It’s important not just for the substance: Peter’s call for a two-year moratorium on threats to demolish the Natatorium, providing time and a safe space for a campaign to fund restoration.
It’s also important for the eloquence and passion with which Peter makes his case.
“A Measure of Who We Are”
Read this passage, for instance: The Natatorium, Peter says, “is priceless as a statement of the character of Hawaii’s people. It is the stuff of which great cities are made. It can rise again, joining the old with the new, the aged with the young, the tourist with the local, and the rich with the poor. How we treat her in this hour of crisis will be a measure of who we are as a society. We can either rise to greatness, or take the path to moral bankruptcy and mediocrity.” Powerful.
Peter is a former state representative, current trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and a longtime and highly respected civic and cultural leader in our state. He is also president of the Friends of the Natatorium.
We urge you to read his op-ed in the paper or online and to respond with a letter to the editor or comment. For those of you out of state who don’t have access to the Star-Advertiser, we publish Peter’s words here:
Give Friends of Natatorium time to put together restoration plan
By Peter Apo
Full restoration of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial has been an important part of my life’s work since 1986, when I chaired the state House Committee on Ocean and Marine Resources. That year, the Legislature appropriated $1.8 million to the city for planning and design to kick-start restoration. The cost of full restoration was estimated at $9 million.
That was 27 years, four governors and five mayors ago.
Mayor Jeremy Harris secured construction financing and completed the first phase, which restored the façade. Then a new mayor arrived and decided it would be better to demolish and build a new beach. A kangaroo task force was formed, pretending to re-consider all options, but ended up taking the mayor’s cue for a new beach instead.
It’s been painful to witness the slow death by government neglect of this national monument.
And now Mayor Kirk Caldwell, along with Gov. Neil Abercrombie, disingenuously issue a media pronouncement that it is disrespectful to let the crumbling continue, and it would be more respectful to spend $18 million to chop it into pieces, throw some sand over its body, call it a memorial beach, and save a little piece of its head so there’s something left to display as a way to say we have not forgotten you.
What kind of public policy is it to destroy a national landmark and replace it with a patch of sand that will look like any patch of sand on any beach in the world?
Not to mention the Natatorium walls have to be replaced by a new system of seawalls to keep the little patch of sand (and Sans Souci Beach) from washing away.
Then there will be years of navigating the lawsuits that are sure to line the path to demolition. By then, the Natatorium might be spared the indignity of the wrecking ball and slip quietly into the sea.
The Natatorium memorial, honoring those who served and died in World War I, serves a vital public purpose as a time tunnel that connects our island past to our global future.
It is priceless as a statement of the character of Hawaii’s people. It is the stuff of which great cities are made. It can rise again joining the old with the new, the aged with the young, the tourist with the local, and the rich with the poor. How we treat her in this hour of crisis will be a measure of who we are as a society. We can either rise to greatness, or take the path to moral bankruptcy and mediocrity.
The Friends of the Natatorium have tried to work with government to do what is right.
We want a legitimate opportunity to launch a full-fledged national philanthropic campaign that doesn’t have the threat of demolition hanging over it and scaring off donors.
So I ask again for a two-year moratorium on demolition to give us a chance.