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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What's in a name? Political undercurrents

By David Shapiro

Former Mayor Frank Fasi always resented insinuations that he had unsavory connections simply because he was of Italian ancestry.

It seems peculiar that Mayor Mufi Hannemann now wants to name a building after Fasi that was formerly known as the MOB the once-popular acronym for the Municipal Office Building that Fasi built at King and Alapai streets.

Hannemann asked the City Council to name the municipal building and the surrounding Civic Center in honor of the 85-year-old Fasi after the council approved another Hannemann measure allowing public facilities to be named for the living as well as the deceased.

The new mayor has good reason to show appreciation for Fasi, who served 22 years as mayor before stepping down to unsuccessfully run for governor in 1994.

The 17,719 votes Fasi received in the 2004 mayoral primary were enough to keep Duke Bainum from winning the race outright in the primary and gave Hannemann another shot at him in a general election run-off.

Fasi's subsequent endorsement of Hannemann was certainly a factor in his narrow 1,354-vote victory over Bainum in the general.

But what the two seem to have most in common is their enmity for former Mayor Jeremy Harris and their inability to wrap their sizable egos around the lickings Harris gave both of them in the 2000 mayor's race.

Hannemann invited Fasi to last year's lighting of the City Hall Christmas tree, and from the rhetoric, you would have thought the lights of Christmas went dark in the 10 years Harris served between Fasi and Hannemann.

It's only fair, though, that a special law allowing Fasi to be honored while he is still alive was enacted after all the special measures that were pursued to thwart the political ambitions of the maverick Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Best Party aspirant.

The requirement that local elected officials resign their current positions before running for higher state and county office was passed by mainstream Democrats specifically to stop Fasi from running for governor from the safety of his mid-term mayor's job.

Fasi was a target of term-limit provisions, as well as numerous proposed City Charter amendments to curb the mayor's powers.

It's interesting that in proposing to name the Civic Center after Fasi, Hannemann expressed admiration for the "park-like setting" Fasi created out of "an asphalt parking lot" that used to occupy the grounds.

He wasn't similarly enamored of efforts by Harris to beautify O'ahu by adding a little greenery.

In fact, Hannemann has often played Paul Bunyan to Harris' Johnny Appleseed by chopping down trees Harris planted on sidewalks and roads in some cases to restore parking spaces the trees displaced.

Harris' greatest legacy will probably be the large-scale recreational facilities he built, such as the Central O'ahu Regional Park and the Waipi'o Peninsula Soccer Complex.

Hannemann has often grumbled that these represented examples of excessive spending by Harris on grandiose monuments that came at the expense of properly maintaining other heavily used city facilities.

Now, in the same legislation that would name the municipal building for Fasi, Hannemann is also proposing to rename the Waipi'o soccer complex not after Harris, who built it, but in honor of the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, a champion of gender equity in sports.

Hannemann wasn't as reverent of Mink when she was alive; he unsuccessfully ran against her for Congress in 1990.

Mink also was at one time a bitter political rival of Fasi's, his opponent in one of the last mayoral elections he won.

Ah, the unmistakable smell of Honolulu municipal politics as you scrape it off of your rubber slippers.

David Shapiro, a veteran Hawai'i journalist, can be reached by e-mail at dave@volcanicash.net.