There were several glaring inaccuracies and omissions in Sunday’s (August 11, 2013) Star-Advertiser story entitled “Daniel K. Inouye Center” by reporter Rob Perez. These inaccuracies were perpetuated and sensationalized by Star-Advertiser columnist Richard Borreca on August 13, and then reinforced by a Star-Advertiser Editorial on August 14.
The university’s actions on the DKI Center have been neither needlessly hasty nor shrouded in secrecy.
It is important to note that swift action on the center was necessary since the senate will store papers for no longer than six months from the time the office is closed. Senator Inouye’s office closed in mid-February, 2013. The senator always wanted his historic papers to be housed at the University of Hawaiʻi. The UH stood up to demonstrate its commitment to this important project and as a result formed a partnership with the Library of Congress, which was also one of the senator’s wishes.
Perez writes, “The University of Hawaiʻi is moving quickly on plans for a multi-million dollar facility honoring the late senator–with little public knowledge.” Borreca criticizes the UH Board of Regents for conducting closed-door meetings.
In fact, most of the initial work has been conducted by the UH administration in consultation with Senator Inouye’s family and long-time Chief of Staff. The board took the DKI Center item into executive session in July for a limited, preliminary discussion. The item was listed on the executive session agenda.
Furthermore, the DKI Center is hardly shrouded in secrecy. The project has been discussed by the UH Mānoa Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the UH Mānoa Campus Facilities Planning Board which posts its meeting minutes on a public website (see minutes for June 17). In addition, the University of Hawaiʻi and the Library of Congress signed a Memorandum of Understanding at a news conference covered by the media on July 1, 2013.
Now that the initial conceptual planning and consultations have occurred, the board will discuss Planning and Design funds in a public session at a forthcoming meeting in accordance with applicable BOR policies and the Sunshine Law.
With no regard for the urgency needed to secure Senator Inouye’s papers for Hawaiʻi, Perez and Borreca suggest the project was rushed to avoid a new law that took effect July 1 that transfers the oversight for construction projects and related design and engineering contracts, from the UH President to the administrator of the state procurement office.
In fact, although the selection process took place before July 1st, the contract will be executed after that date. To ensure a smooth transition and institutional memory between the UH and the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS), the university invited two DAGS officials to sit on the design-search committee for the DKI Center. They have been involved at every step as the UH and DAGS work collaboratively on this important project.
The board clearly implemented and followed the new procurement rules.
In his August 13th column, Borreca wrote, “…the senator personally discouraged naming things for him.”
In fact, the University of Hawaiʻi has been working closely with the people who best knew the late senator and who had the deepest knowledge of his wishes. His widow Irene Hirano Inouye, his son Ken Inouye and his long-time Chief of Staff Jennifer Sabas have been intimately involved in the planning of this center. Borreca also ignores the senator’s longstanding aloha for the University of Hawaiʻi, as exemplified by his support of the creation of the “Dan and Maggie Inouye Chair in Democratic Ideals” at the university.
Media critics of this project seem to have lost sight of what these papers mean to Hawaiʻi and the university’s role in serving Hawaiʻi through education, research and service.
Senator Inouye’s historic congressional papers, an oral history and a distinguished scholars initiative focusing on topics of national and international interest are an incredible resource and will be invaluable to the State of Hawaiʻi and the world for scholarship and education, for current and future generations.
The focus on the edifice neglects the university’s commitment to academic planning that underscores this project. UH Mānoa Social Sciences Dean Denise Konan will be the academic lead for the Daniel K. Inouye Center, which will be a place where Hawaiʻi’s children can learn not only about the great senator and his lifework, but also about democracy and our American system of government.
The University of Hawaiʻi is committed to its mission to serve Hawaiʻi through education, research and public service, and looks forward to supporting that mission through the establishment of this center in partnership with Senator Inouye’s family, the Library of Congress and others who appreciate the importance of Daniel Inouye’s legacy to Hawaiʻi.