Racism and the Races
Dirty campaign tactics aren’t unique to Hawaii. Neither are racial tension and provincialism. What is unique is the sometimes charming, sometimes divisive, always muddled way we define “local.” And when that gets mixed up with election season, the pot boils over.
Take the dustup this week between Democratic gubernatorial frontrunners Mufi Hannemann and Neil Abercrombie. It began with a Hannemann campaign mailer that asked voters to “Compare and Decide.” The first two bullet points, under the heading “Personal,” contrasted the candidates’ birth places—Hannemann was born on Oahu, Abercrombie in New York—and their wives’ names. Hannemann’s wife’s name is Gail Mukaihata Hannemann; Abercrombie’s wife’s name is Nancie Caraway. (Caraway also has a middle name—Ellen—though it wasn’t mentioned in the mailer.)
The implication is clear: Hannemann is local, Abercrombie is an outsider. That’s been a consistent theme for Mufi; in a widely reported speech to the Hawaii Carpenters Union in July, Hannemann told the crowd, “I look like you. You look like me.”
Abercrombie blasted the mailer, saying it’s “not what a Governor does.” “He’s asking you to compare the fact that he was born [here] and I was born on the Mainland,” said Abercrombie in a release. “He dismisses my 35 years of service to the people of Hawaii.”
Hannemann isn’t the only candidate playing the “local” card and, by extension, the race card. It’s commonplace at both the county and state level. Sometimes it’s done subtly, sometimes overtly, but rarely is it publicly denounced. Even Abercrombie stopped short of calling Hannemann’s attack racist.
Recently, one politician went that far. In an August 8 Honolulu Star-Advertiser op ed published under the headline “Racism and localism in Hawaii politics has dark side” (begging the question, do they have a light side?), Ed Case denounced the “closed view that only local counts,” which “fosters the politics of division and exclusion…and belittles those who, while not meeting some definitions of local, contribute equally if not more to Hawaii.”
Then again, Case only wrote that after he dropped out of the race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District seat. It’d be nice to see more candidates reject these tactics (i.e. grow a pair) before being pushed to the sidelines.
Chief Justice, Take Two
A week after the Senate rejected her first choice for Chief Justice, Gov. Lingle tried again, nominating Associate Justice Mark Recktenwald. Lingle appointed Recktenwald to the Supreme Court last year; before that he headed up the Intermediate Court of Appeals. “Justice Recktenwald is highly regarded in the legal community and I have confidence that he will guide our courts in ensuring the rule of law is upheld and the tenants of our Constitution are protected,” Lingle said in a prepared statement.
Lingle didn’t mention Katherine Leonard, who the Senate voted down on August 6, but she did tout Recktenwald’s “exceptional leadership ability and strong administrative experience.” In rejecting Leonard, several Senators questioned her ability to handle the administrative side of the job.
Per the state constitution, the Senate now has 30 days to decide on Recktenwald. The safe money seems to be on confirmation. Then again, it’s never wise to underestimate the dysfunctional relationship between Lingle and the legislature.
Taking Fish to Save Fish
For the third year in a row, Maui divers took to the water to catch reef fish—with the County’s blessing. Not just any reef fish, though; the targets were roi (peacock grouper), to‘au (blacktail snapper) and ta‘ape (blue-line snapper), three predatory invasive species. Roi were introduced in the ’50s, ironically to bolster sagging fish stocks.
In all, 74 divers caught 254 roi, 12 ta‘ape and 5 to‘au at the annual Roi Roundup. (Bragging rights for biggest haul went to Dean Kawamura and Bryan Nakamoto, who caught 31 apiece.) According to a County estimate, each predator can eat an average of 146 fish a year, meaning tens of thousands of indigenous fish were potentially saved—at least until the eels, injection wells and aquarium collectors get them.
The Real Property Tax Man Cometh
Property taxes are coming due, and “my bill got lost in the mail” is no excuse. That’s the message of a County release, which reminds property owners that taxes for the first half of the year must be paid by August 23 and that “failure to pay…on time due to non-receipt of a tax bill” will still result in a 10 percent penalty plus 12 percent annual interest.
For more info, call the Maui Real Property Tax Division at 270-7697, stop by their office at the Maui Mall or visit www.mauipropertytax.com
Last week, we ran an item in this space about the Judge Leonard rejection. It featured a lengthy quote from Maui Sen. Roz Baker, who voted against Leonard, followed by a one-word sentence: “Sexist!” The idea was to contrast Baker’s thoughtful, measured remarks against the accusations—from Gov. Lingle and others—that the Senate vote was motivated by sexism.
Apparently some didn’t get the sarcasm—including Sen. Baker’s office. In an e-mail, a Baker aide confessed to being “baffled.” It isn’t the first time our snarky tone has gotten lost in translation, and it won’t be the last. Of course, we could just stop being snarky—but where’s the fun in that?