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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