Flip-flopping In Full

There was a time in our political history when we looked down on government leaders who changed their minds on important issues – and they lost a vast amount of social capital by doing so. That was a couple of decades ago.

Times have changed, and now the practice of changing one’s mind, referred to as “flip-flopping,” has returned with a vengeance to our political arena.

A good example was funding for 24 agriculture inspector positions cut from last year’s budget. Hawaii News Now reported that this was not a good idea, because it comes at a time when there’s a 500 percent increase in alien animal cases in Hawaii. Inspector positions have been cut in half, and the state Department of Agriculture stands to lose the million dollars in funding it had been promised. Last year, the state had agriculture inspectors around the clock at Honolulu International Airport guarding our fragile environment.

Another “flip-flop” happened when Earthjustice hailed a federal court order allowing Hawaii officials to resume aerial hunting of feral sheep and goats, in an effort to protect a critically endangered birds found only in certain areas on Mauna Kea.

And earlier this month, Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced he would restore TheBus routes on Oahu that had been terminated last year in a budget-cutting move. Not to be out-done, the City Council Transportation Committee suggested TheBus, now handled by Oahu Transit Service, instead should be managed by Honolulu Authority for Rapid Tranportation (HART) rail agency.

There’s a good side and a bad side to flip-flopping. On one hand, it can show that our governmental leaders have the courage to change their minds about an important decision if they have new information that makes it the smart thing to do. On the other hand, if their flip-flopping was a sign that their initial decision was not based on sound research or available information, then it is evidence of wishy-washy leadership.

More spectacular was when state senators, without comment, voted unanimously for a bill that would dissolve the Public Land Development Corp., the agency created two years ago to partner with the private sector to develop projects on under-used state land. The agency was granted broad exemptions from land-use regulations, but never developed a single project.

This appears to be strong and convincing evidence that the public can get upset with their leaders if they show signs of weak planning and leadership.