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Building Everyone’s Future

Governor Linda Lingle recently announced that she will release over $1.8 billion for more than fifteen hundred of capital improvement projects around the state. She further promised to work with the counties and industry to expedite the permitting, design and completion of these projects to create jobs and inject cash into our declining economy.

On Moloka‘i, the governor’s list includes thirty-five projects, ranging from termite tenting at Kaunakakai Elementary ($6,000) to improvements at the Moloka‘i Airport’s Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Station ($6.3 million). Twenty-eight of those projects involve educational facilities, including repairs and renovations. Total estimated construction costs: $25.9 million.

Increasing government spending to help drive an economy in distress is a tried and true strategy. FDR used it to help move the US economy during the Great Depression and President-elect Barack Obama continues to support government CIP spending at the federal level as a way of softening the impact of our nation’s current economic downturn.

So it’s pretty hard to argue with the governor’s proposals here on Moloka‘i, considering that we should see both a strengthened economy and improved school facilities when the day is done. Still, now that some time has passed since the initial announcement, we can take some time to look more closely at the details.

First, while we are all grateful to Governor Lingle for taking the initiative to get these projects moving, it’s important that the public realize that each first had to make its way through the budget process. In other words, each of these projects represents many hours of legislative work in reviewing proposals, determining policies, and setting priorities. And, since once a project makes it into the budget it falls within the governor’s authority to release the funds, her current decision to move these projects ahead can equally be seen as her deciding not to hold them up any longer.

In short, it would have been nice if Governor Lingle had acknowledged the work that had been done by others to get us to this point as loudly as she touted her administration’s work in releasing the money.

In addition, while it is the governor’s job to consider the state as a whole, it is my job to focus on my district. Yes, we will enjoy benefits from the spending, but how much of the money will end up in the pockets of our residents?

Moloka‘i needs jobs. I would like to see a real effort made to ensure that these twenty-eight projects mean employment for Moloka‘i residents, rather than other people coming to the island just to do the work. If the demand for labor exceeds our capacity, or if a job calls for specialized skills, no one will complain that someone from Maui or Honolulu does the work. But all else being equal, I hope we can count on a lot of Moloka‘i residents getting up early and going to a job site.

Yes, in the end the Lingle administration does deserve credit for finding ways to help our economy. Let’s keep reminding them that there are ways to help down at the community level too.

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