A Chance For Lingle To Be Great
Wednesday - January 04, 2006
Let’s call this column: “Odds and Ends from the Old Year.”
First, from the Whining, Unappreciated Columnist section of “Mostly Politics.” Again, in 2005, no one - absolutely no one - paid any attention to me. In the waning weeks of the year I wrote a column urging Gov. Linda Lingle to take the entire state budget surplus of $400 million, $500 million or $600 million - the number seems to change daily - and launch a renaissance in public education.
I don’t think the ink was dry on the good guv’s copy of MidWeek before she announced that she was going to give $300 million back to the folks in the form of tax rebates - in other words, a little election year cash to remind the taxpayers how much she loves them.
And how much will that be? $100 per family? $200 per family? $300? Who’s doing the math here?
So I’m talking about this tax rebate with my librarian colleague, Eric Flower. Flower is a smart guy. Knows computers, technology - math and dollars, too. Says he of Lingle’s proposed rebate: “With $300 million she could do three great things that would last for 50 years, or she could give it back to us and we could buy Budweiser and piss it away at the beach.”
And by the way, Eric knows Budweiser too.
Others concur, besides some Democrats in the Legislature, at least a few who supported Lingle some four years ago. Says one retired businessman buddy of mine, his face furrowed in a frown I’ve seen him give errant employees - me, and now the guv: “Fix the schools. You’ve got the money, fix ‘em.”
Yes, do. For the better part of the 1990s, a slowdown in Japanese tourism to Hawaii forced state government to skimp on just about everything: school maintenance and repair, support for affordable housing, you name it. Then came 9/11, and we skimped some more.
Now the money’s pouring in. Use it. Explain to the voters your reasons for doing so, and do it.
And, in Gov. Lingle’s case, there’s no political risk at all. Last I looked, the donkeys can’t find a single solitary ass to run against her. She may win by acclamation.
So please, good guv, don’t piss this opportunity away - along with the Budweiser.
Second, from the Too Much of a Good Thing Dept. of “Mostly Politics:” Hawaii set a record for visitor arrivals in 2005 - a projected 7,446,000, the state’s first 7 million year.
Those numbers help explain, of course, the state’s budget surplus and its low unemployment rate and ...
Well, and some things that are not so positive. More traffic, for example. A Waikiki, a Hanauma Bay, a North Shore during the high surf months that local folks can barely tolerate.
Parts of the Neighbor Islands that look increasingly like Oahu, i.e.: overbuilt and congested.
And tourism prognosticators tell us 2006 will bring even more, some 220,000 more. To be sure, that means more state tax revenue; but it also means more traffic, more stress on our parks and beaches, and fewer places in which residents can feel comfortable.
At some point, tourism authorities need to stop grinning, call in the planners, and ponder how we can continue to host so darn many people without destroying the place and the experience that brings them here. In a recent issue of Esquire magazine, some smart-ass writer listed Hawaii as a place that doesn’t live up to its advanced billing. Let’s hope 2005 7 million-plus visitors don’t agree.
Finally, from the “Mostly Politics” Letters section, a sobering e-mail from one of my students last semester - a young Filipina nurse who has come back to school in pursuit of another degree. She writes in anguish about Army Sgt. Myla L. Maravillosa, “my classmate at Leeward Community College two years ago who was killed on the night of Christmas Eve.
“The saddest part is that she was a 24-year-old, bright student who excelled in everything and wanted to become a diplomat. ... What is it that the president wants to accomplish in Iraq that so many young and old soldiers are dying? What will the effect be on the mothers who carried these soldiers as children for nine months? The hardships they endured raising their children until the age of 18?
“And then sent to war to be killed? Does the president ever care for the people’s well-being?”
I’m afraid with her questions that the columnist as answer man can’t help.
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