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Mayor doing the job nobody else wants to


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mufi Hannemann says he really didn't want to be like Mr. Wolfe from “;Pulp Fiction”; or Roach from “;Apocalypse Now.”; But who, at some level, doesn't desire the role of the super-cool, respected fixer who comes in and cleans up the mess made by the bunglers?

Why wouldn't he want to be involved in saving the Pro Bowl? Again. It's his baby. And it's unlikely this will hurt the mayor's resume one bit when he runs for governor.

Remember, Hannemann, along with Mark Rolfing and others, helped convince the NFL to keep the game in Hawaii, back in the 1990s. That was when he worked for the state and it was actually his job. So he knows the territory and speaks the language. He gets his calls returned, pronto.

He's been vocal in his criticism of the state in general and the Hawaii Tourism Authority in particular over this issue, telling anyone who will listen that the ball was dropped.

Last night, he said he would meet with HTA chairman Kelvin Bloom. He wants to make sure Bloom can count to seven, which is the number of votes needed to approve the NFL's final offer to bring the game back here in 2011 and 2012. Bloom says he thinks the board will vote yes Friday; the mayor wants him to know it.

Hannemann mostly stayed out of it until last week's rejection of the league's second proposal. Over the weekend he talked to Frank Supovitz, who runs the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. Then yesterday he conferred with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Hannemann said the league is “;flabbergasted”; with Hawaii right now.

The HTA's an easy target, for sure — if you can figure out who to aim at. I mean, like Willard asked Roach, “;Do you know who's in charge here, soldier?”; In this case, the situation is just as chaotic. But the answer is definitely not your profound “;Yeah, man.”;

Who's the go-to person? Who makes things happen? Who has the ear of the NFL?

Is it Bloom? How about sports marketing guy Mike Story? Interim CEO Lloyd Unebasami? Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona? The governor herself?

None of the above, it seems, if the mayor has to step in to pick up the slack.

A few years ago, a friend of mine told me the HTA was “;infamously dysfunctional.”; I see what he means, especially after last week's vote to reject the NFL's second proposal after the league agreed to specific years.

It's important to not sell yourself short, but it's ridiculous to compare the value of the NFL with that of a few more soccer tournaments.

Maybe the HTA should be scrapped, like a bill floating through the Legislature says it should.

Maybe the state needs a sports czar. But should it really be the mayor?

It's not like he's busy or anything.

I mean, the only other thing he had to do yesterday was present a $1.8 billion budget.

Yesterday at the Capitol, even Joey Manahan, the polite young chairman of the House tourism committee, took a swipe at the HTA.

“;Somewhat a lack of leadership. A breakdown in roles,”; he said, describing his view of the HTA to Unebasami and Bloom.

And you get the sense that there's not a whole lot going on when Unebasami says, “;We will be working with the PGA. We would like to extend the contract.”;

Uh, shouldn't that be, “;We are working with the PGA.”; No worries, that contract's not up until 2010. Sounds like they want to mess up one thing at a time.

The HTA gentlemen say they've been negotiating with the NFL for two years. One thing I've learned over the years in dealings with business people, athletic directors and politicians is that “;negotiating”; can mean anything you want as long as you place one phone call — I'm not sure an actual conversation is required.

“;If we'd jumped on it two years ago we'd have something for 2010,”; Hannemann said, referring to an NFL preseason game to replace the Pro Bowl.

Well, I thought by now I'd have heard someone say that the mayor is meddling or grandstanding.

But you know, fixers get cut a lot of slack.