6 Months On The Road

Midway through his first year as mayor, Mufi Hannemann gives his team an A for effort, an A-minus for accomplishment

Dan Boylan
Wednesday - July 07, 2005
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It’s 11 a.m. on a Monday and that means Mayor Mufi Hannemann is in Kapolei Hale, the city building in Leeward Oahu’s long-talked-about-but-slow-todevelop second city. Soon after his election, Hannemann promised to spend one day a week here, emphasizing the importance of developing the area and dispersing Oahu’s population.

The mayor is talking with Ray Rawson, the point man for the development of a dental school in Kapolei. They’re talking sites and permits, and Hannemann is suggesting the names of others with whom Rawson should talk. Hannemann also suggests that “Kapolei” be in the name of the new school.

“I’m putting a special emphasis on this side of the Island,” he tells Rawson. “We’ve got to create more jobs out here, anything to move the traffic flow this way.”

Hannemann listens intently and asks an occasional question. Rawson’s presentation over, the two talk about people they know in common from the Las Vegas area, about women’s basketball and UH football.

The mayor looks terrific,wearing a gorgeous aloha shirt of orange and tan hues and dark slacks. The clothes hang well on the former basketball star’s 6-foot-7-inch frame. Hannemann appears alert, showing no indication that he’s been on the move since 6:30 in the morning.

“I’ve been going around to the city’s baseyards,” he says, “thanking these guys for the hard work they do patching up potholes in the roads. This morning it was Kaneohe and Laie.”

Through his first six months,
Mayor Hannemann is keeping his
campaign promises

Hannemann’s second appointment is with Hersh Singer of the Hawaii Community Development Authority and his own economic development director, Jeanne Schultz. The talk is about the long-stalled development of Kalaeloa, site of the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station. HCDA plans town meetings, personal interviews and the development of two plans for the area — one if the Navy stations an aircraft carrier in Hawaii, one if it doesn’t. Hannemann talks about the advantages of the Leeward area for the development of mass transit; it has room for a workyard and a right of way. The mayor uses his hands when he talks: palms out, circling the air with his index finger pointing upward. “I want to look at everything for the area,” he says. “Put it all on the table.”

With Singer’s departure, Hannemann gathers an entourage — an aide, his press secretary and a photographer — and walks down the hall for a “Spring Cleaning Walk” through the offices of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Hannemann’s called on all of the city departments to throw away the non-essentials, and he’s touring them all to see how they’ve done.

“The Corporation Counsel’s office threw away 300 cartons of paper,” he says.

The DPR offices look clean and tidy, but at the door sits a long table weighted down with sushi, salads, desserts — a feast for a mayor, all apparently potluck. Hannemann does his inspection first,walking from cubicle to cubicle, greeting every worker with a question, a joke, some attempt at conversation.

He shakes hands and hugs several workers. After 20 years of running for public office, Hannemann knows a lot of people — and their aunties, cousins, brothers and sisters. He exudes genuine warmth — call it aloha. The Samoan Hannemann is, after all, the first non-Caucasian, locally bornand- reared mayor since Neal Blaisdell left the office in 1968.

Hannemann finally makes it back to the potluck. The mayor, a self-described “person of faith,” says grace — and the eating begins.

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