Saturday, January 19, 2008


Exploding the myth of Lingle's popularity -- withholding money, attacking elderly pedestrians

by Larry Geller

Lenny Klompus, Governor Linda Lingle's senior advisor and publicity guy, should know better. In Friday's Star-Bulletin he wrote a letter attacking Rep. Kirk Caldwell, the House majority leader, for trying to reduce Hawaii's shameful pedestrian death toll. Let's get one thing clear—Rep. Caldwell, as well as other legislators with the exception of two Republicans, voted decisively in favor of a bill that would help protect pedestrians.

Governor Lingle vetoed SB1191, and her veto was overridden. She then withheld the money that was to fund the pedestrian safety bill, now a law of the state. Lenny, Rep. Caldwell stands in the light on this issue. His constituents will thank him for his efforts to protect them. Where does this leave Governor Lingle, and now you? You wrote, in part:

In a recent Associated Press article on funding for projects including pedestrian safety, Rep. Kirk Caldwell says, "Since (Gov. Lingle) has failed to release the money, we've had several other senior citizens die. There is an issue of blood on someone's hands."

This is a despicable statement on a couple of different levels. First, it politicizes an issue that shouldn't be politicized. Rep. Caldwell should be ashamed for twisting the unfortunate instance of pedestrian casualties to serve his own selfish purpose.

Dear Lenny, what's despicable is your letter.

Elected officials have the power of life and death over dozens or hundreds of people. It was Lingle who decided to spite the Legislature by withholding money apportioned for pedestrian safety. She had vetoed SB1191 and the Legislature overrode her veto. In fact, in her own Republican party, only Sen. Hemmings and Sen. Slom voted against the override. They were the only No votes. It's clear that the people and their elected representatives wanted this bill to pass and the $3 million it called for (a relatively small amount) to be spent to improve pedestrian safety and reduce the death toll.

2007 started off badly for elderly pedestrians, with a large number of deaths before the legislative session closed. And of course Hawaii is still Number One in the nation in elderly pedestrian deaths.

Sadly, the money has not been released, and indeed, the deaths continue. These are often avoidable deaths, and they were not avoided. The money, had Lingle released it, might have helped save one or more pedestrians. No one can say how many, but Caldwell is correct that the blood is on Lingle's hands. He can say that because of her politicized act. Right or wrong, is it worth endangering human lives to prove something?

A no-brainer, right? Lingle (with Hemmings and Slom) stand isolated. The rest of the Legislature did what they could.

So the politicization of this issue (that indeed should not have been politicized) was Lingle's gambit. And her decision may, inevitably, cause an indeterminate number of avoidable deaths.

Lenny, look into your heart and see if you really want to be on the wrong side of this issue.


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