January 10, 2009

Poinography March 2007 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 2:19 pm



Confirmed but un-seated Maui Planning Commissioner rails against LUC “stupidity”

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 7:31 pm
The Maui News has an interesting account of an email sent from Joan Pawsat to the State Land Use Commission.

In the e-mail sent Wednesday to the Land Use Commission and The Maui News, Joan Pawsat said calling the projects irresponsible is a ?gross understatement,? because of infrastructure, cultural, design, economic and other concerns.

?I am strongly opposed to all three developments, among others,? she wrote. ?They are quite an embarrassment.?

Later she said she wasn?t sure what Makena development she was referring to, because it was hard to tell which was which. She added that she opposed ?all development? in the area.

?I don?t think any of the building down in Makena is appropriate at all,? she said in an interview.

Pawsat?s e-mail also criticized the LUC?s review of the projects, saying the state board had demonstrated ?ignorance on multiple levels? and failed to meet its own review standards.

?Frankly, I am quite tired and find it very frustrating that the public is forced to ?dumb-down? to the commission to explain the obvious stupidity of all these plans,? she wrote.

The statements may mean Pawsat will have to recuse herself from voting or deliberating on the projects she mentioned, county attorneys and planning officials said.

[blink] That’s pretty funny. Somehow, within the article Pawsat’s outspoken nature is vaguely tied to her non-kamaaina status. Apparently if she had lived in Maui longer she would never speak out? Go figure.

It’s an odd story, but I certainly got a chuckle from it.

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Myopic story takes the “all politics is local” theme to extreme

Filed under: HI Media, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 7:30 pm
I had to rub my eyes after reading this West Hawaii Today story. The story, apparently based entirely on a press release from Senator Inouye and two non-responses from local officials, is a long list of appropriations that would benefit Hawaii County which have been included within the 2008 Supplemental Appropriations Bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate. In a few sentences, the story disposes of the fact that the bill sets a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Yawn. Whatever. ??

For that reason, and for district earmarks such as Inouye’s, President Bush has promised to veto the bill. I guess WHT editors felt there was no sense mentioning that it’s not too likely that all these funds will come to Hawaii County without a fight.

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Advertiser turning the tables on Kawamoto

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:18 pm
Now that the largely positive initial flood of coverage of the “Kahala homes for the homeless” stunt is passed, for the last several days the Advertiser has begun to drizzle on the Genshiro Kawamoto parade. Today it was an editorial, earlier it was a column by David Shapiro, and before that a column by Lee Cataluna.

The editorial has this segment that I found interesting:

Without diminishing the euphoria of three families chosen so far to live in his posh homes for free, Kawamoto could find a way to play the benefactor that is less showy and more effective. Many charities (the Weinberg Foundation comes to mind) have put their money to use in more lasting initiatives for the poor. And as many of Hawai’i’s poor are non-Hawaiian, these charities do not discriminate on the basis of ancestry, either.

In fact, the Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission needs to keep an eye on this project for a potential housing discrimination. If Kawamoto charges rent, fair housing laws would apply, precluding making ethnicity a factor in the rental agreements.

A little sidebar: I have heard from reliable sources that the Weinberg Foundation is quite pushy when it comes to naming the facilities it funds. It’s not simply coincidence or community gratitude that finds so many such buildings are called some variation of the “Harry and Jeanette Weinberg building.” The Foundation requires it. If there is not to be a fancy plaque on the buidling tooting the Foundation’s horn, then there is no major contribution.

Back to Kawamoto: Is the “no rent” aspect of the situation really enough to allow Kawamoto to evade HCRC oversight? I am not a lawyer, but if there is a lease of any kind between the residents and Kawamoto, then wouldn’t that lease establish a landlord-tenant relationship? On the other hand, if there is no lease, then do these tenants have any legal rights? If they are not legally “tenants,” then it seems to me that Kawamoto could toss his “guests” out at any time for any reason.

To turn up the snark: Strum that ukulele harder, folks, or Mr. Kawamoto may hold another casting call…

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Confidential census info helped put AJAs in camps and Arab-Americans under suspicion

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:18 pm
The Advertiser published a USA Today story about the U.S. Census Bureau and how it released the names of certain AJAs to the Justice Department, and Secret Service during World War II.

The Census Bureau’s role in helping the government ferret out Japanese-Americans during the war has been documented in previous research by Seltzer and Anderson and others. But today’s report marks the first time that documents have been uncovered indicating that the agency released actual names.

The Census Bureau has consistently denied releasing such names probably because, over time, most officials there probably didn’t know it had happened, Seltzer said.

The agency has “not had the opportunity to review” today’s report, said Christa Jones, chief of the census policy office.

Census activities during World War II “obviously go against their own mandate for confidentiality,” said Terry Ao, director of census and voting programs at the Asian American Justice Center, a civil-rights group.

“Actions such as this have the potential of having a very serious detrimental impact on the ability of the Census Bureau to collect data that we need. The most important thing about this would be that the (agency) today understands it has no authority to conduct such activity. They do take their legal obligations for confidentiality very seriously. ” [said the author of a new report]

The article concludes:

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress approved the Patriot Act to give the government broad investigative powers. Since then, civil-liberties groups have criticized government efforts to monitor phone calls, prepare no-fly lists and keep files on anti-war activists.

“It’s a bombshell,” Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, said of today’s disclosures. “This is such a black mark on American history that we need to make sure we never allow ourselves to engage in anything close to that kind of violation of people’s constitutional rights.”

An ethical issue was raised in 2004 when the census turned over information it had collected about Arab-Americans by ZIP code but not by name. The information was already public but civil-rights groups protested the agency’s handing over of data to Homeland Security.

The census now puts all requests for sensitive data through a rigorous approval process and makes all special releases of data available to the public.

Hmmm. If the REAL ID Act proceeds in its current guise, then the federal government would not need to deal with the Census Bureau to obtain data for ethnic profiling—because the federal government would have its own dataset including every person holding a driver’s license issued in the U.S. With the federal government able to use its own database inseted of the Census data, there would be no “rigorous approval process” and no public notice of the data being used in that way. The federal government would have a list, with names and complete addresses, and since the drivers licenses will require birth certificates, the dataset would include ehnicity data, too.

Maybe I am being unreasonably concerned. The United States would never inter its own citizens without probable cause and the government would always preserve the right to due process, right? [cough]

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SCOTUS could consider Kamehameha certiorari as early as Friday, April 13

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 6:41 pm
The Advertiser has a short story about the latest development in the lawsuit challenging the Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy. The attorney for a “John Doe” plaintiff, Eric Grant, filed a response to Kamehameha’s opposition to Doe’s request for certiorari. For whatever reason, the Kamehameha website no longer has any of these filings posted online (or, if so, they are not easily found like they were before).

The school is urging the high court to reject the appeal, but Grant said in his 10-page response that Kamehameha Schools earlier portrayed the case as presenting issues of “exceptional importance” in trying to get a larger panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case.

The high court accepts only a small faction of the requests by lawyers to review lower court decisions. One standard that the justices consider is whether a case has nationwide significance.

Grant said the papers filed in the case will be circulated for the justices’ consideration at their conference on April 13. Barring a postponement, the high court’s decision could be released April 16, Grant said.

META: In an earlier press release KS provided a link to a thorough collection of all the relevant documents, now they are gone. Did KS pull this stuff offline because Grant’s latest jujitsu-style response has somehow embarrassed them? Possibly, but without reading Grant’s latest, who knows? Obviously, if anyone has a working link to these briefs, please post a comment.

Okay, now maybe I am forcing this issue, but I can’t get past the hunch that there is a convergence of this lawsuit, the DHHL funding renewal, and the Akaka Bill. The KS briefs frequently refer to the “special relationship” between Native Hawaiians and the federal government, citing (among other things) the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. Further, the KS brief against certiorari suggested that the Akaka Bill is under “active consideration” by the Congress and waiting for Congress to act on that legislation could defuse the lawsuit.

KS assertions to the contrary, the Akaka Bill is not especially “active” of late. However, the DHHL funding bill is facing significant Republican opposition and yesterday the U.S. House GOP was promising stronger support of the DHHL funding bill if it were amended to denounce any connection between the DHHL funding and a “constitutionally special” relationship between Native Hawaiians and the federal government. That amendment, had it been adopted (or even considered) would have changed the dynamics behind the Akaka Bill (as well as the arguments made in the Doe vs. KS lawsuit).

I don’t know if I’m making my point clearly, but it seems possible that the Republicans are setting up a situation where in order to obtain a veto-proof supermajority on the DHHL funding the political price would be a dilution of the Akaka Bill—and a simultaneous threat to the KS admissions policy. Classic “divide and conquer” tactics.

Maybe. ??

UPDATE: The KS webmaster has set me straight. All of the briefs are online here (see bottom of page). The response brief in question is here (PDF).

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Bill to benefit DHHL passes U.S. House – after much “don’t think of the Akaka Bill” rhetoric

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 6:34 pm
The Advertiser has two stories from Congress today (one from before the vote and another after passage) about H.R. 835, the Hawaiian Homeownership Opportunity Act of 2007. A previous vote (under rules requiring a two-thirds supermajority) failed.

From the before-the-vote story:

U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said that some Republicans believe the Rice v. Cayetano court decision ? which declared Native Hawaiians could not have different statewide voting rights than other Hawai’i citizens ? suggested special privileges for Native Hawaiians are unconstitutional.

The Constitution, “as we know, in almost all cases is opposed to racial set-asides,” Bachus said during yesterday’s opening House debate. “This concerns many colleagues on my side of the aisle.”

Bachus said many Republicans would support the bill if language were added clarifying that the federal program could not be construed as conferring “a constitutionally special political or legal relationship based on Native Hawaiian ancestry between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people for purposes of establishing a government-to-government relationship.”

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai’i, sponsor of the bill, said the court decision dealt with the election of trustees for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs and “literally has nothing to do” with the Native Hawaiian bill.

Hmmm. Did Congressman Bachus actually offer that amendment today? (Wait, before ansewring that, did the Rules Committee allow for members to offer any amendment(s)?) From the after-the-vote story it seems clear that the bill was not ammended, but if Bachus’ amendment was offered then the vote (to kill the amendment) could have been a good barometer of support for the Akaka Bill and whether a veto-proof supermajority exists in the House.

UPDATE: Amendments were not allowed. According to the Rules Committee resolution (H.Res. 269), “the bill shall be considered as read.” Bachus’ amendment never faced a vote.

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Subprime mortgage hiccup – mixed messages

Filed under: HI State Politics, Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 6:47 pm
File this under “glass is half full” business news… There is a PBN story that says Hawaii is “vaccinated” against subprime mortgage woes.

Meanwhile, the “glass is half empty” version of the subprime mortgage story was in the Hawaii County dailes a few weeks ago (here and here).

The PBN article explains the Hawaii impact of the story like this:

Local bankers believe that the main culprit for the subprime loan mess nationwide is lax underwriting standards.

“We’re conservative and more traditional than most Mainland banks,” said Curtis W. Chinn, chief risk officer at Central Pacific Bank. “We do lend to people with lighter credit scores. But it’s not as prevalent as what was encouraged on the Mainland.”

There’s another factor: Hawaii’s notoriously expensive housing market puts prices out of reach for most subprime borrowers. In Honolulu, mortgage payments account for more than 50 percent of income, vs. the national average of 16 percent.

The Stephens Media Group story says that it is too early to know the local impact:

While about 90 percent of the mortgage market is “traditional” mortgages through such lenders as First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union and the like — about 8 percent falls into the subprime lending market, said David Hammes, an economist at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, College of Business and Economics.

This market gives borrowers who do not have perfect credit history an opportunity to qualify for a loan and purchase a home. The most popular loan for subprime borrowers gives a relatively low fixed interest rate for two or three years, which then jumps to an adjustable rate mortgage, said Tom O’Leary, president and owner of Western Pacific Mortgage, whose business consists of up to 15 percent of subprime loans.

“Generally, borrowers apply for this loan thinking they will fix their credit and refinance when their two or three years is up, but that doesn’t happen and they are not prepared for the jump in their monthly mortgage payment,” O’Leary said.

For instance, if someone borrowed $300,000 for two years at 7.4 percent, the monthly payment would be $2,077. At the end of the two years, the interest rate would jump to 8.9 percent and the payment would be $2,380; at the end of that six-month period, the interest would jump to 10.4 percent and the payment would be $2,694; and so on. Over the course of the loan, the interest could increase from 7.4 percent to 14.4 percent, O’Leary said.

Wow, at that 14% rate it would be cheaper to buy a home with some charge cards! Heh.

I suppose the lenders in Hawaii don’t really have much to worry about. Even if many subprime loans default, lenders should have little trouble in selling the foreclosed property for a (more rational) price. Plus, if I recall correctly, bankruptcy laws are more creditor-friendly now, too.

“I’ve not seen an increase in delinquent payments because of subprime lending,” said Joy Cabildo, senior vice president of First Hawaiian Bank’s residential real estate division. “By nature, people in Hawaii just tend to be better payers. (Vast foreclosures) are not something we should be really concerned with. However, it is the people who are living on the fringe (financially) who may not be able to find a lender — that is where you’re going to see (the impacts) more.”

Cabildo’s comment seems to suggest that if Hawaii residents are “better payers,” then the lenders are unfairly writing subprime (i.e. more expensive and more profitable) loans to Hawaii borrowers simply because of some credit score formula that does not reflect the actual credit risk of a Hawaii borrower. Nice…

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REAL ID is expensive, difficult, and it won’t make us safer

Filed under: HI State Politics, Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 6:44 pm
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann testified before Congress about the projected expense and difficulties for Honolulu to comply with the REAL ID Act of 2005. The SB has a story here and the Advertiser has a piece here. Both articles mention that a Hawaii Senate [Concurrent] Resolution in opposition to the REAL ID system in its current form (other states have already opted out altogether)—the House has not taken up the matter yet, so far as I know.

I wrote a blog post about this boondoggle of a law previously, and security guru Bruce Schneier has more in a post at his blog.

I like Scheier’s take on it, because rather than only being drawn into the usual incovenience, cost and “war on terror” echo chamber, Schneier also calmly makes the case that the whole premise behind the law is flawed.

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HMSA intern issue coming home to roost?

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 6:50 pm
The Advertiser has an intereting story about a Senate Bill aiming to re-apply health insurance rate oversight. The oversight was killed last year, and was widely thought to be connected with a dubiously ethical HMSA Foundation “intern” working for Representative Herkes, the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Chair. As far as I know, the HMSA intern is not working with Herkes again this year—and now it looks like the rate regulation may be restored. Coincidence? Hmmm.

Anyway, it’s a good article but I’m wondering why DePledge did not mention this angle of the story. It’s especially noteworthy when you consider that Herkes was “excused” from the vote when the bill came to the CPC committee—i.e. the Committee that Herkes (ostensibly) leads. Did the House Leadership pressure Herkes to bow out? I don’t know. Whatever Herke’s “excuse,” his absence certainly provides at least the appearance of a face-saving strategy. What is interesting is that even if Herkes sat it out because he is opposed to the bill, he could still be a co-chair of the conference committee for the bill (unless he votes “no” on Third Reading). Worth watching this one.

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Non-profit’s quasi-lobbying expenditures trigger concerns

Filed under: HI State Politics, Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 6:36 pm
I’m tired from a weekend of windy and wet sailboat racing, but if you haven’t seen the Advertiser stories about the lobbying public relations efforts undertaken by the Clarence Ching Foundation then you really should have a look. The stories are here and here, and they also reproduce some fascinating memoranda here and here (PDFs).

The spending on meetings with government officials is described in such a way as to seem an unreasonable use of the Foundation’s money, and I’m inclined to follow that suggestion until I read a description (from a non-Ching Foundation source) not to think of it in that way.

More interesting to me, however, are the descriptions of the discussions with the members and staff of the Hawaii delegation to Congress. In particular, I’m wondering what all this talk of “voucher legislation” is, and the words from Senator Inouye about following the lead of Abercrombie and Akaka (not Case, heh) are fascinating for their confirmation of what is traditionally only a tacit assumption.

Also, in the memorandum about the influence of Mayor Hannemann and Councilmember Cachola, there is a mention of meeting with the editorial boards of the Honolulu dailies. I don’t have the motivation today, but it would be interesting to go back and re-read their editorials (if any) that may have followed the meetings. Depending upon how much the consultants tipped their hand at those meetings, it might have been obvious that an expensive lobbying public relations/spin campaign was underway that went un-noticed … until now.

Good work, Mr. Daysog!

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The overnighter

Filed under: General, Sailing — Doug @ 5:27 am
This is one of my favorite weekends of the year. Today we sail from Kaneohe to Ko Olina via the South coast of Oahu (with many hours under spinnaker from Makapuu to Kalaeloa), then the fleet will spend the night at the fancy private marina, and finally sail from Kahe Point to Waikiki on Sunday.

I will try to update the blog late on Sunday, but no guarantee on that.

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Housing bill as Akaka Bill bellwether

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 5:27 am
I didn’t comment on thie coverage earlier in the week, but the SB editorial today discusses how a bill to fund Native Hawaiian housing programs failed to get a two-thirds supermajority in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Bush administration has signaled that they would veto such legislation, and without the supermajority the veto would stand.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie said he now recognizes “an element in the Republican Party that is hell-bent on attacking Hawaiians as symbolic of their opposition to native interests,” and he should plan accordingly. Future measures aimed at funding Hawaiian programs probably are not threatened as long as they are attached to other bills that are not controversial.

The housing bill that fell short of the votes needed would have reauthorized $10 million a year in federal block grant money for projects providing housing assistance to Hawaiians. Abercrombie said he plans to bring the bill back to the House floor as early as this week under a standard procedure that requires a simple majority for passage.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that both federal and state funding are safe from taxpayer lawsuits, although they may be challenged by people claiming to have been denied benefits because of race. Enactment of the Akaka Bill is needed to protect Hawaiian programs from such congressional and court challenges.

Passing this particular funding measure as a rider on non-controversial legislation might be enough to get the votes, but it would not be a very accurate way to gauge Congressional support of programs for Native Hawaiians. The rider option is a tactic one would expect for a routine district pork project to be approved. However, that strategy can’t be expected to work when the larger matter of the Akaka Bill comes up.

Speaking of which, what is the expected timing for the latest version of the Akaka Bill? Is it moving at all? Is there any urgency or commitment from the Congressional leadership to schedule it for debate? One would think that if a whip count showed that the votes were there then it would be advancing. Thus, if nothing is happening, then my first assumption would be the opposite…

Yes, the new Congress is only a few months old, with bigger political fish to fry, etc. But still.

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Who pulled the trigger? Sonson

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 5:27 am
A routine SB story about labor-related legislation describes a few measures that were deferred and others that are still in play. The story is in the business section, which perhaps helps to explain why it doesn’t indicate the legislators responsible.

A controversial sick-leave bill (HB 52), which would preclude an employer from disciplining an employee for misusing sick leave, was deferred in the House. The bill will likely be revived next year by labor unions who have pushed the measure for at least the past three years, according to the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, which has lobbied against the measure.

The second measure, the so-called successor-employer bill (HB 388), which would have required a purchasing company to retain the employees of the firm that it is buying, also was deferred this session. Both bills have been supported by labor unions, while companies claimed that the measures would only add to the costs of doing business.

The Pacific Business News is known to run un-edited press releases from the Chamber of Commerce from time to time, so I checked to see if the crux of this story was a press release. I didn’t find it, but I did find a thorough bill tracking spreadsheet that appears to be updated regularly. META: the spreadsheet would be an excellent model to follow for any person or group interested in tracking what is going on with a topic of interest.

Anyway, it’s interesting that when legislators pass so-called “pro-labor” legislation they are frequently called out by name, yet when they quietly kill “pro-worker” legislation they are not named. So, for the record, Representative Sonson is the Chair of the Houe Labor Committee where the bills were deferred. Since, for whatever non-Mason’s Manual compliant reason, bills that are heard are not deferred via formal motions and, thus, decisions to defer are not subject to formal committee votes, it’s fair and accurate to say that Sonson killed the bills by himself.

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Kauai PD told by OIP that secret arrests won’t fly

Filed under: HI Media, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 9:34 pm
An interesting Garden Island News story today based upon a new opinion (PDF) from the Office of Information Practices regarding a Kauai Police Department policy to redact names from the police blotter of individuals who were arrested but not charged with a crime or were arrested and then eleased pending an investigation. This latest opinion also refers frequently to another opinion (PDF) from 1991.

Names are often redacted because arrestees are sometimes released without being formally charged, KPD officials have said.

Other times, arrestees agree to become police informants, so releasing their names could endanger them, police told OIP officials.

However, OIP officials state that, ?KPD?s argument for withholding the names of arrestees who are released pending further investigation appears to be that releasing those names would frustrate KPD?s ability to obtain an arrestee?s cooperation as an informant.?

The OIP also states that redacting names can impede upon an individual?s rights, rather than offer protection.

No resident should be taken into custody secretly, and those who are arrested should be taken in only after probable cause has been established, Les Kondo, OIP director, said.

Sheesh, at this rate I suppose next we’ll hear that KPD is hoping to begin “extraordinary renditions,” and seeks the authority to declare arrestees enemy combatants…

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Blogger fights subpoenas in Pflueger case

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 8:35 pm
Sorry this is so late, but I went sailing this evening. I was not going to write at all today, but then I saw a post at the Capitol Notebook blog about a lawsuit trying to compel Malia Zimmerman of Hawaii Reporter to reveal her notes from the research she did after the Kaloko dam failure.

Her attorney, Ted Hong, argues in his motion to quash that Zimmerman has a qualified privilege under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a similar article in the state Constitution.

Hong said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Hawai’i, has recognized a qualified privilege for reporters to protect the integrity of news gathering.

The court’s test, in part, is whether the information being subpoenaed is unavailable elsewhere and is relevant to an important issue in the case.

The Hawai’i Supreme Court has not dealt with a case involving a reporters’ privilege since the 1960s.

Zimmerman said she relied on public records for much of her reporting on Kaloko and, in the example of notes or recordings of her interview with Pflueger, that Pflueger himself should know what he said.

Pflueger’s attorneys have not returned calls seeking comment, but Hong said he has been told they may argue that Zimmerman is a blogger, not a journalist, and is not entitled to claim a reporters’ privilege.

Zimmerman, a former reporter for Pacific Business News and other publications, said she considers herself a journalist.

Her Web site mostly covers politics and business news — often with a conservative to libertarian view. She also served as a consultant to ABC for a recent “20/20? segment about Kaloko.

“I don’t consider myself a blogger,” Zimmerman said.

So what, is Jeff Portnoy, i.e. Hawaii’s best-known media attorney, too busy? Does Ted Hong have any track record in arguing First Amendment Law? [honest questions]

I’m not exactly sure what Appeals Court ruling Hong is speaking of, but I was able to find a recent amicus brief (PDF) in support of reporters’ privilege (during the “Balco” case) which was co-signed by Hawaii’s Attorney General, Mark Bennett. The brief says that Hawaii has a qualified protection requiring “the private interests in disclosure to be so important that they outweigh the public interest in confidentiality.” An appendix to the brief cites Hawaii’s protection as being set forth In re Goodfader?s Appeal, 367 P.2d 472, 483 (Haw. 1961) (overcome if litigant?s interest outweighs the reporter?s ?obligation to the tradition of his calling?). I highly doubt that 1961 decision is available online.

I’m not a lawyer, but I interpret that description of the 1961 decision to mean that Pflueger would need to show a very compelling interest to force Zimmerman to hand over her notes. Unless Zimmerman is not considered a reporter, which would mean that all bets and privilege may be called off. There are many parallels between bloggers and journalists, but bloggers can’t credibly claim any obligation to “tradition” at this point in history. That’s too bad. Anyway, beyond my layman rambling, I’m totally in the dark as to how Courts (or Legislatures) actual decide what characteristics define a “reporter.”

I still consider Zimmerman a blogger (and I don’t consider that to be a disparaging term), so in a way I hope that the Court rules that HR is a blog and, from there, goes on to rule that bloggers have a similar qualified immunity. i.e. I would like Hong to lose his argument that Zimmerman is a reporter, but prevail on the qualified protection.

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OCCC transformer blast injures untrained inmate workers

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 6:55 pm
The Advertiser has a disturbing story about an industrial accident at the Oahu Community Correctional Center where two inmates working near an electrical transformer were injured when the transformer exploded.

OCCC personnel, who requested anonymity, said none of the nine to 11 inmates on the work line yesterday was trained or wearing proper protective equipment to be working near a transformer. Such tasks are assigned to work-line inmates because they are paid a fraction of what it would cost to contract the job out, they said.

Responding to the concerns, [PSD official] Shimoda said, “We do use inmates on work lines to save money … but we do not knowingly put them in danger.

“We feel they are qualified to work in a safe manner. (Yesterday’s incident) is truly an accident and not anything that was foreseen,” he said.

That seems absurd. An unsafe condition that is “not foreseen” is not the same thing as a condition that is “unforseeable.” I think the media would do well to talk to somebody familiar with OSHA regulations. I’m not a lawyer, but I am pretty sure that it is the employers’ responsibility to evaluate potential hazards, to provide training and to provide protective equipment as needed. A simple Google search found this about Federal prisoners:

In the past, some questions have arisen as to the procedures in implementing the 29 CFR Part 1960 requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding Bureau of Prisons’ employees and Federal inmates. In addition, the Bureau of Prisons was concerned that unannounced OSHA inspections may compromise prison security.

Inmates are not “employees” as defined in section 3 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), but when inmates are required to perform work similar to that outside of prisons, e.g., farming, industries, machine operations, etc., the applicable protections open to anyone else in similar situations should apply, including the right to file a report of hazards with appropriate safety and health officials.

More specific to Hawaii, the HIOSH administrative rules about personal protective equipment, hazard evaluation, and training are here (PDF) and include:

(d) Hazard assessment and equipment selection.
(1) The employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). If such hazards are present, or likely to be present, the employer shall:
(i) Select, and have each affected employee use, the types of PPE that will protect the affected employee from the hazards identified in the hazard assessment;
(ii) Communicate selection decisions to each affected employee; and,
(iii) Select PPE that properly fits each affected employee.

Note: Non-mandatory Appendix B contains an example of procedures that would comply with the
requirement for a hazard assessment.

(2) The employer shall verify that the required workplace hazard assessment has been performed through a written certification that identifies the workplace evaluated; the person certifying that the evaluation has been performed; the date(s) of the hazard assessment; and, which identifies the document as a certification of hazard assessment.

(e) Defective and damaged equipment. Defective or damaged personal protective equipment shall not be used.

(f) Training.
(1) The employer shall provide training to each employee who is required by this section to use PPE. Each such employee shall be trained to know at least the following:
(i) When PPE is necessary;
(ii) What PPE is necessary;
(iii) How to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear PPE;
(iv) The limitations of the PPE; and,
(v) The proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of the PPE.
(2) Each affected employee shall demonstrate an understanding of the training specified in paragraph (f)(1) of this section, and the ability to use PPE properly, before being allowed to perform work requiring the use of PPE.

The seemingly blas? attitude toward workplace accidents from Shimoda, and the open admission of the cost-saving motivation underlying the work lines, make this failure to provide a safe[r] work environment an especially troubling story. It really makes me wonder if there have been other inmates injured due to inadequate training and/or safety equipment. The so-called “work line” program is related to the more formalized correctional industries program, which provides a wide array of products and services (PDF) provided by inmates. One would assume that workplace safety is maintained in all of those CI endeavors, but maybe that is not even a valid assumption…

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Laau opponents see votes canceled out

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 6:19 pm
Like a whole lot of people, news about life on Molokai almost always slips under my radar. However, I noticed a Pacific Business News story that caused me to do a bit of research into the background to the story.

The Molokai Dispatch has had a series of stories about development plans for La`au Point on Molokai. Basically, there is a debate about what kind of development will be allowed and, although I’m not entirely clear why, a group called the Molokai Enterprise Community appears to have some approval authority on the project. The EC recently had an election, during which two anti-development candidates crushed two pro-development incumbents. Then it gets interesting:

Opponents of 200 luxury homes for Laau Point on Molokai have found that their new voice on the Molokai Enterprise Community board isn’t as great as hoped.

The board, meeting for the first time since an election that replaced two plan supporters with opponents, voted Thursday to fill two vacant seats — and gave the seats to the two supporters who lost the election.

The meeting ended amid arguments between supporters and opponents of the plan. The police came to ensure order but no arrests were reported.

Opponents said the board had been stacked with people who would continue to support Molokai Ranch’s development plan.

The board said the two, Colette Machado and Cheryl Corbiell, were the next highest vote getters in the election and that it has been past practice of the board to draw appointed members from candidates for the board’s elected seats.

The board was created under the imprimatur of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose regulations require that the board has at least 55 percent elected directors and not more than 45 percent appointed directors.

So, if I understand what is going on, then this means that the board was not up to full-strength before the voting. If that is true, and if the “past practice” is to appoint the runner-up candidates to the board, then why did they even bother to count the votes when there were enough vacant seats on the board for every candidate to be seated?! I have to infer that the opponents of the development believe that if the vote had went in the opposite direction then the anti-development candidates would not have been appointed to the board anyway…

Who are the appointed and elected directors? Who appoints the appointed directors? Obviously, a better explanation of what is going on with the board would be appreciated. I’d also like to read some comment from the League of Women Voters, the groupd that provided election monitors, too.

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Here we go again?

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 6:32 pm
You may recall the scene at Iolani Palace last summer, when a statehood celebration led to confrontation. Well, in 2009 the State turns 50, and there is legislation advancing to form commissions tasked with deciding how to observe that significant anniversary. The SB has a rather thin story here.

The Capitol website seems to be down at the moment, so I can’t tell exactly what the legislation says. I expect their network will be back online shortly, though.

Last year’s celebrations were loudly opposed by some native Hawaiian groups.

To prevent similar discord in the larger 50th-anniversary celebration, a 51-member committee would be appointed by Gov. Linda Lingle. Representatives from groups like students, academia, native Hawaiians and the faith-based community are to make up the committee.

“To prevent similar discord?” Good luck with that. Before it even gets to work, the appointment process is going to be a political hot potato. I suspect that Lingle will be beseiged from the right and from the left, as each side tries to load the committee to its (real or perceived) advantage. I have to wonder if the legislation names the location for this observation. If the legislation specifies the Palace, then I think this commission will have a difficult time reaching any consensus on how to proceed. Almost no matter where it is to take place, both sides of the debate are likely to take great offense at the message propogated by the other side.

One thing is for sure, Ms. Misawa’s documentary about the anniversary should be interesting. Heh.

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He said, he said; but what do the other seven say?

Filed under: Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 9:39 am
Dueling op-eds about the Honolulu City Council vote that selected the so-called minimum operable segment of the transit route. Councilmember Okino’s piece describes it as pragmatism, Councilman Djou describes it as pure politics. They are both right.

A few comments struck me as worthy of comment:

Okino writes:

As a firm believer and supporter of a fixed-guideway system, my first choice was the airport route. However, when it became apparent that this route did not have enough votes to be approved, I proposed an amendment that replaced the airport segment with the Salt Lake segment.

While not my preferred choice, the Salt Lake route does serve thousands of local residents and stands the test of federal criteria. Rather than let the project die for lack of a majority vote, I opted to support the Salt Lake route and keep the project alive.

Djou writes:

Hannemann cut a deal with Councilman Romy Cachola the day before the initial vote to drop the airport in exchange for Cachola’s support. Political expedience magically changed the administration’s position, and now the public will get a less- than-ideal route on an already questionable system.

Obviously, Councilmember Cachola could not kill the mass transit system by himself. Cachola’s vote against the airport route, even when combined with (potential, if reflexive) no votes from Councilmembers Djou and Marshall, would still only have made it a 3 vote minority in opposition to the airport route. Djou, however, commonly makes (dubious) claims of wanting to make sure the system (that he opposes) is “done right.” So why would Djou vote with Cachola against the airport route, unless Djou’s intention were to kill the whole idea? Councilmember Marshall, who seems only too glad to let take Djou take the spotlight, rarely says more than a few words to explain her votes, so who knows what political calculus is at play in her head. Anyway, my point is that, other than pragmatic Councilmember Okino, Cachola’s allies in suport of the Salt Lake route have yet to explain their decision to allie with Cachola. Evidently those Councilmembers all get a pass?

Djou continues:

Several months ago, I introduced a bill to delay the implementation of the general excise tax increase. The Hannemann administration testified that if my bill were merely introduced at first reading, it would immediately jeopardize federal funding. Although my bill was not adopted, it did ? inconveniently for the administration ? pass first reading.

Today, all of the calamity statements by the administration of what mere discussion of my tax delay bill would do have amazingly disappeared. The administration’s statements apparently had very little to do with reality and everything to do with petty politics.

Well, as much as I enjoy a good snark, the feds have not provided any funding yet, so it’s too early to know if the Mayor was right or wrong about the impact of the introduction of Djou’s bill. Furthermore, does Djou seriously suggest that the Mayor would continue to belabor that (dead) issue simply to “prove” to Djou that, should the federal funding fall through, Djou’s bill should not have been debated? That sounds like something Djou might try were he ever to become Mayor, but I digress. Last, Djou conveniently neglects to point out that Councilmember “petty politics” Cachola ignored the Mayor’s concerns and voted to pass Djou’s bill at first reading. Only Councilmembers Apo, Tam and Garcia rolled over on a clear separation of powers vote to oppose Djou/support the Mayor at that time.

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Office of Information Practices laments its impotence

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 5:36 pm
The SB runs an AP story about the well-known weakness of the Office of Information Practices, where often it issues an opinion requiring information to be disclosed and the agency fails to comply. A lot of what the article mentions is in this report (PDF), but the problem I have with the article is the implication that agencies that appeal an OIP opinion are somehow misbehaving by simply exercising their due process rights.

Don’t get me wrong, I support open government and I don’t think the office is abusing or misinterpreting the law, but I’m not willing to give the quasi-judicial OIP an unchecked power to compel agencies to comply with its opinions. Thus, appeal of OIP opiinions through the regular judicial process seem to make sense. Yes, I realize it’s slow.

On the other hand, there are agencies that do not appeal the opinion, but, rather, ignore the written opinions altogether. Something needs to be done about that. What, exactly? I’m not sure.

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Senate confirms Kim for bench

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 5:35 pm
Both Honolulu dailies report that Senator Hee’s recommendation against confirming Glenn Kim as a Circuit Court Judge was ignored as the Senate voted in support of the nominee. The Advertiser story is here, and the (better, in my opinion) SB story is here.

… Lingle and city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle had been working their own lobbying campaigns.

Thursday evening, Lingle, Carlisle and Bob Awana, Lingle’s chief of staff, went separately door to door to ask senators for their support.

At the same time, senators were getting e-mail in support of Kim. Former state Sen. Russell Blair, who was a former deputy prosecutor and had worked with Kim, e-mailed his support, even though Blair is now living in California.

“Glenn’s resume is backed up by his personal qualities. He is bright, hard-working, honorable, generous and is called to public service,” Blair said.

Also supporting Kim were Democrats who had not sided with Hee and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa during the Senate reorganization last year.

Former Senate President Robert Bunda, for instance, helped line up votes for Kim.

Sen. Ron Menor, who had supported Bunda in past Senate organizations, said the vote also showed that Democratic politics was changing and that senators felt free to vote against the recommendations of a committee chairman.

“This would have never happened in the past,” Menor said.

Hanabusa, who voted against Kim, discounted that assertion. “The Senate has been all over the place,” she said. “The votes are just the votes.”

Hmmm. That shouldn’t be too hard to verify if anybody were to make an effort to review the recent history of Senate confirmation floor votes as compared to the recommendations coming out of the subject matter committee. I haven’t done that research, but, off the top of my head, I don’t know of any nominee who was rejected by the full Senate after being supported in committee, nor can I think of a nominee who was rejected by the subject matter committee only to win confirmation on the floor—until Mr. Kim.

However, if anyone can cite an example (of either variety), then please leave a comment.

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Kamehameha Schools opposes high court review, as expected

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 5:33 pm
The Advertiser reports on Kamehameha Schools’response (PDF) to the writ of certiorari pending at the Supreme Court of the United States. As I mentioned in that earlier post, the Akaka Bill is part of this picture. The Advertiser piece does not mention it, but KS’ filing says:

Moreover, Congress is currently considering a bill titled the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007. While Congress has already stated that ?the political status of Native Hawaiians is comparable to that of American Indians and Alaska Natives,? 20 U.S.C. ? 7512(12)(D), the enactment of this new legislation might confirm and clarify that status. In a case of pure statutory interpretation, Congress?s views are highly relevant, and the pendency of this legislation counsels further against granting the petition.


Congress is currently giving active consideration to a bill that might further confirm and clarify this status. On January 17, 2007, Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka introduced The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007, S. 310, 110th Cong. (2007) (commonly known as the ?Akaka Bill?). A previous version of the Akaka Bill came within several votes of proceeding to a Senate floor vote during the last session of Congress. The Akaka Bill, if enacted, would launch a process to form a Native Hawaiian governing entity that could negotiate with the state and federal government on behalf of Native Hawaiians, enabling a government-to-government relationship with the United States similar to that of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The House of Representatives is also considering a similar bill, H.R. 505, 110th Cong. (2007), which was introduced by Hawaii Representative Neil Abercrombie on January 17, 2007.

Given that the status of Native Hawaiians is being currently debated by Congress, it would be premature for the Court to decide a strictly statutory case related to these issues. While nothing in the court of appeals? decision turns on the outcome of congressional debate on the Akaka Bill, and while the decision was correct regardless of the outcome, congressional action might have a bearing on the Court?s consideration of the issues presented. Thus, out of respect for a coordinate branch as well as concerns of judicial economy, this Court should decline Petitioner?s invitation to enter this ?difficult terrain.? Rice, 528 U.S. at 519.

Hmmm. It’s gonna be interesting. I think KS is overstating their argument with this “active consideration” rhetoric and the implication that the Akaka Bill is about to be given a full debate and vote in Congress. What I think of KS’ brief doesn’t really matter, though.

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Maui reporter to have political oversight regarding her own beat?

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 7:04 pm
Anthony Pignataro of the Maui Time Weekly exposes the story of a radio journalist who is seeking an appointment to the Maui County Fire Commission. The journalist, Wendy Osher of Pacific Radio Group, frequently covers fires and public safety issues, yet tells Pignataro that there would be no conflict of journalistic ethics if she were two wear these two hats at the same time.

?I take my work very seriously,? Osher told me in a Mar. 9, 2007 email. ?I have spent many late nights on the job to provide information regarding road closures, storm warnings and our recent earthquake. I was on the air with the story about 15 minutes after the earthquake hit.?

At least some of that information came from the county?s Fire Department, and that?s why her joining the Fire Commission raises concerns. As one of the nine Maui County Fire and Public Safety Commissioners, Osher will review the operations and budget of county?s Fire Department and Civil Defense Agency. She can also make recommendations on how to improve service, as well as investigate complaints against Fire Department personnel.

Taking on this dual role raises numerous questions. When Osher interviews Fire Department personnel, will she do so as a reporter whose job is to disseminate information to the public or as a Fire Commissioner who has some measure of department oversight? Will her seat on the commission get her access to exclusive information for her news reports? Will she disclose during her radio reports on public safety that she is a member of the county Fire Commission? And will she mention during Fire Commission hearings?both open and closed?that she?s a member of the news media?

?On the face of it, I would say it is a violation of the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists,? said Beverly Keever, Undergraduate Chair of the University of Hawai`i Journalism Department. ?I think it?s a real conflict of interest. You?re supposed to be vigilant and courageous about holding those in power accountable, and it?s hard to hold the fire department accountable if you?re part of the Fire Commission.?

Osher would only comment by email for this story. ?Maui is a small community,? she emailed me on Mar. 9. ?[C]onflicts perceived or otherwise are bound to occur.?

But she vehemently denied that her joining the Fire Commission was even a perceived conflict of interest.

Can you hear my eyes rolling from where you sit? Sheesh!

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Another volley from the circular GOP firing squad

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:04 pm
I don’t have much specific comment on it, but I direct you to this post at Hawaii Reporter by Eric Ryan, submitted in response to Representative Finnegan and an outspoken critic of her leadership of the House Republicans. Ryan writes:

I hold Rep. Finnegan and her colleagues who run the Hawaii GOP directly responsible — through their incompetence, their laziness, their hidden agendas and their lack of determination to change Hawaii for the better — for squandering the opportunity that each day provides to lead the revolution we need in the islands. We?ve gotten to the point where the only Republicans getting elected in Hawaii are those who must in all honesty give credit to name recognition earned with time and money — not with records of accomplishment or for being great visionaries — for their seats in the State Legislature. But with these Republicans being too spineless, too co-opted, too liberal, or just plain too shy to make hay about the problems that need fixing, let alone advancing bold solutions, then our state?s slide towards the abyss will continue unabated. Put simply, if the GOP doesn?t get its act together, the best and brightest will all keep leaving and the rest of us will be working three burger-flipping jobs just to pay for our tents on the beach. [Naturally, of course, government workers and politically connected businesses and organizations will still live in houses. But I digress.]

Making matters worse is that Gov. Linda Lingle is basically an opportunistic Democrat who ran as a Republican, looking for quick electoral advancement through the ranks as a big fish in the smaller of the two political ponds. Neither she nor her underlings have ever done, nor can they be counted on to do, anything which will advance a reform movement that gets enough of our citizens to clamor for change and then get what they clamored for.


To this end, brand loyalty is not too far removed from political loyalty. If a better idea comes along and is marketed well, then it will achieve some measure of success. And it should be the Republican Party?s marketing position that the people of Hawaii are being ripped off and that we have better ideas for our state. It takes genuine concern coupled with a strategy and real competence to make a difference, but what we have at the Hawaii GOP are the Democrats lapdogs.

From time to time an individual Republican may go so far as to poop on the Democrats’ well-trodden rug, but Ryan’s analogy has its limits. Marketing (i.e. spin) is all well and good, but what is the GOP “better idea” that would overcome the Democratic “brand?” The sizzle vs. the steak, and all that.

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Senate panel against Lingle nominee to court

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:06 pm
META: Hooray, my internet access crisis is averted!

Anyway, the story of the day seems to be the Senate Judiciary Committee withholding its “advice and consent” from Glenn Kim, a nominee for a Circuit Court judgeship. The Advertiser has a story and tangential blog post; the SB has this piece; and at Hawaii Reporter there is a lengthy screed by Malia Zimmerman and a post from former Hee whipping boy, Ted Hong. While it lasts, KHPR also has an mp3 report from Chad Bglair that contains audio excerpts of the hearing (remember, those don’t stay online forever).

Although Kim had nearly unanimous support from deputies in the Prosecutor’s Office and the strong support of Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, his nomination was opposed by two former deputy prosecutors, Liza Tom and Lynne McGivern.

Tom, now a deputy prosecutor in the Los Angeles district attorney’s office, wrote to Hee saying Kim had “a broken moral compass.”

Yesterday, McGivern was subpoenaed to testify. She said Kim disrespected those with less seniority, particularly women.

“I do have concerns that he lacks the appropriate judicial temperament and also lacks the capacity to truly hear different points of view and treat all litigants with the utmost respect,” McGivern told the committee under oath.

“Mr. Kim has some fundamental issues dealing with other people who he considers are not as bright as him,” McGivern said.

Kim said he rejected all of McGivern’s and Tom’s charges, saying they were all false.

Noting that he had given Tom a poor job evaluation as her supervisor, Kim said he knew she was not happy with him.

“But I don’t know why she is saying these things she is saying,” Kim said. “I simply deny everything in that letter. It is simply not true.”

Kim also denied all of McGivern’s charges.

“I have never in my 14 years as a prosecutor treated anybody disrespectfully, dismissively, contemptuously, abusively or inappropriately. I didn’t do that and I never had,” Kim said.

That total rejection, Hee said, was what caused him to feel that Kim lacked the temperament to be a judge.

I wasn’t at the hearing. Thus, I do not know if there is more to the negative testimony than what has been reproduced in the media. However, the allegations as described seem to provide only a slender reed to hang a “lack of judicial temperament” charge upon. Senator Hee puts the nominee in an impossible position: admit to the allegations, and he’s unsuitable; deny the allegations, and he’s unsuitable. Hee may just as well have asked when Mr. Kim stopped beating his wife. Sigh.

From Hong’s post:

Nominees should not be subject to, and the Senate in carrying out its “advise and consent” duties should not bend to, the tyranny of the minority.

Sen. Hee seems all too willing to use a small vocal minority as an excuse to impose his imperious views on who should be appointed.

In Mr. Kim’s case, his critics’ opinions appear to have been unchallenged.

Sen. Hee’s concern for Mr. Kim’s critics’ welfare and that he would give Mr. Kim’s detractors greater weight is a farce that masks Hee’s political ambitions to be Governor without having to stand for election to that high office.

Wha? Where did that comment come from? As far as I know, there is no path for Hee to become Governor without winning an election, much less a path to Governor that denying Kim’s appointment would advance.

Also noted, from the Advertiser story:

en. Russell Kokubun, D-2nd (S. Hilo, Puna, Ka’u), said he was troubled that Kim’s allies in the prosecutor’s office appeared to attempt to discredit Kim’s critics.

Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said he unintentionally included information from one of Kim’s accuser’s personal evaluation in a packet he provided to the committee, which he told Kokubun privately was his mistake and should not reflect negatively on Kim.

“To me it almost bordered on character assassination,” Kokubun said.

Hmmm. A convenient “error,” that just happens to discredit the opposition. Tut, tut, Mr. Carlisle…

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Technical difficulties

Filed under: General — Doug @ 7:34 pm
Perl and I will be pet-sitting at a friends’ place for a week starting tomorrow.

They have a wifi network. However, I can’t connect my MacBook to it until I figure out what password they use for the WEP. They use a Windows XP laptop, but that will be going away tomorrow, too. The actual broadband link and the wireless router are in a home office that they keep locked for privacy, so, even though it is probably easier to get the password from that end, after tomorrow morning that option will be closed.

So, if any of you folks know how to make a Windows XP laptop reveal the password it uses to connect to a wifi network, or if you know how to learn the current password from the router end of the show, then PLEASE let me know as soon as possible. Otherwise, my options are: no posts for a week, or travel to and fro just to use the internet. Ugh.

If only I had a length of network cable, then I could just plug it into the router and have them pass it out under the office door… Drat!

UPDATE: They had a piece of network cable handy, so I think I am all set with a wired connection. Mahalo for all the assistance!

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Representative Finnegan answers her critic

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:36 pm
A Hawaii Reporter post by House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan comes as a direct response to an earlier criticsim of her performance as a media mouthpiece for the GOP.

Her most interesting passages are these:

I do not and will not put a ?Republican spin? on things. I vowed to myself and my family when we decided that I would run for office that I would resist putting politics before what was right.

In 1998 when Linda Lingle lost, I did not identify myself as a Republican. I identified myself as a person with Republican values. I could not relate to Democrats and felt Republicans could not relate to me. Governor Lingle and many others dispelled that perception.

I believe that local Republican values are a balance of compassion and personal responsibility, are fiscally economical, and embrace Hawaii?s history, culture, and people.


Finally, I agree that I need to be more effective at communicating what Hawaii Republicans stand for. Currently, less than one out of every 10 attempts for media is successful for us. We created our own and would like to invite the public to view a new show on ?Olelo called ?Right from the House?. We are also developing a website and podcast.

A podcast? Really? I’ll be interested to see them dabble in that, since I know of no other Hawaii politician or party using that medium. Finnegan may want to get busy with those web efforts, as there are only about 7 more weeks of session. One episode of the new House GOP `Olelo program airs later tonight, and another episode (on the topic of Opening Day?!) airs later this week several times.

As for the difficulty the House GOP has in getting media coverage, if their efforts that get through to the mass media are gaffes like this and yawners like this, then I’d hate to see the efforts that are failing… However, they have no problem getting things posted at Hawaii Reporter.

I reckon all of this is gonna seem like pretty thin gruel for Mr. Smith. Heh.

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Pre-emptive embarrassment leads to supra-embarrasment

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 5:38 pm
I was very surprised to see this Advertiser article with additional background about how the House Judiciary Committee came to defer the civil union bill. Occasionally I see stories like this one with a Borreca byline in the SB, but DePledge has provided an unusually thorough job in offering a blow-by-blow of what happened before, during, and after the decision. I’m still disappointed with Waters’ decision to defer, but the article is quite well done and offers an interesting insihgt into what it all might mean inside the House Democratic Caucus.

Unfortunately, I’m going out for dinner and don’t have time to formulate and put down my own thoughts. So, rather than take a complete “pass,” I will throw it open to you folks to help me out.

What do you think about the scenario described in the article with respect to: Representatives Waters, Caldwell, Say, Souki, Luke, or any/all of the other House Democrats? Leave a comment and I’ll approve them for publishing later tonight or early tomorrow morning. Mahalo.

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Legislation as existentialism

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 2:44 pm
The Advertiser is all over the map today regarding its coverage of the First Crossover that just occurred at the Legislature this past week. Jerry Burris’ column is a vaguely postmodern riff on the political theater that is our Legislature. The Advertiser also publishes a long list of what they consider the more noteworthy bills of the first half of the legislative session. Finally, the Advertiser bloggers explain why they rarely use bill numbers when writing about legislation.

Here’s Burris, dabbling as a chin-scratching philosopher:

So, the Legislature still matters. But it is interesting that in many ways the Legislature matters more to itself than it does to anyone outside the Capitol, including voters and constituents. In some ways it is like a political Las Vegas: “What happens at the Capitol stays at the Capitol.”

Case in point is the huge emphasis, both real and symbolic, placed on the matter of “crossover.” In today’s paper you can read a huge graphic that details what ideas and bills are moving and what bills are languishing. This is important stuff, and the full-page listing will give you a strong idea of what is real at the Legislature this year.

But the reality of the moment is largely a product of perception by the 76 men and women who serve there.

“Hey, look at this big piece of bellybutton lint I just found!” [cough] Excuse me.

In my opinion, the media need to accept a fair amount of the blame for what is behind Burris’ analogy to Las Vegas. It is not up to the Legislature to decide how the voters and constituents come to understand the workings of the legislative process. Most of politics is, on a superficial level, extremely boring and tedious bureaucracy—not very marketable traits for commercial media outlets trying to keep (or attract) an audience that has a decreasing tolerance for tedium and an increasing prevalence for cynicism. The interesting stuff requires one to pay attention and to come to know the latent motives and factions. Indeed, if, as Burris goes on to comment, there were no (purely arbitrary) deadlines such as First Crossover, then I think the legislative process would be even more difficult for the public to keep up with and for the media to cover.

An example of what exacerbates the “Vegas problem” is evidenced in the Capitol Notebook blog post:

Every session, readers complain we do not put bill numbers in many of our stories, making it difficult to easily find the text of the bill online or in paper form at the Capitol.

Some bill numbers do find their way into Advertiser stories or in information boxes or graphics. But for the most part, we choose to leave the numbers out.

There are several reasons. First, the actual numbers do not mean anything. … Second, the numbers add unnecessary clutter to stories. … Finally, we know bills usually take different forms as they are amended over the session.

I’ll grant that the alphabet soup of a bill that is in conference committee would be visually jarring. I would disagree that such detail is “unecessary clutter,” but it’s not my newspaper. In an online version of a story, however, there is a simple way around the clutter: embed the link in the story without the full nomenclature. The post says:

For example, the final number for the bill last session that banned smoking in bars was SB3262 SD1 HD1 CD2.

Which could easily be de-cluttered online as, “The bill that banned smoking in bars last session.” Anybody actually following the link would see the bill number in all its cluttered magnificence. I suspect that few (lesser) wonks would recoil. The media should, as the post concludes, endeavor to get better at incorporating links whenever possible. If we amateurs can do it, then surely the pros can figure it out.

By the way, it sure seems to be an odd blog post to come across as Sunshine Week 2007 gets underway. Bill numbers exist so there is an organized way for all players to keep closer tabs on the legislation being considered; to cover the story of a piece of legislation and yet omit the number is, in my estimation, obviously counterproductive to the goal of open government.

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Maui lawsuit alleges corruption

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 10:49 am
An odd Maui News story provides few details, but apparently a Maui resident is going to pursue a lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. (Incidentally, among those on the discovery list for the lawsuuit is a person named Doug White who is also involved in litigation against Maui County. I am not that person.)

The limited way the latest article describes the situation (and the law) is not particularly convincing. However, a Thursday story in the Maui News has a much better description of what is going on.

Meanwhile, a similar ? in many paragraphs, identically worded ? federal suit against the county and current and former members of the Maui Planning Commission is making fairly slow progress in U.S. District Court.

That suit, filed for Sadri by lawyer Deborah Wright in August, alleges constitutional violations, conspiracy to violate civil rights and equitable estoppel ? the doctrine that when a citizen acts in good faith reliance on government actions, the government cannot then turn around and pull the rug out from under him.

The new suit, filed for Sadri in the same federal court by lawyer Jim Fosbinder, relies on the same evidence but a completely different legal theory ? that county officials canceled building permits and a special management area exemption on Sadri?s lot, but let him know that he could get them back if he would just give the county a walkway along the ocean to the county.

Fosbinder alleges that Apana started the conspiracy because he foresaw political advantage against Arakawa, then a council member, in a coming contest for mayor.

Allegedly, the other conspirators cooperated because they hoped to keep their jobs if Apana were re-elected, which he was not.

The article provides more details of Sadri’s suit, and I confess that I don’t know the history of everything the article talks about. Googling Sadri shows that he is a rather litigious fellow, though.

Going back to Friday’s article, this is how the alleged illegal activity is described:

The RICO claim is that “over an extended period of time . . . the core management of the county of Maui, consisting of elected and appointed officials, with substantial control over land use and development, regularly engaged in the unlawful manipulation of the county government processes for their own personal gain and political motives.”

The “gain” is not claimed to be bribes but votes for the elected officials or, for their appointees, the chance to keep their jobs.

So, it’s “unlawful” for elected officials to operate in a manner intended to please the public and thereby win re-election?

Not to be too snarky, but doesn’t nearly every person upset with a discretionary political decision console himself or herself with a similar rationalization of the “gain” theme? Arguing this situation in Court seems to present some pretty heavy separation of powers issues, to put it mildly.

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Army disclaims responsibility for flammable ‘beads’ washing up onto Leeward coast

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:48 am
Some blatant spin seems to be present in this Advertise story about pellets washing up on the Leeward Coast recently.

Meanwhile, an Army spokesman said the pellets are undoubtedly military in origin and that they have likely been in the ocean for many years.

Army officials acknowledged a year ago that tons of munitions were dumped off O’ahu during and immediately after World War II. But Army officials have insisted that they posed no threat to the people of Hawai’i and that removing the munitions would be worse than leaving them.


The propellant grains became the focus of attention Thursday after a team of Army munitions specialists examined some of the red, brown and green pellets that people at Ma’ili Beach had been collecting, thinking they were beads that could be made into necklaces.

Army officials confirmed that they are, in fact, potentially hazardous, highly flammable propellant grains used in rockets and artillery.

But just because the Army looked into the situation and issued the warning doesn’t mean the pellets originated with the Army, a spokesman said yesterday.

Army spokesman Kendrick Washington said the Army was only doing the right thing in issuing the warning.

“We typically get called when there’s anything that looks like it has a potential to be flammable, explosive, harmful, that type of thing,” said Washington. “They call us because we’re trained and equipped to do it.

“Having said that, we do it because we’re interested in serving the public and in public safety. However, because we do it doesn’t mean we take ownership of it.”

Huh?! How about some Congressional reaction to this flip-flopping? Either the military was lying a year ago when they acknowledged dumping munitions after World War Two, or the Army is not acting in good faith in making this latest claim that they are not responsible for these pellets. Or the Army may be splitting hairs, for example, perhaps it was some other branch of the military that dumped these particular munitions.

Before getting too swept up in the story, is it really true (as an area diver comments) that these pellets are still dangerous when dried after so long underwater? If so, then at a minimum, it would seem that the government should be searching for and properly disposing of whatever pellets make it to the shoreline. At least until the DoD is able to better mitigate the problem at the deepwater source…

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Update on the 2007 public campaign funding bills

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:48 am
A story in the Maui Time Weekly reminded me to check on the status of the latest attempts for public campaign funding. I wrote a post in February about HB 661, and the latest Maui Time Weekly story also mentions SB 1068.

After being amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the senate bill is no longer a full public funding effort. Instead, it (re-)opens the partial public funding program to candidates for prosecuting attorney and increases the amounts of (partial) funding authorized for qualified candidates. Candidates for House seats would receive up to 50% of the expenditure limit in public funds, while candidates for other offices would receive up to 14% of the expenditure limit. Previously these limits were all at 10%. An increase would be an improvement on the pathetic outcomes we’ve seen from the existing formula.

The house bill is also significantly different, after amendments were made by the House Judiciary Committee. Among the amendments: The bill originally targeted candidates for House seats, but it is now directed to County Council seats. The amount of so-called “equalizing funds” available to each qualified candidate will be much lower, and the provision transferring money from the Unclaimed Property Trust Fund to the Hawaii Elections Campaign Fund was deleted. In its place is an appropriation from the General Fund, which is a politically more difficult path to take.

I’ll try to keep closer tabs on these bills as they cross over into the non-originating chamber.

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Rare repatriation coverage exception

Filed under: HI Media, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 10:48 am
After a comment I made in an earlier post about subjects that seem to be taboo in Hawaii media, fairness compels me to note a SB article with photographs of a naval officer’s body being repatriated to Hilo. The sailor died of a non-combat-related heart attack in Kuwait, where he had recently begun a logistics assignment in support of the Iraq war.

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Pacific Business News editor finds an I.D. thief’s ‘gold mine:’ 39 boxes of mortgage files improperly disposed of

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 7:40 pm
A serendipitous trip to a recycling bin led to this Pacific Business News article that illustrates why identity theft is a growing problem.

The boxes containing Fidelity Escrow Services Corp. files were discovered by PBN Editor Jim Kelly after he tossed a pile of newspapers into the recycling bin in front of Niu Valley Middle School on Sunday afternoon.

Kelly saw at least a dozen white banker’s boxes in the bin and manila file folders were scattered about.

Kelly dug through the bin and found 39 boxes, as well as scores of loose files and envelopes stuffed with canceled checks and deposit slips.

He took the boxes out of the bin and moved them to a secure location. On Monday, he contacted the state Office of Consumer Protection, which takes the lead on many identity theft issues.

The records were once held by an escrow and title insurance company operated by Stephen Marn of Hawaii Kai. The article does a good job describing the new law regulating the disposal of personal information, and, just to make the story more interesting, reminds readers of Marn’s past involvement in a Ponzi scheme that bilked millions from greedy suckers investors in the 1990s.

The haul of boxes was a lucky find, not only for the people whose identities could have been stolen, but also for Kelly and PBN. Kudos are due, even if it was pure luck.

Act 136, known as the “Dumpster-diving law,” is aimed at shutting off one of the most lucrative information streams used by identity thieves: picking through garbage for account records.

The law requires businesses to safeguard consumer information and to ensure that discarded documents containing personal data are burned or shredded to the point “that information cannot be practicably read or reconstructed.”

Violators can be fined as much as $2,500 per incident and can be held liable for damages if their careless handling of documents led to an identity theft.

Stephen Levins, executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection, said his office is opening an investigation into the Niu Valley dumping, describing the contents of the files as “a veritable gold mine” for identity thieves.

While there have been cases where companies have notified Hawaii consumers about breaches of computer files containing private data, Levins said this is the first case involving the dumping of sensitive documents.

He said the new law is clear that personal information has to be destroyed, not just discarded.

“That’s really bad,” Levins said. “Anyone who is not disposing of personal information in a responsible way — and a responsible way is not dumping them in a recycling bin at a middle school — is in violation.”

The boxes are being held in a secure location and no copies have been made nor notes taken from the financial information. Levins said some of the files will be needed for his investigation but all of the boxes will be kept secure and eventually will be destroyed.

I’m wondering if the “per incident” fine will be interpreted as “per disposal” or “per individual privacy violation,” i.e. will there be a single fine of $2,500 or will the fine be the total of a $2,500 penalty for each person whose identity could have been compromised.

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Representative Finnegan accused of media bungling

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 6:46 pm
Garry Smith of Ewa Beach submitted a post to Hawaii Reporter where he takes House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan to task for leading a “silent minority.”

Since the [Republican] numbers are small and not even considered a swing vote by the Democrat [sic] majority, the only influence they may have is as a vocal minority, capable of frequent newspaper, radio and television appearances to voice their disagreement with the majority and to spread a Republican perspective of what life in Hawaii would be like under a Republican majority.

Unfortunately, our Republican House has rendered themselves the silent minority through their undistinguished leader, Rep. Lynn Finnegan.

Given several large newspaper article print opportunities such as the opening day speeches, Rep. Finnegan has proven that she is not capable of providing a credible opposition to the Democrats.


Numerous opportunities have been squandered for Rep. Finnegan to put a Republican spin on things, which by the way, is her job. She has been offered a weekly time slot with the popular Rick Hamada show on 830 KHVH to which, according to Rick Hamada, she did not even offer the courtesy of a reply.

As for possibly being unavailable due to demands on her time, it seems Senate President democrat Colleen Hanabusa is able to make a weekly appearance on Rick?s show and clearly her time must be very busy leading a majority of democrat [sic] Senators. Except for a couple of articles published in Hawaii Reporter and the local dailies by Rep. Colleen Meyer, Rep. Cynthia Thielen and most recently Rep. Barbara Marumoto it?s only been the democrats who have filled the newspapers with their strange view of legislation.

Surely the 8 surviving Republican members of the House can at least give some time to the media in the form of letters to the editor to provide the Republican point of view so that in 2008 the new inexperienced candidates (as most of the old reliable candidate place holders are getting tired of the losing marathon) might have something to show the electorate as to why Republicans are different from democrats and should be given a chance.

If Rep. Finnegan wants eventually to become the majority leader she should at least show that she has a voice of opposition.

Well, all of that assumes that a Republican Party with a vigorously partisan media strategy could expect more victorious GOP candidates at the polls. I doubt that. Centrism remains the (winning) public relations modus operandi for Governor Lingle, and if a more conservative philosophy would serve Republicans her better, then I’m pretty sure she would have adopted it long ago. Outside of a few district strongholds, unvarnished Republican dogma does not win in Hawaii.

That said, Smith is correct insofar as Finnegan and the House Minority Caucus have been pretty thin on articles and blog posts and altogether silent on the press release front. However, similar to what I mentioned previously, if not Finnegan, then which other Republican could do better as Minority Leader? Or, hewing more to Smith’s theme, which of the other Republicans in the House would be the more/most vocal partisan?

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Hawaii Family Forum on expanding same-sex benefits

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:58 pm
The House will vote tomorrow on a floor amendment that will authorize health insurance benefits for reciprocal beneficiaries of state and county employees. In the Hawaii Reporter a post by Kelly Rosati of the Hawaii Family Forum speaks in favor of this change and tries to reassure readers that the amendment would not provide another step toward civil unions. Rosati writes:

Traditional marriage proponents, then and now, support the RB approach to providing benefits since it doesn?t jeopardize marriage or base public policy decisions on sex partner status. The original state employee RB health benefit provision expired several years back and it was not renewed. We?ve supported renewal, gay activists have not.

Many same sex marriage and civil unions supporters vehemently oppose the RB approach, calling it ?low class and a slap in the face to gay people.? For these activists, nothing will satisfy them short of state recognition that their relationships are ?just like marriage.?

Yesterday?s House action doesn?t get them anywhere near that standard and didn?t even single out same-sex partners in any way.

As Rosati noted, the Hawaii Family Forum (speaking for the Roman Catholic Church of Hawaii) testified (PDF) in support of the reciprocal beneficiary bill from which the floor amendment language was modeled.

Passage of the original reciprocal beneficiaries legislation in 1997 was crucial in serving the Legislature?s dual purposes of 1) preserving the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman and 2) providing benefits to those in need in a way that was not based on sex partner status.

You may remember my earlier post about Rosati’s opposition to HB 908, the Civil Unions bill. I’m not sure where her fixation on “sex partner status” comes from, but that jargon certainly is not in the civil unions bill. The civil unions bill (now dead for this year) applied to unrelated people not allowed to marry. Just like the marriage law, “sex partner status” may only be inferred in the civil union bill, it is not expressed.

The Hawaii Family Forum testimony (PDF) opposed to the Civil Unions bill said:

3. Hawaii Confers Significant Benefits through the Reciprocal Beneficiary Law

a) Part of the compromise during the same-sex marriage debate was passage of Hawaii?s reciprocal beneficiary (RB) legislation. The RB law provides significant benefits to many more people in need—separate from their sex partner status.
b) Under the current RB law, elderly siblings residing together can access important benefits. Under the civil unions proposal, only same-sex couples can access the benefits.

Some of the RB benefits include:

? health care coverage
? hospital visitation privileges
? uniform health care decision making rights
? property rights, including tenancy in the entirely rights
? probate rights, including survivorship rights
? worker?s compensation
? state employee retirement beneficiary rights
? automobile insurance coverage
? mental health commitment approvals and notifications
? family and funeral leave
? disaster relief loans
? public lands leases
? legal standing for wrongful death
? legal standing for victim?s rights
? domestic violence family stautus
? University of Hawaii facility use
? Anatomical gift rights
? Government vehicle emergency use

c) If there is something the Legislature wants to fix with the current set of benefits, like the health insurance provisions, it should simply go ahead and fix the RB statute.

Thus, if CU were to adopt the same eligibility requirements as RB, then the Hawaii Family Forum could no longer trot out that objection to the “sex partner status” of civil union partners. What then would the Hawaii Family Forum base their (nearly inevitable) opposition upon?

Later in the Hawaii Family Forum testimony they offer their version of what is missing from RB:

Proponents should be clear about the primary reasons for [the CU] bill. Many of the items frequently mentioned are already available under [RB]. Some benefits not currently available are limited state-only tax benefits and parenting rights.

Riffing on their suggestion to “fix the RB statute,” would it be okay to grant tax benefits and parenting rights to same-sex couples in a RB status, so long as elderly siblings (the Hawaii Family Forum’s seemingly preferred RB scenario) also get the same tax benefits and parenting rights?

As I asked earlier: where, exactly, does the “threat to marriage” attach? Which rights and benefits are the triggers?

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Oops, nevermind

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 7:04 pm
Yesterday I was almost curious enough to write a post about an aggressive letter to the Maui News editors, but I demurred because I have not been following the Malulani hospital brouhaha closely. Now I am glad that I didn’t stir that pot, since a response printed today seems to thoroughly discredit the accusation.

Allegation from Jeannie Harris of Wailuku:

Sen. Shan Tsutsui would have been better off if he stayed quiet about his stance about the second hospital (Viewpoint, Feb. 11). After all, he takes his lead from the leaders of Maui Memorial Medical Center, and during the election, his big idea was to get $100 million for MMMC.

As a full-time hire and office manager, Wendy Kondo works as a permanent member of Tsutsui?s staff at the Capitol, according to Tsutsui?s Legislative Report (Vol. 1, Issue 1).

Wendy is the daughter of the doctor in charge of Clinical Labs on Maui and at MMMC. Clinical Labs has lobbied against the proposed Malulani hospital in Kihei and would lose millions of dollars if MMMC is turned into a long-term-care hospital.

Response from Calvin Yang of Kahului:

Jeannie Harris (Letters, March 4) is correct in her statement that Wendy Kondo is the name of the office manager for state Sen. Shan Tsutsui. Since I am not a physician and have no connection with Clinical Labs on Maui, I presume Ms. Harris must know of another Wendy Kondo walking around at the state Capitol.

I do know for a fact that the Wendy Kondo mentioned is my daughter and has been since her birth in Hagerstown, Md.

To put it simply, what the heck is Jeannie Harris talking about? If Yang is correct, then how did Harris get her allegations so wrong?

META: I know, today is crossover day at the Lege, but I just can’t get excited enough about the bills at this point to comment on the various laundry lists published in the Honolulu dailies.

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Bills to disclose high tech tax credit and to jigger with trade delegation funding

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:25 pm
An interesting Advertiser story about several pieces of legislation that would provide better public accounting of where State moneys are being spent. For the most part, all of the bills described sound worthy.

However, if they are going to require that businesses claiming the High Technology Tax Credit report how many jobs are created, then it makes little sense to disclose the data unless the size of the tax credit is also disclosed. For example, Company X claims the credit and reports they created 25 jobs. It makes a big difference if Company X were claiming a one million dollar credit for those 25 jobs, or if Company X were claiming a ten million dollar credit.

State officials also have been slow at releasing the identities of companies benefiting from other tax credits, even when they are required to do so. The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism took four months to disclose the identities of TV and film productions benefiting from state tax credits. The agency disclosed the names in January under orders from the Office of Information Practices, which administers the state’s open records laws.

So far as I can tell, none of the bills mentioned in the story would provide for disclosure of the production tax credits.

I am especially interested in HB 1659 which goes back to a hot topic from last year: i.e. the sketchy China Trade Delegation saga.

Separately, lawmakers are considering House Bill 1659, which would require that money raised by state agencies for state purposes be deposited into the general fund and disbursed via legislative appropriation.

The proposed legislation would eliminate activities such as DBEDT’s use of a nonprofit organization to handle $268,000 in private sponsorships raised for Gov. Linda Lingle’s trade mission to China in 2005, said state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa), chairman of the House Finance Committee. Because the nonprofit was not a state agency, its actions were not bound by procurement or sunshine laws.

The decision highlighted an apparent hole in the state’s procurement law that allows agencies to avoid compliance with the procurement code by funneling money through a private entity.

Oshiro, who introduced HB 122 and HB 1659, said he thinks there’s support to pass such transparency measures this session.

“Everybody wants good accountability of taxpayer money and greater transparency of how our monies are spent,” he said. “The idea is the more transparency you have when taxpayer money is being spent, the better.”

The tax foundation’s Kalapa said increased transparency over government expenditures such as trade missions is overdue. Practices that obscure the entities sponsoring state activities create the perception that government is hiding something from the public.

“It’s kind of an unethical way to pay for something that should be paid for by government,” Kalapa said. “Government should pay for (trade missions) rather than soliciting contributions, which could curry favor.

“Whether or not it’s perception or reality it’s still there. It certainly makes you wonder.”

I don’t say this often, but I agree with Kalapa. Oshiro’s bill, however, does not improve the situation very much, if at all. The problem, in my opinion, is less that a non-profit accepted and disbursed the contributions. The main problem is the way the funds were solicited from the “donors.” Passing the donations through the General Fund does not reduce the “pay to play” perception/reality. Indeed, all passing the money through the GF will do is make it more cumbersome for DBEDT to spend the money in accordance with the procurement law—that is not necessarily a bad thing, but it completely misses the larger point.

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What coverage is taboo?

Filed under: General — Doug @ 9:02 am
Advertiser editor Mark Platte has a column today about a recent string of suicides reported in the newspaper.

The circumstances of the past few weeks have compelled me to revisit the subject of suicide, an often taboo topic in the news media.

Over a seven-day period, we wrote brief articles about three suicides and though our policy is to do so only rarely, there were specific reasons why we wrote about each of them.


Research posted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention shows that suicide rates increase when the number of stories about suicide increases, a particular death is reported in detail, the suicide is reported in bold headlines or receives front-page treatment or prominence on a news broadcast.

Like the [television news] stations, our policy does not cover all circumstances but we all put a great deal of thought and discussion into what is appropriate when it comes to suicide coverage. What’s needed from all of us is greater depth in exploring a tragedy that is often hidden just below the surface.

Huh? What does that cryptic last sentence mean? Less coverage of the suicide but greater depth about what may have motivated the act? Whatever.

A few years back there was a bomb threat at the Capitol and the entire building was evacuated for several hours. As you can imagine, the police and Sheriffs went into a full response and it was quite the scene. The Legislature ground to a halt. Still, there was zero coverage in the news media even though every scanner must have been buzzing and there were even reporters evacuated fromt he building along with the rest of us. We were told the media silence was to discourage copycats. So, in addition to most suicides, apparently the bomb threat topic is taboo, too. Another example: photographs and video of bodies being repatriated from war zones have faced a similar near-blackout.

Are there (m)any other “you had to be there” stories that the Hawaii media have formal or informal policies not to tell the rest of us about? What are these other taboo topics?

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USA Today – Hawaii edition

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 9:01 am
The SB is re-designing the layout of their print edition beginning tomorrow. The change is described as making the print edition resemble a website, but it brings to my mind a few decades ago when Gannett brought out the full-color, graphics-heavy USA Today and sold it in “telvision shaped” vending boxes…

On Page A1 and the front page of the Sports and Business sections, we will have summaries, short stories, graphics and/or photos on the top four or five stories of the day. These will provide “just the facts.” Page A1 will also include a digest that includes key stories from all sections and our national/international news report. After looking at the front page, you will have a grasp of all major news of the day. [sic! haha]

If after reading the summaries on A1 or the cover pages of sections you would like an in-depth story, a page number will direct you to a story with more details. Think of it as clicking on a link on Page A1 or the cover pages to a story inside the section. Stories inside will run about as long as they do now, when warranted — this is not a format that has as its goal shorter stories throughout the paper.

Will the website include an image of the print-editon front page, so we web readers can also grasp “all major news of the day” in one look? Heh. I’m sorry, but I think that claim is so ludicrous… Seriously, I browse at least a dozen newspapers every day online, yet I never kid myself that I grasp all the major news.

Well, this will be my motivation to pick up a free copy on the bus tomorrow morning, for sure. Think of all the time I will save, and I’ll become omniscient! haha

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