KIP AOKI / KAOKI@STARBULLETIN.COM
On My Honor
What can be done to restore
public confidence in government?
The criminal convictions of state Sen. Marshall Ige and Honolulu City Council members Rene Mansho and Andy Mirikitani, the recent indictment of state Sen. Nathan Suzuki, the campaign-financing probe into Mayor Jeremy Harris' re-election and gross public-employee thievery at the airport and Ewa Villages have shaken Hawaii voters. What, if anything, the Price of Paradise asked party leaders, can restore public confidence in local government?
A strong two-party system will revive faith | Voters are key to renewing democracy
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A strong two-party system
will revive faith in government
By Micah Kane
MY FIRST job was as a legislative aide for a Democrat. It was my responsibility to staff a "prized committee," one that had a disproportionate impact on developers, architects, engineers and various labor organizations.
I soon observed that certain individuals and special interests were influencing my boss and others on the committee to an unhealthy degree. Disgusted, I quit.
Then, I took a job with the Building Industry Association of Hawaii. Its primary political goal was to reform the state Senate, replacing United Public Workers-controlled senators with Democrats who were honest, fair and open-minded.
It soon became apparent, however, that few candidates could survive a Democratic primary without first snuggling up to union leader Gary Rodrigues. The Democrat Party had become a closed shop.
That's when I decided to check out the Republican Party. This was not easy for someone who was raised as a Democrat.
The Republicans welcomed me with open arms. Now I am the chairman of the party.
Sometimes people ask me, "How could you turn your back on your Democratic roots?" It's a good question.
I have nothing against Democrats. As you now know, I used to be one. Most Democrats are good, hard-working, well-intentioned people. In many cases, including in mine and my wife's, it has been a family tradition to vote for Democrats. Our parents and grandparents voted for Democrats for reasons that were good and noble ... in the past.
THE CURRENT wave of favoritism and corruption is not due to something being wrong with people like us raised as Democrats, but to one party's having had absolute control for many years.
Too many officials did not have to work hard to get where they are now. They consider public service their right, not a privilege. Without the checks and balances of another point of view, they have become arrogant, self-serving and corrupt.
Single-party rule is now just as big a problem as it was 50 years ago when Republicans held power.
History teaches that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The current abuse of power in Hawaii is not random. It is the predictable result of one-party domination. We need competition in the political arena, and we need it now.
MY WIFE'S grandfather was a member of the 442 Regimental Combat Team and lifelong member of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union.
Now, her grandmother is embarrassed by government corruption. She cannot understand how the behavior of so many public officials -- all Democrats -- can be so at odds with her beliefs and core values, which she always assumed were those of a Democrat.
You don't have to be a member of any particular political party to want honesty in government, a stronger economy, better schools and a healthy environment. These are everybody's goals.
Republicans and Democrats may differ over how best to reach them, but we all want the best for the people of Hawaii.
I am proud to be a Republican in Hawaii today. I've worked with many people across our state who want change and are willing to work for it. From every age and ethnic group, income level and profession -- every part of our island community -- they are united in the conviction that "enough is enough."
I also am proud of our candidates in this year's election. They are people of integrity who truly believe government service is an honor and a privilege. They are willing to challenge the status quo against all odds.
MY DEMOCRATIC counterpart, Lorraine Akiba, is trying to help Democrats get elected. I have no problem with that. However, if she succeeds she will compound the problems created by one-party rule: favoritism and corruption.
Several months ago in a different context, Lorraine was quoted saying, "Nothing happens by chance." That's really all I'm saying now.
Favoritism and corruption don't just happen. They are predictable consequences of one political party having too much power for too long. This was true two generations ago, and it's true now.
Hawaii has come full circle. It's time for change.
Micah Kane, former government liaison for the Building Industry Association of Hawaii, became executive director of the Hawaii Republican Party in June 1999, six months after joining the party.
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PUBLIC OFFICE is a public trust. No one has the right to violate that trust and get away with it.
Voters are the key to renewing
the health of our democracy
By Lorraine H. Akiba
In recent months, Hawaii's people have shown that we stand firmly against corruption. From the standpoint of punishment, we have seen that our system works. But punishing wrongdoers is not enough. We must take affirmative steps to remove the temptation to abuse power.
As head of Hawaii's Democrats, I have made that my top priority. After talking with many concerned people across the state, I propose the following initial steps of an action plan:
>> First, require every state employee to sign a code of ethics as a condition of employment. This contract would make expectations explicitly clear. Permanently posted on every state and county government bulletin board, no one could forget it -- not for a minute.
A somber Rene Mansho awaited arraignment in April. Andy Mirikitani, below, entered Federal Court in June 2001. Both former Honolulu City Council members were found guilty of misusing public funds.
>> Second, review laws and policies to ensure that government whistle-blowers are fully protected and that potential corruption is identified early. Let's provide anonymous counsel to those unsure if superiors are asking them to bend the law.
>> Third, eliminate any loophole that inadvertently protects wrongdoers. The Legislature took action last session to ensure elected officials are terminated upon conviction, not sentencing. It's just common sense.
>> Fourth, support the Office of Information Practices. Give it the resources to provide the public ready access to public documents. Citizens, advocacy groups and reporters shouldn't have to climb mountains to get public documents and raise questions about official accountability.
>> Fifth, enact campaign-spending reform. Democrats in the Legislature were on the right track with the measure they passed last session. Both parties should support legislation that erects a wall between campaign contributions and government contract awards.
PUBLIC TRUST has been eroded. We need to fix the system so it does not happen again.
And what if it does? Besides the existing remedies and punishments, I support lengthening jail sentences, barring offenders from future public office and, for a period equal to their jail time, banning them from doing business with the state.
Is character a big issue in this election? You bet, and rightly so. It should be in every election.
Voters should examine each candidate's record and character and vote for those who will do the right thing the right way. Honesty and accountability are essential attributes of any candidate.
For Hawaii's Democrats, the last few months have been a time of soul-searching. Identifying the few bad apples in our bunch has been particularly painful.
Throughout history, Democrats have fought for accountability in business and government. We have demanded stricter regulation of industries such as tobacco, energy and telecommunications, fighting Republicans for every victory.
Last session, Democratic legislators helped Hawaii's consumers by limiting the power of price-gouging gasoline companies who had been sticking it to Hawaii consumers.
We also helped the elderly and families to reduce their cost of prescription drugs by up to 30 percent, and we cut the size and cost of state government by $350 million. At the heart of these decisions were fairness and accountability.
This fall, Democrats will give Hawaii a choice of three gubernatorial candidates. They have different ideas about government reform but share at least one important trait: a clean ethics record.
The recent flap between Republican candidate Linda Lingle and Gov. Ben Cayetano shows that the same can't be said for the GOP, whose front runner violated ethics and campaign-spending rules while she was mayor of Maui.
The Enron, WorldCom and Harken Energy scandals involving her fellow Bush Republicans on the mainland are even worse. Quick to criticize others, Lingle fails to grasp that ethics are not truly tested until you apply them to yourself. Thus far, she has failed that test.
Democracy is the best way to fight corruption. Register to vote. Get involved in a campaign. What better time to teach your children the importance of honor in government than during a political campaign?
Vote and urge those around you to vote. Choose your own level of involvement but get involved. Your ballot has the power to curb corruption and protect democracy from abusers. The cure is in your hands, where it belongs.
Lorraine H. Akiba, a partner in the Honolulu law firm McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon, is chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and former director of the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
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The Price of Paradise appears each week in the Sunday Insight section. The mission of POP is to contribute lively and informed dialog about public issues, particularly those having to do with our pocketbooks. Reader responses appear in Thursday's paper. If you have thoughts to share about today's POP articles, please send them, with your name and daytime phone number, to email@example.com, or write to Price of Paradise, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI 96813.