It’s stories like this one that undermine confidence in government, that breed cynicism about it. That’s not the fault of the messengers, reporter Mark Niesse of the Associated Press and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which published his work. They both performed a valuable public service.

But when it appears that there’s one rule for government and another rule for the rest of us, it sends a bad message. That’s exactly what’s going on with the way tenants are being treated at the Mayor Wright public housing complex in Honolulu. Most of the tenants don’t have hot water and haven’t for years. There’s no way government would accept that from a private landlord. The owner would get slammed with fines and shamed by publicity. But nothing seems to affect the state.

As Niesse reports:

Living conditions inside the rundown, concrete, low-rise apartment housing project near downtown Honolulu haven’t changed much in years despite pleas from residents for their landlord — the state — to maintain its buildings like private owners would have to if their hot water systems broke down.

Instead, residents’ children take frigid showers before school, their dishes are hard to clean and the chance of illness increases as the government repeatedly fails to find money for repairs. “It gets me worked up. Doggone it, do I have to live with this?” asked Fetu Kolio, president of Mayor Wright’s tenant association. “Who doesn’t want a warm shower? … The issue has been here for years, and nothing’s been done about it.”

Civil Beat’s Robert Brown wrote about the problem after the November election.

After his story was published, we asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie about the situation. He told us: “We certainly will address that as quickly as possible if it isn’t already by the time I get (sworn in).”

We all know about the financial problems of the state. But what a lesson it would be if the governor showed that there’s no double-standard, that the government won’t hold itself to a lower set of expectations than it would hold a citizen, just because it’s able.

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