May 1, 2009

Hypothesis: Veto threat is another collective bargaining strategy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug @ 4:28 am

After a night of rest and a workout to brood on my previous post, I have a simple hypothesis that might explain why the Governor told Speaker Say that she may veto the budget bill:

So long as the budget bill is not law, Governor Lingle has more leverage during the ongoing collective bargaining talks with the public workers.

April 28, 2009

Hawaii County internet use investigation is not open-ended

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug @ 7:29 pm

Just as Aaron Stene and Tiffany Edwards Hunt have heard from Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida in response to what they wrote on their blogs, Ashida has responded to my post, too.

I wrote:

Sounds almost reasonable, until you consider that the County may never (probably will never, if they are serious about curbing abuse) stop collecting these data. Unless there is a plan to halt internet access by County employees altogether at some point, the “proper timing” argument for the release of the data is, if not a red herring altogether, going to be a real challenge. Here’s why: the portion of the investigation that “includes sites currently being visited in order to establish trends” may reveal other alleged cases of abuse, which would lead to further “ongoing” investigations preventing the release of the data, which could again reveal other potential cases of abuse, ad infinitum. Long story short: investigations of this nature are never “complete.” Following Ashida’s argument to its logical conclusion, we’ll never have access to these data.

Ashida’s response:

1. We are looking at the period from January 2008 through December 2008. Even though subsequent data may be looked at to establish trends, we are mindful of statute of limitations concerns, and that will drive us to ensure closure of the investigation in order to generate charges, if any (with a referral to the Prosecuting Attorney if appropriate). Assuming there is a noncriminal violation (i.e., no internet gambling or private business use or anything that would constitute a penal offense; we anticipate this will be the vast majority of “cases” made), then the reports will be forwarded to the offending employee’s appointing authority for appropriate disciplinary action. At that point, normal UIPA standards would apply with respect to a department head (or Council representative) determining whether the records may be made public or not.

2. More on the “trends” I mention above, I doubt we will find much more probative evidence at this point, given the media coverage generated. I would assume offending employees have since stopped visiting any illicit sites (but you never know).

3. I’m sure you’re more interested in “when” you can expect the reports to be released or when the department head may be asked to produce them. I don’t want to make a commitment we cannot keep, but I will be meeting with Data System representatives on Wednesday (i.e. April 29) to develop an internal timeline for completion. We are proceeding one department at a time, and I am recommending the first set of departments be completed by the end of May 2009.

4. Regarding the UIPA standards I mention above, I am talking about the balancing of the public’s right to know against any significant privacy interest as defined by HRS Chapter 92F. Once the investigation is completed (each department) and there no longer is a basis to withhold the information based on the UIPA’s “frustration” exception, my recommendation would be to release the records.

Let me know if you need any more information.

The only questions I have at the moment are these:

What kind of internet use data are collected? How much detail is captured in the data (and how much would be released)? i.e. Does the County capture only a list of domain names visited, an exhaustive list of full-length urls and length of visit to each individual page, or something in between those extremes? After accounting for any possibly illegal activity, I am much less interested in tying any particular website visit to any particular employee than I am interested in knowing what amounts and what websites are considered “allowable” internet use with government equipment, on a government network, on government time.

While I have your attention, Mr. Ashida, I’d also like a list of IP addresses for the County network so that, by scrutinizing my server logs, I would be able to tell whenever County employees visit and/or leave anonymous comments on my blog. Heh.

January 24, 2009

Two peculiar speech nuggets

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug @ 12:58 pm

On Opening Day I did not follow the entertainment very closely, but I did listen to most of the speeches. I was struck by a few comments. First, this passage from House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro’s remarks:

For example, our laws have a ‘preference” for local products. Agencies are supposed to give local vendors a break and purchase preference. It’s like the federal “Buy America act.”

In 2006, we’ve even passed a small business set-aside so that our small businesses are supposed to be given state contracts.

Yet despite what’s in the law, nothing is happening. Local farmers are not enjoying the benefit of this policy. But do you know why? Because the “rules” that are supposed to implement the laws, exempt fresh produce, meats and foods! I know, “How can?!?”

I sent an email to Representative Blake Oshiro a few days ago asking him to expand or clarify his remarks. Oshiro has yet to reply. So, today I did my own research. Part X of the Procurement Code contains the folowing definition:

“Hawaii products” means products that are mined, excavated, produced, manufactured, raised, or grown in the State where the input constitutes no less than twenty-five per cent of the manufactured cost;

Clearly, that definition would include the fresh produce, meats and foods of Hawaii. Then I went looking for the alleged part of the State Procurement Office Administrative Rules (PDF) that excludes those items from the preference. I did not find any such exclusion. Should I be looking somewhere else? I looked in the small business preference Rules, too. Again, nothing there seems to support Oshiro’s claim.

Oh, and I also asked Oshiro if it were the case that the HRS trumps any Administrative Rule that is inconsistent with the authorizing legislation. I am not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that is true.

UPDATE: Well, Blake Oshiro never answered my email, but he did introduce HB 988 as part of the Majority Package. In that bill is a reference to the Administrative Rule where Hawaii fresh produce, meats, and foods are excluded from the preference. See Exhibit A at the end of this link.

Looking at the other chamber, I took note of this “silent majority” line from Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom’s remarks:

[The] Republican minority may be just two of 25 state senators, but we actually represent more than 40 percent of the votes cast, many thousands more of the “silent majority,” and we have a strong and consistent philosophy, an unwavering voice, and a [sic] vote.

Actually, in reviewing the general election results for 2006 and 2008 (since Senators serve staggered, 4-year terms) I find that the total votes cast for sitting senators is 211072; of the total votes cast Democrats received 136131 (64%), while the Republicans received 74941 (36%)—including the votes cast for Gabbard, who has since [cough] “wavered” and changed his party affiliation. Thus, I have no idea from where Slom’s “over 40%” claim arises. Perhaps Slom was including uncontested contests (like his own) in his tally, or perhaps he pulled the claim out of thin air. I dunno. I sent Senator Slom an email asking for comment, but he, like Oshiro, has yet to reply.

Anyway, Slom’s could be a much more compelling argument if our Senate had “at large” districts or if our Senate had a proportional representation system. It has neither. Instead, in almost every Senate district, the Republicans have either failed to even field a candidate or have lost at the polls in our winner-take-all system of voting.

January 21, 2009

Opening Day Hawaii Legislature 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug @ 4:24 pm

Opening Day Hawaii Legislature 2009

Originally uploaded by poinographer

Crowds seemed a bit thin this year compared to others I’ve seen, but I had a good day catching up with old friends, meeting a few politicians, peoplewatching, and (of course) grazing on pupu.

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