According to a 2014 study by the Reason Foundation, Hawaii has the worst roads in the country. Spending any amount of time driving in Hawaii will attest to that fact over and over with every pothole you hit. Mayor after mayor of the City and County of Honolulu has promised and assured us that they’d spend the money needed to repair the potholes and alligator cracks that litter our daily commute. Yet it seems that with every pothole that gets repaired, two more pits are gouged by mother nature. So the question that has been on everyone’s mind for as long as I’ve been politically active: What the hell is the problem? Depending on who you ask, even the most seasoned of our representatives don’t know and refuse to find out.
During the most recent election season, then-Hawaii State Representative Karl Rhoads canvassed in my neighborhood during his run for State Senate. When I answered his knocks at my door, he greeted me with, “I see your road was just paved. That’s really good.” I didn’t want to be a dick so I didn’t point out that I was aware that the city road on which I live isn’t in the purview of the State. Now-Senator Rhoad’s, however, isn’t the only state official that takes an interest in my roads. I met with my State Representative, Takashi Ohno, on the opening day of Hawaii’s legislature. The first question he asked me was if my road was paved.
I am lucky to live in a district where our elected officials hold town hall-style meetings where community concerns can be voiced. As with many casual community meetings the whole thing usually devolves into a gripefest and, based on the disproportionate number of times it comes up, potholes and the deplorable state of our roads is a priority for my neighbors. And, despite the obnoxiousness of many of the comments on the subject, it’s really good to see our elected State representatives recognizing it as a priority.
Unfortunately, with our roads being city roads, they are powerless to really do much about it. And the one person who has such power — my City Council member (who shall remain nameless) — really doesn’t seem to give a shit. Despite being in their current office since 2012 (and first elected in the late ’70s), when they were probed by constituents for answers my councilperson offered to record their email and send a response at some later time in place of an actual answer to our problems. I’d like to believe that after 40 years in public office my councilperson isn’t ignorant of better ways to handle our roads, therefore they must just not care. This whole experience speaks to an overarching trend of mediocrity in our local government. If my councilperson, because of name recognition after years in the legislature, can demolish their opponent to the tune of almost 20 points why should she care?
Next time you hit a pothole, please remember the promises that your elected officials made. Also remember that Hawaii isn’t the only state in which it rains, it isn’t the hottest, nor is it the only state next to a salty ocean. And despite what long time incumbents would have you believe, we have the ability to do things better but it’s clear that we lack the will.