The Political Game Of ‘Tit For TAT’

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 28, 2010
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The condition is “red” as Hawaii’s legislators are still searching for revenue. They have apparently made up their minds to swipe a few million dollars from the Transient Accommodation Tax, or TAT fund. As expected, the Honolulu City Council fired back at the suggestion and threatened harsh action.

Knowing the game, Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia, a former legislator, announced that the city’s $21 million parks program could be eliminated if the Legislature takes some of the hotel room tax revenues meant for the counties. It was a stern warning from the council and budget chairman, who scheduled a hearing on the issue at Honolulu Hale immediately.

Like football coaches in a tight game, they go into a two-minute drill and have more than 75 people sign up to testify about budget bills on the agenda. The media, which love to play the “he said, you said” game, reported that, “Someone close to the action who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation” said that “a total 58,000 people, seniors and youths register for recreational park programs every year.”


 

Of course, 58,000 is a “scare” number, because no one knows exactly how many people will be angry at legislators for eliminating their park activities.

The possible truth is that the C&C has been coasting along during the state’s budget crisis. It has not laid off any workers or scheduled any cost saving from furloughed employees in the Parks and Recreation Department because it has its own budget crisis to deal with and doesn’t want to contend with additional revenue shortfalls from dedicated funds from the Legislature.

The unintended consequences of taking any portion of the City and County of Honolulu’s TAT would be devastating to the public’s parks and recreation program. Not only that, it was predicted that their unhappiness would be felt for years to come.


In fact, there is documented research about individual behavior being altered by management’s attention to a problem. You can read all about it in a story about the Western Electric Company in Cicero, Ill., way back in 1927. Research conducted by a Harvard Business School professor named Elton Mayo started out by examining the environmental influences of the work-place (e.g. brightness of lights and humidity). The findings were staggering for management, so they moved into the psychological aspects (e.g. breaks, groups pressure, managerial leadership). The major finding of the study was that almost regardless of the experimental manipulation employed, worker production improved. It seemed that the workers were pleased to receive attention, any kind of attention. Productivity was then and still is, even today, influenced by social factors.

The bottom line is that the workplace - and playgrounds - are social systems, and tampering with the attitudes of 58,000 citizens prior to an important upcoming election does not make good sense for either side.

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