Former Gov. Ariyoshi challenges isle students


POSTED: Wednesday, December 09, 2009

At 83, George R. Ariyoshi, Hawaii's third elected governor, could be defining the most strenuous part of the day as a lowered golf handicap.

Instead Ariyoshi is pushing a new project. He, with the help of historian and former Star-Bulletin political reporter Tom Coffman, has prepared a thoughtful, 32-page booklet to challenge Hawaii's high school students.

The project is an ambitious one as Ariyoshi is in discussions with the public schools to get a copy into the hands of all high school students. He is also preparing to work with private schools.

Perhaps a Facebook page or a Twitter account might be easier for teens to absorb, but Ariyoshi means to challenge Hawaii youth, so the effort starts with actual reading and thinking.

Good for him.

Ariyoshi is something of a transitional figure in Hawaii politics; as a Japanese-American, he was the first nonwhite person elected governor. He made the tough calls during Hawaii's post-statehood recession and he watched plantation agriculture, one of the three legs of Hawaii's economic base, wither.

As Hawaii marks 50 years of statehood, Ariyoshi asks high school students how they want to prepare for the next 50. Yes, he acknowledges Hawaii's feel-good buzzword “;sustainability”;—but also asks, sustainability plus what?

He doesn't like Hawaii being overdeveloped, he is not a fan of those who want to diminish the state Land Use Commission, grumbling that the law has been “;extensively subverted”; and the commission stacked with those tied to development, from corporate lawyers to contractors and construction union heads.

At the same time, Ariyoshi urges the state “;to act boldly”; and start buying land, ramping up the roads and sewers while “;holding developers to modest profits”; to build affordable housing.

And while he recognizes tourism as the only private business economic engine we have left, Ariyoshi says “;we can no longer rely on the growth of tourism.”;

With the experience gained as Hawaii's longest-serving governor, 13 years, Ariyoshi asks teenagers to “;look at what kind of business comes to our community, what do we want to keep.”;

He concludes with good advice.

“;Time does not stand still. Each period of history has its own possibilities and challenges.

“;We need young people to step forward ... and lead the way.”;