Editor's Notes

Editor’s Note 6-10-2009

Remember Honolulu-opoly? It was one of what I’ve since learned were countless localized versions of the iconic capitalist board game, but back in small kid time I found it amazing that Milton-Bradley knew so much about our islands. A lot more than I did at age 7, anyway.

It was from Honolulu-opoly that I learned about Hotel Street and corruption at the State Capitol, and about the Big Five, the sugar conspiracy that ruled Hawaii as a de facto oligarchy from annexation right up to statehood. I had little idea what went on politically in those days, until I asked my dad to explain all the references to that stuff on the game’s version of Chance and Community Chest.

I remember that one of the cards in the Chance pile read something like, “You show up at the office on Kamehameha Day. Your co-workers tell you to stop working so hard. Lose a turn.”

Of course a 7-year-old can’t hope to appreciate the nuances of that amazing message, but I do remember thinking that someone would be crazy to go to work on a holiday.

Three decades later, it’s hard to imagine that world, and the days of private sector bosses honoring state holidays are long gone. Nobody I know will be getting Kamehameha Day off this year.

Well, almost nobody. I texted my friend Sean to ask him if his company honored the day and he wrote back, “No no no. What u tink brah, this state gov’t?”

Ahem. This is a sensitive topic in the Islands and always has been: those of us who do not work for the state wondering why those who do seem to live in a different economy entirely. It’s an endless debate in which class and ethnic/racial resentments simmer just below the surface–no other issue in local politics seems to drag out the old plantation resentments quite like the question of unions and benefits for state workers.

The argument is flaring up again around Gov. Linda Lingle’s recent furlough proposal. This week I noticed Howard Dicus wondering on his blog why state workers shouldn’t share the pain everyone else is experiencing, and Capsun Poe mounting a spirited defense of government employees of his own. Those two were entirely civil, but you can bet that things will start go downhill any day now. There’s a lot of money at stake, on both sides of the equation, and no one should expect state workers to take a 13 percent pay cut without a fight.

At the same, it’s not too much to ask that the fight be a civil one. This is no time, and the public at large is in no mood, for an all-out war like the one the UHPA unleashed on Ben Cayetano in 1990s. Whoever’s fault it is–and if we’re going to blame see-no-evil Lingle, we’d better blame the Democratic Legislature in equal measure–this state is in one hell of a mess, and it’s going to take fresh thinking–and fresh concessions–from everyone to clean it up.

Happy Kamehameha Day.