Special to KPUA.net by H.I.E.D.B
Reconfiguring Government...hard questions with no easy answers
Hawaii Island Economic Development Board is a private non-profit organization whose mission is, "To provide and promote private-sector support and expertise for balanced economic growth in Hawaii County, in partnership with federal, state, county and private resources."
Our state government seems to be taking a closer look at itself. The recent administrative transfer of the Office of Planning from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) to the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is one example.
In explaining the reassessment that brought about this recent and unexpected change, state administration has said "For state government to work better and more efficiently, it is necessary that we identify and rectify instances where an agency's mission does not square with its responsibilities."
For the Office of Planning and DLNR, there were overlapping responsibilities that included land use planning, coastal zone management and use by both departments of the same geographic information system. The overlap created redundant work that in turn creates unnecessary expense.
This retooling of state government should continue. We encourage the state administration to take a look at all levels of government and reexamine their missions and priorities. Without analyzing all departments, a few examples come to mind. Should the State Department of Agriculture be based in Honolulu when the majority of the state's agricultural lands are on the neighbor islands? Should any of DLNR's twelve departments be based closer to the land and natural resources they manage? Could private sector partnerships better manage assets such as the concession for cabins on Mauna Kea, visitor attractions on state land and beach parks such as Hapuna? Environmental organizations are particularly well-suited to this task. Educational organizations have demonstrated the value of Kupuna partnerships in our school systems for perpetuation of Hawaiian culture. Other opportunities exist.
Why are there State highways and County roads? Why are some parks controlled by the State and others by the County? In the case of Kona's Old Airport Park one section is State controlled and the other County managed. There are undoubtedly other departments at both the state and county levels that could streamline operations, save taxpayer dollars and work more efficiently.
How does government work? At the county level, there is the Office of the Mayor and County Council. There are eighteen other county departments ranging from the Office on Aging to the Mass Transit Agency, from the Office on Environmental Management with two sub-divisions, to Parks and Recreation with five sub-divisions. At the state levelšs executive branch alone there are, in addition to the governor and lieutenant governor, sixteen other departments. These include the University of Hawaii system and its ten colleges around the islands. The Department of Accounting and General Services has eight other divisions or branches, the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism has nine and the DLNR has twelve.
These numbers provide an overview of the scope and scale of government both at the county and state levels. Would a closer look provide us answers as to why the cost of government continues to exceed collection of taxes? And would a closer look provide answers as to why in spite of increased taxes on Hawaii Island services have not increased and instead are, in many cases, being scaled back or even eliminated? There are untold opportunities for accessing federal resources through agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development as well as private funding resources. Most favor collaborative community-based programs. A new initiative soon to be announced is the State Rural Development Council that will demonstrate the strength of such collaborations.
If state government is willing to review its operations and streamline where it makes sense, perhaps county government could also take a closer look at itself? Perhaps county and state governments could begin what will no doubt be an arduous process of streamlining responsibilities between the two? Government thrives on bureaucracy. The state, under its new administration, in partnership with county leaders, legislators and council members has the perfect opportunity to reformat government. Our leaders can look beyond today and shape the future with decisions that could save untold millions of taxpayer dollars and create a model of government for generations to come.
The success of government is dependent upon a consistent flow of ideas, projects, delivery of social services and response to emerging needs. Surely among our island residents, there are thousands of ideas in this land of Aloha. We welcome you to submit your suggestions that we can share with government leaders.