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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, June 17, 2001

With a few changes, Hawai'i can be high-tech power

By Jeremy Harris
Honolulu mayor

The dawn of the new century brings with it great opportunities for the people of Hawai'i and also great challenges.

In this new age we are — more than ever — in a situation of close interdependence with other places and other peoples. Although the Hawaiian archipelago is still the most isolated place in the world, new technology and new realities make us, in effect, next-door neighbors to every other place on earth.

One of our greatest challenges is to find ways to improve our economy. If we're to compete and succeed in the new global village we must build sustainable economic growth that improves our quality of life while protecting our precious environment.

And we must empower our citizens so that they become full partners in this quest. An empowered citizenry requires an end to "top-down" government that imposes burdensome regulations on its citizens and businesses.

Government in Hawai'i must begin to trust the people, and allow them to make more decisions for themselves and for their communities.

The primary means to this end is a wholesale change in our approach to governance. Hawai'i cannot compete — our businesses and our people cannot succeed — in the global arena unless and until we are willing to reduce the size and cost of government.

This requires streamlining government services, eliminating duplication between different levels of government, increasing productivity, and privatizing services which can be delivered more effectively and at less cost by the private and nonprofit sectors.

Only by aggressively pursuing these strategies will we be able to hold down taxes and make it affordable for working women and men. And only by making Hawai'i affordable can we encourage businesses to invest and stay here to give our children meaningful job opportunities.

Building a sustainable economy means diversification, and moving away from the instability that comes from putting all of our eggs in one economic basket.

Our greatest opportunity in this high-tech century lies in developing our own homegrown high-technology industries. These will not only contribute to Hawaii's economy but also create and maintain good-paying jobs. Areas of high-tech that show particular promise include the fields, which fall under biotechnology: genetic research, agricultural and aquacultural research and development, and medical research.

Hawai'i's central Pacific location — long an impediment to cost-effective communication and transportation — can be an asset in this information age if we develop appropriate fiber connectivity facilities.

The natural destiny for Hawai'i is to become the bridge between East and West, or the gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.

Hawai'i can and must become the center for knowledge- and service-based industries for the Pacific-Asian region, the area of the world where most of the economic and population growth will occur over the next 30 years.

We've got to make sure that Hawai'i's people are chosen to provide the expertise needed by Asian cities in fields such as information technology, tropical ag, recycling, transportation, planning, and water and resource management.

But for our expertise to be desirable and marketable, we must insure that our children are prepared with the best possible education and training.

We must invest in our schools and rebuild our educational facilities. Teachers can't teach and kids can't learn in rundown or inadequate facilities without air-conditioning or basic tools such as computers and textbooks.

The condition of our school facilities and adequacy of basic teaching tools is a direct reflection of our true commitment to education.

But placing education at the top of our priority list requires giving our teachers the respect they deserve and have earned.

This doesn't just mean appropriate compensation, but also hiring enough teachers to allow quality time with each student.

And along with these needed improvements for our public school system, the University of Hawai'i needs the freedom and the resources to become a truly first-class university — the premier institution for higher education in the Pacific Basin.

Can all of this be done, and done in time to save Hawai'i from economic stagnation and international irrelevance?

YES. And it shall be done.

At the City and County of Honolulu, I've been proud to preside over an era of renewal and re-engineering city government. We have re-engineered to focus on our customers. We have renewed by empowering our communities; by allowing citizens to have a greater say in their municipal government; by being open to new ideas and employing cutting-edge technology.

We have embraced change, and placing people above bureaucratic perks and priorities, and redesigning policies, programs and facilities around human needs.

THIS is what needs to be done at the state level.

THIS is new government for the new millennium, and it's what Hawai'i needs to succeed, compete and thrive in the 21st century.

Honolulu has shown it can be done, and the hard and cold facts prove that the same must be done for Hawaii to realize its destiny and create a preferred, sustainable future for all of our people.