Under the Sun
Remnants of predecessor are a heavy load to bear
MOTORISTS play dodge-'em with potholes on city streets. Municipal pools repairs take months, if not years, to complete, while getting a building permit requires strategic planning to bypass long lines.
Waimanalo Gulch landfill is fast reaching all-full, no-mo' room status. Voters have decided they want curbside recycling, but grumble that they might have to pay to maintain current trash pick-ups.
Bicyclists want safe byways for green transit and pedestrians don't want two-wheelers intruding on their sidewalks. Bus riders are mad because TheBus deleted their stops.
One community group demands that trees along its streets be cut down; others demand that trees be planted in theirs and, by the way, they want a dog park to boot.
Homeowners bitterly complain that assessments are too high and everyone hollers that increasing fees and taxes are just killing them. Not a day goes by without someone ripping into the decision to build a multibillion-dollar transit system. Not a day goes by without someone else faulting the choice of transit route.
Meanwhile, the feds are coming down hard on the city sewage plant and want fixes that will choke city finances.
What's a mayor to do?
Being chief executive of Honolulu is arguably the toughest political post in Hawaii. You're the focal point for all that happens on the most populated island in the state, the county with the crush of economic activity.
For Mufi Hannemann, the job has been even more difficult because he followed a man whose political ambition was the primary driver for decisions. In nearly 10 years as mayor, Jeremy Harris -- until scandal snapped his aspirations -- molded a framework of visible achievement while often neglecting the nuts and bolts of the municipal engine.
So Hannemann -- as he is wont to remind us even two years into his term -- has inherited the task of picking up the debris of Harris' defaults while trying to set his marks on the city.
It won't be easy, but Hannemann's political objectives will motivate him, and motivation, if properly directed, could be good for the city.
Political ambition feeds on what's next, but when politicians reach the end of their careers, interests shift to their legacy. Which is what George Bush is confronting as his presidency -- ruled by hubris and incompetence -- counts down to fewer than 650 days.
With little hope of substantive achievement against a renitent Congress, Bush has sent his faithful operative, Karl, roving the country in search of sympathetic institutions to house his presidential archives and library.
He shouldn't despair that he won't have something to show. His legacy will be evident in the stilled ruins of Louisiana; in the prosthetics of damaged soldiers; in studies doctored to skew science on global warming; in the erosion of civil liberties, Americans' trust for their government leaders, the nation's status and power on the world stage; and in the denial of research to counter diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
A host of problems will be left behind -- Social Security, health care, immigration reform -- and, of course, the war, which despite Congress' efforts, will drag on after Bush retreats to bass-fishing in Crawford.
Whoever gets to the White House next will be in an unenviable position. By comparison, Hannemann doesn't have it so bad.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org