Fong park name meets opposition
A Kahaluu city park was slated to be renamed after the late U.S. senator
An effort to name a city park after the late U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong has run into community opposition -- again.
Community leaders say it is inappropriate to name Kahaluu Regional Park after Fong, especially since he wanted to turn part of the land the park now sits on into a shopping center.
"The idea of naming the park after the person who stymied its existence, with all due respect to the senator who accomplished great things, is ludicrous," said community activist John Reppun.
Reppun said the opposition to the shopping center was a spark for the "keep country country" movement in the late '70s and early '80s.
Protests and community opposition to the shopping center stopped its development, and Fong eventually sold the land to the city.
"Kahaluu is the gateway to the country," Reppun said. "We pushed the gate back a little bit."
This is the second time community members have objected to naming a city park after Fong.
Last year, the Downtown Neighborhood Board protested a proposal to name the new Smith-Beretania park after Fong, who died in 2004 at the age of 97.
Lynne Matusow, former chairwoman of the downtown board, said community members disagreed with the idea of naming the park after someone who had nothing to do with its creation.
Last month, the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board voted unanimously to oppose the name change at their park.
Like their downtown counterparts, Kahaluu board members felt that the community needed to be consulted about a name change.
Councilman Charles Djou, a member of a state commission charged with finding ways to honor Fong, said he has not given up on the idea of naming the park after Fong, the nation's first Asian-American U.S. senator. But Djou acknowledged that he is not sure if he has the votes to get the name change passed.
Djou said Fong spent his last years in Kahaluu, so it would be appropriate to name the park after him.
He noted that earlier this year, the Council voted to name Central Oahu Regional Park after the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.
Protocol indicates a senator should get a similar honor, Djou said. However, there are only a few regional parks in the city.
The commission Djou served on wanted to find appropriate federal, state and city facilities to name after Fong.
In August the U.S. post office building in Kapalama was named for Fong.
A Hiram Fong endowment already exists at the University of Hawaii Foundation. The endowment funds programs at the College of Arts and Sciences, including a program that sends interns to Washington, D.C. But a state House bill to establish a scholarship fund with state money bearing Fong's name stalled in the Senate.
And another proposal from the commission to name a state library building after Fong is contrary to Board of Education policy, which states that public library facilities shall be named solely for the geographic area where the facility is situated or located.
"I think it's almost a comedy right now that we can't find anything to name after the late senator," Djou said. "He was a good man and deserves recognition."