The Oddest State-of-the-State

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - January 30, 2008
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Admittedly, Hawaii politics has been, is, and probably forever shall be an oratorical wasteland. Bill Quinn could be jocular, Jack Burns dour, George Ariyoshi earnest, John Waihee and Ben Cayetano ... well .... hard to describe, those two.

None of them, in my fading memory, ever rose to the level of eloquence.

But none that I can recall ever gave a more peculiar speech than Gov. Linda Lingle’s sixth State-of-the-State address.

It was a speech in search of a theme. It began with an expression of humility and of gratitude for the gift of the governorship - then something about Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008, being “the first day of the rest of my administration.” Huh?

Lingle followed with a homily on personal responsibility, beginning with the thought that “recent reductions in the projected rate of growth of tax revenues present us with an opportunity to renew our sense of ‘ohana and to take greater responsibility for Hawaii’s future.”


(When the money’s rolling in, we don’t have to be personally responsible?)

In this vein, the Governor urged Hawaii’s people “to get involved in our places of worship, our schools and our community,” not to abuse children, not to abandon cars along the roads, and to eat our peas and carrots and exercise - among other personally responsible things.

Nothing wrong with any of these sentiments, of course, but there was a banal, school-teacher quality to them that certainly doesn’t rise to the level of the state’s chief executive and policy-maker.

Then Lingle turned to innovation and the one good line in the entire speech:

“It is as certain as night follows day that we cannot speculate or see ourselves into prosperity.”

So what to do?

Innovate, of course, and reorient the economy toward science and innovation.

How? “

By combining,” the governor said, “the native Hawaiian cultural values of aloha aina and respect for the ocean, with a skilled, well-educated population that believes innovation in all things is the path to success.”

Whoa. Let’s try that again: “... population that believes innovation in all things is the path to success.”

That’s hard to square with Hawaiian cultural values or those of any other culture represented in the state, save those elite few who live in the digital culture of our tiny technology industries.

And you would think a Republican governor would understand the value of a more conservative approach.

How might that conservative saint Ronald Reagan put it?

“Hesitate before you innovate,” perhaps. “Then evaluate.” Particularly if you want to maintain what is unique in these Islands.

That said, the governor’s proposals for creative academies and tax deductions of $20,000 per year for families saving for a child’s college education made sense.

So too did her appeal for cooperation between herself and the Legislature in pushing for energy independence for Hawaii.

“Today, Hawaii is the most oil-dependent state in America ... and this has to change!”

Yes, and the exclamation mark is warranted.


The problem is that such has been the case for a long, long time; and many in the Legislature have trumpeted the need for dramatic moves to lessen that dependency.

But Lingle has done little, as had the Democrats who preceded her.

The state needs a massive, concerted, specific program to end that energy dependence: not just in the interests of Hawaii, but in the interests of the planet.

Lingle mentioned the Airports Division’s “plan to develop large solar power arrays at 12 government sites across the state.”

Good start, but a late one. Much, much more is needed - now - to encourage energy dependence.

The governor finished with the damnedest proposal I have ever heard from any Hawaii Governor, not to mention one with an “R” in back of her name: that the state of Hawaii go into the hotel business.

Wow! Hilton, Marriott, all you fancy hoteliers, watch out. Here comes the state of Hawaii.

How will we compete? With creative financing: “a tax check-off on our income tax returns” or perhaps “a worldwide Internet fundraising campaign to ‘Save Hawaii’s North Shore.’”

(You have to like the latter, taken straight from the Barack Obama and Ron Paul school of fund-raising.)

A peculiar speech, I tell you. A peculiar speech.

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