Economic blows demand more than promises
It was shaping up as a routine mid-March at the Legislature. Usually, spring comes to the Legislature with promises of action growing into just promises. Where once there were assurances to push forward bills for change, now there are more promises.
After the hopes of January, someone in the House and Senate budget committees puts a pencil to those calls for energy conservation, prison reform, housing and education.
Spring sprouts fiscal reality and the public is left with studies and sincere wishes that the budget were big enough to handle these new issues.
It is the same way every year.
Then this year, reality hit the Legislature.
The state with the governor who turned on the "Open for Business" lamp in 2002 suddenly ran into the down side of a global economy.
We were reminded that Hawaii is part of an international economy that just couldn't care less about this "lovely fleet of islands."
Oil at $105 a barrel could kill Aloha Airlines and global investors in Singapore could lose patience with 7,000 Molokai residents and the stock market would not take notice.
No one at Shell or Texaco is thinking twice about what happens if Aloha Airlines stops flying next month.
The investors in GuocoLeisure LTD, the Singapore investment company that bought Molokai Ranch, don't care if the folks on Molokai are happy campers or not.
Today Hawaii is not just the most isolated speck on the globe, it is equally alone with its economy.
The Legislature that could pump millions into an exasperating study on sustainability for the year 2050, now has to face up to real problems that could hurt or cripple thousands of Hawaii families in months.
The initial costs of the failure of Aloha Airlines would be that 3,500 people would lose good paychecks. The expanded ripple effect on the competitive nature of air travel in Hawaii would continue to hurt the islands for the rest of the decade.
If Molokai loses the ranch, it doesn't mean that 120 have lost their jobs, it means that there is hardly any economy on Molokai.
The calls for a subsistence lifestyle are fine, unless you are the breadwinner in a family with kids who want to go to Columbia to learn history instead going diving to catch tako.
Luckily, Hawaii's Gov. Linda Lingle lived on Molokai and calls it her home in Hawaii. Luckily, the Legislature has enough leaders from the neighbor islands to understand the importance of two competing local airlines.
Today, Hawaii's voters wait to see if the Legislature has the skill to put aside its calls for studies and promises to actually work the economy and keep it viable.