Why This Mayor Matters So Much

We’ve tended to elect a Honolulu mayor along the line of the city political power structure and moneyed advertising for half a century, with exception of the populism-period of Frank Fasi and the one-time disaster of Eileen Anderson.

We were most content under Neil Blaisdell because, although a Republican, he was practically a bagman for Democratic council members and Gov. John Burns. They were all on the same team, except for eccentric council member Richard Kageyama and renegade Lt. Gov. Tom Gill.

We haven’t had much comity since then.

The mayor elected this year will have to work for the next two years with Gov. David Ige and would-be-governor Josh Green.  It’s a non-partisan post but of course that’s a joke. The winner will again be a known Democrat. A player for a sometime gubernatorial race.

I’m not much for those with a sudden infusion of importance, so I’d cross out Rick Blagianrdi, the former KGMB general manager who used to do on-air editorials. Those did work well for former station owner Cec Heftel, who went  to Congress. But he had been a delegate to the State Democratic National Convention and a gubernatorial candidate. Blangiardi has no standing in the state or city power structure.

Kymberly Pine sends out emails so often that I’ve consigned her to my Spam box. She’s her best publicist but not, that I’ve noticed, a long-view policy maker. However, we do need to consider a qualified women for mayor. Having had only one, Eileen Anderson, doesn’t speak well for us. Pine and veteran politician Colleen Hanabusa amply represent serious political womanhood this year. One or the other has a serious shot at the job.

Choon James from Laie is very likable, a populist always on the little people’s side, a community activist and no servant to developers. But also has no experience with city budgets and merging the wants of large economic movers and left activists. She also lacks the connection with major players who must be enticed into a forward-looking city plan.

I sense it will be a no-outright-winner primary contest between Pine, former sports coordinator, businessman and non-profit leader Keith Amemiya and  Hanabusa.

Right now, Amemiya seems to lead in the number of campaign signs and James in  the number of Facebook postings and those front page “ears” in the Star-Advertiser. Hanabusa is getting the latest publicity start of any major candidate for that office in modern times.

This will not be one of those years when you can conformably vote because you just like one candidate or the next. We’re damn near broke. We’ll have a transit train nobody might ride. Sewage and garbage-disposal issues that can sink a candidate. Property tax issues in the wake of COVID-19 on top of those transit accommodation issues.

No, voting “nice” or “party” would be really stupid this year of all years.

Somebody else might suddenly break through.  State Sen. Laura Thielen  tops my list because she would bring serious policy intellect, bi-partisan meaningfulness, and accomplished womanhood to City Hall. But she’s shown no interest at all. Charles Djou theoretically could have a last minute change of mind and be a true middle-road candidate. So far, he’s said no dice. Steve Alm has the brains, vision and personality but seems to have set his sight on being City Prosecutor. Panos Prevedouros apparently got the message that he’s not electable and is staying at the UH Engineering school.

And that’s all, folks! (Musical chairs sound up full.)


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

2 replies on “Why This Mayor Matters So Much”

  1. Amemiya has the support of the old AJA guard and is known as a turn-around operator. Ditto on Blangiardi. Honolulu has never elected a follically-challenged candidate. Hanabusa and Pine lack the urban area support.

  2. Ugh to all the visible choices. Can’t we somehow get through to Thielen or Djou? Amemiya is from the Old Boys network going back to Jack Burns days. Good family, nice guys, but not visionaries. Pine….puhleez. Hanabusa…sketchy ties to developers. My way or the Hiway kinda operator.

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