By Derrick DePledge
State House lawmakers are peeved over a public service announcement they say is aimed at pressuring the Legislature to fund the controversial pharmacy college building at the University of Hawaii-Hilo.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s proposed budget includes $28 million in state-backed bonds for the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy building.
The PSA that’s been running on KFVE came up during UH’s joint budget briefing Tuesday before the House Finance Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee.
“Recently, the University of Hawaii has been running a public service announcement to pressure the Legislature to fund the pharmacy school. So my question is, whose decision was that and who should we thank for making that decision?” Rep. Sylvia Luke, the chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, asked interim UH President David Lassner.
“I understand although the public service announcement is free to the university, apparently, the university chose out of all the things that they could highlight about the university, they decided to use that spot to pressure the Legislature.”
She asked multiple times as UH officials dodged the question.
“David, maybe you should just take the credit for that,” Luke told Lassner. “It has to come from somewhere. Somebody must have said, ‘OK, let’s do this.’”
In the end, UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney took responsibility. Straney said he wanted to highlight the importance of the pharmacy college in the community, but said "I don’t think that’s how it turned out."
“I understand that you made the decision to highlight the pharmacy school in the ads,” Rep. Scott Nishimoto told Straney. “I saw the ad, and I think there’s a difference between highlighting the pharmacy school and saying that the Legislature is not funding the new building."
UH spokeswoman Lynne Waters said the general manager of KFVE last August offered the university $50,000 worth of free airtime. She said the ad wasn’t intended to run now, as the Legislature is heading back into session, and said it has since been pulled.
-- From Nanea Kalani, the Star-Advertiser's education reporter.