Poinography!

January 10, 2009

Poinography December 2005 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 1:36 pm

Poinography!

12/31/2005

Auditor and UH bicker over money and autonomy

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 11:03 am
Several sources pile on the newly-released financial audit of the UH-Manoa campus by Marion Higa, but they all have missed the real story in the rush to focus on the “he said-she said” exchange. There are articles at PBN, the Advertiser, and the SB. The full-text of the University response is here.

In my opinion the real story here, that no newspaper mentioned, is what the scathing audit means for the University as it tries to gain more autonomy. The auditor’s report approaches it a bit obliquely, but the message is clearly there:

The granting of greater administrative flexibility to the University of Hawaii has evolved over the years. Exempt from certain Hawaii Revised Statutes that regulate other state agencies, the university enjoys authorization to transfer general fund appropriations and budgetary flexibility that allow the institution more discretion to spend without detailed legislative and executive control. Still, the University of Hawai?i?s aim is towards greater autonomy. As such, prior to considering granting full autonomy to the University of Hawaii, the Legislature must be assured that the university has established policies and procedures as well as systems to adequately manage its operations.

I had to chuckle when the audit scolded the University for not justifying its base budget as the incremental budget request is generated at the BOR/Executive levels and then proceeds through the Legislative process. No other Executive branch agency is held to much (public) account for their base budget, so this should have been no big surprise to the Auditor (see page 2 of the UH response letter). Of course, few other large agencies are working to expand their autonomy from Legislative oversight to the extent the UH is, either. The state’s “performance-based budgeting” is a farce, in my opinion, yet the Auditor defends it without irony.

Legislators and the public want to know whether government resources are managed properly and used in compliance with laws and regulations. They also question whether government programs are achieving their objectives and desired outcomes and are being provided for efficiently and effectively. For this reason, in 1970, the Hawaii State Legislature established a comprehensive program and financial management system based on the principles of planning, programming, and budgeting (also referred to as performance-based budgeting). The system?s objectives were to provide legislators with a tool to measure programs? progress toward achieving their objectives, focus managers on attaining program objectives, and use systematic analysis to improve management. Essentially, in performance-based budgeting, policymakers link appropriations to outcomes by using performance information when making budget decisions and including such information in the actual budget document.

Turning then to the “he said/she said:” I find it a bit rude that the audit does not reproduce the response letter in full; and, of course, the Auditor always gets the last word. It is her report, after all. Heh.

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Written public comments on mass transit – a good start

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:51 am
Today the SB picks up the story of the delayed release of written public comments from the mass transit scoping meetings. The article is worth reading if you want to get a feel for the public sentiment, but I will focus here on—what else?—the politics of the fight to read the comments.

The newspaper requested to review the sheets at both the Dec. 13 meeting at the Blaisdell Center and Dec. 14 meeting at Kapolei Middle School, but the city denied the requests.

A city spokesman acknowledged at the time that the documents were public records, but maintained that he did not have to provide immediate access to the documents.

Last week, the Star-Bulletin submitted a letter requesting access to the documents after the city insisted on the written request.

City spokesman Bill Brennan could not be reached for comment.

That seems to be pure pettiness on the City’s part. The UIPA does not require that, and the City obviously had every intention to release the documents upon written request. So, why insist on the request?! The city required a written request simply to frustrate the media, that’s the explanation I reach.

Earlier this month, the city presented several mass-transit alternatives – including four rail routes – at so-called public “scoping” meetings, which are required as part of the process for seeking federal transit funding and which are designed to let the public know the scope of the project to help improve traffic congestion along a 23-mile corridor from Kapolei to the University of Hawaii.

The city also wanted to hear whether members of the public had any ideas to add. One way to submit written comments was on a form that was provided at the meetings. After writing their comments, people were asked to deposit the form into a box.

By November a study is scheduled to be produced that will detail the pros and cons of each alternative and make a recommendation on a preferred alternative. The City Council will then choose a type of transit to be used.

The city released copies of 178 pages of public comment sheets.

Other comments have been submitted by the internet. What do those say?

Still more written comments could have been sent by the postal service. What do those say?

How many people made use of the stenographers who were transcribing oral comments at the scoping meetings? What did those folks say?

All these records are fair game, too. For the sake of full reporting, and to yank the city’s chain again, I suggest the media prepare another written request to release all of the comments.

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Hawai County planners staff up

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:14 am
I’m not sure if this is big news or not, but the West Hawaii Today has a story announcing a new duo joining the Haryy Kim administration to focus on planning.

Roy Takemoto, 51, a former land use consultant, will formally move over to the mayor’s office to fill an executive assistant position that has never been used by the current administration. Takemoto will join former state senator Andy Levin, attorney Bill Kenoi and long-time county administrator Wendell Hatada as mayoral assistants.

Meanwhile, Brad Kurokawa, 48, also a land use consultant who is employed by PBR Hawaii, will assume Takemoto’s position under Hawaii County Planning Director Chris Yuen.

——–

Takemoto, who is on vacation until the end of the year and could not be reached for comment, has actually been on the mayor’s payroll since February, said [Hawaii County Managing Director] Kaetsu. “He came to us with the proviso that he would do both jobs until Chris could find a replacement.”

But filling Takemoto’s position was more difficult than county officials imagined.

“Roy was running himself ragged and Chris was beginning to feel like a wallflower at a school dance,” said Kaetsu. “He’d ask someone and they’d say no. But you have to understand that with the way things are right now in development, everyone on the outside had too many projects to accept his offer.”

Takemoto’s position was not filled during Mayor Harry Kim’s first term because of budgetary constraints. “We came in during tough times and in order to cut the budget, we defunded the position,” said Kaetsu. “We’re in better times now so we’re able to fund it.”

Kaetsu said Takemoto’s current duties include assembly of the Kona Community Development Plan, Puna Community Development Plan, affordable housing and revision of the Subdivision Code. He is also involved in upcoming county initiatives such as impact fees , needs assessments, circulation studies, an expedited permitting system and hazard mitigation.

Perhaps part of the difficulty in finding people willing to do civil service planning work was caused by the cloud hanging over the County regarding Hokulia. Or not.

By the way, is there anybody working for Mayor Hannemann with duties comparable to Takemoto’s? If not, I think there should be.

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Significant property tax relief is here – on Maui at least

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:56 am
Nothing particularly notable about this Maui News reminder to taxpayers about an upcoming deadline, except for this little nugget that jumped out given the current mood on Oahu.

The deadlines apply to anyone seeking a $200,000 basic homeowner?s exemption, or exemptions for charitable organizations using property for nonprofit activities, disabled veterans, Hansen?s disease patients and the disabled.

Oahu is considering almost doubling its $40,000 basic exemption, while Maui’s exemption is already five times as generous. Interesting, no?

Comments (1)
D.C. to act again re: Akaka Bill after long stall

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:46 am
The Hawaii Reporter scores a scoop with a post announcing that there will be Akaka Bill hearings in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2006. The catch is that this will not be the long-delayed Senate debate, but instead on the agenda before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Sources in Congress tell Hawaii Reporter this will likely be the only official government hearing on the bill, also known as the Akaka Bill, in D.C. – at least until March or April of 2006. The Senate, which convenes Jan. 18, 2006, has a number of issues to address. That [sic] includes the confirmation of [a] U.S. Supreme Court justice, the War on Terror and fall out [sic] from Hurricane Katrina, [these issues are] expected to keep Senators occupied for several weeks or even months of the session.

Well, it’ll be a very long wait if the Senate will not take up this Bill until after the War on Terror…

The commission is composed of eight Commissioners who serve 6-year terms: Four appointed by the president, including the chair and vice chair, and four by Congress.

The commissioners, who research various civil rights issues and complaints and provide critical and analytical expertise in evaluations of those issues, have the power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas. The commission lacks enforcement powers, and so refers the many complaints it receives to the appropriate federal, state, or local government agency or private organization for action.

The Commisioners number only seven right now (with one vacancy). Four are Republicans, 2 are Democrats, and one is an “Independent” academic whose work (availabe at the link) often focuses on affirmative action. Probably not a venue where the majority will be sympathetic to the Akaka Bill, would be my prediction.

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12/30/2005

Group “key” in fight for repatriation – not exactly

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:38 am
Pretty disappointed in Lee Cataluna’s op-ed column today on the subject of Hui Malama. Not because I necessarily disagree with the crux of her argument, I remain agnostic, but because of her subtle manipulation of the debate. Note the bold-faced words (emphasis mine):

Who is Hui Malama to make decisions for all Hawaiians?

That question has been flipped around quite a bit lately.

The question is asked as if to insinuate that this group showed up unannounced one day. As if it was just a bunch of guys who got together and made up club rules.

Hui Malama I Na Kupuna ‘O Hawai’i Nei is the go-to organization for the repatriation of Native Hawaiian remains and burial objects.

The federal government said so.

Hui Malama I Na Kupuna ‘O Hawai’i Nei is recognized by the U.S. government as an organization with legal standing for repatriation and reburial, as well as consultation on such matters.

Not good. Using the expression “the go-to organization” to describe Hui Malama has much more punch than describing them as “an” organization among other—equally legitimate—organizations. Cataluna may have read the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act, but she did not choose her words carefully enough. I find her choice of words to be an intentional attempt at deception—instead of a fair attempt at presenting her argument.

After the Act defines Hui Malama in Section 2 (6); it goes on to define “Native Hawaiian organization” in Section 2 (11). The definition for NHo incorporates Hui Malama, and from that point on the substantive language of the Act refers only to “Native Hawaiian organization(s).”

?Native Hawaiian organization? means any organization which?

(A) serves and represents the interests of Native Hawaiians,
(B) has as a primary and stated purpose the provision of services to Native Hawaiians, and
© has expertise in Native Hawaiian Affairs, and

shall include the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai?i Nei.

In my estimation, Cataluna errs, then, by describing Hui Malama as the “go-to organization” because “the federal government said so.” I mean no disrespect to Hui Malama by noting this, but it seems Cataluna intended disrespect to the other Native Hawaiian organizations towards whom she subsequently casts aspersions of “complicity” and implies that, because of the steadfast work by Hui Malama on behalf of the cause, the dissenting Hawaiian organizations in this case should be considered usurpers to Hui Malama’s (legally non-existent) primacy. At base, Cataluna has a moral argument to make, and she should feel free to voice it, but in her piece she has offered her opinion masquerading as (legal) fact.

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Relief v. Revolt

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:44 am
A bit more today on Honolulu property tax reduction proposals. The Advertiser has an article, while both the Advertiser and the SB have editorials on the topic.

The O’ahu County Democratic Party joined the growing call for tax relief yesterday by announcing the creation of a task force to seek “a fair and equitable real property tax system.”

Mike Abe of the O’ahu County Democrats said the party will work with families and elected officials to come up with tax solutions.

He said property owners are not the only ones affected by potentially higher property taxes.

“Property tax increases will be passed along to renters,” said Abe. He said the bills proposed by council leaders do not address that issue.

But [Councilmember] Kobayashi said she has been exploring ways to prevent the cost of property taxes from being passed along to tenants.

Hmmm. That sure sounds like code for “rent control,” which is a wholly separate can of worms. Is Kobayashi really going to go there? Proposing rent control would be a politically bold step, to say the least.

Over on the editorial page, the Advertiser weighs in to support tax relief via legislation instead of by means of a (difficult and time-consuming) ballot questions put to the voters.

Especially where the developing tax revolt is concerned, politicians can’t afford to wait any longer to move toward a more moderate approach to taxation than what’s in place.

A grassroots movement is organizing, one aimed at repealing the recent general excise tax hike to finance mass transit on O’ahu. A petition being circulated for the past two months deals specifically with the excise tax, but clearly the recent furor over assessments for property taxes has added kindling to the fire.

Even people who supported the excise tax increase to help fund mass transit are stunned by property valuations that, unless the tax rate is curtailed, will dig deep into taxpayers’ pockets by 25 percent to 30 percent.

They’re starting to believe that the drivers (the voters) have lost control of the whole taxation vehicle and that Hawai’i needs a serious course correction.

They’re right ? but that correction should not be as radical as some propose.

——–

The City Council and the mayor in particular must not let this situation fester, but should pre-emptively offer a reasonable tax proposal that acknowledges the effect of skyrocketing property values on ordinary citizens, businesses and our entire economy.

Turning the taxation steering wheel to a rational direction as soon as possible will be far easier than attempting to throw the car into reverse later when an unrealistic tax policy will be on the books and all but impossible to erase.

Meanwhile, the SB editorializes today on the same wavelength as an observation I posted yesterday:

Though [Mayor] Hannemann has said reducing property tax rates is not an option – as did Council leaders – taxpayers’ outrage could persuade him to change his mind.

However, proposals by Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz and budget chief Ann Kobayashi might produce a snarl of credits and reduction qualifications that could complicate tax calculations.

——–

What they also haven’t tallied yet is the affect on revenues their plans would cause and how to prevent fraudulent claims that might result. Moreover, they must still reckon any revenue losses with the increasing costs of running the city.

…and the “taxpayers’ outrage” is only likely to build. Can the Council and the Mayor reign in the “tax revolt” idea and calm the nervous electorate? If they are unable to agree on a response quickly, the public may just give up on them. In that light, January 23rd seems to be a long way off…

Comments (3)
Economic momentum suggestions now in governor’s hands

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:14 am
I am certainly glad I saw this story at the PBN about the final report (PDF) of the Economic Momentum Commission, because it alerted me that my previous post is no longer true. In that post (which was based upon the version of the Final Report available on the web at that time) I wrote that some of the preliminary recommendations were not incorporated into the final draft. The PBN piece says that the recommendations were all incorporated, so I had to check again. PBN is right. Weird. I can’t explain it. I was pretty careful about comparing the drafts and the final report last time…

Anyway, on to the politics of the report:

The report includes recommendations relating to initiatives that Lingle proposed earlier this week in her fiscal year 2007 supplemental budget, such as tax relief and renovating public schools. But she has not said whether she will integrate the ideas into her plans.

——–

The commission presented its report to Lingle Monday night during a ceremony at Washington Place. Lingle made it clear when the commission was formed that she would not necessarily accept or implement all of the recommendations.

If Lingle chooses to ignore any of the recommendations then we can expect legislators to make hay with those issues. Clearly, all the EMC recommendations have built-in credibility and, uh, momentum merely because they are the ideas of the (mostly) influential Commissioners. I would not be surprised to see many of these recommendations become bills as part of the Governor’s, Minority and/or Majority Packages, and I expect some of the recommendations to spawn derivative ideas, too.

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2006 will begin with increase in minimum wage

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:27 am
The SB has reminds us in this article that the minimum wage in Hawaii will be changing this weekend.

The wage increase – by 50 cents an hour to $6.75, with another 50-cent rise to take effect the following year – was overwhelmingly supported by lawmakers and labor unions, who say many of the state’s lowest-paid workers have to juggle multiple jobs to earn decent pay. However, it was met with criticism from small businesses and Gov. Linda Lingle.

Small businesses said increasing the minimum wage could force them to raise pay scales across the board, ultimately resulting in lost jobs if the economy turned.

Lingle, who was concerned about the impact on small businesses, had urged lawmakers to consider other measures to help businesses that would be affected by the wage increase. She endorsed reducing the pay gap for tipped workers, known as the tip credit, which is currently 25 cents an hour less than the prevailing minimum wage. Lingle also advocated lowering the rates that businesses pay into the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, but her suggestions won no support in the Legislature.

That’s an accurate summary, but nevertheless the bill to raise the minimum wage was not vetoed by Lingle. Instead, the bill became law without her signature. The Governor was attacked (and remains vulnerable to attack) from the Right for her “failure” to denounce (i.e. veto) the heretical legislation.

As little as 6 percent of Hawaii’s work force earns minimum wage, and more than half of them work in service occupations that are supplemented by tips, said James Hardway, assistant to the state labor director.

“Less than 3 percent of workers make straight minimum wage,” Hardway said.

Well, which is it? The minimum wage increase only helps less than 3 percent of workers, or increasing the minimum wage ultimately raises pay scales across the board?

Comments (0)
12/29/2005

Honolulu Councilmembers offer property tax relief legislation

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:50 am
The SB has a piece today that provides very rough outlines of three ideas to lower property taxes for Oahu homeowners who are learning of their substantially increased property assessments. The public must have been really letting members of the Council have it, if the fact that half of the Letters to the Editor at the Advertiser today concern property tax assessments is any evidence.

The three proposals from Council Chair Dela Cruz and Budget Committee Chair Kobayashi are online at Docushare: Bill 80, Bill 81, and Bill 82. The bills will be heard on January 23, 2006. The article does not mention any projected effects on tax revenues, not surprising, as those would be difficult estimations to make since the number of applicants who would qualify and the assessed values of their properties are unknown.

The bill described as a 10-year limit on property tax increases for homeowners who promise not to sell is, if you read it, actually an indefinite limit, since extensions will be automatic. On the other extreme, the third bill is a one-time only credit. If enough people take the time to testify, maybe we’ll see a third “Pearl Harbor” moment at the Council on January 23rd. Heh.

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City discloses written transit comments

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:28 am
Mike Leidemann must be on vacation, because a different reporter wrote this “transit beat” story for the Advertiser today. The story is based upon the written comments submitted at the two recent “scoping” meetings for the Honolulu mass transit study. I had posted about the SB’s efforts to see these comments earlier, so it’s a bit surprising that the Advertiser beat them to the story. Anyway, it’s encouraging that the comments were released more-or-less promptly (pretty much spot on the 10-day window allowed by the Uniform Information Practices Act administrative rules). However, to pick at the scab a bit more, the transcribed versions of the oral comments must also, by the UIPA, be made available by the city to anybody who asks to see them.

In nearly 200 written statements released yesterday by the city, residents expressed support, concerns and suggestions about a rail system, which will likely be made of one of three technologies ? light rail, monorail or magnetic levitation ? and run between Kapolei and Manoa along one of four routes.

The written comments were collected during two meetings held at the Neal Blaisdell Center on Dec. 13 and at Kapolei Middle School on Dec. 14 and will be used by city planners to develop the mass-transit system. The meetings were part of a federally required process for all mass transit projects that hope to receive federal money.

About 400 people attended the Blaisdell meeting, and 150 to 200 people attended the Kapolei meeting, according to the city.

——-

Other residents were concerned less about whether rail would work and more about which of the various technologies and route options were the best.

Jason Chun said he would like to see an elevated rail system that would give tourists and residents a good view of the island. “I loved riding the monorail in Tokyo to get a good view of the city,” he said.

However, a relatively large portion of the residents who submitted comments were against elevated routes. Sandy Moneymaker wrote: “To build anything over head/elevated would be an environmental sin. … Open space and the beauty of the island is what brings visitors and we know we cannot live without them.” She said she supports street-level rail.

All four of the proposed routes would be an elevated, fixed-guideway rail line beginning in Kapolei through downtown Honolulu and ending in Manoa. In between, however, they all follow different corridors at certain points.

Residents were mixed on which of the four routes would be best. But several residents wrote that routes that connect to Honolulu International Airport, Central O’ahu, Hawai’i Kai and Diamond Head should also be explored.

Most residents had no opinion about any of the three rail options ? light rail, monorail or magnetic levitation. The majority of those who did expressed opinions similar to that of state Rep. Kimberly Pine, R-43rd (’Ewa Beach, West Loch) who wrote: “Please use the quietest technology possible.”

Hmmmm. The “quietest technology possible” would be a bicycle/pedestrian route. Heh.

The article is unclear if the substance of these comments will (or must) be addressed in the final product, or if the comments are only solicited and then annotated in some official log. It would also be useful to scan the names of those submitting comments to see if any of the other high-profile (or should I say, “high-volume”) transit players weighed in. Cliff Slater? Charles Djou? Kitty Lagareta? haha.

There are almost certainly some “low-volume” but influential business interests weighing in, too (though they may be hard to discern if they only identify by name). In my experience, the bigger the stakes for any particular business are, the less likely it is that they would have participated in the public scoping meeting. However, all of the written comments received before the January 9, 2006, deadline should eventually be available for review.

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Hawai’i board to debate ad policies

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:42 am
The Advertiser has a short piece today about advertising to public school students (apparently as a tie-in to a wire service story from the mainland about advertising on the side of public school buses).

I posted at greater length about this BOE proposal before, and I still think it is a bad idea. But the debate could prove interesting nonetheless. The article does not say when the BOE will take up this matter. It is not on the agenda for the next meeting, and detailed future agenda have not been posted at the BOE website.

For instance, one idea being batted around is that companies be allowed to sponsor positive messages encouraging health and nutrition and study habits, rather than just advertising themselves.

The question then would be what kinds of companies would be allowed to be sponsors. It’s common sense to ban cigarette and alcohol-makers, but it is not as black-and-white when considering soft drink and electronics companies, [DOE spokesman] Knudsen points out.

“You have to draw a line somewhere and that’s where it may get a little trickier,” he said.

Yep. And guess who wants to advertise to these students most (and is most willing to pay top dollar for access to the market)? The businesses who peddle various unhealthy products and/or lifestyles, naturally.

Comments (0)
12/28/2005

Hui Malama – foreshadowing a post-Akaka Bill world?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:50 am
A bit of drama involving Hui Malama yesterday, as Federal Judge David Ezra found Ayau in contempt of court, sending him to the Federal Detention Center near the Honolulu Airport until the court learns the location of the disputed artifacts. The Honolulu dailies both have accounts (here and here), and bloggers weigh in, too (here and here).

UPDATE: The Washington Post and New York Times also carry a short AP piece.

Ezra discussed how all sides in the dispute have strongly held religious beliefs that severely counter one another. He likened the ardent belief and the resulting divisiveness to other religious differences, such as those in the Middle East, where he said some feel compelled to strap bombs to themselves in the name of their beliefs and that others find those beliefs abhorrent.

His point was that in such rigidly opposing religious battles, under American law, no one group is right.

“Unfortunately, like any religion, there are those who believe differently,” Ezra said.

He noted that while Hui Malama believes the artifacts are burial objects that ancestors wanted buried with them, which are wishes they honored, others believe they are not such items. They say they were common religious items that could be openly displayed until 1819 and the end of the traditional Hawaiian religion, which meant that many such items were hidden in caves for safekeeping so they would not be destroyed by mobs.

Ezra said: “Unfortunately, Hui Malama has taken it upon itself to determine their way is the right way, the only way. We don’t tolerate that in our country.”

As I mentioned yesterday, I took the time to read the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act. The current situation, to put it mildly, is an example of “competing claims,” which the Act discusses in section 7(e) found on page 177.

Where there are multiple requests for repatriation of any cultural item and, after complying with the requirements of this Act, the Federal agency or museum cannot clearly determine which requesting party is the most appropriate claimant, the agency or museum may retain such item until the requesting parties agree upon its disposition or the dispute is otherwise resolved pursuant to the provisions of this Act or by a court of competent jurisdiction.

These competing claims arise because, unlike Native American tribes, there is no (single) clearly-defined legal entity that legally supersedes the various entities that represent (or purport to represent) Native Hawaiians. The Akaka Bill would put in motion a process to resolve that uncertainty (at least in theory), but the Bill is not-at-all certain to even come to a vote in 2006. While NAGPRA specifically mentions OHA and Hui Malama as legitimate “Native Hawaiian organizations,” it does not preclude other organizations from bringing forth competing claims. Even if the artifacts were returned today, this ambiguity is the crux of Judge Ezra’s current predicament he describes above. NAGPRA does not (and, indeed, probably could not) provide any guidance to the court as to how to resolve competing claims for these artifacts when the arguments supporting the competing claims are, at base, alleged to be theological in nature.

It’s fascinating for me to watch this play out, but for many others this is clearly much more than an abstract legal battle.

Comments (0)
Audit skeptical of hiring practices

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:30 am
Both Honolulu dailies have articles (Advertiser piece here, and SB report here) about the latest report from the Legislative Auditor. The report scrutinized civil service “exempt” positions in the Executive branch. The audit finds that various practices make it difficult to exercise any legislative oversight of these workers and the funds being spent to pay them, but, in my opinion, there are no shocking revelations.

The Legislature’s audit request also asked for a review of deployed positions.

Auditors selected for further review 15 positions that were funded by one agency but deployed to another. Five of those positions were deployed to Gov. Linda Lingle’s office, and the rest to Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona.

They include the governor’s policy analyst and senior policy adviser, and the state’s drug-control liaison assigned to the lieutenant governor’s office.

“While the use of deployed positions in this manner may be legal, we question whether the practice is an efficient and effective use of resources or just a means to circumvent the legislative approval process,” the audit stated.

Hmmmm. Maybe I’m mis-remembering this, but this sure sounds reminiscent of a dispute that the Lege had with the Governor previously. I did a bit of Googling, but can’t seem come up with the specific search terms/names to unearth that history (if it does, in fact, exist). Does anyone else remember this? If so, leave a comment and/or link to whatever you can find to refresh my memory.

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GET surcharge faces long-shot challenge

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:48 am
The Advertiser reports today that a petition effort is underway that seeks to put a question on the 2006 ballot to amend the Honolulu City Charter. The article is not as clear as it could be, but I can deduce from what is there that the petitioners want voters to be presented a question of amending the City Charter to allow the initiative process to deal with taxes. Currently the initiative power does not extend to authorizing or repealing the levy of taxes, among other limitations.

Should this petition drive be successful and the Charter amendment pass in 2006, then another petition would be necessary for the voters to authorize or repeal a tax (the article mentions a repeal of the GET surcharge in particular, but I think it could only apply to property tax rates—see below). If, after the 2006 election, a second petition gathered enough signatures then in 2008 voters would see an initiative on the ballot to levy or repeal taxes.

While trying to familiarize myself with the process to amend the Charter, I came across this Charter Commission website. They are currently looking at many amendment proposals, including two that would allow voter initiatives on topics related to taxation (here and here). However, those two were not among the proposals that the Commission voted on earlier this month. In fact, out of about 100 proposals, the Commission only records votes (passing or failing) for 20-some proposals on December 13, 2005. Another Commission meeting is scheduled for January 10, 2006, but, even though other tax-related proposals are on the agenda, the relevant proposals will not be voted on at that meeting either. The Commission has until August, 2006, to finish their work.

If the Commission does not approve either proposal, then a “two petitions and two ballot questions” process would be necessary for Oahu citizens to undertake a “Proposition 13?-kine property tax cap (or reduction). However, notwithstanding the main premise of the article, I do not think this process could be used to undermine the GET surcharge and, by extension, kill the mass transit project. Here is why:

As I understand it, the State Constitution, specifically Article 8, Section 3, required that to put the surcharge in place, the Legislature first had pass enabling legislation to authorize the County to do it. That Act was narrowly-worded and specific as to the allowable process and the scope of any surcharge. More fundamentally, the Act only allows Counties to amend the GET until December 31, 2005. Thus, to amend/repeal the GET surcharge by ballot initiative (or, for that matter, by Council action) would require further enabling legislative authorization, or an amendment to the State Constitution (which, likewise, would also require Legislation to be included on the 2006 ballot). Neither is an outcome I’d bet any money on, but they are theoretically possible.

Not that my doubts would ever stop the petition supporters from trying. Indeed, for many of the politicians quoted in the article, this quixotic effort is almost as politically useful as the remote chance of success. Heh.

Comments (0)
12/27/2005

Native Hawaiian groups divided by Hui Malama issue

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:06 am
Today is the day we will learn the fate of the officers of Hui Malama, assuming they appear before Judge Ezra this morning as ordered. Yesterday several rival Native Hawaiian groups held a press conference deriding Hui Malama, and both Honolulu dailies have the story (Advertiser and SB.) The dispute is getting ugly, with representatives from each side calling their opponents “un-Hawaiian.”

“We condemn the shameful, un-Hawaiian behavior of Hui Malama,” said Cy Kamuela Harris of Kekumano ‘Ohana, reading a statement also on behalf of Keohokalole ‘Ohana, Van Horn Diamond ‘Ohana and Na Papa Kanaka o Pu’ukohola Heiau.

“This is not a cultural issue. It is a legal struggle for fairness and equality for all Hawaiians, and to restore those legal rights that were violated by Hui Malama,” Harris said. “… This is a fight between Hawaiians resulting from Hui Malama’s mistaken attitude that it has the authority to make decisions for all Hawaiians and then shove it down our throats.”

——–

“Hui Malama’s leaders are not martyrs; they are liars,” said Harris of the Kekumano Ohana yesterday, reading from a statement signed by three other claimants: Keohokalole Ohana, Na Papa Kanaka o Pu’ukohola Heiau and the Van Horn Diamond Ohana.

“How can we be lying?” said Murakami, Hui Malama’s attorney, adding, “It’s a sad day when Hawaiians accuse other Hawaiians of being liars without any basis. By this press statement, I’m not sure who is being un-Hawaiian.”

Again, I do not presume to have any insight as to which side is correct. Setting aside the specific arguments made, the essence of this struggle is that whatever the court does this morning it will not resolve the tension between these groups.

I’m going to take a bit of time today to become more familiar with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). I am curious how/if the law anticipated resolving these types of disputes. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have more to say (since I’m sure I’ll be posting on the topic Wednesday after the hearing today).

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Reside above a DOE charter school in Kakaako?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:27 am
The Hawaii Community Development Authority may consider a novel housing/school hybrid development in Kakaako, if the community demonstrates a desire for it, according to this Advertiser article.

Details are sketchy, but there would be an unknown number of below-market rate “affordable” housing units in some sort of condominium tower built over a charter school and community center.

The state Hawai’i Community Development Authority is suggesting that the site could be redeveloped with charter-school space to serve children from the broader community with preference to Kaka’ako residents.

Below-market residences would be for rent and sale. Other elements of the concept include a combination community center and police facility, enhanced and expanded Mother Waldron Park and perhaps a library and auditorium for shared school and public use.

“We think we can do something unique ? a model urban school that has not been seen in Honolulu before,” said Daniel Dinell, executive director of the agency guiding redevelopment of Kaka’ako.

Dinell said available land restricts where the state can establish a new school in Kaka’ako, which is projected to be one of O’ahu’s fastest-growing residential neighborhoods with more than 25,000 people moving in over the next 25 years.

Elementary schools typically occupy seven to 10 acres and are often fenced off from the surrounding neighborhood.

“We don’t have seven to 10 acres to invest in an entire school,” he said. “On a single site you can have that live-work-play combination.”

Under the concept, the school, housing and community center could be developed in a multi-story complex to leave enough room for the expanded park.

It’s an interesting concept. Teachers and students commuting by elevator would be about as convenient as a school could possibly be! However, if there are truly 25,000 new residents expected in the area over the next 25 years then at some point it seems clear that there will need to be some land condemned to provide enough space for adequate schools.

The affordable housing component is, of course, also very timely and welcome. Still, I’m confused how this development will “pencil out” when the controversial Kakaako Makai redevelopment project was said to require retail and market-rate housing in order to be economically feasible. Apparently HCDA is willing to finance this using state money.

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12/26/2005

Renewable energy to be one of Lingle’s themes for 2006

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:56 am
The PBN has a story (a pretty generous word, given the paucity of detail) about the Governor’s intention to introduce a package of energy-related bills at the 2006 Legislature.

Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration is planning a major initiative on alternative energy and fuel conservation that she plans to make a priority for the upcoming legislative session.

Lingle is expected to assemble a package of multiple bills that offer incentives to attract investors in alternative and renewable energy, require state buildings to be more energy efficient and generally make it more financially attractive for utilities to find new ways to deliver power.

Each bill is aimed at achieving the state’s legally required goal of drawing 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. At present, about 7 percent of Hawaii’s energy comes from renewables, primarily biomass and geothermal energy.

——–

The initial package of legislation to be proposed by Lingle is still being fine-tuned and her spokesman, Russell Pang, declined to discuss details.

“We are not ready to talk about it yet,” Pang said.

In her 2002 campaign, Lingle, a Republican, said advocating the use of alternative energy would be one of her action items as governor.

“The state must take the lead to stimulate renewable energy use and research, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” she said in her “A New Beginning for Hawaii” campaign brochure.

The campaign material suggests some of the measures that may be included in her upcoming energy plan.

Well, there is a reporting strategy that we don’t see often enough: comparing a politician to her campaign literature. Well done! Pang may soon wish that the Governor had released more details of her initiative, especially if her legislation is less ambitious than her rhetoric. Heh.

Kidding aside, many (if not most) experts believe the days of cheap petroleum are history. The sooner Hawaii starts down the renewable energy path, the better. In addition to the benefits of reduced waste and pollution, renewables will only become increasingly cost-competitive. If current trends continue, in the not-too-distant future renewables will be a better economic value than petroleum—even without subsidies and tax incentives.

In some of the scary scenarios put forth in the “peak oil” literature, Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to economic calamity when the price of petroleum begins its final climb. The tourism we depend upon is tied directly to the price of petroleum (jet) fuel. When the price of petroleum is so high that tourists are priced out of long-distance travel, then what? Likewise, the petroleum fuel for commercial ships and all manner of military equipment has a huge impact on, respectively, consumer prices and the economic feasibility of the military presence in Hawaii.

If there is any sanity among politicians, the issue of our transition away from a petroleum-based economy should quickly and continuously gain their attention and lead to action.

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CCA guards allowed Hawaii prisoner to be beaten

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 8:13 am
Today the Advertiser has a story following up on an ugly incident I posted about earlier. On July 17 two Hawaii inmate housed at a private prison in Mississippi were severely beaten after the cell doors of rival inmates were remotely opened.

The incident at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Center began when 20 cell doors in a prison disciplinary unit abruptly opened at 2:48 a.m. on July 17, releasing about three dozen Hawai’i inmates from their cells.

The unit was reserved for particularly unruly convicts or prison gang members, and some of the inmates who emerged from their cells immediately attacked prisoner Ronnie Lonoaea in his cell, prison officials have said.

Lonoaea was hospitalized after the attack with head and other injuries, and inmate Scott Lee, 25, suffered a broken jaw in the disturbance.

Inmates used a telephone cord to tie shut the entrance to the Special Housing Incentive Program unit to keep corrections officers out, and Tallahatchie prison staff had to drop tear gas grenades from the roof to regain control of the unit about 90 minutes later.

Hawai’i Department of Public Safety officials demanded a “high level” investigation of the incident, and Lopez said prison owner Corrections Corporation of America submitted a letter to the state outlining the company’s findings.

Lopez said the summary of the CCA findings suggested the doors opened because an officer accidentally pushed the wrong button.

Prison officials have said a relief sergeant pushed the button that released the inmates, and both the sergeant and the captain responsible for overseeing the unit no longer work at the prison.

While the sergeant and captain of the private prison guards responsible at the time “no longer work at the prison,” I would not be at all surprised if the Corrections Corporation of America merely transferred them to another facility.

Lonoaea has been released from the hospital and moved to the Florence Correctional Center in Arizona, where he is in protective custody, said Shari Kimoto, administrator of the Department of Public Safety’s Mainland branch.

Windward O’ahu resident Sandra Cooper, who is Scott Lee’s mother, said her son was attacked after the cell doors in the unit opened, but said prison staff accused Lee of misconduct in the incident. Cooper said she is glad to hear the state is investigating the disturbance, but skeptical the investigation will accomplish much.

“From the very beginning I have asked who pressed that button,” Cooper said. “I still want them held accountable, as they’re holding our children and our family accountable for everything they’ve done.”

My earlier post led to two comments from Lonoaea’s distraught young niece, and even she was akamai enough to understand that the cell doors must have been intentionally opened. As for Cooper’s desire to hold the staff accountable, I’d be surprised if she is even able to learn the names of those guards responsible, let alone to see them charged with any crime.

To his credit, Hawaii’s Acting Director of Public Safety Frank Lopez is pressing the question and has sent staff to investigate further.

Lopez said he is not questioning CCA’s findings, but said he ordered the state internal affairs investigation in late October because he wanted more information on whether there might be gang involvement, and whether prison staff in any way “worked with” the inmates in the incident.

“I have further questions that they didn’t answer,” Lopez said.

Mahalo to the Advertiser for this follow-up. It’s been about two months, is the internal affairs investigation still ongoing? I hope that the results of the investigation are publicized and that appropriate charges are filed if warranted.

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12/25/2005

Charter school using DoD curriculum is sought

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:09 pm
I was off visiting friends this Christmas morning (and what a great morning for a motorcycle ride!), but finally got around to browsing the news just now. I notice an Advertiserarticle about a push to establish a DOE charter school using the U.S. DoD Schools curriculum.

The school would be on or near Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa and is envisioned as the first step toward building a nationwide system of schools for military dependents.

Petitions are circulating at Schofield Barracks and on other bases to gauge support, and a $25,000 grant from the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation is being used to explore options.

——–

Theresa Rudacille, a military wife and volunteer with the conservative/libertarian advocacy group Grassroot Institute, is leading the charge to create a pilot DOD charter school in Hawai’i as a first step to building a nationwide system of schools for military dependents. The hope is to offer a curriculum based on more traditional teaching methods of drilling and memorization found in DOD schools at military installations around the world.

The DOD already provides schools for dependents whose families are stationed overseas, plus a few within the continental United States. But the agency has been looking to divest itself of its U.S.-based schools rather than acquiring more.

Rudacille is convinced that having schools in Hawai’i with the standard DOD curriculum would be the best way to serve children of military families who come to the Islands.

It seems pretty clear that this effort is closely tied to the EMC’s and Governor’s recent comments—which is the chicken and which is the egg, it’s hard to say. According to the GIH website, Rudacille’s effort hopes to use a building that formerly housed a Catholic school in Wahiawa. As such, it would be a so-called start-up charter school, so it’s safe to assume that removing the cap on new start-up schools will be their preferred strategy. Should the legislature fail to raise the cap on start-up charter schools (a task force studying the issue did not recommend that action), then the option to convert an existing public school into a charter school would still remain.

The connections between this effort and the pro-school-voucher Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation (as well as the connection to the GIH) are going to raise some eyebrows, suspicions, and opposition. Strangely, the ambitious goal of “a nationwide system of schools for military dependents” is incongruous with the typical “local control” argument advanced in support of charter schools. The article notes that the DoD is trying to divest itself of schools in the United States (while still providing schools for military dependents in foreign countries). This plan, however, seems to focus more on the DoD curriculum than on who admisters the school.

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12/24/2005

Holiday trash pickup canceled

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 6:35 am
Pretty slim pickins for political news on this day, and I see that as a good thing.

Anyway, there is this: Oahu residents who usually have Monday & Thursday rubbish pickup will only have Thursday pickup after Christmas and New Years. The PBN has the story, as does the Advertiser, and the SB.

[City Rubbish Guy Environmental Services Director] Takamura said that means that about one-third of O’ahu residents ? about 60,000 households ? who get regular rubbish collection will have only one weekly trash pickup instead of two.

Nakanelua said the two days are the only holidays observed as days off by the refuse division, where crews work six days of each week, Monday through Saturday. “On every other holiday, we perform our work as we normally do,” Nakanelua said.

Nakanelua said union officials found out through a radio news report that the city had announced regular refuse pick-up on the two Mondays. And that’s when they notified the city that “we are recognizing that benefit in the contract and enjoying the holidays.”

Regular rubbish pickup will resume on Tuesday, Takamura said.

Nakanelua said the next time that the holidays will be observed this way will be in 2011.

Well, that’s only true in the broadest sense. For these particular households this will happen to them again next year—when the two holidays both will fall on Monday.

I’m on the Wednesday & Saturday schedule and I never fill up my bin twice in a week, so I don’t really care. It would be interesting to know exactly how/where these pickup days are assigned to see what areas (Council districts?) of the island will bear the brunt of this.

I don’t begrudge the refuse workers these two paid holidays, especially since they report to work on all other holidays. Of course, I’m sure there will be some letters to the editor grumbling…

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12/23/2005

Hui Malama gets new court date

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:43 am
Both Honolulu dailies note that Hui Malama officials have been ordered to appear before Judge Ezra in federal court on Tuesday morning. The Advertiser piece is here and the SB article is here. Incidentally, the SB pegs the hearing to be at 9 A.M. Tuesday, but an Advertiser PDF of the actual court order shows it as 10 A.M. ??

Ezra yesterday ordered Hui Malama’s executive director Edward Halealoha Ayau and its board of directors to appear in his courtroom on Tuesday. Ayau said he and the others will appear in court and “show cause why we should not be held in contempt. It’s up to him to decide whether what we’re saying is contemptuous or not.”

——–

Rather than disclosing the locations of the objects, Hui Malama members Wednesday issued declarations explaining that their religious and cultural beliefs bar them from revealing the exact whereabouts.

It would sure have been helpful if the Advertiser had also included PDFs or excerpts of those declarations, but whatever.

Ezra’s order stems from a long-standing legal dispute between Hui Malama and two other native Hawaiian groups, represented by La’akea Suganuma of the Royal Academy of Traditional Arts and Campbell Estate heiress Abigail Kawananakoa, who founded Na Lei Alii Kawananakoa.

Late yesterday, Suganuma and Kawananakoa issued a statement that said: “Judge Ezra is giving Hui Malama every opportunity to provide the required information despite its history of misleading and evasive statements to the court and Hawaiian community.

Most troubling is the revelation only last Friday that artifacts were put in more than one cave, and that, contrary to prior statements, they are not secure.”

The statement said Hui Malama was “willing to hijack Hawaiian culture and history in their desperate effort to avoid accounting for the treasures that were loaned to them.”

Suganuma and Kawananakoa also sharply disagree with Hui Malama’s strongly held belief that the artifacts needed to be reburied in the caves from which they were taken in 1905 because they were funerary items that ancestors chose to have buried with them.

“Important cultural artifacts were stored in caves to protect them from destruction and loss. They were being preserved for future generations, not to be buried and lost forever or stolen and sold on the black market,” they said.

It’s too bad that Hui Malama has stopped talking to the SB, because that statement from Suganuma and Kawananakoa deserves some form of response.

What a thicket! I don’t even pretend to know which side is “right,” nor am I sure that my haole opinon on that debate even matters. We do know this, however: Hui Malama members must contemplate what could be the very high personal stakes if they hold this course, while the other two groups assume much less risk for putting forth the argument they make. Talk is cheap.

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Senator explains recruitment letter

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:59 am
An ethics issue is brought to our attention today in this Advertiser article by Derrick DePledge. This time it involves Senator Espero and a letter sent to Hawaii high school students. The novelty of this story is that Espero appears to have been misled by his alma mater, Seattle University, as to how the letter would be used.

Espero, D-20th (’Ewa Beach, Waipahu), said the university asked him to provide a letter and a copy of his letterhead as part of a recruitment drive in Hawai’i that was mailed to about 1,100 recipients. He insists, and e-mail correspondence between him and the university confirms, that the university promised the appeal would be labeled as an unofficial, personal letter from the senator.

But the letter and envelope were made to look as official as possible as an incentive for recruits to open it and distinguish the pitch from dozens of other college marketing letters they might receive. The university paid the costs of producing the letters and envelopes and for the postage, so no taxpayer money was involved. The only way to tell the mailing was not from Hawai’i was the Seattle postmark.

Espero said he was comfortable with the letter on Senate stationery but not with the way the envelope was presented, after he was shown a copy by The Advertiser. After thinking about it more, he said he would probably reconsider the entire format.

Hmmm. That SU request for a copy of Espero’s letterhead (with the State seal) would not seem to fit with the understanding (supported by the e-mails, according to DePledge) that it would be an “unofficial, personal letter from the senator.” i.e. Espero should have found no reason to provide them a copy of his letterhead.

Michael McKeon, the dean of admissions at Seattle University, said university staff mistakenly left out a disclaimer that the letter was unofficial and personal. The university approached Espero, McKeon said, because he was a distinguished graduate whose experience might be persuasive to young people in Hawai’i. On other occasions, he said, the university sent out similar recruiting letters from Frank Murkowski, the Alaska governor and former U.S. senator who graduated from the university.

“Certainly I feel awful about this,” McKeon said, adding that Espero was simply trying to do something nice for his alma mater. “We paid for the postage. We approached him. But I can assure you that from an ethical perspective there was nothing that he did that was wrong.”

University staff mistakenly left out a disclaimer. Right. McKeon’s credibility is further challenged by his characterization of Espero as “a distinguished graduate whose experience might be persuasive to young people in Hawai’i.” Heh. Maybe I’m just too far out of touch with the youth of today…

McKeon said the Espero letter was sent to Hawai’i high-school students who had in some way asked about Seattle University, such as by filling out cards at college fairs, in response to previous direct-mail campaigns or through its Web site.

Dewitz said his daughter probably inquired about the university through the Internet but does not plan to apply. He said he felt the Espero letter was an improper use of the senator’s office and should not have mentioned the school’s Jesuit mission.

The use of the Senator’s letterhead and the State seal appears to be problematic, but I would hesitate to reflexively lump any mention of the SU’s Jesuit mission in along with the ethics complaint (if a complaint is in fact filed). The propriety of that would very much depend on the context of the letter; simply noting a fact is not necessarily an endorsement of religion.

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Lingle on TV tonight and Sunday

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 7:55 am
In addition to her regular call-in radio shows, this week the Governor will be the guest on a PBS television program.

December 23, Governor Lingle will be a guest on PBS Hawai`i?s ? PBN Friday with Howard Dicus” (showtime 7:30 on Oahu). Topics of discussion will include the Administration?s budget and legislative priorities. The show will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Dec. 25 at 3:00 p.m.

I guess I would have preferred she speak to Dan Boylan on his show, but so be it. I’ll actually be dogsitting for a few days around Christmas and thus will actually be able to tune in (I don’t have cable or terrestrial television at my own place).

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12/22/2005

City sued over change in transit contract

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:07 am
The Advertiser scoops the SB with this announcement of a lawsuit by Communications Pacific against the City and County of Honolulu. The SB, for its part, runs an op-ed by Mary Pat Waterhouse, Director of the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services. The op-ed is very similar (but not identical) to what the Advertiser ran (and I posted about) several days ago as a letter to the editor. Here is the key difference:

Nonetheless, Djou asked the state comptroller, the state Procurement Policy Board and the U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general to investigate the matter. The comptroller rejected Djou’s request last week, saying it is not his or the board’s kuleana. We anticipate that DOT Inspector General Kenneth Mead will find Djou’s allegations groundless.

An executive for Parsons offered Lagareta a reduced role in the transit project after determining that it needed a subcontractor with engineering as well as public relations capabilities.

That (minimal) second paragraph is the closest thing I’ve seen to an “explanation” of the subcontractor reassignment. However, regarding the first paragraph, I still maintain that the Procurement Policy Board is not bound by what the comptroller deems to be their kuleana.

Anyway, on to the new news.

Communications Pacific alleges in the lawsuit that Mary Patricia Waterhouse, director of the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, and Toru Hamayasu, acting deputy director of the Department of Transportation Services, broke the procurement code by directing Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc. to include Community Planning and Engineering Inc. for the “public involvement” portion of the project.

Community Planning is an engineering firm headed by Joe Pickard, a friend and political supporter of Mayor Mufi Hannemann. The firm was not part of the team of subcontractors that Parsons Brinkerhoff assembled to compete for the $9.7 million contract, which was awarded Aug. 26 and calls for an analysis of mass-transit alternatives for the city.

Before awarding the contract, the defendants [i.e. Waterhouse and Hamayasu] required Parsons Brinkerhoff to make the last-minute change and, as a result, Communications Pacific’s role was greatly reduced, according to the lawsuit that was filed Tuesday in Circuit Court.

The city yesterday denied any wrongdoing. “It’s unfortunate that the city will have to spend taxpayer dollars to defend what we believe is a lawsuit totally without merit,” city spokesman Bill Brennan said.

Frankly, I don’t see this lawsuit as “unfortunate.” If the standard operating procedure allows for this, and no other oversight body is willing to investigate the alleged defects (or outright violation) of the procedure, then I think this is very much worth taking forward as a test case to determine the propriety of the standard operating procedure. The courts seem to be the last available venue for Lagareta’s grievance to be resolved.

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Task force disagrees with Lingle on startup charter schools

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:35 am
The Advertiser reports today about what is almost certain to become a political football at the 2006 Legislature. The publication of this article is satisfying, insofar as my prior query is answered.

A task force that examined changes to the state’s charter schools will not recommend lifting a cap on new startups, a disappointment for Gov. Linda Lingle, who wants the state Legislature to expand the experimental schools and give parents more choices in public education.

State lawmakers created the task force last session after a critical state audit found the charter school law was vague and led to a lack of oversight of the state’s 27 charter schools. Charter school enrollment has surged over the past few years, and test scores show students often are doing as well or better than students in traditional public schools, but several of the schools have had management and operational difficulties.

The task force held public meetings statewide and heard strong support for raising the cap from the charter school community. Nine members of the 16-member task force wanted to encourage more new startups, but the task force had decided it would take at least 12 votes to approve a formal recommendation.

Interesting. Was the super-marjority requirement established (democratically) by the task force? If so, then a few of the nine members in favor of allowing more startup charter schools might now be lamenting their vote to approve the task force rules of order. Assuming this task force is subject to the Sunshine Law, which task force members supported the rules and/or the formal recommendations?

I believe the task force should be subject to Sunshine, because the task force was established by Section 10 in Act 87 of 2005. The law does not specifically describe the organization (or rules) of the task force, except to name the Executive Director of the Charter School Office as chair and to allow advisory subcommittees as determined necessary by the task force.

The task force looked at nearly 50 proposals and will recommend five changes to the Legislature, which are mostly technical but important to many involved with charter schools.

The recommendations would establish a new chapter of state law just for charter schools, include a new definition of who can authorize charters, clarify the powers of local school boards that govern charters, add current or local school board members to any state committees that review charters, and ask the attorney general’s office for a list of state laws that charters must follow.

Some of those technical changes are probably going to face resistance, especially if the new definition of who may authorize charters is considered to be too permissive (or restrictive). Beyond these five recommendations, I’m a bit surprised that the task force did not address (or perhaps it is only that this article has overlooked?) many of the specific topics it was directed to consider by Act 87. There again, maybe the task force took up those issues but was unable to reach a super-majority for a recommendation to emerge. I dunno.

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Slow news day in Hilo

Filed under:
HI Media
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 7:56 am
I suppose it’s possible that there is a subtle form of satire that I am not recognizing, but this article sure seems like a candidate for “most contrived Hilo story of 2005.”

The principal at a DOE school has a Kamehameha Schools license plate frame on her personal vehicle. This breaking news story includes a photo, no less.

Asked what message her public support for a school rival sends to Keaau students’ or how it affects their self-esteem, [Keeau HS Principal] Paulino said she had not considered that. No one had asked about the license-plate holder before, she said.

The 900-student $62 million Keaau campus opened in 1999. Despite high expectations, fights became commonplace, a window was shot out and two homemade napalm bombs, both minor, were detonated on campus.

Those incidents, along with allegations of drugs on campus, inconsistent punishment and poor communication with administrators, prompted the DOE to reassign Peg O’Brien, the school’s first principal, in July 2004.

Things have improved dramatically with the arrival of Paulino and former Big Island police officer Martin Ellazar, who works as school safety manager, one Keaau teacher said last week.

Apparently she was turning things around before this “cloud of controversy” descended, haha.

I’m sorry, I just find this pretty farcical. However, I am not totally blind to satire (see the letter to the Advertiser editors from Rolf Nordahl).

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12/21/2005

Hui Malama leader vows to defy judge; judge vows contempt charges

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:31 am
I’m late to this topic, but today it became especially interesting. Whatever summary of the case I would attempt at this point is bound to be incomplete and without enough context, but, with that disclaimer, there is a legal dispute involving Native Hawaiian artifacts that were at one point in Bishop Museum and were subsequently loaned out and, instead of being returned, were allegedly placed in burial caves on the Big Island. What makes the case suddenly interesting to me is the likelihood that a group (Hui Malama) who knows the location of these artifacts is about to defy a Federal Court order to reveal their location. The Advertiser has two stories (here and here), while the SB has an article, too. Scott Crawford also has much more backstory and context at his blog.

If the leader of the group does not reveal where the artifacts are, Judge David Ezra has vowed to charge him with being in contempt of court. If that charge is upheld, it could lead to his imprisonment until the location of the artifacts is revealed.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra yesterday ordered Hui Malama to disclose by 4 p.m. today specifically where each of the artifacts is buried.

Edward Halealoha Ayau, Hui Malama executive director, said his organization will submit more information to the court today but did not intend to give specifics. He noted that the items were placed alongside the iwi kupuna, or remains, of Native Hawaiians.

“Our responsibility is not to Judge Ezra, it’s to the kupuna,” Ayau said.

——–

In issuing his order yesterday, Ezra denied Hui Malama’s request to reconsider his original order to return the objects, stating he did not believe new information had been presented to change his mind.

“I will not have your client ignoring a valid and subsistent order,” Ezra told Alan Murakami of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which represents Hui Malama.

The judge said he was prepared to find Hui Malama officials in contempt, which could lead to fines and, in extreme cases, jail time. “Make no mistake about it, I am not kidding,” he said.

He may not be kidding, but I would be very surprised if Judge Ezra actually imprisons Ayau for contempt.

Murakami said his understanding was that Hui Malama had turned over what information it has, including the Global Positioning System coordinates of the items. But Ezra said what he had seen to date was inadequate.

Ezra made two concessions to the organization. He agreed to Hui Malama’s request that its members not be ordered to actively participate in the removal of the artifacts. The group must, however, pay for half the costs of their removal. The other half will be paid by Bishop Museum.

The judge also granted the group’s request to keep the exact location under a court seal.

Ezra gave no immediate time line for the return of the items. He ordered each of the parties by next Wednesday to submit a list of three engineers who could survey the structural integrity of the caves and offer a risk assessment.

Hui Malama officials fiercely believe the artifacts should stay where they are, pointing out that they were stolen from caves in Kawaihae in 1905 by Western archaeologists. Removal of the artifacts from the caves would be culturally insulting and be dangerous to those involved, they said.

According to Crawford’s sources, the Hui Malama leaders are prepared to go to prison rather than to disclose the exact location or participate in any surrender of the artifacts. The Hui has previously made some culturally-based public comments that did not sit well with Judge Ezra.

Also yesterday, Ezra admonished Murakami for statements he and his clients made publicly about the court.

During a news conference last week, the Star-Bulletin reported that the po’o or director of Hui Malama, Edward Halealoha Ayau, said, “We are in a Western court of law trying to explain to Western-trained judges and lawyers our deeply felt cultural values. We are in an inappropriate forum.”

Ezra reprimanded Murakami for statements referring to “Western-trained judges, as if some of those, myself included, have no understanding or appreciation” of Hawaiian laws and traditions.

Glaring at Murakami, Ezra said, “I trust your comment wasn’t racial. But if you were saying that Caucasian judges cannot understand Hawaiian laws, then I think your comments border on sanctionable.”

Ezra also admonished Murakami for other public Hui Malama statements characterizing the dispute as one between “Hawaiians and the federal court.”

I don’t see any other way to characterize the dispute, actually. Okay, perhaps it could be refined to a clash between Hawaiian laws and Western laws. As for the “sanctionable” comments about Western courts of law, I think Judge Ezra is a bit too defensive. Being “Western-trained” and (racially) Hawaiian are not necessarily exclusive categories, likewise with non-Hawaiian and “appreciative of Hawaiian laws.” Ezra may in fact “understand” Hawaiian laws, but I don’t believe Judge Ezra is free to hand down rulings in a U.S. Federal Court based upon his understanding of Hawaiian law. Further, I don’t think that by making that rational observation Ayau stepped out of line.

Last, there is the revelation that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands knows the location of the artifacts but has not disclosed that information to the federal court.

DHHL Director Micah Kane yesterday afternoon confirmed that agency employees know where in two Big Island caves the artifacts are buried. But he said he does not believe his agency did anything wrong and he stressed that it has always intended to cooperate with the court.

Members of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai’i Nei, in its most recent filings, said the items are in the Forbes and Mummy caves, believed to be part of what are known as the Kawaihae Caves. Both are on DHHL property.

Ezra said it was “just absolutely outrageous” that agency officials did not make the disclosure to his court.

Kane said the agency’s long-stated backing of Hui Malama’s position that the items should not be removed from the caves had no bearing on its decision not to voluntarily disclose the location to the court.

Oh, really? Heh. If you say so, sir.

With this revelation, I am somewhat surprised that Ezra did not immediately order the DHHL to disclose the information. I could be wrong, but I would not expect the DHHL to be as willing as Hui Malama to face contempt charges… Furthermore, if DHHL continues to stand by silently, I expect that Akaka Bill opponents would sieze on that defiance as another arguing point. Actually, that horse may have already left the barn, even if DHHL caves in discloses the information.

Comments (3)
Homeowners set to fight higher tax

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:31 am
Two Honolulu County Councilmembers (Marshall and Apo) have introduced a resolution asking the Mayor to submit a budget based upon reduced property tax rates. The SB has a piece here and the Advertiser has their story here. Unfortunately, the PDF on DocuShare is not loading properly for me, so I can’t comment on exactly what the resolution says. Bummer.

[Mayor] Hannemann said Honolulu faces rising debt, and increases in salary and employee benefits.

“How do we meet these future obligations that we have, as well as fixed costs that keep going higher and higher and higher?” Hannemann said.

“It’s very easy to say we should reduce the rates. I’d like to reduce the rates, but at the same time, I’ve got to look at the total picture.”

[Councilmember] Marshall defended her proposal.

“It is not cheap rhetoric. It’s a very sincere concern on my part that we’re just going too far with this,” said Marshall, adding one of the first places to start looking is the proposal to add more money to the city’s reserves.

“I think that’s certainly the place to start. I don’t think that right now is the time to be putting away $50 million in a rainy day fund,” Marshall said.

Marshall said instead of a fund for unspecified costs, the administration should budget now for those future specific expenses.

“I think taxpayers are more comfortable knowing where their money is going,” Marshall said. “I think it’s great that the mayor is looking forward to those kinds of things … but I’d rather see us doing it specifically.”

Sounds a lot like Marshall is endorsing “Special Funds” similar to those common at the State treasury. I’m so ignorant of the City budget that I don’t even know if Special Funds would be a novelty…

But Hannemann said he wants to see Marshall, Apo and others who are pushing for lower rates tell him how they would make up for the lost revenue. “I’m not just interested in hearing cheap rhetoric that says reduce the rates,” Hannemann said.

After hearing Marshall’s proposal, the mayor asked: “Should we cut in her district? Which parks does she want us to cut? Which services does she want us to reduce?”

He said the city has talked about giving Apo’s Wai’anae community some kind of incentive to continue operating the city’s only municipal landfill and fulfilling other city needs. If Apo wants to lower rates, Hannemann said, “Should we do without the community benefits package? Should we also eliminate parks and other services?”

This is how this “debate” always works. Yawn.

If this resolution had the support of the majority of the Council (instead of only two members), and if there was any chance that the resolution could be debated and passed before Hannemann must present his draft of the budget to the Council next month (there is no chance for that), then this would be much more interesting. As it stands, however, it’s only a chance for Marshall and Apo to make a statement without having to lower the fiscal boom on any services that the constituents expect from the City. So, to that extent, the Mayor is correct to call this “cheap rhetoric.”

[Marshall] said she’s hearing a big change in tone this year from residents, from frustrated to motivated. “It’s not just ‘How come I’m going to pay more?’ ” she said. “It’s, ‘I’m going to get my neighbors and I’m going to get my friends and I’m going to go for it.’ “

Kailua resident Bob Grantham proposed a grassroots effort to get the city to operate this year based on the same amount of money generated in 2004.

He also suggested forming a citizens committee to explore the possibility of paying the increased taxes for 2005 under protest into an escrow fund.

Without some type of community activism, I don’t foresee much in the way of lower property tax rates. However, I’m a bit confused by that escrow fund idea. Pay the increased taxes for 2005 into an escrow fund where it remains until when? I don’t know how serious Grantham may be, but if he is going to do this it would be good for him to flesh the idea out a bit more when he talks to reporters.

Comments (0)
Mayor considers street performer restrictions bill

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:56 am
Both Honolulu dailies report that the Honolulu City Council passed Bill 71 yesterday after waiving the normal committee hearing process and sending the bill directly to the full Council. The Advertiser article is here and the SB piece is here.

The council voted 7-2 yesterday for the bill. Council members Nestor Garcia and Barbara Marshall voted no.

Councilman Charles Djou, whose district includes Waikiki, introduced the measure, saying he’s concerned about pedestrian safety on the crowded sidewalks.

Merchants, police and the Waikiki Neighborhood Board supported the limits. The ACLU, a number of street performers and others opposed it.

Djou said the city could be sued for not taking action about the crowded sidewalks.

Wha? Sued by whom? I’m going to assume Djou is worried that a pedestrian who chooses to avoid sidewalk congestion by entering the roadway may be struck by a motorist and sue the City. It’s a remote possibility, but I’m surprised Djou waited until now to lob this out into the scrum. Actually, I’m not surprised. Heh.

Hannemann said he was concerned that the Council moved up the final vote on the bill by skipping the last committee hearing, which eliminated an opportunity for the public to comment on the measure.

“I fully expected that it would go back to committee,” Hannemann said. “On this one here they chose to bypass.”

Hannemann said he plans to sit down with city attorneys and wants to meet with the ACLU to find middle ground.

“If they have an idea to keep us out of court and we can come to some kind of agreement, I’d like to use that time now to go back to the Council and say, reconsider,” Hannemann said.

Waikiki Councilman Charles Djou, who introduced Bill 71, has said that he has tried to reach an agreement with the ACLU before passing the bill but to no avail.

“In life, sometimes people communicate better with other people,” the mayor said. “I’ll take a stab at it to see whether there are different results.”

The Mayor is perhaps too polite to say it, but such negotiations work much better when both sides are genuinely interested in reaching a compromise. Neither story includes any comment from the ACLU, so I am not sure if the ACLU is interested, but it’s my opinion that throughout this evolution Djou was uninterested in any compromise.

Comments (1)
12/20/2005

Again with the Brooks Act

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:50 am
Another letter in the Advertiser today from Mayor Hannemann’s press secretary in defense of the way subcontractors were changed on the mass transit planning study. City Budget Director Waterhouse had a similar letter that I had commented on earlier.

Brennan joins in with the beating of the Brooks Act drum, so I took a bit more time to look into that federal law. Luckily, I quickly found this web site that summarizes the process to comply with the Act.

There are seven basic steps involved in pursuing federal design work under QBS (Qualifications Based Selections):

1. Public solicitation for architectural and engineering services
2. Submission of an annual statement of qualifications and supplemental statements of ability to design specific projects for which public announcements were made
3. Evaluation of both the annual and project-specific statements
4. Development of a short-list of at least three submitting firms in order to conduct interview with them
5. Interviews with the firms
6. Ranking of at least three of the most qualified firms
7. Negotiation with the top ranked firm.

I would suspect that the dispute here arises from step 4 onward. So, let’s look at those steps a bit more closely.

4. Development of a Short-list

Following the evaluation of the statements of qualifications, the boards prepare reports that recommend the firms to be on the short-list. The reports rank at least three of the firms for the purpose of discussing the project with them. The boards are not limited in the number of firms that they can select for these “interviews”; it is left to the discretion of the boards.

From this we have to assume that Communications Pacific and Community Planning and Engineering were both among the “short-list” firms as judged by their qualifications.

Step 5 is pretty innocuous. A brief meeting with each of the short-list firms, blah blah blah.

6. Ranking of the “Top Three” Firms

Following the interviews, the boards’ reports are presented to the agency head or a person who is designated to act in the head of the agency’s behalf. The reports list, in order of preference, at least three firms that are considered to be the most highly qualified to perform the services. This is considered to be the final selection of the competing firms. If the firm listed as the most preferred is not the firm that was recommended as the most highly qualified by the evaluation board, the head of the agency must provide a written explanation for the reason for the preference. The head of the agency, or that person’s designate, may not add names of other firms to the final report. The report reviews the recommendations of the evaluation board and, from that, the agency head makes the final selection.

Now it gets a bit more interesting.

Who is “the agency head” and who sits on “the board?” Which firms (and in which ranking order) were considered by the board to be the three most highly qualified? Lagareta seems to imply that Comm Pac was among the top three firms and Community Planning and Engineering was not (or that CPE was present but ranked lower). However, that is speculation on my part, I don’t recall seeing Lagareta (or Djou) explicitly make that allegation. Somebody should have a look at this report from the board, no? It may clarify much of this dispute.

7. Negotiation with the Top-Ranked Firm

When the final selection is made by the agency head, the contracting officer is authorized to begin negotiations with the top-ranked firm. The negotiations are conducted pursuant to the procedures set forth in the FAR. Usually, the firm is requested to submit a fee proposal listing direct and indirect costs as the basis for contract negotiations. Contract negotiations are conducted following an evaluation of the fee proposal and an audit when the proposed design fee is more than $100,000.

If a fee is not agreed upon within a reasonable time, the contracting officer will conclude negotiations with the top-ranked firm and initiate negotiations with the second-ranked firm. If a satisfactory contract is not worked out with this firm, then this procedure will be continued until a mutually satisfactory contract is negotiated. If negotiations fail with all selected firms, the contracting firms, which are ranked by competence and qualifications, are identified. The negotiation process will then continue until an agreement is reached and a contract awarded. As a practical note, it is rare that a contract is not successfully negotiated with the top-ranked firm.

This is all well and good, but here is where the question gets real fuzzy; exactly how does the Brooks Act apply to subcontracts? Is each contractor obliged to follow the Brooks Act when awarding subcontracts, or does the contractor simply take bids? How does the customer (the City, in this case) influence the contractor’s choice of subcontractors? I don’t know these answers, but I’ll bet somebody at the City should know. They should explain themselves a bit more clearly.

Comments (0)
Plumber wants to fix schools—on OT

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:29 am
An Advertiser letter to the editor from a plumber quickly gives me at least one data point on the query I made yesterday when I was wondering if the school maintenance problem was a problem of worker shortage.

I am a plumber with the DOE facilities maintenance branch, and I for one am tired of hearing about the backlog of repairs. The red tape and hoops you have to go through to get things done in this system is ridiculous.

When I first came to work for DAGS, then the DOE, we had our own people working overtime seven days a week doing renovations of entire schools, and it made sense. The plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters and even masons were ready, willing and able to work the overtime.

If you ask the schools that were renovated in-house, you would find that they were all more than satisfied with the work we did and we did it at a substantial savings to the state. In June 2004, the state stopped our in-house renovations, saying that our main job was repair and maintenance, not construction. What did we do? We went to work overtime for Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawai’i, helping it repair all the public housing that had a backlog of its own.

The backlog at the schools is now at half a billion dollars, and instead of fixing the schools on weekends, our men were working at Kuhio Park Terrace. Go figure.

We have been asking to work overtime for over a year, and it is obvious that there is a lot of work to be done and we should be the ones to do it whenever possible. We don’t get paid a lot, and the overtime would be win/win for all involved.

We have three plumbers for 45 schools ? you do the math ? and every school thinks that it is the most important, as it should. But we are limited as to what we can do. Now we have workers who want to work and put in the extra time to try to get the schools up to par and make some extra money in the process, but we are not allowed to, and I just want your readers to know that it’s not because the workers don’t want to work.

James Wataru
Honolulu

I can’t say I’m too thrilled about robbing maintenance workers from Peter (the HCDA) to pay Paul (the DOE), and paying overtime salaries does not seem to be the most cost-effective way to get the work done. However, if there are truly only 3 plumbers for all of the DOE that is pretty shocking.

Comments (1)
Property tax appeals urged – a false hope?

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:09 am
More and reports, like this Advertiser piece, are surfacing about the flood of Oahu property owners contacting the city about the increased property assessments that could lead to big tax increases.

Gary Kurokawa, administrator of the city’s real property assessment division, said two people had filed appeals in the Honolulu office by mid-afternoon yesterday. About 50 people had visited and 100 more e-mailed over the weekend, he said.

——–

Kurokawa said people who have questions about the values given should talk to appraisers in the office and look at the sale comparisons that are used to determine the values. “It’s all mathematical,” he said.

Kurokawa said the city system tracks market value closely. He also said the city is catching up on outstanding appeals that were yet to be resolved from previous years and has worked through much of the backlog.

Of 4,125 appeals filed for 2005, Kurokawa said 1,900 are still pending and the city has until June 30 to get through those. Those outstanding from previous years ? 2004 and earlier ? now number 908, he said.

This is a start, but I see a big hole in stories like this one. How about some discussion of how the appeal process actually works, how many appeals are typically denied, how much relief is possible or likely to be awarded in an appeal, etc? To hear Kurokawa simply say “it’s all mathematical,” gives me an impression that it could be a very rigidly defined system. If it truly is only “the sales comparisons that are used to determine the values,” then, other than challenging the sales data, I see very little hope for property owners who are being advised to make these appeals. What’s more, even if the property owner could show the sales data are in error, I can’t imagine how a few pieces of bad data will substantially change any single assessment.

I’m also curious that if a property owner successfully appeals his assessment does that mean that his neighbors’ assessments (i.e. those based on the same faulty data) are recalculated or would the neighbors each have to file an appeal of their own? Hmmm. Lemme guess. Heh.

Comments (0)
Economic Momentum Commission final report

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:41 am
There is an Advertiser article today about the final recommendations of the Economic Momentum Commission. Unfortunately, contrary to the optimistic link at the bottom of the piece, the Advertiser story seems to have beaten the Commission’s own website to the punch, because I don’t find the final report there. The report is now online, find it here.

I’ve previously taken a closer look at the work of the EMC (here and here), and from this article the final report I can tentatively deduce what recommendations have fallen out of favor.

Here are the recommendations that seem to have died:

Streamlining County permit process to expedite new tourism infrastructure.
Finishing the definition of “important agricultural lands” in 12 months.
Amending “inappropriate” county residential subdivision requirements.
PUC adoption of a time/usage base rate formula.
Requiring energy efficiency in State buildings.
Encouraging production of biofuels and extending energy tax credits set to expire in 2008.
Basically, all the recommendations from the agriculture, tourism, and energy sections of the previous report were not included in the final draft. The fact that any item is not in the final report does not preclude those who initially proposed (or support) the idea from having it introduced outside of this legislative initiative, of course.

UPDATE: This post is no longer true. See comments.

The final report also adds topics that were not in the previous draft. The Commission suggests that the UH Regents consider a cost-benefit analysis of a UARC run by RCUH. The final report also expresses support for the Akaka Bill (not among the November recommendations, but this was part of an initial report).

Frankly, now that I can read the final report, I have no idea what is the source for much of the contents of the Advertiser article! Unlike the article, the Commission final report makes no mention of GET tax exemptions, or redeveloping the Honolulu International Airport, or green belt buffers around agricultural lands, or watershed management fees. What’s going on here?! Maybe there was more information distributed to the media than is on the website, but it seems like the Advertiser may be conflating the preliminary reports with the final recommendations.

All that aside, I still am very curious to know how the Commissioners voted on each recommendation (not only those items that didn’t make the cut, but for all items). This should be public information, if anyone cares enough to track it down…

Comments (1)
12/19/2005

Administration budget for DOE has different priorities than BOE version

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:03 am
The Governor will submit a DOE budget with priorities that are not the same as the BOE would like. The Advertiser has a good story explaining some of the differences in philosophy and the politics. This follows a previous post based on another article describing the BOE plan.

The largest difference involves a $525 million backlog of school repair and maintenance projects. The governor wants to give schools an immediate $40 million for repairs ? nearly half of her general-fund request ? and another $50 million in separate capital improvement bond money.

The school board has asked for $160 million for repairs from the capital improvement fund, along with additional money for new school construction.

Democratic leaders have said school repair will be a priority as the state considers how to invest a growing budget surplus, and some have indicated they are inclined to give the board the entire $160 million to help quickly reduce the backlog.

But the Lingle administration has doubts about whether the department has the physical capability to quickly make that amount of repairs. This month, the administration proposed $4 million to upgrade emergency shelters to prepare for disasters when the demand is actually $35 million, citing the same rationale. Most shelters are at public schools, so some of the work would probably overlap.

This could be a legitimate concern. Is the backlog of school repairs more attributable to a lack of money or to a lack of personnel to carry out the work? More fundamentally, are repairs handled by government workers or does the state contract out for the work? The construction industry in many parts of the state is absolutely on fire, and if the school maintenance projects are competing for the same laborers I would expect the high demand for the skilled workers to drive wages/prices up. None of that makes the repairs any less-needed, but some budget triage may be in order if there are not enough workers available.

With a growing number of students who do not speak English as their first language, including many Pacific-islands immigrants, Lingle will propose 29 new teachers to help the students with their lessons. Both special-education students and students still learning English have to take the state’s academic proficiency tests and are counted toward whether the department is meeting its goals under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

“The governor feels it is very critical for these students to integrate in our culture and into their new home,” Smith said.

According to the department, Lingle’s budget does not include new money the school board wants for the conversion to a single statewide school calendar, performance incentives for principals and a new weighted student formula.

Those 29 new teachers for non-English-speaking students are long overdue. I have not forgotten the DOE official who admitted that the state is lucky that the parents of these students don’t know enough of their rights to file a lawsuit…

[Lingle’s Senior Policy Advisor] Smith said she could not discuss Lingle’s broader education policy initiatives, which could be announced today or in her State of the State speech in January, but the governor’s budget includes operation and facilities money for seven startup charter schools. The Legislature refused to lift a cap on startup charter schools last session because of questions about whether the existing 27 charter schools are on solid management and financial ground.

A task force has studied operational concerns at the experimental schools and will soon make recommendations to lawmakers. There is room under the state’s charter-school law for traditional schools to convert to charter schools, but the department has reached the maximum for startups.

Clearly, then, for those seven schools to emerge, that task force and/or the Governor will need to introduce legislation to lift the existing cap on startup charter schools. It will be politically interesting if the task force recommendations are contrary to the Governor’s intentions.

On that tangent, it would be a worthwhile exercise for some enterprising journalist to determine which/how many task forces, commission, boards, etc. have been directed to submit reports to the legislature “at least 20 days before the beginning of the 2006 regular session.” Occasionally these reports simply fail to materialize, and many of those that emerge are simply shelved, but you can never know when one will appear that could take on a life of its own—with a little sunshine.

UPDATE: The provisos in the budget bill would be a good place to start panning for these about-to-be-due report nuggets.

Comments (0)
12/18/2005

Political parties stagger about awkwardly

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:03 am
The Sunday SB Borreca column comments on the inability of the Republicans to capitalize on Governor Lingle’s personal popularity to influence races at the Legislature. Conversely, the Democrats are as yet unable to capitalize on their lopsided domination of the Legislature to produce an individual candidate to put forth as their challenger to Lingle. These are two sides of the same coin, in my opinion.

Meanwhile, in a guest op-ed, Charles Prentiss bemoans the non-partisan Honolulu Council races.

By their publishing of these two items on the same day, I was provoked by the SB to consider my own views on partisanship in State and County politics. I think Prentiss is incorrect to suggest that the laundry list of “problems” he describes would be remedied by a return to partisan County elections. Not because parties could never address those issues, but because the current organization of both major parties are not up to the task and, furthermore, the value and relevancy of parties in Hawaii is continuing to decline—witness the personality-driven (or -stalled, depending upon your vantage point) 2006 race for governor as described by Borreca.

Hawaii Kai Republican Sen. Sam Slom notes that on most days “the Democrats have the full force and weight of their majority party. They dominate the Legislature, and the Democrats always seem to take care of their own,” says Slom.

Republicans, however, worry that a popular personality has almost no coattails. Two years ago Lingle’s GOP was smashed in local elections. In the House, the GOP has dwindled from 18 to just 10.

Slom observes that though Lingle has Democratic supporters who are “absolutely loyal” to her, “many of them have never done a thing to help other Republicans or the party.”

Huh, is that a typo? Lingle has “absolutely loyal” Democratic supporters, yet Slom notes that those Democrats don’t help the Republicans? [scratching my head] To the extent that makes any sense, then I guess the “absolute loyalty” of those Democratic supporters of Lingle would be more accurately characterized as “cynical pragmatism.”

With Lingle unable to grow a GOP base, the battle next year is likely to be between Lingle and the entire Democratic Party.

There’s the crux of her situation. Lingle is unwilling to grow a GOP base in Hawaii, because her victory came from a combination of centrism and occasional vague signals to the GOP base. To actively grow the GOP base she would have risked losing many more votes from the middle. With so little support at the Legislature, any attempt by Lingle to motivate the GOP base by vigorously pushing for their agenda would probably result in the Hawaii GOP returning to the political wilderness.

Turning to Prentiss’ essay:

Elections on a nonpartisan basis hurt one of the most important features of our democracy: the two-party system. The existence of two strong political parties distinguishes our system from democracies that are less stable because they have many small parties and independents.

Stability sounds good in the abstract, but the alternating decades-long partisan regimes of Hawaii politics (first by Republicans, then by Democrats) were not the type of outcomes I would be lionizing.

In nonpartisan elections, a party platform is absent. A party platform is prepared by a large number of people during long hours of deliberation, usually at state conventions. It spells out what their party stands for, and what might be expected if their candidates are elected. To varying degrees, candidates are held accountable to that platform. This important guidance is missing in nonpartisan elections.

I’ve posted about this before. Prentiss is right, but he is far too kind when he says “to varying degrees, candidates are held accountable to [the Party] platform.” There is no accountability, and the small minority of voters,be they party members or not, who actually know the platform clearly recognize (and/or lament) that fact.

Given this current state of Hawaii political parties, there are two proven ways to win an election: frantic grassroot organizing with a sincere message, or an expensive media-driven cult of personality campaign appealing to the centrist lowest common denominator voters and to the big donors. It’s too late for the Democrats to afford the latter, so they are going to have to try the former.

Comments (1)
Rise in property values sets up a political test

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 7:45 am
An Advertiser op-ed by Jerry Burris reminds readers that Mayor Hannemann did not campaign on a tax-reduction platform. With the substantial increase in property assessments, the question will be to see if the Mayor and the Council will succumb to pressure to reduce tax rates.

The latest property valuations are in and they show an average increase in values of something like 26 percent. Leave tax rates where they are and this adds up to a substantial windfall for the city.

Homeowners are already struggling and are unlikely to be happy about seeing the tax bill go up 26 percent on the old family home simply because cash-rich speculators have been buying and selling up and down the street.

So it would be politic to offer talk about relief, or to promise that some of the impact of higher values will be offset by lower rates.

To his credit, and in keeping with what he said during the campaign, Hannemann is not ready to do that just yet.

The mayor told reporter Robbie Dingeman that the city might just need the extra money for debt service, salaries and benefits and for long-overdue repairs to roads, sewers and other city services. He also wants to build up the city “rainy day fund” which is minimal today.

Keeping the money for any purpose is not going to be immediately popular.

The trick now will be to avoid a “if-we-have-it, then-we’ll-spend-it” mentality and instead make a rational case that the influx of cash is truly needed.

Rational arguments are all well and good, but they are frequently steamrolled if the competing argument is built upon populist demagoguery. If the Mayor is steadfast, then I agree with Burris that the Mayor needs to make the rational case for holding rates steady.

What lies ahead is a political test, perhaps the first big one of the Hannemann administration. Can he convince the City Council and the taxpaying public that they will have to pay considerably more to get the quality of city government they want?

The voters chose a candidate who warned taxes might have to go up in the near future.

Now, we’re about to see if they meant it.

Hannemann’s first big political test? Uh, no, that was the GET surcharge, but whatever.

If the Mayor does choose the rational “high road” in this debate, then it will be interesting to see if there emerges a rational counter-argument or if the opposition will take the easier, populist demagoguery path.

Comments (0)
12/17/2005

City keeps a lid on the public transit scoping comments

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:57 am
I’m pleased to see the SB is pursuing the decision to embargo the public comments from the mass transit scoping meetings. Today they have an article, and they editorialize about it, too. Glad to see them show some tenacity!

They acknowledged that the comment sheets are public records but contend that they do not have to release them immediately.

“I’ve always been one to say we should have an inclusive process open it up, whether it’s to the media or the public, so I don’t think this was a deliberate attempt to hide information from the public,” Hannemann said. “I think in due time it will be made available to you and others.”

Hannemann’s press secretary, Bill Brennan, had said earlier this week that the documents would not be released until after the forms were reviewed by the administration.

——–

Hannemann said there would be plenty of opportunities in a series of planned future meetings, including town hall meetings, to get further public input on all options for improving transportation on Oahu.

I am heartened that at the Mayor will agree that these comment sheets are public records. Therefore, according to the Uniform Information Practices Act, these comment sheets should be available for review and photocopying. Also, the verbal comments recorded by the stenographer should also be released, as those would come under section 92-F12 (16).

The Mayor frustrates me, however, with that closing comment. The right to provide additinal “public input” is not the issue at hand. The right to review the public input promptly is what is being denied.

The relevant Administrative Rules stipulate that the routine response time allowed to satisfy a request for public records is no more than ten days, with up to twenty days allowed in certain circumstances (exceptions that would seem not to apply here, in my opinion). I suggest that the media make the formal request and start the clock ticking.

Comments (3)
The property tax “nuclear option”

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:20 am
There is an interesting comment from the Tax Foundation’s director, Lowell Kalapa, in this Advertiser piece about reaction to the higher property assessments arriving in Oahu residents’ mailboxes.

Kalapa would prefer to see Hannemann lead a policy discussion of what services people might be willing to do without if it meant their taxes were lower. “Curtail your spending, then you don’t need to raise revenues,” he said.

After years of tax increases, Kalapa said he thinks taxpayers are willing to talk about giving up some things. People may be willing to see their parks cleaned less often or fewer senior citizen activities offered if it meant their bills would drop.

If taxpayers don’t get real relief, Kalapa predicted that they will call for a ballot initiative similar to California’s Proposition 13 that capped increases in property taxes as long as an owner owns a property. The tax would only increase sharply if the property was sold.

Kalapa said that kind of cap essentially puts government on a fixed budget and “binds the hands of decision-makers.”

That’s a bold prediction, but Kalapa is well-placed to actually have his finger on the pulse of those who would instigate a property tax cap initiative. I would hope that the Council is able to deal with the issue more rationally. Proposition 13-style caps would mean far more than “parks cleaned less often and fewer senior citizen activites.”

Comments (1)
Proposal for a new export commodity – rubbish

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:53 am
The Governor’s East Hawaii Council of Advisors heard a presentation from a businessman who proposes to bale and ship rubbish from Hilo to a landfill in Washington state. Oddly, this is reported in the West Hawaii Today, but I did not see it at the website of the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (even though the reporter works for HTH). ??

Currently, barges arrive at Hilo Harbor carrying shipping containers filled with building material, and they leave virtually empty. Hodge envisions filling these containers with the compacted and sealed trash, which would be stored for several days prior to shipping to ensure no live animals are sent to the mainland.

“Our model works. We can make our model work with 50,000 tons per year.” He estimates Hilo produces about 80,000 to 90,000 tons of garbage a year.

Hawaiian Waste Systems wants to establish a 5-year contract in which the company would build a facility that would bale and ship out the trash at no extra cost to the county.

Hodge estimates all this would cost either $86 or $91 per ton, depending on whether the compacting facility would be built on county land, or whether the company would have to buy the land.

Assuming HWS shipped out 50,000 tons per year, that would equal annual costs of either $4.3 million or $4.55 million, with adjustments as needed for fuel costs.

According to the article, the company “has talked to the County” about this idea. Okay, so what does the County think? How did the Governor’s advisory council respond to this? It sounds a little bit loony. If the building boom slows (and the supply of shipping containers scales back accordingly), then what? The supply of rubbish will certainly never decrease… I also find it hard to believe that transporting the rubbish several thousand miles is as affordable as keeping it on the Big Island.

Comments (0)
State revenue forecast rises

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:34 am
The Advertiser has a short piece about another upwardly-revised state tax revenue forecast from the Council on Revenues.

The state Council on Revenues yesterday raised its already optimistic forecast for growth this fiscal year, another validation of Hawai’i’s economy as Gov. Linda Lingle and state lawmakers prepare to debate the state’s budget over the next several months.

The council predicted state revenues would grow by 8 percent by the end of the fiscal year in June, up from 6 percent in its last forecast in September. If the forecast holds, it could mean about $84 million in additional money for the state, according to the state Department of Taxation. The council estimated growth of 7.5 percent for the 2007 fiscal year, up from 6.6 percent in September, or a potential $131 million in extra revenue.

The estimates have been upgraded several times this year because the council’s economic model has been unable to precisely track the state’s revenue growth. The growth has been fueled by higher personal income, corporate taxes and more aggressive collections by the Tax Department.

Here we go again. I said as much earlier, but I still do not understand why the Council, with its significant influence on the entire State budget, is allowed to simply toss out these forecasts with very little explanation.

If you take a look at the the December 2003 General Fund forecast you will find a column of forecasted revenues for 2004. In the most recent December 2005 forecast there is a column indicating how much was actually collected. Sorry, this is as recent as possible if I want to compare a forecast to the actual revenues.

General Excise and Use tax: forecast revenue low by $46.2M
Individual Income tax: forecast revenue low by $49.1M
Corporate Income tax: forecast revenue low by $35.3M
Public Service Company tax: forecast revenue high by $27.4M
Insurance Premiums tax: forecast revenue quite accurate, only high by $367K
Tobacco and Licenses tax: forecast revenue high by $9.9M
Liquor and Permits tax: forecast revenue high by $1.2M
Banks and Other Financial Corporations tax: This is interesting, because the membership of the council is historically weighted to the banker/economist mold. The council predicted NEGATIVE revenues of $9.3M (i.e. refunds!). The actual revenues were NEGATIVE $534K.
Inheritance and Estate: I’ll cut them some slack here, pretty hard to predict when folks will die.
Miscellaneous tax: whatever that is, the forecast revenue was low by $1.8M
Transient Accomodations tax: forecast revenue high by $2.8M
Keep in mind those are 2004 data, but you can get an idea of how inexact these forecasts are. This makes it pretty pathetic and frustrating that the Council releases a “final” figure and the Legislature scrambles every year to accomodate this largely artificial precision.

Anyway, back to the article. How to spend this increased revenue is going to be the big sport at the 2006 Legislature. The Governor wants some sort of “tax relief,” which I presume to mean personal income tax cuts (even though she reports the major driver of the increased revenue picture is GET revenue), and there are many worthy CIP projects that have been neglected. The Legislature, for its part, has their own spending priorities and (so far) no mention of tax relief.

Comments (0)
12/16/2005

Letters Page: Ready? Fight!

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:48 am
A lively exchange of Letters to the Editor in the Advertiser today (see the final two letters at the link). The letters follow up on the transit study sub-contracting dispute (most recently mentioned here yesterday).

First, we have a letter from Kitty Lagareta of Communications Pacific. Among other things, she writes:

After the selection was made, but before the contract was executed, city officials directed Parsons to substitute a new subcontractor, which was not part of the original team that had been evaluated, to perform the public outreach portion of the project, while the role of my company and two others was significantly reduced. The subcontractor that replaced us is headed by a close associate of the mayor.

The city administration’s actions in this matter display its contempt for procurement law. If a government agency needs to change a properly bid contract, there are legal, open, transparent ways to do it. Nothing about the city’s change in subcontractors was legal, open or transparent. My efforts to get a straight answer from the city have resulted in name-calling and untrue allegations from the mayor and Rep. Abercrombie. When pressed, the city says, “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

From the Director of the City’s Budget and Fiscal Services, Mary Pat Waterhouse, we read this:

Councilmember Djou has stated repeatedly that he received no explanation regarding the reduced role of Ms. Lagareta in the alternatives analysis study. At the Oct. 27 City Council Transportation Committee meeting, division chief Toru Hamayasu explained the Qualifications Based Selection process that was used to procure the services for the study. In executive session with corporation counsel, only held because Ms. Lagareta had already threatened to sue, councilmembers were given additional opportunities to question Mr. Hamayasu and city attorneys regarding the reason for the reduced role of Ms. Lagareta’s company. Out of the nine councilmembers, Mr. Djou is the only one stating that he has not received any explanation.

Now, who would have ever thought that Djou might be grandstanding? Waterhouse’s letter also says:

Ms. Lagareta and her co-employee, the person who stood to “lose” the most because she, not Ms. Lagareta, was designated as the task leader for work to be done by Ms. Lagareta’s company, have benefited from the city’s procurement practices in the past. When asked at a recent press conference about this inconsistency, Ms. Lagareta did not deny that this had occurred. Ms. Lagareta’s real complaint, then, is that her role was reduced, because when she benefited by the city’s procurement practices in the past, she did not complain.

First, any real or peceived hypocrisy on the part of Communications Pacific does not change the alleged facts of this case. A history of the City awarding contracts in this manner, in and of itself, is neither reassuring to the public nor adequate justification for continuing to operate in that manner. If the city is willing to defend its past practice (that benefitted Communications Pacific), then why won’t they (publicly) defend and explain this decision that benefitted the Mayor’s close associate?

Waterhouse even suggest (very cryptically) that this dubious process is, in fact, required by federal law. Wha?

The term “bid” refers to the competitive sealed bidding method of procurement. Councilmember Djou should know that the competitive sealed bidding method violates the state procurement law and the Brooks Act, which sets the federal procurement requirements for the architectural engineering and design services needed for the alternatives analysis study. Thus, the corporation counsel determined that the procurement for the professional services for the study compiled with federal and state requirements.

Parsing federal laws is not my specialty, but I somehow doubt that the Brooks Act speaks directly to exonerate this type of activity… I’ll leave that question for bigger (and licensed) legal minds than me to confirm or deny. If that’s you, please leave a comment.

Comments (4)
Hawaii County counsel weighs in on reorg Sunshine Law query

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:53 am
Not a heck of a lot to report here, but there are three accounts (Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today, and SB) today of a legal opinion from the Hawaii County corporation counsel regarding the “reconsidered” deferral of a recent reorganization vote. I had hypothesized a similar interpretation earlier.

“Examining this matter from a purely legal perspective, we cannot conclude that the council’s action of Nov. 22, 2005, violated Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 92, the council’s rules, or Robert’s Rules of Order,” [Hawaii County Corporation Counsel] Ashida wrote in his opinion. “However, we are cognizant of the public perception to the contrary.”

Hmmm. Maybe I should go into the Corporation Counsel consulting business, haha. Nah, blogging is more fun.

Hugh Clark, a spokesman for the Big Island Press Club, questioned Ashida’s opinion. “I don’t think that’s the end of the story,” he said.

The club is considering asking the state Office of Information Practices whether the Council violated the Sunshine Law, he said.

Based on Councilman Pilago’s questions about the vote, Ashida said he has already asked the OIP for such an opinion. “I look at them as sort of an appellate body. If people aren’t satisfied with what I say, that’s OK,” he said.

As I wrote before, I remain very curious to see if OIP will insert itself into the minutiae of parliamentary procedure during a properly-noticed meeting. I’m not sure the law provides them that mandate, but that does not mean they will not try to assume it.

Comments (0)
Homeowner taxes likely to rise

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:18 am
The Honolulu dailies have reports on the rising property assessments on Oahu and the drastic impact this will have on property tax collections. The Advertiser piece is here, and the SB story is here.

If the city leaves tax rates where they are now, the increase in property values alone will bring in tens of millions more. Property taxes are the city’s single largest source of revenue.

Although the property values are determined as of October and mailed out now, the City Council must set the rates in the spring. Homeowners will find out how much they owe when the tax bills go out in July.

Hannemann said the new values are based on sales of similar properties in each neighborhood from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2005.

During a housing bubble (i.e. now) this is always going to seem like a ridiculously unfair methodology, but what is the alternative? On the other hand, homeowners are not exactly crying when this same logic qualifies them for outsized home equity loans…

The Advertiser piece does not mention the property tax relief already passed this year by the Council and signed by the Mayor. Even though that relief does not take effect until the 2007-2008 tax year, and it is targeted to help those earning less than $50,000 per year, it’s not as if there has been nothing done…

There is a new proposal sketched out in the articles that could give limited relief to senior homeowners. Again, however, it would not begin until 2007.

Hannemann wants to give homeowners age 62 and above a one-time tax credit of $200 beginning in February 2007. He is also encouraging those who qualify for but do not need the tax credit to dedicate it to a program to benefit the homeless. The administration is working on the details of that program.

Council Chair Dela Cruz also floated this idea:

Dela Cruz said the council may look beyond the proposed 62-plus tax credit to consider other proposals that offer property tax relief to low- and middle-income working families.

“We do need to help based on income,” Dela Cruz said. “We want to provide relief to local working families.”

Reaching an agreement on how to do that would be a very tricky endeavor, to say the least. Some people with very expensive homes have high net worth, but not much “income.” Conversely, large multi-generational working families can have high combined incomes that could disqualify them from any relief.

Comments (0)
Japanese tourists going elsewhere for year-end travel

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:24 am
Two articles today about Japanese tourism projections for the period between Christmas and New Years. The Marianas Variety has a story from the Guam Visitors Bureau wherein they crow that Japanese visitors to Guam in that period will exceed Japanese visitors to Hawaii. Indeed, Guam is said to be the leading destination, with Hawaii in the number two spot.

Meanwhile, in the Advertiser, there is an article that lists Hawaii as the fourth-place destination, but their numbers (from JTB) do not show Guam as a member of the top three. So, how to explain the difference in these figures?

In explaining Hawaii?s decline, [GVB’s] Perez cited statistics from Wing Travel which showed that the cumulative total of Japanese arrivals to Hawaii from January to October of this year fell 3.3 percent to 1.2 million arrivals.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, arrivals from Japan are about 5 percent below target, and spending is about 6 percent down.

The decline in Hawaii?s share of the Japanese market was also attributed in part to the withdrawal of JAL.

That context is from the Guam report, surprisingly. The Advertiser piece did not offer (or seek?) any explanation for the declining numbers except to note that New Years falls on a Sunday in 2006. That might explain an overall decline in Japanese travellers, but would not explain the decline in the Hawaii share of those visitors.

Comments (0)
12/15/2005

Mayor asks feds to ignore contracting dispute

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:53 am
The Advertiser has a piece reporting that the Mayor has sought to stop Councilmember Djou’s requested investigation before it is even begun by the federal Department of Transportation.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann is seeking to dissuade a federal agency from looking into allegations that the city mishandled a mass-transit consulting contract.

“The city” in this case being a flimsy euphemism for “Mayor Mufi Hannemann.” The Mayor’s obvious political self-interests in seeking to quash this matter are pretty hard to deny, though the Advertiser report seems willing to leave them as inferences.

Hannemann, in his letter addressed to DOT Inspector General Kenneth Mead dated Tuesday, said the city was required to select a consultant on the basis of an evaluation of qualifications but not price. As for Djou’s second point, Hannemann wrote that nothing in state or city procurement laws prohibits the city “from reducing the scope of work of or replacing subcontractors” listed by the contractor in its original proposal.

Hmmm. I’d sure like to read the letter to know the statutory rationale behind that argument (if any such rationale was provided in the letter), because it would speak to the crux of the Djou/Lagareta criticism. Searching for Hannemann’s letter on DocuShare is no picnic, since the “Miscellaneous Communications” are typically given only meaningless alphanumeric filenames. This means you need to open each PDF and see what it pertains to. I’m curious—but I’ve got a life to live, heh. If anyone knows it (or finds it), please post the link in the comments.

In a related matter, state Comptroller Russ Saito told an attorney for consultant Communications-Pacific Inc. that neither he nor the state Procurement Policy Board has the jurisdiction to consider a petition by CommPac to investigate the Parsons Brinckerhoff contract.

That’s nice, but I don’t think the Comptroller speaks for the Board. The law says that the Board shall consider matters referred to it by the Comptroller, but it does not restrict the Board to taking up only those matters. In fact:

The policy board shall have the power to audit and monitor the implementation of its rules, …

So far as I know, the Board has yet to respond in any way to CommPac.

Comments (0)
Hawaii’s 4 largest banks add women to their boards

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:22 am
An interesting short story at PBN about the increasing number of women serving as board members of large Hawaii banks.

These banks have a combined 15 women on their boards, two-thirds more than they had five years ago when a total of nine women sat on their boards. Yet women still represent only 22 percent of total membership on the four boards [i.e. 15 of 68 seats—Doug].

The higher female representation is expected to alter relations between bank CEOs and the advisers they depend on when tough issues arise involving risky deals, aggressive regulators or gray-area accounting.

“Women are better listeners than men and they analyze well,” said Jim Ellis, president of Executive Search World, a professional recruiting firm in Honolulu. “Women are also more likely to challenge management and be more diplomatic about it than men. They have less ego involvement as directors than men.”

Just a few paragraphs later, however, we hear mixed messges from two of these women:

Diane Plotts, who heads the audit committee for American Savings Bank’s board, welcomes the emergence of women on bank boards.

She has witnessed the trend first hand. Since 2000, the number of women on her bank’s board has doubled to four.

“I’m glad to see more women being named to bank boards,” Plotts said. “I think it’s a function of more women achieving levels of expertise in corporations and offices. But I don’t think it has changed the way boards operate.”

Five years ago, Alice Guild was the only woman director on Central Pacific Bank’s board. Since she stepped down last year that number has grown to three. The latest is attorney Crystal Rose, who was elected to that board in February.

——–

“I’ve found that women are not afraid to speak up and challenge management,” said Guild, president of the Friends of Iolani Palace. “They are less willing to rubber stamp. This has been a long time coming and I’m so pleased that women are finally recognized for their value in business.”

If you’re curious, lists of the members of these boards are online: BOH, First Hawaiian Bank (PDF, see page 14), and Central Pacific Bank. American Savings Bank does not seem to provide this information at their website.

Comments (0)
Hale kin confirms stroke

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:39 am
Today the Hawaii Tribune-Herald has a story confirming that Representative Hale suffered a stroke recently and it has affected her speech. I posted on this yesterday when I saw the post at Hawaii Reporter. The author of the HR post, Andrew Walden, left a comment explaining his motivations. Fair enough.

Perhaps you are disappointed by the fact that politicians health problems are now in the news. In most democratic societies news items such as this one are taken for granted.

But then perhaps Hawai`i is not a democratic society, it is a Democrat society. When Harry Kim had a heart attack last spring it was not reported. When Patsy Mink died, it was not reported until??? These omissions are almost Soviet in nature.

This failure to report reflects the fact that the Democrat media sees these people not as individuals but as political place-holders. Apparently to them (and you), preserving their political position is more important than reporting their medical condition.

It is they who are showing lack of respect for the individual, not I.

As for the specific comment about Pahoa, Hillier raised the issue by insisting in the interview that Hale was ?returning to Pahoa today? and also by insisting that Hale was available for interview. I neither expected nor asked to interview Hale nor did I expect or ask whether Hale was returning to Pahoa soon.

One final issue: I edit a 22,500 circulation print newspaper on the Big Island. I am not a ?blogger”.

First, I have no problem with publicizing the health problems of elected officials. Indeed, if I were against that, would I have linked to the HR post and pointed out that he had scooped the newspapers?

I am tentativley reassured of Walden’s humanity by his explanation of how Hale’s geographical presence came to be a part of his story. I still maintain that incorporating that angle into this particular story about Hale’s health was purposely inflammatory, however. That’s Walden’s editorial decision to make, of course, and I don’t have to like it.

I confess to my prior ignorance of the existence of a print version of Walden’s “newspaper,” so I did a bit of Googling to learn more. It is a free bi-monthly affiliated with the Grassroot Institue and Hawaii Reporter. I consider Hawaii Reporter to be a blog, and distributing printed copies of blog posts is a pretty thin limb to crawl out upon and declare himself a journalist, in my opinion.

I was also taken to task by Grant Jones in a Dougout post for “letting slip [my] facade of objectivity.” Oh, forgive me, readers, I have expressed an opinion! Heh. Apparently Jones holds me to a higher standard than other bloggers—because we all know how perfectly objective this medium is. Not.

Jones goes on to scold me:

Unlike Doug, I live in Hale’s district. I have been hearing talk for some time about whether Hale actually lives in the district she represents. In the county phone book Hale is listed with two numbers, one in Hilo and one in Puna. Which is her primary residence? As her constituant [sic], I have every right to know who she really represents in Honolulu. Puna in large part has become a bedroom community of Hilo. So it has been an ongoing issue on whether some “Puna” office holders are more concerned with the well-being of Hilo, where they have their businesses, to the detriment of Puna.

It is also a matter of concern to her constituents on whether she is now physically able to do her job. Hale is now 88 years old.

Doug also has nothing to report on this cover-up by the media. If Hale had a “R” next to her name instead of a “D,” you can be damn sure her health and residence status would be a matter for the front page (above the fold) of the Hilo Tribune-Herald.

Sigh. Obviously, I’m part of this “cover-up.” Nevermind that I linked to the post yesterday, and I am now writing this follow-up post. Whatever.

I appreciate Jones’ comment about Puna being a bedroom community for Hilo. I am obviously less familiar with the specifics of his community than he, so I’m willing to take that criticism. However, to argue that elected officials (of either party) who live in bedroom communities might be partial to the district where they have business interests instead of the district they officially represent (where they maintain a residence) is not an issue limited to Puna/Hilo.

I am not a lawyer, but “residency” of a district is pretty squishy under election laws and the Hawaii Constitution, with no prohibition against having residences in more than one district so long as a voter/candidate only registers to vote/run in a single district. If the people of Puna (or any other district) think that their elected officials are not adequately representing them, then they should express that at the polls.

Again, best wishes to Representative Hale as she fights to recover.

Comments (3)
12/14/2005

Public transit options scoped out at Blaisdell

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:33 am
Two stories today about the first mass transit scoping meeting which was held yesterday at the Blaisdell Center. The Advertiser has a piece here and the SB has their article here.

First, notice the SB headline. “Forum tries to cover all rail-transit bases” The non-rail mass transit options are being given pro-forma lip service, at best, just like yesterday. However, major kudos to the SB for pursuing the secretive handling of the public comments. Did I see this coming, or what? Sigh.

Much of the public response to the ideas presented last night may not be known for some time. The city would not allow reporters to review written comments that were submitted.

The Star-Bulletin requested to see the public’s blue comment sheets that were turned in but city officials denied the request.

“These are public comments solicited by the (city) Department of Transportation Services and its consultant for our review,” city spokesman Bill Brennan said. “These comments will become part of the public record and it will be integrated into the alternatives analysis which we are in the process of formulating tonight.”

At one point when a reporter was reviewing the boxes of public comment sheets, an official at the meeting collected the box and took them to another table.

——–

Bob Loy, director of environmental programs with the Outdoor Circle, said the organization is concerned about the affect a mass transit project will have on Honolulu’s view planes and also about the way the public comment was collected.

“We’re uncomfortable that it’s not the kind of process that would really allow for a good free public conversation about this issue and how it should be handled,” Loy said. “It seems to have been designed in a way to limit public interaction and the ability for the public to create any kind of synergistic conversation that could result in a community consensus.”

[Scoping study consultant] Scheibe said this format was used because the city is in the early stages of selecting a mass transit option.

Along those lines, here’s one of the few samples of public opinion the Advertiser reporter was able to glean for her piece:

Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas Inc. was awarded the $9.7 million contract to spearhead the city’s “High-Capacity Transit Corridor” effort, and put together the evening’s events.

“Very slick,” Troy Seffrood, a Waikiki resident and University of Hawai’i graduate student, said of the presentation. “Very good.”

“I really like the idea of a rail system or other form of good rapid transit, but I’m just concerned they’ve already made up their minds and they are just slowly letting us know,” he said.

The harder I look, the more clear it becomes that Seffrood’s “concern” is reality. The debate is being not-so-subtly channeled directly into the question of “what kind of train route?” and away from “what kind of mass transit?” So why do it? Well, there’s this formal process that is required by the feds, so Honolulu residents are asked to go through the motions to the tune of $9.7 million…

Comments (0)
Schofield soldiers train at PTA instead of Makua

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:09 am
Both the Hawaii County dailies have versions of a story about Schofield Barracks soldiers training at the Pohakuloa Training Area for upcoming deployments to combat zones. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald article is here and the West Hawaii Today piece is here.

While the soldiers were traveling in a nine-vehicle convoy during Monday’s exercises, the training lane is set up for 12 vehicles, said Lt. Col. Jim Fly, Battalion Commander of the 524th Combat Support Battalion. Convoys in Iraq can consist of up to 50 vehicles, including civilian workers, so during this exercise, soldiers are being trained on the techniques, Fly added.

“The techniques are the same with nine vehicles as they are with 50, the vehicles are just spread out more,” he said.

The soldiers are also critiqued during the exercise by observer controllers (OCs), and when it is finished, they go through a “hotwash,” or an after action review on what went right and what went wrong.

Jacobs said the largest challenge the soldiers faced when starting the exercise was shooting live fire. Yet as the soldiers went through the exercise, they started improving and coming together as a cohesive unit, he added.

While Convoy Live-fire Training is not new, Lowe said they do not typically get to operate on this large a scale at Schoffield, as Oahu does not have as much open land as PTA.

As I had posted earlier, the Army is seeking legal authority to resume live-fire training in Makua Valley outside the scope of the agreement reached to defuse a lawsuit from environmentalist opposition. At that time, a SB story reported as follows:

Under the 2001 settlement with Earthjustice and native Hawaiian group Malama Makua, no weapons can be fired at the 4,190-acre Leeward Oahu valley until the Army completes a comprehensive environmental impact statement. The final EIS document was supposed to have been done in October 2004.

In the draft EIS, the Army says it wants to conduct 50 training missions a year in Makua, using tracer ammunition, inert missiles and rockets. It rejects the alternative places, such the Big Island’s Pohakuloa Training Area and mainland sites, because they are too far from Schofield Barracks.

Okay, so which is it? Is PTA too far away, or is PTA the better place for the troops to conduct live-fire training because of its expansive open land? Not that it ultimately matters, since I’m predicting the Army’s court motion will prevail and they will be allowed to train again soon at Makua Valley.

Comments (0)
Statewide enclosed public spaces smoking ban sought

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:47 am
The SB has an press release article sourced from the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii today with the results of a new public opinion poll about smoking. Overwhelmingly, the respondents are opposed to smoking in enclosed public spaces where secondhand smoke is unavoidable.

Although all Hawaii counties have law regarding smoke-free workplaces, there is no such statewide ordinance.

Zysman said she plans to propose legislation to lawmakers next year based on the poll results to better protect workers and patrons from secondhand smoke.

The state’s current statute relating to secondhand smoke enacted in 1987 is outdated, she said.

“We know a lot more about the dangers and impact of secondhand smoke now than we did in 1987. What we have now is a patchwork of county ordinances. Some provide pretty good protections for employees. Some are not quite as good,” Zysman added.

“So what we have right now is inconsistencies depending on which county you’re in,” she said. “Everyone should be afforded a safe, smoke-free workplace.”

The politics of this issue could become rather tricky, so it will be worth watching closely to see how this issue develops. The same old arguments about Japanese tourists and some employees who like to smoke, blah blah blah, and the fact that several key legislators are smokers will make for some controversy. Hypocrisy alert, by the way: the Capitol security staff is unable (or is it not even trying?) to enforce the regularly-defied no-smoking policy at the building.

Comments (0)
Bills to give fetuses limited personhood planned

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:25 am
The Advertiser has a story today about legislation being drafted in response to the Hawaii Supreme Court decision to overturn a manslaughter conviction involving a pregnant mother found to have caused the death of her fetus by using methamphetamine. I had predicted this would lead to legislation when I commented on this decision earlier. At the time I thought the legislation was a non-starter, but this article suggests that if the bills have a more narrow focus (i.e. a person other than the pregnant woman causes the death of the fetus) there may be a small chance to pass such a bill, or at least to pass such a bill out of the Senate.

State Senate Majority Leader Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, said she doubts lawmakers will punish pregnant women who harm their unborn children. State Rep. Sylvia Luke, D-26th (Punchbowl, Pacific Heights, Nu’uanu Valley), chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, has already said she would not support such a bill.

But Hanabusa said she would consider a law aimed at people who kill or harm unborn children during assaults on pregnant women, which exist in several other states. Hanabusa said the Supreme Court appeared to be inviting the Legislature to take action by noting in the Aiwohi ruling that others would not likely be prosecuted for killing unborn children.

“I’m willing to take a look at it,” Hanabusa said.

Curiously, there is no mention if Representative Luke was solicited for her opinion of the more narrowly-focused second bill. Was DePledge unable to get a comment from Luke, or did he not seek her comment? Hmmm.

Comments (0)
Representative Hale recovering from possible stroke

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:48 am
I did not see any mention of this in the Honolulu or Hawaii County newspapers, but the HR has a post about Representative Helene Hale.

State Representative Helene Hale, (D-Puna 4th) suffered what is being described as a mild stroke Thursday December 8 and was admitted to Hilo Hospital where she remained until being released Monday. Reached Tuesday by telephone at her Hilo residence, Hale said she suffered a “minor aphasia” and was given “lots of tests” in the hospital.

During the short interview, Hale had difficulty with her speech, unable to form some words. Hale?s niece, Barbara Hillier said Hale was staying in Hilo for medical care and would “return to Pahoa later today”. Political and media sources in Pahoa say Hale now lives full time in Hilo ?outside her district?and, says one, “receives her mail there”.

The HR post is by conservative journalist blogger Andrew Walden, so that gratuitous carpet-bagger insinuation against a longtime Democratic warhorse was not wholly unexpected. Apparently Walden would expect Hale to remain in Pahoa even while she needs medical attention. Auwe!

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Representative Hale.

Comments (3)
12/13/2005

Police rank and file pan chief in union’s survey

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:44 am
Both Honolulu dailies run stories about a survey of Honolulu police officers by their union. The Advertiser piece is here, and the SB article is here. The survey results (PDF) were compiled by William Puette of the UH-West Oahu Center for Labor Education and Research.

The survey results come on the heels of a glowing review issued Thursday by the Honolulu Police Commission, which ranked Correa as exceeding or exemplary in leadership qualities, managerial skills and communication with the commission.

After a cursory review of the survey results, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said, “Because it comes from the rank and file, it should be given serious consideration. While the chief communicates well with his management team, it seems there might be some problems with communications with the rank and file.”

——–

Most officers who filled out a survey commissioned by the local police officers union expressed dissatisfaction with the leadership of Honolulu Police Chief Boisse Correa, according to the survey results.

According to results, released yesterday, 76.1 percent stated Correa “never or almost never communicates accurately or precisely with them,” while 73.7 percent stated Correa “never or almost never works well with line officers toward common goals.”

In addition, more than 78 percent of the survey participants said morale was so low that they always or almost always wished they had a different police chief.

The survey results (and the dispute over their veracity) are interesting, but I have no particular insight to argue either side about the survey or its methodology. However, what I found more interesting was this section of Puette’s discussion:

Disciplinary Action as a Demographic: The survey also asked respondents to indicate whether or not they have a disciplinary record. Though no over unit statistic was available from SHOPO to compare this to, a surprisingly high percentage of respondents (51.5%) identified themselves as recipients of disciplinary action. In view of the representativeness of the other demographics, it is likely, though not certain that this high percentage is indicative of the overall unit. If that is the case, it does suggest that discipline is being overused as a motivational and management device. Clearly, more research on the extent and application of disciplinary actions in this unit compared to other public employees and other police departments is advisable.

[blink]

Uh, to the extent the sample is representative of the entire force, these data also “suggest” that misconduct by Honolulu police officers is widespread. Strange that the law enforcement community would adopt what is essentially an “over enforcement” spin, to say the least. Indeed, “more research … is advisable.” Heh.

Comments (2)
Scoping deck is stacked

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:14 am
Today it was the SB’s turn to expound on the mass transit scoping meetings. They also provide maps and narrative descriptions of the proposed route alignments for the rail system.

City Council Transportation Chairman Todd Apo said: “I’d love to see everyone out there. The public input is of the utmost importance, especially in the early stages of this process.

“Let’s make sure people have a good strong voice if there are legitimate strong alternatives that are not on the paper right now.”

But some critics say the process for selecting mass transit solutions is already on the fast track to a rail system at the expense of other alternatives.

“The fix is in,” said rail opponent Cliff Slater.

Slater may be right. There are almost zero details provided about the option to expand the hub-and-spoke bus network. The option encompassing an elevated two-lane highway for buses, carpoolers, and toll-paying motorists at least has a map (on the website, but not in the articles). The rail option is the only option that is really fleshed out with maps and a detailed description (and even a separate article in the SB). If you were a marketer looking at these “alternatives” you could only conclude that the rail option has the best packaging and advertising. It’s like comparing a Superbowl half-time ad spot to those annoying decks of “work at home” business cards you find taped to crosswalk buttons…

Anyway, I followed the link to the official website and came across this flowchart (PDF) and timeline (Figure 1.2 of this PDF) that are useful. Slater’s beef is that HOT lanes were not incorporated into the “Development of Initial Set of Alternatives” phase of the game. There was no public input at that point. Now, during the scoping phase, there will be two public meetings this week for people like Slater to pitch other options, and public comments will be taken until January 9, 2006. After scoping is pau, all the alternatives will be considered and in September 2006 the alternatives analysis will be released for public comment through November. In December the Locally Preferred Alternative will be selected. At that point the Draft EIS will begin.

As I posted earlier, after the Locally Preferred Alternative is selected, the EIS process will have to (again) consider other alternatives in detail, so it could turn out that the LPA is revealed to be a poor choice. No matter. So long as they follow the procedure and the “accepting agencies” sign off on it, the LPA will be “the plan.”

Comments (0)
Dorm resident voices censorship beef

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:09 am
An op-ed contributed by a dormitory resident to the Ka Leo (UH-Manoa student newspaper) was printed today. It is about the administration’s interception of letters from the student government to dorm residents. The piece takes ASUH to task for the contents of the letter, but it also expresses opposition to the censorship of the letter.

Upon investigation, ASUH Senator Katie Barry was unable to find proper procedures for distributing letters through campus mail. After discovering that desk receptionist logs at several dormitories contained instructions not to distribute the letters to mailboxes, but to deliver them to the residential life coordinator, several senators dropped the letters off at the front desks of all the housing facilities. They were later returned to ASUH. What the housing department had originally intended to do with them has not been revealed. Regardless of the content of the letter or the method by which they were delivered, Student Housing should not have interfered in this matter.

———

Sending out a letter with erroneous and misleading information is irresponsible and an insult to residents. Censoring our mail is a violation of the First Amendment. It is atrocious that this is somehow OK by UHM’s standards. Student Housing should not have interfered with the delivery of these letters.

If a full investigation of this matter takes place, this department is going to have a very difficult time defending its actions. It really makes me wonder how many other laws UHM bends. I just hope that UHM understands that its students aren’t idiots, and we won’t take a violation of our civil rights lying down.

As much as I am obviously curious about this issue, somehow I doubt a “full investigation” will take place. ASUH is basically a toothless tiger. Unless they choose to take formal legal action against the administration, I don’t see how they will ever get anything other than blown off and/or patted on the head by the administration. It’s about like a Neighborhood Board “demanding” something from the City Council or Legislature…

Comments (0)
12/12/2005

Those from Hawaii who gave maximum ($6000) donations to Lingle

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:58 am
Well, this is what happens when the SB provides a list of big donors to a perl user… I wrote a script to create links for Google and Google News searches for each donor. I’ve given a cursory review to all of them, but please do your own browsing and add your own comments if you find anything of note or if I have misinterpreted any.

It’s a long list, you’ll find it after the break if you’re interested.

Also note: thanks to those who left me “warnings,” but this is not a double post. The other post is a different donor list and has a different title.
(more…)

Comments (2)
Those from outside Hawaii who gave maximum ($6000) donations to Lingle

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:58 am
Well, this is what happens when the SB provides a list of big donors to a perl user… I wrote a script to create links for Google and Google News searches for each donor. I’ve given a cursory review to all of them, but please do your own browsing and add your own comments if you find anything of note or if I have misinterpreted any.

It’s a long list, you’ll find it after the break if you’re interested.
(more…)

Comments (1)
Public transit meetings – form will obscure substance

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:49 am
Another reminder in the Advertiser today about the “scoping” meetings for the Oahu mass transit project. The meetings are this week, and, if history is any guide, turnout will probably be low. Too bad.

…Officials want to hear about how they should pursue big transportation goals and what’s right and wrong with five preliminary routes that have been identified for rail or managed lanes, [City Transportation engineer] Hamayasu said.

“Right now, we’re looking for potential problems. Is one route near an ancestral burial ground we don’t know about? Is there a better alignment we should be looking at?” he asked.

The scoping meetings are part of a federally required process for all mass transit projects that hope to receive federal funding. The city is considering developing a mass transit system that likely will stretch almost 23 miles between Kapolei and the University of Hawai’i-Manoa. City officials have passed an increase in the state’s general excise tax to help pay for the project, which by some estimates could cost as much as $2.8 billion.

This week’s meetings will not be done in the typical public hearing style in which residents grab a microphone and address a line of officials at the head of a room, Hamayasu said.

Instead, arriving residents will be encouraged to visit each of almost 40 stations scattered throughout the room with information on each alternative being considered for the project, including different route alignments. Then they’ll be able to discuss the options individually with city officials. Finally, they’ll be encouraged to offer written comments on cards provided for them or visit several waiting court-type reporters, who will record their oral comments, Hamayasu said.

This is a bit peculiar. One advantage could be that people are willing to speak more freely without the added anxiety of speaking before a crowd of (unknown) officials and citizens. However, it’s also possible that the novelty of stenographers might intimidate people just as much. From an “open meeting” standpoint, it is going to be hard for people like Leidemann to get an idea of what the testifiers think of these options without the usual “public hearing” format. Even if we all went to the meeting, we really would not learn what our neighbors think of these options.

Of course, the stenographer will record the comments and they will eventually be transcribed. But when will that transcription be available and will those written comment cards also be available for public review? In theory, all it would take is one persuasive/substantive comment to emerge from these meetings and the likelihood of any (or all) of the options might be thrown into doubt. It would certainly be better for the public to know that sooner rather than later (i.e. when the draft EIS is pau).

More cynically, this method of gathering testimony will have the efffect of making it more difficult for the opposition to organize and strategize.

Comments (0)
“Cooperative conservation” espoused

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:20 am
A few articles from the outer islands about a visit to Hawaii from the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Lynn Scarlett is known for a concept she developed at a libertarian think tank that she calls “cooperative conservation.” The Department of the Interior has adopted this philosophy as policy. The Maui News has a piece on her visit to Haleakala, while the Hawaii County papers have similar accounts of her tour of the national parks on that island (West Hawaii Today piece is here, and Hawaii Tribune-Herald article is here.)

?Conservation resides in the actions of everyone,? said Scarlett, wrapped in park ranger green to ward off the bitter temperatures of the mountaintop. ?While government can have a role, if we put all our eggs in one basket, we can?t achieve our goals. Nature knows no boundaries ? nature doesn?t stop at the end of a national park.?

So is this the privatization of environmental preservation with the federal government easing out?

?The more apt word is partnership,? she replied, ?partnerships of federal agencies acting with state governments, acting with tribes, acting with local governments, acting with local citizens. All of them working together.?

Is the net amount of federal involvement increasing or decreasing? It’s a pretty simple question that none of these articles seems to answer. However, of the 2004 grants awarded by the Department of the Interior for projects in Hawaii, the federal government did not “match” the local funds in any case. Indeed, in one instance the federal funds amounted to only 13% of the project funding and the federal portion never reaches 50% of total funding in any grant from that year.

Another online report (PDF) gives a bit of narrative regarding the five projects undertaken in Hawaii. Three of the five projects arguably have a secondary motivation to the extent that they facilitate military training (annually operating Marine AAVs at the Nuupia mud flats to improve stilt habitat; red-footed boobie habitat protection at the Mokapu crater Marine firing range; and, a GIS survey of Oahu lands around military training areas that not only serve habitat preservation but also a “buffer” between the training exercises and the civilian population).

Overall, DOD has a lukewarm opinion of conservation (e.g. the Makua disputes). Consider these comments from U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

Rumsfeld said the Defense Department recognizes that some lifesaving military training depends on conserving habitat for wildlife and forestalling encroachment by suburban sprawl. For example, working with conservation groups and other agencies to set aside buffers for wildlife habitat on nearby private lands has allowed the military to conduct exercises without restrictions on noise and use of airspace while simultaneously protecting the habitat, he said.

Military bases in areas once considered remote are now the habitats for a quarter of all 1,268 endangered and threatened species because their grounds are less disturbed, said Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Alex Beehler.

Basically, the military has become unintentional conservationists, and don’t seem particularly enthusiastic about the role they have stumbled into. Finally, returning to the articles about Scarlett’s visit, I would sure like to find similar DOI reports about enforcement actions during her tenure.

Scarlett’s strong support of non-government partnerships, and her opposition to regulatory approaches to conservation have been criticized by some environmental groups such as EarthJustice. The organization wrote on its Web site that Scarlett discards precautionary principles and does not believe “polluting industries should accept the responsibility and cost for cleaning up the messes they create.”

Scarlett said she does not believe in regulation completely because it creates an atmosphere of “high conflict, litigation and distrust by landowners.” Although she does acknowledge the strides made by air quality and endangered species regulations.

“We need to create a nation of citizens, so they feel connection to conservation,” said Scarlett. “At this 21st century we need to engage all Americans, a lot of regulatory tools are not good for that.”

Hmmm. Maybe not, but regulatory tools are surely useful for “engaging” environmental violators…

Comments (0)
12/11/2005

Lingle continues Mainland fundraising; Dems continue to search

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:20 am
A bundle of articles today about the 2006 Governor race, or rather the lack of a race at this time. The Advertiser has an article and an op-ed. The SB has another article, including a list of donors who have already contributed the maximum legal amount ($6000) to Lingle’s campaign fund. Finally, there is also a letter to the SB suggesting a dark horse Democratic candidate.

Conspicuously missing from all these reports is any mention of Hawaii County Mayor, Harry Kim. Have his 15 minutes of fame speculation finally expired? Hmmm.

… A gathering of major Democrats last week at the HGEA office failed to come up with a name or names.

The meeting (no smoke-filled room these days; nobody smokes) involved everyone from Sens. Daniel Inouye and Dan Akaka to leaders of the Legislature, party and union officials, and others.

Afterward, everyone said this wasn’t a king-making session, but rather just a chance to sit down and survey the landscape.

The official message: There’s still plenty of time, no need to panic. Inouye said it was useful just to get together to kick names and issues around a little bit.

Within a day, e-mails were circulating touting state Rep. Brian Schatz as a “sacrificial” candidate against the incumbent Linda Lingle. Schatz has been busy, not so much on behalf of himself, but in an effort to get someone of substance to run.

The electorate deserves a strong debate about the state and the direction it is going, Schatz argues. The best way to accomplish that is through a vigorous gubernatorial campaign.

If any recipient of those emails proposing to “sacrifice” Schatz is willing to cut and paste the contents into the comment section of this post, that would be very useful. I’m also hoping that Schatz might address this subject at his blog.

Finally, I don’t consider this theory to be very likely, but there was this letter to the SB editors:

University of Hawaii Interim President David McClain’s announcement that he will not seek appointment as the permanent president (Star-Bulletin, Nov. 29) should have been no surprise to those who have been following Hawaii politics.

While McClain has wisely chosen to steer clear of partisan politics during his tenure at UH, his roots in the Democratic Party are deep, including a stint as senior staff economist for President Carter’s Council of Economic Advisors. Combine that with the Democratic Party’s desperate search for a credible candidate for governor and McClain’s announcement makes perfect sense.

With his background in economics and his success performing the second-toughest job in Hawaii, McClain is well qualified for the toughest. As to his abilities as a politician, anyone who has ever seen McClain work the crowd at a UH event knows he is a natural.

Perhaps Governor Lingle should make sure her friend George W. Bush has a “fall-back” job waiting for her after next November’s election – just in case.

John P. Wendell
Kailua

Now, if Wendell had suggested “humble” Evan Dobelle was considering to run, that I could believe… Heh.

Comments (2)
Thumbing through the cash

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:07 am
Borreca’s Sunday column in the SB is about the large budget surplus the State is reaping and the political options for how to deal with it.

What Lingle [likes] is a tax cut, or several tax cuts and a tax rebate.

But [Senate Ways and Means Chair] Taniguchi is wary of both tax cuts and rebates. He recalls how former Gov. John Waihee used a portion of his $500 million surplus 15 years ago to give everyone a $100 rebate.

“We have a million people and you give everyone $100 and you have just spent $100 million, and I’m not sure that is what the people want,” he said.

Indeed, Lingle first floated the rebate idea during the summer and so far it has not caught any lift.

Raises, not rebates, are what concern legislators today. Democrats point to the final years in the labor contract with University of Hawaii professors with its raises of 9 and 11 percent and fear that an arbitrator would award the 40,000-member Hawaii Government Employees Association similar raises, if the money is available.

The decision, according to several legislators, will be how to spend the money before it all winds up as a pay raise for HGEA. Watch for the unions to be some of the biggest “fiscal conservatives” when it comes to spending the state surplus.

Very good point. Budgeting is a zero-sum game and for some to “win” others will “lose.” But this is nothing new; collective bargaining is simply the most visible reminder of it.

However, Borreca would have done well to remind readers that those 9 and 11 percent raises to UHPA were offered by the Lingle administration on the assumption that the economy would improve—and it has improved as hoped. The raises were not forced upon the State by an “unfair” arbitrator. Lingle made her bed and now she (and the taxpayers) must prepare to lie in it.

Keep in mind, too, that those 9 and 11 percent raises are actually 6.75 and 8.25 percent, since the State is splitting the cost of those raises 75:25 with the UH.

Comments (0)
Kawai Nui Marsh dispute puts restoration on hold

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:38 am
This Sunday it is the Advertiser’s turn to have a whack at the story of the Army Corps of Engineers project to improve habitiat in the Kawai Nui Marsh. I posted about the SB piece last week.

The article is very hard to summarize, because the article describes the dispute between the City and the State with a lot of “State says, City says,” and without much third-party analysis or any other way to know who makes the better argument. However, I still believe that this State-County dispute should not be a dealbreaker.

Jennifer Sabas, chief of staff for Inouye’s Hawai’i office, said Congress is aware of the transfer dispute, and in this tight budget, slashed the funding because the project cannot proceed without a local sponsor who will maintain the project once it is completed.

In the crudest form of summary, the dispute is over who will be responsible for the flood control operations of the Marsh. As far as I can tell, however, this habitat restoration work is not being done for flood control purposes. I do not understand why the Army Corps of Engineers is unwilling to simply deal with the current owner of the property (i.e. the City).

In my opinion, the question should be “is the owner willing to maintain this habitat restoration?” If the answer from the City (and the feds might as well ask the State, too) is yes, then go ahead and do it. If the City ever resolves this dispute and transfers the property to the State, then great. But that may not happen soon. So long as both parties show a willingness to support the habitat restoration, why wait?

Comments (0)
Epistles from the underdogs

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:18 am
I noticed that both Honolulu dailies print “cautionary” rail transit letters from Kristi Sue-Ako, one of the applicants to serve out Galen Fox’s term. It’s pretty safe to infer that she opposes rail tranist, though she does not explicitly take that position in this letter. The Advertister letters are here, and the SB letters are here.

The City and County of Ho-nolulu needs to take a good, hard look at rail transit with unclouded eyes. Rail proponents can complain about stalling tactics, but at the moment, the city is jumping blindly into a deep pit.

Can we afford a project that will cost us millions more than the current estimates? Can we maintain a project that is divisive and has never been approved by voters?

Do we need a solid and cohesive plan before proceeding? You betcha.

KRISTI SUE-AKO
Kaka’ako

This is from the Charles Djou “I don’t oppose rail, I just want a good process” mold. That message certainly holds more water in the form of a letter from relatively unknown Sue-Ako than in the form of more drastic actions from the outspoken Djou. Maybe Sue-Ako chose to temper her remarks since she is seeking to be selected by (crypto pro-rail) Governor Lingle for that Lege seat. Heh.

Also, I noticed that the “official” GOP Hawaii blogger, Mike Hu, has a letter in the Advertiser, too:

Regarding plans for a controversial UARC at the University of Hawai’i: That’s a shame. It’s a chance for “high tech” at UH to mean something other than basket-weaving.

Mike Hu
Honolulu

Given his vitriolic opinions of the print media, it’s a bit ironic that Hu would find any point in sending his letter, but whatever. Furthermore, for anybody to seriously claim that UH-Manoa is not involved in “high tech” work demonstrates just how little Hu pays attention.

Comments (0)
12/10/2005

Into the traffic maw

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 9:20 am
Light posting this morning, because I’m heading out the door. Today is the gift-buying day for a few people I could not accomodate online.

Hoping for parking karma and a taste of “Drive Aloha,” but we’ll see how my luck goes…

Comments (0)
Lingle speaks to realtors about affordable housing

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:09 am
The SB has an account today of a recent speech the Governor made in Waikiki before more than 1,300 members of the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

[Governor Lingle] is seeking support for her affordable housing package, which includes a measure that would increase the income limits of affordable-housing programs to 140 percent of the median income.

“We think the affordable housing issue is broader than even just those on the lower end. I am concerned about the school teacher who is married to the firefighter: They should be able to afford to buy a home.”

Lingle also asked for support for proposals that ease the building of affordable homes. She advocates changing the role of the Land Use Commission from one of parcel-by-parcel, judicial-type review to one of setting broad land-use policies. The administration is also in favor of reclassifying land in larger units such as tracks or designed growth areas, she said.

In addition, the governor urged members of the real estate industry to speak up about the role of impact fees and exactions in the increasing price of housing. Her suggestion that fees for housing development should be limited to what is real and justified drew applause from the crowd.

Lingle also asked developers, real estate agents and brokers gathered at the event to support efforts to increase housing development in the downtown district, including Kakaako.

Taking them in reverse order:

That last remark suggests that the Governor supports the A&B proposal to include condos in the HCDA project to re-develop Kakaako Makai. Which again raises the question: what do key legislators have to say about the newly-amended plan?

Her “real and justified” housing development fees suggestion is vague and confusing (at least as it is presented in the article), but I’m assuming this is directed toward impact fees and the requirements for infrastructure to serve new development. One way or another, the infrastructure is needed for any development to be feasible. Thus, the question is who should pick up this tab; the developer (passed on to the home buyer) or the taxpayers? Judging by the applause, it’s clear where the realtors weigh in on that.

Next, jiggering with the LUC mission is certain to come under a lot of scrutiny. Again, few details are provided, but this could either be an opportunity to have a much-needed “growth v. conservation” debate or it could be a “to heck with conservation, we need homes” steamroller.

Finally, the call for including those earning 140% of median income among those eligible to purchase “affordable” housing is a mixed bag. There is a gap group that is having troulbe finding homes, that much is agreed. However, in my opinion this gap group should only be made eligible for some, not all, of the “affordable” units. To do otherwise would be to effectively exclude families at or below the median income from the market—again.

Comments (1)
12/9/2005

Mayor wants to cut Waimea Valley deal

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:46 am
If any of you are still a bit fuzzy on the Waimea Valley condemnation history, I recommend this very informative SB editorial. I’m not sure what makes it an editorial, since it does not seem to advocate any opinion on the topic, but if you need a very succinct summary of the story then this piece is hard to beat.

There are also new developments described in stories today about Mayor Hannemann’s desire to settle the dispute before going to trial in February. The Advertiser has a piece here, and the SB has an article here.

Hannemann said he still wants to negotiate a settlement rather than prepare to go to court the week of Feb. 13.

“I think there is too much at risk for the city and all parties to let the courts decide (how much the city must pay for the land),” Hannemann said. “What if that cost is so astronomical we just can’t afford it?”

Hannemann said he’s worried that the city can’t finance what a court might rule is the fair market value for the property. And those who said they would support the preservation might fade, he said.

——–

[Waimea Valley landowner] Wolffer is looking forward to going to trial because he believes he has a good case, said Bill McCorriston, his attorney.

Still, McCorriston said, Wolffer would be willing to continue mediation with the city as long as ground rules are set, including defining what role the City Council and the Audubon Society would play in the negotiations.

McCorriston said he found Audubon President John Flicker’s testimony before the Council on Wednesday “disingenuous and dishonest” about the risks that face the city should the Council decide to reject the settlement offer.

“They don’t seem capable of telling the truth,” said McCorriston, who says his client does not want to negotiate directly with Audubon.

Attempts to reach Audubon officials yesterday were unsuccessful.

Hannemann said he could mediate.

“That’s where I’m the go-between,” the mayor said. “He doesn’t have to talk to them directly. I’ll talk to the Audubon Society, I’ll talk to OHA, I’ll talk to the state and that’s what I’ll do.”

Shrug. It sure looks like grandstanding on the Mayor’s part to me. From all I’ve seen, it appears that the City is not going to be the savior of this valley, as the credit will probably go to Audobon, OHA, or the State. Thus, negotiating this deal could be as close as anybody at the City level will get to a chance to claim a share of the credit. If Hannemann fails to broker a settlement, the condemnation still goes to trial, so at this point there is no real political risk for the Mayor—and a small chance for a win.

That said, I see no harm in it for the Valley, so why not?

Comments (1)
Legislature a month away

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:09 am
More Hawaii media should pass this message. From a Maui News editorial:

It?s the time of year when the counties and the governor are preparing proposals for the 2006 Legislature that goes into session next month.

This is also the time when government administrations are preparing budget proposals for the Legislature and county councils. Spending tax dollars requires thinking about needed programs and projects.

——–

Individual members of the public can and should join the legislative proposal parade by contacting their legislators with ideas and concerns. Contact numbers are in the state listings of every telephone book.

Waiting until Opening Day (i.e. mid-January) is the kiss of death. If you want an idea advanced you should be working with your legislator NOW. Drafting bills is not necessarily complex, but, even for a “simple” change, the process does take time.

Comments (0)
Governor accused of starving the BOEast

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:57 am
Here we go again. The Advertiser has a story about the first group to find their budget request trimmed by the Lingle administration.

The annual skirmish over state funding for public education began last night, with state Superintendent of Schools Pat Hamamoto announcing that Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration has rejected $64 million in spending requests from the state Board of Education.

Hamamoto said education officials will take the board’s request directly to the Legislature next year to ask that lawmakers provide the money anyway.

The board asked for an extra $94 million to cover public education needs. The Lingle administration responded by including $30 million worth of those requests in the proposed budget the governor will submit for the Legislature to consider in January, Hamamoto said.

The BOE is typically the most vocal of the departments when it comes to budget requests. Obviously, being an independently elected (vice cabinet-level appointed) body, the BOE is not as beholden to grin and bear it when the Governor trims their requests. In contrast, the other Department heads often support legislation “so long as it does not impact our budget priorities, blah blah blah.”

In the end, of course, even those cabinet-level appointees are not altogether shy about communicating with the Lege (albeit more discreetly) if they think their budget priorities are skewed. In fact, it’s possible that these “off the record” chats are more influential than the official budget testimony submitted. Pretty hard to know on a case-by-case basis if these chats are tolerated with a wink by the Governor (allowing her to pin “irresponsible” spending and priority changes on the Lege), or if these Directors are truly operating off-Reservation.

So, it turned out that I don’t have much to say about the specific facts of this article. I mostly just wanted to write this post for the chance to use the headline I had brainstormed, haha.

Comments (0)
Prostitution or constituent communication. What’s the difference?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:31 am
A rather whimpering end to the story about the UH Housing office and their admission to blocking letters from the student government addressed to dorm residents. According to this SB report (via AP), the administration thinks they have found a thin fig leaf to hide behind:

Wayne Iwaoka, vice chancellor for student affairs, said that officials were able to intervene because the letters were dropped off at individual dormitories. The 3,000 letters should have been sent through the school’s mailing office, Iwaoka said.

He said a housing policy bans soliciting in campus dormitories, which is why the letters were confiscated.

“Housing does have a right to ask, ‘OK, what is in here?’” he said. If they had been sent either through the U.S. Postal Service or dropped off for campus mail, the letters would have been sent without them being read by school officials.

“Soliciting,” he says. Well, I suppose by one of the formal definitions of the word Iwaoka may be right:

1. To seek to obtain by persuasion, entreaty, or formal application: a candidate who solicited votes among the factory workers.
2. To petition persistently; importune: solicited the neighbors for donations.
3. To entice or incite to evil or illegal action.
4. To approach or accost (a person) with an offer of sexual services.

The ASUH letters did advise dorm residents to withold their consent to searches of their rooms and identification checks, although such actions are authorized by Housing office policy. So, to that extent, the ASUH letters could be seen as “solicitations.”

This still does not explain how sealed letters from the student government to their constituents came to be opened. Without first opening the sealed letters, it would have been impossible to characterize them “solicitations.” Thus, the admonition to send the letters through the campus mail office is a canard. At the campus mail office the letters would have been sorted by dormitory and then dropped off for bulk distribution. Eliminating the intermediary should have had no bearing on the question of whether letters from these legislators to their constituents were opened and parsed for solicitations.

In other words, the opinions I expressed in that earlier post still stand.

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How is my legislator voting?

Filed under:
General
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:59 am
I have added a link to a very cool service provided by the Washington Post.

By going to this page you can navigate to a list of every member of Congress and find links to subscribe to an RSS feed of how each member is voting (updated once daily). Pretty cool stuff, especially for wonks.

Some hard-charging local web slinger newspaper should try to replicate this service for the Hawaii Legislature. The Legislature makes it easy to find votes for each particular piece of legislation, but there is no option now to present the data in this “votes by individual legislator” format.

How about it? If anybody else thinks this would be a good idea, make some noise.

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12/8/2005

Council votes 9-0 to kill Waimea deal

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:03 am
Well, mirabile dictu, my hunch was correct. I should go Vegas!

Everyone has the story. The Advertiser piece is here, the SB article is here and there is a KITV story here.

So, now can we be told exactly what the rejected settlement offer had included?

After the vote yesterday afternoon, the attorney for the New York-based investor in the midst of that court battle said his client is willing to continue settlement talks, but only if Mayor Mufi Hannemann – not the Council – leads those discussions.

“He has no confidence in the City Council to mediate,” said attorney Bill McCorriston, who represents Christian Wolffer of Waimea landowner Attractions Hawaii.

City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, who represents the area that includes Waimea Valley, said the Council would have to approve any settlement. “Like it or not, that’s the role given the City Council by our City Charter,” he said.

Actually, isn’t it more accurate to say that the Council approves settlements that emerge from negotiations led by the Corporation Counsel? I doubt that the Mayor will personally lead the discussion, and, if he does “lead” the talks, I think it could only be at a superficial level.

“We’d like to work with the corporation counsel, the city, with the mediator to get the best price we can and then put the financial package together and come back to you at the next Council meeting,” said Audubon President John Flicker, who has been in town garnering financial support.

McCorriston said the mayor has asked whether they are interested in participating in further mediation.

McCorriston said that going back to settlement talks will depend on the ground rules. He said Wolffer refuses to negotiate with the Audubon Society for their “disingenuous” testimony yesterday.

“If there are further negotiations, it would have to be with the mayor leading the charge,” McCorriston said.

I do not understand Wolffer’s indignation having so much influence over his legal strategy. It seems to me that having the “deep pocket” spender (i.e. Audobon) at the negotiation table would give Wolffer more leverage in seeking a higher price; Audobon is unlikely to plead poverty like the City already had. However, Audobon might have some high-power legal counsel that Wolffer would rather not tangle with, I dunno.

Amid the outpouring of public sentiment, Councilman Nestor Garcia ? one of the four who voted against the preliminary settlement agreement last month ? said O’ahu now had another reason to remember Dec. 7.

Garcia said Dec. 7, 2005, would be remembered as a day when people came together to make their will known, and put their trust in elected officials to make the right choice.

“By showing up and expressing your opinion on this issue so important to, not just yourself, not just for the people of Hawai’i, but for those future generations not yet born, you have made a difference,” Garcia said. “And I applaud you.”

My! Take that, cynics! Gag. haha.

I know Nestor well and I realize that he probably was sincere, but please. A bit of historical perspective is in order. His colleagues on the Council reconsidered a too-hasty vote yesterday, that’s it. Far too soon to say the Valley is saved for future generations. It wasn’t Pearl Harbor II.

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A&B tones down Kaka’ako project

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:39 am
In reaction to (but not completely acquiescing to) growing community criticism, Alexander and Baldwin has amended their plan for redeveloping Kakaako Makai. This story is all over the place, the Advertiser, the SB and KITV all carry reports on the new plan.

Alexander & Baldwin’s plan revisions, which executives presented to state officials yesterday, follow a 10-week public comment period during which the company entertained criticisms from an array of citizens.

The new plan drew accolades from residents who attended the monthly meeting of the state’s Hawaii Community Development Authority, where A&B unveiled the revisions. The authority manages the state-owned land where the proposed project would be built and is responsible for negotiating a development agreement with A&B Properties Inc., Alexander & Baldwin’s real estate unit.

“It’s definitely a positive,” said David Kelly, a member of Friends of Kewalo Basin Park Association, an activist group that had voiced concerns about the development’s impact on oceanfront parks and the Point Panic surf spot.

“It’s a good, workable situation for everyone,” said Gary Akiona, also of the Kewalo Basin Park group. “I guess some little people do make a difference.”

Anne Stevens, a citizen who criticized the development authority for not allowing enough public input into development plans, lauded A&B.

“They’re a great company; this is amazing,” Stevens said after hearing A&B’s proposal. “They listened where HCDA never would have.”

——–

Stan Kuriyama, chief executive of A&B Properties, emphasized that the revision stops short of addressing the concerns of the project’s most adamant critics, who oppose residential development on the ocean side of Ala Moana and the sale of any state-owned land to a private developer.

That’s true, but answering the query I made earlier, it turns out that the HCDA has all along been seeking a development that includes housing on the site. A&B can’t eliminate the housing component of the plan unless the HCDA were to change the request for proposals. If HCDA did that, they should (would?) probably solicit new proposals…

Housing has been the project’s most controversial element, but one that officials in charge of revitalizing the area say is necessary to pay for public elements of the plan such as a hula amphitheater, commercial complex anchored by a farmers market and expanded park space.

The Hawai’i Community Development Authority, the semi-autonomous state agency overseeing development of the area, suggested that residential use be included in development proposals it solicited in February.

Vaguely on this topic, I’ve seen a few emails that are floating around alleging that Kamehameha Schools is seeking to get authorization to build condominiums on property they hold near this HCDA parcel along Ala Moana Boulevard — on the makai side (currently an auto dealership). I did not save the email, and I can’t remember if that idea would be subject to HCDA approval or to some other bureaucracy.

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OHA’s Apoliona: Hawaiian unity key

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:13 am
I hestitate to dabble in this topic, especially since I am nowhere near as versed in the topic as my friend Mr. Crawford, but here goes. The Chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Haunani Apoliona, gave a formal speech yesterday and the Advertiser has this account.

[Apoliona] cited two adverse decisions this year from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: one that ruled against Hawaiians-only admission to Kamehameha Schools and one that said taxpayers can challenge direct taxpayer funding of OHA.

“We must challenge these decisions, in court and in Congress, because they seek to undermine all that we are and eliminate all the gains we have made in the past 112 years,” Apoliona said.

The crowd of nearly 300 enthusiastically applauded when Apoliona vowed to keep up the fight.

“This is a battle that Native Hawaiians and all who support justice and fairness intend to finish and win,” she said.

But Hawaiians must come together or risk failure, she said.

That’s why OHA has chosen to support the Native Hawaiian Coalition, the registration of all Native Hawaiians and passage of the Akaka bill, she said.

“We know there is disagreement within the Hawaiian community about (the Akaka bill) and federal recognition,” she said. “To that end, we encourage all Native Hawaiians to get involved and find out the facts. Be informed. Don’t rely on secondhand or thirdhand information. Read the bill yourself.”

Apoliona said that improving the lives of Native Hawaiians has proven to be a daunting task. But the past 12 months have been good to OHA and Native Hawaiians in many ways, she said.

OHA’s investment portfolio increased by about $55 million to $369.9 million as of Sept. 30, 2005.

Wow, that’s about a 17% return for one year. Not bad. Who (or what) is the Native Hawaiian Coalition? I find no web presence for that group.

I looked a bit at the OHA website in search of a transcript of her remarks, but didn’t find that information. However, I did find a PDF version of their newsletter, which I found notable for its discussion of the Akaka Bill (see the article on page 6). First it lays out a few possible scenarios for getting the bill to a vote in the U.S. Senate, but if that doesn’t happen, they have:

?Plan B?

[OHA Administrator] Namu?o said that regardless of whether or not the Akaka Bill passes anytime soon, the Hawaiian community should proceed with the process of forming a representative body using the voter base being built by the Kau Inoa registration process. More than 40,000 Native Hawaiians in Hawai?i and on the continent have already signed up for Kau Inoa, indicating that they are interested in participating in the formation of a Hawaiian governing body.

?To me, that?s Plan B,? Namu?o said. ?Let?s create a governing entity regardless of the federal legislation, so that when we do get to Congress, it can speak on behalf of Hawaiians (as a formal representative body).?

Namu?o said the broad-based Native Hawaiian Coalition, which has been meeting for two years to discuss the process of forming a Hawaiian entity, has identified the components necessary to found such a body. Among the nation-building components identified by the coalition are community education and organization, voter registration, election of delegates, and finally a constitutional convention to draft and ratify founding documents.

Namu?o said the next step would be to engage nonprofit organizations ? preferably Hawaiian ones ? to organize district apportionment, voting for delegates and the eventual ?aha, or constitutional convention. That process would likely be funded by OHA and overseen by a community-based committee to ensure that the process envisioned by the Native Hawaiian Coalition is followed, he said.

?The issue for me is that the process needs to be managed fairly so that all Hawaiians who are interested will be able to participate,? Namu?o said. ?But if it?s the will of the people ? if enough Hawaiians are interested in organizing ourselves ? then let?s go for it.?

Hmmm. That had been “Plan A” for all these years, wasn’t it? The actual organizing never seems to happen, though.

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12/7/2005

Waimea Valley settlement vote is today

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:04 am
Lots of speculation about Waimea Valley as the Honolulu County Council meets today to vote on a legal settlement that could result in the City only acquiring (via condemnation) the makai portion of the valley. The Advertiser has a piece here (with a nice sidebar) and the SB has a piece here. The two articles complement each other well.

The Stewards of Waimea Valley, an organization that has fought such development for years, plans to pursue every possible avenue to keep the valley intact, said Scott Foster, spokesman for the group. The property is zoned state conservation land, which severely restricts its commercial development.

But Foster was adamant that his group does not favor the proposed agreement.

“There is no reason at this point for the city to settle on this,” Foster said. “We all think the City Council has been badly misinformed by the corporation counsel.

“Some of the best attorneys in town have been looking at this. We’ve discovered a great deal of new information that indicates the actual value of the conservation land is far less than what Wolffer is putting forward.”

He said the city’s position is strong, and it should go to court to decide the outcome.

Last week John Flicker, president of the Audubon Society, flew to Honolulu to meet with attorneys about Waimea Valley, which the organization manages as one of its national Audubon Centers.

“The wrinkle in all this is that the Audubon Society seems to have an offer floating around out there,” said Councilman Charles Djou, who voted in favor of the preliminary agreement.

“I’d like for a white knight to come in,” Djou said. “And I know a lot of people are talking about it. The problem: Talk is cheap. Show me the money. That’s the bottom line.”

No explanation of how Foster and “the best attorneys” can be sure they know the strength of the City’s (tightly held) legal position, but whatever. The Audobon angle is explored more thoroughly in the SB article.

[Audobon leader] Flicker said what the Council must first do is to either defer voting on the settlement offer, which would in effect kill it, or reject the offer outright.

“Let the settlement offer expire and go to court,” Flicker said.

The city then has until the Feb. 13 trial date to negotiate a firm price. “The Feb. 13 trial date deadline is a good deadline to force everyone to table,” he said.

If a price can’t be negotiated before the deadline, then both sides can go to court, where Flicker believes that a reasonable price will be arrived at, with some pointing to a range of between just after $2 million and a high of $18 million.

“And when we know how much it is, and we’ve got some fixed deal, we can then go to all the other parties,” he said.

Those parties could include the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the federal government and private entities.

I’m confused why Flicker thinks a price will be successfully negotiated before trial, since all the talks to date have failed to produce an agreement. I’ll leave that to the lawyerly pundits. Note that the City would be going in with potentially deeper pockets, but the landowner would be well aware of the fact that suddenly the City has more ability to pay.

More importantly, Flicker also dropped this ultimatum:

Flicker said that if the City Council votes in favor of the settlement offer, the Audubon Society will not operate the nature center at Waimea Valley.

“We’ve informed the city that if that happens, they would need to find another operator. Our reason for being there is to protect the valley,” Flicker said.

So, the question then becomes does the Council believe that the Audobon Society can get the money to buy the valley and would the Audobon Society do a better job of raising that money and running the nature center than any other potential investors? The House Democrats, according to this Letter to the Advertiser editors from Representative Magaoay (last letter on page), are also preparing to act if there is any chance to preserve the Valley in its entirety.

Almost stunning is how quickly this tale could turn from “can the valley be saved?” to “who will be the savior of the valley?” Given all of this, my hunch is that the Council will not approve the settlement when they vote this afternoon. My hunch and a few dollars will buy you a cup of coffee…

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Transit contract flap wrong way to start off

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:34 am
David Shapiro’s column in the Advertiser today suggests that the Mayor had better address the contents of the transit contracting dispute, instead of only addressing the motivations behind it. In the process Shapiro gets off this truly hilarious quip:

Hawai’i’s political carnival never really starts until U.S. Rep Neil Abercrombie arrives, and he jumped in by accusing Djou of a publicity stunt that could derail federal support for O’ahu transit.

Djou can be a bit of a grandstander, for sure, but for the blustery Abercrombie to level such criticism is like a coqui frog accusing a gecko of being too noisy.

HA HA. That is so good! Much better than the way I had expressed similar sentiments. Shapiro makes a pretty good argument for the Mayor to explain himself.

The big question we take away from this squabbling is the same one that has always hung over transit: How can we have any faith that local politicians possess the competence and integrity to build and operate the most expensive public works project in Hawai’i’s history?

Notwithstanding his rants against Lagareta and Djou, the mayor has nobody but himself to blame for whatever grief this furor ends up costing him.

He could have headed it off from the start ? and possibly still can ? by simply coming forward with a thorough explanation of the rationale for switching subcontractors.

I totally agree.

Finally, the “ambitious Djou” meme is beginning to spread, if this Advertiser Letter to the Editor is any indication:

WHAT ARE THE MAYOR, ABERCROMBIE HIDING?

I was quite surprised by the choice of words and name-calling by Mayor Mufi Hannemann (Mufi saying Councilman Charles Djou was somebody’s lackey) coupled with his obvious anger toward Djou for his questioning the reason for the change of subcontractors on rail system work.

What are Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Mufi scared of or, perhaps, hiding from us due to their demeanor toward Djou? If all goes as they planned, are we going to all find out later that something unethical was actually brewing behind the scenes?

Politicians throughout history have proven time and time again that usually when people act as Mufi and Neil have, it was usually paralleled with something.

Keep on their heels, Charles Djou, until you get to the bottom of it for the good of all Hawai’i residents. Come election time? You have my vote for either mayor or governor. You are truly a breath of fresh air with your honesty and scrupulous character.

Bob Ruiz
Wahiawa

As if Djou needed your encouragement, Bob. But, a friendly reminder, there is no Mayor race in 2006 and for him to run for Governor he would have to first defeat Lingle in the Republican primary. I’d pay a nickel to see him try. Heh.

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Spectators leave at half-time, miss the big finish

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:15 am
Both the Hawaii County dailies carry the same story about (what else?) another Sunshine Law dispute at the Hawaii County Council. The West Hawaii Today piece is here and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald has it here. This time the allegation is that the most recent reorganization should be held invalid because the vote happened after a lunch break and interested parties were told that the vote would be held another day.

After receiving hours of public testimony – most people opposed the reorganization – lawmakers voted 8-1 to postpone action. Following a lunch break, however, members voted first to reconsider the measure and then to approve it by a 7-2 vote.

[Councilmember] Pilago, who becomes the sole Planning Committee chairman as a result of the leadership change, feels the Sunshine Law bars that kind of same-day voting.

“I think a violation occurred because on the public record it was stated that postponement was for the next meeting (to occur this Wednesday),” he said.

Pilago said that regardless of what [Corporation Counsel] Ashida says in his opinion, he will ask the state Office of Information Practices to clarify the issue. The OIP is responsible for interpreting the Sunshine Law.

I am neither a lawyer nor a parliamentarian, but (as I wrote in that earlier post) I think reconsidering an action, after a recess but before officially adjurning, is well within the bounds of propriety. To be blunt, the public grew impatient and paid a price for leaving at lunch. That said, it was definitely not politically wise to conduct Council business in that way on such a contentious issue.

This will be an interesting test of how far the OIP thinks its authority extends into the mechanics of a meeting.

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UARC faithful hope for resurrection

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:53 am
An editorial in the SB today seems to suggest that, even though the Faculty Senate and the Manoa Chancellor have now both recommended disapproval, the UARC contract will be amended and could proceed.

OFFICIALS at the University of Hawaii are divided about whether to accept a lucrative Navy research contract that has generated controversy. The proposal needs changing to satisfy reasonable concerns about classified research and the placement of such activity on the Manoa campus, although antimilitary activists will continue their shrill opposition.

The clear implication being that anti-military sentiments, no matter how pervasive they might be among the faculty and student bodies, are “shrill” and unreasonable concerns. If the contract is amended (which I don’t predict), then I highly doubt that the BOR would ever approve it without first seeking the Faculty Senate review and opinion.

Yawn. The UARC supporters just don’t give up, do they? There is a BOR vote still to come, and President McClain could still recommend its approval to the BOR, but it’s almost time for this.

The Advertiser also has an editorial about UARC today, although it is rather tepid compared to the SB piece.

Regents should conduct a clear-headed cost-benefit analysis rather than accept or reject the notion of a military partnership on emotional or philosophical grounds.

This is the same newspaper that just last month set aside cost-benefit analysis to support an effort to preserve Waimea Valley.

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HR tees off on HGEA

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:32 am
At first, I was confused why the Hawaii Reporter had a post about a City employee fighting his termination for leaving work early to go golfing. Looking into the piece, however, it became clear that this story hits the HR Trifecta: The case involves their pal Ted Hong; Charles Djou is taking potshots; and, the employee alleges HGEA is treating him unfairly by not helping him to fight his termination.

[The employee] alleges the HGEA violated its duty of fair representation, by first promising that it would treat him fairly and represent him and then abandoning him, despite other union members acting in the same manner, who were not disciplined. He also maintains HGEA failed to conduct an investigation to determine whether the City violated the collective bargaining agreement by allowing some people but not others to leave work early to golf; and by knowingly allowing him to leave work early for 6 years, yet firing him years later.

——-

About the current dispute with the HGEA, Hong says, “The union is being challenged for abandoning its dues paying member, while covering up the same conduct of its other members in the same department. Mr. Okata doesn?t get to decide who the union is going to help, just as union members can?t decide how much the HGEA gets to take out of their paycheck in dues each month.”

——-

City Council Member Charles Djou says he is concerned about any allegation of abuse of taxpayer resources, especially in this case, because the Department of Planning and Permitting has always claimed poverty and told the city council that the department needs more resources. “If the allegations prove true that a substantial number of inspectors are golfing during work time, that would seriously damage credibility of the department and the director?s request for additional appropriations,” Djou says.

We’ll politely ignore the obvious hypocrisy inherent in a politician scolding anyone for golfing during work hours.

As written, this story is an editorial slam dunk for the HR. If HGEA were to defend this employee, HR could lambaste them for that. In this case, where the HGEA declined to defend the employee, Hong is allowed a gratuitous jab about union dues. Either way, a score for HR.

However, to allege that the HGEA is covering up the misconduct of its members and abandoning the members is a pretty bold claim. First of all, HGEA would have to know of the misconduct before they could cover it up. It’s unreasonable to suggest that the HGEA should have been routinely scrutinizing golf course records and comparing them to employee work schedules. Second, once the employee was terminated, it’s also ridiculous to suggest that HGEA should have demanded other workers also be investigated and/or fired. That would truly be abandoning their members.

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12/6/2005

Gill won’t run

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 10:59 am
The Advertiser has a brief piece heralding the abrupt end of any Tony Gill for Governor groundswell that might have formed. A complete statement from Gill is here.

From the Advertiser story:

“I’m not the candidate for this term,” Gill said yesterday. “It’s very important that the best feasible challenger go up against Linda Lingle. I believe she’s vulnerable and I believe that a correctly run campaign can defeat her. I think she has serious liabilities that her supporters have not acknowledged.

“That said, you’ve got to get the right horse. It’s a little tough to reach down into the second string and pull out somebody like me.”

Still not a peep about this stillborn campaign in the SB. Go figure. But now there is no need, right?

The statement from Gill found at HR (also available at the blog) is very thoughtful and deserves a read in full. Here is an excerpt:

A lot of words have been spent arguing about the cost of campaigns. What people mean by “cost” is mostly the money that it takes to buy media time, particularly television time. Doing what is necessary to raise the money to run in a “TV race” is thought by some to be intrinsically corrupting. I want to stay out of that discussion, and point out something else.

The campaign laws make clear that no matter how much money the public is willing to entrust to a candidate, the candidate can’t use any of it to feed his or her family while campaigning. This isn’t much of a problem for the lower offices, which are really part-time jobs. However, a run for a higher office, particularly as a challenger, is a full-time job, that takes about a year for an unknown. It’s pretty tough to run for a larger office without taking most of a year off work, if only because you have to meet and talk to so many people.

To run for a big office, you either have to have already made your fortune, already hold an office that in effect pays to you run, you have to have no expenses, or you have to have a fake job provided by a patron, and we don’t like to talk about that last one. There aren’t a lot of people who meet one of these criteria. I suppose that many people think that’s as it should be, but I just thought I’d wave [sic?] about that for a minute.

That’s a sentiment rarely expressed, though perhaps intuitively obvious. Even with publicly-financed campaigns (which I support) this “income-during-the-campaign” problem would still present itself to anyone who would dare to challenge an incumbent. Anyway, I won’t beat that over your heads, but it’s worth thinking about.

With Gill out of the show, the media gaze predictably will turn to Harry Kim again. Maybe Kim’s strategy involves this delay and building drama, but, if not, Kim would do well to model himself after Gill:

When some very good friends of mine floated my name publicly in connection with a gubernatorial run, I felt I had to quickly finish my planning, since I am a Democrat, and we are currently without a candidate. I wanted either to pick up the banner, or get out of the way.

As Ian Lind would say, so it goes.

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UH chancellor says no to Navy center

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:17 am
Yesterday the interim Manoa Chancellor, Denise Konan, issued a statement that she will not recommend going forward with the UARC contract. The Advertiser and the SB both have stories on the announcement.

I can only assume that UARC supporters were unable to amass 100 signatures on a petition to have the entire faculty vote on the matter.

The proposed contract would steer up to $10 million in Navy research grants a year to the university for five years, proponents say. The additional money would have been less than 3 percent of the research money UH took in last year and would represent an even smaller portion in coming years.

McClain said the university attracted $360 million in research grants last year and has already taken in $180 million in the first three months of this year.

“I don’t see any signs of our research funding slowing,” Konan said.

That is useful context. I don’t recall any of the previous articles mentioning the vast amount of non-UARC research grants already flowing to UH, but perhaps I missed it. From Konan’s statement:

Polls of faculty across schools and colleges reveal distinct divisions among the faculty around this contract. The UARC enjoys strong support from faculty who rely on extramural funding to sustain their research programs. It has mixed to negative reaction among liberal arts faculty.

Few faculty have expressed an interest in actively participating in UARC-funded research. Those who have are renowned researchers engaged in other projects. For them, the UARC provides bridge funding among other more competitive sources of funding.

That statement is like waving red meat in front of Grant Jones, haha. Darn those soft-headed liberal arts eggheads!

Jones also likes to chastise the UARC opponents for not discussing the already-existing research centers. In todays reports, however, those centers are contrasted to the Hawaii proposal insofar as they were each established off-campus; whereas the Hawaii facility would have shared existing facilities on-campus. Also, it is easy to interpret the words of Konan and Englert to mean that UARC-type work will proceed off-campus (as it already does).

“The proposed UARC is unique as it integrates projects into existing facilities and permits dual use of UARC-funded personnel and equipment,” Konan said. “The Naval UARCs at other universities are located in self-contained laboratories, with independent facilities and staff.”

Ikaika Hussey and Kyle Kajihiro, members of the Save UH-Stop UARC coalition, which has been vocally opposed to the UARC, called Konan’s decision a victory.

“The chancellor is absolutely correct,” Hussey said. “This UARC is very bad for the university, bad for the community and bad for Hawai’i.”

Sorry, but nowhere in the Chancellor’s statement does she make those extreme claims. Hussey should feel free to express that opinion, but he should not be offhandedly attributing his opinion to Konan.

Roger Lukas, a professor of oceanography and leader of the UH Association of Research Investigators, said Konan’s announcement came just hours before the close of voting on the proposal among the 400 researchers in the group.

While the majority had not cast a ballot, the vote as of yesterday afternoon was 69 in favor of UARC, three opposed and one abstention, Lukas said.

However, these researchers have not made their voices heard. “They’re too busy doing their work,” Lukas said.

He anticipates the same thing will happen when McClain and the regents have their public hearing. Although Lukas knows of 30 researchers who will directly benefit, he said “many researchers will be busy doing their research and the people against it will have all the time in the world to tell the regents why it shouldn’t happen.”

Aw, come on. Want some cheese with that whine? If it’s truly important, then those researchers had better take the time to speak up. Scolding the opposition for having more participation is not a winning strategy in politics.

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More on Kaneohe Marine who earned Bronze Star

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 9:22 am
The current edition of the Hawaii Marine has an article and comments from (and about) one of the Kaneohe-based Marines awarded a Bronze Star for valor. I had commented upon these Marines earlier, and, again, I don’t understand why the civilian media did not pick up on this story. Three of his colleagues also were recently awarded the medal for action in Iraq.

The link is a PDF and the article itself begins on page 4. By the way, another story (on page 5) provides an illustrative example of “asymmetric warfare.” Heh.

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12/5/2005

Mililani residents urged to critique growth plan

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:10 am
The Advertiser has an article here about the concerns of two Central Oahu neighborhood boards’ regarding the master plan for that region. (By the way, one section contains a particularly good explanation of the process followed by the City in creating regional plans.)

Richard Poirier, chairman of the Mililani/Waipi’o/Melemanu Neighborhood Board, describes the plan, adopted in 2002 during Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration, as “legalized sprawl.” The plan estimates a population growth from 149,000 in 2000 to more than 173,000 in 2025. Poirier said those 24,000 additional people will have a big impact on transportation and education.

Melissa Graffigna, chairwoman of the Mililani Mauka/Laulani Valley Neighborhood Board, said the plan does not address community concerns. “It’s three-quarters finalized, and once it goes through (in 2007), we won’t be able to make changes.”

“Many in the community are unaware of the plan, and we need to get the word out to them,” Graffigna said.

The Central O’ahu plan provides for the eventual development of up to 25,000 new homes in master-planned residential developments at Mililani Mauka, Koa Ridge Makai, Waiawa and Royal Kunia. New jobs would be created in existing commercial and industrial areas, including Mililani Technology Park, and in new commercial areas designed to serve their surrounding communities. The plan also calls for a new medical park at Koa Ridge.

One stated aim is to relieve development pressures on urban and rural fringe areas such as Wai’anae, the North Shore, Ko’olauloa, Ko’olau Poko and East Honolulu, so “as to preserve the country lifestyle of the rural areas and sustain the stable, low-density residential character of the urban fringe areas.”

So, it would seem that the real debate is over before it even begins. Central Oahu will be the host to several more “master planned” communities to spare the “country” areas. If that’s true, then the only thing I see that remains to resolve is what will be done to reduce the infrastructure impacts of all this sprawl development. This is yet another example, this time on Oahu, of the concurrency/impact fees topic I had posted about earlier. To point out the obvious, the infrastructure (roads, schools) is already lacking in Central Oahu, so before any talk of concurrency the area infrastructure would first need to be brought up-to-date…

With a little Google work, I found these Neighborhood Board minutes and a SB editorial from 2001 both expressing largely the same concerns raised in this most recent article. The plan steamrolled right through this type of opposition last time, but that was a different Mayor and Council.

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Settling Comm Pac dispute in-house unlikely

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:20 am
The SB has an editorial that advises the City Council and the Mayor to resolve the transit study sub-contractor imbroglio without outside intervention.

Djou’s request to the U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general could unnecessarily delay the project or jeopardize its federal funding. He and the administration should attempt to settle this dispute themselves.

The councilman says he is only trying to protect taxpayers, a commendable effort. However, given his opposition to a tax increase to pay for the city’s portion of the venture, Djou is vulnerable to charges that his tactic is a ruse to put the kibosh on the project, as Congressman Neil Abercrombie contends.

Moreover, Djou’s move indicates he has little faith in local authorities – including the Council itself – to look into the matter and get answers from the administration.

Wishful thinking. The Mayor and the majority of the Council are unlikely to impartially investigate, much less confirm, any allegations raised by Djou about this matter. Thus, in this particular case, I share Djou’s lack of faith in local authorities. Djou is indeed operating for his own political gain, in my opinion, but by replacing the sub-contractor in this manner transit supporters have certainly provided Djou an easy weapon to attack the project. On the other hand, if the contract process had been totally above-board then the project would be proceeding smoothly (racing ahead to its next foul-up, haha). Raising the awareness of the process to award contracts at this very early stage is actually a good thing; if the project goes forward the contracts will only get bigger and more tempting for funny business.

I don’t think Djou is going to blink, so at some point transit supporters need to consider taking another look at the sub-contractor assignments. Does it really matter so much to transit supporters which sub-contractor gets this work, or is advancing the project a more important outcome to them? We’ll see.

Djou has siezed the moral-political high ground, and it’s a dubious strategy for transit supporters to wait/hope for him to give it up. Why would he? He can easily withstand all the high-level taunting and he is getting tons of media attention in the process.

If the Mayor and Parsons do “cave in” and re-bid the work, then Djou is vindicated and the project goes forward. Can transit supporters live with that?

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12/4/2005

Conference on offender re-entry very inspiring

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:21 am
I was pleased to see reporters from the SB and KITV were at the conference yesterday about offenders re-entering the free world after incarceration. The SB piece is here, and the KITV piece is here.

I spent my Saturday at this event, and I found it to be very worthwhile. The offenders who spoke on the panel discussion about their history and their uncertain future were incredibly brave—it’s certainly can’t be easy for them to tell complete strangers about the bad choices they had made and it takes humility to describe their struggle to become productive members of free society.

At a day-long event like this conference, the media are only able to be present for, and can only summarize, some of what was said. I learned a lot, and I think others did, too. Some very concrete and achievable ideas emerged from the small group break out sessions, and I will monitor these ideas as they proceed towards legislation.

Interacting with former inmates was not the only useful reason for attending. I was fortunate to be in a small group session with a social worker who was an adult corrections oficer for more than a decade. You might recall that I’ve been skeptical of the YCO’s at the HYCF, and of the corrections officers’ union, but this gentleman made a few good points that challenged my thinking. I’m not saying he changed my mind completely, but he at least put a human face on a formerly abstract topic.

These are the best kinds of political conversations to have; serious and respectful dialogue engaging a different viewpoint and taking on important problems. I only wish more people took part.

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Feds hiding their inertia behind a legit local dispute?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:38 am
The Kawainui Marsh, just over the hill from where I live, is the subject of a SB article that puts forth a notion of some unreasonably stubborn folks in State and Honolulu government.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources wants to restore wetland conditions for the birds and will put up the 25 percent matching funds to attract 75 percent federal funds.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has designed the project for the state, can’t get funding from Congress to do it until one government entity, either the state or the city, has control of the project’s land.

A portion of the land needed for the ponds project is owned by the city, while another portion is state-owned. City officials want the state to take over flood control maintenance in the marsh if the state receives use of city land. State officials want the city to keep doing flood control maintenance, while the state improves conditions for wildlife.

I’m nothing close to knowledgable about wetlands, but now that the illegal dumping has been greatly curtailed, to the untrained eye things look okay at the Marsh (other than occasional salvinia infestations in the ditch near the model airplane field). In other words, the article is pretty skimpy on making the case for a “problem” at the Marsh.

From a political angle, it’s interesting that the report does not question the way Senator Inouye’s staff has framed this issue. As they have it, this State/County dispute must be resolved or nothing will happen. However, the Army Corps of Engineers does whatever Congress tells them to do. If Congress wanted to waive this somewhat baffling “requirement” that only one government entity control the land, then Congress could easily put this wetland project in motion.

Until Inouye’s office explains the rationale behind it, the dispute between the City and State seems to have a far more logical basis than does the federal inertia.

Comments (1)
Refuse worker morale – bah humbug

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:47 am
An annoying article today from the West Hawaii Today about the reaction to the closing of Hawaii County rubbish transfer stations on three major holidays.

Yet others in the community, like Ron Dela Cruz, are unsympathetic. He said the county chose three of the busiest days to reward its workers, at the public’s expense. “What about our morale?” he said.

Closing transfer stations on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day is to give employees like Kalua time off, county officials said.

——–

Dela Cruz, who was incensed to find the Waimea transfer station closed on Thanksgiving, isn’t buying what he calls “a lame duck excuse.”

He said he understands employees want to spend the holidays with their families “but it is a county. Like the state or federal government, people work holidays. They picked the three major holidays, trash-wise. If the point is the morale, find some other way. Think about people in the community.”

He questioned “morale” of police, fire and medical personnel whose services are essential.

Dela Cruz answers his own question. Transfer stations are not essential government services in the same category as police, firefighting, and medical. There is no such thing as a “rubbish emergency.” What a Scrooge!

Dela Cruz, who owns Security Solutions of Hawaii, said security guards were at transfer stations on Thanksgiving turning people away.

He proposed that the county contract with a private company to keep the transfer stations open, if solid waste division employees need time off.

“Everybody would love to give their employees time off, but it’s a 24-hour situation here. If the job requires that you’ve got to work, you’ve got to work. The county needs to consider the needs of the general community. If you want to worry about morale, hire a private company to work,” Dela Cruz said.

The job does not require that “you’ve got to work” 24/7. Dela Cruz undermines his anti-worker argument every time he states it; by repeatedly conflating “wants” with “needs.”

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Tony Gill draft group makes some noise

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:25 am
The Advertiser has a piece today about a small group of Democrats trying to draft Tony Gill as a candidate for Governor. No sign of this story in the SB. (?) I had also noticed an announcement of a debate at BYU-H that featured Gill on Wednesday, but at the time I din’t know of this nascent candidacy.

The group trying to draft Gill has set up a website and blog, but with very little substantive material there beyond Gill’s biography and a link to a HPR mp3.

Tony is the son of Tom Gill, a legend among Hawaii Democrats. Tony is a prominent labor lawyer and another Gill, Tony’s brother Eric, is a labor leader. Tony’s brother, Gary, was a former Honolulu councilmember.

So, a Gill candidacy would have a few obvious strengths: likely support from a union base, and fairly high name recognition (on Oahu, at least). Those would also be his weaknesses. The Republicans probably relish the thought of running negative ads about government-labor relations and Gill’s role in those struggles.

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12/3/2005

Rail feud: ‘Where’s the beef?’

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 6:30 am
The plot thickens, as Mayor Hannemann enters the fray. The Advertiser and the SB both have some interesting new tidbits in the simmering brouhaha. Here and here.

Yesterday, city officials provided a copy of a July 29 e-mail from then-Parsons project manager Richard Page to the subcontractors, including Lagareta’s company, that said: “Please remember that until the contract is signed, the selection of our team of consultants is not ‘official.’ “

Lagareta said she does not remember that e-mail.

Hannemann said Djou was acting as Lagareta’s “lackey” in raising questions without any proof.

Lagareta said that label and Abercrombie’s calling Djou a kid are “absolutely disgusting” and a disservice to Djou. “I don’t think he’s anybody’s fool,” she said.

It would seem to me that the contents of that email to sub-contractors is irrelevant. What matters is not that Parsons “promised” any work to certain subcontractors, but that Parsons’ bid to the City and ultimate selection was premised upon hiring a specific array of subcontractors with the expertise and credentials to perform the work. Replacing subcontractors after the City made a selection based upon the subcontractor credentials submitted is the issue at hand, according to how I understand Lagareta’s “beef.”

Hannemann called it “disingenuous” for Djou to say he supports a mass transit system, most likely light rail, but not the tax increase needed to fund it.

“That’s the most disingenuous statement I’ve heard in the halls of City Hall since I’ve been here,” Hannemann said. “He’s trying to stop rail, and I won’t allow that to happen.”

Djou noted that he has opposed all tax increases since becoming a councilman, and previously as a member of the state House.

“To say it is disingenuous for me to continue opposing the excise tax increase – I don’t know where the mayor’s getting that from,” Djou said. “I think my record has been pretty clear.”

The Mayor is correct. Djou is also correct, but his comment does not actually address the crux of the Mayor’s accusation. Indeed, Djou has always opposed tax increases, but notice that Djou did not make any effort to dispute the “trying to stop rail” charge.

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Future of each momentum proposal faces vote

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:09 am
According to a PBN article, the Economic Momentum Commission is poised to vote on which issues will be sent forward for further action.

Some of the Economic Momentum Commission’s proposals, including a tax rebate funded by the state’s budget surplus, could hit the chopping block when commissioners vote next week on what to include in their final report to the governor.

Meeting Friday, the commission addressed for the first time whether some of its proposals have a chance of succeeding or are just good ideas that have little chance of implementation.

Gov. Linda Lingle formed the commission to prepare recommendations on how to sustain Hawaii’s economic growth. Its final recommendations are due later this month.

——–

“We can’t have a Christmas tree of 35 topics,” [House Speaker Calvin Say] said. “We won’t be able to finance it. As of this morning it seems like a mishmash of 35 proposals.”

Nevertheless, commissioners decided to shelve the original idea of presenting only about a dozen proposals to Lingle. They will vote next week on which of the 35 proposals to keep and which to dump. A majority of the 30 commissioners must approve any proposal before it becomes part of the final report to the governor.

So, is this Commission, established by the Governor, subject to the Sunshine Law with respect to public voting? Given the political heavy hitters involved, it would sure be interesting to know which Commissioners support and oppose each of the proposals, wouldn’t it? These votes should be done in public and recorded. [Isn’t that right, Advertiser editors? Heh]

It will also be interesting to see if any of the proposals are voted down but ultimately introduced by a crusading legislator anyway…

Comments (1)
12/2/2005

Transit contract flap heats up

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 12:07 pm
I was quite surprised to see the caustic remarks from Congressman Neil Abercrombie as he blasts Councilmember Djou’s effort to have the Federal Department of Transportation’s Inspector General examine the process that awarded sub-contracts for a study of Honolulu transportation alternatives. The SB has a piece here and an Advertiser article is here. Meanwhile, at the Hawaii Reporter, there is a post from Communications Pacific CEO Kitty Lagareta defending her earlier complaint to the State Procurement Policy Board.

Abercrombie said one set of consultants complaining about another set getting a contract doesn’t strike him as particularly newsworthy. “That happens all the time,” he said.

Djou’s call for the federal investigation is what upset him. His message to Djou: “You better have the evidence at hand or you better shut up or back up.”

Abercrombie said he was responding to Djou because he thinks the transit project is so important.

“What I’m hoping, if this is grandstanding, is that it gets pointed out and that this kid goes back in his corner and tries to do something useful,” Abercrombie said.

Djou replied: “It would be grandstanding if there was nothing there, if there weren’t these lingering questions. … This has everything to do with making sure the rules were followed.”

Whoa. “Shut up … kid?!” haha. To channel Lee Cataluna: Eh, I tink Congressman Abercrombie wen grad BCCS (Ben Cayetano Charm School).

“To say that (Abercrombie) is the arbiter of what can and cannot and what should or should not be filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general’s office is absurd,” Djou said.

Djou said he is worried that if there is a problem with the contract, it could cause the city to lose millions in federal funding.

“My point is not to derail the rail project,” Djou said. “If there are problems, if there are hiccups – and they very well just might be hiccups, not illegal conduct – let’s fix ‘em now.”

Well, after reading Lagareta’s HR post, I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I think, no matter what Djou says [and no matter my lack of any hard evidence], Djou would love to see the federal money withdrawn and for this contract to go nowhere (and, by extension, for the whole transit project and GET surcharge to stop). So, to that extent, I can understand Abercrombie’s attack. I also believe that some attention at the State Procurement Policy Board (should they choose to act, what’s up with that?) should be sufficient to resolve Lagareta’s (quasi-)legitimate concerns. There is something that does not smell right about the whole affair. Abercrombie’s comment that it “happens all the time,” is not exactly reassuring.

Beneath all that, I anticipate that some day Djou will be running for Abercrombie’s Congressional seat; and then factor in that both men are political pugilists.

It makes for a good show. Heh.

Comments (2)
Fox leaves office; selection process for replacement underway

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:23 am
The two Honolulu dailies each have coverage of Galen Fox’s last day as a legislator. The Advertiser has a brief piece here, and Borreca has a piece in the SB with a bit more political context.

Gov. Linda Lingle has 60 days to appoint a successor to fill out the remaining 11 months of Fox’s term, but Lingle has said she wanted to take action before the 2006 Legislature opens in January.

Four Republicans from the district have applied for the post, according to Sam Aiona, GOP state chairman.

The four are Les Among, a Waikiki Neighborhood Board member; Bob Finley, a retired National Guard member and the Waikiki Neighborhood Board chairman; Ann Stevens, an aide to GOP Sen. Gordon Trimble; and Kristi Sue Ako, a former Trimble aide now working for Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona.

I’ve mentioned Ako previously.

A quick Google search reveals Ann Stevens is connected to the maritime industry, including managing the company that serves as the shipping agent for Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Les Among is pretty low-profile, so far as Google can tell, but he did run in the 2002 Republican primary for the Senate seat now held by Trimble.

I didn’t find anything about Finley other than numerous Waikiki Neighborhood Board mentions, as he served as Chair.

Borreca’s piece has evidence of last-minute political points trying to be made from this event from both parties. House Minority Leader Kimberly Pine compares Fox’s resignation to the continued influence and re-election of Representative Takamine, who previously had domestic abuse allegations levelled against him. A Domestic Violence Clearinghouse director (whose organization, keep in mind, looks to the State budget, via Takamine, for regular financial assistance) points out that Takamine handled his situation better than Fox and Takamine did not wait to be “shamed” into action like Fox.

Pine’s larger point is correct, though. Too many people are willing to look the other way when “important” men abuse women. Looking away is bad enough, but we hardly even look at the “unimportant” men abusing women…

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The UH censors remain anonymous and unquestioned

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:46 am
Extensive follow-up in a SB article today about the blocked letters from the student government to UH-Manoa dorm residents. The piece even includes scanned images of the letter and the Housing Office letter informing ASUH that the delivery had been blocked. Very useful inclusions. The Advertiser, meanwhile, has a few paragraphs on this topic at the end of a wide-ranging report describing a Senate and House Higher Education Committees visit and hearing at UH-Manoa.

[ASUH President] Teichman also expressed concern over the interception of a letter from ASUH to some 3,000 students in the dorms informing them of their rights following complaints that security guards were abusing their authority to conduct room searches.

The housing staff confiscated the letters last week, citing a number of inaccuracies and notified ASUH that it did so in a letter dated Nov. 22.

Teichman told legislators that the action by the housing staff interfered with ASUH’s rights as a governing body to communicate with its constituents.

[Senator and Committee Chairperson] Hee said he was “troubled” to hear about the action by UH officials. “UH might argue that some of the content of the leaflets were inaccurate but that does not excuse censorship,” he said.

ASUH will draft a revised letter to send to dorm residents, Teichman said.

That’s it? No follow up questions from the Legislators? Was nobody from the UH administration attending this hearing? Odd.

The SB piece digs deeper than the legislators, and elicits some reaction from UH officials:

In [UH Housing director] Chu Camara’s written explanation of why the letter was not delivered, she said housing policies specifically allow staff to enter a dorm room for health and safety reasons, to search for missing property and if there is “reasonable cause” to believe that university policies are being violated.

Staff also has the right to demand identification from people in the dorms, Chu Camara wrote.

Teichman said the refusal to deliver the letter through the campus mail system amounts to “censorship” and impedes ASUH’s ability to communicate with the students they represent. He said the student government still wants the letter delivered and has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union.

[UH Vice Chancellor for Students] Iwaoka said policies on what can be allowed to be sent to dorm students will also be reviewed. However, he noted, “We cannot allow anything to be going to the students.”

He said housing officials try to protect students from being bombarded with campus mail. However, items sent by the U.S. mail are not touched, Iwaoka said.

What’s with the scare quotes around the word censorship? Did Teichman not say that word, or does the SB not feel comfortable allowing him to use that word?

Regarding Iwaoka’s quote: There are policies describing what can be sent to students by campus mail? Good. What is the policy? Apparently the policy is enforced by opening sealed letters to search for objectionable and embarrassing “inaccurate” messages? Is that the policy? If it is, then the policy is certainly ripe for review. If opening sealed letters is not the policy, then ASUH deserves an explanation of who authorized the opening of these letters and what will be the consequences of that action if whoever carried it out had no authority to do so.

Here is how the letter to ASUH from Chu Camara begins:

It has been brought to my attention that a letter from President Grant Teichman, on behalf of the ASUH, dated October 25, 2005, has been drafted with the intent of being distributed to all Student Housing residents.

A perusal of the letter revealed that several statements in the ASUH document are incorrect or misleading.

A “perusal?” Hmmm. Nowhere in the letter does she explain how that “perusal” of the letter was carried out, nor does she explain the means by which the very existence of the letter was “brought to [her] attention.” So, how about it?

I’m also a bit surprised that, after numerous reports, no comment has been sought from campus security. Teichman is alleging that guards were asking for females’ telephone numbers and were physically mistreating dorm residents. I would have thought those allegations would have raised a few more editorial eyebrows and that they might be something the campus security office would like to “clarify” or deny…

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12/1/2005

Army seeks another exemption from Makua agreement

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:49 am
Both Honolulu dailies have articles about an Army motion to set aside a 2001 legal settlement where they agreed to halt live fire training in Makua valley until completing an EIS to consider environmental and cultural concerns raised by opponents. The Advertiser piece is here, and the SB article is here.

Since 2001, U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway has granted five orders allowing military exercises in Makua Valley that did not fall under the terms of the agreement.

Earthjustice attorney David Henkin yesterday said an Army request for a return to training was rejected through talks between the parties, and that the court motion also will be opposed.

Henkin said an environmental impact statement, or EIS, is supposed to take 18 months to two years. The settlement agreement gave the Army three years. By comparison, the Army completed an EIS for its $1.5 billion Stryker Brigade in two years, he said.

“Huge document. They got that done in two years,” Henkin said. “They wanted to get that done. They had a fire lit under them to get that done.

“Here we are four years down the pike and they are saying, ‘Oh, we didn’t get it done,’ ” Henkin said. “Well, sorry, you (the Army) agreed to get it done. You agreed that the consequences of not getting it done on time were going to be that you couldn’t train at Makua until you got it done, and that’s the incentive to get it done.”

Part of the delay, [Army spokesman] Killian said, is due to a requirement to conduct archaeological surveys, but a “prescribed burn” in July 2003 to clear grass so unexploded ordnance could be removed got out of control and burned half the valley, triggering a separate review of habitat protection.

I predict that the Army motion will be approved and the training will go forward. It’s as if the Army is winning by means of procedural motions most of what was “compromised” in that 2001 settlement. This is not how legal settlements are supposed to function, is it?

Killian said a requirement of the settlement agreement between the Army and Malama Makua that calls for more archeological surveys has been one of the reasons for the delay. Malama Makua considers the valley to be sacred.

So, what changed? Is the valley no longer considered sacred? Hardly.

Well, at least the Army has not stooped to questioning the patriotism of Malama Makua and Earthjustice—although I now fully expect to see letters to the editors on that theme. If they are going to face that kind of smear then the two groups might as well discard the settlement and go to trial.

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Mayor is sure his defense of anti-banner law will fly

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:20 am
Mayor Hannemann’s press secretary, Bill Brennan, has an op-ed in the SB today in response to an editorial that cast doubt upon the ability of the City’s ban on aerial banners to withstand its latest legal challenge.

Your editorial on Saturday, Nov. 26, “Don’t rely on court to uphold aerial ban,” suggested that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals might strike down Honolulu’s ban on aerial advertising based on recent pronouncements of the Federal Aviation Administration. The City and County of Honolulu disagrees with this analysis and is confident that the aerial advertising ordinance will withstand the challenge that has been brought against it by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR).

——–

Our community’s prohibitions on aerial and outdoor billboard advertising are important to protect the scenic vistas, to reduce distractions for pedestrians and motorists, and to protect our visitor industry.

In 2002, the 9th Circuit upheld Honolulu’s ban on aerial advertising in a case brought by Skysign International, explaining that “advertising is an area traditionally subject to regulation under the states’ police power, and we therefore presume that federal law does not displace Honolulu’s regulatory authority over advertising absent a clear statement of the federal intent to do so, either by Congress or by the FAA as Congress’s delegate.” Since then, in 2003, the chief deputy counsel for the FAA wrote to Senator Inouye with regard to the 2002 FAA pronouncements that your editorial referred to, stating explicitly that “The FAA does not interpret these changes to pre-empt sec. 40-6.1 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, ‘Aerial Advertising Prohibition.’”

Interesting, but I am at a loss why the Mayor saw any need to rebut that editorial. If the City is so sure of their argument and that they will prevail in court, then who cares what the SB editorializes? [or, for that matter, who cares what I write in this blog, haha]

I’m not a lawyer, but I still think there is an important difference between “advertising” and the political message that CBR wants to display on an aerial banner. I’m not convinced that the Skysign case and/or the legal opinion of the FAA is enough to resolve that distinction in the City’s favor.

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Company pitches (more) wave power to Hawaii

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:00 am
The PBN has an encouraging, yet still somewhat disappointing piece about a Scottish (although another article says they are from New Jersey) company that is interested in a wave energy project to generate electricity for Hawaii. What’s disappointing is that the article doesn’t mention that there is already a small wave energy operation offshore of the Kaneohe MCBH, affiliated with the very same company… The renewable energy research, of course, is not disappointing. The more of that we can draw to Hawaii, the better (see this op-ed by Representative Thielen).

On the energy topic, I’m looking forward to a talk at UH-Manoa tomorrow morning by Fred Duennebier. He will be speaking on Peak Oil and the Future of Civilization at 9:30am in room 723 of the Pacific Ocean Science and Technology building. I’ve been curious about this topic for a while and Fred is very fluent in the subject.

The discussions about allowing new oil exploration and building new refineries in the hopes of lowering the price of gasoline are both incomplete without taking this topic into consideration.

Comments (1)
Reentry forum this Saturday

Filed under:
General
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:34 am
From a Advertiser Letters to the Editor:

There has been much media attention on the need to improve Hawai’i’s correctional system. Many problems continue to plague our state, including the continued high recidivism rate, the rapid rise in incarceration that has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, fueled primarily by the ice epidemic, and the overburdened prison and jail facilities that have resulted in Hawai’i shipping many of its local offenders to prisons on the Mainland.

On any given day, 50 percent of those processed at the Department of Public Safety’s Intake Center are probation or parole violators. Overall, the yearly cost of this system, which serves nearly 6,000 inmates annually, exceeds $160 million.

A community forum is taking place on Saturday that will put a spotlight on these issues and help build momentum to bring about change that can improve our system and use our state money more wisely.

This forum will include a panel of former offenders telling their stories, profiles of inmates currently involved in re-entry programs, information about Hawai’i’s eight prison and jail facilities, presentations by Hawai’i’s public safety officials, and a community-driven strategic session to develop and prioritize recommendations for the upcoming legislative session.

The community is urged to attend this forum and help formulate and prioritize feasible action plans. Good and creative re-entry programs exist here and on the Mainland. If Hawai’i can take better advantage of these programs and work to improve other systemic problems, funds currently used for public safety could eventually be diverted for other public needs.

The sponsors of the forum invite the community to come, to learn and to strategize about improving our prison system. Nearly all prisoners eventually leave prison and return to our community. A healthy and productive return makes the neighborhood better for everyone.

I am planning to attend this forum. Unfortunately, this letter to the editor did not announce the time or the location!

It will be from 8:00am to 3:00pm at the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian studies, 2645 Dole Street, UH-Manoa. Parking – $3 at CHS parking structure.

Comments (1)
New links

Filed under:
General
HI Media
— Doug @ 9:13 am
Busy with a few bits of administrivia this morning.

First, I have added a link to Ragnar Carlson’s blog. I noticed a hit on my server log from that domain and I am curious to see how he will use the blog format.

Next, I noticed at iLind today his praise for the Midweek website. I had a Midweek link earlier, but I thought it was pretty lame. This new site is much better, but it’s still Midweek… I have removed that old crappy site link and instead added direct links to all of the Midweek political columnists. Those should provide a reliable source of grist for this blog…

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