A proposal to rename Makiki Post Office after the late Democratic U.S. Rep. Cecil Heftel has stalled because Heftel’s widow objected to the bill’s author: U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, a Republican.
"It’s not going to move forward," Djou said Saturday. He authored the bill, a measure that he says was spawned by tradition.
According to custom, after a member of Congress dies, the successor to the seat introduces a bill to rename a post office after that person, Djou said.
The move is usually uncontroversial and requires unanimous consent by the state delegation.
Djou, who represents the 1st Congressional District, said the bill cannot move forward without the support of U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, who has since backed away from it.
Before announcing the measure, Djou’s office had contacted Heftel’s adult children, and all seven of them supported the measure. But early last week, after a story about the proposal in the Star-Advertiser, Heftel’s widow, Rebecca, sent a letter to Djou saying she was surprised by his plan because he had never asked her. She asked him to stop the effort.
"A wife knows her husband better and deeper than anyone else," she wrote in a second letter to Djou asking him to give up on the measure. "Appreciating Mr. Heftel as I did and still do, I am positive he would have wanted me to thank Mr. Djou for his thoughtfulness but also tell him that Mr. Heftel would want such an honor initiated by someone whose politics were more closely aligned with his own."
Hirono said she initially backed the bill in the spirit of bipartisanship.
"I was assured of the Heftel family’s full support of this bill," Hirono said in a e-mail. "However, since this renaming has caused such a public rift within the Heftel family, I do not believe that this matter should move forward at this time."
She said the Heftel family can request the honor in the future through Hawaii’s U.S. senators or the state’s 1st Congressional District representative.
But Djou said he still wants to honor Heftel.
"I believe Cec Heftel was a good person who deserves and merits recognition in his home district," he said. "I think this is an appropriate recognition of him."
He said he would even go as far as asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, to introduce the bill if his party affiliation is the issue.
While some questioned why Djou chose the Makiki Post Office, on Lunalilo Street beneath the H-1 freeway, Djou said it is in the same neighborhood as the original offices of KGMB, which Heftel owned at one time.
Late last week, Heftel’s daughter Catharine Rolph said she does not know Rebecca Heftel well and met her for the first time at her father’s funeral.
"I think it would be a great honor for my father. … I don’t think this is partisan at all," she said. "I think the important thing is that Dad be honored."