January 10, 2009

Poinography July 2005 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 1:24 pm



So far, so good

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— Doug @ 5:43 am
Well, I’ve made it to Anchorage and I’m in the airport waiting for a smaller plane to take me to Dutch Harbor. Free 802.11 access in the hotel and in this terminal. Sweet!

As you may know, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is a pork barrel spending ninja. He is also a good friend of our Daniel Inouye. He is not a humble man, however. The airport I’m waiting in is the Ted Stevens International Airport—the man isn’t even dead yet! ha ha.

If there is more wi-fi in Dutch Harbor maybe I’ll take time for a blog update later today.

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Heading North—all the way North

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— Doug @ 9:50 am
I leave this afternoon for Alaska where I will be boarding the USCG icebreaker Healy for a 58-day trans-polar research expedition from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Tromso, Norway. In addition to a lot of science, we plan to stop at the Pole and walk around on the ice cap, which is a rare privilege. It should be quite an adventure!

I am told that the ship has rudimentary access to the internet, so I intend to attempt some blogging from sea. It will probably be less thorough than usual, but time will tell.

If none of it works, then all I can say is that I will back in Hawaii on October 2.

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OIP v. Honolulu Council committee reorg procedure

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:44 am
It’s nice that the SB had a reporter at the Honolulu Council yesterday and she was able to file this seemingly innocuous story. It concerns an attempt by the Council to take another half-step away from open government, which should be important to all citizens. As a blogger I find it especially important, of course.

Yesterday, the Council, meeting as the Executive Matters Committee, approved a resolution (Resolution 05-260) that would change Council rules to allow reorganization through an internal memo by the Council chairman.

City attorneys advised the Council that to address OIP concerns they could organize committee assignments internally – and not through the public-meeting process – since committees are governed by internal rules and not by statute or the City Charter, the city’s governing document.

Some councilmembers said they would rather keep the current system of approving assignments at a public meeting, but their hands are tied because of what two members described as “preposterous” and “ridiculous” interpretations of OIP.

Some on the Council advocated taking OIP to court or going to the Legislature next year to seek an exemption from the Sunshine Law similar to what state lawmakers currently have.

Kondo said County Councils are among the more important boards in the state, and if they are allowed to discuss business in private, other boards would follow suit.

“The harm is that the public won’t be privy to that discussion,” Kondo said. “To me, that discussion the public is entitled to hear.”

This points to a double-standard, and it’s one that I’m guilty of, too. Kondo is correct to argue for the public to be privy to discussions of Council business, yet the Legislature is specifically excluded from the Sunshine Law. I prefer the way the Lege handles it, so I would reluctantly support the Council resolution (in this narrow case of committee assignments). The Legislature does not publicly debate those assignments, but merely passes a resolution at the start of each session. There is no discussion and the vote is always unanimous, so it may as well be done by a memorandum as the Council proposes.

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Well-connected lobbyist helped Hawaii save Navy shipyard

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:17 am
You rarely read very much about lobbyists in Hawaii, and it’s even more rare to find an article that actually names the lobbyist and gives them credit for a political outcome. That is why this PBN story is interesting, because it does both.

The story is about William Cassidy and the success he has had to date in helping to keep the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard off of the Base Realignment and Closure list.

“It was the business community, the government and military all coming together on this in a relatively short period to be effective, and [Cassidy] really provided excellent support,” said chamber President Jim Tollefson.

Tollefson declined to say how much Cassidy was paid. But chamber members told PBN that they initially raised $75,000 for their lobbying efforts, which included hiring the Washington, D.C.-based Cassidy as an adviser.


Tollefson said the focus now has shifted from keeping it off the closure list to wringing inefficiency out of it.

Cassidy is credited with helping the state overcome the concerns about inefficiency, tailoring the message about the shipyard’s ability to assist national security efforts to enrich the peace and win the war on terrorism.

If they paid this lobbyist less than $75,000 and he was key to preserving over 5,000 jobs at the shipyard then I would have to call that an impressive return on investment. However, the PHNSY is (as I understand it) not out of the woods yet as far as this round of base closures is concerned, as the efficiency concerns were raised and are still to be addressed. From his bio it would seem there are other reasons to be concerned, too:

During his tenure in the Department of the Navy, Mr. Cassidy was responsible for the conveyances of Naval Station Mobile to the State of Alabama, Naval Hospital Long Beach to the City of Long Beach, Naval Training Center Orlando to the City of Orlando, Naval Supply Center Oakland to the Port of Oakland, Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Naval Station to the City of Philadelphia, Naval Station Puget Sound at Sand Point to the City of Seattle, Naval Training Center San Diego to the City of San Diego, Naval Air Station Cecil Field to the City of Jacksonville, Naval Air Station barbers Point to the State of Hawaii, and Naval Air Station Agana to the Government of Guam.

Mr. Cassidy was responsible for the conveyance of the island of the Kaho’olawe from the United States to the State of Hawaii and the transfer of the Midway Islands from the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Interior. Mr. Cassidy also represented the United States in discussions with the Government of Bermuda regarding the United States Naval Air Station there.

That is an impressive resume, but those are all instances where the base in question was closed, not preserved. What is his record in “saving” a base from BRAC?

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New Campaign Spending ED applicant is retired HPD detective

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:52 am
Credit where credt is due: the Hawaii Reporter has this story that I consider to be excellent news.

You may recall my lamentations at the departure of Deputy Prosecutor Randall Yee (to a judgeship) and HPD Major Dan Hanagami (to retirement) from the white-collar campaign contribution violations beat. Well, according to the HR, Hanagami is under consideration to replace the retiring Bob Watada as Executive Director of the State Campaign Spending Commission. I would love to see Hanagami win this appointment.

Until we get a less coruptible campaign financing structure, it is imperative that we maintain an active watch over those who would bend and break the rules.

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Property tax break in sight, for some

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:22 am
I’m just coming up to speed on this topic, but it would seem that there is some consensus now on what form of property tax relief will be provided to (certain) Honolulu taxpayers. The Advertiser has this piece that describes the idea.

The bill (Bill 45 CD2) that moved forward yesterday would offer a county tax credit of up to 4 percent of the income of the owners listed on the property title as long as total income does not exceed $50,000. That would mean that a Palolo woman whose house is worth $500,000 ? who is earning $50,000 a year ? would end up with her property tax bill frozen at $2,000. That’s because the credit would cap her tax at 4 percent of her income.

Kobayashi said the latest proposal would help to give a break to more than just the senior citizens who now benefit from tax relief. The bill is set to go before the full council for final approval on Aug. 10. It would take effect in the 2007 tax year.

Although the assessed value still would trigger the bill, the credit would reduce the amount due for those who meet the income requirement. So, in those cases, “your tax will be based only on your income,” Kobayashi said.

City Budget and Fiscal Services Director Mary Patricia Waterhouse said the administration of Mayor Mufi Hannemann favors the latest proposal as a way to give much-needed relief. “We are supporting this as a compromise,” she said.

Earlier, she had said a similar proposal could cost the city as much as $48 million in lost revenue. But yesterday, she said it’s not yet clear what the financial impact would be.

Hmmm. It is beginning to seem like the Hannemann administration is fond of tossing out multimillion dollar cost estimates and then later retracting them… Heh.

Somebody may have to explain this to me, but as I take a look at the tax rates I find that the hypothetical Palolo woman earning $50,000 with a home assessed at $500,000 (assuming hers is “improved residential” property with a tax rate of $3.75 per $1,000 of assessment) would owe $1,875 before this change, so I don’t see where the “relief” comes if this Bill freezes what she owes at $2,000. If her income was $46,875 she would break even. Only if her income was less than $46,875 would she begin to enjoy any “relief.”

The more valuable the home, of course, the more relief this Bill would provide. If we consider another hypothetical, a retired Kailua widower earning $50,000 with a beachfront property assessed at $900,000 would see his tax decline from $3,375 to $2,000. In my case, earning about $28,000 I would see tax relief if I owned property assessed at more than $300,000. I rent, of course, so the point is moot.

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Parking still a bargain on O’ahu

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:16 am
This Advertiser story about the slight decline in what it costs to park in downtown Honolulu is interesting as far as it goes, but it could have included some discussion of how cheap(er) parking encourages single passenger cars.

Colliers said reserved downtown parking stall prices in Honolulu ranged from $150 to $310. The median, a midpoint where half are priced higher and half lower, was $235, down from $250 a year ago.

Other downtown workers found it hard to believe that parking prices hadn’t risen, especially given the state’s strong economy, rising real estate prices and job growth. But the amount of available downtown office space has been flat at about 11 percent over the past 12 months, suggesting that parking demand has remained flat.

Prices for an unreserved stall ranged from $100 to $185 a month. The median was $160 a month, unchanged from a year ago.

Parking hassles were one reason I got rid of my car over 10 years ago when I started attending UH-Manoa. Now I ride a scooter or take the bus so a discussion of parking fees is pretty abstract for me. However, traffic congestion is a “price” we all share when there are less economic incentives for people to carpool, walk, ride a motor-/bi- cycle, or use mass transit. Also, if parking were more expensive in Honolulu perhaps there would be more businesses considering a Kapolei location and fewer people crawling into town on the H-1.

Plenty of people bemoan the “back to school jam” each fall when UH classes resume, yet at the same time UH officials periodically succumb to student demands and build more parking areas. Think of the effect on traffic every fall if there was (expensive) metered parking in the neighborhoods surrounding UH and limited (and/or more expensive) on-campus parking.

This is not to say that cheap parking is inherently bad. As the article explains, parking costs only what the market will bear. My point is that there is a definite correlation between cheap/free parking and traffic congestion.

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Schofield will gain [fill in the blank] troops by 2011

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:29 am
Almost hard to believe today that the two Honolulu dailies are based in the same town. The Advertiser carries this story about 3,700 new troops that could come to Schofield Barracks by 2011. The SB, however, has this article with a lede that puts the number of new troops at 200–or perhaps 1,000. Wha? The difference is the Advertiser relies on an AP report and the SB is based on comments from Schofield sources.

The changes are part of the Army’s new war strategy, as it moves from divisions – each numbering about 10,000 soldiers – to brigades of about 3,500 soldiers. The Pentagon wants smaller brigades that can deploy quickly in areas like Iraq.

Ray DuBois, special assistant to the secretary of the Army, said the number of brigade combat teams in the Army will increase to 43 from 33 and be stationed throughout the United States and Europe.

These brigades will be named Stryker, heavy and light. At Schofield Barracks the 2nd Brigade will be a Stryker-type fighting unit, and the 3rd Brigade will be a more conventional light infantry unit, Bathrick said.

To prepare for the 2nd Brigade’s new duties as a Stryker unit, the Army plans to spend nearly $700 million on 28 construction projects at Schofield Barracks and the Big Island’s Pohakuloa Training Area.

One would hope that much of that $700 million would be for military housing construction, otherwise the market for affordable rental housing off-base will become even more tight. It’s hard for civilians to compete for affordable rentals against soldiers who in addition to their salaries have the economic advantages of receiving tax-free housing allowances, free medical care and are allowed to shop at the exchanges and commissaries.

The troop announcement, which would include 1,000 soldiers that state officials had planned for, but 2,700 that had not been previously announced, comes on top of the possible basing of an aircraft-carrier strike group in Hawai’i and arrival of eight C-17 Air Force cargo planes starting in January.

Paul Brewbaker, Bank of Hawai’i chief economist, said the increase needs to be put into perspective with the number of military personnel here dropping from 60,000 to around 40,000 since the late 1990s.

“In that context, even an extra 4,000 soldiers and their families would not have a pronounced impact on O’ahu’s economy or infrastructure,” Brewbaker said.

He said that with O’ahu’s economy growing to the tune of 10,000 jobs and 4,000 new housing units a year, it would not be difficult to absorb the extra military personnel coming in.

“You might see some local impact in towns around Schofield Barracks, but even there, the numbers are in a domain that is manageable and shouldn’t be seen as disruptive,” he said.

It’s unfortunate that neither article describes the potential number of new troops (and dependents) associated with the possible aircraft carrier battle group and the soon-to-arrive C-17 squadron. I don’t have any hard data, but given the existing state of the infrastructure on Oahu I think Brewbaker may have been a touch hasty in his “no pronouned impact” assessment. As the Advertiser article mentions, there would be federal Impact Aid provided to the DOE to educate the children of these military personnel. What isn’t mentioned (beyond Brewbaker’s assertion) are the many other infrastructure impacts: drinking water, sewage, rubbish, traffic, electricity, etc.

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GOP critics of Lingle grow louder

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:22 pm
An interesting op-ed from Dave Shapiro in the Advertiser today on the theme of the growing discontent among vocal GOP members upset about the recent actions (and inactions) of their Governor. He covers most of the bases I’ve been mentioning more obliquely. It’s a good read, it’s also useful to contrast Shapiro’s piece with Jerry Burris’ earlier op-ed that I discussed here.

Conservative opponents of the Akaka bill, which would recognize the indigenous rights of Native Hawaiians, accused Lingle of a “slimy” maneuver to position herself to run for the U.S. Senate.

“Many Republicans who already are suspicious of Lingle are seeking a gubernatorial candidate to represent them in 2006,” said [this piece at] the Hawaii Reporter, a Republican-oriented Web site with close ties to party conservatives.

It’s unlikely that such a candidate could seriously challenge Lingle for the Republican nomination.

But GOP discord could energize the Democratic campaign and leave the governor at risk that unhappy Republicans will stay home in the general election, as disaffected Democrats did to Mazie Hirono in her 2002 loss to Lingle.

Wait a second, there’s a Democratic gubernatorial campaign going on?! I must have blinked and missed it.

From the same Hawaii Reporter piece Shapiro refers to comes this:

Critics in the Hawaii Republican Party say [if a US Senate seat opens up] Lingle could change her mind about running for governor, just as easily as she broke her promise not to raise taxes and to veto the General Excise Tax increase bill.

Since the party has essentially been build [sic] around her popularity in recent years, other Republicans have not had the spotlight or the opportunity to get statewide recognition, so building up the image of a new candidate for governor before the 2006 election will be difficult, Republican critics say.

Meanwhile Hawaii Democrats are holding a number of secret recruitment meetings and conducting polls to determine who their best gubernatorial candidate will be.

Oooh. Secret recruitment meetings. Who could have leaked word of this completely unforseeable activity to HR? Heh.

Back to Shapiro:

But on the transit tax, the governor’s waffling is as much the source of her trouble as the substance of her views.

Instead of being a leader in debating the central issue ? whether congested O’ahu needs and can afford a rail system ? she’s hidden behind the esoteric side issue of home rule.

First she said she would veto the 12.5 percent excise tax increase unless the Democratic majority in the Legislature changed the bill to make counties rather than the state responsible for collecting the tax.

Then she changed her mind and let the bill become law without her signature based on a nonbinding pledge of Democratic leaders to merely recommend her changes next year.

Taking a broader view, this is all well and good to speculate on GOP dissatisfaction with Governor Lingle, but we could all take it much more seriously if there were some non-partisan polling data gathered to see just how deep this sentiment goes.

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More problems for Hawaii prisoners on mainland

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:59 am
Another small flurry of articles about Hawaii inmates on the mainland and the troubles involved in keeping them safely housed. Both Honolulu dailies have updates about the search for a place to move the Hawaii female inmates after the numerous failures in Colorado. (The excellent Advertiser piece is here and the relatively skimpy SB piece is here) The Advertiser also carries another story about a disturbing violent incident involving Hawaii male inmates at a private prison in Mississippi.

From an earlier post I am reminded that previously Hawaii had initially only monitored conditions at the Brush, Colorado private prison on a quarterly basis. When the misconduct came to light monitors had a longer visit in May, and now we learn that Hawaii is finally monitoring the facility on a full-time basis.

Hawai’i prison officials have had a full-time monitor working at Brush since June because the facility is still in flux, with many newly hired employees, prison officials said.

It’s about time.

The President (and namesake) of GRW (the corporation that runs the facility), Gil R. Walker, continues to exude sliminess. Blaming the reports of inadequate medical and dental care, and the complete lack of meaningful programs on “inmates attempting to fuel controversy,” Walker asserts that Hawaii officials are “generally pleased” with his operation. As if.

Finally, providing a smooth (if disturbing) transition to the news about the male inmates, we have this:

[Department of Public Safety spokesperson] Gaede confirmed that one prison the state is considering for the women inmates is the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright, Ky. That prison is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, which already houses more than 1,500 male inmates from Hawai’i in prisons in Arizona, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

That last sentence would be referring to the CCA facility in Mississippi where two male Hawaii inmates were beaten under suspicious circumstances.

The incident began when 20 cell doors in a unit at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility used to confine inmates with suspected gang affiliations popped open unexpectedly at about 2:30 a.m. July 17. About 35 of the 40 inmates in the unit left their cells and two of the prisoners began fighting, said Hawai’i Department of Public Safety spokesman Michael Gaede.

While corrections officers were preoccupied with the brawl, eight inmates rushed into a cell to attack another prisoner, Gaede said.


Gaede identified the inmate beaten in his cell as Ronnie J. Lonoaea, 32, who has an extensive history of assaults, including two attacks on prison staff at Tallahatchie. Lonoaea suffered a broken jaw and head injuries.

A preliminary investigation found that “the other guys ran in there to beat him up because he was causing problems for everybody else,” Gaede said.

Hawai’i officials are concerned about the sequence of events, he said, because “they were separate but simultaneous incidents, which makes everybody think one was a diversion.”

You need not be a screenwriter for “Oz” to deduce what probably happened. In my opinion it seems very likely that the corrections officers wanted Lonoaea beaten as revenge for his assaults on staff and so they orchestrated the entire incident by exploiting the pre-existing gang rivalries. Occam and I don’t believe for a second that 20 cell doors would suddenly and simultaneously open without any corrections officers being complicit. I suspect this was a non-lethal version of the “gladiator” combat arranged by corrections officers similar to what occured at Corcoran State Prison in California. Prison culture being what it is, with a strictly enforced code of silence among inmates and staff, I would wager that nothing becomes of the “high-level investigation” into this incident.

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ASUH senate rule is an ill conceived mess

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:03 am
I had a chuckle with this Ka Leo article about a proposal before the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii Senate to amend one of their rules such that Senators must regularly produce some tangilbe legislative business.

A rule change proposed for the ASUH senate, Rule 14-1 (introduced by Vice President Andrew Ogata and Senator Katie Barry) would require all ASUH senators “to produce either a bill, resolution, or report and introduce it to the ASUH senate at least once every two months, excluding the president.”

If a senator fails to produce legislation or file a report during a two month period, he or she will lose his or her stipend for one month. Failure to do so for three consecutive two-month periods will result in a vote before the senate regarding removal from office.

Sometimes I think the Lege should have the opposite of this rule. That is, if a legislator introduces too many bills and resolutions he or she would face sanctions. The article later expands on why this ASUH rule change proposal may not be a good idea:

While the proposal aims to prevent senators from doing no work other than sitting in on the meetings and collecting their stipends, it is not likely to be effective. There are too many loopholes in the proposed rule. This could open the floodgates for bad legislation that is given little thought, lacks research and is poorly written. “A senator could write six resolutions praising teachers that they liked,” Senator Robert Green said. Also, since the requirement of the change is that senators are listed at the bottom of a piece of legislation as an introducer, a person could simply be added to the list.

Legislation given little thought, lacking research, and poorly written? Nah, that’ll never happen. ha ha.

Sometimes paying a slacker Senator to sit on his or her hands would be better than this alternative. At the State legislature the more productive prolific legislators seem to more than make up for the “deficit” in quantity, if not quality, of legislation. Then, of course, there are the Republicans who might as well not bother introducing any legislation given the very low probability of any of it even being heard, much less passed.

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Deal put transit tax back on track – two weeks ago

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:51 pm
Sigh. After writing so much about the HB 1309 saga, I was out at sea for the conclusion. Permit me to re-open the can of worms for a moment, though as a rule I will try to be more timely with this blog, for this you must indulge me…

I’m sure there is heaps more coverage out there, but I’ll base this post on an Advertiser article and SB piece from July 12, a new Advertiser column, and this recent Honolulu Weekly Diary item (due to the format of the HW website the link is probably not going to last long for that last one, however).

From the July 12 pieces we get these careful descriptions of the last-minute negotiations and agreement. It sounds almost intentionally melodramatic. The Advertiser notes that Lingle herself took a hands-off approach to the issue, sending forth her minions to work out a deal and then report back to her. Classic “alpha (fe)male” political behavior, I suppose.

The breakthrough came at a private meeting around noon yesterday between [Mayor] Hannemann, [Senate President] Bunda, [House Speaker] Say, Bob Awana ? the governor’s chief of staff ? and Linda Smith ? Lingle’s senior policy adviser. The governor’s staff indicated that Lingle was looking for a much stronger commitment from lawmakers in writing that they would change the law next year.

Although they could make no guarantees, Bunda and Say agreed on a new letter, promising to personally introduce the revisions to the law and to ask other lawmakers for their support. Awana and Smith took the letter to Lingle, who lifted her veto threat.

Meanwhile, the SB skips the ritual and focuses on the substance of the agreement.

Under the agreement between state and city officials:

? Lingle did not get her amendments today. Instead, Bunda and Say agreed to introduce legislation during next year’s regular session to have the counties, instead of the state, collect the tax. Bunda and Say also agreed in a letter to “publicly support and work with our respective members to seek their support and subsequent vote for prompt passage of the amendments.”

? Hannemann initially said that it would be a financial burden for the city to collect the tax. But he said with a pledge from Lingle that the state will share information and technology and possibly get state funding, he believes the city will be able to take over the function at a substantially lower cost than the $50 million to $60 million he initially estimated.

From the start Hannemann had been hedging on what it would cost Honolulu to administer the tax, so that initial estimate was almost certainly a worst-case scenario meant to bolster his position. It will cost the City something, and probably more than simply having the State expand the existing system, but I don’t think anyone knows just how great the expense will be.

The written agreement offered by Say and Bunda to the Governor is ludicrous. The law may well be amended, but the Governor’s insistence on this largely symbolic gesture is curious. “We’ll try our best,” in writing is not very meaningful in the real political world. After all, doesn’t every politician promise to try his or her best on every “important” issue? The Governor should consider herself lucky these two legislative leaders decided to play along with this shibai “deal.” I almost wish they would have stuck to the “your veto message is invalid” position, just to see how the Judiciary would deal with it… poor Mufi probably didn’t want to put his chips down on that bet, of course.

In the Honolulu Weekly item Ragnar Carlson gives much of the credit for the compromise to Mayor Hannemann.

Hannemann, who could easily have sat this one out and used the intransigence of state-level politicos to further his own ambitions, saw that Lingle had little to gain from a veto and by all accounts went the extra mile to help forge a deal. At times, news coverage of the stalemate focused so much on Mufi that one almost forgot this was a dispute between the governor and her legislative opponents. Even had he failed to craft a compromise, Hannemann would have scored points with voters with images of him racing back from Tokyo to avert disaster like the head of some war-torn nation. Now that rail has been (temporarily) saved, the mayor?s already rising star may reach even greater heights. What the news will mean for the governor, who faces reelection next year amid grumbling from anti-tax elements in her own party, remains to be seen.

I’m not sure what news coverage Carlson is referring to, but from all I read I certainly didn’t see the focus as being on the Mayor during all this. Odd. I would also hesitate to describe the dispute to have been between the governor and the legislature. It seemed much more like a dispute between the pro-rail and the anti-tax factions both within and outside of government. The “State vs. County tax collection” question was only a convenient last-minute screen providing a (weak) diversion from that larger debate.

Finally, Leidemann gives this useful meta-commentary on the significance of this GET increase to fund transit.

For better or worse, a mass- transit system will change Honolulu forever. The full effects will take decades to be felt, but there’s no doubt that ultimately we’ll become a more urban ? rather than suburban ? place with mass transit.

Rail transit, especially, promotes density and that means more people living closer together, the defining characteristic of big city life. It’s a life that’s full of both sophisticated pleasures and deep frustrations.

But then you can say the same thing of the car-based lifestyle, which is where Honolulu will continue to head if the excise tax increase ends up dead and mass transit is stalled well into the foreseeable future. We’ll be more spread out and more on our own, which in some ways continues to be the American dream.

Pretty obvious conclusions, but not said out loud nearly often enough. Well done. His dichotomy need not necessarily be so stark. The situation he describes does point to another way out of the problem if the mass transit effort fails this time: zoning ordinances could be adjusted to require more density and prohibit new car-based, sprawling development. The demand for mass transit would very quickly follow. I would argue that under the zoning law method the changes would be even more significant and traffic relief would happen more quickly.

Furthermore, the County could change zoning laws without needing the Lege to be involved, and the Governor would have to support it as a “home rule” initiative, right? However, this option would be even more politically radioactive than this GET increase. Heh.

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The Governor’s tax philosophy defended

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:05 am
It’s interesting to see that the Lingle administration takes the Hawaii Reporter seriously enough to submit a response in their own defense when the HR questions their “tax philosophy.” I suppose when Lingle appointees are pinging on me the in that way I’ll know I have arrived as a blogger, ha ha.

In the piece Linda Smith (the senior policy advisor of the Lingle administration) seeks to defuse the charge that Governor Lingle has failed to lower taxes. Unfortunately, Smith’s effort rests on a laundry list of the failed tax relief proposals that the Governor introduced over the past few years. The Lege has not advanced her ideas. That’s her case in a nutshell. True, but surely not very reassuring to those who carp for tax relief.

Smith goes a bit too far with this, though:

The Legislature, pursuant to Article III of the Constitution, elected to return and only override 12 of the governor?s vetoes.

Senate President Robert Bunda and House Speaker Calvin Say, as the leaders of the Hawaii State Legislature, are the appropriate people to ask why they did not stay in session and amend bills the governor vetoed and enact new legislation, such as the [failed] tax measures listed above.

There were only two bills (HB 1224 and SB 1685) which were vetoed that had titles broad enough to amend tax policy and both of those vetoes were indeed overturned during the special session. Furthermore the veto messages ( PDF versions here and here) did not suggest any amendments to the Lege such that those bills might carry out one of Lingle’s tax relief schemes and thereby meet her approval.

Smith may as well have asked why the Lege did not introduce legislation during the Special Session to advance any of Lingle’s many other policy initiatives that are perpetually stalled in various Committees. Her ideas were not acceptable to legislators two months ago, and nothing has significantly changed since then.

The abridged version of Smith’s op-ed could have been, “We simply don’t have enough political juice to get much done on our tax relief agenda.”

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Akaku fires CEO

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:15 am
I saw this piece at the Haleakala Times about the removal of the Akaku CEO by a newly-installed majority of board members. This is a long-running topic, that I last mentioned here.

It happened less than a week after developer Charlie Jencks was named to the board by the state Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. {Akaku Board Chair] Inokuma said Jencks was recommended by the state Dept. of Education and Maui Community College to fill one of the four education board seats. Former Maui Chamber of Commerce president Lynne Woods was named to the other new education seat on the board. Both voted to fire McLaughlin.

The seats were one of the results of negotiations to avert legislation that would have stripped Akaku of two thirds of its funding. That legislation was initiated when another developer, Everett Dowling, asked the President of the State Senate to do so. Dowling said that Akaku wasn?t properly funding educational programming with the money it received from cable television access fees.

Obviously, on Oahu I don’t have access to Akaku. (For the record, I don’t even receive Olelo at my place since I don’t subscribe to cable.) In my opinion this would-be intrigue is a mildly titilating chapter in the tale but it remains to be seen if programming on Akaku actually becomes more- or less-supportive of development on Maui. If the new Akaku starts to move toward slickly-produced amateur infomercials raving about the latest Kapalua development then I’d become a lot more concerned. It’s not as if McLaughlin personally produced all the content that was/is critical of development, nor, for that matter, is there any reason that McLaughlin and like-minded folks could not begin (or continue) to produce anti-development programming in the future.

Ian Lind had some interesting comments on July 15 about this. Lind raised some interesting questions about how Jencks came to be named by DCCA to the Akaku board. It’s already several weeks old, and in the interest of keeping this timely, I’ll just recommend you read his post.

McLaughlin said he thought it was interesting he wasn?t asked to speak at the meeting where he was fired. He released a statement the next day saying the firing was politically motivated and in violation of state and federal law.

?I will be seeking legal counsel to evaluate my options,? he wrote.

Since McLaughlin had no contract, it is unclear what options there are. He served at the pleasure of the board and a simple majority could end his employment.

I’m curious what option McLaughlin intends to pursue, too. Firing one person does not necessarily make the case for censorship, which is the larger issue that I focus on. McLaughlin was obviously dedicated to his task, but in the bigger picture Akaku should not be all about Sean—or Everett.

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2005 Transpac recap

Filed under:
— Doug @ 8:58 am
The standings today show that Seafire finished in 4th place among the Cal 40 class, and 22nd place among the entire fleet. I guess I can live with that.

Our race started on July 11 with a very little wind and within a few hours it got even worse. Flopping and banging at times that night trying to capture any whiff of wind to inch along the course was not very encouraging, to put it mildly. In the first few days we did less than 200 miles toward Honolulu, which was about half of an average run for a single day when the winds are favorable. At times we were completely stopped for several minutes at a time.

Of course, eventually the wind began to fill in and we got on our feet and began moving along. A few days of wet and chilly jib reaching followed and the boat held good speed through most of that segment. After 4 days the wind finally backed around enough to set a spinnaker and we were launched off onto the fabled downwind slide to Hawaii. The race is timed to occur during favorable lunar phases to make the nighttime sailing a bit more fun, but for the first entire week it was overcast almost constantly. We kept busy by peeling from one spinnaker to another as the winds freshened and weakened every 10 or 15 hours. To sail continuously and avoid being without a spinnaker required that someone (i.e. me) regularly went aloft and crawled over the top of the flying spinnaker to bring the crossed halyard back down to the deck for the next two peels to work properly. (If that makes no sense to you as a non-sailor reader, sorry. Suffice it to say that the view is amazing from the top of the mast in the middle of an ocean.)

Throughout the race I think the worst position we ever had was seventh. For a few days we were actually 2nd among the Cal 40 class, but our ranking before the finish line doesn’t matter in the end. Most days we would see at least one other boat on the horizon, which is always a great way to stay motivated to keep the boat in proper trim and to sail hard.

One aspect of the race that doesn’t get much play in the media accounts is how much computers have entered (and changed) the contest. In the past only the sleds (i.e. the full-on race machines over 60 feet long) really exploited the technology, but now most boats receive weather data by email and a growing number of yachts (including Seafire) use routing software to help interpret this data into a form that suggests the fastest way to travel. We never strictly followed the advice of the software, but our reasons for not doing so were a bit ephemeral and non-quantitatve.

The software is only as good as the weather data provided, and at times the skipper and navigator would discover or believe the wind the software had predicted differed (or would differ soon) from the forecast. They also had to consider the positions of the competition and which boats were advancing or losing ground. Clearly, it’s still a hugely multivariate decision to choose a course during a race like this, but the top boats all use the same data and similar routing software. Thus, the fact that the boats diverge hither and yon shows how much intuition and tactics still play a role in the race. It’s pretty neat stuff, though I wasn’t a navigator on this trip. During this trip very few boats stumbled into large areas of bad wind, because the winds were consistent (if a bit lighter than average).

During this race my job was to sail the desired course and keep the boat moving quickly. During jibes and sail changes I did the foredeck work and I managed to complete the race without any significant problems beyond dropping a single shackle overboard. We had two nervous encounters with freighters that crossed our path and gave us no heed even after trying to contact them by radio, but other than that (and competitors on the horizon from time to time) it was mostly blue ocean with occasional encounters with pods of dolphins and lonely seabirds swooping to and fro.

As always, going to sea with a good crew makes any ocean passage on a small boat much more enjoyable. I had sailed the race in 2003 with Mick Meierdiercks, but it was my first time to sea with owner John Harrison, navigator Doug Gardiner, the able and affable Brian Caldwell, and the incredible Jacques Vincent. We gelled very well as a team and I had a great time swapping sea stories and sharing the ride with these guys. John prepared the boat very well and fed us better than I eat on shore, and everyone had a great attitude. I only regret that my next travel (this Thursday!) will preclude me from going to the TransPac prizegiving party.

I think that everyone should sail across an ocean at least once. It’s magic!

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I’m back ashore — for now

Filed under:
— Doug @ 8:45 pm
Didja miss me? ha ha.

14 days, 3 hours, 3 minutes, 11 seconds for our TransPac crossing. Not especially quick as my crossings go, but considering the first day and half was absolutely dismal winds it was about on pace.

I’m super busy doing the “re-entry into society” stuff today, but I’ll have more details tomorrow on the race.

Thanks for your patience.

Comments (1)

I’m a sailor, and I’m going to sea again

Filed under:
— Doug @ 6:57 pm
There’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that I am flying to LA tonight and on Monday I jump on a sailboat for about 2 weeks and won’t be updating the blog. All your comments will go into the moderation queue until I get back online. Yeah, I know, I’ll miss all of the veto and special session pageantry. Tell me all about it when I get back. Heh.

The good news is that I am sailing to Hawaii again from the Mainland. This will be my 8th trip in this direction, and the second this year! I’ve sailed in the opposite direction 4 times, and I’ve spent a few summers crossing the South Pacific, too. Someone’s gotta do it.

I am crew on a yacht named Seafire and we are entered in the Transpacific Yacht Race, better known as “Transpac.” The race website will have position reports and maps once the race gets going next week. The links will be along the left side of the main page.

I’m really looking forward to this because Seafire is part of the largest class in the race, the Cal 40 division. Unlike the boats in other divisions, which have widely varying handicaps, our division races pretty much boat-vs-boat, i.e. if you are in front, you are winning. Because the boats in our division are so nearly the same, no single boat is radically faster than the rest. That makes for keen competition.

Sure, the big Division I boats will finish in about a week, whereas we took 12 days in 2003, but that’s an entirely different world of paid professionals and huge budgets. We are a bunch of amateurs on vacation from our jobs, sailing a 35 year old boat and having a great time. Now that you’ve got a dog in the fight, I hope you’ll pay attention to the race and wish us luck.

If nothing else, by watching the website you’ll be able to predict when I’ll be back online, ha ha.

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Ship still aground on reef; USCG slowly investigating

Filed under:
— Doug @ 9:55 am
The Casitas grounding on the reef at Pearl and Hermes has provoked a “demand for answers,” according to this Advertiser story. What questions are being raised is not very clear, but generally it seems they want to know the details of the grounding and the impact on the environment.

“We have grave concerns about the plight of the wildlife there after exposure to the oil/fuel spill, the impact of this massive ship on the reef, and the future impacts to wildlife from oil and fuels having been released,” said Cha Smith, executive director of Kahea, which calls itself the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance.

Pearl and Hermes, a part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, at midsummer is home to pupping Hawaiian monk seals, the hatching season for Hawaiian green sea turtles and fledging Laysan albatross.

Smith also alleges that the ship had an inoperative depth sounder the night of the incident, but the Coast Guard will not confirm or deny that until an investigation is complete.

Smith said Kahea learned from a member of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve Council that the Casitas had been sailing with an inoperative depth finder ? which could have signaled that it was entering shallow water.

“Why were they under way in the middle of the night, near the reef, without a depth finder?” said Smith. “Stuff is not adding up.”

Coast Guard Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson said she could not confirm or deny the information about the depth finder. She said the Coast Guard during the foreseeable future will release no information about the investigation. She would not comment on whether the Casitas was under power when it hit the reef, whether it was suffering any mechanical difficulties, whether it had intended to anchor or had anchored near the wreck site, or other details.

“Nothing is going to come out on that until the investigation is complete and signed off by headquarters,” she said.

See you around about November, then, I reckon…

An earlier story had reported that there are large charting errors in that location.

One of the issues, even today, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is that some navigational charts for the islands are based on early surveys and are not entirely accurate. The Coast Guard cutter Kukui reported last year that when it anchored off Pearl and Hermes, its satellite navigational signals placed it inside the lagoon when plotted on the chart.

Hmmm. If that is still the case, and if the depth finder was not working properly, then it becomes fairly easy to imagine how this may have occurred. There are other explanations possible (some sort of mechanical failure could have left the ship adrift or unable to manuever, for instance), but it will be maddening if the investigation finds that this was a simple case of bad seamanship and/or poor watchstanding. Especially so if it snowballs into an environmental debacle.

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Superferry dodges EIS lawsuit

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:14 am
After a few weeks off of the radar, the Advertiser has news that the Superferry will not have to complete an EIS for its shore facilities on Maui.

The Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow and the Kahului Harbor Coalition had demanded that the interisland ferry undergo a full and lengthy environmental review before starting up.

However, 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza ruled yesterday the groups had no standing to bring the lawsuit, and that the state and the Hawai’i Superferry properly followed environmental law.

I am not a lawyer, but this sounds a bit odd. If environmental and community groups have no standing, then who would have standing to file this sort of case? Also, I seem to recall that Mr. Garibaldi said this lawsuit must be resolved by June or they would lose their private funding deals. That was a bogus squishy deadline, apparently.

On a more meta level, this reminds me of the pending lawsuit against the Hawaii Tourism Authority asking that they do an environmental review before spending state money to increase the number of tourists that come to Hawaii. That suit started a nationwide debate and is still pending at the Hawaii Supreme Court. There are many things the State spends money on that will have an impact on the environment but do not explicitly “fit” into the specific language of the environmental protection laws. In the short term this is efficient for getting things done, and obviously there needs to be some balance of the economic and environmental concerns. In the long term, favoring the economic side may just bite us in the okole.

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Bill 40 passes 2nd reading; Gov waits anxiously by the phone

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:25 am
Another day, another whack at the HB 1309 and Bill 40 punching bag.

Yesterday the Honolulu City Council passed Bill 40 on second reading 7-2 (Councilmembers Djou and Marshall opposed). The Advertiser has a story here and the SB piece is here. Also new is a post at Representative Schatz’s blog that links to this Borreca column which I somehow overlooked on Sunday.

Early yesterday, about 200 people from a group called the Coalition for Transportation Solutions rallied at Honolulu Hale in support of the transit tax bill. A day earlier, about 25 people who oppose it rallied outside of City Hall.

Sometimes I wonder if a small turnout inflicts more harm to a cause than not even rallying, but whatever.

But whether the Council takes a final vote on the bill on Aug. 10 could ultimately rest with Lingle and the Legislature.

Lingle has said she will not veto the measure if the Legislature changes the bill so that counties and not the state would collect the tax. If the Legislature does not go into a special session, she wants state lawmakers to commit to making the changes next year.

“My position is clear. I said if the change isn’t made, I will veto the bill, and that is why it is on the veto list,” Lingle said. “I would expect in these few days leading up to the 12th, they will start to take that action. I have been surprised they let it go this long.”

Lingle has until Tuesday to veto the measure.

Start to take what action? The Legislature is not even in session, so it is impossible to amend the bill by July 12. Oh yeah, the “action” to provide the Governor with a face-saving but meaningless “commitment” to change the bill. Maybe the Lege is waiting until the 12th and then will send her a written proclamation of intent to commit—with a typographical error…

“Suprised they let it go this long.” Heh. Pot, this is kettle. You’re black.

[Congressman] Abercrombie said Lingle should sign the bill or allow it to become law without her signature to follow through with her long-standing philosophy of allowing the counties to make their own decisions.

“Her complaints have nothing to do with rail transit,” Abercrombie said after the rally. “It has everything to do with politics.”

He said her concerns about who will collect the tax is an “administrative problem” that can easily be remedied after the bill goes into law.

Lingle did not respond directly to Abercrombie’s comments, only saying, “I am avoiding politicizing this issue because it has always been an issue of home rule to me. I don’t want to get into disagreements with other politicians.”

Hmmm. Always? Well, according to Borreca’s column, less than 2 years ago this was a mass transit issue to the Governor and she was ready to take an unpopular stand.

Lingle had said she would lobby the Legislature to allow counties to raise taxes. That would allow Honolulu to raise money for mass transit projects, she said in the winter of 2003.

When asked about the political perils of being associated with a tax increase, Lingle said leaders were hired to lead and she would not flinch.

Back then the Governor was speaking like Representative Schatz is now:

The legislature shouldn’t actually take the Governor to court on the basis of a technical flaw in a veto message. This flaw is indeed real, and plausible legal arguments can be made on either side, but we are supposed to be leaders, and we shouldn’t work to impose the largest tax increase in the state’s history, despite a veto, on the basis of a clerical error.

Let me be clear – I’m for the transit tax, and I think the Governor’s flip-flopping is unproductive. But for me to argue that as a legislator I was not given notice of Intent to Veto may have some technical merit in court, but it has no merit in real life.

Confidential to Schatz: Please include links to the posts from other blogs (i.e. my post) you write about (and the newspaper articles, too) so readers can follow up easily if they want to read the whole thing and not just an excerpt. Mahalo.

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Manshostilskin invoked in the HB 1309 saga

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:52 am
Reporters seem to have poked sticks into Governor Lingle’s and Mayor Hannemann’s cages yesterday and were able to elicit some comments from them about HB 1309. The SB publishes the exchange here.

As the City Council is set to take the second of three votes today on a mass-transit tax bill, Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Mufi Hannemann continue to bicker over how to administer the tax.

“I think the mayor should focus on talking to legislators who have the ability to make the change that I’m suggesting,” Lingle told reporters yesterday.

But Hannemann said he continues to be in discussions with state lawmakers. He said it is up to the governor to make a decision, because he continues to support House Bill 1309, which would authorize the counties to increase the general excise tax to 4.5 percent from 4 percent for transportation projects.

The measure is now before Lingle. She has said she will veto the bill by July 12 if the Legislature doesn’t commit to changing the bill so that the counties, not the state, will collect the tax.

“I think he should support the change if his main focus is on dealing with the traffic issues on Oahu,” Lingle said.

Hannemann said the governor is inviting public pressure by waiting until July 12 – setting up a situation similar to one that caused former Councilwoman Rene Mansho to cast the deciding vote against a tax increase for rail transit in 1992.

After her mistake last week, the Governor is on a sinking “veto threat” ship. The last liferaft is already being lowered—and it is occupied by the Mayor.

It makes little sense for the Mayor to change his mind and to join the Governor in pressuring key legislators to “commit” to ammending HB 1309. Mostly because any “commitments” made by legislators at this point are non-binding and Hannemann would look silly to hitch his wagon to that lame horse. Beyond that, since the Mayor has previously warned that the expense of the City collecting the tax is too much, changing his mind would find Hannemann easily caricatured as a “raise the tax at any cost” politician.

Hannemann is correct in his likening of Lingle to Mansho. This public pressure is of the Governor’s own making. If this “home rule” tax collection matter was truly a key component necessary to avoid her veto, then Lingle should have made that perfectly clear much earlier (or at least not waited until the very last day to proclaim her veto intention with insufficient time to correct any flaws). Now, with the option of a veto very much in doubt (if not eliminated), Lingle is in a jam.

If the Governor thinks that opponents of this bill are going to be any less upset with her for insisting on home rule tax collection “commitments” while still allowing the bill to become law, she needs to think again. The only thing that will satisfy the opponents is a veto, but I don’t think she will do it because traffic congestion has to be high on central- and leeward-Oahu voters’ minds and the dominant meme among those people is probably “the legislature has a way to possibly get us federal money to ease traffic, and I don’t care who collects the increased GET.” Her come-lately “home rule” criticism sounds pretty esoteric to many average people stuck on the H-1.

The Lege must be loving this. Even if a “commitment” to amend the bill were of any utility, I would not expect them to explore that very seriously if they believe that the proclamation of intent to veto is flawed. Thus, they don’t need to do anything and may sit back and watch the Governor twist in the wind. Nothing, of course, prevents the Lege from attempting to make amendments to the bill next year without any commitment to the Governor. Heh.

Comments (1)
Think tank “push” poll on Akaka bill

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 9:06 am
The Advertiser carries a story about a new poll paid for by a local group opposed to the Akaka Bill. The poll finds more people oppose the bill than support it, with no majority opinion because more than one third of the sample did not respond to that question. The group behind the poll is described a bit in the article, and I have some more on that topic in this post.

Quickly on the scene, of course, Scott Crawford has a new post with a link to the actual survey questions asked and responses obtained. He argues that neither this poll nor the earlier OHA poll were well-designed and, for that reason, doubts the data from both polls. I think that’s probably fair, although I would give Ward Research (OHA) the nod in polling credibility compared to ccAdvertising (GIH).

“The governor, Sen. (Daniel) Akaka, Rep. Case, OHA (Office of Hawaiian Affairs): they’ve all said the people of Hawai’i overwhelmingly favor the Akaka bill,” Rowland said. “This shows that two-thirds of the people don’t support it.

“This whole debate has been one-sided because all we’ve been getting is political correctness,” he said.

He called for an amendment to the bill that would allow for a direct vote.

Hmmm. Were there any direct votes when Native Americans were recognized by the U.S. government? I dunno. I tend to think not, since I find it hard to believe that such a direct vote (if any occurred) would have found a non-Native majority willing to give Native Americans something of value. In the instant case, even the Hawaiian community is split, so a majority would be even harder to achieve. Which, of course, is Rowland’s point in calling for an amendment.

Anyway, a direct vote of what population? U.S. citizens? Hawaii citizens? Native Hawaiians (defined how?)? On a purely procedural basis, there is no voter initiative process on the federal level. I do not know of any process to make enactment of a federal law contingent upon a direct vote in a state, though just off the top of my head it would seem contrary to Federalism.

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Leader of campaign donations probe retires at HPD

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:08 am
Sigh. Another reason to keep watch for a decline in the quantity and quality of illegal camapign contribution investigations. The Advertsier has an article today about the retirement of Major Daniel Hanagami of the HPD, an investigator who played key roles in some high-profile white collar crime investigations and most recently was investigating illegal campaign contributions.

You might recall that earlier this year the Senate confirmed Randall Lee to a judgeship after a successful career as a prosecutor of illegal campaign contribution offenses.

At some point the exodus of these key players has to start making it easier for illegal donors and corrupt government employees to evade detection and prosecution. Hopefully these two men were able to mentor suitable replacements, as I’m sure they provided us with very specialized services that would take quite a while for a replacement to master. Campaign season, believe it or not, is coming soon.

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Peter Parker returns from Asia

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:17 pm
I just stumbled across this post from a Hawaii offical who recently travelled to Asia. It’s, uh, not quite as polished and carefully-worded as the Governor’s 10-part account of the same trip, to be very generous.

Pertaining to both China and Thailand, I learned about the good and bad things capitalism does, especially to less fortunate people. The good point is that it brings outside revenue into developing areas and as time goes on, life conditions improve. With more competition in the market, workers can choose the type of jobs they want and better working conditions. The bad point is that some companies are looking at workers as statistics, and may not be sure how much money is actually going to the workers, or if there is abuse. There is also the child labor, labor trafficking, and forced prostitution issues. Money is power, and with great power, comes great responsibility. [gag!]

In Thailand, I was very impressed with the kindness of the people there. On the other hand, I saw how poverty affected people. Women utilized their beauty to survive or get ahead in life. I became friends with several Thais. When I left Thailand, my emotions for the Thai people were very strong.

[raised eyebrow]

Must. Resist. Cynical. Comments.


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Bill 40 second reading tomorrow; demonstrators mobilizing

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:34 am
PBN has two articles about the supporters of HB 1309 urging citizens to ask the Governor to support the bill so that Bill 40 may advance at the Honolulu City Council, one based upon comments by the Chamber of Commerce (skimmed from this and this at the CoC website) and another quoting Mayor Hannemann. From the opposing side, the Hawaii Reporter has a piece urging readers to attend a rally today (already pau, actually) at Honolulu Hale, even though the Council meets to vote on Bill 40 tomorrow. Odd timing, but whatever.

The second of the Chamber of Commerce websites above also refers (in generalities) to the recent op-ed and “open letters” attacking them for their support of HB 1309 and other controversial legislation. The Chamber notes speicifically that the Hawaii Business Roundtable (another group of powerful business and community leaders) supports HB 1309, contrary to what the attacks had claimed.

I am confident that Chamber members believe in their Chamber and we will continue taking the high road, focusing on the issue and providing information from both sides.

Does that sound confident to you? I dunno. Since they have “no members” the opposition does not need to respond to attacks and may take a more militant position. The Chamber doesn’t have those options.

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Big Island to truck Eastside opala to Westside

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:53 am
Both Honolulu dailies run an AP story about the need to haul refuse from East Hawaii to a landfill near Kailua-Kona beginning next March. The Advertiser has it here, and the SB has a slightly pared-down version here. I had touched on a related topic a while ago in this post.

Oahu thinks we have a rubbish problem, and we do, but this Big Island situation really seems to have become a boondoggle. It’s hard to believe that there is no appropriate site on the windward side of the island for another landfill—it’s called “the Big Island” for a reason… As far as I know, even with a high-tech solution, there will be some rubbish that needs to be placed in a landfill. Can hauling it 200 miles really be the solution they prefer?

“We are committed to minimizing what goes into the landfill,” Mayor Harry Kim said at last week’s meeting. “I feel this is a good plan, and all the components fit.”

But Kim also said the plan to haul trash to Pu’uanahulu is unacceptable for the long term and urged support for the sort/reload station while a new method of disposal is sought.

Puna Councilman Gary Safarik sees a major flaw in that plan.

“Those two ideas are diametrically opposed,” he said, as it will be difficult to attract a private for-profit contractor while simultaneously seeking to reduce the raw materials by nearly one-half.

I think Councilmmeber Safarik needs to listen to the actual rubbish-haulers quoted later in the article, because as it stands now they sound overwhelmed with the volume of rubbish they would need to haul.

Souza’s father, two brothers and a nephew are employed by private rubbish haulers Business Services Hawai’i and she worries the extra work ? sorting, reloading, driving ? will cut into family time.

Another residential and commercial hauler, Steve Araujo, said long-hauling may cost him his livelihood.

“I need to know if I’m going out of business in eight months,” he said. “I would need 28 hours a day just to do my job.”

Now that 28 hour workday might please Thomas Friedman, but it’s hard to outsource this particular task to India…

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Happy Independence Day

Filed under:
— Doug @ 5:22 pm
Sorry, no posts today. I went sailing from Kaneohe to Waikiki. Now I’m going out onto another boat to hear LS at the Bayfest and watch the fireworks.

Back tomorrow with da usual kine stuffs.

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Outdoor Circle grows – into what?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:13 am
The Advertiser has an interesting article today about the Outdoor Circle. It includes a discussion of their past, present, and upcoming activity. Good stuff for those who might only know them as the “anti-billboard” group.

The Outdoor Circle, founded by the wives of Hawai’i power brokers and best known for eliminating billboards in the Islands 78 years ago, has quietly diversified its membership and last month began a new era under the leadership of the former mayor of Houston, a city where billboards once ran rampant.

“The organization knew on some level that to survive and attract new people, this is the direction they needed to take,” said Mary Steiner, chief executive of the nonprofit, 3,500-member group. “We’re very well aware of the Outdoor Circle’s reputation: Little old haole ladies in tennis sneakers who chain themselves to trees ? women who were married to wealthy, prominent men in the state.”


The group had began recruiting younger women ? and men ? since, but got help last year when Whitmire took over as the Outdoor Circle’s membership chairwoman.

The board is now an even split between men and women, ranging in age from early 30s to 82. The average age is now in the low 50s.

People age, but as they age their children become adults. Is it still accurate to characterize the membership as connected to the wealthy and the prominent? Yes or no, it seems they have had an inordinate amount of influence. They are aware of their blueblood image, but do little to confirm or deny it since the reputation (even if it is not the reality) works to their advantage when it comes time for them to take action against their opponents. Walk softly and carry rumors of a well-rooted family tree, if you will.

I am of mixed emotions about the group. Overall, I am glad that there are no commercial billboards allowed in Hawaii, and the group certainly polices that issue vigilantly, but I am not comfortable with the negative side effect the billboard ban has on political speech in this state. The baby got thrown out with the bathwater.

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Weighted student formula just one factor of education “reinvention”

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:33 am
The weighted student formula got most of the attention this week, but today an op-ed in the SB today describes the many other parts of the Reinventing Education Act of 2004 that have yet to prove their effectiveness.

It’s a useful primer on the many lesser-known aspects of that wide-ranging bill, but the article mentions (13 times!) that “critics say” blah blah blah, but the article does not identify who these critical voices are. I don’t deny that there are critics and that the bill (and the DOE) has problems, but this anonymizing makes me wonder if all these “critics” Tschumy mentions are also associated with “the Hawaii Educational Policy Center, a nonpartisan research organization.” If you are part of a group and the group has something to say, then say it—don’t hide behind a flimsy “critics say” shield. End of meta comment.

The adage “too much of a good thing” could be applied to Hawaii’s school system. Since Hawaii is a statewide school system with funding primarily from state tax revenue, schools in wealthier areas have no more funding because of their location than schools in poorer areas. That’s the upside.

The “upside,” yet there is “too much” equality? Hmmm. That’s a telling comment—if it was carefully chosen and does not appear here as only a tossed-off cliche.

As far as I can tell, the paragraph excerpted above is the only positive thing Tschumy had to say in this piece about Act 51 and the DOE. I think that the equality of funding from rich areas to poor areas, i.e. the “good thing,” is the latent bone of contention for many of the loudest “critics” of the DOE. How a decentralized system could ever maintain that “good thing,” is a mystery to me. If there is any place with multiple school boards where the per-student funding is equal across all the boards, then I’d like to hear about it to examine the educational outcomes (and to see how it was possible to achieve it politically!). However, I doubt these places exist. I think even the “critics” would agree that there is a definite correlation between wealthy districts, generous education spending, and high student achievement.

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Ship clearing debris from NWHI may itself become debris

Filed under:
— Doug @ 6:17 am
The SB has a story today about a ship chartered by Hawaii-based scientists removing debris from the Northwest Hawaiian Islands that has gone aground. I take interest in this story not only because I know some of the people who have done this task in the past and may have been aboard the Casitas for this trip, but also for the more general reason that I work on research vessels fairly frequently myself.

The Casitas, under charter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was en route to Maro Reef and French Frigate Shoals with NOAA and University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) scientists on an annual marine debris cleanup when it ran aground on Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

Ironically, during its marine debris voyage last year the Casitas discovered the remains of what were believed to be the whaling ships Pearl and Hermes, which struck a reef in 1822. The atoll is named after the sunken ships.

Six work boats from the Casitas were used to take people about to North Island, where they planned to camp.

Unfortunately the map included with the article is sort of crude and doesn’t show how far it might be from the Casitas’ location to North Island. I would guess that it is very nearby, but if that is a long distance that evacuation by small boats could itself be rather perilous. It’s good to hear that the Oscar Elton Sette has diverted to assist them and that the Coast Guard is actively monitoring the situation. I wish them well.

Of course, it would also be a tragedy if the Casitas were to spill its stores of petroleum products into that protected environment.

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After 8 innings: Numbskulls 1, Lingle 0

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:07 am
A stern lecturing for “numbskull” legislators today in the SB editorial that also compares blatant legal errors to mistakes in a newspaper that are corrected the next day. Well, in my opinion, a correction is in order for this:

GOTCHA tactics in Hawaii politics reached a new low when Democratic legislators suggested that a technical error would nullify Gov. Lingle’s veto of a bill allowing counties to trigger increases in the state excise tax to fund transportation projects. If the measure dies, it will be because legislators chose gamesmanship over reconciling their differences with the governor.

Uh, at this point, the only way this bill will die is if the Governor vetoes the bill.

If she signs the bill, the “gamesmanship” is, obviously, not an issue.

If she vetoes the bill and the veto is challenged in court it could mean either a) that the courts find her proclamation was invalid and the bill becomes law; or b) the Governor’s veto killed the bill (because she must know that there are not enough votes in the House to override her veto).

The Governor wants to negotiate the “home rule” amendments she would like. She may still do that, only she must now do it with a much weaker threat of veto in her arsenal. Since the “written promise from the Legislature to make her amendments” strategy was a dubious tactic to begin with, this is really not that much of an additional setback for her.

If the measure dies, it will be because the Governor chose gamesmanship and then fumbled at the goal line.

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Shipyard future gets a second look

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:02 am
It’s all so preliminary that it’s hard to say anything of note, but it is still big news that there is even talk of considering a closure of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. The Honolulu dailies are both on the story, of course. The Advertiser has this, while the SB has two pieces—one here, and another here. The LRB blog also has a post with useful links directly to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission source documents.

Anthony J. Principi, chairman of the commission, said facts gathered during the panel’s hearings and base visits, as well as public comments gave rise to questions about the bases on the review list.

As part of the review process, Principi asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to explain why Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard was not recommended for closure and its functions spread to Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia, Maine’s Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington.

“Naval Shipyard Pearl Harbor is less efficient than Naval Shipyard Portsmouth, according to Department of Navy data, and additional savings could be found from reduced unit costs at the receiving shipyards because of a higher volume of work,” Principi said in his request.

“Naval Shipyard Pearl Harbor has low military value compared to other shipyards, according to Defense Department analysis supporting the recommendation to close Naval Shipyard Portsmouth.”

Less efficient? Well, I dunno, but low military value?! Somebody needs to track down that Defense Department analysis…

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Weighted student formula presses down on Hana

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:28 am
The Maui News has a piece today about the schools on Maui that stand to gain and lose funding under the proposed weighted student formula. These stories are already becoming formulaic; “we’ll cut staff,” and, “we’ll adjust as best we can.” Duh.

What’s more interesting is some of the comments the piece includes from school officials and politiicans.

[Principal] Paul said when he transferred as administrator of the Kihei Public Charter High School to Hana High and Elementary School in fall 2004, he saw a tremendous increase in budget from one campus to another.

?I knew we were kind of fat in Hana. . . . I thought we probably had more than we would have in other places,? Paul said. As an example, Paul said the Hana campus with approximately 375 students had two vice principals and two counselors ?who all do a great job.?

That is certainly not something you’d expect a principal to say about his own school, but it does reinforce the overall goal of the weighted student formula concept.

Board of Education Chairman Breene Harimoto, who was part of the ad hoc panel that approved the weighted student formula proposal, said he shares concerns about schools losing substantial amounts of money.

?Our intent is to look at how to help these schools. It?s a huge chunk for these schools to lose,? Harimoto said. He added that he hopes the BOE and staff with the state Department of Education will be able to figure out ?something special? for schools facing budget cuts.

[Complex Superintendent] Okamura said he ?definitely? expects communities to lobby their lawmakers for money to offset losses under the weighted student formula.

No surprise that Harimoto and Okamura are planning to fight for more money to try to restore the funding to schools that face a reduction under the weighted student formula. More surprising, however, is that Senator Tsutsui seems willing to jump into that fray, too, even though he supported the bill in 2004.

State Sen. Shan Tsutsui, who represents Central Maui and Lower Paia, said he expected the losses and gains under the weighted student formula. But Tsutsui said the schools may be able to make up for their losses, given that the state?s Council on Revenues is projecting additional tax revenues of as much as $150 million going to the state General Fund.

Tsutsui, vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he would be open to looking at using some of the extra $150 million in state revenues for education.

?I don?t think the intent for us was to strip schools of their funding,? he said.

He said he hoped that the Board of Education and the Department of Education would submit a report to the Legislature, if necessary, to ask for additional funding for schools that may be losing funds and facing cuts in school programs under the proposed formula.

Tsutsui said another solution could be to modify the legislation to extend the time period during which the weighted student formula will be implemented, to reduce the impact on schools that will lose funds under the BOE plan.

Well, that’s great. Senator Tsutsui “expected” the losses and gains, even though they were not “intended.” Which is it? Not to put too fine a point on it—if the funding is restored to the schools losing funds then the weighted student formula will be a sham. It seems to me that legislators need to take their political lumps and repeal it, or live with the unpopular (but “objective”) results.

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Be it resolved, she flubbed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:37 am
More on the bungled intention-to-veto proclamations today in a SB piece by Borreca. Meanwhile, over at iLind today there is this comment on the larger context.

All the bickering over whether or not Gov. Lingle’s transit tax veto notice is legal seems silly and trivializes the underlying transit issue. It seems to me that the legislature has to assume that it is legal and proceed accordingly. If she exercises her veto, they should consider an override, and quit debating the ultimate legal meaning of the now much publicized typo. Don’t quibble about the small stuff, deal with the issue. At this point, I agree that a rail system would make Honolulu a more livable city in the long run even if its not a magic bullet against traffic congestion, and will benefit us on the windward side indirectly by concentrating growth along its leeward route. So I’m afraid that I’m with Mayor Mufi again. Let’s get on with it.

Fair enough, but those that agree with the rail system concept should support this “bickering” because it is not at all a sure thing that the House would find the votes to override the (maybe-) veto.

Borreca basically confirms my hunch from yesterday with this section of his piece:

Lingle maintains she correctly identified the bill elsewhere in the document, but legislators say the mistake occurred in the final paragraph, the so-called “be it resolved clause.”

“Everyone may know what you meant, but this is a legal document and you have to read it literally. From my thinking this is a fatal flaw,” said Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kaimuki-Palolo).

Then there’s the AG, still confident in the validity of the proclamation:

Attorney General Mark Bennett said he thought the veto message was valid and Oshiro’s interpretation was wrong.

“The courts and the Constitution always favor substance over form,” Bennett said.

Interesting. So, has this happened before in Hawaii? I found a 1997 speech by Chief Justice Moon where he said the Judiciary (or, rather, the Supreme Court) indeed favors substance over form—when dealing with documents presented for filing:

In another effort to make Hawai`i’s courts more accessible, the Supreme Court adopted what is now commonly referred to as “The No-Bounce Rule.” The rule essentially provides that the courts must accept all documents presented for filing, regardless of form. Although this means more work for the clerks and judges, the nobounce policy has been well-received by the Bar, individuals who represent themselves, and other court users and represents our on-going commitment to promote substance over form.

That suggests that the AG may be correct about the Judiciary preference for substance over form, but there have been many times where the Legislature’s intentions for a bill are obvious yet the Executive insisted that a simple typo (i.e. an error in form) was enough to compel a veto of the bill. [UPDATE: The most recent example, her threatened veto of HB 85 because of a reference made in the bill to the wrong side of Forrest Avenue that the substance of the bill obviously did not intend.] Thus, in my opinion, the Executive is being hypocritical if they expect the Legislature to adopt a “you guys know what we meant” standard.

I did not find anything in the U.S. (or Hawaii) Constitution about substance over form, but I don’t claim to be an expert. That would make this argument moot, which leads me to suspect there is nothing to find.

Anyway, I guess Bennett’s statement is not to be entirely unexpected coming from the man that argued at the US Supreme Court that government need not show its actions are rational… Heh.

Finally, there’s this shrewd move from Senator Hemmings and his GOP caucus:

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are asking Lingle for “a decisive veto” today.

“Sending the veto message on or before the close of business Friday would clear up the ambiguity of her intent and allow the Legislature time to react accordingly,” Sen. Fred Hemmings, the GOP leader, said. Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo) said all five Senate republicans were calling the bill “the largest tax increase in state history.”

“If the Democrats want to go to court to fight for the largest tax increase in state history, be my guest,” Hemmings said.

That assumes that the Governor intended to actually veto the bill and did not simply intend to use the proclamation as, uh, “leverage” to obtain a (written?) promise for her desired amendments to be made. If these 5 proclamations are invalid, that leverage goes away. She won’t veto the bill today.

If she does, then I’ll just edit this post. Kidding!

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DOE winners and losers plan for the future

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:20 am
The Advertiser has two pieces today continuing on the topic of the weighted student formula being applied to DOE school budgets. One here and the other here.

First, an interesting discussion of the formula and its interaction with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The proposed formula, which would begin taking effect with the 2006-07 school year, faces a final vote this month or next by the full BOE.

The formula would assign specific dollar values to schools based on the income levels of students’ families, the likelihood that they speak English as a second language, grade levels, and school size, among other factors.

Some school board members are considering adding safeguards, such as a cap on the percentage that any school’s budget could be reduced in one year, before a final vote is taken.

Still, reaction yesterday was strong at schools where anticipated funding shifts were substantial.

Jarrett [Middle School] is one of 24 struggling schools deemed most in need of help after missing academic targets for several years. It has been “restructured,” or taken over by the state, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Fully two-thirds of those schools would lose money under the new [weighted student] formula.

Hmmm. From that outcome, it would seem there is little correlation between the factors used to calculate “student need” (i.e. family income, English fluency at home, school size) and the test scores upon which the NCLB evaluates “academic targets.” Either that, or two-thirds of the NCLB restructured schools were “overfunded” previously, yet still were unable to improve test scores. Something to chew on a while.

The other Advertiser piece recounts a conversation with the DOE official who led the effort to develop the weighted student formula.

The current system of dividing money among schools is a position-driven formula based largely on the size of student populations, but subject to other influences, such as “squeaky-wheel syndrome” ? aggressive administrators who seek more funding for their schools, [DOE program manager] Moore said.

“Theoretically, it’s focused on the students, because the formula is typically enrollment-driven, and the allocation of the non-formula positions go by the perception of need,” he said. “But the result is that we have these imbalances. … And the extra resources are, or are not, used effectively.”

“Squeaky-wheel syndrome” is exactly what I foresee if the formula goes into effect, as agressive administrators (and their legislators) seek to, how was it said? “make whole” those school budgets that lose money under this plan.

Editorially, the charts and tables in yesterdays (and todays) pieces are great, but if the formula is really based upon a “per-student” funding concept, then why not provide some sort of table showing the before and after per-student funding allocation at each school? It means little to a reader looking at a chart where school X lost 1% of their budget and school Y gained 2%, because we don’t know if school Y has, for example, 20% more students than school X. Generating this table would entail some tedious data crunching (they must have a few summer interns, right? ha ha), and the DOE might prefer the data not be compared in that form, but it would be useful.

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Center to treat vets with mental health problems to come to Oahu

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:28 am
Today I see this piece in the SB that seems to follow up on an article I saw in the Hilo newspaper on Wednesday. The topic is a 16-bed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Rehabilitation facility in Hilo that may close and be replaced with a 4-person office on Oahu.

Both reports give a similar explanation for the move (although the WHT piece has some weird “every word is capitalized” typeset issue):

The agency cited the high cost of leasing the current 16-bed facility for the PTSD Residential Rehabilitation Program and the need for a more central location to treat a new generation of combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

What I found much more troubling was the justification is partially based upon the volume of Oahu-based troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

But about 15 percent of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan live on Oahu and are expected to need short-term treatment, a VA statement said. Both outpatient and residential treatment will be available at the new center, the VA said.

I’m glad these vets are getting (or will receive) treatment that they need, but I had no idea that so many veterans would require care.

The two reports differ in their characterization of the staff reaction at Hilo. The SB:

Although the Hilo staff will be offered jobs on Oahu, none are happy about making the move, [state worker] Ribbentrop and [veteran] Eaglin said.”

The WHT:

[VA official] O’neill said more than half of the Hilo employees want to move to Oahu and the VA will provide them with a “very generous” relocation package.

Uh, if they are reducing staff from 12 at Hilo to 4 on Oahu, and “more than half” want to move to Oahu… you do the math.

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Lingle snuffs “rumor” of Hawaii secession

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:12 am
The MCBH newspaper, The Hawaii Marine, has a follow-up story covering the speech I previously mocked here. It’s again a front page story, and again it provides an unintentionally funny quote:

Members of the audience asked about issues concerning veteran’s benefits and the Akaka Bill, which is the Native Hawaiian Recognition bill. A question was also asked about the rumor about Hawaii succeeding [sic] from the United States. The governor answered by saying it was just that — a rumor.

It would seem that Governor Lingle has either not been reading Scott Crawford’s blog carefully about “secession,” or that she is overly pessimistic about any chance of “success” in Hawaii, ha ha. The Marines also presented Governor Lingle a KA-BAR fighting knife as a gift. Oooh rah!

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