University’s problems not shocking, just tedious
The state Legislature has slipped into the character of Claude Rains to announce, "I am shocked, shocked."
Unlike Rains' character, Captain Renault, in "Casablanca," the Legislature is shocked not by gambling, but by the crumbling University of Hawaii's Manoa campus.
At issue is the athletic department with its old lockers, rooms empty because there is no money for furniture, and rooms left vacant because of staff shortages.
For all the claims by former UH football coach June Jones that he was driven away by shabby carpets, an unfinished practice field and a paltry recruiting budget, the disparity between UH facilities is such that Mark Richt, the University of Georgia football coach, is paid almost as much as the entire UH football team's annual budget.
The UH and UGA exist not in different worlds of athletic bennies, but different galaxies.
Although the athletic department's financial plight was well enough known that national commentators on ESPN radio snickered that if the UH budget was improved "the football team would get double-ply toilet paper," the message never seemed to make it from Manoa to the state Capitol.
We have a part-time legislature, so voters benefit from the real world experience of lawmakers with some savvy, who have some knowledge of how things work. But the reality of the Legislature's world is more like China the Middle Kingdom as opposed to Christopher Columbus looking for new worlds.
The Legislature does not go out and find problems; problems are brought to the Legislature and the 76 lawmakers ponder a fix.
Lawmakers are not saying, "Let's fix this." They are saying, "Why did you wait so long to tell us?"
Even last year UH came up with nearly $150 million in requests for repair and maintenance, which the Legislature reduced to $40 million with the instruction to figure out how to spend it yourself.
In Hawaii, chronic disrepair of the infrastructure such as neglected roads, harbors, bridges and schools has translated into the way to balance bad budgets. With this year's budget already bleeding red ink, don't expect the state to visiting Home Depot anytime soon.
The only question left is if, like in Casablanca, the 2008 election ends with the voters going out to "round up the usual suspects."