The session of the state Legislature that concluded today was the least productive in the 30 years I have lived here, or perhaps ever. The ouster of Joe Souki as speaker of the House suggests that the Legislature’s fundamental problem — Oahucentricity — will get worse, not better.
Maui has always punched far above its weight in the postwar Legislatures, starting with Elmer Cravalho and Mamoru Yamasaki. I covered both men at the tail ends of their careers, and while they were as different as they could be, they did each have clear ideas of what they wanted and knew how to get much of it. Roz Baker and Joe Souki had less success leading the House and Senate but some, and at least they saw to it that Neighbor Islands’ issues were not swallowed in the goo of Oahu parochial concerns.
Now the leadership is all Oahu, and since they could not even come to a vote on Honolulu rail, I doubt next year will be productive. Today’s story in The Maui News about the inability of the legislators to deal with the Front Street Affordable Apartments, which ought to have been simple despite the heavy breathing of the speculators’ attorney, predicts the future. Don’t expect any attention to Neighbor Islands issues from here on out.
There’s a problem in the American system whenever one party dominates a legislature. Party maneuvering takes precedent over governance. We see it in the Congress now, but it afflicted John Adams and, even more, James Monroe. It’s been an unforeseen flaw since the very beginning and is baked in.