Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, July 23, 1997


Renewed popularity
for George Ariyoshi

FORMER Gov. George Ariyoshi is enjoying renewed popularity today. It is both nothing new and a long time coming.

Ariyoshi started running and winning elections in 1954. After serving as governor for 13 years, he left political office in 1986.

He is now president of Prince Resorts Hawaii and 'Aina Kamali'i, the holding company that is part of the Seibu Group of Japan.

He is also chairman of the Board of Governors of the East-West Center; but his claim to fame this week is as author of a new book.

By the time he left office in 1986, Ariyoshi had overstayed his welcome. Dubbed the governor who says no, Ariyoshi typically defended his no-expansion budget with a homily about the many different pressures just one family could exert on the state budget.

The child may want money to help the schools, Ariyoshi would say, while the mother might want the Health Department to provide services, while the father wanted the Agriculture Department to help farmers.

The message then and one of the messages behind his book, "With Obligation to All," is that a leader must deal fairly with competing interests.

Most of the time for Ariyoshi, fairly meant equally. In other words, if teachers were to get a 2 percent pay raise, then it was 2 percent for all public workers.

If a company was looking for a tax break to relocate here, Ariyoshi had no difficulty telling them no because it wouldn't be fair to local businesses.

After so many years of bullet-proof resolve, it is easy to see how much of the early years of Gov. John Waihee's administration was a "let the good times roll" reaction to Ariyoshi's "just say no" philosophy.

There's more to Ariyoshi's legacy, however, than his budget prowess. It is easily missed and largely forgotten by the crew at the Capitol today.

Ariyoshi gambled on Hawaii's young men and women, loading the responsibilities of government on recent college graduates. It was a time for Donna Tanoue and Mary Bitterman at Commerce and Consumer Affairs, for Gary Caulfield, Brad Mossman, Trudie Saito and Dan Ishii to run much of the governor's office.

"I looked back, and I saw you folks coming, and I reached back and grabbed you folks, and I pulled so that you could come up the path," Ariyoshi wrote in his book.

All of those young men and women are now leaders here and on the mainland, some in government, some in private business, but all graduates of the Ariyoshi school.

They also formed a potent political force, called Us Guys Together, the Ariyoshi youth brigade who were the grass-roots shock troops who could whip up a stew-and-rice fund-raiser and work all night for friends of the administration.

ARIYOSHI was the last governor to put much emphasis on bringing in the young. It hasn't been evident with either the Waihee or the Cayetano administration.

Both picked mostly experienced government operatives, good at what they did, but not to be counted on to grow in the job.

Today, as Ariyoshi himself points out, the same people who condemned him 12 years ago for holding the line on the budget are now praising him for acting responsibly.

More than that, however, there is a generation of leaders working in Hawaii who learned their trade and values from George Ariyoshi. That will be the lasting contribution of the man.



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




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