author On Politics

Richard Borreca

Sunday, June 27, 2004

In mayor’s race, no one
has worked up a sweat

Political campaigns lend themselves to sports analogies and this season's contests are no exception. Honolulu's race for mayor, for instance, seems a lot like an NBA game because only the last three minutes matter.

In the mayor's race, it seems nothing important will happen until the last three weeks. So far voters have been treated mostly to throat-clearing exercises.

Unlike an NBA basketball game, however, this mayor's race is not now and never has been exciting. The two top candidates are smart, experienced and articulate former councilmen and government veterans. Mufi Hannemann started his career as an intern with former Gov. George Ariyoshi, while Duke Bainum started local political life as an intern for former state Sen. Bert Kobayashi.

Too bad neither candidate's political pedigree helped in perking up his politics.

Hannemann stresses local roots, while Bainum is focused on integrity. Nothing wrong with either plan, but there is nothing in either platform to make you stay around for the second half.

It appears now that the cast is set. A third major candidate had been expected, although those hoping for a surprise challenger must now contend with a calendar giving only 12 more weeks until the primary election.

In past decades, the mayor's race was about whether you thought Frank Fasi was doing a good job. The 22-year Honolulu Hale veteran is again running for mayor, but this year the race is not about him. After Fasi, the race was about whether Jeremy Harris should remain. Now, with Harris term-limited out of the race, the candidates must answer the question: What is this race about?

"You block and tackle better than the team you're playing, you win," legendary football coach Vince Lombardi reminded his team. In somewhat of a mixed sports metaphor, it is not unreasonable to expect the mayor to excel in the basics of running municipal government.

Even the mundane job of fixing potholes can be sold, if you do it right.

As one political expert suggested for a campaign theme: "We are in a fight against every pothole in this city and the No. 1 enemy is the pothole you hit every morning."

A candidate's crusade to fix Honolulu's streets can easily be extended to repairing the parks, pledging to fill up the dry city pools, patch the tennis courts and mow the grass.

Certainly it would be possible to give Honolulu a police force that lowers our crime rates, a police force with a radio system that works, one with updated computers and one that forcefully attacks some of Honolulu's crime-blighted enclaves.

While both Bainum and Hannemann are promising better roads and a willingness to fight crime, there is little in their platforms to explain how or when the battle would be launched.

Failing some specifics about city basics, the duo are likely to continue the vague shadow-boxing until the last week in August.

Then their campaigns will unfold with both sides hoping for three-pointers, but expecting to do most of the scoring on the foul line.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at


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