|By Christie Wilson, The Honolulu
AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
November 22, 2009 --Honolulu's bid to host the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting, featuring President Obama and 18 other heads of state, began with a phone call to state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert from a former U.S. ambassador to APEC with local ties.
Lauren Moriarty, daughter of David M. Peters, former executive assistant to U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and past chairwoman of the Queen Lili'uokalani Trust, called Wienert in early 2008 to encourage her to rally government, business and civic leaders to mount a bid to host up to 20,000 dignitaries, advisers, support staff, security forces, business executives and global media expected to attend the international conference.
Wienert said she followed up by talking with officials involved in the 2007 meeting in Sydney, Australia, to get their spin on the pros and cons of hosting the event, checking with hoteliers with properties both in Hawai'i and APEC countries, and contacting a long list of people involved in federal, state, city, private-sector and community affairs.
"Everyone said we ought to do this," she said.
There also was a sense that Honolulu just might have an inside track on the host selection process because Obama was born and raised here, and in some Asian cultures, inviting guests to your native home is a sign of highest respect.
White House spokesman Adam Abrams said the president "is looking forward to putting his home state front and center, showcasing both Hawaiian hospitality and American ingenuity to the world."
"As the president mentioned in Singapore, when he announced that Hawai'i would host the 2011 APEC leaders summit, America is a Pacific nation whose economic ties to the Asia-Pacific are strong and enduring and whose president was shaped by this part of the globe," Abrams said.
Wienert said Obama administration officials would not reveal which other cities expressed interest in hosting the 2011 APEC Leaders Meeting, but she heard that the list included Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, which first dropped out to pursue the 2016 Olympic Games and then, after losing that bid, re-entered the competition for APEC host city.
Honolulu's campaign gained momentum in November 2008, when the U.S. Department of State issued an invitation to major resort and hotel destinations to present proposals to hold the APEC Leaders Meeting, Nov. 12 to 20, 2011.
The notice, published Nov. 19, 2008, in the Federal Register, said the agenda would include official and informal gatherings, bilateral talks, media events and other meetings.
"With this many high-profile visitors, security will be a major consideration for the selection of the city and conference venues," the notice said.
The list of requirements included an international airport with good connections to Asia-Pacific nations; 20,000 hotel rooms "of international standard," including 80 suites for heads of state and Cabinet-level ministers; conference facilities for multiple meetings; and support from political, business and community leaders.
The notice asked for information on ground transportation, airport immigration and customs facilities, cultural attractions and shopping, and the availability of museums, parks, monuments and similar places of interest where formal receptions, official dinners and other events could be held.
Organizers also wanted a description of the city's population groups from APEC countries, and information on the host's ability to handle the arrival of private airplanes carrying government heads and other VIPs.
The invitation, which did not require a specific financial commitment, set a Dec. 15 deadline for submittals from potential host cities that was later extended by two weeks, Wienert said.
Once the invitation was issued, a meeting was convened with representatives from Gov. Linda Lingle's office, the state Department of Defense, the Hawai'i Convention Center, the Hawai'i Tourism Authority, the Legislature, the East-West Center and other interests, she said.
"At the end of the meeting, of course, we decided we were going to go big on this," Wienert said. "It would be great for the economy and if we were successful in getting the bid, it would position Hawai'i not just as a place to do leisure travel but it would allow us to finally be recognized as a place to do business where East and West meet."
Charles Morrison, president of the East-West Center, took the lead in preparing an 80-page proposal that was submitted, as requested, in a 3-inch binder.
Wienert described Morrison, who participated in meetings at three prior APEC summits and is familiar with hosting requirements, as "our savior and our guide" during the process.
As part of Honolulu's submission, Lingle, Inouye, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Moriarty prepared video statements touting Hawai'i's advantages in hosting the APEC Leaders Meeting and assuring their commitment to its success. Also included were letters of support from county chambers of commerce and ethnicity-based chambers with ties to APEC nations.
"This has been a collaborative effort of a magnitude that is unbelievable," Wienert said.
In a Jan. 5 letter and executive summary to Edward Malcik, director of the Office of International Conferences at the State Department in Washington, D.C., Morrison said the state offered "a welcoming, visitor-oriented economy, a symbolic trans-Pacific location" and "a rich and distinct culture."
He noted that Hawai'i businesses have strong links with the Asia-Pacific region and that 2 million tourists from APEC nations visit the state annually.
"In Hawai'i, the leaders meeting would naturally have the desired informal atmosphere, enhanced by aloha wear," the summary said.
Morrison also promoted the state's "superior security advantages, not simply because our distant island geography minimized chances of outside disruption but also because Honolulu's hotel/conference facilities are compactly located away from the central business area and are easily secured."
Addressing the security issue, he said Honolulu already has the police, fire and emergency services required to meet the needs of its residents and the 100,000 tourists present at any one time.
He said the city was prepared to block off streets for security, another requirement contained in the State Department's invitation for proposals.
Security concerns take up a good portion of the invitation notice, with questions about how the host city will provide security for the delegates and VIPs including Obama, whether the city is prepared to block off streets around the conference venue and hotels for heads of government, and how the city expects to fund the extra security required for the conference.
The State Department noted that U.S. Secret Service details are provided only to the president and heads of state, who will receive around-the-clock protection and limousines.
Traditionally, the local police department provides route, motorcade and intelligence support to the Secret Service and has lead responsibility for providing crowd control and riot response, the notice said.
"Cities that bid on such events must take into account and budget for the extensive costs of the security and public safety, as that responsibility lies solely with the host city," the notice said. "Local police will not be reimbursed for costs of supporting visiting foreign dignitaries."
Although U.S. cities hosting international events in the past have received congressional appropriations to cover security costs, the State Department cautioned there is no guarantee of that happening with the 2011 APEC Leaders Meeting.
Cities submitting proposals also were asked about public safety infrastructure, such as hospitals, communication systems, capabilities in explosives, chemical, biological and nuclear detection and response, and emergency management for mass casualties, terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
Wienert said that because federal agencies would be playing a key role in coordinating security plans for the event, "we kept it vague" in the proposal. "None of us knew what they are going to be. We don't control it," she said.
Hawai'i officials did assure APEC organizers that Honolulu Police Department officials are "comfortable" they can handle the event with the assistance of the state Department of Public Safety and other agencies, Wienert said. Officials also expect substantial participation by the military's U.S. Pacific Command.
Supporting documents highlighted the largely uneventful Asian Development Bank meeting held in Honolulu in 2001, the state's experience in dealing with hurricanes and other natural disasters over the years, and the close cooperation that exists between state and city police, federal law enforcement and the military.
costs still unclear
It's too early in the planning process to estimate what the security costs might be, but the city already is facing an anticipated $147 million budget deficit in the current fiscal year.
Wienert said every effort will be made to secure congressional funding. Morrison's executive summary said that local meeting organizers also are prepared to seek state funding, but doesn't mention the $1 billion budget deficit the state expects to rack up through June 2011.
"Remember, this is the United States' meeting -- it's not Hawai'i's meeting. We have no idea at this point what the cost to the state may be. We have not had those discussions yet," Wienert said.
"Our goal was to secure APEC for Hawai'i. As many of our hotel and business leaders said, 'Let's get it first and, if we get it, the money will come.' "
Honolulu appears well-equipped to accommodate the 10,000 to 20,000 people expected for the APEC Leaders Meeting. Morrison's executive summary notes there are 17,000 rooms available in a range of prices within walking distance of the Hawai'i Convention Center, and that activities will be taking place at locations separate from the Downtown business area, reducing travel times and traffic congestion.
Wienert said it's possible some events might be scheduled outside of Waikiki or on the Neighbor Islands.
sworn to secrecy
On the question of handling private VIP aircraft, Morrison pointed out that Honolulu International Airport is adjacent to Hickam Air Force Base, the usual landing place for visiting U.S. presidents.
When Morrison learned in late September that the 2011 host city would be announced by Obama at the 2009 APEC Leaders Meeting this month in Singapore, local supporters launched an eleventh-hour effort to lobby decision-makers in Washington that Hawai'i was "no ka 'oi."
"From the governor to the congressional delegation, everyone was on the phone calling anyone they could think of who might be influential with the Department of State and putting in the good word for Hawai'i," Wienert said. "We knew we would be able to deliver an APEC meeting that would be very successful."
On Nov. 12, Morrison, Wienert and a select few others received an e-mail from the White House with the news that Hawai'i had been selected. Those in the know were sworn to secrecy until Obama made the announcement two days later at the APEC conference:
"The United States was there at the first meeting of APEC leaders on Blake Island, (Wash.), where President Clinton began the interesting tradition of having us wear outfits picked out by the host nation. And when America hosts APEC in a few years, I look forward to seeing you all decked out in flowered shirts and grass skirts, because today I'm announcing that we are bringing this forum to my home state of Hawai'i in 2011."
Wienert said she doesn't know whether Hawai'i was a shoo-in because of Obama's fondness for the Islands.
"The final decision was made by the president. This is his event; he's the host. We were told that at the end of the day, after taking into account the National Security Council, the State Department and other agencies, that it was his decision," she said.
"But you never know."
Even without friends in high places, Hawai'i's bid to host the APEC meeting could stand on its own, she said.
"I think the case was made well enough, first and foremost, that Hawai'i is the best place for security, and when you convene a meeting with that many heads of state, that's a priority ," she said. "No. 2, we are a proven destination that handles large meetings."
Considering the APEC tradition of dressing in local garb, maybe Hawai'i did enjoy an edge.
"We all laughed when (Obama) said that. Where else in the U.S. do you have indigenous clothing that can be shared with the delegates?" Wienert said.
What happens next is formation of an organizing committee to coordinate the logistics and details of the meeting with the White House, the State Department and other parties, she said.
APEC promotes economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region and has 21 members: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Republic of the Philippines; The Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; the United States; and Vietnam.
Reach Christie Wilson at email@example.com.
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