Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, August 27, 1997


Holding the
politicians accountable

THAT old "direct accountability" thing is just around the corner. Remember how the politicians are forever telling us the virtues of "direct accountability"? You hear it when they tell us how "we are only accountable to the people."

We are told that we must have an elected school board because they are "accountable to the people." We can have an appointed university board of regents, however, because the selecting authority, the governor, is "accountable to the people."

The next time we are offered a chance to judge all those accountable to us will be Sept. 19, 1998, the primary election.

Don't be fooled by the date. We hired them and now is the time to start checking up on the hired hands.

There's several ways to start the job interview process.

First you can visit the Honolulu Star-Bulletin's Internet site to check how Gov. Ben Cayetano thinks he's been doing. Go to http://starbulletin.com/specials/pop97/index.html to read the Cayetano administration's assessment of its work and then a judgement prepared by the Price of Paradise Accountability Group, a nonpartisan citizens outfit.

The best part about the series is the set of questions used to judge how Cayetano is doing.

To get into your own accountability mode, you might want to remember some of those questions when you go to the next Cayetano town meeting.

Perhaps you will be the hand-waver in the back of the room who asks Cayetano:

"What is the increase in funding allocated to public school classes?

"What is the percentage of per pupil spending?"

Or perhaps you will be asking:

"What steps did you eliminate in state contracts? Name the state departments you consolidated."

Or will you be the one who asks:

"Has the percentage of new industries not related to tourism or the military increased? By how much?"

This one isn't from the Internet site, but you might want to toss it out last:

"If you are re-elected, name the members of your cabinet you will replace, and why."

Obviously you won't be able to ask other candidates for office the same questions, but you can ask them to take their best shot at solving the problems Cayetano has been wrestling with for three years.

If the answer is along the lines of "I'll look into it," move on to someone more knowledgeable.

And if this accountability project just doesn't add up, if your response is: "I can do a better job than these jokers," don't just walk away.

THIS is the perfect time for you to start planning for a 1998 election. It takes about three months to see if you have enough friends to form a campaign committee, another three months to round up enough money to start a campaign checking account.

Next year's Legislature will provide even the most sedentary political wannabe with enough ammunition to start a campaign.

Half of the state Senate, all of the state House, all of the City Council, plus two U.S. House seats and one Senate office are up for election next year.

With friends, money and an issue, you can take the process out of the hands of the politicians and give yourself the job.

The real meaning of accountability, the one politicians understand is: Do it better, or we will do it for you.



Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at rborreca@pixi.com




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