It’s 2007— The Year Of The Why

Susan Page
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Wednesday - January 10, 2007
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On the Chinese zodiac, this is the Year of the Boar. But 2007 really ought to be the Year of the Why.

Any good reporter goes out and beats the bushes for the “who, what, when, where, how and why” of a news story. The first five questions are facts - the bread and mayonnaise, but the sixth, the “why” - now there’s the meat.

When viewing or reading the news here in Hawaii, I often bemoan, Where’s the beef?” But this “vegetarian” lack of curiosity isn’t just in the media. We citizens, whose voter apathy elected our tax-dollar-spending politicians, should also ask (and be asked) some critical whys.

For example, why was the 2006 Hawaii voter turnout the nation’s lowest - again? Why don’t most people in this state participate in the democratic process? Why are we lazy on Election Day? Why do we feel our vote won’t make a difference? Why do we leave the fate of our tax money to special interest groups that don’t care if you can afford your medicine or you spend three hours a day in traffic?

Here’s the math: Of approximately 975,000 eligible voters, 655,741 are registered - two thirds. But of those, only 42 percent or 276, 693 voted. Of those, 238,151 were Democrats. That leaves only 38,542 votes cast by Republican, Green, Libertarian or non-partisan citizens. (Statistics are from the http://www.hawaii.gov elections results.)

So nearly 698,300 people didn’t vote who could have and should have. If a large number of the Democrat voters were union members mobilized by their respective union (union officials verified huge membership participation last November), then why did nearly 700,000 people go to the beach or watch Oprah or do something other than vote? Their votes could effect the whole political landscape of our state.

It’s no mystery why we’re a state run by special interests - especially unions. The vast majority of us don’t vote. Yes, unions, like no other group, have a large membership base to mobilize, they’re intimidating around the voter precincts, and have big dollars to contribute. They influence elected officials by getting them elected and are owed by the politicians they elect. Yet they still don’t have enough members to influence an election if a majority of our eligible citizens voted.

Why, if the U.S. is split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans, whose political philosophies are distinctly different, and we’ve overwhelmingly elected a Republican governor for two terms, does our state House have 43 Democrats and only eight Republicans, and our state Senate have only five Republicans out of 25?

Why, indeed?

Some other whys that need answers: Why are we getting hosed every year at tax time and every time we fill up or shop?


Why do we live in traffic hell?

Why do potholes eat our cars?

Why are Matson rates going up in 2007? Why is Matson our only option?

Why didn’t the Legislature extend the tax moratorium on gasoline, ignoring Gov. Lingle’s pleas?

Why the huge property tax increases that really hurt our middle class?

Why do our mayor and most City Council members really want a rail system that will cost taxpayers billions long term, likely require more tax hikes, not alleviate traffic woes, and not be accessed by many in our state? Why do the contractors and construction unions in the state love the idea of rail? Follow the contributions.

Why are there so many homeless?

Why are our taxes fifth highest in the U.S.? Why on earth does our newly raised General Excise Tax (GET) tax food and medicine, hurting the poor and elderly the very most?

Why does the political party that claims to look out for the “little people” impose the most egregious taxes on those same folks?

And finally, why did it take the City Council so long to elect Barbara Marshall as its chair? She is an independent and trusted voice amid a mostly lackluster panel of followers. She’s one tough (former) reporter who has the moxie to ask why.

In 2007, I hope she will.

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