Saturday, March 13, 1999

Linda Lingle as leader
of Hawaii Republicans

LINDA Lingle's decision to seek the chairmanship of the Hawaii Republican Party should benefit the GOP and maintain her viability as a potential candidate in 2002. Lingle is currently out of public office, having completed a second term as Maui County mayor and run unsuccessfully for governor last year.

Even in defeat, Lingle made an impressive showing, losing to incumbent Ben Cayetano by only 5,000 votes. She obviously was not discouraged by the loss, nor should she have been. Challenging the Democrats' 36-year lock on the governorship was an uphill battle, and she came very close to victory.

Although the next gubernatorial election is nearly four years away, Lingle is already thinking about the race. There will be no incumbent to battle, which should work to her advantage.

In the meantime, working to strengthen the Republican Party would be a useful exercise. It would also keep her in the public eye, an important consideration if she becomes a candidate again.

Some resistance developed from party regulars when Lingle's former campaign manager, Bob Awana, expressed interest in the party chairmanship. Awana is a former Democrat and has been a Republican only a short time.

A movement developed to draft Donna Alcantara, the current chairwoman, for a second term to block Awana. Alcantara was reportedly concerned that Awana's bid was intended primarily to promote Lingle's candidacy and would result in diluting Republican principles to attract dissident Democrats. However, Alcantara says she has resolved her differences with Lingle and fully supports her candidacy.

No candidate for governor can win in Hawaii solely by appealing to Republicans. Lingle came close by mounting a broad-based campaign that attracted many disenchanted Democrats. That strategy should be adopted by the Republican Party and under Lingle presumably it would be. This could be a big boost for the Republicans if they don't blow it.


Waikiki Natatorium

IT looks as though the restoration of the Waikiki Natatorium can be completed within the $11 million approved by the City Council. Although it appeared earlier that the original cost estimates were too low, Harris administration officials say they have made changes to the renovation plans that will bring the cost down. For example, it has been decided that the grandstand seats can be salvaged.

Anything that reduces the cost is good news for the full restoration, which is important because of the Natatorium's role as a World War I memorial, its value as a historic structure and its potential for water sports -- not to mention the need to eliminate the current eyesore.

City divers collected silt and sand samples Tuesday from the swimming pool to help officials get a better idea of how much the project actually will cost. Officials want to determine whether the sand can be washed and returned to the pool after it is renovated. Gerry Silva, a city official working on the project, said the more sand that can be put back in the pool, the less fill will have to be imported, which could result in significant savings. He said most of the material is granular, which indicates much can be saved.

Critics said the city is shielding some of the cost of the project by using city workers. But Randall Fujiki, director of the city Department of Design and Construction, said the city is obligated to consider ways to achieve savings on the project. Indeed it should.

Fujiki said the city has already worked out ways to restore the pool, bleachers, arch and interior spaces for less than $11 million, and further savings may yet be achieved.

The contract for the work has yet to be signed but should be in a few weeks -- the sooner the better for this project and the improvement of this important shoreline area.


A Palestinian state

WHEN Israel declared its independence in 1948, President Harry Truman quickly extended diplomatic recognition, which was crucial to Israel's survival. If Yasser Arafat declares the existence of a Palestinian state, as he has threatened to do, President Clinton is not likely to extend recognition. If he did, the Senate would certainly not ratify such a step.

That was made clear Thursday when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution warning Arafat against declaring a Palestinian state. The resolution, approved 98-1, calls on the Clinton administration to be stronger in its opposition to such a move and to make it clear to the Palestinian leader that such a state, with Jerusalem as its capital, would not be recognized by the United States.

The resolution says a declaration by Arafat would "introduce a dramatically destabilizing element into the Middle East, risking Israeli countermeasures, a quick descent into violence and an end to the entire peace process."

Although Hillary Clinton once said she supports a Palestinian state, the official U.S. position is that the issue must be settled as part of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Arafat has threatened to make the declaration on May 4, the deadline set in the 1993 Oslo peace accord with Israel for a permanent settlement. However, he has softened his position recently.

Although a Palestinian state is a plausible goal, Israel insists that it be part of a negotiated package that satisfies its legitimate security needs. A unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state would wreck the negotiations, perhaps permanently, and ensure continued conflict. For this reason, the Senate warning is useful and Arafat should heed it.

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