February 25, 2011

Civil Beat publishes my opinion-editorial about the new trend of converting unsold affordable housing units to “market”

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics,Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 4:09 pm

Here’s the link: Honolulu Civil Beat – ‘Affordable’ Housing Shouldn’t Be Sold Off.  In a nutshell, I live in an affordable housing project where the remaining unsold units (after a series of obscure “public” meetings) were removed from the available pool of affordable housing units and are now offered for sale to anyone (including non-owner-occupant “investors”).

I link to the article here since I am not a paid member at Civil Beat and, thus, I could not participate in any discussion at Civil Beat if my piece generated comments….

I did a fair amount of research on this topic and I could go into much greater detail about it (if anyone were interested) but I was asked to observe a word count limit.

If you’re visiting my blog for the first time via the Civil Beat link, welcome.  Please, have a look around at my previous work.

December 15, 2010

Spotted here first

Filed under: Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 6:22 pm

Well, well, well.

Kudos to KITV and KHON for reporting about a community meeting where a presentation was made by a company that is in the business of helping law enforcement agencies locate the source of gunshots and other noises made by illegal activity. Honolulu City Council Chair Nestor Garcia (my original boss at the Lege, back in the day) hosted the events in our/my neighborhood where Ed Jopeck of Shotspotter described the equipment which is used to pinpoint the location of gunfire and explosions by triangulating on the sound produced.

As it happens, I wrote to Shotspotter back on November 21, 2010:

I write a blog about Hawaii politics. On the island of Oahu we have a huge amount of illegal aerial fireworks and improvised bombs(!) that are detonated by normally-law-abiding people to celebrate New Years Eve, with a window of about one month before and after that sees a build-up and taper-off from that single night of intense activity. Around Independence Day there is a smaller version of the same anarchy. Despite literally thousands of offenses, the authorities typically make only one or two arrests per year and claim that the arrest rate is so low because the LEO (or a member of the public willing to testify for the prosecution) must actually witness the offense being committed. People with respiratory ailments and nervous pets of all kinds are affected.

Would your shotspotter system be effective in pinpointing the location of illegal aerial fireworks and bombs in a mid-density urban environment? Would you be willing to demonstrate your system this year in my community and perhaps shame local LE into taking more aggressive action? Does the system produce evidence that would stand up in court and obviate the need for a citizen to “rat” on his or her neighbor?

To see how crazy it gets, take a look at the video I shot from my 9th floor balcony last year:

This is not a joke. Can you help?

I received an auto-response to the effect that the press officer was on vacation for Thanksgiving. Finally, on December 3, I got an acknowledgment of my email—claiming that my message had gone into a spam folder by mistake. My inquiry was to be fielded by Mr. Jopeck. But nothing came of it. I pinged the press officer again on December 10, letting her know that Jopeck had not responded.

Three days ago, on December 13, Mr. Jopeck responds, telling me that, what else, my email had been in his spam folder. He then informed me that he would be in Waipahu, meeting with Nestor Garcia … the next day(!), and he invited me to join them. Jopeck also said he planned to meet with the Honolulu Police and Fire Departments. I had other plans for Tuesday evening already, so I did not attend.

An excerpt from what Jopeck wrote:

As luck [sic] would have it, I am leaving my current home near Washington DC this morning to come to Honolulu for three days (Dec 14-16). The primary purpose for my trip is, at the request of Honolulu City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia [sic], to meet and address a community meeting in Waipahu on exactly this issue. I will be happy to give a demonstration of our solution at or after this meeting. I hope you will consider coming to the city council meeting to hear my presentation and so that we can meet. While I am in Honolulu, I will also be meeting with Honolulu Police and Fire Department representatives.

Luck?! At the request of Garcia?!

Whatever you say, Mr. Jopeck. Heh.

Anyway, from the KITV story:

Council Chairman Nestor Garcia, who represents Waipahu, wants the city to seriously consider the technology to combat illegal fireworks, especially once consumer fireworks are banned on Oahu starting Jan. 2.

“We know that there is a problem out there. We hear it every night. Even last night, I heard it. The problem is trying to detect it under the cover of darkness. With this technology, as I’ve been told, it might be able to solve that problem for us,” Garcia said.

The technology costs roughly $250,000 for the first square mile and about $200,000 per additional square mile after that, according to Jopeck.

That sounds expensive, but this is a seasonal problem. Does the technology cost $250,000 per square mile per … year? per month? per week? per day? If $250,000 is the annual rate, then setting up the system for a month suddenly sounds much more affordable. The story also mentions the possibility of using Shotspotter during the upcoming APEC meeting. Doesn’t the Department of Homeland Security (or some other federal agency) have a budget for making grants to host cities to defray security expenses?

How about a free sample for a week, Mr. Jopeck? My dog, Perl, would like to spend a quiet evening without needing to cower under my bed!

April 21, 2009

Surveillance camera fail

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 8:02 pm

The Advertiser notes a recent attack in Chinatown occurred in an area subject to video recording yet did not yield any video evidence. The police and prosecutors claim there were no recordings made of the crime, yet the article goes on to say that new footage was [is?] routinely recorded over old footage. [Allegedly the media are re-used before anyone bothers to read the police blotter? Genius!]

Remember when HPD was looking for volunteers to monitor these cameras? (There’s a post on that topic in the pre-crash archive somewhere…) Well, that effort didn’t pan out, they are still looking for volunteers, and now we see the cameras revealed as a example of security theater.

A critique for Mr. Dooley: I notice that law enforcement is simply asserting that there was no recording of the incident. That deserves some explanation, doesn’t it? Are the cameras in operation 24/7, or not? The possibility that the records were destroyed intentionally would certainly create a “reasonable doubt,” in my mind, if I were a juror when this case goes to trial…

February 4, 2009

The debate over the GET surcharge

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics,Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 7:36 pm

Mayor Hannemann and State leaders are engaged in a struggle about a possible change that would see the State receive the proceeds of the 0.5% Honolulu County GET surcharge. David Shapiro has an interesting column and a blog posting on the topic.

The transit tax was levied by the City Council, not the Legislature, and the money belongs to the city.

Can the state legally transfer a city tax raised for a dedicated purpose to the state general fund for another purpose? The state Supreme Court struck down the Legislature’s transfer of insurance assessments to the general fund.

Legally? I’d say “yes.” This would be quite a different matter from the insurance and E-911 moneys being moved to the general fund. For starters, the GET (including the surcharge) is already state money and sits in the general fund until the surcharge is disbursed quarterly to the County. It is only after the State hands over (some) of the surcharge that the “dedicated purpose” is specified, and the law only says that the County has to use the surcharge funds for a specified purpose. So, it would appear to (non-lawyer) me that if the County didn’t receive any of the surcharge, that point would be moot. Furthermore, the equal protection claims described in the recent HSC ruling don’t appear applicable to a GET surcharge levied across the entire Honolulu County economy.

The bigger issue is fairness. If a tax paid by O’ahu residents only is siphoned by the state, Oahuans would effectively be taxed at a rate of 4.5 percent for the same state services that residents of other counties get for a tax rate of 4 percent.

Talk about inviting a tax-discrimination lawsuit by unhappy O’ahu taxpayers — not to mention a political backlash against O’ahu lawmakers who let their constituents bear a disproportionate burden in balancing the state budget.

On the other hand, neighbor island voters (and legislators) would quietly smile. The question then becomes one of if there would be enough neighbor island legislators and (revenue-desperate) Oahu legislators to make a majority. Remember, many districts of Oahu did not vote for the transit question on the November ballot, so the “political backlash” calculus is not as straightforward as Shapiro may think. When it comes right down to it, the Oahu taxpayers would not see any overt immediate difference; the GET on Oahu would not change, and the non-existent rail system would remain non-existent.

The comments at the column and blog post are also worth a look, which is where readers and Shapiro speculate that a “temporary” GET increase will be applied statewide. All legislators would need is a bill with a usable title… Oh, wait, that’s a bill sponsored by a few House Republicans and dissident Democrats? Even better. Heh.

Were the State to “withhold” the Honolulu GET surcharge instead of a enacting statewide GET increase, then I would not be entirely surprised if the the Honolulu Council were to threaten to repeal its surcharge in retaliation. That would seriously raise the ante in this spat, though, and (since the Council would need approval from the Lege to ever re-instate a GET surcharge) I don’t think the County would be so bold.

January 11, 2009

Djou, of all people, feels ambition is a disqualifying trait for City service

Filed under: Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 9:55 am

How thick is the irony in this Star-Bulletin story?

Some City Council members praised his nomination while others question Caldwell’s political ambition.

“He has certainly served the state for a number of years,” said Councilman Duke Bainum. “I go in with an open mind. I’m more interested in how well-versed he is in city issues.”

At one point, it appeared that Bainum and Caldwell could have been opponents for the City Council seat representing Moiliili to Manoa.

Caldwell, with the help of several of Hannemann’s aides, filed to run for the City Council seat last year. He was later disqualified because of a procedural error in failing to drop out of the state race on time.

Oops, Ms. Au (or her editors) forgot to include a paragraph such as, “Bainum, with the help of then-Councilmember Kobayashi, returned to Oahu, established residency in the district and filed to run for his City Council seat last year as the filing deadline was nearly passed. Bainum ran without any credible opposition because of the procedural error attributed to Caldwell’s filing.” Haha.

It gets better, though:

“I think a big part of the focus of the confirmation hearing is what exactly kind of political deal did Mufi Hannemann cut with Kirk Caldwell,” Djou said.

Bainum disagreed with Djou, saying this is a past issue that shouldn’t be the focus of Caldwell’s confirmation.

“Bainum disagrees.” Heh. You had better believe Bainum disagrees! If people start asking about political deals, then Bainum is going to be the elephant in the Council chamber.

Djou said he also expects to explore Caldwell’s political ambition with Hannemann open to running for Congress or governor in 2010. In the past, politicians – such as former Mayor Jeremy Harris – have used the managing director position as a launching point to the mayor’s seat.

“The City Council is not looking at just confirming the managing director,” Djou said. “We’re also potentially looking at selecting the next mayor of Honolulu.”

Even though the story focuses on the mayoral implications, I would not rule out Caldwell for a run at Congress (against Djou, if Abercrombie were to run for Governor) or, less likely, for Governor (if Hanneman instead runs for Congress against Djou).

Could be a trainwreck of a confirmation hearing, indeed.

January 2, 2009

Hawaii GOP shuffles some appointees; Djou’s former staff pay the price

After being tipped off by a Big Island Chronicle post yesterday, today I notice the Hawaii Tribune Herald story that provides details of a shuffle among Republican appointees between Honolulu and Hilo.

You may recall that Honolulu Councilmember Charles Djou recently and abruptly dismissed three of his office staff.

[Djou] will keep his secretary, Sylvia Matsuda, and a part-time worker, Sylvia Lorenz. There is also another part-time community liaison for Djou who works outside of Honolulu Hale.

“[The three fired employees are] good people,” said Lorenz. “Councilman Djou had his reasons and they know what his reasons are.”

At this point it is becoming easier to deduce those reasons: Dylan Nonaka is clearly being groomed for a larger role in the Hawaii GOP. Lingle’s nomination of Nonaka to become the UH Student-Regent was rejected by the Senate in 2005. The East Hawaii liaison position Nonaka filled for Lingle was a consolation prize, or a graduation present, you might say. For a politically ambitious person, though, Nonaka’s assignment was definitely bush league. Working for Djou, who is clearly a megalomaniac an ambitious politician and (for better or worse) one of the highest-profile Republicans in Hawaii, is a step toward the Majors for Nonaka. Miranda, Nonaka’s replacement in Hilo, may or may not have higher political ambitions, but it’s definitely a promotion for him. The HT-H says Miranda’s former post was “assistant administrator of boards and commissions assistant administrator.” [Sic!] Sounds like a title from The Office…

This type of patronage machine is (or was) well-oiled on the Democratic Party side, of course. Loyal staff routinely become Democratic appointees (or are hired as lobbyists, heh) or even run for office—and win. The Hawaii Republicans seem to (finally) be getting in on that action. We’ll see if the Republican machine ever translates patronage posts into electoral victories, or if the process stalls at the appointee/staff level.

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