To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, April 5, 1997

Safety through paralysis

I had a boss once who used to keep a stack of paper in his in-basket. He'd deal with day-to-day crises right away, but the really sticky complaints and problems would languish on his desk for months.

I noticed one day that the basket was empty. "What did you do with all that stuff?" I asked.

"Wait long enough and the problems solve themselves," he said. "If I can't think of a good way to deal with an issue, I leave it to ripen. Then, about twice a year I just dump the in-basket into the wastebasket. Works for me."

Passive resistance is a problem-solving strategy better suited to the executive rather than the legislative, however. Legislatures are hives of activity, each bee creating as much buzz as possible to ensure reelection. The foot-tall stacks of new bills on each desk as the House and Senate reconvene in January prove it.

Legislative resistance to change is called compromise. Water down any initiative enough and it becomes either palatable or ineffectual. Pull the tiger's teeth and it can't bite you on election day.

A good example is the governor's $1 billion capital spending plan, a bold stroke to reinvigorate the construction industry, upgrade the public infrastructure and reboot the economy.

As this example of strong leadership left the Senate Ways and Means Committee this week, it was barely crawling -- slashed almost in half to $550 million.

Another big bang becomes a whimper.

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, send
e-mail to or write to
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

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