Changing HTA And The State

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - September 24, 2008

Rex Johnson should step down immediately as the head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. If he does not, then it reveals a selfishness normally reserved for a 5-year-old on a school playground.

Our tourism industry and its impact on every man, woman and child in our state is not some trivial 9-5 gig. The lives of so many and the strength of our economy depend on dedicated and responsible individuals at the helm. By dabbling in pornographic, racist and sexist images on state time and state equipment, Johnson has inflicted irreparable damage upon himself, and by extension significant damage to our state.

Where is the HTA board? Its reaction time is worse than a baseball .100 hitter. The board members have been aware of this problem for months, yet refuse to aggressively act. Yes, they downgraded Johnson’s pay and contract length, but this latest dust-up has been met with relative indifference. The legal issues cited by the state attorney general’s office is a consideration, but the board and its chairman have less to say than Marcel Marceau. No indignation? No condemnation? No culpability? The board should consider its importance rather than demonstrating impotence.


Mr. Johnson, if you want to yuck it up with your fishing buddies, go ahead and knock yourself out. But as the head of the HTA, it would be nice to know your time is being spent on increasing the number of arrivals instead of counting the number of D cups. You are being compensated to the tune of about a quarter million dollars per year. Even with the slap on the wrist reducing your pay to two hundred grand, that’s still a lot of cheese. That’s more than four times the annual average income for a local family. I hope your extra-curricular activates were worth it.

On a side note: With the latest revelations pertaining to Johnson’s peccadilloes, where are all the Democrat lawmakers and officials who were supporting him? If you listen closely, you won’t hear the voices of political support. Rather, it’s the squeaking of the door opening for Johnson’s immediate departure.

three star

This presidential election is all about change. Barack Obama has built a candidacy around it, and John McCain is the “maverick” promising to bring change. Despite the game of “I have change spirit, yes I do. I have change spirit, how ‘bout you?,” who really believes this is the defining issue of this or any political season? The answer is found in our local races.

We have 25 Senate seats, 51 House seats and nine City Council seats. When is the last time you saw a real surge of political newcomers unseat the incumbents?

It is natural for people to clamor for something different. You may want a new car every year. You may want to live in a different house. You may buy new shoes even though you have 100 pairs in the closet. It’s nice to freshen things up a bit. Politically speaking, we may say we want change, but we rarely affirm it at the ballot box. As of this writing, the Hawaii primary election has yet to take place. I would be shocked if Mufi Hannemann does not win the mayor’s race outright. If he does, and a slate of incumbents advance to the general election, I have made my point.


If you truly desire change, you must replace longtime incumbents with fresh and innovative candidates eager to deliver on their promises and your hopes.

If you continue to vote for the same people year after year and elect the same faces again and again, you are not an agent of change. You are a supporter of the status quo who clearly says one thing and does another. And if that’s the case, that’s fine. Just don’t muddy the waters with demands for a new direction and then support the same people who have created the conditions we see today.

As with candidates, actions speak louder than words, and your action in the voting booth will reflect what you truly believe.

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