Back row: Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, William’s sister, Sen. Malama Solomon, Ruby Aila (holding granddaughter Lexy), William Aila Sr., William’s son, William Aila Jr., Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz. Front row: William’s sister, Melva Aila, William’s sister. [Photo courtesy of Cassandra Harris of Senate Communications Office; Click the image to enlarge].
REMARKS BY SENATOR MAILE SHIMABUKURO
March 3, 2011
I rise to speak in strong support of the confirmation of William Aila as Chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. I speak not only as the Senator from Mr. Aila’s home district, where he long served as the Wai’anae Harbor Master. I speak also as a longtime friend and neighbor of this dedicated environmentalist, cultural practitioner, community leader and state public servant for the past 24 years. And I speak with the firm conviction that the State of Hawaii needs this man … at this critical time. He is by far the best candidate and the most qualified for the job. To think otherwise is not only misguided; it is a disservice to a good man—and the overwhelming majority of individuals and organization who stepped forward to support his appointment.
As proof that I am not alone, I point to the 341 pages of testimony—99% of which supports Mr. Aila. And I quote the Water, Land & Housing Committee Report, which says: “Your Committee finds that Mr. Aila has the unanimous respect and trust of the groups with which he has worked, and that his cautious, respectful approach can assist the Department in fulfilling its mandates … and finds that he has the knowledge, expertise, and abilities befitting the important position of Chairperson.” Even more compelling, in my opinion, is the following tribute from one of the 164 private individuals who testified: “William Aila is a gentle giant. I have seen the firmness of his harbor administration, the immediacy of his reaction to water emergencies, the tenderness of his reactions to a friend’s misfortunes, and the consistency of his dedication to the protection of our beautiful state.”
As a DLNR employee, William has served under six Chairs—three of whom offered compelling testimony as to why he is qualified to follow in their footsteps. I was especially moved by the words of one of his distinguished predecessors, Bill Paty, who spoke of working with William for 25 years—”sometimes together, sometimes in opposition.” “The Army’s use of Makua,” he states, “has been the longest issue between us … I mention this because over the years, we developed a trusting relationship and a strong friendship that underlies the differences we may have had.” It comes as no surprise that William–an activist as well as an administrator—would be the center of controversy and a target for criticism. However, the words “respect” and “trust”, even from opponents, form a common thread throughout all the testimony I heard.
One testifier—the daughter of Governor John A. Burns—makes specific reference to political opponents. She writes: “Just as those in opposition to my father’s views initially feared his election, so do William’s opponents. However, I believe they will find out differently when his appointment is approved.” Just as Jack Burns rose above the voices of opposition, so—I believe—will William Aila … once given the chance to prove himself to supporters and opponents alike.
Much of the opposition to Mr. Aila revolves around fishing issues—as a lifelong fisherman in his private life and now, in public life, as one charged with protecting ocean and other natural resources. The controversy first surfaced in committee and was later brought to this floor on February 23. You may recall, Mr. President and colleagues, that I spoke in rebuttal on that occasion–pointing to a difference of opinion between Mr. Aila and a federal fishery management agency (WESPAC) over fishing in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. In this dispute, it is William Aila who clearly emerges as the champion of conservation over consumption. This is consistent with his long-standing reputation on the Wai’anae Coast as one who has fought very hard to preserve our fish and promote self-regulation among fellow fishermen.
I do not want to dwell, however, on points of opposition. I choose to focus instead on the outpouring of aloha and support for William Aila that began on the day our Governor announced his appointment. I urge all of my colleagues to join with me in confirming a man whom I greatly respect and whose friendship I cherish.
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