Lawmakers left in a state of confusion
When a governor gives the annual State of the State speech, the easy way out is to give a corporate annual report.
You can fill it up with numbers and graphs. A governor's staff is large enough to make you appear to be master of all.
Or you can swoop down from the Capitol's fifth floor with the hopes and dreams of your administration. The cabinet members have convinced you of all the programs to be accomplished and all you have to do is enlist the 76 listening legislators as partners.
The third way of delivering the State of the State is to lay down the law. As governor, you can list the big problems: Crime, pollution, overcrowding, no more money and no more gas. Then you tell the assembled 76, we are going to cowboy-up and do this or that.
Last Tuesday, Gov. Linda Lingle used her sixth State of the State speech not to list, or prod, or inspire, but rather to confuse as she launched a new program.
Lingle said the state should buy 850 acres of Oahu's North Shore to block the construction of five hotels next to the existing Turtle Bay resort and golf course.
There is not a politician alive that would speak against getting new parks, but the unplanned shock of the announcement had the 76 mystified.
Back in 2003, when Lingle was giving her first State of the State speech, she warned of a $175 million budget shortfall. Later she went on statewide television to press her case for budgetary restraint -- that is, not spending so much state money.
A large part of her re-election campaign was based on steering the state through times of no money and breaking through with a surplus.
So legislators wondered where was the tighten-the-purse-strings talk.
Also, legislators had just come through a bloody mid-session battle allowing the Hawaii Superferry to sail while the required environmental impact statements were being done. To those on the outside it might now seem like another day in the bureaucracy, but in Hawaii it was a fight over lifestyle, newcomer versus local, and environment against business success. A "Thanks guys, we all became stronger and wiser because of that battle," might have eased the way for some future bipartisan cooperation.
The same hope for some consensus with the pending $200 million land settlement with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, might also have been included in the State of the State.
Instead, the gathered 76 found out that according to Lingle, the state of the state of Hawaii was looking for a way to buy 850 acres of the North Shore.
So when Lingle introduced a Hawaiian troupe to end her speech in song, instead of applause, it served as a way to cover the Legislature's bafflement.