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State of Repair - Extended Version

6 Leaders Discuss Power & How to Fix Hawaii

(page 8 of 8)

Ho: To get back to your question, which is what can be done? I think it will be circumstance. And the circumstance that created what was a terrific run is gone. You can peel away pieces, such as statehood, and you can see what the outcome of that was. I think maybe the depressing piece of that is the element that is going to drive that circumstance is going to be not so pleasant. We could face tough times in this state – in this community – for a long time. And if things don’t go so well for a period of time, then circumstance will bring people together. I have absolute conviction that will happen.

Burris: You mean like an economic slap in the face or a physical disaster?

Cayetano: Take 9/11. Right after 9/11, the Republican Minority Leader Galen Fox came up to see me and said, “We want to work with you folks.” I thought that was really sincere, so we worked together – for about two months (everybody laughs) – and then it was over. But you know, there was an election coming up. People should’ve put that kind of thing aside because the state was suffering at the time. That was a heart-warming time for me because I was on my way out.

Burris: You talk about circumstance and the implication is that something tough will happen – a crisis of some kind where everybody pulls together. But could it be a positive thing that could pull everyone together?

Ho: I think nothing pulls people together like crisis.

Burris: But if you think about it, statehood, was by in large, a positive thing for most people and it pulled everyone together. Everything was centered around that concept.

Apoliona: Hmmm, maybe nationhood.

Burris: Maybe.

Ho: I don’t know what the stimulus will be, but you know what shocked me with all of this 50th anniversary of statehood, there was an article a couple of weeks ago, and within one four-week period, the state became a state, Inouye went to Congress, Ala Moana Shopping Center opens and the first jet plane lands in Hawaii – within four weeks of each other.

Burris: Yes, and Henry Kaiser began working on Hawaii Kai.

Ho: Yeah, and that’s stunning. That’s circumstance that created all of that. It’s not that I don’t worry about the future, but I think there’s a certain element that you can’t control the pieces here, so we need to focus on what are the elements? It’s about cooperation, respect, understanding the other person’s viewpoint. I can tell you, from my standpoint and the standpoint of the bank, we’re trying very hard just to try to understand where everyone’s coming from. I don’t know that you can do better than that right now.

Burris: Could it be something to do with Hawaiians and nationhood?

Apoliona: Well, I think we kind of end where we started about leadership; the character of leadership; the values of leadership in Hawaii; who the leaders are. It’s not just going to be Hawaiian people. It’s going to cut across all of the other groups too. But there is a place for the Hawaiian community. So given that, if people can accept that, then let’s build on it. I think for the future, the leadership issue will always be out front. Lead with integrity, not da kine talk and forget. So leadership and what the leaders themselves embody are going to help to connect or disconnect. The circumstances will offer opportunities. I think we must continue to support the private-sector partnership with public and community. As an example, as initiatives and economic projects may go forward in the community, there’s a ripple – private-sector type funding, public management and operation and maybe even ownership. How do we keep encouraging that? Bottom line, as I said, to me there’s no one personality that’s going to do this. It’s got to be collective. It’s about working together.

Perreira: As Colbert said earlier, there is currently no community leadership. Circumstance may lead us to that point.

Burris: There’s been no shortage of these missions and gatherings and programs – to talk about sustainability and all these things – to do what it is you’re all talking about. Why doesn’t it work?

Apoliona: Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be emerging out of our community, some real significant leaders who will say, “Nuff already. Let’s do something.” And it may not be as an outcome of a conference; it may not have been because of legislation or the creation of a commission. It’s like the people who care are going to step forward and say, “Nuff already. Let’s cut across this stuff. Where do we want to go?” Just maybe.

Lagareta: It sounds like at that time when we were so thrilled with statehood and things happening, it sounds like there must’ve been a very common vision that was drilled in everybody’s energy and perspective causing all this opportunity. We just haven’t had that. When you talk about all these commissions and boards, it always seems like the recommendations are to stay so generalized so nobody gets offended, or they’re specific, but once you get to the implementation, somebody’s ox is going to get gored and it all stops. So we get stuck, but I’m optimistic. I’ve chosen to live here for 35 years and I love this place. I choose to be here and I’ll be here probably until the day I die. So you feel like you have to stand up and be heard on things. I find the people willing to do that are so few and far between because if you get dropped down a couple of times, they don’t want to get back up again. I’m optimistic. I completely agree with Haunani and the others that I don’t think there’s an individual who will come in and save us. I think we’ve tried that many, many times. I’m hoping some of the leadership we’re seeing from the next generation and in the community, I hope they’re studying the past and looking at what challenged us before and I hope they’re learning from it. I hope they’re learning that we don’t move the canoe forward when everybody’s paddling in a different direction. And that yes, maybe there are things that we all disagree on, but let’s start with the things we can all agree on and see what we can do. And maybe there’ll be one or two things.

Matsumoto: There’s no one person that will lead us to the promise land. I think it takes collective action and people have to come together. The leaders have to come together. So, you talk about circumstance, OK, to me, the circumstance that we’re about to face in the course of the next 12 months, it’s not a very pretty picture. It’s going to be really tough and we know that. And so what are we doing about it? To me, there has to be leadership and action now. I would like to see our governor, our legislative leaders, the public-sector unions, as well as the business sector be more collaborative in terms of how we’re going to address the challenges that lay ahead of us. But I don’t see that happening. They’re following the defined legal process, but legal processes are only intended to service people when there’s conflict and they cannot resolve it themselves. But before you get to that, you need to try to informally try to come up with solutions and avoid going down the path, because then you get unintended results.

Burris: So everybody’s talking about that there’s probably no one white knight. Is it my assignment to call Mufi and tell him what you guys concluded (everyone laughs)?

Cayetano: Somebody wrote a book and I just came across it the other day. We’re in a decade now of hyper-polarization. Not just polarization; it’s hyper-polarization. There are tons of reasons for that, whatever, but it’s there. I think these things go in cycles and eventually they will be worked out, but I just don’t see it being something that you can get out of it like that.

Lagareta: But just think about it, in Hawaii, when we do come together, we come together really strong. When I think about the type of polarization you’re talking about, it makes me think isn’t there a way we could change the course and use our strengths and the way we are when we’re at our best? Maybe the rest of the world is going through hyper polarization, but wouldn’t it be nice if one time we could lead and we could show a different way?

Cayetano: We have a local boy (Barack Obama) doing his best to turn things around and he’s not having much success. You know, the morning of 9/11, it was really touching to see the politicians getting together. As soon as they showed it on the news, there were people giving blood already. They were lining up at the blood banks to give. There was no Republicans or Democrats, or whatever.

Lagareta: When you say Republicans, there’s only three, so I wouldn’t worry about it. (Everybody laughs)

Cayetano: Recently, somebody asked me, “Don’t you think it would be better to have a two-party system?” I said, “Yeah, but it’s not my job to elect Republicans.” (More laughter)

Apoliona: Is this meeting adjourned?

Burris: On that happy note, I’d like to thank everybody for coming. This has just been terrific. It’s been very stimulating.

Apoliona: I’m honored to have sat at this table.

Lagareta: I am as well.

Burris: I guess what we’ve learned is that there’s no white knight riding into rescue us; we have to do it ourselves. There’s a lot of inherent strength in this place that we need to capitalize on to make things happen. Yes, there’s lots of ugliness and infighting, but there’s a core strength in Hawaii that should be capitalized on.

Apoliona: There’s going to have to be a stepping forward. We cannot just stand on the sidelines. It’s not always easy, but we have to do it.

Lagareta: Well, if it was easy, everybody would do it.



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