Monday, October 10, 2011

Detroiters' Gambling Advocate Hired as Hawaii Governor's Communications Director

Governor Abercrombie has a new Communications Director, replacing Josh Levinson, who announced his resignation last week. The job goes to James Boersema, a retired Army colonel who has handled communications for the State Senate for the past year.

Boersma is an experienced public relations strategist, who has worked for corporate clients including Bank of Hawaii and for politicians, including former Governor Ben Cayetano when he was Lieutenant Governor.

Boersema, 66, has significant connections in the business and labor communities. He is chairman of Unity House, a nonprofit labor organization that is going through bankruptcy. He is chairman of the board of directors at ‘Olelo Community Media, the community access cable network. He is on the board at Pacific Historic Parks, which helps with educational materials and museum exhibits at national parks at Pearl Harbor, Kalaupapa, Saipan and Guam.

Boersema is also one of five owners of Zanzabar, a popular nightclub in Waikiki.

Boersema has been among the advocates for casino gambling on Oahu. He and Jack Seigle — a principal at Starr Seigle, which has since been acquired and absorbed into the Anthology Marketing Group — were involved with the Coalition for Economic Diversity, which made an aggressive pitch to legalize gambling a decade ago.

Boersema, along with then-Gov. Cayetano and Charles Toguchi — Cayetano's former chief of staff and a close ally to Abercrombie — visited the Atlantis resort and casino in the Bahamas in 2000. Sun International Hotels, which developed Atlantis, at the time wanted to open a casino in West Oahu.

This year, while serving as Senate communications director, Boersema favored the concept of establishing a casino at a Waikiki hotel.

Zanzibar pops up at the end of this story: A "Culture Of Violence" At Waikiki Nightspot
More Zanzibar: Waikiki night clubs address after hours crime 

Detroiters Marian Ilitch and Michael Malik have been pushing commercial gambling in Hawaii for a decade; although things had somewhat quieted until earlier this year.  With their Hawaiian advocates, they made a big push for their single Waikiki casino scheme during Hawaii's legislative session but they failed.

Tom Shields, the Michigan-based PR mouthpiece for Ilitch/Malik retained his Hawaiian-based colleagues Jack Seigle (Starr Seigle) and John Radcliffe to help with the first major push in 2001. Seigle and company formed the "Coalition for Economic Diversity" as a so-called third-party advocate for the Detroiters' interests. Boersma was at one time a vice president and partner at Starr Seigle.    

Hawaii and Utah are the only two states that have no form of legal gaming.

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