Jim Clark: The political state of Hawaii
January 21, 2014
Following a wet and cold December in North Lake Tahoe I booked a plane to Hawaii, arriving New Years Eve. Wouldn't you know it that's when Incline's weather turned spring like. Anyhow it was a great two weeks and it gave me a chance to examine the political goings on in a deeply blue state.
In 1959, when both Hawaii and Alaska were granted statehood the political calculus was that Alaska would be a predominantly Democratic state and Hawaii would tend Republican. The Territory of Hawaii was at that time primarily an agricultural economy with a significant military community.
The first governor of the State of Hawaii was Republican Bill Quinn. As time passed tourism blossomed and agricultural field hands could not be found at wages that made sense so Hawaii phased out production of pineapples and sugar in commercial quantities and the last Macadamia nut factory sold to Hershey Corporation several years ago.
The military presence has been somewhat reduced due to defense budget constraints (meanwhile in Alaska when oil was discovered big energy interests moved in and it became a solid Republican state).
Currently Hawaii has two Democratic senators, two Democratic congressmen, a Democratic governor, 24 Democrats and one Republican in the state senate and 43 Democrats and seven Republicans in the lower house.
Hawaii's population (1,374,880) is almost exactly half of Nevada's (2,788,593) and Democrats rule the roost. Tourism dominates the economy. Japanese outnumber Caucasian visitors in Waikiki, and many posh stores accept Japanese yen; flights between Honolulu and China were just being inaugurated during my visit.
You would think the Aloha State would be a political mirror of European socialist democratic nations but interestingly enough it's not. The median priced home is nearly seven hundred thousand dollars, median income is $103,000 for a family of four (usually involving 2 or 3 jobs for each breadwinner) and those families earning $61,800 or less qualify for city subsidized housing which, like most new structures in Honolulu, consists of high rise apartments with sweeping views.
Two issues dominate the political landscape at present: the problems of homelessness and pre-primary education. Throughout Honolulu (which consists of the entire island of Oahu) there are clusters of tents in which the homeless congregate.
Since this blight threatens the thriving tourist economy the city authorities conduct frequent "sweeps" to oust the homeless from their camps and confiscate their belongings including kids' toys. In short order the squatters return to the spot from which they were removed, appeal to get their property back and the process begins anew.
Honolulu calls these sweeps "compassionate disruption" intended to discourage squatting on sidewalks. They add that its just part of an overall plan which includes finding suitable housing for the displaced persons. Unfortunately the city's subsidized housing inventory is losing millions of dollars yearly and they are trying to privatize it.
Meanwhile Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie is championing a state Constitutional amendment which would allow Hawaii to fund private pre-kindergarten programs. If you tried this in even red states like Utah or Idaho it might cause some heartburn among teacher union leaders so how did such an idea ever take hold in liberal Hawaii?
According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, 42 percent of Island children enter kindergarten without having attended pre school. It appears as though the proponents' desire for effective spending on education overrode union opposition to state dollars going to private schools.
Maybe Nevadans should pay attention to this "liberal" scheme.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at email@example.com.