Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Black Sheep

Talifaitasi W. Satele


With all due respect to the Governor, sometimes doing nothing is actually better than doing anything at all. In situations such as purchasing the COS facility, I am constantly reminded of one of my mentor’s favorite newspaper cartoons. It depicts a lone black sheep running away from a towering cliff while the rest of the flock blindly follow one another right over it.

Fortunately, in our particular situation, legislators are asking the tough questions that need to be asked instead of going right along as usual.

However, my main concern is not particularly the proposal itself. It’s how Governor Togiola is going about it and how it reflects on how he’s been doing business lately. After making enemies out of anyone who dared to oppose his agenda in the first few years of taking office as governor, Togiola changed his strategy and made them all his “friends”.

There is nothing wrong with that. It’s the “big tent” philosophy. You know, keep your friends close and your enemies closer sort of deal.

But you start running into problems when you expect everyone just to fall in line. That’s a rare occurrence in a home with a family of more than two— let alone a “big tent” full of different interests and agendas.

But this administration seems to expect and assume broad support for anything it chooses to do. That sort of arrogance led the administration to deem it not necessary to get the Fono’s approval before expending funds on a number of items this year.

Assumption of approval replaced actual approval in that case, and that is wrong.

Otherwise, why have a Fono at all? Just assume that a make-believe legislature representing a make-believe people authorized you to spend their real life money.

And who cares if the court orders the ASG to do something; the power of the purse lies with the legislature, not the treasurer. It’s the Fono’s responsibility to address such mandates. The Fono cannot be an equal branch of government unless the other two, let alone its own legislators, treat it that way.

But getting back to his proposal, the Governor is the salesperson in this situation and the Fono (and the people) are the investors. In the free market, you persuade people to risk their own money in backing your plan; you can’t order them to do so.

The Governor has to spend more time convincing us why his proposal is, at the very least, better than doing nothing at all, and not expect us just to follow him over what seems to be a very big cliff.

In that newspaper cartoon, the only thing the black sheep says is, “excuse me, excuse me”, as he makes his way through an unsuspecting crowd. I am very proud that, in this case, our legislators are saying more than that!

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