Surrounded by some of the very supporters who helped him put it together, Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday introduced what he calls a comprehensive plan to solve Hawaii’s problems.

“This is a culmination, a road map, of almost 18 months of talking with communities all across the state — a bottom-up endeavor,” Abercrombie said at his campaign headquarters at Ward Warehouse in Honolulu. “We have had dozens of meetings and conversations, with experts of every range. This is not a project list — it’s all here, a crystal-clear choice as we go into the last 30 days to the primary.”

Titled “A New Day In Hawaii,” the 43-page document has no pictures, save for the taro field and mountain range picture on the cover and a mug shot of the candidate on the first page.

The pages are in black and white — no color, no graphics — with plainly stated section heads (e.g., “Education: Hawaii’s Children First”), subheads (“Decentralize School Administration”) and lots of bullet points (“Redefining the role of the DOE”).

Most sections include a “Guiding Principles” box listing more bulleted points — in the case of Education, for example, ones like these: “Respect for principals and teachers as professionals” and “The interests of children will always take precedence.”

It’s a well-considered, thoughtful and thorough plan. There’s a table of contents and executive summary to help readers navigate quickly. And in a week that’s been dominated by a flap over a negative flier from his opponent in the Sept. 18 Democratic primary, Mufi Hannemann, the press conference made it appear that Abercrombie wants the race to focus on the issues.

But in a modern political campaign dominated by 30-second television and radio spots, 140 character tweets and websites with YouTube clips and photo galleries, will anyone pay attention?

Abercrombie is certain people will read it.

“There is a new way of communicating throughout the state,” he said. “Everybody is their own campaign manager these days, their own precinct captain. They talk to friends, colleagues, through e-mail, Twitter, Facebook. People are communicating now more than ever. Yes, there will be 30-second TV and radio ads and some magazine and newspaper ads, but people are used to the idea of being propogandized. They understand when they are being manipulated and maneuvered, and they don’t want it anymore.”

(Abercrombie tweeted news of the release not long after his press conference: “This plan, titled ‘A New Day in Hawaii,’ is a …”)

Abercrombie pointed to recent reports that voter registration was approaching record levels across the state.

“How can that be? Because people are taking their votes seriously,” he said. “How you combat 30-second ads with people with money is you do it with people.”

Abercrombie was apparently referring to Hannemann, who has begun to saturate the airwaves with his well-funded campaign.

Aiona Releases Jobs Plan

Publishing plans is not new to politics, though it is rare these days to see such a thick pamphlet. Many of the issues addressed in the plan have already been teased out in the issues section on Abercrombie’s campaign website. Now, interested folks can download “A New Day In Hawaii” from the website.

Another candidate for governor, Duke Aiona, released a campaign brochure of his own on Wednesday, though it is only seven pages long. There’s photos, pull-quotes and graphics, too, and check marks instead of bullets.

“A Policy Agenda for Hawaii: Jobs and the Economy” emphasizes the importance of small business in job creation. Aiona’s ideas include streamlining the permitting and licensing process and creating “a competitive tax system.”

At his press conference at Aiona headquarters on Nimitz Highway, the lieutenant governor spoke to reporters with Marvin Fong of Market City Shopping Center and five other businessmen standing by his side.

As for Hannemann, issue papers from his campaign have been rather modest in size thus far. His recently announced economic action plan, for example, has only 10 points, and they are succinct (e.g., “Move Forward on Rail. Remove the roadblock in the Governor’s office, get our construction industry working, and build a 21st century transit system.”)

Hannemann also has a Q&A section on his page that gets a little more specific.

What Abercrombie’s Plan Says

In addition to the economy, education and energy, “A New Day In Hawaii” also deals with the environment and natural resources, food and agriculture, health (including aging), housing and families, small business and entrepreneurship, and technology and innovation.

There’s also a section on “additional issues” (e.g., culture and the arts, civil and human rights, etc.).

In each section, Abercrombie lays out the problem as he sees it.

Take health care as an example: “Our system of healthcare is fragmented, medical professionals are finding it harder to build a career in Hawaii, insurance costs are crippling business here, rising costs threaten the solvency of the retirement systems, it is harder to make an appointment with your doctor, co-payments are rising, and more people, particularly the most vulnerable in society, are finding it nearly impossible to access any healthcare at all.”

Hard to argue with that.

Abercrombie also usually anchors each issue in a historical context that reminds readers of how Hawaii has often done better — in health care’s case, through passage in 1974 of the Prepaid Health Care Act.

And Abercrombie can be specific in his solutions — again, using health care as example, he says Hawaii has a shortage of full-time practicing physicians, especially on the neighbor islands. Solution? Increase enrollment at medical schools, provide loan forgiveness and repayment assistance, and offer housing subsidies to attract and keep health-care professionals.

Abercrombie can also, however, offer ideas that seem vague or less obtainable, such as forming a “multifaceted task force to develop a system of universal healthcare.”

Turn to Page 24

He is also well aware that many of these issues and their possible solutions are not new, as he himself pointed out Wednesday.

“We’ve been facing the same issues for decades,” he said, pointing to a renewable energy plan from 1978 that he says reads word for word with plans today. “This is a question of where we are going and how we are going to survive.”

Abercrombie also appears set to use the plan as a tool on the campaign trail. When a reporter asked about how he would revive agriculture in Hawaii, the former congressman said, “Turn to page 24.”

The reporters and other audience members laughed, but Abercrombie meant it. Sure enough, the plan’s section on food and agriculture begins on page 24. (Example: “Raise the demand for local food.”)

Abercrombie had one other press release Wednesday: a 15-page handout listing “The Congressional Accomplishments of Neil Abercrombie.” (Example: “Abercrombie successfully shepherded the (Akaka bill) through the House committee and won approval by the full House in 2000 and 2007.”) (This appeared to be a direct response to Hannemann’s flier, which cited two reports critical of Abercrombie’s congressional record.)

But don’t take my word for it: Read all about it on his website.

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