HONOLULU Hawaii’s Governor-elect Linda Lingle, the first woman ever
and the first Republican in 40 years to hold the office, plans to
strengthen financial controls on government agencies linked to the
state’s struggling tourism industry and appoint what one of her
aides called a “tourism czar.”
The yet-to-be-named person will hold a cabinet-level post and
report directly to the governor, said Brian Durham, Lingle’s
campaign research director.
“The position would put together all the various tourism-related
things spread throughout the government to give focus and attention
to our largest industry,” Durham said.
Durham could not say how the cabinet post would dovetail with
the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and
the governor-appointed Hawaii Tourism Authority, the state
government’s most visible tourism entities.
Industry leaders have greeted the concept with enthusiasm, but
said it must be executed carefully.
“If tourism is in the cabinet and interfacing directly with the
governor, that’s good,” said David Carey, chief executive officer
of Outrigger Enterprises and a tourism authority member. “The
tourism industry needs to make sure the mechanics are constructive
and that it doesn’t become too political.” Carey said he and others
are concerned that conflicts could arise about the respective roles
of the tourism authority’s director and the new cabinet
“It could become a political conflict that could be
destructive,” he said.
One of the czar’s first jobs likely will be to help the tourism
authority strengthen its financial controls and performance
measures. The state auditor earlier this year said the 13-member
board, which commands a $61 million annual budget for the marketing
and development of tourism, did not have appropriate controls.
Lingle has said the group will not get more funding until she is
satisfied with its accountability.
“We’ve been involved for the last couple of months in changing
our operations to make them more accountable to state government
and also more responsive to market needs,” said the authority’s
executive director, Rex Johnson. “When the governor and I sit down
and talk, I will try to explain those things to her.”
As governor, Lingle will appoint new tourism authority members
as their terms expire.
The governor-elect also has supported a $75 million tax credit
that was proposed for an aquarium project at the Ko Olina resort on
Oahu’s leeward side. The plan was vetoed by outgoing Gov. Benjamin
Durham said Lingle is considering whether she will revive that