Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, March 8, 1999

An irreverent guide
to the Legislature

SINCE we are halfway through Hawaii's 1999 legislative session, this is the ideal time for lobbyists, concerned citizens, wary taxpayers and fireworks-haters to assess if progress is being made on their particular pet issues.

Do you know which lawmakers are key to passage of a particular bill? Have you ascertained which senator to glad-hand, which representative to kiss up to? Are you aware of the expertise, "human dimension" or personal idiosyncrasies of the esteemed members of our 20th Hawaii state Legislature?

You're not? For shame! Obviously, my friend, you lack this year's edition of the Legislative Action Yellow Pages (LAYP), irreverently written and edited by the Rev. Frank A. Chong.

Since 1982, the executive director of the Waikiki Health Center has published an annual overview of the legislative session, complete with extensive profiles of each senator and representative.

There's also a rundown on the executive branch (better know as "Ben's World" until 2002) and some helpful hints on effecting change in a change-hating community.

Chong, 54, certainly knows his stuff. The lanky, bespectacled, gray-haired man with bangs is a longtime fixture at the Capitol. The advocate for various human-services causes and coalitions is a straight-shooter with remarkably adroit skills of observation.

For example, note his assessments of the following office holders:

bullet "This will be known as the year the speaker fell... Joe Souki (D-8th House Dist.) has now been sent out to pasture and is called Speaker Emeritus. He has one of the smaller offices in the Capitol with virtually no responsibilities and, for that matter, no authority either."

bullet "Mark Takai (D-34th House Dist.) is one of those young and energetic legislators who is well meaning and wants to help. Unfortunately, many people are afraid of this kind of energy so he has not really had an opportunity to use all of his intellect and abilities."

bullet "Bertha Kawakami (D-14th House Dist.) has always been a very gracious and competent person. If the Bishop Estate is looking for a new trustee, they would not have to look very far. Bertha would be our choice."

bullet "Bob Nakata (D-23rd Senate Dist.) is one of the few senators that all factions respect, so he can play a mediating role in the usual turmoil surrounding leadership and organization, which seem to dominate the Senate chambers at some point every session."

bullet "Barbara Marumoto (R-17th House Dist.) has withstood the winds of change like no other Republican. It is too bad other Republicans can't duplicate her rock steady style."

bullet "Jonathan Chun (D-7th Senate Dist.) is a bright new face and new to elected politics. He will no doubt learn a lot in his first session. The first lesson is if you thought County Councils were tough, you ain't seen nothing yet."

CHONG says he rarely gets negative feedback from legislators about his commentary on them -- except, of course, for those who complain that they warrant a lot more ink and attention! And you thought journalists were prima donnas.

For your own copy of the LAYP ($20 includes postage and handling), call Chong or Anne Miller at the Waikiki Health Center at 922-3028. Or simply flag down Reverend Chong over the next few weeks, as he briskly roams the hallways of our illustrious state Capitol.

You can't miss him. He's the one furiously taking notes for next year.


Legislature Directory
Hawaii Revised Statutes
Legislature Bills

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin