comscore Now that Chicago has won, Hawaii should just move on | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Now that Chicago has won, Hawaii should just move on

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Now that Chicago has been chosen for Barack Obama’s presidential library over Honolulu and New York, Hawaii should wish the Windy City well and move on to other priorities.

Plans being coordinated by the University of Hawaii to seek some kind of secondary presidential center as a consolation prize should be viewed with a leery eye given greater needs for public resources.

The Hawaii library proposal, supported by local Democratic politicians and educational institutions, offered Obama 8 acres of prime Kakaako waterfront land for an archive, museum, conference center, K-12 leadership academy and UH Center for Community Organizing.

Organizers said the library would generate up to $40 million in tax revenues, attract millions of visitors and enhance the state’s reputation as an East-West meeting place.

If Obama gave Chicago the library, local organizers hoped he would consider a subsidiary center here and the president, who vacations annually in Hawaii, seems amenable.

The full presidential library was worth pursuing; it’s a significant piece of history that would have been a big visitor draw and a valuable cultural asset for Hawaii residents.

But it can’t be justified to offer the same Kakaako property and state support for a lesser retreat, institute or conference center that wouldn’t carry the same economic or cultural benefit.

There are better core uses for limited state resources, especially at the university, which is in no position to take on a vanity project as it struggles with a crumbling main campus, a deficit-ridden athletic program, a cancer institute in crisis and discord over the Daniel Inouye Center.

This isn’t a knock on Obama, or an invitation for his haters to rant.

He’s done a decent job in the face of the most malicious opposition a president has ever faced, and his grace in not responding in kind to the ugly insults reflects well on his Hawaii upbringing.

But when it comes to the presidential center, Hawaii must take the same hard view of the realities that led Obama’s team to choose Chicago.

Obama will spend most of his post-presidency on the mainland and abroad as he and his wife, Michelle, follow the Clintons and Bushes in taking advantage of lucrative speaking engagements.

His primary policy interest isn’t Asia and the Pacific, but rebuilding U.S. urban communities and mentoring young minority men through his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, to which he recently promised to devote the rest of his life.

Hawaii will never likely be more than a vacation retreat, and if he feels inclined to hold an occasional conference here, there’s plenty of underutilized space at the Hawai‘i Convention Center and East-West Center.

We should do something appropriate to acknowledge Obama’s Hawaii birth, but now that he’s reiterated Chicago is his base, a grandiose waterfront monument would be over the top.

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