The Execution Of Peter Young

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 02, 2007
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As thousands of people gathered on Maui to hear the Dalai Lama’s message of compassion and peace, the Democrat-controlled Senate publicly executed Mr. Peter Young as they denied his reconfirmation as director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. No compassion and peace were to be found in the Senate chambers.

It was a magnificent effort by the new Senate leadership. Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and her vice president, Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, were in near perfect form throughout the brutality. It was all so choreographed, so slick, so well-done one could not help be impressed with the matter-of-fact execution.

The senators were reminded often that a large audience was watching, so they were in their best form. The Senate gallery was filled with supporters, opponents and interested tourists who stopped by to take joy in watching the local carnage in progress.

Young’s confirmation hearing had to be the defining moment of this legislative session for a couple of reasons. First, the Senate leadership is in good hands with Hanabusa, even though the opposition is still alive. This did not become evident until the final vote, when four senators voted against the chair’s advice and voted no.

Sens. Tokuda (D-Kailua), Fukunaga (DMakiki), Sakamoto (D-Salt Lake) and Kokubun (D-Puna) all delivered brilliantly coordinated testimony against Young. Sakamoto was especially effective in trying to link the appointee to the Kaloko Dam disaster. “People died,” he said at least six times, even though there was no evidence that Young had anything to do with the dam’s failure.

Second, the big question not answered at the confirmation hearing was, “How do the senators’ actions improve government now that the directors of two difficult departments (Young for DNLR and Iwalani White for the Dept. of Public Safety) have been publicly executed so that the departments are now without any kind of leadership?” With no one on the horizon willing to chance the humiliation of the confirmation process, how long will these departments flounder without some kind of leadership? Isn’t some kind of leadership better than no leadership at all?

Sen. Sam Slom (R-Hawaii Kai) was admirable in his succinct rebuttal; however, no one was listening. The die had been cast. You had to admire Young, ever the gentleman, sitting next to Gov. Lingle, and highly respected Con-Con chair (1978) and former DLNR director, Mr. Bill Paty, who sat next to the mortally wounded director offering moral support.

It was a sight to remember. Legions of supporters in the gallery wishing for a miracle, hundreds of letters of support and petitions with thousands of signatures in hand were all for naught. Having fought the good, clean fight and obviously believing he had done the most he could to save his job, after four hard years Young was publicly fired, and he accepted it with uncommon grace. He looked at peace, finally, after five grueling days of humiliation.

He had fought hard and lost.

So what was learned by the confirmation fiasco? Everyone who witnessed the process will have to admit that the Department of Land and Natural Resources is too big to accomplish its mission, no matter who the director is, even King Kamehameha himself. The confirmation process pointed out the DLNR is comprised of 11 disparate divisions. The same is true for the Dept. of Public Safety.

April 24, 2007, will go down in Hawaii’s political history as a day of reckoning. Voters should remember this Tuesday as a memorable day, because it is the day the Republicans were humiliated, publicly and on statewide television.

The clear winner was the Democratic majority. However, in the process they may have aroused the competitive spirit of the Republican Party, as well as environ-mentalists and members of the Hawaiian community who had fought so hard for Young’s confirmation for a second four years.

Maybe the smartest testimony delivered was from Sen. Kalani English (DMolokai, Lanai), who missed the confirmation vote altogether because he was on Maui listening to the Dalai Lama’s message of compassion and peace.

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