Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Tuesday, February 9, 1999

Cayetano’s and Harris’
plans for Hawaii

HONOLULU is a medium-sized city that makes up 75 percent of the population of a small state. "State of ..." annual messages from the governor and mayor each January thus address heavily overlapped constituencies.

This year each executive focused on four main subject areas.

For Gov. Ben Cayetano they were (1) making state government more productive and efficient; (2) top priority on education to build a well-educated work force; (3) more tax reductions -- eight specific proposals, and (4) an improved business climate and economic diversification.

Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris added a fourth "crusade" to his past years list of three. The four: (1) enhanced quality of life by such steps as keeping the country country; (2) environmental protection -- a subheading under economic development for the governor; (3) smarter, more efficient and more responsive government, and (4) a rebirth of citizen government in which he has 19 vision teams representing every community on the island at work to help create a government "that governs through incentive and inspiration rather than restraint and regulation."

For the mayor there is no talk of tax cuts. He wants more help from state government (which he may not get) to avoid real property tax increases.

The big news headlines went to the governor's proposal to replace the civil service law with a less muscle-bound one and the mayor's focus on light-rail transit possibilities as a supplement to the bus system.

A reading of both texts shows immensely more in the speeches than can possibly be embraced in quick synopses. Fortunately, more of these items will be highlighted publicly in the months ahead as the Legislature and City Council chew on the various proposals.

Our year-round one-house City Council is apt to do it better -- with much more openness and efficiency. It can work in more orderly fashion without adjournment deadlines than can the Legislature, which must finish up in 60 working days.

The Senate and House will consider matters separately, then send their differing decisions to conference committees, really a third house. Most of these will be reconciled under intense deadline and trade-off pressure in the final days of April. Only then, for example, will we learn the final resolution of differing tax proposals put forth from legislative leaders and others, as well as the governor.

Both executives presented solid, meaty proposals that are not pie in the sky. We will have a better community if they can be enacted. Despite budget tightness the mayor proposes more spending on new parks, police stations, fire stations, and satellite city halls. These presumably can be paid from long-term borrowing rather than from current operating funds. The city is in better shape to borrow than the state.

The governor made an inauguration pledge to settle with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs over ceded land ownership and revenues before his term is up. Success will avert possible community polarization and will have to be on budget terms the community can afford. This means settlements much more moderate than those proposed by extremists.

My favorite underpublicized proposal by the mayor is to reroute Waikiki traffic off Nimitz Highway onto a new Sand Island Parkway and a tunnel under Honolulu harbor. The relief on Nimitz would facilitate its being the main artery connecting downtown with Pearl Harbor and Leeward destinations. Harris also wants light rail along Ala Moana Boulevard between Waikiki and downtown.

TOGETHER, Harris contends, these improvements can be a great spur to economic development. If he isn't re-elected next year or runs for governor in 2002 it will be up to a successor to carry through. I hope he can get the ball rolling.

Governor Cayetano likely will have two potentially strong Democrats trying to succeed him -- the mayor and Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono. He has given her the formidable assignment to lead a rule-cutting SWAT team to reduce state rules and regulations by 40 percent over the next four years.

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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