For those of you on the mainland who don’t follow all the Honolulu news, I joined Honolulu City Council Member Duke Bainum’s staff on Tuesday, filling in a staff vacancy in response to a request from Duke, who I’ve crossed paths with for about 20 years.
That evening, he experienced chest pains and was rushed by ambulance to the Queen’s emergency room. He did not survive, the victim of an aortic aneurysm.
I received the shocking news Wednesday morning a bit before 6 a.m. after posting here but before leaving on our early walk, just about the same time council members were being called.
At the time, the news was not yet public, so I couldn’t blog more than a very cryptic message.
Duke’s council staff gathered at 6:30 at city hall, joined by Cindy McMillan of Communications Pacific, a former council staffer and friend of the staff. By the time I arrived at about 7:30 they had issued a succinct statement to the media confirming Duke’s passing. Bainum’s family in Arkansas also issued a press release.
Then followed a series of tasks as we huddled behind a closed door in Duke’s council office. Arranging a hurried press conference with council chairman Todd Apo. A statement delivered with much difficulty by Duke’s senior advisor, Mallory Fujitani. Delicate communications with Duke’s wife, Jennifer. Fielding media inquires from many sides. Deciding how to convey the bad news on Duke’s Facebook page and web site. Then the council began deliberating on the budget and related bills, which were up for third and final reading.
I don’t know what the protocol is for such situations, but I was a little surprised that, unless I’m mistaken, there was no call or visit from the mayor or managing director. No doubt that Duke and Mayor Hannemann were political opponents, but I would expect that in situations like this a gentlemanly impulse might be displayed. The mayor did issue a public statement, although when we clicked the link on the city web site, it returned a “page not found” error message. Such is life, I suppose.
Downstairs in Duke’s office, his top-notch staff–Fujitani, Mary Schmidtke, April Coloretti, and former state senator Bert Kobayashi, along with John Gollner–followed the budget debate as it was broadcast and ripped into the budget documents to follow the impact of each intermediate decision (real property tax rates, homeowner rebates, parking rates, etc) on the final budget bill. It’s really a shame–these folks are really a dream team, with layers of background and experience. Duke was about the reap the benefits of bringing them all together, and I was feeling privileged to have the opportunity to join in the ride.
Truth be told, it was all very surreal.
We all met Tuesday morning with Duke. He was still glowing about viewing the Pan Pacific Festival parade with his family. When he arrived at the office, he was sporting a silly three-corner hat in a kid’s size, part of a gift for his boys. He sat at his desk with a half-cup of strong coffee and a bottle of his trademark chocolate milk, and we talked transit, budget, and the upcoming council meeting. Then he headed off for an mid-morning interview, and I didn’t see him again.
But he was working the phones into Tuesday evening, making calls in advance of yesterday’s council meeting. And then he was gone.
Click on the photo of Duke’s desk for a few more images.