Cliff Slater is a regular columnist whose footnoted columns are at:


Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

Honolulu Advertiser, June 21, 2000


(1) From Article VI. Section 4. Constitution of the State of Hawaii.

(2) "I understand that a conference committee is a meeting between the House and Senate -- not the House, Senate and the unions meeting in conference" Governor Cayetano quoted in Honolulu Star-Bulletin editorial. May 2, 2000.


(4) LuBove, Seth. The People's Republic of Hawaii. Forbes. June 16, 1997

(5) Hawaii's Gray Politics. Editorial. Wall Street Journal. May 22, 2000.

(6) Purdum, Todd S. For $6 Billion Hawaii Legacy, a New Day. New York Times. May 15, 1999.

(7) The Hawaii Supreme Court's Konno decision essentially found that all work that had "customarily and historically" been performed by government workers must continue as such.

The full Konno decision is available from the Hawaii Bar Association

"… it has the potential to aggravate the State’s already dismal economic situation." Rosen, Mark J. Privatization in Hawaii. Legislative Reference Bureau, State of Hawaii. December 1997. The text of the report (but not the appendices) may be found at the LRB website.


Mad as hell? Do something

All our problems in Hawai'i are transparent; it's up to you to get involved.

We can complain all we want about the state of education and the waste in government. We can complain about lawmakers' antics at the big, square shibaigoya.

We can complain about how long it took to reform the Bishop Estate. We can complain about convicted prison guards serving their time on weekends while continuing as guards during the week.

But in the end, there is only one person to blame: Go look in the mirror.

None of the above was secret. We continue to hear from teachers in these pages about the appalling conditions in Hawaii schools and read nationally published data showing us as one of the worst education states in the union. No secret.

We read in these pages about union leader Gary Rodrigues being appointed by Senate President Mizuguchi to the Commission that selects Supreme Court Justices despite the State Constitution requirement that, "No member shall take an active part in political management or in political campaigns." (1) We read of Rodrigues also sitting in on midnight Legislative Conference committees and of his refusal to have prison guards fired for drug dealing.(2) None of this is a secret.

The Bishop Estate Trustees' excessive pay and the scandalous selection process were regularly exposed in past years on the floor of the House by then Rep. Fred Hemmings and duly reported in these pages. Hemmings efforts to cap trustee pay at $250,000 was not a secret. (3)

And it is no secret as to what the Mainland people think of our governance. We are described by the nationally respected Forbes Magazine as, "The People's Republic of Hawaii." (4) The Wall Street Journal describes us as a "bamboo republic." (5) The New York Times refers to "Hawaii's feudal world" and "Hawaii's brand of inbred, closed-door politics." (6)

Again, you have read it all before; it is not a secret.

So what are you doing about it? Do you phone or fax your elected officials to complain? Do you help organize opposition candidates? Do you write to this, or any other, newspaper to voice your concern?

Or do you, instead, keep voting for the same representative, council member and senator? I know: They are "nice," they "listen intently," they "care," and they "thank you for taking time out of your busy day," etc.

Nice is nice, but the real bottom line is politicians' voting records. Did you check them last election? Did they vote for the last tax increase proposal? Did they vote to re-elect Mizuguchi Senate President even after he had appointed Rodrigues to the Judicial Selection Commission? Did you check if the public worker unions endorsed your candidates?

Too many of us devote endless time and energy to what, in time, will have no long lasting effects on the community at large: the Uyesugi tragedy, the Natatorium and the sports pages-even golf. But on matters that have major long-term effects-such as the Hawaii Supreme Court's "Konno" decision,(7) a Constitutional Convention, civil service reform-we just yawn.

The tragedy is it would take such little citizen effort to scare legislators into being more afraid of their constituents than they are of public worker union bosses. A swaggering Senator turns into a meek little kid on receiving 100 negative faxes from constituents on an issue. But the fact is that on most issues voters do not care enough to pay attention.

This is also not a secret: Toshiro Mifune is not going to swagger into town to take care of our problems for us. We have to do it ourselves. Maybe the nail standing proud does get hammered down-but at least it is standing proud in the process.