Off the Beat: Has Hawaii Already Moved on From Dan Inouye?
A year after his death, remembrances of late Hawaii senator are subdued.
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A year ago this week, Hawaii feared for the worst as it remembered its best.
Hawaii’s senior senator, Daniel K. Inouye, had died at 88, and the honors extended from the rotunda in the U.S. Capitol to the Hawaii state Capitol, where the great man’s body lay in state. The president of the United States attended two of the four memorial services, including the last one, which was held at Punchbowl, his final resting place.
Even as we honored Inouye’s enormous record of public service, we also expressed tremendous concern about what would happen to Hawaii “After Dan.” The King of Kalua Pork had brought home the bacon year after year, a virtual one-man economic engine.
And yet, on the one-year anniversary of his death, the Dec. 17 print edition of Honolulu Star-Advertiser — the state’s newspaper of record — devoted only a few lines of ink. There was more mention in the same issue of another leader who died on the same day, albeit in 2011: Kim Jong-il.
Is Hawaii already over Dan?
Inouye’s successors in Congress have not forgotten the late senator. All four of Hawaii’s delegates issued heartfelt statements on the anniversary.
“His legacy lives on, but I miss him every day,” said U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, the woman Inouye wanted to succeed him.
However, Gov. Neil Abercrombie chose to appoint Brian Schatz to fill the next two years of Inouye’s term. Hanabusa may win the seat on her own come August, but for now Schatz has been embraced by many of the very people and interests who sided with Inouye for years.
Hawaii’s economy has also not shown overt damage from Inouye’s absence. Unemployment remains low, the state has a record surplus and construction towers are popping up downtown.
It’s difficult to estimate what Hawaii may have lost in terms of federal spending. The past year, marked by sequestration, a fiscal cliff and a government shutdown, was not a typical one for Washington, and earmarks no longer flow freely from the halls of Congress.
Yet, the proposed defense budget, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week and is poised to pass the Senate before the end of the year, promises $400 million for military construction in the islands.
As our delegates pointed out, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014 also prohibits any additional rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (Pearl Harbor Shipyard can breathe easier), authorizes more than $72 million in loan guarantees for new commercial ship construction (“critical for upgrading and building new shipping vessels running to and from Hawaii,” according to Hanabusa’s office) and limits the funding for early retirement of Ticonderoga-class cruisers, two of which are home-ported at Pearl.
Inouye is hardly forgotten. Last month President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Inouye’s name also lives on physically. The current issue of Honolulu Magazine observes that a multitude of places have been renamed to honor his legacy, “from UH buildings, to a century-old lighthouse on Kauai, to a Navy destroyer.”
There are more place names to come. On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono introduced legislation that would re-designate the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Waikiki as the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, “in recognition of his instrumental support for the center.” It passed unanimously.
But there has been resistance to other Inouye monuments. In October, the University of Hawaii’s controversial plans to develop a $27.5 million center dedicated to Inouye were stalled. Some had criticized the center as lavish and not in keeping with the senator’s more modest style.
Still, the Hawaii Legislature has called for a statue of Inouye (as well as the late Patsy Mink) to be displayed near the Capitol. In this way, we’ll be able to pose for photos with Inouye in perpetuity like we do with Father Damien and Liliuokalani.
But, if press coverage is any indication, we seem to have moved on.
We may well miss Inouye’s counsel in the coming months. There are already signs of a softening tourism industry, for example. Tensions in East Asia, part of Inouye’s deep area of expertise, are on the rise.
Perhaps the best way to remember Dan Inouye is to take a moment to remember the man and what he actually stood for.
“He believed in doing what was right for the people of Hawaii, above politics and self-interest,” Abercrombie said Tuesday. “We will do our best to carry on Sen. Inouye’s tradition of service and live up to his standards of duty, honor and country.”
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