What Small Businesses Asks of Government

I’m admittedly not an overly political person. I don’t watch news about politics for the most part, and if one of my Facebook “friends” posts anything political or partisan, I unfriend them immediately. That said, I do vote in every election and do, on occasion, donate to causes and candidates that I support. 

I run a small business, and most certainly, the actions of our county (Hawaii County), state (Hawaii), and the country’s politicians and governments have a big impact on my ability to run a sustainable business, employ workers and pay taxes.

If I had a magic wand, here is what my small business would ask of the government:

  1. A level playing field. The past Honolulu District Attorney and Chief of Police in Honolulu are in jail for some amazing levels of corruption. The head of the Honolulu Planning and Permitting department has admitted to accepting over $100,000 in bribes over the years. This means, of course, that some businesses can buy preferential treatment for what is historically a very poorly run and painfully slow department.  I hope that the FBI is able to pursue others in our government at the state and county levels to reduce what is commonly believed (and often observed) corrupt systems.
  2. Vastly improved and streamlined services. I have known of several restauranteers in Kona that have had to wait many months for their permits to open. I know of building permits that have taken over a year. The last time I went to renew my driver’s license, the quickest appointment I could get was three months out. We need to apply the same expectations for customer service of the government as we would of a private business. They work for us. 
  3. We have Environmental Impact Statements–a good thing, in my opinion–but we should also have Business/Economic Impact Statements. If a housing development is proposed for some vacant land, how many jobs would be gained? How many households would be able to save money by being closer to their work location? How much wear and tear on vehicles and roads would be reduced by having housing closer to work locations? How many people would be able to start building generational wealth by becoming homeowners instead of renters? We must look at what our government does (or doesn’t do) from a much wider perspective. We cannot let the NIMBYs and extremists with loud voices dominate the process.
  4. Add a rule, remove a rule. Add a tax, and remove a tax (or two). We have very high taxes and are heavily burdened with laws and regulations. I get it that some things need to be done, but instead of add, add add, we need to find ways to reduce the cost and scope of government. 
  5. Focus on the potholes. Some things affect businesses and residents every day: poor roads, crime, and areas overrun with (often) drug-addicted and severely mentally ill street people. Add to that painfully slow County and State services for consultations, inspections, and permitting. These are bread-and-butter issues for us. While it’s nice for our County Council members to care about global warming–so do I–but they need to focus on making our communities more livable, safe, and inviting to businesses as a primary responsibility.Maybe 95% effort and things that matter to people every day and 5% on virtue signaling and problems that cannot be solved at the County level.

I often think about how our government would be if it had the same expectations for performance and accountability as the private sector. Unfortunately, there are no alternatives, no competitors to what our government does. That’s part of the problem from my business owner’s perspective: government is run by people who do not have anywhere near the accountability of private sector entities.