Poinography!

January 10, 2009

Poinography May 2006 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 2:02 pm

Poinography!

5/31/2006

BOE hears plea from law enforcement for student data

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:10 pm
An interesting story today in the SB about a discussion at the Board of Education concerning sharing student records with the law enforcement community.

Representatives of police, prosecutor and judiciary testified at a meeting of the board’s Ad Hoc Committee on School Safety. It was the first of a series of sessions to explore how to improve safety in schools and what changes to policies, rules and laws are needed.

Family Court Judge R. Mark Browning said, “Family Court is very concerned about school safety.” When a youngster is brought before the juvenile drug court, “almost all haven’t gone to school for years.”

Regarding cases of violence, “in many instances these are kids in special education,” he said. “We find out they have three or four previous assaults. We would prefer that they be brought to us sooner.”

Browning said that of the 6,000 to 8,000 youngsters in Family Court each year, about 80 percent have drug or alcohol-abuse problems and more than 60 percent have emotional, psychological or mental health issues.

“We don’t prioritize our children as much as we should,” he said. “We don’t have mental health facilities for them, we don’t have drug rehabilitation for them. Our kids spend more time in jail than adults do for the same crimes.”

Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle told board members that each school should keep records of every incident of violent or antisocial behavior. He said fear of lawsuits may deter teachers from documenting or sharing information, but “the kids at school know who is the drug user, who is fighting. Now we make it so adults know it.”

“It doesn’t just stay with the school system; it goes to the police, the prosecutor,” if the law is changed as he would like, Carlisle said.

These records are subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and are not routinely shared with law enforcement. To share the records will require enabling legislation, which is why Carlisle and Browning are seeking the support of the BOE.

“We’re offering to be your partners,” U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo told a state Board of Education committee. He urged the Department of Education to tap the “plethora of resources” available from public and private agencies to cope with violence, drug abuse, truancy and other problems in schools.

The intention of shared records would be to implement early intervention before antisocial behavior escalates, said Kauai County Prosecutor Craig DeCosta. “It’s not that we want to prosecute; we want what is best for the child,” he said. A change in the law would be necessary before records are shared, he noted.

So, which is it? Kubo says the law enforcement community has a “plethora of resources” available to help the schools, while Judge Browning says they don’t have mental health and drug treatment programs for children. Thus, the take-away message seems to be “we will prosecute these children and lock them up for you.”

These records will have the potential to be used as evidence for the prosecution, so if this were to proceed the student had better have some due process rights to challenge the information before it is handed over. Carlisle makes it sound as if teachers and fellow students are going to be reliable informants. Well, maybe so. However, I have serious doubts that students and teachers will be willing informants if they know that what they say may lead to criminal prosecution of a student.

If this were an attempt to provide services to mentally ill and/or substance abusing students then I would be all for it. That’s not the way it looks, though. It looks like a way to sweep up more children into the criminal justice system who would otherwise mature out of their anti-social behavior. In-school disciplinary actions and Family Court proceedings are not publicized, so it’s hard to say if there are (m)any exceptionally violent students who are not being disciplined or referred for prosecution. Without any evidence to the contrary, this seems like a solution looking for a problem.

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New Akaka Bill introduced

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 12:10 pm
I noticed a post at Hawaii Reporter about a new version of the Akaka bill that was introduced late last week. Assuming the link to Thomas works (my luck with that site is poor), you may find S. 3064 here. I had thought that the plan was to amend S. 147 to address the concerns raised by the Bush administration and others. Instead, Senator Akaka has introduced those amendments as a whole new bill and it seems that S. 3064 could be the bill subject to a cloture vote next week.

Never doubt the political clout of two U.S. Senators, Daniel Akaka and Inouye.

The Hawaii Senators successfully submitted a new bill, Senate Bill 3064, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2006 into a First Reading in the U.S. Senate on May 25, 2006, and the next day, took it to a Second Reading, with the intent on organizing a Cloture vote by early June.

Um, it does not take any special “clout” to introduce legislation; any Senator has that authority, of course. If Congress operates like the Hawaii Legislature, then for the bill to go straight to Second Reading and bypass any committee hearing is unusual, though.

Can you just hear the spin? “Oh this bill’s better. This bill improves S. 147. You can vote for this bill.” The peril is that senators swamped with other issues will buy into the Big Lie, and make an expedient vote that could tear this country asunder in the very near future.

The “other issues” is possibly a reference to the permanent repeal of the estate tax which is thought to be linked to this legislation.

S. 3064 reports that within the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause (Article I, Sec. 8, Clause 3) is the constitutional ground for the legislation. The Commerce Clause states, “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with Indian tribes.” Clearly, U.S. citizens containing “a single drop of Hawaiian blood” are not: 1) foreign nations; 2) States of the United States, or 3) Indian tribes. The Commerce Clause, nor any other language within the U.S. Constitution allows such a travesty as the Akaka Bill.

I don’t claim to have read every word written about this bill, but that appears to be a novel argument for the opponents to use. If the Congress passes the bill and the President does not veto it then we shall see if the Judiciary strikes it down. What the Hawaii Reporter post fails to note is that the same Constitutional grounds were the basis for the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and many other laws concerning Native Hawaiians. Some of those existing laws are being challenged, but SCOTUS hasn’t set any of them aside (yet).

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5/30/2006

Ethics & IRS complaints pursue “intern” from HMSA

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:44 am
Larry Geller’s blog had a post over the weekend with more about the complaints filed by Representative Harbin over the interns working for Representative Herkes. To start, Geller riffs a bit on a theme I raised earlier:

Although the complaints make allegations, it may be hard for the Ethics Commission to pin down exactly what HMSA was able to accomplish in Herkes office this session. The NSA might know, but otherwise evidence may be hard to come by.

Heh.

Geller also posts PDF versions of Harbin’s IRS and Ethics Commission complaints, her request for an advisory opinion and definition of “intern” from the Ethics Commission, and her letter to House Majority Leader Oshiro.

After seeing the actual complaints I remain dubious that there is much hope of the Ethics complaints amounting to very much, barring the discovery of a “smoking gun”. Instead, Harbin offers zero specific evidence of “lobbying” by Mr. Forman, and she makes much of the interlocking boards of directors of HMSA and the HMSA Foundation. For better or for worse, no matter who sits on the boards, the two are separate legal entities and I don’t think the Ethics Commission or the IRS may (or will) connect Forman to any legislation benefiting the health insurer that he allegedly influenced via his “interning.” Forman was paid by the HMSA Foundation, not by HMSA proper.

After all that, my intent is not to say that Harbin should let these matters lie, but rather to point out that the fights she has taken on are going to be challenging.

Comments (1)
Drilling in Arctic contrasts Akaka and Case

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:44 am
A rather lengthy article in the Advertiser describes another high-profile issue that split the two Democratic contenders for the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Akaka’s support for Arctic drilling, by his own admission, is one of the few times he has crossed the majority in his party. His opponent in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Ed Case, is strongly against Arctic drilling and has been given much better marks by environmentalists.

Indigenous rights and environmental protection are fundamental to Hawai’i politics, so the differences between Akaka and Case on Arctic drilling may be among the most important for primary voters. It also cuts against the image of Akaka the liberal and Case the moderate, a reminder that political labels, while sometimes useful, are not absolute.

Case, who grew up on the Big Island, said Arctic drilling should not be about indigenous rights. He asked what would happen if some valuable commodity were found under Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park or in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

“I simply believe there should be some places in this world that should be off limits,” he said.

I’d like to hear Case expand on that. What other places should be off limits?

I agree that the environment is a huge issue for Democrats, but the ANWR territory at stake is so remote that my gut feeling is that only ardent environmentalists would consider Akaka’s position to be a deal-breaker in September. I’m lucky to have actually travelled all the way to the North Pole, but the very concept of the Arctic is pretty abstract for most people in Hawaii. A meeting of all the Hawaii voters that have actually been there (or even know anybody who has been there) would probably fit in a small auditorium.

Moving to the inidgenous rights side of the question, Case appears (from this article, at least) to be silent. Akaka, on the other hand, chose a side in the indigenous rights dispute. I can’t discern why Akaka chose to side with the Inupiat over the Gwich’n. Were the Inupiat the first native group to lobby him and earn his promise, or did Akaka hear the Gwich’n argument before making his commitment? Would both groups share the financial benefits of the drilling, or would it all go to the Inupiat?

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Thoughts on the convention weekend: GOP

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:44 am
Governor Lingle spoke at the GOP state convention over the weekend. The SB has its account here, while the Advertiser account is here. Borreca’s SB column is not specifically about the convention, but I am gonna refer to it here anyway.

Lingle gave her party what it wanted, rattling off a laundry list of accomplishments she and her Republican administration were laying claim to, including a get-tough approach on crime and drugs, getting more native Hawaiians on Hawaiian home lands, and helping the mentally ill and the homeless.

“You gave us a chance to get our economy back on track, to turn a quarter-billion-dollar deficit into a $700 million surplus,” Lingle told a cheering crowd.

Note how the big surplus is something to cheer about instead of being seen as an indication of her failure to achieve any tax relief… This reminds me of Senator Hemmings exasperated reaction to economic good news. In her speech or elsewhere, was/is Lingle able to point to anything specific that she did to turn the economy around (either with or without the help of the Democratic legislature)?

Lingle said she’s not finished with her vision, vowing to continue efforts to reform education and not completely abandoning setting up local school boards.

“It simply means I’m waiting for you to give us some more Republicans in the House and in the Senate,” she said of the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Sam Aiona said that while the goal is to get the governor re-elected, she undoubtedly will play a role in getting other Republicans elected.

“Not completely abandoning setting up local school boards?” So, she’s partially abandoning that vision, then? Whatever.

Lingle too spoke of her accomplishments. She highlighted what she called the “opportunities given us to make a change.”

Those included getting Hawai’i’s economy back on track; achieving mental-healthcare parity by moving Hawai’i from last place among the states four years ago to 15th place today; and lessening Hawai’i’s dependence on foreign oil by requiring that ethanol be blended into gasoline.

She also talked about her vision of healthcare reforms, and improvements in the state’s education system and long-term care for the elderly. She said she intended to take steps to deal with one of Hawai’i’s most critical issues: growth.

“How much growth is too much?” she asked.

A rhetorical question and that’s it? I know, I shouldn’t expect much substance to be found in a convention speech, but intentions to “deal with” a(ny) problem are cheap. Every listener in the room then instinctively assumes that Lingle would “deal with” growth in whichever way he or she would prefer; without knowing if Lingle seeks a growth moratorium, the abolition of land use protections, or something in between.

Lingle spoke about the need to be able to work with the opposing party, and the importance of maintaining a two-party system in Hawai’i.

But she didn’t shy away from taking a swipe at Democrats.

She began by saying that while she remains personally committed to the GOP because she believes it means a better future for the state, “I want to make an important point here: The interests of our party and the interests of the public are not always identical.

“While I will always be loyal to the party, I will never put the party’s interests above the interests of the people of Hawai’i.”

The Governor made that last remark in the context of describing the importance of a two-party system, but I think it could also be characterized as a swipe at the right flank of her party. Her (tepid) flashes of centrism are the subject of the Borreca column:

“My personal concept is that government can be an important force for good. Especially in how it relates to those who can’t help themselves, the mentally ill, the homeless and the lowest wage earners,” Lingle says.

Sentiments like that aren’t going to get TV news crews to do remotes from your front lawn. The interest is in what Lingle doesn’t include in her list of core beliefs.

There is no talk of creationism, no rapt discussion of abortion as an evil as opposed to a woman’s right, there is no mention of forced school prayer or campaigns against homosexuals or even labor unions.

In an interesting reflection on her own position heading up a liberal state with a super-majority of Democrats in the Legislature, Lingle says she likes Vermont’s Gov. Jim Douglas.

Like Lingle followed liberal Gov. Ben Cayetano, Douglas followed the bellicose Gov. Howard Dean. Can a Lingle moderate exist in the conservative Republican national party?

It is a question that worries Christie Todd Whitman, Lingle’s buddy, former New Jersey governor and former Environmental Protection Agency director.

In an interview reprinted on her Web page, “It’s My Party Too” (www.mypartytoo.com), Whitman says the ultra-conservative forces within the GOP are a problem for leaders such as her and Lingle.

“Unless we change the party from the inside and from the ground up, those people who will be making determinations when it comes to convention time – a Rudy Giuliani, a Tom Ridge, or Gov. Linda Lingle – they wouldn’t get through. Even John McCain, who is pro-life, would have a hard time because he’s not rigid enough for the social fundamentalists,” Whitman says.

Hmmm. Were those conservative forces not present at the Hawaii GOP convention, or were they simply unable to attract any media attention? Is party discipline so strong that the Hawaii conservatives bite their tongues to subsume their message, or have they largely abandoned the Hawaii GOP and Lingle?

Comments (0)
Thoughts on the weekend convention: Democratic Party

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:43 am
While the coverage of the Hawaii GOP convention mostly focused on the re-election campaign for the Governor, coverage of the Hawaii Democratic Party convention keyed in on the Case vs. Akaka contested primary for U.S. Senate. The SB articles are here and here. The Advertiser’s are here and here.

The state Democratic Party convention turned into a pre-election coronation ceremony for U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, who is battling a primary challenge from Rep. Ed Case.

The state party’s most powerful Democrat, Sen. Dan Inouye, endorsed Akaka in a passionate, unprecedented introductory speech yesterday before the state Democratic convention held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

In response, Case later said he knew that challenging an incumbent senator would be difficult and he would find his support outside of the party regulars.

“This was a carefully orchestrated demonstration of support that I don’t think translates outside this room,” Case said.

That’s why there is a vote, of course. haha. For whatever reason, the Saturday SB article focused almost entirely on the reaction to each man and very little discussion refers to what they said. It must be frustrating for Case (and, to a lesser extent, for Akaka), as the only thing of substance a reader comes away with is “Akaka is winning the intra-party horse race.”

The Advertiser provides a (slightly) more substantive description of the speeches:

Akaka said Democrats should ask the Bush administration whether the war in Iraq was warranted, whether national security has been used as a pretext for weakening privacy and civil liberties, and whether tax breaks have mainly helped the wealthy. The senator did not mention Case by name, but his campaign has tried to draw distinctions with Case on these issues, since the congressman has said he would likely have supported the initial decision to go to war, voted to extend the USA Patriot Act, and backed capital gains and alternative minimum tax reductions favored by the White House.

Although the senator was speaking of the differences between Democrats and Republicans, he was also hinting at the moderate Case when he asked delegates to compare loyalties and voting records.

“Unfortunately, there are some Republicans who have usurped the language of Democrats, just as there are some Democrats today who hide behind labels like fiscal conservative,” Akaka said. “They speak of things like tax relief for working and middle-class families when they really mean trickle-down economics. But you know that trickle-down economics by any other name is still a tax break for the rich, and you also know that there is very little that eventually trickles down to the rest of us.

“That’s why I believe that Hawai’i needs all the security, experience and wisdom that we can muster in Washington, D.C.”

——–

Case challenged Democrats to confront the party’s contradictions and lead what he described as the increasing majority of Americans who see party affiliation with diminishing importance. “We speak of our commitment to defending our country and securing our homeland, yet too many Americans still ? rightly or wrongly ? view us otherwise,” he said. “We speak the rhetoric of economic vitality, yet too many Americans ? rightly or wrongly ? see contradictions in our actions.

“We highlight the virtues of tolerance and big picture, big-tent inclusion, yet too many sense too often a growing intolerance and not-so-subtle exclusion that leaves some of us feeling like unwelcome strangers in our own land,” he said. “We call ourselves the party of the people, of the majority of Americans, yet we too often allow ourselves to be co-opted by narrow perspectives or special-interest few.

“We talk about our obligation to the future, but too often we dwell in the past.”

Well, maybe there really wasn’t that much substance to the speeches… Like Lingle at the GOP convention, the focus appears to have been rhetoric and a big helping of razzle dazzle for the audience. The convening Democrats also heard a speech from Representative Abercrombie that was described as very energetic and dismissive of the centrist approach to party politics, another clearly-implied jab at Case.

Some Democrats who are close to Akaka’s camp are concerned that the senator’s Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill, which could come up for a Senate vote in early June, might present some political problems. A Senate vote against the bill could weaken Akaka’s argument that his seniority and experience translates into effectiveness, while a vote for the bill might worry some older Japanese-Americans in the Islands who have been suspicious about federal recognition.

The bill, which has been stalled in the Senate since 2000, would create a process for Hawaiians to form their own sovereign government similar to Indian tribes and Native Alaskans.

Akaka’s allies, knowing how critical Japanese-American voters are in state campaigns, have tried to reassure them. Inouye, in his speech on Saturday, addressed people who are concerned the bill might give Hawaiians greater rights over land use. “May I simply tell you that we would never do anything that would take away anything from any one of you,” he said. “All we want is justice for the Hawaiians.”

That’d be a neat trick. I really don’t see how the type of government proposed by the Akaka bill could be anything other than a zero-sum process. My off-the-cuff impression is that for the Native Hawaiian governing entity to gain any land use power (which Inouye attempts to differentiate from “justice”), the non-Native Hawaiians would have to give some up. If Inouye knows of a way to carry it out as a “win-win” then I’d like to hear it. I’m sure the supporters of the Akaka Bill would like to hear how they could ever get justice without greater land use rights, too…

Comments (0)
Two more not coming back?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:43 am
In an otherwise predictable post at Hawaii Reporter, Senator Slom, writing while wearing his Small Business Hawaii hat, threw out this little nugget about people leaving the Legislature (see also this old post of mine).

Rumors persist that Democrat Rep. Jun Abinsay may retire for health reasons while State Senators Robert Bunda, D-Waialua and Suzanne Chun Oakland, D-Nuuanu, may pursue other options.

I had not heard those rumors.

Comments (1)
5/29/2006

We won!

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 7:31 pm
We had a second place on Saturday, a third on Sunday, and another second today. The consistency paid off, and we won our class of the regatta.

I’ll be back writing posts tomorrow after a great weekend of sailing. I hope all of you enjoyed the holiday weekend and took a moment to memorialize all those who have died in uniform. Sailing from Kahe Point back to Waikiki we actually saw the Hawaii Air National Guard F-15s returning to Hickam AFB after their “missing man” formation fly-by at Punchbowl.

Comments (3)
5/27/2006

Still slacking

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 6:04 pm
After an excellent day of yacht racing from Honolulu to Kaneohe, I’m about to meet some mainland visitors for dinner. So, even though I am slacking again, know that I read the news today and have taken note of some things to blog about, but they will have to go into a queue for either Sunday morning or, more likely, Monday or Tuesday.

It was an incredibly nice day for sailing. A sailor could do much worse than to live where I do… Ahhhh.

Comments (0)
5/26/2006

Too busy

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 7:14 am
Video conference all day and then sailing this evening. Sorry.

This Memorial Day weekend is three more days of sailing (Sunday I’ll spend the night on the boat at Ko Olina), but I’ll try to write something.

Maybe.

I hope.

Comments (2)
5/25/2006

HMSA Foundation intern targeted by Representative Harbin

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:58 am
Today the Advertiser has an article and Larry Geller has a blog post about Ethics Commission and IRS complaints filed by Representative Harbin challenging the HMSA Foundation executive who worked as an intern for Representative Herkes.

Unless Herkes and the intern were prone to sending policy memos to each other, my hunch is that the Ethics Commission is not going to find (or, more precisely, will be unable to prove) that the intern actually lobbied or influenced the legislative functions of Herkes. However, the IRS angle is new to me so I looked it up. I found a page of IRS resources that includes this link to an explanation of how much lobbying it would take to jeopardize the tax exempt status of a 501c(3) non-profit organization. I don’t know enough about the functions and financial situation of the HMSA Foundation, so I don’t know if their provision of a full-time intern for four months of work in Herkes’ office will exceed either the “substantial part” or the “expenditure test” threshold of allowed lobbying expenditures.

Of course, in the IRS question there would still be the preliminary issue of determining if Mr. Forman’s “interning” was in fact “lobbying.”

Comments (0)
Parades in Waikiki may be limited

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:58 am
The Advertiser has a story about the Honolulu City Council Transportation Committee meeting where Bill 84 was heard yesterday. The intent of the bill is to limit the frequency of parades on Waikiki streets; the trick for the Committee is deciding how to do it without unfairly restricting free speech.

Waikiki resident Stefan Fekete said closing Kalakaua Avenue 60 or more times a year for a parade ? that was the number of closures in 2005, city figures show ? clogs traffic and is excessive. Fekete said parades closed portions of the main roadway through the beachside resort three times in two weeks.

“Don’t get me wrong ? I love a good parade, but only a Hawaiian theme or a few religious ones,” Fekete said.

But he has some questions about the validity of other themes: “To celebrate the artery-clogging Spam? Can they do that?”

Yes, they can. Hawaiian theme and religious parades have similar effects on traffic and public safety as any Spam parade, so the City (correctly) does not base permit approval on the message of the parade.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Reid Yamashiro said the city does need to consider free speech or First Amendment issues as it crafts any limitations.

ACLU Hawai’i Legal Director Lois Perrin wrote (PDF): “While the ACLU is sensitive to the city’s financial concerns with respect to parades, the ACLU maintains that the city cannot balance its budget on the back of the First Amendment.”

Councilman Charles Djou said the concerns of most residents are practical, not philosophical, differences with protesters.

He said residents just want to be able to drive to and from home and work. “There are more street closures in Waikiki than in any other area,” Djou said. “It’s getting a little bit much.”

Strange that the article chose to quote from one of the more obscure parts of the ACLU letter. A good soundbite, I suppose. Anyway, the ACLU’s larger concerns have to do with a) the amendment to require applications for permits to be made 40 working days in advance (that was an issue when the Asian Development Bank met at the convention center in 2001 and no public notice was given until there was insufficient time to file a timely permit request to march in opposition to the meeting), and; b) the lack of meaningful restraints on the Mayor’s (proposed) broad power to waive the 2-parades-per-month limit that the bill would establish. The quote from the ACLU in the article refers to the City requiring parade organizers to have expensive insurance, or charge fees that could foreclose the parade option to those groups (or individuals) without the ability to pay.

Just to be snarky, I’ll note that under existing City policy it would be acceptable for marchers to carry through Waikiki on foot the same large banner that the City will not allow them to tow behind an aircraft over Waikiki. All those folks would need to do is enter the parade permit drawing every month and (as many as) half of the parades in Waikiki could involve their message…

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Is the NSA breaking the law?

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 11:58 am
Not specifically about Hawaii, but I’d like to point out a post at the Legislative Reference Bureau blog that links to a Congressional Research Service report about the legality of the various forms of government telephone surveillance said to be underway.

The introduction of the report begins:

Recent media disclosures regarding an alleged National Security Agency (NSA) program designed to collect and analyze information on telephone calling patterns within the United States have raised interest in the means by which the Government may collect such information. The factual information available in the public domain with respect to any such alleged program is limited and in some instances inconsistent, and the application, if at all, of any possibly relevant statutory provisions to any such program is likely to be a very fact specific inquiry. It is possible that any information provided to the NSA from the telephone service providers was provided in response to a request for information, not founded on a statutory basis. If this were the case, such a request would not necessarily be limited by the statutory structures discussed below, but in some instances, depending upon the facts involved, might expose the telephone companies to some civil remedies or criminal sanctions. In addition, a request, not founded upon a statutory scheme, would appear to lack a means of compelling production of the information requested. This would seem to be consistent with the statement in the USA Today article that one of the companies refused to comply with NSA?s request for calling detail records, while at least one other company appears to have complied.

To a large extent, the report is readable by non-specialists (some page-long paragraphs get rather dense, though). I recommend it to anyone interested in this topic.

Comments (0)
Good, evil, and the national debt

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:57 am
A truly cryptic letter to the Garden Island News editors today from the man on a quixotic run for Congress that I have posted about previously.

General MacArthur declared ?Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.?

Why?

Because each generation is forgetful of the past; seeing war as the cause of old men with white hair who cry together at funerals and on national holidays, i.e. Memorial Day. Certainly war is something terrible to be avoided. But unfortunately, the more good men avoid war the more chaos that will beset this world. Until we seek God?s glorious qualities in the face of evil and step up, push science, labor, and the pursuit of money aside, evil will continue to triumph.

On 9/11 the World Trade Center was attacked, why?

One reason is that today the world?s pursuit of money, the desire to preserve wealth is ever increasingly challenged. So until we change a national monetary policy that intentionally tries to erase our national debt by inflating the money supply, chaos will reign. Who in such a world stands on the side of righteousness? They who want to dishonestly erase debt or those who want to preserve what little money they have, among these choices I honestly do not know.

What I do know is that fighting for freedom and sacrificing for the humanity of man is glorious; and that terrorists are evil men bent on the destruction of America for both its good, and bad, qualities.

Richard ?Noah? Hough
Honolulu

[blink]

Wow, you certainly don’t have such apocalyptic non-sequiturs rhetoric from any of the other candidates for Congress… I’d recommend that Hough find an editor, maybe somebody who dabbles in psychiatry, too.

Comments (0)
5/24/2006

Abortion banners grounded at U.S. Appeals Court

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 1:47 pm
Both Honolulu dailies have stories about a victory at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for Honolulu’s prohibition on aerial advertiser banners. The SB story is here and the Advertiser story is here. The unofficial HSC blog has a link to the decision (PDF) in this post.

As it turned out, the Mayor’s confidence in his legal team was well-deserved—so far. However, the loser plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform said it expected to lose in the liberal lower courts and will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Gregg Cunningham, director of the Orange County, Calif.-based group, said the First Amendment has taken “a grievous blow.”

“If the environmental groups and political leftists who are trying to suppress the truth about abortion think we’re going to go away because we lost two cases that we fully expected to lose, they’re in for a rude awakening,” he said.

and

“We’re saying that if we can’t get the truth about abortion out to the public consciousness through the traditional media, at least give us the right to create alternative mass media. Abortion remains legal in this country because the truth is being suppressed.”

The three-judge panel noted airplanes towing banners isn’t a historically important form of communication or speech, adding there are other ways people can express themselves. The decision affirms a November 2004 ruling by U.S. District Judge David Ezra that the city ordinance was constitutional.

I am not a lawyer, but the part of the decision that speaks to historically important forms of communication is, in my opinion, if not the weakest, the most troubling part of the argument. What if the government had decided to prohibit public speech on the internet when it was a brand new form of communication? To apply strict scrutiny to public speech only within public parks and on the sidewalks, etc., seems disturbingly archaic to me.

Would I like to have the Center’s message flying over Waikiki? No. The issue is much bigger than that particular message, though.

Comments (0)
Case is calling out Akaka for a debate

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:47 pm
The SB has an article about (yet another) plea from Representative Case seeking public debate(s) with Senator Akaka.

On the day in January when he announced his campaign to unseat Akaka, Case called on the senator to debate before the Sept. 23 primary. In a news release yesterday, Case said he and Akaka should debate many times.

“I offer and ask you to commit now to a series of mutual debates/joint appearances across Hawaii over the four brief months until the election, on and before all of state and local media, community organizations, and our communities themselves,” Case said in an open letter to Akaka.

Case said Akaka has “thus far declined” several joint appearances or invitations to debate, including meetings with the Hawaii Publishers Association and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Andy Winer, Akaka’s campaign spokesman, said it is too early to say what Akaka will do, but “we are planning to have events with Ed Case and we are planning to participate in forums.”

Winer called Case’s statement that Akaka has declined debates to be a “gross overstatement to say we have refused joint appearances.”

A “gross overstatement?” Hmmm. Not responding to challenges (and not attending events) is not that far from “refusing” to appear jointly with his opponent, but whatever. The article also said (via Winer) that Akaka would “appear with Case” in August. Unclear if that appearance is the only event we should expect, or if there might be more than one. Also unclear if it would be a “debate.”

Meanwhile, David Shapiro’s Advertiser column speaks on the debate theme today. After adroitly describing the potential risks and returns for both men, Shapiro echoes an earlier observation of mine.

While agitating for debates, Case has been curiously thin-skinned about candid discussions of issues in the campaign.

When Akaka pointed out their opposing votes on Republican tax cuts ? he voted against and Case voted for ? Case whined about “negative campaigning.”

Honest give-and-take on issues is not negative campaigning; it’s what campaigns are for.

If it hurts Case’s feelings to engage in frank discussion of fair issues such as tax policy, what’s the point of a debate?

Exactly. Heck, I’d even volunteer to host an exchange of emails between the two if they want to take the image and poise questions out of play. It’s not as if we should expect either man to engage in much extemperaneous speaking at a debate anyway, haha.

Comments (2)
Honolulu City Council juggles Chairs after failed challenge to Dela Cruz

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 1:47 pm
The SB reports another leadership change at the Honolulu City Council has been made.

The City Council has changed committee assignments following an unsuccessful attempt to reorganize the leadership that some Council members said Mayor Mufi Hannemann was behind.

“The Council wants to focus on the people’s business and continue a working relationship with the administration,” Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said yesterday.

The biggest changes come in the removal from key committee chairmanships of Councilmen Rod Tam and Todd Apo, who along with Nestor Garcia and Gary Okino were seen as siding with the mayor in the attempt to unseat Dela Cruz from the chairmanship.

Tam had been chairman of public works, which oversees the city’s roads, sewers and landfill. Apo had been chairman of the transportation committee, which includes mass transit.

In a memo circulated and initialed yesterday by members Dela Cruz, Ann Kobayashi, Romy Cachola, Barbara Marshall and Charles Djou, Tam is now chairman of Economic Development, which he also oversaw previously, and Apo remains chairman of affordable housing and intergovernmental affairs.

Well, I guess we have an idea of which members were signing Hannemann’s resolution (or not signing Dela Cruz’s)…

This memorandum was not found when I checked at Docushare, unsurprisingly. The new Committee assignments are not yet reflected on the Council webpage, either.

Under the new lineup, Marshall will be chairwoman of the Public Works and Energy Committee, Djou will become chairman of the Zoning Committee and Cachola, currently chairman of Planning, will add Transportation.

It will be interesting to see if these new leaders reverse course on (m)any ideas begun by the former Chairs. More likely that the public won’t even be able to notice any difference. Heh.

Comments (0)
Transparency still lacking for gasoline pricing

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:46 pm
The Advertiser editorializes today urging the Lingle administration to find a way to fulfill the newly-mandated gasoline price transparency. A drum I’ve been banging on recently quite a lot.

But despite the shortcomings of the gas-price law, the governor’s Cabinet and staff ought to work on its behalf. Making gas pricing transparent to consumers is how the Lingle administration preferred addressing the issue from the start.

So the administration should provide the resources needed to deliver the information to the public as quickly as possible.

And Gov. Lingle must be a driving force behind this process.

Officials maintain that the weight of public opinion can influence the local marketplace ? all the better if the consumers are educated about the true costs of doing business.

Great. Now it’s time to make sure the information is made public.

Editorials are nice , but this will probably be insufficient pressure to yield the transparency data. A more likely motivator would be for the media to continue to calculate and publicize what the expected price of gasoline would be under the suspended formula and under the new formula which could be implemented by the Governor.

Comments (0)
Pacific Wings sues DOT to relocate go! terminal

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 1:41 pm
For whatever reason, the commuter airline Pacific Wings does not enjoy good relations with the Hawaii DOT. Pacific Wings staff were involved in a physical altercation with some private security guards at the Kahului Airport a while back, and a beef with Senator English, too. A Maui News story describes the newest dispute involving PW. “go!” was planning to begin operations June 9 from the commuter terminal in Honolulu, but Pacific Wings has sued to have the DOT move go! to the interisland terminal with Hawaiian and Aloha.

As noted earlier, the fee to use the interisland terminal is significantly higher than the commuter terminal fee. According to the article, Pacific Wings is arguing that since there is space at the commuter terminal, the DOT must have go! use the commuter terminal.

Pacific Wings contends there is room for go! at the interisland terminal next door, and that that is where go!?s 50-seat jets belong, rather than with Pacific Wings? nine-seat Cessnas at the commuter terminal.

?Absolutely no doubt,? said Pacific Wings President Greg Kahlstorf on Monday. ?The interisland terminal has space vacant, available and ready.?

In Nevada, go!?s general counsel, Brian Gillman, said Monday that he had not seen a copy of the suit and that since go! and its parent, Mesa Airlines, were not a party in the suit, he had no comment about that.

He said, however, that ?we intend to start service on June 9.?

He said the state is required to ?provide fair and reasonable access? to airline operators under ?nondiscriminatory terms and conditions.?

Pacific Wings is citing the same federal legal requirement, but alleging that it has been discriminated against by the Airports Division.

Here’s where it gets complicated. PW says that the State withheld information from them that was provided to Aloha and Hawaiian. They also claim that a lot of federal money is at stake if this issue isn’t resolved in a way that satisfies the FAA. PW also stands to lose money, they say, if security-related changes planned to accomodate “go!” proceed as planned.

It seems like nobody wants to share a terminal with go!… It also seems like PW is a scrappy little company. The article notes that they won a similar suit against Island Air in the past.

META: I really hate to read and write “go!” when I need to refer to the airline. It’s so pretentious and annoying. Who do they think they are, E.E. cummings?! Bah.

Comments (0)
5/23/2006

Foursome involved in marriage agreement appear in court

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:32 pm
The people indicted for the marriage scheme to circumvent immigration law made a court appearance, and the Advertsier and KGMB both covered the story.

Greg Knudsen, a Department of Education spokesman, said Loren [one of the defendants], a Radford High foreign-language teacher, was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday.

Loren was released from custody on an unsecured $50,000 bond. The other three were released on $25,000 bonds.

A stipulation of Loren’s bail is that he refrain from contact with anyone 18 or younger. Loren’s court-appointed attorney, Jerry Wilson, initially protested the condition but dropped the matter following a closed-door meeting.

But Wilson told reporters after the arraignment that the condition continues to be a concern.

“It’s my experience that homosexuals in not only the state of Hawai’i but all over the world have been discriminated against,” Wilson said. “And I haven’t seen any specific allegations that (Loren’s) a danger to 18-year-olds.”

Wilson has to be concerned about what he says and what it may mean for the judge’s opinion of his client, but on the surface it looks like simple homophobia. Without any knowledge of what happened in that meeting with the judge behind closed doors, it would seem to me that the only reason to impose the bail condition forbidding contact with minors is to foreclose any possibility that Loren could return to his DOE job, should DOE have decided to allow that before the case is resolved. Nevermind that homosexuality in and of itself is not a disqualifying factor for being a DOE teacher.

Defense attorneys do say federal prosecutors seem to be pursuing this marriage fraud case with such [sic] zeal.

“I practice immigration law and this is very unusual to see the U.S. Attorney’s office try to prosecute the petitioner in the case, the beneficiary and also the co-conspirator,” said Julia Bevit-Padello’s attorney, Gary Singh.

But prosecutors argue there’s too much evidence not to pursue this particular case in court.

Well, there’s some excellent circular logic. The only reason there is “too much evidence” is because the government devoted too much law enforcement effort to smoking out the status of this marriage. Does the government stake out every newly-married allegedly-heterosexual couple for two days just to make sure everyone is, uh, on the “straight” and narrow? I would hope they have bigger fish to fry.

I’m still waiting for the prosecution to explain how this couple poses a “security threat” to anyone.

Comments (0)
Representative Case describes what he’s done about Government spying

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:08 am
The Hawaii Reporter posts an announcement (which I also received) sent by email from Representative Case. It discusses the PATRIOT Act in some detail, and the second half of the email (almost) answers my earlier question of “what has Case done in reaction to the government spying?” Case does not speak directly to the NSA activities that have recently come to light, but Case’s comments about the various amendments he sponsored and/or supported during the PATRIOT Act reauthorization conclude like this:

I do not believe that the reauthorized and amended law authorizes our government to go on an unspecified, indefinite fishing expedition nor to snoop with impunity on individual citizens. Finally, I believe that, with reporting requirements, Congress has the tools to keep a very close watch on the administration of the authorities under all sixteen sections, especially 206 and 215, and that the four-year sunset on key provisions ensures necessary debate and further adjustment or, if warranted, repeal.

In the big picture, we continue to be engaged in a very difficult and complex debate over the proper balance between heightened law enforcement needs and clearly effective means to protect us against terrorists on the one hand, and what must be our unwavering commitment to basic civil rights and constitutional liberties on the other. With respect to most investigations and most of the tools authorized by the initial PATRIOT Act and otherwise, there has been no serious question of the accommodation of both goals. In my view, the specific reauthorized amended PATRIOT Act on which I voted achieves that balance.

The first sentence I’ve excerpted certainly makes me wonder what Case has done, or intends to do, to stop the “unspecified, indefinite fishing expeditions” and the “snoop[ing] with impunity on individual citizens” that has gone beyond the scope of what the PATRIOT Act (or, indeed, any act of Congress) allows. Nor does Case acknowledge the fact that even as the President signed the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act into law, in his signing statement Bush specifically challenged the validity of the so-called “reporting requirements” therein.

Also, please note that I’ve added a link to the blogroll for 27B Slash 6. [Let me know if you have any idea what that name means!] It is a blog that, among other topics, is following the Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit filed against AT&T in reaction to the their active participation in the NSA spying programs.

Comments (0)
Transition to new schedule

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 6:40 am
Beginning today and through the holiday weekend my posting schedule will be erratic. I’ll try my best, but it’s going to be tight.

I will be sailing Saturday, Sunday and Monday in a 3-part stage around Oahu. Tonight I’ll be preparing the boat for that, Thursday and Friday evening are informal races. Adding to all that excitement, I return to work today after a few weeks of being unemployed—and some friends are in town from the mainland.

Whew!

Comments (0)
5/22/2006

Big Island immigration sweeps denied; rural legend or something sinister?

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:04 am
A curious Hawaii Tribune-Herald story has the federal government denying rumors among the immigrant community that a “sweep” is underway. Though it may already be apparent to people in rural areas, this article brings a hot national political issue (immigration) much closer to home for residents of urban Oahu.

“Street sweeps” for illegal or undocumented aliens are not being done on the Big Island, a federal official says, despite several phone calls to the contrary received by Stephens Media.

“The information I get from people calling me is that (INS) is around the island,” Ivan Villasenor, president of the Organization of Latin Americans of Hawaii, said Friday. “I don’t know exactly where the (INS) is, but the people are very scared.”

Villasenor said his sources reported seeing vans and agents taking people away.

“There have been rumors. I don’t know if they are concrete,” said Jorge Velazquez, OLAH communications officer. “I haven’t seen any agents myself.”

The federal authorities respond:

Wayne Wells, special agent in charge of the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Hawaii – formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Services – was surprised to hear of the sweeps and denied his office was involved.

“We do not do street sweeps,” said Wells. “I can tell you this right now: I don’t believe we have resources out there working specific targets involving unauthorized aliens.”

Wells said if in fact there are “unauthorized agents” doing broad sweeps, he is concerned and would like any eyewitnesses to call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

That sounds ominous. Is “unauthorized agents” some sort of euphemism for vigilantism? My first hunch, should these reports be true, is to suspect that some human traffickers may be settling accounts with their indentured “clients.” If that is the case, then I doubt that immigrants being harassed by vigilantes would be very likely to call a federal hotline to report it. Trafficked immigrants would be understandably afraid that they will be deported. The coffee plantations have little incentive to pursue these rumors, so long as an adequate supply of immigrant workers remains.

Also, I note this comment:

Wells said the office has plenty of work, and must prioritize their cases.

Top priority are those that pose the greatest threat, such as drug traffickers or convicted felons.

Right, but, despite those rational priorities, they will take the time to ferret out homosexual immigrants peaceably living with their US partners, too.

Comments (1)
Honolulu Councilmember Garcia joins race for Congress

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:03 am
Even though I cut my political teeth while working six sesssions for the man at the Legislature, I will try to remain objective by linking to the Advertiser and SB reports officially announcing Nestor Garcia’s run for Congress. It’s going to be a challenge for him to break out from such a crowded field of better-known Democrats, but I wish him well.

Changing gears slightly, one of those better-known Democrats, Matt Matsunaga, is the subject of a piece in the UH-Manoa student newspaper. Several weeks ago a Ka Leo reporter emailed me for a comment, and the article has my first quote on paper. Notoriety is not really why I write this blog, but it’s fun (and additional fuel for my ego) to be quoted nonentheless. I don’t think Neal Milner or Dan Boylan need to be looking over their shoulders just yet, haha.

Unfortunately, it seems that the print version of the paper bungled the url of this blog. A common problem. At least Honolulu Magazine got it right a year ago… Heh.

Anyway, welcome to the new reader(s) from UH who had the tenacity to find the correct url!

Comments (0)
K Street (actually, L Street) sends another warning to Lingle

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:01 am
I noticed a letter to the Advertiser editors today from Elizabeth Karasmeighan of Americans for Tax Reform. ATR is the same group that lambasted Governor Lingle for not vetoing the bill to authorize counties to add an excise taxe surcharge for transit, as you may remember.

With the legislative session wrapped up and with the July deadline for action on passed legislation inching closer, the time has arrived for Gov. Linda Lingle to veto the cigarette tax hike passed by big spenders in the Legislature.

Despite overflowing government coffers, lawmakers chose to raise the tax on cigarettes 20 cents per pack for each of the next six years. The state cigarette tax is currently $1.40 a pack, and when the new tax hike is fully implemented, Hawai’i’s $2.60 rate will surpass Rhode Island’s $2.40 per-pack rate as the highest tax rate in the country.

On Aug. 30, 2002, Gov. Lingle made an important commitment to taxpayers by signing the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” during her campaign. By pledging to oppose and veto tax increases, the governor set herself apart from big spenders in Honolulu. According to the Tax Foundation, Hawai’i has the fifth highest state and local tax burden in the country. At about 11.7 percent of income, taxpayers shell out well above the national average of 10.6 percent.

Unfortunately, last June the governor deviated from the taxpayer-friendly course by signing two tax hikes, a real estate conveyance tax and a measure allowing counties to levy a surcharge on the state general excise tax to build a light-rail system. Hopefully this summer, taxpayers will not see a sequel to these mistakes.

Once a pledge is broken I don’t see how subsequent behavior could redeem Lingle in the eyes of the ATR hard core supporters. Theirs is a Manichean worldview—and it’s becoming irrelevant as more politicians shrug off their pledge and are still able to win re-election.

Comments (1)
5/21/2006

Talking shop about polling

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 9:28 am
The column from Borreca in the SB today discusses the issue of how the media should report on polling conducted by candidates seeking office. The column is quite good, and he expands on the themes I raised earlier.

Recently U.S. Rep. Ed Case’s campaign started bandying about two carefully selected sets of numbers from pollster Barbara Ankersmit, whom he hired to help in his effort to unseat Sen. Dan Akaka. She said Case and Akaka were just about tied in an “If the election were held today, who would you vote for” question.

Case asked Ankersmit to tell the respondents that Case is much younger than Akaka, and there could be problems if the veteran senator was unable to finish his term and an appointee had to fill the vacancy. Then Case had the horse-race question asked again. The poll then had Case slightly ahead of Akaka. It wasn’t so much that Akaka or Case moved, but the questions caused a twitch among the undecided.

Several news media outlets reported all this as big stuff. It wasn’t anything except a little bit of early campaign jujitsu.

——–

Releasing a poll showing the race is neck-and-neck helps with donations, keeps campaign workers excited and corrects the impression that the candidate is losing, [Borreca’s pollster source] said.

The Associated Press and other news organizations recognize the self-serving nature of such polls and have a checklist of information needed before they run with a candidate’s poll.

Items omitted from the Case poll but required by the AP include the wording of all questions, the order asked, and who was selected and how.

One way out of this problem would be do what is done in some states. It is not uncommon for the journalism department at a major university to take political polls independent of the politicians and the news media. A credible series of polls run by one of our universities would go a long way toward keeping both the news media and the politicians on the up and up.

Another way out of the problem is for the media to report from the campaign trail while ignoring polling altogether. The polls that matter are the actual votes cast in September and November. Polling (and the inevitable media reports based upon polling) have become a crutch and have dumbed down the entire campaign process; at some point the polling tail begins to wag the electorate dog. Polls conducted by a journalism department would perhaps be comparatively “better,” but would ultimately serve the same purpose.

Comments (2)
PATRIOT Act reauthorization divided Case and Akaka

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:27 am
An excellent Advertiser piece today digs into another piece of legislation that has divided Representative Case and Senator Akaka. The USA PATRIOT Act was reauthorized recently, with Case among the supporters and Akaka voting no.

When Congress voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act a few months ago, Akaka was among only 10 senators to vote against the law, while Case voted with the majority in the House after amendments were added to protect civil liberties.

The Patriot Act is one of several national issues where Akaka and Case disagree, providing voters in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate an opportunity to differentiate between the two candidates.

——–

In Congress, some Senate Democrats used a filibuster to try to stop the Patriot Act from being reauthorized and forced two temporary extensions of the law before a compromise was reached with Republicans and the White House on the amendments. Akaka said there was pressure from inside the Democratic caucus and from interest groups to vote for the law but he stayed with the holdouts.

Akaka said he believes his vote was further justified after Bush, in a statement after signing the extension of the law in March, indicated he may not comply with new requirements to report to Congress on the use of expanded surveillance powers if he feels it impairs foreign relations, national security, or his deliberative or constitutional duties. [Note: such open disdain for the co-equal branches of government within “signing statements” have become common during the Bush administration.]

“I would be very careful about their positions on civil liberties, basing it upon the Patriot Act and what the administration has been doing in what I feel is taking liberties in dealing with what I call private matters,” Akaka said.

Some of Akaka’s supporters have pointed to the Patriot Act as another example of Case voting with House Republicans and the White House at the expense of Democrats. But most of Akaka’s Democratic colleagues in the Senate voted to extend the law.

In their comments for this article, Case and Akaka both express deep concerns over the recent revelations that domestic phone calls of US citizens are being tapped without warrants and that the domestic calling records of US citizens were handed over from the telcom industry to the NSA. Expressing concern is a good start, but what have they done to alleviate those concerns? Is either man joining (or leading) the call for investigations, introducing any legislation to require (more/any) judicial and legislative oversight, calling for impeachment, etc?

Also, the article has a useful link cataloguing the previous stories in the Advertiser on this contest. Perhaps to aid the occasionally cloudy memories of readers like myself, haha.

Comments (0)
5/20/2006

OHA persuades Governor Lingle to go to D.C. again

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:20 pm
The Governor is going to lobby for the Akaka Bill early in June, according to a press release. The SB has a story based on the news, as does the Advertiser.

On Monday, Lingle sent a letter to all 55 Republican senators [sorry, SB] urging their support of the bill and ripping the commission report.

But despite her consistent support of the bill, which has included several previous trips to Washington both to lobby and testify at hearings, Lingle said last week that she did not expect to go to the capital next month.

Apoliona, in her two-page letter [PDF] to Lingle, said “there are a certain number of (s)enators who may need to be reassured by you relating to what the bill does and does not do in advance and prior to committing their vote. A face-to-face visit from the (g)overnor of Hawai’i would go a long way to providing this reassurance to them on (the bill) and would further underscore the priority that you place on this (b)ill as well.”

In the face of the OHA letter, Lingle really has no politically acceptable alternative but to make the trip, of course. If she had ignored the letter and the bill were then to fail, she’d instantly become the scapegoat.

In her letter, Apoliona said a petition for the bill to go to the Senate floor for a cloture vote will be filed June 6, alongside the Estate Tax Bill.

She said the two bills have been linked since July, though there is no connection between them.

I sure wish somebody could unpack that “linkage” for us a bit more. To be blunt, is there expected to be vote trading that will bring dubious members of both parties into support of both bills in return for reciprocal voting on the “coupled” bill? i.e. Have our Senators Akaka and Inouye (and/or other Democrats previously in opposition) agreed to support the repeal of the estate tax in return for some Republican votes in support of the bill for Native Hawaiian recognition? A recent Washington Post article had this to say after the House passed the estate tax repeal:

The real fight will come in the Senate, where repeal supporters still appear just short of the 60-vote majority needed to break a promised Democratic filibuster. The Republican leadership, backed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), has authorized Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to strike a deal that will win 60 votes.

“He’s got wide latitude to see what he can get,” said Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate majority whip.

Jon Kyl, one of the Senators most strenuously opposing the Akaka bill. Now his bill is linked to it. Hmmm.

Comments (2)
Perhaps the only blog in favor of abolishing net neutrality is?…

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 5:19 pm
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, an ersatz “think tank” that is associated with the Hawaii Reporter, has come out against net neutrality in this post. To bring you back up to speed on the topic, the latest happenings in Congress are summarized here.

The down-is-up form of the arguments made in the post are very similar to the arguments which are demolished here. Incidentally, after describing the contents of a letter they sent to to Congress, the HR post closes:

The letter is signed by representatives of FreedomWorks, the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Media Freedom Project, Center for Individual Freedom, Americans for Prosperity, Free Enterprise Fund, Iowa Association of Scholars, Frontiers of Freedom, Institute for Liberty, Maine Heritage Policy Center, Citizen Outreach, and the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Who comes up with the Orwellian names of these groups? haha.

With names like that you’d be forgiven for thinking those are all fine organizations, looking out for the best interest of the little guy. You’d be wrong. Grover Norquist, Dick Armey, Jack Abramoff, etc. They’d sell us out to the communications industry giants in a New York minute.

Comments (0)
GOP legislator calls for ethics inquiry

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:19 pm
Since her push to investigate the matter administratively went nowhere, the House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan has made a complaint to the Ethics Commission about the actions of Representative Chang regarding the failed effort to pass a race track tax credit possibly involving a swap of a piece of property partially owned by Chang. The Advertiser has a story here.

[House Speaker] Say wrote in a letter to Finnegan that Chang had “at most, a potential and not an actual conflict of interest.” Say also said he advised Chang that he should “take care, as we all should, to arrange his finances in such a manner as to minimize potential conflicts in the future.”

The state has no conflict-of-interest laws that apply directly to lawmakers, but the House can discipline its own members for violating a code of ethics.

“When there is an incident as significant as this one, we owe it to the public to investigate and see it through to the truth,” Finnegan said in a statement yesterday.

“We can’t let things like this get swept under the carpet. If we let things slide, everything we do at the Capitol becomes tainted.”

It’s a noble thought, but I think it will go nowhere. The Ethics Commission has no purview to scrutinize the “legislative functions” of legislators. We’ve been through this before…

Comments (0)
State trip sponsors must be disclosed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:19 pm
The Advertiser has a report today that the Office of Information Practices has ruled the Lingle administration must release the details of the trade mission sponsors. This OIP order is a good thing on general prinicple, but I am much more interested to see what conclusions the Ethics Commission report due September 1st might draw.

How the sponsors were solicited is the bigger problem with the effort, in my opinion, the anonymity of the sponsors was a side issue.

Comments (0)
5/19/2006

Case “likely” would have supported Iraq War resolution

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:10 am
Chris Cillizza, a Washington Post blogger, has taken notice of the Akaka-Case contest and has this post as an introduction for his (mostly) non-Hawaii readers.

In that contest, Akaka is touting his vote against the 2002 use-of-force resolution while Case has said he would likely have supported it had he been in Congress at the time.

“I believe our country cannot tolerate the combination of the leadership of another country sworn to do us harm and weapons of mass destruction,” Case said in an interview this afternoon. He added that Akaka’s vote against the use-of-force measure was a “mistake at that time.”

Unlike Connecticut, the Iraq war is not the lone (or even the most important) issue in the race, but it will almost certainly play a key role in voters’ minds as they head to the polls.

——–

Case admitted that his D.C. fundraising has been negatively affected by the establishment’s support for Akaka but added that he plans to use Akaka’s funding sources as a symbol of the “spiderwebs [Akaka] is entangled in.” That message could work, but without adequate financing the voters of Hawaii may not hear Case’s voice.

The biggest question mark in the Hawaii primary is how the Iraq war will play – especially considering that there is no voter registration in Hawaii as well as an open primary, meaning that self-identifying Democrats, independents and Republicans can vote in the Akaka-Case primary if they so choose.

To hear the Akaka side tell it, Case’s alleged support for the war will be a major stumbling block for many primary voters. “There is an extreme difference in their positions on the war,” said [Akaka spokesperson] Yadao.

For his part, Case said that describing him as favoring the war is “a tremendous oversimplification” of both the issue and his position. Case said that while it would have been easy for him to simply say he would have voted against the use-of-force resolution, it would not have been the principled stand. He uses that same appeal to basic principles to justify his belief that setting a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is a mistake.

“Senator Akaka has never committed or confirmed what he implies, which is that he supports unilateral, precipitous withdrawal,” Case added.

Sigh. Why do we in Hawaii have to wait for bare-knuckled quotes like that to be provided by the WaPo? I didn’t even find the post myself, I was tipped off. …and I’m a politics dork who pays fairly close attention! (Thanks for the tip, David)

UPDATE: It turns out I don’t pay close enough attention, though. The Advertiser ran a meaty piece on this topic back in March. (offered, in full, in the comments of this post) As the pros say, “I regret the error.”

Anyway, I had never seen Case offer such a blunt endorsement of the Bush administration’s justifications for the Iraq War in the Hawaii media. Had you? This is the type of substantive topic that should be fleshed out in a debate, should one actually come to pass. These differences in opinion are crucial for Hawaii voters to consider, especially when (as Case loves to point out) it is unknown whether either candidate is able to serve in the Senate for 20 (more) years. A similar resolution authorizing an attack/war against Iran is not an unlikely scenario in the near future, and, even if it does not happen before the election, I’m pretty sure either candidate would still be healthy by the time that question comes to a Senate vote…

Comments (3)
Dela Cruz holds on to Chair post

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:08 am
The SB scoops the Advertiser with this piece about Honolulu City Council Chair Dela Cruz who has averted a nascent challenge to his leadership. Perhaps the Advertiser did not run the story because it seems to be pretty weakly-sourced.

Dela Cruz circulated a resolution yesterday affirming the current Council leadership lineup. He said that a majority of the nine-member Council has signed on, although he would not confirm numbers or names.

——–

At the same time, Council members said, the mayor was seeking a majority of Council members to sign on to a resolution calling for a special meeting to oust Dela Cruz.

The mayor could not be reached for comment yesterday, but has denied being involved in a reorganization of the Council, saying that the unhappiness he has heard has come from within the Council.

Uh, which “Council members said” it was Mayor Hannemann circulating the resolution to remove Dela Cruz? Did anyone sign it? The Mayor can’t introduce his own resolutions—his resolutions are only introduced “by request” under the signature of at least one Councilmember (usually the Chair, but obviously that would not fly for this matter).

Next, which Council members signed Dela Cruz’s resolution? Neither resolution has been filed, according to Docushare. Indeed, they probably will never be filed. The Council has assumed authority to re-organize committee assignments by memoranda, but this appears to have been a defacto leadership “vote” held completely out of public scrutiny. What gives? Hello? Sunshine Law, anyone?

(Sidebar: while browsing Docushare I did notice a resolution introduced yesterday about exporting rubbish to the mainland next year…)

Comments (0)
Gabbard laments the free press

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 11:07 am
A curious post by Mike Gabbard is at the Hawaii Reporter today. Campaign finance charges against Gabbard were recently dismissed, and so he writes to lament the process which puts candidates under a cloud of suspicion until the charges are investigated and dismissed.

I hope you share with me the understanding that the unethical exploitation of the FEC or CSC to damage a political opponent’s campaign undermines the democratic process. We can’t ask the FEC or CSC not to accept such complaints; indeed, there certainly are times when complaints filed with these two agencies are legitimate and warranted. But where you can help is to recognize this tactic in political campaigns and refuse to be a part of it.

Many media outlets in 2004 recognized the Ed Case supporter’s FEC complaint for what it was and did not publicize it. Those news directors and editors are to be commended. But some media outlets allowed themselves to be used by the Case campaign, publicizing and thereby lending credence to allegations that were clearly absurd fabrications.

I?m not writing you just for myself. (I?ve been on the receiving end twice of these absurd complaints – my 2002 City Council race and 2004 Congressional race.)

I?m writing on behalf of everyone who is campaigning now or will run in the future for any political office.

Please recognize these campaign-season filings with the FEC or CSC for the malicious, unethical ploys they are. Please take this reality into consideration next time you are asked to publicize an election-year complaint filed with the FEC or CSC. Thank you very much.

The emphases are mine. Who is Gabbard speaking to here? It seems clear to me that Gabbard intended this message for the media, not for the public.

I think what Gabbard is asking for is too much. How are the media to decide which complaints are “legitimate and warranted?” As Gabbard himself notes, it can take a long time for the complaints to be investigated. If the media were to take Gabbard’s self-censorship request to heart, then we could face the possibility that a candidate violates campaign laws, a complaint is filed upon discovery of the violation, the candidate could be elected by the (unknowing) public, and only then, when the complaint is validated, might voters learn from the media that the violations had occurred. That’s absurd.

There is no doubt that open government and the free press may and are used as political weapons, but the alternatives (secret tribunals and censorship) are undoubtedly worse.

Reminder: if there were publicly-funded campaigns most, if not all, such complaints would be eliminated.

Comments (1)
Jury indicts four in marriage scheme; homeland remains safe from ??

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:06 am
The Advertiser story about an alleged marriage fraud to facilitate immigration managed to avoid any direct discussion of the underlying cause: the immigration process systematically discriminates against homosexual couples.

The court document does not reveal what led federal officials to suspect that the marriage may have been bogus. But for three days last November, agents conducted a surveillance of Loren’s Salt Lake home and saw just the two men enter and leave the residence.

——–

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Hino declined to discuss the specifics of the case, but he did say the federal government takes these matters seriously.

“There certainly is heightened security concerns now about immigration and when these cases come up, we are going to prosecute them,” Hino said.

A conviction on the charge of marriage fraud carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and $250,000 fine, while visa fraud carries up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Obviously we don’t know all the facts of the case from reading only this one article. That said, I’ll be interested to hear Hino describe the specific “security concerns” presented by Duan attending school and having a homosexual relationship with Loren.

Since the Advertiser fails to make it clear, I’ll try. If homosexuals had the same right to marriage that heterosexuals enjoy, there would have been no need for any fraudulent heterosexual marriage to be arranged. Loren could have married Duan, Duan would have been awarded a legitimate green card, and that would have been the end of it. Instead, homosexual partners must engage in a “conspiracy” to remain together—and the government spends three days spying on two apparently harmless individuals to make this case. Nice.

Comments (0)
5/18/2006

Hi. Do you mind if we secretly hand over your calling records to the NSA?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:49 am
Okay, there is obviously political hay to be made from it for Representative Schatz (one of the Democratic candidates for Congress), but I am pleased to see this KHNL story about Schatz’s request for the Hawaii Attorney General to look into any possible Hawaiian Telcom participation in the NSA program to collect calling data from all customers.

“Hawaii’s citizens have a special right to privacy that is different from other states,” Schatz said. “We actually have a Hawaii state constitutional right to privacy.”

Schatz wants the state Attorney General to determine whether Hawaiian Telcom provided the NSA with phone records of customers.

Hawaiian Telcom says it first started looking into this issue when it was first reported the NSA was compiling a database of phone records.

Hawaiian Telcom said it has not received any requests from the NSA. The company said it has a duty to protect its customers’ records while complying with legal requirements.

As mentioned by a reader comment, until very recently Verizon still provided certain key parts of the Hawaiian Telcom operations. Thus, for HT to say they have not received any requests from the NSA may be technically true, but if Verizon was handing over the calling records of Hawaiian Telcom’s customers, and if HT knew that it was occurring, then I don’t think it really is much of a defense. Also, I notice that the HT (non-)response is slightly different from the Advertiser blurb last Friday. At that time they said:

“First and foremost, our duty is to protect our customers’ records and their privacy while keeping in full compliance with legal requests,” said Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman Ann Nishida.

If they are asked to violate our Constitutional right to privacy, can it be a “legal” request without explicit legislative or judicial authority? I am not a lawyer, but I would hope not. I also note that if HT were not participating in the program then an outright denial would be the expected public relations response. Instead, we see carefully measured statements which do little to reassure the public.

I’m disappointed that KHNL did not obtain (seek?) any comment from the Attorney General. If our records are being handed over to the NSA in an unconstitutional manner, then I’d sure like Mr. Bennett to put a stop to it. Frankly, the AG should have initiated his own inquiry when this came to light—and perhaps he did. The inquiry should also consider the actions of Verizon, since the NSA program predates HT.

Comments (0)
Lingle administration lobbies for Akaka bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:48 am
Governor Lingle steps up to the plate again in support of the Akaka bill. An Advertiser piece begins:

Gov. Linda Lingle has sent out a letter urging U.S. Senate Republicans to support the Akaka bill, describing a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report recommending against it a “misguided action.”

The letter was sent to Republican senators this week and is accompanied by, among other materials, a three-page response to the commission report by state Attorney General Mark Bennett.

Meanwhile, the SB suggests a completely non-partisan lobbying effort:

In a letter to all 100 members of the U.S. Senate, Gov. Linda Lingle is again pressing the case for passage of the native Hawaiian recognition bill, dubbed the Akaka Bill, after its sponsor Sen. Daniel Akaka.

So, which is it, 100 letters, or were letters only sent to the Republicans?

The Advertiser has links to PDF versions of the Governor Lingle’s letter and (satisfying my curiousity) the comments of Attorney General Bennett. For you folks on dial-up, Hawaii Reporter posted an html version of Bennett’s comments.

Last, there is a scathing letter to the Advertiser editors from Charles Maxwell Sr., a long-time member of the Hawaii Advisory Committee to the United States Civil Rights Commission, excoriating the local GOP for being unable to persuade the rest of the GOP leaders to support the bill. He opens his letter praising Lingle’s leadership and visibility, but then comes this:

However, [Lingle] publicly and conspicuously claimed during the election that her access to and affiliations with national Republican leaders would count in the effort to pass the Akaka bill. That claim was targeted to attract support from Hawaiians who relied on it to vote for her.

That representation has simply not borne fruit. The position on this issue of a Republican governor has meant nothing to the Bush administration or to certain Republican members of the U.S. Senate (Kyl of Arizona, Alexander of Tennessee) who have led the opposition to the Akaka bill.

The truth is that national Republican leaders lay at the heart of the opposition and haven’t changed their positions, despite Gov. Lingle’s prior claim of access to and affinity with President Bush and his administration.

The truth is that it was his appointments to the formerly bipartisan U.S. Civil Rights Commission who recently brought the roof down on the Akaka bill. The truth is that the commission, without even the courtesy of prior consultation, disrespected its own Hawai’i advisory committee, which had reached the opposite conclusion and advised the commission to support federal recognition for Native Hawaiians in 2001.

As a member of that committee for over 20 years, I was shocked by this unprecedented refusal to accept our recommendations. It has never happened to us before.

Attempting [see last letter] to deflect attention from this national agenda of the Republican Party by pointing to actions of local Republican politicians, Mr. Aiona misses the crucial point: The buck stops with the Republican Party in Washington and President Bush in particular. Mr. Bush has never publicly supported the Akaka bill, despite Gov. Lingle’s urging.

Maxwell’s letter leads me to this observation: with approval ratings for President Bush running at record low levels, Lingle (and many of the down-ticket Hawaii GOP candidates) probably would not want to be associated with Bush and the Republican-led Congress during the 2006 campaign. Politically, of course, if Lingle and/or the Hawaii GOP ever opposed this bill, then such opposition (with constant reminders of it provided by Hawaii Democrats) would cost the GOP some amount of whatever voters they had among Native Hawaiians who support the bill. The stakes are too high for Lingle to do that, even if she agreed with the national GOP (and, on a gut level, I think she is sincere in her support for the bill). However, except for this particular bill, I don’t think there has been much daylight between the local and the national GOP on significant domestic initiatives and foreign policy. By all means, correct me if there are other topics where the Hawaii GOP has publicly and/or actively opposed a national GOP position. Actually, I’m curious to know if/where the Hawaii Democrats significantly differ from their national party, too.

Comments (0)
No transparency, no price cap, no price relief

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:46 am
Today it was the Advertiser reporting that, had the (suspended) gasoline price cap law been in effect this week, consumers would be paying less for fuel. Still no progress on the “transparency” front, so I am pleased to see the media are not going to let this issue fade away.

The suspended cap would have brought wholesale prices down about 1 cent on May 8 and another 12 cents this past Monday, according to Advertiser calculations. That likely would have resulted in a similar decline in retail prices.

——–

With the cap gone, Hawai’i prices may return to their pre-cap pattern of rising quickly with Mainland prices but falling much more slowly. In general, prices before the cap were also less volatile and there was less difference between stations.

——–

“The cap was artificial,” said Bob Swartz, who operates Chevron stations in Kalihi, Kane’ohe and Kailua. Now “we’re back to a competitive market. That doesn’t mean (prices) have to go down.”

Swartz and Bill Green, a former owner and now consultant to Kahala Shell, both said local wholesale prices, which were so volatile under the cap, have barely budged since the law was suspended.

In the absence of the cap, local prices will be dictated by cost and competition, Green said.

In terms of cost, crude oil prices remain near a high of about $70 a barrel.

At Chevron Corp., which operates one of the state’s two oil refineries, the old price caps are not a factor.

“I’m not aware of anybody here continuing to calculate what the old cap would be,” spokesman Al Chee said. “They just look at the costs and market forces and decide what the price should be.”

If history is any indication, that means Hawai’i prices will likely remain stable, but significantly higher than those on Mainland.

Since the PUC has not yet begun to provide to the public the industry data required by the (unfunded) “transparency” provisions of the act to the suspend the cap, reports like this Advertiser piece are the only thing that will give consumers any insight into the market. I’d prefer the transparency, but I don’t think we’ll have any soon/ever unless articles like this continue to bubble up regularly. The transparency data will be a better way to know if we are being gouged.

Comments (0)
Advertiser wins a fight to view court files

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:45 am
Congratulations to the Advertiser for a legal victory that will allow public scrutiny of records pertaining to a former Honolulu Police Department whistleblower case.

Even if the documents turn out to be relatively tame, the precedent for future open records requests will be very useful—assuming SCOTUS does not overrule the Ninth Circuit. I have no idea how long it might be before that possibility is exhausted.

Comments (0)
5/17/2006

Case and Akaka have both been polling; Case discloses some results

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:55 pm
Representative Case and Senator Akaka have both done some polling. Yesterday Case released a portion of what he found. The Advertiser has a piece, as does KITV.

Case, in an e-mail to his supporters, said he conducted the poll to confirm the viability of his candidacy and to demonstrate broad-based support. He also said the results show the potential benefits of a series of statewide debates to help voters distinguish between the two candidates.

“It also demonstrates that, as Hawai’i’s voters think through the big picture of Hawai’i’s representation in our U.S. Senate now and over the next generation, they increasingly favor my candidacy,” Case wrote.

Elisa Yadao, a spokeswoman for Akaka’s campaign, said Akaka’s team also had done polling recently but preferred not to release the results.

KITV is a bit more pointed in noting the spin applied to the polling:

Case refused to release the wording of the questions or a breakdown of all the poll’s results.

“I’m not going to be providing the further details beyond the result. It’s, you know, campaign information, we’re in the middle of a campaign and I’m sure it’s information that the opposition would love to have as well,” Case said.

The Akaka campaign said it has also been polling, but declined to release its results.

“(Case’s) poll results indicate we have a contested primary,” spokeswoman Elisa Yadao said.
She said the Akaka campaign is “…confident that when people look at Sen. Akaka’s record of accomplishments and his position on issues they’re going to make the right choice.”

It appears that Case is only giving out the poll results that make him look good. For example, he wouldn’t tell KITV the results for voters who are likely to vote in the Democratic primary, which is the race they’re in. So the results he released include Republican voters, many who will not vote in the Democratic primary in September.

Well, maybe. The Advertiser and KITV both describe Case’s polling as involving “700 likely voters.” Anyone from any (or no) party may cast a Democratic party ballot in the primary. If the survey asked people if they intended to vote the Democratic ballot for the primary and they responded yes, then that would mean they are “likely voters.” Doesn’t it? KITV admits that they were not told the exact wording used in the questions, so the best they can do is say it “appears” Case is spinning his poll results. Whatever.

Were any of you readers among the 700 who participated in Case’s polling? If so, please leave a comment if you are able to recall what was asked.

These stories are perfect examples of the “horse race” style of campaign coverage I spoke of earlier. Case’s polling appears to have been based solely upon the seniority “issue,” which is clearly where Case wants the focus to remain. On the Case website he says,

Of course, a poll is only a snapshot in time and this campaign has four months yet to go. Unfortunately, I am also convinced that these results, as well as what may have been similar results from surveys by or for my opponent, will cause the Akaka campaign to accelerate the negative campaigning (focusing negatively on your opponent rather than positively on yourself) that we saw commence last week.

There Case is speaking of a press release noting Case’s recent vote in favor of a key tax bill that Akaka opposes. Campaigning on the “my opponent is too old” theme is okay for Case, but campaigning on the “my opponent votes differently than I” theme is negative campaigning in Case’s view. Hmmm.

If Akaka ever gives Case the debate that he so desperately seeks, will Case speak about anything beyond the need to build seniority in anticipation of the octogenarian incumbents dying at nearly the same time? Now that that “issue” seems to poll well for Case, I think it’s likely Case will stick to it.

Comments (0)
Kauai PD chief may become a candidate for … something

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 2:53 pm
The Garden Island News reports that the on-again, off-again Chief of Police, K.C. Lum has asked for an Ethics Commission opinion about his possible candidacy for elective office. I’m gonna guess he’s exploring a run for County Council.

Lum asked the Kaua?i County Board of Ethics at yesterday?s meeting for an advisory opinion about whether a department head or elected official needs to resign in order to become a candidate for elective office.

Lum attached to his request a 1991 advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission of the City & County of Honolulu. The opinion says, in part, that cabinet members or executive assistants to the mayor need not resign in order to run for Honolulu City Council.

The advisory opinion also says candidates should take paid or unpaid leave during their campaigns, and they should not perform any work for the office from which they are on leave.

——–

The board will be responding to Chief Lum?s request by letter, said Deputy County Attorney Margaret Sueoka.

She said the board has 30 days to respond, and more information is needed before the board sends a response letter to Lum.

Is there really no guidance in the Kauai charter or revised ordinances on this topic? The Kauai County website is not making it easy to find the charter. (It’s easy to find the Hawaii County charter on the Kauai site, go figure. According to this non-official site, I’d have to buy a copy. Wha?) Well, if nothing else, Lum certainly has name recognition and some of the concomitant likely support (or opposition) among Kauai voters…

Comments (2)
Commission clears Honolulu’s acting Manager

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 2:53 pm
After an Advertiser article that raised ethical questions about Wayne Hashiro last month delayed a confirmation vote that would remove the “acting” status of his Managing Director post, today both Honolulu dailies note that the City Ethics Commission has opined that he did not violate the ethics requirements. The Advertiser piece is here, and the SB article is here.

Acting City Managing Director Wayne Hashiro did not violate the city ethics code in his handling of consultant contracts awarded to companies that employed his son, the city Ethics Commission said in a written opinion yesterday.

But he should have avoided all involvement with the contracts to avoid “even the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest,” the commission said.

The opinion was requested last month by City Council member Charles Djou, chairman of the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee, which must confirm Hashiro’s nomination to the managing director’s job.

Hashiro said yesterday afternoon he had not read the opinion, written by Ethics Commission executive director Charles Totto.

“Whatever he finds, he finds,” Hashiro said. “I have nothing to hide.”

Djou asked for the opinion after an Advertiser story detailed personal and business relationships between Hashiro, former city official Timothy Steinberger and two consulting engineering firms, URS Corp. and Yogi Kwong Engineers.

Totto issued an eight-page letter stating there is “no evidence to conclude that Mr. Hashiro violated the ethics law” in his handling of nonbid consulting contracts awarded to URS and Yogi Kwong.

Totto’s latest opinion is not yet posted on the Commission website. The opinion may or may not be the same thing as the eight-page letter referred to above, I dunno.

Hashiro will probably sail through confirmation, now that this is resolved. Mayor Hannemann’s curious admonition of the Council for having the nerve to challenge his nominees may come up again, however.

Comments (0)
5/16/2006

Goodbye, little white dog

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 11:04 am
I had seen it coming for some time, but it will always be incrediblly difficult to decide exactly “when” to euthanize a pet. Today was the day.

I’m absolutely gutted. I shared this apartment with Holly for 12 (of her 14) years. No offense to those readers who have (or have had) children, but I can’t imagine I’d feel any worse if I lost a child. I’ve dealt with pets dying before, but this is the first pet where it was me who had to make the decision to euthanize. To put it mildly, it was hard, but ultimately the decision was best for her quality of life, not for mine.

Oh, and Clayton Hee is joining the crowd running for Congress, blah blah blah. Forgive me if I don’t care about Hawaii politics today…

Tomorrow is another day. My life goes on.

Comments (8)
5/15/2006

“Caller ID” takes on a whole new meaning

Filed under:
General
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:57 am
To follow up on the Friday post about the telephone records being handed over to the government, I point your attention to ThankYouQwest.org which has a lot of good background. I took special notice of Bruce Schneier’s comments about the futility of using the system to find “needles in a haystack.”

I was also directed to another side of the “Qwest as civil liberties hero” riff. The CNET story here suggests some possible ulterior motives for their refusal to cooperate with the program. Maybe Qwest CEO Nacchio is a creep, but I don’t see how standing up to the government would help him very much at his trial. It certainly would not help the bottom line of a company looking for more government contracts. Maybe more will come out, but for now I still applaud his decision.

I’m no lawyer, but I recall that the Hawaii Constitution grants us an explicit right to privacy. Most telephone customers probably signed a service agreement so long ago that they no longer even have a copy of it. Unless it was/is pretty clearly spelled out that Verizon/Hawaiian Telcom was going to share our calling records with the government without any prior notice or warrant, I think consumers could (and should) sue them to stop. I’m away from the Capitol library where I could review it more closely, but the case notes in that section of the Constitution include:

A person using a private telephone line has a reasonable expectation of privacy; pen register warrant required the signature of a circuit court judge. 70 H. 546, 779 P.2d 1.

Hmmmm.

Comments (0)
Prosecutor’s deal leads to less public safety

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:57 am
The dangerous shooting in Maili (covered in many sources, but I’ll refer to this Advertiser piece) provides a sad case study in support of my argument about the public safety implications of prosecutorial discretion.

According to Hawai’i criminal records, Peters had 23 criminal convictions. He was charged in July 1977, along with Kenneth Smith, in the murder and robbery of Army Spc. 4 James Lee Veal, a military sentry at the Wai’anae Army Rest Center.

Peters, 19 at the time, struck a plea agreement that allowed him to testify against Smith in exchange for a reduced charge of second-degree robbery. He was sentenced under the Youth Offenders Act to a four-year prison term.

In 1984, he was found guilty of assault and reckless endangerment and served another prison term for shooting his 22-year-old girlfriend in the knee on New Year’s Day. Other convictions involved firearm violations, assaults and drug possession.

Assume there was no plea agreement agreed to by the prosecutor in 1977. Assuming the prosecutor was competent enough to win a conviction of Peters for the murder, then, in that scenario, it’s safe to say that Peters would have still been in jail in 1984 instead of shooting his girlfriend on New Year’s Day. This casts doubt as to how many of his other convictions involved charges that were reduced by the prosecutor, with the accompanying reductions in how much time (if any) Peters served for each conviction.

The prosecutor’s office is only lucky that Peters did not seriously injure or kill someone (be it a police officer or a civilian) this weekend. Then they’d have had some explaining to do. Having dodged that bullet, they (and their media cheerleaders) will likely consider this case to support their arguments in favor of the 3-strikes law. Because (outside of this puny blog) there will (probably) be little discussion of the prosecutor’s complicity, this flawed argument will become “common knowledge.” Sigh.

Comments (1)
Campaign season about to heat up

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:56 am
An interesting and wide-ranging Advertiser article that has little in the way of news, but a lot of chatter worth reading. It also reminds people how to register to vote, which can’t be repeated often enough between now and, well, forever.

I will take note of this particular passage:

Name recognition and money could be the ingredients that separate the candidates on the Democratic side, along with the ability to campaign effectively on the Neighbor Islands. Identity politics also could be a factor, as candidates look to gain from any natural affinity they might have among ethnic groups or with geography in a race that could be won with far less than 50 percent of the vote. The district covers Central, Leeward and Windward O’ahu and the Neighbor Islands.

“It’s going to be very difficult for those people who don’t have the name recognition in the district,” said Don Clegg, a political consultant.

Some already have found it hard to get heard through the news media, mostly because fairness generally dictates that the major candidates are covered equally. A Matsunaga news conference on Friday about energy policy was ignored by much of the press. Neither the Advertiser nor the Honolulu Star-Bulletin covered a fundraiser last month for Schatz that featured former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Huh? Is this to say that the media is not covering these campaign events because then they feel they would have to cover all such events? The mention of “fairness” brings to mind the Fairness Doctrine, but such laws do not apply to newspapers. The editorial message I take away, then, is “our coverage will be uniformly poor and focused on tactics, while our failure to report the substance of each campaign will be couched in terms of not favoring any one candidate.”

Furthermore, who gets to decide which candidates are “major candidates?”

Criticism of “horse race” media coverage at election season is nothing new, but what is unusual is for a reporter to offer an explanation (a defense?) of it.

Comments (1)
Shipping limit may hit businesses

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:56 am
A Maui News story sought out business people who will be affected by the proposed end of less-than-container loads being transported by Young Brothers’ interisland barge service. The extra insight provided in the real world examples is very useful, but (having seen and heard the other side of the story from YB), I don’t think the article is very balanced.

The stated reason it is happening now, though, is that the state Harbors Division has told YB it has to give up nearly a quarter of the 16 acres at Pier 2 in Kahului when the Superferry begins daily calls next year.

The pier, already congested, would no longer have enough space to allow containers to be unpacked and sorted by the barge company, according to YB Vice President and General Manager Vic Angoco.

The only solution will be to truck away the full containers and have them broken out at a more spacious forwarder?s warehouse away from the port.

Basically, the first 40 or 50 paragraphs do a pretty thorough job of painting YB as the villian. In fact, the villians (if there are any) are the state DOT and the Hawaii Superferry. It was not YB’s idea to give away their waterfront space.

Many people (Eagar included, apparently) don’t understand that the lack of room to expand at the harbors has become a critical problem. The problem was unavoidable, but the Superferry came along and forced the issue onto the front burner. Until then, the state could accomodate an inefficient use of sparse waterfront land (e.g. the large buildings where less-than-container loads are consolidated and distrbuted). Every one of those big buildings takes up space needed for the staging of full containers and for the efficient flow of containers to and from the barges. Undoubtedly, the small businesses in the article will face higher costs, but the alternative is … what? The vast majority of the Maui economy is dependent upon full-container loads.

As the article (briefly) points out, the small businesses should also be able to get some relief when their small loads are transported via the Superferry. This would actually be much faster than YB barge service, too.

Comments (0)
Consultant says gasoline would be cheaper with (either) cap in place

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:56 am
Boy, the Legislative failure to pass that floor amendment is really coming home to roost for opponents of the gasoline price cap… A few days ago it was KITV, and now another example in the Advertiser op-ed submitted by the consultant who worked with Senator Menor to amend the price cap formula.

Today, motorists in Hawai’i have clear evidence that shows the original price cap was working. If the old cap formula were still in place today, the PUC could have announced on Wednesday, May 10, the price was heading back down. Instead, AAA reports the retail price in Hawai’i is not falling like most of the Mainland.

More importantly, had the new formula I worked on with Sen. Menor been activated by the governor, the savings would have been even greater and consumers would have been assured substantial savings over the next 30 days. Hopefully she will have second thoughts about her vow to never use the authority of her office to lower the pump prices.

Until industry transparency is provided to consumers, expect to see more and more of these reminders. Heh. If the transparency shows profits that consumers consider unfair, then we’ll see if the Governor (and Legislators) start to sing a different tune. If it shows the opposite, then we can expect a little more urgency in getting the data to the public. Of course, the data could show unfair profits and still be explained/spun to the consumers as representing a fair profit.

Comments (0)
5/14/2006

A day off

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 8:33 am
Happy Mothers’ Day to all, and Happy Birthday to me. I’ll have more for you folks tomorrow.

I spent a very nice Saturday evening at a wedding where, among a few hundred, Ian Lind was also a guest. Mr. Lind, of course, was happily taking photos for posterity (and for his blog).

Other than the nuptials, the highlight of the night, for me, was seeing my good friend, Pete, play and sing a few ukulele numbers in honor of his daughter, Ari. Chicken skin! Big aloha to Travis and Ari.

Comments (1)
5/13/2006

What could have been

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:47 am
After one week of the suspended gasoline price cap, there is this piece from KITV that has compared actual pump prices to the predicted prices that would have been, had the revised formula been activated by the Governor. This is exactly the outcome that the last-minute floor amendment was trying to defuse. Heh.

The gas cap supporters said if the legislation were approved, a modified plan would have put Singapore into the price averaging mix.

If that were the case, wholesale regular gas today would be $2.06. After adjustments, taxes and profits, the price would reach about $3 per gallon, still less than Friday’s prices, which ranged from $3.18 to $3.32.

——–

Lingle, however, said she would never reinstate the gas cap, even though she’s allowed to do so at anytime with the modified formula.

Instead, she supports making oil companies’ profits more public and then regulating those profits.
“How would you know the profit unless you know what the costs are?” Lingle said. “That is why the transparency is so important.”

Critics have said the oil companies will strongly resist any attempt to make them show how much profit they’re making off consumers.

Lingle and “the critics” raise, but then bungle, a key point. The need for transparency and the resistance of the industry is why the new law has an array of transparency requirements. If Governor Lingle would promptly obtain and promulgate the transparency data, then we’d know if (or to what extent) the formulae are flawed.

Also, since KITV took the time to calculate the predicted price under the new formula, what would the prices this week have been under the old formula?

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Akaka bill may be debated in June

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:46 am
Gordon Pang’s article in the Advertiser today has a very thorough timeline and explanation of the past and (likely) immediate future of the Akaka Bill. Nice work. The latest news is that the Senate President has agreed to move for vote that will (finally) begin floor debate on the measure and, eventually, an up-or-down vote in the Senate.

Ikaika Hussey of Hui Pu, an umbrella group of Hawaiian organizations that oppose the Akaka bill, said senators should hold a hearing in Hawai’i before voting on it. They would find that many who support the measure are out to protect their entitlement programs while there are many others who believe the bill does not go far enough in addressing the concerns of Hawaiians, he said.

“It is a welfare approach to Native Hawaiians,” Hussey said. “More glaringly, this bill would close off any land claims which is at the heart of the sovereignty issue.”

Gov. Linda Lingle said she does not plan to travel to Washington for the expected vote but will send letters to Republican senators repeating her support for the bill. She said she will also send an analysis by state Attorney General Mark Bennett that counters criticisms made in the civil rights commission report.

I would sure like to read Bennett’s response to the critics. Hopefully they will release it without requiring the media to demand it. As for Hussey’s comments, that is the most succinct description of the support and opposition that I’ve seen. A masterful soundbite.

Meanwhile, in the SB there is an op-ed from Tom Macdonald. He writes to publicize some of the key points in the United States Commission on Civil Rights “findings” that were excised from their recent report in opposition to the bill.

His description of the “debate” as to the nature of Hawaiian and United States government actions in 1893 is very much like the global warming “debate.” So long as a few naysayers exist there can be a “debate” and discord. There is no way to defuse that sort of rhetorical strategy that I know of.

Macdonald also mentions the findings concerning the “mandatory criteria” for Indian Tribes. As I noted earlier, prior law does not constrain a new law. Likewise with his concerns about the Indian Civil Rights Act; there is no reason why Congress could not pass a similar Act to guarantee those rights to citizens of whatever Native Hawaiian governing entity emerges from the process.

On a more meta level, even though Macdonald is careful not to reveal his hand (it’s easy for me to infer his opposition), resting ones arguments upon findings voted down by the Committee is a dubious way to support the Committee’s ultimate decision to oppose the bill… If the Committee strongly believed those arguments were defensible, then those arguments would still be in the report.

Comments (2)
A call for the return to ahupuaa management

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:45 am
The West Hawaii Today has an interesting report on a recent public meeting where resource management was discussed. It showcases a(nother) clash between Western ideas and Native Hawaiian ideas.

Ka’u resident Leimana DaMate discussed why the government should use the stringent land and ocean use management process of the ancient Hawaiians, known as the ahupuaa system.

During the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Reef Talk, Leimana DaMate said she represented the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and Pacific Islands Resource Management Institute, a supposed new organization of which she serves as president. She named three members of the institute and did not verify whether it was a 501c3 nonprofit.

Using the ahupuaa system has been made necessary by booming urbanization and the poor protection of the environment throughout the state, Leimana DaMate said.

“If the resources dies through neglect or mismanagement, then Hawaiians die out as well,” she said.

Community concerns were voiced at Kealakehe High School library, where about 20 people attended, including representatives from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) as well as the National Park Service.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that today with all the material stuff that we can be sustained by ancient laws,” said Marjorie Erway, Kona resident.

Leimana DaMate insisted integrating the “common sense” practices of Native Hawaiians into current governmental policies could better protect Hawaii’s fragile marine ecosystem. She claimed history has proved that Hawaiians were successful in sustaining their environment through ahupuaa and seasonal closures based on spawning cycles.

Following the presentation, several scientists and West Hawaii Fisheries Council members criticized the information presented, claiming it was incorrect. They offered their research and assistance.

The article seems to focus entirely on the regulation of fishing, but I am curious how the ahupuaa management could apply to land-based resource protection and use policies. I’m also a bit confused because they two sides seem to only differ on the specific timing of regional closures of fishing grounds.

The scientists more or less stack the deck against DaMate, urging that she present supporting data on a concept that was in place long ago (perhaps cast aside before the concept of collecting “data” was common). Technocrats control the show, however, so if DaMate is to have any immediate hope she would do well to try to work with the scientists. Otherwise she is looking at a long period of collecting data to persuade the technocrats—but where could she collect the data if their policies are enforced instead of hers? Catch-22.

Comments (1)
Airfares to go! even lower

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:45 am
Round trip fares for interisland flights in June will be as low as $59, according to this SB story.

Mesa Air Group Inc., whose interisland startup carrier go! sparked a $39 one-way fare war, has struck again by lowering its ticket prices even more.

The Phoenix-based regional carrier announced yesterday a “Midweek Madness Sale” in which it is offering $59 round-trip tickets, or the equivalent of $29.50 each way, for travel Monday through Friday between Honolulu and Hilo and Kona on the Big Island; Lihue, Kauai; and Kahului, Maui.

Hawaiian Airlines matched the new fare, and Aloha Airlines said it could make a decision as early as today.

Greg Stephens, chief operating officer for go!, said the $39 fares that dramatically lowered the price of flying interisland could be here to stay.

The competition is not so sure that the price is sustainable. I wonder how many months it would take at this price to kill Island Air, Aloha Airlines, or Hawaiian Airlines?

The article doesn’t mention this angle, but compare these low fares to the Hawaii Super Ferry (which will not be in service in June, of course). HSF will argue that they offer a different service, and they do (i.e. slower, less-frequent, and take your own vehicle), but if Mesa were to offer these fares again (after any initial hype about the ferry begins to wane) then it could really put the screws to the financial future of the ferry.

Comments (0)
5/12/2006

Telephone calling records delivered to the government for pay and without warrants – any local angle to this story?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:49 am
The Advertiser editorializes today against the government’s secretive policy of gathering data about telephone calls placed to, from, and within the United States. USA Today broke this news on Wednesday. The Advertiser editors urge that if Congress does not resolve the troubling questions raised, then the program should be halted. The record of Congress intervening to stop the warrantless NSA wiretapping of U.S. citizens is going nowhere, so I don’t think Congress will do anything about this latest revelation.

In the business news, the Advertiser also reports on Hawaiian Telcom and the customer service woes they are having:

Hawai’i’s major telephone company took over all customer service responsibilities on April 1 as part of its sale from Verizon Communications Inc. to the Carlyle Group.

The company says 90 percent of its approximately 650,000 customers did not notice the transition, but it left some of the remaining 10 percent fuming.

Well, I think closer to 100% would be fuming if they were to learn that when Carlyle Group took over HT that it also assumed the accomodating policy that Verizon had with respect to collaborating in the government’s data collection program. Here’s a simple question for Mr. Hao to ask: Is HT participating in the program, or not? Given the nature of the Carlyle Group, I’d have to assume that they are. Meet the new spy, same as the old spy.

From the USA Today piece:

One major telecommunications company declined to participate in the program: Qwest.

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest’s CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA’s assertion that Qwest didn’t need a court order ? or approval under FISA ? to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers’ information and how that information might be used.

Financial implications were also a concern, the sources said. Carriers that illegally divulge calling information can be subjected to heavy fines. The NSA was asking Qwest to turn over millions of records. The fines, in the aggregate, could have been substantial.

——–

The concern for the customer was also based on law: Under Section 222 of the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, telephone companies are prohibited from giving out information regarding their customers’ calling habits: whom a person calls, how often and what routes those calls take to reach their final destination. Inbound calls, as well as wireless calls, also are covered.

The financial penalties for violating Section 222, one of many privacy reinforcements that have been added to the law over the years, can be stiff. The Federal Communications Commission, the nation’s top telecommunications regulatory agency, can levy fines of up to $130,000 per day per violation, with a cap of $1.325 million per violation. The FCC has no hard definition of “violation.” In practice, that means a single “violation” could cover one customer or 1 million.

That would suggest a better way to fight this program than to wait, as the Advertiser suggests, for Congress to ride in to the rescue: there should be a flood of lawsuits against all those telcos participating. Of course, any (unlikely) fines levied by the FCC against the telcos for turning over the data will end up in the U.S. Treasury, not in the hands of customers whose data were sold. The government wants the data much more than they want to protect our privacy or to collect fines from the telcos.

Comments (1)
Leadership to change face at Hawaii Democratic Party

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:48 am
Many short articles about the upcoming departure of Hawaii Democratic Party leader Brickwood Galuteria and those seeking to replace him. There is a piece in the PBN, another at the SB, and a third at the Advertiser. The SB piece also branches off into speculation about who might replace Mike McCartney who plans to step down from the PBS Hawaii organization and is one of the candidates for party chair. The other candidate is former Oahu chair, Jimmy Toyama.

I don’t belong to the party, but if either candidate is able to carry out his goals for the party it will make for more interesting blogging… Heh.

On the topic of McCartney, when I was an undergrad at Manoa he was a Senator and came to speak to a small forum at Hemenway Hall about “how to lobby.” He was talking about buttering up the staff with manapua and other types of “local style” retail-level politics. I was pretty naive at the time, and I spoke up to challenge the need for (and even the propriety of) that type of approach. To his credit, he acknowldged my critique (albeit it with a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” theme) and invited me to come and shadow him at the Senate for a day. I took him up on his offer, and the next year I did an internship at the Lege (not with McCartney). I’ve returned every session since then. So, to some extent, if you have any strong feelings the existence of this blog, you may thank/curse McCartney.

Comments (0)
5/11/2006

Sensationalism at (where else?) Hawaii Reporter, again

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:21 am
Apparently there is a quota system at Hawaii Reporter which requires a post about Leon Rouse to appear on a regular schedule. It would also appear that such posts are required to be sensationalist, prurient, and incomplete. The latest example is here. My post after the previous round is here.

Just how far will Hawaii Democrats go for a molester? That issue shall be adjudicated in a rare contested case hearing before the Hawaii State Ethics Commission June 7. The ethics complaint, lodged by Senate Republicans charges that state Sen. Brian Kanno (D-Ewa) misused his power by attempting to pressure Norwegian Cruise Lines to rehire Rouse and further misused his power to get Rouse a job in another legislator?s office.

How Rouse obtained a job at the Legislature is not part of the contested case hearing. Nor will the Commission be taking up the questionof “how far” legislators may go on behalf of molesters those whose human rights were violated.

The molester [sic] is Leon Rouse. Arrested Oct. 4, 1995, and convicted in the Philippines for paying 200 pesos (US$3.79) for sex with a 15-year-old boy, Rouse served 8 years in New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

The age of Rouse’s alleged sex partner was never proven at trial. For that matter, the person involved later recanted the entire episode and, furthermore, the same person made allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Walden knows this, but wrote this libel anyway.

Walden seems incredulous that a wide array of high-ranking American politicians would respond to a human rights violation perpetrated against an American citizen. Walden selectively mixes quotes from the findings of the UN report (that found Rouse did not have a fair trial) and from the salaciuos report of the Phillipines prosecutor (a report which according to the UN, I remind you, makes allegations never proven in a fair trial or on appeal). As titillating as the prosecutor’s allegations may be, masturbation and fellatio between consenting adults is not “child molestation.”

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and infer that Walden does not approve of Rouse’s long history of political activism in favor of homosexuals. Walden strongly implies that for a politician to help a politically active homosexual obtain employment is improper. The Ethics Commission will soon take up the topic of what happened after Rouse was fired from NCL.

It is not clear whether Rouse?s position will expire with the end of the legislative session. As of now Rouse is the only employee of a State legislature anywhere in the United States known to have a criminal record for child molestation.

Rouse’s is no longer employed by Baker. A simple phone call could have answered that question.

Walden is entitled to be write as if he is a homophobe. Zimmerman is comfortable providing space on her blog for people who write like Walden. I’m free to call libel what it is.

Comments (3)
5/10/2006

Kawananakoa hitches wagon to Akaka Bill mini-drama

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:46 am
The SB reports on the second of a series of speeches planned by Senator Akaka in hopes of getting a Senate vote on his bill to set up a process to establish a Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Saying he hopes his speeches “will have some effect,” Akaka added that he has been “hounding” [Senate President] Frist for a definite date for a floor vote.

The bill was supposed to be voted on last summer, but several Republican senators, including Lamar and Kyl, blocked it. Akaka says he has the votes for passage if the GOP would let the bill on the floor for a vote.

The problems with the measure in the GOP are one reason a Republican is needed in Congress, according to Quentin Kawananakoa, who is running for the 2nd Congressional District (rural Oahu-neighbor islands) seat as a Republican.

At a news conference yesterday, Kawananakoa said the Akaka bill enjoys wide support in Hawaii from both Democrats and Republicans, but is facing opposition among Republicans in Washington.

“I believe we need to have a voice in the majority caucus with the understanding of our island people. We need to have a voice in the United States Congress,” Kawananakoa said.

Um, you’re running for the House, not the Senate, sir. Freshmen members of the House are, uh, not exactly influential in the Senate GOP caucus…

Hmmm. Since he raised the topic, though: Doesn’t Kawananakoa’s Republican opponent, Bob Hogue, also support the Akaka Bill? Yup. So…

Reminder: I am eager for the media or the Senator to confirm (or deny) the “coupling” of this bill to the repeal of the estate tax. Somehow I doubt that Senator Akaka will mention that in one of his daily speeches if that is true…

Comments (1)
Act 203 clarified

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:45 am
I was wrong on Monday.

After an interesting email exchange with Senator Ihara (Mahalo for your patience!), and a phone call to a helpful person at the Campaign Spending Commission, I finally have a better understanding of the campaign finance restrictions facing unions and corporations. Today the SB editorializes on the topic.

“The total amount a corporation or other entity can give is $1,000 in the primary and then another $1,000 in the general election,” Wong told the Star-Bulletin’s Richard Borreca.

The restriction is perfectly constitutional. The First Amendment allows individuals to give as much as they like to political candidates, while limitations can be placed on how much a candidate may receive from one person. However, Congress began prohibiting corporations from influencing elections nearly a century ago and extended the ban to labor unions in the 1940s. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed such restrictions.

——–

The 2005 law allows corporations and unions to make unlimited contributions from “old money” – that collected before it took effect – and hefty amounts were shoveled into their political action committees last year. Say reckons the law “means the faucet is turned off,” but the old-money loophole could result in much more than a dribble in this year’s election. Incumbents who are accustomed to large contributions are likely to feel the full effect in 2008.

Hawaii politicians received more than two-thirds of their $10 million campaign money in 2004 from corporate or labor interests, according to Scott Foster of Voter Owned Elections, which advocates full public funding options for candidates. Once the old money is spent, political candidates will be forced to go door to door asking for support.

My error was that I did not understand that any person, organization, corporation, union, etc. that contributes $1,000 (net) must register as a non-candidate committee. Corporations, unions, and other organizations who have made $1,000 of (net) expenditures are then done for that election. Individuals who give more than $1,000 (net) in an election must also register as non-candidate committees, but individuals may then spend as much of their own money as they choose, so long as they report their contributions and don’t exceed the maximum contribution to any single candidate. Have those maxed-out donors to Governor Lingle that I previously listed at those links all registered? There should be many more contributors registered as committees, too, since the law kicks in at a much lower threshold.

The Campaign Spending Commission acknowledged over the telephone that they are unable to check to see if every contributor that has given $1,000 (net) and therefore should be registered as a committee is actually registered. So, maybe there’s another task for Foster and his allies…

Sorry if I led any readers astray, but I’m happy that my cynicism was misplaced!

Comments (0)
Confusion remains in the wake of gas cap

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:45 am
I got a chuckle from this thoughtful column by David Shapiro of the Advertiser. The chuckle came here:

This [new gas cap] formula has no clear rationale, and we may as well compare gasoline prices to the price of the bean soup at Zippy’s.

Heh.

Leading up to that punch line, however, Shapiro had this to say:

Lawmakers were right to suspend the 8-month-old cap, given its ambiguous results and the growing discontent among the consumers it was supposed to protect.

But it might have been useful to continue calculating prices under the old cap for comparison with actual prices in the newly unregulated market to provide a better fix on the cap’s impact over a longer period and under a broader range of market conditions.

This would be helpful information if the state ever considers reinstating the gas cap, as the law allows.

Too true. However, the Honolulu media (and the House Democrats) seemed to have figured out how to anticipate the PUC-generated price cap by using the statutory formula and their own sources of data. Well, why don’t they continue doing that? And, while they are at it, calculate what a capped price using the Singapore data would be, too.

Not a big fan of data and mathematics? A letter to the Maui News editors made this modest proposal.

I think it’s satire, but you can’t be 100% sure sometimes…

Comments (0)
5/9/2006

Senator Akaka pledges to give daily statements until he gets a vote

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:38 pm
In a change of strategy, Senator Akaka intends to repeatedly ping away on his bill on the establshment of a Native Hawaiian governing entity in hopes of bringing it to the floor. The Advertsier has an article that notes the novelty of this tactic:

“After seven years of delay by a few of my colleagues, it is time that we are provided with the opportunity to debate this bill in the open,” according to a written statement of Akaka’s announcement to fellow senators. “I will be coming to the floor to talk about my bill every day until we begin debate on the bill. I will use every day to talk about what my bill does and does not do, and to respond to the outright mistruths that have been spread about the legislation.”

The aggressive tactic is uncharacteristic for the mild-mannered Akaka but underscores his frustration with the lack of progress of his bill.

It has been a long time since I have watched C-SPAN, but I recall that there are often times when a lone Representative or Senator is delivering speeches on the floor and the camera shows that the chamber is empty of any other legislators. Is that what Akaka will be doing? If a speech falls in the woods and C-SPAN is the only person listening does it make any difference?

The Hawaii Reporter helpfully provides the full text of Akaka’s remarks and the floor speech of Senator Lamar Alexander (Republican of Tennessee). First, I note that I was unfair to HR earlier when I said there is no new version of S. 147. Akaka said:

Further, despite the fact that the Commission [on Civil Rights] was provided with the substitute amendment which reflects negotiations with the Executive Branch, the Commission chose to issue its report based on the bill as reported out of committee.

The substitute amendment to S. 147 will be offered when we consider the bill and reflects negotiations with the officials from the Department of Justice, Office of Management and Budget, and White House.

The substitute amendment satisfactorily addresses the concerns expressed by the Bush Administration regarding liability of the U.S. government, military readiness, civil and criminal jurisdiction, and gaming. The amendment has been publicly available since September 2005 and has been widely distributed.

Man, I really need to improve my ability to use the Library of Congress website, but I found a link to the amendment (PDF) on Akaka’s website. Alexander’s concerns with the bill go to more fundamental issues, though. Among other things, Alexander said:

It is suggested that ?native Hawaiians? are different because they lived on the islands of Hawaii before Asian and white settlers came there, and that their previous government was undermined by Americans who came. So, the argument goes, they should be treated as an American Indian tribe.

But U.S. law has specific requirements for recognition of an Indian tribe. A tribe must have operated as a sovereign for the last 100 years, must be a separate and distinct community, and must have had a preexisting political organization. Native Hawaiians do not meet those requirements. In 1998 the State of Hawaii acknowledged this in a Supreme Court brief in Rice v. Cayetano, saying: ?The tribal concept simply has no place in the context of Hawaiian history.?

Okay, but what was the context of that remark? Legal “briefs” can be 10s or evens 100s of pages long, after all…

I am always somewhat amused when people (especially legislators) think that existing law can somehow trump a proposed law. Friendly civics reminder: the law is only and whatever legislators decide it to be. That is what they do; legislators write our laws. If Congress chooses to alter the “specific requirements for recognition of an Indian tribe,” it may do so.

Scott Crawford tipped me to this post at Townhall where I took special note of this:

Akaka has secured a deal that couples his race-based governing legislation with the Death Tax repeal. As such, the bill may come before the Senate before Memorial Day.

This is what I was afraid of. Two bills “coupled” together are usually things unable to pass on their own merits. Has the Hawaii delegation offered its support for the repeal of the Death Tax in order to get a vote on the Akaka Bill? Maybe it’s just a deal insofar as both topics will be debated. I dunno.

Comments (3)
3-strikes bill is now law

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:37 pm
Governor Lingle has signed the so-called “three strikes” bill into law. The SB has a piece about the Monday ceremony and protest.

The new law allows the prosecutor to require that someone who has three separate convictions for a violent felony be imprisoned without parole for 30 years to life.

“This is an important day. This act makes Hawaii a safer place,” Attorney General Mark Bennett said.

Critics, such as Kat Brady with the Community Alliance on Prisons, said the measure will be too costly as the state is forced to lock up more and more felons for life.

“There are no estimated cost projections or impact analysis this will have on Hawaii’s already overcrowded prisons,” Brady said before a group of 25 [including yours truly] protesting the bill at the Capitol.

In reaction, Bennett said the three-strikes bill is worth it if one serious crime is deterred.

“If what this bill does is stop one individual from being murdered or raped or terrorized by a violent felon, then the cost is worth it.

“This bill will protect thousands of our residents from being raped, robbed or terrorized,” Bennett said.

It is tragic that Bennett, Peter Carlisle and the other prosecutors do not adopt that high-minded standard when it comes to the deleterious effects of prosecutorial discretion. Many of the greatly-scorned repeat offenders are paroled after short(er) sentences because the prosecutors routinely coerce negotiate a guilty plea from the offender to a lesser charge. In this calculus the offender serves a short(er) sentence, in return the prosecutor and the justice system does not need to provide the offender a jury trial—everyone “wins” except public safety and judicial integrity. Oh, that.

To throw Bennett’s rhetoric back in his face, if even one future victim could be protected by putting away offenders for the actual offense they committed (instead of for a lesser offensse for which they are willing to plead guilty) would it not be worth the expense of conducting all of those jury trials?

Shouldn’t we at least be talking about this and, if not limiting it, at least requiring prosecutors to exercise their discretion with some accountability? I say, “yes.” It is far easier to vent our wrath on the offenders than on the system itself, of course. Sigh.

Comments (0)
PUC “figuring out” how to provide transparency

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:36 pm
KHON ran a short story yesterday about the suspension of the gasoline price cap law. I have a few comments. You’re shocked, no doubt.

The law suspending the weekly controls on wholesale prices has gone into effect.

From the gas station owner’s point of view, it’s back to business the way it’s always been done.

“We are the only retail industry that every day posts our primary product price right up there on the street,” says Bill Green, Shell Station consultant.

Are gasoline stations legally required to post the price, or is that just what the customers expect? Now that he brings it up, I’m almost surprised the Outdoor Circle has not come down on ugly gas station signs…

More to the point, though, is the final paragraph:

The end of caps also means the Public Utilities Commission will not be posting prices this coming Wednesday. The PUC is still figuring out when it can implement the new, advisory monitoring the law requires, and how it will start requiring financial data from oil companies. The new law only provided $1 funding for those transparency measures.

By the way, the PUC did release a price cap (PDF) for May 8-14, even though it is not enforceable. How will the pump pricess compare to it?

Even though it is an unfunded mandate, I hope that all of the media keep after the PUC about the transparency. “Figuring out” how to comply with the law might take until election day if nobody keeps after them… Senator Menor is not the only person interested to know if the petroleum companies are gouging the consumers.

Comments (0)
5/8/2006

Political Action Committees will play much smaller money role

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:42 am
UPDATE: I made some boneheaded errors in this post and the comments. Please read this post to understand.

An excellent story in the SB today by Borreca explains the impact of the law limiting contributions to political action committees (PACs). Until the end of 2005, corporations and unions were allowed to make unlimited contributions. This year, however, they may only contribute $1,000. The PAC will still allocate the funds to whichever candidate(s) they choose to support, but, with so much less money to work with, PACs will no longer be able to drown out other donors.

This is great news, in my opinion. I’d still prefer public campaign financing, but this will help level the playing field to a degree.

Campaigns that have been collecting money from unions and corporations since January, with the hope that the bill would be amended, now will have to return anything more than $1,000.

The returns could quickly run into the thousands of dollars. For instance, in 2005 the House Democrats’ political action group, called Citizens for Responsive Government, raised $231,367.

A total of 114 unions and corporations gave to the Democrats’ political action committees in 2005. Donors included the Hawaii State Teachers Association, R.J. Reynolds Corp., Hilton Hawaiian Village, HMSA and the Hawaii Super Ferry.

Now all those corporations are limited to one $1,000 donation, and they have to decide if it goes to the Democrats or with a candidate for the Legislature, Council or governor.

The only exception is if a corporation or union had money in its PAC in 2005.

Uh, I’m not so sure that Borreca has it correct when he writes “corporations are limited to one $1,000 donation, and they have to decide if it goes to the Democrats or with a candidate for the Legislature, Council or governor.” I am not a lawyer, but I think a corporation or union may give contributions (up to a limit depending upon the office the candidate is seeking) to as many individual candidate committees as they choose (see Section 7 of Act 203 of 2005).

Borreca goes on to list several unions that made large PAC contributions in 2005 to beat the new law. The Realtors also made a large contribution in 2005 to their PAC.

What is missing from the article is any mention of large donors to the Republicans’ PAC (assuming one exists). Contributors to PACs are not listed on the Campaign Spending Commission website, unfortunately. To review those records you have to visit the Commission in person. Ugh.

Comments (3)
Chamber of Commerce seeks Lingle vetoes

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:41 am
A short PBN piece provides a list of the bills the Chamber of Commerce would like the Governor to veto. It’s unclear if the Chamber polled their membership to oppose these bills, or if this may turn into another fiasco where the Chamber went against their membership (like the GET surcharge for transit).

Also unclear is what Bev Harbin’s rival group thinks of these bills…

It’s interesting that the Chamber is taking a hard line against the unemployment insurance premium reduction, because it increases benefits for workers. Small businesses could surely use that two-year rate reduction… Similarly, the Chamber opposes allowing more liberal use of sick leave, which they consider “a benefit, not an entitlement.”

Predictably pro-capital. Heh.

Comments (0)
Tesoro buys small Kauai petroleum company

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:40 am
I’m not sure what it means for the consumers of Kauai, but I saw a Garden Island News article today and thought it might be significant. The company had operated four Union 76 stations on the island and the Nawiliwili gasoline terminal, which Tesoro will take over should the deal be approved by shareholders.

Escalating regulations and rising petroleum prices were too much for Kauai Petroleum to compete, said a representative of the privately-owned, Kapa?a-based corporation.

?To be compliant with environmental, governmental and security requirements was just too expensive,? said Kauai Petroleum President and General Manager Baltazar Manibog yesterday.

?We?re just too small to compete.?

San Antonio-based oil and gas refiner Tesoro announced the acquisition of Kauai Petroleum Friday for an undisclosed amount.

The article has no mention of the just-suspended gasoline price cap law. I would have thought that if the law had been a factor in the decistion then the company (and the article) would have mentioned it.

Comments (1)
5/7/2006

Of ferries and whales

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:45 am
Several articles today that layer over the topics of the Hawaii Superferry and humpback whales. First, a Maui News article that describes how the Legislature will continue to provide State bonds so long as community meetings are held. Then I noticed from the Garden Island News a piece about the concerns residents are expressing concerning the safety of whales. Last, a SB report that speaks about the sudden increase in whales being struck by boats or tangled in marine debris.

Because of Superferry?s previous reluctance to hold open public meetings on its proposed operations, the state Senate?s Ways and Means Committee had recommended cutting the appropriation to $10 million. The full amount was approved during conference committee discussions on the budget passed before the session ended Thursday.

However, lawmakers attached a condition [search for Section 88.1 in the budget bill linked above] that said no money would be released until the Superferry and DOT meet with the public three times on each island where the vessels will dock as well as complete other requirements imposed in the final bill.

——–

Superferry has scheduled a meeting with members of Hawaiian and Na Kai Ewalu canoe clubs, two harbor users. The meeting will be on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Cameron Center auditorium.

On May 18, Superferry and DOT officials will make a presentation during a luncheon with the Maui Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa beginning at 11:30 a.m. Admission is $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers.

[Senator] Tsutsui said neither of those affairs would qualify as one of the Legislature?s required Maui meetings. According to the proviso established by lawmakers, DOT must announce the meetings 10 days in advance and publicize the time and location.

Huh? The event today is too short of notice, but May 18 is more than 10 days away. Whatever. In the end, the Governor, not Senator Tsutsui, gets to decide which events “qualify” and she may release the money as she pleases. The fact that there is a $35 fee for the general public to attend should be the more important disqualifying aspect…

Moving to the GIN article, where a citizen named Lee Tepley has produced a DVD and generally raised concerns about the plans the Superferry has to avoid hitting whales. The Superferry (finally) has their own public relations person, Terry O`Halleran, and he is defending the Whale Avoidance Plan (WAP) against Tepley’s critique.

Tepley?s video, made from mostly old footage, concentrates on the fact that whale calves spend the vast majority of their time on, or just below the surface. He said he sent it to Superferry officials, but O?Halleran said he had not seen it.

?We don?t want to hurt whales,? [O`Halleran] said. ?We are constantly investigating any technology solutions that might be available to help us with whale avoidance. The technology isn?t there yet.

?It?s an issue of trying to make sure that we?re educated on seamanship and all the solutions that we can bring,? he said. ?We?re making sure we?ve got the most prudent whale avoidance policy (WAP).?

O?Halleran said Superferry officials submitted the WAP to the Sanctuary Advisory Committee and it was accepted unanimously.

O?Halleran, a Kaua?i resident, used to sit on the SAC, and the fact that he left rubs some members the wrong way.

?I?m not sure if he thinks that it?s safe or not for whales,? [current SAC member] Erway said. ?He has a business background and my guess is this was a business decision.?

The article also includes O`Halleran’s description of how they intend to post lookouts and to slow down from 45mph (which is very fast for a ship!) to 25mph (which is still quite fast for a ship) in shallow water. Tepley points out that visual lookouts during darkness are not going to be very effective… and slowing down even further may not be cost effective.

Then, from the SB article (which never even mentions the Superferry) I saw this:

BABY WHALES pose a greater danger because they need to surface more often – about every three to five minutes. But experts say the mothers, who mated here last year, are getting used to the attention and edging closer to the vessels.

“It’s kind of like driving in a school zone,” said NOAA marine biologist David Schofield.

Humpbacks, which were placed under international protection in 1966, are also shielded under federal law. Boaters need to follow an “approach rule” that instructs them to travel below 13 knots, never leave the helm, post a lookout and stay 100 yards from whales.

Kaufman said a boat captain was doing just that when a calf surprised everyone aboard the company’s Ocean Spirit during an educational cruise for two local schools at Maalaea Bay, Maui. The case is being investigated.

“We were cruising along, on flat water, not a breath of wind out there, everyone looking for whales,” said Kaufman, whose company is the largest in the state, with seven boats doing 10 daily trips during the winter. “No matter how many best practices we put into effect, when one surfaces directly under your boat, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Uh, so how did the Superferry get approved to sail, at the “low speed” portion of their trip, almost twice the maximum allowed speed?! It sure seems as if O`Halleran may have helped Superferry to skirt the rules and then left his regulatory post to work for the company that benefitted.

I’m sure that will come up at these public meetings. Or it should.

Comments (2)
5/6/2006

Obese kids no longer bankroll the dancers and the dorks

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:54 am
It comes as no surprise, but ever since the BOE banned the sale of sweetened drinks from vending machines on DOE campus grounds, there has been less revenue. The Maui News has a story on the effects.

Vending machines that offered soda, sports drinks and juices with high sugar content are now selling only bottled water.

At Baldwin, that has meant returns of just $100 a month, compared to $1,200 a month in the previous school year.

?Kids just don?t respond to water,? said Karisse Wakamatsu, a Baldwin junior who serves as the Maui District Student Council Organization president.

She said student government leaders have discussed the possibility of approaching the Board of Education about modifying its policy, but no formal action has been taken.

?It?s probably going to be a tough one to go up against the BOE,? Wakamatsu said.

Deanne Sameshima, also a Baldwin junior and Maui representative on the Hawaii State Student Council, said the panel of state student leaders also discussed the predicament high schools around the state are facing. Students recognize and even support the Board of Education?s stance on promoting a healthier lifestyle, Sameshima said.

But they also need money to support student activities at their schools.

?I can understand why the state wants to take out the soda. I support it because obesity is a big deal,? Sameshima said. ?But nobody wants to buy water. I guess water is boring.?

Boring, surely, and a ripoff. I’m disappointed that some children have fallen (like their elders have) for the bottled water marketing schemes. In my opinion, buying bottled water (which, ounce for ounce, is more expensive in vending machines than gasoline) is ridiculous. They may use a drinking fountain at any time, even refilling their own water bottle if they like. Why buy it?! It’s absurd and it’s one of my pet peeves. Don’t even get me started on the suckers who buy this snake oil…

At Lahainaluna, Fillazar said he?s making adjustments to the downturn in revenues. Instead of student dances with free admission, the student activities office is charging a fee for students to participate.

Grimley said the money that would have been gained from soda sales used to pay for airfare for student government officers to attend leadership training on Oahu. Those students will now have to make partial payments to attend the training.

[Faculty members] Vierra, Grimley and Fillazar all said they support the idea behind the ban on soda sales, but they point out that many of their students have complained to them about being denied the opportunity to make their own decisions including whether to drink soda at school.

?The purpose is good. I?m not saying we shouldn?t promote healthy lifestyles or healthy drinks. But the students believe they know the choices they have and they should be able to make it themselves,? Fillazar said.

Hmmm. Perhaps the DOE could borrow the concept behind the increased tax on cigarettes: Offer the product for sale, but with a hefty “sin tax” to subsidize the student dances, to pay travel expenses for members of the student government, etc. The dances might seem worth it to the majority of students (uh, to those who are able to find dates), but somehow, outside of that limited universe of political dorks like myself, I doubt if students really care enough about student government to happily pay the tax.

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Ms. Smith bows out, but 244 of 247 are confirmed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:52 am
The Hawaii County newspapers run the same stories today about the Senate rejecting the nominatin of Frank De Luz to the Board of Land and Natural Resources. The usual comments about “politics” and “lynch mobs,” blah blah blah.

I took note of this, though:

De Luz is one of only three of the Lingle’s 247 appointees not to have been recommended for confirmation this year. Another 11 nominees withdrew from consideration, mostly for personal reasons, Lingle spokesman Russell Pang said.

244 of 247 is not too shabby. Granted, most of the appointments are too picayune posts with very limited power and influence, but 98.8% success is still good by any measure. There is no separate list of the nominees, but you can pull them out of the list of all the Governor’s Messages. It’s a bigger job than I’m willing to plow into, but if you clicked on each link there you would eventually find the other two folks who were rejected…

As for the people whose names were withdrawn from consideration, those are messages 364, 375, 418, 419, 529, 537 (two people), 566, 576, 577, 578, and 605. GM 605 is the most interesting because it withdrew the name of Linda Smith, the Governor’s senior advisor, from an appointment to the Hawaii Public Housing Administration. Smith’s nomination had already won advice and consent and was only waiting for a vote in the full Senate. Why was Smith’s name withdrawn? Was it due to “personal reasons?” Maybe Smith’s nomination was a test to try to provoke another “lynching” that, once Smith won advice and consent at the committee hearing, no longer served any political purpose. Or, perhaps the Governor had seconds thoughts about having someone so closely associated to her become more deeply connected with the (very difficult) public housing issue. I dunno.

The articles lament that the Big Island is without representation on the Board at this time, but neglect to mention that the Governor may make an interim appoinment who may immediately begin service and have a confirmation hearing during the next legislative session.

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Gasoline price cap suspension won’t cut costs, may not provide transparency

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:50 am
Both Honolulu dailies report that Governor Lingle signed HB 3115 to suspend the gasoline price cap yesterday. The Advertiser piece (with erroneous headline) is here and the SB article is here.

As you’ve read here before, the Governor noted in a press release the flaws in the “transparency” portions of the bill:

The bill is also flawed in that it fails to give the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) any resources to perform the new oversight and monitoring functions they are tasked to perform. The bill allocates only $1 dollar in funds for the PUC and there is a blank where the number of staff for the PUC was supposed to be inserted.

So, will the PUC try to carry out the task? It is an(other) unfunded mandate, but it is not optional. The reporting is supposed to be done every week. The law that was suspended also had some (less stringent) reporting requirements which have been beefed up in the new law (see especially sections 5 and 10 of the Act). My point is that the PUC already has experience in collecting the data and they have sufficient staff to at least try to carry out the law. While the new bill did not give the PUC more staff, neither did it take any staff away. If they choose to shirk the task, and I’m afraid that they will, then (because?) this will be a total victory for Lingle.

I hope that the media will continue to calculate and publish the estimated prices as they did for the past 8 months, and to do so using both the new and the old formula. Especially if the PUC fails to carry out the transparency provisions of this new law.

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Kauai officials want more infrastructure, less development

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:49 am
The Garden Island News story about Kauai Mayor Baptiste turning away a developer’s $12.4M impact fee offer is very interesting. The Advertiser also has a good piece on the same topic.

According to the articles, two new resorts are planned for an area already facing major infrastructure shortfalls (roads, water, sewer). Furthermore, the island already has a very tight labor market and these developments would be for tourists and would require employees and, thus, employee housing. The rental housing market on Kauai is also extremely tight.

The government and people on Kauai, in a rare demonstration of solidarity against development, seem to have drawn a line in the sand and are leaning toward a moratorium on new development. However, the Mayor may be willing to change his mind if the developer comes up with a signficantly larger impact fee offer. Sort of a moratorium with a “buy out” option, you might say.

How badly do the developers (and the developers’ customers) want this? How much (legal) leverage does the County have to obtain a bigger impact fee? Stay tuned.

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5/5/2006

Exodus 5:2

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:07 am
No, I haven’t begun to proselytize. The title of this post is the ratio of the number of legislators leaving the House to the number of those leaving the Senate, haha. The SB has an article on all seven, while an Advertiser piece focuses entirely on Senator Kanno. Except for Kanno’s public announcement (it was rumored for weeks) and Stonebraker’s departure (which I knew of but simply didn’t care enough about to mention), none of this is news to regular readers of this blog.

Rep. Bud Stonebraker, who is also leaving, was not present on the Legislature’s last day.

Actually, if you take a look at the House Journal, you’ll find that he was not present for Final Reading voting on Thursday or Tuesday. Dig a little further, and you’ll see that he was absent from very many floor sessions and committee votes this year. Stonebraker essentially malingered for much of this whole legislative session. Maybe he’s genuinely ill, but he looked fit when he deigned to attend. I’m going to assume that he’s still depositing his paycheck, whatever the case may be.

Moving to Senator Kanno:

Kanno’s departure could affect Senate leadership because he was among the faction that has kept [Senator] Bunda in power.

The Hawai’i State Ethics Commission has charged Kanno with violating state law for trying to coerce Norwegian Cruise Line into rehiring or paying restitution to a cabin steward fired in 2004 for sexual harassment.

A contested-case hearing is scheduled for June. If the commission upholds the charge, it would be referred to the Senate president for review and any potential punishment, including censure, suspension or expulsion. It is unlikely that the Senate would take any action against Kanno as he is leaving office.

Partially for the sake of my own intellectual and legal curiosity, I hope that Kanno chooses to make a vigorous defense at the contested case hearing in June even though he is a lame duck. I also hope that, whether they find for or against Kanno, the Ethics Commission rules in such a way to clear up the vast ambiguity in what is encompassed by the term “legislative function.”

As for the implications for Bunda’s leadership post, I would not be surprised to see Hogue’s seat switch to a Democrat (Tokuda). Whether she would support Bunda, I don’t know. Across the island, I think Gabbard is likely to win the seat vacated by Kanno. However, as a Republican, Gabbard’s support of, or opposition to, the Senate President is less relevant to Bunda than if Democrats are able to retain that district.

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This is open government?

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:05 am
From Hawaii County we learn of a short-lived policy that had required those coming to see County Councilmembers to surrender their identification. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald story is here, and the West Hawaii Today piece is here.

Until the policy was changed on Tuesday, those coming to see Councilmembers had to surrender their ID and wear a visitor badge. The new policy requires visitors to sign in, be escorted while doing their business, and sign out.

Okay, I can understand the need for workplace security, but in comparison to the Legislature this policy sounds very stifling. At the Capitol the public may come and go at will during working hours. There are Sheriffs deputies on duty at all times and closed-circuit television cameras in the main corridors, but the security presence is not especially noticeable. This leads to some dicey situations when irate and/or mentally ill individuals visit the Capitol, but, on balance, the openness of the Capitol is well worth preserving.

I can think of many reasons why having a log of visitors could discourage some members of the public from exercising the Constitutional right to petition the government for redress. Lobbyists and those legislators who meet with lobbyists, of course, may have similar but less-prinicpled reasons for being opposed to any such visitor log. Lobbyists would probably simply arrange to meet legislators outside the Capitol, but the average citizen would not have as much success setting up such meetings.

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Sustainable tourism study breaks little new ground

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:05 am
Okay, this story is a bit stale if you subscribe to the print edition, but I just noticed this piece from PBN about an inconclusive study completed by DBEDT. The report, parsed into many PDF links, is massive and available here.

The study has its origins in an unprecedented lawsuit filed in 2000 by the Sierra Club against the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The environmental advocacy group sought a statewide environmental assessment before the HTA could spend any more money to attract visitors.

The Sierra Club argued then that the state’s 6.9 million visitors were eroding the state’s environment, culture and public infrastructure and demanded a full review of the impact of tourism. (Some 7.4 million visitors came to Hawaii in 2005.)

The lawsuit, along with growing frustration by residents over crowded beaches, parks and roads, pushed legislators in 2001 to commission DBEDT “to study the carrying capacity of Hawaii for tourism.”

The Hawaii Supreme Court dismissed the Sierra Club lawsuit in 2002, but by then the concerns of the Sierra Club and other groups already had generated discussion and action directed at blunting the impact of tourism in certain areas.

I can’t say I’m surprised that DBEDT failed to make any determination of the carrying capacity. The PBN has this knowing commentary:

The daunting, 20-volume study is twice as long as the Oahu Yellow Pages, a bulk that may consign it to the bookshelf with other bureaucratic tomes. The executive summary is 93 pages.

Marsha Wienert, the governor’s tourism liaison, said she agrees with DBEDT that there is no “magic number” on capacity because there are so many variables.

Well, just because they did not publish a number does not mean that there is no limit. Like it or not, we’re conducting a living experiment to make that determination…

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Hough pursues the Ako strategy

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:04 am
I noticed a letter to the SB editors today from Noah Hough, candidate for Congress. The strategy works so well for Kristi Sue-Ako that Hough has adopted it for his own purposes. Heh.

Democrats failed to intimidate Lingle

I commend the governor for vetoing House Bill 2454 HD1, SD2 “Relating To Filling Legislative Vacancies.” This ridiculous abuse of power by the state’s Democrats is but a string of bills designed to weaken the governor.

Democrats need to stop crying about their loss to Linda Lingle and start focusing on the people of Hawaii and the issues confronting them daily.

Noah Hough
Honolulu

Hough seems to be from the same mold as Bev Harbin, so it’s no surprise that he also supports the Governor’s veto of HB 2454. Also, notice the way Hough uses the expressions “Democrats” and “their loss to Linda Lingle” in the third-person, although Hough himself is running as a (Harbin) Democrat.

By the way, the Lege did not act to overturn that veto yesterday, but, depending upon what other bills (if any) the Governor vetoes, the Legislature could act on it in a special session this summer.

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5/4/2006

Phantom gas-cap law passes

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:23 pm
It took almost a week, but the Advertiser finally gets the description of the gasoline price cap correct:

Under the bill, the state Public Utilities Commission would no longer be responsible for calculating and publishing the price-cap levels, which change weekly. That responsibility would be left to the general public. The bill also would boost oversight and monitoring of the state’s oil industry. Oil companies will have to disclose crude oil costs and sources, refinery operating expenses, marketing and distribution expenses, and corporate overhead expenses under the proposal.

Melissa Pavlicek, a spokeswoman for the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents ChevronTexaco, Shell Oil and Tesoro Petroleum, said the new cap is still a bad idea.

“The new formula seems to be just a desperate attempt to salvage a failed experiment by cherry-picking new criteria that proponents hope will achieve better results,” she said. “We question whether or not gas-cap proponents will change the formula whenever they’re unhappy with the results.”

Whatever. As if legislators should maintain any legislation that makes them unhappy. Legislators amend our laws, that’s what they do. After all, petroleum companies are free to adjust their pricing schemes whenever they are unhappy (or, if you like, whenever gas prices make the Governor unhappy and embarrassed).

Speaking of unhappy petroleum companies, Tesoro profit margins in Hawaii were down last quarter, according to this PBN piece.

The Hawaii refinery averaged 86,000 throughput barrels of oil per day in the first quarter, up from 84,000 a year ago. Production of gasoline, jet fuel and diesel also rose, and once again the Tesoro refinery made more jet fuel than gasoline.

Refining margin, in dollars per throughput barrel, fell from $4.04 in the same quarter last year to $3.23 this time, running counter to the company’s higher margins on the Mainland.

Mirabile dictu, did the price cap law actually work?! What might the profit margin have been without the gasoline price cap law? Hmmm. These are the kind of questions that (hopefully) the transparency provisions of the gasoline price cap suspension will help to answer.

The House approved the CD1 today, with almost everyone voting “with reservations” due to concerns about the new formula and the $1 appropriation to carry out the transparency sections. Thus, it looks like my concerns about transparency not coming into effect are about to be fulfilled. We may have the worst possible outcome: an amended gas cap formula that will enable the public to calculate wholesale prices lower than what the petroleum companies may be using, and no transparency to show if implementing the cap would be fair to the petroleum companies.

Comments (1)
Homeless group wants to govern themselves

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:21 pm
Kudos to the SB for this fascinating article that gives voice to the non-government side of the project to house homeless people in a Kakaako warehouse.

A group of homeless people who were thrown out of Ala Moana Beach Park last month have left the state’s temporary shelter in Kakaako because they say the homeless have no voice in how the facility is managed.

They also criticized the look and feel of the warehouse, calling it reminiscent of a “prison.”

About 20 members of the homeless group Ohana O Hawaii started camping out at Sand Island State Park on Tuesday. Last night, a state parks keeper told them to leave after the park closed at 7:45 p.m., but they refused.

Heh. What you gonna do, Mr. park ranger? Arrest them for being homeless? I don’t think so.

More seriously, the question of the homeless “self-government” is interesting. For the homeless to request, to expect even, that power is novel. Their demand seems to have totally flummoxed those tasked with running the “Next Step” warehousing program. To be blunt, it is exposing what are (and I admit I am assuming here) the paternalistic norms of those who make their career of helping the homeless.

Ohana President Leinati Matautia said Gov. Linda Lingle promised her that the group would have a “seat on the table” on decisions regarding the Ala Moana homeless. But, Matautia said, the group had no say on which site was chosen for the shelter. Their offer to help govern themselves in Kakaako was turned down, she said.

Laura Thielen, executive director of the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance, which is overseeing the Kakaako shelter’s management as part of a state contract, said homeless people at the shelter have been invited to participate in an advisory council, which will discuss how the shelter will be managed.

Ohana O Hawaii says the council is not enough.

“We’re not society’s rejects. We’re humans. We’re not children. We’re all adults,” Matautia said. “We’re self-governed. We’ve proven that for the last 30 days.”

——–

Stephanie Aveiro, director of the state’s housing agency, said she was disappointed to hear that Ohana O Hawaii members had left the shelter. She also said the group could not have managed the facility under state regulations, which is why an advisory council was formed.

Sigh. Once a bureaucrat, always a bureaucrat. Really, if the State stood by and closely monitored what was going on inside, does it matter who is managing the day-to-day affairs? Who would even know if the state (or, rather, Thielen’s organization) had abdicated their management duty and merely took on, for example, a veto-power-only role? As a political scientist I’m very intrigued that the Ohana feels strongly enough about self-rule to vote with their feet and live in a park (under self-government) rather than have others set the rules and provide them a roof. Of course, the rainy season is past now… they may change their tune if another month of rain were to come along.

Last, I note that there seems to have been a softening in the unfair policy I noted earlier about who would be allowed into the warehouse:

[Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance’s] Thielen said social workers recognize many of those at the shelter as homeless people they have seen at Ala Moana Park. All homeless families, regardless of where they have been staying, are welcome at the shelter.

That’s more like it.

Comments (1)
Arakaki out of race for House

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:18 pm
The Advertiser has a story today on the announcement that Representative Arakaki, Chair of the House Committee on Health, will not seek re-election after 20 years of service. His intentions were widely-known in the building for most of the past session.

Unofficially, but not exactly a secret either, his Committee Clerk, John Mizuno, intends to run for the open seat. Arakaki has consistently crushed Republican opponents from his Kalihi Valley district, so for now I would handicap Mizuno as the favorite (should he actually file papers).

Comments (2)
5/3/2006

Win some, lose some, win the latter back tomorrow

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:09 pm
HB 1233 became Act 76 without the Governor’s signature today. As expected, her message (PDF) explaining why she would not sign the bill into law cites (bogus) concerns over privacy in public accomodations (read restrooms and locker rooms).

On the opposite front, Governor Lingle vetoed HB 2454, which I think of as the “no more Bev Harbins” bill. I expect that the Lege will override that veto tomorrow, albeit amid much partisan squawking over party insiders having undue influence on the selection process. That’s a valid critique, but the loophole that allowed (nominally non-partisan) Representative Harbin to join the Democratic Party at the last moment is even less in keeping with the spirit of the law. The next time it could be a Democratic governor appointing a crypto-Democrat to replace a Republican.

The Democrats could have also avoided this situation (and all political parties could avoid it in the future) by enforcing more strict membership rules, but in the name of “inclusiveness” that is unlikely.

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USCCR likely to issue negative opinion of Akaka Bill tomorrow

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:07 pm
The Advertiser has a lengthy article with the news that the United States Commission on Civil Rights is planning to vote tomorrow on a report that recommends that the Akaka Bill not be approved by Congress. Scott covered this story more thoroughly than I could at his blog, so I’ll not repeat what he said.

I also noticed a Hawaii Reporter post filed from Washington on the same topic. (META: it must be nice to have right-wing groups providing a travel budget for your blog. My travel budget is, well, zero.) Zimmerman’s Senate source(s) gave her some additional insights into the debate on the bill:

The bill could be up for a vote this month, although Senators say don?t count on it. While Democrats and some Republicans who pledged their vote to Akaka are pushing for an immediate vote this month, conservatives opposed to the bill are attempting to delay the bill coming to the floor at all – or at least until next year.

The Akaka Bill Redrafted

The Akaka Bill, which has been redrafted, but not made public, establishes a process for the nation’s 400,000 Native Hawaiians to be formally recognized by the United States as an indigenous people and gives Native Hawaiians of any blood quantum rights and privileges above what Native Americans presently have.

Hawaii Reporter has reviewed a copy of the legislation. The bill in its current form would allow Native Hawaiians of any blood quantum to pursue a sovereign government that could negotiate with the United States over land use and other rights.

Wha? “Redrafted, but not made public?” I’m not an expert when it comes to using Thomas (the Library of Congress bill tracking website), but whatever it was that Zimmerman “reviewed” must have been a proposed draft of Senate 147. Outside of classified programs, nothing that has actually occurred in Congress is withheld from the public.

Moving to the substance of Zimmerman’s, uh, analysis of the bill, she mostly provides a series of “possible” outcomes without noting that whatever form of Native Hawaiian governing entity is proposed would be something agreed to by the U.S. government before going forward. The USCCR report is said to have a similar laundry list of complaints, but at least the Advertiser piece notes that the Secretary of the Interior would have to approve of any governing entity. It’s not as if they would sign off on a dictatorship funded solely by vice operations. Get real.

To conclude, Zimmerman launches into a discussion of OHA’s lobbying effort and expenses in Washington, D.C., and notes that the exact amount spent has not been released despite her request for those documents. Zimmerman paints a picture of OHA trustees squandering the money on first class airfares and well-connected lobbyists instead of “funding educational scholarships, grants for small businesses, or helping Native Hawaiians further their economic status.” OHA would, I assume, argue that advancing the Akaka bill is necessary if any of those other goals are to have any hope of being sustained. As for the first class airfares, since OHA has also not released the travel records it’s impossible to know if OHA pays for first class airfares instead of coach class, if the trustees upgrade their tickets at their own expense, or if any other possible explanation applies.

OHA should disclose this data. However, I can’t help but notice that Zimmerman does not mention if she is asking for the opponents of the Akaka bill to disclose their spending or contributors. I know, the opponents are privately funded and she’s only looking out for the Hawaii taxpayers and OHA beneficiaries. Right…

Comments (1)
Gas cap floor amendment botched in Senate

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:00 pm
The Advertiser provides insight into the botched floor amendment to HB 3115 (gasoline price cap suspension) yesterday.

The potential amendment to the gas cap took up much of the morning and came close to passing before supporters in the Senate miscalculated. House and Senate conferees agreed last Friday to indefinitely suspend the price cap but give Gov. Linda Lingle the authority to reinstate it if gas prices go up.

The agreement also would add Singapore to the three Mainland markets used to calculate the cap if it is ever brought back by the governor, which the cap’s main sponsor, state Sen. Ron Menor, D-17th (Mililani, Waipi’o), believes would lower prices by as much as 16 cents.

Some lawmakers believe that adding Singapore to the formula would artificially lower hypothetical prices under the cap and give consumers misleading information. Some also worry that Menor would use the new formula to tell consumers how much money they would have saved under the cap and portray lawmakers as thin-skinned and shortsighted for suspending it in an election year.

The House passed an amendment yesterday that would have removed Singapore from the formula after House leaders believed the Senate would follow. But the same Senate faction that was involved in an unsuccessful coup against Senate President Robert Bunda, D-22nd (N. Shore, Wahiawa), at the end of last session failed to get a majority to support the amendment when Republicans would not go along.

The House then had to go back and yank the amendment so as not to threaten the gas cap bill when it comes up for a final vote tomorrow.

Menor, who said the amendment would have violated the good faith of Friday’s agreement, blamed lobbying by the oil companies who have opposed the gas cap. “I think that the oil companies were making a last-ditch effort to try to kill this measure,” he said.

Nice work on that reporting, DePledge and Shapiro.

What is puzzling is the Republican opposition to that floor amendment in the Senate. Without the floor amendment the law is (more) likely to give ammunition to those who believe gasoline consumers are being gouged. Thus, it would add pressure to their GOP ally, the Governor, to authorize the price cap law. The Republican Senators are willing to weather that political pressure (or, more accurately, willing to lock Lingle out in that weather) … in order to prop up Senator Bunda’s presidency? Go figure.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Reporter has a post by the House Minority Leader, Representative Finnegan, where she repeats the falsehood about the PUC calculating caps during the suspension of the law… Sheesh, what will it take to kill that misperception?

Comments (1)
5/2/2006

Geek-inspired solution to kalo patenting issue

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:43 pm
I had an idea while reading this interesting Advertiser article about hybridized kalo at the University of Hawaii and the concerns raised by patenting such a key part of Hawaiian culture. My idea is: why not use a process similar to the general public license used for computer software or the Creative Commons Deed like I use here at the blog? Those allow for others to freely use the patented product, but not to resell or derive works based upon it without also offering others similar rights. My deed goes further, in that it (and I) will not allow anyone to sell the content from this blog, but there are other flavors of Creative Commons deeds that allow for varying degrees of commercial use.

Kaua’i taro farmer Chris Kobayashi said growers for years have participated in UH taro-breeding experiments, and there never was a question of someone owning the resulting hybrids.

“We pay taxes for the university, we help them grow it and now suddenly they own it. We have to pay a licensing fee if we use it,” at a time when farmers’ costs are rising fast, she said.

UH officials said the patents may actually protect the taro industry. Patents are included in faculty union contracts, which provide that the inventor or breeder gets half the patent fees after the university’s patenting costs are covered.

“If we don’t patent it, Monsanto or someone else could slightly modify it and patent it. The thing, from our perspective, is how do you protect the intellectual property,” said Andy Hashimoto, dean of the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

An arrangement along the lines of the GPL or CC could protect the intellectual property. In the face of these alternatives, the only reason to patent the hybrids is for monetary reward. Patents and income from another commodity, okay, but for kalo? I don’t think that is the right path for UH to take.

I think they should at least explore this type of idea and see if it might fly.

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Slow learners at the Advertiser

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:41 pm
The Advertiser continues to sing out of key while trying to describe the suspension of the gasoline price cap. Today an editorial makes the same mistake as Saturday. They say, again:

The current legislation would require the oil industry locally to turn over information on its costs, making the pricing more “transparent.” The Public Utilities Commission also would figure what the maximum price would have been under an amended gas-cap formula, providing a way to gauge the fairness of gas prices.

Um, no. Once the suspension is in place, the cap is NOT going to be calculated by PUC. The PUC would only use that formula if the Governor used her authority to activate the gas cap. Don’t take my word for it, though, read it in the bill.

(l) The suspension of the maximum pre-tax wholesale gasoline price shall suspend the commission’s duty to calculate and publish the maximum pre-tax wholesale gasoline price that would have been in effect but for the suspension, but shall not suspend or affect:

(1) Any duty to register, timely provide information, make a report, or file a statement under chapter 486J; or

(2) Any duty of the commission to:

(A) Timely obtain, analyze, or publicly disclose or report information under chapter 486J; and

( C ) Enforce chapter .

Is that clear enough? Sheesh. Chapter 486J contains the “transparency” provisions, the cap calculations are found in 486H. [I have no idea where (B) went, by the way. ??]

That scolding aside, I do hope that the media choose to use the amended formula to calculate and publish the price cap that would have been in effect had the law not been suspended. It will be useful economic (and let’s face it, political) information for the public to review. So far as that goes, it would also be good if the media calculated and published the price under the existing formula, too. They obviously know how to make these calculations, as many of them have been doing it since September…

However, in the House there was a floor amendment offered, approved, and then “reconsidered” on the bill, so it won’t go to Final Reading until Friday past 2:something PM (48-hour notice clock was reset in the House, the Senate went ahead and passed it after offering and withdrawing the floor amendment). Hmmm. Some sort of last-minute deal that fell through, it would seem.

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Talk is cheap; Governor Lingle steps up

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 5:41 pm
There is no love lost between Governor Lingle and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann on the topic of the homeless people formerly of Ala Moana Park. The SB has a piece where the Governor and the Mayor’s press secretary snipe back and forth thusly:

Gov. Linda Lingle described as “pure shibai” one of the reasons Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s administration gave for moving homeless people out of Ala Moana Beach Park.

On the same day the state opened a temporary shelter in Kakaako for the homeless who were displaced from the park, the governor criticized the city for not doing enough to help the homeless after they were evicted from Ala Moana.

“I think it should’ve been done in a different way,” Lingle told reporters yesterday.

Bill Brennan, the mayor’s press secretary, noted that had the city not closed the park at night, the state might never have stepped up to address homelessness in Hawaii.

“You can see by the fact that the state went into action after the Ala Moana Park closure that they can and they have the expertise and the resources to provide shelter for the homeless,” Brennan said.

The city began closing the park at night on March 27, moving out about 200 homeless people. City officials said the park needed to be closed at night to prepare for a major renovation of park facilities, which occurred last week.

But they also said that they wanted to close the park before the state began evicting homeless people living under the freeway at the Keehi Interchange.

Lingle said city officials were not honest in using the freeway eviction, which came after police reported illegal activities in the area, as an excuse to get rid of homeless people at Ala Moana park.

It’s almost immaterial to me which side is correct. What speaks louder than words is the fact that the State has actually provided a roof over these people, while the City only offers them some portapotties outside the police headquarters.

The warehouse where the homeless will be allowed to spend the night is not a long-term solution, of course. Nor is it intended to assist other homeless people who were not previously spending the night at Ala Moana Park. I’m having trouble figuring out what gives the State the authority to discriminate among potential users like this. Even though it’s officially a program run by a private non-profit, it still sounds unfair to me if the state hired this non-profit and directed them to discriminate among needy residents.

The population of the new shelter will be limited to people who were housed at Central Union Church and Kawaiaha’o Church after the eviction and “anyone else we know came from Ala Moana park,” said Laura Thielen, of the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance, which was contracted as the lead agency to run the new “Next Step” project. “It will also be open to any families.”

Identification will be issued to qualified shelter dwellers, and deputy sheriffs will be stationed outside to keep others from dropping in. “Rules will be simple,” said Thielen. “Be safe, be respectful, pick up after yourselves. Smoking is outside only. No weapons, no violence, no alcohol, no drugs,” she said.

The Advertiser also has an article and a stark photo essay documenting the opening of the so-called “Next Step Project.”

By the way, who the heck is the genius that decided on white(!) floor covering? Pretty soon the state could hire the tenants for day-work to attempt to keep that floor clean…

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Aggressive lizards eating geckos

Filed under:
General
HI Media
— Doug @ 5:40 pm
I was almost checking for black helicopters when I read this KHON story. I had been wondering what had happened to all “my” geckos. But these strange-looking lizards are all around my apartment for the past several months… Survival of the fittest right under my nose.

The Caribbean lizard first surfaced in Hawaii more than a decade ago.

“We started seeing the brown anole, as far as getting reports, in the Lanikai Kailua area in like the early ’90s,” says Domingo Carvalho, Department of Agriculture.

Since then populations have rapidly spread across Oahu and even parts of Kauai and Maui, wreaking havoc on other lizards along the way.

“Even the house lizards that go – those little geckos – yeah, they eat those,” says Sueshiro.

“The animals are much more aggressive, they’re quicker and the larger adults tend to feed on smaller green anoles,” says Cravalho.

It’s no coqui frog on the scale of nuisance to humans, but it’s an invasive specie nonetheless. I’m not sure what triggered this KHON piece, but it certainly hit home with me so kudos to whoever was the producer of this piece. Except for the “ugly” comments; I think it’s a good looking reptile, especially the males showing their dewlaps.

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5/1/2006

Three nuggets about our D.C. delegation from Hawaii

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:24 am
The SB has a piece featuring three short articles about Senator Akaka, Representative Case, and Senator Inouye. All three are interesting.

First, Senator Akaka has introduced a bill to fund native language immersion programs and so-called “nests.” No word on how much money is included or how many students this could serve. A quick Google search on “language nest” reveals this article; it seems that this bill from Akaka is similar to an effort from Inouye of a few years ago.

Second, Representative Case has added mp3s to his official website. The article and the website both refer to the files as podcasts, but I don’t see a way to subscribe to the content—which is the whole point of a podcast. Anyway, if you’re looking forward to a motivating workout set to 28 minutes of Case holding forth about immigration, then you’re in luck. Alternatively, if your views don’t match his, then you could play the mp3 from the rear of a treadmill and pretend you are makng a run for the border. Heh.

Third, Senator Inouye is about to become the first male “in modern cruise history” to christen a ship. Call me a chauvinsit and/or a nautical traditionalist, but that’s a superstition I wouldn’t mess with. Here’s hoping that nobody has been issuing press releases about the ship being unsinkable…

Comments (1)
Civil rights protection should extend to all – today

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:24 am
The Advertiser editorializes today in favor of HB 1233, which would prohibit discrimination based upon gender expression or identity. Which is as good a reason as any to remind everyone:

I think today is the day when the Governor must either approve, veto, or, by her inaction, allow the batch of bills sent to her on April 17th to become law without her signature. As I write this morning, the latest action there was some bills approved on Friday not among that batch from the 17th. One of the emergency appropriations submitted to her on the 17th has already became law.

Try checking those links later today, so far they show nothing new.

Comments (0)
Akaka bill; pot is stirred

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:24 am
In the “no news is news” department, the Advertiser has an article that says the Akaka bill may get a vote in the U.S. Senate before the end of May.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he wanted to bring the bill up after clearing other legislation for Iraq war spending, immigration changes, small business health plans and medical malpractice caps.

Frist said the Native Hawaiian bill ? also known as the Akaka bill after its prime sponsor, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai’i ? would come up at about the same time the Senate will work on a permanent repeal of the estate tax.

Akaka said Frist “kind of assured me” that the bill’s supporters would be able to try to bring up the bill after the Senate deals with the other bills.

“We don’t have a definite time,” Akaka said. “We’re trying to bring it up before the Memorial Day recess.”

Immigration and medical malpractice are so controversial that they are not likely to be resolved quickly. They could debate those two issues alone for most of the month. As far as that goes, it will be interesting to see if Akaka takes a more visible role in those debates to counter his back-bencher label applied by TIME magazine. Although Akaka would also need to shore up and to curry favor with the members he needs for cloture, so perhaps not. Would he (and Inouye) even break ranks with Democrats on those votes if it would help his bill? I dunno.

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