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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 12, 2003

Japanese center on eve of new era

Advertiser Staff

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i is erasing its final $100,000 of debt, finishing its reorganization, and considering a new name.

The launch of the reordered Mo'ili'ili center will mark a new era for the institution, which last year was $9 million in debt and faced foreclosure.

The outgoing board of 34 trustees meets June 27 to hand over the reins to a new, smaller board. Balloting ended Friday in what is the center's first contested trustee election, said the outgoing board president, Fujio Matsuda.

"The question was raised early on that maybe we need to change the name of the center," Matsuda said. "That's being looked at, and as you can imagine, there is no consensus on that."

There will be 15 members on the new board, including one to be appointed by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, which is entitled under the center's charter to name one trustee. Three people have been elected outright to Neighbor Island seats:

  • Big Island — Tommy Hirano, president and chief executive officer of Stationers Corp. of Hawai'i.
  • Kaua'i — Charles Kawa-kami, president of Big Save Inc.
  • Maui — Yuki Lei Sugimura, president-elect, Japanese Cultural Society of Maui.

Results were unavailable for the 11 contested seats, which included seven put forward by a nominating committee and four who collected enough signatures to nominate themselves.

The new board takes office in July, Matsuda said, and its first task will be a decision on recommendations made by four committees that have been working on the reorganization since January.

Those committees have been developing a new vision and mission statement; reviewing governance and managerial issues; planning programming, membership and fund-raising initiatives; and revising the center's business plan.

The vision committee makes its final recommendation to the board tomorrow and has not settled on the final wording of the statement or on a new name for the center, said committee chairman Brandon Hayashi. But he did say the panel is leaning toward a broader definition for the scope of service the center would provide.

"We're saying something about our Japanese-American experience here in Hawai'i," Hayashi said. "So (the statement) takes in how we can serve the greater community as well, not just the Japanese community."

Meanwhile, the fund-raising effort Colbert Matsumoto has chaired since fall is winding down.

"We're less than $100,000 away from our goal," Matsumoto said. "I think most of the major delinquencies have been dealt with . ... We're working on some donors who we hope will enable us to conclude it this month."

Fund-raising will continue, he said, so that the center will have money to catch up on maintenance work that was allowed to slide during the fiscal crisis.