Danny De Gracia: Time To Stop Making Excuses And Just Get Started Already - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

When I think about the many problems we have here today in Hawaii, I can’t help but find my mind always drifting back to my time as a young boy growing up in Guam.

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Childhood experiences, if we pay attention to them, can often teach us important lessons when we become adults. And unlike many of my fellow GenXers, one thing I escaped the wild 1980s and ’90s without ever experiencing as a youth was a broken bone.

But when my father was first assigned as the commander of the 633rd Medical Group at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in 1991, a large number of people on our island were suffering from bone fractures and waiting agonizingly long periods before getting care at the time.

 

My father, who grew up as an orphan, had an aggressive attitude of “never walk by something that’s wrong without doing something about it.” In the course of investigating what was behind the long treatment delays, he discovered that the clinic he was in charge of didn’t have an X-ray machine because it had broken several years earlier.

Care had been delayed because, prior to my father taking command, the clinic had developed an internal workaround of shuttling injured patients from Andersen to the Navy hospital at Agana, where they would then get an X-ray, be taken back to the Air Force base, and later diagnosed, which resulted in a huge care backlog. Every previous commander had simply gone along with this, and things were finally getting out of hand.

“So buy us our own X-ray machine,” my dad had told his people. “And make sure we get the best machine on the island.”

Those who are involved in health care procurement know that X-ray machines, along with all the other equipment that goes along with them, are not in any way cheap, both up front and in costs over time. And in government, buying things requires justification and lots of paperwork, which is why most just don’t bother and would rather give an hour-long press conference packed with esoteric excuses explaining “the significant headwinds we face in addressing care gaps.” (Not that any of us have ever heard those kinds of excuses, right?)

New Aloha Stadium rendering, NASED, Entertainment District, Halawa
Speeding up construction of Aloha Stadium is great, but let’s not stop there. Courtesy: Crawford Architects

But when you put in the work and get it done, everyone benefits in the end – and that’s precisely what happened in 1991 when the Andersen clinic got a new X-ray machine. As if by magic, the care bottleneck vanished as soon as the new equipment got installed.

I mention this story because when Gov. David Ige announced last week that he wanted to speed up the construction of Aloha Stadium, my first thought was “what took you so long?” Like the X-ray machine in Guam, this state and our multiple island counties need to stop “studying” things so much and just start buying, building, and enhancing the capacity of our communities.

Now I get it, we want to think and advise carefully about the best things to do when money is involved. But that’s not what most Hawaii study/working groups and task forces do. Winston Churchill used to quip that “a camel is a horse designed by committee.” When Hawaii stakeholders get together, they often produce handicapped camels that are overburdened with so much conflicting intellectual, cultural, political and environmental baggage that we would have been better off not meeting at all.

The reports look great – but the desired goals are always quixotic. Elected officials form these groups not because they care what people think, but because they want other people to do the thinking for them, so blame falls on anyone but the elected elite.

Ige, whatever you think about him, is right to want to get a new Aloha Stadium done, and fast. But while we’re at it, we also need to start getting some other, more important things built, now. I get it, the economy is bad and construction companies and workers need jobs. So give them contracts building things immediately that make sense and add capability to Hawaii.

Want to revitalize Hawaii? We need to stop overthinking and start quickly building new public schools that are spacious, aesthetic, modern, and prepared for a climate change future. (That means they all should have air conditioning and be heat-resistant.)

We need to stop delaying and build more public bathrooms. I can’t believe this is even a thing, that our state and county parks have dilapidated facilities that look like ancient ruins.

We need to stop making excuses and erect more bridges, pave more roads, and yes, make more public parking lots. This can be done quickly, this requires minimal “study,” and Hawaii will immediately benefit from the added capacity this gives both locals and tourists alike.

What exactly are we paying tax dollars for? For our elected officials to spend years studying something only to never do it? To spend decades, maybe even centuries, wallowing in civic incompetence and inconvenience, consoled only by press conferences explaining why we can’t do better?

Or should we say we have the right to expect the full benefits of human civilization by having an attentive government that is progressive in getting things done? All these things are Hawaii’s modern equivalent of that X-ray machine from Guam that will clear the bottlenecks and get the broken bones of this state finally on the mend.

Thank you, Gov. Ige, for finally doing something about Aloha Stadium. But while you’re at it, that same level of impatience in getting things built quickly needs to be applied to everything else. Get us our X-ray machine, Gov. Ige, and make sure Hawaii gets the best one in the world.


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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.


Latest Comments (0)

"a camel is a horse designed by committee." When Hawaii stakeholders get together, they often produce handicapped camelsThat's a great quote by Churchill and adequately placed in Hawaii politics. Even while other states, that we like to emulate, like California, have found much more efficient ways to address infrastructure maintenance, while we lag decades behind. You are correct about things like roads, which go several decades without maintenance. How can a city government not put these things on a schedule to be done based on usage and current condition? Why are they left so bad that cars are damaged, while property taxes have added hundreds of millions to the city coffers? Where do all the funds go, administration? I would venture to say the city does more business with itself, meaning spending on maintaining its own internal functions, than it does in serving the people with services. Spot on Danny.

wailani1961 · 2 months ago

Construction is booming and tourists are everywhere. Is the economy bad?

Fred_Garvin · 2 months ago

I would have liked the article to provide some justification for this statement. Personally, I completely disagree but am open minded enough to be swayed by reasons which could do so. There were none.However, I did find one bit in the article with which I agree 100%:And in diverting culpability (and action) they've convinced me that their positions aren't truly necessary, as it will be a non-profit, group, or citizen who will ultimately step up to meet the need when elected officals don't.

KeepingItReal · 2 months ago

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