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Monday, November 8, 2004



[ INTERVIEW ]


art
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann answered questions Friday at Castle High School.


Mufi vows openness
with labor, Council

He expects to make early
decisions on recycling and
the Waikiki Natatorium

Sleep-deprived, a bit giddy and at one point overcome with emotion, Honolulu's mayor-elect was still riding a wave of victory three days after the general election.

When Mufi Hannemann is sworn in Jan. 2, he will become the 12th person to hold the office of Honolulu mayor and the first of Samoan ancestry.

Honolulu Mayors

Joseph J. Fern
1909-1915, 1917-1920
John C. Lane
1915-1917
John H. Wilson
1920-1927, 1929-1931,
1947-1955
Charles N. Arnold
1927-1929
George F. Wright
1931-1938
Charles S. Crane
1938-1941
Lester Petrie
1941-1947
Neal S. Blaisdell
1955-1969
Frank F. Fasi
1969-1981, 1985-1994
Eileen Anderson
1981-1985
Jeremy Harris
1994-2004

On Friday, Hannemann met with Mayor Jeremy Harris to begin the process of transferring the helm of city government.

Earlier in the day, however, Hannemann's schedule resembled another day on the campaign trail, filled with events such as two radio interviews, an hour-long talk to Castle High School students and a sit-down interview with the Star-Bulletin.

In the interview he talked about many issues regarding his new job, and he spoke about how he'll seek the advice of those closest to him during the upcoming transition, especially his wife, Gail, chief executive of the Girl Scout Council of Hawaii.

But the man who prides himself on being able to think on his feet found that the toughest question wasn't about politics at all. Hannemann had dedicated his win Tuesday to his late parents, Gustav and Faiaso, whom he credits with instilling in him his work ethic and love for public service.

"What do you think they would say if they were here?" he was asked.

The silence that followed was long and deafening.

A few moments later, tears rolled off his face and his voice cracked continuously as he struggled to get the words out.

"I believe they'd be the happiest couple on earth."

What follows is an edited transcript of that interview:

SB: How has your life changed since Tuesday?

MH: I've had to be much more cognizant of the fact that there are a lot of people that I have to thank and say mahalo as a result of what happened on Tuesday. I've always been the kind of guy that never hesitates to say thank you, but I find myself now that, even in the corner of my eye, if somebody is even looking at me and I need to extend myself. And there's a lot people who are just so happy about what happened. Life has changed in that you can't get to me on my phone (laughing). Messages are coming in from all over, and it's a good feeling to know many people share in the joy that Gail and I have in what happened as a result of Tuesday.

SB: Do you find that you have a new sense of responsibility now? Has that set in yet?

MH: No, it really hasn't, other than the fact that there's a lot more requests now for meetings and invitations. ... What I'm finding now is that there's a lot more demands from other people who want to change my schedule, and I'm trying to be as accommodating as possible, recognizing that I'm still lacking in sleep.

SB: You said earlier this week that you're going to reach out to Duke Bainum's supporters. How do you plan to do that?

MH: There are many things that Duke and I shared in common during the course of the campaign. He wants to focus on basic services. He wanted a little more emphasis on trust and integrity. So I think that will naturally evolve. The first thing I did was put in a call to Duke at his headquarters. And so I think in due time he will call me back.

SB: So when did you do that?

MH: I did that the day after the election.

SB: And you haven't heard back from him?

MH: He could be a victim of trying to get through (on his cell phone). But I did call his headquarters.

SB: Do you want to meet with him?

MH: I'd be very open to it. But I know when you lose that sometimes you just want some quiet time, and I respect his right to have that quiet time. So when he's ready, I'm very open.

SB: You've put out the call for people to apply for Cabinet positions, and you've also said that you haven't made any promises to any supporters for city positions. But are there any posts for which you have people in mind already?

MH: Not yet. I've got to admit now I've become the biggest employment agency now in town. (Laughing) I'm getting calls from folks I haven't heard from in years, months, what have you. The only thing I'm doing right now, after my meeting with Mayor Harris, I'm going to set up a formal process. I just need to understand all the intricacies involved in transitions, so it's in the works. The only real thinking I've done so far is people that I'm going to ask to help me identify who these individuals will be that'll be appointed to these various jobs.

SB: These are people that you have worked with on the campaign and in other ...

MH: Yeah, people whose opinions I respect. People who have been with me before. And then I may reach out to just some folks who I've admired from afar and maybe don't know as well but whose judgment I think would be very valuable in this whole decision-making process.

SB: The managing director is like the mayor's right-hand man -- or woman. That's such a critical post and trusted person.

MH: I don't have an individual in mind except I know what I'm looking for.

SB: And what is that?

MH: I see myself as the (chief executive officer) of the city. A CEO sets the vision, sets the goals and objectives of the organization, sort of keeps his eye on the big picture. I see my managing director as the COO, the chief operating officer, who's going to man the store on a daily basis. And it's his job to make sure that the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted. I want someone who has good organizational skills, good management skills, is a detailed person, obviously highly ethical and, in the absence of the mayor, can assume the other big responsibility, which is to be the acting mayor of the city. That's how I see it. I've always said I'm going to run government like a business, and that's how businesses are run.

The other thing I've done already is I've begun to talk to the Council. ... I said to them that there's going to be a new leadership style and relationship with the Council. I'm going to respect the system of checks and balances. I plan to be a lot more open with them with the information that often is with the administration.

SB: Did you talk about any specific legislation that you'd like to work on together?

MH: I've always expressed interest in ... the bulky-item pickup. I want to see how that could be implemented sooner than July 2005. I really think that sets the tone and the message of my administration -- that we're going to make sure that everyone is going to be entitled to the same city services. And I'd like see it get done.

The other three major parts that we need to make some decisions on early -- the Natatorium, (Bus Rapid Transit) and recycling -- I'd like to get the Council's input on that. I know what my personal feelings are. I know what the Harris administration position is, so I need to find a reasonable middle ground.

SB: You already said that you don't want to proceed with the (Waikiki Natatorium) restoration, but are you going to move to actually cancel that contract for the corrective work?

MH: I'd like to. I'd like to cancel that work, so I've got to see how that can be done. I don't want them to spend another dollar toward restoring the project. I understand that the permit may have expired with respect to the restoration aspect. They may need to go to another permit. But, as I said, I'm getting this secondhand. So I've got to find out how I can cancel.

On BRT, I understand (the mayor's) going to launch it. So it's clear in my mind that the mayor would like do it in such a way that my hands are really tied. And I've always felt that the moneys expended for the BRT should just be confined to the Kuhio Avenue improvements. ... So I've got to figure out how to limit it if in fact if we have to follow through on this just to the in-town portion without spending any more city dollars. My concern all along Kuhio Avenue is that we may have to redo some of those improvements because the lanes may be too narrow. At least, that's what I continue to hear from bus drivers, firefighters, police officers that use it. I need to understand that aspect of it.

And then, on the curbside recycling, two things that jump out at me in my mind is that I've got to resolve the dispute with the United Public Workers, whose concerns were validated by the state Labor Board. So I've got to bring them to the table. Also, assess what the true costs are going to be. I don't want to inherit a project and taxpayers feel that it's free and then a year later, I've got to go before them and say, "Guess what? It really costs $20 or $30 to do this."

SB: Do you plan to keep any of Mayor Harris' appointees?

MH: They're all welcome to apply. But, like everyone else, they have to go through the process. I think it's going to be important to me to rate their job performance, and also I think it's important to know that the staff that has worked with them and the public that has been served by them are supportive.

SB: You said during the campaign that you would be looking at cutting or doing away with some of the appointed positions.

MH: Absolutely.

SB: Have you determined which positions yet?

MH: I haven't but that is my intention. I've always felt that not every department should have an automatic deputy director and a secretary that follows. I know that from having run a department myself. I also will not just automatically fill a position of political patronage because it's been filled by the previous administration.

SB: Do you still plan to sign any legislation that will repeal condominium leasehold conversion?

MH: Yes. That's still my position. However, I want to make it be real clear -- I've already talked to the Council -- that we have to alleviate the fears and anxieties some have that if this becomes law, they're going to be homeless. That will not happen. If it means the mayor and the Council ... meeting with the landowners and alike to make sure there is an orderly transition, built-in safeguards, so be it. But I still am in favor of repealing Chapter 38. But also be clear that the steps come from Council. ... But if they bring something to me, I'll support it.

SB: How is the relationship with labor unions going to change under your administration? It's been kind of rocky under Mayor Harris.

MH: I won't ask of them anything that I'm not willing to do myself. I think one of the things comes down to salaries. If you're going to say to line employees, "No," you can't be encouraging pay raises for the executive branch at the same time.

There will be no surprises. If I'm going to say, "Look, we don't have moneys to do this and that and so forth," I'm going to say it upfront.

SB: One of your first duties as mayor will be to go to the Legislature for the annual request. What will you ask for?

MH: You've got to understand that when I come into office, it's basically the Harris budget that I'm going to be taking down to them. So it's kind of premature for me to say what it is I'm going to do.

The no-brainers obviously are the (return of the) traffic fines, making sure we don't lose any more of the (hotel room tax).

SB: What about taxing authority? More taxing authority?

MH: No, I don't think it's prudent for me to ask for more taxing authority at this stage. I need to get the city's fiscal house in order. I need to convey to the public, to the Legislature, to the Council exactly what the state of our finances are.

SB: Do you plan to redecorate the mayor's office?

MH: I've just got to make sure that when I sit at my desk that my knees actually are not hitting (the desk).

SB: How much taller are you?

MH: I'm about three to four inches taller than the mayor. That's always been my problem; they've either had to lower the seat or get me a new desk.

I saw a funny cartoon where Corky (Trinidad, Star-Bulletin cartoonist) had me walking through the door, and I had already taken out part of the structure.

SB: Do you see yourself getting a radio show?

MH: Absolutely. I've already had outstanding offers that have come in. ... I think you can expect me to be very communicative, very open, and to the extent, again, that I have the time, I want to do that. We will be doing a radio call-in show. As I said, I may do it a little bit different. I may mix in some music like I did in my KUMU. I've got to play music. Music to me is a part of my day. That might be a requirement of our Cabinet -- they've got to be able to sing.

SB: The other day, you dedicated your win to your parents. What do you think they would say if they were here?

MH: (Silence)

I believe they'd be the happiest couple on earth. That's how they were -- overwhelmed when I graduated from high school, received the headmaster's award that day at Iolani. ... They'd be as happy as they were when they visited me at Harvard on freshman parents weekend, when I got to address the class and their parents as their class president. They would've seen this a fulfillment of a dream.

And they would continue to challenge me -- don't rest on my laurels and achievements. And they'll probably remind me what the Bible says about to whom much is given, much is required. And I love them very much. I miss them very much, and I've always said everything that I am and I hope to be, I owe to my parents.

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