Lack of common sense permeates local politics


POSTED: Sunday, May 03, 2009

Common sense would dictate that drivers shouldn't play video games, debate the next big company project by cell phone or text-Twitter the brahs about the honkin' monsterito burrito they are about to grind while steering down Kapiolani Boulevard.

But they do. And because many drivers don't recognize their physical and mental limitations — they each have only two hands and one brain — a law had to be put on the books to stop them from endangering themselves and others.

Common sense would have big stores and supermarkets voluntarily collect the millions of cans and bottles emptied of the energized teas, carbonated sugar-free pop and alcohol-laden liquids they sell.

Taking back the containers would be way convenient for their customers who would likely reward the sellers by buying more drinks and other goods in the same visit.

Consumers would get back their deposit fees without the hassle of lining up at redemption centers, and the 20 percent or so of the containers that still end up in landfills or as litter would see new life through recycling.

But the stores don't want to do that, so legislators, if they can find a backbone, might pass a law to require it.

Common sense, it seems, isn't all that common anymore. People tend to lose the faculty when issues are narrowed to their own needs or desires. When the natural aptitude disappears, weird convolutions of acceptable behavior have to be spelled out.

Take the crazy law about how motorists should react when someone is crossing a street. It consists of about a zillion words, taking into account all kinds of conditions and situations when the basic deal is that drivers shouldn't harass pedestrians or run them over. It is a sad acknowledgment that common sense cannot be relied on, that motorists amazingly have to be told in exact terms when to put on the brakes for a fellow human being.

It's hard to say why people sometimes stray from the rational.

Why, for example, did the director of the White House Military Office think it would be OK for the stand-in Air Force One to buzz lower Manhattan for a photo shoot? A generously kind assessment would say it was probably a case of not thinking the scenario all the way through.

Not so a pending decision by state land use officials to transform nearly 14 percent of the available farm land on Oahu where dozens of crops like corn and melons grow into a harvest of houses. At a time when food sustainability and curbing urban sprawl are supposedly major government goals, turning under almost 1,500 cultivated acres defies common sense.

Common sense should also prompt the city to take seriously questions residents have raised about the environmental effects of the rail transit system and whether an elevated line is the best way to go. Otherwise, the city could see rail “;superferried,”; with opponents challenging the environmental review process.

Prudence has not been a strong characteristic of decision-makers in Hawaii. Otherwise, a $75 million tax credit for a never-built aquarium in West Oahu wouldn't still be in the red column of the state's budget ledger. Nor would civil unions be denied, undeserved pay raises for legislators stand and hotel tax revenues raided from county coffers.