Things Neil Needs To Get Busy Doing

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - January 05, 2011
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“I have an opportunity now as the Governor of Hawaii to make a difference and in 2011, I intend to do that.” -Gov. Neil Abercrombie

The new governor’s New Year’s resolution is to tackle as many issues as he and his team can handle. But he wants us all to know that he cannot do it alone - “the reality is it’s going to take all of us.”

And the reality is this: businesses and state and federal government struggling with diminished budgets; more Hawaii families falling into gaping financial cracks; the “safety net” of social service agencies scrambling for dollars from overlapping pots; public schools crying for help; and at least one important civil rights issue - equality for gays and lesbians - still unresolved. Abercrombie’s plate is not just full, it’s overflowing.

We may think our personal challenges are mundane by comparison, but they are not, because those sweeping “big” issues are really the sum total of all our problems, added up and magnified. The economic issues are reflected in our family budgets, stretched tight and thin. I have met moms who know that, come the end of the month, they’ll be in line at a food distribution site. They feel ashamed turning to churches and the Hawaii Foodbank but shove the embarrassment away because, after all, they have to feed the kids.

I know more well-to-do folk who are re-evaluating where their kids will go to school. Tuition at private schools is high, and now is the time for caution and for pulling back.

Our public schools just came off a rocky year in which we became the state with the fewest number of required school days in the nation. We need to catch up - and keep up. Our public schools and teachers need our support and our respect.

And on top of all that, we have the matter that should tug on the conscience of every freedom-loving, equality-loving American: the shameful exclusion of gays and lesbians from some of the basic rights the rest of us in the “straight” world take for granted.

Congress finally repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the president gleefully signed it into law. This means that gay servicemembers will no longer have to live a lie while serving the country they love. Now it’s time for us to do our part here at home. We need to pass and implement a civil unions bill that gives everyone the same legal protections, regardless of sexual orientation. Gov. Abercrombie, I know you will do the right thing.

A friend who lives on the Mainland recently said to me: “So happy you have a great new governor. Impressed that he is 72 and has a new job!”

I’m impressed, too. I love the spirit and the chutzpah of our new governor. I love the fact that he has served us for so long, and is willing and energetic enough to step up and share with us the experience and wisdom he has accumulated through the years. I love that his idealism appears undimmed and untarnished.

We all know our problems are too big, too complex and too political, in many cases, to be solved overnight. But we have a chance for progress and a fresh start.

At the beginning of this column I shared one part of Abercrombie’s message to us all. Here’s the rest of it:

“My wish for the people of this great state is to have faith in our aloha for one another - to pull together to talk about solutions, not about who’s to blame. In 2011, I want there to be lokahi, unity, across the economic and social communities. Of all the challenges that we face, coming together is key to our achieving success in all areas.”

It’s true. We either work together, succeed together ... or we fail. The choice is ours. May we all have a happy - and productive - 2011.

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