When I grow up, I want to be an editorial writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. What a sweet gig that would be. I’d just have to get up in the morning, come to the office, change around a few sentences in a press release from some favored organization (or on a really strenuous day, check in with the head of Hawaii’s Democratic Party for the official line), then head out for a good lunch and a refreshing siesta.
What? You say there’s more to it than that?
You’re right. Sometimes I might have to go to staff meetings. But still . . . .what a great gig.
Too harsh? Well, perhaps you should consider the Advertiser’s recent editorial on the OHA suit against the state (mentioned in Wednesday’s post by the way). Titled “Real leaders find a way to pay debts,” it is little more than a rearrangement of OHA’s press release, accompanied by the wonderfully obvious title point. I’m sure that in response, Hawaii’s leaders are slapping themselves in the forehead and saying, “Of course! It’s all so clear now! Since we aspire to be real leaders, we’ll just hand over the $200 million tomorrow! I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before!”
It’s just so darned easy to be a left-leaning editorial writer. The Hawaiians deserve their money. Teachers deserve to be paid more. The environment needs to be protected better. The state of our health system needs to be improved. Government housing is a scandal. There isn’t a problem under the sun that can’t be addressed by the state treasury. Unfortunately for the actual real leaders involved, there isn’t a money tree sitting outside the state house. (Believe me, I’ve looked. Something has to explain the way the rationale of the state budget process.) And Hawaii’s taxpayers–though mellower than many–still have this weird desire to hold on to the bulk of their earnings. So sometimes, no matter how much something is deserved, there is no easy solution. Because that $200 million owed to the Native Hawaiians doesn’t come from some mysterious fountain of gold coins in the Governor’s office. It comes from our paychecks. And a lot of us have seen those paychecks take a hit lately. So we’re hurting. And the state is hurting. And it makes the whole thing a lot more complicated than OHA or the Advertiser want to admit.
Ah, the “special interest.” It’s every politician’s favorite bogeyman. So convenient as a target for political diatribe–not least of all because it’s so vague. After all, what is a “special interest” really? When it comes right down to it, it’s a group with political currency that you don’t particularly care for. After all, the ones you like are “legitimate and necessary issues or expenditures.”
Witness Rep. Oshiro’s recent opinion article in the Advertiser (on April 20th, 2010). In it, Rep. Oshiro talks about the difficulties of the budget process and blames special interests for the “hard decisions” that are part of that process, especially when so many of those aforementioned special interests benefit from tax credits or tax exemptions. Not to be insensitive or anything, but it’s not like there’s all that much to being a legislator. (Believe me, anyone who has watched C-SPAN for more than 10 minutes and retained consciousness throughout would agree.) So pardon me for not being overcome with sympathy over the difficulties of occasionally having to make a hard budgetary decision. We regular folks do that every day. It’s called, “trying to get by.” Only when we mess up, we don’t get to make exculpatory speeches about it. Instead, we get our electricity disconnected or the car repossessed. So yeah, we elected you all to make the hard decisions. Make them.
But that’s not actually the worst part. After all, “special interests” are just the ones you feel don’t deserve any financial help or breaks. So some politicians would call businesses that get incentives to stay in Hawaii and employ people “special interests.” Others would say that political groups or specific classes of citizens (including those that get a lot of government funding) are special interests. And some might point out that the legislature gave itself a raise, making it one of the special-est interests of all.
What would be nice (other than being able to vote myself a raise–what a great gig that is) is if our representatives stopped trying to manipulate us with their have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too talk about special interests and instead were more honest about where our money was going. Because I may not be that special, but that’s where my interest really is.
I confess that I’ve always kind of liked the Honolulu Star-Bulletin the best. Nothing against the Advertiser, but I always felt like there was a little less editorial bias at the Bulletin. And also there’s just something about the name. “Star-Bulletin.” It sounds dreamy, but newsy. Just what I want out of a Hawaii newspaper. (Well, that and good, fair news coverage of course.)
But the Bulletin is actually in danger of shutting down–maybe even as soon as next week. Why is this bad news? Well, on a practical level, that means that hundreds of Hawaiians are in danger of losing their jobs. And that stinks no matter how you cut it. But beyond that, losing the Star-Bulletin will make Honolulu a one-newspaper town. And if you want to encourage fair, responsible, and hard-hitting reporting, a little competition is important. The internet may have changed news forever in letting people choose to get their news from a source they trust, but without the journalists on the ground, it gets harder and harder to find good information. (And this goes double for the outer islands. Feel a little overlooked now? Imagine how much worse that can be with only one major paper in Hawaii’s capitol to cover your news and concerns.)
It just so happens that there are two highly-respected local figures who have put forth a bid to buy the Star Bulletin–State Senator Sam Slom and Hawaii Reporter’s Malia Zimmerman. I won’t bore you all with their bonafides, but believe me when I say that if you’re local and wish that there was a Hawaii newspaper run by people who lived here, understood Hawaii, understood our concerns, and would promote accurate and unbiased reporting, then it would be hard to do better than these two. (And for all y’all on the outer islands, take note that part of their plan for the Star-Bulletin, should their bid succeed, is to expand its coverage of the outer islands and make it less Oahu-centric.)
As to why that matters to those of us concerned about transparency and fiscal responsibility? Well, it should be obvious that if we want to ensure an independent voice in the community for issues like this, we need to save the Star-Bulletin.
(Want to learn more? Go to http://www.savehawaiinews.com.)