Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, July 7, 1999

Careers may sink or
swim with Natatorium

Mayor Harris, thank you for visiting the Make My Day political consultant agency. We are here to serve you with the finest in political themes, tactics and, yes, weapons.

Remember, everything is politics and winning is what counts. So what do you want to win? Mayor's office? Governorship? Both? OK, we can do it.

Let's start by identifying your voters. Research is key -- who knows about you and who likes you? The Natatorium issue is big -- it is what we like to call a "hot button" issue.

First: Who loves it? Yes, sir, nostalgia is in, but most people who remember swimming in the Natatorium say it was dirty and polluted.

It is a dump, but let's take a look at the numbers.

Who remembers when the Natatorium was built? That's your core. They have what we call invested memory.

It was built in 1927, so people born that year would be 72. OK, that's not a big group. But how about those who remember when it was closed because the city and the state couldn't agree on keeping it clean? That was in 1979. So people born that year are now 20 years old.

So your supporters aren't a big group and lots of people never even knew about it being a swimming pool. Forget the numbers. We can win with sizzle, not stats.

Let's look at the emotional, historic impact.

It's right up there with, let's see, well -- it's right up there with the Spanish-American War vote. You remember the Maine, don't you? Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders?

Right after that came War World I, and then came 1927 and the Waikiki Natatorium.

Who could stop you from wanting to save it?

The City Council? Ignore the Council members, just don't listen to them.

Some judge? What does she know? She told you that you can't do it? That's ludicrous. Oh, you told her that, huh? Maybe you should have kept your mouth shut on that one.

So how much is this whole thing going to cost? You have the money to cover it, right?

It will take $11.5 million just to fix this pool? That's a lot of money; how many regular pools could you buy for that?

Doesn't matter, you got the money, right? What do you mean the city is broke? How are you going to pay for the pool? Borrow the money -- sure, you can borrow it, as long as the people like the idea.

They hate it? Two-to-one, they hate it.

Listen, your Honor, you really aren't making my day. Let's go through this again.

You want to fix up this pool, which is built right in the ocean, but sometimes the water gets too dirty for swimming and the Health Department says it can't approve it and a state judge told you to knock it off, and the City Council chairman, who is your buddy, says he doesn't like it and the public breaks out in hives just thinking about it.

So now you are appointing a committee to figure out what to do with it after you build it.

Wait a minute, you mean you haven't done that yet? You are going to tick off half the people on the island, spend all that money for something that hardly anybody cares about and you don't know what you are going to do with it?

Listen, maybe I'm not going to make your day, after all. OK, thanks, be seeing you.

Hello, Councilwoman Kim. Glad to see you brought Councilmen Hannemann and Yoshimura. So you all want to run next year and you're fighting the Natatorium restoration? Yes, I think I can make your day.

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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