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On Political Likes And Dislikes

Mayor Kirk Caldwell | Nathalie Walker photo

Mayor Kirk Caldwell | Nathalie Walker photo

MidWeek usually appears in our Pearl City mail box late Tuesday afternoon. I fetch it, check the letters section for critics, place it on the kitchen counter and think no more about it.

Sometime midway into the PBS NewsHour, my beloved wife, the high-strung Filipina, settles onto her end of the couch, opens MidWeek and reads my column.

Upon finishing last week’s column, she turned to me and asked, “Don’t you like Kirk Caldwell?”

Said I to the high-strung Filipina, “No, you misunderstand. I like Kirk Caldwell. He’s honest. Smart. Earnest. A good man.

“What I was trying to do was criticize the formulaic, cliché-ridden ‘state-of’ speeches that Obama, Abercrombie, Caldwell and every other political chief executive since the dawn of man delivers.”

“Oh,” replied the beloved wife. “Oooooh,” said I to myself. “Missed the mark again, didn’t you, oh greatly flawed scribbler?”

So, let me be more clear to the high-strung Filipina and to my 10 other regular readers about my dislikes.

I dislike political cowardice that too often equates with dishonesty. During Mayor Caldwell’s first year in office, members of the Honolulu City Council have been guilty of both.

Paving 1,200 miles of potholed street in four years will require additional dollars; but when the mayor asked for additional funds, the Council refused him. Rest assured that they will claim at least partial credit for any streets paved in their districts, but, my oh my, they will run from raising taxes to pay for them.

The same goes for fees. Recently Caldwell asked for $10 per month from households for garbage, green waste, recyclable and bulky item pickup. I can’t imagine a fee more justified. The city does all four extraordinarily well, day-in, day-out, year-after-year.

Neighbor Island counties levy a similar fee, and so far as I know of, no neighbor island mayor or councilmember has been a victim of voter abuse for having done so. But the men and women of Honolulu Hale’s third floor said no.

I also dislike our second-place finish in the “Worst Traffic in the U.S. in 2013” survey. Only Los Angeles did better, or … worse. We held the same position last year. In 2011, we took the top spot. Even car- and freeway-clogged L.A. couldn’t top us.

Freeway and rail construction and repair have contributed to our wasted 60 hours in traffic in 2013. But the fault lies in ourselves, in our addiction to the automobile and in our failure to confront our traffic woes at least a generation ago.

We need rail; we need a better bus system; we probably need ferries as well; but most of all we need to get out of our cars and support development of the aforementioned three.

I also dislike the debate over raising the minimum wage in Hawaii. It involves another survey, this one of the gap between rich and poor in the United States. Of the world’s developed countries, the U.S. stands first in the size of the gap between rich and poor. First. Doesn’t it make you feel proud?

Hawaii last raised the minimum wage in 2007. The cost of practically everything has gone up since then, and the richest among us have seen their incomes, despite the Great Recession, rise apace.

At this juncture, it appears the state Legislature will pass a bill, one that will gradually hike the minimum wage to $10 per hour. “It is,” as a good book says, “meet and right so to do.”