A Cayetano Retrospective
Benjamin Cayetano: First highest-ranking elected official of Filipino ancestry in the State of Hawai‘i: 5th in a series.
Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran
Editor’s Note: 2019 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the election of Benjamin J. Cayetano as the Fifth Governor of the State of Hawai‘i and the first Filipino-American elected as the head of an American state. This is the fifth in a series of articles profiling Cayetano and his historic election and service. Versions of these articles appeared previously in The Filipino Summit.Putting Together a Cabinet, Part II Putting aside his own plans frustrated Ben Cayetano and he may have unconsciously taken it out on some of Waihe‘e’s lieutenants who remained with the administration. It certainly dawned on him that the economy would mire them for much of the next four years, perhaps even a second term.
Some State Senators would later ask why Cayetano didn’t keep more of the more personable and experienced Waihe‘e people who toiled on his decidedly uphill election campaign. In truth, Ben personally was not aware of who did what in the campaign. Regardless, besides Rick Egged at DBEDT, Ben actually planned to keep a number of Waihe‘e lieutenants. Finance director Eugene Imai would move to DAGS.
Dayton Nakanelua, Waihe‘e’s final labor director, accepted becoming that department’s deputy under young lawyer Lorraine Akiba. Al Lardizabal received an appointment as deputy negotiator under former Maui County personnel director Manabu Kimura.
George Iranon remained as director of public safety. Rae Loui stayed on at the Water Commission. Kate Stanley would move from the Governor’s office to Human Services deputy. Along with the appointment of the first woman Attorney General in Margery Bronster and the first woman Labor Director in Lorraine Akiba, Ben and the transition team also found themselves with some unusual candidates for environmental and land management positions.
Green Politics Working for the government as his first real job out of law school wasn’t something David Kimo Frankel would have expected two years before. In the fall of 1993, Frankel found himself in New Haven, Connecticut, postponing the need to compromise his principles to get a job.
David kept company with his girlfriend Tanya while she completed Yale Forestry School. The Iolani School graduate remained intensely interested in island politics and craved news from Hawai‘i. At the Legislature, Kimo earned a reputation as an uncompromising and rather sharp-tongued zealot for green causes. He certainly gave John Waihe‘e, the Department of Health and the Department of Land and Natural Resources little slack for what he saw as serious environmental shortcomings and compromises. He performed his lobbying efforts, moreover, as a citizen volunteer.
Kimo got hold of a Star-Bulletin editorial blasting candidate Ben Cayetano. He thought it needed a response and drafted one. Building on his growing reputation for a blunt wit, he queried: “Will a Fasi governorship result in Sam Callejo, the Inspector Clousseau of sewers and ethics, heading the Department of Health’s environmental programs? . . . And what of Cayetano? Should we expect Clayton Hee, cultural and ethics ‘expert,’ to lead the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands?”
Home during the winter holidays, he attended the opening of Cayetano headquarters. To his astonishment, Charlie Toguchi disclosed a mock-up of a flyer using his Star-Bulletin op-ed piece. He found himself recruited by Hubert Kimura to help write environmental statements and speeches.
Kimo realized he made other environmental activists unhappy when he and Conservation Council leader Steve Montgomery committed to Ben early before knowing who else would be running.
When Jack Lewin announced, they couldn’t back out of their original commitments even though no question whatsoever Waihe‘e’s Health director had authentic and better environmental credentials. It was no surprise that the Sierra Club backed Jack in the primary. While Kimo couldn’t vote on the endorsement because club rules barred active campaigners from participating, he agreed the Sierra Club made the proper endorsement.
Kimo knew the Maui Tomorrow folks loved Jack, as did a lot of other grassroots environmentalists. But he rationalized continued support for Ben based on Ben’s ability to reach a larger constituency.
After the primary, Kimo worked to get press coverage for the Sierra Club’s general election endorsements. Only a few reporters attended. In those days, the Sierra Club needed to work pretty hard for media attention. The ones that attended received a scoop when Jack Lewin appeared personally to publicly endorse Ben. In retrospect, Kimo concluded endorsing Jack in the primary was key to convincing Lewin to attend the press conference where he finally got behind Ben openly. But despite the good result, Kimo knew that some enviros still held it against him for failing to back Jack from the start.
Kimo traveled with Tanya to New Mexico for the Christmas holidays to visit her parents. Kimo received a message from the Governor-elect. For even Kimo, that was exciting. He learned he would be working at the heart of the beast, the Office of State Planning.
Taking a Name In the view of most on the Cabinet selection committee, a David Kimo Frankel was too extreme and polarizing a figure to be in a Cabinet position. But OSP was viewed as a good place to best use his skills. Harold Masumoto and his powerful Office of State Planning (OSP) operated akin to Governor Waihe‘e’s stormtroopers on priority projects. Often, those projects intersected with environmental issues, especially given OSP’s authority over the Coastal Zone Management Act. With steady bank economist and planner Gregory Pai and young attorney P. Roy Catalani slotted for the top OSP spots, the group expected OSP could continue to a lesser extent its policy making role.
Pai, it was said, won the plum spot largely because Ben and others recalled Greg accurately predicted the extent of the looming fiscal crisis nine months before the election. On election night, the newly elected Governor singled out Ka Lahui and the Sierra Club for thanks. Some in the environmental community suspected Ben’s victory acknowledgement would be all they would receive.
While Kimo Frankel could not be in the Cabinet, there were certainly others who might fit the bill. Honolulu councilman Gary Gill lost to Jeremy Harris in the special election to head City Hall. Tall and rugged like his father, the former Congressman and Lt. Gov. Tom Gill, enviros viewed Gary as one of their champions on the Honolulu City Council. Unlike another brother, Gary passed on following his father’s path into law. Instead, Gary was working at the Sheraton Waikīkī Hotels when he took on his father’s political mantle and won a seat on the council.
Ben tapped Gary to lead the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC). OEQC oversaw the State’s environmental impact statement and assessment process and staffed the Environmental Council. Gary thought OEQC could do more both in the notices provided in its bulletin and in testimony at the Legislature.
Former Waihe‘e OEQC administrator Letecia Uyehara would shift over to the Board of Agriculture as new chair James Nakatani’s deputy. One of two departments serving as the State’s first line of defense to introduced alien pests, Agriculture often circumscribed its mandate with an eye to supporting and promoting the State’s agricultural industries.
Hawai‘i’s laws and structure began with the assumption that the island economy rested on agriculture—big, plantation agriculture—although fading. The 1978 Constitution made preservation of important agricultural lands—ill- and ultimately un-defined—a central proposition. As a result, the Chair of the Board of Agriculture remained one of two State Cabinet officials whose terms of office extended beyond the term of the Governor appointing them.
The other official chaired the Board of Land and Natural Resources, head of the wide-ranging department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). “The Environmentalists Are Gonna Make Out Like Bandits” Former Honolulu mayor candidate Michael D. Wilson had convinced Ben—against the advice of some elections staff—to hold a non-binding vote on the development of Mt. Olomana at the same time and place as a regular election.
Wilson, a tall, rangy bearded advocate, prominent among the opponents of Bishop Estate and Kaiser developing the Sandy Beach area, made a mark during the years of divisive legislative debates over initiative and referendum. One-time president of environmental watchdog Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends, Wilson may have met Ben and others on the transition group socially over the years. His law partner Judy Pavey was a some-time colleague of both the new Governor and Earl Anzai at David Schutter’s law firm. Ben even considered Judy a strong candidate for Attorney General. Like many of the Governor’s lawyer acquaintances, Wilson and Pavey represented mainly victims, criminal defendants, and injured people against corporations, the government and insurance companies.
Kali Watson, Pavey’s husband, submitted his name to chair the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission. While Ben had other names in mind, Kali presented to the transition committee some specific ideas he wanted to implement as commission chair. Eventually, Kali received an offer to take on the job. Wilson grew up on the Windward side of O‘ahu. Wilson’s abiding passions revolved around Hawai‘i’s natural resources.
In his run for Honolulu mayor, Wilson was the environmental candidate. From Kailua High School, he attended Wisconsin supported in part by a tennis athletic scholarship. He followed with a law degree from the New School for Social Research in New York and a clerkship with crusty Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Frank Padgett. Floated as a candidate for DLNR, reaction was mixed. He was a bit too wild-eyed for many members of the business community but then anyone who openly questioned let alone protested a land development was a little too wild-eyed for them. Mike also needed to overcome his fiery reputation. At one point during the initiative debates, he exchanged strong words and hand-gestures with then-Rep. Mazie Hirono. No shrinking violet in confrontations, the newly elected Lt. Gov. recalled her encounter with Wilson in some bemusement as the group discussed him for the Land Board.
The group had no doubt a Wilson nomination would grab some attention. After reviewing the names on the board, one Cayetano insider muttered in wonder, “The Environmentalists are gonna make out like bandits.” “The Best Jobs in the State” The new administration gave the first group at most one or two days’ notice about the Tuesday press conference to announce their appointments. The first draft of the press release listed Charlie Toguchi, Earl Anzai, Eugene Imai and Jimmy Takushi. When someone noticed the Governor also completing his choices for DLNR, DOH and Attorney General, the first written announcement expanded beyond introducing just four middle-aged Japanese men with government bureaucracy experience.
The appointments now included Rae Loui, a Hilo native and female engineer, who would be staying on as deputy director for the Water Commission; she had served as Manager of the Maui Board of Water Supply at one time. Margery Bronster, the first woman Attorney General and her deputy Steven Michaels, would lead the State’s lawyers. Lawrence Miike, Papa Ola Lokahi’s founding medical director and manager of the State Medicaid Program, inherited Lewin’s DOH.
Miike, who held both a medical and a law degree, spent most of his career conducting national health policy studies for various agencies of the federal government and the U.S. Congress. As Health director, Miike would also hold a seat on the Water Commission. Neal called me at home Sunday night before the press conference that Tuesday. Following the election, Colbert Matsumoto, Tony Takitani, Ted Yamamura and others on the Maui campaign encouraged me to respond to the ad. I wrote a short letter which indicated no particular area or department and frankly thought I would end up in the Governor’s office in some policy or research capacity, or at the Attorney General’s office.
In a throwaway conversation, I remember remarking with a laugh to Earl or Colbert I would be willing to take any job except at DLNR. I disclosed I’d been working on an easement request from DLNR when I joined the Carlsmith law firm in the late 1980s. After nearly six years, it was still not completed.
By the inauguration banquet on O‘ahu, I wondered if I would even get an interview. I spoke only briefly to the Governor-elect over the phone. He mainly asked whether I was ready to leave private law practice for public service and the areas I was interested in. He must have shrugged then mentioned in passing I likely would be working with Mike Wilson at DLNR. But that could still change, he warned. My name apparently moved around the board several times. I met Mike Wilson when he ran for Mayor of Honolulu. An “I Like Mike” magnet was still stuck on our refrigerator at home. Otherwise, all I knew about Mike I’d read in the newspaper. We spoke once and he forwarded some excerpts from the transition book prepared by outgoing Land Board chair Keith Ahue and his staff. Mike spoke passionately about the opportunity to make a difference. He already commanded quite a number of quick statistics about the miles of shoreline and the acres of forests reserves. He also confided that given DLNR’s responsibilities for Hawai‘i’s natural resources, surely these were among “the best jobs in the State.” He said there would be a lot of work. On Tuesday, KITV reporter Denby Fawcett asked the Governor how many of the appointees worked on the campaign aside from Charlie and Jimmy. Turning back to look at our group, the Governor noted just Mike and myself. I glanced at the others and realized that was true. Completing the Team Waihe‘e staffer Jeannette Takamura suggested Susan Chandler as a candidate to succeed Winona Rubin at Human Services.
Takamura worked with Susan at the U.H. School of Social Work where she learned Chandler loved policy. Prof. Chandler, however, left Hawai‘i in August to seek a degree in public administration at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Former State representative Kate Stanley, who coordinated legislative efforts for Waihe‘e, also vouched for Chandler’s keen interest in policymaking activities. Governor Cayetano asked staff to track Chandler down. Susan received a call directly from the Governor and thought it was a joke, at first. Chandler didn’t know Cayetano although she recalled interviewing the then-Lt. Gov. Cayetano briefly in connection with a study of the A+ program.
After a short chat, the Governor requested Susan call him when she returned from New York. By the time the Governor interviewed Chandler in late-December, the rest of the Cabinet was largely in place.
Jimmy Takushi, among the youngest Cabinet members when he joined the Burns-Ariyoshi administration, could wryly observe he was the oldest in the incoming Cayetano regime as director of human resources. The youngest was Jobie Yamaguchi, named as deputy in the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. While the press conference also announced the appointments of Kali Watson as the commission chair, the media questions revolved around Jobie. Poised and well-spoken, Jobie neatly responded. The other appointees in her group—Tax director Kamikawa, Labor deputy Nakanelua, Public Safety director Iranon, Public Safety deputy Rudy Alivado, Press Secretary Kathleen Racuya-Markrich, Agriculture chairman Nakatani, Chief Labor Negotiator Kimura and Deputy Negotiator Lardizabal—needed to simply pose for the photo opportunity.
HEI counsel Kathryn Matayoshi got the Commerce and Consumer Affairs job with Benjamin Fukumoto as her deputy. In a precursor for the leeway the Governor would be giving them in running Tax and other departments, he delegated to Kamikawa to find and select a deputy director. Eugene Imai and others would have the same freedom. In other departments, where the transition team had people slotted, the directors had to approve. Imai recruited and recommended Mary Patricia Waterhouse, a CPA and university adjunct instructor as deputy comptroller.
Kamikawa suggested Susan Inouye for tax deputy. Bill Christofell and Jeannette Takamura filled two of three deputies to Larry Miike. In a surprise to some supporters of the new Governor, veteran administrator Kazu Hayashida, longtime Manager of the semi-autonomous Honolulu board of water supply, received the department of transportation with experienced City hand Sam Callejo and DOT official Glenn Okimoto named as his deputies. Hayashida and Callejo, associated for many years with Best Party candidate Frank Fasi certainly claimed no visible connection to the Democratic candidate. With only the Health deputy for environment left to appoint, the Governor completed naming his entire Cabinet before the opening day of the legislature. Bruce Anderson would return from City Hall shortly to fill the last spot. But several Cabinet members walked into budget hearings the first week they came on the job.
Next Month: Keeping Count of the Manongs and Manangs
Gil Keith-Agaran received a History degree from Yale College with an emphasis on American Intellectual History. These articles are in no way meant to be a strict historical account because memories fade and perhaps get embellished, polished and burnished, over time among participants who lived these events.