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How does Hawaii stack up? Consider the national rankings

By Cynthia Oi

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:23 p.m. HST, Aug 05, 2011



No disrespect to the great state of New Jersey, the first to sign the Bill of Rights and the third to ratify the U.S. Constitution, but when you think of the Garden State, nestled in there south of New York and east of Pennsylvania, the foremost image that comes to mind isn't its beaches.

Yet Jersey's North Atlantic coastal water quality beat Hawaii's, at least according to a report last week by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Coming in fourth among 30 oceanfront states was hailed by a Hawaii tourism official as a "priceless" ranking, but for a group of Pacific islands whose reputation is immersed in sparkling blue seas, falling behind New Hampshire at No. 1, the aforementioned New Jersey at No. 2 and Oregon at No. 3 is, well, somewhat embarrassing.

When viewed as a whole, the results of the report aren't much to celebrate with the number of beach closings and advisories in 2010 reaching the second-highest level in the 21 years the NRDC has been collecting data. The report only sifts through information the states supply, and monitoring and standards among the states are inconsistent.

Still, the opportunity to sing one's own praises cannot be shrugged off when it involves an element significant for tourism, and it is not often that Hawaii gets to boast when it comes to multi-state surveys.

In another report last week, for example, Hawaii was rated a lousy place to do business. Although the study ranked the islands as tops for quality of life, the state placed 48th in business competitiveness in 2010, bettering by a single tick its position at 49th for the previous three years.

Even though the CNBC book of bad wasn't the first thrown at the islands and even though it didn't tell government leaders, politicians and the Chamber of Commerce types anything new, such characterizations can press psychological depression on top of the economic blue funk Hawaii's experiencing.

There was some better news in another survey that found that Honolulu's unemployment rate in May was among the lowest of about 400 metropolitan areas surveyed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 4.9 percent rate, however, was up from 4.6 percent in April. Island numbers were darkest in Hawaii County that came in at 9.2 percent, but when compared to 27.9 percent in Yuma, Ariz., the situation doesn't seem so bad.

Be that as it may, for people out of work, collations and correlations of statistics have little to do with the pavement they pound in search of a job. They don't care that a North Dakota city claimed the lowest rate of 2.9 percent; they live in Hilo, not Bismarck.

All the rankings, ratings, surveys, reports and studies do is allow Hawaii to take a skimming look at the state of the state when put up against the states of other states. They don't amount to much unless good ideas and effective designs and successful programs embedded in the data are separated and reformulated for local solutions. Until then, we live with what we have and don't have.

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Cynthia Oi can be reached at coi@staradvertiser.com.






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