Erika Engle

Public servants persuaded
to pop into paradise
for meeting

BETWEEN 7,500 to 10,000 public servants from around the country will converge for a convention in Hawaii next year. The summer sojourn is sure to raise eyebrows, the specter of the ugly green monster known as envy and inspire the writing of heated letters to many editors across the delegates' hometowns.

The conference will also raise some green for our local cash registers.

The National Association of Counties 2005 conference will be at the Hawaii Convention Center from July 15 to 19.

City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz is tasked with chairmanship, since he is board secretary for the Hawaii State Association of Counties and the representative member of the Honolulu City Council.

"NACo is a huge, huge organization that encompasses all the counties nationwide," Dela Cruz said. Hawaii is a small state with five counties, but other states have more than 100 counties, he said.

The association is among the largest lobbying organizations in Washington, D.C.

"They definitely try to watch how federal legislation impacts counties, things from homeland security to federal transportation funds," Dela Cruz said. "They are the counties' voice in Washington."

No large hosting job comes for free and funding for this one will come from a combination of public and private funds, he said. "We're looking at ways we can generate funds. We're also asking the Legislature to appropriate moneys and we're going to budget some moneys for it as well."

Hawaii's geographic layout makes funding for the local event different from events on the mainland. When the conference was in New Orleans, costs were spread over different parishes, but Hawaii doesn't have parishes.

"You can't just drive to Maui. The City and County of Honolulu is really hosting it and (other counties) can't necessarily share the task, so that's why we're looking to the Legislature for additional funds," Dela Cruz said.

The economic impact of hosting NACo members will add to the state treasury by way of the general excise tax and the hotel room tax, he said.

Jessica Lani Rich is Dela Cruz's go-to-gal in putting plans together. She was hired as special events coordinator for the Honolulu City Council in October. Separately, she is news and public service director for KUMU-FM 94.7/AM 1500 and serves as chairwoman of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii.

She called the city appointment a tremendous opportunity.

"Some of us are going to Washington, D.C., in February to attend a (NACo) legislative conference. We will have a Hawaii booth there promoting the (2005) conference," she said.

As with all conventions, there will be seminars, exhibitors and special events. National exhibitors have included 3M and IBM, but organizers would love to see a strong showing by Hawaii businesses in as many capacities as possible.

"If there's any way we can showcase Hawaii's businesses that help government, to promote them or advocate for them, we want to talk to them," Dela Cruz said. Rich will field those calls at 523-4139.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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