Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, October 30, 1996


Washington Place
should be a museum

THE line started around the block, snaked across the lawn and didn't get to the front door until you endured two hours in the hot sun. Amazingly, however, the open house at Washington Place was a great success.

The tour and open house were held to celebrate the downtown mansion's 150th anniversary. According to Peter Rosegg, a spokesman for Gov. Ben Cayetano, who is the current occupant of Washington Place, the usual once-a-year open house draws about 800 so they figured maybe 1,600 would show for this special event.

They got 3,500 and a new sense of how the concern and love of Hawaii's remarkable history is not dead in Honolulu.

Washington Place serves as a museum, a public meeting place and the governor's executive mansion. Something needs to be done to keep Washington Place open to many more people.

Although Cayetano has repeatedly said the house should be turned over to native Hawaiians because it was the home at the kingdom's last monarch, it is a vital part of the history for all of us who love Hawaii.

Washington Place needs to be a museum. Whether Hawaii needs to subsidize a ritzy meeting place for nonprofits and a mansion for the governor are separate questions that can be answered when Hawaii has a lot more money.

Meanwhile, the weekend crowds showed a museum is needed.

As more citizens learn about Hawaii's history they will want to see every inch of Washington Place. They should get the chance.

If Cayetano is inching toward the right move on Washington Place, he was dead on center with his analysis of this year's Legislature.

After the session ended this spring, Cayetano labeled the session "mediocre."

He pointed to the leaders in the state Senate and worried about personalities rising above issues and legislation.

While Cayetano was reacting to the Senate's rejection of his own plans for no-fault auto insurance reform, his instinctive aim at the Senate was accurate.

"When you play heavy-handed, this is what happens," Cayetano said back in May.

Things haven't gotten better, and with the general election less than a week away, campaign advisers and politicians are up at night worrying about every slight committed in the last year.

Milton Holt, who led the Senate's fight against Cayetano's plan, first felt the voters' wrath in September when he was demolished in the primary election.

NOW his colleague, Sen. Donna Ikeda, is in danger of losing to an aggressive Republican and longtime Legislature-basher, Sam Slom.

For Cayetano, who hasn't had a charmed political life, the Legislature's high public disapproval comes at a good time.

Anyone lining up against the status quo is on the side of the angels as far as the voting public is concerned. So for Cayetano to go out in front with an early condemnation of the Legislature will help his public standing, no matter who wins next week.

Of course trashing the Legislature won't fix the economy, revitalize the schools or generate the money for public employee pay raises, but it does raise the heat on the Legislature precisely when voters need to decide if we need to hire some new help.



Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at rborreca@pixi.com



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