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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 4, 2008

Lagareta takes the fall at UH, but legislators share the blame

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

So it turns out Kitty Lagareta was the one who didn't get Colt Brennan his soap. Thank goodness Senate Democrats explained that in their multi-level defense of their rejection of Lagareta's reappointment to the UH Board of Regents this week.

Because for a while it looked like the legislators were the ones not giving UH money for soap in the locker rooms and doors that lock and classrooms that don't suck.

But now we know it was all Lagareta's fault.

June Jones skipped town because of her.

Herman Frazier was so ... Herman Frazier because of her.

Coach Mac is getting crazy big money because of her.

UH facilities are crumbling and dirty because of her.

Evan Dobelle got fired because of her. ...

Wait, why do they care how Evan Dobelle got canned when in hindsight he has become a symbol of big talk and empty promises and the guy who hired Herman Frazier?

Because Evan Dobelle stuck his neck out for the Democrats when he shot a campaign ad endorsing Mazie Hirono's unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign against Lingle all those six years ago. It's not about Dobelle, it's not even about Hirono, who was all but politically dead for years and then slid into Congress when Ed Case took his premature run at Dan Akaka's seat. It's six degrees of Dan Inouye. Play along at home.

Biggest sin of all, Kitty Lagareta didn't play nice with the Legislature. No kissing the ring, no buying them drinks at pau hana get togethers, no handing out free UH logo items. She might have even talked stink about some of them. Horrors!

Not that Lagareta is perfect, but to make her a scapegoat for everything from grubby classrooms to Herman Frazier, himself now a convenient scapegoat for all manner of misdeeds and missed opportunities, is dishonest.

The problems with UH are systemic, and the Legislature is a big part of that sticky system.

Not to worry. Kitty Lagareta can take care of herself. And her pal Gov. Lingle is talking about doing an end-run around the Senate confirmation process by keeping Lagareta in as a "holdover" regent until the Senate confirms a replacement, which they can't do any time soon since the legislative session is pau.

The other thing the Legislature can't do this year is claim to have fixed UH's problems. After taking the campus tour and tsk-tsking over soapless locker rooms and ratty carpets and vowing to do better for Hawai'i's university, lawmakers failed to budget for even half of UH's request for repair and maintenance money.

Maybe Senate Democrats should go along with keeping Lagareta around for a while. Without her, who are they going to blame for the broken buildings that never get fixed? Themselves? Yeah right.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.