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Editorial | On Politics

Hawaii isn’t Switzerland, but it still has promise


Switzerland of the Pacific. That was what we were going to be.

Somehow Hawaii leaders became convinced we were just months away from being the Geneva to the East and West.

Honolulu was going to have a stock exchange, banks would be lured to our palm tree-lined shores.

Hawaii was to become a mid-Pacific center for trade, high finance and even dispute resolution.

It turned out that the world was able to get along with just one Geneva, which did not need to be relocated to the middle of the Pacific.

Enter Asia’s Mayo Clinic in the Pacific. The dream was for Hawaii to encourage or even set up a Mayo Clinic to serve an international clientele. Be you despot or industrialist, a heart murmur in Honolulu would get special treatment. While you were recuperating, the family would shop, wine and dine. It was going to be the ultimate win-win deal.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano worked hard to bring it about, but it just never came together, although Cayetano’s determination preserved the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Time after time Hawaii has tried to place our isolated fleet of islands on a map of economic development. The lack of major successes takes away from our place as a viable second tier, reliable location to host meetings, solve problems and repair what ails you.

For instance, this week the 64th annual meeting of the western division of the Council of State Government opens in Waikiki with some 500 state pols, their families, staff and spectators in attendance.

Yes, reporters from New Mexico, Utah and California were all able to get the words Waikiki and "junket" into their reports about the upcoming four-day meeting, noting that the sun would be shining, the Waikiki Sheraton is located on a beach and the invited guests would be feted at a luau.

"I think my colleagues are able to explain that people in the 13 Western states should be able to travel to the farthest states just like we should be able to travel to their states for meetings," explained Rep. Marcus Oshiro, the host committee co-chairman.

The Western states are a fairly Republican bunch, including Idaho, Arizona and Utah. The visiting politicians are not likely to look much like our pols, but that is why we are having this hands-across-the-border moment.

Plus, 500 more visitors is always better than 500 fewer visitors.

There are even practical reason for politicians to do their junketing here.

"Hawaii is a test post for renewable energy legislation. People want to know how we handle permitting, the problems, and work with geothermal, how we approach windmills," says Oshiro.

All of this is minor compared to the looming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting coming in November, when Waikiki will be awash in heads of state, including President Barack Obama.

That will not be an insignificant event, and will open Hawaii up to major business and major headaches.

Hawaii may not be a major port of call, but we can still deliver.

The Dodgers will never leave Los Angeles for the promised land of Honolulu, as they did when they left Brooklyn for the West Coast, but there is no reason why we can’t get the Islanders to come home and play some good Triple-A ball.

Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at email

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