Hawaii: a pressing case for a “pilot” public-private partnership . . . privatize the legislature

When your legislators tell you they want to privatize public assets, know this is a blatant admission of incompetence

Current government operatives are no more qualified to manage public lands than they are to manage America's space program


Newly introduced Senate Bill SB1387 (companion House Bill HB1089) once again tries to convince the people of Hawaii (this time with shadowy introducers in the background) that privatizing publicly owned land somehow solves a problem.

In the case of privatizing the public's harbor system, the State of Hawaii has been directly responsible for creating the "problem" that needs to be "solved".  A decade of deliberate, in-your-face DLNR neglect and abuse of the public's harbor system was designed to create a rationale and a convincer that private out-of-state multinational corporations could do a much better job.

This time SB1387 tells us that it's a "pilot" public-private partnership. This time we're making believe that there never have existed previous "pilot" privatization schemes . . . except that there were: like the disastrous privatization mooring pilot at Keehi lagoon, or the awkward and outrageously expensive pilot at Kewalo Basin, or the incredibly failed "pilot" privatization attempt (on behalf of Larry Ellison) at Lanai's public marina. Or how about the hugely failed privatization of the Ala Wai's Texaco fuel dock property, or the catastrophically failed Ala Wai Marine property privatization that ended up costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Before any discussion about privatizing public lands takes place, there needs to be a board or a formal advisory committee established that is made up of members of the public who will be affected by this radical transformation of public properties.

A laughable legislative attempt to do this takes shape in the form of HB422, a bill that would gut the board’s power by disallowing members to advise about harbor management, the very core of their purpose and expertise.  Members of the legislature have to understand that, after Hawaii’s absolutely disastrous Covid response that forced more than 1,000 local businesses to permanently close up shop, people are watching . . . closely.

By privatizing public properties and handing them over to wealthy out-of-state interests, you are admitting to the public that you cannot manage public assets.  If this is the case, what else “public” are government operatives unable to manage?

That the state of Hawaii has decided that it does not want to take responsibility for it's publicly owned properties is no excuse for privatization. The problem is not the marinas, the problem is the very people within our government – people like DOBOR Administrator Ed Underwood – who have been entrusted to manage these marinas.  These are people who are no more qualified to manage public properties than they are to manage America’s space program.

As such, the call for privatization simply raises the question about whether the state is actually capable of managing anything public.

If ever there was a need for a pilot privatization project, it would be for the privatization of Hawaii's legislature. We have an abundance of intelligent, pono people who live in Hawaii, none of whom seem to be serving in our current government. Why not hold serious talent searches, conduct public interviews, bring in people who are trained in areas relating to the responsibility that comes with lawmaking -- people who have an honorable history of service. Pay them well and forbid them to take contributions of any kind and in any form. Have strict rules with severe consequences for violators. Each district could approve or disapprove of the appointee, in keeping with the democratic process. The emphasis here is on qualified personnel, something we seem to be sorely lacking in our government.

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