Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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Dela Cruz's dilemma part of a banner year

By Cynthia Oi


Poor Donovan Dela Cruz. Slow cash flow has forced the term-limited City Council member to give up his bid for the deluxe suite at City Hall and try instead for the more affordable quarters of the state Senate.

With all the political comings and goings this year, Hawaii's professional candidates have checked out races like Goldilocks tested chairs -- this one's too big, that one's too small -- until finding one that's just right.

The seat Dela Cruz chose felt so good that at least four other professionals with well-known and/or notorious names wanted to nestle their behinds in it as well.

Hearing about Dela Cruz's decision, the first question that came to mind was, "What's he going to do about his campaign signs?"

The larger ones have his pleasantly smiling face, the smaller postings simply his name, but all say "mayor." Oops.

Too bad Dela Cruz didn't use the stuff Kirk Caldwell was crowing about the other day. With much fanfare, the substitute mayor who wants the job for real wiped and polished his own campaign signs. They were actually street and TheBus markers glazed with a substance so spray paint and felt-tip-pen ink wouldn't stick.

Thwarting vandals who get their kicks through bonehead behavior, with the added bonus of possibly saving taxpayer money? A great Hallmark moment. Better than a simpering "I approve this message" commercials and, as TV news coverage, cost free to boot.

Caldwell can expect that such gratis ads will fall off as broadcast minds more carefully differentiate between noteworthy city business and political acrobatics. Besides, effective as they may be, TV and radio exposures come and go in seconds.

To get their message out, the go-to medium for candidates is the banner, as many as they can buy, to join the bazillions that overlay the island from Kapolei to Kahuku, Kaaawa and Kaimuki.

Bob Loy, the nice, earnest Outdoor Circle guy, points out that signs this season are bigger, bolder and uglier -- and that's not because more of them include mugshots. It's the quantity.

Like in real estate, the key to sign-posting is location. Some fences in my neighborhood are so heavily covered the impatiens and dandelions are deprived of sun. Dogs can't see whom they're barking at.

I'm not complaining. It is, after all, free speech. I'm particularly delighted by the equal-opportunity, nonpartisan folks who let any candidate wire up a sign.

The argument against signs is that there are far more meaningful ways for candidates to acquaint themselves with voters. True. But if name recognition, as experts contend, is important, then hanging placards people can see while stuck in Kalanianaole traffic plays effortlessly, though as time passes they lose their oomph.

For the big boys whose worries aren't about recognition -- I mean you'd have to live in the Galapagos to be unaware of Duke, Dan, Neil and Mufi -- innumerable signs show the muscle and money they hope voters will respond to.

As for Dela Cruz, he is plenty known in his district. He may get away with just pasting "senate" over "mayor" and call it recycling "green." It could work as well as Caldwell's wet rags.

Cynthia Oi can be reached at

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