Mayor Jeremy Harris got a peck from a well-wisher at the Kahala Barnes and Noble during last night's book signing.

Harris book launch
dogged by questions
on why city paid for it


Thursday, December 23, 2004

» About 175 people each placed orders for up to 10 copies of the book "The Renaissance of Honolulu." A Page A1 article yesterday incorrectly reported that each of them ordered 10 copies.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

Mayor Jeremy Harris began a series of book signings last night for his 224-page "The Renaissance of Honolulu," as questions dogged the project about the use of taxpayers' money to finance the coffee table-style book.

"I think if you were to ask taxpayers if this were wise spending ... I think anyone would have a hard time saying yes," City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said.

Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann said that Harris should have raised money privately to pay for publishing the books.

"He should've gone to the private sector and asked them, instead of using the taxpayers' dollars. That's what proper planning would do," he said.

The soft-cover book was unveiled last week during the mayor's farewell address, when he highlighted his administration's 10 years of accomplishments, which he described as a renaissance.

About 5,000 copies were printed and are being sold at $19.95 each.

City officials said the book cost $75,000 to publish, but Hannemann said he's heard that the cost may run as much as $20,000 more.

Both Hannemann and Dela Cruz questioned where the money came from in the city budget.

"I'm not quite sure what services they cut in order to move money to finance the book," Dela Cruz said.

Hannemann said that the city shouldn't have said that the money would be recouped through sales.

"That's a promise that will never be fulfilled," Hannemann said. "First of all, they're not going to be around to promote the sale of the book. They've got a week and a half to do that, so the timing again is odd."

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said that the cost of production and printing for the book came from her department budget, and none of it came from the appropriation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the city, which is scheduled to be celebrated next year.

She referred other questions about the book's financing to Managing Director Ben Lee, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Dela Cruz, the author of three books, said he's not sure if there's any demand for such a book and questioned whether the project would break even.

"I'm not sure what kind of market research they've conducted, because usually you have to pay someone to do the distribution. Without the distribution, the take-home from a book is about 40 percent, but when you include the cost of distribution, sometimes it's as little as 10 or 15 percent," Dela Cruz said. "You also have to make sure that there's an audience that wants to buy it."

Costa said that there were 175 people who signed up for 10 copies of the book the night of the speech.

"We should be very proud of our city," she said.

Hannemann said that if this book is truly about the 100 years of the city and not only about Harris, then the other mayors should be featured just as prominently and should also take part in the book signings.

"I would hate to see a book like that, if it's about the 100 years and not talk about Frank Fasi's accomplishments. Frank did a lot of things that Jeremy continued, like Honolulu City Lights, like Satellite City Halls, like the open markets. So it's not fair," Hannemann said.

The book signings continue today at Borders Books at noon at Ward Centre and at 7 p.m. at Waikele, and tomorrow at noon at the downtown Bestsellers.

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