January 10, 2009

Poinography June 2006 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 2:03 pm



Harbin explains the importance of defending her “ugly” name

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:18 am
Making many of the same points as I did earlier, the Honolulu dailies have stories today about the parody blog targeting Representative Harbin which was taken offline when she threatened to file a civil suit alleging cybersquatting. The Advertiser has a well-written article here, and the SB has an AP story here. (I’m curious if the AP story will get any play outside of Hawaii).

Anyway, the pieces include the thoughts of some attorneys, which seem to echo what I had written, and a rather weak explanation from the Hawaii ACLU about why they did not offer to represent the blogger:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i would not take Asato’s case because it was not accepting new cases at the time. But Lois K. Perrin, the group’s legal director, said it raises First Amendment issues. “The Internet is a medium of speech, and laws that regulate it should be consistent,” she said. “It would seem that the state law is inconsistent.”

Uh, so they are tacitly acknowledging that they will pass up First Amendment cases if they don’t happen to present themselves at a convenient time? Sigh. That is pathetic, in my opinion.

Here’s the money quote from the Advertiser, though:

Harbin, D-28th (Iwilei, Chinatown, Kaka’ako), said she was not really offended by the cartoons but wanted the rights to her name in an election year. “I don’t care about the parody. I had people call me up and say it was the cutest thing they had ever seen,” she said.

Harbin was appointed in September by Gov. Linda Lingle to fill a House vacancy but was asked to resign after it was discovered she had unpaid state taxes and misdemeanor convictions for writing bad checks. She refused to resign and is running to retain her seat.

“I’ve worked 60-something years to get my name to mean something,” she said. “It’s good. It’s bad. It’s ugly. But it’s mine.”


“They’d rather just sit back and hide behind a computer screen,” she said of some bloggers. “They won’t come out and scrap.”

Incidentally, after I wrote that earlier post Harbin called the legislative office where I work during session trying to reach me. Maybe she wanted to “scrap” with me, too? If that is the case, my comment form is wide open, Madam.

Comments (5)
GOP blogger offers campaign advice for Republicans

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:18 am
I’ve often scratched my head trying to parse the rambling, yet superficially erudite, posts at Thinking Hawaii. Mike Hu has a bee in his bonnet about traditional media, and his own (admittedly) odd posting style that I’ve commented on before. However, he no longer enjoys a link to his blog from the Hawaii GOP website…

Anyway, I direct your attention to this recent post where he basically argues that the winning strategy for Hawaii Republican candidates is to grab onto Governor Lingle’s skirttails. The argument is almost charming in its sycophancy:

While I understand the need not to get complacent in the governor?s race, the fact is that Governor Lingle?s leadership qualities transcend partisanship to clearly recognize. If people cannot or do not recognize those clearly demonstrated, self-evident realities, then their whole lives are at jeopardy because it is not just an opinion but a fact. [emphasis mine, not in original] At some point, even the most rabid partisan, has to admit that ?up? is up, ?down? is down, ?good? is good, and ?bad? is bad. If your opponent cannot recognize that simple truth evident to virtually all but the most blindly partisan, biased persons, they have no right to exercise judgment on any matter, as your representative.

I think many of our ?Republican? candidates are overlooking the obvious – which should be the basis of their strength and recognition – relative to a well-known, well-established landmark of the Hawaiian political landscape.

One [Hawaii GOP candidate] told me that they?ve contributed to the Lingle campaign, even while thinking, ?She should be contributing to mine.? Well, there?s no reason or prohibition that they can?t be advertising that fact prominently in their campaign – that they can recognize and support superior leadership – as a testimony to their own good judgment.

I had no idea that the stakes for not recognizing Lingle’s innate genius were so high! haha

Comments (0)
Hough is now running as a Republican?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:17 am
You may remember an earlier post where I wrote about a candidate for Congress named Hough. At the time he was calling himself a “Conservative Democrat,” with a website to match. Well, now he’s flying the elephant flag. Go figure. And he has a blog, to boot (added to the blogroll).

None of the local media have been following his campaign closely enough (uh, make that “at all”) to have noted the change, and I would not have noticed it either had it not been for a parting glance at the byline of a Hawaii Reporter post Hough submitted (wherein he bashes Abercrombie for claiming credit for a variety of recent events).

Comments (0)

Lingle starts down the road to housing the Leeward coast homeless next year

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 7:59 am
Two cautiously optimistic articles today based on a Tuesday evening meeting held in Waianae where the Governor heard residents talk about the thousands of people living on the area beaches. The Advertiser article is here, and a SB piece is here.

The first [step], [Governor Lingle] said, is to create emergency shelters. Transitional shelters, where individuals and families can learn ways to help themselves back into society, must follow, and low-cost rentals must be available for those who succeed in the effort, she said.

Lingle said her staff has been talking with social-service providers and is working to find locations, buildings and builders to create emergency shelters. She said she hopes to have that phase completed by the beginning of next year.

The refurbished warehouse in Kakaako to house people who had been camping at Ala Moana Beach Park came about much more quickly (weeks instead of months), but this problem would involve sheltering significantly more people. Also, in Kakaako the Mayor forced the Governor’s hand by evicting the campers during a period of heavy rains. So far, though, the Mayor has not yet evicted (under a “beach clean-up” facade) the people living on the leeward coast beaches. If an eviction happens before the Governor’s emergency shelters are ready, then what?

The Kakaako situation was also helped insofar as the area where the State set up the emergency shelter is not a residential neighborhood. Until the sites are named for this go around, it’s too early to say how much NIMBY opposition could arise.

Both articles include a powerful direct quote from Governor Lingle, although the two reports have slight differences(?) in the words she used:

Lingle also said it was difficult for her to listen to the stories of the homeless.

“As an elected official, it is difficult for me to admit that things had gotten to this point in the state of Hawaii. I am proud of almost everything about our state, but this is something to be ashamed of and not be proud of.

That is not the kind of quote you would expect her (or her administration) to make unless she believes they’ll be able to take steps to remedy the problem. i.e. It took some political guts for her to state the obvious. Randy Iwase was listening, no doubt.

However, she’s not at all blind to the common opposition viewpoint, as she followed up:

Beaches should be available to the community for recreation, she said, but working families who can’t afford to pay rent must be assisted, along with those homeless people who have mental illnesses and those who will fight to break addictions.

People who have decided to live on the beach because they prefer it to working to pay the rent are a different story, she said.

“We dealt with a similar situation on the Big Island,” she said. “Some of the people who live on the beach are there because that is the lifestyle they want, and I have no sympathy for them.”

Exactly how many people fit into that “no sympathy” category? I dunno.

Comments (0)

Hawaiian Telcom is sued over calling record privacy – by customers

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:27 pm
The Advertiser has an article today with the news that Hawaiian Telcom has been sued by some customers who are opposed to the NSA monitoring of domestic calling records. This is an interesting development, following up on an earlier post where I continued to wonder if the Attorney General will ever take up this matter. The PUC is already said to be looking into it, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for any agressive response from them…

Under a practice first disclosed in May, the NSA gathered call records of tens of millions of Americans from companies such as AT&T and Verizon. Companies named in this week’s suit include Verizon Wireless, Nextel West Corp., Sprint and Cingular Wireless. The plaintiffs include Charmaine Crockett, Joris Watland, Anakalia Kaluna, Kim Coco Iwamoto and William Massey, all of Honolulu.

Plaintiffs seek an injunction against the data gathering effort as well as damages such as $100 a day or $10,000 for each defendant. Stephen Laudig, attorney for the plaintiffs, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman Ann Nishida said the company wouldn’t comment on the complaint, which it had yet to receive. In May this year Hawaiian Telcom said it had not received requests to provide data to the NSA since the company formed in May 2005.

Attempts to reach the other phone companies for comment were unsuccessful.

The other defendants in the suit will probably give even less of a (non-)response to the media than Hawaiian Telcom I’m guessing, because they couldn’t honestly issue a denial. It remains to be seen if the federal government tries to throw out this lawsuit on grounds that any litigation will jeopardize national security, which is what DOJ officials are trying to do in New Jersey and in a San Francisco case, too.

I’m a bummed because if the suit is granted class action status I won’t be able to join it because my landlord provides my phone service—I’m not an official customer. Phooey.

Comments (1)
Schatz speaks up for West Hawaii

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:27 pm
In a move that may not endear him to the more politically powerful windward coast of Hawaii island, Representative Schatz tells the West Hawaii Today that the West side of the island is being cheated out of its share of federal money for capital improvements.

Schatz said there are many opinions about government, but he added most people on the neighbor islands will agree the current system to distribute federal dollars is not working.

“For too long, when it comes to federal expenditures, we’ve only asked one question: ‘How much did we get?’” said Schatz, who added that money for health care and college education has, at best, only trickled into the Big Island. “It’s time that we make sure federal resources go to highways and hospitals in Kona and Waimea, not just military contractors in Honolulu.”

Schatz said the job of the representative from the Second Congressional District is not just to watch out for Hawaii, but to also change the “Oahu-centric” attitude of local political leaders.

“Neighbor islanders should not have to fight for scraps,” said Schatz. “The neighbor islands are where the growth is taking place, but the money is going to Oahu and we’re left to play catch-up.“

“We?” Has Schatz moved to a neighbor island, or does he still live in Makiki? Heh. Also, his proposal to gather the data sounds rather shaky:

A Congressional candidate said West Hawaii is getting a raw deal when federal dollars are doled out by the state for capital projects.

“It’s simply not fair, and not smart, to concentrate spending wherever the seat of county or state government is,” said State Rep. Brian Schatz, who is running for the Hawaii Congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep Ed Case.

“But that has happened for decades, and it’s got to change,” said Schatz, who is demanding the state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism perform an economic analysis of the distribution.

“Once we know exactly how unequal the distribution of funding is,” he said, “our congressional delegation can set about remedying this situation.”

Sorry, but a lame-duck state legsilator can’t demand much of anything from DBEDT. Also, Schatz implies that Congress should allocate federal money for infrastructure, instead of the more-or-less “home rule” process currently in place. That’s their perogative if Congress wishes to move from a block grant to having more direct control, but that type of micromanegement won’t sit very well with Schatz’s (former) colleagues. In fact, it sounds like the type of earmark “pork” that the senior members of the Hawaii delegation to Congress are (in)famous for.

Comments (2)

DVD now available free

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:25 am
A quick follow-up to an earlier post where I mentioned a DVD by Lee Tepley about the Hawaii Superferry and whales. Tepley wrote a letter to the Maui News editors where he offers a free copy of the DVD to anyone who is interested.

At that price, I recommend you check it out! Although if you can afford it, it really would be better to throw a few dollars his way just to help them recover some reproduction and shipping expenses.

The Superferry can downplay or ignore this scenario if they dare, but if Tepley’s concerns turn out to be sadly correct then the first time the Superferry kills a humpback whale and the ship arrives in port looking like what you see in the DVD… well, you can imagine the consequences (both in legal terms and in terms of negative public opinion).

Comments (1)
Akaka will may debate Case

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:24 am
Both Honolulu dailies covered a new conference at the Case campaign headquarters yesterday. The news conference led to an Advertiser article and a SB piece, both focusing on the candidates’ positions on the Iraq war.

I’ll get to that, but I want to point out that the Advertiser article has the clearest (but still unspecific) indication from the Akaka campaign that there will be a debate between Case and Akaka. Um. When?

The Iraq war aspect of these stories are interesting insofar as how the Advertiser sees a clear contrast, but the SB portrays a narrowing of the difference.

Earlier this month, Case voted for a resolution favored by House Republicans that linked Iraq to the international fight against terrorism and opposed an arbitrary troop withdrawal date. Akaka’s campaign has said it is another instance of Case voting with Republicans, since most House Democrats voted against the resolution.

“Bush is not willing to take any sort of position in terms of when this is going to happen. It’s stay the course and at some point we’ll bring them home. But there is no real indication of when that’s going to be,” Andy Winer, Akaka’s campaign manager, said yesterday.

The contrasting votes end any nuance between Akaka and Case on the war and give voters a clearer distinction.

That’s true looking forward. But looking to the past…

During a news conference at his South Beretania Street campaign headquarters yesterday, Case was asked if he has changed his opinion of the Iraq war.

“I would not have voted for that resolution. I would not have voted for that resolution had I known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” Case said.

Case, who had generally supported the Bush administration’s pursuit of the war in Iraq, said, “I don’t think my position on Iraq has changed during the entire time I have been in Congress.”

Case is challenging U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Sept. 23 Democratic primary. Akaka and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye voted against the resolution in 2002 and have been consistent critics of the war.

Andy Winer, an Akaka campaign spokesman, said Akaka “got it right the first time.”

“Now you have someone who finally – four years later – is admitting he got it wrong,” Winer said.

Case is no fool, and at this point only a fool would enter a Democratic primary race clinging strongly to the WMD argument for the Iraq war. However, Case does not categorically separate himself from the resolution authorizing military force (which, of course, Case did not have a chance to support or oppose in 2002 because Mink still held the seat), rather he speaks of a combination of a dictator “sworn to do us harm” and the President’s claims of WMD. Case thinks that combination would have persuaded him to support the resolution.

The Advertiser piece also solicited a carefully phrased comment from Case about Akaka’s failure to advance the Akaka Bill. Essentially providing a polite way for Case to say, “this was your most hyped product, so you’ve got some explaining to do, sir.”

Comments (0)
28 bills are designated for possible veto

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:15 am
Lots of news today about the Governor’s list of bills that may face her veto. I’m sure there are other accounts, but I’ll link here to the Advertiser, the SB, and the Pacific Business News.

The actual vetoes (if any) need not occur for another ten working days, so the political meaning of this list is still somewhat cloudy. Typically the supporters of the bills on this list will issue press releases, send letters to the editor, submit op-ed pieces, and basically try to flood the Governor’s office with various forms of communication. Sometimes it even works.

The Constitution requires this notification to the Legislature, but there is obviously a political use for it, too. Including a bill on the list is sometimes seen as a concession to the Governor’s “base” supporters. However, a bill that is placed on this list but is ultimately not vetoed can become an olive branch to whichever constituency supports the bill or as a signal that the Governor is not beholden to the base supporters. Remember, bills that are not vetoed may either be signed or may become law without the Governor’s signature. I haven’t done any historical research, but my guess is that it is very rare for a bill to go from the list to being signed.

I don’t have time this morning to deconstruct the Governor’s press release, but suffice it to say that there was some heavy spin applied in drafting that document…

Don’t forget, among veto overrides and other things, a special session could iron out the spat between the State and the City over the GET surcharge and could correct the drafting errors in the cigarette tax increase legislation, too.

Comments (0)

Electronic voting will have paper trail this year

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:27 am
There is a story in the SB today about the electronic voting machines found in each precinct around the State. This year the machines will have a printed confirmation of each electronically cast vote. This is intended to reassure people that the electronic voting is accurately recording their vote and to facilitate a “paper trail” for an audit.

Huh? Okay, I don’t know all the details of how it works, but there still seems to be no assurance that the electronic machine could not tabulate something different than what is printed for the voter. As for the audit, how would that work? Would voters have to save and then be ready to return with their printed voting record?

Kitty Lagareta, a volunteer election observer for the Hawai’i Republican Party, said she was glad the Office of Elections was taking steps to provide a paper trail, but has concerns about the timing.

“We have an election every two years. Why do we wait (until) weeks or months before the primary to sign a contract?” she asked.

Hawai’i’s primary voting will take place on Sept. 23.

The timing limits the opportunity for concerned citizens to take a look at the equipment or the contract, or for election workers to familiarize themselves with the machines and become adequately trained, she said.

“I’m glad they got a paper trail, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a day late and a dollar short,” Lagareta said, pointing out that the state has already gone without for one election.

Now she feels like the state is rushing into something without allowing the public time to see the contract or consider where there might be problems in other areas.

“It’s not as transparent or timely as it could be. I just find that very troubling,” she said.

Part of the reason for the delay is that the contract with Hart InterCivic was challenged by Election Systems & Software, the company that provides the paper ballot system most voters use, forcing the state to reopen bidding on electronic systems.

The contract went back to Hart InterCivic, which will provide the same technology as in 2004, with additional equipment to comply with a new state law requiring a paper trail.

“The selection committee chose the machine that again provides independent and private voting for the greatest variety of disabilities, as well as complies with federal and state laws,” Quidilla said.

I’m a bit confused by Lagareta’s comments. She is worried that there is not enough time to look at the new equipment, review the contract, and to familiarize and train the volunteers? The training may already be underway (the website says it is from June to November), and I doubt that the training will be much different than what was provided the first time the (non-paper-trail) electronic machines were used.

As for reviewing the contract and new equipment, how long could that take? A day? I don’t get it.

Or is the crux of her concern more that the Office of Elections is considered to be a partisan (or, a more sinister spin, a non-partisan) entity by the Hawaii GOP and the GOP prefers the status quo? Heh.

Comments (2)
Got racing?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 7:26 am
Much of the hullabaloo about the closing of Hawaii Raceway Park featured talk of the racers turning to the freeways. Well, it has been almost three months. Has there been any increase in reports and/or arrests of illegal street racing since April?

If so, wouldn’t it be interesting to compare the list of those arrested since April to a list of people who used to regularly compete on the racetrack? My hunch is that street racing shows a seasonal spike in summer, when young drivers have more, uh, idle time. Checking records of previous years could confirm if my hunch is correct and, there again, one could compare the list of offenders to racetrack users. I just don’t think there is going to be much overlap of those drivers—neither before nor after April. I suspect that the street racers do it as much to get a lawbreaking adrenaline rush as to fulfill a desire to race, but that’s just my own pop psychology blathering.

I think it would be an interesting project for a crime beat reporter. For that matter, a business reporter could follow up on the businesses that said they would be forced to shut down with the closing of the track. I reckon they do/did a significant portion of their business with the illegal street racers and might be able to survive the decline in business from former racetrack users.

Comments (0)
Greetings from Nigeria Congress

Filed under:
— Doug @ 7:26 am
Compare this post at The Thicket, about a system being considered by Congress to limit the amount of email sent to legislators, with the following email I received today from intelisend.net:

You are receiving this email as a registered voter. If you would prefer not to hear from us by e-mail, please click on the link at the bottom of this message and you will be automatically removed from this e-mail list.

Elected officials, candidates and advocacy groups supporting specific candidates for office would like to contact you through periodic e-mail regarding important issues. Electronic communication provides you with the ability to:

Tell candidates what issues you think are important.
Get information about relevant events when they occur in your local area.
Learn more about candidates running for office so you can make an informed choice on Election Day.
Please follow the instructions at the bottom of this message if you do not wish to receive e-mail from your elected officials.

Thank you for your time.
Voter Emailing Company
1612 K St., NW,
Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20006

If you would not like to receive these political alerts, please click on this link.

How’s that?! Legislators seem to be planning to spam us with campaign material unless we opt out, yet at the same time they may force us to opt in to send legislators our own spam coordinated advocacy email… Nice.

Comments (0)

Superferry opponents on Maui vent at public meetings

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:27 am
The Maui News has another big story that describes the intense opposition to the Superferry, on a wide range of topics, that came out at several public meetings held on Maui this week. According to the requirements of the spending provision drafted by the legislature there need not be any further meetings on Maui with the public, although the Superferry PR person says there will be more.

These meetings were probably somewhat painful for the DOT and Superferry officials who had to sit through what is described as relentless criticisms from the public. However, these meetings don’t actually require the company to change or do anything. The obligation was to hold meetings. The obligation is fulfilled.

The Superferry has the support of the federal government and the Lingle administration has contractually committed to the Superferry that any delay will be at state(!) expense. The ferries and barges have been funded and are being built. Thus, I doubt that any of those parties will change course, even if the public opposition continues to present significant complaints and concerns.

That said, the article raises some new topics of concern (in addition to the long-standing whale, invasive species, traffic, and impact on barge traffic).

Dick Mayer, retired economics professor at Maui Community College, questioned the value of the low fares claimed by the Superferry. Crunching numbers, Mayer showed it would cost more for a family of four and a baby to travel with their personal van to Oahu or the Big Island than it would to fly and rent a similar vehicle. Mayer also reminded the Lihikai crowd that the low fares widely touted by Superferry would only be good between Oahu and a Neighbor Island. Anyone from Maui, Kauai or the Big Island wanting to visit another Neighbor Island would pay double ? and double for their vehicles.

?This is not a bargain form of travel,? said Mayer, who accused Superferry officials of ?outright deception.?

That could be a significant problem, depending upon the ratio of Oahu passengers to non-Oahu passenger. Also, depending upon the final ferry timetable, a neighbor island family travelling to another neighbor island (transferring via Oahu) would have to spend the better part of a day at sea, perhaps even overnighting on Oahu, before reaching their final destination. There goes the whole “weekend getaway” scenario.

Finally, I will take this opportunity to note that I have finally watched a DVD produced by Lee Tepley of Kauai. The DVD discusses the whale avoidance policy that the Superferry has described and, in a fairly even-handed way, points out the possibly invalid assumptions being made. For an amateur video the production quality is fairly impressive, but the content would be disturbing in almost any medium. I would very much like to hear the Superferry response to the points raised in the film. Hopefully Tepley has provided copies of the DVD to the mass media and/or will arrange for it to be shown on public access television. As an occasional mariner I can attest to how difficult it would be to reliably detect and avoid whales on a vessel moving at the very high speeds that the Superferry intends to travel. The DVD has scenes of whales impaled on the bows of (relatively slow) cruise ships and (comparably fast) ferries, so this it is not just a hypothetical scenario.

Comments (3)
The new boss

Filed under:
— Doug @ 8:26 am
Forgive me, this is another science dork interlude, but there is another glimpse behind the curtain into my offline life, too.

The SB has a story about the new Dean of the UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Dr. Brian Taylor. When I’m not working at the legislature (as a session employee) I work at SOEST, so this long-rumored appointment is not exactly a surprise to me. I’ve sailed on a few research cruises with Brian and, before my recent move, his office was just down the hall.

Anyway, Brian says lots of smart things about SOEST in the article—and I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss and I factor into some of those things in my own small way, haha.

SOEST has the expertise to address practical questions related to the planet, such as rising temperature and sea levels and the future of hydrogen products, he said.

Taylor believes SOEST has “a mandate and obligation to the state we live in and the people who live in it to produce things that matter locally, as well as nationally and internationally.”

He added, “There are lots of products we already provide, but I see opportunities for doing more of that in parallel with the fundamental research and education we already do.”

The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, one of the many arms of SOEST, has a key role in marine research for the Northwest Hawaiian Islands sanctuary, which the president has deemed a national monument, Taylor pointed out.

But the school’s researchers don’t work only in the tropics, he said, citing work in the Arctic by Margo Edwards, Hawaii Mapping Research Group director.

“We have people working all over the world,” as well as a planetary group involved in space missions, Taylor said.

SOEST scientists are working on a project to launch small satellites from the Pacific Missile Range on Kauai to monitor the health of coral reefs globally, he said.

“That’s exciting, not only for workforce development here in Hawaii, but also for the prospect of what it means: cheaper, faster, better and more satellites doing dedicated things we can put into space to monitor the earth we’re changing.”

Resources also are being put into a global ocean observing system similar to the weather service, Taylor said, with data collected and run through models to forecast physical and biological conditions of the ocean.

I’ve been leading this odd split-career life for a decade, and both sides have their ups and downs. So, kids, study hard and maybe you, too, will one day find yourself doing interesting work in such disparate fields!

NOTE: For some reason the HMRG link isn’t loading right now, but I know it’s the correct url.

Comments (0)

OHA introduces a plan to overcome Akaka Bill stalemate

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:33 am
Both Hawaii County dailies (Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today) have a story about an OHA proposal to proceed with the creation of a Native Hawaiian governing entity. The Advertiser has a piece on the same topic. Basically, they propose to implement a process similar to the Akaka Bill, form a governing entity, and then go to Congress for recognition. Neither article mentions that there are Native Hawaiian governing entities already in existence, albeit outside of OHA’s control and perhaps not supportive of the Akaka Bill concept. OHA hopes to form a government with a large( r ) number of Native Hawaiian citizens/members, a governing entity formed with an initial goal of attaining the type of recognition envisioned in the Akaka Bill.

Most of the details of the ambitious plan were discussed during a closed-door session with OHA attorneys. The trustees then opened the meeting for a formal vote.

But a draft copy of “Hooulu Lahui Aloha, to Raise a Beloved Nation,” obtained by Stephens Media Group, details plans to hold a constitutional convention next summer, followed by the election of officers and transfer of Hawaiian assets by the end of the year.

“I don’t see this government here as being a stand-by government,” said OHA Administrator Clyde Namuo, responding to a trustee’s comment. “We need to assert ourselves as a sovereign people. And I think, as we have laid this out, it is with that goal in mind. Let’s not, please, consider this to be simply a placeholder.”

OHA itself would be dismantled, with its powers transferred to the Native Hawaiian Governing Entity. The new government would then negotiate with the governor, the state Legislature and Congress for full autonomy.

Namuo said the ambitious timetable is due in part to having a “friendly administration” to help pressure the state Legislature to amend statutes and the state constitution to accommodate the new government. Gov. Linda Lingle, who is considered very likely to win reelection this year, is an advocate of Native Hawaiian rights.

First, why the closed-door session? From the brief summation of the draft given in these articles, I don’t see how discussion of this plan would fall under any of the Sunshine Law exceptions.

Second, I note that dismantling OHA and transferring its powers to a new governing entity would require legislation (State, and perhaps Federal) and an amendment of the Hawaii Constitution. Which is not to say it is impossible, but that it won’t happen overnight and it will require the support (including participation in the vote to amend the constitution) of non-Native Hawaiians to proceed.

Third, the Adveriser article has this additional (and astute) analysis:

Jon Osorio, chairman of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai’i, said OHA will need to enlist the support of activist groups that have opposed the Akaka bill for the new process to be successful.

“Instead of hoping that (the Akaka bill) gets passed in the Senate, they’re taking this state agency and putting their mana behind the making of a government … and basically forcing the Senate’s hand,” Osorio said. “‘What we’re going to do is make this government, we’re going to put it in your face, and we’re going to make you say no.’”

He added: “If (OHA) does not involve the wider activist community, if they don’t get them on their side, it will fail. Because what will happen is the independence people and the non-federal recognition people will criticize it to death.”

Namu’o said a strong registry of voters on the Kau Inoa list and a strong showing during the elections will establish legitimacy for the new government.

Currently, there are 50,000 registered. OHA’s goal is 118,000, which is about two-thirds the total number of Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians in the state, Namu’o said.

“You begin to build some credibility, because the question that will come is whether or not this Native Hawaiian governing entity truly represents the Native Hawaiian people.”

It will be fascinating to see what kind of reception there will be for this plan. It asks Native Hawaiians to go through all the trouble of organizing a governing entity without first having any assurance that the State and federal government will choose to deal with them at the end of the process.

Comments (2)
Campaign Spending Commission sued by alleged violator

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:33 am
I noticed this SB article about an unusually scrappy engineering firm that is trying to clear its name after an investigation of the firm by the Campaign Spending Commission ended without any formal action last year.

The complaint, filed Thursday in Circuit Court, argues that commissioners broke several procedures at a special meeting June 1, when they voted down a request by Nagamine Okawa Engineers Inc. for a declaratory ruling or an advisory opinion.

The firm argues that its executives and their relatives have been “the target of unsubstantiated and unproven allegations of alleged campaign spending violations.”

According to the complaint, commissioners failed to give adequate notice about the meeting to a lawyer representing Norman Nagamine, one of the firm’s executives.

It also said the agenda did not specify what topics commissioners would discuss or which documents and exhibits they would consider.

The complaint alleges that commissioners immediately denied the firm’s request for declaratory relief without listening to public comments when they returned from executive session.

The suit seeks a court order that would overturn the commission’s decision and allow lawyers representing the firm’s executives to comment on their petition, among other things.

I don’t know when that agenda was publicly posted, so it’s hard to say if it was filed in a timely manner. Nor do I know if the online version is the same as the printed version publicly posted (timely or not). Further, the agenda says that it may be amended with a 2/3 vote, which seems to pretty much throw the entire Sunshine Law out the window, but the law allows for amending agenda to take up matters that are not “of reasonably major importance.”

Trying to determine exactly what happened at the June 1 meeting is tricky, too. Comparing the list of minutes (in html form) to the indexed directory of minutes (where you can see when the files were added) shows that it seems to take the Commission weeks to post its minutes to the website. Thus, the June 1 minutes are not yet available online.

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Chinatown to get free WiFi access – and security cameras

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:32 am
The headline pretty much sums up the brief Pacific Business News article.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann said Thursday that EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK) will provide the free WiFi service for about a year, then is expected to begin charging.

“EarthLink wants to test its wireless systems in Honolulu,” said Keith Rollman, the mayor’s information technology adviser. “The pilot project will cover an area from about Fort Street to River Street, Nimitz Highway to Beretania Street, and will include Aala Park.”

Hawaiian Electric Co. is also a partner in the project and will use the WiFi connection to test various utility applications, including advanced electric metering and energy conservation initiatives.

Rollman said security cameras will also be linked to the WiFi network.

There are already (wired) security cameras in Chinatown, but the problem has always been lack of people at the police station to monitor the cameras. So, while that part of the plan is objectionable in theory, it probably is not very much of a privacy concern in actuality. Unless they plan to simply stream the video to (open or secure) websites so the police can offer voyeurs volunteers the opportunity to work from remote locations.

The temporarily free wireless internet access will be cool, though! Unless, once again, the only content available will be the Mayor’s webiste and advertising…

Comments (3)

Kaloko independent investigator nominees sent to AG

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:24 pm
There is a Garden Island News story today that reports the nominees (screened by a special committee) forwarded to the AG for his selection of who is to become the Special Deputy Attorney General to investigate the dam failure at the Kaloko Reservoir.

Property owners, residents and legislators called for an independent investigation. In response, lawmakers passed a resolution this past legislative session calling for a special deputy attorney general to investigate civil liability.

Under the resolution, the special deputy will independently and impartially investigate the role and possible culpability of the state, the county, private land owners and others, which could lead to financial restitution.

As I wrote earlier, there is little likelihood of any restitution from the State, but the other parties might be getting nervous. However, whatever the Special Deputy finds could certainly be politically damaging to the Lingle administration, no law can protect them from that…

Anyway, the five attorneys all seem to be well-qualified to take on the task. I haven’t commented on the dam failure investigation since this post a while ago, but it looks as if the committee charged with screening the applicants has done a good job.

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Legislator bullies blogger operating parody website

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 7:53 am
I direct your attention to a post at Talk Stink, which marks the beginning of a series of posts about a blogger (the same person who is also behind Talk Stink) being threatened with a civil suit by Representative Harbin. She served the blogger with papers announcing her intent to squash a parody site formerly operating at a domain name bearing her name. The blogger who held that domain name, who I’ll refer to by his nom de plume “Stink,” brought the situation to my attention shortly after her legal threats began.

In my non-lawyer opinion, the bevharbin.com parody site was clearly an example of protected political speech and/or would fall under the principle of “fair use.” However, I was not the one being threatened with a suit who would need to hire an attorney, take time off from work to go to court, etc. Stink chose to relinquish the domain name rather than face the lawsuit.

There is a federal law about so-called “cybersquatting,” but, according to this explanatory webiste, the federal law is concerned mostly with people holding a domain name deceptively similar to a known trademark or public figure with the intent to profit from the confusion. One federal appeals court (not the Ninth Circuit which includes Hawaii) has ruled that the law does not protect parody sites, however.

There is also a Hawaii law against cybersquatting, which Harbin believes (and has coerced Stink to concede) allows her to shut down a parody site using “her” domain name. While it was still online, the parody site included comics of Harbin as an Incredible Hulk-like figure, the Joker, etc. It was clear that the site was not trying to deceive anyone into thinking that Representative Harbin authorized the content. In fact, the site contained an explicit disclaimer announcing that it was a parody site and was not associated with Harbin in any way. The site could certainly have “tarnished or disparaged” Representative Harbin [a task which her behavior makes akin to shooting a fish in a barrel], but certainly not by “creating a likelihood of confusion as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the site.” Stink was not trying to sell the domain name and was not using the domain name for commercial purposes. Thus, I think Harbin’s lawsuit would have failed, but, again, it’s easy for me to say that from the sidelines. Stink would have had to fight her in court, at some unknown expense, and possibly face monetary damages if he lost.

On my advice, Stink contacted the ACLU shortly after Harbin’s first contact with him. I am disappointed that the local ACLU chapter did not offer to represent him should Harbin have carried out her threatened lawsuit. I was not privy to any explanation (if there was one offered) of their inaction.

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Should Kamehameha give it away?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:52 am
A very provocative editorial in the SB today spreads the idea that if Kamehameha Schools zeroed out their tuition that doing so could defuse the type of lawsuit that they argued this week at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. I took an hour last night to listen to the audio of the hearing, but I admit that this brief exchange did not seem so significant to me at the time:

All of [the recent rulings against Kamehameha] were based on the 1866 law’s prohibition of racial discrimination in contracts. “The contract is the exchange of tuition for educational services” in the Kamehameha Schools case, said Eric Grant, a Sacramento, Calif., attorney for a Caucasian student denied admission to Kamehameha.

In this week’s hearing in review of the August decision by 15 members of the 9th Circuit Court, Judge Alex Kozinski, a Reagan appointee to the bench, suggested that Kamehameha Schools would not be bound by that law if it waived the $1,700 tuition.

That amounts to a fraction of the $20,000 annual cost of educating a child at Punahou School. Kozinski pointed out that 65 percent of the students at Kamehameha pay “hardly anything” in tuition because of scholarship aid, so tuition income amounts to “a drop in the bucket” for one of the world’s largest charitable institutions.

“I don’t know,” Grant said when Kozinski asked if waiving tuition would relieve Kamehameha from compliance with the 1866 law. He agreed with Kozinski that a person of Chinese ancestry, for example, would be allowed to distribute his estate as gifts to people of similar ancestry without violating the 1866 law. Obviously, elimination of tuition would similarly free Kamehameha from the law’s contract restrictions.

Could Kamehameha actually defuse their opponents arguments so easily? If so, why didn’t any of the trustees (or, more likely, their lawyers) seek to implement that policy earlier?! My gut feeling is that there probably are significant negative effects connected to that idea which Judge Kozinski, the editors, and I are unaware of.

Comments (2)

Taro patent termination: A special case, or a precedent?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:22 pm
Some interesting implications from the news about the taro patents terminated by the University of Hawaii. In this case the loss to the University (in license fees paid by those using the patented plant varieties) is minimal, but several articles today suggest that there may be more at stake.

From a SB article:

Manu Kaiama, director of the Native Hawaiian Leadership Project, welcomed the university’s move, but said it wasn’t making a big financial sacrifice.

“They don’t have much of a market,” she said. “I wonder if the administration would have been willing to give up a patent that was going to make millions of dollars.”

Ostrander acknowledged that the patents are “not a big money maker right now” but said interest had been expressed in using the kalo varieties in baby food.

Graduate student Kelii Collier called the patent fight just the first step in a broader movement against other UH undertakings such as a proposed military research center on the campus.

“It is the beginning for the university to do the right thing,” he said. “The next time we meet it will be to rip out the UARC (University Affiliated Research Center) contract.”

Oh, really? Is Collier’s statement overly-optimistic, or is there really that much of a “broader movement?” An Advertiser article only mentions the possibility obliquely, but an accompanying editorial questions it more directly:

The taro protection group includes members of several environmental, agricultural and anti-genetic modification organizations.

They said they are now seeking a greater voice in future university decisions over intellectual property and biodiversity.


Besides, there is a limit to how much taxpayer funds can underwrite agricultural research ? or research in any field ? so it would be tragic to see such efforts stall because of an inability to provide any financial incentive for doing the work.

A further complication: Patents also are part of the compensation provided in faculty union contracts to reward the inventor or breeder with a portion of the patent fees.

Activists opposing the patents have asked that UH consult with the Native Hawaiian community “before claiming or obtaining intellectual property rights over living organisms of these Islands.”

There’s nothing wrong with consultation, but the Hawaiian community also must consider: Would this apply only to indigenous species, or also to those with regional habitats or closely related to species elsewhere? And to what extent can research be stopped, in any case, when there are investigators who don’t feel bound by Hawaiian cultural considerations?

Going forward with sensitivity to all parties ? and choosing one’s battles carefully ? would be the wise approach.

Without knowing what (if any) other research underway at UH could be subject to this kind of scrutiny I don’t know if there is any urgency to resolve the questions the editors raise, but those are certainly interesting topics even in the abstract. I would add that the Board of Regents and the faculty union should also consider the same questions. A carefully-crafted policy could go a long way toward defusing any future disputes before they even begin.

Within the collective bargaining agreement (PDF) between the faculty and UH there is incorporated the UH policy on patents [beginning at page 91 of the PDF]. At present the agreement, which is in force until 2009, seems to be silent as to any explicit discussion regarding research that impacts Native Hawaiian concerns. I do know that before any research is done involving human subjects the work must gain the approval of an institutional review board, and perhaps that type of oversight body will turn out to be a model for research involving Native Hawaiian concerns. Before that could occur, however, the task of defining and/or limiting the scope of those “Native Hawaiian concerns” would likely become a wholly separate thicket.

Or all the parties could ignore these issues and fight the same battles over and over, each time dealing with it on an ad hoc basis…

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Business group compares Hawaii Congressmembers

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:01 pm
There is a post at the Hawaii Reporter based upon a 2005 voting scorecard (PDF) for members of Congress on issues important to a group called the Small Business and Entrepeneurship Council. Obviously, these votes occurred before Ed Case announced he would challenge Dan Akaka for U.S. Senate.

Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka achieved scores of 14% and 13% respectively. Both had only voted positively on 3 business friendly issues: Against the opening of ANWR to oil drilling (voted to open), a vote against an oil and gas leasing program on the Coastal Plain (voted for the leasing program) and a unanimous consent vote on the U.S. ? Bahrain Free Trade Agreement. The difference between the two ratings reflects the fact that Sen. Inouye did not vote on 2 of the 23 issues and this changed the weighting since Sen. Akaka actually voted on issues that were rated as unfriendly to small business by the SBE.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie got a rating of 21%having only voted 4 times for issues friendly to small business according to SBE.

However Rep. Ed Case had a 46% rating since he voted 11 times out of the 23 rated issues in favor of small business.

The report provides very little insight into what each particular vote would mean, and I was too lazy to track down the particular bills and read them. The report mentions the ANWR drilling issue, which is a well-known difference between Akaka and Case, but I’m not sure if any of the other votes are going to get a lot of campaign traction. There is also the problem (again) that each House and the Senate legislator may only be ranked on the votes in his or her chamber and therefore a direct comparison is impossible.

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GET surcharge creeps ahead—with many doubtors

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 4:33 pm
The SB has another story about the scheme to have the City pay for computer services needed for the State to begin collecting the GET surcharge on Oahu. It now sounds like Mayor Hannemann may have some concerns with the plan offered by the Governor, but it looks as if he is less prone to ultimatums than he was just a short while ago. I have my own doubts about the latest scheme, but a comment from one Senator quoted in the article is downright strange.

The Legislature has set aside 10 percent of the tax increase to pay for the cost of collecting it, but instead of putting the money in the Tax Department budget, the Legislature put it into the general fund. Also, a bill that would have appropriated $6.1 million for the computer system died this past session.

Lingle argues [correctly] that she cannot take the money out of the general fund without specific authorization from the Legislature.

Legislators, however, suspect that Lingle could try harder to find the money.

Sen. David Ige (D, Aiea-Pearl City), in a letter to the mayor after the meeting, said Lingle could have requested supplemental funding in the budget for the tax collection but did not. And, he said, the governor could still call a special session, which Lingle said she will not do.

“Some of us feel that the governor has been stonewalling because she is not one who supports a tax, especially in an election year,” Sen. Will Espero (D, Ewa-Kapolei-Ewa Beach) said.

“For $5 million … she could find the money. Give me a break,” said Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D, Hilo-Waimea), Senate Transportation Committee chairwoman.

Senators Ige and Espero are correct, but (unless Senator Lorraine Inouye has been misquoted or was quoted without adequate context) it’s shocking to see a sitting legislator suggest that the Governor simply “find” $5M of State money and spend it with no legislative authorization. I could understand (if not endorse) this suggestion if the work could be done in-house, i.e. existing State employees could simply be forced to assume additional tasks. That doesn’t seem to be possible in this case, though. The computer work to implement the GET surcharge is alleged to be specialized and to require the services of a civilian contractor. Neither executive branch leader (Governor or Mayor) may simply hire the contractor until the funding for the contract has the approval of the legislative branch.

The rule is clear: The executive branch has discretionary power to spend or to not spend some or all of the money appropriated by the legislative branch, but the executive branch may not spend any money that has not been appropriated by the legislative branch. “Find the money.” Sheesh. Give me a break.

Comments (0)
What’s the plan, Dan?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:58 pm
Does anybody know what is meant by this excerpt from an Advertiser article about the challenges facing programs for Native Hawaiians?

The debate is inextricably linked to federal recognition and the proposed Native Hawaiian Recognition Act, which suffered a blow earlier this month when the U.S. Senate decided against hearing it. The bill proposes establishing a process that would lead to federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian government and, supporters believe, shield programs aimed at helping Hawaiians.


Over the last 26 years, more than $1.2 billion in federal funds have been distributed to hundreds of Hawaiian programs, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who is largely credited for steering the money to Hawai’i.

Inouye last week announced he will introduce legislation designed specifically to shield the Hawaiian programs without addressing the explosive issue of federal recognition. Opponents of the programs have vowed to continue the fight.

I don’t see any mention of that legislation on Senator Inouye’s website, so it is probably still being drafted at this time. I’m interested in the specifics when they become available, but at this point I’m more interested in the underlying legal rationale guuiding the legislation he intends to introduce that could protect the programs without federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian government. Perhaps the legislation will be something relatively straightforward that would guide the judiciary as they scrutinize to the applicability of civil rights laws?

If anyone knows a source of any details, please leave a comment.

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UH to surrender taro patents altogether

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:37 pm
The Advertiser has a story about an unexpected (to me, at least) resolution to the dispute between UH and opponents of the patents the University holds on taro.

The University of Hawai’i is expected to announce today that it is dropping its patents on three varieties of taro after Hawaiians and taro farmers protested the very concept of someone owning strains of the plants.

UH Vice Chancellor for Research Gary Ostrander had previously offered to assign its patents to a Hawaiian organization, but opponents said that was insufficient.

“We rejected that because we object to anyone owning kalo, even ourselves,” said Moloka’i activist Walter Ritte Jr.

That would seem to preclude the potentially divisive decision of who would receive the patents, which I mentioned earlier. It does leave open the possibility that another group (Hawaiian or otherwise) will patent these (or other) varieties of taro. I still think a better solution would have been a form of open source licensing…

Paul Koehler, president of the Hawai’i Crop Improvement Association, said he agrees with UH’s decision to drop the taro patents, given the plant’s cultural importance. But he also said plant breeding is expensive and time-consuming, and that patents can protect industry investment in research and breeding.

“We caution that it could set a dangerous precedent for the free market enterprise. This is because it puts at risk the seven to 10 years that are needed to develop a new plant variety, confirm its health and safety (in the case of genetically engineered plants) and bring it to market, and the tens of millions of dollars needed to fund it,” Koehler said. “Without the same patent protection that is afforded other technologies, private industry would have no incentive to move forward.”

Hey, wait a second. While it’s true that private industry is motivated by the patent (and, more to the point, profit) incentive, I think it’s a significant step from that argument to saying that University research is never pursued unless there is a financial incentive. Or at least I hope that is the case. Maybe I’m biased because I have been cloistered away on the natural science end of things, but there are certainly millions of (government) dollars spent on important research that has no (direct) monetary reward. If plant scientists are unable to find funding to do research intended to help protect taro from various diseases because the research won’t “pay off,” then I think that is more a political decision on the part of the funding agencies than an economic decision.

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Superferry public fora to occur in rapid succession

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 7:17 am
A very thorough story in the Maui News today about a flurry of meetings about Kahului harbor issues (Superferry- and cargo-related) to be held this week. Initially the Superferry people seemed to be ignoring any significant interaction with the public, so the Legislature decided to release of the State money for harbor upgrades on the condition that public meetings be held. However, the Superferry folks may have been too clever by half…

?We put in specific dates that they needed to hold the meetings by so that Superferry would have a series of meetings where they would provide information, respond to questions and continue to update the community,? said [State Senator] Tsutsui. ?I?m certain DOT and Superferry understands what the language is.?

Barry Fukunaga, DOT deputy director for harbors, said he did not expect these three sessions on Maui to be the only ones held. Lawmakers said that meetings must be conducted on each island affected by Superferry before the end of June, the end of September and the end of March. Fukunaga said he couldn?t be definite about a September meeting, but he said there would be more in the future.

Maybe there will be more, but the flurry of meetings this week (and I seem to recall reading somewhere a similar schedule for a rapid series of meetings in other Counties, too) are all that are legally required for the money to be released. The lesson for legislators is to set a “no earlier than” date in addition to a “no later than” date…

The article is an excellent preview of the panoply of issues likely to be raised this week. Now matter how you feel about the Superferry, you should definitely read it.

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Public access cable stations will go to bid

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:58 am
The Maui News has a detailed story about the latest wrinkle in the public access television brouhaha. The issue is statewide, but Maui County is the home of the highest-profile dispute. In a nutshell, the Maui PEG provider, Akaku, believes that any other provider could/will threaten free speech, while the State Procurement Officer has decided that, with a well-written request for proposals, the service can go out for bid and still protect free speech.

Chief Procurement Officer Aaron Fujioka ordered the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to issue a request for proposals and proceed with competitive bidding for the cable-access contracts by June 2007. His order came after the DCCA requested an exemption to laws that require competitive bidding, saying the process might jeopardize the mission of cable-access stations to facilitate free speech.

Jay April, board chairman for Akaku: Maui Community Television, criticized both the decision and the DCCA, which he said should be closely scrutinized before it is allowed to handle bidding for the cable contracts.

?This is a local matter, not a state matter, and the state has no business interfering with our local communications medium,? April said.

The commerce department oversees contracts for stations to provide ?public access, educational and government? cable programming, called PEG. Funding for the contracts comes from fees paid by subscribers of Oceanic Time Warner Cable.

April’s quote is bizarre. Apparently he believes that the money collected under the authority of the DCCA comes (or should come) to Akaku without any State oversight? Weird. I am not familiar with the financial structure of Akaku, but I suspect that the bulk (if not all) of their funding comes from fees collected by the DCCA from cable television subscribers. However, another paragraph puts that into doubt:

April said he was unsure how Fujioka?s decision would affect the short-term financial status and future of Akaku. The station has received only half of its annual funding this year, because of the uncertainty over the future of PEG contracts.

Withholding half of the funding because of “uncertainty” doesn’t sound like something the DCCA would have the authority to do, but who knows? Maybe outside grants flow into Akakau, too, and those grantors are nervous. The (outdated) annual reports on the Akaku website don’t seem to show any financial data. [shrug]

Comments (1)
Events move faster than editors

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 6:32 am
A strange addendum to the SB editorial today tries to explain their Sunday column:

Editorial Update: In an editorial yesterday, we urged the governor and mayor to end their quarrel over whether the city or state collects a 0.5 percent Oahu excise tax surcharge to pay for a Honolulu mass transit system. By the weekend, cooler heads prevailed as Governor Lingle, her aides and City Council members tentatively agreed to a plan to resolve the problem that could have jeopardized federal funding for the project.

News of the agreement came after our Sunday editorial deadline but was more than welcome. The Council is set to hold a meeting Thursday on a proposal that would have the city contract a vendor who would upgrade the state’s computerized tax collection system.

Huh, the SB ran a story on Saturday with that news. It makes me curious as to when the Sunday editorials are actually written. Friday? So what, the editors refuse to work weekends? haha.

It’s not “Dewey beats Truman,” but it has to be a bit embarrassing. Thus, I give them credit for pointing out their own goof.

Comments (1)

Happy Fathers’ Day

Filed under:
— Doug @ 10:57 am
Here’s to you, Dad. I hope the day is treating you (and all other fathers) very well!

Upon a bit of reflection, I can’t remember exactly when the last time I was able to spend a Fathers’ Day with my dad was, so if you are able to do so consider yourself lucky and go see the old man.

Comments (0)
Kamehameha admission policy faces 15-judge panel

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:41 am
The Advertiser has a story about a hearing to be held Tuesday at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco concerning the admission policy of the Kamehmameha Schools. Given the recent cloture vote defeat, it’s hard to avoid the appearance that the failure of the Akaka bill may have had something to do with the timing of this hearing, too…

UPDATE: The hearing was scheduled long before the cloture vote failed. Mahalo to Scott Crawford for that correction.

In 2003, Senior U.S. District Judge Alan Kay agreed with Kamehameha Schools’ legal arguments and upheld the school’s policy in view of the unique circumstances of the school and Native Hawaiians. He threw out the suit.

But in August of last year, the majority of a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the policy amounted to an “absolute bar” to non-Native Hawaiians in violation the federal civil rights law.

Senior appeals Judge Robert Beezer, who was appointed by Reagan, joined Bybee in the ruling.

In dissent, Graber said Congress did not intend that the civil rights law would bar programs to remedy “educational deficits” facing Native Hawaiians.

In February, the appeals court granted Kamehameha Schools’ request for a rehearing before the larger panel and withdrew the earlier 2-1 decision.

I am not a lawyer, but I read the ruling and I think that it all hinges on the panel’s willingness to consider what the intent of Congress is. It has been the crux of Kamehameha’s defense, but the earlier ruling basically nipped it in the bud:

We have located no authority for the proposition that congressional intent, as manifested by scattered statutes adopted specially for the benefit of native Hawaiians, is sufficient to modify the standards embodied in a statute of general applicability. We cannot imagine the task of trying to harmonize all of the various acts of Congress ? a prodigious output that is ever expanding and contracting ? with statutes of general applicability such as ? 1981.10 Congress is quite capable of creating exceptions for such laws, and we would intrude on its ability or willingness to do so if we scoured the U.S. Code for hints of contrary intent. For reasons both of separation of powers and our own sanity, we will not undertake such a task.

If the larger panel also refuses to undertake that task, then it seems pretty likely to me that Kamehameha Schools will lose this hearing. No matter which way it goes, if the decision is rendered quickly (i.e. before the elections) then it will surely be a rallying point for many campaigns—especially if Kamehameha Schools were to lose. On the other hand, should Kamehameha Schools prevail it would put the numerous opponents of Hawaiians-only programs into disarray (and, of course, it would set up a dramatic SCOTUS appeal).

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New Jersey treads where Hawaii AG will has not

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:56 pm
While Hawaii consumers are currently looking to the PUC for some explanation of just what has been done with their telephone calling records, other State Attorneys General have taken a much more aggressive approach. A recent New York Times article (registration required) describes a series of subpoenas filed by the New Jersey AG against the telecom companies and the federal effort to quash the inquiry.

“People in New Jersey and people everywhere have privacy rights,” the state’s attorney general, Zulima V. Farber, said on Thursday. “What we were trying to determine was whether the phone companies in New Jersey had violated any law or any contractual obligations with their consumers by supplying information to some government entity, simply by request, and not by any court order or search warrant.”

This latest confrontation over the invocation of national security began last month, when Ms. Farber issued the subpoenas to the companies ? AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Sprint Nextel and Cingular Wireless ? to determine whether they had turned over the phone records to the federal government without a court order, in possible violation of state laws.

But when the Justice Department filed suit in United States District Court here to block those subpoenas ? a suit that Ms. Farber received on Thursday ? it asserted that the state was straying into a federal matter, and that compliance with the subpoenas would imperil national security.

As a matter of national security policy, the dispute represents the latest twist in the controversy over the boundaries of domestic spying and personal privacy. But as a matter of government practice and legal precedent, the dispute is significant because it transforms what had primarily been a fight between the federal government and civil liberties groups into a far knottier one pitting federal authorities against state ones.

This is a fight that Hawaii’s Attorney General, an official specifically charged with protecting our Constitutional right to privacy, should be a part of. Instead, Hawaii consumers see only a hesitant inquiry by the PUC, an organization seemingly unable to even provide us gasoline price cap transparency…

Comments (0)
City, state closer on transit tax collection

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 3:42 pm
With both grandstanding chief executives away on travel, the State and the City seem to have agreed upon a method to collect the Honolulu GET surcharge. The Advertiser has a piece here and the SB has an article here.

City and state officials could end a months-long transit tax dispute if the city agrees to issue a contract with the vendor slated to upgrade the state’s computerized tax collection system.

“The essence of the proposal is really a $5 million contract to get this thing jump-started and going,” said Bob Awana, Gov. Linda Lingle’s chief of staff, who has been in talks with City Council members.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a special meeting Thursday to take action on a measure (PDF) supporting the proposal, which would essentially guarantee the state $5 million for the computer upgrades.

“It seems to be that everyone wants to be part of the solution,” Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said. “There are always some things that we can tweak, and there may some challenges that may occur but nothing is insurmountable.”

The proposal is spelled out in a June 15 letter (PDF) from state Attorney General Mark Bennett, in his role as acting governor, to Dela Cruz and Vice Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi, who also chairs the Budget Committee.

What a convoluted plan! I really don’t understand why it has to be done like this, and I still doubt if it really has to be done like this. Apparently Governor Lingle has learned from the last “deal” she brokered that it is better to be the one promising to “vigorously support” legislation than to be politically dependent upon such support… At least this time if the promised legislation falls through it is the City left holding the $5M tab, haha.

All kidding aside, I’m not sure if the Governor has the Constitutional authority to commit the State to repay what is essentially a loan from the City. Ordinarily borrowing is done via bonds—-the sale of which are authorized by the legislature. It’s as if the Lingle administration would have us believe that by funding this project by means of a loan instead of a direct expenditure that it somehow doesn’t need prior legislative approval. Sounds rather dubious to me. Anyway, if the City is willing to trust the Governor (and the Legislature) to make good on the loan then it may work out, but it seems pretty darn fishy.

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Immigration sweeps arrests are indeed underway

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:23 pm
A few weeks ago I noted a story about what was then just a rumor of immigrants being rounded up in Hawaii County. That rumor was denied by a federal spokesman. Well, I was tipped to this story in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that confirms those earlier rumors.

“We are not doing a formalized sweep. It’s not an operation,” said Rick Bratt, supervisory special agent of the Hawaii Department of Homeland Security’s immigration bureau. “We’re not doing anything that we don’t do all the time. It’s just picking up illegal immigrants.”

Bratt said there have been raids nationwide, but each SAC office sets its own priorities, and most of the raids have been targeting specific illegal populations, such as gang members. While Bratt confirmed that there have been Hawaii ICE agents on the island for “quite some time,” they have been working on other things, such as narcotics investigations.


While Bratt could not confirm how many illegal immigrants had been picked up as of Wednesday, he said it will probably be more than 15 but “certainly less than 100.” He also said he is not aware of any activity on the other islands.

“Once word gets out, they scatter,” he said. “But any time we start making arrests, we know we usually only have about 24 hours. It’s part of the way things are.”

Did you get that? Sweeping up dozens of immigrants in 24 hours is not, uh, a formalized sweep or operation. Whatever.

Also, Hawaii County Police officers are involved in the, uh, “activity.”

Police Maj. John Dawrs confirmed that agents were here and began picking up illegal immigrants Tuesday. He also said two officers from the criminal investigative unit were assigned to assist the ICE agents.

When police assist with a temporary hold, it is listed as a miscellaneous public outside assist, Dawrs said. According to the police arrest log, there were three miscellaneous public outside assist arrests made Tuesday morning. All three arrests were of Hispanic males, with one arrest at a Kona Kai Apartment and two on Ala Onaona Street. Wednesday’s arrest log was not available as of press time.

A miscellaneous public outside arrest?! Wha? I don’t think that nomenclature could be any less enlightening.

Shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Department of Justice issued a legal opinion (PDF) that found that state and local law enforcement officers have “inherent authority” to arrest and detain individuals for criminal and non-criminal violations of the immigration laws. This document was only released after a FOIA request and a legal battle, probably because the DOJ knew that the opinion was so poorly-reasoned that it would not withstand serious scrutiny (PDF).

Anyway, so far as I can tell, it’s still the operative justification for putting the county police to work as immigration enforcement agents. I’ll finish this post with the conclusion of that second PDF:

It is worth noting that many law enforcement officers, state and local elected officials, and members of Congress have opposed the result advocated by this opinion for a variety of reasons, including:

? negative effects on public safety resulting from fear of the police in immigrant communities, such as unwillingness of victims and witnesses to talk to police;
? increased cost and liability implications for state and local governments;
? lack of training in immigration law among police officers;
? increased risk of racial profiling; and
? particular dangers for individuals suffering from domestic abuse.

Nice work by the H T-H for digging into this story.

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Grass roots opposition or artificial turf?

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 5:23 pm
Continuing on my Hawaii County-sourced day, have a look at this odd West Hawaii Today article where a reporter actually followed up on the written testimony submitted to the County Council regarding holding half of the Council meetings in Kona. The article alleges that some of the opposing testimony is of questionable authenticity.

I suppose in some sense it is commendable that the reporter made some effort to track down (many of) those who submitted testimony, but the article presumes a few things that are worth mentioning:

Signing testimony written by another party (or even by the sponsoring legislator) is relatively commonplace and usually isn’t very nefarious.
Discussion of written testimony with the media is not a mandatory activity for those who choose to testify. The testimony should be allowed to speak for itself in those instances where the testifier has no comment for the media.
The amount of testimony in support or opposition of a piece of legislation is not necessarily an accurate gauge of how the legislators should vote. Even if the “actual” count was 56 supporters to 2 (confirmed) opponents, the opposition arguments could still carry the day because we use a system of representative, not direct, democracy.
The public comments received by legislators are rarely ever sworn testimony. In the era of electronic mail it’s almost too easy to send off testimony without very much thought, meaning that some of the opinions expressed may not actually be strongly and/or persistently held. A well-oiled email network can drum up a seeming flood of testimony of vast width—but of little depth.
All that said, I can sympathize with the West Hawaii residents who do not want to travel all the way to Hilo for Council meetings, but their beef is more properly placed with the Councilmembers who voted against the bill than with the opponents who did or did not submit legitimate testimony.

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Back on shore tomorrow

Filed under:
— Doug @ 12:09 pm
Sorry, it looks like today is going to be another slow one. We return to port Friday morning, and will spend the day offloading equipment. Maybe I’ll be able to post Friday evening, but if not then the Saturday for sure.

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OHA challenge sent back to Ninth Circuit for further review

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:37 am
Before you readers (and I) get completely discouraged, I gave up some of my valuable sleep time to attempt a real post today.

A lawsuit challenging the Office of Hawaiian Affairs practice of spending taxpayer money on programs not available to all taxpayers was granted certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court, where they opted to send the case back to the Ninth Circuit for further review. There is a Hawaii Reporter post that (among other Akaka bill gossip) mentions the case, and an Advertiser article and SB piece. The actual Supreme Court announcement is here (PDF).

Last month, the high court issued a 9-0 ruling that essentially halted efforts by a group of taxpayers in Toledo, Ohio, who were challenging nearly $300 million in tax breaks for DaimlerChrysler AG’s $1.2 billion Jeep assembly plant.

At the time, [Hawaii Attorney General] Bennett and Robert Klein, OHA’s lawyer, said the decision signaled an end of what had become known as the Arakaki lawsuit.

Burgess yesterday disagreed with the assessment that the high court’s actions end the case. He said the Ohio ruling doesn’t apply because in the Arakaki case, the taxpayers are treated differently and excluded from certain benefits because of their ancestry.

But Bennett said the Ohio ruling eliminated the basis of the taxpayer standing in the Arakaki case.

“I believe all that’s left is the housekeeping order from the 9th Circuit (dismissing the Arakaki case),” Bennett said.

Compare that to the Hawaii Reporter description, where, for some odd reason, Zimmerman says that the SCOTUS “refused to hear” the case:

One of the reasons that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees said they needed the Akaka Bill was to protect them from legal challenges to the office’s public funding.

There was a big hole blown in that argument yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case known as Arakaki vs. Lingle.

The suit challenged taxpayer funding of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (an agency that helps native Hawaiians only) asking for a determination by the court as to whether all taxpayers should pay for a government program that benefits just a small percentage of taxpayers and excludes the rest based on race.

On a very superficial level of review it sure seems like Burgess has (or is going to have) a stronger case than the challengers of the DaimlerChrysler tax break. Even if the Arakaki case is defeated because it doesn’t make any specific claims of damages, it seems pretty elementary that another lawsuit could spell out exactly what OHA benefits a non-Hawaiian applied for and was denied. Bennett has to know that such a lawsuit is coming, so I’m a bit mystified by his seeming complacency. Seems a bit like whistling past the graveyard… When I get back to land I’ll have to review that DaimlerChrysler history and try to understand if it really provides very much legal cover for OHA or not.

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Slooooow going

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— Doug @ 4:36 am
The web connection here is painfully slow. I am working the overnight shift and I don’t feel like waiting for the pages to load but, more to the point, I’m tired and ready to hit the rack. Maybe I’ll find a break in the action later today and find something to say.

Just looking at the headlines on the homepages, it doesn’t look as if a heck of a lot is going on anyway…

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Going to sea

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— Doug @ 7:00 am
In a few hours I am going on a short research cruise. There is rudimentary internet access provided on the ship via satellite, but the amount of time I’ll have available for blogging may be very limited. We’ll see how it goes.

The connection is shared and rather slow, so I probably won’t waste my time wading through the thousands of spam comments to approve the few legitimate comments until I get back on shore with a broadband connection.

If updating the blog from the ship doesn’t work, then you may not hear from me until Friday.

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More Akaka bill fallout

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:37 am
An interesting contrast between a story from the Hawaii County newspapers (West Hawaii Today and Hawaii Tribune-Herald) and the Borreca column in todays SB—both pieces ponder the political impact of the Akaka bill cloture vote defeat. The piece by Lauer is fairly even-handed, maybe leaning toward pessimism for Akaka’s primary race against Case. The Borreca piece, however, actually makes the case that it is good (strategic) news for Akaka.

For Akaka, last week’s defeat was not so much a failure for him, but a victory for opponents of the Akaka Bill. Akaka did not falter; George Bush and the Republicans beat him. If the bill had reached the floor for a vote it would have had enough votes for passage, as 56 senators voted to break the hold, but Akaka needed 60 votes to move the cloture motion.

Observers and politicians already are saying off the record that the Hawaii Democrat now is free to blame the Republicans for his bill’s defeat. Rep. Neil Abercrombie has spent years defining the Akaka Bill opponents as “racists,” so it will not be hard to heat up the campaign year rhetoric and GOP bashing.

Akaka also can use the summer and fall stump time to talk about what might have been if his bill had passed. In doing so, he will be free to gloss over the measure’s controversial issues, which have multiplied as publicity rose about the bill.

For instance, despite assurances by supporters, critics feared the bill would destroy local property values and plunge the state into economic uncertainty, with investors unwilling to risk money in a state with a oddly bifurcated legal system. Others have said the Akaka Bill would threaten land now owned or laws now passed if they became subject to the rule of a native Hawaiian authority. Although those objections have been disputed, Akaka is spared having to defend the bill against those sort of worries, because it didn’t pass.

Chew on that for a while! Borreca makes the same mistake of presuming that 56 votes for cloture would translate into at least 51 votes for the bill, but the balance of his analysis still holds.

Meanwhile, the Jerry Burris column at the Advertiser paints the failure of the Akaka bill as an opportunity for a candidate who is able to rally the Hawaiian community. But, and it’s a big “but,” first there needs to be a consensus.

The biggest political fallout is likely to come within the Hawaiian community. Will this defeat serve as a rallying point for Hawaiians who feel they deserve federal recognition?

If it does, and if the Hawaiian community can come to anything close to a consensus agreement on what steps should come next, it will make up a formidable voting bloc in the fall elections.

The task ahead is to move beyond federal recognition of Hawaiians to the larger issue of Hawaiian self-determination and the myriad programs that focus on Hawaiian betterment, from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and various federal health and educational programs to Hawaiian Homelands itself.

Candidates who have clear ideas and answers to these issues will find themselves far ahead of the pack as the 2006 election rolls around.

Candidates, as in more than one? Heh.

To put it mildly, given the lack of any recent history of Hawaiian consensus-building, I would not predict any such consensus among the Hawaiian community being reached before the fall elections. Nor do I understand how Hawaiian self-determination can simply “move beyond” federal recognition and have any hope to survive the growing number of legal challenges working their way toward a Supreme Court unlikely to be sympathetic.

As I said yesterday when the Governor and OHA were making comments along these lines, I am extremely curious for these ideas to percolate into a public discussion.

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Remember the gas cap?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:37 am
Just when the public may have forgotten about the suspension of the gasoline price cap, the SB runs an article today that suggests that the petroleum companies are (again) holding gasoline prices relatively steady while prices on the mainland have been consistently lower. Supporters of the cap say “I told you so,” and opponents of the cap use their same tired rhetoric to assure consumers that there is no gouging underway.

In Hawaii, both supporters and opponents of the gas cap say it is incumbent upon the Lingle administration and the Public Utilities Commission to enact and enforce the oversight provisions set forth in the new law.

“There’s no reason why they can’t move forward,” said Menor.

Rep. Kirk Caldwell, one of the strongest supporters of the gas cap’s repeal in the House, said the transparency measures will give lawmakers and the public the information needed to determine the next course of action.

“Once they start to gather the information we can begin to see what the problem is,” said Caldwell (D, Manoa). “The gas cap, in my mind, was the solution before knowing what the problem was.

“This (law) is about determining what the problem is and then coming up with a solution.”

Lisa Kikuta, chief researcher at the Public Utilities Commission, said there is no timetable yet on when the agency will have the measures in place, noting that the act appropriated only $1 to the PUC to implement the transparency provisions.

She said the agency is evaluating how it might be able to secure additional resources, “but that still is in the early stages.”

If necessary, the agency could come back to the Legislature next year to seek additional funding or positions.

Next year?! Cynical translation, “if the Governor is re-elected”

Transparency is not an optional part of the law. Consumers should sue the PUC and force them to publish the weekly reports required by law. Barring that, the media should continue with a steady flow of articles like this. If the trend continues that prices hover at elevated levels while mainland prices go down, then eventually the Lingle administration might realize that the best way to dispel the public impression of price gouging is to provide the transparency data. Sheesh.

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Suits will continue without Akaka bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:36 am
The Advertiser has a piece today that nicely addresses one of the three initial reactions I had to the failure of the Akaka bill cloture vote, i.e. the impact it will have on lawsuits challenging Hawaiians-only programs.

Because [with the cloture vote failure] the legal landscape for Native Hawaiians remains the same, attorneys don’t believe the Senate action will have a direct impact on two major federal pending court cases, one challenging Native Hawaiian programs funded by the state, the other addressing Kamehameha Schools admissions policy.

But more legal challenges can be expected in the future, according to H. William Burgess, an attorney in one of the two cases who filed a taxpayer lawsuit challenging state money going to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

“The challenges will continue until everybody in Hawai’i is required to follow the same rules,” Burgess said.

He said those challenges would be filed even without the Akaka legislation, but Akaka bill supporters believe the legislation would deter or doom those future suits.

“It would bring the litigation to a quick close,” said Jon Van Dyke, a University of Hawai’i law professor who has written in support of the bill.

Now, it’s likely that Van Dyke is just trying to put the best possible face on it, but later in the article Van Dyke says he thinks the lawsuits will be defeated even without the Akaka bill. What’s more, I was surprised to read that even the plaintiffs seem to think the Akaka bill was not critical to their lawsuits.

In a 2-1 decision in August last year, a three-member panel of the 9th Circuit held that the school’s policy of admitting only Native Hawaiians violate the federal civil rights law.

That decision, however, was withdrawn when the 9th Circuit agreed to rehear the case with an “en banc” panel of 15 appeals court judges. The hearing is scheduled for June 20 in San Francisco.

In that case, Kamehameha Schools, a charitable trust, has acknowledged that its policy is based on race, but is justified to remedy the social, economic and educational disadvantages of Native Hawaiians.

John Goemans, one of the lawyers for the teenager as well as Big Island rancher Harold “Freddy” Rice, whose challenge to the OHA voting led to the high court’s 2000 ruling bearing his name, Rice v. Cayetano, said he doesn’t think the lack of Akaka legislation has any bearing on the Kamehameha Schools case.

Eric Grant, a California lawyer and lead counsel for the teenager, agrees.

“It removes a potential distraction,” he said.

But Van Dyke, one of OHA’s lawyers and a consultant to Kamehameha Schools in its case, said the passage of the Akaka legislation would have helped the charitable trust, although he believes the schools have enough of a case to prevail.


The legislation would have made it much clearer that the courts ? in interpreting and applying the federal civil rights law ? should defer to Congress’ recognition of Native Hawaiians in allowing the private educational entity to defend its admission practices, Van Dyke said.

One of the school’s main contentions is that Congress has already recognized racial preferences are permissible for a private educational institution by authorizing federal funds for loans and scholarships exclusively to Native Hawaiians.

Hmmm. Some of those programs are likely to be subjected to future lawsuits, too, according to Burgess. Thus, it doesn’t seem like a particularly solid foundation for Van Dyke to build his defense upon. All it would take is for one suit to succeed and the whole edifice could come crashing down. Some explicit guidance from Congress would provide a much more robust defense.

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Trying to understand the “linkage”

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:02 am
I sure wish I had found (or I had written) some discussion of it earlier, but a SB editorial today (and a generally slow day for blogging) convinced me to have a look at the relationship between the Akaka bill and the permanent repeal of the estate tax. Both pieces of legislation faced cloture votes in the Senate last Thursday, and both votes failed to carry.

The House approved a repeal last year, rejecting a compromise to exempt taxes on estates of up to $3.5 million, or $7 million for a couple. That would exempt all but the wealthiest three-tenths of 1 percent of estates. Rep. Ed Case voted for the compromise amendment, opposed by Rep. Neil Abercrombie, but both voted in the end for the repeal.

Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist said after the House vote that he would assign Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to work with Democrats to find a compromise. Instead, Frist resisted efforts to reduce the tax but not abolish it entirely and supported a full repeal. The 57 votes fell short of the 60 needed to prevent a filibuster on the measure. Senators Akaka and Inouye voted against repeal.

Actually, that vote was not about the repeal of the estate tax, that particular vote was only a procedural motion to force the vote that would indicate Senators Akaka’s and Senator Inouye’s position on the repeal of the estate tax. There’s a difference. For example, one can vote no on a cloture motion because one believes that there has not yet been enough debate to build a majority on whichever side (yea or nay) of the issue that one supports. Alternatively, one can vote no on a cloture motion because there does exist a solid majority on the supporter’s side of the issue. It’s more complicated than a simple “no on cloture means no on substance” interpretation.

Anyway, two hours after that estate tax cloture vote failed, the Akaka bill cloture vote also failed. If there was any “deal” linking the two votes together, it would seem that the wheels came off at the first vote. I wonder, if the first vote had passed, would the Akaka bill still be alive? We’ll never know.

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Mayor threatens lawsuit- 7 months early

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:01 am
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann continues to ping away on the Governor as he begins to worry that the GET surcharge to fund mass transit may not be collected by the State beginning January 1, 2007. The Advertiser has a story herer and the SB has a piece here. This time the “news” is a letter to the Governor from the Mayor. Yawn.

“Should the state Department of Taxation decide or indicate its intention not to collect the county surcharge on state tax in accordance with Act 247, the city will be left with no choice but to seek a court order to enforce the terms of the act and require the state Department of Taxation to collect the county surcharge on state tax,” Hannemann wrote.

Uh, let me go out on a (thick) limb and predict that DOTAX will not decide or indicate its intention not to collect the county surcharge (even if that is indeed the DOTAX position). Furthermore, even if DOTAX did that before next Friday, I don’t see how the City could successfully sue the State for failure to comply with Act 247 until the State actually violates some portion of the law. i.e. The Act does not include any sort of mandatory timetable for putting in place the mechanism to collect the surcharge. Conspiracy to put political pressure on Mufi Hannemann is not unlawful. Heh.

Lingle maintains that the Tax Department cannot collect the taxes because the Legislature did not approve funds to pay for the extra costs. She was on Maui yesterday and would review the letter, said her spokesman, Russell Pang.

But Hannemann said a computer vendor with the Tax Department needs to sign a contract by July 1 to be able to collect the taxes next year.

“Any delay in the collection of the county surcharge on state tax would result in the delay of the city’s planned mass transit project,” the mayor wrote in the letter. “Such delay may also jeopardize federal funding.”

How is it that Mayor Hannemann’s claims about (State) DOTAX computer vendor contracts are simply reported at face value? Is that (purportedly un-signed) contract already a public record? If not, how the heck could Hanemann know about a so-called July 1 deadline? Weird.

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Almost everyone has their own spin on the cloture defeat

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:56 pm
Sorry, I was away from any computer for much of the day, so that is why this post is delayed. The purpose of this post is to point out what I find to be the most significant points within a flood of new links about the failed Akaka bill cloture vote.

I’ll begin with a press release from Senator Akaka’s office:

I am disappointed that we did not overcome the procedural obstacles to bring the bill to the floor, but I am heartened by the fact that 56 Senators supported our efforts. I have always said that we had the votes to enact this bill on an up or down vote.

This claim is repeated in some of the other reports, and it’s speculation, at best. The fact that 56 Senators were willing to support a procedural motion to debate the bill really tells us nothing about how many Senators would vote in support of the substance of the bill.

On that theme, I’ll move to a Hawaii Reporter post:

Behind the scenes, Republican senior staffers say there were substantially more than 41 Republican members who would vote against the bill if Akaka had somehow eked by the cloture vote.

All Democrat Senators were willing to vote for cloture, but not necessarily for the passage of the final version, according to political staffers.

But Republicans played let?s make a deal with theirs, negotiating up until the very last minute. Organized in caucus beforehand, some Republicans who knew they would kill the cloture vote, cast their ballot in favor of the Akaka Bill because they either served on the Senate Appropriations Committee with Inouye, the co-chair, and wanted to show him the courtesy, or because they?d traded their vote with Inouye in previous sessions. Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, one of the biggest opponents of the bill, promised the Hawaii delegation he would not stand in the way of the cloture vote because of a previous deal he made, but he told them if it passed cloture, he?d be their toughest opponent.

The deal Senator Kyl made was about the permanent repeal of the estate tax. I’m hoping to see a follow up article explaining if Akaka and Inouye followed through with their end of the deal…

Moving to the Advertiser, where there are three articles, a column, and an editorial on the topic. Impressively thorough coverage.

From the first Advertiser article:

In Honolulu, Gov. Linda Lingle suggested that the dilemmas faced by Hawaiian preference programs can be solved, possibly without federal recognition, and possibly outside of Capitol Hill entirely.

Lingle, who returned Wednesday from Washington, D.C., where she lobbied a number of Republican senators, said she spoke to [OHA Chair] Apoliona about some options.

“We started to look forward about steps we could take now to achieve what we were trying to through the Akaka bill, which was to protect all our existing programs that benefit Native Hawaiians as well as creating an entity that will be able to take control of the resources and assets of the Hawaiian people, specifically the Hawaiian home lands and the ceded land revenues,” she said.

Asked if such goals could be achieved without federal legislation, she said: “We think that’s a possibility and we’re going to explore that, as well as future efforts on the federal level.”

In case you didn’t notice, that’s very big news, if they are seriously going to pursue a new entity to control ceded lands revenues and Hawaiian home lands. I’m no expert on the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, but I do know it’s considered part of the Hawaii Constitution and that several sections of the Act are subject to Congressional concurrence. Thus, I’m extremely curious to see how they propose to circumvent (or persuade) Congress by making any amendments in that arena.

Another Advertiser article has comments from pundits about the impact of the defeat on Senators Akaka and Inouye:

[Pollster] Clegg said he believes much of the support for the Akaka bill among Senate Democrats was designed to pass the measure to boost Akaka’s re-election effort. Democrats in Congress, including Inouye, want Akaka to defeat Case in the primary, while Senate Republicans would rather work with Case, Clegg said.

“My take on it is, the success or failure will possibly not revolve around the substance of the bill, but rather the politics in the Senate and the politics of Congress,” Clegg said.

Weird, Clegg is speaking as if the cloture vote hasn’t already happened. Maybe they spoke with him before the vote? Anyway, his analysis is sound, in my opinion.

The article also has comments from Ted Hong at UH-Hilo:

People are reluctant to publicly say they oppose the measure, but many don’t understand the bill, and most want the issue put to a statewide vote in some form of referendum before any Native Hawaiian government is established, [Hong] said.

Hong, who was co-chair of Lingle’s 2002 campaign on the eastern side of the Big Island, said these concerns often are not being openly expressed to pollsters, which means politicians don’t really know the depth of public support or opposition to the bill.

“To me, this is the political land mine in this year’s election,” Hong said. “People are going to campaign based on what they think the majority wants, but on Election Day that’s when I think people are going to find out what the majority really wants.”

Wha? That’s not likely. Now that the bill has died, I don’t think voters are going to punish incumbents (who are nearly unanimous in their support for the bill) or reward (m)any challengers who openly oppose the bill. As much as Hong might like it to be true, elections are not referenda in any reliably quantifiable sense, so it’s only possible to speculate on why voters choose to vote as they do.

Another Advertiser article has comments from various supporters and opponents of the bill. Including one that I expected:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Randall Iwase said Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, failed to keep her 2002 campaign promise to deliver the Akaka bill. A Republican president and Congress approved annexation in 1898 and a GOP president and Senate rejected the Akaka bill, he said. “Nothing has changed.”

Lingle’s response was that a Democratic Governor would have fared no better, and she is right. However, I don’t remember Lingle campaigning on the message that she would be just as Congressionally irrelevant as a Democrat. Heh.

Lee Cataluna’s column is a metaphorical piece arguing for a (vague) new strategy that avoids Congress.

The Advertiser’s editorial lays out a two point response to the cloture vote:

Two actions are necessary at this point: one to deal with the short-term reality, and one to improve chances for recognition at some point down the road.

For the immediate future, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and other Hawaiian beneficiary agencies that receive public money must consider alternative strategies for helping Native Hawaiians that wouldn’t be vulnerable to legal challenge.

The Akaka bill had been seen as a potential shield against lawsuits, still unresolved, that targeted publicly funded programs that base their benefits on racial criteria.

One approach would be to make programs accessible on the basis of need, cultural affinity and factors other than ethnicity. Agencies would be able to address genuine socioeconomic problems within Hawaiian communities, uninterrupted by this kind of litigation.

For the long term, Hawaiians must make the case that they are a political entity ? and they don’t need the Akaka bill to assert their sovereignty.

Like Governor Lingle’s comments, this is all very vague but clearly it would be a politically huge undertaking. For starters, who is going to propose these new methods to administer the programs? Amending the criteria used to identify beneficiaries is going to create winners and losers, and I can’t imagine many politicians will be eager to stick a toe into those uncertain waters.

Moving to the SB, where there is only one article:

Lingle said that her administration has worked hard for more than three years in lobbying both the Republican members of Congress and the White House for the bill’s passage.

“I’m not sure a Democratic governor could have gotten any Republicans, frankly. I think we had a very good and positive impact,” she said.

She pointed to several Republican senators whom she met with personally – including Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter R-Pa. – who later voted to move the bill forward. “We were able to get people to come on board who wouldn’t have otherwise had we not gone out,” Lingle said.

Well, maybe so. However, according to that earlier HR post:

While Gov. Linda Lingle was able to secure some Republican support – especially from some of the female Senators who are more liberal – she lost a vote she said just weeks ago that she secured from Sen. Elizabeth Dole. And Sen. Lindsay Graham, who is one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, did not even show up to vote.

Finally, moving to the SB editorial, a sentiment that will probably warm the heart of Scott Crawford:

The bill’s opponents implied that any sovereign Hawaiian nation should be extended to all people who can trace their lineage to anyone living in the islands at the time of the overthrow. Distorted as that reasoning might seem, it could be the only way to rescue programs aimed at helping Hawaiians.

What exactly is “distorted” about that? Non-Hawaiians were subjects of the Kingdom, too. Okay, I’ll admit that it would certainly be perverse if descendants of the non-Native Hawaiian businessmen who were behind the overthrow of the Kingdom were to eventually become beneficiaries of programs that are currently intended to assist the descendants of the Native Hawaiian subjects of the Kingdom…

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PUC to ask telcos if they are working with NSA to share customer calling records

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:07 am
The Hawaii County papers both run a story about the Public Utilities Commission response to Hawaii consumers’ telephone calling records being handed over to the National Security Agency. The West Hawaii Today article is here, and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald has the same piece here.

PUC Chairman Carlito Caliboso, in a letter written Tuesday to Rep. Brian Schatz, said the commission has been monitoring events since USA Today reported last month that three major telephone carriers gave tens of millions of customer records to the NSA.

While acknowledging that many of the allegations are disputed by the telephone companies, Caliboso said in the letter that the commission plans on contacting telecommunications carriers that provide service to Hawaii to get “detailed information on their practices and procedures for protecting such information consistent with the commission’s rules.” He didn’t say when the investigation would be complete.

“In connection with this request, the commission will inquire whether these telecommunications carriers have been contacted by the NSA and, if so, whether they have granted the NSA direct access to their telephone call records,” Caliboso said. “Thereafter, based on the telecommunications carriers’ responses, the commission will determine whether it will conduct further investigation into possible violations of law or rules and regulations.”


A spokesman for Hawaiian Telcom, the state’s largest residential telephone service provider, told Stephens Media on Wednesday that his company would cooperate with the PUC investigation.

“We were never approached by the NSA, and our position on this issue is that our customer’s privacy is the highest priority,” said Hawaiian Telcom spokesman Dan Smith.

Schatz says the investigation should be conducted nonetheless.

“If it’s the case that neither Hawaiian Telcom nor Verizon nor Oceanic nor Pacific Lightnet nor any other phone company was required to disclose any such information, then its important for the public to have a record of official correspondence,” Schatz said. “If it’s the case that one or several were asked to do this, then we should know that, too.”

I still see lots of potential for less-than-full disclosure on behalf of those companies. For example, as I commented earlier, if Verizon was handling the bulk of Hawaiian Telcom’s “back office” operations, then perhaps it is technically correct for Mr. Smith to say HT was never approached by the NSA—because the NSA got get what they wanted from Verizon. Another curious point is Caliboso’s use of the adjective “direct” when he mentions “provided direct access to their telephone call records.” Perhaps there are indirect ways to provide that access? I dunno, but I’m suspicious.

A PUC “inquiry” is all well and good, but what (if anything) has become of Representative Schatz’s previous letter to the Attorney General on the same topic? Did Schatz solicit this letter from the PUC, or did the AG punt Schatz’s concerns to the PUC? The PUC has much less latitude to pursue this, compared to the broad law enforcement authority of the Attorney General.

Comments (3)
Collection of GET surcharge for transit still unresolved

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:06 am
The Honolulu dailies each have very similar stories about the latest wrinkle in the dispute between Honolulu Mayor Hannemann and Governor Lingle concerning the collection of the GET surcharge on Oahu to fund mass transit. The Advertiser piece is here, and the SB article is here. I posted a while ago when legislation to privatize the GET collection failed at the Legislature.

Lingle said that she was surprised that Hannemann couldn’t get the City Council to support putting up a $5 million guarantee [to be recouped by the portion intended to administer the surcharge].

“The Legislature failed to put the money into the budget in order to allow us to go and collect that money for the city,” Lingle said.

So it’s up to the city to guarantee payment of the cost of collecting the additional tax, Lingle said. The city is counting on the increase in the general excise tax on O’ahu ? from 4 percent to 4.5 percent ? to provide about $150 million a year for a mass-transit system in Honolulu.

Any hurdle to the project worries transit supporters, who have come so close to mass transit in the past only to see plans fall apart. This is the closest the city has come in 13 years.

City planners are analyzing the details of what a proposed transit system would be: how much it would cost, how many people might ride, what kind of technology would be used, all in preparation to have the council choose a preferred route and system by year’s end.

But Hannemann said the state law that allowed the tax surcharge beginning in January clearly puts the responsibility for collecting on the state. He quoted the law that the governor declined to sign but allowed to become law: “The director of taxation shall levy, assess, collect and otherwise administer the county surcharge on the state tax.”

Lingle said without the money to pay a private company to collect the tax, the state won’t go forward.

It may not be a direct quote, but notice the use of “won’t,” and not “can’t.” The SB has this cryptic paragraph late in it’s story:

Hannemann said state Tax Department employees have told the city that they can collect the tax without the additional funding.

Hmmm. That’s worth some follow-up.

I’m tired of the sniping, but if the Governor is simply lying about a necessity to get additional funding when it is actually not necessary, then that’s worth knowing.

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Akaka bill cloture vote fails 56-41

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:01 am
Well, as of about 3 hours ago, the collection of links I had gathered were suddenly much less interesting. But, since I went through the trouble to round them up, here are some links to stories in the (mostly) local media about the Akaka bill cloture vote debate at the U.S. Senate yesterday (listed in no particular order):

A post at the Hawaii Reporter that describes the floor debate, as seen through their ideological lens.
Another HR post contains the text of a letter from a deputy U.S. Attorney General that indicates the Bush administration opposes the bill.
The Advertiser and SB both have recaps of the floor debate and manuevering.
The SB has a report about a short occupation of Iolani Palace by a Native Hawaiian group opposed to the bill.
The Advertiser has a story about the (failed) lobbying effort by supporters of the bill, and describes the palace occupation, too.
A KITV piece full of soundbites from the debate and dueling press conferences.
Senator Akaka’s website has a Akaka press release with selected quotes from the debate. And, finally,
From the Library of Congress, a page with links to a transcript of yesterdays debate in full (I think).
The cloture vote has failed, and now we’ll see the political fallout of that failure. My initial thoughts on that:

Senator Akaka’s prestige is clearly damaged. The Case campaign message will (perhaps politely, perhaps not) almost certainly point to the inability of Akaka to get the bill passed. On the other hand, Akaka may be able to argue that only he has any hope of getting the bill to pass in the future. Pretty much a stalemate with respect to the primary election, is my first hunch.
Governor Lingle is clearly shown to be out of step with her mainland GOP colleagues and with President Bush. Given the President’s persistently low approval ratings, this may not be a bad thing for her. However, supporters of the Akaka Bill are likely to implicitly tie the national GOP opposition of this bill to Lingle (and to down-ticket Hawaii GOP candidates). The Governor’s campaign claim that a Republican governor enjoys access and influence with the Congress that a Democrat would not is cast into serious doubt, at best.
The various legal teams representing Native Hawaiian organizations had better begin to prepare for the next round of court hearings regarding the lawsuits challenging the validity of programs benefiting Native Hawaiians. The operative assumption had been that so long as the Akaka bill was proceeding the cases would be delayed. Now, the prospect for legislative relief is once again put off indefinitely.
Comments (2)
Ethics complaint dismissed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:59 am
The Honolulu dailies both note that the State Ethics Commission, after postponing the contested case hearing against Senator Kanno last week, has now dismissed the complaint altogether. The SB article is here and the Advertiser piece is here.

If the commission had found Kanno violated state ethics law, it would have referred the case to the Senate for possible censure, suspension or expulsion. But the Senate is not scheduled to be in session again until January, when Kanno will no longer be in office. The commission also can refer cases to the state attorney general, but it determined that the nature of the allegation against Kanno did not warrant a criminal inquiry.

The commission ruled that given the circumstances, “it is an unwise and imprudent use of taxpayer resources and taxpayer dollars to pursue this case to and through a formal, contested-case hearing, where no remedy for a violation of state ethics code appears to exist.”

Some of Kanno’s allies in the Senate thought the ethics charge was unfair because they believed he was performing his duty as a legislator when he approached Norwegian. Several other lawmakers also wrote to Norwegian on Rouse’s behalf. Others at the state Capitol, however, had hoped the commission might use the case to clarify the boundaries of legislative functions.


Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo) said the decision made sense under the circumstances of Kanno’s decision to retire from office.

“Nevertheless, it is an indication of a larger problem,” Hemmings added. “Sen. Kanno did not act alone. This is the reason why we need a balanced Legislature.”

The order for dismissal was filed “without prejudice,” meaning it can be filed again, and was signed by four of the five commissioners.

Comments like Senator Hemmings’ are precisely the reason the hearing should have proceeded. The tone of Hemmings’ comment and, to a lesser extent, the Order of the Commission both implicitly presume that Kanno is guilty, even though Kanno is denied of his due process (contested case hearing) by the Order. So much for the presumption of innocence.

The Commission holds that because Senator Kanno (as a lame duck legislator not presently sitting in session) is beyond the reach of any punishment by the Senate and that because Kanno’s alleged actions have no legal or equitable remedy to be sought by the Attorney General, it would therefore be a waste of money to provide Kanno the contested case proceedings that could vindicate his actions. I disagree. Beyond the much-needed clarification of the “legislative function” clause in HRS 84-13 (which would definitely be worth expending taxpayer money to achieve!), a dismissal of this nature after so much public discussion of the particulars of the case leaves Kanno’s reputation (and, don’t forget, he “did not act alone”) permanently sullied—at no (direct) cost to the State and no (political) cost to his accusers.

On a more meta level, and in a rarely-active venue, this is an example of proseutorial discretion that is entirely unchecked and almost never explained in a press release.

Comments (0)

C-SPAN2 will stream Akaka bill debate/vote(s)

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:36 am
If you have broadband (and some patience) you may see the U.S. Senate (in)action on C-SPAN2 here. As fate would have it, today I’m at a machine that has no speakers. Otherwise I would have tried my first “live blog” event…

It is expected to start at 9:00 AM HST.

UPDATE @ 9:15 AM: It’s on right now.

Comments (1)
Google may map Honolulu transit

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:36 am
Okay, it’s a slow political news day (other than at the U.S. Senate, but that’s a story in progress) so, forgive me, but I’m going to have a little fun. An interesting partnership may be developing between Google and TheBus, according to this Advertiser article.

The search engine, according to Google’s Web site, is developing a public transportation version of what Google now offers for drivers on Google Local. It will tell users how to get where they are going using bus and other mass-transit systems, and allow them to calculate how much money might be saved over driving a car.

To date, only Portland, Ore., is online, but Google is working with other cities to provide access to their public transportation systems, according to the Web site.

[OTS official] Morton said Honolulu is one of those partner cities.

He said he can’t say when the project may launch, and to date, there are no guarantees.

“They’ve been working with us for the past six to eight months,” Morton said. “We have a signed agreement to work together, but there is no contract, and they are doing this for no cost. No money has changed hands.”

He said Google is preparing a model of TheBus on Google Transit for Oahu Transit to examine.

Morton said he is very excited about the possibility.

“It’s Google,” he said. “They have a very good reputation, and just the fact that they are working with us makes us very pleased.”

“They only have a handful of partners,” he said.

If this system works out, I hope that transit officals also consider a partnership with Gizoogle, perhaps developing a pidgin version. Fo shnizzle.

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Prominent Japanese-Americans support Akaka bill – a history of ??

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:24 am
There is an op-ed in the SB today from a group of Japanese-American leaders where they voice their support of the Akaka bill. There could be no connection, but perhaps this is a continuation of the effort said to have begun with Senator Inouye’s comment from the Hawaii Democratic Party convention.

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.?

This is how the op-ed authors describe their support of the Akaka bill:

Federal recognition will allow native Hawaiians to form a governing entity which can then negotiate with the federal and state governments on the specifics of self-governance. The Akaka Bill begins this process. This is about fairness and justice, and this is why we support the native Hawaiian cause.

The ties between our two communities are deep and long. Japanese-Americans remember what it was like when our grandparents were immigrants to the Kingdom of Hawaii. They were treated with aloha by native Hawaiians. Under the Hawaii Constitution of 1852, they were allowed to become subjects of the Kingdom with suffrage rights.

After the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893 and annexation in 1898, the U.S. government denied the privilege of becoming citizens to persons of Japanese ancestry. We did not regain that right until 1953.

We are eternally grateful to the native Hawaiians who welcomed our grandparents to their homeland, and treated them with respect and fairness. The Japanese-Americans owe a debt of gratitude to native Hawaiians. It is our privilege to stand by the native Hawaiian people and support their right to self- determination.

I’m not a history expert, but compare that to the claims made in this post by Cliff Slater:

(2) Hawaiians dominated the Legislature from its inception to pre-World War II. As scholars such as Lawrence Fuchs (Hawaii Pono 1961) point out: the majority of the voters, candidates for office and legislators were Hawaiian. Most Hawaiian legislators were Republicans and allied themselves with the haoles to prevent the ?Oriental Menace? from gaining political power.

When Hawaii was annexed in 1898, the Hawaiian-haole alliance could no longer prevent the Orientals from voting because universal suffrage was an integral part of American democracy (at least for men). Thus, it should have been no surprise to anyone that the Hawaiians along with their haole political allies lost political power when the Republicans were swept out of office by the 1954 Democratic Revolution.

Um, so which is it? Japanese in Hawaii were scorned by Native Hawaiians and could vote after 1898, or Japanese in Hawaii were shown aloha but not allowed to vote until 1953? Slater’s conclusion doesn’t even seem to logically follow from his version of history; i.e. if the Japanese in Hawaii were given the vote in 1898 it should not have taken until 1954 to overthrow the Republicans.

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Island leaders lobby for Akaka bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:23 am
The Lingle administration and the OHA trustees are making the rounds of the U.S. Senate, lobbying for the Akaka bill. Yadda, yadda, yadda. The take-away section of this Advertiser article for me is this:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said last month that he would try again to break the roadblock and is expected to take the first step today with a motion to force the measure to the floor despite the opponent’s objections ? known as cloture.

After debate tomorrow the Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the motion, which needs 60 votes to be successful. If it is, a full debate on the bill will follow and up to three more votes may be needed to pass it under Senate procedures. The whole process could take up to a week of Senate floor time.

When was the last time the U.S. Senate debated a bill specifically related to Hawaii for an entire week? Whichever way the vote goes, there could be some useful education of the entire nation—assuming that the national media were to provide the debate any decent coverage. Maybe even an opportunity for our local media to send their Hawaii political reporters to D.C. and have their reporting picked up nationally.

I wouldn’t count on that to happen, though. I predict shallow coverage outside of Hawaii, especially if the vote on the Akaka bill is truly linked to the permanent repeal of the estate tax (which has much more widespread appeal).

Comments (2)
If you haven’t got a penny, a half-penny will do

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:23 am
The SB has a story that describes what is probably the strangest bill drafting error that I’ve heard of this year. The error is in SB 2961 which would increase the cigarette tax and allocate (very meager) funds to cancer research, emergency medical services, and trauma care.

As written, in year three of the increase, just 2 cents will be deposited into the Hawaii cancer research special fund.

That is to say, 2 cents total – as opposed to the intended 2 cents per cigarette.

Similarly, half a cent is designated for the trauma system special fund, one-fourth of a cent for the new community health centers special fund and one-fourth of a cent for the emergency medical services special fund.

Plus, there is no statutory correlation between each yearly tax increase and each yearly allocation of the revenues. And the bill fails to earmark money in years four, five and six.

Ooopsie. Actually, by my reading it looks like as if the disbursements for years one and two were drafted equally poorly. This is the result of having attorneys in the staff offices review the bills to ensure proper legal form, but not specifically for “content.” The bill is perfectly executable, it just doesn’t do what they intended to carry out.

Don’t spend it all in one place, JABSOM. Heh.

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Halford not seeking re-election

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:20 am
The other meaning of “resignation” appears in a Maui News piece about Representative Halford’s decision to not seek re-election.

Longtime South Maui Rep. Chris Halford said Saturday that he will not be seeking re-election after 12 years in the state House of Representatives.

Halford, Maui County?s only Republican in the Legislature, said he was stepping out of politics to care for his 86-year-old mother, a family responsibility he couldn?t fulfill while dividing his time between Maui and Oahu as a lawmaker. He said he would remain active in public life after giving up his 11th District seat, representing the South Maui area.

?I?m not foreclosing my options to run again in the future,? he said.

Longtime supporter Madge Schaefer said Halford had been thinking of leaving government ?for a while,? and she believed his decision was based on a combination of personal factors and professional burnout.

?It has been, I think, a very frustrating road for Chris,? she said. ?He has been in the minority for so long. Everybody gets to a point where they need a breather.?

That’s a surprisingly frank observation, and I think it is spot on. Halford is an exceedingly polite legislator, but I always had a feeling that just under the surface he was exasperated by the Democrats’ consistent dominance of the agenda. Halford would repeatedly ask for management audits whenever the budget bill was debated, and he would repeatedly be ignored. That has to wear on a person after a decade, and it’s just one example of many futile struggles he pursued. I also sensed a lot of exasperation coming from Representative Stonebraker (uh, minus the politeness). Both men are leaving the House.

Actually, I would say that Stonebraker checked out months ago…

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Salutatorian leads small anti-war protest at graduation

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:19 am
A mini victory for free speech at Honokaa High School’s graduation ceremony is the subject of this Hawaii Tribune-Herald article.

Eli Bowman, the class’s 18-year-old salutatorian, said a group of students decided to wear the armbands to the ceremony to protest the U.S. war in Iraq. When school administrators got wind of the plan, however, Bowman said they sent a clear message to his class at an assembly last week: Anyone wearing a black armband to graduation Saturday morning wouldn’t make it inside the door.

So Bowman and some others decided to put their armbands on once they were inside the Honokaa Armory for the ceremony Saturday morning. No one was thrown out and Bowman actually was able to bring the issue up during a short speech.

“The graduating class of 2006 are wearing black armbands as a silent protest against the war in Iraq,” Bowman told the capacity crowd. “A war that the majority of the American people oppose.”

It was an applause line that forced him to pause for a moment and he made no other mention of the war or the armbands.

Principal Natalie Gonsalves said administrators had decided not to keep anyone out of the ceremony for wearing an armband. Initially, though, she said the administration told students they could wear the armbands only “before and after” the ceremony with no repercussions.

Then Gonsalves said she studied the law and decided the armbands were part of the students’ freedom of speech.

She came upon a landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court Case called Tinker v. Des Moines. A pair of students at a public Des Moines high school filed a lawsuit after they were suspended for wearing black armbands at school in protest of the Vietnam War.

The Court ruled that action violated the First Amendment rights of the students.

“To me they’re expressing their views in a calm way,” Gonsalves said. “I was very proud of them.”

How thick is the irony of the event being held at the Honokaa National Guard Armory? Now I suppose we need to stand by for the call for Gonsalves’ head…

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Plight of Native Hawaiians not dire – if you ignore the underclass

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:18 am
I was very surprised to see Cliff Slater argue in his Advertiser op-ed that Native Hawaiians are doing just fine—when you make sweeping statistical adjustments and apples-to-oranges comparisons.

Among members of Congress, there seems to be a misunderstanding that Native Hawaiians are a tribe, living together, speaking Hawaiian, poor, downtrodden and underprivileged. In short, that they are like Indian tribes as described by the 2003 U.S. Senate Budget Committee:

“Regardless of where (native Americans) reside, however, they continue to rank at near the bottom of nearly every social, health, and economic indicators, as compared to all other groups of American citizens. They continue to suffer the highest rates of unemployment and poverty, live in substandard housing, have poor health, receive an inadequate education and contend with disintegrating social systems.”

This is far from the case with Native Hawaiians, who have integrated themselves into the general population as evidenced by their lifestyle and living standards. A statistical review reveals more similarities to Hawai’i’s general population than differences. [emphasis mine]

According to the state Data Book and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Data Book, the average household income of Native Hawaiians is 9 percent less than Hawai’i’s people as a whole, while the unemployment rate for Native Hawaiians is greater (6.4 percent versus 3.8 percent).

Native Hawaiian households with annual incomes of $200,000 or more are a smaller percentage than Hawai’i generally (1.4 percent versus 2.8 percent) with smaller percentages earning $50,000 or more (45.3 percent versus 57.3 percent). And 18.3 percent of Hawaiians are below the poverty level, versus 12 percent of Hawai’i residents overall.

Another way to put this, to adopt the rhteorical spin used by Slater, et al., when the 0.5% GET surcharge for transit was always described as a 12.5% tax increase, is that Native Hawaiians are 50% less likely to be rich, 20% less likely to be middle class, and 50% more likely to be in poverty.

Compare these data with the American Indians whose “unemployment rate hovers near 50 percent” and whose average annual per-capita income is $8,284.

There is a Native Hawaiian underclass, as has developed with other minorities. This boosts the crimes and incarceration rates, single-mother birth rate, and drug use. However, remove this class from the statistical base, make due allowance for a lower-than-average age for Native Hawaiians, and we find that they are, for the most part, remarkably similar to the rest of Hawai’i society.

“Remove this [under]class from the statistical base?!” Well, isn’t that a convenient Lake Woebegone approach to dismissing all the data showing Native Hawaiians lag behind the rest of Hawaii residents… It’s tautological that if you ignore the underclass then the remaining population seems to be more middle class. The real-world meaning of “removal” is disturbing to ponder, too…

Then Slater goes on to warn us of the possibility that large institutions face the possibility of corruption A shocking revelation indeed. Slater does not argue for the dissolution of other known large organizations (Native Hawaiian or otherwise) that may become (or already are) corrupt, though. Slater also argues that it is actually the non-Hawaiians who are perpetuating the Hawaiian culture. All this to conclude that the Akaka bill is bad legislation.

But what if the Akaka bill were to pass and the Native Hawaiian governing entity came out in vigorous support of HOT lanes? Heh.

Comments (3)
Legislature to shuffle committee assignments as at least 8 members depart

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:17 am
The Advertiser and the SB both carry this Associated Press story about legislators who are retiring or giving up their seats to run for other positions.

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), who heads the Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, is also among those leaders in the Senate who are seeking Case’s spot in Congress.

A win would mean Hanabusa, who wields considerable power in the Senate, would need to give up her state seat. Unlike some legislators in the race, however, her term doesn’t end this year and she doesn’t have to give up her seat to run for Congress.

Her departure would be among the biggest leadership losses to the Legislature if it happens, [pundit] Boylan said.

Rep. Brian Schatz will be leaving his spot to be a candidate for Congress. He’ll be vacating the vice chairmanship of the House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee, which is also losing its chairman with the retirement of Rep. Ezra Kanoho.

Kanoho is one of three veteran leaders to be retiring from the House, including Rep. Dennis Arakaki, who heads the Health Committee, and Rep. Helene Hale, who leads the International Affairs Committee.

“That creates a major vacuum. I think it’s about, if you add it all up, close to about 50 years of public service that we’ll be missing,” said House Speaker Calvin Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Wilhelmina Rise).

The internal House politics to reassign committee leadership between November and January will be very complex. I doubt there will be much of a fight over the INT committee (which, frankly, I never saw the need to establish), but the HLT and WLO chairs will be coveted—perhaps even by chairs and vice-chairs now leading other committees.

And with the arrival of the new as yet to be elected legislators will begin the new cycle of educating members so that they feel comfortable with the issues, said Say, who has been a member of the House for about 30 years and has seen the full cycle many times.

Among the biggest issues that the Legislature could face next year is how the state will form a new Native Hawaiian government should a bill granting them a degree of self-government get federal approval this fall, he said.

Wha? Not next year. If the bill passes Congress this year, the process set up by the bill (S. 3064) will take a few years to proceed to the stage where the State Legislature has any participation. See Section 7 of the bill where it talks about up to 180 days to appoint a commission, 2 years to complete a roll of members, and then an election to begin drafting organic government documents. If the law passes it will probably face several legal challenges along the way, too. The State Legislature is not going to be (directly) facing this issue in 2007.

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Reader comments appear at H T-H

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:17 am
While reading this article at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald about the OTEC project in Kona, I noticed that the paper now includes a section at the end of a story for reader comments. Still some growing pains, apparently, but I’m stoked to see another paper offer this to their web readers (Ka Leo and the Garden Island News occasionally have comments on the same page as the story, too).

I know, the Advertiser has links to its discussion board, but having the readers’ reactions on the same page is a significant improvement, in my opinion.

Comments (1)

Kalo patent to be surrendered by UH to whom?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:34 am
Two stories today about the University of Hawaii decision to relinquish its patents on kalo. A SB piece is here, and a PBN article is here. I couldn’t find a complete statement form UH on their website, although there is a link there to a story anticipating this decision.

Native Hawaiian activists, farmers and students have held protests demanding the university give up the patents and stop genetically altering taro, which many Hawaiians consider a sacred plant.

“The University of Hawaii has a strong desire to maintain appropriate respect and sensitivity to the indigenous Hawaiian host culture,” said UH-Manoa Vice Chancellor for Research Gary Ostrander.

“Taro is unique to the Hawaiian people in that it represents the embodiment of their sacred ancestor,” he said. “As such, it is appropriate to make an exception to our standard policy of holding all patents.”

Sarah Sullivan of Hawaii Seed, one of the groups involved in the taro protests, said there are still concerns over the concept of “patenting life.”

“A major issue is that culturally significant plants such as taro should not be owned,” Sullivan said. She added that she also has concerns about who gets the university patents.

I am not an expert in patent law, but I think that Sullivan alludes to the more fundamental problem. Patent law is not well-equipped to deal with this type of intersection between Western legal rights and Native Hawaiian cultural beliefs. It’s good that the University is going to give up the patent, but, if I’m not mistaken, whoever ends up with it has to take steps to protect the patent. Beyond the thorny question of who will assume the patent holder status, the same issues of licensing will arise. I realize that a copyright is not the same as a patent, but would the patent office entertain alternatives along the lines of the Creative Commons license? If so, the University could put that type of arrangement in place and avoid altogether the likely (and possibly divisive) dispute over deciding which group is to receive the patent. However, I don’t know if the people who have been protesting the patent would find such an outcome acceptable or not.

Comments (1)
State won’t take over Ha’iku Stairs

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:34 am
After a year of simmering without comment, the Advertiser reports today on another setback in the long quest to re-open the Stairway To Heaven

City officials last year turned to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, with its expertise in trail development and maintenance, asking the agency to accept ownership of the stairs, which were mended in 2002 for $875,000.

Citing access issues, ranging from trespassing to parking problems, DLNR Director Peter Young this week said the department is not interested in taking on the attraction, known as the “Stairway to Heaven.”

“We have our responsibility with trails and natural areas and while (Ha’iku Stairs) is trail-like, we’re not interested in taking it over at this time,” he said.

Even if DLNR took on ownership, Young said, the agency likely would seek a private operator to manage hiking there. In that case, agency officials reasoned that the city, which owns the structure and the land beneath it, might as well find someone to run the attraction.


In 2003, while working to establish access to the Ha’iku Stairs, city officials hired security guards ? at a cost of about $1,500 a week ? to turn hikers away. But that arrangement could end in December.

Huh? …and then what?

If those stairs are left without any security, then the public will find a way to use them. Thus, the trespassing and parking problems will almost certainly return.

City Council member Barbara Marshall said the move is apparently intended to spur Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s administration to step up efforts aimed at resolving the matter.

“This administration has consistently said that they will not, under any circumstances reopen the stairs,” Marshall said. “And if that’s the case, I have grave concerns about spending $1,500 a week for the rest of our lives for security guards. So, we have to do something.”

While there are suggestions to dismantle sections of the stairs as a means to further discourage hikers, John Flanigan of Friends of Ha’iku Stairs, said there also is support for addressing access problems and opening the stairs.

“Surely there are enough smart folks around to figure a way to preserve this valuable outdoor asset,” said Flanigan, whose group helps maintain the area and had hoped to operate it some day.

I hope it doesn’t come to dismantling sections of the stairs.

As for “doing something” to spur Mayor Hannemann’s administration into resolve the matter, I’m not sure there is much left to be tried. Some of the more vocal homeowners are not interested in opening the stairs, and there is no political will to defy that group. The land swaps have all gone nowhere.

Somebody remind us, please, what was being said (and by who) back when the stairs were being refurbished for over a half-million dollars… I vaguely remember comments (probably from Mayor Harris) along the lines of “too important not to do it.” Sigh.

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Ocean thermal energy conversion back on the agenda

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:31 am
I was very pleased to see this SB story today. Not only because it is going to lead to production of a clean form of renewable energy, but also because my good friend (and sailing shipmate) is working for the company involved. It’s about time the State took this step!

Ocean Engineering & Energy Systems, a private engineering company with offices in Honolulu, will build the world’s two largest power plants making electricity from sea-water heat, the company announced yesterday.

Both power plants will use ocean thermal energy conversion, an energy source on which experimentation began in the 1970s but which was dropped in the 1990s because it was too costly compared with cheap oil.


The process requires two sources of water with a fairly large difference in temperature. At the Natural Energy Lab, warm water is piped from the surface of the ocean where it can be used to vaporize a liquid such as ammonia, which then drives a turbine to produce electricity.

At that point the ammonia has to be cooled and condensed to continue the cycle.

Cooling is done with cold water pumped from about 2,000 feet below the ocean surface.

In the 1970s the largest ocean thermal energy conversion plant at Keahole produced only 217 kilowatts.

The new Ocean Engineering power plant will produce up to 1.2 megawatts, of which about one-third will be used to run pumps and keep the system going. That leaves net production of 800 kilowatts.

In comparison, Puna Geothermal Venture produces 30 megawatts of the 190 megawatts consumed by the Big Island.

Compared to Hawaii County’s need for power, this OTEC plant will be a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps to wean the state from petroleum. Also, and this is no small thing, this form of power generation does not involve “ugly” wind turbines, nor tapping the culturally-sensitve steam of Pele, nor acres of solar arrays, etc. In other words, the NIMBY effects are (so far) fewer.

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Republican challengers for U.S. Senate?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:05 am
A meaty little article in the SB regarding the latest happenings in the Case v. Akaka contest.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka picked up another endorsement for his re-election yesterday, while U.S. Rep. Ed Case hasn’t yet received public backing from any group.

A national arms control group, the Council for a Livable World, recommended Akaka over Case because of his stand against the war in Iraq.

Akaka, however, received adverse attention from a national conservative magazine, the National Review, which is publishing an editorial this week calling his bill to recognize Native Hawaiians a race-based effort that would divide the nation.


Nine groups have endorsed Akaka, including the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, United Public Workers, and the State Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations.

From the CLW website I noted this closing paragraph:

Governor Linda Lingle is currently running for re-election in 2006, though she has explored her options for a Senate bid. Lt. Governor Duke Aiona has been mentioned as the GOP forerunner for the nomination. Peter Carlisle, a Honolulu Prosecutor, and Barbara Marumoto, State Legislator, have also been mentioned.

Wha? Where did they get this?! I have not heard any “mention” of Republican candidates for U.S. Senate—everyone and his or her sibling is jumping into the U.S. House race instead. It would seem that the GOP convention last weekend would have been a logical time for any Republican U.S. Senate challenger to announce those intentions. He or she would need to raise heaps of money very quickly to run for the Senate. Actually, it may already be too late for a competitve Republican challenger to get started.

Returning to the SB piece, the conservative weekly National Review has an article panning the Akaka bill.

Separately, the National Review blasts Akaka’s efforts to pass a law that would give Native Hawaiians a degree of self-government.

“The greatest victim of the Akaka bill would not be nonnative Hawaiians or those opposed to all race-based programs. It would be the core assumption that every American belongs to a single, indivisible society,” the editorial says.

The conservative magazine urges Republican senators to vote against what it calls a race-based bill that would pave the way for a Hawaiian government to secede from the nation.

Akaka aide Jon Yoshimura said he’s confident Congress finally will approve the bill.

“The National Review … regurgitates assumptions, mistruths, biased surveys and conspiracy theories concocted by opponents in an effort to prey on the fears of the uninformed,” Yoshimura said.

If any of you subscribe to National Review, you can read the story here. I do not subscribe. (Suprised? Heh.)

Comments (0)
Chang responds to Finnegan’s complaint

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:03 am
Representative Chang has written the Ethics Commission in response to the complaint filed by House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan (background). The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has a story here, and (for a change) a completely different story is in the West Hawaii Today here.

The crux of Chang’s letter is that the complaint is purely political. Finnegan responds that it is a legitimate complaint and says:

“Representative Chang used his position to advance legislation that would benefit his business associates and himself,” she said. “This is a direct violation of HRS 84-13.”

It may be determined to be a violation, but, in my opinion, it’s not automatically apparent that Chang’s actions are “a direct violation of HRS 84-13.” Here’s the concluding paragraph of that section of the statute:

Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit a legislator from introducing bills and resolutions, serving on committees or from making statements or taking action in the exercise of the legislator’s legislative functions. Every legislator shall file a full and complete public disclosure of the nature and extent of the interest or transaction which the legislator believes may be affected by legislative action.

Under HRS 84-17 the public disclosure of financial interests is an annual requirement. If Chang knew that the bill would ultimately be amended to involve a swap of his land, then his financial interests should have been disclosed in his most recent filing. (In fact, he reported the partnership in question on his 2004 disclosure here.) However, until that amendment was made the only obligation I can see for Chang was for him to declare a potential conflict of interest when voting on the bill on the House floor. Since Chang pulled the bill from the floor before any vote, he never even had to make that declaration. If there is some other form of disclosure required for issues that arise during the course of a legislative session while exercising his legislative function, then it is not clear to me how that is to be carried out. A supplemental filing, perhaps? Whatever, I think you see my point that it is not an open-and-shut “direct violation.”

The Ethics Commission now will decide whether to move toward holding a public hearing and could decide to issue an informal opinion on the matter. The process could take months, according to commission officials.

Chang, meanwhile, said the charge reeks of stinky politics in an election year.

“Obviously she filed it just to keep it in the news media,” he said.

Irony noted.

Comments (0)

Senator’s ethics hearing delayed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:07 am
A cryptic update in the Advertiser on the Ethics Commission contested hearing involving Senator Kanno.

The commission had brought an ethics charge against Kanno and had set a June 7 hearing date, the first in 21 years. But the commission issued a one-paragraph statement on Tuesday saying the hearing has been postponed until further notice.

Dan Mollway, the commission’s executive director, and an attorney for the commission both said they could not comment on why the hearing was postponed. Rebecca Covert, an attorney who has represented Kanno before the commission, did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Kanno, who announced this month that he would not run for re-election, did not return messages left at his Senate office.

I’m not sure what to make of this delay. I really hope that Kanno’s intention to leave office is not going to defuse the pursuit of this case, because the underlying issue of “legislative function” really could use more clarification.

Comments (0)
People over Party

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:07 am
A very interesting Hawaii Reporter post was submitted by Paul Smith, a member of the Hawaii Republican Party. As you may recall, Governor Lingle made this comment at the Hawaii GOP convention last weekend:

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.?

Here is how Mr. Smith reacts to that comment:

It is a curious turn of events when the titular head of a Party suggests that the Party she heads is not functioning in the interest of the ?people.?

Is the Party out of alignment with the population because of the current leadership?

Is the Party out of alignment with the people because of current staffing or past actions or future plans?

What else does it say or suggest when the Party leader intimates that the Party she leads may be so out of touch with the people that she must threaten to choose the people before the Party?

In Hawaii, Gov. Linda Lingle has always been viewed as a strong leader with a firm grip on the Republican Party. After all, she was Party chair for several years, she has hand picked the subsequent chairs, and the apparatus operates at her beck and call even, at times, facilitating her campaign fund raisers. How, therefore, can it be that the governor could expect to get away with suggesting that she might have to choose following the people instead of the Party because the two (people and Party) did not have the same interest?

Smith overlooks a more elementary explanation: the Party ideology is not in accord with how a majority of the people (read “voters”) think in Hawaii. The Party leadership, the staff, their past actions, and their future plans all have that albatross around their necks. Since Governor Lingle’s primary goal is to be re-elected, choosing to back the Party often has to be subordinated. If Lingle were to reliably and consistently choose Party over people, then she would lose—and the Hawaii GOP would return to the wilderness where it had been wandering for decades.

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