This is my last President's Message. Some of you have been so kind as to call or write me to praise what I've tried to say, others, I am sure, found me longwinded and boring. My thanks to the former, apologies to the latter.
You will be electing a new President at our Annual Meeting April 26. Though originally I only agreed to a temporary term, the entire year has been so full of activity that no one had time to find a replacement. My best wishes to whoever takes on the job. With the kind of support and help the Board gave me, she can look forward to a productive and satisfying experience.
What did I learn during my year as President? Quite a lot. Here are a few of the lessons.
- League is recognized more than I realized as one of the few genuinely disinterested community groups on the island. We have no axe to grind, nothing to gain financially, politically, professionally or personally, from any of the decisions we urge the City administration or the City Council to make. It is understood by many that we consider our job to be to define the public interest as best we can and speak for it, in contrast to the many private interests lobbying for their own advantage.
- There are some who think that because of our "non-partisan" policy we should be "impartial" on all issues. From time to time people testifying before the City Council have equated us as well as Common Cause, or Hawaii's Thousand Friends, or the Sierra Club, for example with lobbyists for special interests. They claim that decisions made by the City Council should "strike a balance" between groups like us and lobbyists for other interests. We have been able to show that we are not "impartial" on issues at all, that we are not professional lobbyists but unpaid representatives of the general public. From time to time we are pleased to have someone recognize this. A City Council member said we "help keep them honest", a member of the City Planning Commission gave us credit for years of careful research, well though-out recommendations, and consistency.
- As a result of all this, we seem to have more of an influence over some of these issues than our modest numbers might seem to deserve. We are asked for help and advice by Neighborhood Boards, by other community and public interest organizations, and even by the City administration and by several City Council members. Even when we don't get the decisions we want, we are treated with respect most of the time, anyway.
- I learned that our "rankand-file" membership is far more willing to participate in League activities than I had realized. True, a handful of officers and Committee chairs do seem to be around the office a lot, but when help is needed, many less visible members can be counted on to show up. I am not referring only to vote counting, which brings in scores of members, but to extensive participation in study and action on such major programs as the Domestic Violence Court Monitoring project, the Mayoral and Prosecutorial debates, and the Constitutional Convention study, report, and public education effort. There is lots of emerging leadership out there, but it is up to us oldies to continue to develop it if League's future is to be secure.
- Finally, I have learned the value of hearing many points of view. Our Board meetings, Committee sessions, and countless informal discussions are spirited, argumentative, sometimes raucous. Occasionally we lose our tempers. But out of it all I think we come up with positions and action programs far more thoughtful and effective, I'm sure, than any one of us could develop by ourselves. Believe me, I've had to modify, and even abandon, some of my own pet ideas and so, I suspect, have others.
We are a grass roots organization, and the opinions of all are needed and valued, no matter how "green". So I can now answer the question I asked last May, "Can Honolulu League Survive?". Indeed it can.
Thanks to you all for the friendship and support you gave me. I expect to still be around to lend a hand when needed.