January 10, 2009

Poinography November 2006 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 2:11 pm



Campaign contribution law challenged by Tavares’ campaign committee

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 8:09 am
An Advertiser piece points out what may be the first legal challenge to the rather confusing amendmended campaign spending law which I wrote about previously.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Maui Circuit Court, focuses on an amendment to campaign spending laws that went into effect Jan. 1. The change requires businesses, unions, political action committees and other entities to register as a “noncandidate committee” if they accept or donate campaign funds totalling more than $1,000 in a two-year election cycle.

The registration requirement does not apply if the $1,000 aggregate threshold is not met, or if an individual contributes money from his own pocket.

The Tavares supporters each gave the candidate $2,000 before the Sept. 23 primary election, $1,000 more than allowed without registering as a noncandidate committee, according to Barbara Wong, executive director of the Campaign Spending Commission. She said the donors could have contributed up to $1,000 to the Tavares campaign committee through Sept. 23, then registered and contributed another $1,000 before the general election.

The contributors in question include Talboy Construction of Boise, Idaho; Quong Enterprises of Orange, Calif.; and Cheeseburger in Paradise of Portola, Calif.

Wong said the Tavares campaign did nothing wrong, but needs to return the excess funds. The contributors, meanwhile, are subject to fines.

The lawsuit filed by the [Tavares] committee argues the $2,000 donations are legal and should be allowed, and seeks to halt prosecution of the contributors.

Last year there was a close call where the legislature considered repealing the amendment at play here. Depending upon the outcome of this new lawsuit, there may be no need for another legislative attempt to undo the law. The lawsuit is not at all surprising, given the controversy and the confusion underlying the amended law—and the limit the law places on the ability (and stealthiness) of large donors seeking to exercise political influence is a “problem” they would surely like to resolve.

Today was another pretty thin day of political news. Lucky I noticed this article, otherwise you may have been left with only this crappy story…

Comments (2)

Is the money needed now, or not?

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:30 am
An interesting column by David Shapiro of the Advertsier today, based upon former Governor Cayetano’s comments regarding the January 1, 2007, start date for the GET surcharge. The thrust of the column is related to an earlier post here about the necessity of choosing a locally preferred alternative promptly, but speaks to a slightly different issue—when to begin levying the surcharge instead of when to choose the locally preferred mass transit alternative.

Hannemann has argued that failure to start collecting the excise tax on schedule would jeopardize federal support by raising doubts about a dedicated source of local funding.

He’s pressing the council to move quickly by limiting its choices to one of the two options proposed by the mayor’s consultants ? a 20-mile line from Kapolei to Iwilei or a more expensive 26-mile line extending to the University of Hawai’i and possibly Waikiki.

Cayetano insists there is no rush to start collecting the transit tax to lock in federal money because the Legislature, governor and council did enough to demonstrate a dedicated local funding simply by passing laws authorizing the general excise tax increase when it is needed.

He said the federal government does not require that tax collections actually start before final approval of a Honolulu rail plan.

“Somehow, the mayor has conned everyone into thinking that the GET should be collected in advance of federal approval of the proposed rail system,” Cayetano said.

“The feds do not require collecting the taxes in advance. I spent half my 12 years in the Legislature chairing the transportation committees in the House and Senate. I know there is no requirement to collect monies in advance.”

He said that if the rules have changed since he helped lead the Legislature’s inquiry into former Mayor Frank Fasi’s failed Honolulu Area Rapid Transit proposal, the city should point out which specific federal law or regulation requires advance collection of local funding.

Okay, I’ll ask again: What is preventing the local media from going to the federal government and getting this process fully explained? Why are we left with “Cayetano says” vs. “Djou says” vs. “Hannemann says?” Even if the federal officials respond that there is no hard-and-fast procedure that applies to every application, then that would help the public weigh the veracity and importance of all these competing explanations.

Cayetano is asking the right sorts of questions: show us the law or regulation. But why go through the Mayor as a middleman? Ask the feds!

On a more banal level, the GET surcharge is mandated by state law to expire at the end of 2022, so any delay in implementation would reduce the amount Honolulu could anticipate bringing to the federal government as the local share of the funding. So, in that regard, starting the GET surcharge before the federal approval might be like socking away a bigger downpayment in the hopes of getting a mortgage approved…

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Inaugural preview and funding mystery

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:29 am
The SB has a story in anticipation of Governor Lingle’s second inaugural address, which will happen next Monday. Jerry Burris’ blog also mentioned it a few days back.

“The governor is obviously humbled and honored with her re-election,” said Lenny Klompus, one of the governor’s senior advisers and chairman of her inaugural committee. “As she has said so many times, it’s all about the people of Hawaii, so the theme is: One ohana.

“You’ll hear a lot about togetherness and how much can be done in the next four years by working together.”

Yawn. She earned [bought?] a victory lap, but I just can’t get excited about it.

I am mildly curious about this, though:

An inaugural dinner is scheduled Monday night on the grounds of Iolani Palace at a cost of $250 per seat. Expenses for the event are estimated at about $55,000, which will come from the governor’s operating budget, meaning no public funds will be used for the dinner, the governor’s office said.

Is that a different “operating budget” than the over $3M of “GOV 100? funds appropriated in the latest budget bill? Consider also, this proviso language in the budget:

(66) By adding a new section to read as follows:

“SECTION 69.1. Provided that of the general fund appropriation for the office of the governor (GOV 100), the sum of $100,000, or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2006-2007, shall be expended for the gubernatorial transition; provided further that these funds shall be used to promote the orderly transfer of the executive power in connection with the expiration of the term of office of a governor and the inauguration of a new governor; provided further that any unexpended funds shall lapse to the general fund; and provided further that the limitations of expenditures authorized under section 30-3 ( c ), Hawaii Revised Statutes shall apply in the case where the governor-elect is the incumbent governor.”

Which basically means that the $100K earmarked for gubernatorial transition expenses can’t be spent unless a new governor is elected. So I am curious to know the nature of the “operating budget” that the article mentions. If it is money donated to the Governor for this purpose, then that’s fine, so long as the donors adhere to the contribution and reporting rules.

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Kauai Council reorgs – for one meeting

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 9:29 am
The Garden Island News has a story and a letter to the editor today about the Kauai County Council. The article describes a few committee assignments made upon the resignation of Councilmember (now State Representative) Tokioka. However, those assignments will only be in place for the final meeting of the 2004-2006 Council. In the next few days the 2006-2008 Council (which will have two new members; Kaneshiro replaced by Kouchi, and Tokioka replaced by Bynum) will meet to divvy up leadership and committee assignments. So in the article we get a run-down of the changes in place for one meeting, and no hint of how the next reorganiation might proceed.

Meanwhile, the letter describes a bizarre choice by the County webmaster to only post the official email addresses for members of the Council on its website, omissions made even more odd since Councilmember Rapozo has his address posted online. The others are reached via a generic email account. The letter claims that the Mayor support this policy to preseve the “privacy” of the Councilmembers. ??

The letter recounts that the Mayor mentioned a “code” to determine personal email addresses for County officials, and by looking around the website you can tell that addresses are assigned by: first initial, middle initial (if any), lastname @ kauai.gov For example, Rapozo’s is: mfrapozo@kauai.gov

Since Kauai Councilmembers are elected “at large” and not by districts, on a very basic level it does make some sense to route email from the public to all Councilmembers. However, that ingores the reality that the ability to communicate directly and only to those elected officials who are your political allies is a pretty fundamental right. The Council should keep that central email account, but should by all means join the 21st Century and post links to the Councilmember’s individual email accounts, too.

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Tough talk of prosecuting originator of earthquake hoax

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 9:00 am
It’s a really slow political news day, so I’ll join the Honolulu media in flogging this “whodunit” angle of the earthquake/tsunami hoax. Sigh.

An Advertiser story quotes an official saying that Oahu Civil Defense won’t be pursuing it aggressively, and the SB editorializes that pinning down the source is unlikely.

The report from KHON went a bit further:

Whoever started or propagated the rumor could be in trouble.

“I asked some of the law enforcement agencies also to tune in and hear what happened,” Teixeira said. ?Whether it’s the Honolulu Police Department, or state-level flaw enforcement agencies, even the FBI, to share information, and let them do their fact-finding and see where it goes from there.”

At least one major cell phone company said they’ll help trace text messages if asked by law enforcement.

State law prohibits false alerts. Similar pranks have been prosecuted elsewhere outside of Hawaii.

Well, I am not a lawyer, but after browing the “offenses against public order” in the criminal code, the closest thing I could find to a state law against propogating a hoax is the disorderly conduct offense. On that basis it could probably be argued that the hoax “created a hazardous condition,” but essentially this comes down to a free speech issue. The classic limit on free speech, the prohibition against the yelling of “fire!” in a crowded theater, is not a perfect analogy here. An earthquake hoax need not (and probably did not) originate in a crowd. One person telling his (ignorant but trusting) friend that an earthquake was iminent, while a cruel thing to do, would not in itself create a hazardous condition. Furthermore, proving that the person’s intent was for the ignoramus to spread the misinformation is going to be difficult. Once the rumor is planted in a dimwits brain, I think it’s pretty much impossible to prosecute ordinary citizens if they choose to communicate what they have heard from and to others . Indeed, if that speech were illegal (and if anyone bothered to observe the law…) the result during a real emergency would be awful.

By the way, disorderly conduct is only a petty misdemeanor, so I can’t imagine law enforcement getting into too big of a lather over this…

Also noticed this amusing exchange in a KHNL report:

Some people evacuated to higher ground. [Interviewee] defends his actions, “I figure self defense, the government. The last earthquake they never know nothing about it. I think better safe than sorry.”

State Civil Defense Director Ed Teixiera is disappointed, “That is sad, that is very bad that people would react on rumor and not have any confidence in government systems that are there to warn them.”

Wha? There is no system to warn of earthquakes! It’s not Teixiera’s fault that earthquakes are unpredictable events, but the the gentleman who evacuated to higher ground is correct insofar as the government failed to warn him of the recent earthquakes. Which is a big part of why the hoax worked/spread, of course.

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OHA gets small bang for big lobbying bucks

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:15 am
Another excellent investigative piece by Jim Dooley of the Advertiser, this time about the lobbying expenses of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs during the past several years of the Akaka Bill struggle. Despite spending significantly more money than any other Hawaii organization, OHA has very little to show in return beyond some platitudes about reaching a “milestone” and learning what issues concern the members of Congress. OHA is also fighting a request for a more detailed explanation of where the money went, with an Office of Information Practices ruling expected shortly.

The story also links to a list (PDF) of the most significant local spending on lobbying at Congress, which could be grist for more stories if anyone cares to dig further. For example, what was the “return on investment” for UH? (#2 on the list after OHA) How about the fruit of the efforts on behalf of numerous Hawaii-based defense contractors?

Do read the article.

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The “Earthfake” rattles civil defense

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media, Science — Doug @ 8:14 am
Earthquakes can’t be accurately forecasted on short time scales. Unfortunately, such a basic science fact is unknown to hundreds of people who gave credence to a rumor yesterday of an impending magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. The rumor spread rapidly, and in some areas residents queued up to buy fuel, water, and other necessities. Coverage of this embarrassing demonstration of collective scientific ignorance was thorough: refer to SB, Advertiser, KGMB, KHNL, KHON, PBN, and probably others. Perhaps the best thing that can be said of it all is that at this point those people might actually have an emegency plan and a small cache of survival goods.

As a result of the panic, civil defense officials fielded hundreds of calls and some local electronic media chose to broadcast statements to dispell the rumor. Disasters are too often subject to irrational responses, and false alarms like this will only exacerbate the confusion during an actual civil defense emergency.

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Forget the governor, sez Conservative

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:14 am
The Hawaii Reporter has a new post that dismisses an earlier piece about a GOP “reform” movement and the need for Governor Lingle to help Republicans seeking down-ticket offices. In short, the message in this new post, while not defending the Governor, is “work harder, have better ideas, and maybe then you’ll win.”

Unlike the mainland, in Hawaii, conservatives cannot keep the GOP on the straight and narrow by staying home on Election Day. There simply aren?t enough conservatives. Governor Lingle understands this; that is why she was able to walk away from her no new taxes pledge in 2005. Hawaii conservatives must face this truth and learn from it.

Instead of sitting on their hands, the way forward for Hawaii conservatives is to run for county council, state house, and state senate. They can start with the low-hanging fruit?17 house districts which voted 65% for Lingle but are saddled with Democrat legislators. By winning ?entry-level? races, a conservative base can be built within the party and within the Hawaii electorate. Whining about lack of support from ?the new face of the old machine? will not bring this about?but it does provide a handy excuse for not doing the hard work.

County Council, State House and Senate seats are not determined by huge amounts of money. They are retail politics at its best. Any candidate who presents himself in a reasonably professional manner–and who is willing to do the work of knocking on every door in the district–can win. Add to that the ability to raise about $30-40,000?peanuts to an entrepreneur?and recruit a solid team of volunteers and an experienced campaign manager and one has the recipe for success.

Minus the part about the “ease” of raising $30K, it is the smartest stuff I’ve read from Mr. Walden in some time. Faint praise, I know.

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The end of the open primary?

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:13 am
A new post from Steve Laudig at the Progressive Democrats of Hawaii blog is a call for Democrats interested in challenging the ability of “crossover” voting in Hawaii (which I wrote about earlier). As I understand it, such a legal challenge would need to come from a political party, and Laudig notes that the leadership may not be willing to take on the public scrutiny of such a lawsuit.

I’m not a member of any party, but I think that if it is a good thing for voters to be able to choose any party ballot in the primary (regardless of party membership), then it would be an even better thing for voters to be able to vote every ballot in the primary. However, I don’t see any viable avenue to pursue that change, especially as I am a non-member.

Failing that outcome, though, I agree with Laudig that voting in a partisan primary race should be limited to those who are members of that party.

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Hairy decisions

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 10:25 am
Folks, this is why you and I are not empowered to edit a major metropolitan newspaper: in that role we would be entrusted to make weighty decisions like this:

I understand our photo editor’s dilemma. He is looking for a shot that is captivating and stands a cut above the rest. Widener is a talented shooter and is always looking for the offbeat and unusual.

But I’ll admit I grimaced when I saw the photo. To me, it’s like getting a picture of the president yawning during an important speech. Sure, it happened, but does it adequately and fairly capture the moment? It certainly made me stop and notice the photo, but probably for the wrong reason. What came quickly to mind was that we were not taking Wie that seriously, even though she was there for a serious subject and standing beside the top office-holder in the state. And would we have run a picture of Lingle playing with her hair? Of course not. So in running that photo, we were sending a message to readers, whether we intended to or not.

It was not intentional, of course, but it ended up highlighting Wie’s youth rather than the mature nature of her taking on an adult cause.

Her youth?! Uh, let’s not overlook the obvious here. Even at age 17, Wie is (or is becoming) an international sex symbol and that type of crypto-flirtatious mannerism is, as eggheads are wont say, a latent appeal to those prurient interests. Wie is the closest thing we have to a starlet in Hawaii—and maybe that’s okay—but let’s not pretend that Sony and Lingle (and the commercial media) were in any way reluctant to associate themselves with Wie’s celebrity/sex appeal. Serious subject? Whatever. At least the school got some computer equipment out of all this…

As for the propriety of running a photo of Lingle playing with her hair, I’ll leave that to the mad photo editing skillz of Talk Stink…

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The ominous circle need not be inevitable

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:24 am
The SB has a fretful editorial today about the continuing (and now record) low unemployment figures in Hawaii. The editors suggest that the state and the business community must devise a strategy to compete with other states to attract workers. Failure to do so, they warn, will result in Hawaii facing higher wages, inflation, and a shortage of (affordable) housing. Thus, the editors present us with a simplified model of the problem as having three parts: wages, prices, and housing.

Hmmm. Let’s think that through. If the state were to successfully attract workers, what jobs would they fill? The need for workers is greatest (so far as I can tell from media reports) in the service sector, i.e. retail and tourism. Workers in (unionized) fields such as construction and nursing are also in demand. In order for the editors’ suggestion to lead to outcomes different than the inflation and housing problems they forecast, the workers attracted to Hawaii must be both willing and able to work for low(er) wages and to pay high(er) costs for housing. Not likely.

So, what’s left? The editors paint an “ominous” picture, but they suggest nothing beyond an exhortation for others to devise a strategy. I’m no economist, but I’ll take a whack. If the prospect of higher wages is undesirable to the state and the business community, then leaders had better step up and seriously address the affordable housing shortage, and soon. Because, no matter where the workers are found, you can bet that capitalists will never offer higher wagess at the expense of lower (anti-inflationary) profit margins.

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Mayor vetoes Maui Council’s prolonged housing bill work

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 10:24 am
Lame duck Mayor Alan Arakawa of Maui will veto an affordable housing bill that requires up to half of future development units to be set aside as affordable housing, according to this Maui News article. The Mayor, Chamber of Commerce, developers, and economists all oppose the bill and the Mayor argues that a 20% to 30% requirement would be more “doable.” The council is expected to promptly overturn the veto.

Council members have been studying the issue for approximately 18 months and when they approved it, they called the measure an important step in providing more housing for local residents.

Arakawa pointed out that the bill?s opponents, including private developers, the Maui Chamber of Commerce and Hawaii?s two top economists, have spoken out against the proposed ordinance.

Economists Leroy Laney and Paul Brewbaker both charged that the proposed policy tries to fix a problem caused by restrictions on housing development by applying even more restrictions.

According to Arakawa, some of the bill?s opponents have threatened to challenge the bill?s legality.

?The purpose of Bill 57 is to create housing our residents can afford, not to create confrontation. You cannot force anyone to build a subdivision. If you take all the incentive away, our builders are likely to invest elsewhere,? he said.


Arakawa said he believes the proposal goes against the idea of encouraging developers to build affordable homes. He said there are ?more than enough? affordable homes already in the pipeline to cover the county?s needs.

?I fear that this policy could stop that progress before those homes are built,? he said.

I could be wrong, but I doubt that this bill will stop affordable housing development on Maui. What are the developers going to do, go to some other Maui where buyers want luxury (second) homes? I think that if the develoers do carry out their threat to pull out of the market, then some other developer will step up and agree to play by the new (less-profitable) rules. I reckon that is what the Council thinks, too.

Also, I am curious to know on what basis the opponents intend to challenge the bill’s legality. Since the developers are said to be willing to acquiesce to a lower affordable housing requirement, I don’t see how they will make the case that a higher percentage is illegal and a lower one is not… Bring it on, I say.

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News flash: GOP fate tied to Dem relationship to labor unions

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:24 am
An interesting Borreca column in the SB today assigns Lingle’s success in filling Legislature seats with Republicans in 2000 not to any leadership on her part, but on union discontent with Governor Cayetano and the Democrats.

GOP hopes soared after Lingle took over the state party in 1999 and worked to promote candidates for the state races. Republicans like to remember that Lingle engineered an election that had 26 Republicans in the Legislature.

While Lingle may have been showing the GOP how to block and tackle, the Democrats also were starting the game without their best players, the public employee unions.

In many ways, the 2000 election was not a high point for Republicans so much as it was a low point in the relationship between the Democrats and the unions. Once the Democrats made amends with the unions, they were back in control, and the Republicans started losing again.

In 1999, it wasn’t Lingle who fought with unions, it was Gov. Ben Cayetano and the new Senate President [in 2007, not 1999] Colleen Hanabusa.

Facing a stubborn budget deficit, the Democrats in the Legislature stopped a bill to pay a promised pay raise. Union negotiations and promised benefits changed. The Legislature changed the way unions handle health insurance.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association’s mandatory arbitration was replaced with a “right to strike.” And public jobs could be handled by private workers.

The reaction was no union support. And that was why the GOP won. Later the Democrats repealed many of their civil service reforms, the HGEA got its mandatory arbitration back and pay raises were paid.

Was Senator Hanabusa really that big of player in all of those takebacks? I honestly don’t remember, but I doubt it. I do remember that Ed Case was a key player in it all, though.

Anyway, this column does not discuss how Linlge managed to win in 2002 and 2006 even with the bulk of the union supporting the Democrats—while her down-ticket Republican party colleages were losing. The beginning of todays column had me thinking Borreca would address that lively topic, but instead he went back to 1999 and 2000. [shrug]

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Entering six-figure visitor count territory

Filed under: General — Doug @ 9:41 am


Originally uploaded by poinographer.
I thought I had better note this milestone, as it will be a long time before I roll into seven figures!

Thanks again to all you folks reading the blog.

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Kauai charter amendment could be interesting experiment

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 9:37 am
The Garden Island News has a story about a new amendment to the County Charter. The article describes it like this:

By a tally of 14,602 to 3,932 votes cast in the Nov. 7 general election, Kaua?i voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment requiring the three entities [council, boards, commissions] to declare conflicts of interest and not vote on particular issues unless their votes are needed for a quorum.


?Back when you had major landowners ? in particular, Grove Farm, Alexander & Baldwin ? it was difficult for council members not to be in conflict because the council members either worked for them or had business dealings with them,? Abrams said.

Abrams said business has been conducted like that for at least 20 years, but no more with the charter change.

?A lot of people say that if there is a financial interest, you should recuse yourself,? Abrams said. ?Now they can be assured council members (with conflicts) have to recuse themselves.?

Can they be “assured” of that? Here is the actual text of the amendment (PDF) made to the charter:

Any elected or appointed officer or employee who possesses or acquires such interest as might reasonably tend to create a conflict with his duties or authority shall make full disclosure to his appointing authority, to the council, in the case of a member of the council, or to the board or commission on which he serves at any time such conflict becomes apparent. Any member of the council or any board or commission who knows he has a direct personal financial interest in any proposal pending before the body of which he is a member shall disclose such interest to such body. No appointed officer or employee shall participate, discuss or vote on such pending matter unless his vote is required to establish a quorum to act on such matter[; provided that a member of the council is not precluded from voting on such matter so long as a written disclosure has been made in the event there is a conflict of interest relating to such matter].

So, it seems to me that it might come down to the precise definition of “a direct personal financial interest in any proposal pending before the body.” I expect that conflicts mght be more contested now that it is no longer allowed to simply declare a conflict and vote anyway.

The article speaks of how this amendment might have created an interesting situation during the debate over a proposal to cap property tax rate changes. But I don’t see how it would have mattered. Since the council would not have had a quorum if all the councilmembers with conflicts (i.e. property owners) didn’t vote, the charter amendment would have allowed councilmembers who owned property to vote anyway.

On the whole, the amendment is a good idea. It certainly makes more sense than the way state legislators declare “potential conflicts” just to have the Speaker or President almost reflexively rule, “no conflict.” Only in the most egregious cases do state legislators explicitly ask to be excused from voting.

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Young sailors get taste of Hawai’i

Filed under: Sailing — Doug @ 9:37 am
I simply have to point out this non-political Advertiser story, because it features Hokulea and the Transpacific Yacht Race!

These young men are so fortunate to get this opportunity; I hope they recognize and appreciate the special place this canoe has in the hearts of Hawaii’s seafarers. I also hope that we can beat these whippersnappers come July 2007…

UPDATE: The next day, the SB prints its own nice article with more photos, too.

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Anybody have insight into KKCR?

Filed under: HI Media, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 9:36 am
I noticed a letter to the Garden Isle News editors today that alleges an ongoing pattern of “illegal” elections of board members for the community radio station KKCR.

In the weak moments of our early growing pains, a selfish and arrogant group of people took over the board, illegally changing definitions in the bylaws to remove voting rights of the general membership and establishing themselves in sole control. One of them is still on the board. To this day, there has never been an annual general membership meeting or a vote by the subscribing members, who have been reduced to being only cash cows and cheerleaders for fund-raising.

Anyone know the history of this? Out of curiosity, I am listening to the streaming audio from the station right now, and it seems to run HPR-style programming. Certainly nothing I’d refer to as “commercialized.” However, I’m wondering if this letter is an early warning of another Akaku-style power grab of a community media asset.

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An introduction to the freshmen members of the House

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:17 am
A somewhat interesting Advertiser story gives a look (and for readers who didn’t pay much attention during campaign season, a first look) at the newly-elected members of the House.

Of the 13 freshmen entering the House, eight will be committee vice chairs, while some of the others will be assistant floor leaders.

Nine of them will sit on the powerful Finance Committee, which Say has traditionally used as a training ground for freshmen members since budget deliberations give members a broad ? and quick ? overview of state government.

“I’m just excited because I think they have a lot to learn and a lot to contribute,” he said. “I just wanted to have the freshmen catch the train and move ahead, rather than delay the organization and just wait, wait, wait.”

The more cynical view: A seat on the Finance Committee gives the smiled-upon freshmen not only an overview of state government, but also an opportunity to fight for spending in their home districts that makes it easier for him or her to win re-election. A committe vice chair assignment is too often a mostly honorific assignment, “awarded” to relieve more seasoned legislators from the burden of handling the significant administrative tedium inherent in processing the sometimes voluminous amount of testimony presented to a committee.

Representative-elect Karen Awana, a Republican, takes over the Nanakuli, Honokai Hale district from Democrat Michael Kahikina.

Awana sees herself in position to have Republican Gov. Linda Lingle’s ear, and she also hopes to work collaboratively with the Democrats in the Legislature.

“I really, truly believe we have to work extra hard to build bridges so everyone has a piece of the pie,” she said. “I’m hoping we can distribute the wealth equally throughout the state.“

Probably a few free market advocates at the GIH “think tank” spitting up coffee after seeing that last comment, especially from a Republican!

Speaking of Republicans, when will they announce how they have assigned the members of their caucus to the various House Committees? The data are strangely missing. They will be assigned to committees to reflect the 5:1 partisan split, which likely means that most committees will have only two Republican members.

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Hawaii County Council reorganizes, too

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 9:16 am
The Hawaii County papers share a story about how the Coucil will look under new Chair, Councilmember Pete Hoffman. (Hawaii Tribune-Herald version is here, West Hawaii Today here). Hunter Bishop also has a post with a few interesting insights and reader comments here.

Two former Hilo-based powers, Councilmembers Stacy Higa and Donald Ikeda, will not chair any committees under the new arrangement to be implemented December 4th. With the new faces and my limited familiarity with Big Island politics, I am not sure what to expect from this new leadership slate.

Hoffmann said the credibility of the council needs polishing.

“As the chair, I will be insistent that there is no personal agenda. I have no personal agenda. I want to make certain I serve the best interests of the island and people of my district. It’s the basis for how I want council business to be conducted,” Hoffmann said.

He said one reason [UH Law School professor] Jarman was selected as county clerk was her legal background and experience, and that she will “bring to that position a new look.” She will “enhance the credibility of the staff,” and will assist the council in policy making. Jarman could not be reached Wednesday.

Hoffmann said there will also be changes in council policies and procedures.

“I want to make sure if we do change, we do it carefully and we’ve given it some thought. I dislike change for change’s sake and I don’t believe progress is made by making some changes,” Hoffmann said, adding that the changes would be publicly discussed before they are made.

Okay, maybe that paragraph about change made sense when Hoffman said it, but it sure is confusing in written form. If progress is not made by making some changes, then how is it made? [scratching head]

Likewise, I’m a bit dubious of Hoffman’s (insistedly non-)agenda to serve the best interests of the island and the people of his district, as if the two are the same or are of equal value. In any political body there are winners and losers, and the leaders are rarely the losers.

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SB urges Abercrombie to intervene on behalf of Hawaii Strykers

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:16 am
The SB editorializes today that Congressman Abercrombie, as a new subcommittee chair, should apply “pressure” to resolve the Army’s (almost) Hawaii-based Stryker Brigade.

District Judge David Ezra’s ruling, following last month’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversing his earlier decision, leaves the Pentagon with two options: Consider moving the Stryker training to the West Coast or prepare for a lengthy battle. Its goal of converting a brigade of the 25th Infantry Division into a Stryker force near its Schofield Barracks base and the Big Island would take years to resolve.


The recent rulings are a setback not only for the Army. Three years ago, when the Pentagon approved the project, Rep. Neil Abercrombie celebrated the hundreds of millions of dollars the Army would spend in Hawaii. Abercrombie will become a House Armed Services subcommittee chairman next month and should bring pressure on the Army to resolve the issue.

The editors are stepping out onto a rather stout limb, eh? Heh.

What exactly does “resolve the issue” mean? Do the editors want Abercrombie to pressure the Army to accede to the plaintiffs and honor the injunction until a supplemental EIS is complete, or do the editors want Abercrombie to advance a legislative exemption to put the Hawaii-based Stryker Brigade (and all the concomitant defense spending) back on track? I reckon Abercrombie stands to receive substantially more campaign contributions from the contractors waiting to perform the Stryker Brigade work than from the Native Hawaiian plaintiffs and like-minded folks. I would expect the “pressure” to follow the money. If a legislative workaround is what the editors want, then they should make that clear.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Filed under: General — Doug @ 9:21 am
Best wishes to all of you reading this blog. I have not celebrated this holidy with my family on the mainland in many years, but I have always managed to enjoy a nice meal with my friends. Even when the marshmallow topping on the sweet potatos erupts in flames. [wink]

Thank you all for reading along and for helping me to improve my thinking and writing. Hard to believe I’m approaching my 100,000th visitor this weekend.

…hold the phone. Damn, if that wasn’t just another EARTHQUAKE!

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The dirty laundry

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:20 am
Who can say if it is an accurate account of the internal GOP chatter, but a Hawaii Reporter post is full of harsh words for the leadership of the Hawaii Republican Party. According to the article there is a schism within the party, with Governor Lingle and Chairman Sam Aiona on one side, and anonymous forces representing failed GOP candidates “reform-minded party activists” on the other.

No matter what party leaders say: When the leader of your party is sucking up all available campaign contributions and spending money and manpower on certain victory, it does take away from the other lesser known, underfunded candidates. When resources are desperately needed by campaigns statewide, and when your internal polling during the campaigns show that you?re way ahead, such a squanderous misuse of resources is called ?overkill?. And when you?re the leader of your party whose job it is to help others get elected, it?s also called malfeasance.

But that?s just my opinion. It seems that those who support the failed record of the Hawaii GOP (mostly insiders) are now actively circling their broken wagons. These Party insiders, speaking in lockstep with various campaign hacks and sundry loyalist suckups, appear to believe (though I?m not sure how genuinely) that nothing at all could have been done differently during the two years leading up to the 2006 disaster for Republicans in Hawaii to improve the GOP?s results at the polls. One of those insiders, who didn?t realize the overwhelming irony of his own statement, declared such criticism from people like me to be ?the same whiney BS we hear every 2 years.? I might suggest that every two years, it would behoove these people to start listening and change course. Then history won?t keep repeating itself every 2 years.


??having the Governor stand with us in promoting our campaign was not going to happen due to her need to not ?offend? any possible Democrats that would vote for her but may not be interested in supporting us.? (candidate)

This last remark really sums up the whole problem. Lingle and her cronies at the GOP have a massive, built-in conflict of interest; as her political interests (hence the insiders? interests) don?t necessarily coincide with Republican candidates, who will only win if they heavily criticize the Democrats? record and successfully sell the public on a revolution in Hawaii.

The fact that Lingle?s Party apparatus opted against presenting a cohesive campaign arguing for change is primarily due to Lingle?s not wanting to ruffle any feathers among the electorate. The way to do this was by running an entirely ?positive? campaign. She’s probably very grateful that she didn’t face serious opposition in 2006, since she would likely have had to run “negative” ads against her opponent. And having to go negative would have hurt her supreme goal of being viewed “positively” by voters, from whom she wants support for her eventual U.S. Senate candidacy.

But, if you ask the Party?s reformers, leading a revolution is NOT about being liked, as much as it’s about getting the entrenched status quo to be UNLIKED . . . certainly enough so that people vote out the Democrats and vote in the Republicans. And therein lays the conflict of interest. Lingle has no interest in forcefully arguing for change at the Legislature, since she already has what she wants: enough popularity to get elected in a heavily Democratic state. It?s not about ?change?, it?s about her.

…and there is lots more where that came from. Check it out.

Governor Lingle still has one more mid-term election election in 2008 to appease these “revolutionaries” looking for more seats in the Lege. I doubt that she will try as hard as they would like, and why would she? The argument I highlighted above in bold will still hold so long as Lingle awaits an opportunity to run for U.S. Senate.

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In The Hot Seat: Mayor Mufi Hannemann

Filed under: Honolulu Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 9:18 am
As I feared, the Advertiser-hosted Hot Seat blog’s online chat with Mayor Mufi Hannemann was not exactly a triumph. The “live” format actually hurt the dialogue, in my opinion. It’s unrealistic to expect well-though out (and written) answers in the midst of a non-stop barrage of questions.

Still, it had its comic moments for a cynical observer. The first (of several) long-winded and specific challenges from HOT lane proponent Dr. Panos Prevedouros (UH engineering faculty), is met with this response from the Mayor: “Thanks for your comment, Panos.” Heh. Also, even after Mufi signed off the public continued to send questions and comments, probably a function of the inadequate interface or they were drafting a comment while Mufi was leaving the forum.

This could have been done much better, as I wrote in that earlier post. At the very least, use a display format where the Mayor’s responses are directly under the applicable question, or where the respondent’s words are in a different color, or something. This first attempt was a few steps above anarchy.

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$150 rent in Kahala? We shall see.

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:55 am
Well, the idea I was sure was going nowhere is advancing. The Advertiser and SB both have stories today (here and here) about four properties in Kahala that a Japanese tycoon intends to lease out at unheard-of-cheap rents. What’s more, the property owner still intends to screen tenants and to only lease the properties to needy Native Hawaiian families who are willing to share it with friends.

Strangely, both articles prominently instruct readers where to apply to be a tenant, yet both articles also explain why “some” say this scheme is almost certainly illegal. The owner essentially brushes off those legal concerns.

The articles might as well have included some discussion of how to file (PDF) a Fair Housing Act complaint, since the owner has expressed a clear intention to discriminate by race, national origin, and familial status.

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Few(er) women lead in the House

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:55 am
Dan Boylan has an interesting Midweek column that heralds the “year of the woman” in politics. Governor Lingle, Senate President Hanabusa, 16 women in the U.S. Senate (hardly a figure to be proud of, given a body of 100), N.Y. Senator Clinton’s re-election and Presidential ambitions, etc.

Well, there is an obvious reason why Boylan did not mention the State House in his piece. They have finally posted their leadership and committee chairs, and, no matter how it is spun, women Democrats in the House occupy very few positions of influence—and fewer than in the past. Women Republicans in the House, on the other hand, are said to hold all of the key GOP leadership spots (unavoidable, since there is only one male in the GOP House caucus)—but that doesn’t mean a heck of a lot as far as guiding state policy.

Looking more closely, however, and it seems that Boylan’s piece still has some relevance in the House. Representative Shimabukuro will chair the committee with oversight over state housing policy, part of the “shelter and sustenance” concerns that Boylan thinks women are better able to address. All of that takes money, and Representative Lee has taken on (retiring) Representative Kawakami’s vice chair role in the Finance Committee. Meanwhile, Representative Berg will be vice chair of education, while the environment will be the purview of Representatives Morita and Carroll.

The other women leaders in the House: Representatives Cabanilla, Evans and Har? Well, their posts don’t really fit neatly into Boylan’s thesis, but they will be leading relatively minor committees nonetheless.

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How much renewable energy could come from over 5,000 acres?

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:39 am
I don’t claim to have any expertise on agriculture, and I have only a superficial knowledge of alternative energy, but the people quoted in this Advertiser story should know better. The story is about what will happen to the Del Monte pineapple fields after they cease production.

Were these people asleep the last four months as almost every politician talked excitedly about transforming Hawaii to use less fossil fuel?! How about using these lands to grow crops for biomass energy? Or as the site of a giant wind farm, or a large solar array, or …

The sudden dormancy of so much open land presents an obvious opportunity to try something creative at a scale that could make a difference, unless I’m missing some key sticking point that may have ruled out such options before even considering them.

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Stryker hearing pushed back

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:39 am
Both Honolulu dailies covered the Stryker hearing yesterday, which basically ended up being not much more than another legal delay. The SB story is here, and the Advertiser article is here. The next hearing is set for December 18, and in the interim the Army was directed to provide more information to the plaintiffs about the activities that they want to resume/start.

The Army understands and will abide by the court’s request to provide more information, said Lt. Col. John Williams, chief of public affairs for the U.S. Army Pacific.

He noted that the Army’s goal is to ensure the soldiers get the best training and the best equipment possible before they are deployed to the Middle East or elsewhere.

Henkin said the Army’s failure to comply with an agreement to protect cultural sites has led to cultural monitors being excluded from oversight of the Army’s activities and damage to petroglyphs and a portion of a recently rediscovered heiau.

“There has been damage there, and if they’re allowed to do Stryker training, not only cultural sites, but endangered species and native habitats will be destroyed irreparably,” he said.

Ezra said the greatest irreparable harm would be to knowingly endanger the lives of American soldiers. “If it’s clear to me the environmental danger will not risk the lives of American servicemen and women, I will issue an injunction accordingly,” he said.

Hmmm. I would infer from Judge Ezra’s comment that he is leaning toward letting the Army go forward with the Stryker activities. How he would craft an injunction to that end and simultaneously satisfy the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is hard for me to figure. Also, the longer this legal dispute drags out, the more it becomes possible, perhaps even likely, that the Bush administration and/or Congress will decide to withdraw (oops, we’re supposed to say “redeploy”) U.S. forces from Iraq. Such a development would diminish the “military necessity” arguments in favor of the Stryker Brigade standing up in Hawaii before its supplemental environmental review is completed.

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Deputy AG statements and trial publicity

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 9:36 am
While wading through the posts at Hawaii Reporter, I noticed that this post was submitted by a Deputy Attorney General. It describes recent charges against a man alleged to have enticed a minor via the internet for sex. If the allegations are proven at trial, an amended (PDF) law would impose a mandatory one-year prison sentence on the man.

Media coverage of arrests and charges for alleged crimes is extremely common and, of course, serves a legitimate purpose. What seems more novel, however, is this type of trial publicity going straight from the AG to the public with (apparently) no media “filter.” Usually the federal, State, and local law enforcement officials will hold press conferences, issue press releases, and maintain their own websites to get these messages out. As expected, the local media did a fair job of covering the story. However, the press conferences and press releases subject the story to at least some (even if it’s minimal) amount of editorial review before it reaches the public.

On the other hand, if these officials were to post the information to their own website it would provide them maximum message control, but much less publicity. Let’s face it, who reads the AG’s website regularly?

Hawaii Reporter seems to provide the AG the best of both alternatives: wider dissemination than what they would expect from their own website, and maximum message control.

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House organization trickles out

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:16 am
The Advertiser has the first story I’ve seen in the Honolulu media regarding the reorganized House leadership. The Maui News also has a piece that focuses on the representatives from that County. Neither article is as complete as the tips I’ve received, and since the articles and what I’ve heard so far seem to be congruent, I will put out what I have and we can (hopefully soon) compare it to reality.

Speaker: Say
Vice-Speaker: Karamatsu
Majority Leader: Caldwell
Majority Floor Leader: B. Oshiro

Committee: Chair, Vice Chair

Agriculture: Tsuji, Brower
Consumer Protection: Herkes, McKelvey
Economic Development: Yamashita, Wakai
Education: Takumi, Berg
Energy and Environmental Protection: Morita, Carroll
Finance: M. Oshiro, Lee
Health: Green, Mizuno
Higher Education: Chang, Bertram
[UPDATE: Housing and] Human Services: Shimabukuro, Rhoads
International Affairs: Cabanilla, Tokioka
Judiciary: Waters, B. Oshiro
Labor and Public Employment: Sonson, Nakasone
Legislative Management: Magaoay, Tokioka
Public Safety and Military Affairs: Evans, Har
Tourism: Yamane, Manahan
Transportation: Souki, Nishimoto
Water, Land, Ocean Resources and Hawaiian Affairs: Ito, Chong

If this list is accurate, then the veteran Democrats excluded from 2007 House leadership include Takai (former Vice Speaker), Takamine (former Finance Chair), Luke (former Judiciary Chair), and Saiki. Some of the new assignments are, uh, surprising (a new Waikiki voice to Agriculture?), some even make me snicker (I won’t reveal them just yet), while others (such as the former Health Committee Clerk to Health) make a lot more sense. Depending upon how a particular Chair operates, the Vice-Chair position can turn out to be a plum assignment and a path to influence for the legislator. One thing is for sure, Vice-Chair duty means a lot of paper-shuffling for his or her staff. [cough]

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Tie an arm behind your back and take this nickel — now, off to battle

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:11 am
I was pleased to see this Advertiser article about the unsurprising lack of interest in the matching public campaign funds prorgram offered to Hawaii political candidates. The key points:

Just one candidate who received public money was elected: freshman Maui County Councilman Michael Victorino, who ran for an open seat against a little-known opponent.

Victorino qualified for $7,700 in public money, ran a campaign that relied largely on meeting directly with voters, and won 70 percent of the vote.

“I still believe you have to get out there and walk the streets,” he said. “People appreciate when you come by and talk story with them.”

Candidates can receive up to 30 percent of their campaign cash from the Hawai’i Election Campaign Fund, which is supported by $2 designations that residents make on their state income tax returns. The $2 comes off their tax liability.

To qualify for the money, candidates also must raise donations from supporters to show they’re serious. But they must agree to cap total spending at levels that critics say are far below what’s realistically needed to win.


The average amount spent by the 12 winning state Senate candidates in 2004 was more than $73,000, for example, state Campaign Spending Commission records show.

But the top spending limit that would still allow a candidate to receive public financing this year was less than $47,000.

Spending totals for this month’s election are not yet available. But average spending for 2004 House races also far exceeded the amounts available through public financing, state records show.

The average winning House candidate spent more than $44,000, while the average loser spent more than $21,000.

The public-financing caps allow candidates to spend from $12,000 to $20,000 on House races, depending on the number of voters in the district.

Pathetic. The publicly-financed campaigns legislation has come close for the past few years, but always died in Conference meetings when appropriations dried up. Perhaps the outcome will change with the new WAM and FIN leadership.

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Lots of changes in House leadership – if you pay attention

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:30 am
Outside of the (so far prescient) comments left on a few earlier posts on this blog, the Hawaii County dailies are the only sources I have seen with any discussion of the reassignment of House committee chair responsibilities. What are the Honolulu media waiting for, a press conference?! Kudos to Bobby Command. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald story is here, and the same story is found at the West Hawaii Today.

The story focuses (predictably) on the rise and fall of the Representatives from that island. Representative Takamine went from chairing the Finance Committee to — nothing. Wow. Representative Marcus Oshiro of Oahu will enjoy that post in his place.

Herkes maintains leadership of the Consumer Protection Committee, and the other Big Island representatives all have new chair assignments (except Hanohano, who will not chair a committee as a freshman legislator). Green will chair Health, Tsuji will chair Agriculture, Chang will give up Tourism and chair Higher Education, while Evans will chair Public Safety.

The Honolulu media gave us extensive coverage of the Senate as soon as it was reorganized, but the Senate held a press conference to make it easy. Obviously, this type of sweeping change in House leadership is news—even if the House didn’t hold a press conference. The silence on Oahu is baffling and frustrating. Do I have better sources than the Honolulu press? haha

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Another Stryker hearing tomorrow

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:30 am
Not much is new in this Advertiser story beyond the fact that on Monday there will be a hearing before Federal Judge David Ezra where the Army will argue to lift the injunction that has stopped Strker-related activity in Hawaii. Both the Army and the plaintiffs seem to be using the same arguments that they advanced earlier, the only difference being that the higher Court ruling is intended to give a new direction to Ezra’s deliberation.

The Army identified five of 28 Stryker-related projects, and one minor modification to an existing training range, as the most time-sensitive to ensure that the 2nd brigade can transform into a Stryker Brigade Combat Team and be ready for deployment by November of 2007.

Those projects include: completion of Qualification Training Range 1; completion of a motor park and maintenance area; completion of an urban assault course; completion of a tactical vehicle wash facility; completion of a multiple deployment facility; and modifications to an existing training range at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.

The Hawaiian groups are asking for an injunction prohibiting nearly all Stryker-related activities.


The Army is asking Ezra to lift the temporary injunction and replace it with a “more limited injunction” allowing it to proceed with the six projects pending further environmental compliance.

I am not a lawyer, but this sure sounds to me like the Army is attempting to eat the elephant one bite at a time. When those five projects are complete, they can be expected to approach the Court for permission to do a few more projects. This type of segmentation is against the spirit of NEPA, which is intended to consider the project in toto. Furthermore, the higher Court decision directed the Army to study the more fundamental question of alternate locations for the Brigade. Thus, each step taken by the Army toward making the Brigade operational puts a heavy thumb on the scale for the ultimate answer to that question, almost to the point of making the question (and the EIS process) moot.

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Who is jumping ship?

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:08 am
Not only is the Lege hiring, but the Lingle-Aiona administration is looking for new staff, too. From a Hawaii Reporter post it seems like they are not looking to fill any specific anticipated vacancies, but…

Both full-time and volunteer openings are available at all levels of state government, including departments, attached agencies, and boards and commissions. Anyone who is highly motivated, qualified in a specific field, and has a strong desire to make a positive difference in people?s lives is encouraged to apply.

For more information or to fill out an application form, visit the Governor?s website.

It’s not unheard of for a few cabinet-level appointees to jump ship or be shown the door at the beginning of a second term. Simple fatigue and burnout, greener financial pastures in the civilian sector, and suppressed political differences with the Governor all are possible factors. Rather than air that dirty/embarrassing laundry with nobody in particular to fill the gap left by such a departure, my hunch is that this call for (politically hungry) fresh people willing to give it a try is being spun as “in accordance with our campaign promise.” Cynical me.

So, any guesses as to which Directors may be itching to leave and/or have been a thorn in Lingle’s side?

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Lingle victory (mis-)analyzed

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:24 am
The Advertiser has a curious piece from Derrick DePledge today that describes and discusses the scope and meaning of Governor Lingle’s sweeping re-election victory.

The Republican governor’s 62 percent to 35 percent win over former Mililani state Sen. Randall Iwase was predictable, but a breakdown of the general election vote by The Advertiser shows she was strong in literally every corner of the state.

Lingle won in all four counties and in all 51 state House districts, even as voters were mostly choosing Democrats in other state and federal races.

On O’ahu, Lingle took all but two precincts, slipping to Iwase only at Waipahu Elementary School and the Del Monte Gym in Kunia.

The pattern makes it harder for Democrats to explain away Lingle’s victory as a function of public relations or a weak Democratic opponent.

“When it came to Lingle and Iwase, people voted for the person and not the party,” said Don Clegg, a political consultant.

Democrats have found comfort that Lingle’s popularity has not helped other Republicans win office. But her emphatic re-election ? after her historic victory in 2002 as the first Republican governor in four decades ? could make it tougher for Democrats at the state Legislature to rebuff her on public policy.

Some Democrats doubt the state has shifted more to the center politically with Lingle. But they recognize that the governor’s ability to win in traditional Democratic strongholds such as Hilo, Hawai’i; Kahului, Maui; and Kalihi, as well as in growing or swing districts such as Puna on the Big Island and Kapolei and Mililani, is surprising. Her vote totals might give Democratic lawmakers some unease because they know she has support among their constituents.

Huh? This article offers zero explanation of how Lingle’s widespread victory “explains away” her victory as a function of a dominant public relations strategy and a weak opponent. Either of those elements would be considered as close to a sure-fire way to victory as a candidate could hope for, and her campaign had both. Plus, as the article notes, she had plenty of money for an effective get out the vote operation, too.

In the real world, though, we don’t get to set up an experiment to test either of these hypotheses. There was no political scientist to assign the Iwase campaign $6 million and four years of slick media ops to control for those variables. That experiment could have brought us closer to determining who is the “weaker” candidate, but that’s not the way elections work, of course. On the other hand, the House races, with much less money and less-pervasive public relations, are much closer to that ideal—and those races continue to suggest that Democrats appeal to the voters of this state.

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How hot is that seat?

Filed under: HI State Politics, Honolulu Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 10:24 am
The Advertiser has another new blog called The Hot Seat, which will be maintained by editorial and opinion editor Jeanne Mariani-Belding. She intends readers to pose questions that will be relayed to newsmakers, politicians, and everyday people. The blog’s first target is Mayor Hannemann—next Wednesday(?!). What she will write about until her chat with the Mayor, I have no clue.

This is an interesting premise for a blog, but the cynic in me says that those sitting in the Hot Seat will not be any more revealing than they would be in other fora. Mostly because if she allows it these sessions to become truly confrontational, few(er) high-profile public figures will agree to participate. Then it devolves into an online version of the Midweek cover story profiles where we read about their dog and what high school they wen grad…

I would suggest that she consider the style of reader-generated interviews found at Slashdot (among other places) where the readers moderate the questions to separate the interesting/fair questions from the rest. [Here is a recent example] Of course, that would mean ditching the existing software used on the blog and turning over significant editorial control to the readers, which doesn’t strike me as very likely.

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UH sweetens the deal to lure and retain good local students

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:23 am
The Advertiser has a story today about a new “Centennial Scholars” tuition assistance program for the UH system. I looked around at the UH website for a press release or other information, but found nothing.

Unlike the college’s Regents and Presidential scholarships, which are awarded on a competitive basis, the new Centennial Scholars program will grant tuition money to all UH-bound high school students in the state who graduate with a 3.8 grade-point average or score 1800 on the three-part SAT exam. Students who earn both a 3.8 GPA and an 1800 score will get an additional $1,000.

The program, launched to celebrate the university’s 100th anniversary next year, will begin with the current class of high school seniors who will enter college in fall 2007. Current UH students are not eligible.

The Centennial scholarships will help offset rising tuition costs at UH.

At the Manoa campus, a $1,000 award represents a 20 percent discount off annual tuition of $5,136 in the 2007-08 academic year, and a 66 percent discount for community college students who would otherwise pay $1,512 a year for 12 credits per semester in the next academic year.

UH President David McClain said 1,000 high school seniors are expected to meet the GPA requirement, with 1,300 predicted to achieve 1800 on the SAT, although there will be substantial overlap in both groups. The university expects to pay out $1 million in the first year of the Centennial Scholars program, and $4 million to $5 million by the fourth year.

The scholarships will be funded by a series of tuition increases that began this fall.

“We want to acknowledge high-performing students and say to them, ‘We want you to come to the University of Hawai’i,’ ” said McClain in announcing the program to the Board of Regents at its meeting yesterday at Maui Community College.

Full disclosure (or gratuitous boast, if you prefer): In addition to the periodic GI Bill benefits and Pell grants from the federal government, I was awarded one of those Presidential Scholarships from UH which waived my tuition for the last four semesters of my undergraduate work and provided me a travel grant to attend a summer program on the mainland. I was (am) a big nerd, scored high on the SAT, kicked academic okole as an undergraduate, was recognized and rewarded for the trouble, and I am grateful. Over time I’ll eventually give enough back to the UH Foundation to balance the books. Heh.

The fact that this new award is worth more per semester to each recipient (in raw dollars) than my “full ride” scholarship yet, only a decade after I won my award, amounts to just a 20% tuition discount at the four-year colleges is shocking. It’s also troubling that the mechanism to pay for this program is … a series of tuition increases on the rest of the student body. There’s some tension between making a public university education widely accessible and creating an academic environment appealing to geeks good students; that tension seems to have been poorly resolved at most public universities, including UH. This may help the latter, but at the expense (literally) of the former.

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Six local radio stations sold

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 10:23 am
The Advertiser expands on a wire service story about a significant change to the local commercial radio business.

Clear Channel Communications Inc., the owner of KSSK and five other Hawai’i radio stations, agreed to a more than $26.7 billion takeover by Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Bain Capital Partners LLC.

San Antonio, Texas-based Clear Channel, the nation’s biggest radio broadcaster, put itself up for sale last month after its share prices lagged despite asset sales and share buybacks. Its holdings also include television stations and a billboard company.

KSSK is the state’s most listened-to radio station with AM and FM stations. Clear Channel’s other holdings here form one of the biggest radio groups in the state and include KHVH-AM, KIKI-FM, KHBZ-AM, KDDN-FM and KUCD-FM.

Lee and Bain agreed to pay $18.7 billion in cash and assume or repay another $8 billion of debt.

Clear Channel lost more than 60 percent of its market value since 2000, as radio advertising sales stagnated and listeners devoted more time to the Internet, satellite radio and iPods. The buyers are betting they can slice costs and stem the slide.

“Slice costs?” What does this mean for the Hawaii radio market? More stations using mainland-based “personalities” and playlists? Less (if that’s possible) local news coverage? One possible upside is that maybe this new owner’s cost-cutting will entail selling some stations, hopefully increasing the diversity of media ownership and going against the trend of media consolidation.

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Weird debate at First Reading

Filed under: Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 6:04 pm
The SB has a story today about the surprisingly loud outcry against a Honolulu City Council bill from Councilmember Djou facing First Reading. I wrote earlier that the Bill sounded pretty kooky, but that was before I had a chance to read Bill 83. It would delay the implementation of the GET surcharge six months (to July 2007) if the Council chooses a Locally Preferred Alternative by the end of 2006, and would delay the implementation twelve months (to January 2008) if the Council makes a choice between January 2007 and July 2007. In any case, I agree with Councilmember Kobayashi’s comment:

“We have no other way to have a bill introduced except to have them pass first reading,” said Vice Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi. “It’s honoring someone’s right to voice an opinion. … When we pass first-reading bills, that doesn’t mean we agree with them.”

I also noticed that the article mentions Djou’s meeting with Federal Transportation Administration officials, but only in a “Djou said” manner. It would sure be nice if someone with a bit more neutrality (i.e. the media) would pin down the FTA on how the timing of the project impacts the federal funding. I’m also not sure if Waterhouse and Djou are referring to the same monies—the $75 million Waterhouse describes as “in jeopardy” is probably the money to study the routes, while Djou is referring to the hundreds of millions in actual construction money. I think.

City Budget Director Mary Patricia Waterhouse said passing the bill would jeopardize $75 million in federal funding for the project, expected to cost billions.

But Djou said he met with the Federal Transit Administration, who told him release of federal funds is not dependent on when the taxes would be collected.

Djou railed against the administration’s presence at the hearing, calling the hearing “all about power and control in Honolulu Hale.”

“I’ve never, ever seen so much discussion on whether or not we should have a discussion,” Djou said.

The Executive Branch opposing legislation at First Reading is definitely unusual. Definitely a symbolic “this Bill is a very bad thing” stunt. If the Bill is even scheduled for a hearing, the Hannemann administration will have plenty of opportunity to mobilize in opposition.

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Maui Senators well-positioned to attack traffic woes, Superferry

Filed under: HI State Politics, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 8:12 am
The Maui News has an article that explains the new influence legislators from Maui will enjoy in the Senate. If they can’t make significant headway against Maui’s traffic congestion from where they sit, then they will have some explaining to do in two years.

Maui County?s three state senators were all named to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, with Sen. Roz Baker being named chairwoman and Sen. Shan Tsutsui holding on to the vice chairman?s seat.


Maui?s delegation established a strong position on the 15-member committee that handles all money matters before the Senate, with Sen. J. Kalani English also taking a seat on Ways and Means while also being named chairman of the Senate Transportation and International Affairs Committee.


[Senator Baker] said freshman Rep. Angus McKelvey also has made an impression in the House, representing West Maui, and may win a seat as vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee. McKelvey had campaigned heavily on the West Maui traffic situation in winning his 10th District race.

Hmmm. If that is true about McKelvey, then it would imply that my boss surrenders her House Transportation Committee vice chair post… we’ll see. I also note the implications of English’s new assignment:

?Ongoing statewide concerns over such matters as the Superferry, the future of Hawaii?s airlines, and the condition of our harbors mean that the Transportation and International Affairs Committee will be at the center of some of the most important decisions we will face,? [Senator English] said.

Fascinating possibilities, yeah?

Now, when is the House going to announce its Committee structure?

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Deciding when to sound sirens

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:33 am
A tsunami generated by a large earthquake near Japan was rather benign as it struck Hawaii yesterdaymorning. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center determined that sounding the civil defense sirens was unnecessary, but there were lower-key efforts to warn beachgoers and others along the shoreline. An Advertiser story describes some of the factors that go into the decision of whether to sound the sirens.

The problem, [Kauai Civil Defense coordinator] Marshall said, was that the tsunami was a borderline size. Any smaller and it would have been easy to relax and send [civil defense staff] home. Any larger and it would have been easy to wake the entire state up with sirens at 4:30 or 5 a.m.

Civil Defense officials had long discussions about the “crying wolf” issue ? evacuations were ordered in 1994 and no significant tsunami arrived, leading to fears people would fail to heed warnings if it happened again.

“I think there’s a lot of apathy. If you cry wolf, the next time there’s a warning, people will say, ‘I ain’t going,’” Balfour said.


The head of the state’s Civil Defense operation, Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, said the public needs to be able to trust that state and county emergency authorities are taking their responsibilities seriously.

“I know a month ago people (after the Big Island earthquake) all said ’sound the sirens.’ But as long as I am in charge, if I know there is no tsunami, I am not going to sound the sirens. We have to have this trust with the public. We can’t have a siren being sounded … and people wondering: ‘Did Civil Defense make a mistake?’ ” Lee said.

And there is the continual problem of people who do the exact opposite of what is required, Marshall said.

“The two-edged sword is, we warn you, and how many people get in the truck and go down to the shore to watch,” he said.

Civil Defense officials statewide were concerned that if yesterday’s tsunami was more powerful, there would have been deaths because too many people took risks.

I have mixed feelings on this. In 1994 I remember taking an anxious (but free) bus ride from UH-Manoa back to Kaneohe after the sirens sounded for a tsunami warning. It turned out to be nothing, and if false alarms were to become a regular occurrence then I’d probably become complacent (even though I live at sea level on Kaneohe Bay). On the other hand, I don’t think the concern over the “two-edged sword” should be driving the civil defense response. If some people (potentially including me) are going to be idiots and react inappropriately, that is not a good reason to not warn the rest of the public.

This is not the same issue raised in the discussion underway about the use of the broadcasters’ Emergency Alert System to signal “non-events.” In those situations the civil defense officials believe the threat to be minimal and that broadcasting a warning would cause confusion. In deciding when to sound the sirens, however, the officials believe the threat to be marginal or actual. In those cases, I say activate the sirens, and if a few hundred lolos drive to the beach to watch/die, so be it.

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