Things To Learn From California

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - July 20, 2011

IRVINE, CALIF. If there is anything that gives you perspective, it’s travel. I had been blessed to be in the travel industry when I was younger, which afforded me the opportunity to literally travel the world.

The exposure to different countries, cultures and people is the greatest educational experience. Yes, there is a lot to be said for the classroom, but nothing comes close to actually living what you learn.

Here in SoCal, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy it, too. Now, I know there is no place like home, but sometimes, without the benefit of travel, we tend to accept below-average products, services and experiences in Hawaii. Why? It’s a lack of that perspective that causes many to buy into the notion that we are just so lucky to live in Hawaii that we should accept whatever the situation and be thankful for living here.

Wrong. Don’t misunderstand me. I love Hawaii. But let’s not confuse gratitude with Kool-Aid drinking ignorance.

Here are a couple of things that stand out for me when comparing our Hawaii with communities on the Mainland:

First, the basics.

Our road conditions in Hawaii are legendary for their state of disrepair. It’s not only embarrassing, it’s negligent. It’s as if the state and city are thumbing their noses at us every time we bottom out in one of the countless potholes that plague us every day.

I mean, how in the world do we just sit back and tolerate the utter failing of our local government to provide the most basic and fundamental service, infrastructure? I am here to tell you right now that a lack of money is not the reason our roads have been dying for so long. It’s a lack of priority set forth by your government. Money is not the issue, it’s leadership. Why is it that we can go to virtually any community and their roads are so much better than ours?

Second, schools. We talk, talk, talk about public education in our schools. Why? Oh I know, it’s because we have one statewide system and, unlike other communities, our resources are spread too thinly. Really? Are we going to get the old “We don’t have enough money in the state coffers” routine?

We’ve heard that for years. If that’s the case, then allow counties to fund their own school systems. Or at least create local school boards so they can have direction over their own schools. Yes, it sounds like 2002-03, but the idea was a good one then and it’s a good one now. Our centralized state bureaucracy, led by a nonfinancial and non-performance audited Department of Education, has failed.

Our debate about an elected or appointed Board of Education is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. If money is at the heart of what ails us, educationally speaking, then why are we educating roughly the same number of kids as 20 years ago yet the expenditures have increased exponentially?

California is a far from perfect place. Yet, despite its economic travails, there are pockets of places that are excelling. Orange County is one of those places. So, why must we continue to languish in Hawaii?

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