August 28, 2010

The nonpartisan primary election hurdle

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics,Neighbor Island Politics — Doug @ 8:41 am

According to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, a nonpartisan candidate for House District 4 has complained to the Office of Elections about the primary election process and the burdens it places on nonpartisan candidates in order to advance to the general election. It’s an interesting story, especially this:

[In a letter to the Chief Elections Officer the candidate] says that no nonpartisan candidate in Hawaii’s history has ever advanced to public office in a partisan race.

However, that is not the same as arguing that “no nonpartisan candidate in Hawaii’s history has ever advanced to the general election,” which, in my opinion, more accurately describes the crux of the candidate’s complaint. I was unsure if that had ever happened, so I started looking through the general election results from the Office of Elections.

As it turns out, in 2006, at the General Election there was a nonpartisan candidate on the ballot for House District 30. That candidate received only 3.0% of the votes cast, trailing the Republican, the Democrat, and “blank votes.” (But beating the Green Party candidate.) What is more interesting, however, is that in reviewing the 2006 primary election you’ll find that the nonpartisan candidate only got 6(!) votes. According to the law, in failing to get at least 10% of the votes cast at the primary election for that race or, alternatively, failing to get at least as many votes as any partisan candidate in that primary race, that nonpartisan candidate should not have advanced to the general election. Weird. UPDATE: Actually, not so weird. See the comment from Dave Smith.

Those oddities aside, I am sympathetic to the argument that the process is too burdensome for nonpartisan candidates. I’m not so sure what legal argument the complainant intends to make for a claim of the process being unconstitutional, though. The “case notes” in the HRS section cited above don’t bode well for that…

This disparity partially explains the “Free Energy,” “Natural Law,” “Best Party,” and other fringe parties we occasionally seen on the ballot. All it takes to start a political party is a petition, at least for the first time out. After that “free ride” election, such parties face disqualification if they don’t field candidates and get enough votes. But, at least for the first election, candidates of such fringe parties are guaranteed a spot on the general election ballot.

April 26, 2009

When the internet goes away, then perhaps we can tell you what we know

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Neighbor Island Politics — Doug @ 11:02 am

I’ve been keeping a loose watch on the Hawaii County situation regarding an investigation of the internet activity of County workers. The County has data with details of where workers have been on the internet, but have refused to release the data to Councilmembers, to Stephens Media reporters, and to bloggers. The latest wrinkle is this message from the Corporation Counsel that attempts to explain why the data are withheld. Lincoln Ashida writes: 

This is what the County can disclose at the moment:

1. The records compiled by the Department of Data Systems are highly sensitive, and have not been shared outside of their department with any County department, agency or person, other than on a need to know basis. This is because many County officer and employees (including the Council) may be called as witnesses in future cases.
2. If the records are released prior to formal charges (administrative or criminal) being filed, the integrity of the case and investigation may be compromised. When I served as a prosecutor, such unlawful premature release of information would be cause for dismissal or other disciplinary action.
3. These records will ultimately be released, once all investigations are completed.

Some may wonder what the harm is if these records reveal only past internet sites visited. The reason this could harm future cases and the County is because:

1. The investigation includes sites currently being visited in order to establish trends. This also involves forensic examination of hardware and downloading of saved content.
2. Disclosing the records would identify particular individuals who may not be eventually charged administratively or criminally.

No doubt the public is entitled to view these records. The sole issue is one of timing. Once the investigations are completed and final decisions are made on administrative and criminal charges, the records will be released.


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.

Grudging kudos to the Coporation Counsel office for deigning to respond publicly to the simmering story. I’m hoping that Ashida has a less cynical take on this than what I’ve laid out above. I’m open to hearing it if he does.

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.

State clamps down on (some) commercial activity at Nawiliwili cruise ship arrivals

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics,Neighbor Island Politics — Doug @ 10:47 am

The Garden Island News reports on a new policy (put in place January 1st) that prohibits so-called “greeters,” i.e. workers representing commercial interests, from soliciting customers at the harbor where cruise ships arrive.

Greeters Ephraim Kaleiohi and Paulette Rosa bristled at the notion of a Nawiliwili without traditional greeters in a joint interview Wednesday, the day before the new policy was set to take effect.

“What they’re taking away is the aloha spirit,” said Kaleiohi, owner of Aloha Discovery Island Tours, noting that the hospitable act of greeting dated back to Capt. James Cook’s 18th-century arrival on Kaua‘i.

Rosa, a greeter for the free shuttle to Hilo Hattie, said any congestion issues at the harbor were due to security personnel not doing their jobs properly.

“There’s no leadership down there,” she said, adding that greeters actually help alleviate confusion by directing travelers toward where they want [?] to be.

“More than just representing the businesses they work for, greeters also provide a wide range of information about the island’s sights and activities,” explained Kmart greeter Steven Maze in a memorandum addressed to Davis Yogi, harbors administrator, and Mike Formby, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation. “Greeters are a part of the unique Hawaiian culture that attracts people to our islands.”

The State remains unpersuaded.

[DOT deputy director] Formby replied that for any commerce to take place in the harbor, a set of administrative rules governing policy needs to be in place. Since no rules have been published, he said, no business should be conducted inside the fences.

The ban will not keep commerce completely at bay. Formby and [Kauai Harbors district manager] Crowell said in phone interviews those tour operators who have pre-arranged customers are still allowed in to pick them up at the ship.


Formby said he does not want greeters inside the harbor, “yelling and shouting,” to be viewed as solicitors or “hawks.”

“You’ve already got the driver of the bus,” he said. “Why do you need another person whose purpose is to hold the sign and encourage you to go to that store and buy goods?”

“Hustling people … has been a no-no from the word go,” Crowell said.

Wait, which is it? There needs to be rules before any commerce, or some commercial activity is allowed during the rulemaking process while other commerce is forbidden? Leaving aside the merits and demerits of these “greetings,” this adhocracy is unfair and Formby is acting capriciously.

Some of the greeters’ complaints may be based on economics as much as they are on cultural differences.

The competition for dwindling tourism dollars from cruise ship visitors — Formby called it a “turf war” and Crowell said between 1,900 and 2,500 visitors arrive by boat each day — may be decided not by the boat-side sales pitch but instead by the advance marketing campaign.

If that is the case, operators like Polynesian Adventure Tours, a Norwegian Cruise Line subsidiary, could have a distinct inherent advantage over the smaller independent companies like Aloha Discovery Island Tours if activities coordinators on ships steer more customers their way.

“How can you not have greeting in Hawai‘i?” Kaleiohi asked. “It’s like taking food out of my mouth.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Kaleiohi, the price of his tours undercut those of the NCL/Polynesian Adventure Tours. Now, take a guess which company is more politically active. NCL has lobbyists, but I don’t see Kaleiohi or Aloha Discovery Island Tours on the lists of represented companies and lobbyists. I didn’t even check the campaign spending records, but my hunch is that NCL is much more loose with the campaign money, too.

Clearly, there are some parallels with the beach wedding issue I wrote about on November 11*. In both cases, the State is beginning to regulate commerce on State property and facing resistance over the change.

* That post was part of the “pre-HD-failure” Poinography, but I have a local cache of my blog (minus the comments) that I’m trying to figure out how to include on this re-launched Poinography. Since I only have those old posts in raw html (and not the MySQL database) the internal cross-post linkages are going to be a big challenge, so I may just punt on that aspect of the archive.

December 31, 2008

Creating a felony by County ordinance?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics,Neighbor Island Politics — Doug @ 9:06 am

I am curious about this West Hawaii Today article about road rage. I don’t recall this ever being done, and I wonder if it can be done at the County level.

Council Chairman J Yoshimoto, Hilo, said Monday he plans to work with the Police Department to create an ordinance that would possibly make road rage a felony offense.

He said he has heard many stories from residents about some motorists becoming enraged on the highway and intimidating other drivers that prompted him to pursue additional penalties for those guilty of such infractions.

Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna — who will retire on Wednesday — said he recently spoke briefly with Yoshimoto about the subject.

Mahuna said there is a state law that covers aggressive driving [Really? I could not find one.], which is considered a misdemeanor, but nothing on the books that specifies “road rage.”

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the Revised Ordinances of Hawaii County online. Is there such a thing? [META: Is there a County with a more amateurish web presence?! Sheesh.] However, the Honolulu ROs are here, and the relevant Chapter for Honolulu does not spell out specific offenses and penalties (beyond describing where certain speed limits are in effect). Basically, I am under the impression that there is no County-level penal code—in any County. This would make even more sense for felonies, which are punished by imprisonment of more than a year, since the Counties do not have their own prisons, only jails.

The HRS is somewhat schizophrenic on this matter. First it says the Counties can write “rules of the road” beyond the HRS, but then the next section of the HRS delineates exactly what powers are granted to the Counties.

Can Hawaii County create a felony by ordinance? I dunno.

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