Ready, Set ... Collaborate!

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 28, 2009
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It’s beginning to look like this legislative session may be a lot more exciting than expected. In the past, after the opening-day speeches, things went back to the old style of doing things - business as usual. This session might be a little different. The speeches were better than last year’s efforts, although the responses were typical of former years.

The battle cry for this year might end up being something like, “Show me the money!” or “We need to collaborate!”

Our opinion leaders seem to specialize in placing blame and, more often than not, it’s someone with a name or a familiar face. Have you wondered why a lot of people were upset because the state and the City and County of Honolulu, based on information from the National Weather Service, decided it was prudent to give state and county workers a day off in the face of oncoming 60 mph winds? Many people were upset with Gov. Lingle, Major Gen. Lee and Mayor Hannemann, suggesting that they cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Obviously, they had no choice but to err on the side of caution. Still, none of those people found any fault with the National Weather Service.


Sometimes the attacks are repetitive and absurd, like the obvious dislike the state Supreme Court has for the Lingle Administration. The court recently denied Lingle’s request for more time to appoint a new member to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. Last month the court ruled that Lingle was improperly keeping six regents on the board as holdovers after they were not confirmed by the Legislature. You’ll recall it was the Senate Democratic leadership that brought the legal challenge against the holdover regents. The initial argument was over names obtained by an advisory council, which put together a list from which the governor would choose. At stake: Who runs the university system.

The governor made five appointments to the board earlier as mandated by the court. But then the process hit a snag after several failed their confirmation hearings. The governor reacted by extending several regents as “holdovers.” Then, as if awaking from a self-inflicted coma, two potential nominees withdrew their names from the list, which left only one person still interested in the appointment. The governor then asked for more time to gather additional names for the sixth appointment from the advisory council. The Hawaii Supreme Court denied the request for more time and gave her five days to make the sixth appointment. The governor now has no list to choose from because there is only one person left, which means she has no choice.

If the court forces her to choose that person, the advisory board is actually making the choice, not the governor. It would be comical if the governor brought a legal challenge against the court by forcing her to pick a advisory council’s selection.

Does this sound like collaboration in progress? This is about as contentious as it gets in local politics.

Yes, collaboration would be an admirable state of affairs in Hawaii if there weren’t so many bullies in the democratic process. I’ll believe in collaboration when I see it in action, not words in a speech.

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