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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 5, 2010

Fasi was a fighter, brash and bold

By Lee Cataluna

Every time I pass the rash of homeless camps in Waikīkī, I think of Frank Fasi and how he might have handled the situation.

He wouldn't have pussyfooted around with little regulations and intermittent enforcement. He would have done something bold and ostentatious that would have had people shaking their heads but admiring his bravado.

That image of Frank Fasi is what will endure. All his accomplishments and antics, successes and failures fall together in a sprawling epic, but the epitaph of his career was that he was a guy who wasn't afraid of a fight. By today's sensitivities, when local politicians go to great lengths not to make anyone mad, the Fasi stories seem as embellished as legend. Yet they're true, and even back in a less PC time, he was a guy who stood out because he never hesitated to open his mouth or start swinging.

Fasi's larger-than-life image was something he fiercely managed. During press conferences in his office, television cameras had to be set up lower than his eye level because it made him look bigger , as though he was ruling Honolulu from on high. If a camera was set up higher than his head, Fasi refused to look at that camera or answer questions from that reporter. He didn't want to give the impression of looking up to anyone.

Sometimes in the name of fighting for "the little people," he stepped on some little people. If he couldn't cuss out the boss, he'd cuss out the poor secretary. When there was opposition to sewer plans on the Windward side, he called the protesters "ignorant housewives." People loved him or hated him, but popularity wasn't what got him elected. People voted for him because it was great to watch him fight.

Toward the end of his career, he kept swinging though his political reflexes weren't what they used to be. It was at times difficult, like watching an aging boxer get back into the ring. I remember being sent to his campaign headquarters on election night in 1996. He lost that night to Jeremy Harris in a nonpartisan election for mayor. There were more journalists at his campaign headquarters than supporters, and things got quiet so early that we all packed up well before the 10 p.m. newscast.

Fasi ran in three more elections after that, but his glory days were by then behind him.

Still, the image of the scrappy guy who could outmaneuver just about everyone in town remained, like the guy from high school who always, charmingly, got away with stuff. Even when he was arguing, he was smiling like he was loving every minute of it.

There hasn't been anyone else in town like Frank Fasi. There probably will never be.