Running for office is all about promises; running a government is all about figuring out what promises you can keep.
The late political columnist William Safire recounted that when Earl Long, the colorful former governor of Louisiana, was asked about an angry group of constituents demanding that he fulfill a campaign promise, he instructed his deputy, "Tell them I lied."
If candidates for governor can promise you the moon, does the new governor really have to deliver?
For Gov. Neil Abercrombie, it appears the campaign has not ended.
Abercrombie followed a primary election blowout over former Mayor Mufi Hannemann with a general election thrashing of former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona. Along the way Abercrombie compiled a 43-page book of promises.
In Abercrombie’s campaign, Hawaii was on the verge of getting a clearing house of federal programs set up in the governor’s office, a special "Hawaii Channel" of television and Internet shows to aggressively market Hawaii, an independent energy authority and even state money to pay for homeowners’ photovoltaic systems.
Now Abercrombie is governor, but the campaign continues and the resulting promises keep flowing.
In May on Kauai, Abercrombie promised to chop Kauai’s unemployment rate by releasing millions for construction projects.
According to The Garden Island newspaper, Abercrombie said he would cut Kauai’s 8.5 percent unemployment rate in half within 18 months. So next November, just before you go vote, check if Kauai unemployment is 4.25 percent.
"My goal on Kauai next year is that everybody is working," Abercrombie promised.
Since then, Abercrombie’s construction plan has grown. With an authorized $1.4 billion in construction money, Abercrombie is ready to start spending.
"We are going to put together a billion-dollar program of public works directly relating to housing, education, hospitals and transportation," Abercrombie told the crowd at a community meeting at Washington Middle School last week.
The state never really spends that much in new construction in one year. In fact, the Legislature in its committee report on the budget noted that because in 2009 the Lingle administration refinanced much of the state’s bonds, "which will result in substantial increases to debt service," Hawaii could not afford to float another $1.4 billion in bonds.
Abercrombie, however, promised that he would build housing to "take a significant number of veterans off the street." He would also rehab "hundreds, if not thousands, of empty apartment units" for new public housing.
Schools, prisons and hospitals are also going to get a new menu, according to Abercrombie.
"They are going to be growing their own food, we are going to be making an effort, we are going to change their diet around," Abercrombie said of state prisoners.
He then promised, "Very shortly we will be coming out with a new prospectus for you to consider regarding new prison facilities."
Left unsaid was that while Abercrombie was promising to bring prisoners home, he had just signed a new, three-year contract to house some 1,900 Hawaii prisoners in a private Arizona prison.
Perhaps the best way to judge Abercrombie’s frenetic promising is the reaction of Kauai Chamber of Commerce President Randy Francisco, who said back in May, "The message is one thing. It’s the results that matter."
Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at email@example.com.