Hawaii County Band on Chopping Block

The Hawaii County Band, a 127-year-old institution on the Big Island, has been singled out for elimination in the county budget, expected to be unveiled on Monday. The news was announced tonight to stunned musicians and volunteers by Bob Fitzgerald and Clayton Honma, director and deputy director of the county parks department.

Budget cuts are hardly uncommon given the current economic landscape, but this cut lands painfully close to heart of the Big Island’s cultural and artistic identity. The Hawaii County Band’s 40 or so members and numerous volunteers are a fixture at community events, from parades to veterans’ ceremonies and funerals, in addition to monthly free concerts for residents and visitors alike.

The move is akin to attempts to extinguish the 174-year-old Royal Hawaiian Band here in Honolulu, a proposal that was met with fierce opposition and a surge of public support. Now, Big Island musicians are hoping for a similar outcry, even though Honma and Fitzgerald apparently told the band that their decision was final.

Band members note that their programs are also one of the last beacons of hope for music students in Hawaii county, given that arts in education funding has long been scarce. Teachers work with, and bring students to, the Hawaii County Band, as it affords a rare opportunity for real-world experience in performing and collaborating.

Perhaps most galling to the musicians, the band was not offered a reduction in size or salaries, or furloughs, like other county programs. It’s an outright slashing of the entire program, and apparently the only program with such a dire fate in the forthcoming budget.

“We’re the only ‘county employees’ laid off ‘as of now,’ tweeted band member Sandra Sato. “127 years of Hawaii’s history, gone.”

And what does the county get for this move? Savings of about $360,000… or about one percent of its total budget.

“I can’t believe a 127-year-old tradition, a part of our community’s soul, isn’t worth one percent,” another musician told me tonight.

Since the budget won’t be introduced until Monday, band members and volunteers hope they can get the word out and find enough support in the community to save the program, or at least find a less drastic fate. As a guy who’s always had a soft spot for high school music and band programs, I’m happy to back them up. I hope I’m not alone.

8 Responses

  1. Liberty says:

    This is a sad loss for the community and for the musicians, and a nonsensical decision on the county’s part. One percent, seriously?

  2. Michael Copeland says:

    Seems that the current administration is not happy with this sector of Parks and Rec department, last year slashing 1/2 of the operating budget outside of salaries; this is a continuation of that idea and it’s a poor choice to show how the isle of Hawaii shows its cultural heritage. Will we no longer fund our free Olympic size pool? Will those beautiful tennis courts lie in weeds in the near future due to being “unfunded”? Will the grass in parks be allowed to grow to 3 feet in height? Looking at this decision,it seems politically instead of financially motivated and how sad that is. Write to the council members!
    Hawaii County Council

    Dominic Yagong #961-8264 [email protected]
    Donald Ikeda #961-8225 [email protected]
    J Yoshimoto #961-8225 [email protected]
    Dennis “Fresh” Onishi #961-8396 [email protected]
    Emily Naeole #965-2712 [email protected]
    Guy Enriques #961-8263 [email protected]
    Brenda Ford #326-5684 [email protected]
    Kelly Greenwell #327-2642 [email protected]
    Pete Hoffmann #887-2043 [email protected]

    Parks & Recreation
    Robert A. Fitzgerald, Director Clayton S. Honma, Deputy Director
    [email protected]

  3. Kim says:

    I can’t believe the heads of the P&R of the CofH would even consider doing something like this. They need to do some serious rethinking.

  4. I cant believe that the county cant find 360,000 somewhere else. Whats next?……..everyday we see county personnel(not all) abuse their priveledges during working hours. I think some of the administration should have some of their own humble pie for dinner sometimes. Some of these people feel like they can walk on water. Like any business downsizing due to economic conditions. Service is what rises to the top….but sadly we all know the level and quality of service in our county govt and its ranks. The county band puts out sevices very necessary to the pubic…can you say that for other departments? Lets aim our whips to other departments that are slow, lazy and take advantage of being a county employee. You know the kinda person im talking about….hi maka maka…my s#%t dont stink type. Why cut the band…innocent victims…????? Get quality people who can provide fast quality service and with a sense of pride….then you wont need three people to do the job of one. Nuff said…..

  5. Jenea says:

    Aloha friend!!! Very interesting information!!!
    I am very interested- you collect autograph from Lost actors???

  6. daferret says:

    That is horrible! Glad I took a stop over here and got informed.

  1. March 26, 2010

    […] Lastly, I received this e-mail response from Rep. Denny Coffman. I asked him if he was truly against Hawaii County maintaining funding for the county band. […]

  2. March 28, 2010

    […] future. They could’ve re-appropriated the funding for a more critical purpose like restoring funding for the county band or used it help maintain essential county services if the legislature withholds the counties share […]

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