Honolulu Lite
Charles Memminger

Thursday, August 11, 2005

B.C. mayor will run
city from Hawaii

Setting off what we can only hope will be a new trend in tourism, the mayor of Whistler, British Columbia, is moving to Hawaii but will continue to run that ski resort city from here.

Residents of the popular resort -- which will host part of the 2010 Winter Olympics -- were as dazed as a giant slalom skier crashing into an ESPN truck when Mayor Hugh O'Reilly suddenly announced last week that he would be conducting his mayoral duties from Hawaii. Hizzoner will be working for a real estate company in Hawaii owned by Intrawest, a resort-development company that operates two ski areas in Whistler and has extensive business dealings with the city.

Bob Barnett, editor of the aptly named Pique newsmagazine, said the apparent conflict of interest has caused some Whistler residents to become quite piqued. To understand their concerns, imagine if Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann went on the payroll of Castle & Cook or Theo H. Davies but continued to act as mayor from their Palm Springs offices. (Why do I suddenly see a smiling Mufi rubbing his chin and going "hmmmmm?")

"It was a shock to just about everybody," Barnett told me by phone yesterday. One popular Whistler musician wrote a letter to the editor saying he planned to move to Thailand and would entertain his Whistler audiences by playing guitar over his cell phone. I think he was being sarcastic.

Overall, however, there seems to be none of the anger against O'Reilly that Mufi Hannemann would feel if he tried mayoring Hono-lulu from Palm Springs or even Hilo.

I think O'Reilly's making a great move. He will attend most council meetings by phone (today they call that "telecommuting," instead of the old, archaic "slacking off"). But he also will fly back to Canada several times in the next four months that he still will be mayor. He said he could leave Hawaii at noon, arrive in Whistler Sunday at midnight, attend meetings all day Monday and be back in Hawaii by Tuesday noon. That may be a tad optimistic, considering it sometimes takes a day-and-a-half to get from Kaneohe to Honolulu and back.

But those are problems best left to the good people of Whistler. Hawaii has to take a larger view of O'Reilly's decampment and consider how it will help our state. If Mayor O'Reilly really can run a city 5,000 miles from Hawaii, that will open the door to mayors from all over the United States relocating here.

I envision a condominium building in Waikiki set aside for mainland mayors who have decided to set up shop in Hawaii. All they need is a cell phone, computer, fax machine and room-service mai tais and they're open for business. Hawaii could become the mayor capital of the country, with mayors from Newark to San Luis Obispo running their little cities and towns from various lanais. Here they will be free to tackle heady affairs of state without the distractions caused by those bothersome and disruptive elements of government -- what do you call 'em? -- oh yeah, constituents.

It will be a great boon for tourism here: "Come To Hawaii -- Even Your Mayor Hates Your City!"

Of course, if we do allow mayors from other cities to conduct business from our shores, there will have to be reciprocity. I'd like to see how well the Honolulu City Council functions from, say, Boise, Idaho. Maybe hanging out with a few bankrupt potato farmers will enlighten them to the need for real tax relief.

So, aloha and welcome Mayor O'Reilly. If you need any help at all running Whistler, I'm here. Just whistle.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com

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