Frank Fasi: The 84-year-old candidate seeks his old office

Fasi full of vigor
to fight for mayor

Seated at his favorite haunt in downtown Honolulu, Frank Fasi stops speaking to shake the hand of a passerby.

"Mayor, don't mean to interrupt, but don't let those rascals debate without you," the man tells the former Honolulu mayor. "You would kick their butts."

Election 2004

Fasi, dressed in a navy-blue suit, chuckles, "OK, thank you," as the man continues down Bishop Square.

For a perennial politician like Fasi, shaking hands and talking issues are part of politics. Fasi is in this year's race for mayor -- again.

"I think he runs because he likes it. I think he likes campaigning, and you don't necessarily give up something that you like," political scientist Neal Milner said. "He likes pressing the flesh. ... He likes being in the limelight."

It was 10 years ago that Fasi stepped down as mayor for an unsuccessful run for governor, a move he would later say was a mistake.

Since then, he has tried to regain the mayor's office twice -- in 1996 and 2000 -- and run for governor once more in 1998.

Different polls show he trails the two leading candidates, former City Councilmen Mufi Hannemann and Duke Bainum, whom he calls the "wannabe mayors."

But like his persistence at running for his office, his confidence has not waned, either.

"I'm going to win this mayor's race by a landslide -- that's how confident I am," Fasi proclaimed. "When people get all the issues out and start comparing all of the candidates, they're going to ask questions of those that want to be mayor, 'What have you done?'"

Fasi said the other candidates are not coming up with new ideas for solving the city's problems and generating revenue.

For example, he said, a casino resort would work on Midway Island, a national wildlife refuge, and the revenue from the resort could be used.

Fasi also has harsh words for the condition of the city's infrastructure, especially the roads.

"I'm going to be talking about the complete overhaul of streets that have deteriorated to the point that the streets in Iraq are much better than our streets," he said.

Fasi also said members of the City Council during the last several years were also responsible for roads and other segments of the city's infrastructure going to pot.

Opponents Bainum and Hannemann differ with Fasi.

"What I'm talking about is basic core services like fixing roads, fixing sewers. It may not be sexy but it's the focus," Bainum said. "What I'm thinking about is bringing honest change to Honolulu and focusing on basic city services, and that's not a casino on Midway."

Hannemann said unlike mayors of the past, he will work cooperatively with the state Legislature, the governor and federal officials.

"I'm respectful of Mayor Fasi's achievements. He was a good mayor, but we need a new style of leadership," he said.

Some of Fasi's concerns, Hannemann said, were the basis for his disagreement with the direction taken by the City Council and Mayor Jeremy Harris four years ago with nice-to-have vs. need-to-have projects.

Fasi, who will turn 84 later this month, said people support him because they remembered what he did as mayor, whether it was starting the bus system or banning T-shirt vending in Waikiki. "When there was a problem, I didn't wait for something to happen, I made things happen for the better."

Milner said there are a couple of reasons why Fasi still strikes a chord with some voters.

"He always gave the impression that he was fighting for the underdog," Milner said. "In his own way, he gets across that he cares about people, that he fights for them. He defined himself as a fighter."

Fasi was first elected mayor in 1968 and won re-election several times until he lost to former state Budget Director Eileen Anderson in 1980. He retook City Hall after defeating Anderson in 1984 and remained there until he resigned to run for governor in 1994.

After spending his morning downtown, Fasi usually goes home to his Makiki Heights home, which serves as campaign central for now -- he does not have a campaign headquarters yet. There, the one-time construction contractor shows off 200 signs he has made himself, all donning the familiar yellow shaka, his campaign trademark. "I'm ready to go. I need to put the signs out."



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