Tags: Barack Obama | hawaii | obama | name | places

Hawaii Won't Name Places for Native Son Obama

Hawaii Won't Name Places for Native Son Obama
President Barack Obama has shave ice with friends at Island Snow in Kailua, Hawaii,  on Jan. 1, 2015.  (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Saturday, 26 December 2015 02:35 PM

Many states have plenty of places named after native sons who become president, but Hawaii isn't one of them.

Nothing in the tropical paradise is named after President Barack Obama, even as he heads toward his final year in the White House, and attempts made over the years to honor the nation's first African-American president have failed, reports The Washington Post.

Stanley Chang, who recently stepped down from the Honolulu City Council, has tried seven times to get something named for the president. His latest attempt to rename a strip of Sandy Beach where the president, as a teen, loved to body surf, also does not appear to be moving forward.

But he's not the only one. Hawaiian politicians have been trying since 2009 to rename places after Obama, including a lot, a scenic overlook, two schools, and two state holidays, all to no avail. Further, an attempt to have the apartment building where Obama lived added to the National Register of Historic Places has failed.

The most famous thing with Obama's name in his home state is a shaved ice treat, the "Snowbama," a mix of lemon, lime, cherry and passion guava flavors that sells for for $4 at Island Snow, a place the president's family visits on vacations.

Other states don't have that problem, though. Old Dixie Highway at Florida's Riviera Beach has been renamed for Obama, and nearby Pahokee's East First Street is now Barack Obama Boulevard.

In comparison, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, with anti-tax fighter Grover Norquist in the lead, has renamed some 109 buildings, roads and schools for Reagan including Washington's Reagan National Airport. The group wants to have one thing honoring Reagan's name in all of the counties in the United States.

Part of the problem may not be politics, but part of Hawaiians' protection of their Polynesian heritage, including refusing to change traditional names for places.

"People here believe that land has spirit and feeling," Hono­lulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told the Post. "It’s not just dirt."

Others say it's because Obama is still young and in office. Many local laws forbid public parks or buildings to be renamed for people until they have either been in public service for 50 years or have died.

"Because he’s still president, it felt a little goofy and opportunistic for people to run around trying to honor him as if his public service was already complete," said Democratic Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz.

And with Sandy Beach, there is a fear that it's simply not a place where tourists should try to body surf like the president did when he was a teenager, admits Chang. That beach's waves are big, there is a shallow shore break, and 16 people have suffered severe spinal cord injuries between 2009 and 2013.

Meanwhile, city council members are discussing lifting the prohibition against naming facilities for living leaders.

A small abandoned lot, listed on the president's birth certificate as his birthplace, almost became renamed as Barack Obama Birthplace State Park, with plans to clear the lot and put up a statue of Obama. However, state legislation failed because it could not be determined who would pay for the park's upkeep.

State Rep. Gene Ward, who had co-sponsored the bill originally, says now he would not offer to revive it.

"Given the way he’s handled the presidency and handled the security of our nation," the Republican lawmaker said. "I just don’t have the heart for it.

Further, Ward complained about Obama, "he didn't put the presidential library here. He comes to Hawaii and doesn't even wear an Aloha shirt."

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Many states have plenty of places named after native sons who become president, but Hawaii isn't one of them.
hawaii, obama, name, places
Saturday, 26 December 2015 02:35 PM
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