Poinography!

January 10, 2009

Poinography February 2006 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 1:41 pm

Poinography!

2/28/2006

Resolutions would begin investigations into trade missions

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:50 pm
The Advertiser continues to pursue the Lingle administration trade delegation sponsorship story with a piece about some concurrent resolutions at the Legislature to investigate two areas of controversy.

A separate House resolution requested the state auditor look into whether it was appropriate for DBEDT to promise special treatment to private companies in exchange for donating money toward the trips.

——–

The House and Senate resolutions, which haven’t been assigned numbers, call for a report to be given to lawmakers before next year’s legislative session. The resolutions now go through the hearing process. If passed, they don’t have the force of law. However, resolutions are an expression of legislative will, which can spur agencies into action.

In a related move, House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa), asked the attorney general this month to summarize the steps the agency will take to investigate possible procurement violations by DBEDT. Oshiro requested a response by March 7.

Some lawmakers appear to be concerned that the state tapped the nonprofit Pacific and Asian Affairs Council to provide financial services for Lingle’s trip to China last year without asking other organizations if they would like to bid on the $268,637 project.

Actually, both concurrent resolutions have been assigned numbers. They are HCR 38 and SCR 32.

I am much more interested in seeing Representative Schatz’s resolution pass than I am to see the Senators’ resolution pass. First, because I think the Senate resolution is on the lesser of the two concerns (procurement procedures). Second, there is too big of an appearance of a conflict of interest [if not an actual conflict of interest] for the AG to investigate DBEDT, as both the investigator and the investigated are part of the Lingle administration.

The House concurrent resolution, on the other hand, will give the investigation task to the Legislative Auditor in consultation with the Ethics Commission—neither are beholden to the Lingle administration and both are viewed by nearly everyone to have unimpeachable integrity. The House investigation also addresses the much more important question of the solicitations made to potential donors and the ethical dimensions thereof. Passing both concurrent resolutions would be great, but the House measure should take precedence.

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PUC still “advocating for consumers” by not amending gas cap formula

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:46 pm
A story in the SB today brings us back up to speed on the bills at the Lege concerning the gasoline price cap law. The House Finance Committee heard HB 3115 today, and the Senate Consumer Protection Committee heard Senator Menor’s SB 2911, too. The House bill, as you may recall, will suspend the gasoline price cap law while they collect data from the industry. The Senate wants to tweak how the price cap is calculated, and Senator Menor vows to not even consider the House plan. Thus, when the Senate bill crosses to the House, the House will simply substitute Menor’s bill with the House version of the bill.

Yawn.

I would like to key in on this part of the article:

Majority Democrats in the House had previously supported the price cap law but now say more needs to be done because the Public Utilities Commission has not utilized its authority to make adjustments and enforce the law the way they envisioned.

“Not only do we need to look at transparency – as far as revealing the true cost and the fair rate of return for the oil companies – but how do you get the PUC to implement the law most vigorously to benefit the consumers,” said House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho). “Our review of the PUC’s actions of the past six months leave my confidence shaken in its ability to enforce the law to benefit consumers.”

Lisa Kikuta, chief researcher at the PUC, said the commission has implemented the law in accordance with its written intent, which states that the caps are not intended to lower prices, but to ensure that Hawaii’s prices reflect competitive market conditions similar to the mainland.

She added that the PUC has vigorously reviewed transactions to determine if oil companies are violating the law while evaluating data to determine whether any adjustments should be made.

“The PUC has exercised its discretion in the best interest of consumers within the parameters of the law, and has refrained from making any unsupported arbitrary changes,” Kikuta said in an e-mail message.

Hmmm. How exactly is it in the best interest of consumers for the PUC to not make changes to the formula as the law allows? Does Kikuta believe that Hawaii reflects competitive markets on the mainland? Are those competitve markets also enjoying record profits as Tesoro recently announced in Hawaii?

For the fourth time (see also the first, second, and third mention), I believe the media should obtain and review the data submitted to Kikuta that leads her to make such dismissive statements. Attitudes like Kikuta’s and others at the PUC bring on legislation such as this (dead) bill.

Comments (1)
Robo Poll

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:40 pm
I received a robotic telephone polling call this evening. It went (more or less) like this:

“Are you a registered Hawaii voter?”

“Have you ever voted in a Republican primary election?”

“Do you intend to vote in the Democratic primary election for U.S. Senate pitting Ed Case against Daniel Akaka?”

No mention of who was paying for it. It’s a pretty transparent attempt to gauge crossover voting likelihood. Anybody else get a similar call and/or know anything more about this?

Comments (0)
First estimate of Honolulu property tax relief revenue impact

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 5:39 pm
Two stories today (Advertiser and Star-Bulletin) about the beginning of the dialogue between Mayor Hannemann and the Honolulu City Council. Just a few quick thoughts:

First, I’m pleased that the revenue impact of property tax relief has, at last, finally been mentioned. Despite the fact that the estimated effect is so vague as to be almost useless:

Hannemann’s administration has said it is difficult to project how many taxpayers will take advantage of the tax credit, but estimates on the fiscal hit on the budget would range from $3 million to $40 million.

“The Council would like to focus on low-income folks. In a spirit of cooperation, because it’s addressing homeowner-occupants, I’m willing to support these measures, although it’s not clear just how much relief these bills provide,” he said.

Next, not a big deal, but the Advertiser has the Mayor approving 3 out of 4 property tax relief proposals, while the SB has the Mayor approving 2 out of 3 proposals.

Another thing, the SB piece points out that, should the Mayor veto that other proposal (Bill 12), it would mean only targeted property tax relief and no change in property tax rates.

Some City Council members say they are concerned that tax help this year for most homeowners could be out the door because the mayor’s proposed $1.49 billion operating budget would keep residential property tax rates the same.

“If the rate stays the same … people are going to pay very high tax bills,” Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said.

But in unveiling the details of his operating and construction budgets yesterday, Mayor Mufi Hannemann continued to warn that fiddling with the rate could do more long-term harm than short-term good.

“I want to be clear: Once you cut the rate it’s very hard to adjust it,” Hannemann said.

Hannemann means politically hard, of course. It is procedurally not that difficult to change the rate.

Last, I’ll note, again, the lack of any comment from the Mayor’s Tax Policy Committee in either story.

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The long fundraising road ahead for Congress hopefuls

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:38 pm
A few of the Democratic candidates for the U.S House discuss their fundraising in this SB story.

[State Representative] Schatz said he estimates that he will need about $850,000 for his congressional campaign, and has three fundraisers planned.

In comparison, a fellow Democrat, state Sen. Gary Hooser of Kauai, who is also running for the congressional seat representing rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, plans on a $350,000 campaign before the September primary election.

Hooser said in a news release yesterday that he will hold a $25-a-head fundraiser March 19 at the Kauai Veterans Center.

But Hooser put in a plea asking for larger donations, explaining that he plans television, radio and print advertising along with “slogging it out on the ground in door-to-door, person-to-person campaigning.”

Hmmm. At $25-a-head Senator Hooser would need contributions from 14,000 people to meet his $350,000 goal. Clearly, there will have to be some of those big donors, too. Otherwise the Kauai Veterans Center fundraiser had better be standing room only…

Schatz is returning the sizable ($115,000) campaign warchest he had amassed. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it is allowed for candidates to spend money raised for a state contest on a national contest. Schatz’s campaign got off to a shaky start recently, according to this article in the West Hawaii Today.

The race for Hawaii’s second congressional district seat may be crowded, but unfortunately a “talk story” session state Rep. Brian Schatz scheduled in Waimea Sunday to discuss his candidacy was not.

But the poor turn out – two residents along with state Rep. Cindy Evans and an aide – didn’t seem to phase Schatz, who took the opportunity to introduce himself, his political philosophies and why he should serve the Big Island in Congress.

“It’s a small turnout, but this is how campaigns start. It’s a good opportunity for me to start my campaign in Waimea,” Schatz, D-Makiki, said. “I really believe that showing up is everything. There is no such thing as too small or too large of a group. … I want to demonstrate through my actions that this is what I want to do with my life.”

It is early, but Schatz had better hope his fundraisers are better-attended. Talking to groups of two voters at a time (unless they are extremely wealthy) is not going to tally up to $850,000 anytime soon.

Comments (1)
2/27/2006

SB catches up to Texas blogger

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:07 pm
The SB finally runs an AP story today that was discussed on a Texas blog (and then here) weeks ago. Strange timing, to say the least. This version of the story is a bit more extensive than the earlier one, but the topic is the same and nothing new has developed since then.

To refresh your memory, the story is about House Bill 2666 and an effort to penalize those who “flip” real estate with a higher conveyance tax rate.

People who buy and sell Hawaii homes only with the intention of making money on escalating prices by “flipping” the properties in a quick sale have been blamed for years for driving up the price of local real estate.

While sales numbers have been taking a slight dip lately, prices remain considerably higher than just a year ago.

The median sales price for a single-family house in December on Maui, for example, was $725,000, or $130,500 more than in December 2004, according to the Realtors Association of Maui.

The House bill would multiply the rate of the conveyance tax – the tax paid to the state on any real estate sale – based on how many times the property had been sold over the past two years. Under the proposed law, the seller alone would be responsible for paying the tax increase.

Exemptions would be made if the profit made by the seller is relatively low or in cases when the seller can demonstrate hardship, such as needing to sell to pay large medical bills.

The profit cutoff originally stood at $100,000. But House Water, Land & Ocean Resources Committee member Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe-Kailua) called for that to be reduced.

Real estate developers selling homes for the first time would not be subject to the tax.

This description is not as good as it could be. Representative Thielen’s recommended amendment was not incorporated, but she voted to support the bill nonetheless. As for the real estate developers selling homes for the first time being exempt, I don’t see anything to that effect in the bill.

State Taxation Director Kurt Kawafuchi said his department is generally opposed to tax increases and that it would be more appropriate to put the extra tax on the buyer. That is because only the buyer truly knows whether he plans to actually live in the home, he said.

“Well, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re living in it or not,” [Representative] Chang said. “I mean, if they’re buying in it. They’re living in it. They turn around and sell it within a year. You’re still making a big profit.”

Uh, something is lost in the written form of Chang’s cryptic, pronoun-jumbled comment. I hope.

Kawafuchi’s opposition, on the other hand, is easier to parse but misses the whole point. The intention of this bill is to discourage owners from flipping their property. The property owner selling the property, not the buyer, is the person responsible for the timing (and the ultimate selling price/profit) of any transaction. Thus, to penalize the buyer for the flipping carried out by the seller makes no sense and, in fact, defeats the whole purpose of the bill, fool Sir!

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ACLU leaders to speak at Maui Forum

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 6:05 pm
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai`i presents its statewide public forum series for Spring 2006. Join the ACLU on Maui for a free forum this Wednesday featuring President Patrick Taomae, who will update Maui ACLU members and the public on current issues being worked on by the ACLU of Hawaii’s legislative and legal programs.

The event is free, and will be held at Cafe Marc Aurel in Wailuku, starting at 5:30 p.m. RSVP to David Raatz at raatz@abanet.org or 276-3488.

For a complete list of all upcoming events statewide, visit the ACLU website or email office@acluhawaii.org, attention Kit Grant.

Why am I giving a plug for this event? Because I can. I’m sure my (the?) few regular readers would not be surprised, but I have been an ACLU member and supporter for many years. Please, tell David you saw it here if you RSVP.

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Puff piece about a lobbyist

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:03 pm
There is an interview with Melissa Pavlicek in the SB today. I did a very brief post earlier about her appointment to be Director of the National Federation of Independent Business – Hawaii, but this interview clarifies that NFIB is not her only lobbying client and that she runs her own lobbying firm. She makes some interesting comments that touch on a wide variety of legislative issues.

Question: Which group were you speaking to today?

Answer: I was speaking to a group of people who participated in the Pacific Century Fellows program. They regularly get together and invite people from the community to speak to them, and I chair the Aloha Tower Development Corp., and they wanted to hear about what was going on with that area.

Q: You’re chairman of the Aloha Tower Development Corp.?

A: It’s a volunteer position for a quasi-state board under the state DBEDT (Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism) that oversees the development of the area between Kakaako and the airport.

Q: How long you been doing that?

A: Just about a year, and we have a developer who is proposing a project at Piers 5 and 6 and we hope to hear about it in the next couple of months.

Q: What kind of project? A commercial development?

A: Initially it was a proposal for a residential fee-simple project, but our agency does not have the authority to sell that land in fee simple, so we are asking them to come up with another proposal.

Wait a second. Did the ATDC give the developer free reign to propose any type of project, or did the ATDC ask for a residential development and only later realize that selling state land in fee simple is not authorized? Even where it is authorized, e.g. at Kakaako under HCDA, it’s politically dicey to sell State land. What were these people thinking?

Furthermore, didn’t HCDA just get hammered for not keeping the public informed of their redevelopment planning process? I could be wrong, but I don’t seem to recall the ATDC actively seeking public input into how to redevelop the area—much less for any proposal to od a fee simple residential development.

Q: What was your job before you took on the NFIB position?

A: Well, I was working at Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, at a law firm, so I worked with a few of these same clients, and in July I decided to open my own office (Hawaii Public Policy Advocates). So I feel very fortunate to have NFIB recently hire me, and it fits with a lot of work that I’m doing, in that I feel that small business is such an important part of our economy. So I’m excited to work with them.

Q: Other than being an attorney, do you have any business experience?

A: This is my first experience owning my own business. I did work at the Legislature, so NFIB was especially interested in my legislative background and experience, because the largest portion of what I would be doing for NFIB would be communicating small-business issues to legislators.

Q: Where is your office?

A: Davies Pacific Center. I work for NFIB but I also have other work that I do.

Q: As an attorney?

A: Yes. I have mostly legislative clients right now.

Q: What does that mean?

A: I do lobbying besides just for NFIB. I also represent the Western States Petroleum Association and Bishop Museum.

——–

Q: Do you ever find common ground with the unions?

A: Yes, and on this unemployment insurance matter, although one of the unions testified in opposition, I thought there was common ground to find resolution to the fact that the state had collected sufficient money, and the union would like to find a way to increase the benefits that are paid out from that fund.

From discussions from that hearing, I think there definitely is some common ground, and, in fact, my first job was at the ILWU as an intern.

[cough]Sell-out![cough] Well, the woman has gotta pay off those law school loans, I reckon.

The money isn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t sleep well at night. Heh.

Comments (0)
Superferry plans still very sketchy

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:01 pm
An editorial in the Maui News expresses some frustration and suggests a new tactic to deal with the lack of information about the Superferry project and its impact on Maui.

John Garibaldi, Superferry president and chief executive officer, acknowledges that the company and the state Department of Transportation have fallen short on providing information on just how the interisland transport system will deal with expected issues such as traffic.

?We know there is a lot of information that needs to get out, and it will get out,? he told The Maui News on Thursday, before he headed to a meeting of the West Maui Taxpayers Association that he said the association had requested.

——–

As part of an effort to involve the community, Garibaldi said the company is setting up community advisory boards on each of the islands that will represent the different interest groups. But he would not divulge who is being named to the board on Maui ? yet.

When the members are formally installed sometime in March, he said, they will be introduced to the public. He did not say how exactly the board will operate to expand public participation. But he said Hawaii Superferry does want to meet with the public, to provide information on the operational plans and to receive ?input from people on the best practices for our operations.?

For community groups, that may mean simply inviting Garibaldi to meet with them. Requests can be made to john@hawaiisuperferry.com.

Interesting that they published that email address for Garibaldi. It’s not listed on the Hawaii Superferry website, so I wonder if they had Garibaldi’s okay to disclose it…

Whatever. I still believe that neither public fora (if any) nor these “community advisory boards” will be able to resolve the controversy with the project. However, if the community groups that (following the advice of the editorial) ask for a meeting were to alert/invite the media to attend when Garibaldi addresses them, it would be better than having no public fora. To complete the show, the community groups should also invite DOT officials (with enough rank to officially comment) to attend the meeting. That way everyone is on the same page, so to speak.

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No quick fix for rentals shortage

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:00 pm
An excellent James Gonser article in the Advertiser today about affordable housing that explains some of the economics that drive the topic. The article also has a nice chart of affordable housing projects that have been funded by the Rental Housing Trust Fund over the recent past.

Senate Bill 2999, an omnibus bill that includes several of the [Joint Legislative Housing and Homeless] task force’s recommendations to increase housing and curb homelessness, was passed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Housing last week. Among other things, the bill would increase the portion of the conveyance tax allocated to the state’s Rental Housing Trust Fund from its current 30 percent to 65 percent. That would eliminate the portion of conveyance tax money that now goes into the general fund.

In fiscal year 2005, the trust fund received more than $6 million, when it was at 25 percent of the total conveyance tax. The fund was increased to 30 percent for the current fiscal year, which started July 1, 2005, and ends June 30, and that already has brought in nearly $6.2 million.

Menor said estimates based on the work of Legislature’s research office and consulting with the state government’s Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawai’i and the state tax department, indicate that at 65 percent of the conveyance tax more than $46.2 million will be placed into the trust fund in fiscal 2007. The estimates have $55.2 million added to the fund in 2008, $66.4 million in 2009 and $80.3 million in 2010, giving the state more than $258 million to use for rental housing development.

Darren Ueki, finance manager of the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii, said there currently is about $23 million in uncommitted money in the trust fund. Ueki also said the total amount going into the fund is based on booming real estate sales and that the market could change at any time.

Typically, he said, the trust fund has financed three to five projects a year with 50 to 60 units each. The projects take two to three years to build once financing is approved.

LOANS AND MORE

The trust fund provides loans for about 25 percent of an affordable rental project but is only one part of the financing, Ueki said. State and federal tax credits account for about 60 percent of a project and a conventional mortgage usually picks up the rest.

Ueki said simply putting more money into the fund will not necessarily result in more affordable rental units.

“Not a whole lot of people are pounding at our doors saying they want to do affordable rentals,” he said. “The nonprofits we work with willing to develop these properties are in it for the cause.”

He said there is a relatively small profit margin for affordable units and that few developers will devote themselves to the task when other projects are more lucrative.

Ueki said it is time-consuming and labor-intensive to plan a project, appropriate properties are hard to find, the booming construction industry makes it hard to find a contractor, labor is limited and the price of materials is going up every day.

“All of these things put together, it is not as simple as give the trust fund $100 million and all your problems will go away,” he said.

But, when those obstacles are overcome and a project is advanced, it will certainly make the problems go away sooner if there is more money in the trust fund than if there is less!

Seriously, the article provides a very useful and concise explanation of how the system works. Well done.

One thing that is not clear, however, is how to explain the big discrepancy between the total revenues directed to the RHTF ($34,125,645) and the amount committed for RHTF projects ($62,182,546). I’m no accountant, but that doesn’t add up… Heh.

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2/26/2006

All parties coy about rumored Hokulia settlement

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:51 am
There was a piece in the Advertiser last week, and now I see that the Hawaii County dailies (West Hawaii Today and Hawaii Tribune-Herald) are reporting that the Hokulia lawsuit may reach a settlement before the Hawaii Supreme Court rules on the appeal.

On Friday, there was this in the Advertiser:

Several sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize the talks, said the two sides have moved closer to a settlement and could approach the courts to try to end the controversy. Ibarra would have to agree to hear the settlement, and the Supreme Court would have to send the case back to the Big Island court for review.

Yesterday, the Hawaii County papers were a bit more sure:

While neither the plaintiffs nor defendants would comment on a possible settlement, multiple sources confirm the compromise will resemble the estimated $200 million community benefits package offered by Hokulia in July.

In return, the developer would be allowed to resume construction of the 665-unit luxury development as well as the community benefit bypass highway. Already completed are a golf course and shoreline public park.

However, sources also said terms of the settlement may have to be made public, nixing any payoffs to plaintiffs. In addition, Hokulia would insist the court order prevent any other party from filing suit on the same grounds to stop the development.

——–

Reportedly, the agreement will allow a third party, who is a former state attorney general, to approach Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra to request he revisit and amend his order that halted work on the $1 billion project in September 2003.

Ibarra’s ruling found Hokulia to be an illegal use of agricultural land. The court directed the developer to seek a declaratory ruling or an urban designation from the state Land Use Commission. While all cultural concerns regarding the court ruling have been addressed and met, the land use question has lingered and is on appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

I am not a lawyer and this is all rather academic unless/until an agreement is officially reached, but I have these questions:

Minor point: why would a public settlement preclude any “payoffs to plaintiffs?” People settle lawsuits for payoffs all the time and often the terms are made public.
How can the Court prevent any other party from even filing suit on the same grounds? That sounds unconstitutional. The facts are the facts, and the ruling found that Hokulia is not an acceptable project and has not followed the law. Thus, Oceanside should not be allowed to continue until such time it comes into compliance, no matter how many “benefits” they offer the plaintiffs/community.
The crux of my objection is this: After Judge Ibarra ruled that Oceanside acted improperly with respect to the Hokulia project, should it even matter if the plaintiffs were to resolve their differences with Oceanside? If this were a criminal, not a civil, case then it seems to me this would be akin to a prosecutor fighting an appeal of a conviction where the original witness is now uncooperative. It obviously makes the appeal harder to fight, but the change of heart from the witness does not change the facts already established that led to the original ruling. If a settlement emerges, the plaintiffs should not be given final say over when/if Hokulia has complied with the law.
Help me out here, lawyers! Am I completely off-base?

Comments (2)
Private schools to raise tution again

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:50 am
Just as DOE demands more money from the Legislature every year, the private schools continue to increase their tuition. The SB has an article and the exact figures here.

The nonprofit institutions say they remain caught in a perfect storm of tuition-inflating factors, including steady increases in the costs of medical benefits and energy.

They noted particular pressure to offer increasingly competitive salary and benefits packages amid a nationwide shortage of teachers and recent pay raises for unionized state public school teachers.

“We’ve been piggybacking for some time now on the low pay teachers have been getting, but that’s changing, so absolutely tuition has to grow,” said Adrian Allan, headmaster of Le Jardin Windward Academy, which is raising tuition across its various grade levels by 8 percent, highest of those surveyed.

Huh. Meaning what, exactly? Do the Oahu private school salaries exceed the public school teacher pay? If it were the case that the private school salary floor is set by the public school teacher pay, then it sounds as if the private school teachers are getting a free ride from the HSTA members (who pay all the dues and periodically walk the picket lines).

Several schools said they’ve increased financial aid budgets by equal or greater percentages than tuition in recent years, and nearly all surveyed have plans to offer still more to ease the growing burden.

A recent survey of 22 schools by the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools found that 24 percent of local private school students received financial aid awards averaging $4,056 this year.

However, several school officials said that even if overall financial aid budgets were to grow at the same percentage rate as tuition, that still leaves most aid recipients paying more over time.

The burden is being felt not only by parents but by the extended family, said Brother Greg O’Donnell, president of Damien Memorial School.

“What we’re seeing is the education bill being spread out among the extended ohana,” he said. “More and more, the grandma, grandpa, aunty and uncle are pitching in, too, because the parents can’t do it by themselves.”

Iolani is seeing more middle-class families seeking financial aid, particularly those with more than one child in private school, said spokeswoman Cathy Lee Chong.

The NAIS’ Bassett said there is growing concern nationally that eventually none but the most wealthy will be able to afford a private school education, a worry echoed by school officials here.

“That’s always a fear – that we will become less accessible to a constituency that currently attends and that the character of our school will change,” said Iolani Headmaster Val Iwashita.

There will always be a market for superior schools for the wealthy to send their children to, so I don’t worry too much about the fate of the truly excellent private schools.

It’s not a perfect comparison (because it does not itemize capital costs), but the Weighted Student Formula that the State is beginning to implement allocates around $4,000 per student per year to the public school he or she attends.

If the parents (and extended families) who struggle so much to send their children to private schools were eventually priced out of the market (and began to send their children to public school) then I believe those people would care enough to keep a close eye on their child’s educational progress and (public) school environment. This could only help Hawaii public schools.

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New book about KSBE gets blanket coverage – in one daily

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:49 am
The Star-Bulletin reminds us again of their 1997 publication of the “Broken Trust” essay which began the end for the former trustees of Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate (now Kamehameha Schools), with the start of a week-long series about the new book-length treatment sharing the same title.

I have ordered a copy of the book and will (try to) refrain from commenting until I have actually read it. When I ordered it from the UH Press website, I was told to expect 3 to 4 weeks[!] for shipping. If that delay is true for all buyers of the book, I think it is a bit odd that the SB asks for reader reactions to be sent to the editors by this Thursday (for publication next Sunday). Whatever. Maybe local bookstores have an ample supply of the book in stock, or maybe the editors simply don’t care if people comment without having read the book beyond the exceprts they are publishing in the newspaper.

There is also a companion website for the book. Have a look at this PDF found there. Hmmm. Is the AG under the Lingle Administration still fighting to keep these documents from the public? Why? That secrecy is a story that the media, not just Roth and King, should pursue further. Not that I’d expect the Advertiser to jump in. This whole topic reflects poorly on their foot-dragging in 1997 that led to the SB beating them to publishing the original essay…

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Mayor Arakawa speaks with Maui Chamber of Commerce members

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:49 am
A speech about abandoned cars and a wide-ranging question and answer session are featured in a Maui News story that is ripe with interesting comments by Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.

Mayor Alan Arakawa asked the public on Friday to help with enforcing laws passed in the 2005 Legislature that impose heavy fines ? even jail time ? on people who dump junk cars along the roads.

?A lot of it has to do with the fact that people are slobs,? Arakawa told a Maui Chamber of Commerce breakfast crowd of about 120 people at The Dunes at Maui Lani restaurant.

——–

In the question period, Stephen Holaday, general manager of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., wondered whether a crackdown on dumping in the public rights-of-way wouldn?t just shift the dumps onto private land.

Not at all, the mayor said. Illegal dumping on private property also is covered.

That answer should not be very reassuring to HC&S. If enforcement of illegal dumping is beefed up on the roads but not on private property, the fact that private property “is covered” by the law doesn’t mean much. I think it is logical to assume that if the crackdown works the dumpers will become even more elusive and start using private property.

The mayor said an analysis showed that part of the [backlog of permitting] problem was the Department of Water Supply?s first come, first served policy, adopted in the name of fairness.

What happened, though, was that simple applications, including some that just required a checkoff from the water department that no action was needed, piled up behind more complicated applications.

And, he said, some of the complicated applications came in from private engineers or architects incomplete.

?The professionals were depending on our engineers to do their work for them.?

No more, the mayor said. From now on, incomplete applications will be sent back promptly, and repeat offenders will find their projects stuck ?in the bottom of the pile.?

Arakawa should have made that admonition at a Building Industry Association breakfast, but there is probably a fair amount of overlap in those membership rolls… Heh.

… [Arakawa] welcomed the County Council?s work on an employee housing ordinance.

However, versions of that have proposed to require developers to build out as much as 80 percent of a project as affordable or gap group housing.

?I am very concerned about the number being offered,? he said. ?If it is really big, I won?t support it. We have to be practical.?

——–

He said he is confident that at least 3,400 houses will be built ?in the next three to five years,? which would be enough to meet pent-up demand. The Department of Housing and Human Concerns calculates the current shortage at 2,600 units.

?That will fulfill the need in most of the categories we have,? although he said that lower income people will never be able to afford to own houses.

This begins to clarify what will very likely become a campaign issue in the Mayoral race. One of Arakawa’s oponents, Councilmember Tavares, is a leading proponent of that 80% affordability requirement for new housing development. If the Council were to advance that idea and the Mayor vetoed it, that would be a defining moment.

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State of City speech did not close the deal

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 10:48 am
The Advertiser editorializes about the Mayor Hannemann’s speech on Friday (which I posted about here). One comment the editors made is worth a rejoinder.

The bulk of the speech had to do with the “no frills, nuts and bolts” $1.49 billion budget for the coming year that will require strong tax support. That means, Hannemann suggested, that property owners cannot expect much tax relief.

That was a painful message, but one that was absolutely necessary. And the mayor deserves credit for facing the matter directly: “Can we forgo the collection of the additional taxes?” he asked. “I’d love to. Can we afford to? I’m afraid not.”

MESSAGE LOST

Unfortunately, because the speech covered so much ground ? in fact too much ground ? this frank and important message became somewhat lost.

Doesn’t the Advertiser share the blame for not pointing out that “important message” in their ambiguous coverage yesterday? I caught the message, but few Oahu residents have/take the time to actually become familiar with what Hannemann said. In contrast, the SB and KHON made it more clear that Hannemann’s speech warned of no tax relief.

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2/25/2006

Mayor’s speech has interesting implications

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:13 am
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann gave his State of the City address yesterday. Accounts of the speech are available from the Advertiser, SB, and KHON. The full text of his remarks (in PDF) is here.

The two things that struck me about the speech were, a) the apparent conflict between the Council’s property tax relief bills which will reduce expected propety tax revenues (by an unspecified, perhaps even unknown, amount) and the increase in spending proposed by the Mayor; and, b) the $2 million pay-off community benefits package for the Leeward Coast in return for their hosting of the landfill. That second item signals to me that the Mayor will veto the Council’s resolution that calls for the landfill to be closed; why would he propose that if he intended to relieve the Leeward residents of the landfill burden?

On that landfill benefit package, the Advertiser nabbed a very interesting comment:

Among Hannemann’s specific proposals was a $2 million community benefits package for the Leeward Coast to help compensate for the odor, noise and other problems linked to hosting O’ahu’s only municipal landfill. Hannemann proposed that the package be split between grants for the district and construction projects.

He said the city also is committed to improving the Wai’anae police station and completing the Wai’anae emergency access road.

Jo Jordan, a Wai’anae resident for 34 years, called the mayor’s benefits package “a slap in the face” filled with buzzwords that attempt to mollify a community that she said has been neglected for decades, given crumbs for capital improvement projects and now faces two new private landfills operating there.

Over the decades, the community has been promised a new police station, an emergency road and most recently a benefits package that officials were supposed to be discussing with community members, Jordan said. Now the mayor wants to dictate the terms of the benefits package that she said won’t materialize.

“They haven’t come through in the last 10 years on any packages for us. Why would I think another year would make any difference?” Jordan asked.

“When it cost $800,000 to build a toilet in a beach park, $2 million is nothing,” she said.

Ooof! That may be true, but if the status quo (i.e. the next-most-likely alternative) is continued landfill use with zero benefits package…

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Special interests and mindless serfdom – without the former, you get the latter

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:10 am
A bizarre letter from Richard Rowland of GIH is in the Advertiser today. Rowland lobs out a series of non sequiturs to chastise the two Honolulu dailies for their support of publicly-funded campaigns. (I’m a huge supporter of that concept, if you’ve forgotten.)

The Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin have made it obvious that they favor full government funding of candidates for election. The key reason, they say, is to combat special interests from influencing with money, etc., our elections and therefore public policy and law. But both papers themselves are special interests that maintain much of their information and sales ability through government access.

From this perspective, the largest special-interest group is the government itself ? and its interest is to decrease your personal freedom. Most of the people and organizations that so intensely support government funding of elections want a more and more intrusive, all-powerful government, because they live off it. Pleasing and manipulating one government system is easier than researching and pursuing many private people or organizations.

Government-funded elections, if they took over the country, would eventually destroy freedom of the press, which the newspapers profess to venerate.

To quote P.J. O’Rourke’s rule of happy living, “Never let the people with all the money and the people with all the guns be the same people.”

Thus, if you want your children to become mindless serfs, support government funding of elections.

Richard O. Rowland
President, Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i

Wha? The press is just another special interest because they rely on the government for information, Rowland claims. The key difference that is not mentioned in the letter, of course, is that the press do not make campaign contributions as special interests do. There is a certain symbiosis involved, surely (see also the LPGA post today), but by no stretch of the imagination do the media corrupt the government simply by reporting on it.

It gets wackier from there. The government itself is a special interest, too, he says. This completely turns on its head all concepts of representative democracy, which is what Rowland is really attacking when he says that government is only interested in taking away your personal freedoms. Right, in your libertarian free market fantasy world, perhaps.

I have no idea what, if any, logic underlies his claim that publicly-funded campaigns will lead to the destruction of the freedom of the press and to mindless serfdom for children. But, until Rowland presents the case to prove that assertion, I’m willing to take that risk. Heh.

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LPGA buckles to Wie-dia pressure

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:09 am
After yesterday’s post about the SB refusing to agree to the terms of the LPGA media credentials, I was quite surprised to see this as the first article on their website this morning. The Editor explains the beef and how it was resolved here.

“ALL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN AT LPGA EVENTS ARE TO BE USED SOLELY BY THE SPECIFIC NEWS MEDIA OUTLET FOR WHICH THE CREDENTIAL HAS BEEN ISSUED AND FOR NO PURPOSE OTHER THAN THE NEWS COVERAGE FOR THE PARTICULAR LPGA EVENT AT WHICH THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE TAKEN.”

In other words, we would not be able to use our own photos taken at this tournament at any time other than when we wrote about this tournament, unless we had written approval from the LPGA.

Furthermore, in exchange for the credential, “the LPGA shall have an unlimited, perpetual, nonexclusive right to use … photographs taken at LPGA events for the noncommercial promotion of the LPGA and LPGA events, at no additional expense, in any form worldwide.”

In other words, the LPGA would get to use our photos forever, at no charge.

Similar restrictions would have been placed on stories we wrote about the tournament, with the result being that the LPGA would have more control than we would over our photos and stories.

If that had come to pass, a terrible precedent would have been set, and it would have been difficult to stop other organizations – sports and maybe nonsports – from making similar demands.

Gee, it is like the LPGA was treating the mass media in a way that sounds very similar to the mass media treatment of … freelance reporters. Cry me a river, Mr. Bridgewater! Heh.

Since some media outlets (e.g. the Advertiser) actually agreed to the terms of the credentialing before this relaxed policy compromise was reached by the Associated Press, it seems that Bridgewater’s “if that had come to pass” clause is off the mark. It did come to pass, the precedent has been set, and it remains to be seen if this means other organizations will make similar demands.

The LPGA and the commercial mass (sports) media are both in the advertising business. I’m surprised that it had taken the LPGA so long to figure out that the media are enjoying a (lucrative) free ride on the LPGA’s nickel after the immediate coverage of the event is complete (i.e. the LPGA provides the real content behind this recycled “news”).

Whatever. Tee it up, Michelle, and show that mainland girl to the door today. …and smile for the SB cameras while you do it.

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2/24/2006

Political ideology by the numbers

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:15 pm
I was tipped by a loyal reader (and friend) to this link from the National Journal (which is some sort of inside-the-beltway specialty publication, it seems). The piece is based upon a (somewhat cryptically derived) percentile ranking of Hawaii’s congressional delegation based upon their voting records in comparison to all other members of Congress. I’m normally a bit biased against social science based upon empirical data, but it’s better than the few skimpy non-numeric comparisons I’ve seen to date…

The liberal percentile score means that the member voted more liberal than that percentage of his or her colleagues in that issue area in 2005. The conservative figure means that the member voted more conservative than that percentage of his or her colleagues.

For example, a House member in the 30th percentile of liberals and the 60th percentile of conservatives on economic issues voted more liberal than 30 percent of the House and more conservative than 60 percent of the House on those issues, and was tied with the remaining 10 percent. The scores do not mean that the member voted liberal 30 percent of the time and voted conservative 60 percent of the time.

The formatting of the chart is hard to reproduce in blockquote form, so I’ll do my own format. They calculate values for economic, social and foreign policy issues, but I will only reproduce the composite scores here.

In the U.S. Senate (examining these votes):
Senator Inouye

Voted more liberal than 69% of his Senate colleagues.
Voted more conservative than 30% of his Senate colleagues.
Senator Akaka

Voted more liberal than 78% of his Senate colleagues.
Voted more conservative than 21% of his Senate colleagues.
In the U.S. House (examing these votes):
Representative Abercrombie

Voted more liberal than 75% of his House colleagues.
Voted more conservative than 24% of his House colleagues.
Representative Case

Voted more liberal than 58% of his House colleagues.
Voted more conservative than 41% of his House colleagues.
Too bad that Case and Akaka are from different chambers and thus not rated on the same votes, but I reckon there would still be some interesting information there. If any bored brave soul would like to plow into the roll call results and see if there any glaring differences between the two men, then I’d be very grateful if you leave a comment if you find something.

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Wie fans will have to look to the Advertsier – for now

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:14 pm
An interesting editorial in the SB today that explains a new LPGA media policy. The editors flatly state that they will not comply with the ruling and that the LPGA needs to “change course.”

Frank Bridgewater, the Star-Bulletin’s editor, rejected the demand that the LPGA have free use of the newspaper’s photos and be able to block any future use of the photos by the Star-Bulletin. “We will not sign a form that places limits on how we can use our own photos or that allow others to have any control over our stories,” he said.

As an example, AP assistant general counsel Dave Tomlin said the news service would be required to get the LPGA’s permission to use a photo of a golfer taken at the Fields Open to go with a story about her involvement in a boating accident or other news event two months after the tournament. No respectable news organization would knowingly agree to such outside censorship.

——– Oh, really? haha

The gaffe comes eight months after the appointment of former advertising executive Carolyn F. Bivens as LPGA commissioner. Bivens began her 18 years with Gannett Corp. in 1982 by helping launch USA Today, becoming the newspaper’s senior vice president and associate publisher, overseeing advertising operations. She was president of Initiative Media North America before heading the LPGA.

Bivens assumed the LPGA post as a youth movement led by Wie and Paula Creamer was seen as an opportunity to gain public attention for the women’s tour and, with it, more endorsements and higher purses. She told the Star-Bulletin’s Paul Arnett last week that she aimed to expand the tour’s appeal from the predominantly male audiences of the Golf Channel and ESPN to “a wide audience and different targets.”

Gannett owns the Advertiser, if you’re keeping score. Heh.

It will be interesting to see if the SB backtracks on this decision in deference to the almost inevitable howls of the local (and rabid) Wie fans who demand blanket coverage of her every move, or if the editors will hold on to the journalistic high ground they have claimed…

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Luxury homes coming for Maui coffee farmlands

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:13 pm
There is an Advertiser story today that describes a new development being sold on Maui that involves agricultural land. The piece tries hard to draw parallels to Hokulia, but it does not give enough information to tell if it is fair to make that comparison.

Ka’anapali Development Corp. subsidiary PM Land Co. LLC earlier this week began marketing coffee-farm house lots expected to appeal mostly to Maui residents interested in trading their valuable urban homes for a more rural lifestyle.

The project represents a unique niche in the state’s booming luxury home market ? typically dominated by resort condominiums, ocean-front homes and posh high-rises ? in that the lots provide one acre for a home and three to six acres of coffee trees leased to a farming contractor.

——–

Using agriculture-zoned land for homes owned by nonfarmers has been a controversial but long-standing practice under poorly defined and enforced regulations of the state’s 1961 Land Use Act.

In recent years, the controversy over “farm dwelling” subdivisions reached a zenith when opponents of the Big Island luxury homesite project Hokuli’a obtained a Circuit Court ruling in 2003 that deemed Hokuli’a an illegal use of agriculture land.

Hokuli’a was designed with a private golf course as its centerpiece but planned to grow about 200 acres of coffee as a qualified farm use equivalent to about 20 percent of house lot acreage.

The legal ruling, which halted development and sale of Hokuli’a lots, is on appeal to the state Supreme Court and is the subject of a bill in the Legislature that would allow Hokuli’a and other projects like it to proceed provided they are on agriculture land of the poorest farming quality.

Still, other criticisms of farm dwelling subdivisions persist on grounds that they drive up the price of farmland, making it prohibitively expensive for bona- fide farmers, and that developers don’t pay traditional housing developer fees that help finance public facilities such as schools, parks and roads. And until recent county tax reforms, farm dwelling owners without agricultural operations sometimes paid lower property tax rates.

Did they learn from Hokulia? The article mentions that they have State approvals of the marketing and sale documents, but I wonder if the developer (and Maui County) have complied with all of the Land Use Commission requirements. I’m also curious how much of this development is on Agricultural soils rated “A” or “B.”

In any event, the key difference is that Hokulia was 20% agriculture and 80% luxury resort/residential development, this project would be (at most) 25% residential and 75% agriculture—so, in that regard, there is really not much comparison.

Lot buyers are entitled to a small percentage of coffee-bean sales and receive $1,000 a year in lease rent for their coffee parcels, but will pay an estimated $1,100 a month in association fees that help maintain common areas and subsidize farm operations.

In future years, it is possible that farm income could grow to help reduce association fees, but Lovelette said that’s difficult to forecast because of unknown future coffee prices, harvest yields, labor costs and other factors.

“It’s made to be sustainable farm land forever,” he said.

I doubt very much that any of these buyers have expectations of making a profit on the agricultural operation…

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2/23/2006

Senate mulling over their version of Hokulia bailout

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:56 pm
The Honolulu dailies both cover the Senate hearing yesterday where they took up a bill about Hokulia (and, uh, other developments on agriculture land, blah blah blah). The Advertiser piece is here, and the SB piece is here.

At the Senate hearing yesterday, much of the testimony centered on Hokuli’a.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, who supports the bills to save Hokuli’a, said he was disappointed that some critics have accused him of siding with business interests over agriculture.

“It is us in government who created this problem and it is up to us to fix it,” Kim told senators.

——–

Kim said he has “personal disappointment, even resentment” that some interpreted his support of another bill seeking a Hokulia fix (House Bill 1368) as “supporting big business, because it is an absolute falsehood.”

“This is not about Hokulia. It is in spite of Hokulia,” Kim said.

Kim’s written testimony noted that owners of more than 2,500 agricultural subdivision lots on the Big Island and 1,600 in Maui had believed they could build a home without engaging in farming – before the Hokulia lawsuit. Now that certainty is in doubt, he said.

Sierra Club Director Jeff Mikulina and Alan Murakami, the attorney who represented plaintiffs in the Hokulia case, were among those testifying against Kokubun’s bill.

“The Hokulia decision has no effect on other housing developments in the agricultural district developed years ago,” Mikulina insisted. “A campaign has been orchestrated to scare many people into believing that.”

“The sky is not falling for those bona fide purchasers of lots in agricultural subdivisions, who, unlike the Hokulia buyers, may not have known of the farm dwelling and agricultural use restrictions the counties have so long ignored,” Murakami said.

I can’t stress enough what those two opponents of the legislation say. Those gentleman should promptly submit an op-ed arguing that point to reassure nervous homeowners already living on agricultural district lands. I don’t understand why the Advertiser does not report on this angle, since without that “grandfathering is necessary” scare tactic the House bill is pretty transparently a Hokulia bailout. At least the Senate bill includes a look to the future of the issue, but it does so in a rather roundabout way: the Senate bill authorizes the Counties to enact ordinances defining acceptable dwellings on agricultural lands. Why this policy should differ from county to county, I don’t understand. Why not have, and settle, that debate at the Legislature?

Finally, in a short but devestating post by David you’ll find this challenge to Mayor Harry Kim’s repeated pleas that the commitments made by Hawaii County to Oceanside 1250 have to be honored.

But when municipal government is involved, the written law prevails over any statements, promises, or commitments made by any government officials. The principle is that it’s more important to protect the public (i.e., by enforcing the written law) than to protect the private parties who may have been misled by government officials’ incorrect statements. The greater good prevails.

In the post David refers to the “bible of municipal law,” a book (actually, a 20-volume work) by McQuillin. It is a real bargain, maybe I’ll check it out… Heh.

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Secondhand smoke bill; blazing through Senate, snuffed in House

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:53 pm
The SB has a brief article about legislation heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday about secondhand tobacco smoke. You’d be forgiven if you assumed from reading this article that the bill is likely to survive at the Legislature.

About 41 percent of Hawaii residents still work in an environment where smoking is allowed, according to the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii.

The bill would provide “comprehensive protections from secondhand smoke for all who live, work and visit Hawaii, and it will have also have a dramatic, positive impact on public health,” said Deborah Zysman, director of the coalition.

Burgelin said he is aware that many bar owners are worried of a drop in revenue if the bill is passed. “My experience has been the opposite,” he said.

A law would increase the number of no-smoking places, supplementing ordinances in the four counties that for the most part forbid smoking in restaurants and some other locations.

Members of the Judiciary Committee are scheduled to make a decision at 9 a.m. tomorrow on whether to pass the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

There was a companion bill in the House, but it was never heard by the House Judiciary Committee. Thus, that bill died last Friday when it did not meet the lateral deadline. Hmmm.

Note that Representative Luke (chair of the House Judiciary Committee) received $1,500 this election cycle from Altria (PDFs here and here) , did not co-sponsor the legislation, and did not schedule a hearing for the House bill; meanwhile Senator Hanabusa (chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee) received the maximum $2,000 contribution from Altria, co-sponsored the Senate bill, and actually scheduled it for a hearing. Senator Hanabusa could still kill the Senate bill on Friday, of course… but it would be much more interesting if the bill crosses over to the House where (after the Health Committee predictably votes to advance the idea again) Representative Luke could have another chance to schedule it for a hearing, or not.

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Hanabusa bunts on the softballs pitched by Boylan

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:49 pm
This week Dan Boylan’s column in Midweek is a puff piece profile of State Senator Colleen Hanabusa who is running for Congress.

In this year?s contest to replace the U.S. Senate-seeking Case, Hanabusa expects to do much better. The 54-year-old respected labor lawyer feels her legal skills make her the best candidate for the congressional seat: ?Because I am a good lawyer. I?m a good advocate. I know what my client base is, and I?ve done the best job I could of representing my senatorial district at the Capitol. Now I want to switch those skills to the second congressional district.

?People know I?m not afraid to express an opinion, yet as an independent I?ve learned that you have to respect others. No one will know a legislative issue better than I will. No one will marshal the facts better than me. It?s second nature for me. There are those in the Senate who may not like me, but they respect what I stand for. They know I?m not coming off the wall.?

——–

Few would accuse Hanabusa of bragging – or of a lack of ambition. From the day she arrived in the Senate in 1998, she set out to make her presence felt. With four other freshmen senators, Hanabusa repeatedly challenged the leadership of Senate President Robert Bunda. All four of her confederates lost their re-election bids in 2002. An unchastened Hanabusa survived. She continues to attempt a coalition to unseat Bunda and put herself in the president?s chair.

Says one Senate veteran: ?Colleen leads the Senate by default. Bunda is treading water.

Through her closeness to Brian Taniguchi, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and her own position as Chair of the Judiciary Committee, she influences the two most powerful senate committees. She can get legislation passed.?

Hanabusa acknowledges her power – or rather, that of the senate faction with which she is associated. ?The Brian Taniguchi group survives because we do a good job,? she says, ?but we?ve never been in the majority.?

Hanabusa identifies herself as more liberal than departing Congressman Case on labor issues. Where Case supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq and passage of the Patriot Act, Hanabusa opposed both. She says she?s ?not sure I?m as liberal as Patsy Mink,? but says that she is certainly an advocate of women?s rights and gender equity.

That is a start, and it is better than not talking at all about the issues, but there’s obviously quite a wide ideological gap between Ed Case and (the late) Patsy Mink. Hanabusa has the Ko Olina tax credit issue hanging over her, but I agree with the larger assessment that she is widely considered to be very smart and well-prepared to advance her ideas.

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Thar she blows!

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 5:46 pm
Not political, but I noticed this KHNL story about a whale carcass that has washed up onto Waimanalo Beach.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will attempt to move the carcass Thursday morning. But even the experts are unsure if they’ll be able to reach the whale with equipment from the beach. They plan to use a front end loader and dump truck to take away the dead whale.

I am reminded of this. Download the video if you’ve never seen it. Impressive!

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2/22/2006

Stopping Hokulia – a half-step from the Apocalypse

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:57 pm
Aaron Stene directed my attention to this post at the Hawaii Reporter by my old pal, blogger publisher Andrew Walden of Hilo.

Walden has a bee in his bonnet about an Advertiser editorial that opposed the Hokulia bailout bill, HB 1368 HD1. I disagree with Walden’s argument, and direct you to my recent posts (here and here) as to my reasoning why I oppose the bill that Walden supports.

Beyond the bill, however, Walden makes pretty outrageous allegations about those who litigate to challenge developers:

What the Advertiser, the eco-thieves, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation and its backers at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs don?t get is that they are overreaching. It is one thing to extract millions from developers in an orderly process of “greenmail,” which allows developments to go through and creates no-show jobs for would-be protesters. It is another thing entirely to steal property whole. The PKO lawsuit emerged from the collapse of Hokulia?s pre-existing “greenmail” arrangements with some of the Plaintiffs. If the developers can?t trust the payoffs to keep the greens in line why would developers want to enter into such agreements? The collapse of this system could undermine the campaign finances and personal wealth of many Hawaii elected officials and appointees.

By overreaching and getting greedy, the PKO gang has threatened the livelihoods of thousands of eco-activists statewide who are diligently collecting payoffs from developers in order to stay out of the way.

That would be a great story that I’d definitely be interested to read, if Walden has any proof that “greenmail” is rampant and activists (including Protect Keopuka Ohana) were/are collecting payoffs from developers. Somehow, I doubt Walden has any such proof. If he had proof, I would have expected him to name names. Without proof, naming names would be libelous slander. Walden can (safely) plant the seed in the readers’ mind by floating his theory with no names or proof, so that seems to be his chosen modus operandi.

Walden goes further, concluding in an almost comical tirade (all emphases mine):

Herkes? legislation helps to preserve the orderly functioning of the “greenmail” system by eliminating the threat to the thousands of Hawaii homeowners and lot owners who are threatened by Judge Ibarra?s legalized theft of private homes. What Herkes knows and the eco-thieves are too ignorant to understand is that homeowners do not simply give up their property. No amount of tiresome eco-rhetoric and politically-correct mumbo-jumbo can cause people who spend years working and paying down a mortgage to simply walk away.

Bill 1368 HD1 has been referred to the House Finance Committee headed by Dwight Takamine (D-Hamakua), a full-on socialist. Observers see this as indicating the Bill will not come up for a third reading and will not cross over to the Senate.

If no relief is granted to the thousands of homeowners under threat from the eco-thieves and socialists, the conditions are created for a broader political revolt that can sweep all of the corrupt elements from elected and appointed office.

No federal court will uphold Ibarra?s decision. Even the ultra-liberal 9th Circuit understands that property cannot be taken without compensation and that property cannot be taken without representation in court. Even the state Supreme Court is in no hurry to hear this case.

The House can either restore order to the “greenmail system” by eliminating the retroactive threat to thousands of homeowners in hundreds of post-1976 subdivisions or they can watch as the system comes crashing down around their pointed ears and cloven hooves. They can keep their orderly system of protection payments or they can risk it all and kill the goose that lays their golden eggs. There is no third choice.

If they reject Herkes? bill it should be taken as a sign that the eco-thieves and their elected representatives do not see much of a future for themselves and want to take as much loot as they can while they still have a chance.

This can still work out quite well.

Takamine: A full-on socialist! haha

Again, there is no threat to the existing homes, as I see it. HB 1368 HD1 bails out Hokulia and does nothing to clarify the issue of what constitutes an acceptable use of agricultural lands in the future. I think the Lege will go forward with the bill (unfortunately, that will preclude any opportunity for Walden’s doomsday scenario to unfold). The Senate is considering their response to the matter today. It applies to future dwellings on agriculture land, but it also preserves Walden’s “greenmail” system. Heh.

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Just in Case you think he is a moderate…

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:54 pm
A clever title, but there is a rather strange David Shapiro column in the Advertiser today where he trots out a few quotes from Ed Case to challenge Case’s claim to being a “moderate.”

It’s difficult to see these qualities in some of the rhetorical grenades Case has lobbed at Bush and the Republicans ? or a compelling argument that he’s any more able to work with the GOP majority than others in the Hawai’i delegation.

Case has split with Hawai’i colleagues on issues such as renewal of the Patriot Act and specifics of troop withdrawals from Iraq, but their records and rhetoric have been more alike than not.

If anything, Sens. Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye have been less inflammatory than Case and Abercrombie in partisan attacks on the Republicans.

This is not to criticize the substance of Case’s views; from his runaway victories in both of his U.S. House elections, he’s clearly well within the mainstream of Hawai’i political thinking.

It’s just to make the point that Akaka and the others also appear to be within the mainstream that Case has defined by word and example.

In other words, Shapiro thinks those few high-profile issues where the two men differ (i.e. the PATRIOT Act, withdrawal from Iraq, and oil drilling in ANWR) obscure the fact that there really is not much difference between Case and Akaka. This, in Shapiro’s estimation, reduces the race to being mostly about age.

As if. If Shapiro, or any other journalist/columnist/blogger, bothered to look, there is almost certainly other areas where they diverge in opinion.

If you’re interested in reading the remarks of both men, in context, you could begin your research at these links: Senator Akaka and Representative Case.

Comments (1)
DOE panned by yet another group

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:52 pm
The SB has another AP article today, this time about a study that finds fault with the Hawaii Department of Education.

The study focused on five areas: a comparison of high school standards with real-world expectations, alignment of high school graduation requirements with colleges and jobs, use of high school tests for college admissions, new systems to track students’ performance after high school, and how high schools are held accountable.

Hawaii’s high schools showed no progress in any of those areas, according to Achieve.

The study did not look at test scores or dropout rates. Instead, it compared whether state education departments had policies in place to meet the criteria.

Achieve describes itself thusly:

Created by the nation’s governors and business leaders, Achieve, Inc., is a bipartisan, non-profit organization that helps states raise academic standards, improve assessments and strengthen accountability to prepare all young people for postsecondary education, work and citizenship.

Achieve serves as a significant national voice for quality in standards-based education reform and regularly convenes governors, CEOs and other influential leaders to sustain support for higher standards and achievement for all of America’s schoolchildren.

As Governor Lingle bemoaned previously, the DOE standards are difficult for many students to meet. Indeed, she admitted that even the her own senior policy advisors could not pass the fifth-grade math test to meet the DOE standard.

So, what does it mean if this group thinks Hawaii lacks policies to conform to their goals, while our Governor thinks our standards are already too high and are, in her view, hurting the morale of DOE faculty and students (not to mention making No Child Left Behind look like a failed project)?

Stepping back a bit, I think it is a significant logical leap to go from “Hawaii has no policies in place to meet the criteria” (from the first excerpt above) to the first sentence of the article “Hawaii’s education system fails to put high school standards in line with real-world expectations, according to a report released today.”

Sure, it’s a technically true statement when you include that “according to a report” clause, but is it true that simply having policies in place will “put high school standards in line with real-world expectations” and that’s impossible without the policies? Show me.

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Capitol to become free wireless hotspot

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:50 pm
I heard people chatting about this Saturday SB story, and I can’t believe that I overlooked it. Anyway, it’s worth going back to bring it to your attention:

Lawmakers are moving forward with plans to install wireless Internet access points at the state Capitol in all committee hearing rooms, the auditorium in the building’s basement, the fourth-floor public-access room and along the corridors on the second, third and fourth floors.

Usage would be similar to the way laptop users can access the Internet at coffee shops, shopping centers or airports, and would be free of charge.

———

Hawaiian Telcom, the proposed contractor for the project, has said work could be completed in six weeks.

That would be just in time for House-Senate conference committees, when lawmakers from each side work out differences in bills to come up with a single proposal to send to the governor.

Conference is typically the busiest time of the session, as lawmakers work late hours often going from hearing room to hearing room throughout the day to come up with the final language for hundreds of bills.

Having wireless access would allow them to reduce the number of files they carry around and allow instant access to hearing schedules, proposed amendments and other information available on the Legislature’s Web site.

Instead of calling or chasing after them, aides would be able to send lawmakers e-mails or text messages to their cell phones to summon them to hearing rooms for decision making.

Just curious, but after the flap about the procurement of services for the Governor’s trade delegations, did the Legislature follow the procurement code to choose Hawaiian Telcom? Heh. Whatever, this installation will make it painfully clear exactly how lame the City’s effort is in comparison. I’ll be very stoked if/when they pull this off. However, I don’t think it will be useful to Legislators in the particular ways that this article describes.

There are a handful of legislators who assiduously use their laptops in the chambers (where there is already a secure wifi network), but there are a great many legislators who I am sure would never lug around a laptop to the floor, much less to the conference rooms. Furthermore, proposed amendments during conference committee meetings have not been available in realtime on the network in previous years—that is a not a technology problem, but rather a result of the tendency for Conference Committees to produce drafts in sporadic bursts of activity and compromise. As for shepherding legislators to where they need to be; cell phones have largely solved that problem (and wifi is not necessary for text messages, of course).

So much paper is wasted at the Lege that it is almost obscene. Probably the best possible use I could see for a network like this is to cease all of the photocopying of testimony and store and distribute it to committee members (and the public) during (and after) hearings in digital form. Scan it once (with optical character recognition, while I’m dreaming…), and then pau. Of course, that makes way too much sense (it would require a fair amount of disk space, too), so it most likely will never happen.

Comments (0)
2/21/2006

Hawaii voters like women leaders; leaders not so keen on appointing women

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:03 pm
I overlooked this yesterday, but blog-able pickings were slim today so I went back to it for another look. Heh.

The SB editorializes about a study by the Centery for Women in Government and Civil Society about women in state policy leadership positions. (Also availabe as a PDF)

Voters can be credited for Hawaii’s improved standing of women in the corridors of power, electing Linda Lingle as governor and women to 22 of the 76 state legislative positions. In all appointive posts, Hawaii lags behind most other states.

Ironically, Lingle, one of only eight female governors, has been inclined to lend an important ear to men more than women. Linda Smith is the sole woman among Lingle’s six top advisers, according to the study. Only Georgia’s Gov. Sonny Perdue has named a greater percentage of men to at least as many top advisory spots; all seven are male.

Four of Lingle’s 16 cabinet members are women, far below the national average of women accounting for 42 percent. Nationally, that category was where women made their greatest advances since 1998.

In 1993, Paula A. Nakayama became the first woman in 26 years to become a Hawaii Supreme Court justice. More than half the states now have two or more women justices, but Nakayama remains surrounded by men.

Hawaii Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the Judicial Selection Commission, and it’s pretty unusual (unheard of?) for a sitting Justice to not be recommended for subsequent 10-year terms on the bench. After Nakayama, in 2000 and 2003 new Justices were seated on the Court; I can’t find any information online to see if Governor Cayetano was presented any females nominees in 2000, but in 2003 Governor Lingle was presented with only two female nominees (of the six selected). The lengthy and staggered terms of the Commissioners are such that the nominees in 2003 did not share a political outlook with the Governor. Accounts suggested then that she would have preferred less “liberal” nominees and Governor Lingle expressed a preference for nominees with prosecutorial experience. The Commission is set up in such a way as to force any philosophical shift in the Court to be a very gradual occurrence, unlike the see-saw effect we see for the U.S. Supreme Court (where a President has complete discretion in who to nominate—subject, of course, to Senate confirmation).

Anyway, the CWIGCS study is worth a look.

The only additional comment I would add is that it is striking that of the five Republican state senators there are zero women, but of the ten Republican state representatives there are seven women. To finish the factoid, for the Democrats it is six female senators (out of twenty) and twelve female representativs (out of forty-one).

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Anti-flipping legislation annoys Texan blogger

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:01 pm
Very little caught my eye while doing my usual browsing of the local media today, so I turned to Goggle and looked a bit further afield. I found a series of interesting posts from an outfit from Houston, Texas, called Houston Buyers. It is based upon an AP article by Tara Godvin (The article did not run locally? Go figure.) about House Bill 2666.

Their (almost) straight news piece is here, and they blog/editorialize about the bill here.

Basically, HB 2666 penalizes those who “flip” properties (“flipped” properties are those that change owners after less than two years) by assessing higher conveyance tax on such transactions. The revenues go to the homeless assistance special fund. The Texan (a term I use intentionally, since the pieces call Hawaii residents “Hawaiians” repeatedly) doesn’t like this idea.

ERROR #1: Flipping has increased prices. Reserving judgment on the veracity of this statement, is it bad even if true? Ought not property owners in Hawaii be absolutely giddy about price appreciation?

Let’s suspend all common-sense and assume landowning Hawaiians do not benefit by price appreciation. Is it possible that flipping adds value? If prices go up because value has been added, then we have the unique underpinnings of the capitalist system. Real estate investors tend to purchase properties in distressed situations and provide market liquidity. Liquidity has value, particularly to those who sell their properties-in-distress. Often, real estate investors use their capital to make substantial improvements to a property. In so doing, the value and price of the property increase. Once again, is this so bad?

The proposed legislation does not take into account the benefit of real estate investment.

Sure, property owners should be “giddy” about price appreciation … until it’s time to pay their own property taxes. The children of property owners might also not be so giddy when they reach an age where they would like to buy property and find that — surpise — nothing is affordable.

ERROR #2: Flippers ought to pay more tax. This item confuses us the most. Flippers already pay tax twice. When sold, it reduces the amount paid to the seller, which the seller accounts for in setting his price. And, when the flipper sells the property, he or she must pay the tax again. Further, since the geniuses behind this legislation believe ERROR #1 to be true, let’s play along. Since the flippers are “driving prices higher”, they are also driving taxes higher, as the conveyance tax is paid as a percentage of sale price. Flippers, or good ones anyway, already pay more-than-double tax.

I have no idea what this means. If the author had bothered to read the bill, he’d find that the conveyance tax is to be paid by the purchaseer in non-flipping transactions, and by the seller in flipping transactions. The higher conveyance tax is only triggered by a seller taking a profit of over $100,000.

ERROR #3: Discouraging flipping will help Hawaiians. We should step back and say that we rejoice that Houston real estate investors are not subject to a conveyance tax to begin with, much less double-taxation. (Editor’s Note: We will be taking a position on Title Insurance as a form of double-taxation during the legislative session that next addresses it.) We believe in market efficiency and the reduction of transaction costs as the single biggest favor a government can do for its economy.

Increasing the conveyance tax on real estate investors, thereby increasing transaction costs, is tantamount to harming the value of property, and lessening the chance that private investment in Hawaii will take place. We surmise that the proponents of the flipper’s conveyance tax believe that by creating large transaction costs, legislators can externally keep values lower than an efficient market can create. Property owners ought to be angry, especially if they sell their own home within two years of buying it – they too will be subject to a tax increase.

We cannot figure out why anybody would think this idea is a good one.

Apparently the writer is blind to the difference between investment and speculation. There is a difference, but exactly where to separate the two phenomena is, of course, arbitrary. Proponents of the flipper’s conveyance tax, including myself, belive that that tax can keep values lower than the speculators would like—or, failing that, the flipper’s conveyance tax penalty will at least throw a bone to those who are most harmed by real estate speculation, i.e. the homeless at the bottom of the affordable housing food chain.

Comments (2)
2/20/2006

Harbin wants to ride the bench on 4 of her 5 assignments

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:27 pm
The SB has taken notice of the (latest) odd behavior by Representative Harbin and provided some context and explanation for us. I posted about this earlier, but at the time I could not tell exactly what was up.

[Representative Harbin] contends her vote was misrecorded in committee because of an ongoing dispute with House leadership over her committee assignments.

Harbin said she informed leadership that she would resign from four of five committees she had been assigned to because she did not have any expertise on their subject matters and did not feel she could contribute constructively.

House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) had informed Harbin that under House rules, committee assignments were approved in a resolution adopted on opening day of the session, and she cannot unilaterally resign.

One of her four [sic] assignments was to the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, which was one of three House panels that unanimously passed out the proposal to suspend the gas cap.

Because she was interested in the subject matter, she attended the hearing but sat in the audience, not at the table as a member of the committee. When the vote was cast, her presence was noted and, under House rules, counted as a “yes” because she did not voice opposition, according to House officials. [see rule 51.3 which is arguably relevant, and 52.4]

She corrected her vote when the bill came to the House floor Friday.

Harbin said she disagrees with House leadership on the interpretation of the rules.

If she is so familiar with the rules as to form her own interpretation, Harbin should also know that the rules provide for a process to challenge a ruling of the Speaker.

Assuming that she is not simply a shirker, I think Harbin is being a bit too demanding of herself. There is (sometimes painfully obviously) no requirement to demonstrate any mastery of the subject matter to sit as a member of a Legislative committee.

Remember, the Governor’s staff interviewed all the possible replacements for Representative Hiraki, and, in the end, they determined Harbin was best-suited to serve the 28th House District… What a clown show.

Comments (6)
Lingle praised by GOP national chair – shocker

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:27 pm
An interesting AP (?) story in the SB here with comments from a mainland GOP official after a big Republican party fundraiser last week.

Republicans want candidates just like Gov. Linda Lingle to help them gain ground in Hawaii, national GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman said Friday.

Mehlman and Lingle raised about $300,000 for Republican candidates at a dinner Thursday night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, attended by 1,300 people, he said.

“She has provided a good model,” Mehlman said. “We have a living, breathing, effective example of what a Hawaii Republican is like in Linda Lingle, and that will help us elect other Republicans in other offices.”

——–

“In a state like Hawaii, it’s harder to elect a Republican than a Democrat, unless you run as a reform Republican that attracts a lot of support from Democrats,” Mehlman said.

Those kinds of candidates should copy many of Lingle’s issues – fiscal responsibility, transparency in government, energy independence and education reform – he said.

——–

Lingle faces re-election this November, but only one Democrat – former state lawmaker Randy Iwase – has entered the race. She was the first Republican to win the governor’s office after 40 years of Democratic rule.

Well, it seems there is just no pleasing some folks. For so long the Democratic opposition to Lingle numbered zero, and there was much fretting and lamentation. Now the opposition numbers one, and the media are still not happy? Niesse wants a bloody Democratic primary to write about, too. haha.

The dinner with the Governor earned several hundred thousand dollars “for Republican candidates.” Meaning that none of that money is destined for her own re-election campaign, or that she will share the haul with national (or statewide) Republican candidates?

Comments (0)
The niggling concerns over property tax proposals

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 2:25 pm
The SB editorializes on the subject of Honolulu property taxes. You may read it in the SB today, but you may have read it here weeks ago. Heh.

What’s missing from the Council’s discussions, however, are calculations of revenue reductions the measures would produce, leaving to Mayor Hannemann the politically ticklish burden of deciding what city services, if any, would be affected by losses.

Indeed. Too bad the editors did not explain their collective failure to raise those questions when the story was “news.”

The third bill changes the way in which property taxes are set. It establishes base rates or “initial tax rates” for various classes of property, which would remain the same from year to year except for inflation adjustments.

Taxes also would depend on how much city officials say is needed to pay employees and its debts and to provide services, which advocates say will hold officials more accountable for spending.

The bill carves a more reactive role for the Council by requiring the administration to propose an increase – or even a decrease, though that’s unlikely – to the rate first. After that, the Council – which has the politically onerous tax of setting tax rates – can accept the administration’s rate or propose its own.

Right.

All that’s missing is some mention of the apparently meaningless Mayor’s Tax Policy Committee. If Bill 12 (i.e. “the third bill”) becomes law I suspect that the Mayor will delegate that politically unpleasant opening salvo about property tax rates each year to the Committee.

Comments (0)
2/19/2006

Cointelpro 2006 at UH?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:47 pm
I was rather surprised to see the following among these letters to the SB editors:

Way to go, President McClain! Many of your University of Hawaii colleagues support your decision, we just are not as verbal as the opponents of University Affiliated Research Center (“McClain gives nod to Navy project,” Star-Bulletin, Feb. 17).

The Board of Regents should look a little deeper at the true motivation and political ideology of the anti-UARC movement, starting with an FBI background check on its leaders. Seriously. Many of our colleagues are pawns in the very effective psyops tactics of our national enemies in the war on terror.

Maxwell Cooper
Associate professor, Surgery
John A. Burns School of Medicine
University of Hawaii

[blink]

The FBI may have already opened files on those anti-UARC leaders (I would recommend that those leaders submit FOIA requests to find out, actually), but the Board of Regents had better hope that they had no part in seeking or conducting any such “background check.” Any BOR connection to such a domestic spying operation would be a far greater problem for the University than the approval or disapproval of a UARC.

Cooper is confirming the worst suspicions of the UARC opponents (and probably weakening UARC support among those supporters who only were half-heartedly behind it) in his zeal to root out thoughtcrime he considers to be detrimental to the “war on terror.” Sheesh.

UPDATE: The same letter runs in the Advertiser on Monday.

Comments (1)
Lingle supports bill to “fix” Hokulia

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 6:46 pm
The SB reports on a speech the Governor made on Friday to a lunch meeting of the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce. Unlike the last time Governor Lingle spoke to a neighbor island Chamber of Commerce, this time I got paid on schedule. Heh.

The 1,550-acre Hokulia project is on land zoned agricultural and was approved by Hawaii County before a judge ruled it was in violation of state law.

The development, which has been idled for more than two years, has shone the latest and brightest spotlight on land use issues, but Lingle said similar problems previously cropped up on Maui and Kauai.

“There has to be a fix in this legislative session,” Lingle told more than 200 people at the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday at the Sheraton Keauhou Resort & Spa.

——–

“Judge Ibarra was not incorrect,” Lingle said Friday. “But citizens have a right to rely on the government’s word.”

Lingle said the bill is a start to clarifying and streamlining the entire land use, planning, development and construction process.

“It’s not fair,” she said of the Hokulia entanglement. “Say it’s your own one acre or two acres and the county approves a building permit; then you can’t build. Anyone could see that’s not fair, if it’s happening to them. The government has to keep its word.”

——–

Claude Onizuka, Hokulia director of community and public affairs, said the state should not penalize developers who obtain the proper permits. He said the bill would resolve the Hokulia matter and lawmakers could then ensure it is not repeated.

Hmmm. Let’s unpack that a bit.

“Citizens have a right to rely on the government’s word. … The government has to keep its word.”

Which government’s word? The word of the Hawaii County government officials who were (perhaps understandably) tripping over themselves to accomodate this billion dollar development and all the tax revenues and infrastructure improvements promised as part of the deal, or the word of the Land Use Commission, who were ignored by the County, the developer and the lot owners out of expediency (and habit)?

“The state should not penalize developers who obtain the proper permits.”

Absolutely correct, the only problem for Onizuka is that, as the Governor herself weakly admitted, Judge Ibarra properly decided that Hokulia did not (and still does not) have the proper permits.

Comments (0)
Whew, what a day

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 6:10 pm
A few power failures this morning during the very heavy rains kept me offline (or nervous to use my computer). Then I went sailing for the rest of the day.

Now I’m very tired, but I’ll still do a quick browse and an update for today. Tomorrow it is the Great Aloha Run for me and tens of thousands of others, so I sure hope this rain leaves that event alone.

Comments (0)
2/18/2006

Potential Republican candidates for U.S. House

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:37 am
There is a post at Hawaii Reporter with the latest rumors of Republican candidates for both U.S. House Districts at Congress. No mention of any Republican cannon fodder challengers to U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka…

Sen. Bob Hogue, R-Kaneohe, says he may give up his Senate seat to run in the second district for the U.S. House seat. He says his family is supportive of the idea and many Republicans are encouraging him to run.

Former City Council Member Mike Gabbard also told Hawaii Reporter he is considering jumping in the Congressional race again. In the 2004 primary, he lost that race to Case.

Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, who is not a member of a political party, is being wooed by Gov. Linda Lingle to run for Congress, reportedly against sitting U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. Carlisle, who is in the middle of his third, 4-year term as prosecutor, was mentioned prominently in the governor?s speech at the Lincoln Day Dinner on Thursday evening and sat next to the Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Melman.

In an interview with Hawaii Reporter before the dinner where he was repeatedly asked if he is running for Congress, Carlisle would not deny reports that he is entering the race, only saying he is happy in his current position as prosecutor and that he is not “political.” However he would not give a “yes” or “no” answer.

Mark Terry, a former Republican candidate who has run against Abercrombie in the past, also has announced his candidacy in recent weeks.

Carlisle would not have to give up his Prosecutor seat to lose campaign in a race against Abercrombie. Although Carlisle may not be confident of his chances against the Terry juggernaut jugger-not in the Republican primary. Heh.

I live in Senator Hogue’s district, and he writes an uplifting (if banal) Midweek sports column, but I don’t think Hogue could defeat whichever of the numerous Democrats prevails in the primary. That said, it should greatly improve the race (and help the big crowd of Democrats vying for the seat to be less fratricidal) if there are serious Republican challengers, too. Especially if Gabbard enters the Republican primary and the two attack each other from the Right to appeal to the Republican “base.”

Comments (5)
[Bill subject here] likely dead this session

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:36 am
The Advertiser has an article about a few bills that failed to meet the First Lateral legislative deadline that makes a good stepping-off point for a post about that deadline. The article itself explains it to a degree:

Proposals to tack a surcharge onto traffic fines and suspend the driver’s licenses of convicted drug users are likely to languish in legislative committees this session, now that a key deadline has passed.

A prohibition on mixed martial arts fighting is also essentially dead for the year, as is a bill that would allow police to issue licenses so residents can carry concealed weapons.

However, most of the priorities identified by the administration and majority leaders in both chambers are still on the table one-third of the way through the legislative session.

And bills that only have to make it through one committee could still be pushed through during the next couple of weeks.

“It will be picking up next week,” said House Speaker Calvin Say. “Next week, most of the final committees will have to post their public hearing notice of what bills they want to hear.”

Say added that even some of the measures that appear to be defeated for the year still could be resurrected.

Okay, here’s the less-abridged version of what this deadline was about:

Bills are drafted, circulated for signature, and filed with the Clerk. Every bill filed before the filing deadline passes First Reading by title only. Then the legislative leadership assign committee referrals to every bill and publishes the assignments. The House publishes the information by means of Referral Sheets, the Senate only notes referrals on the Order of the Day. At that point a bill will have at least one committee referral, but, in theory, a bill could be referred to every committee if its subject matter touched upon issues facing every committee (and the leadership wanted to guarantee that the bill die, heh). More typically, a bill will have two or three committee referrals. The referral(s) before the final referral will be to subject matter committee(s) (sometimes, if the bill is wider-ranging in scope, this may include joint committee referrals). Except for very manini bills, the usual final committee referral will be to a fiscal (House Finance or Senate Ways and Means), Judiciary, or Consumer Protection committee.

So, the bill is either scheduled for its first subject matter committee hearing, or it is not scheduled. Those that are scheduled are either passed, held (killed), deferred indefinitely (uh, politely killed), or deferred to a decisionmaking date before First Lateral. A bill with more than one referral that is not scheduled for a hearing before First Lateral is (in an odd-numbered year) carried over to the next year or (in an even-numbered year) dead. By First Lateral (yesterday) a bill must have been positioned to go to its final referral committee.

As the Speaker hinted, there are ways that “dead” measures can come alive again. Here’s an inexhaustive list of those manuevers:

A dead bill with multiple referrals can be re-referred to become a single referral bill (either by omitting the subject matter committee altogether, or by combining multiple referrals into single joint referral). This will revive it at least until First Decking.
The contents of a bill killed by one committee can be inserted by a sympathetic committee into a measure that is still alive and has a suitable title (i.e. RELATING TO WHATEVER). This is how the Hokulia bill was advanced this week.
After crossover, the contents of a dead bill can be inserted into a measure from the opposite chamber with a suitably broad title.
Some (compact) defeated appropriations bills can be quietly incorporated into the State, OHA, or Judiciary budget bills.
Know of any other benign or sinister methods? Leave a comment.
Comments (1)
Ethics complaint filed aginst Councilmember Apo

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:36 am
The Advertiser has a piece based upon a new complaint to the Ethics Commission regarding Honolulu Councilmember Todd Apo and an appearance he made before the Land Use Commission on behalf of Ko Olina.

Apo also testified before the Legislature on the Ko Olina aquarium tax credit subject recently, and I wrote a post some time ago pointing out that Jeff Stone now has cronies associates on two County Councils. Interesting. Anyway, to the new complaint:

Environmental watchdog Carroll Cox of EnviroWatch Inc. signed the complaint along with 13 other individuals whom he described as boaters and others in the community. Cox said they brought the complaint because they see a clear and continuing conflict of interest. But Apo said he is candid about his job affiliation and keeps his roles clear.

In the letter of complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The Advertiser, the group said they had spoken to Apo as a council member to complain about Ko Olina’s closing of a public boat ramp but then felt he used that information to bolster Ko Olina’s position before the state Land Use Commission on Jan. 6.

The complaint dated Feb. 15 goes on to say: “Councilmember Apo never disclosed to complainants that he was working with Ko Olina, and complainants discovered this situation only by attending the LUC hearing.”

Apo has worked as an executive for Ko Olina Community Association longer than he has been in politics. And he said Cox and the others know that. Apo said he ran for council in 2004 partly because of his concern over the operation of the city’s only municipal landfill at Waimanalo Gulch, near Ko Olina, which grew out of his job.

Apo said he went to the state Land Use Commission meeting to represent Ko Olina and explain how the resort is complying with public access agreements in effect before he became a councilman. The letter of complaint does not detail what information Apo allegedly misused.

——–

The complaint also questions why Apo wasn’t listed as a registered lobbyist since he has lobbied for Ko Olina. Apo said he believed he had registered properly but would check. “The landfill is the only issue before the council that the resort has had a position on,” he said.

Apo said it’s an economic reality that city and state lawmakers also work at other jobs. “I don’t believe that elected legislative bodies were ever set up to be full time,” he said.

Apo should not conflate the larger issue of full-time and part-time legislators with the ethical issue of his own outside employment. (But, since Apo mentioned it, I happen to think Councilmembers are paid enough to be considered full-time. Even the State Legsilators are paid more than I have ever earned, and their salaries are not as high as the Councilmembers’.)

Are Councilmembers held to the same cooling-off period as State Legislators before lobbying? Yes. However, engaging in lobbying concurrently seems to be a situation not addressed by the statute which refers repeatedly to “former legislators.” Still, I tend to think that it doesn’t pass the smell test, even if it may be technically okay.

If Apo failed to register as a lobbyist, then that’s obviously a violation he needs to be held accountable for.

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The 80% affordable requirement is debated again on Maui

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:35 am
Maui County Councilmember (and Mayoral candidate) Charmaine Tavares has once again spoken in favor of requiring all new housing developments to provide 80% of the units as “affordable,” according to this Maui News article. Previously Tavares’ colleagues had demurred, and the Council’s tentative plan (which was more amenable to developers than Tavares’) only requires 30% affordable units.

The article mentions that this could become a campaign issue for Tavares. Duh. They did not solicit any comment from Mayor Arakawa or the other challengers, however. Too bad.

Chairman Danny Mateo said he hoped the bill would have consensus by the next meeting on March 2 so it could be forwarded to the three planning commissions before the council begins annual budget deliberations later in the month. Mateo said Planning Director Mike Foley indicated he thought the bill could be reviewed by the commissions and returned to the committee by the time the county budget is finalized by the end of May when the council schedule returns to normal.

I’m not real clear on how the process works on Maui, but this is my best try at interpreting that paragraph: It sounds as if the bill (in whatever form) will have a few readings and then, before final passage, will be sent around to the planning commissions … for their approval or disapproval? Comment? I dunno. Do the commissions have any power to override the Council? Anyway, after that process, the Council would take it up again in June—just as campaign season is about to heat up.

If anyone can clarify this (Jimmy no-last-name-no-email?), please leave a comment.

Comments (2)
2/17/2006

House advances bill to legalize Hokuli’a

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:27 pm
The Advertiser has a piece about the lengthy hearing yesterday on HB 1368, where a proposed HD1 passed unanimously. Today on the House floor for Second Reading it passed, but with nine “no” votes and vigorous debate. Representative Thielen’s comments in opposition were especially comprehensive.

Unlike Ian Lind, who briefly praises the article in his post for Friday, I think the Advertiser article is a too-skimpy account of the arguments advanced by both sides during the hearing. Instead, I think the article focuses too much on the Representative Kanoho-orchestrated melodrama (which is a extra odd since Kanoho is not even a member of the Economic Development and Business Concerns Committee). The article doesn’t mention it, but Kanoho backpedaled rather quickly and apologized for even bringing it up. Ah, whatever.

UPDATE: See also Ian Lind’s Saturday post for excerpts from Representatives Thielen’s and Hale’s floor comments.

Kona Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra ruled that the 1,550-acre Hokuli’a project was not appropriate for agricultural lands and that developer 1250 Oceanside Partners should have asked the state Land Use Commission to reclassify the property for urban use before construction began. The judge ordered that all work stop until the LUC either reclassifies the land or declares Hokuli’a to be a legal use of agricultural lands.

The ruling stunned county officials who had approved the development, as well as 1250 Oceanside Partners, which had spent an estimated $300 million on the project. The developer already had begun selling lots, and is appealing Ibarra’s ruling to the Hawai’i Supreme Court.

Critics of Ibarra’s ruling argue that if it is allowed to stand, thousands of homes across the state that were allowed on agricultural lands would be illegal.

I think the opponents of this bill presented a very convincing argument that the critics’ claim that Ibarra’s ruling will make thousands of existing homes illegal is a red herring. Given that, the bill is reduced to a simple bail-out for 1250 Oceanside (and, indirectly, a bail-out for Hawaii County as they face a lawsuit from the Hokulia lot owners). The Legislature certainly is overdue in clarifying the cloud of issues around agriculture lands, but this bill, looking retrospectively only, will do nothing to resolve those ambiguities going forward.

From the testimony, there were some very interesting comments. I’ll ramble on about discuss them after the break (click to continue).

(more…)

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Gas cap author opposes repeal

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:27 pm
Two stories about the politics behind the gasoline price cap debate underway at the Legislature. One at the Maui News and another at the Star-Bulletin.

Sen. Ron Menor, chief architect of the state?s gas cap law, said Wednesday that a widely supported House measure to repeal Hawaii?s unique law won?t make it out of his committee.

Menor?s block likely will kill the bill and save the gas cap for now.

?I cannot support a repeal because I think that that would really be caving in to the oil industry that doesn?t want to be regulated,?? Menor said Wednesday, a day after the House bill easily swept through three House committees.

Senator Menor has given House members a big political gift with his strongly worded statement. Members of the House can now freely vote to suspend the gasoline price cap law (and, obviously, to please any constituents who are upset with the law), no matter if the individual legislator supports the law or not, knowing full well that the Senate will not allow the gasoline price cap to be repealed.

…unless Senator Menor and Senator English are somehow circumvented by the members of the Senate. Not very likely.

House lawmakers appear ready to pass a bill to suspend the gas cap for 18 months, beginning this July, and in place adopt strict oversight of the oil industry’s pricing practices.

Senate Consumer Protection Chairman Ron Menor and Energy Chairman J. Kalani English, whose committees would have jurisdiction over the bill, have said they have no plans to even hold a hearing on that measure.

“At this particular time I don’t think the Senate is entertaining the idea of looking at the gas cap repeal,” said English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai).

Without a hearing in the Senate, the repeal measure would die unless House lawmakers decide to replace language in a Senate bill with their proposal.

House Consumer Protection Chairman Bob Herkes said support for the suspension is strong enough to have that happen. More than half of the House’s 41 Democrats have shown support for a repeal or suspension of the gas cap.

“If they send us something, we’ll put our bill in and go to conference,” said Herkes (D, Volcano-Kainaliu). “If we can’t agree on something, it’s status quo and I don’t think that that’s in anybody’s best interest.”

Menor noted that the repeal proposal already received a hearing as part of Lingle’s energy plan. Both Menor’s and English’s committees unanimously passed Lingle’s bill without the repeal provisions.

The question then becomes this: is Representative Herkes willing to sacrifice the balance of the Administration’s energy plan bill (which the Senate strongly supports) if Senator Menor is unwilling to agree in Conference meetings to a suspension or repeal of the gasoline price cap law? Actually, Representative Morita will be the lead Chair on that Conference Committee, but Herkes would have an equal voice and would be necessary for any compromise.

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Parents support canine contraband searches

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 7:27 pm
The Lahaina News reports on a “drug sniffing dog” demonstration conducted Monday night at the Lahainaluna High School Parents’ Information Night event. The parents loved it. I posted about this idea earlier.

The commotion started this year when Lahaina Intermediate School Principal Marsha Nakamura was approached with the idea of bringing in a drug sniffing dog to search the hilly campus for hidden drugs.

Nakamura brought the idea to Lahainaluna Principal Michael Nakano. He agreed, since he wanted to sweep the campus for years.

——–

So this time, both principals are not backing down because parents love this idea even more than the faculty.

?There have been no complaints,? Nakano said. ?Parents are telling us to go for it.?

The proposal must still be approved by the Board of Education and the State Attorney General?s Office.

Some parents want it to begin immediately.

I guess it would be asking too much for the Lahaina News to gather any comment from the students. Heh.

Nakano hopes that bringing in the canine would help deter people from hiding drugs on campus.

?The issue is school security ? we?re not looking to bust students,? he stressed.

He has witnessed students looking in the bushes, searching for something. When confronted, they say they were looking for a pencil and walk away from the area.

?We want to be serious about keeping our students safe,? he said. ?And I want to follow the proper channels.?

School counselor Eric Balinbin agrees that bringing in the dog will have a deterrent affect.

?If they know that they might get caught, they won?t bring it,? he said.

Balinbin pins the drug problem on the difficult economic circumstances that parents in Maui are facing.

?Parents have two jobs each and a lot of kids go unsupervised,? said Balinbin.

I still expect that the BOE will approve this, so long as the schools promise to limit the searches to exclude searching the students themselves and their lockers. However, I do not have much confidence that the school will honor such a policy once the canine unit is on campus. Their zeal to stamp out pencil trafficking will likely supercede any such promise.

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Council’s tax relief options down to 3

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 7:26 pm
Both Honolulu dailies have stories about the Honolulu City Council paring down the property tax bills to three. The Advertiser piece is here, and the SB article is here.

Of the two articles I prefer the SB report because it explains Councilmember Kobayashi’s reasoning more thoroughly. However, I’m frustrated that neither article mentions the revenue impact of each proposal. Possibly that omission is because the Councilmembers did not comment on that topic, but, if that was the case, I would have hoped that the reporters had tried to follow up after the meeting for some comment on that issue. Even if the Councilmembers had no information on the question as they were passing the three bills along (and killing the rest), then that ignorance in itself would be newsworthy, in my opinion.

The most controversial of the three is Bill 12, which sets up a new way to set the tax rate in each tax classification.

Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said the bill is designed to stabilize tax bills against the huge highs and lows of valuations.

“(Bill 12) levels it off so that everyone’s tax bills remain pretty steady, and also it makes us more accountable because if we have to then raise the rates further, we have to have good reason for doing so,” she said.

Hannemann’s administration has opposed Bill 12. Gary Kurokawa, administrator of the Real Property Assessment Division, said Bill 12 “does not provide tax relief measures nor ensures the fiscal health of the city.”

Budget Director Mary Pat Waterhouse also said that the bill would be a “nightmare” to administer.

Kobayashi amended the bill to try to address their concerns, but final language has yet to be drafted.

The bill, however, has support on the Council, as well as advocates seeking to lower tax rates.

“Bill 12 is really the way to go,” said Kailua resident Bob Grantham.

Kobayashi said that with Bill 12, large pots of additional revenues, such as next year’s projected $125 million in taxes, created by extreme increases in valuations would be a thing of the past.

“Bill 12 doesn’t bring in extra money for us to give back,” she said. “Bill 12 only brings only the amount of money that we need.”

That is the reason, Kobayashi said, the committee decided against passing out a one-time tax credit like the mayor’s $40 million tax cut.

If Bill 12 passes, “there is no extra money,” she said.

Now that she mentions it, her point seems obvious, but I had not made that “no tax credit” connection when I posted about it previously.

The committee also deferred the mayor’s plan to create a homeowner’s classification, which would have lowered tax rates for owner-occupied homes when assessments shoot up.

But that could mean that residential properties not occupied by the owners – many of them occupied by renters – could be subject to higher tax rates. “That might hurt renters,” Kobayashi said.

Again, it seems obvious now, but I hadn’t made that connection explicitly. I suck.

By the way, what did/does the Mayor’s Tax Policy Committee think of these proposals? If they are not participating in the debate, then I think we should question the relevance of that Committee.

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Precocious Collins announces candidacy for Maui Council

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:26 pm
I was not at all surprised to see this story at the Maui Examiner about young newcomer Lance Collins challenging incumbent Maui County Councilmember Joseph Pontanilla for the Kahului residency seat. Collins was a contemporary of mine at UH-Manoa and, uh, is a colorful (if impatient) character. There’s no questioning that he is a bright young man—one does not finish an MA at age 20, and a law degree at age 23, without some innate scholarly tendencies.

If only I had saved any of the plethora of brash email messages he sent to the Political Science Department listserver… His comments were unusually sassy, occasionally hilarious, and often filled with overwrought postmodern jargon. It will be interesting to see if Collins has mellowed since then or if his campaign will consist of a similar series of rhetorical bombthrowing operations. That could be fun to watch.

Incidentally, the Maui Examiners seems to mix its editorial and news departments in the article. It concludes like this:

If successful in his campaign, there is no doubt that Collins will certainly bring a new dimension to the Maui County Council.

For more info or to make a campaign contribution, please contact Friends of Lance Collins at … [contact info]

Okayyyy.

Comments (1)
2/16/2006

Advertiser wants openness in trade mission spending

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:59 pm
The Advertiser editorial today scolds DBEDT Director Liu for the apparent procurement law evasion which occurred before and during the Governor’s trade delegation visits to Asia.

Liu was warned in an April 5 letter from Deputy Attorney General John Wang. Liu had chosen ? without a competitive bid ? a different nonprofit at first, the Hawai’i District Export Council. The letter said Liu’s role in making spending decisions for the nonprofit was a possible violation of procurement law.

But Liu, it seems, missed the point. He chose another nonprofit where he once again directed how money was spent.

State Sen. Shan Tsutsui, D-4th (Kahului), vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the committee will look into Liu’s interpretation of procurement laws next week.

With four more trips planned, the Lingle administration needs some stronger guidelines. Liu comes from the private sector and, indeed, has taken a personal sacrifice to spend time working in the public interest.

Government can be run like a business ? but only to a point.

The people’s business is conducted in the public, not private, realm. Government actions must be done in an open, not closed, manner.

In that regard, Lingle, too, should be accountable. She must set a tone within her administration in which transparency is the norm.

While openness may at times hinder expedience and efficiency, in a democracy, to be open is more than just a virtue ? it’s essential.

The editors (and Senator Tsutsui) continue to plow ahead to address the question of how the money was spent instead of finishing an investigation into how the money was raised. I can only hope that Senator Tsutsui (or someone else sitting on the Ways and Means Commiittee) will see fit to press the Administration for more “transparency” on the underlying (and, in my opinion, more important) questions of the quid pro quo solicitation letter(s?), the Attorney General’s awareness and/or opinion of that solicitation effort, and the Ethics Commission communication that led the Administration to believe/assert that the solicitation would not present ethical problems.

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Trade pact compliance is voluntary for the states?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:59 pm
A very interesting op-ed by Representative Roy Takumi about the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA – PDF version) which was ratified last year. Forgive me, but I’m going to quote Takumi’s piece almost in its entirety:

When the United States trade representative was negotiating CAFTA, governors, including Gov. Lingle, were asked whether they would volunteer their states to be bound by CAFTA’s restrictive procurement policies. Most governors refused to do so after concluding that this would be giving up too much state authority. More recently, a bipartisan group of governors from eight states withdrew their support after initially agreeing to comply. Gov. Lingle was not one of them.

Her decision, which was made without public hearings held by the state Legislature, means that Hawai’i is bound to follow CAFTA’s government procurement rules. Her commitment basically handcuffs state policymakers by limiting the procurement policies Hawai’i can adopt or maintain. For example, Hawai’i has a preference for purchasing paper made with recycled content. We also have a Hawai’i preference law to help local businesses. These sorts of “green” or “local” purchasing practices are prohibited under CAFTA.

Gov. Lingle’s decision was more than a symbolic one. When CAFTA goes into effect, CAFTA countries will be empowered to challenge these types of state laws in the non-transparent and binding dispute resolution system that accompanies the pact. Hawai’i’s attorney general and other state officials would have no standing before this tribunal and must rely on the federal government to defend any challenged state law. State laws that the panel determines are violations of the rules must be changed or perpetual trade sanctions are imposed. Additionally, the federal government is obliged to use all constitutionally available powers ? for instance pre-emptive legislation, lawsuits or cutting off funding ? to force a state’s compliance with trade tribunal rulings.

I believe that Gov. Lingle acted outside of her authority when she unilaterally agreed to bind Hawai’i to the terms of international trade agreements; procurement policies are clearly a legislative function. At the federal level, Congress approves or rejects trade agreements negotiated by the executive branch. The Legislature should have this same right and responsibility to participate in the decision about whether the state should be bound to a foreign agreement.

The Bush administration is now working to expand the CAFTA model through negotiation of various new “trade” agreements with 27 additional countries. The state of Maryland has already enacted a state law requiring legislative approval of the state’s procurement commitments in international trade agreements and declaring invalid prior commitments made by the governor.

We should follow suit ? decisions regarding whether or not to subject Hawai’i’s procurement choices to second-guessing by foreign trade tribunals ought to be made by the 76 members of the Legislature through public hearings and not solely by the governor.

I am not a lawyer, but as far as I understand this trade agreement (and all similar trade agreements), Hawaii has no leverage in this process—no matter if our Governor “volunteered” to comply with the agreement or not. That’s not what the preamble to Takumi’s bill implies though:

However, because the expenditure of state tax dollars is an intrinsic function of state government, the federal government has refrained from unilaterally binding states to the procurement provisions in international trade agreements. Instead, the United States Trade Representative has sent out correspondences to all the states’ governors asking that the governors voluntary bind their states to comply with procurement rules to be included in various new international trade agreements now being negotiated.

[scratches head]

The way I see it, Congress approves these laws and states will be bound by it. Period. I’m not comfortable with the way these free trade agreements operate, but I think that passing a state law like Maryland enacted would be futile. Some (partisan) political hay to be made, I suppose, but I don’t see how it could have any legal effect.

If another member country of CAFTA challenges a procurement policy of Hawaii, can it really be so simple that the State can opt out of complying with the agreement and thereby put ourselves out of reach of the international dispute resolution tribunal? That just doesn’t seem to make any sense to me; what’s the point of this trade agreement (or any similar one) if member countries can simply allow their political subdivisions to opt out of complying with its provisions as they see fit?

Whatever, all this is mostly academic at this point. Takumi’s bill (and its Senate companion) is poised to die tomorrow when it fails to meet the First Lateral internal deadline.

Comments (2)
Harbin and Stevens sign Grover Norquist’s pledge

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:59 pm
The Hawaii Reporter has two posts that (belatedly) congratulate Representatives Harbin and Stevens for signing a pledge to not support any tax increases.

As of today?s date, over 1,200 state legislators nationwide have signed the Pledge. Six governors, including Gov. Linda Lingle, have signed the pledge. Six lieutenant governors have also signed the pledge, but so far, Hawaii’s Lt. Gov. James Duke Aiona has refused, saying he wants to keep his options open.

Funny that the post neglects to repeat Mr. Norquist’s scolding of Governor Lingle for violating the pledge when she did not veto the bill authorizing Honolulu to add a GET surcharge for mass transit.

As for Lieutenant Governor Aiona’s failure to sign the pledge, what’s the point? Aiona has no constitutional authority to approve or disapprove tax increases (except during the Governor’s absence). You might as well ask the Attorney General to sign the pledge, too… sheesh.

Five Hawaii Senators have signed:

* Sam Slom (S-8)
* Gordon Trimble (S-12)
* David Ige (S-16)
* Bob Hogue (S-24)
* Fred Hemmings (S-25)

Eleven Hawaii Representatives have signed:

* Bertha Kawakami (H-16)
* William Stonebraker (H-17)
* Barbara Marumoto (H-19)
* Anne Stevens (H-23)
* Corinne Ching (H-27)
* Bev Harbin (H-28)
* Lynn Finnegan (H-32)
* Mark Moses (H-40)
* Kymberly Pine (H-43)
* Colleen Meyer (H-47)
* Cynthia Thielen (H-50)

Pop quiz: Which political Party do 14 of those 16 signatories belong to?

I was not surprised that Representative Harbin (a Lingle-friendly Democrat-come-lately) signed the pledge, but Senator Ige? That’s a surprise.

Comments (2)
Unemployment insurance premiums get preliminary reduction

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:58 pm
The Advertiser finally got wind of the story that the PBN broke earlier. The Legislature is considering a few measures that will lower the unemployment insurance premiums paid by employers into the UI trust fund.

“Why continue to contribute to a fund that is flush with money? The reason is simple: there will come a day, as we have seen in the past, that unemployment will rise and the fund must be adequate to support the numbers needing assistance,” the ILWU said in its written testimony to the House Labor and Public Employment Committee.

“At a time when the economy is booming and businesses are making money, contributions should be kept up to grow the fund. Then if the fund is healthy when times are bad and unemployment increases, reduction in contributions can be considered to relieve pressure on businesses.”

House Labor and Public Employment Committee Chairman Kirk Caldwell, D-24th (Manoa-University), who co-sponsored one of the measures, said because of the way the fund is established it could be difficult to reduce contributions when more unemployment benefits are being paid out.

The Advertiser, unlike the PBN, fails to note that Caldwell is singing a very different tune this (election) year.

The measures ? Senate Bill 2190 and House Bills 1797 and 2624 ? likely face some challenges. For example, the House measures need approval from the Finance Committee to advance to a full House vote. Committee chairman Dwight Takamine, while saying it’s premature to take a position on the measures, is cautious.

“We need to look at the big picture and make sure based on our historical experiences that any actions we take will be prudent,” said Takamine, D-1st (N. Hilo, Hamakua, N. Kohala).

Hmmmm. Waddya think? More often than not, Representative Takamine is so tight-lipped that you can’t read which way he might be going. On the rare occasions when he does make a public statement in advance of hearing a bill they are usually of this vague flavor.

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Abercrombie has a Republican opponent

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:58 pm
A brief blurb in the Advertiser to announce another candidate for Congress—this time an opponent for Representative Abercrombie (instead of another hopeful for Case’s abandoned seat).

Mark Terry, who lives in ‘Aina Haina and works in real estate and car detailing, said he will enter the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District seat now held by Democrat Neil Abercrombie.

Terry lost to Abercrombie in 2002 and lost a Republican campaign for state House District 18 in 2004.

He sure did! Terry was crushed in the 2004 Republican primary, losing to Bertha Leong 73% to 17%. He also took a sound wupping from Abercrombie in 2002, 68% to 23%. I have no clue as to his stand on any issues beyond his statement that Abercrombie’s votes have been “wrong,” but Mr. Terry is to be commended for at least challenging incumbents, which is always a tough row to hoe.

So far as I can tell, Terry has no website.

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2/15/2006

House moves bill to suspend gasoline price cap – key Senators opposed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:49 pm
Lots of attention to a joint hearing of three House committees on Tuesday where HB 3115 was heard, amended, and then passed unanimously. There are stories in the Advertiser, the Star-Bulletin, the Maui News and the Pacific Business News.

As amended, the bill would suspend the gasoline price cap law from July 1, 2006 until January 1, 2008, when the gasoline price cap law would be repealed altogether. During the suspension the industry would be subject to reporting requirements. The actual language of the House Draft 1 will be online by the end of Friday.

The articles mention that the Senate is not in favor of suspending the gasoline price cap law, although they did pass their own energy bill on Tuesday and, we are told, the Senate will offer their own idea to lower the price of gasoline by up to 16 cents a gallon.

The oil industry, which has opposed the gas cap from the beginning, yesterday welcomed a possible suspension of the price restrictions. “I think it’s a positive step in the right direction,” said Melissa Pavlicek, a spokeswoman for the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents Chevron, Shell Oil and Tesoro Petroleum.

——–

Gov. Linda Lingle has said she favors more transparency among oil companies instead of a price cap.

However, it’s not clear if the bill to repeal the cap will reach Lingle’s desk in its current form.

Last year the House passed a bill that would have essentially killed the price cap law, but it failed in the Senate.

This year Senate leaders have said they favor amending the law to possibly lower gasoline prices by as much as 16 cents a gallon.

“I would oppose any bill that would suspend our gasoline price cap legislation, especially since the law has provided a benefit to consumers in terms of generating price savings over a period of time,” said Sen. Ron Menor, D-17th (Mililani, Waipi’o), an architect of the price cap law. “I view the House position as a change in course that could be viewed by the public as flip-flopping and placating the interests of the oil industry.

“I hope they’ll reconsider their position and keep in mind the changes we’re proposing.”

Rather difficult for the House to “keep in mind” his changes, since I don’t think Senator Menor’s gasoline price cap bill has been heard yet. My best guess is that he will try to use SB 2911 to advance his changes.

Reading these articles, and listening to the hearing on Tuesday, a few things I’d like to note:

The industry officials were asking for all kinds of confidentiality restrictions to apply when they report these data, even though the intent of the reporting is to demonstrate to the suspicious consumers the true economics behind the price of gasoline in Hawaii.
Representative Thielen offered a “friendly amendment” during decisionmaking that would have repealed the gasoline price cap law on January 1, 2007 (one year earlier than Chair Morita suggested). Thielen couched this suggestion in terms of 6 months being enough time for the reporting requirements to show if the industry is taking excessive profits. She overlooked (or perhaps simply she hoped the Committees would overlook) the fact that January 1, 2007, is before the next legislative session even begins. Thus, had her amendment been incorporated (it was not), the price cap law would be repealed even if the 6 months of data show the industry is indeed gouging Hawaii consumers.
Last, and most important, if the reporting requirements are to be truly useful, then I think it would be much more analytically useful for there to be a period of reporting with the price cap law in place, followed by a period of reporting without the price cap law in place. For example, 9 months of data from each scenario (instead of 18 months of no-cap data). As the Advertiser story reminds us, Tesoro reported its most profitable quarter ever with the price cap law in place. Collecting the industry data with the law in place would be very useful if, in the case that the data collected during the price cap suspension were to reveal excessive profits, the price cap law were to be amended and put back into effect.
Comments (1)
Developers schmooze with Councilmembers at conference, or not

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:49 pm
Kudos to Chris Loos for the story at both of the Hawaii County newspapers about the developers lobbying socializing with the Hawaii County Council at a recent meeting of the Hawaii State Association of Counties (Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today). Loos’ cynicism in the articles is deliciously thick—a rare treat in local media.

Carleton Ching, director of community and government relations at Castle & Cook Homes Hawaii Inc., was one of about 125 attendees. He said he went to hear the formal presentations and interact with lawmakers.

“We’re not lobbying, we’re just socializing with them,” Ching said. “It’s a good time to listen to issues that affect different counties because, although they’re different counties, they have some very similar issues and it’s a good way to compare and see how each council and county addresses those issues, like affordable housing.”

Affordable housing wasn’t on the agenda. The three main presentations were about county liability, astronomy and crystal methamphetamine, or “ice.”

Ching, whose company is the master planner for developing the Mililani area of Oahu, said one of the conference attractions was Hawaii County’s presentation about how it worked to combat ice abuse.

Ching admitted, however, that he didn’t stay long enough to pick up any good pointers. “I didn’t listen to all of it, to be quite honest with you,” he said.

——–

Jim Greenwell from Lanihau Properties LLC attended the social events the first evening but then was called away early the next morning. Greenwell, a large property manager, said he likes to attend the conferences when they’re on the Big Island.

“I don’t look at it as a chance to lobby so much as to kind of get an understanding and hear some of the discussions that go on among those who do government work for us,” Greenwell said. “It’s so much more insightful, I think, than just what you get from attending a public hearing or seeing them in their formal role.”

Darnit, something came up. Haha. It’s a common problem, apparently.

Also on the roster as attendees were three employees from Oceanside 1250, the company developing the stalled Hokulia subdivision in West Hawaii.

“I ended up getting pulled out of the conference itself because of operational issues but I had two members of my staff who I asked to attend,” said John De Fries, chief executive officer. He said the sessions his employees attended were the one about ice and a briefing by Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida on how counties can protect against liability.

De Fries said lobbying was not his motivation for signing up for the conference. “I don’t really see it, from a personal and professional standpoint, as an ideal lobbying environment because the schedules are fairly regimented,” he said.

Right, not an ideal lobbying environment, too much regimentation and no chance for private conversations:

… the social events, which included golf, whale watching, a field trip to Kalahuipuaa Fishponds and a welcoming reception.

An Alexander and Baldwin representative is a bit more honest:

Daniel Yasui, who works at A&B Properties Inc., the real estate subsidiary of Alexander and Baldwin, said the conference was an opportunity to meet lawmakers in a setting apart from council meetings. “I think it’s a time really to find out how they think,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the forthcomingness spectrum:

Chester Koag, from the engineering firm R.M. Towill Corp., said he couldn’t comment on why he went. “There are reasons for us to attend,” he said. He declined to say whether lobbying was one of those reasons. “I can’t answer that, either,” he said.

I’ve been told that these HSAC events are heavily subsidized by the registration fees paid by corporate attendees. Kinda like the Governor’s trade delegations, but without the blatant quid pro quo.

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Tax revolt rumbling intensifies

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 6:48 pm
A post at the Hawaii Reporter about the petition drive underway that hopes to put a Honolulu Charter amendment on the November ballot. From the petition organizers website:

LET HONOLULU VOTE IS SEEKING TO AMEND THE CURRENT CITY CHARTER BY DELETING FOUR WORDS AND A COMMA (in brackets [ ]) FROM CHARTER SECION 3-401 AS NOTED BELOW:
Section 3-401. Declaration – 1. Power. The power of electors to propose and adopt ordinances shall be the initiative power.
2. Limitation. The initiative power shall not extend to any ordinance authorizing or repealing [the levy of taxes,] the appropriation of money, the issuance of bonds, the salaries of county employees or officers, or any matter governed by collective bargaining contracts.

Removing the restriction and letting Honolulu citizens present initiatives and vote on tax matters is a time tested and demonstrated process for creating upside citizen benefits, that by citizen choice, enhance the general welfare.

Voters elect leaders to consider facts and enact programs. If the politically enacted programs are not viewed as ?the best alternative? by a majority of voters; how does going forward with the implementation of such a disputed program, without voter confirmation, enhance the public welfare? Is it not better to permit the voters to settle the matter by putting forward an alternative program by way of initiative? That way all voters have a choice and can decide the greater benefit in a general election.

Sure, the voters can decide … every second November. Then the Council could (re-)enact legislation contrary to the voter initiative in December and be in the clear for two years.

Besides, it would seem to me that any voter initiative to reduce taxes would necessarily effect “the appropriation of money, the issuance of bonds, the salaries of county employees or officers, or any matter governed by collective bargaining contracts.” Then what? Then, if the initiative passes, expect the City to challenge the tax reduction on the grounds that initiatives that have those effects are not allowed. I think the County would prevail, but I’m not a lawyer.

In its current form, this petition drive is a fool’s errand.

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2/14/2006

Happy Birthday, Holly!

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 5:58 pm
My dog Holly turned 14 today. She’s not as healthy as I’d like, but I’m very thankful she is still around. How much longer do we have together?

When she finally passes, then you’ll see a very sad blogger here. For today, though, it’s bacon and doggy treats for the old girl!

Comments (1)
Political speech on vehicles unregulated; political yard signs regulated; airborne political speech prohibited

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 5:56 pm
An Advertiser editorial today comes out in favor of the vehicle advertising prohibition discussed yesterday.

In a state dependent on tourism that thrives on Hawai’i’s natural beauty, enforcing our billboard ban is important.

Sure, there’s still signage, on buildings and company cars. There’s so much of that, perhaps you didn’t notice the ban’s effect. But there’s not a commercial billboard among them.

The law, however, has a loophole so big you can literally drive a truck through it? especially if your truck features a large mobile sign advertising any company willing to pony up.

But a billboard on wheels is still a billboard.

Now The Outdoor Circle, protectors of our billboard-free landscape, is trying to stop this form of billboard creep before it gets out of hand. The group has a new proposal before the state Legislature that takes aim at mobile ads and other forms of paid advertising on vehicles.

The proposal rightly doesn’t impact companies that advertise on their own vehicles. And it doesn’t stop political speech protected by the First Amendment.

I agree that a billboard on wheels is still a billboard. Thus, it is inconsistent for there to be legislation intending to ban vehicle advertising that (properly and completely) exempts political speech, while there is also proposed legislation to restrict political yard signs (which are a form of billboard, too).

Further, this also speaks to the (contested) ban on aerial advertising. There is a political speech exemption proposed for vehicle advertising, but no exemption provided for political speech on aerial banners. Why not?

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Lawyers group votes to support Akaka Bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:55 pm
The SB reports that the American Bar Association voted to support the Akaka Bill. Looking at the ABA resolution (MS Word) it seems to be a pretty tepid endorsement. As far as I can tell, this is the full text of the resolution they approved:

RESOLVED, that the American Bar Association urges Congress to pass legislation to establish a process to provide federal recognition and to restore self-determination to Native Hawaiians.

FURTHER RESOLVED, that self-determination and self-governance are defined as an authority similar to that which American Indian and Alaska Native governments possess under the Constitution to govern and provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their members.

The tone is a bit more agressive in the message from Paul Igasaki, who chairs the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities.

In August, 2006, the ABA will hold its Annual Meeting in Honolulu. Given our mission of equal rights, I want to make sure that the unique history and current issues of the Hawaiian Islands ? largely invisible to the bulk of our country ? be showcased through our programs and speakers. From the seizure of a sovereign Hawaii to recent legal setbacks to Native Hawaiian treaty rights reflect the ongoing need for justice. The exploitation of Asian and other labor as indentured plantation workers and Hawaii?s role as the port of entry for many Asian immigrants is less known than our European heritage. Recently, before the issue received widespread mainland attention, the Hawaiian Supreme Court upheld the right of marriage for all regardless of sexual orientation, only to see political action reverse that decision. Hawaii is more than palm trees.

Indeed. However, now I’m very curious as to who the ABA will include in (and exclude from) those programs and speakers at the August gathering.

Incidentally, the SB article also has one of the best summarizations of the Akaka Bill I’ve seen so far:

The Akaka Bill, named for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who introduced it, does not create a native Hawaiian government.

The measure authorizes an unspecified process that would eventually lead to the formulation of a government with the authority to interact with the U.S. government. The bill does not give the governing native Hawaiian entity explicit powers, but instead legislates these powers to be granted in the course of future, three-way agreements approved by the federal government, the state of Hawaii and the new native Hawaiian governing body.

Not bad. Accurate, too, at least as far as I understand the bill.

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Glitch

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 5:55 pm
For those who tried unsuccessfully to reach this blog late Monday and early Tuesday, I apologize. My webhost had some hardware issues and resolved them quickly—once I finally alerted him to the problem.

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2/13/2006

City bungles vehicle forfeiture scheme for street racers

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 6:48 pm
I noticed a story at the KHON website about a resolution pending before the Honolulu City Council that asks the Legislature to pass a law similar to a bill that was shelved last year at the State Legislature.

The Council resolution is motivated by the the upcoming closure of the Hawaii Raceway Park and the predicted street racing that will ensue after that date. The Council wants the Legislature to authorize the impoundment of vehicles used in street racing. They also ask that the State, not the City, be responsible for storing the vehicles as is currently done pursuant to Act 261 of 2002. The amendment sought by the City, however, would have the vehicle forfeiture take effect on the first offense of street racing. As it stands now, forfeiture only occurs on the third offense (while using the same vehicle) within a five-year period.

My hunch is that this proposal is too punitive to pass the Legislature. But who knows?

However, stepping back further, it’s pretty ludicrous for the Council to pass on February 15th a resolution asking the Legislature to put forward legislation to amend the HRS. The bill introduction deadline (i.e. when the County had to submit its package of bills for introduction by the House Speaker and Senate President) passed on January 20. February 17 is First Lateral deadline at the Legislature (meaning all bills must be positioned in their final committee in the originating chamber). Further, assuming the Council’s resolution passes on the 15th (at a meeting beginning at 10 AM), it would be too late for the Legislature to officially “receive” that communication during floor session, it would have to wait until February 16. That would allow less than 48 hours for the Legislature to announce (and conduct) a public hearing on a short form bill, recommit the bill to the appropriate House and Senate committees, and then announce (and conduct) a hearing on that amended bill.

Ain’t gonna happen. Four of the seven Councilmembers who introduced that resolution are former legislators, so Djou at least one of them must realize the timing for this is all wrong. If that’s true, then this appears to be simple grandstanding.

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“Vote for 2 X 4? – free speech on a small scale

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:48 pm
The Advertiser has a story about the latest batch of anti-billboard bills to be trotted out by the Outdoor Circle. The first half of the article focuses on HB 2708, which prohibits advertising not related to the business for which the vehicle is being used.

The proposed ban would not apply to companies that advertise on their own vehicles, as with Polynesian Cultural Center buses or Budweiser beer delivery trucks. It also would not restrict political speech ? such as the truck that displays graphic images of aborted fetuses ? because it is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

But it would prohibit companies from paying others to market commercial messages or display logos on their vehicles. The ban would cover advertising trucks, which have been seen in Honolulu, that scroll commercial messages from different companies or groups. It also would cover signs, such as restaurant ads, that are placed for money on buses or trolleys, and what are known among advertisers as “car wraps.”

As introduced, the penalty was a fine of $500 to $5000 and/or up to 3 months imprisonment per day of offense. Put a sign on your car for a week and go to jail for almost 2 years?! Cooler heads prevailed, and that has been reduced in the House Draft 1 to $50 and no imprisonment, for each day of the offense.

From there the article discusses another bill (HB 2705) intended to regulate political signs on private property.

The bill would limit signs to 4 feet by 2 feet, with a maximum of 16 square feet for all signs on a property. The signs would have to be either 15 feet back from the road or attached to a building. Residents would be barred from accepting any payment for displaying a sign.

Some lawmakers decided a bill was necessary after the proliferation of large signs during the 2004 Honolulu mayor’s race between Mufi Hannemann and Duke Bainum, including some competing Hannemann and Bainum signs on the same property.

“We’re so proud of not having billboards, but during political campaign time, we just go berserk,” said Rep. Sylvia Luke, D-26th (Punchbowl, Pacific Heights, Nu’uanu Valley), the chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Right, we go berserk—for a few months, every two years. Yawn. The findings in the preamble of this bill are simply assertions, included only to help it resist Constitutional challenge, and are not particularly believable, in my opinion:

The purpose of this Act is to permit certain outdoor signs that will not, by their size, location, construction, or manner of display, endanger the safety of individuals, confuse, mislead or obstruct the vision necessary for traffic safety, or otherwise endanger the public health, safety and welfare. In addition to the public safety concerns, the legislature finds that the following purposes will also be achieved by this Act:

(1) The preservation of the residential character of residential neighborhoods;

(2) The preservation of order and cleanliness;

(3) The avoidance of the appearance of clutter;

(4) The protection of property values;

(5) The avoidance of litter and the growth of weeds around signs;

(6) The reduction in traffic hazards caused by distractions to motorists and impairment of sight lines;

(7) The assurance that the State remains an attractive place to live, work, and visit;

(8) The reduction of administrative burdens; and

(9) The protection of the health, safety, welfare, morals, convenience and comfort of the public.

Property values; residential character; order and cleanliness; welfare, morals, convenience and comfort of the public. Those are all threatened by having unregulated political yard signs? I don’t think so. Those “threats” outweigh the value of unfettered political speech? I don’t think so.

The penalty for this bill would be a $25 to $500 fine and/or up to one month imprisonment.

So, the obvious workaround for candidates and their supporters is to park (or drive) a vehicle with a political sign as large as you please. … or for campaigns to simply pay the landowner after the election for the use of the property to post a sign and reimburse him or her for the fine, because, as I read it, a paid sign is only illegal after payment has been received… if the sign is up and payment is owed but not received, there would seem to be no violation.

Anyway, enforcement of that “no paid political signs” provision is not going to be effective. They can’t seriously propose to approach every landowner with a campaign sign and try to determine if he or she has been paid to post the sign.

I was somewhat surprised to learn that the Supreme Court allows for the regulation of political yard signs, so long as they are not prohibited altogether—unless you are a member of a condominium or homeowner association that has covenant restrictions, in which case you must comply with their regulations.

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Hilo editors fail Chem 101, Kona passes with a C

Filed under:
General
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:47 pm
Apparently unfamiliar with the necessary conditions to initiate the chemical reaction known as “fire,” the Hawaii Tribune-Herald chooses this headline on a brush fire story:

Wind ignites brush fires in Kailua-Kona

Meanwhile, in Kona, the West Hawaii Today headline for the same article is:

Winds fuel brush fire near Macy’s

Better, but the wind merely accelerates a reaction that was already occurring. i.e. oxygen is one of the components necessary for a fire, but “wind” (crudely, accelerated oxygen) is more akin to a catalyst in the reaction.

End of science dork moment.

Here’s where the other science dorks weigh in to pick nits with me… If you’re like me then I suspect that you simply won’t be able to resist. Go nuts.

Comments (1)
2/12/2006

How the trade delegation donations bypassed procurement law

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:52 am
I’ve been eagerly awaiting some follow-up to Governor Lingle’s trade delegation “sponsorship” scheme, though I’m afraid that the Advertiser editors (and the Maui News) might consider the most damaging part of that story closed. Today, however, Sean Hao provides a glimpse into a new facet of the story in this Advertiser piece.

The story provides some more PDF downloads of documents from the Attorney General and the State Procurement Office that raise questions about the propriety of how the nonprofit Pacific Asian Affairs Council was selected as a passthrough organization for the sponsors’ donations, and how DBEDT effectively controlled the flow of that money. It’s a bit confusing to summarize, but Hao does a fair job of it. It’s definitely worth a read.

That said, I’m still much more curious to see documents clarifying whether any ethical violations occurred during the actual solicitation made to the sponsors. On page 2 of the letter from the Attorney General to DBEDT Director Liu, is this admonition:

Some ethical consideration should be given to how sponsors are solicited for the mission, and care should be given in contacting potential sponsors. Also, any state employee whose trip may be paid by DEC [later, PAAC] or the fees charged to participants should clear the payment of their trip with the ethics commission and submit the proper paperwork required by the ethic [sic] commission, see sections 84-11 and 84-11.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

Well, how about it? Did the AG review and/or approve of the patently quid-pro-quo sponsorship solicitation letter that was ultimately sent by DBEDT to at least one (and likely to all others, too) potential sponsor? Did the money pay for any state employee’s trip expenses? If so, was the proper paperwork filed with the Ethics Commission?

In the earlier stories there are references made to communications made between DBEDT and the Ethics Commission, and clear implications that the EC was misled as to what exactly was taking place. That begs for some follow-up reporting, in my opinion. Will we see it?

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Tax delinquents retain anonymity

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:52 am
I suppose we were supposed to be reassured by this AP story that ran in the SB today, but I’m not.

Hawaii tax collectors can’t catch everyone who fails to pay up.

So they’ve adopted a new strategy: criminally prosecute some tax delinquents in order to scare other evaders into compliance.

“I’m not here to collect your money. I’m here to use you as an example so that others in similar-type situations don’t do what you’re doing,” said Stephen Hironaka, supervisor of Hawaii’s criminal tax section.

State tax officials say the public embarrassment campaign is working.

Wha? They are not prosecuting tax delinquents to collect the money? What a bizarre statement.

However, if this is intended to be a public embarrassment campaign, Hawaii could do much better.

Bringing people to court and enforcing state penalties of up to $100,000 in fines and five years in prison for tax evasion is a good way to make people think twice about paying their taxes, Hironaka said.

“We’re starting to reach out and touch people, so we do have people coming forward,” said compliance administrator Ron Randall. “You need to get a certain range of people, because you’re not going to catch everybody.”

And what “certain range” of people are those being brought to court, exactly? The hugely delinquent people, or the less influential delinquent people?

Two of the biggest back payments to Hawaii totaled $36 million last year, but the state’s tax office won’t identify businesses or individuals who have settled up, saying that information is confidential.

Other prosecutions have crossed over many professions, including bus drivers, property managers, attorneys, contractors, government employees, teachers and auto repair shops.

But none of the public relations victories or computer tracking systems can rival the single most effective way of finding tax evaders: word of mouth.

So, to be clear, the State requires convicted sex offenders who have repaid their debt to society to provide a residence address and mugshots forever on an online database, but delinquent taxpayers who still owe a debt to society have privacy rights. Nice. It is not hard to imagine that if those two taxpayers who handed over back payments totaling $36 million last year had not been anonymous then the State might have seen that money (or might have been shamed into prosecuting the scofflaws) much sooner.

There should be an online public database of who owes what. The current scattershot approach to “public embarrassment” is capricious and unfair.

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Unusual House hearing Saturday

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:52 am
I am very curious to know the backstory to this SB article. 99% of the public probably would not care, but it features several wonko-interesting aspects…

House Speaker Calvin Say opposes selling state land for condos in Kakaako, but said a bill considered yesterday by a House committee would unnecessarily “handcuff” the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

House Bill 2555, HD 1 seeks to limit the way the authority proceeds with development of the area bounded by Ala Moana Boulevard, Kewalo Basin, the new University of Hawaii medical school and the ocean.

First, and this is not unheard of, the hearing was held on a proposed HD1 version of the bill. This means that I can’t link you to the actual HD1 language (which was available in person only—the less-than-ideal proposed draft procedure), and it also means that we have no idea who proposed the HD1 bill (amended bills are not circulated for signatures like new legislation, instead they are officially offered by the committee chair, in this case Representative Kanoho).

HB 2555 suggests that an unspecified percentage of the state’s Kakaako makai land be in open park use; that no state land should be sold except for public facilities; that any residential projects be limited in size and height; and that an unspecified percentage of residential units be affordable to “Hawaii’s working class such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters.”

The bill would fund improvements for the area with public revenue bonds if the added restrictions cause A&B to drop the project, but does not put a dollar amount on how much taxpayers would spend.

Say chaired a hearing of the House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee yesterday morning on the bill, where 16 people submitted testimony in support of its intention.

The fact that the Speaker of the House chaired this hearing is very unusual. Was the committee Chair, Representative Kanoho, unable to attend the hearing? If so, was Kanoho’s Vice-Chair, Representative Schatz, also not present to serve in Kanoho’s absence? The Speaker is an ex-officio member of every House committee, but this is the first time in my memory that the Speaker has chaired a subject matter committee meeting. Since there was no vote taken yesterday, there is no record of which members were present.

True, it could have been a simple case of the Speaker substituting for absent Representatives. However, if that’s not the case, is this bill so important to the Speaker that he usurped Representative Kanoho’s authority?

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2/11/2006

Dog is nervous about bill to regulate bounty hunters

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:56 pm
The SB has a piece today about HB 3014 which would regulate bounty hunters persons who apprehend bail fugitives. The Advertiser had an article yesterday on the same topic.

Because the bill in its current form would ban felons from the profession, it drew some impassioned opposition from Duane Chapman and fans of his hit television show.

Chapman was convicted of murder in 1977 but was released two years later. His longtime companion and business partner, Beth Smith, said Chapman received a clemency pardon for the crime.

Stopping anyone convicted of a felony from becoming a bounty hunter is unfair after that person has served time and stayed out of trouble, he said.

“I believe (after) 10 or 15 years – when you know you’ve not had any trouble, you’ve not had any felonies after that, that you’re kind of either rehabilitated or healed – that you can be a normal person,” he said.

The law, however, should bar a bail bond agent from carrying a gun, he said.

“We use mace that can drop an elephant. … When you need someone, a bullet, call the cops,” he said.

I’m sympathetic to the argument that felons should not face lifetime punishment, especailly those that have received pardons. Much of the testimony received on the bill was obviously part of a coordinated campaign, but testifers addressed that theme in a variety of ways (and levels of literacy). Chapman, and these same folks who enjoy his television show and its “tough on crime” premise, would probably also support the three-strikes legislation that is also before the legislature (if he and they were made aware of it). In other words, I think they want it both ways: suggesting a second chance for their marauding hero, but offering no mercy for those no-good, incorrigible iceheads that Chapman routinely rounds up.

As for his suggestion that the bill be amended to bar bail bond agents from carrying firearms, remember that felons can’t legally carry a firearm, so that amendment is self-serving for Chapman. After complaining that this bill is sponsored by his competitors, it seems pretty transparent that Chapman wants to amend the bill to hold his competition to the same level of risk that he must accept (no firearms) because of his past.

But Chapman told lawmakers he has helped capture 7,000 fugitives in more than 25 years as a bounty hunter at no cost to taxpayers. He said he would work with the state on regulations to ensure bounty hunters are trained and are no danger to public safety. But he believes his competitors, jealous over his success, are behind the bill.

———

Chapman said it would be reasonable to bar felons who have been convicted within the past 10 to 15 years, but not someone like him who has left crime in the past. Dog ? who is armed with “Mace that can drop an elephant” ? also supports badges or some type of identification so fugitives and police can distinguish trained bounty hunters from imitators or thugs.

‘CRIMINAL DRIVEN’

Beth Smith, a licensed bail agent and Dog’s companion, said regulations would help. “But the way that the bill stands right now, it’s absolutely biased to the fugitive,” she said. “It is criminal driven. And it’s being driven by competitive people who would like to see Dog out of business. That isn’t going to happen. We’ve been here for 27 years. We’ve captured 7,000 fugitives. We have a war on methamphetamine. And we are going to fulfill that date with destiny.

A “date with destiny?” Drama queen, much? Heh.

Anyway, the bill requires the bail bond agent to have the consent of the occupants of a building before entering a residential structure, which is probably the basis for Smith’s “fugitive bias” criticism. We don’t allow police officers to forcibly enter residences without a warrant and/or first asking to be let in, so I fail to see why there should not be at least as much required of bail bond agents who are not sworn law enforcement officers.

Next, to address the “at no cost to taxpayers” argument: Chapman implies that if not for bail bond agents bringing in these fugitives, the taxpayers would foot the bill. That’s true as far as it goes, but if the police, instead of the bail bond agent, apprehend the fugitive the entire bail bond is forfeited to the taxpayers, as I understand it. All the taxpayers would lose is a rough-and-tumble television show.

Moving on, to the desire to carry a badge. Testimony was submitted that alleges that Chapman was convicted in 1988 in Denver, Colorado County Court for impersonating an officer, yet as recently as 2004 Chapman appeared on national television stating “we’re law enforcement.” I have a big problem with giving these guys badges. It’s not as if somebody skipping bail is going to become any easier to apprehend because his adversaries wear a (non-police) badge. Giving these individuals badges will only lead to confusion on the part of the public, likely abuse of (non-existent) authority by the bail agents, and dilution for the respect due to actual law enforcement officers wearing badges.

Last, that same piece of testimony directed me to this website that is operated by another bail bond agent, Lance Wilkinson. It is an exhaustive compilation of the story of Chapman’s exploits in Mexico, for which the website claims Chapman remains a fugitive, and a whole laundry list of unflattering allegations about Chapman. It’s entertaining in an “only-on-the-internet” rambling kinda way, but at base it makes some fairly rational-sounding complaints about Chapman and Smith. It’s worth a look. So far as I know, the United States has an extradition treaty with Mexico. If Wilkinson’s information is true and Chapman is truly a fugitive from the Mexican authorities then it’s puzzling that he is not apprehended and bound over for extradition proceedings and eventual trial.

Comments (10)
Cool under fire – like a journalist?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:50 pm
Governor Lingle recently travelled to Kauai for a campaign fundraiser and a “Kauai Leadership” luncheon, according to this Garden Island News story. She defended President Bush’s efforts and dedication to the War on Drugs against some disparaging remarks recently made by Congressman Case.

At the leadership event, she made these interesting comments:

During a session of Kaua’i Leadership at the Marriott as well, Lingle laid out to an audience of more than 20 community, civic and business leaders what it takes to be a leader in Hawai’i today.

Lingle said they must have these qualities: a vision; the ability to communicate one’s vision or goals; and ability to motivate people to move in one direction for the benefit of all.

“A leader (is), someone who will take a group, or person and get them from here over to there,” she said.

But more often than not, leaders will rest on their laurels after reaching a goal, Lingle said.

“People spend too much time talking about what they are, and how they got there, rather than (look) where they might get to (next),” Lingle said.

To excel, leaders have to be cool under fire to find solutions, and she says she is that way.

“I am good when times are good, but when times are really bad, people are scared or certainly don’t know what to do, I become extremely calm,” she said. “And I think part of it is my training as a journalist.”

[blink] Yeah, when the going gets tough we can always look to journalists from tiny Molokai newspapers to rise above it all… haha.

Leaders also have to have perseverance, Lingle said.

She said she learned the value of that first hand in her bid for governor.

She failed in her bid to become governor in 1998, but in succeeding years, she convinced people her vision was Hawaii’s vision for the future.

Her perseverance, and the work of her supporters, she said, enabled her to become Hawai’i’s first woman governor and Hawai’i’s first Republican governor in 40 years.

Lingle said her tenure as a one-time chairwoman of the Hawaii Republican Party and as governor over the last four years has served the party well.

More and more seats in the Legislature are being won by Republicans, she said.

Wha?

In what universe is that a true statement?! Many Republican candidates for Legislature seats had their hats handed to them after she took office and the party had a net loss of seats at the Legislature. Lead on, Governor. Sheesh.

Either the GIN is woefully ignorant of the 2004 election results, or they are willing to repeat a demonstrably false statement by the Governor without any challenge or comment. The GIN staff must not have endured the same hardcore journalism training that serves Lingle so, uh, well.

Comments (1)
Tavares running for Maui mayor

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 3:49 pm
Maui County Councilmember Charmaine Tavares intends to run for Mayor, according to a Maui News article. I’ve been following her aggressive efforts to implement affordable housing requirements for new developments on Maui, yet that issue was (surprisingly) not part of her announcend campaign platform.

Tavares said her priorities would be balancing economic growth with the qualities that make Maui special, such as cultural diversity and natural beauty; developing renewable energy sources to make Maui ?a model of energy sustainability?; and delivering effective public services while being fiscally and environmentally responsible.

She plans to limit donations to her campaign to half the legal limit from any one donor, which, while honorable, may or may not be a wise strategy if her opponents do not handicap themselves similarly. Too early to say if the honorable message will carry more weight than the potential shortfall of funds, of course.

For that matter, with her stance on affordable housing being what it is, I would not expect the big donors (i.e. developers, large landowners, and construction companies) to favor her candidacy anyway—so she may not actually be giving up much.

The article also reports on her opposition:

At least three other candidates are expected to enter the race: Mayor Alan Arakawa has said he intends to seek re-election. Former Mayor James ?Kimo? Apana announced last year he?d run again for the office he lost to Arakawa in 2002.

Kihei Realtor Harold ?Hap? Miller took out nomination papers for the mayor?s race on Feb. 1, saying the county was falling short on dealing with public health and safety. The first-time candidate said Thursday he welcomed Tavares? entry into the race.

?The more the merrier. I love competition,? he said. ?I wish the best of luck to her. I respect her, and I think she?s a good woman. I expect it will be a fair race.?

County Council Member Dain Kane also has said he is considering a run, but he has not announced his intentions.

It’s interesting that Miller and Tavares both studiously avoid engaging in any negative campaigning in their comments for the MN article. If only that policy could last and be adopted by all the candidates…

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Hawaii County fundraising described

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 3:42 pm
Identical pieces in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today do a nice job of providing an overview of the most recent campaign contribution reports for Hawaii County Councilmembers.

County Council Chairman Stacy Higa has raised six times more money for his re-election campaign than his eight colleagues combined, according to a review of the latest campaign spending reports.

Higa, who’s in his first term representing Hilo’s Keaukaha, Panaewa and Waiakea Houselots areas, said that he had hoped to bring in between $20,000 and $25,000.

He reported collecting $39,465 during the second half of 2005.

“I was very shocked and surprised at how much money we raised at our fundraiser in August,” Higa said.

By comparison, the council’s eight other members raised a combined $6,550 during the same period. Most of that money went to Ka’u Councilman Bob Jacobson, who received $4,704 between July 1 and Dec. 31 of last year. Five lawmakers collected no money.

The article then goes on to highlight some of the more notable donors to each Councilmember and provide context to those reaaders who might not recognize the significance of a particular donor if they were to review the campaignn spending records themselves. It also notes which members were late in filing their reports. Well done.

“Campaign contributions have no bearing on my decision-making,” Higa said when asked about accepting money from developers.

Higa said his position as council chairman could have influenced how much money he collected.

“I think it does have some bearing,” he said. “It definitely doesn’t hurt to be chairman of the council.”

Gee, ya think?

Comments (0)
2/10/2006

Menor, Schatz and Hirono join Hooser in Congress race

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:14 pm
The Advertiser has a piece that announces the entry of Representative Brian Schatz into the race for the 2nd Congressional district seat. The Advertiser piece and a report in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald both mention that Senator Menor also has entered the race. The H T-H piece focuses more on the entry of former Lieutenant Governor Mazie Hirono.

The 58-year-old Hirono said she plans to file her nomination papers today for the 2nd Congressional District, which covers all Neighbor Islands and the portion of Oahu that excludes urban Honolulu.

Hirono, however, doesn’t yet live in the district, something she vowed to change if elected.

“I will live in the district,” she said.

She will seek the job now held by Case, who recently announced he will run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Daniel Akaka. Both Case and Akaka are Democrats, which means they’ll face off in the Sept. 23 primary election.

Asked the cornerstone of her campaign for the two-year Congressional term, Hirono said she will discuss that at a later time.

Hirono mentioned no campaign issues, but she claims that a base for her campaign organization remians in place statewide since her loss in 2002 to Linda Lingle.

Menor, D-17th (Mililani, Wai-pi’o), said he wanted to take his work on consumer and healthcare issues to the U.S. Congress.

“I understand many of the key issues because I live them,” Menor said in a statement. “Providing care for my mom, who needs the benefits of Medicare and other elder programs, helps me see how vital these are to our seniors and their caregivers. And with three boys in school and my wife, Pat, teaching at Helemano Elementary School in Whitmore Village on O’ahu, I know all too well the importance of education and the challenges young families face.”

Menor, the chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee, has been a leader in the Legislature on healthcare, gas price regulation and affordable housing.

It almost does not matter what else Menor tries to bring up; the gasoline price cap legislation is going to be his calling card, especially for those who oppose that law.

Unlike Menor, who can stay in the Senate if he loses, Schatz, D-25th (Makiki, Tantalus), will have to give up his House seat to run for Congress, which he said shows his commitment. “This is a historic election and it’s an opportunity for the state to send someone to Congress who can be a forceful advocate for Hawai’i’s values,” Schatz said.

Whatever that means. We’ll wait and see, I reckon. You have to admit that Schatz, in risking his incumbency, is not afraid of a challenge. I’d rather have a race about issues, but that fact alone adds a bit of gravitas and works to Schatz’s advantage.

The Advertiser also mentions a few undeclared but likely possible candidates:

Matt Matsunaga, a former state senator who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor and Congress, said he is talking with friends and family about a campaign. He finished second to Case in a January 2003 special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink. “At this point I’d say it’s probable,” Matsunaga said.

State Rep. Roy Takumi, D-36th (Pearl City, Palisades), the House Education chairman and one of the most respected lawmakers at the Capitol, also is contemplating a campaign. “I want to focus on education and my work during the session, but I am thinking about it,” Takumi said.

Poor Mr. Hough, the “Democrat” only mentioned in the Hawaii Reporter and his wife’s letters to the editor… Maybe if he ever figures out which district he intends to campaign for he’ll be taken more seriously. Maybe.

Oh, and where are the Republicans in this race? I’ve heard one passing comment about Mike Gabbard, but nothing from him or any other person sticking a toe into the water.

Comments (2)
So, who is the hypocrite?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:46 pm
A new wrinkle in the (almost stale) flap about why the House staff were not paid on time last week is revelaed in a letter to the Advertiser editors from Senator Kim. You’re forgiven if you don’t care anymore, but I do, and it’s my blog. Heh.

I would like to clarify and set the record straight regarding a hypocritical quote made by Fred Hemmings Feb. 5 in The Honolulu Advertiser, blaming the Democrats and me for delaying the legislative budget resulting in late paychecks for Capitol workers.

The facts prove that there was no delay in hearing and reporting out the legislative budget bill. The amendment made to the bill in committee saved the taxpayers $340,000 and was voted for unanimously by the Republicans and Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee.

But it was Fred Hemmings and the Republicans who made a motion in committee to defer action on the budget. He argued and voted for the delay in hopes of stalling the budget vote. The Democrats on the committee voted against any delay.

Thus the bill went to the Senate floor as scheduled in time to be sent to the governor’s office for her signature by Friday. But alas, the governor was not on O’ahu when it reached her desk around 1 p.m.

Double talk and contradictory statements by Fred Hemmings do not surprise me, since he does it all the time. What I find objectionable is his accusation that we delayed the budget when ironically every action he took on this matter would have resulted in a real delay. These actions clearly reek of petty politics.

He is quick to lay blame without taking any responsibility for his actions. If he were honest, he would admit that he wanted to delay the budget without any regard to whether Capitol workers got paid on time.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim
D-14th District (Halawa, Moanalua, Kamehameha Heights)

Uh, that’s not entirely true.

The bill history clearly shows that, instead of the unanimous vote alleged by Kim, the Republicans voted against the amended bill, both in the Ways and Means Committee and on the Senate floor for Third Reading. As usual, Republican opposition was not even a speedbump in the process.

On the other hand, if Kim’s claim that Senator Hemmings offered a motion during the WAM committee hearing to defer action on the bill is true, then that would certainly indicate that Hemmings was willing to delay the timely passage of the bill that, among other things, pays the wages of the legislative session staff. However, (if his motion was offered as Kim alleges) Hemmings could not seriously have expected his motion to carry.

So, I refer you again to Senator Slom. “There is a lot of bloviating going on.”

Comments (1)
GET surcharge collection may remain a state gig

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:27 pm
The Lingle administration idea to relieve the Department of Taxation from the task of collecting the GET surcharge on Oahu for mass transit is going nowhere in the Senate, according to this SB article.

“There’s still an opportunity on the House side, and so we’ll continue to work with the House members,” said Linda Smith, the governor’s senior policy adviser.

Following last year’s session, Lingle agreed not to veto a bill that gave the counties the authority to levy the surcharge if the city and the legislative leaders moved to have the city collect and administer the new tax this year.

Since then, city and state tax officials have been meeting to prepare for collecting the new tax, which will be levied beginning next Jan. 1.

Part of those plans include contracting with a third party to collect both the state’s 4 percent general excise tax and the newly enacted 0.5 percent surcharge. State Tax Director Kurt Kawafuchi said the contract would be an electronic method to collect the taxes.

“The critical thing, I think, is that this is a reflection of an agreement with the City and County of Honolulu, the Senate president and the House speaker. We’d like that agreement to be honored,” Smith said.

Uh, the agreement was merely to introduce legislation. Thus, the agreement has been honored! It was just a sucker’s agreement on the Governor’s part. Or not. Heh.

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Silver Star recipient tells his story

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 6:26 pm
Just a brief follow-up to my post regarding the Marine recently awarded a Silver Star for gallantry while serving in Afghanistan.

This week the Hawaii Marine newspaper has a front-page article where the recipient recounts the events of that day. Pretty compelling heroism. Again.

Comments (0)
2/9/2006

Hawaii Supreme Court to have lighter workload; hear more oral arguments

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:53 pm
Anthony Kennedy, an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, spoke yesterday to a gathering of Hawaii lawyers and judges and the SB has this story about the event. Kennedy went to bat for the Hawaii Supreme Court and their huge backlog of cases that greatly limits the frequency of oral arguments.

The Hawaii Supreme Court has been criticized in recent years for rarely allowing oral arguments. None are currently on its docket. The court has countered that its decisions on cases would be further slowed if more oral arguments were heard.

After Kennedy’s talk, [Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court] Moon told the crowd in the Queen’s Medical Center conference room that a law passed in 2002 and set to go into effect this year will change the structure of Hawaii’s court system and give high court justices lighter caseloads and more time for oral arguments.

“All of the justices on the Supreme Court are of the same mind,” Moon said, speaking at a University of Hawaii-sponsored panel discussion with Kennedy and Judge Myron Bright, senior judge with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The problem has been during the course of the years, we’ve had to balance timely dispositions versus oral arguments.”

Under Act 202 the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals will get more cases while the Hawaii Supreme Court will take fewer – accepting only select cases based on writ of certiorari, or arguments from an appellant’s lawyer on why a decision should be reversed.

Several bills, which were based on a task force’s recommendation, are moving through the state Legislature this session to would help implement the law.

A small error of fact, Act 202 was from 2004, not from 2002. Not sure if Chief Justice Moon misspoke, or if the reporter is to blame.

Anyway, the Act seems to be very thoroughgoing in its quest to lighten the workload of the Hawaii Supreme Court. However, in redirecting most of the work to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, it does not seem that users of the Courts will necessarily see cases resolved more quickly, or with more oral arguments being conducted. The only potential advantage I can see with respect to efficiently processing cases is that at the Hawaii Supreme Court each case is heard before a panel of 5 judges, whereas the ICA hears cases before a panel of 3 judges.

Maybe the Hawaii Supreme Court’s “unofficial” blogger can weigh in to clarify this topic?

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Senate to take up two stalled reform bills from 2005

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:49 pm
Borreca has an article in today’s SB about some bills drafted by Senator Les Ihara that entail a few “good government” themes. SB 1062 would apply some parts of the Sunshine Law to members of the Legislature, and SB 623 would address legislator ethics issues.

Both bills will be heard Wednesday at 9 a.m. before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Room 229 of the state Capitol.

The ethics bill comes after Senate President Robert Bunda last year proposed a special ethics committee to hear cases and conduct investigations of possible ethical misconduct by members of the Senate.

Bunda said he would support Ihara’s move for new ethics legislation.

“This is the perfect time for this legislation to surface and get the community involved in making some changes,” Bunda said.

Ihara’s bill would create an ethics committee for both the state House and Senate, tighten up conflict-of-interest laws and add more financial disclosure rules.

Perhaps the most controversial portion would prohibit fundraising by legislators during the 60-day legislative session.

——–

The sunshine bill would require the Legislature to hold public hearings on changes to legislative rules and open up correspondence about a bill to be public testimony.

I like the ideas, but these bills need some work. Starting with SB 1062:

(a) Public notice shall be provided forty-eight hours before a hearing. The forty-eight hour period shall exclude Sundays and state holidays. A public hearing shall be conducted on all major substantive provisions in legislation to be adopted.

There is a currently a 48-hour notice set out in House Rule 11.5 (minus Ihara’s Sundays and state holidays language) but this would make it law and apply it to the Senate, too. As a House Rule it may be (and is routinely) waived by the Speaker of the House when deadlines are looming. It would take a lot of careful attention and effort on the part of Committee staff to comply with a 48-hour notice law and still move all the legislation in a timely matter and in compliance with the internal deadlines. With no waivers available, it’s almost inevitable that some legislation would fall through the cracks. That’s not a fatal flaw in the bill, in my opinion, but that fact at least needs to be acknowledged.

(b) All correspondence received as testimony on a measure by legislative committees, including governor’s messages, shall be considered as testimony on that measure.

This is redundant, repeats itself, and is tautological, too. Heh. If the intent is to include all the back-channel communication received by legislators, then deleting the first “as testimony” would suffice. As written, it says that all testimony is testimony. Duh.

Moving on to the fundraiser restrictions in SB 623:

No legislator shall hold a fundraiser thirty days prior to the convening of or during a regular or special legislative session.

Sounds pretty strict, yeah? But… look at the (existing) definition for “fundraiser.”

As used in this section, “fundraiser” means any function held for the benefit of a person that is intended or designed, directly or indirectly, to raise funds for political purposes for which the price or suggested contribution for attending the function is more than $25 per person.

No doubt because of that definition, legislators’ fundraisers campaign events rarely (never?) have “suggested donations” of more than $25 per person. Thus, this restriction is one without much practical effect.

Comments (0)
KHON is not Olelo

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 5:46 pm
Two representatives of the Hawaii Media Action Group have an op-ed piece in the SB today about the situation at KHON.

The FCC failed to take action when Emmis Communications of Indiana held duopoly ownership of both KHON and KGMB in violation of FCC rules for more than five years. Likewise, the FCC failed to consider a community-based audit and complaint about the failure of Emmis to maintain adequate public files as required by FCC regulations.

The approval of the transfer of KHON’s FCC license from Emmis to the SJL Broadcast Group on Dec. 20, was apparently done with no inquiry into SJL’s (they have since changed their name to Montecito Broadcast Group) ability to manage KHON in the community’s best interests.

Okay. So, Emmis is a bad corporate citizen. I get it. The FCC has failed to fulfill it’s mandate. Agreed.

SJL/Montecito – it’s hard enough to keep track of this stuff without the legal name-change mumbo jumbo – came to town with bluster and hype about service to our community, and in a few short weeks it has caused the implosion of KHON.

——–

Montecito’s FCC license for KHON is up for renewal next year, and it would be fitting justice for our community to stand up with local managers and take back the license for Hawaii.

Montecito is showing signs of acting like a bad corporate citizen, too. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

For the most part, I am sympathetic to the argument that the public airwaves should serve a public purpose beyond simply generating corporate profits. However, what exactly do these two fellows mean when they call for us to “take back the license for Hawaii?” How would stripping the broadcast license from KHON save the station for our community, much less for the “seasoned broadcast managers and staff?” Mr. McLaughlin is best known for the Akaku television dispute, but commercial station licenses are not going to be handed over to the community (or, for that matter, to the local managers that the op-ed praises) by the FCC.

I’m no expert in this area, but if the license were not renewed then I believe it would go out for bid. Anyone could end up owning the license if that happens. The license would not be simply handed over to a publicly-favored group, and there’s no guarantee that the new owner would have any local connection either.

Am I wrong?

Comments (1)
Ako banality will continue

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 5:37 pm
I had asked earlier if we would see more banal letters from Kristi-Sue Ako after Anne Stevens was appointed to fill a vacant House seat. Her letter today in the SB answers that question: “Yes.” Maybe Ako intends to challenge Stevens in the Republican primary…

City Council members vote on the number of terms they can stay in office. State legislators decide when to give themselves pay raises.

Voters who are concerned about the power of special interest groups should also question lawmakers’ personal interests in lawmaking. I’ll bet that a lot of the time personal interest is motivated by special interest.

Kristi Sue-Ako
Kakaako

By the way, Ako’s wrong about City Council members voting on the number of terms they can stay in office. That vote was a preliminary action taken by the Honolulu Charter Commission, not by the City Councilmembers. Before any change in term limit policy could take effect, it will also need to be approved by voters on the November ballot. State legislators do vote for their own pay raises (as proposed by the salary commission), but I’m interested to know what “special interest” Ako believes is motivating the legislators to do so. …and if she intends to abstain from such votes if elected. Heh.

Watch this space for further Ako updates.

Comments (2)
2/8/2006

Energy bill begins to move; HECO begins to fight back

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:19 pm
Borreca files this article at the SB that follows up on House BIll 2308, the energy bill which I had posted about earlier. The bill is finally moving and, exactly as everyone expected, HECO hates it.

In a speech yesterday morning, Lingle pushed hard for removing that automatic adjustment. She said the existing law doesn’t force power companies such as Hawaiian Electric to conserve or move to renewable energy, because they just pay the increased cost for oil and send consumers the bill.

“It doesn’t matter how much electricity you use. You can’t conserve your way out of this charge, you can’t efficiency out of this charge … it is an automatic pass through,” Lingle said in a speech to the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

“The electric company doesn’t have to have any efficiencies. They don’t have to get better at what they do,” Lingle said.

The governor is correct to the extent that it is an automatic pass through, but I think she may go to far when she says that conservation on the part of customers doesn’t matter. That woud be true if the automatic adjustment was a flat fee assessed on every utility customer’s bill, but I suspect it is a fee that varies according to how much energy the customer actually was metered. I rent and I never see the electricity bill, so I could be wrong.

I was confused by the comments from HECO:

Robbie Alm, HECO senior vice president, public affairs, told the committee at a public hearing that HECO makes no profit on the fuel oil adjustment, although 65 percent of the company’s increased costs cover the rise in fuel costs.

HECO, Alm said, is already working on alternative energy projects such as wind farms, geothermal and garbage to energy plants, so saying the fuel oil adjustment stops the company from supporting renewable energy “is simply not true.”

But Ted Liu, director of the state Business, Economic Development and Tourism Department, said the existing plan “allows the energy utilities to avoid all financial risks … by passing these costs through to their customers.”

Alm argued that if HECO didn’t pay for the extra cost of oil with the fuel oil surcharge on a routine basis, it might be forced to buy fuel oil on the market and wind up paying even higher costs.

Borreca could have done a better job parsing that 65% comment for us.

Does that mean that 35% of the fuel oil adjustment covers increased costs not associated with increased oil prices? I don’t understand what was said.

As for that “forced to buy fuel oil on the market” comment: where does HECO get the oil now, if not on the market? Another mystery.

In the end, there is no free lunch, so I think the ratepayers are still ultimately going to pay when the price of oil goes up—it’s just a question of how much. That’s why the amendment (in section 44 of the bill) that I noted in the earllier post is so important. HECO would not be guaranteed steady or increasing profits when the PUC scrutinizes their proposed rates, they would instead be allowed a “fair” profit. The price of oil is just another factor in that profit equation.

I’m not sure what amendments were made to the bill, so the fate of that section of the bill is unknown until the committee report and House Draft 1 are filed.

Comments (0)
State seeking $46 million payback

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:17 pm
A frustrating Advertiser article about a dispute between the State, two big public employees’ unions, and two insurance companies.

In court papers filed Jan. 17, Deputy Attorney General John Dellera said that the 42,000-member Hawaii Government Employees Union, the 13,000-member United Public Workers union and two insurance companies failed to return about $46 million in overpayments made by the state between 1994 and 2003.

The state pays the unions for members’ insurance. The unions in turn pay the insurance companies, in this case Royal State National Insurance Co. and the Voluntary Employees Benefit Association of Hawaii. When the insurance companies have a surplus ? because premiums exceed claims ? they are required by state law to give it back, Dellera said.

The attorney general’s office says the state paid $105 million for coverage from the two insurers from 1994 to 2003 and only $59 million was paid in claims. The state wants the union or the insurers to return the $46 million difference.

Perhaps revealing my ignorance of the insurance business here, but isn’t it very common (if not the entire business model) for insurance companies to take in premiums hand over fist and only occasionally pay out claims? I mean, come on, I’d like to have the difference between the premiums I’ve paid and the (zero) claims I’ve received in return from my insurance, too. This is a legal obligation? Huh.

Beyond that, after reading this article I still don’t understand why the State includes the unions in this legal action. It sounds as if the unions are only a pass-through for the premiums paid by the State and, as such, the unions would have no involvement in the disbursement of claims. Unless the state is accusing the union of skimming $46 million of the premiums, I don’t see how the unions become responsible for returning that difference.

The state’s allegations are the latest in a long-running legal battle between the attorney general’s office and HGEA and UPW over the unions’ insurance contracts.

In 2002, the state sued the unions and their insurance companies, seeking financial records for the public employee unions’ health plans. Circuit Judge Eden Elizabeth Hifo later ordered the unions to turn over their insurance records to the state and those records provided the basis for the state’s allegations of overbilling by the unions.

How about some explanation of that “long-running legal battle?” That history and this new wrinkle seem to comprise an interesting story, if only the Advertsier would tell it better…

Comments (1)
Ko Olina tax credit scrutinized

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:15 pm
The Advertiser has this status report on House Bill 2799 which was heard yesterday and will be on the agenda again Friday.

The bill to repeal the tax credits was introduced by a group of House lawmakers who questioned whether the tax break is delivering on its promise to stimulate economic development. Nearly two-thirds of House members have signed on to the measure.

Officials from the state Tax Department and Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism told lawmakers they opposed repealing the tax credit, citing the inequity that would be created by withdrawing incentives that Ko Olina developers say have helped attract major residential and time-share development to the West O’ahu resort.

I find it very hard to believe that any home- or timeshare buyers were significantly persuaded to proceed with their purchase on the basis of a non-existent “world class” aquarium. Perhaps Senator Hanabusa, who I understand has a home at Ko Olina, could speak to that… Heh.

Other testifiers at the hearing mentioned that the State could face lawsuits if the Legislature were to repeal this tax credit. Wha? Sure, people file lawsuits over anything and everything, but on what basis would the plaintiffs prevail? I am not a lawyer, but it’s not as if the State is refusing to give them credit for what little bit of progress they’ve already completed. There are no guarantees that any tax law will remain stable, and the Legislature is completely within their authority to change the tax laws as they see fit, whenever they see fit.

Representative Wakai engaged in some rather agressive questioning of a representative from the resort. At one point Wakai asked (I’m paraphrasing here) if the resort believed that this narrow tax credit benefited all the residents of the state, and their reply was “yes.” Hmmmm.

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Tesoro Petroleum profits up in Hawai’i

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:13 pm
The Advertiser has a report today about the quarterly profits earned by Tesoro.

Hawai’i’s gasoline price cap law didn’t prevent at least one of the state’s major refineries from posting a big gain in profits.

Tesoro Petroleum Corp. said last quarter was the most profitable for its Hawai’i refinery in at least three years. Its gross profit margin in Hawai’i climbed to $8.56 a barrel, compared with $5.60 in the third quarter and $3.95 a year ago.

On Sept. 1, Hawai’i became the only state in the nation to control gasoline prices. The price cap law was passed amid perceptions that Hawai’i’s oil industry generated excessive profits to the detriment of consumers.

Key lawmakers said yesterday the high profits at Tesoro reinforce the need to make the gas cap law more stringent.

Tesoro’s results are “good news for shareholders and bad news for consumers,” said Rep. Marcus Oshiro, (D-39th Wahiawa), the House majority leader. “We probably will need to look at better laws so that fair profits mean fair prices at the pump.”

Democrats, who hold a majority in the Legislature, have proposed changes to the cap that could cut prices by as much as 16 cents a gallon.

“I believe that lowering the price ceiling will have the effect of restraining gas prices thereby moderating a lot of the profits of the oil companies,” said Sen. Ron Menor, D-17th (Mililani, Waipi’o), an architect of the price cap law.

———–

Gross refining margin is the difference between what it costs the company to refine crude oil and what the company makes selling the refined products, such as gasoline and jet fuel.

Assuming one barrel of oil is 42 gallons, any amendments to the gasoline price cap law that cut prices by 16 cents a gallon would mean that the gross refining margin could be less than $2 per barrel (some portion of the profit would be from jet fuel, which is unregulated). Is that a fair profit? I dunno.

Critics of the caps claim that last fall’s spike in prices wouldn’t have been as severe without the cap, which encourages oil companies to charge the highest prices allowed by law to offset periods when they’re forced to sell gasoline at low prices.

“Where they might have charged prices that were below the cap, it gave them an excuse to bump up prices to the cap and say, ‘You said we could charge this price,’ ” [some random citizen] said.

Hackett, the oil consultant, also said the rise in profits at Tesoro is not surprising.

“This is what you would expect to happen in a regulated environment ? prices go up and profits go up,” Hackett said.

Well, more accurate to say it is what you could expect in a poorly regulated environment. If it were true that regulated environments inevitably lead to increased profits then the oil companies would not have opposed the gasoline price cap law as vigorously as they did (and do).

What is the cause for the delay in hearing the bills to adjust the gasoline price cap law? A key legislative deadline is looming on February 17…

Comments (0)
2/7/2006

Lege pay dispute reveals implications for Senate power struggles

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:55 pm
There are several more stories today based upon the bill to fund the operations of the Legislature. The short version of that story: the House session staff finally got paid yesterday. The legislators seem to be shouldering the blame for the fact that the Governor (and LG Aiona?) left the island instead of signing the bill on Friday. Whatever.

That is the focus of the Advertiser story. At the end of the story, however, was this:

Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim, D-14th (Halawa, Moanalua, Kamehameha Heights), said the amendment removed $340,000 in expenses she did not believe were justified. Kim had been in lengthy exchanges with the Senate clerk’s office over Senate finances over the past several weeks.

Kim said it was unfair for Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai’i Kai), or others to blame her for the delay. She said Hemmings was being hypocritical because he had voted against the budget last week and had suggested that the governor veto the budget, which would have delayed paychecks even longer.

Hemmings said the budget was discriminatory because Republican staff were not paid as much as Democratic staff. But he said the delay was caused by Kim’s revisions, not his concerns.

That spat is the jumping off point for a post at the Hawaii Reporter.

Bunda released the figures Kim requested after she took her request for public information to the Office of Information Practices. OIP Director Les Kondo issued a letter to Bunda on Jan. 24, 2006, telling Bunda that under the FOIA law, he has just 10 business days to release the information requested by Kim. “In this case, Sen. Kim’s request is dated June 20, 2005, well over 10 days ago. For that reason, please provide the records responsive to Senator Kim’s request by the close of business on Monday, Jan. 30, 2006,” Kondo says.

The figures Kim finally obtained and shared with her Senate colleagues enraged some Republicans who said they have confirmed that Republican staffers and researchers are paid far less than those of their Democrat staffers who are performing the same job under the same conditions for the same amount of time.

Really? That’s interesting. How much are the Senate workers paid, and how big is the differential between parties? I’ve heard anecdotally that Senate session workers earn more money than House session staff, but I’ve never seen actual proof. In the House each office gets a lump sum for session salaries, although the maximum monthly salary allowed for any single employee is $2600. This means that a House office may either have fewer employees, paid at or near the maximum, or more employees, each paid less generously. In both the House and Senate there are also offices that “borrow” state and/or private sector employees for the session and take on interns and unpaid volunteers.

The Senate Republicans had backed Kim in her attempt to get information on the budget, with Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings issuing a Jan. 30, 2006, letter to Bunda saying the Republicans “wish to join the Senate Vice President in this request for many reasons.”

“First,” Hemmings writes, “Minority Senators have suffered discrimination in resource allocation that puts our constituents at an unconstitutional disadvantage. Majority party Senators receive augmented allotments to send additional mailers to constituents and other district outreach activities. In addition, there is also a question as to respective levels of miscellaneous resource usage for travel and other such expenses. Further, our staffs are grossly underpaid when compared to their Majority counterparts.”

Again, what are these actual figures? Senator Kim is said to have shared the data with the Senators, so why not publish some (or all) of it? As I noted earlier, you can’t tell merely by reading the legislation how these funds are allocated and spent.

Leaving aside those questions of disclosure, the internal politics of the Senate come to the fore near the end of the post.

But just four days later, on Feb. 3, 2006, Hemmings, who has openly supported Bunda in the war over Senate leadership, turned on Kim in a press release blaming Kim for delaying the passage of the bill and thus delaying payday for House lawmakers and staffers caught in the crossfire.

“Those state Capitol workers that did not get paid and the rest of the public need to know that this happened solely because the Democrats, specifically Senator Donna Mercado Kim, delayed the Legislature’s budget process to play petty politics,” Hemmings says.

In an SB article there are some interesting details on that exchange.

Yesterday on the Senate floor, Democrat Kim, whose amendment cut $340,000 from the Senate budget, fired back, saying Hemmings could not back up his charges.

“He doesn’t have the decency or is [sic] man enough to once again say he spoke without thinking. Frankly, I think his party should be embarrassed by a leader of his nature,” said Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa).

After the session, Republican Sen. Sam Slom said, “I think Fred has a death wish.”

“For the last year we have been cheering on Donna Kim’s attempts to get the figures (on the legislative budget). Our side has been saying, ‘Right on, girl, you get the information,’” Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) said.

——–

Slom characterized yesterday’s harsh words as being part of an internal power struggle between Bunda and Kim.

“I think a lot of it is the schism between the 10 Bunda votes and the 10 Kim votes,” Slom said.

“There is a lot of bloviating going on,” Slom said.

Always. But, if this is evidence of the internal power struggle, it isn’t clear why Hemmings is going to bat for Bunda while attacking “Democrats.” Hemmings allegedly supports Bunda over Kim, but it was Bunda who was withholding the information from Kim and the Republicans. Weird.

Comments (1)
Hooser first to formally enter race for U.S. House vacancy

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:51 pm
Several stories today about State Senator Gary Hooser’s formal entry into the race for Ed Case’s Congressional House seat. The Advertiser piece provides the most discussion of Hooser’s positions on the issues, but there are also mentions in the Garden Island News and the SB. The focus in the SB is that former State Senator Matt Matsunaga is interested in running; Hooser is only mentioned in passing.

Hooser said he would work for an end to the Iraq war, urging the administration, Congress and the military to bring troops home as soon as possible, and work with international partners to provide needed security forces in Iraq.

“We’ve achieved all the objectives in Iraq that I’ve seen enumerated,” he said.

The candidate said he has specific concerns about the erosion of civil liberties and the loss of the “social safety net” in America, the protection of the working person and the weakening of environmental protection.

“There is a need for stronger advocacy on these kinds of issues,” he said.

Hooser said he is an opponent of drilling for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, and a supporter of renewable energy.

“The president talked about coal and nuclear in the State of the Union address. I think that’s the wrong direction,” he said.

Unlike the Akaka-Case contest, where the focus of media coverage has been almost exclusively on the unexpected emergence of a primary challenger to Akaka, this House race may actually be about issues—well for this week, at least.

Hooser’s perspective comes from 25 years living on Kaua’i and makes him sensitive to preserving open space, addressing agricultural issues and putting the brakes on development, he said.

“I believe we need more affordable housing, but we need to put the brakes on uncontrolled development,” Hooser said.

He fought for the money that will help build the homeless shelter and facility on the west side of Lihu’e. “I am also on the affordable housing task force,” he said.

Affordable housing will probably be a common 2006 campaign issue, though I’m not so sure that Congressional contests will fixate on it to the extent that State and County candidates will.

Finally, the SB mentions Hooser in passing, but its headline is about Matt Matsunaga. There is no indication of Matsunaga’s stance on the issues.

Matsunaga came in second to Case in 2003 with 30 percent of the vote for the seat, which represents rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.

Matsunaga said those numbers and the election results from his successful run for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor months before the congressional election showed strong support statewide for his candidacy.

Of those named as possible (or confirmed) candidates so far (Hooser, Hanabusa, Menor, Schatz, Bainum, Garcia, Hirono, Matsunaga, Hough), I would think that Matsunaga has the most statewide name recognition if for no other reason than his being the son of the former U.S. Senator. It will be interesting to see if any of the other candidates immediately speak to the issues to differentiate themself from Hooser, or if they instead rely on vagaries and name recognition.

Comments (2)
Moore says he will stick with KHON-TV

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 5:46 pm
Both Honolulu dailies have reports on an e-mail sent by Joe Moore to his KHON coworkers. An Advertiser piece is here, and the SB article is here.

The most difficult question Moore had to answer, he said, was “How could I possibly work for owners I do not respect?”

Moore said in his staff e-mail that his conclusion, after much deliberation, was: “The owners are not KHON2. We, the people who work here are KHON2. I would not be working FOR THE OWNERS (his capitalization).

“I would be working FOR OUR VIEWERS, and WITH fellow employees I deeply respect (his capitalization). I have decided not to let our owners drive me out of KHON2.”

Though he reached a different decision from those who resigned last week, Moore said: “I have the utmost respect for my friends and colleagues who chose their course of action.

“Like all of you, I am deeply saddened and angry that … our new owners have put us in this terrible position. It is wrong, and none of us deserve it.”

He also laid blame on the station’s seller, Indiana-based Emmis Communications Corp., “who chose to sell us to the highest bidder, without any regard for our well-being or that of our viewers,” he said.

Okay, we don’t have the context of the entire e-mail, but those statements sound pretty weak. Moore’s “the people who work here are KHON” and “I would be working for our viewers” statements are lofty rhetoric, but simply making those assertions does not make them true. To be blunt, the new owners have made it painfully clear that the workers have no voice in the direction of KHON, and it is not the viewers who collect the advertising revenues of Moore’s highly-rated newscast, it is the corporate owners. Likewise, Moore should have had no illusions about the profit motivations of media companies. KHON is a business that just happens to produce some news shows. Moore can’t truly be surprised that Emmis sold KHON to “the highest bidder.” Of course they did.

As many others have pointed out, Mr. Moore very likely has a do-not-compete clause in his contract, so, barring any unlikely reversal of course by the new owners with regard to the mass firings, his best hope is to be fired by the new owners and to then shop himself around to another Honolulu station. If Moore quits KHON he could not work in this market until his contract expires.

Again, I don’t watch television. Has the newscast been automated already? Can you notice any difference?

Comments (1)
New leader for NFIB-Hawaii takes over

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:44 pm
A post at Hawaii Reporter notes that Melissa Teves Pavlicek, a Democrat, has assumed the Executive Director spot relinquished by Bette Tatum at the National Federation of Independent Business. Tatum had held the position for 25 years, what a warhorse!

NFIB did not have much legislative success last year (PDF), so it will be interesting to see if Pavlicek can turn that around.

Comments (3)
2/6/2006

Iwase, Kim, and Candidate X

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:00 pm
I was puzzled by this letter to the editor in the SB. Youngquist is a well-known gadfly engaged citizen but is not always on the up-and-up, in my experience. Anyway, today he writes:

I welcome former state Sen. Randy Iwase’s press conference which was attended by the ILWU rank and file, his family, friends, state party chairman Brickwood Galuteria and Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

With a possible entry by Mayor Harry Kim, and one other hopeful with a different constituency, this primary will be complete for the majority party. A matter to be addressed as an after thought now is the very important position of lieutenant governor candidates. Many who passed on the governorship or are currently considering a run for U.S. House should consider throwing in his or her headgear in this statewide race now while the iron is hot.

A strong and vigorous candidate who can serve eight years as lieutenant governor and eight more as governor would be ideal. But what is critical is the job seeker must be someone who can take the helm of the Ship of State as Gov. George Ariyoshi did once upon a time in the mid-’70s and early ’80s. Once again, congratulations to Iwase for his timely and much awaited decision.

Arvid T. Youngquist
Honolulu

So, who is this “other hopeful with a different constituency?” Leave a comment if you know or would like to venture a guess.

As for the “hot” lieutenant governor race… yawn.

Comments (4)
Business community polled for opinion on surplus

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:00 pm
There is a PBN article today reporting that the Chamber of Commerce has polled its membership regarding the State budget surplus and how to use it.

Members were asked to place a percentage toward the category they felt the surplus should go to, to equal a total of 100 percent distribution:

* Education: 28 percent.
* Tax refund: 19 percent.
* Tax relief: 13 percent.
* Infrastructure: 13 percent.
* Affordable housing: 10 percent.
* Rainy Day Fund: 4 percent.
* Renewable energy: 4 percent.
* Disaster preparedness: 3 percent.
* War on drugs: 3 percent.
* Public safety: 2 percent.

The result of the survey is not, in my view, particularly interesting in and of itself, but the fact that a survey was conducted is notable. Last year the Chamber faced a lot of criticism for supporting the bill to allow Honolulu to impose a GET surcharge for mass transit. Posts were made at the Hawaii Reporter to the effect that the Chamber, uh, rank-and-file opposed that position.

Apparently the Chamber learned from that scolding. Also, if you recall, the flap was a springboard for an upstart “group” led by (now Representative) Bev Harbin that hoped to supplant them.

Comments (0)
Honolulu Charter Commission to look at term limits

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 5:56 pm
The Honolulu Charter Commission will hear a few proposals tomorrow about term limits for members of the City Council, according to a SB story.

In 1992, Honolulu voters approved a maximum of two consecutive four- year terms for City Council members – and a two-term limit for the mayor, a proposal aimed at then six-term Mayor Frank Fasi.

Tomorrow, the Charter Commission will discuss two separate but nearly identical proposals to eliminate Council term limits. At the same time, it will look to impose term limits on the elected city prosecutor. Current Prosecutor Peter Carlisle is in the midst of his third term.

It would be amusing if the Commission supported both concepts, i.e. removing term limits for Councilmembers and imposing a term limit on the Prosecutor. I happen to think legislative term limits are, on balance, a bad thing; although they do tend to have the effect of giving legislative staff (who would retain the institutional memory) more influence… Heh. The current situation, of limits for the Council but not for the Prosecutor is odd. It’s either a good idea, or it’s not. The mixed message is puzzling.

“Generally speaking, I think we have term limits in the sense where if the public doesn’t feel you’re doing what you need to be doing, the ballot box is the term limit,” said Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, who is up for re-election this year.

But Dela Cruz has a specific reason for advocating the elimination of term limits.

In 1998, voters approved staggering Council terms so that five members are up for election at one time and the rest during another election. This year, four of the Council seats are up for re-election.

Dela Cruz said because of term limits and staggered terms, there could be a problem when the Council district lines are redrawn beginning in 2010.

“It’s going to take a lot of discussion and a lot of different scenarios to figure out how can you maintain term limits and staggered terms yet include reapportionment,” he said.

Dela Cruz said that the Charter Commission should take up the measure now because there will not be another Charter Commission convened until after reapportionment.

This is a much more interesting problem. Unfortunately, it’s not on the agenda for tomorrow, so the Commission may not take it up. It would seem that something has to give—either term limits, or staggered terms, or reapportionment.

By the way, there are also some interesting proposals earlier on that agenda to make the Mayor and Council races into partisan contests. It’s unclear who submitted any of these proposals, so it will be interesting to see who turns out to support and/or oppose all of the ideas.

Comments (0)
Contractors begin more jobs without permits

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 5:53 pm
An interesting piece in the PBN about contractors who begin work without permits and simply accept the fine as a part of doing business. I have heard of isolated cases, but apparently it is a fairly common occurrence. How common this practice might be is hard to gauge, of course.

Citations for building without a permit on Oahu rose 82 percent in 2005, up from 155 the previous year to 282.

Contractors are weighing the costs of the delays versus the cost of the fines and in some cases decide that it’s worth the risk. Starting work without the proper permits isn’t new in Honolulu — it’s a practice that dates back to the construction boom of the 1970s.

“It’s an economic decision,” said one veteran Oahu contractor who asked not to be identified because he doesn’t want to attract the attention of city inspectors. “I’ve run across developers who say, just go ahead and do it and we’ll pay the double fee.”

Factors that push up the cost of waiting include loan terms, interest rates and the rising costs of materials and labor.

——–

Even with fines that range from $50 to $1,000 or more, that’s still far less than a jump in interest rates or an increase in the price of steel.

Violators typically get 30 days to correct the problem, either by removing the work done without the permit or applying for the appropriate permit.

In the worst-case scenario, a contractor could be forced to take down a building, but those cases are rare.

Sometimes, businesses simply decide to take the hit and move forward without the proper permits, chalking it up to the cost of doing business in Hawaii.

Best Buy, for example, opened its store at 98-051 Kamehameha Highway in Aiea last November without a required city permit.

The Minnesota-based electronic giant had not completed improvements to the roadway in front of the store but decided to go ahead with its grand opening just before the big Thanksgiving shopping weekend. Since Nov. 18, Best Buy has been fined $250 a day for not obtaining the proper permits.

“Our decision was based on our commitment to our customers and employees,” said Best Buy spokesman Jay Musolf. “Also based on the fact that we are working closely with city officials.”

Part of the delay had to do with city and state laws prohibiting roadwork during the holidays. Best Buy is on track to finish in another three weeks.

I remember that Best Buy story. It would be little trouble for a store like Best Buy to absorb a $250/day fine (especially on Black Friday), but it would seem to me that the City should have been able to physically bar customers from the premises until the store had its permits in hand. It does not seem fair for the businesses (and contractors) who follow the rules to be forced to compete against those who flagrantly disregard the permitting rules simply because they can afford it. The fine needs to take into account the scope of work being done and be adjusted so as to have some better deterrent effect.

Comments (0)
2/5/2006

Superferry opting for advisory board over public meetings

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 2:08 pm
The Maui news has an article announcing that there will be no community information meetings on Maui regarding the Superferry, despite earlier assurances from the State and the Superferry CEO that such meetings would happen. Instead, an “advisory board” will talk with the company.

On Friday, [Superferry CEO] Garibaldi wouldn?t disclose who would be on the Maui advisory board, but noted that ?almost all slots have been identified.? The company is not accepting applications.

?We?re not taking open ballots or mail-in names,? he said.

Isaac Hall, attorney for a hui of Maui organizations who believe the Superferry should prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS), said he was shocked to hear that no public meeting with company officials would take place.

?This is outrageous,? said Hall. ?That?s an entirely closed system impervious to public participation and it?s unacceptable and illegal. It violates the spirit, the intent and the letter of our environmental laws.?

Questions have been raised by harbor users, government leaders and others as to how the Superferry will fit into an already packed Kahului Harbor and what impacts it will have on the surrounding areas, both on land and at sea.

Mayor Alan Arakawa, the Maui County Council, Haleakala National Park and a host of grass-roots organizations have called on Superferry to prepare an EIS, but company officials and the state Department of Transportation maintain that?s not necessary.

I’m not sure on what basis Hall argues that an advisory board is an “illegal” approach. But, as a purely cynical/practical matter, I had no illusions that public question and answer sessions were going to be allowed to slow down the project, no matter what concerns emerged. Thus, this decision by the Superferry company frees up the opposition to focus on their legal challenges and eliminates the neccesity for the opponents to waste effort preparing for and attending (ultimately meaningless) public fora. Superferry officials could well have come to the same conclusion.

Interestingly, in a companiion article it seems that the Superferry company is also withholding a lot of information from the Lingle administration.

[Department of Transportation Director] Haraga also discussed confusion over the Superferry ? and said that even the state still isn?t informed fully on the company?s plans.

He said Superferry has provided just ?35 percent of its operation plan? to DOT with ?95 percent? of the plan expected by April. He held off on criticizing Superferry officials, but said it would be helpful if the state had the complete document.

?Let?s put it this way, the sooner they get us 100 percent of the operational plans, the better,? he said.

Nevertheless, the State found that the Superferry use of Kahului Harbor would have no significant impact? Whatever. They will have their day in court…

Comments (1)
Registry missing many sex offenders

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:07 pm
The Advertiser has another article about the data missing from the State’s sex offender registry.

In December, the attorney general’s office mailed letters to 267 sex offenders ? or about 13 percent of the state’s 2,100 sex offenders ? who had never registered. They had until Jan. 13 to sign up or face prosecution.

Of those 267, 18 registered, eight died, eight were deported to their countries of origin, 81 failed to respond and 152 of the letters were returned as unable to be forwarded. With the 294 offenders who had no verifiable address as of yesterday, that brings the total number of noncompliant sex offenders in the state to at least 527.

“We are disappointed with the response and have formed a task force composed of the Department of the Attorney General, the prosecutor’s office and the police department to address the matter,” said Dana Viola, special assistant to Attorney General Mark Bennett. “We had our first meeting (in January) and we are going to systematically and aggressively prosecute sex offenders who have failed to register.”

527 noncompliant offenders means that one offender in four is not on the registry. With so much missing data it would seem that the database really can’t be said to provide much more than a false sense of security to those who would consult it. It’s fair to assume that a sex offender who was planning to offend again would be less likely to comply with the requirement to register and, following that assumption, it is likely that the most dangerous offenders remain unaccounted for by the database.

What accounts for the poor compliance with and enforcement of this database? If the database is known to have such a high error rate, how can it be trusted to be a reliable tool for concerned members of the community? It’s a cruel hoax.

Comments (0)
This was more important than paying State workers?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:06 pm
She was mostly rehashing her State of the State address, but thought I would at least link to a Maui News story based upon the speech the Governor made on Maui instead of signing the legislation necessary to pay for the operating expenses (and salaries) of the Legislature in a timely manner.

Gov. Linda Lingle pitched her tax refund proposals Friday to an audience that mostly wouldn?t qualify to get them.

Nevertheless, she got a positive reaction from about 200 members of the Maui Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon at King Kamehameha Golf Club.

And they applauded when she proposed to reduce sharply the amount employers would have to add to the bulging unemployment fund.

The chamber and Lingle have been political allies since her days as mayor of Maui, and she always gets a positive response at these annual visits.

Sounds like a political no brainer, then.

Let’s see what kind of “positive reaction” she gets from staff the next time she ventures downstairs to attend a House committee hearing…

Comments (0)
Trip funding was appropriate, sez Maui News

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:05 pm
The Maui News editorializes today that the Lingle administration practice of soliciting trade delegation sponsors in exchange for “title sponsor benefits” was appropriate.

The governor?s response to the request for information was quick and thorough. That won bipartisan praise. The only real question raised by all of this is why the governor didn?t make the information public without the prodding.

Government business conducted in public is the best way to promote citizen trust. As often said in this space, it?s not enough for elected officials to avoid doing wrong, they must also avoid the appearance of doing wrong. Besides, better that business pays for trade missions than the taxpayer.

I’m very surprised to see them take this position.

The governor’s response was not thorough. Several hundred thousand dollars in contributions are not accounted for. The letters soliciting the contribution were not released, but one was leaked to the media. The letter that we are privy to certainly has “the appearance of doing wrong,” in its bald-faced quid pro quo offers.

Rather than repeat my entire argument, I’ll just say (again) that this incident deserves more attention.

Comments (1)
Tell us more about Roy Takumi and power brokering, say the insiders

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:05 pm
The debut today of Borreca’s multi-part “insiders’ survey” series gives us a survey and some analysis of what it means.

Borreca asked 50 political insiders to name the most over- and under-rated politiicans, and the most over- and under-reported political stories. A list of the survey participants is included, but the comments themselves are not tied to a specific participant by name.

The concept has some interesting potential, but I was not particularly impressed with the insiders’ wisdom this week (or, rather, several weeks ago, since the survey took place in early January). If nothing else, it is interesting to know who were considered to be “insiders” in local politics.

THE INSIDERS

LEGISLATORS: Rep. K. Mark Takai (D), Rep. Robert N. Herkes (D), Rep. Brian Schatz (D), Rep. Cynthia Thielen ®, Rep. Josh Green (D), Rep. Kirk Caldwell (D), Rep. Barbara Marumoto ®, Rep. Kymberly Pine ®, Sen. Robert Bunda (D), Sen. Fred Hemmings ®, Sen. Russell Kokubun (D), Sen. Will Espero (D).

NEIGHBORHOOD BOARD MEMBERS: Cynthia K.L. Rezentes, DeeDee Letts, Nadine Nishioka, Ben V. Acohido, Lester Muraoka, Bob Chuck, William Woods-Bateman, Lester Muraoka, Albert Fukushima, Lester Fukuda.

LOBBYISTS: Rick Tsujimura , Robert M. Witt, Red Morris, Garen Deweese, Carl Takamura, Amy Hirano, John Radcliffe, Andy Chang, James Kuroiwa, Chris Pablo, Jack Hoag, Annelle Amaral, Donna Ikeda, Roger Takabayashi, Cynthia Hayakawa, Kelly Rosati, Randy P. Perreira, Lorraine H. Akiba, Linda Chu Takayama, Robert Toyofuku, Chip Uwaine, Guy Fujimura, Charles Toguchi, Jeffrey Mikulina, Rick Egged, Linda Rosehill, Bette Tatum, Dave Rae.

The plan is for the series to provide SB readers monthly updates.

Comments (0)
2/4/2006

Dispute delays paychecks for 224 session workers

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:42 pm
Forgive me if I take too big of a (self) interest in this, but following up on my lament yesterday is an Advertiser article attempting to explain why House staff members did not get paid yesterday.

The House approved the budget Monday and moved it over to the Senate, where [Senator] Kim had been asking the clerk’s office for financial details of internal Senate operations for weeks. Kim, who has been involved in a leadership struggle since last year with Senate President Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), said she wanted details of Senate expenses before she supported a proposed budget increase.

Rather than approve the budget immediately, the Senate reviewed it for a few days and decided to trim $340,000 in expenses. The final budget contains $6.8 million in expenses for the Senate and $10.4 million in expenses for the House, along with money for the state auditor, the ombudsman, the Legislative Reference Bureau, and information systems and broadcast equipment.

The financial documents Kim obtained, including the individual salaries of Senate staffers, were shared with other senators and led to a lengthy fight with Repub-licans on the Senate floor Thursday. Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai’i Kai), accused Democratic leaders of discrimination for providing more money for Democratic staff than Republican staff.

I have a few quibbles with that. First, contrary to this talk of “reviewing it for a few days” that implies a lackadaisical approach, the bill history shows that the Senate approved that bill without delay. Received from the House, passed First Reading and referred to Ways and Means all on January 30. Reported out of Ways and Means and passing Second Reading as amended on January 31. By Constitution a bill has to sit on members’ desks in its final form for 48-hours before passing Third Reading, which then, on schedule, happened on February 2. That is as “immediate” a passage as was possible.

Second, as I said yesterday, I don’t confirm or deny that the disparity in staff between Republican and Democrat offices may be at the heart of the issue, but I’d sure like to know how Hemmings supports that accusation since HB 1949 SD1 does not provide any details as to how the money appropriated for the Senate is to be spent. In any event, it is entirely within their purview for the Senate to amend this (or any other) bill as they see fit.

Last night, Hemmings blamed Kim for the delay.

“Those state Capitol workers that did not get paid and the rest of the public need to know that this happened solely because the Democrats, specifically Senator Donna Mercado Kim, delayed the Legislature’s budget process to play petty politics,” Hemmings said in a statement.

The Governor (or, at least, somebody on her staff…) knows the legislative process. Lingle must have known that, upon being amended in the Senate, the bill would need to be returned to the House for a vote to agree to the Senate amendment during the Friday House session at noon. She also had to know that failure to enact this bill would stymie the Friday payday. Nevertheless, according to her public schedule, Lingle chose to go ahead with a speech to an audience of business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce event (and to make an entire day out of it) instead of making sure that several hundred hard-working Legislature employees were paid on time.

Nice.

Comments (0)
Violet likes jowly ones; Rusti is hooked up like cable

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 2:48 pm
The SB has a fun update about the orangutans Rusti and Violet and their long-awaited introduction in their big new enclosure at the Honolulu Zoo.

“She was following this big male orangutan around, and the other females were ignoring him. So I thought, ‘She liked big males,’” Briggs said.

That experience with dominant males, who have large throat sacs and cheek pads like Rusti does, has been invaluable. Violet, Redman said, “knows exactly how to handle” Rusti.

Man, the powerful ugly guys always get the girl, don’t they? haha

Rusti was upset at being in a new place, racing around, Rostrata said. Then he saw Violet peering at him from her window. He went over and spat on her.

Violet spat back.

I’m getting all misty-eyed, that’s so romantic. I guess the exchange could have been worse, for instance, it could have involved flung feces…

Best wishes to the hairy couple.

Comments (1)
Economy Class Councilmembers will have to pay for own upgrades to Business

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 2:43 pm
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has a story about Hawaii County Councilmembers and expenses associated with their participation in the junket delegation to the Philippines.

Two County Council members who flew business class with Gov. Linda Lingle’s delegation to the Philippines last month must reimburse the county the difference between the business and economy class fares, the council chairman said this week.

Chairman Stacy Higa said he will be notifying Angel Pilago of North Kona and Gary Safarik of Puna that they must pay the additional $685 it cost to fly business class rather than economy class on the Jan. 3-12 trip.

“There are instances when council members can travel first class (or business class), but they need prior authorization,” Higa said Thursday, adding that he, as council chairman, must authorize such expenses and neither councilor submitted any such request.

See, they should have arranged for “title sponsors” to kokua… Heh.

Comments (1)
2/3/2006

Late payday for Lege staff

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:30 pm
As of early Friday evening as I write this, the Governor has yet to sign HB 1949 that provides for the Legislature session staff to be paid. There was some controversy regarding an amendment made to the bill by the Senate which, although the language of the bill does not specify exactly how the money is to be spent, is said to mean that Republican Senators will have less full-time staff during the legislative interim period. Still, the bill passed unanimously through both chambers today and was immediately transmitted to the Governor around noon.

Whatever the reason for her failure to sign the bill this afternoon, it means the session staff who began working back on January 3rd and were finally due a payroll-lagged paycheck today (February 5, the actual State payday, falls on Sunday) will instead go another weekend with no money. The wages for session staff are decidedly modest, but even low-wage workers deserve to be paid promptly.

It may be that the Governor failed to sign this bill for some non-political reason. Physically not present today to sign it? A procedural oversight? A clerical error in the bill? I dunno. Whatever the explanation, this weekend there are a few hundred employees (workers for legislators of both parties) who are grumbling.

If, however, none of that applies and the Governor failed to sign the bill promptly in order to send a political message, then I think she has made a big mistake. Legislators will not be pleased that their staff were made to bear the impact.

Comments (1)
Maui campaign season officially kicks off

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:55 pm
Maui has a few candidates that have officially picked up nomination papers to run on the very first day possible, according to this Maui News article.

First was Harold “Hap” Miller, who is running for Maui County Mayor against incumbent Alan Arakawa and (probable candidate) James “Kimo” Apana.

A member of Habitat for Humanity, the Realtors Association of Maui and Maui Toastmasters, Miller said he was running ?to get the county back on track with its goals for health and safety, and the good of the people.?

A 59-year-old Lahaina resident who has no party affiliation, Miller said he was interested in a lot of issues, including affordable housing and derelict cars on Maui roads.

Next was Mike Victorino, who intends to run for the Wailuku Council seat.

Victorino, 53, said affordable housing would be his top issue, and that he?d support ?quality growth? for Maui.

?I want to ensure Maui will be here the way Maui is, for my grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond,? he said.

A registered Democrat, Victorino ran unsuccessfully for the Wailuku council seat in 2002, and currently serves as chairman of the county Board of Water Supply. He retired last year as fair director, and still owns an insurance business. He lives in Wailuku Heights.

Later in the day was the (oddly-named) Green Party leader Nikhilananda who pulled papers as a candidate for the East Maui Council seat. No comment from, or blurb about, him in the piece. What’s his story? He’s run in the past, is active on community television shows, and is an Akaku boardmember; that’s what I can tell from a quick Google.

Comments (2)
Hiring law struck down

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:54 pm
In another federal courtroom yesterday, Judge David Ezra ruled that a law requiring State and County job applicants to be residents is unconstitutional. There are stories in the Advertiser and the SB. I had mentioned this lawsuit before (most recently here).

This section confuses me:

[Hawaii Attorney General]Bennett yesterday said he disagreed with Ezra’s ruling.

“We are pleased that Judge Ezra agreed with our legal analysis that the relevant question in the case is whether the law is rational. But we disagree with Judge Ezra’s conclusion that the law is irrational,” Bennett said.

But Bennett said Gov. Linda Lingle “believes the law does not make sense for Hawai’i” and has included a measure in her legislative package that would remove the residency requirement from the law. He said he will meet with legislative leaders to see if the proposal has a chance of passing.

“If the Legislature indicates that it is going to change the law, then the lawsuit will ultimately be mooted out,” Bennett said. “If the Legislature decides that it is not going to change the law, then the lawsuit will continue.”

So, the AG believes that the relevant question is whether the residency law is rational, and the AG believes the law is rational, and the Governor believes the law does not make sense, and Judge Ezra believes the law is irrational. Clear enough? To further add to the confusion, last year the AG was arguing in another case (which I mocked) that there should not be a test where the government has to prove that legislation is rational—but here he says rationality is the relevant question. Whatever. Apparently, this is an example of the type of weird positions that an AG may find himself or herself from time to time.

Comments (0)
Live-fire training at Makua not allowed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:53 pm
Wrong, again.

I need to learn to stop making predictions about judicial decisions. Both Honolulu dailies report that the Army has been denied authorization to conduct live-fire training at Makua Valley. The Advertiser piece is here and the SB artilce is here.

Mollway, in her 35-page decision, said: “Adequate training is undeniably critical. Without it, soldiers surely face increased risk of injury and death.

“But the Army does not establish for this court that training will only be adequate if live-fire training occurs at Makua.”

She said the Army could send the soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Combat Brigade, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade and 45th Sustainment Brigade to either the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island or the National Training Center in California.

——–

“The facts are that while the Army has many other places it can conduct live-fire training while it complies with NEPA’s (National Environmental Policy Act) requirement to complete the EIS, the cultural and biological treasures at Makua are found there and nowhere else.

“If the Army were allowed to destroy these treasures through a training-related fire or misfired artillery shell, they would be lost to the people of Hawaii forever.”

In siding with Malama Makua, Mollway said: “If the Army could do more than speculate that American troops would be inadequately trained absent live-fire training at Makua, the Army’s position would be powerful indeed.

“It might then be difficult for Malama Makua to advance interests that outweighed those presented by the Army, as Malama Makua would be arguing that, for example, preservation of archaeological sites trumped preservation of human life that was at imminent risk.

“But that is only the dilemma the Army would like this court to assume.”

The Army will continue to train at Makua without using live ammunition. The Army may finish the EIS by March or April, which would mean only a short break before live-fire training restarts. I am unable to find the 35-page ruling online, but it sounds like Mollway used some of the same arguments I did. Go figure.

Comments (0)
Prisons proposed for Kalaeloa, Big Isle

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:49 pm
If you live near Kalaeloa and were concerned when you saw the Advertiser article about a possible new minimum security prison, then relax. The bill was amended today and no longer calls for that.

As for (State) Senator Inouye’s plan, her district is vast and I have no idea where exactly she has in mind to put a prison. So far as I can tell, her idea was a comment only and is not contained in a bill (yet).

Comments (0)
2/2/2006

Lingle travel disclosure: sooner or later

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:25 pm
It would seem from todays editorial that the Advertiser considers the DBEDT trade delegation “sponsorship” story has been resolved following yesterday’s (partial) release of the contributor data. This is a mistake.

Here’s why:

The disclosure is incomplete. The administration did not reveal the facts about all of the donations (hundreds of thousands of dollars are unaccounted for), nor did the administration release the solicitation letters sent to the donors, nor is it known exactly what benefits (if any) each donor received. Nevertheless, and incredibly, the editors write that Lingle “has met her obligation to disclose.” I disagree.

The donors and the administration all assure us that nobody received special treatment. If that’s the case, then those donors were, well, cheated by the deal (assuming the donors received a letter similar to the one sent to the Advertiser’s source)—because they could surely be forgiven if they had been led to believe that a wide array of special treatment would attach to becoming a “title sponsor.”

Are there no photographic records of these trips? It should not be hard to verify which delegates did, in fact, enjoy the larger event advertisement exposure. Similarly, one could identify those in the grip-and-grin photos documenting meetings with dignataries. For that matter, if there were no special benefits to being a sponsor, then we should expect to see equal representation among non-donor and donor delegates on the larger event advertisements and attending each meeting with the dignataries, and enjoying all those other things offered in the letter, right? Yeah, right.

Again, like I wrote yesterday, these are interesting questions but the answers are not critical. The underlying matter remains the ethicality of the Lingle administration’s nakedly quid pro quo solicitation letter.

Even if every other solicitation letter spoke only of innocently defraying entertainment expenses for the trade delegation and offered zero sponsor benefits, the fact that one letter was sent that offered special treatment in return for a $50,000 donation is problematic. It is not reasonable to believe that there was only that single letter. Concordantly, it is not reasonable to believe that the administration offered donors special treatment, received their donations, and then failed to provide any special treatment. That part is gravy, though; a single offer of special treatment is enough to comprise an ethical violation.

If this marks the end of their coverage, then the editors’ seeming lack of curiousity is disappointing. “Pay-to-play” is a notoriously difficult type of ethical violation to prove. In this case, however, a very suggestive letter surfaces which would seem to be a smoking gun—and now we’re supposed to lap up a short list of donors and let the ethics question hit the ground with a thud? I hope not.

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Marine’s ‘conspicuous gallantry’ cited

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HI Media
— Doug @ 6:00 pm
I am pleased to see that the Honolulu dailies took notice of the Kaneohe Marine awarded a Silver Star yesterday. The Advertiser and the SB both have thorough stories and photographs. The Advertiser gets the full story and notes that another Marine received a Bronze Star during the same action.

I had scolded both earlier for completely missing the story about the four Bronze Star winners, so I’m giving credit where credit is due this time. Mahalo and well done.

Congratulations to 1st Lt. Boada and Corporal Arndt.

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Council still stirring the property tax pot

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Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 5:55 pm
The Honolulu City Council continues to mull over a number of proposals to reduce the rate of growth in property taxes. The SB has a story here and there is an Advertiser piece also. Not very much new to report, but I was struck by the contrarian comments from Councilmember Marshall. She’s not following the script:

City Councilwoman Barbara Marshall urged caution on tax credit proposals in general. “I don’t think it’s a solution,” she said.

But Councilman Todd Apo said the credits offer the only hope that taxpayers could get some break this year. While it doesn’t solve the problem of increases permanently, it can be a way to “accelerate the start of that long-term solution,” he said.

And Marshall worried that broad-based proposals would hurt the estimated half of the island’s residents who rent. City budget director Mary Pat Waterhouse said she believes supply and demand drive rent prices more than property taxes do.

——–

Councilwoman Barbara Marshall, who introduced a resolution urging the mayor to lower the tax rate, said the Council and mayor can already do what is in Bill 12 in regards to when the rate can be changed.

“We have the ability every single year to raise or lower the property tax rate. The fact that we find it difficult to do that is neither here nor there,” she said. “We have the ability right now to lower the property tax rate for next year. That’s the way we can restore people’s money right now. No tax credits, no changing with exemption, no nothing.”

Now, now, now. Fearing for their electoral futures, your colleagues have listened to the clamoring homeowners—and they believe the brightest future lies in tax gimmicks, Ms. Marshall!

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Concurrency bill 0f 2004 – almost ready?

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Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:53 pm
How many times will Hawaii County residents listen to an announcement of upcoming legislation that does not happen before they stop believing? The West Hawaii Today has a piece that describes the next predicted introduction of concurrency legislation.

A concurrency bill promised by the end of 2004 will be drafted by March at the latest, South Kona Councilwoman Virginia Isbell said this week.

In November, Isbell said a concurrency ordinance ensuring infrastructure is in place before development occurs would be prepared by the end of December.

——–

Isbell anticipates the ordinance will call for concurrency to apply to new subdivisions that have lots less than one acre in size, expansions of existing housing subdivisions, and zone changes permitting an increase in dwelling units.

She said the ordinance will require all roads, water, sewer and electricity to be in place prior to construction of the first building. It will specify that the Departments of Public Works, Water Supply and Environmental Management must sign off on infrastructure being in place before development occurs.

——–

Isbell doesn’t know how her colleagues will react to her suggested concurrency ordinance when she finally introduces it.

Council Chairman Stacy Higa, of Hilo, and councilman Pete Hoffmann, of Kohala, have previously indicated they would support such a measure. Also, Fred Holschuh, of Hamakua, said when campaigning in the last election that he wanted “to ensure in my term in office that we have adopted a concurrency policy as a planning tool for development.”

Similarly, Angel Pilago said when campaigning in 2004 that passage of a concurrency ordinance would measure his success as a council member along with other initiatives.

Well, that sounds like five potential votes, then. Good enough to pass it, but not to overturn a veto. I commented earlier about how the County Planning Director is somewhat dubious of the concept, but I’m not sure what Mayor Kim would do if a bill actually passed and were to appear on his desk. All this handicapping is way premature, though.

First they need to draft and introduce the bill. Heh.

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2/1/2006

Lingle reveals (some) trade mission finances

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:42 pm
The Advertiser follows up with another piece about the trade delegation “sponsorship” issue. The “news” today is that DBEDT released the names of the companies involved. Or, did they?

TOP CHINA TRADE MISSION SPONSORS (2004-2005)
1. DFS Hawaii $50,000*
2. NCL-America $35,000
3. Ko Olina $35,000
4. Castle & Cooke $32,500
5. Dole Foods $32,500
* Includes in-kind donations

Okay, that accounts for $185,000. What about the other $642,000 raised since 2003? Some of it simply wasn’t published by the Advertiser, but the Lingle administration did not account for $367,000 in trip expenses. This, after Liu previously said, ?This is not a slush fund. Every cent is accounted for.?

But wait.

Actually, all that misses the point: Ethically, I don’t believe it matters if there was any “special consideration” provided to these title sponsors. It’s certainly not as if we could have expected Liu or the donors to hand over any evidence of that, anyway… What matters is that special consideration was quite explicitly offered by the Lingle administration (via DBEDT’s letters) in exchange for contributions. Am I wrong? That has to be unethical conduct, in my opinion.

Was there any comment from State Ethics Commission sought for this installment of the story? Does this trickle of information satisfy the Commissioners’ concerns (and/or the concerns of the media)? I should think not.

Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai’i Kai), also praised public-private partnerships but cautioned against leaving the impression that companies have to pay for special treatment from the government.

“Certainly there should be no quid pro quo. There shouldn’t be pay-to-play,” Hemmings said. “I think the wrong impression was left by Ted Liu’s letter.”

“The wrong impression?” Senator Hemmings’ “impression” of the letter is irrelevant. The plain meaning of the letter was quite, in fact too, clear. It’s all there in black and white. If soliciting the money was unethical, and I think it was, then (any) accounting for the funds received in response to that solicitation does not nullify the ethical violation in the least. Such accounting would be evidence in support of the charge, in fact.

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Hough; the man from the Democratic Right

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:14 pm
I noticed a strange confluence of events today involving a Democratic challenger for Congress, Richard “Noah” Hough. There were letters to the editors in the Kauai Garden Island News and the Advertiser, both from his wife, Shannon Hough. She writes to announce that while Mr. Hough was formerly challenging Neil Abercrombie in the 1st Congressional District, he now is considering running in the (large) field of Democrats vying to fill Ed Case’s seat in the 2nd Congressional District. Why not? Heh.

Hough describes himself as a “Conservative Democrat,” which has about the same cachet as “Compassionate Conservative,” to me. i.e. Not much.

What finally piqued my attention, though, was that the Hawaii Reporter also has an(other) op-ed from Hough today. In the past he’s also submitted this (about MLK, Jr. Day) and this (about Cindy Sheehan). A quick Google search also found that his campaign has been entirely self-financed so far. With campaign material like this, who could resist donating? I was barely able to restrain myself…

Hawaii Reporter will allegedly post anything submitted, so maybe there is no connection between HR/GIH and Hough, but that’s not my hunch. Hough sings in their key, at the very least.

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Lingle closely watches … her protege act out again

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:03 pm
The Advertiser piece that noted the Governor’s attendance and attention at the House Energy Committee hearing begins:

Gov. Linda Lingle is trying to send a message to Democrats who control the state Legislature: She really is interested in alternative energy.

She’s said it before. She hit the issue hard in her State of the State speech.

But yesterday, she took a different tack, by sitting quietly among spectators through a hearing on several energy and environmental bills authored by Democrats.

Unable to push her own bills to the top of the agenda, the Republican governor for now is just listening in on testimony on Democratic House members’ attempts to control Hawai’i’s hunger for energy made from imported oil.

“Now it’s just a matter of exactly what form it’s all going to take,” Lingle said at the end of public testimony.

Lingle has submitted her own massive energy package to the Legislature. While that bill has been assigned to be heard by a list of committees, it has yet to be assigned a date for a hearing in either house.

While sitting quietly, the Governor must have also witnessed the latest odd behavior by her appointee errant, Representative Harbin. At one point in the hearing Harbin clumsily announced that she was stepping down from the EEP Committee.

Wha? This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a legislator quitting a Committee. Surely, there have been legislators whose attendance records suggest that they have essentially resigned, but I’ve never seen one formally announce that they are pau. I’m not sure exactly how the House Rules would handle the situation, but my guess is that Harbin will remain an official member unless and until another House Resolution is passed to make the change.

So, did her actions mean anything? Wouldn’t the constituents of the district be interested to know Representative Harbin’s explanation for this? I would. Energy is a pretty darn important issue for Harbin to toss off of her agenda.

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Nonaka’s political grooming continues

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HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:52 pm
The SB has a short article announcing that Governor Lingle has appointed her rejected Board of Regents nominee to become her East Hawaii Liaison.

Dylan Nonaka, 24, the president of the UH-Hilo Student Association, is also a real estate agent and former Marine. He is a 1999 graduate of Konawaena High School and is majoring in political science and economics.

As liaison, Nonaka will be the official East Hawaii representative for Gov. Lingle and will oversee the operations of the governor’s office in Hilo. The office issues state identification cards and marriage licenses and provides the public with information and assistance relating to state government.

The job pays $44,100 a year.

The BOR position was unpaid and involved a lot more responsibility (and statewide exposure) than this assignment. However, I can’t think of many college students who enjoy a $44K/year job issuing (legal) identification cards and marriage licenses. Nice work if you can get it… Heh.

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