Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Gov. Abercrombie’s damage control needs some damage control
by Larry Geller
Governor Neil Abercrombie’s letters to members of the Public Utilities Commission and four other boards and commissions raised a storm of criticism, reflected by opinions published in the newspaper and on-line.
On Monday it appeared, from a report in the Star-Advertiser, that the Governor’s damage control efforts may need a little damage control themselves. A snip (please read the complete article):
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Monday that his request that more than two dozen appointed members of state boards and commissions resign was not a reflection of their service or an issue of personalities.
The appointees do not have to resign and can choose to remain until their terms expire, he said. "Our administration needs to be able to work collaboratively with our boards and commissions to get work done in the public's best interest," Abercrombie said in a statement.
"This includes a new approach to maintaining our public housing units so residents can live safely and with dignity; developing a statewide vision for our sporting events and venues; and changing our policies for managing and utilizing our limited resources and land.
[Star-Advertiser, Governor defends requests to resign, 6/21/2011]
So now they don’t have to resign? This is in conflict with an earlier article that indicated, with respect to the Aloha Stadium Authority at least, the gov has replacements already picked out:
Bruce Coppa, comptroller at the state Department of Accounting and General Services, said he has drawn up list of prospective candidates for the governor.
[Star-Advertiser, Stadium panel shown door, 6/17/2011]
If the Governor truly believes that “"Our administration needs to be able to work collaboratively with our boards and commissions to get work done in the public's best interest” then why doesn’t he just do that? Asking them to resign and then backpedaling under fire is not a great way to begin the collaborative process. In fact, it sets up nothing but bad feeling and could work against collaboration. In fact, Abercrombie really wanted them out and had replacements in the wings for them.
In fact, he has implied that the current appointees are not working in the public’s best interest. That’s not going to win friends or favorably influence those who might choose to ignore his resignation request and continue to serve—as they have, in the public interest. How many who received letters asking them to resign were Abercrombie supporters? How will they feel should they stay on?
Of course, the problem disappears if all 28 should resign.
Why could not any new ideas that the Governor says he has for Aloha Stadium or for anything else be presented to any board as previous administrations have always done? It’s the way things work. Check some of the publicly available agendas or meeting minutes. Boards and commissions regularly work with administration departments or agencies, depending on their function.
State Board and commission members serve staggered terms so that there is continuity and maintenance of expertise and knowledge. Certainly, as an example, the newly appointed state Board of Education can be accused of knowing little about their responsibilities because the Governor declined to appoint any knowledgeable and experienced members of the previous (elected) board. Although in the future they will serve staggered terms, they were handicapped to start with by the same clean-sweep obsession that seems to have driven the request for resignations. The public did request that certain serving BOE members be retained, but those dedicated, experienced people were spurned.
It’s predictable also that such a slipshod appointment process may be resisted by the Senate at confirmation time. After all, they previously took testimony on and confirmed the appointees whom the Governor would now like to boot out without cause.
Bottom line, the damage control may turn out to be even more damaging. It will depend on whether current appointees do in fact resign. The ones who decline and stay on can be excused if they remain wary of this governor and his proposals.
(Disclosure: I was appointed by Gov. Lingle to the State Rehabilitation Council.)
That caption, "Gov. Abercrombieʻs damage control needs some damage control" said it all.
Too good, Larry. Had to compliment you on that one.