Wednesday, July 9, 1997

Hawaii needs more
progressive leaders

A new breed of progressive mayors is emerging in America's big cities. In an article in the New Republic magazine, Peter Beinart describes them as leaders dedicated to making the cities more efficient rather than patronage machines aimed at appeasing political constituencies.

The article names Michael White of Cleveland, Richard Daley of Chicago, Steven Goldsmith of Indianapolis, John Norquist of Milwaukee, Richard Riordan of Los Angeles, Rudolph Giuliani of New York and Ed Rendell of Philadelphia. Some are Democrats, some Republicans. All have bucked established forces to introduce unconventional methods.

White, for example, although a Democrat, a black and the son of a union activist, supported an end to forced busing and school vouchers for parochial as well as other private schools. He made city workers compete against private firms for garbage collection, road maintenance and other contracts. Now he's trying get control of Cleveland's public school system so he can get rid of people who aren't directly involved in education.

Daley has cut 1,700 administrative positions from Chicago's schools, reduced the cost of school maintenance by forcing 17 different school employee unions to compete with private firms, eliminated a projected deficit of $1.3 billion and initiated a remedial summer school program. Rendell saved more than $20 million by introducing competition into 33 different city services, reduced taxes and raised Philadelphia's bond rating, which had been dismal. Comparable achievements are described for the others.

All this is noted here because of what is going on in Hawaii. Innovative efforts at privatization of public services by neighbor island mayors are being stymied by the Legislature, with the governor going along.

After the state Supreme Court, ruling on a suit brought by the United Public Workers, found illegal Hawaii County's contract with a private company for land-fill operations, the Legislature -- particularly the Senate -- refused to change the law. Governor Cayetano has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of Maui's Linda Lingle, Hawaii's Stephen Yamashiro and Kauai's Maryanne Kusaka to call a special legislative session to take remedial action and erase the threat to hundreds of contracts.

This is sheer pandering to a powerful public employee union -- the kind of politics that resists change for fear of losing votes. It's one reason for the high cost of government, which in turn is a factor in Hawaii's economic stagnation. It also has something to do with Hawaii's mediocre public school system.

Hawaii voters should reward leaders who are trying to make government more efficient and get more reform-minded people into the Legislature to change laws that inhibit change. It's happening in big cities on the mainland and it can happen here, too.

Pro Bowl returns

IN competition more fierce than that seen on the artificial turf of Aloha Stadium, Hawaii won an extension of its contract with the National Football League to host the Pro Bowl for at least four more years. Retaining the all-star match-up involved not only an increased ante by the state and an NFL interest in the Asian market but a strong local appeal that apparently could not be matched by bidders from Orlando, Fla.

Governor Cayetano and City Councilman Mufi Hannemann, whom the governor appointed to head the negotiating committee, are to be commended for their success in keeping the Pro Bowl in the islands. So are the many residents who have created an atmosphere that pro football's superstars appreciate. The NFL's decision is partly about money but it is mainly a testament to the aloha spirit.

Dormitory surplus

LONGTIME residents who can remember when the University of Hawaii at Manoa had no dormitories may find it hard to believe that the university now has more dormitory space than it can fill.

The university is planning to convert a 267-bed dormitory into short-term visitor housing. With the state short of prison space, UH had better watch out.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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