LOYALTY GONE MAD AT HAWAII STATE HOUSE?
Loyalty, especially in local politics, is a strange thing. At first glance, it seems to be among the most important qualities for those seeking to climb the ladder in a political arena like a state Legislature. And yet journalist Jacob Weisberg has called loyalty “the most overrated virtue in politics” in a Nov. 29, 2008 Slate.com story.
“Surrounding oneself with die-hard loyalists breeds insularity,” Weisberg wrote in the article. “Over time, the fixation with loyalty devolves toward a mafia view of politics that lends itself to abuse of power.”
I couldn’t help but recall Weisberg’s analysis when news broke on Friday that state House Majority Floor Leader Karen Awana, D-Nanakuli, was resigning her leadership post. The reason? According to Honolulu Civil Beat’s Oct. 4 story, the thousands of dollars in fines and penalties she had racked up from campaign spending violations stretching back years were becoming too much (an Oct. 4 press release from the Hawaii House of Representatives Majority Office that announced the resignation made no mention of her campaign spending violations, but did say that she “did not want to distract from the important work of the body”).
Given that the state Legislature is just a couple weeks away from going into Special Session on the issue of same-sex marriage, her resignation was prudent. Of course, she could have resigned her seat entirely, but Speaker of the House Joe Souki, D-Wailuku, doesn’t seem to want that. In fact, he’s all for giving Awana a new plum post, once she works everything out with the state Campaign Spending Commission, of course.
“I appreciate all that Representative Awana has done for the House and after much consideration I have accepted her resignation so that she may focus on rectifying her situation,” Souki said the a Oct. 4 press release. “It is my hope that we can move ahead so that we may name her Chair of the newly created Committee on Culture and the Arts & International Affairs in the upcoming legislative session.”
Chairing a new committee? Hey Joe, don’t you think you’re being a little rough on her? I mean, you could try to get her appointed to the state Supreme Court in the next year, but at some point, you’ve got to ask yourself if she hasn’t already been punished enough.
Then again, Awana–who was once a loyalist of former House Speaker Calvin Say, D-Kaimuki–did turn on her old leader and back Joe earlier this year. Given that Awana’s disloyalty to Say (to say nothing of her old disloyalty to the Republican Party, which she left in 2007) helped return Souki to the speakership, I guess it’s only fitting that Souki extend extra loyalty to Awana.
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‘GOVERNMENT AT ITS BEST’
We know, we know–stories this glamorous and exciting usually come from the pages of Esquire and Rolling Stone. Ooh! People on Molokai and Maui can watch each others small business workshops on television! Except, even in this seeming banal story, which comes to us courtesy of an Oct. 2 press release from the County of Maui, we can find surprising illumination of how our county does business.
Basically, the story is this: Maui County officials–specifically, the Kuhao Business Center on Molokai and the Maui County Business Resource Center at the Maui Mall in Kahului–put on workshops on such topics as “Business Branding with Online Marketing” and “Developing a Marketing Plan.” In the old, pre-videoconferencing days, residents who lived on island but wanted to see a workshop on the other had to travel there. But now, they can just go to their respective county business resource center and watch it on TV.
This has apparently proven quite popular with local business owners–especially those on Molokai. “Residents and clientele are so grateful that they can take advantage of great training opportunities without having to leave the island,” Jennifer Hawkins, Molokai’s business center manager, said in the Oct. 2 press release.
For Molokai residents and business owners, who still have to contend with a depressed economy far worse than the rest of the state, this is indeed good news. But whether it rises to the heights expressed by Maui County Economic Development Director Teena Rasmussen, that remains to be seen.
In the Oct. 2 press release, Rasmussen referred to the new videoconferencing “government at its best.”
That’s a pretty tall compliment–especially considering that when most think of government acting “at its best,” they’re probably imagining government saving someone’s life. But Rasmussen’s explanation as to how the county went about setting up the videoconferencing isn’t really like that. In fact, it comes pretty close to describing “government at its worst.”
“Not only have we utilized equipment that was already purchased and sitting idle, but we have now linked two of our greatest resources for the convenience of our residents and business owners,” Rasmussen said in the news release.
Yes–the equipment was “already purchased and sitting idle.” Those are Rasmussen’s words. In her world, government “at its best” is that which finds a use for purchased equipment that’s “sitting idle” because it’s technically obsolete, no longer necessary or was just forgotten about.
County Auditor Lance Taguchi still hasn’t decided his list of audits according to The Maui News, but when he does, it’s clear he’ll have a lot to choose from.
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HAWAII HEALTH CONNECTOR GOES ONLINE! OR NOT!
So last week, to thunderous fanfare across the nation, the Affordable Care Act (derided by Republicans as “Obamacare”) went operational. What no one disputes is that a lot of people checked it out, including a great many here in Hawaii, where it’s known as the Hawaii Health Connector.
“Executive Director Coral Andrews today announced strong consumer engagement for the opening of the Hawai‘i Health Connector marketplace,” stated an Oct. 2 Hawaii Health Connector news release. “The level of engagement reaffirmed the public interest for new health insurance options. The Connector logged 19,457 unique visits to the site, completed 1,181 applications, and received 1,257 calls connected at the contact center on the first day.”
Sounds great, except it didn’t actually go down so smoothly.
“Plans to be sold through the Hawaii Health Connector still available for browsing and buying on Wednesday [Oct. 2–the same day the news release went out], a day after they were scheduled to go up,” the Associated Press reported on Oct. 3. “Software problems mean consumers are able to do nothing more with the exchange than give basic information over a Web form, with the promise of being contacted in a few weeks.”
Then again, not much else in government seems to be working at the moment, either.