Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, January 7, 1998


Will 1998 be Hawaii's year of change?

HOW many conferences add up to real change? Hawaii just finished the year of conferences, but it is anybody's guess if this will be our year of change.

The much-publicized task force created by Gov. Ben Cayetano and supported by the leaders of the state Legislature is just one of many conferences that popped up in 1997.

They were aimed at helping the economy, redefining our community ethos and focusing attention on the state's business and social needs.

Now that they are completed, the governor and the Legislature still have to do something, or simply let the state become resigned to being run by an economy based on foreign-owned hotels, government spending and whatever the military cares to toss at it.

Here are two quotes to mull over. The first is by David H. Burnham, a businessman:

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood...Make big plans, aim high in hope and work."

Despite the Economic Revitalization Task Force's claims to be flying along at 30,000 feet and seeing the big picture, there were no big plans and even less assurance that what was suggested would work.

The task force, the governor and the legislative leaders actually ignored much of what was recommended by the subcommittees, which were proposing a real restructuring of government.

Although Cayetano protests that he has done much to cut down the size of government, there has been little real change, save for chopping off some programs added by his predecessor.

After three years, the face of state government is a tad leaner, but relatively unchanged.

Cayetano has taken at least two swings at reorganizing government, but has yet to make a real difference.

Clearing the chairs off the deck is a lot different than setting the ship on a new course.

The second quote comes from an anonymous Democratic supporter I remember button-holing former Governor Waihee, who was touting plans for a new state low-cost housing project.

"How many roofs, I want to know how many roofs," he said as a statement, not a question.

In some ways, you can't fault Cayetano, because we are buffeted between the economic shocks of California and Asia.

His is not an economy to determine alone.

If he wasn't able to change the state bureaucracy and really couldn't budge the economy, Cayetano has at least tried to stir spending by pumping money into state construction.

But now, despite Cayetano's well-intentioned billion-dollar construction plans, the value of public and private construction contracts decreased 5 percent in the first 11 months of 1997, according to a new survey.

MEANWHILE, Hawaii edges closer to simply dropping out of the economic scene.

If many more business people read stories such as how building a wedding chapel on a private estate can engender a huge community debate and how the Hawaii Community Development Authority plans for May hearings on a proposal to designate two parcels in Kakaako for hotels, then Hawaii will have to admit it doesn't get it.

If the Legislature and the governor don't realize how far away Hawaii is from the economies of the 21st century and how dramatically we must change, then 1998 may be the year of the Titanic, not the tiger.



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




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