The Secret to Success in Politics?

People don’t like government. They claim that it’s too complicated and they don’t know who to call. Even if the did know, they complain that they can never get through.

And they’re right.

But back through most of the 1970s, the City of Honolulu had it figured out.

For almost ten years back then, I served as Director of the Office of Information and Complaint for the City of Honolulu. I was appointed to the job by then-Mayor Frank Fasi and my office was part of the Office of the Mayor. Put another way: Mayor Fasi was my department head.

I loved that job . . . and for the simple reason that we spent all day, every day helping people who had questions or problems about city services. 

Ordinary citizens would call my office because there was a pothole in the road in front of thir house . . . or a street light shone into their bedroom at night . . . or a junk car had been abandoned on their property . . . or a trash can that the city’s refuse collectors had skipped in that morning’s collection . . . or a city bus that didn’t stop to pick up a citizen already late for work.

All of these problems are typical of the minor-but-annoying issues that confront every taxpayer from time to time. Adding to their frustration, they’re not sure who to call or they can’t get through to the person who may or not be the one with the authority to deal with their problem. 

Take the trash can that was not picked up and emptied, for example. Chances are it was left behind because it was overweight. These little problems are easy solved, but only if you know who to call. Little by little, more and more, the citizen/tax payers of Honolulu learned if there was a problem they couldn’t solve quickly and easily, they knew there was probably one sure-fire way to  take care off it: call my office.

The staff answered the phone by saying , “Mayor’s Office. How can I help you?”

Every year the number of calls increased. And there’s no doubt in my mind that our office contributed in a significant way to the fact that Mayor Frank Fasi was re-elected four times and was Mayor of Honolulu for a total of 22 years . . . far longer than any other mayor in the history of our capitol city.

Could it be that the secret to success in politics and government is simply to effectively take care of the little, day-to-day problems that annoy and distract the tax-paying public?

Yes, it could!