Monday, July 6, 1998

‘Trust’ work earns
political capital

Three prominent critics
of the Bishop Estate, seen as
can-do leaders, are urged
to seek office

By Mike Yuen


About eight months ago, state Republican Party Chairwoman Donna Alcantara tried to nudge attorney Beatrice "Beadie" Dawson into a different arena.

Dawson, who represents 2,000 Kamehameha Schools students, parents and alumni who have misgivings with how the Bishop Estate operates the schools, should consider running for the state House, Alcantara suggested.

Former state appellate Judge Walter Heen heard similar appeals -- but from different voices and for different offices -- even before he became Hawaii Democratic Party chairman 1-1/2 months ago.

Folks recognized Heen as one of the five authors of the "Broken Trust," last year's scathing critique of the Bishop Estate, that sparked a state investigation into the powerful $10 billion charitable trust.

They urged Heen to return to elective politics and run for governor or Congress or the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Another "Broken Trust" author, University of Hawaii Law Professor Randall Roth, found his friends and acquaintances urging him to seek public office.

Dawson, Heen and Roth aren't heeding the calls. But the perception that they can be effective public leaders seems to further underscore opinion-poll findings that isle voters are seeking relatively fresh faces to solve long-standing problems, such as the ailing economy.

The Bishop Estate controversy has been a top news story, and it has catapulted people like Dawson and Roth, who have never run for elected office, onto center stage, said University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Deane Neubauer.

"When people are frustrated and it seems that their leaders can't produce answers, like on the economy, they're likely to turn to those seen as successful at what they've done. People are admired for being effective," Neubauer said.

Roth's assessment: "I think there's a yearning for change of some kind.

"I'm not sure the public knows what it wants. But increasingly, it is unhappy with what it is getting."

Alcantara said she sees Dawson -- a self-described "independent" -- as an attractive candidate because she was willing to stand up for what she believes is right.

"She was ready to step forward and take on those dragons," Alcantara added.

There's no doubt, said Dawson, 68, that when she, Heen and Roth dared to have "the audacity -- or courage" to challenge the "powerful" Bishop Estate, the public sided with them.

"I feel at this juncture in our history, in the development of our state, it is increasingly important for people to speak out," she said.

"We've had a passive community for too long, and that has led to many of the ills that we are experiencing now," Dawson added.

She believes her work for Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi in challenging the Bishop Estate precludes her from running for the Nuuanu-Punchbowl House seat that House minority leader Quentin Kawananakoa (R, Nuuanu) is leaving for a congressional bid.

Roth, 50, said that running for public office is something he, too, would like to consider in the future.

But it doesn't seem practical now, he said, since he wants to continue with his academic career. And the talk about his running for office never went as far as what party affiliation he should take. Still, he manages to keep a hand on isle issues through his radio show on Hawaii Public Radio, Roth said.

In December, Roth was elected 1999 president of the Hawaii State Bar Association, defeating Darolyn Lendio. Lendio is a member of the law firm McCorriston Miho Miller Mukai, which was hired by Bishop Estate after the state began its investigation.

A number of isle attorneys saw the Bishop Estate controversy as a factor in the bar election but doubted it was tantamount to a referendum on the estate.

Heen, who last held public office in 1972 as a city councilman before he was appointed a state district judge, noting that he is 70 years old, said that he believes younger people should seek office.

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