Poinography!

January 10, 2009

Poinography April 2006 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 1:59 pm

Poinography!

4/30/2006

Gas cap myths spread

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:24 am
Inaccurate news travels quickly. Just yesterday I pointed out (to the 100 people or so who looked at the blog, haha) that newspaper accounts of the gasoline price cap suspension were flawed. Now I notice a Hawaii Reporter post repeating the same misinformation. It begins like this, with the errors italicized by me:

The so-called “repeal” of the Gas Cap Law engineered Friday in a midnight meeting between House leaders and Ron Menor, chair of the Senate?s mis-named ?Consumer Protection Committee? guarantees the continuation and expansion of the old Gas Cap law?s anti-competitive effects for at least two more years.

Since its enactment in September 2005, the old Gas Cap Law has kept Hawai`i?s gas prices the highest in the nation and has added millions to the coffers of the oil companies and the state treasury. The pseudo-repeal lifts the gas cap, but continues the calculation and publication of the gas cap price under a new – lower – price formula. It also gives Gov. Lingle sole authority to re-impose the Gas Cap Law.

The Conference Draft of HB 3115 does not continue the calculation of capped prices during the suspension, and the suspension is indefinite in duration. With the Hawaii Reporter occasionally serving as the rough outline of the drive time talk radio programming, these errors may soon become accepted “facts,” I reckon. I didn’t see any corrections in the online SB or Advertiser today.

The rest of the post is boilerplate Andrew Walden. Praising the ability of the free market to solve all ills, railing about taxes, etc.

Walden also points out the obvious political cost for the Governor should the “free market” lead to ever-higher fuel prices and she does not use her authority to re-activate the wholesale gasoline price cap. It’s a campaign year, so you can be sure Lingle would have ran on the issue (probably still will, actually) had it not been suspended. It’s not a surprise that Democrats are now trying to capitalize (pun intended) on the public frustration.

In his post, however, Walden never considers the transparency portion of the law. If the data show that the petroleum companies revenues are fairly tied to expenses, the Governor should be able to explain any decision (i.e. to cap or not to cap) to the doubters. I’m not confident that the “transparency” provisions will actually clear up the fair profit question, but we shall see. At least this time the PUC and the Governor would have some incentive to gather and publicize the data—assuming that the data will show that the petroleum companies are not gouging consumers. If the data suggest there is gouging, then expect to see data aggregated and anonymized to an extent that they become meaningless.

UPDATE May 1: Walden’s piece has undergone a thorough re-write. Same general themes, but the errors noted above are gone.

Comments (1)
Insiders pick best and worst legislation – the Poinography home game

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:24 am
This state needs more thoughtful political insiders willing to participate in Borreca’s ongoing series of polls. The topics are usually interesting, but the participants just don’t seem to give him much to work with. This time he sought comments on the best and worst legislation. In his accompanying column there is some commentary on the responses.

Even after Borreca allows the participants to comment anonymously, with the list of “insiders” provided it is not hard to deduce the most likely source of several of the comments:

“The best bill will allocate funding (Senate Bill 3059) for the development of grade-by-grade core content curriculum for Hawaii schools.”

That’s an easy one: Dave Rolf.

“The best bill is thoroughly buried and unlikely to surface, despite its clear benefit to the people of Hawaii: the comprehensive public funding of election campaigns, House Bill 1713.”

Duh. Laurie Dillon.

“The worst bill is House Bill 1242 (since signed into law) that was sold as an effort to conform Hawaii’s abortion statue to the current case. Instead, it goes further than the case law requires and tragically allows all abortions, however late term, to be performed in a doctor’s office or clinics rather than hospitals.”

Thanks for playing, Ms. Rosati.

Your turn, readers. I’m especially curious to know which “insider” is this jaded (and grammatically inept):

“The best bills were the ones not introduced, which attempted to fix nothing and consequently left us better off than we would have been had the bills been introduced and wasted our time.”

Cynical, much? Nobody will hold a gun to your head and force you to remain in this line of work, whoever you are. Heh.

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Community editors Q&A with Representative Luke

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:23 am
An interesting piece has a partial transcript of comments between the Advertiser’s so-called “community editors” and House Judiciary Chair Sylvia Luke. In a few spots she speaks very frankly, at the risk of being quoted later in blogs. Heh.

Helen Gibson Ahn: What do you feel is the No. 1 issue that negatively affects our quality of life here in Hawai’i?

Luke: I think it is traffic. That really cuts into quality of life.

Ahn: What do you think the solution is?

Luke: I’m going to go against the trend and say I really don’t support the rail system. It just moves people from one community to the other. If we want to alleviate traffic now, we need to make a commitment to UH-West O’ahu now and move a lot of the facilities from UH-Manoa. In the summertime, there’s hardly any traffic on the road. We have about 20,000 kids going to Manoa; if we can move a lot of those kids out to West O’ahu, it would have an impact. West O’ahu is supposed to be the “second city.” And if we’re going to set an example, we should have moved the Legislature, the City Council and the nonessential services out to Kapolei. We should move the jobs there instead of forcing people to come all the way into town all the time.

Ahn: What have you personally done toward that goal?

Luke: Not too much. I have to admit; I haven’t done much at all. In the Legislature, you get assigned goals. My first two years were economic development; now it’s judiciary. I hate to say it’s out of my jurisdiction, but it kind of is.

The take-away quote for her opponents (if any) will be, of course, “I haven’t done much at all.” The reason for her admitted lack of focus, committee assignments forcing her to specialize, is (at least to this insider) understandable. At the risk of sounding sycophantic, I don’t think many people realize how much focus and effort it takes to lead a key legislative committee well. It takes a few legislative sessions as a committee chair just to get a firm grasp on the issues and to derive any historical context. Good committee staff can transmit a fair amount of that institutional knowledge, but I think there needs to be a careful balance between “fresh ideas” and naivety. The major committees enjoy year-round staff. Meanwhile, the other committee chairs hope that any competent session workers are willing and able to return. An inexperienced chair with novice staff is the occasional outcome.

That said, even those legislators without any leadership responsibilities face their own challenges. They (and their staff) have less exposure to the inner workings of whatever part of government deals with their pet issue. Having a broad idea, to use Luke’s example, of transferring the Legislature to Kapolei, is a huge undertaking when you really consider it. At a minimum, it would require: appropriations to build a facility (and to mothball the current Capitol?), selection and approval of a new site, and coordination with the Executive branch (because department heads must work closely with legislators). None of those tasks alone are impossible to attack, but it would take years of starts and stops to refine the ideas into something workable. Plus, as the last few weeks of the session show every year, during conference committee time the subject matter chairs (predictably) fight harder for the bills they are personally invested in. A groundbreaking idea not their own, with the attendant controversy and expense, is not likely to be top priority for those chairs.

The piece goes on to other topics including Sunshine and publicly-financed campaigns, but I’ve got another day of sailing to prepare for…

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4/29/2006

Busy weekend ahead

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 8:15 am
I am competing in a 3-day sailing regatta this weekend and Monday that will result in less time available for blogging. I’ll do what I can.

If you’re interested, there are competitors here from the mainland U.S., Canada, and Japan and we’ll be racing on Kaneohe Bay. If the trade winds cooperate it should be great.

A bad day sailing is better than the best day of blogging anyway, haha.

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House benches lead committee chair to conclude conference on gasoline price cap

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:15 am
Every year during conference committee at least one bill creates a bit of drama. This year it was the bill to suspend the gasoline price cap law. The Advertiser has an article describing the outcome, and the SB has a piece that describes some of the drama involved in producing HB3115 CD1 and its Conference Committee Report. At the 2PM conference meeting for the bill it was clear that it was going to be dicey. Around 4PM Senator Menor and Representative Morita were reading accusatory letters (from outside parties) to each other. Finally the Speaker had to discharge Chair Morita and Representative Caldwell (her vocal ally) in order to agree to a compromise with the Senate.

Comparing the articles to the CD1 (and I realize when the bill is filed at midnight it doesn’t give much time for stories to be written for AM edition newspapers) I think they have both mischaracterized key parts of the bill.

Advertiser: Under the bill, the current price cap law enacted in September would be suspended for two years, then repealed. Cap wholesale prices would be still calculated, but at a rate 15 to 20 cents below the current cap, and price controls would be implemented only at the governor’s discretion. The bill also requires more disclosure of oil industry profits.

——–

SB: Under the proposal, suspension of the price caps would begin immediately. The governor would be able to reinstate the caps if it is determined that high gas prices are having a detrimental effect on the public.

The measure also requires the Public Utilities Commission to continue calculating hypothetical price caps under a revised formula.

Not as I read it. See Section 17 of the bill, where amendments are made to 486H-13. The price cap law is suspended indefinitely in subsection (k), in subsection (l) it notes that the price cap will not be calculated while the law is suspended. I am not a lawyer, but, in my (informed) layman opinion, the articles have erred.

It’s also fun to note that when bills are put to rest so close to the deadline that other anomolies sneak into the conference draft. Things such as: new language that is underscored AND bracketed and stricken; and appropriations for $1 that are not corrected to some rational amount. Yep, you’re looking at down-and-dirty sausage-making at that point. Heh. Been there, done that.

UPDATE May 1: The SB has fixed the factual errors in their story.

Comments (1)
Lege asks Ethics Commission to review solicitations for trade mission sponsorship

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:15 am
Assuming that the Ethics Commission acts as “requested” by the Legislature in SCR 32 HD1, we may finally have an unbiased and thorough review of the ethics of offering “expressions of state support” to “governments that matter” on behalf of sponsors willing to donate significant sums of money to support the Governor’s trade missions to Asia. It passed the Senate on a partisan vote yesterday, after a similar vote in the House this Monday (with only 4 of the 10 GOP Representatives voting no). It asks for a response by September 1, 2006.

It’s about time. Open records requests and disclosure can only go so far.

I’m a bit confused why the resolution refers the Commission to HRS 84-31(a)(7). I would have preferred (a)(3), but perhaps in “reviewing” the situation the Commission will be compelled to initiate their own complaint in addition to “educating” everyone about what may have been unethical…

The real question is why the Lege didn’t simply file a formal Ethics complaint, but whatever.

Comments (1)
4/28/2006

Confirmation of Honolulu Managing Director stalls

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 5:48 pm
The Advertiser has a story on the confirmation hearing for Wayne Hashiro, Mayor Hannemann’s pick for Managing Director. The Advertiser article from Wednesday definitely has thrown a wrench into the process, as the City Ethics Commission is going to take up the matter and report back (if possible) before they reconvene on the matter next month. The SB also has their own article.

I trust the Ethics Commission to fairly examine the situation, and I await their findings with interest.

Take a look at this, though:

[Mayor] Hannemann, in speaking on behalf of Hashiro, asked the council to defer to the wishes of the executive branch in personnel appointments, saying that when he served on the council, he never voted against a mayoral appointee.

He said Hashiro, a professional engineer who spent most of his career with the Army Corps of Engineers, is eminently qualified to serve as managing director at a time when there are pressing needs to improve the infrastructure of the city.

Hashiro played a critical role in handling the recent sewage-main rupture in Waikiki that resulted in the discharge of some 48 million gallons of raw waste into the Ala Wai Canal, Hannemann said.

Hashiro’s involvement in the consultant contract awards last year was a “ministerial” requirement of his job, Hannemann said.

“He did not act improperly, period,” the mayor said. “It’s much ado about nothing, in my opinion.”

Okay, the links above cast Hashiro in the worst possible light, I admit, but I’m especially surprised that Hannemann scolds the Council for not simply bending to his will on the nomination.

Guess who was the Mayor while Hannemann was on the Council approving every nominee: Jeremy Harris. So here we have Mayor Hannemann, who blames almost everything on the Harris administration, admonishing Councilmembers that they should defer to the executive as Hannemann did when he was a Councilmember. That practice obviously turned out well, right? Then the Mayor reminds the Council of Hurricane Katrina and the Waikiki sewage dumping as reassurance that his nominee is the right guy?!

Forgive the Council if they are skeptical, haha.

Seriously, though, the Managing Director is, to be a bit melodramatic, “one heartbeat away from being the Mayor.” It’s worth taking a hard look at whoever the Mayor selects for the job. More prosaically, we never know when Hannemann might do a Fasi and leave Hashiro in the #1 spot…

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Kauai newspaper editors fire back at Council

Filed under:
HI Media
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:48 pm
A very angry editorial in the Garden Island News takes the Kauai County Council to task for judging the paper’s news coverage on the basis of the editorial and letters pages.

Kaua’i County Council member JoAnn Yukimura probably said it best at Wednesday’s regular meeting when commenting about the ethics investigation that resulted in police commissioner Michael Ching’s resignation and the council’s actions to cancel K.C. Lum’s contract. “This should be a wake-up call. Any of us can make mistakes like this,” she said about Ching’s behavior as a commissioner when promoting Lum for chief back in 2004 that resulted in the investigation. “We need to be aware of the laws that govern our behavior in making important decisions,” Yukimura said.

Awareness, she said, was the lesson to be learned.

And indeed awareness, or the lack thereof, may be at the heart of the council’s attack on the newspaper during the Wednesday session. Yukimura’s words came between diatribes by council members Kaipo Asing and Mel Rapozo as to whether “the newspaper is reporting their news accurately.”

Both council members repeatedly cited letters to the editor that were printed on the opinion page of The Garden Island in their utter disgust at the coverage in our newspaper. They both decried the newspaper’s coverage as “nonsense and lies.” But the attack did not stop there. “Not once did the paper print the facts,” Rapozo said.

The two didn’t seem to differentiate between letters to the editor and hard news stories developed by reporters. Maybe they don’t read the front page.

How’s that for a good working relationship between politicians and the Fourth Estate? Heh.

META COMMENT: I like the way their editorials allow online readers to leave comments in response. Hint, hint, other editors and webmasters…

All this ties back to the long-simmering dispute (sorry, it has been ignored here at this blog, though I’ve been following it loosely) over the manner in which the Kauai Police Commission selected an interim and permanent Chief of Police.

Away from the editorial page, there is another GIN piece on that topic, specifically a debate regarding the release of a few Ethics Board reports on the investigation of the police commissioner. There is a disagreement among the board over whether a 5 page report (PDF) should be publicly released, in addition to the longer report (PDF) that is already available on the County website.

Uh, they are talking about opening the barn door after the horse is already gone.

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It’s not just Hawaii’s young people going to the Mainland

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:45 pm
The Advertiser’s Gordon Pang follows up on the topic of shipping Hawaii rubbish to the mainlaind, which I mentioned earlier this week after noticing it in the Washington Post.

Well done, Mr. Pang, you’ve answered most of the questions I posed:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week released draft rules that would allow the practice. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regulates the importation and interstate movement of garbage. At least two Mainland-based waste-disposal companies told The Advertiser yesterday they were among those that had petitioned the USDA for the rule change, citing their interest in entering the Hawai’i market.

Honolulu officials said shipping garbage is an option, but not a preferred one. An official with Hawai’i County, however, said that municipality may take up the option.

———

Additionally, [a Honolulu official] said, “we wouldn’t want to be dependent on that solution.” Shipping garbage to the Mainland would tie the island’s waste disposal needs to the whims of a receiver state and the shipping industry.

Dixie Kaetsu, managing director to Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, said the county hopes to get permission to expand the Hilo Landfill for about another two years.

After that, she said, “we’re looking for a long-term waste reduction technology” that could meet East Hawai’i’s needs.

Kim has stated that the county will not truck waste from the east side to Pu’uanahulu, Kaetsu said.

“Therefore, what we are very interested in looking at is the possibility of shipping garbage to the Mainland for an interim period until a waste reduction technology comes on line,” she said.

Prices quoted by at least one of the companies “was not unreasonable,” Kaetsu said.

Jim Hodge, chief executive officer of Seattle-based Hawaiian Waste Systems, said his company wants to bale and shrink-wrap garbage here and ship it to Roosevelt Landfill in south-central Washington state.

“Right now, it takes from Alaska and all of the Pacific Northwest,” Hodge said. The waste from Alaska is shipped by barge to a port off the coast of Washington, and then transported by rail the rest of the way, he said.

Hodge says his company can offer a good price to the Hawai’i municipalities. He said he has had talks with officials in Ho-nolulu and on the Big Island, and has had “an initial discussion” with Kaua’i officials.

Hmmm. With a name like “Hawaiian Waste Systems” for a Seattle-based company, I would venture that somebody (probably Hawaii County) is more-or-less committed to the concept…

Comments (0)
4/27/2006

“Tougher” three-strikes bill heads to Final Reading

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:40 pm
The Advertiser reports that the House has softened (or, if you like, hardened) their position on the three-strikes legislation.

State House and Senate conferees have agreed in concept to remove the ability of judges to reduce mandatory prison sentences under a new three-strikes penalty for violent criminals. Lawmakers also agreed to include burglary on a list of violent crimes that would trigger the penalty.

House conferees said they will drop a provision giving judges discretion to lower sentences under extraordinary circumstances as long as prosecutors ? as they could in an earlier version of the bill ? would not have the right to waive the three-strikes penalty when defendants are cooperating in other cases.

Conferees have also agreed that burglary would count toward the penalty if at least one of the other three convictions is a violent crime.

At first reading, I thought that the conference committee was actually limiting prosecutorial discretion in a way that would address my long-held concerns. Alas, that is not the case.

Instead, prosecutors would undoubtably use the law (in the form described in this article) as a blunt instrument to coerce guilty pleas out of defendants. Because the prosecutor could not waive the three-strikes penalty under this version of the law, it would actually give prosecutors even more leverage and only slightly shifts prosecutorial strategy to this: plead guilty to a non-violent crime (not subject to three-strikes penalty) or the prosecutor will charge you with a violent crime (which is subject to a non-waivable three-strikes penalty). Assuming that the defendant was actually arrested pursuant to a violent crime, this will not make the public any more safe.

To point out the weakness: if the defendant pleads guilty to the non-violent crime he or she would not face the enhanced penalty. Furthermore, when the defendant completes the (lighter) sentence, it won’t count as a “strike” against him or her should they commit another violent crime. This is not tough on crime, this is simply taking away judicial discretion and giving it to prosecutors. At the same time, for those defendants not being offered a plea to a lesser offense, the new law will make it less likely for defendants to cooperate with the prosecutor. Why bother, if all it will do is lead to a long sentence with a “snitch” label?

Nevertheless, at the Conference meeting this afternoon a draft was voted out largely along the lines described here.

[Attorney General] Bennett and Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle appeared on the Perry & Price radio show on KSSK yesterday morning and urged listeners to call Oshiro and other House leaders and oppose the provision. Oshiro’s office received more than 100 telephone calls about the bill after the radio show.

“I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll have a bill that will protect the public,” Bennett told reporters after a conference committee hearing yesterday afternoon.

Oshiro commented today that this media pressure had no effect on the House decision to compromise. [cough] Um, yeah. Whatever.

Comments (0)
Akaka defends himself

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:38 pm
I was wondering if Senator Akaka would add his own response to the disparaging TIME magazine ranking. Just last week Senator Inouye came to his defense. However, it took a column by Dave Shapiro to finally draw Akaka into the fray personally.

Senator Akaka thanks Shapiro for that column, even though it basically portrayed Akaka as too nice to get anything done in cutthroat Washington, D.C. Some textbook rhetorical jiu jitsu, this letter!

Basically, Senator Akaka argues that he has accomplished a great deal, but I direct your attention to this:

As for my work for passage of the Native Hawaiian recognition (Akaka) bill, I believe we must give Native Hawaiians parity with other indigenous people across our nation. To expect that legislation of such monumental consequence would move quickly is naive, particularly given the current administration.

It also took many years to pass reparations for Japanese-Americans interned during World War II, but eventually we prevailed. I know, because I fought for that measure, too. The Akaka bill is moving, and I anticipate a Senate vote soon.

Hmmmm. I have noted a political reason for a vote to occur soon, too. But how soon?

Comments (0)
Kona could host half of Council meetings

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:37 pm
The West Hawaii Today has an article about two bills that propose to put Hawaii County Charter amendments on the November ballot. Like yesterday, the Bills are not online. I don’t see the point in having a “public” website if it is so poorly executed…

North Kona Councilman Angel Pilago has introduced Bill 268 calling for an amendment to the County Charter to require the County Council to meet in Kona during the even numbered months.

Bob Jacobson, representing Puna, Ka’u and South Kona, meanwhile, has introduced Bill 270 establishing an independent police auditor position and amending the functions of Hawaii County police commissioners so they no longer investigate charges against police officers brought forward by the public.

There is a (another?) nascent movement to split the County in two, so I assumed that this would probably be considered rather thin gruel for the supporters of that concept. However, at least one Kona resident likes Pilago’s bill.

Hawaii County is so geographically vast that public participation in Council meetings is unlikely to be much improved in whatever form of “road show” format they might devise. The Legislature (and pretty much every legislature except for those in tiny states) has always faced that problem. Plus, if the Lege is any indication, the vast majority of those pariticipating in government are the “regular players.” Very little “grass root” participation is heard, even thoughtens of thousands of people live nearby the Capitol, and hundreds of thousands live a short drive away. Proximity and easy access are not the silver bullets to improve public participation and responsiveness that they may seem to be. Even if the Lege were to hold (more) hearings during the evenings and on weekends, I’m not sure that would help to improve grass root participation very much.

Also, I find it very hard to believe Councilmember Ikeda’s claim that it is not feasible to set up teleconferencing equipment in Kona. This is the 21st Century. Maybe she would rather not do it, but it could be done without that much trouble.

Moving to the independent police auditor idea from Councilmember Jacobson, I’m a bit surprised that the article allows him to make statements like this without any follow-up questioning:

But Jacobson said his “main motivation” for Bill 270 came from complaints about police officers that he has received from constituents over the years and the fact that as a councilman he has been unable to “effectively deal with these complaints.”

He said the only oversight council members have over the police department is the approval or disapproval of their budget. The police commission, he said, sees less than half the complaints that are waged against police officers. The others are handled internally.

“In order to have a decent, modern police force we need to have deep oversight provided by a paid professional,” Jacobson said, suggesting a judge or a trained investigator for the task rather than “part-time volunteer businessmen” that comprise the police commission.

“I honor the police commissioners, but they are out of their league on this,” he said.

“The whole system allows for the corruption of good people,” Jacobson said. “The system is set up so that people naturally can’t testify against their partners, they can’t reveal the level of corruption that they are expected to engage in on a daily basis.”

Jacobson maintained that those officers who do speak out against their partners are treated negatively by the department. They are either transferred to undesirable positions or positions that require a long commute, or they work in fear that they will not have the back up of their fellow officers when they needed it, he said.

“It’s the system. It’s not the individual officers. I want to avoid demonizing any particular individual. The system allows for the pattern to develop, and the only way to change this pattern is to change the system and the only way to change the system is to find out what is wrong with it,” Jacobson said.

“The level of corruption that they are expected to engage in on a daily basis?” Wow. Do tell.

We can’t read Bill 270 (and I suspect that if we could the bill would speak only to the Charter amendment, not to the specific enabling legislation), but I’m having trouble envisioning any auditor that would be able to overcome the hurdles (demonization, punitive transfers, fear) that Jacobson says plague the existing oversight system.

Comments (2)
Another ACLU forum on Maui

Filed under:
General
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:37 pm
Free Public Forum Tuesday, 5/2/06 at Iao Theater, 7-8:30 PM
“Spying on Americans – Do the PATRIOT Act and NSA surveillance go too far?”

The ACLU of Hawaii is pleased to present a free forum on Maui. Speaker Susan Herman, general counsel to the national ACLU and the Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn University, will discuss the ongoing impacts of the PATRIOT Act and National Security Agency “domestic surveillance” programs on civil liberties in America.

Free and open to all ages. Doors open at 6:30, a short reception at the theater follows the talk. RSVP by May 1 by e-mail or call 808-522-5900.

Also, I’m an idiot for mentioning it too late for readers to RSVP, but the same speaker will be present at the Oahu annual meeting, April 30… I apologize.

Comments (1)
4/26/2006

Hawaii opala makes WaPo

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:17 pm
It’s not often I see our state mentioned in the Washington Post, but today there is this:

The long arm of federal regulation extends even to garbage. The Department of Agriculture has proposed allowing Hawaii to ship some of its garbage to the U.S. mainland. Landfill space is limited in Hawaii, and public officials and private waste-disposal companies are looking for other places to put the state’s trash.

They can’t just put it anywhere; some garbage could pose a threat if it becomes a conduit to the mainland for exotic plant or animal pests or diseases.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Heath Inspection Service regulates such trash, which includes waste from fruits, vegetables and meats as well as food wrappers and packaging materials.

In a 12-page notice in the April 19 Federal Register, the agency proposes that “only municipal solid waste” be imported from Hawaii and that “such waste may not include agricultural wastes or yard wastes.” No word on where it would go.

I’m not at all familiar with the federal rulemaking process. Is this proposal in response to a request from the State Legislature, the Governor, a County Council, or a County Mayor? Hawaii County seems to be the most interested in this, but Oahu occasionally floats the idea (pun intended) as well. From the notice:

The rule is being proposed upon request to provide public officials in Hawaii another option for disposal of the State’s waste. The only other regulatory alternative would be to leave the regulations unchanged, but that alternative would unnecessarily limit Hawaiian officials’ disposal options.

The proposal also mentions an environmental assessment conducted in 2005 at the request of “private waste disposal companies.” Which companies? The EA (only) mentions Oahu’s landfill situation specifically.

It would seem that somebody is taking this idea seriously enough to initiate the federal rulemaking process necessary to allow it…

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Gasoline price cap’s time may be up

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:17 pm
I have been silent about bills in conference committee because, frankly, until the conference draft emerges it’s hard to separate the likely from the tactical. However, there was a significant change yesterday regarding the House and Senate positions on the gasoline price cap law, and I think it’s worth mentioning (although it could also fall apart before Friday). The Advertiser has a piece here, and the SB article is here.

“In an effort to break the impasse, I am now supporting a complete and immediate suspension of our gas pricing law,” [Senator] Menor said. “I think the proposal we’ve come up with also addresses my concerns and the Senate’s concerns, that we still have something in place to protect the consumers.”

House members said they would seriously study the latest proposal but still had concerns.

The proposal would continue to have the Public Utilities Commission calculate and publish hypothetical price caps under a revised formula that adds Singapore prices to a group of New York, Gulf Coast and Los Angeles. Under that new formula, which would throw out the highest-priced market, this week’s price caps would be about 23 cents cheaper, according to Star-Bulletin calculations.

“It gives consumers a way to be able to judge for themselves whether the oil companies are misbehaving,” Menor said.

I have reviewed that proposed CD1, and I think the “transparency” provisions included are better than what the law provides now (which are lame).

The compromise proposal made by senators in a conference committee yesterday would repeal the current wholesale price cap, but the state would continue to calculate the cap, only using a new formula that would bring the price down by 10 to 20 cents a gallon. Gov. Linda Lingle, who opposed the current price cap law, would have discretion to reinstate the cap at the new lower price for 30 days.

DIFFERENCES REMAIN

The proposal was aimed at bridging the gap with House members who want to repeal the price cap law outright. If the House and Senate cannot resolve differences on the issue by the end of the week, the current price cap law will remain in effect. However, that seems unlikely given the Senate’s willingness to compromise, said Oshiro.

“I think both parties are working hard to find something that’s workable, but to make sure that customers benefit from changes in the law,” Oshiro said.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed the cap in part to link Hawai’i’s pump prices to the fluctuations found in more competitive Mainland markets. The law took effect during a period when gasoline prices across the nation have been high. Consumers who expected the cap to cut gasoline prices have expressed disappointment.

House and Senate leaders said before the session that a repeal was unlikely. But then growing opposition in the House led leaders there to shift course. Menor, who had accused some House lawmakers of political expedience, had claimed he had enough backing in the Senate to save the cap but had become increasingly isolated on the issue as gas prices went up.

Menor’s compromise proposal yesterday could be a political victory for Lingle, who had repeatedly warned lawmakers that the cap was a mistake.

A political victory of sorts, but possibly of the Pyrrhic variety if a) Senator Menor’s proposed formula begins to output figures that undercut the actual wholesale prices revealed by the “transparency” requirements; and, b) the Governor chooses not to implement the cap. Furthermore, while the repeal of the cap clearly would put egg on the Democrats’ faces, a repeal also significantly reduces the influence the issue will have on the campaign trail.

Rep. Hermina Morita, chairwoman of the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, said the Senate proposal was a step in the right direction, but still contained “problems.”

At least one oil industry executive opposed the Senate’s new proposal.

Menor “is still insisting on his new price cap formula which is an arbitrary and unsupported computation of ‘fair pricing,’” said Robert Maynard, president and chief executive for Aloha Petroleum Ltd., in an e-mail. “It is hard to imagine that he has people fooled into thinking that a nearly 20 cents per gallon reduction in the price of gasoline is something that could be swallowed by the industry.”

“Arbitrary and unsupported” because lawmakers and the public are not privy to the data to propose a different formula, sir. However, the transparency data could reveal if a 20 cents per gallon reduction is something that could be “swallowed” by the industry. Obviously, the Governor would never implement the wholesale price cap if the formula were going to force the oil industry to operate at a loss.

Seriously, I would be more worried if Maynard liked the proposed CD1.

Unfortunately, I did not attend the hearing late this afternoon, but I know this much: they are meeting again tomorrow.

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Hawaii County Council hears bill to address HSC ruling

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:08 pm
An interesting West Hawaii Today article on the topic of a bill before the Hawaii County Council. It seems that Hokulia was just one flavor of the strange County approval process over there.

For decades the county has proceeded on subdivision applications, allowing progress with missing information, with the intent the omission would be addressed at a future point in the permit process.

That practice was thrown out by the Hawaii Supreme Court. Now, however, the county is seeking to amend its rules to fit its illegal practices through a bill before the County Council.

A Kona activist stirred opposition to a bill meant to address these flaws, but at least two members of the Hawaii County Council said Bill 246 left them scratching their heads during a Planning Committee hearing last week.

Upon closer examination, Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann and South Kona Councilwoman Virginia Isbell said they will be seeking answers to many concerns sparked by public comment about the bill, which is scheduled to be heard by the full council May 3 [sic, actually May 2] after it advanced with a negative recommendation.

——–

However, Hoffmann said a bulk of the concern he received was about Yuen’s administrative power.

“I’m happy to be educated about this,” said Hoffmann. “We received a steady stream of really strong comments about this bill, but to the best of my knowledge, the planning director has always had this authority.”

Despite that, Hoffmann said he supports a review of Yuen’s administrative power, as well as any other official, including himself. But Hoffmann said Bill 246 is not the proper way to conduct that review.

Hoffmann also said he supports the county’s claim that it is not in the position to rectify a huge mess caused by the hundreds of past and present subdivision applications which could be invalidated if the law is not changed.

“In this particular case, I see how unfair this could be,” said Hoffmann. “I understand and support the re-examination of many of the concerns in the testimony, including the authority of the planning director, but this is not the vehicle to do so.”

——–

But [Jack] Kelly, an officer of the Protect Keopuka Ohana, said he is concerned the county is trying to validate its past practices, which allowed hundreds of illegal subdivisions. Kelly said the county should instead “go the other way” and craft a bill that would make sure all information is provided up front.

Before commenting I will note that the Hawaii County website is not very easy to use. Earlier today, all I could find about Bill 246 is a summary page. I had to call the Clerk and ask for them to update the page, because “the public website is slow to update.” No kidding.

Having reviewed the bill (which is posted as a .TIF-what’s up with that?) , it is a pretty major change in the powers afforded to the planning director. Some application requirements become permissive and others are deleted altogether, and past (illegal) approvals are declared legal retroactively. Strangely, the bill passed out of committee with a recommendation that the full Council vote it down. In which case, the existing law and the illegal nature of past and ongoing subdivision approvals will remain in place.

Comments (1)
Peculiar sewer work contracts implicate nominee for Honolulu Managing Director

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 6:07 pm
Thank goodness for the sidebar in this Advertiser article, because the story is difficult to follow. It’s not really Jim Dooley’s (the reporter) fault, because the story is indeed contorted.

One of the parties involved is Wayne Hashiro, who has been nominated for the City Managing Director post and whose confirmation hearing is tomorrow. I very uch doubt that the questions raised by Councilmember Djou and others could be resolved before then, but I won’t even guess if the rest of the Council will see this as a factor against his confirmation.

I’ll be watching as this develops, and hopefully Dooley is able to find a way to keep the story easy (or maybe easier) to parse.

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Another voice

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:06 pm
Larry Geller’s blog directed me to another person who has a blog about the Legislature. It is called “Blast ‘em” and is run by George Fox. Welcome to the blogroll, Mr. Fox.

As always, if anyone knows of other blogs about Hawaii politics, please let me know!

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4/25/2006

Hawaiian activist to run

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:56 pm
Both Honolulu dailies covered the press conference announcing a new Democratic candidate for Governor, William Aila. The Advertiser piece is here and the SB article is here.

William Aila Jr., the harbor master at the Wai’anae Boat Harbor and a Hawaiian activist, announced yesterday that he will enter the Democratic primary for governor.

At a news conference at the state Capitol, Aila said his campaign would focus on affordable housing, protecting the environment and supporting the host culture.

“We need a new governor, a different kind of governor, a governor who can work with the Legislature, a governor who can work amongst and across party lines,” Aila said.

Aila is the second prominent Democrat to enter the September primary for governor. Randall Iwase, a former Mililani state senator, announced his campaign in January.

Both articles mention his involvement with Hui Malama I Na Kapuna O Hawaii Nei, but neither mention his work with Malama Makua. Google also produced an SB article profiling Aila and his extended ohana. The article seems to confirm that Aila is, as he claims, “just a country boy from Waianae.”

Frankly, as far as name recognition, Aila probably has at least as much as Iwase (who?). However, to some people that recognize his name, Aila is more infamous than popular due to his activism on Hawaiian issues. Iwase, in contrast, is known for … not much, other than having served in the Senate. It will be interesting to see how this primary race plays out, assuming Aila is able to raise a competitive amount of money.

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Dolphin rescued by human friends

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 6:56 pm
This has absolutely nothing to do with Hawaii politics, but it’s one of the coolest stories I’ve heard in a while so I thought I would share it. A group of Maui residents, including my friend Scott, found a dolphin trapped in a shallow tidepool and managed to return it to the open sea.

Scott has the story and pictures at his blog. I suppose the “legal” response was probably to report this to some marine mammal authority, so I hope that these heroes are not held to account for some wrongheaded reason.

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Life imitates Lebowski

Filed under:
General
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 6:54 pm
The current Lee Cataluna column succeeded, like too many things in life do, in reminding me of The Big Lebowski. Minus the Cohen brothers’ comedic genius.

Last Wednesday, an HPD officer had his car broken into. His gun, badge and uniform were stolen. A day later, the gun was recovered. The day after that, the badge, gun belt and radio were found. By Saturday, a suspect was charged and yesterday, the accused made his first court appearance.

And we thought that stuff only happened on TV.

——–

HPD sure flipped this case quickly. How many civilians are still waiting in vain to hear about the stuff that got jacked out of their cars and houses? Once stuff is gone, it’s gone and your best hope is that it’ll show up in a big sweep of the warehouse of some major fence operation.

But can you blame them? Police are called out to everything big and little, from kids’ lunch money beefs to nut jobs bringing guns to work. They are hamstrung with the limitations of budget, priorities and procedure. Practicality dictates they can’t search for every item.

Nice to know, though, that when they really need to, they can, and with great efficiency; and that right there is a deterrent to evil-doers.

Unfortunately, the Lebowski scene I’m thinking of isn’t among the IMDB page of memorable quotes. But I did find a site with the entire script:

NORTH HOLLYWOOD AUTO CIRCUS

A policeman with a clipboard is leading the Dude through a
large parking lot.

POLICEMAN
You’re lucky she wasn’t chopped, Mr. Lebowski. Must’ve been a joyride
situation; they abandoned the car once they hit the retaining wall.

They have reached the Dude’s car. The driver’s side
exterior has been scraped raw. The policeman hands the Dude
a door handle and an exterior rear-view mirror.

POLICEMAN
These were on the road next to the car. You’ll have to get in on the
other side.

The Dude climbs in the passenger side.

DUDE
My f*cking briefcase! It’s not here!

POLICEMAN
Yeah, sorry, I saw that on the report. You’re lucky they left the tape deck
though.

DUDE
My f*cking briefcase! Jesus–what’s that smell?

POLICEMAN
Uh, yeah. Probably a vagrant, slept in the car. Or perhaps just used it
as a toilet, and moved on.

The Dude tries to roll down the driver’s window but it will not go;
he bellows through the glass:

DUDE
When will you find these guys? I mean, do you have any promising leads?

The policeman laughs, agreeing broadly.

POLICEMAN
Leads, yeah. I’ll just check with the boys down at the Crime Lab.
They’ve assigned four more detectives to the case, got us working in shifts.

The Dude looks sadly through his window at the policeman
rocking back on his heels, his raucous laughter muffled by
the glass.

I love that scene! HA!

The only time I’ve ever been a victim of a robbery from a vehicle was while I was out with some mainland visitors snorkeling at 7AM near Kahe Point. It involved their rental vehicle, luckily, and the perps did not find my wallet so it was not so bad. They did find my friend’s wallet and made a few charges in the hour or so it took us to cancel the credit card.

Anyway, Cataluna sure has a peculiar way to get her “lesson” across. She points out the glaring inequity in the level of attention given to burglaries against police versus those against civilians, but then says that this shows that the HPD is competent—when they choose to be. Not so sure I’d characterize that as positively as Cataluna does; the scenario she describes would not be much of a deterrent to criminals…

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Save the Internet

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 6:47 pm
I’ve been following this subject rather loosely offline, but I think it’s time to mention it now that there is some urgency to the matter.

There is an organization with a website, Save the Internet, that is working to preserve the internet in the decentralized, unrestricted form we now enjoy. There are others, mainly giant telcom companies, that are aiming to cordon off the internet in ways that will provide better bandwidth to favored (read “big money”) clients and possibly leave puny sites like mine (and a jillion others) in a low- or zero-bandwidth ghetto.

I’m hoping that we have strength in numbers and can nip this in the bud, but the proponents are big campaign donors so it’s too important to ignore. Please take a look at the site and consider contacting your members of Congress. If you value blogs as much as I do, this should matter to you.

For more background on the issue, you can peruse the articles here or Google if you don’t like that source. Mahalo.

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4/24/2006

Kanno case should refine Capitol ethics

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:49 pm
The Advertiser editorial today contains a few items worthy of debate.

Among the issues to be probed during the hearing is the boundary between basic legislative work that comes with the office, and extraordinary service that abuses the power of that office by according special favors.

These are important questions, and Kanno, along with all of his colleagues, would benefit from clear answers to them.

Kanno’s attorney, Rebecca Covert, is arguing that the commission itself violates the separation-of-powers doctrine of the state Constitution by diminishing the authority of the lawmaking branch.

That makes no sense: The commission is itself a creation of the Legislature, established in 1968 to do exactly what it is doing here: examining the ethics of state elected officials.

As to Covert’s other complaint ? that the Constitution protects lawmakers for actions that fall within their legislative functions ? the commission seems to have anticipated that.

The charge does not mention the resolutions proposed by Kanno and others, measures that would have required Norwegian to explain its sexual harassment policies and that pressed for a study on whether the cruise line should have to pay hotel room taxes.

Contested-case hearings are rare, which underscores the need to take this one seriously. The information it yields is valuable because it will give lawmakers the clarity they sorely need on which official actions are acceptable, and which are not.

I agree that the Ethics Commission has a clear duty to monitor the ethics of legislators. I also agree that the hearing could yield some very useful information to guide lawmakers.

However, I think the editors are too quick to conclude that Covert’s argument about legislative function was “anticipated” and thus the argument was defused because the Commission did not address the concurrent resolutions on the subject (which were unarguably a legislative function). “Legislative function” is a recurring topic of debate before the Commission, mostly because neither the Constitution nor the HRS clearly define the term.

Covert refers to the Ethics Commission’s previously published Informal Advisory Opinions 94-25 and 97-4. It is clear from those opinions that there is a struggle to define the term and to properly apply it to legislators. These opinions contain relevant case law and legislative history and are well worth reading with respect to the current matter.

Repeating from a Supreme Court ruling:

We [the Court] are of the opinion that the above record of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention shows that the delegates to the Convention purposefully intended to broaden the scope of legislative immunity and further intended for the courts to finally determine the parameter of the legislative immunity by construing the clause “the exercise of his [legislator’s] legislative function” on a case by case basis. The delegates did not place any restrictions premised on time and place of a legislator’s exercise of his legislative function.

Also, consider this excerpt (which refers to a different case):

The Hawaii Supreme Court reviewed Representative Kamalii’s claim that her statements were privileged because they were made in clarification of the resolutions, which were matters of legitimate legislative concern. The Court agreed that the subject matter of the resolutions was of legitimate legislative concern. The Court also agreed that there were no temporal or spatial limitations on the immunity. Where an action took place and when it took place were not determinative in deciding whether the action was privileged. Whether it was privileged depended on whether the action was made in the exercise of legislative functions.

The Court decided that there was not enough information to affirm a judgment in favor of Representative Kamalii. There was an issue as to whether Representative Kamalii was exercising a legislative function in making the speech. At the time of the speech, the resolutions had already died. In addition, the speech was delivered to Kailua businessmen by a representative whose constituency resided in Waikiki and Kapahulu. The Court held that, viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the facts did not lead to an inescapable conclusion that Representative Kamalii’s remarks were privileged. The Court then remanded the case for further proceedings.

Aside from illustrating the breadth of the privilege, these cases also demonstrated the importance of the concept of an independent legislature. Possibly slanderous statements are allowed if made in the exercise of a legislative function. As indicated in Abercrombie, these statements are allowed not for the benefit of the individual legislator, but to protect the principle of a strong and fearless legislature, unfettered in their discussions by any threat of sanctions.

Kanno’s case is similar, but not identical. In exhibit 3 of his motion, Covert includes (beginning on page 40 of the PDF) the letters sent to NCL and the concurrent resolutions introduced. The letters are obviously related to the resolutions (which are not subject to any Ethics Commission scrutiny), but the letters precede the concurrent resolutions by at least 4 months. The legislators’ actions indicate to me that they considered these actions to be a “legislative function.”

From the 97-4 Opinion:

While federal cases offered some guidance, the Commission was aware that it could not give too much weight to these cases. The Speech and Debate Clause of the Federal Constitution was analogous to the legislative functions clause of the Hawaii Constitution. However, the analogy was imperfect. In Abercrombie, the Hawaii Supreme Court stated:

We are of the opinion that the federal case law construing the “Speech or Debate” clause, is not helpful in the consideration of the phrase “legislative function.”

Article I, Section 6, of the United States Constitution [the Speech and Debate clause] is substantially and critically different from Article III, Section 8 of the Hawaii Constitution.

Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, the Hawaii Supreme Court had not drawn a distinction between a legislator’s law-making activities and his other activities.

In whatever ruling the Ethics Commission eventually makes, the risk is that “legislative function” could be (re-)defined so strictly that fearless and strong “casework” may thereby be improperly suppressed. A fully independent legislative branch is crucial to our democracy, as I’m sure the editors would agree. If the Ethics Commission finds that the actions of the legislators in this case did not involve a “legislative function,” then it is incumbent upon the Ethics Commission to clearly explain what differentiates their actions from legitimate legislative functions.

On a more meta level, making these rulings on a case-by-case basis is always going to leave some ambiguity unless the Legislature acts to clarify the definition of “legislative function.”

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Run, Forest Joe, run!

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:45 pm
Both Honolulu dailies note another (rather quixotic) Democratic candidate for Congress has been announced. The Advertiser article is here. The SB piece also mentions, Jill Tokuda, a Democratic candidate for the State Senate seat being vacated by Bob Hogue as he runs for Congress. This is not really news.

Joe Zuiker, a community organizer, has filed papers to run in the Democratic primary for the U.S. House in the 2nd Congressional District.

A marathon runner, Zuiker plans to run across the district to promote his campaign. “Because I believe the high cost of elections and the need to take contributions from special interests will destroy our country if not corrected, I have chosen to limit all contributions to my campaign to $200 or less,” he said in a statement.

I like running, too, but that’s a pretty strenuous task if Zuiker actually attempts to carry it out. Oh, and he has a blog, too, which I will add to the blogroll. If any other candidate(s) or sitting politician(s) begin (or resume, cough) blogging, let me know and I will link to them, too. I won’t provide links to any non-blog campaign website, though.

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Out of sight, out of mind

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:43 pm
There was a meeting this morning between the Governor and several homeless advocacy groups. The homeless are quoted in this SB article as being upset at their exclusion from the meeting.

“We want to be heard. We want to try to work with the government. If they want to make a decision on where they might put us, it would be nice to have a little input on that,” said Rudy Peralta, an Ohana O Hawaii council member. “This is supposed to be a democracy at work.”

The Governor’s spokesperson said such a meeting with the homeless could happen later in the future. But, as for the decision to relocate the homeless currently staying in churches while Ala Moana Park is off limits, it is beginning to sound like a foregone conclusion.

The Rev. Bob Nakata of Solidarity for the Homeless said he wants the governor to temporarily set aside a portion of Sand Island State Park for the homeless. Other homeless advocates have also supported the plan, as long as bus service is provided.

“That’s a park that’s not used as much,” said John Heidel, president of Interfaith Alliance Hawaii, who will also attend the meeting. “It’s not as much in the public eye.”

Heidel also said he would be asking the governor to release more money for homeless supportive housing, and will suggest that a fund be established to provide first and last months’ rent for homeless trying to get into homes.

Ultimately, he said, the state needs to analyze and work to remedy the state’s housing crisis. “We need to address the root causes,” he said. “The housing crisis has only gotten worse.”

Heidel and Nakata said they are wary of calls from lawmakers for faith-based groups to take a more prominent role in sheltering and feeding the homeless.

Currently the closest thing to bus service to Sand Island State Park is Route 10 which does not cross the Sand Island bridge. That bridge is the major logistical lifeline for Oahu, insofar as all containerized interstate and international cargo passes over that bridge on the way to the consumers. The bridge is far from ideal for pedestrian traffic, in my opinion. Even if bus service were to be added, bus fares (or passes) would become an unavoidable expense for any homeless who would choose to sleep in the Park. It is a long walk from the current bus stop to the park.

It is surprising that the homeless advocates were the ones to point out that Sand Island Park would be a less-visible place for the homeless. Only by keeping the homeless in plain sight will politicians and the public give them any thought.

It’s also worth noting that with this change, should the migration occur, the problem moves from the Mayor’s plate (Ala Moana Beach Park) to the Governor’s plate (Sand Island State Park). That difference may be lost on the public, but it could become significant if there are additional problems once the Legislature adjurns for the (campaign) year.

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4/23/2006

Look at your ‘face’ in the mirror, President Hu

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 9:07 am
I am not going to make a habit of commenting on national and international politics. However, since I scolded the SB editors yesterday, it is only fitting that I take up the similar Advertiser editorial that ran today about the recent visit of Chinese President Hu.

Hu, of course, offered little from his side of the table other than diplomatic eyewash. But in the end, he was our guest, and the totality of events left little to make him think he was welcome.

The most obvious example, of course, was what happened when an activist representing a newspaper published by Falun Gong, widely repressed in China, rudely interrupted a news conference staged by Hu and President Bush.

In the United States, of course, we have a strong belief that anyone has a right to access their elected leaders. Thus, it was entirely appropriate that the White House provided credentials to a representative of an organization with strong negative opinions about the current Chinese government.

But there are rules, even in this context. The Falun Gong representative was not there to obtain information; clearly she was there to embarrass Hu. And she did, even though Chinese state TV censored the moment out of its coverage.

Right, there are “rules.” Unwritten rules, such as: shut your mouth and be a stenographer when the President and Hu are staging their press conference media event, do not, under any circumstance, behave as a skeptical journalist. What ever happened to “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable?” The President of the United States once took questions at a “news conference” from a pre-arranged list of unthreatening inquisitors. In China, Mr. Hu is even less forthcoming. The media freedom in the United States of America is not as (officially) restricted as it is in China. Yet. For the most part, the media censor themselves here, taking whatever scraps are thrown their way.

Were there “appropriate” moments provided for any journalist to raise difficult questions with Hu? If there were any, would a regular member of the White House press pool risk their credentials for the purpose of asking Hu to explain his repression of Falun Gong? Except for Helen Thomas, I very much doubt it. In fact, as the woman began shouting at Hu, the first person to attempt to silence her was not a Secret Service agent, but another member of the press pool. Go figure.

Besides the lack of any mention by the Chinese state media, the Chinese also censored the BBC and CNN satellite feeds of the event, which apparently is less of a concern to the editors here in Honolulu than the prospect of “embarrassing” a guest who fully deserves to be ashamed.

When the Chinese delegation passed through Honolulu were there any opportunities for our media to question the officials? I doubt it, but if so then I’ll bet the topic of human rights never came up.

There were other slights: An announcer proclaimed the band would play the national anthem of the “Republic of China,” which is the name of Taiwan, not mainland China.

In an effort to downgrade the importance of this visit, the administration scheduled a luncheon rather than a more formal state dinner, and insisted that the visit was “official,” rather than a more elevated “state” visit.

All this may seem rather silly. But in the world of diplomacy and “face,” it matters. And while “face” is a universal value in all cultures, it is particularly important in Asian countries.

On a Web site, writer Sarah Rosenberg described how one can lose face. Possibilities include: a rebuffed overture; exposure to personal insult; exposure to a derogatory remark or disregard for one’s status; damage to a valued relationship; and more.

By any measure, Hu’s visit left him with a loss of face. The task ahead for the U.S. government is to repair the damage done as firmly and swiftly as possible.

Or else what? What is so important that we should not speak up for more than a billion people with severely limited freedom to choose their own leaders and speak their conscience?

Absurd. China engages in appalling human rights violations, and we must quickly kiss and make up for even mentioning that?! I sincerely hope that the anthem confusion, “luncheon” schedule, and “official” visit designation were all calculated snubs. The shouting woman is so much as gravy. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t write off the possibility that she was part of another official snub that exceeded expectations.

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Investigation of Chang demanded

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:06 am
The Advertiser reports that House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan is seeking an investigation of Representative Chang regarding his involvement in the race track tax credit bill.

Finnegan, R-32nd (’Aliamanu, Airport, Mapunapuna), wants the House to form a special committee to investigate whether Chang broke the House’s code of conduct, which discourages lawmakers from using the prestige of their offices to advance private interests.

The Advertiser reported last week that Chang, D-2nd (Hilo), has a 25 percent ownership interest in a company that offered land in Hilo to the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in exchange for a department parcel in Kalaeloa that could be used for a new racetrack.

Chang explained that if the department would have agreed to the exchange, he would have negotiated to sell the Hilo land to Mike Oakland, the president of the Hawai’i Motorsports Center, who would have then made the swap for the Kalaeloa parcel.

Oakland has said he was looking at land on the Big Island for a land swap but did not confirm until Friday that it was the land Chang partially owns.

Chang and Oakland had worked together on a $50 million tax credit to help attract investors to a new motor-sports complex that would replace Hawai’i Raceway Park, which closed this month.

But after questions from The Advertiser, Chang told House lawmakers about his potential conflict, and the tax-credit bill was quickly killed.

I think the only thing that speaks in Chang’s favor is that he ultimately made (under pressure) the motion to recommit (i.e. kill) the bill. Everything else about his association with the land sale/swap scheme is unsavory. For a change, I side with Representative Finnegan in support of an investigation. I rather doubt that the Majority will agree to it, but we’ll see.

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Senator Inouye defends Akaka

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:05 am
It was not hard to see this op-ed coming after Time magazine called Senator Akaka “the master of minor resolution and the bill that dies in committee.” Senator Inouye takes the magazine to task, expanding on the same theme I briefly raised at the time.

Anyone familiar with the art of the legislative process on Capitol Hill will tell you that very few bills, as originally introduced and sponsored, become law in that form. More often than not, a particular bill becomes a provision of a larger, more comprehensive legislation that is slated for passage into law.

After all, the goal is to get your measure passed, rather than to get the credit for being the bill’s original sponsor or proponent. However, it would seem that the latter was the benchmark that Time used.

This tells me that Time is either very naive or misguided.

——–

Time’s benchmark is a shallow oversimplification of the intricacies of the legislative process. As such, Sen. Akaka’s rating is inaccurate, unfair and undercuts the many legislative contributions my Senate partner has made during his tenure for the benefit of Hawai’i and our nation.

One can only wonder why the other members of the Hawaii delegation to Congress, Representatives Abercrombie and Case, did not co-author this op-ed. Heh.

Kidding aside, Representative Case made no effort to disagree with the magazine article when given the opportunity, so this op-ed by Inouye serves to not-so-subtly imply that Case is also shallow, naive, misguided, inaccurate, and unfair to Akaka.

Comments (0)
4/22/2006

Eat the irony with chopsticks a fork

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:47 am
The SB editorial today is a big disappointment, in my opinion.

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s first visit to the White House required an impossible balancing act for the Bush administration, and the two presidents predictably found little they could agree upon. President Bush and his successors in the decades ahead will have to grit their teeth in dealing with the emerging economic powerhouse and its abominable record of human rights violations.

A protester who interrupted the welcome ceremony by screaming about China’s persecution of practitioners of the Falun Gong religious sect added awkward perspective to the occasion. Neither the enormous success of the country’s move into global economy nor its repression of individual rights and a free media can be ignored.

Governor Lingle and Hawaii business officials traveled to China last year in an attempt to realize the potential of leisure visitors among the newly wealthy. China is expected soon to exceed Japan in outbound travel, and its gross domestic product is predicted to overtake that of the United States within 40 years.

Cough.

Surely the editors must (or should) know that the “protestor” who caused the “awkward” moment was the holder of a White House-approved pass and a media credential. The woman was arrested for uttering what was clearly poltical speech, mis-characterized as disorderly conduct. In the United States of America. She may be further charged with “willingly intimidating or disrupting a foreign official.” In the United States of America.

The consistent message is that if you are an “economic powerhouse” your record on human rights violations will be ignored. See also, Saudi Arabia.

I’m as guilty of buying cheap Chinese goods (and petroleum products) as the next person, but the multi-leveled irony in this case is too much to let it escape comment.

Comments (1)
Kanno’s motion to dismiss now online

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:47 am
Some time after the first time I linked there, the Ethics Commission has added a PDF of Senator Kanno’s motion to dismiss the ethics complaint he is facing. Be warned, it’s 250+ pages. I’m not going to try to summarize it.

I have reviewed it, though. It’s quite useful because it gathers many source documents that Kanno’s attorney refers to and provides them as appendices.

Contested case hearings are similar to a trial, except that in this case the “complainant” appears to be the Commission itself, and the Chair of the Commission will sit in judgement, too(?!). Or perhaps the Senate GOP caucus will appear as the complainants, since they instigated the investigation? Anyway, Kanno submitted his motion to dismiss in November 2005, and (obviously, since his case begins in June) his motion was not granted. I’m unable to tell if any part of the motion was found meritorious by the Ethics Commission, because the EC has not provided us (or Kanno?) a point-by-point response.

The Advertiser article makes an effort to summarize all this, but it’s (understandably) scattershot.

The documents released yesterday involve Kanno’s unsuccessful motion last November to get the commission to dismiss the charge. The motion provides the first detailed explanation from Kanno about why he got involved in helping Rouse, a former political activist who had spent time in prison in the Philippines for a sex crime before he was hired by Norwegian. It also shows that other lawmakers, who knew Rouse before as an activist and were aware of his conviction, did more than what has been publicly known to help Rouse with Norwegian.

State Sen. Rosalyn Baker, D-5th, (W. Maui, S. Maui); state Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, D-13th (Kalihi, Nu’uanu); state Sen. Carol Fukunaga, D-11th (Makiki, Pawa’a); and former state Rep. Kenneth Hiraki wrote similar letters in July 2004 to Robert Kritzman, Norwegian’s executive vice president, backing Kanno’s role in resolving Rouse’s claims. Baker had given Rouse a recommendation for the cabin steward job.

Kanno and Rouse met with Kritzman and another Norwegian executive at the state Capitol in late July 2004 in what Kanno described to the commission as a “voluntary process to mediate an alleged unfair employment practice.”

After Kritzman refused to rehire Rouse, Kanno joined seven other lawmakers ? including the four who had written before ? in an August 2004 letter to Norwegian asking for back pay, travel costs and expenses for Rouse.

——–

Lawmakers routinely write letters for constituents with problems and meet with private executives about legislation or public policy. But several people who have followed the Norwegian case believe Rouse received an unusual degree of political support.

The Advertiser reported last May that Rouse and his family were able to get several prominent state and national politicians to write diplomatic officials on his behalf when he was in prison in the Philippines. A United Nations committee ruled last July that Rouse did not receive a fair trial in the Philippines and suffered cruel an inhuman punishment by not getting proper medical treatment while in custody.

Big surprise; people involved in politics ask for and receive more political support than people unknown to politicians. An “unusual” degree of political support is not the trigger for an ethical violation, however. The law speaks to “unwarranted” privileges, exemptions, advantages, etc. Put another way, not everyone who deserves help actually asks for help from government officials. Rouse did.

My (evolving) personal opinion is that Kanno’s case is far from a slam dunk for either side, given the information we are privy to at this time. If you have the inclination, read all those PDFs and form your own opinion.

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Multiple teams to look at dam failure

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:46 am
An interesting SB piece describes two teams of investigators sent to examine the Kaloko Reservoir.

“A large scientific team” of at least 10 experts hired by the state attorney general’s office will be on hand to find out exactly what caused the breach, Attorney General Mark Bennett said yesterday.

And the state Public Utilities Commission, which began an investigation April 13, is scheduled to do its own site inspection of the dam Wednesday, said Stacey Djou, chief legal counsel of the commission.

Meanwhile, in Honolulu yesterday, Bennett agreed with a state Senate resolution that will set up a special deputy attorney to spearhead the investigation.

The Attorney General’s outside experts, though, are expected to help determine the future of both the civil and criminal investigations into the dam breach.

“The professional qualifications (of those) doing the work are unimpeachable,” Bennett said.

Maybe so, but too bad the investigation team could not have been assembled by the Special Deputy AG…

I have a bigger concern with this portion of the article:

One of the “crucial questions” the experts will try to answer is whether the earthen dam overtopped, Bennett said.

Overtopping, which causes about 35 percent of all U.S. dam failures, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is when water overflows the earthen dam, eroding the other side and eventually compromising the dam’s integrity.

Gordon Rosa, property manager for dam owner James Pflueger, has asserted that the water was nowhere near the top of the dam, either when he checked it the night before the breach or afterward, judging by the debris line. Rosa and those close to Pflueger have said the dam just was old and blew out.

If the overtopping did not occur, it is possible that the continued conversations about a spillway become moot. The spillway, designed to be an emergency safety valve to prevent overtopping, has been the source of much debate over its location and existence.

Even if the experts determine that the dam did not overtop, it would not make the location and condition (or existence) of a spillway a moot point. I’m not a civil engineer, but if a spillway was part of the original design of the dam and was intended to allow a certain amount of flow when the water in the reservoir reached a proscribed depth then any alteration or degradation of the spillway such that the water within the reservoir could reach a greater depth could possibly overwhelm the dam – even if it did not exceed the level required to actually overtop. A spillway problem could have caused the old dam to “blow out.” Think about it.

Also, I note the “not worried about it” comments from Mr. Hitch of Kilauea Irrigation company, another target of investigation (and, increasingly, Mr. Pflueger’s chosen scapegoat).

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Carlisle says he won’t run for U.S. House

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:45 am
The Advertiser confirms the word I heard yesterday regarding Peter Carlisle.

“When I ran for a third term as Honolulu prosecutor I feel I committed to serving that term,” Carlisle said yesterday. “I need to finish my tour of duty as prosecutor, that’s the bottom line.”

——–

Sam Aiona, the state GOP chairman, said Carlisle would have been an excellent candidate for the party. “We will be there to support him if he decides to run in the future,” Aiona said.

This is good news for Representative Case insofar as the less interesting the Republican primary races are, the more likely it is that (strategic) crossover voters and independents will choose to participate in Case’s primary election race against Senator Akaka.

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More on the Carmel Partners modus operandi

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:44 am
One more story that I didn’t get to on Thursday. The SB had this article about the sale of the Kukui Gardens affordable rentals. The Advertiser previously did some digging on the likely buyer, and in this piece the SB adds to what is known.

When Carmel Partners bought a large rental complex in San Francisco, they raised the rents.

“There was nothing nefarious about any of this,” said Joseph Bravo, an attorney who represented Carmel Partners at more than 20 hearings with the rent board.

Bravo said “these were legitimate costs and pass-throughs” to the tenants.

“These guys are not slumlords. They have properties all over the country and are very professional managers,” said Bravo, an attorney who represents landlords as well as tenants.

“They come in, fix a property up and make it a nice place to live. They’re not like robber barons coming in and laying waste to everything and then moving on,” he said, adding, “If you don’t spend money on property, it falls apart.”

Bravo said Carmel typically takes over properties that have not been maintained and upgrades them. After about five years, he said, they sell it.

Carmel began investing $35 million to update the project – built for returning World War II veterans – with new landscaping, a fitness center, a small movie theater, fountains, irrigation, a new administration building and even a $1 million Montessori school.

To defray some costs, Carmel sold 153 units to neighboring San Francisco State University for $20 million, according to news accounts.

But it also turned to tenants.

Collejo, head of the Parkmerced Tenants’ Association, said once Carmel took control, there were rent hikes and pass-through charges to tenants to pay for a range of costs from new landscaping, irrigation and utilities to laundry room costs.

The first wave of rent increases and pass-through expenses for operation and maintenance went through 14 hearings at the rent board. On the table, the tenants were facing a rent increase to absorb about $7 million of Carmel’s debt service for buying the projects and other maintenance expenses that ranged from garbage bills to pest control.

Honolulu has no rent control, of course, so, come 2011 and barring any legislation to the contrary in the interim, any increases in rent would not need government approval. Any legislation to condemn the property would be a “taking,” and Carmel Partners would be paid fair value for the property. In that case, maybe the tenants would like to sit tight while Carmel spruces up the place and then seek condemnation. Heh.

I’m still wondering what happened to rents at Moanulua HIllside after Carmel Partners bought it. Was it still classified as “affordable” when CP bought it from Ching, or had that designation lapsed?

Incidentally, a House Committee passed out a concurrent resolution on Friday. It “urges” the current owners to sell the property to a qualified affordable housing non-profit organization. Too late.

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4/21/2006

Special Deputy AG deal reached

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:33 pm
Well, it appears that an “independent” lawyer will be hired to investigate the Kaloko Reservoir disaster after all. The Advertiser has a preview of the agreement reached between the Legislature and the Attorney General.

State Attorney General Mark Bennett has agreed, in principle, to appoint a special deputy to investigate any civil liability by the state, Kaua’i County or private landowners in the fatal breach of the Kaloko dam.

Bennett would select the deputy from a list recommended by the state Legislature and would potentially share information that his office has already gathered into the March 14 dam failure that killed seven people in Kilauea. The deputy would have a degree of autonomy to pursue a civil investigation but would still be under Bennett’s overall direction. The deputy would report any findings to Bennett and the Legislature.

Bennett will continue to have exclusive control over any potential criminal investigation involving Kaloko, and his office would prosecute if any alleged crimes are discovered.

Hmmm. I still am unsure if there is any way the state can be found liable, but maybe the law only grants the State immunity from criminal liability, leaving the State liable for civil suits? I dunno.

I fail to see how selecting an attorney from a list generated by the Legislature (a co-equal branch of State government) is any less likely to result in an attorney with a conflict of interest. Legislators could be nearly as eager to shift the blame away from the State as the Lingle administration (I assume) is.

The agreement, reached between Bennett and state lawmakers over the past few days, represents concessions from both sides about how to properly investigate the tragedy. Lawmakers are expected to give initial approval to a resolution outlining the agreement this afternoon.

Several lawmakers, responding to people who lost family, friends or property to the flooding after the breach, had called for an independent probe because of the appearance of a conflict of interest for Bennett in investigating other state agencies. Some were also concerned that Bennett had worked at the same law firm as William McCorriston, the attorney for retired auto dealer Jimmy Pflueger, who owns property around Kaloko. McCorriston has said there should be an independent investigation because he believes Bennett has targeted Pflueger to “get the state off the hook.”

The article goes on to explain the debate over what could be done by means of a concurrent resolution. It would require a bill to establish an independent counsel office and Ken Starr effectively poisoned the well of political support for that concept and any legislation to get it going would be a non-starter, I reckon. There is not enough time for a bill, and, what is left, the option of a concurrent resolution, is limited in what it can accomplish. Without the cooperation of Mr. Bennett the Lege really would have nothing to show as progress here. Concurrent resolutions “urge” and “request” but those operative verbs can be ignored by those addressed in the reso. Furthermore, even if he wanted to, Mr. Bennett is not free to simply agree to a completely independent investigation. The AG’s legal mandate is to handle these matters, not to delegate or surrender the work to an outsider. Investigating and prosecuting crimes is not a power to be hurriedly given to non-State actors.

Therefore, the Senate Draft of the reso that passed out of the Committee this afternon takes a less ambitious route. It leaves the criminal investigation and prosecution to the AG and asks for an independent Special Deputy AG to address the civil side investigation and litigation, if required.

I’m a bit puzzled by the BE IT RESOLVED clause that deals with the actual process of the appointment:

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the Twenty-third Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2006, the Senate concurring, that the Attorney General is requested to appoint, notwithstanding the special deputy attorney general process established under section 28-8(b), Hawaii Revised Statutes, a special deputy attorney general to conduct a civil but not a criminal investigation according to the following procedures:

(1) The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate President are requested to convene a Special Deputy Attorney General Selection Committee to be composed of:

(A) The Speaker of the House of Representatives or the Speaker’s designee, with no conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest;

(B) The House Minority Leader or the Minority Leader’s designee, with no conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest;

© The President of the Senate or the President’s designee, with no conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest;

(D) The Senate Minority Leader or the Minority Leader’s designee, with no conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest;

(2) The Attorney General is requested to consult with the Special Deputy Attorney General Selection Committee when establishing the qualifications and duties of the special deputy attorney general who will be responsible for conducting a civil investigation of the Kaloko reservoir dam breach;

(3) The Special Deputy Attorney General Selection Committee, in consultation with the Attorney General, is requested to compile and submit a list of at least five well-qualified attorneys who are willing to serve, who are willing to accept reasonable compensation for their service, who have no conflict of interest and whose law firms have no conflict of interest, and who are not currently representing parties adverse to the State in litigation and whose law firms are not concurrently representing parties adverse to the State in litigation, and are recommended by the Special Deputy Attorney General Selection Committee for appointment by the Attorney General as the special deputy attorney general responsible for conducting a civil investigation of the Kaloko reservoir dam breach; and

(4) The Attorney General is requested to appoint the special deputy attorney general responsible for conducting a civil investigation of the Kaloko reservoir dam breach from the list of names recommended by the Special Deputy Attorney General Selection Committee; and

Critiquing its form, I’ve never seen a resolution that uses language like “notwithstanding the HRS, do this.” I would hope that the AG may not disregard the HRS simply on the authority of a concurrent resolution.

More substantively, the AG “consults” with the Selection Committee to establish the qualifications and to choose the list of five well-qualified attorneys. Then the AG chooses one of the five. Honestly, I fail to see how this is process will yield much of a reduction in any (real or perceived) conflict of interest.

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Senator wants ‘loopholes’ closed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:33 pm
The Advertiser editorializes today on the State Procurement Office memorandum story which they covered yesterday:

Gov. Lingle should make it expressly clear that all future deals of this sort will go through the open procurement process. If not, the Legislature must act.

There was no need to short-cut the process. For months the state declined even to say which private companies had contributed. The explanation that the information was not public because private entities were handling the matter was thin, at best. The two private groups were under the direct supervision of the state.

Even though this arrangement may not have violated the letter of the procurement code, it clearly stepped around the spirit of the law.

Cue Senator Lorraine Inouye, who is quoted in another Advertiser article:

“I am in the process of drafting legislation to close loopholes in the state procurement code that allow public agencies to sidestep the state’s equal-opportunity procurement process,” Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-1st (Hamakua, S. Hilo), said in a written statement. “By making it clear what constitutes a contract between a public and private agency, the state can avoid questionable procurement practices in the future.”

Now, it could be that she intends to introduce this legislation in 2007, but the article leaves me with the impression that Inouye wants to take care of this now. At this point of the session it would be impossible to introduce new legislation, so the only recourse would be to amend some bill in Conference Committee to address this concern. However, in Conference there is no opportunity for public testimony and only a few legislators will participate in any amendment process.

Thus, it raises an ethical quandry: is eliminating the perceived procurement loophole more important than the Sunshine Law (even in its diluted Legislature application)? Heh.

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Why Quentin was quitter in 1998

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:32 pm
I was sailing Thursday evening, so I deffered posting a link to Borreca’s useful profile of Quentin Kawananakoa. Borreca remembers for us why Kawananakoa pulled out of the 1998 race for Congress:

Kawananakoa ran for the 1st Congressional District in 1998 but withdrew during the primary campaign, saying he was undergoing treatment for hypertension and its related conditions including heart palpitations, high blood pressure and severe headaches.

The Federal Elections Commission reports that Kawananakoa has already raised $53,105 for this new campaign.

In the 1998 campaign, Kawananakoa raised more than $228,000, but after withdrawing, Kawananakoa said he would return the unspent donations.

It also mentions his 2002 paraglider scare and a 1989 guilty plea on a drug charge.

Kawananakoa has a sizeable campaign account balance, and, combined with his name recognition, I’d have to say that puts him ahead of his Republican primary opponent, Bob Hogue. On a related note, I heard (from an interested party) today that Peter Carlisle will not be joining the race after all. July is still a long way off, of course.

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4/20/2006

No contract signed = no procurement violation

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:37 pm
Sean Hao of the Advertiser continues to follow the DBEDT trade mission controversy. The latest twist involves a memorandum from the State Procurement Office to DBEDT Director Ted Liu informing him that the no-contract manner in which the trade mission sponsorship funds were collected and expended does not violate procurement law.

However, if you follow the links in the article to the PDF versions of the memorandum and the contract protocol document, it becomes clear that it was a dubious way to comply with the law.

“We are encouraged that the state procurement officer has concluded that DBEDT’s fundraising effort in relation to the China-Korea Business and Trade Mission in 2005 did not violate the state procurement code,” said Ted Liu, director of DBEDT, in a written statement.

The responsibilities of the three major participants in the trip were detailed in a “Protocol and Procedural Framework,” which specified how much the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council and the District Export Council were to be paid.

The protocol “is not considered to be a procurement contract because, among other things, it is unsigned and does not indicate the parties’ agreement to be bound by it,” [SPO Administrator] Fujioka wrote in his memo.

Liu has said that the lack of a contract was not a deliberate attempt to sidestep procurement laws.

The Lingle administration’s reliance on private-sector sponsorships has been much greater than previous administrations, and Liu has said that was necessary because the Legislature cut his marketing budget.

“To the extent that we needed to raise money for business development missions, we tried to fully engage the private sector by making them partners in our plans,” Liu said in a written statement. “I plan to continue our outreach programs on behalf of Hawai’i’s business community and will work closely with the state procurement office in all our future plans.”

Fujioka recommended that the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism use the state’s procurement law on future trade missions.

“After completing our review, it is evident that concerns and issues surrounding the trade mission involve accountability,” he said in an interview. “To enhance disclosure and open government, they should utilize the procurement process in the future.”

Interesting. I think this may be the end of this part of the trade mission controversy. It’s clear to me that the unsigned “protocol” was used to sidestep procurement law, but I think Liu could safely argue that it fell into a grey area and, while hopefully the legislature will act to tighten up what is expected, I don’t think a similar scheme will be used again by DBEDT.

I did note these sentences from the closing paragraph of the SPO memo:

The DBEDT’s solicitation and expenditure of sponsorship funds was not reviewed by the SPO, as fundraising is not addressed by the Procurement Code. … Fundraising activities undertaken by government agencies such as the solicitation of sponsorship funds would require amendments to HRS chapter 103D in order to be subject to the Procurement Code.

Instead of (or in addition to) the SPO, the sponsorship solicitations should also be reviewed under the Ethics Commission—and no HRS amendments would be needed for that to happen. The sponsorship solicitation is where I believe the Lingle administration crossed an ethical line into “quid pro quo” in the offer of special favors for sponsors.

Note to Advertiser webmaster: Mahalo for the links to the protocol and SPO memo, but why not combine the PDFs into one document (or maybe two)? Seven links for seven pages is humbug.

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Ethics commission to hold hearing against Senator Kanno

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:36 pm
Several sources note that Senator Kanno will face a contested case hearing before the Ethics Commission in June. There is a PBN piece here, and Advertiser article here, and a short SB report here. The actual complaint, hearing notice and response are availabe in PDF here. Unfortunately, although Kanno’s response refers many times to his motion to dismiss which was submitted in November 2005, that document (and its numerous attachments) is not online. It’s impossible to fully understand Kanno’s response to the complaint without reading that motion.

The Advertiser piece (another impressive effort by DePledge) is an even-handed summary of the charge and the response—minus the missing document mentioned above. The other reports today pale in comparison.

In a charge made public yesterday, the commission claims Kanno, the chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, violated the law’s fair treatment section, which prohibits lawmakers from using their offices to give unwarranted privileges. The commission has scheduled a June hearing on the charge, the first contested-case hearing in 21 years and only the fourth since the commission was created in 1968.

Kanno, D-19th (Kapolei, Makakilo, Waikele), could not be reached for comment.

His attorney, Rebecca Covert, in a response filed with the commission, argues that the commission has violated the separation-of-powers doctrine of the state constitution by taking authority away from the Legislature. Covert also claims that the charge violates a constitutional provision that protects lawmakers from having to answer for actions that are within their legislative functions.

If the commission finds that Kanno violated the law, it would send a complaint to the president of the state Senate, who is allowed to do nothing or recommend that Kanno be censured, suspended or expelled.

The specific allegations of the charge will be considered at the contested case hearing, which I eagerly await. However, the constitutional defenses offered by Covert are interesting. Part of his defense pits Article III, Section 1 against Article XIV. Which will control? He makes another defense based upon Article III, Section 7. It seems that a lot would hinge on whether the allegations involved “legislative functions.” I’m no lawyer, but it could well be interesting.

The Case Note for Article III, Section 7, refers to a Supreme Court case where there was a discussion of the “exercise of legislative function.” As it happens, that case involved Neil Abercrombie (who was not yet a politician) and involved a slanderous statement made by then-State Senator McClung in a speech (and subsequent newspaper interview) at the capitol. The court held that even if the statements were slanderous, the statements were made in the exercise of his legislative function and were absolutely privileged and thus McClung could not be held to account by the Judiciary. Confused yet? If it’s okay for a legislator to slander people in his “official” capacity, then is it also okay for him to violate the Ethics Law?

As for “legisltaive function,” the Court held:

We are of the opinion that the above record of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention shows that the delegates to the Convention purposefully intended to broaden the scope of legislative immunity and further intended for the courts to finally determine the parameter of the legislative immunity by construing the clause “the exercise of his [legislator’s] function” on a case by case basis. The delegates did not place any restrictions premised on time and place of a legislator’s exercise of his legislative function.

Not really much help in clarifying the issue, now, is it?

Politically, the timing of the hearing couldn’t be much worse for Kanno (or much better for any challenger). The contested case process is likely to drag on for some time, possibly well into the campaign season (should Kanno decide to run for re-election). Even if Kanno prevails, this can’t help his campaign. Honestly, I don’t understand why it took more than a year for this charge to be brought after the GOP Senators raised their concerns, but whatever.

So much for my previous musings about the Ethics Commission having to render an opinion within 30 days… I was obviously mistaken, they can take as much time as they like, evidently.

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4/19/2006

Study for the possible pop quiz next time

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:59 pm
The Advertiser has an item about the bills that passed Final Reading in the House on Monday. Representative Finnegan, the Minority Leader, also did a press release that was posted at the Hawaii Reporter. Finnegan writes:

The members of the House of Representatives, both in the minority and majority parties, did not have the 24 hour notice to review the bills that were supposed to go to conference committees for more deliberation. Instead, the majority brought them out for immediate vote.

This rushed decision making was a clear move to pass bills in time to override potential vetoes by the Governor before the end of this session. The majority rushed through some 30 bills yesterday, instead of giving members of the House and the public 24 hour advanced notice before voting on final reading.

Although this 24 hour notice is practiced as a courtesy, it is a procedure among others that must be standardized. More important than any political maneuver, is the public?s and the member?s opportunity for ample time to review a bill before final decision making.

Referring to the sections I italicized: the Minority Leader has no excuse for not reviewing the House Bills returned from the Senate with a Senate Draft. First, from a stack of such bills one can automatically deduce that bills with defective effective dates and those with any (non-emergency) appropriation (be it a blank amount or a specific amount) will not be sent directly to the Governor until the Executive Budget conference is completed and/or the effective dates are amended. When you apply that screen to the pile of House Bills returned with Senate Drafts, you are left with approximately 70 bills that could potentially go straight to the Governor after a Final Reading in the House. I know this because I did it today. It took me about 30 minutes to filter the stack of bills, and then anyone (public or legislator) could easily review that subset of bills in a few hours. She asks for 24 hour notice, but there was a three-day weekend when she should have prepared for the possibility that all 70-odd bills would hit the floor. If Finnegan didn’t do it, that’s her problem. Almost half of that stack ended up being sent to the Governor. It would have been worth her time to make the same effort [not that she could have stopped any of them, of course]. If the Governor vetoes any and there is an effort to overturn the veto(es), then there will be another chance to debate the bill(s) on the floor.

As for the denial of public input Finnegan implies, for better or for worse, there is currently no provision for the public to actively participate in conference meetings, much less any provision for the public to weigh in on procedural motions on the House floor. The public may contact legislators directly to oppose the Senate Drafts, of course, but the public could have exercised that option as soon as the Senate Drafts were made public—way back on April 7th.

In a small way, I consider this episode to be a form of karmic payback to Democrats for the patently unfair parliamentary schemes in the U.S. House of Representatives under Republican leadership. Heh.

Finnegan and the rest of the Minority Caucus were caught flat-footed Monday, that’s all. There are many valid Sunshine Law improvements to be made at the Lege, but this isn’t even one of the top ten.

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Apolitical UH President McClain?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:59 pm
Bob Jones has a profile of University of Hawaii President David McClain in the latest Midweek. The whole point of the article is that McClain does not reveal his political opinions even though he holds what can be considered a bully pulpit billet.

Thinking that an examination of his academic work might provide some insight, I did a fair amount of Googling. First, I was unable to find a curriculum vitae for McClain online anywhere. His official webpage says that he wrote a book about the 1987 stock market crash, and hundreds of scholarly articles and columns on economic issues. I can’t find any of those online, either, though I don’t doubt that they exist in print.

The closest thing I could find online to articles that might reveal his politics were from the SB archives:

This 1999 column quotes McClain questioning the supply-side economics of the (then) new Nobel [sic] Laureate Robert Mundell:

McClain thinks the Wall Street Journal went way overboard in saying Mundell had it right while economist John Maynard Keynes had it wrong.

KEYNES died half a century ago and had it right about advising the U.S. government to spend its way out of the great depression. Japan is following Keynes today, McClain reminded me. If there are Keynesian errors, McClain says, they came from his disciples going too far in trying to fine-tune the U.S. economy.

Next I found out from a 2004 article that McClain is a good bowler, which is neither here nor there, but fun to note.

UH interim president David McClain almost chose pro bowling over academia.

“I was a good bowler as a kid. I was an only child, and it was a thing me and my parents could do as a family,” McClain said in an interview at his office last week. “Some people are gym rats. I was a bowling alley rat.”

McClain, who grew to be 6-foot-3, also played basketball and baseball as a kid in St. Joseph, Mo. His first love was the diamond; when he couldn’t be on it, he played tabletop dice and card baseball games at home – that appealed to his love of the game as well as numbers, and his dream to play the sport for a living some day.

“When I was in around fifth grade, I was asked my three first choices for what I wanted to do in my life,” McClain recalled. “I wrote down baseball player, mathematician and astronomer.”

Bowling, though, was his best sport. His top game was 289 and he once rolled a 718 series. McClain played on the club team at the University of Kansas, but instead of trying to make it as a pro kegler, he ended up in the Army in Vietnam and later earned a Ph.D. and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University.

Pro?! I thnk not. Both of my parents have rolled better than that! Chump.

Moving on.

In 1997 McClain told A.A. Smyser that he was guardedly pessimistic about the stock market. Somewhat interesting in that he was worried about a 1997 international market uncertainty that looked similar to what led up to the 1987 crash, but (in this particular piece) doesn’t see a technology bubble that finally burst a few laters. Whatever, I’m no economist by any stretch and I’m Monday morning quarterbacking.

Finally, a 2001 article has a link to an academic work by McClain, but it is not specifically about McClain’s views, but rather those of a large group of economists:

In a report released today, written by David McClain, dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, a panel of the National Association for Business Economics says the Federal Reserve has not lowered interest rates far enough.

The report’s results are based on a survey of 267 members of an association panel.

McClain said the economists had a number of concerns about the government’s monetary policy and its effect on the economy.

One-third of the association’s panelists now believe the federal monetary policy is too conservative. In previous surveys over the past five years, no more than 16 percent of the panel have disagreed with the Fed’s stance.

“It’s been a long time since we thought the feds were too tight,” McClain said. “Now, for the first time in five years, a full one-third of our panel is saying no.”

Although the panelists agreed with the Federal Reserve and private forecasts that suggest the country is likely to experience moderate recovery in the second half of this year, they still want further tax cuts.

“Across-the-board tax cuts is the way to go. While paying down the debt makes sense, we need some tax cuts sooner than that,” McClain said.

Anyway, to go back to Jones’ article: do I care that McClain doesn’t reveal his politics? Not too much. Am I interested in what his politics actually might be? A little.

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Akaka’s national connections dry up money, says Case

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:59 pm
Another well-done article by Derrick DePledge in the Advertiser today nets some very interesting bits about the Democratic primary race for U.S. House.

[Representative] Case said he believes the Democratic establishment, which is protective of incumbents, is trying to dry up his fundraising.

“I know it for a fact,” the congressman said. “There has been a pretty conscious effort inside of Washington to make sure that funding doesn’t come my way.”

Case raised money from both his U.S. House campaign committee and his Senate primary committee during the quarter and also transferred about $180,000 over from his House committee for his primary run.

Case said he has heard some apprehension in the Islands from Democrats who say they want to contribute to his campaign but do not want to be perceived as disloyal to [Senator] Akaka. “They want to help me under the radar screen, that’s what’s happening,” he said.

The September primary will not likely approach the cost of some Senate races on the Mainland, which can run from $6 million to $10 million and beyond, but it will probably be expensive by Island standards.

Although the candidate with the most money will have an advantage, mostly through the ability to buy more television advertising, Hawai’i’s single statewide television market gives the candidate with the more limited budget a similar reach. The primary also could be the most interesting political story of the year, so Akaka and Case can count on extensive newspaper, television and radio coverage.

…and web coverage, too!

I’m puzzled by Case’s quote about the “under the radar screen” contributions from Hawaii supporters. He says, “that’s what’s happening?”

Uh, does that mean that Case is accepting anonymous contributions? That’s not allowed, as far as I know…

Meanwhile, the Hawaii County Papers have articles (Hawaii Tribune-Herald here, and West Hawaii Today here) that discusses the fundraising progress, too, but also includes some quotes regarding the “debate” Monday.

Case, speaking to Hawaii Pacific University political science students Monday afternoon, said that Sen. Daniel Inouye, a Democrat who is not up for reelection this year, carries “95 percent of the load” in the U.S. Senate, and it’s time to bring in some new blood to help him.

“I want him to serve, and I want to serve with him,” Case said.

Case blasted Akaka for not coming to the Hawaii Pacific University forum, which had originally been billed as a debate between the two candidates.

“I’m very sorry that Sen. Akaka didn’t come today,” Case said. “It’s always difficult to conduct a campaign if you’re the only one. … You can’t get to what I believe is a vital choice for Hawaii without some basis for comparison.”

But Yadao said, “We never made a commitment to appear at that event.”

She said Akaka wants to attend events that are “informative rather than contentious,” and he would be making many appearances as the campaign season gets into full swing. She couldn’t say whether that would include a debate sometime in the future.

She couldn’t say?! If that remains an open question then we should expect Case to keep banging the debate drum until he gets an answer, yea or nay. I also note that well-moderated debates can be both contentious and informative, despite Yadao’s false dichotomy.

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4/18/2006

Bills sent to Governor early enough to override vetoes

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:51 pm
The Advertiser ran this almost innocuous article about a bill to (re-) designate the state fish. Since it passed final reading in the legislature so early, the Governor must quickly decide if she will veto this bill, sign it into law, or allow it to become law without her signature.

The measure is credited by its introducer, Rep. Blake Oshiro, to the 6-year-old son of a constituent, Joel Itomura. It was Joel who brought the lack of an official designation for the humuhumu to the attention of Oshiro, D-33rd (Halawa, ‘Aiea, Pearlridge).

Lingle has 10 days to veto the bill or sign it into law. If she takes no action, the bill would take effect without her signature.

In a letter last year to Chuck Johnston, who had asked that she give the fish back its position through executive order, Lingle said the question should be left to the public to decide. She also pointed out that historically, the bony critter was not held in high regard by Hawaiians.

Awwww, could she really be considering a veto of little Joel’s bill? [sniff]

The Republicans were quite up in arms on the House floor yesterday over that bill and many others. Many bills that were introduced in the House and amended in the Senate were returned after second crossover (late last week). The House routinely makes blanket motions to disagree to the amendments proposed by the Senate, and those motions are what send the measures to Conference meetings.

Yesterday, however, the House leadership made a procedural motion to reconsider the earlier motion and then moved to agree to the Senate amendments made to certain House measures. The Republicans were upset that they were not given advance notice of this motion and that they had to vote on the bills for Final Reading without being familiar with the substance of the bills or having time to martial their arguments (and opposition), but the Speaker would have nothing of it. After hearing a few such complaints, Speaker scolded the Republicans for not reading the bills when they returned from the Senate. After the entire weekend with the bills in their possession, there is no valid (parliamentary) excuse for not being ready to debate the merits and demerits of the bills. A motion sends the bills to Conference, and a motion can bring them right back to the floor. Ready or not.

As a result, in addition to the humuhumu bill, the following House Bills all passed Final Reading and were sent to the Governor yesterday: HB 1, HB 173, HB 877, HB 1155, HB 1233, HB 1833, HB 1899, HB 1947, HB 1983, HB 1984, HB 2050, HB 2192, HB 2207, HB 2210, HB 2273, HB 2275, HB 2346, HB 2347, HB 2434, HB 2443, HB 2454, HB 2457, HB 2508, HB 2747, HB 2780, HB 2898, HB 3018, HB 3194, HB 3253, HB 3257

A number of those bills are possible veto fodder, but, since they passed Final Reading so early, the Lege could overturn the vetoes without going into special session. A few stand out:

HB 1233 SD1 would prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender expression or identity. This bill has several people (from both sides of the aisle) concerned about who will be using the women’s restrooms and showers. There were reservations among the supporters, so it’s questionable if the bill has broad enough support to overturn a veto, should that happen.

HB 1984 SD1 requires a committee to investigate issues related to public access via the internet to criminal conviction data (but not to examine the sex offender registry). The inclusion of the ACLU and Public Defender on the committee could raise red flags for committe members representing the attorney general, who could be expected to favor expansive access or the member representing the Judiciary, who will probably be mostly concerned with the logistics of any database and not the policy question .

HB 2207 SD1 tries to address a legal thicket regarding what constitutes “continuous sexual assault of a minor.”

HB 2457 SD1 amends the State plan to recognize the military presence in Hawaii as an area of important State concern, while recognizing “social, environmental, and cultural goals.” Sound like something inspired by Makua Valley to you? Yup.

HB 2780 SD1 allows expungement of first-time drug offenses for those who comply with terms of the court and complete substance abuse treatment. Anathematic to the lock-em-up folks.

Some of these bills are not controversial, with the Senate only making technical, nonsubstantive amendments to the House draft. There may be other controversial bills at risk than those I noted here, but you get the gist. There are political advantages to exercising veto power and overturning vetoes for both parties. Hot button bills such as these give both sides a chance to show their differences and make political hay.

While I’m at it, there are other bills that have already passed Final Reading, a complete list is available here. As the Governor signs bills into law, they are listed here.

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Newspaper in PDF. Why?

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:42 pm
As a “registered user” at West Hawaii Today, I got an email announcing an E-edition Demo website.

Sounds like a pretty dumb idea to me. Why would a reader pay for PDF versions of the same stories they can read for free in html? They even try to boast of being able to see the ads in PDF just as they appear in the print version. Hooray?

An electronic subscription ain’t cheap, either!

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4/17/2006

TIME calls Akaka one of five worst Senators

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:43 pm
A short piece in TIME magazine counts Senator Daniel Akaka among the five worst members of the U.S. Senate.

By all accounts, Daniel Akaka is an affectionate and earnest man. Even a conservative fire-breather like Oklahoma’s James Inhofe says his ultraliberal colleague “is a lovable person, and most of us are not that lovable.” As a legislator, though, Akaka is living proof that experience does not necessarily yield expertise. After 16 years on the job, the junior Senator from Hawaii is a master of the minor resolution and the bill that dies in committee.

Oooof! That’s not pulling any punches, haha.

I don’t follow Congress very closely, so I can’t confirm or deny the “Master” title the article bestows on Akaka. However, it is a fact that a legislator can be effective without authoring (or simply taking credit for) major legislation. The article goes on to quote an expert saying that Senator Inouye casts a “very long shadow” that engulfs Akaka. What’s striking to me in this group of articles is that Arizona has both its Senators on the “best” list. They note in Kyl’s profile that usually the junior Senator of every state “lives in the shadow cast by a giant senior colleague.”

The article gives no hint of the screen applied to the Senators that yielded these particular 10 ‘best” and 5 “worst” legislators. That’s too bad, because if it were done properly it could have been a much more interesting (and credible) article.

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It’s the principle, not the story, that matters

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:36 pm
The SB editorializes today on the decision by the Army to allow the press to cover legal hearings involving a soldier accused of murder. I had posted about this reversal earlier, and the editors make largely the same arguments I posed when the hearing was initially closed to the press.

The Military Reporters and Editors group joined this newspaper in contesting Mitchem’s decision to the Pentagon and to the commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division. The order for closing was revoked.

Ahem, the hearing was Friday…

After all this chest-thumping about their victory allowing them to get inside, was there any report in the SB about what happened at that hearing last Friday? If so, I sure missed it. Well?…

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Harry Kim STILL not running for Governor

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:32 pm
This is news?

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald and the West Hawaii Today run an article on the “no news is news” theme; Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim is not running for Governor at this time. Read it here or here, if you care to.

“I really don’t want to run for governor,” Kim said last week.

Nevertheless, the article plows ahead describing how Kim will need to resign his mayoral seat, campaign on a shoestring budget, move to Honolulu, etc. There are a few interesting nuggets among all this idle chatter, though.

According to the Hawaii County Charter, a mayoral vacancy would be filled by the county’s managing director, currently Dixie Kaetsu.

A special election would then be held to pick a successor to serve the remaining two years of Kim’s term, starting in December, according to the charter.

Waiting until the filing deadline would leave little time for most candidates to organize and wage a successful campaign, but perhaps not for Kim. He entered the 2000 mayor’s race – Kim had never before run for office – just two days before the filing deadline.

“As each day goes by, it’s one day less spent raising money and getting organized,” said Sam Aiona, chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party.

The GOP wants the election to be about Lingle, he said.

“The focus will be on all of the accomplishments she’s made, rather than on her opponent,” Aiona said.

Lingle’s accomplishments will be “the focus” of the campaign only if the media roll over and play along. However, unless the mud starts flying early in the Governor race, I expect the media will probably key on the races for Congress. Those races are, comparatively speaking, much more interesting at the moment.

Kim’s merits and demerits aside, it would be interesting if Harry Kim ran for Governor on a skimpy budget insomuch as it would be an experiment to see how the media covers a multi-million dollar candidate versus a low-budget candidate. Given the meager media coverage usually provided to third-party, low-budget candidates, it is hard to predict how the media would respond to a lopsided contest between the two “major” parties.

Oh, and there is also that Randy Iwase fellow. I almost forgot about him, haha. He’s way behind Lingle in fundraising, too, but light years ahead of Kim.

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Former Party chair is now an “intern”

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:31 pm
The SB editorializes today with criticism of the private sector interns at the Legislature.

The State Ethics Commission has begun to examine an internship program in the Legislature to determine whether business executives are using it to gain inside influence. The program operates in a way that invites abuse and should be either drastically altered or eliminated.

Random googling on the most high-profile intern, Mr. Forman, revealed that he was (briefly) chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party. Interesting that nobody else has mentioned that part of his background. That Forman is a party insider comes as no surprise, since Representative Herkes previously acknowledged that Forman had connections to U.S. Senator Inouye and others in Washington, D.C.

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More House candidates break cover

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:28 pm
The SB has two brief items in the “Political File” today. The first is another piece about the Democrat who seeks to replace Representative Hale, but the second is new to me:

Della Au Belatti, an attorney with the state Senate Majority Research office and a former member of the Campaign Spending Commission, is running for the state House in the 25th District, Tantalus and Makiki.

Au served on the Campaign Spending Commission from 1996 to 2003, when it launched some of its major investigations into campaign corruption.

Au, 32, who had been a teacher at Maryknoll High School, said serving on the commission caused her to become more interested in the law. She graduated from the University of Hawaii law school in 2003.

“The Makiki district has many of the issues of urban living, a lack of community feeling and environmental issues, plus affordable housing,” Au said.

State Rep. Brian Schatz, the incumbent, is running for the 2nd Congressional District and will not seek re-election.

Schatz faced several Republican opponents in the past, and it’s unclear who will challenge Au. I even remember current GOP Chair Sam Aiona running against Schatz a few cycles ago, and giving him a good race.

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4/16/2006

3-strikes for criminals = tee-ball for prosecutors

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:10 am
A large group of academics and community activists submitted an op-ed in vigorous opposition to the so-called 3-strikes legislation about to enter Conference Committee debate. I posted about this legislation earlier, so today I want to focus on this small section of the piece:

No one wants predators threatening the community. While in some cases a 30-year-to-life sentence may be just and appropriate, criminal justice experts agree that a one-size-fits-all approach to sentencing produces unjust results.

Judges will tell you that every crime has a story, and a different set of circumstances. The facts and circumstances of each case need to be closely examined, with an appropriate sentence imposed on each offender based on the facts of the particular case ? not by a mandatory process that leaves no room for judicial discretion.

That is why many federal judges and the American Bar Association oppose mandatory sentencing.

The mandatory sentencing scheme under the proposed three-strikes bill would have the effect of increasing prosecutorial power. That’s why such bills appeal to prosecutors: they increase the prosecutor’s almost unfettered power in deciding whom to charge for what offense. And prosecutors are accountable to no one for these decisions ? no judicial review and no public accountability.

We have no way to know to what extent plea agreements skew the judicial process. Clearly, the so-called “revolving door” would spin more slowly if criminals were not offered deals for lesser sentences in exchange for pleading guilty. With a 3-strikes law in place, the incentive to plea bargain will be exacerbated since the police and prosecutor will have an even bigger threat to hang over criminals. i.e. Plead guilty to this “non-violent” crime or this will be another “strike” and possibly the one to put you away for a very long time. Is that making the public any safer? Not really, but the whole judicial system uses plea bargaining as a crutch to try to streamline the criminal trial process.

I am reminded of the periodic outrage about “stop snitchin” t-shirts. Slate had an excellent article that tied that phenomena into the topic of police and prosecutorial power, too.

The government’s traditional justification for creating criminal snitches ? “we-need-to-flip-little-fishes-to-get-to-the-Big-Fish” ? is at best an ideal and mostly the remnant of one. Today, the government lets all sorts of criminals, both big and little, trade information to escape punishment for nearly every kind of crime, and often the snitches are more dangerous than the targets. As reported by Wall Street Journal reporter Laurie Cohen last year: “The big fish gets off and the little fish gets eaten. … [T]he procedure for deciding who gets [rewarded for cooperation] is often haphazard and tilted toward higher-ranking veteran criminals who can tell prosecutors what they want to know.”

Snitching thus puts us right through the looking glass: Criminals direct police investigations while avoiding arrest and punishment. Nevertheless, snitching is ever more popular with law enforcement: It is easier to “flip” defendants and turn them into snitches than it is to fight over their cases. For a criminal system that has more cases than it can litigate, and more defendants than it can incarcerate, snitching has become a convenient case-management tool for an institution that has bitten off more than it can chew.

——–

While snitching will never be abolished, the practice could be substantially improved, mostly by lifting the veil of secrecy that shields law-enforcement practices from public scrutiny. As things stand, police and prosecutors can cut a deal with a criminal; turn him into a snitch or cut him loose; forgive his crimes or resurrect them later; release him into the community; or decide to pick him up. They do all this at their discretion, without legal rules, in complete secrecy with no judicial or public accountability. As a result, we have no idea whether snitching even reduces crime or actually increases it, and we can only guess at the collateral harms it imposes on high-crime communities.

The government should reveal snitching’s real costs, including data on how many snitches are released into high-crime neighborhoods and what sorts of snitch crimes are forgiven. The government should also be required to establish the concrete benefits of a policy that releases some criminals to catch others, by accounting for how much crime actually gets stopped or solved by snitch information. Only then can we rationally evaluate how much government-sponsored snitching makes sense. Until we can know the real value of snitching, the T-shirts remain an important reminder that this particular cure for crime may be as bad as the disease.

Police and prosecutors consistently complain that “lenient judges” are causing people to lose faith in the criminal justice system. That may be one factor, but at least the judges impose sentence in public. If the pre-trial activities of the police and prosecutors were ever held to the same standards of openness and appeal, I think that their public image would fare even worse than judges’.

We should not expect to see any legislators tripping over each other in a race to propose such a reform. Nearly everyone prefers to be willfully ignorant of the seamier side of the justice system. Whatever the police and prosecutors do is portrayed as (and perceived to be) almost axiomatically “tough on crime.”

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“Adult” merchandise legislation sent to Governor

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:09 am
This post ought to bring a flood of interesting search engine hits… Heh.

I stumbled across a peculiar article press release in the Molokai Island Times about a bill awaiting action by the Governor, Houe Bill 2885, which aims to regulate stores that sell pornographic merchandise.

Sex toys, clothing branded with vulgarities, and other explicit materials clearly targeted for adults were conspicuously displayed along aisles crowded with youths.

After filing a complaint with the shopping center’s management and getting no response, [the woman who raised the issue behind the bill] brought the issue to the attention of local police. She said they had received complaints in the past but were surprised to hear how offensive the situation had become. A visit by police resulted in the rearrangement of merchandise, but it did little to mitigate the visibility of adult products once inside the store.

“I was told that there wasn’t much else anyone could do,” said [the woman]. “Regulation regarding these kinds of products and the way they’re displayed falls into a gray area that makes for some very relaxed enforcement.”

House Bill 2885 seeks to reconcile such ambiguity by establishing concrete guidelines in determining whether an item is pornographic and mandating how such items are presented at a business open to the general public.

Reconcile the ambiguity? I beg to differ. This bill and the definition of pornography it adopts by reference do not exist in a vacuum. Look at the sections of existing law immediately following the definition of pornography: displaying “indecent” matter is already prohibited, promoting pornography is prohibited, and promoting pornography for minors is prohibited. Obviously there are numerous businesses selling material much more prurient than anything at Spencer Gifts, so there is not much change to be found in relying on the existing definition of pornography. i.e. if hardcore sex videos are okay, then I would think that t-shirts with sexual innuendo and curse words must be okay, too.

This legislation would create more confusion than it resolves, in my opinion. To have the effect the woman wanted, the bill would need to amend the definition of “material” (found in the same section as the pornography definition), which is limited to printed matter, visual depictions and sound recordings, to include whatever kind of merchandise motivated her crusade. However, the footnote here says that specifying the “material” sold may not be necessary. I am not a lawyer.

My guess is the Governor will sign it anyway to avoid the wrath of her Right flank.

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Hogue enters GOP primary for U.S. House vacancy

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:08 am
The Advertiser has a piece here about Bob Hogue’s intent to run for U.S. Congress. It also mentions Peter Carlisle’s possible run, and Kawananakoa, too.

A contested Republican primary for the U.S. House could have an influence on the U.S. Senate race, because Republican and independent voters would have an incentive to pull a Republican ballot in the 2nd District rather than take a Democratic ballot and be eligible to vote for Case or Akaka. Some Democratic insiders believe that Case needs crossover votes to help overcome Akaka’s strength with establishment Democrats.

Yup, yup. The primary race is going to be fascinating this year. I wonder if the lower contests on both of the primary ballots will see more (credible) challengers, too?

Hogue’s announcement leaves an open seat in state Senate District 24 that Democrats will likely mark as an opportunity to increase their majority. Democrats have a 20-to-5 majority in the Senate, and Republicans may have a problem finding a candidate with Hogue’s appeal.

Jill Tokuda, of Kane’ohe, a former aide to Hirono who also served as the Democratic Party of Hawai’i’s executive director [and recently as PR person/lobbyist for Reynolds Recycling], has filed papers to run in the Democratic primary in Senate District 24.

Hmmm. Hogue is the Senator for my district. The obvious Republican frontrunner to replace Hogue has to be (the Representative of my district) Cynthia Thielen. Hedge: unless Thielen resides in Senator Hemmings’ district…

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CC&R politics – rarely in the news

Filed under:
HI Media
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:08 am
I was surprised to see this Hawaii Tribune-Herald article about a disagreement among residents of Hawaii Paradise Park subdivision over the question of non-commercial use vs. commercial use of parcels of unused land previously set aside for schools and parks. With more “master planned” communities always coming online, the homeowner associations, i.e. the “government” of these organizations, are akin to small town councils – with similarly sparse media coverage. The instant article is an exception.

Some Hawaiian Paradise Park residents are upset at one homeowner’s suggestion to remove the restrictive covenants on six 20-acre parcels designated schools and parks.

“It’s a heck of a good idea,” Walter Moe said Wednesday’s meeting of the HPP Owners Association, on which Moe sits. “Why don’t we take 20 acres and borrow some money, create some shops and lease it out to business people. Then we can have an income source for all time to come.”

Landowner Bobbie Alicen said board members aren’t considering the future needs of the community.

“I am disappointed the question ever came up,” she said. “We have these properties that we set aside for parks and schools. The deed says we can’t violate the deed conditions. It says the land can never be used for residential, commercial, mercantile or business. It says this should be forever and that if anyone makes an effort to not follow the deed or use it for its intended use, then anyone, even one person, can sue.”

Moe said property owners need to realize county government is never going to help them build their infrastructure.

“We have to recognize the county will not fund anything in this community,” he said. “They have avoided the issue for all these years and they are not going to change.”

I’m sure every homeowners association has its share of political intrigue, they may only differ in scale. I suppose that each covenant would be unique in some ways, but, in general, I wonder how difficult it is for the residents to change the deeds once they are homeowners. Alicen’s comment seems to indicate that, at least at HPP, a single homeowner may veto any change in the deed. Is that true? Does the developer have a similar veto power, even if all the homeowners wanted a change?

Most of these homeowner associations levy a tax on their residents, politely called “dues” or somesuch. There is a board that operates as a legislative body, and the developer (or a management company) is usually the equivalent of an executive branch. I don’t think these communities have independent judicial systems, though. The deed is the “constitution” and it sounds like amending it is almost impossible.

This is not the type of government many people would choose for themselves, but the housing shortage being what it is, there’s not a lot anyone can do to opt out. Do I have a point? Not really, I’m just thinking out loud.

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Hale to retire and endorse a newcomer in the already contested race

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:07 am
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald runs another piece all-but-confirming that Representative Helene Hale is wrapping up her political career. The article is a friendly profile of (the revered) Hale, but it also has a lot of other news about the Puna district politic happenings:

Hale said she plans to rest for a while after retirement, then focus on one of her lifelong passions.

“My major interest is world peace,” she said. “I really want to see that we have peace. I think that’s the most important thing in the world.”

Hale said she will remain active in the local United Nations chapter she helped to establish.

She’ll also help promote fellow Democrat Luana Jones, a Pohoiki resident running for the 4th District House seat.

“She’s my candidate,” Hale said, adding that Jones is “very intelligent.”

Jones, 50, said she’s been a community advocate for more than 20 years, but “struggled” for weeks over her decision to seek elected office for the first time.

Jones said she decided to run for Hale’s seat only after getting encouragement to do so from state Sen. Russell Kokubun, D-Hilo, Puna, Ka’u.

“She’s a hard act to follow. She’s just amazing,” Jones said of Hale.

A member of the Native Hawaiian Education Island Council and the board of Neighborhood Place of Puna, Jones said she also mentors Puna school children and teaches health preparedness.

“I live to serve,” she said.

Jones said economic development, preserving agricultural lands, improving transportation and curbing “runaway” development are the biggest challenges facing lower Puna.

“Puna is a very special place, and we each have a purpose in being here,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from the old families here, and I would like to help perpetuate the Puna culture.”

As of Wednesday, the only other candidate in the 4th District House race is Republican Brian Jordan, who was runner-up to Hale in the 2004 House race.

“She really was influential in my joining politics,” Jordan said of Hale, adding it was “tough” running against her.

A resident of Hawaiian Beaches, Jordan served for 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps before retiring as a master sergeant. The 50-year-old now is employed doing workplace safety outreach for HR Works.

Health care, housing, education and environmental concerns are the biggest issues facing lower Puna, he said.

“My district has not been served well at all,” he said in reference to infrastructure deficiencies in the rapidly growing region.

One person who won’t be seeking Hale’s seat is Puna Councilman Gary Safarik.

“I’m running for council,” Safarik said Thursday. “I feel that was my promise to the people when I got elected in 2000, and I’m going to keep that promise.”

There are now at least 4 incumbents who have confirmed they won’t return to the Lege in 2007: Schatz and Hogue (giving up seats to run for Congress); and Kanoho and Hale (retiring). There will be more open seats, too, according to scuttlebutt.

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4/15/2006

Kawananakoa to announce Congress bid

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:32 pm
I have in front of me a postcard announcing that former State House Republican, Quentin Kawananakoa, will launch his campaign for U.S. Congress on April 23rd in Kailua (Oahu).

You may remember that he withdrew from politics due to health concerns in 1998. I also vaguely recollect a more recent article explaining (somewhat) what the problem was, but I can’t seem to dig it up.

This makes three, I reckon. The Republican primary may get as crowded as the Democrats’ ticket!

Comments (2)
Herke’s intern – additional perspectives

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:14 pm
The two Hawaii County papers flesh out the story about the corporate intern in Representative Herke’s office. The piece by Bobby Command is in the West Hawaii Today and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald runs the piece in an abridged form. There is some new information since yesterday. Ian Lind also riffs on the topic today.

Herkes said Forman’s efforts have dealt with funding of mobile health units for Ka’u. “He’s been a valuable resource because he’s worked in Washington and has connections with Daniel Inouye as well as FEMA,” said Herkes. “He’s had nothing to do with the rate regulation bills, and I have not talked to him about them at all.”

Forman said the HMSA Foundation is a separate entity from the state’s largest medical insurance provider. The foundation was established by HMSA in 1986 to fund research into issues regarding Hawaii’s health care industry. While it continues to be funded by HMSA, it became a private foundation with a grantmaking program in 1997.

“I’m not working on anything that relates to HMSA,” said Forman. “I was actually hired by the House Majority Staff Office (HMSO), and they sent me here (to work in Herkes’ office).”

There seems to be a missing sentence along the lines of, “Forman works for the HMSA Foundation.” It is implied, but not expressed. The beginning of the article simply identifies Forman as an HMSA executive. ??

Anyway, it seems that HMSA Foundation is non-profit think tank. That changes the dynamic somewhat, although I don’t know exactly how much daylight is between the work of the Foundation, the work of the Association proper, and the public interest.

Next, the hiring arrangement is also a bit muddled in the article. Did HMSO hire Forman as a State employee, or as an HMSA (Foundation?) employee to be placed as an intern?

Herkes said those who question his consumer advocacy have never examined his past work, which includes taking on the tobacco companies while a member of the County Council, and the telephone company to eliminate party lines in Ka’u. “I’m not at all embarrassed about my record of consumer protection,” he said.

Herkes also said the practice of using business executives as interns during the legislative session is common.

“There are a number of them at the Capitol right now,” said Herkes. “I’ve had them from the University of Hawaii before,” he said. “I’ve never had one from the private sector, but then I never needed one.”

Herkes said ethics questions regarding Forman are unfortunate. “He’s the hardest working staffer I’ve ever had in my political career,” said Herkes.

Also working in Herkes’ office as a paid staffer is Kathryn Matayoshi, the former director of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs under the Gov. Ben Cayetano administration.

Disclosure: I began my Lege career as a UH-Manoa legislative intern in 1997. The comparison Herkes makes of UH interns to Mr. Forman is apples-to-oranges. UH interns pay for a full course load (the program is considered 15 credit hours) and, in return, earn a stipend for the entire semester/session of $1500. (Is it still that pathetic amount? I recall a few efforts to increase it.) I’ll let you decide if I am a good ambassador for the program, or if I provide the proof that it is up to no good. Heh.

Ian Lind muses at some length on the corporate intern topic today. Here are a few excerpts:

I agree, for example, that these intern arrangements shouldn’t be hidden. They should be disclosed, as all staff assignments should be disclosed and readily accessible for public review. We should know who is in a position to influence the process.

But I don’t really think that these placements as “interns” offer a new or more pernicious kind of private corporate influence. If they just switched hats and registered as lobbyists instead of acting as volunteer interns, there would be nothing that unusual about their positions.

———

Perhaps my major disagreement with the most vocal critics, including Larry [Geller] and Dave [Shapiro], is with the unstated and unexamined assumption that seems to be be behind the pointed attacks on the corporate interns. It’s the view that somehow those who come to the table with their own interests–special interests, you might say–somehow taint the legislative process. It’s akin to the view that significant policy decisions can–and should–be made by public officials without the intereference of political considerations.

I just don’t agree. It seems to me that public decision making necessarily reflects a clash of real interests reflecting the diversity of our community and, in our democratic system, the process results in an eventual set of decisions reflecting a particular set of compromises and accomodations, always temporary and subject to change and challenge.

Very well put, if a bit squishy. Where I part ways with Lind is his conclusion:

The answer isn’t eliminating special interests from the legislative process. It’s promoting access for more special interests, making accomodations so that most interest groups are able to sustain a presence and claim a place at the table. Not easily done. But criticizing the other guys for being better organized and more politically adept isn’t an effective shortcut.

A very nice essay and then he drops back a few yards and punts: “not easily done.” Well, I know one good place to start, and in the past Lind has expressed his reservations about it: publicly financed campaigns. Without offering any suggested recourse, “easy” or not, Lind’s conclusion sounds a bit too much like blaming the loser of a rigged contest. I am disappointed to read that.

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Kukui Gardens buyer worries tenants

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:13 pm
The Advertiser exposes the expected buyer of Kukui Gardens affordble housing complex, and it is not encouraging news for the tenants who are hoping the rent will stay affordable past 2011. The buyer is said to be Carmel Partners of San Francisco.

Last year, the company paid $79.5 million for 520 former naval rental housing units at Kalaeloa. At the time of the purchase, Carmel said it would invest $5 million to $8 million for improvements and keep the homes in the rental market for civilian and military tenants.

In 2004, the company bought the 204-room Aloha Surf Hotel in Waikiki for $15.7 million. Carmel later renovated the hotel and sold the units as condominiums.

The company also was part of a group in 2002 that bought the 700-unit Moanalua Hillside Apartments complex from a Mainland company for nearly $50 million.

The group spent about $10 million on improvements. Rents rose by about $100 to $200 for units previously rented for $800 a month, and increased by $200 to $360 for units previously rented for $925 a month. The group then sold the complex to an affiliate of Los Angeles-based Douglas Emmett Realty Advisors for $108.5 million in January 2005.

Like Kukui Gardens, Moanalua Hillside was developed by Clarence Ching, Lawrence Ching’s father, using U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development financing, in exchange for keeping the units affordable for a set period of time.

Uh oh.

In that previous post I noted the tidy profit Carmel Partners made at Moanalua Hillside, but I did not know that Moanalua Hillside was formerly an affordable rental project developed by Ching. Shouldn’t somebody find out what happened to rents before and after Carmel was on the scene at Moanalua? I have a hunch that is way things work when Carmel is involved. In other words, maybe Carmel won’t raise the rents at Kukui Gardens, but merely intends to superficially “improve” and then resell the property to some group who will increase the rent.

Comments (1)
4/14/2006

Kaloko resolution approved by House – a work in progress

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 3:28 pm
Nice work by Derrick DePledge brings us this Advertiser article about an idea to appoint a “Special Deputy Attorney General” to investigate the Kaloko Dam failure.

The resolution would have Bennett, the person with the alleged conflict, select the special deputy. Lawmakers are discussing other options, such as providing Bennett with a list of names to choose from for an investigation.

Gov. Linda Lingle has said the Legislature could create its own special committee to examine the dam failure but believes Bennett should continue with his investigation. Bennett has said he does not have a conflict and will conduct a fair and aggressive inquiry.

House Democrats said they have high regard for Bennett’s integrity, but some House Republicans said the resolution undermines Bennett. “I believe it impugns the integrity of the attorney general,” said state Rep. Barbara Marumoto, R-19th (Kaimuki, Kahala, Wai’alae Iki).

House Republicans noted yesterday that McCorriston has also called for an independent investigation, suggesting to them that Pflueger wants Bennett to step aside. Bennett was involved in an earlier state and federal environmental case against Pflueger that led to a $7.5 million penalty.

“Why are we trying to go with less than the best in this case?” asked state Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-50th (Kailua, Mokapu).

I know that I keep going back to this, but I would sure like someone to explain to me how the state could be liable when the law seems to clearly absolve the State of all liability. I am not a lawyer, but either that law applies in this case, or it doesn’t—it’s not that difficult of a question to raise. Until that question is resolved all this “conflict of interest” talk seems a bit premature. If the State can’t be held liable then there is no need to replace Bennett. It’s like an elephant in the room, for crying out loud! A definitive answer would be good, yeah?

On the other hand, if Bennet is “the best” and the State is (somehow, against my logic) vulnerable to a lawsuit, shouldn’t we hold him in reserve to defend the State, or would Representative Thielen prefer that we risk the taxpayers’ money with an “inferior” defense attorney?

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Interns, not just for photocopying and constituent service anymore

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:26 pm
The practice of private employers providing lobbyists interns to work at company expense for State legislators will be examined by the Ethics Commission, acording to todays Borreca column in the SB.

Kokua Council President Larry Geller has asked the Ethics Commission to investigate if Mark Forman, Hawaii Medical Service Association Foundation executive administrator, should serve as an intern with state Rep. Bob Herkes.

Herkes, chairman of the House Consumer Protection Committee, handled a bill to require the state insurance commissioner to continue to review health premium rates charged by firms such as HMSA.

Geller charged that Herkes changed the bills to “a form more favorable to the insurance companies.”

“The request for investigation does not allege wrongdoing, but does ask for a review,” said Geller.

Herkes (D, Volcano-Kainaliu) said he is not in conflict and has avoided using Forman to help with legislation that touches on HMSA [emphasis mine].

“He never looked at the regulation bill, and I never gave it to him,” Herkes said.

“As far as Mark is concerned, his biggest assignment from me was to find some way to provide medical coverage in rural areas,” he said.

Hmmm. Okay, for the sake of argument we’ll forget about the specific legislation that Geller says was amended to be more friendly to HMSA. Instead, let’s consider the “biggest assignment” that Herkes said he gave to Forman.

Is it likely that HMSA could have some role in providing medical coverage to rural areas? Yes. I’m all for improving medical coverage in rural areas (who could be against that?), but I think it is fair to ask if any idea proposed by an HMSA executive to carry out that goal is going to be in the best interests of the State and of those who need medical coverage in rural areas. I’m skeptical, to say the least. How could that assignment not “touch” on HMSA?

Look, I’m all for having knowledgable staff at the Lege. The more the better. However, keeping “interns” on the (higher than what the Lege can offer) payroll of a private company just doesn’t pass the smell test. At the very least, the hours worked by these “interns” should be considered an in-kind gift and should be reported at the value of a minimum-wage worker (if not at the value of the actual salary the intern earns).

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Mesa signs deal for commuter terminal space

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:26 pm
The strange decision to move the new interisland air carrier into the interisland terminal has been rescinded. go! will instead operate from the commuter terminal, according to articles in the Advertiser and SB. Early this week I also noticed a short blurb about possible codesharing deals that would be a big coup for the newcomer.

Almost makes me wish I had a reason to fly interisland this summer…

Meta: I wonder how long the media will play along with this lowercase g + exclamation mark “go!” goofiness? I’m so over it, already.

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Hirono has raised almost $300,000 for race

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 3:26 pm
Mazie Hirono has a big lead in fundraising among the Democrats running for U.S. House. Estimated fundraising figures and astute analysis in this Advertiser report.

Democrats are likely to have to compete more aggressively for money this year. The marquee race, Case against U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, will likely be expensive and make it more difficult for Democrats running for Congress and governor to raise money.

“Randy who? Sorry, I gave to Mazie already.”

Kidding aside, Iwase’s fundraising can only be hurt by the big field of Democratic candidates for Congress. In that respect, maybe it is good for Iwase if Hirono runs away with a big fundraising lead and the other Congress candidates (and their supporters) are demoralized. That would have to happen quickly to make any difference for Iwase’s fundraising hopes, though.

I think that voter turnout for the September primary is going to be impressive – for a nice change.

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State cable TV unit seeks exemption for public access contracts

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:25 pm
The Maui News has an article about the next phase of the DCCA effort to gain an exemption from procurement law to award public access television contracts without competition. An old post about this topic is here.

I don’t have much to add today, but just wanted to note that after all of that public testimony the DCCA has made the request that the majority of PEG producers support. Now we wait to see what the Procurement Office does with the request.

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4/13/2006

Army publicizes court-martial results, opens hearings to public and press

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:00 pm
Following up on the post yesterday, the SB reports that there has been a reversal by the Army and the Article 32 hearing for a soldier accused of murder will not be conducted in secret.

Stefanie Gardin, 25th Infantry Division spokesman, said Maj. Suzanne Mitchem, who’s presiding over the Article 32 hearing for Spc. Jeffery White, has agreed to make it public after the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and a journalists group challenged her decision to close the courtroom.

——–

Earlier this week, Mitchem granted a request from White’s military attorney, Maj. John Hyatt, to close the Article 32 hearing.

The hearing is scheduled to begin this morning at a Wheeler Army Airfield courthouse. Mitchem will hear evidence in the case and make a recommendation to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon whether White will face a court-martial.

Gardin has said Mitchem’s decision was “in the interests of justice and protection of the accused’s rights to a fair trial … “

Heh. Same reasoning as yesterday, opposite decision from yesterday. Go figure. Better late than never, though. Applause to the SB for pressing the issue.

In a strange coincidence, I also noticed this article on page A-9 (PDF) of the 25th Infantry Division newspaper:

To deter misconduct and to inform the Division?s Soldiers and civilians of military justice trends, the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate publishes the results of the following recent courts-martial, which took place in March.

While deployed to Afghanistan, a five-member refueling team from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Combat Aviation Brigade, conspired to sell fuel to Afghan local nationals in exchange for money, drugs and alcohol.

Led by a noncommissioned officer, the group forged fuel receipts to indicate the refuelers had received a certain amount of fuel. Instead of offloading the fuel, the group let the driver keep it in exchange for hashish, alcohol and money. Certain members of the conspiracy then habitually smoked hashish and got drunk.

The refuelers committed this crime numerous times, often exchanging an entire 5,000-gallon container. However, the conspiracy went unnoticed for months ? until one of the conspirators reported to Criminal Investigation Division, Afghanistan, that another conspirator had stolen $3,000 from him.

With the aforementioned evidence, several of the co-conspirators admitted to their crimes. In a series of trials, the co-conspirators all pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from 12 months of confinement up to five years. All received bad-conduct discharges and forfeitures of all pay and allowances as well.

Several of the Soldiers? sentences to confinement were limited by a pre-trial agreement.

In addition to forfeitures of pay (either adjudged or by operation of law), confinement and a punitive discharge, each Soldier will also have a federal conviction that the Soldier must report when filling out job and other applications, and that may also operate to strip the former Soldier of some significant civil rights such as the right to bear arms and the right to vote.

Court-martial proceedings are open to the public. If any Soldier or civilian would like to observe a court-martial, contact the Military Justice Office at 656-1368.

Uh, these five soldiers have names, don’t they? What kind of court reporting does not name defendants who have been found guilty? Very weird.

Enjoy your brig time and those Big Chicken Dinners (aka Bad Conduct Discharges), fellas.

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China trade mission under new scrutiny

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:57 pm
The Advertiser has another article about the DBEDT trade missions to Asia and the persistent questions pertaining to how the trips were funded and how the funds were disbursed. The focus of this article is a hearing for SCR 32, which was adopted by the Senate today and sent to the House for review.

Not much we haven’t heard before, but still a few interesting nuggets to mine.

Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim, D-14th (Halawa, Moanalua, Kamehameha Heights), asked why there was no contract between DBEDT and the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council, even though the council handled $268,000 in private sponsorships for DBEDT. Kim asked whether the lack of a contract was deliberate.

“The procurement law revolves around contracts, so it just seems that this was crafted together so that there would be no contract, so there would be no violation of procurement,” Kim said. “So it’s just interesting that it was handled in this manner.”

Liu said the lack of a contract was not a deliberate attempt to sidestep procurement laws.

“That was not the intent,” he said. “It didn’t occur to us that (a contract) was necessary.”

Kim went on to ask a representative of the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council what it would have done if DBEDT did not allow the council to collect its $7,000 fee, since there was no contract.

“We didn’t really consider that,” said Lisa Maruyama, executive director of the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council. “It was trust-based. We didn’t feel it was necessary.”

Hmmm. As I understand it, there was no need for a contract to “collect” the $7,000 fee because the donors gave the money to PAAC, the donors did not give the money to the Lingle administration. Thus, it seems to me that the PAAC could have kept whatever amount they wanted. Indeed, they could have kept all of the money and the Lingle administration, with no written contract, would have been powerless to do anything about it! Had that happened it would have put the State into a very weird spot, to say the least. Heh. For that matter, it’s even possible that there was no “trust-based” agreement for a $7,000 fee—that could simply be the amount that the PAAC decided to keep, haha.

The House also passed HCR 38 today, a similar but better resolution, and sent it to the Senate for review. Some lively floor debate there, including a few Democrats beginning to openly riff on the “pay to play” theme…

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Akaka & Case invited to debate at HPU

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:46 pm
From my friend Scott Crawford’s blog, an announcement he received via email:

AKAKA-CASE DEBATE
“Challenging the Establishment”

Monday, April 17
3:00pm-4:00pm
Warmer Auditorium
1060 Bishop St., Penthouse

The College of International Studies will host a debate between Rep. Ed Case (D-2nd) and Senator Daniel Akaka, candidates for the US Senate seat this fall. Ed Case’s challenge to a respected incumbent is controversial and has roiled the waters of Hawaii’s political establishment. Join us for a kick-off of what promises to be an exciting and contentious primary campaign that will culminate at the Primary Election on September 23rd.

Statements by the two candidates will be followed by a Question and Answer session.

Please note: Rep. Ed Case has confirmed he will attend. Senator Akaka has been invited, and if unable to attend, we expect a representative from his campaign.

Statements followed by a Q&A session doesn’t sound like a candidate “debate” to me, but whatever. No live media? Late afternoon on a workday? Sheesh.

I would be rather surprised if Senator Akaka decides to participate personally. This “announce first, rsvp later” is the same strategy the groups on Maui trying to meet with the DOT and Hawaii Superferry officials tried. Ed Case is believed to be eager to debate Senator Akaka, so I reckon Case will accept every invitation he is offered. That would be in keeping with the prototypical underdog strategy. Likewise, incumbents are rarely eager to debate.

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Impeachment process may be tweaked on Big Isle

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:43 pm
The Hawaii County newspapers both have the same story about a bill to amend the impeachment process for County elected officials. (Hawaii Tribune-Herald here and West Hawaii Today here)

Now the mayor, prosecuting attorney and council members are subject to impeachment for “malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance or maladministration” through a petition with 100 signatures from qualified voters islandwide and a $275 filing with the Third Circuit Court.

[Councilmember] Isbell wants petitions to impeach the mayor or prosecuting attorney to have signatures from not less than two percent of the registered county voters and petitions to impeach a council member have not less than two percent of the registered voters’ signatures in that member’s district.

There are 84,360 registered voters in Hawaii County, so approximately 1,687 signatures would be required to impeach the mayor or prosecuting attorney, based on Isbell’s proposal. With 9,000 to 10,000 registered voters in each of the nine council districts, 180 to 200 signatures would be needed to impeach a council member.

It seems like a long time ago, but I previously did a post about an impeachment effort over there. Todays articles reveal (perhaps obviously) that the impeachment effort failed. I somehow missed that story in January, dang it.

[The] impeachment petition claimed the mayor and eight council members committed nonfeasance by not conducting a mandatory review of the marijuana eradication program.

Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance, however, sided with elected officials, who claimed they review Green Harvest every year when they go over the county budget, and dismissed the complaint.

Isbell’s bill will be heard in the Finance Committee Tuesday. Should the council majority approve it, there will be two full council readings before the charter amendment question is placed before voters in the next election.

Bob Jacobson, D-Puna, Ka’u and South Kona, said he won’t support the bill, adding, “I don’t see any reason to make any changes at all. I’m satisfied with that aspect of the charter.”

Pete Hoffmann of Kohala said, “I guess it goes back to whether we see ourselves as a representative of one district or a representative of the whole island. Maybe we need to re-visit that.”

I agree that it makes sense that the signatures to begin an impeachment should come from the district of the official to be impeached. As to the specific number of signatures required, 100 signatures is a pretty low hurdle for such a drastic measure. That said, I don’t live in Hawaii County, and, should this bill pass, it is up to those who do to decide if the present system needs to be changed.

It is indeed “moving the goalposts,” but it’s not as if the Council can make the change unilaterally.

Comments (1)
4/12/2006

Serious opposition to a “silly” bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:45 pm
A curious focus among columnists this week finds two of them railing against HB 3118, a bill which I did a post about earlier when the editors at the Advertiser mocked it. Today, Advertiser columnist David Shapiro has a whack and Midweek columnist Jerry Coffee joins him.

Shapiro’s column is a scathing, and largely deserved, critique of how the Legislature operates. Why Shapiro saw a need to (very off-handedly) tie his laundry list of charges to HB 3115 is a mystery. The column could have selected a different whipping boy bill to the same effect.

At least Shapiro seems to have read the bill. Mr. Coffee, on the other hand, has much more specific criticism of the bill even though his column suggests that he hasn’t read it closely.

These three legislators, in initiating the Responsible Business Corporation Act, apparently think Hawaii?s business men and women are not responsible enough (would that be irresponsible?), and that they can be ?carrot and sticked? into responsibility by a corporate tax credit of undetermined percentage. To qualify for such a credit, the ?window dressing? of responsibility would require the corporate board of directors to reflect representation of all the corporation?s ?stake-holders? i.e. shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and/or creditors. This would apply to corporations with three or more directors.

The bill specifies at least 20 percent of the board of directors be nominated and elected by the employees to ?represent and advocate? for the employees, and at least another 20 percent be elected by the other members of the board to ?represent and advocate? for the public interest. The bill does not define ?public interest.? The bill also ensures that all stakeholder representatives on the board have full access to all of the corporation?s records. One can only imagine the conflicting interests on such a board that would make profits secondary.

Uh oh! There?s that dirty word: ?profit.?

And speaking of profit, a particularly insidious caveat is tucked into the bill which would exempt this patchwork board from the legal requirement of ?acting solely in the interest of shareholders by maximizing the corporation?s short and long term profits.?

First, as Shapiro noted and Coffee does not, the latest draft of the bill (that emerged last Friday [when does Midweek go to press?]) no longer includes a tax credit.

Second, the bill defines “public interest” in Section 2: “Public interest” means the general public well-being, including but not limited to present and future generations, the economy, natural environment, public health, public safety, human rights, educational and other human developmental opportunities, and the general well-being of the local, state, national, or world community.

Third, Coffee never makes it clear that this form of incorporation would be optional. If Mr. Coffee doesn’t like this form of Corporation, fine. Nobody is going to force him, or any other investor, to invest his money in this way. Why there is so much opposition to offering investors a choice is a bit mystifying. What ever happened to letting “the market” decide which investment ideas are worthy?

Coffee sidesteps that question by invoking his economic dogma:

Anyone with half a business brain knows the most socially responsible thing a corporation can do is maximize profits. Higher profits mean more tax income to fill government coffers for education, social, cultural and environmental programs. Higher profits mean growth, growth means more jobs, more jobs mean healthier economy and society, and higher standards of living, leading to more consumer spending bringing even more business growth and more jobs.

The generation of economic profit is the closest thing we have to a perpetual motion machine; it fuels its own progress and growth. For some legislators, in their arrogant presumption that Hawaii?s businesses aren?t socially responsible enough, to introduce legislation undermining the profit motive would be the most socially irresponsible thing they could do.

It’s precisely that type of thinking that demonstrates the need for an alternative form of incorporation. Perhaps there are investors who would be willing to forego some profit if it meant that corporate workers are paid better wages and provided better benefits. Perhaps there are investors who would be willing to forego some profit if it meant a less environmentally-damaging business practice was adopted. Perhaps there are investors who would be willing to forego some profit if it meant that a training program helped local youths prepare for jobs within the company. Why should these investors be forced to sideline those desires? Coffee says investors should always (and only) go for maximum profit secure in the knowledge that their taxes in “government coffers” will handle all those desires for social responsibility. Taxes only take a portion of any profit, adopting the socially responsible business practices, on the other hand, would divert the full amount to the specific “public interest” that the investor has in mind to pursue. I thought that people like Coffee prefer to pick their own forms of charity, rather than paying taxes and seeing the government “waste” their money. Whatever.

Doesn’t it seem that these critics are afraid that this idea might actually work?

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Justice by secret hearings?

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:43 pm
The SB picks up a disturbing story about the military trial of a soldier accused of murdering another soldier.

Last year, an Oahu grand jury indicted Spc. Jeffery White, 21, of second-degree murder in the death of Spc. Felicia LaDuke, 22, whose body was found at Mokuleia Beach on Oct. 8. White is the father of LaDuke’s son, who was 20 months old at the time of the slaying.

However, in November, city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle turned the case over to the military, which could execute White if he is convicted.

“We wanted to ensure that he would face an equally harsh sentence if he was convicted,” Carlisle said then.

The Army charged White with premeditated murder, communicating threats and obstruction of justice in LaDuke’s death, officials said.

But the Army didn’t immediately hold an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian criminal cases, where evidence is presented to a military judge.

Yesterday, Stefanie Gardin, 25th Infantry Division spokeswoman, said the Army plans to hold the hearing behind closed doors at a Schofield Barracks courthouse.

Gardin said: “At this time, in the interests of justice and protection of the accused’s rights to a fair trial, the hearing will be closed to the public.”

Members of the military are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and, as such, do not enjoy the same rights as defendants before civilian courts. However, I think it is astounding that the Army spokeswoman says that justice and the accused’s rights to a fair trial are better served by closing his hearing to the public. This hearing could lead to a capital trial, which is a very grave matter and, of course, unheard of in Hawaii civilian courts. Supporters and opponents of the death penalty will take great interest in this case, or rather, they would if the proceedings are not conducted in secret.

Following the Article 32 hearing, a military judge will make a recommendation to the convening authority, which in this case is Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commanding general of the 25th Division, whether White will face a court-martial.

White has been held in the Navy brig on Ford Island pending his trial.

——–

Last November, Col. Timothy J. Pendolino, staff judge advocate for the Army’s 25th Division, said: “We are confident that the facts in this case will be considered and evaluated in an impartial manner and that the results will be fair and just.”

Pendolino’s statement is the only thing the Army has said on the case until yesterday.

The article mentions two prior instances where Article 32 hearings were closed and the media successfully fought to gain access. I hope that the Honolulu media close ranks and are able to penetrate this secrecy, too.

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Racetrack tax credit derails

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:43 pm
The Honolulu dailies both have stories about the sudden death of the bill that would set up a tax credit for a new motorsports facility. The Advertiser has a very good piece here and the SB article is here.

In an unusual reversal, the state House of Representatives yesterday killed a $50 million tax credit for a new motorsports complex at Kalaeloa after the Big Island lawmaker who sponsored the credit privately informed his colleagues he had a potential conflict of interest.

State Rep. Jerry Chang, D-2nd (Hilo), is a director and has a 25 percent ownership interest in ABSC Development Co., which offered to exchange land in Hilo with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for a parcel in Kalaeloa being sought for a new racetrack.

If the department had accepted the idea of a land swap, Chang said, the company would have sold the Hilo land to Mike Oakland, the president of the Hawai’i Motorsports Center and the main advocate of the tax credit. Oakland would then have been able to complete the swap and take control of the Kalaeloa parcel.

The House had planned to pass the tax credit bill yesterday and move it to conference committee with the state Senate, which approved it last session. But after The Advertiser raised questions about Chang’s potential conflict, he spoke with House leaders, who quickly decided in a closed-door caucus to table the bill rather than risk embarrassment.

In a brief statement on the House floor, Chang said the bill was being pulled because of unresolved issues within the racing community, which has been divided over the tax credit and how to save racing on O’ahu after Hawai’i Raceway Park closed this month. But Chang later explained to reporters that it was because of the possible conflict.

“The perception is everything,” Chang acknowledged.

But Chang, who sells real estate and has served in the House since 1989, could not explain why he did not disclose a potential conflict earlier. Chang, who has worked closely with Oakland on the tax credit, signed and helped collect signatures from other lawmakers on a letter supporting the credit that was instrumental in the House Finance Committee reviving the bill last week. The letter was written by state Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, D-13th (Kalihi, Nu’uanu), Oakland’s daughter-in-law, who chose not to sign it because she did not want the appearance of a conflict of interest.

There are no conflict-of-interest rules for lawmakers in state ethics law. The law prohibits lawmakers from using their offices to give unwarranted privileges but work on bills, resolutions or other official duties is exempt. The House does have a code of conduct that cautions lawmakers against using the prestige of their offices to advance the private interests [House rule 60.2] of themselves or others.

There is also House rule 52.5, which provides a means for a legislator to be excused from voting on matters where they declare a potential conflict of interest. Had Representative Chang declared that conflict early on, this measure may have still been able to proceed.

Now we find out if this story gets even more weird by means of crafty legislative manuevering, or if this tax credit effort sputters and dies. In the short time since the track has closed, has there been any increase in illegal street racing on Oahu? Oakland’s argument (echoed by his supporters) seems to be that the users of Hawaii Raceway Park support “keeping racing on the track,” but at the same time we hear this subtext that they are unable to control their desire to race and, without a track, they will begin street racing as surely as moths are drawn to a flame. I doubt it.

My hunch is that the people street racing truly were not the same people who were using HRP. I think much of the street racing allure is associated with its illegality. Speed, thrills and competition, all available on a racetrack, are not enough for the street racer crowd. On a similar note, if the HRP users are to be believed, they will not engage in street racing even if there is no legal place to race.

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Matsunaga enters U.S. House race

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:42 pm
Matt Matsunaga has officially announced his candidacy for the soon-to-be-vacated seat held by Ed Case. The Advertiser has a succinct summary of his background and the other Democratic candidates.

The 2nd District encompasses areas outside of Honolulu’s urban core, including the Neighbor Islands. Matsunaga lives in the ‘Ainakoa neighborhood of East Ho-nolulu. It is not in the 2nd District, but there is no residency requirement for candidates.

Matsunaga joins a growing field of candidates.

State Sens. Gary Hooser and Ron Menor and state Rep. Brian Schatz have filed papers to run in the Democratic primary. Former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa have said they are running.

Matsunaga, an accountant and lawyer, is the son of former U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga. He was born in Palolo and raised in the Washington, D.C., area while his father served in the Senate. His first job was as a page on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile the SB has this piece filed from Matsunaga’s press conference in Hilo.

Speaking to about 30 supporters in Hilo yesterday morning, Matsunaga, 47, a Democrat, said he is “outraged” by questionable actions in Washington, naming Texas Congressman Tom Delay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who are under legal clouds for alleged influence peddling.

“Our federal government is not for sale,” he said.

Referring to the USA Patriot Act, Matsunaga said, “It particularly troubles me that the current administration is using wiretapping and spying on American citizens, not just for national security but also for political purposes.”

Matsunaga said he wants to see a “better balance” of security and respect for individual rights.

He also plans to work for “affordable and accessible” medical care and long-term care for citizens, he said.

The son of former U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga, who died in 1990, Matsunaga showed his own vote-getting ability in 2002 when he received more than 99,000 votes in the Democratic primary election for lieutenant governor, far outpolling any other candidate for governor or lieutenant governor.

Paired with gubernatorial candidate Mazie Hirono in the general election, he was defeated by the Republican team of Linda Lingle and James “Duke” Aiona.

Matsunaga was introduced at yesterday’s event by the head of the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council, George Yokoyama, known for his influence among recipients of his agency’s services. But Yokoyama said his primary campaign work this year will be supporting U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s bid for re-election. Case is challenging Akaka in the Democratic primary.

Matsunaga recognized that he has work to do, saying he will conduct a “truly, truly, truly grass-roots campaign.”

Whatever “truly, truly, truly” means. It is interesting that Matsunaga seems to make the Washington Republican agenda the focus of his campaign. Apparently he thinks those issues have a lot of appeal to the truly, truly, truly grassroots. It will be interesting to see what the crowded field in this Democratic primary race does to the fundraising situation. Donors might be overwhelmed by the choices and reluctant to spend much during the primary. In which case, grassroots would be the strategy to win.

Comments (4)
Parity for the local dailies

Filed under:
General
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:41 pm
I was given scoldings by the SB webmaster a while back for linking to their “print” version stories instead of the “display” version. I had been using those links because the “print” version homepage had a complete list of articles, while the “display” version homepage made me click around to each section. Now I notice that the “display” version has a similar (complete) list of articles, so I will change my link.

I much prefer the “print” versions, without all the visual clutter and advertising, so if the Advertiser ever sets up a “print” version homepage I’ll change my practice to link to “print” versions from both sources. Heh.

Comments (0)
4/11/2006

Venture capitalist irked by missed Chinese opportunity

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:02 pm
An angry reader submission is posted at Hawaii Reporter from the president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association, a Mr. Bill Spencer. Spencer complains that the high technology sector was treated unfairly at the Waikiki meetings with influential Chinese trade officials as they were passing through Hawaii last week. Instead, the Chinese made a lot of high technology deals in California and in Hawaii the focus (Spencer says) was on tourism.

Although some tech executives may have been invited to last weeks events with the Chinese delegation the administration did little to nothing to introduce Hawaii ?s tech industry association leaders to Vice Premier Wu and her contingent. The result is regrettable. The local tech industry had no chance to meet these important Chinese business leaders and no chance to get in on the $15 billion dollar spending spree. Clearly this is a tremendous lost opportunity.

Why was tourism given the spotlight and Hawaii?s science and technology sector neglected when in fact both sectors could have easily been accommodated?

This is exactly the kind of thing I was getting at in my closing questions earlier. Did the Hawaii Venture Capital Association or the local high tech executives bankroll the Governor’s trade missions? Somehow, I doubt it. No pay, no play? “Governments matter,” indeed.

Comments (1)
Islanders growing weary of tourism?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:01 pm
Both Honolulu dailies have stories about a recent telephone survey (PDF) conducted on behalf of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The Advertiser piece is here and the SB piece is here. The study included a wide range of questions, and it is difficult to extract broad themes with much confidence. I’m going to try to focus on the connections between tourism, infrastructure and housing.

A majority of those surveyed gave the government low marks for building new infrastructure to keep up with growth. A growing number of people also said the government was doing a poor job balancing the economic benefits from tourism against the need to control problems caused by tourism.

More residents find the cost of housing and loss of open space to be big problems in their community compared with a 2002 survey. And more feel tourism is making those issues worse.

There is always the risk in opinion polling that opinions are not necessarily in keeping with reality (the report notes that people associate higher tourism with more crime, even though tourism is up and crime is down). It’s hard to know the mechanism by which tourism increases the costs of housing, and it’s hard to measure any effect without understanding the mechanism.

Statewide concerns relating to population growth, such as an increase in home prices, traffic and crime and a decrease in nature and wide-open spaces, escalated. Nearly 70 percent of Maui residents and 68 percent of West Hawaii residents surveyed indicated that they had concerns about population growth, while residents living in underpopulated islands like Molokai and Lanai indicated that population growth was not a problem.

Molokai and Lanai are “underpopulated?” Hmmm. That’s a rather loaded adjective, isn’t it?

Peter Apo, director of the Hawaiian Hospitality Institute, wasn’t surprised that the survey showed more local residents feel visitors are given priority over them.

“The bad news is that we felt it building for years … that more and more people are becoming disenchanted,” Apo said. “They feel threatened by tourism’s growth. It’s not so much the growth of the industry but the way that it is growing. I think they blame tourism for the high cost of housing as an example, the rising prices and how that affects the market and appraisals, landscapes that I guess they feel should have been preserved but weren’t.”

FOCUS ON RESIDENTS

Apo said he doesn’t believe local residents are angry at visitors or blame visitors, but that the frustration is directed more at the industry and government officials.

The good news, Apo said, is the Hawai’i Tourism Authority and government officials recognize the “escalating alienation between local residents.” He expects the authority’s strategic plan ? which covers areas such as preserving Native Hawaiian culture and natural resources ? will begin to address that.

State tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said she needed to read the full report before commenting on specific portions of it, but said the industry recognizes “if it’s good for the residents, it will be good for the visitor.”

“We know that our economy depends on the visitor, but we know that our residents need to come first,” she said. “We’ve always believed that, we will continue to believe that.”

The report is dated December, 2005, and Wienert still has not read the full report. Go figure. I read it in about 30 minutes.

As to Apo’s “belief” that residents are not angry at visitors or blame visitors, but rather they are upset with industry and government officials: I don’t see any evidence in the survey results to support that belief. I am not saying that residents are angry and blame the visitors, but I am saying that this particular study does not address that question (perhaps wisely, heh). It has in the past, though:

Pollster John Knox said the survey didn’t ask how respondents felt about visitors as people, but surveys in previous years found positive results to that question. So when a majority of people say visitors are given priority over local residents, “the interpretation we give to this is the increasing frustration about population growth, infrastructure, traffic congestion.”

Sure, ask most people how they feel about tourists on a personal level and very few tourists would rate negative feelings, but as an abstract concept—in the aggregate—I think a lot of people blame tourism and tourists for that skewed priority. It’s similar to the way people love to bad-mouth politicians as a generic category, yet reliably re-elect the person from their own district who they know a bit better. In fact, they two phenomena are probably related!

Comments (0)
Ex-guard guilty in prison sex case

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:59 pm
Over a year after being charged, there is a new development in the case against Colorado private prison guards accused of sexually assaulting female inmates from Hawaii. The Advertiser is again providing us the latest news. Earlier the warden had resigned and, as I expected at that time, the guards have copped pleas.

Russell E. Rollison, 32, is facing a sentence of up to three years in prison after pleading guilty March 28 to menacing with a real or simulated weapon, according to Morgan County District Court records. He worked at the Brush Correctional Facility in northeastern Colorado where the Hawai’i inmates were held, and was originally charged with two counts of felony sexual conduct in a penal institution.

Myles Breiner, a Honolulu lawyer representing the two women, ages 32 and 36, criticized the plea agreement that allowed Rollison to avoid conviction as a sex offender. “I think that’s wrong, and it sends a terribly wrong message to everyone involved. It doesn’t protect women, and it doesn’t compel the authorities running the penal system in Colorado to clean up their act,” Breiner said.

Prosecutors in Colorado did not respond to requests for comment.

The incident was alleged to have occurred Jan. 8, 2005, in the prison law library. The inmates said Rollison pushed one of the women against a wall and threatened to write up both inmates for misconduct if they did not perform a sex act for him.

Breiner said one of the inmates saved semen from the encounter that was turned over to investigators with the Colorado Department of Corrections. The inmates were returned to Hawai’i and one of the women has since been paroled.

Brush prison officials have said the sex was consensual and that the inmates were using the incident to get transferred back to Hawai’i and as the basis for a lawsuit. Colorado Department of Corrections investigators were unable to substantiate the allegations, but even consensual sex between a corrections officer and an inmate is a felony in that state.

Rollison, a former Colorado police officer, is scheduled for sentencing June 14.

Breiner said he intends to sue Rollison, Hawai’i, Colorado and prison owner GRW Corp. on behalf of the two inmates. Six other female prisoners from Colorado and Wyoming accused staff at Brush of sexual misconduct early last year.

Why was there any need to plea bargain this case? Is there any way that these women could have collected his semen without any sexual contact? Not that I can think of. Even if the prison officials’ spin is true, there is no “seduction” or “consensual” defense to that crime.

I expect that another part of this plea deal was for a reduced sentence. I would be very surprised if Rollison serves any time at all,and I certainly don’t expect he’ll do anything close to three years. Rollison is a former police officer, and that counts for a lot I reckon. Perhaps we’ll see an actual trial when the lawsuit is filed, but it’s possible that there will be an out-of-court settlement on that, too.

Comments (0)
Rrr-rockets. Oh boy!

Filed under:
Science
— Doug @ 6:55 pm
Science dork that I am, I was intrigued by this PBN article about an upcoming satellite launch from the equator tomorrow.

Lockheed Martin Corp. says its JCSAT-9 telecommunications satellite is ready for a Wednesday launch from an ocean platform near Hawaii.

The satellite, built for JSAT Corp. of Tokyo by a Lockheed plant in the Philadelphia area, is scheduled to be launched from a Sea Launch Co. platform south of Hawaii. The platform sailed from Sea Launch’s Long Beach, Calif., port for the launch site on April 3.

It will be launched at 1:30 pm Hawaii Standard Time. I doubt we’ll be able to see it, but maybe I’ll have a look to the South just in case…

Comments (0)
4/10/2006

Iwase earns ILWU endorsement

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:35 pm
A brief announcement from the SB with some welcome news for Randy Iwase’s fledgling challenge to Governor Lingle:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Randy Iwase has picked up the endorsement of the 22,000-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142.

Iwase was formally endorsed on March 28, with an announcement by the union this week.

“Hawaii needs a governor like Randy Iwase who truly supports investing more money in public education, who would release the funds to build affordable housing for our elderly and who takes a stand for workers’ rights at places like the Naniloa Hotel and Del Monte Pineapple,” ILWU President Fred Galdones said in a news release.

In the 2002 Governor contest, Linda Lingle had a handful of union endorsements (SHOPO, UHPA, Unity House), but the bulk of organized labor (that is, of those groups that participated) endorsed the Democrat, Mazie Hirono.

It will be interesting to see if any of those groups change their endorsements from 2002 upon reviewing the 2006 candidates and, in Lingle’s case, comparing her record to her rhetoric.

Comments (0)
Superferry has a communications person?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:34 pm
The PBN has a piece that says the Hawaii Superferry is going to improve their communication with legislators—now that there is a financial incentive to do so.

Last year, when Hawaii Superferry had only three employees, litigation aimed at slowing or blocking the project tied all three up for months, [Hawaii Superferry CEO] Garibaldi said. “When the suit went away,” he said, “we focused on recruiting key people for the company, including the people you need for working with the community. We hired a full-time port operations person and a full-time engineer. We just hired a corporate communications person in recent days.”

Hawaii Superferry now has a dozen employees, Garibaldi said, and is in a better position to work with stakeholders on the nuts and bolts of launching service while responding to community concerns such as looking out for whales and making sure Superferry doesn’t become an island-to-island vector for invasive species.

Hawaii Superferry has one ferry under construction on the Mainland and intends to order at least one more. The first one is 75 percent complete and its four engines will be installed this month, Garibaldi said, which puts the project on track to launch service as early as the second quarter of 2007.

So, the Superferry now has a communications person, eh? I’ll be watching to see if meaningful communications improve begin. I also noticed this trenchant letter in the Maui News:

An April 5 letter praises the mayor?s secret advisory boards and committees. As the writer intends on running for state office as part of the Bush party, I?m not surprised that she shares Mayor Alan Arakawa?s beliefs.

The mayor has tenaciously defended his handpicked ?advisory committees and boards.? Yet, in The Maui News story ?Panel seeks answers to Superferry issues? (April 5), the mayor shamelessly asserts that ?he didn?t like the idea of only a select committee meeting with Superferry officials? and that ?when the cat decides how the game is played, they?ll be in favor of stacking the game the way it wants it to be played.?

Hypocrisy? Or, don?t rules apply to the old-boy network?

Fred Guzman

Kahului

Ooof! There is an earlier post on the Mayor’s advisory boards, and, while I think Guzman may be stretching the comparison a bit, in general he makes a valid point.

Comments (0)
Maui Council acts on program to assist moderate-income homebuyers

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:31 pm
There is an interesting new housing loan program described in this Maui News article that aims to help serve a so-called “gap group” of potential home buyers.

The first-time homebuyer?s assistance fund would provide 15-year no-interest loans of up to $15,000 to Maui County residents making less than 140 percent of the median income for their community. The money could be used for downpayments or closing costs.

Loan recipients would have to repay sooner if they refinanced their mortgage, or sold or rented out their property.

Under the bill that advanced Friday, the program would be administered by the Department of Housing and Human Concerns, which could use it as a grant to a nonprofit agency working with future homeowners.

Council Member Mike Molina, who proposed the fund, thanked his colleagues Friday for supporting it, which he said would help the ?gap group? of residents like teachers, nurses and police officers who can?t afford a home but make too much to qualify for low-income housing programs.

?This is how we can help those in need get their foot in the door toward the goal of home ownership,? Molina said.

He felt the program could ?stem the tide? of families moving away from Maui because they can?t afford to buy a home.

?The median price of a home on Maui is so high,? he said. ?Working families obviously have a difficult time affording housing, especially raising the downpayment or the closing costs of the purchase of a home.?

Hmmm. Are there other programs (County or not) to provide similar no-interest loans for those who qualify for low-income housing programs? If not, I wonder if low-income buyers are given any preference for this program. If the low-income people are excluded, this sounds suspiciously like pandering to the middle (likely voter) class.

I’ve never seriously considered myself as a potential buyer, so I really don’t know the current financing arrangements available. As a practical matter, how much downpayment or closing cost is required to buy a median price home? $15,000 does not sound like enough. For example, if the required downpayment is 10% that would limit the buyer to $150,000 properties. Are there actually places on Maui at that price? I doubt it.

Furthermore, less than 30 lenders could be accepted before the $400,000 allotted to the program is entirely spoken for. But it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye, I reckon.

Comments (0)
4/9/2006

Superferry names members of advisory panel

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 1:50 pm
The Maui News put this article online yesterday after I had made my usual review of their website, so I missed it. That is what I get for being a very early riser…

Too bad the editors can’t count. The headline says “five,” but the article names six advisory board members, haha.

The panel was appointed to improve communications between Superferry officials and the Maui public, which has grown increasingly vocal about the lack of information on the project that?s scheduled to begin daily service between Maui and Oahu in about a year.

Advisory groups also have been established on Kauai and the Big Island. The panels will ?provide ongoing community, economic and environmental insights that will help it create a ferry operation that is as responsive to community needs as possible,? according to a press release issued by the company.

John Garibaldi, chief executive officer for Superferry, called the Maui panel ?a very exciting group.?

?I?m amazed at how interested they all are,? said Garibaldi. ?They?re frank and open, they have a willingness to share their thoughts. They?ve provided a great amount of feedback.?

The group already has met twice. Meetings will continue to be held twice a month. More members are expected to be added to the panel.

———

Garibaldi said the panel was chosen from names that were recommended by others in the public. He said the company was looking for a ?good cross section? of the community to offer input.

When asked if Superferry eventually would hold open community meetings, Garibaldi wouldn?t commit to anything.

?What we?re doing with this group is how best to communicate things (with the public),? he said. ?We think this group will probably advise us on the best venues to get the word out.?

He said the timing of releasing the names of the panel had nothing to do with the Senate committee?s criticism of Superferry not meeting with the community.

?It?s coincidental,? he said.

“Best” for whom? Uh, maybe Mr. Garibaldi should not have broken his silence with the Maui News. Saying nothing is better than his claim that the community advisory board is the best way to communicate things. That’s absurd. If it is the best way to communicate, why does the public still have no idea exactly what is going on?

These six community advisory board members are okay with this modus operandi?! They should resign or insist that Garibaldi open all the meetings to the public. The whole “advisory board meeting in secret” concept is a cynical hoax, I think it is worse than having no meetings at all.

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Political philosophy of charter amendments hits op-ed page

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 1:49 pm
The Advertiser runs opposing op-eds today regarding the Honolulu Charter amendments under consideration for possible inclusion on the November ballot. The pro-amendment piece is here (written by an Earthjustice attorney ) seems to have been written in response to the anti-amendment piece here (written by a UH Law School professor, author of Preserving Paradise: Why Regulation Won’t Work).

The issue is land use, but the underlying debate is about what is the “proper” use of the Charter. I’m not a firm supporter of either argument presented in the op-eds today.

Hawaii does not have voter initiative at the State level, and Honolulu provides only a limited power of initiative. County initiatives may be overturned by the Council with legislation, so the Charter (and Constitutional) amendments are the closest thing we have to enduring direct democracy. Many times the process is used to advance subtle tweaks to the structure of government; those votes typically do not raise much concern or debate. Other amendments, those that generate a much greater amount of controversy, tend to deal with “fixing” an unpopular ruling from the judiciary or (less-frequently) they deal with circumventing an inert legislature. The best-known example being the ConAm allowing the Legislature to prohibit same-sex marriage after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the Constituion compelled the State to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Conceptually, I prefer a very streamlined Charter or Constitution without a host of amendments cluttering it up. In practice, however, some decisions are so fundamental that it is folly to rely on a legislative body (equally, if not more, concerned with the next election cycle) to promptly address a controversial issue, resolve the question, and maintain a consistent position as time passes.

While I lament the fact that Charter amendments and Constitutional amendments are too often guilty of reducing complex issues to emotional soundbites, I think there are adquate safeguards in the amendment process such that the most egregious examples will fail. There will be shortsighted amendments from time to time, but the amendments are only sacrosanct until the next election…

Kudos to the Advertiser for arranging these two columns to appear on the same day.

Comments (0)
‘3 strikes’ law could strain Isle prisons

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:49 pm
Kevin Dayton provides an excellent article that raises the unanswered question about the effect of “three-strikes” legislation on the need for prison space.

While there is broad agreement that violent felons deserve harsh punishment, some prison experts worry the state may impose extra-long sentences on more inmates at a time when Hawai’i prisons are so full that more than 1,800 convicts are serving their sentences out of state.

The state created a computer model in 2000 that allowed corrections officials to calculate how changes such as a three-strikes law would affect the prison population, but the state abandoned the computer simulation two years ago after funding ran out.

Well, isn’t that great? I was wondering why there have been no forecasts from that sentencing simulation model… I think the original funding leaned heavily on a federal grant, and the forecasts were never likely to be good news for the State—so they kill the program. Sigh.

State Attorney General Mark Bennett, a leading supporter of the bill, said the proposed three-strikes law would make the public safer and believes there would be no impact on the prison system for at least five to seven years.

Studies show a relatively small group of people are responsible for the vast majority of serious crimes, and the three-strikes law would ensure those people stay locked up, he said.

Bennett said research by the Attorney General’s Hawai’i Criminal Justice Data Center suggests that if the law were already in place, only about 220 convicted felons in Hawai’i would have accumulated three “strikes” today.

Considering Hawai’i has about 5,900 people in prison or jail, and thousands more on probation or parole, 220 people would be a small portion of the state’s convicts.

“Make the public safer” is a rather slippery term. How much tax are non-victims willing to pay to remain “safe?” What other programs will suffer (since it’s unlikely that taxes will be raised)?Some version of this idea is going to pass, so we will find out soon enough. Any new prison built in Hawaii is expected to be huge, and once it is built the only urge will be to fill it up.

At the very least, this idea should be amended in Conference committee to revive the Sentencing Simulation Model. At least we’ll go down this dead end with our eyes open.

Comments (3)
4/8/2006

Get well, Auntie

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 10:10 am
Earlier this week my father’s older sister was driving a car which was struck broadside by a pick-up that ran a red light. She is in pretty rough shape with several broken limbs and ribs. She faces a very long recovery and rehabilitation.

She is hospitalized in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, so I can only send her pretty tropical flowers and try to stay up to date by telephone and email. It’s making me anxious.

Comments (0)
Special AG to investigate Kaloko?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:09 am
The conclusion of a Garden Island News editorial:

The current Attorney General’s investigation has over it a cloud of uncertainty, an appearance of conflict. If the state is liable for some of the blame for the disaster, the question is ‘How can the state investigate itself?’

If the Attorney General’s investigation, after it is completed, finds that the state is culpable, then that same office will be tasked with defending the state in any litigation arising out of the investigation.

There is the concern that the current investigation will look into the immediate causes of the dam breach and may overlook contributing factors such as stream diversion and grading activities and whether the county did or did not monitor or allow those activities. If the only outcome of the current investigation is why the dam gave way, who will find the answers to the bigger issues that will help avoid a reoccurrence?

Asking the right questions to avoid just such a reoccurrence would be the purpose of an independent investigation.

And if those answers can only be found through an independent investigation by appointing a special deputy attorney general with a separate budget, then so be it.

No doubt inspired by a hearing set by two Kauai legislators for Monday. They will be considering a draft (again, unavailable to the public in electronic form) resolution to carry out what the editorial talks about. The notice went online Thursday, at 4:43 PM, and the hearing is late Monday morning, April 10. So, unless one is a very careful observer of hearing notices and promptly picked up a copy of the resolution in person on Friday, there won’t be much time to review the resolution and compose testimony on Monday before the hearing. Why the House does not make proposed drafts available in electronic form is incomprehensible to me. The Senate does.

To the substance of the editorial (and, I can only assume, of the resolution): I still believe the State is shielded from litigation. Furthermore, I fail to see how a “special deputy attorney general” (hired by the State) will be any less conflicted. Maybe the resolution fleshes that out better. ??

Those critiques aside, I would be interested to see this investigation (no matter who completes it) encompass the topics of stream diversion, grading, and County involvement.

Comments (0)
Aww yeah, more K S-A pearls of wisdom

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:07 am
Read the letter at the end of the column here, and then take another shot.

Confidential to Ako: How about some original banality? We fans don’t like recycled material… this one is so last week.

This hunt does make it more fun slogging through the letters pages daily. Keeps me paying attention!

Comments (0)
4/7/2006

Racetrack tax credit survives hearing

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:39 pm
Nice work in this Advertiser story about the legislative shenanigans that have revived a bill to provide a tax credit for a new motorsport facility.

Racing fans have split into camps over the past few months and have grown increasing combative ? and political ? as the racetrack closed. Stock car drivers who race on a dirt oval have rebelled against Mike Oakland, president of the Hawai’i Motorsports Complex, because he will not guarantee that a new motorsports complex will have a dirt track.

The dirt-track fans are asking the Legislature not to grant Oakland the tax credit and instead provide money to help the city condemn and purchase the existing racetrack. The Campbell Estate is selling the racetrack land to an unidentified affiliate of Oakland, and it is not publicly known what the buyer plans to do with the land.

Oakland said he needs the tax credit to get investors for the new complex, which he hopes to build at Kalaeloa on land owned by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Oakland said he had an earlier agreement with the department for a land swap for property in Kunia, but now wants to trade other land, most likely on the Big Island.

The new complex would be designed to attract a handful of national or international events a year while providing larger and more modern courses for local racers. The tax credit would only be given to investors if it is offset by new tax revenue generated by Mainland or international visitors to the complex.

That’s one way to interpret it, I suppose, but the actual language from the bill is:

(k) The department of business, economic development, and tourism shall calculate the amount of tax credit allowed in any one year by using existing models to determine the rate of general excise tax and transient accommodation tax earned as a percentage of construction, commerce, and visitor counts directly generated by the construction and operation of the motor sports recreation and public safety training and educational facility.”

Obviously, there would be little or no transient accomodation tax revenue generated by residents who use the track, but there would be substantial amounts of GET revenues associated with the track (broadly defined to include all the small businesses that cater to racers). I don’t think it’s right to say that the credit is tied only to Mainland or internation visitors, but I am not privy to the “existing model” used by DBEDT.

Some lawmakers were skeptical of Oakland for asking for a tax credit but refusing to publicly share more details of his business plan.

State Rep. Glenn Wakai, D-31st (Salt Lake, Tripler), asked Oakland why he did not just use private financing for the new complex. “Why do the people of Hawai’i have to be on the hook for your project?” he asked.

Oakland said others who have received tax credits, including investors for movies and television shows filmed in Hawai’i, were not required to publicly disclose their finances. He also said he does not want to name his investors because lawmakers might seek them out for political campaign contributions.

Oakland said after the hearing that he does not plan to go ahead with a new complex without the tax credit.

“They can race on the street,” he said of his critics. “I’m old enough for Social Security.”

True or not, those are some pretty incendiary comments to make to the legislators who hold the fate of the bill in their hands, in my opinion.

Oakland would be wise to reconsider his investor secrecy if he is genuinely concerned about campaign contribution solicitations that could result. Here’s why: if Oakland were to name his investors I think it would actually make it less likely that they would be solicited for political contributions. The (actual or perceived) influence-buying would be totally transparent and therefore (one would hope, at least) less likely to occur.

On the other hand, Oakland would be understandably reluctant to reveal the names of his investors if they have already made and/or intend to make campaign contributions in order to rescue this bill. Such contributions would (or will) still be recorded, but without providing any context to know the connection to this bill, those contributions would look like any other large contributor on the disclosure form whose interests we could only speculate about.

Comments (1)
Terminal problems for airlines?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:22 pm
Yes, the pun in the title is intended.

An interesting SB piece about a unexpected and anonymous decision by the Department of Transportation that has the interisland airlines (new and old) upset.

A state decision to reshuffle the airport gates assigned to Aloha Airlines and its new interisland competitor has both airlines up in arms – and officials say they do not know why it happened.

Both Mesa and Aloha airlines are protesting a state Department of Transportation decision to move Mesa’s new interisland carrier, named go!, from the Honolulu Airport’s commuter terminal to the neighbor island terminal.

Mesa had been scheduled to start flying on June 9 out of Honolulu Airport’s commuter airline terminal, but on March 2, Mesa was told to move to a portion of the space in the neighbor island terminal used by Aloha Airlines.

State Transportation Director Rod Haraga said he does not know why the switch was made, but is investigating.

“I think we made a bad decision,” Haraga said. “Mesa Airlines originally thought they were to go the commuter terminal, and then somebody misunderstood or something happened there.

“As it ended up, Mesa is upset, Aloha is upset.”

Greg Stephens, Mesa’s Hawaii CEO, said he is working with the state to settle the problem but also does not know why the airline was moved.

This is a really weird mix-up. It’s doubtful that the small regional jets Mesa uses would even be able to use the interisland terminal jetways designed for the larger Aloha and Hawaiian jetliners.

Mesa’s entry into the interisland market with fares as low as $39 has prompted Aloha and Hawaiian to lower their fares as well.

Stephens said that one of the benefits of operating out of the commuter terminal was lower charges by the state. [State Senator Lorraine] Inouye said that the “use charges per departure at the commuter terminal were $25, while the charges at the neighbor island terminal would be $92.”

Stephens said the state is promising to help “work with us on cost issues.”

“They have been very encouraging,” he said.

Hmmm. I had no idea there is such a major savings to be realized in using the commuter terminal instead of the interisland terminal. I’ve already heard that the regional jets Mesa has are cheaper to operate and maintain, and using the commuter terminal would only add to their financial advantages. The one caveat I’ve heard of (although I don’t know if it is true) is that the luggage capacity of the regional jet may frustrate tourists, or any passenger who wishes to travel with a lot of luggage, and dissuade them from using Mesa. Depending upon the particular flight schedules that emerge, it also may not be convenient for travellers with connecting flights to go to another terminal. Again, changing terminals is a bigger inconvenience for travellers with more luggage. Come to think of it, that could be another (unspoken) reason why Aloha and Hawaiian would not want their competitor to share the interisland terminal. If Mesa is in the interisland terminal they would be more conveniently located and exposed to the bulk of interisland travellers. In that regard, better for Mesa to be relegated to the commuter terminal ghetto.

Perhaps once Mesa kills off Aloha and/or Hawaiian they can claim some space in the interisland terminal—and get the proper jetways to serve their fleet of aircraft. However, I would suspect that Aloha and Hawaiian have well-established political connections that Mesa would not. So it is gonna be interesting to see if any favors are called in or if the “free market” will reign. Yeah, right.

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Five police charged in FBI investigation

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 6:14 pm
Both Honolulu dailies report on the indictments of several Honolulu Police Department officers alleged to have been associated with illegal gambling opertaions. The Advertiser piece is here and the SB article is here. This was telegraphed yesterday, although I am bemused that my “wager” was correct—but not in the way I had expected.

Incidentally, the Advertiser names five officers, but the SB only lists three. Huh?

I’m not really interested in blogging about the crime/court beat, but I’ll keep track of these prosecutions to see if any political implications emerge.

Cockfighting is a chronic activity and, for a variety of reasons, it is not aggressively enforced or prosecuted on Oahu.

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4/6/2006

Superferry CEO defends his communication strategy

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:12 pm
A few articles today in Honolulu that pick up on the story Maui News had yesterda. Both add a few more nuggets of insight and actually manage to elicit a response from John Garibaldi of the Hawaii Superferry. First, there was this Advertiser article.

John Garibaldi, chief executive officer of Hawai’i Superferry, is scheduled to speak at an informational briefing on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

Garibaldi said the company has been talking with individual lawmakers and with community groups across the Islands and was surprised and disappointed by the criticism.

“We just see this as some misinformation that’s coming out there that is unfortunate, that people don’t have the full story on what communications we are doing,” he said.

——–

[Senator] English said he also would like to hear how the company plans to handle the entrance of Mesa Air Group into the interisland airline market, which has led to lower airfares. The superferry has been marketed as a lower-cost alternative to flying between the Islands. “How will they compete with that?” English asked.

Garibaldi said he believes people recognize that the low airfares are likely temporary. “We present a different value to the consumer. We present a choice,” he said.

Well… I’m not so sure about how “temporary” those low fares will be. From what I’ve heard from a trusted friend working in the interisland air charter industry, the aircraft Mesa uses are much cheaper to operate and maintain in comparison to the older/larger jets used by Hawaiian and Aloha. Plus, Mesa has financial reserves and is better-prepared to run at a (smaller) loss for as long as it takes to kill or cripple the competition. That may take a while, but I am beginning to think that scenario is almost inevitable.

Anyway, a legislative informational briefing is at least closer to a public meeting, but, with no public input or two-way dialogue, it’s still unlikely to be enough to satisfy those asking for full-on public meetings. Especially since the most vocal Superferry opponents are from Maui and the informational briefing will be held at the Capitol (on Oahu).

There is a similar article today in the Star-Bulletin, too.

John Garibaldi, the Superferry’s chief executive, denied that his firm hasn’t been communicating with the affected communities. Instead of holding wide-open public forums, Garibaldi said the company formed “advisory boards that include some of the critics, including members of the Harbor Users Group and the Farm Bureau.”

Using advisory boards and meeting with community groups are more efficient ways of getting the community involved than hearings, Garibaldi said.

With this announcement that brings the number of constituencies now known to be represented on the advisory board to four: Hawaii Harbor Users Group, the Farm Bureau, outrigger canoe paddlers, and the Maui Invasive Species Committee. I still question their decision to participate on the advisory board, but whatever.

Advisory boards are more efficient than hearings, Garibaldi said. Right, to the extent that they are un-democratic, advisory boards are undoubtably more “efficient.” Democracy is not designed for efficiency. Garibaldi skips right over the question of whether “efficiency” should be the operative concern here.

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HPD officers face indictments

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:06 pm
It has taken a while but the Advertiser reports on some upcoming indictments against officers from the Honolulu Police Department. This was noted in this blog quite a while ago.

Federal prosecutors were scheduled to ask a grand jury today to indict an unknown number of Honolulu police officers and others in connection with allegations of cockfights and gambling on Oahu’s North Shore.

The indictments would be the culmination of a months-long FBI investigation that included federal authorities searching the homes of several police officers last year.

Details of the allegations or the charges are not made public because grand jury proceedings are secret.

But law enforcement sources close to the case, who all asked not to be named because of the confidential nature of the proceedings, said that the grand jury was to convene today and several officers may be indicted.

The investigation involved allegations that certain police officers were protecting gambling operations, the sources said.

The number of nonpolice officers who are targets of the grand jury session also is unclear. Law enforcement sources said at one point the investigation may have included more than 20 private citizens, including a relative of one of the officers.

FBI agents gathered evidence that has led to investigations that covered allegations of bribery and illegal gambling, law enforcement sources said.

To stick with the gambling theme, after that earlier story I’d lay odds that the officer and his civilian relative indicted could be named Cambra. Heh.

On a meta level, I don’t understand the need for this secrecy and reliance on unnamed law enforcement sources. It’s not like the charges will be filed in secret… Thus, the leak really did not advance the story, it only stirred the pot in anticipation of the actual filing of charges. Why would the law enforcement sources bother with this tepid leak and risk being disciplined for violating the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings? In the end, the leak and the resulting story could only give all those under investigation (both HPD officers and civilians) a one-day jump on eluding apprehension, but maybe that was their intent. The journalists would never betray their sources (even if the information leaked is of low-value), so why not? Heh. Tipping off the folks facing possible indictment would have been much more risky, but this leak accomplished the same thing with much less risk.

Det. Alex Garcia, O’ahu chapter chairman of the State of Hawai’i Organization of Police Officers, said the union filed grievances on behalf of five officers in connection with the FBI probe. One of the officers has since retired from the department and no one knows what is going to happen with the other four, Garcia said.

“We have to wait until the grand jury comes out,” he said.

I checked Detective Garcia’s blog, and there was no mention of this yet. No surprise, because, as he noted for the Advertiser, there is no story yet.

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Update on Hawaii politicians who blog

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:05 pm
The Brian Schatz blog and indeed, his whole domain, is currently offline. Re-tooling for his campaign, I would assume.

Meanwhile, over at Senator Hooser’s blog, he posts every few months.

These blogs could become useful campaign tools, if they decide to make an effort. I’ll leave them on the blogroll just in case.

While I’m on the topic, my condolences to Representative Karamatsu who has recently been blogging about the death of his grandmother.

Last, what will it take to get another post from Representative Harbin? She speaks so often on the House floor that she would seem to have heaps of ideas to disseminate, and with her decision to attend only one Committee (of the five she was assigned to) Harbin should have plenty of free time…

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4/5/2006

Panel seeks answers to Superferry issues

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 7:15 pm
A Maui News article reports that the Superferry may be coerced into finally conducting meaningful public fora.

A request for $20 million to fund harbor improvements needed by Hawaii Superferry would be chopped in half and a series of public forums about the controversial project would be required if a provision by the state Senate Ways and Means Committee is adopted.

?They?re not just going to walk away with this additional $20 million,? said Sen. Shan Tsutsui.

The Senate?s money committee showed its disappointment in Superferry?s continued failure to meet with the public and lawmakers by earmarking only $10 million for the state Department of Transportation to carry out the improvements needed before Superferry can launch in little more than a year. Although the money was part of a $40 million appropriation requested by Superferry last year, DOT would serve as the accepting agency and provide the improvements around the state.

That reduced funding would be appropriated only if DOT agrees to begin a series of open meetings to bring the communities, other harbor users and county leaders up to speed on details of the ferry plans that are still mostly unknown. The Senate bill would require that DOT hold three public forums on each island that would be affected by Superferry in addition to conducting site surveys and assessments in collaboration with the Hawaii Harbor Users Group to gauge the project?s impacts on current users. All meetings would have to be publicized 10 days ahead of time.

The budget provision [see Section 6 of the bill, where it amends Section 88 of last year’s budget] included by the Ways and Means Committee will be further discussed at conference deliberations with the state House later this month.

It’s not at all a sure thing that the House will agree to that proviso. It’s certainly clever, but budget provisos are typically a last-ditch approach and they require careful politicking in order to succeed. However, the proviso also offers something for the Hawaii Harbor Users Group (i.e. the cargo transport industry), and they are a group whose members have significant influence at the Lege. During conference committee negotiations you can bet Group members (as well as the Hawaii Superferry folks) will be making their opinions known to the conferees.

Representatives from DOT and Superferry did not return calls to The Maui News Tuesday.

For more than a year, Mauians with questions about Superferry plans for operations say they have been kept in the dark by company officials who have refused to conduct open community meetings.

The ferry company?s latest effort at community involvement was to organize an advisory panel of residents. Even though members of the panel already have met twice, Superferry officials still decline to release their names because they say they are adding others to the group.

Company leaders also claim they have met with members of the Maui public.

Mayor Alan Arakawa, who unsuccessfully has asked that Superferry prepare an environmental impact statement to answer all the outstanding questions, had mixed feelings about the Senate?s action. Arakawa said while he supported the call for public forums, he didn?t agree with holding back half the funds for harbor improvements.

?I believe all the studies and assessments should be done to have the best information,? said the mayor. ?But you have to have the money to make all the improvements. I think it?s important to keep the conditions of meeting with the public, working on environmental assessments and eventually how other users will be impacted, but keeping the funding is equally important.?

Wha? The balance of the money is the only leverage the Legislature (or anyone else, for that matter) has to compel the meetings. The DOT and Hawaii Superferry have demonstrated consistently that they won’t hold further public meetings of any substance, because, frankly, they had no reason to do so. With this proviso, they’d have a reason.

Comments (3)
Lobbying reform bill dies

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:15 pm
The SB has an article with the backstory to the death of SB 1061. It’s not a very complicated piece of legislation; it would have prohibited campaign contributions from lobbyists to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and legislators during the time the legislature is in session. For whatever reason, Representative Luke surrendered her near-absolute power of life-or-death over the bills in her Judiciary Committee and instead deferred to the will of the Majority Leader.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Democratic leader, called the bill poorly drafted and speculated that if it had passed, Gov. Linda Lingle would have vetoed it.

“It was a sham,” Oshiro said.

“It didn’t do what supporters thought it would do and it mixed the definitions of campaign contributors and lobbyists,” Oshiro said.

For instance, Oshiro said, state law does not require newspaper publishers to register as lobbyists, so they would have been exempt from the campaign-donation prohibition.

Also, Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho) said the bill stopped contributions only during the legislative session.

“I saw it as basically changing the fundraising season to before the session or after the session,” he said. “The only way to address it would be to prohibit donations all year.”

The bill had been drafted by Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kapahulu-Palolo), who called it a “first step.”

“I believe they could fix it. It was a narrow bill that could have been expanded later,” Ihara said.

Actually, I would support a ban on contributions all year. But the U.S. Supreme Court has equated contributions with “speech,” so that prohibition would never fly.

The rest of Oshiro’s rationale is, uh, irrational. Supporters thought the bill would prohibit contributions during the session, and it would have done just that. Furthermore, Oshiro’s comment about newspaper publishers is, in the context of this bill, a complete non-sequitur. Is there really a problem with newspaper publishers “lobbying” the legislature or making campaign contributions during session? Not that I’m aware of, but if there is, let’s hear it!

I’m disappointed that Borreca did not press Oshiro regarding those comments. I could cut Borreca (and Oshiro) some slack on a very complex bill, but this particular bill is pretty straightforward. Reading the bill before speaking to Oshiro should have been sufficient to call Oshiro’s comments into question, in my opinion. It’s especially odd that the reporter let Oshiro’s bizarre insinuation against newspaper publishers go unchallenged. The story provides a link to the actual bill, but I suspect the click-through on that link is not very high. If a politician says something and the reporter doesn’t confirm or clarify what is said, then the average reader probably takes the statement at face value.

Lastly, in a body as partisanly lopsided as the Hawaii Legislature, Oshiro must know that there is little to fear with respect to a veto. Pass the bill out early enough and a veto could even be overturned during the Regular Session.

Comments (2)
China-Hawai’i tourism ties – nevermind principles

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:49 pm
Both the Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin run editorials which applaud the MOU between Hawaii and China (signed this week), yet they note with concern that travel between the two destinations is limited.

First, from the Advertiser:

The key is to ease red tape restrictions that make it difficult for Chinese citizens to visit the United States, particularly for pleasure or tourism travel.

The United States requires hard-to-get visas before Chinese citizens can travel to Hawai’i or anywhere in this country.

For its part, China has strict rules on overseas travel for its citizens, although those rules have been eased somewhat for tourist travel to selected nations in Southeast Asia.

When those conditions ease, as they should, the prospect of a more robust travel-and-tourism relationship between Hawai’i and China will become a reality.

From the slightly-more-sober SB editorial:

Hawaii is eager to capture more eastbound travelers and China is the world’s largest source for tourism, expected to reach 115 million by 2020.

However, without China granting the United States “approved destination status,” the state will remain at a clear disadvantage to other countries that have won that designation.

China and the United States are at odds on a number of issues, including currency, trade, migration and security. These have prevented the United States from being placed on Beijing’s list of sanctioned travel locations that now includes 90 countries.

In addition, Chinese visitors face formidable bureaucratic obstacles in obtaining visas, with some having to wait at least six weeks for applications to be processed. Though Hawaii opened an office in Beijing last year to attract businesses and tourism, diplomatic unease between the United States and China continues to hinder progress.

I think it is astounding that nothing is said about WHY there are travel restrictions (in both directions) and diplomatic unease. To say the two countries are “at odds on a number of issues,” is like polishing a turd. In the editors’ mutual eagerness to tap into this lucrative new (inbound) tourism market, they conventiently downplay the appalling human rights conditions mentioned annually in documents such as the U.S. State Department report on China.

“Sorry that you don’t have free speech, meaningful freedom of religion, the right to move freely within your own country, or a fair judicial system. Too bad that you may be sent to a “re-education” facility for thought crime in your home country. Whatever. Enjoy your stay in Waikiki! Please, spend lots of money!”

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4/4/2006

House Committee advances resolution calling for DBEDT trade mission audit

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:54 pm
The Chinese have now left for Washington, D.C. The Advertiser and the SB have pieces about the one-day visit (here and here), while the Hawaii Reporter has the actual text of the Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday. Yawn.

In other news, after a prolonged but ultimately inconclusive grilling, HCR 38 passed out of committee unamended and is now headed to the House floor for a vote to send it to the Finance Committee.

DBEDT Director Liu submitted voluminous testimony, which I intend to obtain and review. The Committee also heard testimony from Representative Marcus Oshiro, who has also been requesting and receiving a large number of documents from DBEDT.

UPDATE: Upon reviewing his testimony I learn that I obtained all the documents Director Liu provided to the Committee, and more, in response to my UIPA request.

While “welcoming” the audit and pledging to comply fully, Liu asked that the resolution should not smear PAAC for its involvement, and Liu again disputed that there was any special treatment for sponsors of the trade missions. After 20 minutes or so, Represenatitve Yamane asked Liu to try to summarize and then, after 10 or 15 minutes of additional testimony from Representative (Marcus) Oshiro, questioning began. The legislators on the Committee were most interested in the issues of procurement and seemed quite alarmed when Liu flatly told them that there were no contracts for the various services and goods obtained to carry out the trade missions. The issue of ethics only came up briefly in questioning, and it was met with Liu repeating his explanation that every delegate was offered the same benefits.

Representative Yamane, who asked that ethics question, was so close to one of the things I would like to know: when that AG letter warned Liu to exercise care in contacting potential sponsors, did Liu ask for any ethical guidance? Well, the Governor claimed when this story first broke that the plan got an okay from the Ethics Commission, but Dan Mollway’s comment suggests that he was not aware of the letter obtained by the Advertiser and would not have approved of it. Director Liu continues to argue that the letter (i.e. the one associated with the $50,000 suggested donation) was unique and, because every other delegate was offered no special treatment, that the letter was okay. In essence, Liu says that letter was “a special case” and not indicative of the Lingle administrations more general policy regarding members of the trade delegation.

Well, in my opinion, that just doesn’t matter; “usually” being ethical is not enough. The type of benefits offered in that letter were not offered to every delegate, and furthermore, the whole “governments matter” shtick and the offer of state support crossed a bright ethical line. Making such a solicitation, even once, is unethical, in my opinion.

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Goldwater group does not like publicly-financed campaigns

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:54 pm
The Hawaii Reporter has a post from the Goldwater Institute that critiques publicly-funded campaigns. The post is based upon a new study (PDF) the GI completed.

When Arizona?s Clean Elections Act passed in 1998, proponents hoped it would mark the beginning of a new era in elections: one of improved voter turnout, increased candidate participation, and less special interest influence.

But the new policy report, Campaign Promises, finds those promises haven?t been kept. The report?s author, Allison Hayward, is a leading campaign finance attorney who has served as the chief counsel to the Federal Election Commission chairman, authored the book Teach Yourself E-Politics Today: Using the Internet to Participate and Interact with Your Government, and blogs at skepticseye.com.

Since the implementation of the Clean Elections system, voter turnout has not improved, incumbency reelection rates have remained near 100 percent, the number of candidates fell substantially in the most recent primaries, and the law has not increased minor or third-party participation in politics. Furthermore, there is no indication that campaigns have become more positive or issue oriented.

You’ll note that the study itself did not examine the goal of reducing special interest influence, even though that was the primary goal of the effort (and is the goal of the effort here in Hawaii):

This paper will consider how successful the Arizona Clean Elections law has been at achieving its goals as expressed by the Act?s supporters. What was Arizona?s Clean Elections law intended to accomplish? Because the law passed by initiative, there are no
legislative committee reports or floor statements to consult. However, the Act does contain a ?declaration,? reading:

The people of Arizona declare our intent to create a clean elections system that will improve the integrity of Arizona state government by diminishing the influence of special-interest money, will encourage citizen participation in the political process, and will promote freedom of speech under the U.S. and Arizona constitutions. Campaigns will become more issue-oriented and less negative because there will be no need to challenge the sources of campaign money.

So, where are the data that show Arizona has not seen a diminished influence of special interest money and improved integrity compared to before public financing? The first clause of that primary goal is pretty much self-fulfilling, of course, as public financing goes up the influence of special interest goes down.

The study interprets elections data, showing that many incumbents are re-elected and fewer challengers have appeared, to mean that the law has failed. Is it possible that once the voters elected some publicly-funded candidates not beholden to special interests that in subsequent elections few constituents saw much reason to throw the incumbents out or even to challenge the incumbents? I dont have any data either, but I think that’s a fair hypothesis.

As for the campaigns becoming “less negative,” the study lists a few anecdotes and then announces that goal has failed. However, the evidence they produce (in addition to being skimpy) does not address the entirety of that goal, a goal which concludes “… because there will be no need to challenge the sources of campaign money.” If the negative campaigning is still based upon candidates attacking each other challenging the source of their (public) funding, then I could agree with the conclusion drawn in the study. The study gives no evidence of that type of negative campaigning. Hooray for the study, it has knocked down a straw man!

I still strongly support publicly-funded campaigns.

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Academy to give people chance to see government

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:54 pm
The Maui News has a press release piece about a County of Maui Academy. I also saw this mentioned at iLind where Ian Lind provided a link (PDF) to the actual press release where there is a better description of the curriculum.

It sounds like it could be a very useful program—for those who apply (PDF) quickly enough to secure a seat. However, it doesn’t take a cynic to consider this to be a thinly-veiled election year stunt. I could forsee the class being “full” if an applicant were to list a known-to-be-hostile group affiliation on the form. Heh.

Comments (0)
4/3/2006

Chinese Vice Premier visits to follow up on trade mission deals – say no MORE!

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:54 pm
DBEDT Director Liu has an op-ed in the Advertiser today announcing the arrival of a high-ranking foreign official who is passing through with a large trade mission (and premptively defending her itinerary). This visit sounds a lot like it is the reciprocal of the (dubiously-ethical) trade missions the Lingle administration made to Asia for the past few years…

Today, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, dubbed by Forbes as the second most powerful woman in the world, leads a 160-person delegation of senior government officials and business executives to visit Hawai’i. During this delegation’s visit, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism will host a trade and investment symposium and sign a memorandum of understanding with the China National Tourism Administration, China’s tourism ministry. [Note: Wu’s wikipedia biography mentions her rumored former ties during the 1980s and 1990s to an Communist Party official accountable for the Tiannamen Square killings of pro-Democracy protestors in 1989.]

Emerging markets are fraught with risks ? legal, cross-cultural and political. In this context, personal relationships matter in Asia ? as they do here in Hawai’i’s Asia-Pacific-based culture. Relationships often are the most effective guide around unknown risks or the best solution to an unanticipated risk.

Within this often complicated web of relationships, the ones with governments are possibly the most important. Governments matter in Asia ? a lot. Governments in Asia can help facilitate business and they can help resolve business disputes ?or they can stand in the way. Our trade missions have recognized that these government relationships are valuable assets for all Hawai’i businesses and, if properly deployed, can help our businesses manage the risks of foreign markets. [My emphasis]

The state’s trade missions included venues for all Hawai’i participants to meet and develop relationships with local and national government officials. These took place at seminars, workshops, luncheons, receptions, music concerts, trade shows, site visits and one-on-one business and government matchmaking meetings ? open to all from Hawai’i. [My emphasis] The result is added assurance and potential assistance to Hawai’i’s businesses seeking to do business in new markets with new partners.

Hawai’i cannot afford to be left behind. Whether driven by intense global competition or the goal of diversifying our economy or the desire for a higher standard of living, Hawai’i has no choice but to engage foreign markets.

Governments can play a role facilitating foreign market entry. For Hawai’i and Hawai’i’s businesses, our state’s relationships with foreign governments are an asset.

All of this sounds to me like code for “the way business and government works in China is thoroughly corrupt, but if Hawaii wants to do business with China then we must play dumb and go along for the ride.” Like a Monty Python sketch you may remember…

Originally scheduled for today, HCR 38, which calls for an investigation into the methods used to solicit donations in return for this “matchmaking” service, has been postponed until Tuesday afternoon, April 4. Director Liu stresses here that the trade missions to Asia did not provide any special favors to “sponsors,” and, in fact, anyone could have done the same. However, his letter to one potential sponsor, available thanks to the Advertiser and excerpted in my earlier post, suggests to me that generous sponsors were offered endorsements beyond what “lesser” members of the trade mission could expect.

In a recent press release the ties between Wu’s visit and the Lingle administration trade missions are even more clear:

?This visit by the Chinese Vice Premier and her delegation is a direct result of last year?s successful official trade mission where we laid the groundwork for a cooperative tourism agreement,? said Governor Lingle. ?In addition, it is another opportunity to meet face-to-face with top government and business leaders and continue our efforts to aggressively market Hawai`i’s tourism expertise and business partnership opportunities to China.?

Madame Wu is stopping in Hawai`i enroute to Washington, D.C. to attend the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce & Trade. She will be accompanied by several cabinet members, many of whom Governor Lingle met with last summer in China, including Mr. Shao Qiwei, chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), and Madame Ma Xiuhong, vice minister of Commerce and Transportation.

The delegation will also include more than 100 Chinese business leaders.

The business and tourism investment seminars will take place on Monday, April 3 in Waikiki. Participants will be split into two groups to discuss investment and tourism issues of importance to both China and Hawai`i.

A highlight of the meetings will be the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the State of Hawai`i and the CNTA in such areas as strategic partnerships, information exchanges and training opportunities.

This official state event will be hosted by Governor Lingle at Washington Place, beginning at 6:15 p.m. It will be followed by an official reception in honor of the Vice Premier.

Wow, this raises a few other interesting questions.

Were there similar “sponsorship” arrangement(s) for the “investment seminars,” the official state event, or the official reception? If so, who were the sponsors and how were the donations solicited and spent this time around?
Which Hawaii businesses attended the seminars today? “Sponsors” only, or were the seminars open to the general public?
Which Hawaii businesses were on the guest list for the official state event and the reception Monday evening?
Were the Hawaii businesses who were “sponsors” of the trade missions invited to the events at the expense of others who were not sponsors?
What “gifts” were given to the Chinese delegation from the Hawaii businesses and/or from the Lingle administration?
Last, did anyone from Hawaii call Wu, “Comrade?” Heh.

Comments (2)
Sunshine Law fans will love this…

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:53 pm
Two House committees passed HR 197 today which will establish a Committee on Homeland Security Review.

The purpose of this committee will be to allow selected Representatives to be made privy to the State Homeland Security Program, i.e. how the State is secretly planning for homeland security threats (read terrorism) and how the federal funds are being spent to that end. All of this will be secret, so, even with this committee established, the public won’t have any better idea than we do now if the SHSP is adequate, realistic and Constitutionally sound. We do know that the federal government has alloted the state $45 million to do something, but that is the extent of all we may ever know.

What could possibly go wrong? A handful of legislators meeting in secret would never be strong-armed into acquiescing to policies that are ill-conceived but earnestly offered in the name of Homeland Security. Nah, can’t happen here.

Comments (0)
4/2/2006

Maui opponents of Superferry discuss concerns – amongst themselves

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:59 am
The Maui News article about a community meeting on Maui is, understandably, devoid of very much “news.” The people who might have had answers to the community questions, or could have at least listened to the community comments, did not attend.

Even two members of Superferry?s newly appointed Maui advisory board wished officials had chosen to be on hand.

?It?s unfortunate that Hawaii Superferry is not here to participate ? or just to listen or to learn,? said Teya Penniman, manager of the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

Paddler Mahina Martin agreed.

?I share with the frustration of those who brought the lawsuit and of those who put together this forum,? said Martin. ?The window is short, but the questions are large.?

Martin and Penniman revealed that they had agreed to serve as members on the advisory board that Superferry officials have refused to identify. Although the panel has already held two meetings, more members are being added, according to John Garibaldi, chief executive officer for the Superferry. When the group is complete, an announcement will be made, he said Friday.

Hmmm. It’s not clear if the announcement publicly identifying the advisory board members will be made when the group is completely formed, or when the group has completed all of its meetings. If the most recent history of Hawaii Superferry is any indication, I would expect the latter…

It’s also notable that Martin and Penniman did not reveal the identities of the other members already serving on the advisory board. Did anyone bother to ask? Were these two members sworn to secrecy as a condition of sitting on the board? Very odd. It could even be true that they are the only two members, because I can’t imagine many truly civic-minded folks would be willing to serve on such a secretive board and thereby lend it credibility that it doesn’t deserve. Yes, I’m questioning the character and judgement of Martin and Penniman. Can’t they see how they are acting as quislings?

Much as I had suspected earlier, it looks as if the Superferry has chosen its preferred public relations strategy and it is, “We’ll see you hippies in court.”

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Breach of dam is legal thicket

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:58 am
A very interesting piece in the Advertiser today suggests that the question of liability for the failure of Kaloko dam is very complicated.

An Advertiser review of property records, regulatory filings and case histories shows that the responsibility for maintaining Hawai’i’s dams ? and the liability if one fails ? can be subject to a complex series of ownership agreements, water-rights contracts and other covenants.

To be sure, state and federal engineers and investigators may find that they can’t determine the cause of the Kaloko dam’s breach, making it difficult to pin blame. They also might find that the breach was an act of God, and no legal liability could be assigned.

But a key part of the investigation is whether the dam, particularly its spillway, was tampered with, contributing to the structure’s demise. Such a finding could result in a criminal investigation by the state attorney general’s office, which is heading the state’s preliminary, fact-finding efforts.

The article seems to have been filed before the Garden Island News reported that a criminal probe is underway. Or perhaps the Advertiser still does not know of that development, or they could not confirm it. ??

Under [a] so-called water-rights agreement, the company, Kilauea Irrigation Co., is required to maintain and operate the Kaloko dam or embankments, as well as manage the Kaloko Reservoir’s ditches, tunnels and intake valves used to supply and store water in the 400 million-gallon reservoir, Advertiser research shows.

Kilauea Irrigation is in essence a water utility company that provides 23 farmers in the North Shore Kaua’i community with fresh water.

The company was set up 25 years ago by C. Brewer & Co., but most of its work was outsourced to Kaua’i contractor Tom Hitch, according to filings with the state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates water utilities.

The company has never been profitable and in 2004, it lost $52,000, records show.

C. Brewer sold all of its stock in Kilauea to Hitch last November for $10 as part of its effort to liquidate assets.

The deal, which was approved by the PUC, gave Hitch the company’s sole asset, the Kaloko water system as well as the company’s liabilities, including its requirement to maintain and operate the dam.

Hitch, whose company is not insured for losses caused by the dam break, said he only became aware of his potential liability several days ago after he read the 1987 water-rights agreement.

This is the same Mr. Hitch that was publicly vocal immediately after the disaster, if you recall, saying that Pflueger wanted higher water levels for aesthetic reasons. Thanks for playing. Sigh.

Denis Binder, a dam safety expert and law professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., said a look at similar lawsuits on the Mainland also can provide some guidance on how courts are likely to determine responsibility.

He cited a landmark 1971 Florida case in which a phosphate mining company was held liable for millions of dollars in damages after a dam used to hold a phosphate settling pond breached, sending nearly a billion gallons of toxic slime into streams.

The spill did not injure anyone but killed fish and wreaked havoc on the area’s ecosystem. The Florida appeals court ruled that the mining company was liable, but not because they were negligent in their maintenance of the dam. They were found liable because the settling ponds were abnormally dangerous and posed a risk to the nearby environment, Binder said.

Under this scenario, Pflueger and the Mary N. Lucas Trust are potentially liable simply because the dam posed an inherent hazard to neighbors.

The water-rights agreement doesn’t exempt the landowners from liability since they can’t delegate their responsibilities, Binder said.

The article goes on to note what I’ve mentioned several times, i.e. that the law clearly absolves the state of liability, but concludes that it will take years of litigation to sort it all out.

I’m not sure if a criminal trial would (or could) supercede all of that wrangling. But it does add a bit more fuel to the comment I made yesterday. The State has a big incentive to pin the blame on a private party before the attempts to pin it on the State begin in earnest.

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Insiders speak of the election season

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:58 am
Borreca continues the SB series of surveying “insiders” on political topics. This time the 32 (un-named) legislators were asked about likely campaign issues and strategies for 2006. You can find the results here and here. When Borreca did this last time (and the time before that), the list of “insider” respondents was included—although their individual responses could be anonymous. This time he offered them the same anonymity deal, but we don’t know the names of the 32 participants.

Furthermore, the question this time out was not a good choice:

Q: What issues are Hawaii Democrats and Republicans likely to emphasize as they campaign in 2006? What issues will tip the balance to the Democrats and what will help the GOP?

Issues? As if.

The saving grace is the section where we hear the argument that the Legislature races are personality-driven and hinge much more on hard work than on a well-thought-out stance on the issues.

Six of the respondents out of the 32 surveyed discounted any one issue as being enough to bring victory. Instead, they said, knowing your community, reflecting it and communicating with it was the way to victory.

For instance, David Rae, vice president for public affairs for the James Campbell Company, LLC, said no one issue would deliver the winning votes.

“Most people vote on how they feel about a candidate; where he or she stands on an issue is secondary.

“Insofar as issues play a major role, voters see them as ‘markers’ or indicators of a candidate’s value system, character or cultural orientation,” Rae said.

Neal Milner, University of Hawaii political scientist, said Hawaii today has no single issue so compelling that it would drive an election.

Exactly! In a local race, sign-waving and door-knocking almost always will defeat reasoned op-eds, ideological purity (of whatever flavor), speeches to the Rotary Club, and slick mailers. That doesn’t hold for the Governor race, or Congress, of course. At that level candidates win by being slick and media-savvy.

UPDATE: The names of the 32 participants are in the “display” version of the story, but not in the “print” version of the story I linked to.

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Workplace violence complaint is dismissed at Hawaii County Council

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:58 am
File under: the beatings will continue until morale improves. The Hawaii County newspapers have a story (provided by Councilmember Higa) that the County Clerk has dismissed a workplace violence complaint related to an angry outburst from Higa directed at an office worker assigned to (Higa’s rival) Councilmember Safarik. (Hawaii Tribune-Herald story is here, West Hawaii Today version is here)

In her letter to Higa, Kiriu concluded his actions, albeit “embarrassing to Ms. Swallow,” were “within the scope of your duties as council chair – that is, to ensure that office protocol is followed.”

Kiriu said she drew four conclusions, based upon her review of Smith’s report and the police report:

- “Chairman Higa – under circumstances that perhaps neither he nor Ms. Linda Swallow clearly understood – may have unintentionally raised his voice in explaining protocols of the County Council, which had not been followed by Ms. Swallow.”

- Higa’s tone moved Swallow to tears and both his tone and her crying in front of her coworkers was embarrassing for her.

- “(Safarik) escalated an unfortunate situation by his overzealous insistence on involving the Police Department in a non-violent issue and insisting that Ms. Swallow file a police report and an internal complaint. The situation should have been permitted to be informally and internally resolved.”

- Staff for the county clerk and council members “are being caught in the political crossfire of the unseated council chairman (Safarik) and the current council chairman (Higa),” Kiriu wrote.

If yelling supervisors and upset employees were routinely found to constitue evidence of “workplace violence” then the office environment would be a very different place for workers, no? Heh.

Note, however, that Higa may still face more formal action. The County Prosecuting Attorney has not acted on the (still unfiled?) police report.

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4/1/2006

Neener, neener, says Mayor and pal

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:49 am
The SB is a day late to the story of Communications Pacific’s lawsuit being dismissed, but they do a good job with it.

Communications Pacific attorney Terry Thomason said Circuit Judge Eden Elizabeth Hifo ruled on Wednesday there was no administrative or judicial remedy available for the firm to pursue under the state’s procurement law.

“We’re obviously disappointed in the ruling,” Thomason said. “The court decided that there is not an avenue for Communications Pacific to assert what (it) feels is the injury it suffered.”

Thomason said that the city argued that the procurement code had a very restricted and limited scope of remedies, “and in essence, subs don’t have a remedy.” Communications Pacific, however, argued it does have a remedy and wanted the case retained, he said.

That is a better explanation than yesterday, although it is too bad that it comes from the plaintiff’s lawyer and not from a neutral observer.

The mayor, in announcing the dismissal, said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling and pointed out that this is the second time Communications Pacific’s allegations over the contract selection process were tossed out. The first was by the state Procurement Policy Board.

“I think it just really shows that the rail transit process from the beginning, the awarding of consultants’ contract, was always above board. There was nothing shady about it,” Hannemann said.

But company President Kitty Lagareta said neither of those decisions dealt with the heart of her complaint.

“Nobody has given me the answer I’m looking for. I’m looking for the answer to the question, Can you go through the procurement process, can you grade a company whether it’s a sub or a prime contractor, award the bid and then swap out the subs?” Lagareta said.

Lagareta may never get that answer, but Hannemann is just wrong in his “thinking” that the ruling shows there was “nothing shady about it.” It’s the difference between being innocent and not going to trial. We have to start with the presumption that Hannemann did nothing wrong, but Hifo’s ruling in no way “shows” that to be true.

Example: say, purely hypothetically [cough], I exceed the speed limit on my motorcycle travelling to work and nobody observes me doing so. The fact that there could be no charges against me does not change the fact that I broke the law. Nevertheless, I’m legally not guilty until it can be proven by the State, of course.

[Hannemann’s friend and subcontract-winner] Pickard countered, “It sounds like great PR spin coming from a public relations executive, and that’s utterly ridiculous.” He said that he believes the judge’s ruling vindicates his company.

“What (the ruling) says was that Kitty Lagareta was wrong to bring those kinds of allegations against the administration and innocent people trying to do work in Honolulu,” he said.

Pickard makes the same type of interpretive blunder. Why not? It’s Hannemann’s neck in the noose, not his, if something “shady” ever turns up. At worst, Pickard might lose his transit consulting gig.

Lagareta said she is leaning toward appealing the court’s decision but has not made a final decision.

“I think this is something worthy of an answer. I think if we’re going to have a legal and transparent procurement process, this question needs to be answered. It’s fundamental,” Lagareta said.

Hannemann said he also believes that the latest decision will also bode well for the city in a pending federal transportation investigation into the contract process.

Councilman Charles Djou, who asked for the review by the U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general, said he hopes the mayor is correct. “If the feds come back with the same review that the state courts have, I think that’s fantastic.”

Wha?! Djou’s comment is a retreat from his former bluster when those federal complaints were lodged, to put it kindly.

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Dam investigation goes criminal

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:49 am
The Garden Island News scoops the rest of the Hawaii media (those that I keep on tabs on, at least) with a story that the Attorney General is investigating crimes that may have led to the Kaloho Dam disaster.

“We’re into a criminal investigation at this point, and based upon that I can make no (further) comment,” said state Deputy Attorney General Christopher Young.

“It’s an ominous turn of events,” said local real-estate attorney Peter Miller. “It would have to be based on a discovery that indicates more than negligence.

“It sounds like the attorney general thinks there’s grounds to believe a crime may have been committed,” said another local attorney whose firm members handle real-estate law cases.

“As a general rule, simple negligence is a civil matter, and criminal liability requires something more serious,” said the attorney, who is known to The Garden Island but requested his name be withheld because he was not familiar with the facts of the case. “I presume they’ve identified one or more criminal statutes that may have been violated.”

The issue then turns to who, if anyone, is at fault. The Ka Loko Reservoir is owned by two parties, James Pflueger, an Oahu-based auto dealer, and the Mary N. Lucas Trust, the estate of Pflueger’s grandmother, Mary Lucas.

I’ve read previously that Pflueger is the trustee of the Mary N. Lucas Trust. So… you do the math.

The story is suddenly much more interesting, although I’m not going to forego my political focus in order to follow the trial closely on this blog—except to the extent that politicians or bureaucrats are tried or become key witnesses. My first political comment on this development is that it doesn’t take much imagination to see how a criminal investigation/trial could be an attempt to deflect attention from the State’s embarassing dam safety record.

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US Senate passes (un)ethics bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:49 am
An unusually vigorous SB editorial today rips into the U.S. Senate, and Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye in particular, for passing a weak ethics “reform” bill. I was particularly intrigued by the concluding paragraphs:

The bill originally would have required American Indian tribes to register and file details of their campaign donations with the Federal Election Commission, as political action committees must do. Abramoff had quietly fleeced millions of dollars from Indian tribes and used the money to bribe members of Congress.

That provision didn’t even make it to the Senate floor. Rules Committee Chairman Trent Lott, R-Miss., obliged Inouye’s request to strike it from the bill.

Meanwhile, in the Indian Affairs Committee, Inouye was less successful in trying to sink a proposal that tribes report their casino gambling finances to their members, who were unaware that revenues were being funneled to Abramoff. The proposal is part of a larger bill to increase the National Indian Gaming Commission’s oversight of tribal casinos.

“One sovereign does not tell another sovereign what to do,” Inouye complained, according to the Desert Sun of Palm Springs, Calif., home to an Indian tribe that gave money to Abramoff. “We cannot impose (financial) transparency on the Japanese or the British.”

As I understand it, the Akaka Bill seeks to establish a Native Hawaiian government on terms similar to those of American Indian tribes. So, by extension, it would seem that Senator Inouye would not demand financial transparency in whatever form that (still hypothetical only) Native Hawaiian government chooses?

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Ogden shenanigns and Rep. Tanaka opponent

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 10:48 am
The Maui Time Weekly has a pseudo-blog column with a few useful tidbits in the latest edition:

Angus McKelvey is running for the 10th District state representative seat, which lords over the Westside. As a Democrat. And why shouldn?t he? After all, he?s a contributing writer at the Lahaina News. And he?s married to Democrat Greta McKelvey, who got badly beaten by political virgin Kam Tanaka in the 2004 race for the 10th District seat. And his mother is Joan McKelvey, Lahaina News founder and former campaign manager to Republican Brian Blundell, who served a number of years as 10th District Representative until his 2004 arrest for his ?inappropriate touching? of an undercover vice cop in a Honolulu park men?s room. He?s running against Kay Ghean?former chair of the Maui County Republican Party?but with credentials like that, how can McKelvey lose?

What is going on with all the seemingly-blatant opportunism in party switching on Maui? Okay, maybe that is a bit hasty, I don’t know McKelvey’s history of party affiliation and (contrary to the naysaying comments here) it’s possible Mr. McKelvey has always been a Democrat (or, at least never been a Republican) despite his wife and his mother being GOP members.

Wheeling, West Virginia-based Ogden Newspaper Group, a right-wing company that owns every paper on Maui except us?The Maui News, Maui Weekly, Lahaina News and Haleakala Times?has made yet another ethically appalling decision to pay money to someone it?s covering. Most newspapers just cover events that are newsworthy. They don?t go out and pay subjects to create events that they then write about. Most journalists consider that blatantly unethical, but Ogden?s different. Back in August, 2005, The Maui News foot the bill when former Iraqi prisoner of war Jessica Lynch and two of her girlfriends visited Maui, then published an embarrassingly lavish story on her (see Maui Time?s ?Outside the Boundaries,? Aug. 25, 2005 for more on why this was journalistically unethical [I would link to that, but their archive page has a big gap??]). But that was nothing compared to what the home office can do. On March 22 of this year, Ogden helped pay President George W. Bush?s expenses when he visited Wheeling to press the flesh and hold one of his town hall meetings. ?We are extremely pleased to have the president in Wheeling again, and we are pleased to help underwrite the expenses.? Ogden president and CEO Robert Nutting said in one of the numerous stories glorifying the visit that appeared in the Ogden-owned Wheeling News-Register. The mind naturally gravitates to a single question: why the hell does the President of the United States of America need Ogden to help pay his expenses while, ostensibly, just performing his duties as president? Not surprisingly, one nationally recognized media expert has already condemned Ogden?s outrageous behavior. ?What a journalistic blunder,? Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz said in an online chat this morning. ?Why compromise yourself in that fashion when it?s a big local story that your reporters will have to cover??

An interesting allegation. I’m agnostic about the other Maui papers owned by Ogden, but I happen to think that the Maui News reporters are quite good, even if the editorials are a bit unpredictable. The Maui News letters page is surely not subject to any right-wing censorship.

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Ako is back!

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:48 am
It’s like playing Where’s Waldo? on the letters to the editor pages. After more than a month on hiatus, the Advertiser has one today from my old friend, Queen Kristi. Probably could make a drinking game out of it, but it’s too slow-paced.

KEEP GOOD OF ALL IN MIND WHEN VOTING

It’s never akamai to generalize. For example, some homeless have hit mental, physical or financial rock bottom, while some simply can’t afford to pay rent even while gainfully employed. In our democratic society, however, even Americans who are homeless can register to vote.

Let’s work toward constructive, sustainable solutions for the benefit of all Hawai’i. Let’s focus on providing access to housing and employment for our deserving citizens of today and providing access to quality education for our citizens of tomorrow.

And, let’s keep the good of the whole in mind when we vote.

Kristi Sue-Ako
Kaka’ako

Bravo. Torn from Ako’s book of boilerplate floor speeches, a book so cruelly re-shelved by the appointment of Representative Anne Stevens. Just insert two words to the beginning and she is all set: “Mr. Speaker,” etc.

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