All we really want are some solutions


POSTED: Sunday, July 12, 2009

Whenever one of those comparative studies or surveys about bad roads, cost of living and sundry social conditions about life in America emerges, they get a lot of attention.

People are curious about what others elsewhere have to deal with and how they manage or don't manage to cope. But I doubt drivers jammed in traffic on Fort Weaver Road or the Pali Highway feel better if drivers in Atlanta or Los Angeles have worse jams than the ones they're caught in.

While misery may love company, there's little consolation when comparing a moment of reality to abstract statistics.

A higher rate of foreclosures in Detroit lends no comfort to homeowners who watch helplessly as their Kapolei townhouse or Hilo bungalow are auctioned off. The proprietor of a business gone belly up cannot be consoled by knowing she wasn't alone in losing her livelihood.

When clips of Steve McGarrett swiveling to camera from a balcony of the Ilikai looped over announcements that the iconic Waikiki hotel was shutting down, tourism industry types probably winced. The notion of no publicity being worse than bad publicity doesn't apply when visitor counts and spending persistently dwindle.

To have Gov. Linda Lingle take to the podium to declare that true revenues fell shorter than guesstimates was to be hammered again, even as the figures fueled her fight against union leaders, legislators and her employees.

“;It is important to recognize that we will not be the same government when we come out of this process,”; Lingle said.

What she meant was that she sees a smaller labor force providing fewer services as she launches government into emergency mode with a flurry of urgent actions to contend with a crisis that need not have as been as dire.

She isn't talking about a fresh way of running government, of managing shrewdly, of anticipating problems and finding solutions collectively before the walls tumble down. Neither are legislators, her partners in fiscal malfeasance.

When she said “;we can't possibly look the same or act the same,”; she was referring to the nuts and bolts of the machine, but it will be a remarkable surprise if those at the control panel—the governor and lawmakers—abandon their games of “;gotcha,”; the tag-you're-it techniques at the root of Hawaii's predicament.

A weeklong bout of Lingle and public worker unions playing Alphonse and Gaston on contract proposals has the public frustrated about an end to the nonsense. No one really cares who goes first and no one cares if the offer is on or off the record, written or oral, engraved on fine linen or scribbled on a Post-it.

No one cares if it is the counties' mayors who come up with an agreement, as they seem to have done. If their plan will do the least harm to all parties, the governor should evaluate it and adjust it to fit the state's accounting, despite their stealing her thunder.

There is no solace in seeing other states and cities struggle with money problems, but taxpayers wrestling with personal finances will gain a measure of assurance if government leaders stop some of the madness.

Cynthia Oi can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).