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Gubernatorial Candidates Deserve Close Scrutiny

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

Well the legislative session is all pau and while the veto pen is not finished with its work, the campaign season is about to get underway.
In about six months we will again be thankful for reruns of old sitcoms as the political campaign ads will have disappeared. In the meantime, brace yourself for the onslaught of the campaign slick that will capture every single spare moment of unsold air time. Before you completely tune-out, stop and ask yourself just what is going to make up your mind about which puka to punch on that ballot once you get in the voting booth.
The candidates and their campaign material will be masterfully stated by some professional speech writer in the back room. The slick use of color, music, or some sort of give away like a hot pad or key ring will extol the name of the candidate for whom they want you to cast your vote.
Wait, why should you allow some slick advertising honcho to tell you what they want you to know about the candidate? As voters we all need to turn the table on candidates this year and ask the questions about issues that are most important to us. Sure everyone has questions about the economy or improving education and there is no doubt candidates will have their answers down pat even though the response may not address the question.
Rather than being spoon fed what issues the candidates believe are most important, voters should instead raise issues that concern them the most. These issues will differ from voter to voter, from community to community, but unless the issues are raised, how will the voters know which candidate shares their concerns and which candidate has the best answer to those issues?
Community groups, employees of a company, members of a faith congregation, business groups and others who share common concerns need to draw up a list of issues and questions to pose to candidates as they come begging for support and votes. Those issues and questions also need to be very specific.
Sure, everyone’s concerned about the economy and many candidates will have their favorite solution for Hawaii’s economic future, but has any candidate ever talked about what is wrong with our economy? Have candidates really identified what the problems are, in other words, why has Hawaii not been able to move forward and create the jobs its people need?
It seems that unless one can understand what prevents economic vitality from occurring, one cannot begin to propose a solution to our economic woes. The candidate who merely proposes some sort of gimmick to attract investments and therefore businesses to locate in Hawaii or who proposes that he or she knows exactly which industry will be best for Hawaii’s economic future probably doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Understanding the fundamentals of what makes for an attractive business climate is key to an understanding of what needs to be done to turn the economy around. The same goes for increasing the productivity and efficiency of government.
Unless the candidate understands what prevents government from being more responsive to its customers, the taxpayers, one can assume that the candidate wants the status quo. One thing for sure, the candidate has to recognize that one thing must happen if Hawaii is to move ahead and grow, and that is change. Taxpayers and voters already know that what is there now is not working, so if the state as a whole is to move ahead socially and economically, then change is necessary.
So what can you do to go on the offensive this election season? Make up your own list of concerns. Don’t just ask for solutions, ask questions that define the candidate’s understanding of a problem. Anyone can come up with solutions and there is no one to say that those solutions are wrong until they have been tried. But being able to assess the problem is a far more difficult task because it takes an understanding of what creates the problems. And unless one truly understands what creates the problems, a realistic solution cannot be proposed.
Remember, candidates can promise you the world or perhaps the universe. Being able to deliver on those promises is another thing, especially in these difficult economic times. The budget problems of this past session are proof enough that there is little, if any, extra money to go around. So promising a new playground or more teachers challenges the truth. In fact, the flip side of the pork barrel promise is a question of where are elected officials going to find the money to balance the budget next year?

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