During the last few months, Gov. Neil Abercrombie hasn’t made too many public appearances. Busy with his first legislative session as governor, he had his hands full.
But, now that session has ended, Abercrombie is getting out of the Capitol more.
This week alone he spoke at a panel on Medicaid that was streamed across the state, talked about controlling growth on Oahu’s North Shore, dedicated an elementary school in Ewa, led a press conference on sand replenishment in Waikiki and gave remarks at a media event at Aloha Tower Marketplace.
Friday’s edition of The Honolulu Star-Advertiser featured two photos of the governor, one from the Waikiki appearance and the other showing him playing trumpet at the school.
After a tough legislative session, Abercrombie is demonstrating that he is a governor who connects with the people and spouts popular views. It’s pure retail politics.
Traveling in Style
The governor travels light when he flies to the Neighbor Islands. Just two security personnel accompany him Friday morning; not a handler in sight.
On a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Lihue, Kauai, the governor was the last passenger to board and among the first to deplane, thanks to his first class seat.
Abercrombie and his escorts then took off in a black Chevrolet SUV parked right outside the airport.
At a Kauai Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Kauai Marriott Resort Beach Club in Lihue, Abercrombie worked the ballroom in typical style.
Wearing a white aloha shirt with prints of blue koi, he moved easily through the crowd, shaking hands and posing for photos. Many kneeled so their faces would be closer to his.
“Sure, I remember you,” he said to someone. “Hey, how are you doing?” he said to another. “Did you see the photo of me in the Star-Advertiser today? The Local section. Take a look at it,” he said to another.
The chamber audience included Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura, Tim Bynum and KipuKai Kualii; and state Reps. Jimmy Tokioka and Derek Kawakami.
Abercrombie’s remarks were familiar patter as well, designed to ingratiate himself with whatever audience.
“It’s no secret, and I’ve said this before, but Kauai is THE most beautiful island,” he said, eliciting huge applause.
The familiar self-deprecating joke, this one about his age, was heard as well: “I’m a walking monument to historic preservation.”
He used a line he has used many times before, too: “Farming that isn’t entrepreneurial isn’t farming — it’s gardening.”
And, there was the usual hyperbolic statement: “We are going to cut unemployment in half in this state, I hope in the next 18 months.”
(Invoking FDR and the WPA, the governor said he would accomplish his goal through capital improvement projects at schools, airports and other facilities.)
There wasn’t much news out of the chamber talk, but Abercrombie did say he was close to hiring a chief information officer who he said would be the best in the country.
He said as well that he would return to the Legislature with many of the same tax proposals that didn’t make it out of the 2011 session.
Abercrombie closed with the same canoe metaphor we’ve heard many times before — about how we are all in the same canoe and need to paddle hard, together.
During the question and answer period afterwards, however, the governor did say something more fresh.
He said it was “inaccurate” to say that the Hawaii Government Employees Association has received nine extra vacation days in their new contracts. He said it was “paid leave” that would be used to give supervisors and employees more “flexibility” in work schedules.
He also sounded off again against the AARP, which led the charge in killing Abercrombie’s plan to tax pension income.
“They made $300 million last year selling insurance,” he said, underscoring his conviction that AARP cares less about seniors than it does about self survival.
And, he called it “a civic crime” that sodas are not taxed in Hawaii.
When it was all over, the governor received a heartfelt standing ovation — a heck of a lot better than he got at the Legislature this year.
Back on the Road
And then the governor was off — to where, I don’t know. He wasn’t publicly scheduled for anything until Friday evening, when he was expected to deliver the keynote at Kauai Community College’s commencement.
But the governor is not done with his road trip yet.
On Saturday Abercrombie is to deliver remarks at the American Psychiatric Association Assembly at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
On Sunday he’s hosting a “Community Conversation with the Governor” at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului to be followed by a keynote speech at the University of Hawaii-Maui College commencement.
On Monday there are four appearances: the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association at the Honolulu Country Club, Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Groundbreaking on the Capitol Grounds, the UH Philosophy Conference at the East-West Center’s Imin Center and an ROTC Commissioning Ceremony at UH Manoa’s Kennedy Center.
The governor is also continuing his pattern of releasing weekly addresses — another way to get across his view of how he’s doing.
On Friday, for example, in his second message of the week, Abercrombie talked about “Partnerships.”
Whether it concerns health care, or education, or our environment, we are not deterred by a shortage of resources. In partnership with the many critically-important organizations and individuals in our community, we are going to transform government into something that will make everyone in this great state proud.
And onward Abercrombie!
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