"You know me" Senate commercials present former Hawaii governor as what she is not.
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Linda Lingle’s political ads say that we know her. Indeed we do. We know her for the failed Super Ferry, the billion-dollar auction rate securities travesty, and enough school furlough days to qualify Hawaii as having the fewest public school instructional days in the country.
At what cost came the Super Ferry she attempted to ram through? Hawaii citizens were divided in whether the Super Ferry should be subsidized by the state. Its supporters saw it as a more cost-effective alternative to travel between the islands. However, some were concerned that it posed a threat to humpback whales and other marine life, while others questioned whether people would take the ferry because of the rough ride in the deep swells. In the end, it did not matter. The courts shut it down because as governor, she attempted to allow the company involved to pass on submitting an environmental impact statement. The result was over $90 million wasted.
Hawaii taxpayers were victimized by another ill-advised executive decision, only this time the stakes were even higher. Lingle put $400 million in state funds in auction rate securities prior to the economy tanking nationally. Once a virtual run on the banks began, she responded by throwing in another $600 million. The result was not a complete loss, but $1.1 billion was tied up for 15 years, which made a bad recession worse. The loss to our economy was criminal, particularly because when she made the investment, the state was behind more than $400 million in maintaining our public schools.
In 2007, the Legislature allocated to public schools $200 million of the $600 million that was left over before she took over. She responded by refusing to release it. This money was not for new capital improvements. It was for maintaining what we had. By way of example, King Kamehameha III Elementary on Maui had been waiting for over a decade for a new roof. Students in the third-grade building were not only being rained on in the classroom, but the saturated roofing rotted and fell on the students. One massive piece missed a third-grade girl by mere inches. I emailed Lingle asking her, “Does a student have to die in order for you to release funding for a new roof?” It took pictures sent to Rep. Angus Mckelvey and a story in the local newspaper exposing this issue to embarrass Lingle enough to release funding for the new roof.
Despite the surplus she inherited — now gone over the securities deal gone bad — to pay for her costly mistakes, she imposed 37 furlough days for all state workers. This was overly reactionary, because 37 furlough days for all state workers translated to 8 percent salary cuts. Economies are driven by demand. Demand comes from discretionary income. The more discretionary income spent, the more businesses sell their goods. When businesses are successful at meeting demand, more are employed to make more products and those newly hired further increases demand.
State workers furloughed of course included public school teachers. Lingle ran on education, but everyone remembers Furlough Fridays. Hawaii State Teachers Association challenged the legality of the 37 furlough days in court and won. Then, through collective bargaining, HSTA was able to bring down the 37 days to 17. Meanwhile, disgruntled parents who showed up at her office to demonstrate their unhappiness with the instructional days taken from their children were promptly arrested. Unfortunately, teachers continued to be furloughed to this day.
Her record only got worse. Lingle’s claims to bipartisanship ring false when one considers that as governor, she cut the University of Hawaii and Department of Education by $192 million. She replaced it with President Obama’s stimulus (AARA) money, funds meant to supplement, not supplant, state funds from reducing salaries and cutting jobs.
Lingle attempts a theme of familiarity with voters, yet she does so via attempts to present herself as what she is not. A Republican, all her ads are done in Democrat blue. She is always wearing blue. Her signs are primarily in blue. She uses a picture of Hawaii’s most venerable Democrat, Sen. Dan Inouye, without his permission to promote herself as bipartisan in political ads. She even has an ad showing so-called Democrats saying they were going to vote for her. Included was Elaine Slavinsky, who said, “I’m a Democrat and I’m voting for Linda Lingle.” Yet she ran as a Republican for the Senate in 2004.
“You know me,” Lingle says in her Senate campaign ads. Voters who do should know better than to vote for her again.
About the author:Justin Hughey is a special education teacher who has taught at King Kamehameha III Elementary School in Lahaina Maui since 2005. Current department head, HSTA faculty rep who has had to moonlight as a waiter for 6 years to survive.
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