H-3 tunnels will
regain the name
of Tetsuo Harano

Cayetano renamed them
for Gov. Burns, but Lingle
will restore the original name

By Pat Omandam

Fulfilling a pledge she made this summer, Gov.-elect Linda Lingle will restore the name of Tetsuo Harano to the H-3 freeway tunnels sometime after she takes office Dec. 2.

The H-3 tunnels, seen here from the Kaneohe side, will be renamed -- again.

"She intends to keep her word, and that is what she intends to do," said Lenny Klompus, Lingle's senior communications director.

Gov. Ben Cayetano, who called the situation a "tempest in a teapot," responded earlier this week that if Lingle wants to restore Harano's name to the tunnels, it will probably make good political points for her. But he said that is not the way he does things.

"She can do what she wants, but there are hundreds of employees who worked up there, and some who died, and they never got any recognition." he said.

Cayetano renamed the tunnels this spring for the late Gov. John Burns, nearly eight years after the portals were originally dedicated to Harano, a retired state highways chief whose 52-year career spanned the construction of the 16.1-mile, $1.3 billion H-3 freeway.

The governor named the H-3 control center, located at the Halawa end of the tunnels, after Harano.

In March, Cayetano said the tunnels' name needed to be more sensitive and it was inappropriate to name a significant structure after a living individual. And he wanted to honor Burns, whose vision was to build the highway, which opened in December 1997. Burns was a personal inspiration to Cayetano as a young attorney.

On Monday, Cayetano elaborated that he didn't think Harano earned the honor due to problems he discovered within the state Department of Transportation. The governor said he could have left the issue alone but instead tried to be sensitive to Harano while making the change, and thought they had an agreement. James Burns, the eldest child of the late governor, was consulted about the tribute and gave the family's consent.

"It has nothing against Mr. Harano, but I don't think the DOT Highways Division was in the shape I thought it would be had he been a good manager," Cayetano said. "I just don't believe in doing these things for people who I don't think earned it."

Others, however, strongly disagreed. Yoshie Tanabe of Waipahu mounted a nearly 7,000-signature petition drive this year to restore Harano's name.

Tanabe said she questioned Cayetano's reasons.

She said yesterday Harano was a good state worker who didn't do anything wrong for years in the DOT. Many people supported her, including Kongo Kimura, who wrote to Lingle this summer about the situation.

On June 7, 2002, Lingle wrote back to Kimura, saying there was no tangible reason behind Cayetano's action. She called the change a "unnecessary slap in the face" to a longtime public servant.

Lingle told Kimura that if elected, she would be willing to restore Harano's name to the tunnels.

Klompus said Lingle remembers writing the letter and will keep her word once her Cabinet is in place and she's settled into office. Lingle encouraged Tanabe, Kimura and others to write legislators to gain their support for it, he said.

"Everybody understands that it was wrong," Tanabe said. "And I feel so sad because every once in a while I hear about the fact that I'm doing it because it's Japanese. And I'm not doing it because Mr. Harano is Japanese. I told people ... I don't care if the name had been Souza, Paraga, Palama or Smith -- that's not the point. The point is here's an innocent man that they honored, and then, boom, they take it away.

"We are all Americans," she said.

Harano was surprised yesterday to learn of Lingle's decision and grateful for those who helped restore his name. He said he was never given any true reason why his name was replaced with Burns, and is happy it will be restored.

"Of course, I certainly will be. After all, I was honored with that name," he said.

Star-Bulletin writer Richard Borreca
contributed to this report.

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