Off the Beat: Welcome To Dan Inouye Honolulu International Airport?
Naming something would honor the Hawaii senator but a rundown airport may not be the best.
Reading time: 3 minutes.
There is growing talk of naming something after the late Dan Inouye to honor his contributions to Hawaii.
Such an honor has been bestowed on other political greats like William Richardson (a law school), John Burns (a medical school) and Frank Fasi (a municipal building).
One possibility mentioned for Inouye: renaming Honolulu International Airport after him.
Makes sense. In 2000 — a full decade before his death — Alaska renamed its main air hub after its senior U.S. senator.
For those who disembark at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), they’ll find a spiffy facility that reflects air travel in the modern age and shows off the rich culture of Alaska.
Rippling northern lights on sky-high ceilings. Stunning Native Alaskan artwork throughout. Even stuffed grizzlies, polar bears and other Alaskan wildlife under glass on the way to rent your car.
Not so with HNL. It’s a dump.
Despite a $1.7 billion modernization plan launched in 2006, the state’s major airport is not a pleasant place to spend time.
Drab, poorly lit, broken escalators, leaky roofs, aging bathrooms and rickety wikiwiki shuttles, the airport still looks a lot like it did on old episodes of the original “Hawaii Five-0.”
The layout is confusing, signage is poor, parking is awful and it’s a long walk from most terminals to baggage. The drive into town along Nimitz or the viaduct are unsightly welcome mats for visitors. There is not even a regular “super shuttle” service to take returning residents to their homes.
Were Hawaii to rename Honolulu’s airport the Dan Inouye Honolulu International Airport it would be a dubious honor.
Then again, maybe it is an appropriate, if unintended honor after all.
Since his passing last month, Inouye has been lauded over and over again for his many contributions to the islands and to the nation. No argument there.
But we should also acknowledge the less glorious aspects of Hawaii that, while not directly a result of Inouye’s legacy, are sad realities that became manifest during his long congressional tenure.
By many indicators, Hawaii has the highest (or among the highest) housing and rental costs, gas prices, electricity rates and food expenses in the nation.
Many people hold down multiple jobs, and many households are home to multiple generations. The public education system is far less than stellar, the homeless population has exploded and Native Hawaiians are way overrepresented in our jails and prisons.
Hawaii is also heavily dependent on tourism and federal spending, making us awfully vulnerable whenever there is a drop in visitor numbers or (as there is now) more proposed cuts to the military. Though there are efforts to develop new industries, our state cannot yet be said to have a diversified economy.
Maybe the better honor for Inouye would be to name a nuclear submarine after him. More than anything, that would represent Inouye’s true legacy.
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