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Posted on: Wednesday, January 3, 2007

VOLCANIC ASH
My wish list for the new year and beyond

By David Shapiro

As we kick off 2007, here are five things I'd like to see more of in the New Year:

1. Mayor Mufi Hannemann's sense of humor. The mayor's New Year's resolutions in The Advertiser's Dec. 31 Focus section, including wishes to sing a duet with the governor and improve the disposition of a certain columnist (good luck), were a refreshing contrast to the officious pronouncements turned in by other public officials. He should show this appealing side of his persona more often.

2. Gov. Linda Lingle's sense of purpose. She was elected Hawai'i's first Republican governor in 40 years on a platform of change, but made little lasting impact in her first term as she avoided confrontation with the Democratic Legislature. Her re-election victory will ring hollow if she doesn't find the backbone to fight harder for the change she claims to represent and leave a durable mark in her second term.

3. Campaign finance reform. From the new high of $6.7 million Lingle spent to retain the governorship to the record average of $78,000 spent by state Senate winners, the 2006 election was Hawai'i's most expensive ever, and we can no longer deny that big special-interest money in politics amounts to legal bribery. Publicly funded elections are the path to restoring integrity in government.

4. Resolution of the Gary Rodrigues fraud case. It's been more than four years since the former United Public Workers leader was convicted on 101 counts of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering and sentenced to five years and four months in federal prison. Justice delayed is justice denied as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals takes an inexplicably long time to settle Rodrigues' appeal while he remains free on bond.

5. Community self-help. Government isn't the only answer to our most serious social problems, and we should do more to foster grassroots creativity, such as the nonprofit Tutu and Me traveling preschool that serves thousands of children in native Hawaiian communities.

And some things I'd like to see less of:

1. Casualties in Iraq. U.S. war deaths have now passed 3,000, including many soldiers from Hawai'i, as our president blunders in pursuit of an impossible "victory." Respected voices from both political parties advocate an end to this tragic misadventure, and calls to compound the losses by sending more troops are madness.

2. DOE money demands. Between 1975 and 2005, funding for public schools increased tenfold and school employees nearly doubled while enrollment remained flat, yet two-thirds of our schools still can't meet minimum standards for teaching reading and math. Let's talk about obvious deficiencies in the way our schools are run before we pony up more money for more of the same.

3. Political turf battles. Honest differences between the governor and Legislature, the mayor and City Council and the Democratic factions in the House and Senate can forge sound policy and better public understanding if they focus on the substance of the issues. But battles over turf and personal power have become tiresome distractions.

4. Endless analysis of Michelle Wie. Yeah, the Hawai'i golfer is fair game as a filthy rich culture princess, but she's also just a kid who deserves a fair chance to find her way without being terminally judged for daring to be different in expressing her talent.

5. Subpoenas targeting journalists. From Washington to San Francisco, courts are trying to turn reporters into law enforcers by demanding disclosure of confidential news sources. This short-sighted judicial bullying threatens to destroy our traditional role as watchdogs of government and turn us into agents of the state. Time to set reasonable boundaries with a national shield law.

David Shapiro, a veteran Hawai'i journalist, can be reached by e-mail at dave@volcanicash.net. Read his daily blog at blogs.honoluluadvertiser.com.

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