requirements of his yet-to-open district office on Guam, Biscoe Lee wrote San Nicolas the letter, offering him a place for his local headquarters at the recently refurbished Guam Congress Building in central Hagatna.
But San Nicolas declined the offer on security grounds during a separate Friday interview with Arroyo.
“So is it out of the question because of these increased security requirements that you will not be able to borrow some space from the Guam Congress Building?,” Arroyo asked San Nicolas over the phone Friday.
“And, if so, could there be money available–funding available–from House services to this office because of this unique situation?”
“First of all, I don’t think we can do that, I mean, just to be very plain. And I mean I appreciate the gesture from the rules chairman (Biscoe Lee), but…knowing the Guam Legislature Building, while, basically, it is a controlled environment…controlled because there is a requirement for two cards to be able to access the building, and those two cards are given to all employees and there’s no way for us to be able to create a secure barrier specifically for Congressional employees.
“Secondly, the mail that comes into the Guam Legislature is handled in a particular way, and there’s no way to set up secure mail receiving protocols that a Congressional office is going to require. And the reason that we have those protocols is because we have some members of Congress who have received white powder in envelopes. I need to be able to handle that in a very unique way to make sure they’re not opening anthrax.”
“Right, and I totally understand that,” Biscoe Lee told Arroyo.
“You know, most recently, [members of Congress] have had an increase in security. There was a shooting with one of our Congressional members.
“[They] actually counseled the Secret Service and Congressional Security to step up their security protocols. So…I totally understand what they’re preparing, so that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to reach out and just make sure that if there was a need for…the space for him…then at least put our constituents in direct contact with him.”
Having worked in Washtington for a number of years, Biscoe Lee said she’s familiar with security standards on Capitol Hill.
But as constituents’ federal concerns accrue and they reportedly have difficulty reaching San Nicolas’ office during business hours in Washington, much less his District Office Director Jennifer Winn on Guam, they default to Senator Biscoe Lee, the local Federal Affairs oversight chair.
“It took a turn, I think, when I had said that because of your oversight of the Committee on Federal Affairs that the constituents are feeling—I’m assuming this is going, because if you can’t get ahold of the district office, or, you know, you’re not going to make a long-distance phone call at three o’clock in the morning to the Congressional office in Washington—that people are going to you because they felt like they had nowhere else to go, and I think he took some exception to you receiving these concerns from the constituents,” Arroyo said to Biscoe Lee on air.
“Was I not reading that right, and did you get the same impression?”
“I did, and, you know, we have received a number of calls and even in-office visits from constituents,” Biscoe Lee said.
“You know, they’re all our constituents, and the people of Guam are the people that we serve. So it’s really important we reached out earlier this morning to Ms. Winn. We called her phone number but weren’t able to reach her this morning. But we’ll continue to try to reach out to get her all of that information to forward onto the Congressman.”
In the interim, San Nicolas shared Winn’s private email account with radio listeners, so they have a temporary form of unofficial contact information in order to help connect the Congressman to Guam voters. That address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although Arroyo pointed out to San Nicolas that the email address he shared for reaching his district director is not a secure channel, San Nicolas did not disagree. And he explained that for the same reason he is reluctant to share unofficial contact information publicly, he wants to set up his district office properly to avoid missing the mark with federal protocols the first time around and seemed to be asking voters to afford him a little patience till he and his team get office matters properly settled.