author On Politics

Richard Borreca

Why would anyone
want this job?

Becoming mayor of Honolulu is tough; being mayor is rough. And doing the job is, well... boring.

No one will get into a fight over how to fix potholes, or offer themselves to municipal sewer works. Yes, H-Power is important, but how we store our garbage just doesn't inflame passion.

As one longtime political consultant told me, "One of the problems of running for mayor is overseeing small conflicts, where to put a park or whether to put in a highway divider."

Small portions of the population will fume at your decision, but most of the island does not care.

If the job is important but lacking in excitement, the interest must come from somewhere else.

First, the candidates have to fire up the race, and then there must be enough excitement to lure the news media into covering the contest.

"There is no texture to these campaigns -- it doesn't seem to have the zip. People have signs in their yards, but where are the people?" my consultant muses.

Another veteran political observer, Bob Dye, who worked with Frank Fasi when he was mayor, acknowledges that the job of being mayor is boring.

Fasi, Dye recalls, made it interesting by raising the level of debate out of the realm of where to put the curbs and gutters.

When Fasi ran for office in the '70s and '80s, his campaign was not only for Frank Fasi, it was against the newspapers and it was against political clans loyal to whomever was governor.

Today Fasi is running again. He's in third place behind former City Councilmen Duke Bainum and Mufi Hannemann.

Both Hannemann and Bainum have promised to stay in office for four years, thereby resisting the challenge to raise the stakes by mounting a campaign in two years for governor.

This year, we are electing someone to fix the holes in the road, pick up the garbage, figure out where to put it and make sure the town doesn't burn down. Our choice will not influence who is governor, it will not elevate, or lower the power of the Democratic or Republican parties.

Both the longtime consultant and Dye also score the news media for not involving the community in the race for mayor. Just the lack of coverage of the race makes it boring.

"Most of the stories about politicians have been stories coming from the Campaign Spending Commission about the politicians who are crooks or inept bookkeepers," Dye says.

He's right. The news media, television in particular, has not devoted the time it once did to local politics. The good follow-up question seems to be a lost art, my political consultant says.

In this race for mayor of Honolulu without vigorous media attention, the candidates slip down to the lowest common denominator.

When the votes are finally counted, however, it won't be a race about the boring job, it won't be a race determined by the news media's lack of interest; it will be a race about the candidates.

It will be the loser who will then sigh and say, "If they had only let me be me."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at rborreca@starbulletin.com.



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