Mufi’s Switch


Bruce Anderson’s commentary in MidWeek (June 30) further solidified my belief that the city ought to take a second look at the need for a Waikiki Natatorium pool.

Winston Churchill, when criticized for changing his mind on an issue, once said, “When facts change, I change my opinions.” That thought would certainly apply to the Waikiki Natatorium controversy.

When supporters of the natatorium sought my vote for the restoration, I acceded under three conditions:

  • priority was to be given to preserving this memorial arch to our World War I veterans;
  • the total cost was not to exceed $11.5 million;
  • the facility would have appeal to residents and visitors alike.

I was always told that the cost to restore the arch and beach would be as much as restoring the entire natatorium. Soon after the vote to grant the permit, concerns were again raised over the pricing. While the winning contractor submitted a basic bid with the $11.5 million budget, the additive alternatives that included bleachers and restrooms brought the total cost to $18 million. Councilmember John Henry Felix and I introduced Resolution 99-87, subsequently adopted by the full council, that called on the administration to produce a viable operation and maintenance plan that would assure our financial obligations would be capped.

Judge Nakatani’s recent ruling, state Health Director Anderson’s statement that rules promulgation could take up to a year, admissions that certain segments of our population would likely be denied access to the pool for health and safety reasons (which leaves the city open to costly litigation), and ongoing uncertainties over pool maintenance costs, have led me back to my original priority: that the Waikiki Natatorium restoration should be restricted to the memorial arch. The permit the council approved can and should be modified for that specific purpose.

The city’s poor fiscal condition, the council’s recent decision to raise real property tax rates, and other urgent needs tell us that we can’t afford to undertake this costly restoration in full.

The Harris administration should get over its stubborn insistence that the natatorium project proceed in full, and instead bow to the will of the public and its own financial limitations by reducing the scope of the project.

Mufi Hannemann