Lingle needs someone new to grease the skids
GOV. Linda Lingle spent last week slamming the Democratic Legislature's failure to compromise with her, while lawmakers muttered that it was Lingle with the gap in her communication skills.
Legislative leaders complain that Lingle won't talk, saying they find her inaccessible and remote.
Lingle has always argued that legislators can come see her anytime they want and that she has also made the effort to talk to them.
At the Legislature, there is talking and there is talking.
When Lingle testifies before a committee, it is akin to Dewey and the Great White Fleet steaming into Tokyo Bay. There is the required phalanx of security guards, assembled directors and deputies and a brace of publicists all squeezing into the committee room.
How can such performances do anything but shut off the free flow of dialogue?
DURING THE first five years of her administration, the behind-the-scenes communication was left to Bob Awana, the chief of staff, who resigned June 29 amid allegations that he was involved in several federal investigations.
Lingle has refused to say anything about Awana. When asked about him just last week, she changed the subject.
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, speaking not for attribution, however, say Lingle will find legislative relations even more difficult without Awana around.
The affable former Democrat, who was the chief of staff for former Democratic Honolulu Mayor Eileen Anderson, is the one person Democrats could talk to and whom Lingle could rely on to carry her message downstairs to lawmakers.
For instance, during the tense negotiations among Lingle, the Legislature and Mayor Mufi Hannemann that led to the state allowing Honolulu to raise the excise tax for a mass transit system, Awana was the one who represented the governor.
ASKED IF either Lenny Klompus, Lingle's senior adviser for communications, or Linda Smith, senior adviser for policy, could have done the job, the Democrats say: "No way."
Awana's job is currently being filled by Joy Watari, Awana's deputy, while Lingle searches for a new deputy.
Speculation about a new chief of staff has centered on whether Micah Kane, the former GOP chairman and current Hawaiian Home Lands director, would take the job. Legislators say that someone with Kane's communications skill and understanding of state government is needed.
If Lingle wants to avoid another bitter and antagonistic session, she must find someone to represent her at the Legislature or learn diplomacy without the gunboats.