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Isle task force unlikely to 'reinvent government'


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POSTED: Sunday, November 01, 2009

Google “;task force”; and the search will spout a list of close to 50 million bits.

Add “;Hawaii”; to narrow the sift and you'll still turn up 1.5 million, a robust number that's not surprising, seeing as how government leaders in this tiny Pacific paradise have an exceptional fondness for appointing groups to study some troublesome subject or another.

These coteries frequently are predisposed to reach conclusions or solutions that support the appointive leader's views, and, if not, to at least bear responsibility for an unpopular decision, thus allowing the leader to say, “;Hey, wasn't my idea.”;

Leaders also “;task force”; stuff so they can appear to be doing something, but often what panels produce — at the cost of millions of tax dollars doled out to consultants, experts and interest groups — are sheaves of dead trees to be waved around at news conferences, then put on a shelf. (Remember the Hawaii “;sustainability”; task force?)

Not all task forces come up quite as empty. The group that last month recommended demolition of part of the Waikiki natatorium did its job, yet action on what probably ranks as the longest-running example of political dithering in the history of the city remains undone.

But with public employee contracts to sign, television shows on rail transit to produce and battles over property tax legislation to manage, City Hall has been busy. Besides, every natatorium option will involve heaps of cash the city doesn't have, so what's another month or two or three?

One task force that doesn't have the luxury of lax deadlines is assumed to be hard at work at the state Capitol. The group of 10 has been assigned to reinvent government, a big agenda for a new beginning that just had its first meeting last month.

Created by the regrettably permanent task force called the Legislature, the group is supposed to “;examine the current operations and organization of state government and make recommendations on making state government more efficient,”; according to the resolution approved earlier this year.

Talk about a heavy load.

That lawmakers expect the enormous undertaking be complete before their next session, which is just three months away, indicates they aren't really serious about reinventing government, that their task force is merely pretense.

The group consists of two legislators and representatives of labor unions, business groups and administration officials.

Not to say these people don't have ideas, but they are mostly there to protect their own. A genuine search for solutions would be broadly inclusive.

As distressing as the state's financial crisis is, it presents an opportunity to figure out what is important to those of us who call Hawaii home, to find a way to balance our collective needs so to live as well as we can.

Had they been interested in sincere reform, in trying to find ways to effectively provide necessary government services while trimming costs, legislators would not have glibly shuffled off their duty.

Let not a Google on “;reinventing government”; be a search for futility.