Gov. Neil Abercrombie is profiled in an article in the Washington Times this week, which notes that his “honeymoon” in his first year of office is over.
“Hawaii’s Neil Abercrombie is finding trouble in paradise as he makes the rocky transition from longtime congressman to first-time governor. Elected at the height of a volcanic budget battle, Mr. Abercrombie has jumped from crisis to crisis since his January swearing-in. Some of his headaches, such as the state’s budget deficit, have been beyond his control, while others, including his swat at the NFL Pro Bowl, are largely of his own making,” the report by Valerie Richardson said.
The paper notes that Gov. Linda Lingle had a higher popularity rating in her first year of office than what Gov. Abercrombie has now.
It also reports on what many have thought about the sudden resignations of four of Abercrombie’s top cabinet members last week:
“Mr. Abercrombie’s latest public-relations problem comes with the sudden resignations in October of four top staff members, including Chief of Staff Amy Asselbaye and Deputy Chief of Staff Andrew Aoki. The reason given was that they wanted to spend more time with their families, but their abrupt departures have led to an impression of disarray in the governor’s office.”
Hawaii political analyst Neal Milner told the Washington Times: “Neil has always had a reputation here for being kind of a loudmouth, but one who gets along with people very well,” said Neal Milner, a political science professor emeritus as the University of Hawaii. “He’s lost that aura of being competent and telling it like it is. Instead of being seen as provocative, and having that work for him, he’s beginning to be seen as kind of clumsy.”
Chaotic ‘New Day’
Last week was was a chaotic one for the so called “New Day” administration of Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, as four of his top level staffers submitted walking papers.
Chief of Staff Amy Asselbaye, Deputy Chief of Staff Andrew Aoki and Communications Director Josh Levinson submitted their resignations to Abercrombie last week saying they are leaving to spend more time with their families. Deputy Communications Director Laurie Au also alerted the administration that she will follow suit saying it is time for a change.
In addition to the four resignations, Abercrombie lost top 6 administrators over the last several months, three just in the last month.
That includes Dr. Neal Palafox, who resigned as Health Department director before he was confirmed by the state Senate; Sunshine Topping, who resigned last month as head of the Department of Human Resources Development; Ed Texeira, vice director of state Civil Defense, who suddenly quit this week; and Robert “Bobby” Hall, deputy chairman of the Hawaiian Home Lands Department, who stepped down earlier this year in the wake of questions about departmental equipment purchases uncovered by Hawaii Reporter.
Another high-level state official who recently quit is Denise Wise, director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.
Cathy Takase, acting head of the state Office of Information Practices, was given her walking papers by Abercrombie in March.
Abercrombie also angered several community leaders in June when he asked for the resignations of 28 people, appointed by his predecessor, Gov. Linda Lingle, to five key state boards and commissions. Most were appointed to four-year terms by Lingle.
In a statement issued at the time, Abercrombie said: “It’s important that all boards and commissions have the opportunity to have a fresh start, so they can work in alignment with other state agencies and move quickly on important issues. The people of Hawaii voted for a change in direction, a New Day. I need the opportunity to move forward with a team dedicated to that proposition.”
All but two refused his request to step down.
Meanwhile, Abercrombie isn’t here in Hawaii to answer questions about the sudden turnover in his staff.
Yesterday, he was photographed marching in the Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival Eve Parade in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, with Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and University of Hawaii President M.C. Greenwood. Abercrombie left Hawaii right on the heels of his staffs’ announcements and will be traveling for two weeks in Asia.
Meanwhile Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, who had nothing to do with the staff turn over in the governor’s office, is left to answer questions about the series of resignations last week that left many political observers in the state stunned.
Tim Sakahara, in his news report on Hawaii News Now, said the Lt. Governor is left to deflect the questions about the resignations “because at this point many don’t believe the four advisors just realized they had families.”
However, Schatz has not revealed any new information and has stuck to the story sent out in a series of prepared statements from the governor’s office that said the staff left to spend more time with their family.
“We’re not going to get in to the intrigue of what people say about people’s departures and all that kind of stuff. I know that is interesting to some people but we’re not going to focus on that because we have too much work to do,” Schatz told Sakahara.
Maui ‘No Ka Oi’
No one has visited the island of Maui would be surprised to learn that for the 17th year in a row, it was voted as the “Best Island in the World” and for the 21st consecutive year, voted best U.S. Island, by Conde Nast Traveler readers.
Maui ranked just ahead of Kauai. Kiawah, South Carolina beat out the island of Hawaii and Oahu for third, which the islands tied for fourth place. Not to be left out, Lanai came in 6th place.
Actor Chris Noth, who has starred in The Good Wife, Law & Order and Sex in the City, visits Maui frequently to visit his mother who lives there. Noth presented the award to Terryl Vencl, the executive director of the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau, in New York City on Monday, according to a Maui News report.