Speech pleasing to many ears on Maui

By Mark Adams
Staff Writer

The Maui News
December 3, 2002

HONOLULU - Maui civic leaders' reactions to the inaugural speech of Gov. Linda Lingle ranged from the positive to the very, very positive.

Many of Maui County's movers and shakers attended Monday's ceremony at the state Capitol, coming away convinced that Lingle's promise of a new beginning in Hawaii is more than just political rhetoric.

"I thought it was wonderful," said Terryl Vencl of the Maui Hotel Association. "In my mind the speech was about open government, with everyone taking part, everyone participating."

Lingle, who was mayor of Maui County from 1991 through 1998, also has a fan in Mayor-elect Alan Arakawa, who will participate in his own inaugural ceremony Jan. 2.

"I thought was a great speech, one of the best I've heard her present," Arakawa said. "She pointed out that there are a lot of things to work on. She also said she'll be working with the counties, and as a former mayor she's vowing to cooperate and make things smoother."

The new governor's emphasis on creating an environment that is more friendly to business struck a chord with Marsha Wienert of the Maui Visitors Bureau.

"I think (her comments) will appeal to all businesses, whether big or small," Wienert said.

Lingle's promise to work hard on issues facing Native Hawaiians - including housing, federal recognition as a sovereign nation and resolving ceded-land issues - were welcomed by cultural specialist Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.

"It sounds very exciting, and it seems that she means what she said as far as taking care of Hawaiian Homes and ceded-land issues," Maxwell said. "She realizes that if the Hawaiian people aren't happy as the host culture, Hawaii is not going to be a happy place."

Maxwell said he's looking forward to having a Republican in the governor's office.

"We've been promised so much by the Democrats for the last 40 years, and we have nothing," Maxwell said. "She sounds like she knows what she's going to do and how she can make it happen."

Maxwell also appreciated the Native Hawaiian elements that were woven in to the inauguration ceremony, including when Lingle laid a bouquet of purple crown flowers at the statue of Queen LiliŽuokalani at the Capitol and later invoked the queen's name during the speech as a model for her administration.

"It was very moving for me that she would pay tribute to Queen LiliŽuokalani," the last woman to lead Hawaii before the monarchy was overthrown in 1893, Maxwell said. "I'm happy and encouraged to hear what she said, and I hope it comes to fruition."

Several of the Maui leaders said they see nothing but good things coming out of the fact that Lingle was the mayor of Maui County for eight years.

"She understands the challenges from our island's perspective," the MVB's Wienert said. "She knows about the duplication of services between the county and the state - there is a whole new perspective of working together for the common good."

The hotel association's Vencl is also excited about the possibilities as Hawaii moves into the Lingle years.

"I've seen it. I worked with her for the eight years she was on Maui, and I know how she works," Vencl said. "There will be a lot more openness, a lot more partnerships with people who will be able to give input."

Vencl said she was also glad to hear Lingle talk about the need to create a business-friendly climate in the state.

"I happen to agree that Žprofit' is not a dirty word," Vencl said. "I think she will talk with businesses and see what their needs are and how government can assist them," she said. "I think she'll bring in new business, and bring back those that couldn't make it."

Mayor-elect Arakawa said he is looking forward to working with the new state administration.

Two of the things the governor's speech touched on - improving the educational system and convincing government employees of the need to improve their attitude - had a particular resonance for the mayor-elect.

"She didn't take any bites that was too large, but at the same time it's evident that we have a new governor with progressive ideas," Arakawa said. "The old system hasn't worked for years and things have to change."

Arakawa said Lingle made it clear that that Hawaii can't tolerate being a one-party state any longer, no matter who is in power.

The state Legislature is still controlled by Democrats, but Arakawa said he hopes the state's leaders will come together to benefit all of the people of Hawaii.

"I think a very clear message was sent to the entire state - we need balance in the system, and to have everyone work together," the mayor-elect said. "It won't be on her part if things become partisan."

Back on Maui, Lingle's comments on education were watched closely by several students at the Kihei Public Charter High School.

Junior Yvonne Satoafaiga said it was the first time she had seen such an event. She said she was proud of Lingle and impressed by her inaugural address.

"I thought she made a lot of good promises, and I hope she'll carry them out," Satoafaiga said.

In her first speech as governor, Lingle said one of her priorities would be to improve schools. She said she learned from students that schools are lacking basic supplies.

"I totally agree with them. We never have enough supplies at school," Satoafaiga said.

Satoafaiga said she wants one day to become a chief executive officer at a "huge" company and that Lingle's victory as the first female governor is inspiring for young girls like herself. "There's a hope now," Satoafaiga said.

Meli Ouellet, a freshman at Kihei High School, was also impressed by Lingle's inaugural.

"I think she did good," Ouellet said.

Reporter Claudine San Nicolas contributed to this story

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