Mufi’s Poipourri Of News And Notes

Do Mayors Have All The Fun? Thomas Friedman, author of that provocative book The World Is Flat – one of my all-time favorites because it’s all about embracing change for the better rather than running from it – is at it again. This time he makes a startling commentary in a recent New York Times op-ed piece of the appeal and allure of the job of Hizzoner.

He piggybacks off a new book, The Metropolitan Revolution, in which co-authors Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley assert that it is our cities and metro areas that are leading the nation in transformation rather than Washington, D.C. They believe our cities, more than any other entity in government, are taking risks and making the tough decisions. One could obviously counter by pointing to Detroit. Nonetheless, Friedman agrees and chimes in that Washington’s repeated failure to come to grips with solving many of our problems positions cities “more than ever … to be our engines of smart growth.” Besides, Friedman concludes, “mayors today have more fun,” and cites Chicago’s energetic city hall chief Rahm Emanuel as a prime example. As one who’s been there and done that, I’ll vouch for the former but defer judgment on the latter.

Making the Tough Calls This is the perfect segue to talk about one of the toughest decisions I made as mayor that certainly wasn’t fun: dealing with the 2006 Waikiki sewage spill and striving to ensure that it would not happen again.

One of my guiding maxims has always been, “Leave this place better than you found it.” Recent news of the removal of the temporary sewer main along the Ala Wai Canal reminded me of all of those who worked tirelessly to make sure this day would come to pass.

Readers will recall when an aging Waikiki main failed following 40-plus days of nonstop rain, it forced us to have sewage flow into the canal rather than overflow and backup into hotels, homes and businesses. The city promptly responded with an effective solution that met both our short- and long-term needs. We committed millions of dollars to construct a temporary wastewater bypass that resolved the immediate problem, while concurrently beginning work on a plan to address our needs well into the future.

So many folks deserve credit for these accomplishments. Among them are Wayne Hashiro, managing director; Eric Takamura, head of the Department of Environmental Services; Eric’s successor, Tim Steinberger; and Department of Design and Construction director Craig Nishimura – all of whom provided engineering leadership, and together with dedicated city employees, enabled us to confront the problem and devise solutions. Carrie Okinaga, the city’s legal chief, helped me negotiate a settlement with the federal government on the city’s response to longstanding lawsuits and consent decrees that predated our administration. Bill Brennan was our public spokesman during the crisis and beyond, while Mark Matsunaga provided valuable media counsel. So many civic leaders, from hotel managers to small-business owners to organizations like the Waikiki Improvement Association and Neighborhood Board, lent their support for our efforts over the years. And residents and workers waited so patiently as we continued to tell them “better days are ahead.” I know I’m missing so many who contributed so much, but I believe the names above represent the legions of individuals who have toiled long and hard to enable us to reach this goal and to leave this a better place for all!

The Obon Tradition The notion that hula is great for your health and well-being certainly is not a new concept to many hula purists. The kumu hula I’ve known through the years, from Olana A’i to Michael Pili Pang, to Vicky Holt Takamine, to the late O’Brian Eselu, all have testified to the great physical benefits that hula inspires and produces for women and men. The closest I’ve come to dancing the hula (believe it or not, I did take a few lessons in my youth in Kalihi, but they didn’t help) is bon dancing, which is in full swing during the weekends of summer.

I’ve been a bon dance devotee for more than 25 years, and my reasons are fairly straightforward. First, it’s a way to appreciate the teachings of Buddha. Second, it’s another means to pay tribute to our loved ones and ancestors. Third, the bon events are an excellent social opportunity to make new friends and renew acquaintances, especially with those who are active on the bon dance circuit. Fourth, you can indulge in some of the tastiest and authentic local-kine foods. For instance, ever tasted the “flying saucers” at a Maui or Kauai bon dance? Fifth, bon dancing can be great physical exercise if you go round and round for a few hours.

So, for those of you who’ve never gone bon dancing, it’s never too late to start. This weekend there are three slated on Oahu: Mililani Hongwanji, Soto Mission of Hawaii on Nuuanu Avenue, and Nichiren Mission of Hawaii on Pulelehua Way. Admission is free and it’s definitely a people-friendly atmosphere. Be bold and wear a hapi coat. And if you can, you should find a sensei to teach you a few routines so you’ll have some extra confidence when you enter the ring. If not, just jump in, follow someone, and no scared ’em, go get ’em. I will be forever grateful to Ralston Nagata, Evelyn Ikeda and Misao Carlson for sharing their love of bon dancing.

One last tip: Make a donation to the temple even though it’s not compulsory. It’s just a way of showing your appreciation, local-style.