Deer in the Headlights

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It is a welcoming fact that Cayetano’s suspicious appointments of political friends in his waning hours are now under scrutiny. (Honolulu Advertiser 01/26/03). In previous writings I had pointed with emphasis to Cayetano’s unusual late activities that could not wait until after the elections.

Let’s not stop here but also look into appointments that are immediately affecting the tourism industry. Particularly troubling is the hastily appointment, shortly before the elections, of Rex Johnson as chief executive to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The highest paid salary ever despite sluggish economic times. This man is in charge to control a budget for more than $60 million that is primarily spent on tourism and marketing. More troubling is the special condition attached to Johnson’s contract that allows him to draw 6 months pay after being relieved from his duties.


Then there is Johnson’s sidekick, Frank Haas, the HTA’s director for marketing. Haas started out in March 2002 as free-lance marketing consultant and also was hastily changed into employment shortly before Nov. 5th. Both appointees have not come up yet with any sufficient strategies to restart tourism except excessive personal travel of the expense of the taxpayers and flip flopping on issues such as Lilo & Stitch, which may become big and excessive baggage.

I have consistently pointed out that the HTA has failed to provide any leadership or ideas to implement strategies to revitalize the sluggish tourism industry. And now with new and true leadership for the state, all these appointees engage suddenly in a flurry of activities because they are beginning to realize that there are crucial requirements for their positions that are missing in their resumes. And finally after 40 years of mostly mismanagement, control and guidance is suddenly applied and they are acting like deer in the headlights.

“We probably didn’t do a lot of things that we should have done, from an accountability standpoint,” sounded off Rex Johnson on Jan. 24, 2003, in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “Sometimes you need to spend a lot to get an important customer, and sometimes you don’t,” said Haas, Johnson’s sidekick, in that same article. Haas states further: “It doesn’t make sense to set visitor targets for wartime –