Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Lingle's legacy: a long list of unpaid debts to Hawaii

by Larry Geller

George Bush has his signing statements, his weapon of mass disregard for laws passed by Congress. As governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle has her own method of defying the law and so hurting the people of Hawaii. Strong words, I know, but how else to sum it up?

Laws don't just happen. They are often the product of hundreds of hours of testimony by ordinary citizens motivated to show up and express their views one way or the other.  Lingle has used the veto as the first salvo, but of course the state legislature can (and frequently does) override her veto.

When the Legislature overrides a veto, a law is created, just as though the governor signed it. Enforcing the law then moves to the executive branch. Can the governor simply ignore or refuse to fund laws she doesn't like?

Ignoring the law or refusing to release funds is Linda Lingle's own weapon, and it usually hurts the most vulnerable people in Hawaii. I can't help but point out that corporate tax credits don't seem to suffer the same fate.

Let's look at a few of these. I know there are others and welcome comments on them.

  • Lingle has not released $4 million authorized by the Legislature two years ago for the Honolulu Symphony Foundation. Result: musicians have not been paid since the end of November. I suspect that many musician's families are thinking of her during this payless Christmas holiday.
  • Lingle has not released $3 million for pedestrian safety authorized when the Legislature overrode her veto of a pedestrian safety bill passed this year. I wonder if the families of loved ones killed in crosswalks in 2007 are thinking of her today.
  • Lingle withheld more than $500,000 that was to go to Kupuna Care in 2006. As a result, reports circulated of seniors leaving the hospital who had to be re-admitted because they could not get services needed to get better at home. Several organizations had written letters asking that the money be released to no effect. I also wrote, the Friday before election day, and sent out a flock of press releases on the issue. Lo, the money was released just before the election. No, said the Governor, the letters had nothing to do with it. Ok.
  • Linda Lingle became the first governor in history to veto a Baby Safe Haven or Baby Moses law. 47 other states, even those with Republican governors, have such laws. The Legislature overrode her veto, but her administration has refused to implement the law. (In those 47 other states, mothers are allowed to drop off their unwanted newborn infants at designated safe havens without fear of prosecution. The laws provide an alterative to abandonment or infanticide.)
  • Linda Lingle vetoed HB10 this session. This was the bill that requires pharmaceutical companies participating in the Hawaii Rx Plus program to provide rebates for prescription drugs. It's the one where the Legislature, clearly expressing its intent yet again, changed the wording from "may" to "shall," taking away the last possible wiggle room that the Lingle administration could use to avoid implementing the law. Well, here we go into the 2008 legislative session, and negotiations have yet to take place, costing seniors and those with disabilities dearly. 
  • A little different tactic is Lingle's recent refusal to fund the high costs of drug testing teachers, which her negotiators fought for in contract talks, and suggesting that children should bear the burden by giving up funds that should be spent on education in order to pay for the testing.

Lingle as Grinch

Let's look at the Honolulu Symphony first today, just because it is Christmas and indeed, musicians have not been paid. An op-ed in this morning's Advertiser argues that support of the Symphony is a good thing, but doesn't dig into the causes of the present economic woes.

An earlier story did: Honolulu symphony can't pay musicians. This article, by Mike Liedemann, does analyze the economic challenges, and notes that:

Symphony officials also are hoping that Gov. Linda Lingle will release $4 million in state funds for the Honolulu Symphony Foundation authorized by the state Legislature two years ago.

"If we had had that money, we could have earned an extra $400,000 in interest by now, which would have helped a lot," [Jeff Minter, chairman of the symphony's board of directors] said.

Would this money have paid the salaries? Easily. The same article notes:

About 65 full-time musicians, as well as part-timers and other staff members, were told late last week that the Honolulu Symphony Society did not have enough money to meet its $60,000 biweekly payroll, officials said

Not only has Lingle established her Grinch Symphony credentials by stealing Christmas from Symphony families, the withholding of funds threatens the Symphony itself. It would be hard to imagine Honolulu, or Hawaii for that matter, without the Honolulu Symphony.

I'm a believer. While in college in New York City and copy editor of the school paper, I received two tickets from the college president to a concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Love I think I was supposed to write a review or something, and can't remember if I did.

More important, I asked a certain member of my copy staff to the concert and to dinner at Manhattan's Kabuki Restaurant . That date was more than 40 years ago, and set the tone for our relationship ever since. We still love classical music and Japanese food, and we can enjoy both here in Hawaii.

It would be a pity if Hawaii's governor could end the chance that our young people might have similar experiences.

If you value culture and the arts, I urge you to email letters to the newspapers (letters@honoluluadvertiser.com and letters@starbulletin.com) or to call the Governor at 586-0034 and ask that she release the $4 million dollars for the Symphony. Let this be the last Christmas that she has ruined for our long-suffering musicians. C'mon, call, don't leave it to someone else to do.



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