Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, April 20, 1998

Let awesome auditor
rule the roost

CONSIDERING the shabby state of economic affairs in Hawaii, I think we should just cut to the chase and put Marion Higa in charge of everything.

Higa is awesome. She's the Michael Jordan of government employees. I believe she can fly. Technically, she's only the state auditor, but in reality, she seems to be the only person in government who understands how things are supposed to be run, why they aren't running that way and what should be done to get them running the way they should.

She comes out with these amazingly astute reports on various departments, showing how millions of dollars are being wasted here and there. And she does it in such a pleasant, non-confrontational way that most of those on the receiving end of her scathing manifestos don't even realize that they are being taken to the public woodshed and soundly thrashed.

I don't know Marion. But I'd like to. Hell, I'd like for her to handle my personal finances. This may be a bit overstated, but she appears to be the most competent human being in the entire state.

And that's why I say we should just quit fooling around just hand the reigns of government, the whole shebang, to Higa.

WE can let Ben Cayetano keep his title of governor and Jeremy Harris the title of mayor. And we can let the Legislature and the City Council keep meeting. We'd just have to come up with a title to makes it clear that Marion would be higher than all of them on the decision-making totem pole. I think something like Super Duper Economic Czar or Ultimate Master of the Hawaii Economic Universe would be appropriate.

Higa already has figured out what's wrong with half the departments in state government. Nothing is too complicated or too mundane for her probing eyeball.

She drove the Department of Transportation to distraction with a report that it blew several million dollars in interest by not investing its reserves for two months. She fired a shot over the bow of the state harbors department when she discovered that small boat harbors and docks weren't exactly shipshape. Some University of Hawaii astro-nomers saw stars after she slapped them with a report showing sloppy management of the Mauna Kea summit.

And that was just working with a small staff.

Just think what she could accomplish if we made her the Grand Poobah of All Things Government? With a couple of more staff people she would be able to whip the state into shape and set us on the road to financial prosperity.

It wouldn't even cost anything to hand the reigns of power to her. We could put her on a commission, like the Bishop Estate trustees. Let her keep 2 percent of any waste she cuts from government. That way, the government would be 98 percent leaner and she'd be a multimillionaire practically overnight.

The question is whether she'd want the new post. I doubt it. She seems to enjoy the quiet life as Hawaii's stealth auditor. You don't see hide nor hair of her for months on end and suddenly she emerges into the sunlight with some devastating screed about government mismanagement. She must drive department managers nuts. You know it's going to be a bad day when you see Higa standing in your waiting room with a smile and a briefcase.

Because she has been so successful for the state, the City Council now wants the city to create a county-level auditor. That's not a bad idea, but I doubt that there are any other Marion Higas hiding in the weeds. She seems to be one of a kind.

So the answer is just to put her in charge of everything and everyone else take a break. Hail, Higa.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

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