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.

January 20, 2009

At long last, orders are being taken for the Cayetano memoir

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:26 pm

According to the Watermark Publishing website, former Governor Ben Cayetano’s memoir will be shipped to customers on February 13. Release of this book has only been delayed about two jillion times…

I’ll write a review once I get my copy, but maybe I’ll wait to publish my review until I get my copy of the book signed, haha. The excerpt in Honolulu Magazine way back in December 2006 raises my hopes that it will be worth the long wait.

Oh yeah, and there was a new President inaugurated today, or something. Tomorrow I’m taking a day off of work to attend opening day of the 2009 Legislature. See some old friends, people watch, eat heavy pupu, etc.

January 17, 2009

Kahului trip query

Filed under: General — Doug @ 11:01 am

Hey, readers, I’m going to be on Maui in March for the Run to the Sun… and I’m cheap!

Is it really necessary to rent a car to travel from the airport to the Maui Seaside hotel in Kahului? Are there any busses or airport shuttles? I’ll only have a carry-on bag, so (since the race is 36 miles and this trip looks to be about 2 miles) I could even make the connection on foot if the roads are not no-shoulder deathtraps.

Draw your own conclusions about gasoline margins, because the data are all redacted

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 10:26 am

I am very disappointed in the Advertiser story (attributed to “Staff”) based upon a Public Utilities Commission report to the Legislature (PDF) written by a consulting firm.

The report produced for the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission was mandated in 2006 as legislators moved away from a controversial eight-month-long gas price control program that resulted in pricing abnormalities and volatility.

Okay, that much I can agree with. From there, though, the consultant’s report (and the Advertiser’s coverage of it) plummets off the credibility cliff. As I have lamented many times in the past, the PUC placed a protective order over the information submitted by the refiners. As a result, there is so much secrecy that it’s impossible to judge the veracity of any so-called “conclusions” drawn from data that are not subject to public/peer review.

Indeed, the report even condescends to include passages such as:

It is very easy to come to incorrect conclusions without understanding all the factors around any numbers presented. The amount of information provided is extensive, and can easily be misrepresented, or misinterpreted without great care to insure that all price and volume information are properly compared, aggregated, and analyzed.

“So, we will not tell you any of it, simply to protect yourself from your own ignorance. You’re welcome.”

The article, unfortunately, does not mention that nearly every substantive part of the report is redacted to omit the key (confidential) data. Instead we see a list of bullet points in the article, each reported at face value without comment. Sure, if the story is about the report, then the story is accurate to the extent that the report does indeed include those points. But you’d think claims like this would be worth a bit of explanation, or at least investigation:

The monitoring system “still has some data and category issues to resolve, but it appears that the reporting and visibility of petroleum market information to the commission (PUC) has provided a transparency and watchdog role that was absent in the past,” the report said.

Yes, PIMAR has provided “a” transparency and watchdog role that was absent,” but PIMAR has not yet provided true transparency for gasoline consumers.

“There do not appear to be any aberrant pricing activities by any of the reporting parties.”

An interesting adjective choice. If Hawaii gasoline consumers are consistently being gouged, then continued gouging would not be deviating from the norm.

Hawai’i's refineries operated by Tesoro Corp. and Chevron Corp., had poor profit margins compared to other U.S. refineries. It noted the refiners’ margins had been squeezed by rising crude oil costs and a shrinking market for production as consumers pulled back on purchases.

Again, if only undefined, relative terms like “poor compared to other U.S. refineries” are to be used, and if those profit margins at other U.S. refineries are not revealed, then this bullet point means very little, if anything.

Hawai’i refinery margins for bulk sales of gasoline to suppliers were “competitive” with other markets considering location differences.

Well, at least the scare quotes imply that the term “competitive” is not defined…

Supplier profits on sales to service stations were reasonable in 2006, but have been falling since then.

No scare quotes on the word “reasonable,” even though that term is also undefined.

Seriously, scroll your way through that PDF report and you’ll be struck by how many figures are reduced to empty white space and by how much text (including entire paragraphs in some places, and a few useful words in other places) is redacted. You really need to look at the report to see how much secrecy the public is asked to ignore in order to accept the conclusions on faith. The Advertiser dropped the ball here, big time.

Anybody have access to an un-redacted copy? I want one badly.

January 15, 2009

I feel your pain, Mr. Ray

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:12 pm

I recommend this post from Don Ray, a new addition to the blogroll, about his ventures into UIPA land. Mr. Ray is one of those rare birds, the paid blogger (on the Grassroot Institute payroll), so he has more time and resources available to vigorously pursue his prey story than many of us. Plus, he has kept good records of how the hunt has unfolded.

As expected, I am being stonewalled to some extent by the Governor’s office, so Don’s post is especially well-timed for me. The Governor’s office is claiming a blanket “executive and attorney-client privilege.” Now for round two, my request for a “privilege log.”

January 11, 2009

House hired less session staff?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:59 am

Buried at the end of Borreca’s Star-Bulletin column today:

Finally, here’s some good news: a veteran legislative worker who is saving money. Patricia Mau-Shimizu, the House Clerk, was told to cut the House budget.

She renegotiated contracts with vendors, cut back on new capital expenses, told House workers to take vacation time if they wanted Christmas [Eve, I hope] and New Year’s Eve off. She decided the state House didn’t need so many workers and just generally sucked it up.

The end result was a 10 percent reduction in the House budget. Total savings: $1.2 million.

So it can be done and without the Enron accounting schemes.

Translation: Savings can easily be made if you’re willing to “find savings” at the expense of the workers. Sorry, make that “at the expense of the non-unionized workers of the House.”

Hey, House insiders, care to explain what this 10% cut meant in terms of hiring? Less money allocated for each office to hire session staff could mean the same number of staff (but with even more modest salaries), or it could simply mean fewer staff were hired. The Lege is not going to have any less work this year than in a non-recession year, so the staff will have to do at least as much work with less pay and/or fewer co-workers. As if session workers were ever known to be slackers. [Well, except for staff working for powerless dissident or Minority legislators. Heh.]

Oh, those pesky details

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:57 am

The concluding paragraphs of a Star-Bulletin article have these surprising admissions from the Lingle administration:

Linda Smith, Lingle’s senior policy adviser, said the governor’s planned legislation would call only for the suspension of future pay raises and not include any retroactive cuts.

Hanabusa said Lingle is “privately admitting that calling on the Legislature to give up the recent raise was a mistake” because state executives had two pay raises before the legislators got their January increase.

“She has left the public with the unfair and inaccurate impression that accepting the pay adjustment was somehow self-serving,” Hanabusa said.

Lenny Klompus, Lingle’s senior communications adviser, said that in private meetings with legislators, Lingle said she had not realized that that their pay increase was coming in January.

“She told them she understood it and respected it and would not say anything else about it,” Klompus said.

You can almost picture the gnashing of teeth this detente is causing for Mr. Borreca, who begins the article by writing, “Calls for state legislators, judges and executives to cancel $4 million worth of pay raises appear to be going unanswered.” After a discussion of the legal and constituional issues, there is a resigned lament that, when pressed by Boreca, “Both [Sentoar] Kim and [Senator] Hanabusa say they know the public isn’t interested in the fine points of the legal argument, but they still have to obey the law.”

So, if the Governor is truly not going to press the issue of pay cuts, and the Democrats are not picking up the torch, and the Republican legislators (as ever) don’t matter, then it looks as if the pay raises will stick. For now, at least. Unless continued tub-thumping will drum up a champion for the cause, instead of only martyrs.

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 10, 2009

Random blog news

Filed under: General — Doug @ 9:04 am

First, on Thursday I sent a UIPA request to Governor Lingle asking for copies of the communication to and from her Office regarding the vacancy created by the death of Representative Nakasone. I reckon they will take the full 10 days that are allowed for a response, but we’ll see. The bigger question is if the Governor will stonewall or assert a claim that one or more of the exemptions to disclosure apply. §92F-14(b)(4) is probably what the Governor will exercise to withhold at least some of the records, but I seem to recall that the UIPA rules provide that I have still have a right to obtain a list of any records withheld (date, sender, recipient, etc.).

Next, I’m noticing a surge of visits on my server logs from an incoming link of “http://judintra” that began (perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not) soon after my post about the Judiciary budget. The IP address is 132.160.245.# which is assigned to hawaii.gov and administered by UH. I don’t know if that is some sort of Judicial branch intranet page or perhaps it is one of the legislative judiciary committees’ intranet page. Any readers arriving to this blog from that page care to clue me in? :)

UPDATE: I have also added the pre-hd-failure archive of my blog. Unfortunately, it seems that on the months where I was prolific enough to fill more than one “page,” the wayback machine (my only source for a backup) doesn’t have the entire month. I already knew that the reader comments were gone, but this is another level of bummer.

January 7, 2009

Who divvies up the forecasted revenues among the branches of government?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:41 pm

I had never really thought of this before, but a Star-Bulletin article has got me wondering.

The S-B reports that the Senate Ways and Means Committee, currently in the middle of the annual “budget briefing” season, is sending the Judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs back to work on their respective budgets because they did not incorporate any spending cuts to reflect the expected decline in revenue.

I’m pondering a more fundamental question, though: when the Council on Revenues makes a forecast for revenues, is there anything that compels the four entities that submit budget bills to the Lege (i.e. Executive, Legislative, Judiciary, and OHA) to agree on how the forecasted revenues will be allocated among the branches of government? i.e. Just because the COR says revenues will be $X, down Y% from the previous figure, does it automatically follow that each branch of government must lower its budget by (at least) Y%? Here, it looks as if the Judiciary and OHA are saying, “make the necessary cuts in the Executive and Legislative budgets, but leave our budgets alone.” It’s interesting, to me, because it presents obvious separation of powers questions. Ultimately the Legislature controls the budget process, but I could understand the urge for the Judiciary (for example) to stand firm (or even ask for an increased budget) and to see if they could not convince legislators to make up the revenue shortfall by deeper cuts in the “other” budget bills.

So-called “across the board” cuts are often, I’d even go so far as to say usually, a short-sighted method to trim a department budget because worthy programs are cut back just as much as less worthy programs; with both programs then slipping (or slipping further) toward unworthiness. Why should we expect “across the branches of government” cuts to make any more sense?

If the Lege expects the other branches of government to budget with a certain expenditure limit, then do they tell each branch in advance what its limit will be? Or is it as simple (-minded) as “you must each cut your budget Y%?”

January 4, 2009

Senator Hooser turns to dKos for legislative inspiration

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 4:41 pm

After a playful exchange of emails wherein Senator Hooser requested that I return his blog to my blogroll (which I did, since Senator Hooser couldn’t do much worse than the already-blogrolled tripod.com-level introspective blather from Representative Karamatsu and the nearly-devoid-of-legislative-content blog of Representative Shimabukuro), today I notice a recent post from Senator Hooser at DailyKos (one not cross-posted on his own blog, oddly). Hooser is soliciting for ideas for the 2009 legislative session.

Some ideas now on the table include: Allowing the use of unemployment benefits to support obtaining a college degree and/or starting a small business. Mandating fuel efficiency standards for all new cars sold in the state, or at the minimum all new government vehicles. I am looking for others, and thought mining the minds of Kossack policy wonks who might be familiar with progressive initiatives occurring in other area’s, would prove especially fruitful.

So please, send me your best and brightest tangible proposals and I will do what I can to put them into action here in Hawaii. There are only two caveats: The idea must be tangible and specific and it must have no financial implications to the state budget whatsoever (no new taxes and no new expenditures). [emphasis added]


I’m not sure where that second caveat falls on the continuum between “cynicism” and “realsim.” Or, if you like, between “tokenism” and “superficialism.”

Be that as it may, the Kossacks quickly offered up a few suggestions:

  • Alternative Energy
  • Automated Payment Transaction Tax
  • Sentencing Fiscal Cost Forecasting [Note to Senator Hooser: No need to reinvent the wheel here. Just re-start the Hawaii Sentencing Simulation Model that was never allowed to complete its work.]
  • Cool Roofs
  • GET adjustments
  • Health Care Review
  • Hooser deserves some credit for his attempt to engage the internet medium, even if this particular effort is pathetic in its timidity and seems more than a bit, well, self-serving.

    This episode may also be of interest to those attempting to interpret Senator Hooser’s banner ad campaign at the Star-Bulletin…

    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.

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