Poinography!

January 10, 2009

Poinography December 2007 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 2:29 pm

Poinography!

12/25/2007

Maui News editorial derides PIMAR

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 11:26 am
The Maui News editorializes about the “failure” of legislation that attempted find out how much profit the refineries and retailers were making.

House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell said consumers want to know if the oil companies and retailers are making excessive profits. How much is excessive? Consumers would like to see none, but businesses are not charities, and history has proven that every time government gets into setting prices, it’s a disaster for everyone.

The slope is not quite that slippery.

The disclosure of industry profits and margins will, obviously, show a profit is being made. Will some people view any profit as “excessive,” no matter how small? Yes, but I don’t expect them to carry much political weight. That argument and those people are not the point.

The point is that once weekly data begin to emerge the public will be able to judge if fluctuations in profits and margins have a rational connection to the inherent costs of doing business. It is true that the state heavily taxes each gallon of gasoline, but that tax is not a variable in the equation—it is fixed. Thus, if the only/main variable that changes from week to week is the average cost of raw petroleum, then the price of gasoline should follow closely the price of the raw material. Furthermore, if the price of gasoline does not follow the underlying expenses of doing business, then, barring some other explanation, it is fair to assume that the slow declines and rapid increases in gasoline prices have only served (and will continue) to enhance profits and margins. THAT is the kind of thing that few people are going to be willing to accept. THAT is gouging.

That’s why I want to see the profit and margin data made public. Still no word from the PUC after a week, by the way. I know, it’s the holiday, but somebody must be around there to churn out the weekly PIMAR report…

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Nothing will change inside the grants tomb

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 11:25 am
The third part of Rob Perez’s look at the GIA process is in the Advertiser today. Today the focus is moved to how other states allocate money to non-profits. The series started with a bang, but ends with a whimper, in my opinion.

Those who regularly deal with the process generally agree that it needs to be reformed.

The system should be more open, they say, and formal guidelines are essential so the nonprofit community and the public have a better understanding of how decisions are made.

But opinions differ on what should be done to fix the system.

Some legislators believe the grants should be more temporary, or one-time in nature, as opposed to giving money to an organization year after year to pay for an ongoing program. If the program is that critical for the state, they said, it should be incorporated into the regular budget process, subject to regular reviews.

Some nonprofit executives believe the process should be more structured, with a grants bill handled like any other legislation, including going through public hearings and a formal vote.

Others believe the funding requests should be handled by the legislative committees that already deal with bills of similar subject matter.

My prediction: the selection process won’t be changed, and, even if the series were somehow able to bring this issue to a boil, then the process certainly wouldn’t be overhauled in time for the 2008 budget, anyway. Maybe a resolution or two to “study” the matter, at most.

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12/24/2007

Representative Magaoay takes a beating from Perez

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:35 am
No need to sugarcoat it. The latest Advertiser story about the grants-in-aid process, this one about Representative Magaoay’s recent hauls of campaign contributions from the non-profits that he holds great influence over, is a wallop.

“The impression you get is it’s all juice — so little is meritorious,” said Sid Rosen, president emeritus of Adult Friends for Youth, which has received some grants but also had other requests rejected.

“I think local politics in general — everybody has to pay to play,” added Debbie Shimizu, executive director of the Hawai’i chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, which doesn’t seek grants-in-aid. “I don’t think it’s any different with this.”

Magaoay and others involved in the decision-making refuted the notion that campaign contributions influence the process.

“Absolutely not true,” he said.

“I would never condone anything like that,” added House Speaker Calvin Say.

Magaoay also denied using his grants position to raise campaign money from people in the nonprofit world, saying he would never condone such a practice.

“I’m doing what is right as a legislator,” he said.

As chairman of the House’s grants-in-aid subcommittee — a subcommittee of one, with Magaoay the sole member — he has been a critical player in determining which of the nonprofits get a coveted spot on a grants list that surfaces toward the end of each legislative session.

——–

Magaoay attributed his fundraising success to the relationships he’s built over nearly 30 years as an engineer and to two well-known Democrats, Bill Paty and Fred Trotter, who served as co-chairmen of his campaign fundraising. “They basically know everybody in town,” he said.

Magaoay also said he told Paty and Trotter specifically not to use his grants position to raise money. But he said he has no control over what they say to prospective donors. “They’re icons,” Magaoay said. “People look up to them.”

Paty and Trotter, in separate interviews, said the campaign committee decided to solicit people in the nonprofit community because such individuals might be inclined to support Magaoay, given his role in deciding which groups get grant money. Paty said Magaoay was there when the decision was made but the legislator didn’t say anything in response.

As the article points out, most (all?) committee chairs enjoy a natural fundraising advantage from potential donors who rely on (or are seeking) the largess and/or favorable oversight of the chair. Magaoay’s sub-committee chairmanship is one of the lowest-profile, but has proven to be especially lucrative. However, take a look at the #4 position on the graphic. Representative Nakasone has been a gatekeeper over CIP in the House (as chair of another semi-stealth subcommittee) for many years. My hunch is that you’d find a lot of questionable donations to his campaign, too…

Well, if there has to be a bright side, at least the non-profits won’t feel pressured to contribute to multiple members of a subcommittee. Magaoay (via Mr. Paty and Mr. Trotter) provide non-profit donors a one-stop convenience. Sigh.

So, what to do about it? The third part of Perez’s series runs tomorrow and will discuss how the process works in other states. I have a few ideas of my own. How about randomly re-assigning the GIA sub-committee chair position (from among the money committee membership) after each election cycle? How about publicly-financed campaigns?

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Show this to any skeptical, yet nerdy, youngsters in your life

Filed under: General — Doug @ 10:34 am
Less fun than Festivus, but for those readers with children who are beginning to doubt Santa Claus: NORAD TRACKS SANTA 2007

The Google Earth plug-in and Santa Cam videos are fun!

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12/23/2007

Festivus is today!

Filed under: General — Doug @ 10:27 am
[Inspired by a passing comment in this post at the 13th Floor blog.]

Best wishes to all among my readers celebrating Festivus! Like the occasional disputes at Honolulu Hale about which holiday displays are alloted space on the lawn, a story from my long-departed home state tells of how grinches nixed the idea of installing a Festivus pole among the other traditional symbols of the holdiay season. The reason: it’s not “religious.” Hmmmm.

Anyway, here in my teeny apartment, a Festivus tree is a holiday decoration I could accomodate! Heck, I could even manufacture my own for next year, slide it into a tube of expanded plastic mesh, strap it to my bicycle trailer and tow it around humming sappy seasonal music.

In the spirit of the holiday, after a morning spent online “airing my grievances,” I’ll soon depart to perform “feats of strength” at the skate park and probably grab dinner at L&L. All the best to you and yours.

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Grants-in-aid process and winners/losers described

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:27 am
It looks like Rob Perez has obviously been extremely busy with a multi-part story about the Grant In Aid program at the Legislature. (I’m no expert on it, but I mentioned it [where else? haha] in my Christmas post of last year). Part one of Perez’s story is here, accompanied by a case study story here, and a database of GIA recipients here. I really doubt that the GIA data were provided in digital form, so my hat is off to the person or persons who compiled that database! In an ideal database we could also learn: how the amounts awarded compare to the amounts sought, which applicants were totally denied; and, which legislators sent letters of support to the legislative fiscal committees on behalf of each winner and loser. But, alas, that’s not this database.

Still, you’ve turned over a rock here, Mr. Perez! Well done.

Some of the key paragraphs:

This year, the Legislature received more than 300 grant-in-aid applications for a record $330 million. Less than half the applications were approved, and most organizations didn’t get the amounts they requested. Lawmakers authorized roughly $43 million in grants, bankrolling everything from homeless services to a documentary film on Queen Lili’uokalani’s musical legacy. Last year, legislators appropriated more than $70 million in grants.

——–

Rep. Colleen Meyer, a Republican who has been on the House Finance Committee for seven years, said she has never been briefed about what criteria are used to draft the list. Other members, including some Democrats, said the same thing.

The decision-makers acknowledged that multiple factors go into compiling the grants list, but they said a project’s merit is the key one.

With so many worthy requests competing for a limited amount of funding, the list-makers added, they have to use their judgment to make difficult calls, just like with other parts of the budget.

“Somewhere along the line, you have to make these tough choices,” said Oshiro, who, like Baker, headed his chamber’s money committee for the first time last session.

Baker said the process always will involve discretion because it’s ultimately a political one. “There’s probably no way you’re going to get this thing to be a clear-cut science.”

Asked why no public hearing is held to at least explain what criteria will be used to make decisions, Magaoay said, “I think that’s a very good question.”

Several lawmakers said the process isn’t as open as they’d like because of the budget crunch near the end of the session, when decisions must be made quickly.

——–

The system affords so much influence to so few legislators that at least one has been able to leverage his grants position to help raise tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds from people in the nonprofit community. Magaoay has been the top fundraiser in the House since getting the grants job five years ago, according to an Advertiser computer-assisted analysis of campaign spending reports. The bulk of Magaoay’s individual donor support in the past two elections has come from people with ties to the nonprofit sector, the analysis shows.
Magaoay denies using his grants position to raise money. But his two key fundraising strategists acknowledged that Magaoay’s campaign has targeted people in the nonprofit community, hoping to capitalize on his influential role in the grants process. (See Part 2 of this series tomorrow.)

Next up, the Advertiser could have a look at the CIP budgeting process, which is similarly clouded in obscurity.

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12/22/2007

No skybox for politician duffers

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:45 am
The Advertiser reports (via leaked memoranda) that the Hawaii State Ethics Commission is warning legislators about attending “get to know you” gatherings as guests of registered lobbyists. However, the story describes how the memoranda are rather squishy when it comes to where exactly the line is drawn.

[Ethics Commission Executive Director] Mollway said the memos are meant as guidance for lawmakers and lobbyists and reflect his interpretations of the ethics code. The HMAA memo came after he was asked about the propriety of the invitation. He said he sent his memo to lobbyists after hearing several concerns that lobbying expenses are not being reported. “It’s much better to address it before it happens than after someone files a complaint,” he said.

Mollway said he only became aware in the past year of the dozens of receptions lawmakers are invited to before each session. He acknowledged it is a difficult area of the ethics code because it is not always clear when a reception rises to lobbying.

On Thursday, after speaking with The Advertiser, Mollway sent another confidential memo to lawmakers explaining that he was only trying to provide cautionary advice and did not intend for the issue to “find its way to the media.” He wrote that one lawmaker had left him a voice message that questioned whether it was proper to attend any event if the HMAA invitation violates the gift ban.

“This is certainly not the case,” Mollway wrote. “The memorandum regarding the HMAA was based on the facts of the case to the extent that I knew them, which is why I used the word ’seem’ in my memorandum.

“If there were a bar to legislators attending any event where something of any value might be presented to a legislator, no matter how small, our office would have issued such a memorandum long ago.”

As much as we may like to see cut-and-dried rules about what gifts (if any) are allowed, I don’t think it is Mollway’s kuleana to promulgate such rules. That is the Legislature’s task—and, yes, I recognize the fox and the hen house situation at hand.

By the way, the story concludes with a story of the Governor circumventing the rules concerning use of the pressbox at a UH football game:

An ‘Aiea man, for instance, complained to Gov. Linda Lingle after his experience at the University of Hawai’i football game against New Mexico State at Aloha Stadium in October. He said his family was invited to watch the game in the press box but his two sons, ages 4 and 6, were turned away because of safety rules to prevent young children from falling out. To his dismay, he said, he saw two young children in the press box with Lingle and her friends.

“I didn’t know that segregation was still alive in 2007,” the man wrote in an e-mail to Lingle, state lawmakers and The Advertiser. “I did not know that there were two separate sets of rules made for those that are friends with the governor and for those that are not. At last check, I believe the governor’s position was a publicly held, elected position, elected by citizens of Hawai’i like myself. Since when or how many of these separate rules are there in Hawai’i?”

Russ Saito, the state comptroller who oversees Aloha Stadium for the Lingle administration, responded to the man in an e-mail Thursday.

“I agree with your assertion that rules should be adhered to without regard to one’s position,” Saito wrote. “The governor was not made aware of the rule regarding the age restriction in the press box. However, stadium personnel were aware of the rule and should not have allowed the family and young children you mentioned to visit the governor in the press box.”

Riiiight. Stadium employees may be civil servants represented by a strong union (or maybe the security are private contractors, I dunno), but it would still have taken some bravado for a worker to insist that the young children be separated from the Governor’s entourage.

Last, and this is pretty old stuff with only the thinnest connection to the preceding part of this post, while browsing the Ethics Commission website I found an informal advisory opinion that upholds (albeit without explicitly mentioning) the practice of Coach Jones being paid a large portion of his salary via (partially anonymous) donations. The opinion (and the complainant) even went so far as to compare this to an endowed academic chair at the Univeristy.

Just recently Jones received a $100,000 “bonus” for his undefeated performance this year. The bonus money was quickly raised among well-heeled and well-connected fans and characterized as a retention incentive. To his credit, Jones said that he would distribute the bonus money among his staff, but this may present a slightly different issue than what the EC wrote about back in September 2006. i.e. I don’t know if the “bonus” followed the same conduits as the salary monies that were deemed okay.

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12/21/2007

Tis the season

Filed under: General — Doug @ 9:24 pm
…for holiday parties. I went to two today, so I don’t have enough time left for blogging, sorry. The good news is that I’m not going to work again until January 2nd, so (except for an exceptionally busy Thursday next week) I’ll be able to blog in the morning hours for a while.

However, I reckon that a lot of people who read this blog at work won’t be at work next week either, so I expect traffic here to be light. Oh well.

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12/20/2007

PUC claims that transparency data will take a year to “analyze”

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 6:46 pm
It’s a nice feeling, as a parasitic blogger, to lead instead of follow! Check out the placement and the story that sure seems like it was inspired by my post from Monday. The PUC has not responded to my email, and the Advertiser doesn’t have any profit or margin news either, but the article today is worth reading for its comments from other key players.

The agency said it is working with a consultant to expand the information provided in its reports.

“Currently, the reports present aggregated ending inventory and wholesale and retail transaction details, where available, which some may indeed find informative and meaningful,” the PUC said in a statement responding to Advertiser questions. “However, the commission is working with a consultant to look at other data and information that may be added to the report in the near future.

“Disclosure of data to the public is complicated and limited by the fact that the data from reporting entities is filed under protective seal,” the PUC statement said.

The lack of more public disclosure makes the program nearly useless, said petroleum industry consultant Tim Hamilton. Hamilton, who has advised lawmakers on petroleum issues, said the program should give consumers information about who raises prices and why.

“That was the purpose of transparency,” said Hamilton, who is based near Olympia, Wash. “When the public can’t see, it’s not transparent. It’s a joke.

“The PUC’s got (the information), but if they give it to you, they have to kill you.”

Pathetic. You know what? If the PUC continues to stonewall on releasing useful data, then I intend to exercise paragraph 26 of the Amended Protective Order:

26. If any interested person (including but not limited to Qualified Persons) disagrees with the designation of information as confidential, the person disagreeing shall first make a good faith attempt to resolve the dispute on an informal basis. If the dispute cannot be resolved, the person contesting the confidentiality of the information may file a motion to compel disclosure or any other appropriate motion with the Commission. The Reporting Entity claiming confidentiality shall bear the burden of proof in supporting its claim, and the Commission will determine whether the information shall continue to be classified as confidential under this protective order. The motion shall identify the contested information and the specific reasons the information should not be classified as confidential. P ending a disposition of the motion, the information in question shall continue to be treated as Confidential lnformation and shall not be disclosed except as permitted in this protective order.

Even if I don’t win access to the data, in denying me the data the petroleum industry (and, hopefully, the PUC) would have to explain why public disclosure of margins and profits deserves strict confidentiality.

Finally, it sure seems that I am piling on Majority Leader Caldwell often lately, but the article concludes:

The PUC said it has had difficulty staffing newly created oil industry monitoring positions and that it could be a year before the agency installs a new database that will allow more efficient analysis of oil industry data.

Meanwhile, Hawai’i’s gasoline prices continue to move in ways that seem out of step with the rest of the nation. Since Nov. 1, the average price for regular gasoline nationwide has risen 8 cents a gallon, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The Hawai’i average has risen 28 cents a gallon over the same period.

“There has to be a way that (oil industry profit) data can be reported … and put into a report that tells you and me and every other consumer in this state whether the pricing system is working fairly,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell has some cards that he doesn’t seem eager to play. Why not draft a bill (and why not make it part of the Majority Package) to ensure the disclosure of the critical data happens? It wouldn’t be the first time an expedient exemption was carved out of a long-standing statute…. The UIPA is no more (or less) deserving of reverence than HEPA, right?

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Giving away the (thin) playbook

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 6:45 pm
The Hawaii GOP is not happy about losing Representative Awana to the Democrats. A SB story puts it like this:

“Obviously, Karen has had to make a personal decision that shows where her values and loyalties lie,” said Willes K. Lee, state Republican Party chairman. “This was not unanticipated, having watched how Karen had voted this past session and hearing some of her philosophies.”

Rep. Kymberly Pine, assistant minority leader in the House, was more critical, noting that Awana waited until after the Republicans held their most recent caucus to announce her switch.

“She was included in our most confidential caucus meetings because she looked us in the eye and stated emphatically that she had no plans to switch political parties,” Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) said in a statement, noting that caucus discussions focused on the legislative package for the 2008 session.

“It is clear that she remained in the Republican caucus only to obtain this information,” she added. “I now wonder how any political party can trust her, let alone her own constituents on the Waianae Coast.”

Interesting to contrast the assessments of Awana’s philosophies and values from Hawaii GOP Chariman Lee and Representative Finnegan. Today Lee implies that Awana does not espouse Republican philosophies, while yesterday Finnegan said that Awana’s values were “very much Republican.”

The comments about Awana’s recent attendance at the Republican caucus before defecting definitely have some merit—not that it actually matters very much to the business of the House what transpires at the Republican caucus or what is contained in the Minority Package. A good analogy might be having a spy at the halftime strategy peptalk given to the New York Nationals (formerly and better known as the Washington Generals).

Finally, I need to acknowledge the Advertiser report where it begins and ends:

Hawai’i Democrats welcomed their newest convert, Leeward state Rep. Karen Awana, yesterday as the latest example of the party’s diversity.

——–

Some Democrats complained after [Senator] Gabbard’s switch that too many elected Democrats do not follow the party’s platform. Annelle Amaral, the chairwoman of O’ahu Democrats, said Awana assured Democrats that she supports the party’s core values.

“I will tell you quite frankly that what we pride ourselves in in the Democratic Party is our diversity,” Amaral said. “It is the diversity that makes this party strong.”

There’s that word again!

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12/19/2007

Hawaii County to hire lobbyist for upcoming Lege session

Filed under: HI State Politics, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 7:23 pm
An interesting Big Island Weekly story and a West Hawaii Today article describe upcoming actions by the Hawaii County Council to hire a lobbyist that will work at the Lege on its behalf next year. This post gets rather “inside baseball,” so be warned.

I’m not exactly sure, but it may be that the County is treating this like a purchase of professional services, subject to procurement law, and not as a civil service (or exempt employee) hiring process per se:

Council Chairman Pete Hoffmann, Kohala, said Monday that the council, unlike it originally thought, will not be able to vote on which applicant should be hired to serve as a liaison at the state level on behalf of the council.

Procurement regulations will prevent the council from making the final decision on who is hired, he said.

When the council opted to move forward recently in seeking a liaison who would keep the council abreast of what’s going on at the state level, as well as serve as a voice for the council before the Legislature, it was thought the county’s legislative body would have the final say as to who’s hired.

Such is not the case, Hoffmann said, as it’s since been determined the county’s Purchasing Department, which has procurement responsibilities, will have the final say as to who is hired as council liaison.

The Big Island Weekly has more about the nuts and bolts of the idea:

The objectives the lobbyist will actively engage and pursue will be clearly identified by the council, with final instruction from Hoffmann. “The idea is that the lobbyist works for the council.We can’t go out clearly with nine different issues from nine different councils . . . There’s a laundry list of issues that we could put in there. We have to be careful that we don’t overload the lobbyist. We have to be careful that we pick and choose our battles well, so to speak,” remarked the chairman.

Vice-Chairperson, Angel Pilago, stated, “We always need a presence there in order to protect our interests to monitor the legislation that affect our island and communities. To protect the `aina’s interests.” Pilago remarked that in previous years, the inability to receive timely information resulted in “lost opportunities.” He is positive that a legislative lobbyist dedicated to county interests will promote quick and assertive action. “We would be able to rapidly respond to different types of situations and muster our collective from here, and try to support, and move forward legislation,” Pilago said excitedly.

Issues Hoffmann is interested in are: Kona coffee labeling, agricultural land issues, water rates for agricultural land, and “DHHL responsibility for zoning and industrial commercial purposes.” He continued, “there are a hundred different issues that would benefit having an experienced lobbyist to not simply track bills but to be able to push for things.” Additionally, this lobbyist would work with the administrative branch of Hawai`i government and coordinate council efforts with Mayor Kim’s legislative agenda. “Regardless who pays for it, if the council funds the lobbyist, naturally we’ll talk to the council chairman to use that person, which I would expect will be fully available to us,” said Mayor Kim. Hoffmann gladly offers the use of the council’s lobbyist. “I’m very interested in supporting whatever the mayor puts forth for the legislative session.”

Is this how Dain Kane operates for Maui? It all sounds pretty sketchy on the “open government” front, to me.

How does the lobbyist liaison get his or her marching orders? Councilmember Hoffman says objectives will be “clearly identified by the Council.” Such an “identification” process involving the Council would entail a committee meeting, with an agenda published in advance, testimony accepted from the public, and all the rest of the sunshine law rules, wouldn’t it? That is hardly the sort of nimble reaction process that is required to effectively lobby at the Lege. So, maybe Hoffman is referring to himself royally as “the Council,” meaning that the objectives would be set by him alone, without input from the Council or the public. Much more efficient, but definitely less democratic.

If I were still working at the Legislature, then I’d be a bit leery dealing with a lobbyist who may or may not be able to speak conclusively for his or her client. In many matters, a certain amount of trust is placed in the lobbyist by the client (and by the legislators), which allows the lobbyist to credibly offer compromises that substantively alter the client’s position in hopes of allowing some form of the legislation to survive. Other lobbyists don’t have that authority, and can only present the client’s position and report back to the client how it was received. Sometimes that “simple envoy” approach isn’t fast enough, especially near legislative deadlines.

I also wonder if the meetings and/or communication between the County (Council and, it would seem, Mayor) and the liaison are subject to the open records laws, or if they intend to hire an attorney to fill this “Legislative Advisor and Advocate” and then claim attorney-client privilege to keep all that interaction under wraps. Maybe there is some other loophole that can be cited to accomplish the same (secret) ends. Or maybe it will all be done in the open. [shrug] I dunno.

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And then there were seven

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:23 pm
Wow. 44-7 in the House. With the news (House Majority blog and
Advertiser) that Representative Awana has switched her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

Awana, a freshman who represents House District 44 in Honokai Hale, Nanakuli and Lualualei, said she has thought about the change for two years but made her decision after her experience in the state Legislature last session.

“It’s just a matter of me being able to be more effective at addressing the needs and concerns of the community,” Awana said yesterday. “As a freshman legislator, I was quick to learn during the first year that in order for you to be able to pass the bills you need to help the community, I was going to have to make adjustments.”

——–

Awana said her decision was based on a blend of practical and philosophical reasons. She often voted with Democrats last session, and her district is predominantly Democratic.

——–

State House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, R-32nd (Lower Pearlridge, ‘Aiea, Halawa), said Awana had told her that talk of switching parties was just a rumor. “It would have been nice to hear from her first,” she said.

“I don’t believe overnight that her values are going to change. Her values were very much Republican when she ran in her district, so I don’t think that’s going to change much with her votes.”

Whatever that means. Heh.

Awana and Gabbard highlight a new face on the closed primary issue. If you can’t (or wouldn’t expect) to win in the dominant party primary, simply register as a candidate for the minority party, win the primary and general election, then switch parties. Everybody loves a winner on “their team.”

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12/18/2007

OHA speech warns of risks and opportunities inherent to ConCon

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:37 pm
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs issued this press release about the State of OHA address (PDF) delivered yesterday. The SB has a short story about the speech, while the Advertiser has a similar account but also describes comments delivered after the speech.

In my part of the wonkoverse, this is the key passage from the speech:

The?1978 State Constitutional Convention produced some? great advancements for Native Hawaiians, such as,?`ölelo Hawai`i ?as the official second language of the State of Hawai`i; the constitutional mandate for upholding traditional and customary native gathering practices; the constitutional mandate instituting Hawaiian studies in public education; and the establishment of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

A 2010 State Con Con, if there is one, could build upon that beginning, OR, it could reverse progress and eliminate these past Constitutional advancements.

I believe the group that continues to sue and litigate against Native Hawaiians in the Federal Court will be mounting a strategy to accomplish elimination of these constitutional mandates that I mentioned.

I have no doubt about that. I do have major doubts, however, that any such strategy would succeed at a ConCon, much less actually be ratified. I am curious, however, what exactly is envisioned by her comments about “building upon” the existing provisions of the Constitution. Maybe nothing is in mind yet (a ConCon is still at least a few years away, and that’s assuming it is authorized by the voters in 2008). I dunno.

Another recent OHA release seems to contain the seed for the passage of the speech immediately preceding that excerpt:

“If a State Constitutional Convention is held, Native Hawaiians must be in the mix. We must determine now, how we will get involved so the Native Hawaiian voice is heard regarding what happens to our homeland, to our native people and our natural, public, social and economic resources for the good of ALL of Hawai‘i,” Apoliona said.

“We can run as state Con Con delegates. We can support Native Hawaiians who will run as state con con delegates. We can be instrumental in raising issues and providing solutions that don’t scare others away. We can help to garner support for issues by organizing our communities and even organizing our families. And, we must vote.”

The previous OHA release had this from the LG and Senate President:

It would also be “an opportunity for Native Hawaiians to not only stabilize their rights and the offices they have in the state, but also to increase it,” [Lieutenant Governor Aiona] said, pointing to the last Constitutional Convention – held almost three decades ago, in 1978 – which created the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, established Hawaiian as an official state language and set the foundation for the return of Kaho‘olawe, among other things.

“Much the same could happen in this Constitutional Convention,” he said.

Meanwhile, state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said judging by the various legal challenges Hawaiian programs have faced in recent years, she was concerned a ConCon would possibly diminish Native Hawaiian rights. She called the ConCon a “double-edged sword” that is capable of producing good but also requires mobilizing people “to carry the message and execute it.”

“Decide as a group whether you want to stop it – or if you’re going to do it then make sure you have those people ready to go,” she said, adding, “That’s the only way you’re going to be able to ensure, in fact, that either there is no major change, or whatever change that may come about is one that is positive and not diminishing any right that is already being threatened.”

It is worth noting that, unlike Senator Hanabusa, the LG does not mention the inherent risks of a ConCon for Native Hawaiians, rather he mentions only the possibilities of “maintaining or expanding” rights and offices. His omission is not too much of a surprise, since it’s much easier to sell a ConCon when you steer clear of the zero-sum themes in describing the possible outcome.

Finally, moving to the comments at the end of the Advertiser story:

After her speech, Apoliona said OHA will begin to at least plan such a convention [for “nation-building”] this year.

OHA Administrator Clyde Namu’o said after the address that a convention probably can’t be held until 2009.

“There will be a lot of logistical issues to be worked out, in terms of having a discussion of how delegates will be elected, what topics will be covered and the ratification process for whatever documents the nation-building convention comes up with,” he said.

OHA has been criticized for wanting to play too large of a role in the formation of a new government entity.

Namu’o, however, said it will be up to Native Hawaiians to decide how the process proceeds.

“There will be a lot of policy issues that need to be discussed, and those aren’t decisions OHA should be making by itself, but really that the Hawaiian community should be making,” he said.

Namu’o said the convention may or may not dovetail with the Akaka bill, the effort in Congress that would establish a process by which a Native Hawaiian government entity may be established and eventually recognized by the federal government.

This “entity,” I assume, is what was previously discussed here in June 2006.

Comments (0)
12/17/2007

Still waiting for transparency – annual report due soon

Filed under: General, HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:03 pm
I’m due for another ping about the continuing lack of gasoline price transparency, so today I sent another email to the PUC. The weekly Petroleum Industry Monitoring Analysis Rerporting program reports still contain no data about weekly averaged profits or margins, even though such questions are the main motivations behind the gasoline price cap law and the PIMAR program put in place when the price cap law was suspended.

The PUC has been diligent in responding to my previous correspondence. However, even if the response to my latest queries is delayed, there is a report to the legislature coming due very soon (i.e. 2008 session begins January 16, and the report is due 20 days prior). I’m watching (and asking) for my chance to review that report, too.

Comments (1)
12/16/2007

Editorialists come down against closed primaries

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:46 am
Today the Advertiser and Maui News have editorials against the movement towards closed primary elections in Hawaii.

The Advertiser editorializes:

A closed primary would lower even further our dismal voter turnout. It would potentially disenfranchise the large number of voters who may want to vote for specific Democratic candidates but don’t want to join the party. It would stifle those candidates who may disagree with some of the party’s more radical positions, such as impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

It would, in other words, be less democratic.

Extending that “more turnout means more democracy” logic, why not allow candidates to bribe primary voters of any (or no) party affiliation outright with cash? That would be great for increasing turnout, right? The editorial goes on to dismiss the Constitutional questions about free association with one word: “Maybe.”

The Maui News editorializes in a similar vein:

It is difficult enough to get voters to the polls; closing the primaries to party members only would be a further hindrance. To the average island voter, party affiliation is of less concern than the personality, character and concerns of the individual candidate.

I share in the frustration regarding low voter turnout, but democracy is not (nor should it be expected to be) a political system guaranteeing maximum ease of participation. The system is messy, slow, and complex—which, given what is at stake, is not necessarily a bad thing. Being a citizen in a democracy is not something to be reduced to a drive-through experience. However, if efficiency and voter turnout were the ultimate goals we would use a single, non-partisan, instant runoff election day. Maybe that’s a better “solution.”

The editorial concludes: “On the state and county levels in Hawaii, political parties are dinosaurs trying to ward off extinction as power brokers.”

I get the feeling that the editorial writers are hoping for the extinction of (a) political parties in Hawaii, but are only alluding to that hope with vague qualifiers like “power brokers.” A qualifier which, given the long-running impotency of the Hawaii GOP, would suggest to me that the editors look forward to the continuing and accelerating decline towards irrelevancy of the Hawaii Democratic Party. But, mindful of the bottom line, the editors instinctively know better than to openly suggest such a thing.

Comments (5)
Alternative industries?

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:45 am
Hmmm. Is this a euphemism that could be adopted by Bob Awana? From a blog post by Representative Karamatsu:

I have met women in alternative industries. Sometimes they get mistreated. People should be treated nicely regardless of what they do.

I have seen people close to me get attacked by people hiding behind computers releasing their personal information and/or pictures. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cruel people out there.

Wipe that smirk off your face, cynical reader! Heh.

What a cryptic post, especially for it to be found at a politician’s blog where I would have expected to read more about, well, politics.

Comments (1)
Used bus passes – 50% off face value!

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:45 am
I was struck by this letter published in the Garden Island News in response to a previous letter from Lenny Klompus, director of Governor Lingle’s communications team. The response from Gail Stevens takes Klompus to task and succinctly deconstructs his sappy, feel-good holiday message.

I also was not impressed with his praise for Gov. Lingle’s approach to Hawai‘i’s homeless families. Simply articulating the problem of Hawai‘i’s homeless does not help solve a single problem. They are still without jobs, still can’t afford the rents, still have medical costs, etc., etc. But Mr. Klompus wants us to know that the governor remembers that “they are real people — just like us.” This letter and the “lesson” it purports to share with us came across to me as one of the most patronizing, unhelpful pieces of propaganda I’ve ever read.

A few minutes later, as I continued my methodical daily plod through the various media websites, I notice that the same message from Klompus has been published today as a Star-Bulletin op-ed. I snicker.

Comments (1)
12/15/2007

Blackwater wannabes posted on the Superferry

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 11:32 am
Overkill, much?

Check out this photo from the Hawaii Reporter post describing the Thursday voyage of the Superferry to Maui.

U.S. Coast Guard officers equipped with impressive machine guns traveled with the Hawaii Superferry from Oahu to Maui, but stayed out of sight until passengers were disembarking. Undercover law enforcement also were onboard.

Knowing the firepower on hand, the Hawaii Superferry security inspectors allowed three well-known protesters to book tickets and travel with the rest of the passengers, and bring along a sign that security found during a routine search slamming the Hawaii Superferry. The three protesters remained quiet during the 3-hour ride (probably concerned pro-Superferry supporters could throw them overboard or worse, hold them captive in a bathroom), but when the Superferry pulled safely into Kahului Harbor, they snuck out on the side off limits to passengers and flapped the banner in the air facing the 80 or so protesters on land and in the water.

As you can see in the photo, the Coasties were equipped with the latest in “anti-banner” riot control hardware and weaponry. Who knows what mayhem could have ensued had such a banner been unfurled in front of passengers!

Perhaps it could have been used as a dropcloth aboard the high-speed vomipalooza. As it turns out (and as no surprise to me), the larger threat to the viability of the service is motion sickness. The new “civil disobedience” tactic of Superferry opponents could become a heavy breakfast, a seat facing inboard near the bow or stern (where motion is amplified and the horizon is obscured), constrictive too-heavy clothing, maybe some reading material … and an aversion to the prompt and tidy use of barf bags.

UPDATE: A few more photos of the ersatz USCG commandos, these taken Thursday by Blaine Fergerstrom, are here, here, and here.

Comments (7)
Hawaii Superferry oversight task force meets

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 11:28 am
An Advertiser story reports on the first meeting of a 12-person task force created by the same legislation that allowed the Superferry to sail during an environmental review. The story also includes a complete list of the task force members.

The legislation that allowed the Superferry to go forward included 40 conditions, addressing everything from its speed in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, to having National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-certified observers who live in Hawai’i to serve as lookouts.

But the wording that created the oversight task force “is rather broad,” [DOT Harbors Division chief] Formby said. Members were unsure yesterday how far they can push their authority onto the Superferry.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how far they want to go and how far involved in the operation they want to go,” said Formby. “Some of the things they may want to do may not be lawful. But as long as it’s legal, if the majority wants to do it, we can do it.”

I am not a lawyer, but the task force owes its existence to Part IV of the special legislation, and, according to that law, the explicit “powers” of the task force (and I use that term loosely) are limited. The law directs them to study, to examine, and to report findings to the Governor and Legislature. That’s it. Even if the majority of the task force members voted to, for example, issue a demand for amendments to the operating conditions, the Governor would need to issue another Executive Order to comply with the task force reccomendations. In addition or alternatively, failing action by the Governor, the Legislature could attempt to take up the recommendations (assuming it was in session and enough time remained to meet constitutional- and internal legislative deadlines). I would not hold my breath for either branch of government rushing to impose additional operating conditions “unacceptable” to the ferry operators/investors, though. Furthermore, even if the majority of the task force were to go beyond purely “advisory” actions, I would fully expect any such action to be ignored while being challenged in the courts. Long story short: non-advisory task force actions are not self-executing.

Meanwhile, in a KITV report, task force appointee William Aila says:

Some critics said they worry that the task force will become a cheerleading committee for the ferry.

“We heard some concerns in the meeting to that effect — that they don’t want to be just a rubber stamp. We are going to do what we can as a group to see that what we do is meaningful,” task force facilitator Mike Formby said.

Member William Aila said he aims to keep the public informed.

“When I was appointed by Colleen Hanabusa, she gave me the green light to not pull any punches — to not hold back any questions, any issues, that need to be investigated,” Aila said.

Aila’s comment is suggestive of what is probably the more likely outcome of the task force. The task force will serve as a monthly sounding board for oversight (duh) issues and as a venue for public comment and dissent.

Comments (0)
12/14/2007

Way to go, Dane!

Filed under: General — Doug @ 6:16 pm
I may have time to write a post later, but for now I’m headed for UH-West Oahu to see my friend graduate!

…on closed-circuit television. Sigh.

Comments (0)
12/13/2007

House Majority hires a blogger

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 7:43 pm
Other than the notorious Malia Zimmerman, I think Thelma Dreyer may be the only other person who earns a monthly salary (or at least the only one with a monthly salary greater than “the high two figures” arriving via Google Ads) as a blogger, even if her official title is Assistant Communications Director. I reckon a fair amount of legislative drudgery will be part of the gig, too… First announcing a search in early November, a post this week formally welcomes her aboard.

I don’t know if blogging would be as much fun if I were being paid, but I do know the editorial freedom would be less. I wish Thelma luck and welcome her voice to the (still perplexingly thin) ranks of the bloggers who cover Hawaii politics.

Oh, and while I’m on the topic of the House Majority blog, let’s hope that the House follows the lead of the Senate and begins to make audio of floor speeches (and, hopefully, entire floor sessions and hearings) available via the internet. Heck, video would be great, too, but I’ll settle for incremental steps…

Comments (1)
12/12/2007

The ultimate irrelevancy of party affiliation on naked display

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:34 pm
Kudos to Derrick DePledge for this Advertiser story about a intra-party split among Hawaii Democrats regarding a resolution passed at last years convention calling for a lawsuit to seek closed primary elections. A blog post at the Progressive Democrats of Hawaii blog is probably a fair barometer of those in favor of the lawsuit going forward, even though the post is carefully couched in “one person’s opinion only” language.

A vote to rescind party authorization for the lawsuit narrowly failed amid procedural confusion at a state central committee meeting last month in Kona. Another vote is possible at a state central committee meeting in January on O’ahu.

State House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell, D-24th (Manoa), said fighting for a closed primary sends the wrong message for a party that prides itself on being diverse and inclusive. He said Democrats should be exploring how to increase voter participation through election-day voter registration or expanded voting by mail.

Restricting the primary to card-carrying Democrats only, Caldwell and other elected leaders worry, could alienate voters who favor Democrats on issues but may not want to reveal their party preference for privacy or cultural reasons.

Caldwell believes the call for a closed primary is an attempt by some activists to enforce greater party discipline. The platform and the resolutions adopted last year — in addition to favoring a closed primary — contain several controversial positions that many elected Democrats do not actively support, such as impeaching President Bush, repealing the state’s three-strikes law against violent criminals, and backing civil unions for gay couples.

“We’re so diverse as a party that few candidates are going to be able to pass the litmus test they are going to ask for,” Caldwell said.

“Diverse.” Well, that’s one way to put it… As for Caldwell’s belief that the closed primary effort represents an attempt to enforce greater party discipline, his use of the comparative would imply that there is any party discipline enforced (in either party). As it stands now, the two major party labels in Hawaii are brand names, suggestive only of broad themes—sometimes reflective of the politics of the candidate, sometimes not.

The Democrats should realize that another way to achieve the same result (i.e. general election candidates who reliably support the party platform) would be to enforce some internal party discipline before giving out memberhip cards. If a would-be candidate does not pledge allegiance to the platform, then he or she may not run as a “Democrat.” Let him or her fight it out with the other “non-partisan” candidates on the ballot. However, the party constitutions do not readily provide for such ideological purges to occur. Hence, both parties continue to reap the type of candidates that they sow.

I’m not sure how large the progressive wing of the Democratic party is, so I won’t venture a guess as to how much effect a closed primary would have on the politics of the Democratic candidates ultimately advancing to the general election. Compared to internal party discipline, a closed primary would be a slightly less aggressive (some districts may not even field a “loyal” candidate, and an apostate could still win!) means to the same ideological end, but the fight would occur in public. Among the myriad of possibilities, the progressive Democrats may be trading a private frustration for a public shaming, or they may trade a primary election victory for a general election defeat.

Can you tell that I don’t belong to a political party? Heh.

Comments (3)
12/11/2007

Some are “victims,” others plead guilty

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:20 pm
I don’t have a lot of time today, but I can always find time for a tiny bit of snark. A brief Advertiser story about a man sentenced for bilking would-be immigrants by telling them he could “fix” their immigration status—for a fee.

According to an indictment filed in U.S. district court, between January 2001 and December 2006, Lelea represented himself to foreign nationals as a government agent who had “special influence” over the U.S. immigration process. He told illegal immigrants he could change their immigration status for a fee, court documents show.

[cough] A mentor of Bob Awana? [cough]

Comments (0)
12/10/2007

Caldwell’s velvet glove over … a Play-Doh fist

Filed under: General — Doug @ 6:48 pm
Sure to be dismissed by many readers as a purely partisan attack op-ed, House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell scolds Governor Lingle in the Advertiser today regarding her recent comments blaming the media for keeping the story about Bob Awana’s blackmail alive. Caldwell, no doubt mindful of his partsian typecasting, adresses many important themes but seems to ultimately pull his punches on the Governor. He concludes:

There is a growing pattern here that with each event becomes more troubling. We appear to have a governor who leads effectively enough when things are under control, but lacks the flexibility to handle the heat, especially if it is too close to her.

In the Superferry debate, Gov. Lingle steadfastly refused to acknowledge that her administration had made an error in granting a waiver for an environmental review on ferry-related improvements to the Maui harbor. This failure, which appears to have directly involved Awana and his newly announced replacement Barry Fukunaga, compounded problem-solving throughout the special legislative session. Her denials raised the heat level rather than lowering it. An effective leader today would have said, “We made an error and let’s fix it.”

Gov. Lingle should consider returning to the style of leadership she promised when she was elected. We have all learned that things can go wrong in life, but denial only makes them worse.

Oh, really? Denial of errors seemed to work pretty well for the Governor during the Superferry special session. Caldwell and most of his colleagues squirmed a bit, but ultimately rolled over and bailed Lingle out…

Here’s what I would have preferred Caldwell to say, torn from the comment section of this blog:

Lingle would prefer if Hawaii voters view Bob’s resignation as being caused by an unfortunate personal sex scandal unfairly pursued by a prurient press, but I think the allegations of favoritism with immigration (a green card and plush state job for the Filipino military officer and the promise of visas and nursing school admissions for Filipina prostitutes) suggest a serious abuse of Bob’s authority as the Govenor’s chief of staff.

What deals was Bob making with those Hawaii “businessmen” for whom he was procuring sexual services? Were those private deals for Awana’s personal advantage, for friends of )and contributors to) Lingle? Do those businessmen have contracts with the state or were they in negotiations for contracts?

It sounds like Awana was the “go to guy” for all major contracts with the state, involving tens of millions of dollars. To what extent were those deals tainted by Awana’s business style?

Awana effectively ran the Department of Transportation during the time sweetheart deals were made with the SuperFerry and they were exempted from state environmental laws. To my sensitive nostrils, that smells enough to deserve a closer look. Melanie Chinen is alleged in a recent lawsuit to have been expediting approval for certain projects for friends of Lingle (and delaying projects of others) as the result of phone calls from Awana. Chinen appears to have been sacrificed in an effort to discourage an investigation of those allegations.

Since leaving his formal position as chief of staff, Awana has formed a consulting firm. Who are his clients and what dealings is he continuing to have with the Lingle administration?

There is a lot of “smoke” here (or stench) and Hawaii residents deserve to have it looked into. We should not shy away because Bob apparently had an attraction to young girls and allow that distasteful, but relatively minor, scandal to obscure what appears to be a larger pattern of corruption.

I feel a bit unfair in writing these comments, but the lack of an investigation forces us to draw conclusions from fragmentary, but suggestive evidence.

That’s what I’m talking about! This should not (only) be about “dirty old man”-kine behavior.

Comments (2)
12/9/2007

Hawaii internet users who agree to snooping don’t view much porn – whodathunkit?

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 10:21 am
I have my doubts about the “market research” that is the basis of this Advertsier story:

So where do people spend their time while online?

ComScore Media Metrix, a leading Web measurement company, notes Honolulu’s Internet habits pretty much mirror those nationally, with Web portals such as Yahoo.com and MSN.com being the most popular. Portals attracted 92 percent of O’ahu’s Web users in October. Search sites such as Google.com formed the second most visited category (86 percent), followed by retail sites (77 percent).

Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook were No. 4 in popularity in Honolulu, which differed from the fourth spot nationally, which was e-mail.

——–

TOP 10

What categories of sites Hawai’i Internet users are viewing:

1. Portals (e.g. www.yahoo.com)

2. Search navigation (www.google.com)

3. Retail

4. Social networking

5. Regional/ local

6. E-mail

7. Multi-media

8. Business/ finance

9. Technology

10. General news

Really? Isn’t it one of those “everybody knows but few people talk about it” facts that pornography rules in tallies of internet traffic? My choice of url for this blog is a not-so-subtle joke on that topic, after all. How could it be that Hawaii residents don’t even put pornography in the top ten?

From the comScore website methodology page:

At the core of comScore, Inc. is our proprietary data collection technology. Massively scalable, this system allows us to capture a comprehensive view of surfing and buying behavior of more than 2 million participants in an extremely cost-effective manner.
These members, representing a cross section of the Internet population, give comScore explicit permission to confidentially monitor their online activities in return for valuable benefits such as server-based virus protection, sweepstakes prizes, and the opportunity to help shape the future of the Internet.

comScore technology also integrates offline data (such as supermarket purchasing or automotive registrations) and attitudinal data gathered through consumer surveys.

comScore technology is downloaded to any browser in a matter of seconds and unobtrusively captures and sends information regarding a participant’s Internet browsing and purchasing behavior to comScore’s server network, without requiring any further action on the part of the individual.

Okay then…

Internet users who agree to this digital hairshirt don’t go surfing much for online pornography. Remove the privacy and anonymity factors, and it’s no surprise that monitored users eschew what one researcher described to Congress as the “perfect addictive substance.” A good analogy would be how few people would be so bold as to overtake a police cruiser when traveling on a freeway. The fact that traffic flows at a (near) legal speed in that vicinity says very little about traffic flow in general.

Comments (2)
12/8/2007

The “deceptive” needle is tracing a wiggle

Filed under: HI Media, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 10:50 am
File this under “if the police say so, it must be true” reporting. A story in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today by Erin Miller makes no attempt to verify statements made by a Hawaii Police Department interrogator polygraph examiner. Irony much?

The tests measure breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, changes in which can indicate the person being tested is lying, Nuss said.

——–

Tricks like the use of a tranquilizer or breathing techniques to mask the reactions won’t fool the polygraph machine and the examiner, he said.

“All of that has been tried,” he said. “(With tranquilizers), all of your responses are going to be slowed and subdued. If you’re trying to employ (a breathing technique), most people are not smart enough to do it at the right time. If they don’t respond, period, it’s inconclusive.”

The National Academy of Sciences has reviewed the scientific literature on polygraph testing. Polygraph testing is not perfect, and in many experiments it produces results only slightly better than pure chance. Unfortunately, that does not stop the average person [and investigators/prosecutors] from having faith in the method when it confirms his or her suspicions.

Thus, it is a good thing that criminal defendants may not be forced to take a polygraph test. The guilty are able to avoid detection and the innocent face an uncomfortably (and unacceptably) large chance of becoming a “false positive.” Don’t ever agree to take one of these tests, even if you are innocent.

The police union has apparently reviewed the literature, too, at least judging by the last paragraph of the story:

Police officers do not have to undergo regular polygraph exams. Once a person becomes a police officer, they can be asked to take an exam only if they are believed to be involved in criminal matters. The police contract prohibits even asking officers to take a polygraph exam for internal matters, Nuss said.

It is a shame that stories like this are published, feeding into the public perception that this is a technology to be trusted. I’m not expecting a harried reporter to plow through a several hundred page NAS book before filing a story, but even Wikipedia can provide enough information to show where the weaknesses are.

Comments (1)
KLS 384 – a refuge for substance-using athletes?

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 10:49 am
This might be kicking over the wrong anthill on the day a Hawaii player may is in the running to win a Heisman, but I noticed this post at News Gems (which is a great blog mentioned on iLind a while back) that linked to a story from Utah about drug testing in college athletics. The article surveyed programs nationwide and found few consequences for student athletes who test positive for banned substances.

While many colleges and universities spend considerable amounts of time, money and energy on institutional drug-testing programs ostensibly meant to keep the competition fair and the athletes healthy, a Salt Lake Tribune investigation found vast inconsistencies, curious practices and uncertain accountability in the way the nation’s major schools at the top-tier Division I-A level administer their programs.

The number of athletes subjected to drug tests, the banned substances for which they are tested, the quality of the testing and the consequences of failed tests vary significantly depending on the sports athletes play, as well as the schools, conferences and states in which they play them, the investigation revealed.

The article includes a state-by-state breakdown, with Hawaii’s page summarized here. The actual response from Hawaii is also available as a PDF here. The response shows the testing schedule, the positive results (with athlete names redacted), and the actions taken in response from fall 2004 to spring 2007. Most violations resulted in a requirement that the athlete enroll in and pass KLS 384 (Drugs and Society), possibly(?) while remaining active on the team. The Kinesiology department, in my opinion, has historically (and understandably) enjoyed a pretty tight relationship with (and, often, caters to many of the same students as) the athletic department, so I can’t imagine this course is very much of an academic challenge for the athletes forced to enroll. On the other hand, a handful of violators were suspended for 30 days. No explanation is offered as to the difference between the suspended athletes and those required to take the class. Was it a difference in the substance used or does the reaction vary from sport to sport? The data also show that not every athlete is tested, but rather a sample of each team are tested.

The testing schedule provided does not contain all of the dates when positive results were obtained. That said, positive results were obtained on the following days that are found on the testing schedule, (note that on some days more than one team had a sample of members tested):

August 9, 2004 (three positives, one immediate suspension) Football
August 22, 2004 (one positive) Womens cross country and track
August 23, 2004 (two positives) Mens basketball, tennis, and golf
August 5, 2005 (two positives, one a second offense) Football

Unfortunately, there were also positive tests recorded on these dates when the schedules provided do not indicate what sport was tested:

March 20, 2003 (one positive test)
August 6, 2003 (one)
August 25, 2003 (one)
September 9, 2003 (four)
September 11, 2003 (one)
October 6, 2003 (one)
January 20, 2004 (one)
October 13, 2004 (two – both faced immediate suspension)
August 23, 2005 (one – failed to provide a sample and was suspended)
December 7, 2005 (one – referred to treatment and not allowed to compete)

I can’t say that I follow the sports sections of the local media very closely, but I do not recall any mention of athletes suspended for positive drug tests recently (much less athletes suspended for postive drug tests four years ago!). Do the local media typically push such stories under the rug, or are these kinds of questions simply not asked?

Comments (0)
12/7/2007

Senate to implement all-digital document storage and distribution

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:56 pm
Wow, I am such a legislative dork! I am actually excited by this post at the Senate Majority blog that links to a full press release announcing that the public will have near-real-time online access to scanned versions of all Senate testimony in 2008.

If all of us use electronic formats for document storage and retrieval, the Senate can significantly reduce the nearly four and a half million pages we used in the 2007 session.

Hmmm. I wonder how many pages of original content yielded those millions of pages of photocopies? The press release PDF is about 80kb for 3 pages. Each print shop (House and Senate) has hundreds of subscribers who receive a complete set of bills, hearing notices, committee reports, orders of the day, and draft transcripts of floor sessions. Grabbing a number out of the air, let’s say 400 subscribers, and probably at least another 100 sets produced for use inside the building, that would suggest only about 9000 pages of original material last year. That much data (if the press release is an accurate gauge of file size) could be stored on a handful of DVDs.

One thing that would be a shame, though, is if there is no way to search the records by name of testifier, position on the legislation (i.e. support or oppose), etc. If the system is premised on scanned documents (and I don’t see how it could be anything else), then searching the body of each document would have to be done visually—opening one document after another after another. Ugh. Let’s hope that some form of database is generated and included with the documents online.

Those fears aside, I’m stoked to see this idea finally come out of “beta.” So, House Majority staff, what say you?!

UPDATE: House Clerk says in the SB today that they will offer some version of this, too, but will continue with all the paper. Stay tuned.

Comments (7)
Gotta cut loose

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 7:54 pm
A quick update on the April post about the Maui Liquor Commission and its ambiguous “some dancing is allowed in bars” policy. Now the Maui Time Weekly is reporting that a lawsuit to challenge the rule has been dismissed.

After listening to 40 minutes worth of arguments from Maui Dance Advocates attorney Lance Collins [again!] and Deputy Corporation Counsel Jane Lovell (representing the LC), Cardoza sided with Lovell’s argument that he had no jurisdiction to hear the case since the Liquor Commission’s hearing on dance rules wasn’t a “contested case.” There was no basis for an appeal, Cardoza said, and that was that.

——–

Now it’s still possible to get the dancing rules changed. One way would happen if an establishment licensed to sell alcohol in the County of Maui gets hit with a violation for allowing illegal dancing, and then challenges the rule. But another, perhaps easier—and more likely—recourse would be for a patron to just start dancing at an establishment. When asked to stop, the patron would then sue the County of Maui, alleging that the LC’s rules violated his or her civil rights.

Any volunteers?

Since it has gone this far, I hope so. Might I suggest that the volunteer dance a hula, since the County does not consider dancing a form of expression….

Comments (0)
12/6/2007

As seen on a blog a few days ago…

Filed under: HI Media, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 7:01 pm
One can only wonder if the Hawaii County dailies had this story a few days ago and refrained from publishing it, or if they were scooped by Hunter Bishop… Whatever the explanation, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today now have published the same details HB had a few days ago.

I don’t want to be too hard on Mr. Schnepf, though, because the Tribune-Herald has been actively fighting to have the related documents and proceedings made public. They had been reporting on that fight, and now finally (via a leak) they have some facts to report on the allegations. [Also, even though the two papers are jointly-owned, the WHT version does not even mention the HT-H struggle to open up the story. There is apparently at least some sense of competition left between the siblings.]

[Complainant’s attorney] Masui initially took the matter to the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, and named [Councilmember] Higa as a respondent. The complaint was then transferred to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which conducted a hearing at Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel that ended Nov. 30. Federal Administrative Law Judge William Schmidt denied public access to the hearing, citing the “Federal Privacy Act.” Schmidt did say the decision to close the hearing came at [the complainant’s] request.

The Tribune-Herald opposed Schmidt’s decision, but was denied the opportunity to have a hearing regarding public access before the proceeding ended. The newspaper also opposed the county’s decision not to release the complaint and is awaiting a decision from the state Office of Information Practices on the matter. [Which would now seem moot.]

Higa, who is married and running for Hawaii County mayor, said he wished the hearing would have been open so people could see he did no wrong. He could not pinpoint why [complainant] Chang would file the complaint if the allegations were false.

“Without going into it, I’d just say she has some issues,” he said.

From those links I added to the quoted text, the HCRC appears to be the first stop for a complainant in Hawaii. It is there where he or she receives a “right to sue authority.” From the EEOC link, it looks as if this suit just barely made it under the 18-month filing deadline (April 2006 to November 2007). Another page at the EEOC website says:

A charge may be dismissed at any point if, in the agency’s best judgment, further investigation will not establish a violation of the law. A charge may be dismissed at the time it is filed, if an initial in-depth interview does not produce evidence to support the claim. When a charge is dismissed, a notice is issued in accordance with the law which gives the charging party 90 days in which to file a lawsuit on his or her own behalf.

I don’t know if the HCRC “right to sue” mentioned above is premised on a similar dismissal based on a judgment of an inability to establish a violation.

The allegations are rather vague, but (until/unless more facts come in) the alleged threat of retaliation could be more disturbing than the alleged harassment. Even if an employer believes (or knows) a claim is without merit, threatening retaliation against those who choose to exercise the process afforded to them is behavior that can’t be allowed to stand.

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12/5/2007

What a day

Filed under: General — Doug @ 7:30 pm
Ugh. I don’t feel like blogging. Woke up to a power failure. Exercised in the torrential rain squalls, lit by distant lightning flashes and buffeted by gusts of wind (this workout was kind of fun, actually). Showered and ate breakfast in the dark. Waited in the rain at the bus stop for over an hour before a refuse worker informed me that the bus service was stopped (for an unknown amount of time). Trudged back to my still-blacked-out apartment. Waited for my neighbors to wake up so I could borrow their (wired) telephone to call in late for work. When the rain finally let up a few hours later, I jumped on my motorcycle and went to work for the last half of the day. Then, to close the day, when I got home I had to catch up for the half-day of work I missed.

On the upside, the lightning show and ~50 knot gusts were awesome. I think I actually saw the lightning that struck the bus near Windward City Shopping Center just before 4AM!

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12/4/2007

Damn the loading barges, full speed ahead!

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 6:50 pm
As I write this the wind is, as sailors say, “blowing the dogs off their chains.” Kaneohe Bay, normally a benign body of water, looks nasty and its limited fetch still manages to see a significant chop generated. Kahului Harbor sounds as if it is experiencing even more gnarly conditions, according to this Maui News article. The ferry had planned to visit Kahului to “realign” the loading barge, but…

When asked if the Superferry’s delay was caused by the surge of waves in the harbor, estimated by one observer to be approximately 8 feet, Superferry spokeswoman Lori Abe said the decision to postpone returning to Maui was based on a “variety of reasons.”

“It’s not because of the weather,” she said, adding that if today’s planned visit to Kahului Harbor were a regularly scheduled trip, “Hawaii Superferry would be making the voyage.”

The voyage to Maui, even if the weather is rough enough to make many passengers motion sick from the seas, isn’t the problem. Like the old joke about the ease of jumping from a great height; it’s the landing that makes for the trouble. Sail several hours to Maui only to find the surge has broken the loading barge again and forced a return to Oahu with disgruntled, possibly seasick, passengers? Not my idea of a good business strategy, but what do I know?

The Advertiser version says:

The wave action inside the harbor caused lines securing NCL’s Pride of America cruise ship at Pier 1 to snap, forcing the vessel to cut short its Maui port call and seek safety in the open ocean.

At Pier 2, the state-owned barge used by Hawaii Superferry lost several of its lines for the third time in recent weeks. Two bollards to which lines were attached were uprooted from the pier and will have to be replaced, according to Michael Formby, head of the Department of Transportation’s Harbors Division.

Both the cruise ship and the ferry barge were secured by additional lines and at no time did they break free from their berths, Formby said.

The barge is normally tied up at the end of Pier 2 but was moved to a more sheltered area alongside the pier after it broke several lines Nov. 14 because of wave action.

BUSINESS AFFECTED

Although today’s visit was postponed, Terry O’Halloran, director of business development for Hawaii Superferry, said in an e-mail that harbor conditions yesterday would not have prevented the 350-foot catamaran from making a regularly scheduled commercial run to the Maui harbor.

The swells did prove too risky for Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines’ 579-foot Jean Anne, which left the harbor about 11:30 a.m. yesterday without unloading its shipment of vehicles.

A Young Brothers interisland barge was able to unload and load before leaving Kahului.

Remember, though, the Young Brothers interisland barge and the Jeanne Anne do not use the same (more exposed) pier where the ferry loading barge is designed to be moored. Furthermore, there is no alternative location for the loading barge that would allow the ferry to unload, as I have previously noted.

Then, there is this aspect that I had not considered (via a Kauai Eclectic post):

You have to wonder just how many times Superferry can postpone sailing before ticket holders, excited though they may be to experience Hawaii’s version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride — “hold on to your hats, because away we goooooooo….” — will say, “enuf already” and book a flight on go!, Aloha or Hawaiian.

You also have to wonder just how, as one friend points out, they’re going to get people and cars on and off the ferry when it’s bobbing up and down crazily as those mammoth swells roll in, and so is the barge (“and never the twain shall meet”) — assuming, of course, the barge doesn’t come loose again while in use.

But hey, surfers are happy and Warriors fans are still happy — uh duh, do we really need a front page Advertiser article to tell us that? — so go ahead, Mr. Superferry CEO John Garibaldi, and put on a happy face.

I know a number of Superferry opponents are chortling as nature claims her due. I think by now I’d get the message that I wasn’t wanted in Kahului Harbor, but then, Hawaii Superferry never did ask for permission to come, and that’s the first step in Hawaiian protocol.

Of course, there are those non-believers who still scoff at such concepts as divine retribution and hoailona (heavenly signs), but whatevahs. If you know, you know. You no can fake da chicken skin.

Heh. If that were true, there would be rough seas until the EIS is completed (or the ferry business loses too much money to continue). I would not bet on that much chicken skin.

Finally, the SB reports on an impressive new internet presence from Akaku television on Maui where they plan extensive coverage of the ferry comings and goings. The article includes some amusing comments about how the technical staff from the commercial media are left scratching their heads by Akaku’s young IT expert…

Comments (1)
12/3/2007

Governor supports release of emails if they indicate wrongdoing on part of trade delegation participants

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:04 pm
The Governor announced today that Barry Fukunaga is her choice for Chief of Staff. This will result in a shuffle of division directors at DOT. As I wrote previously, I think Fukunaga is a much more circumspect type of bureaucrat. Not that Awana was overtly a major figure, but Awana certainly had his fingers in most of Governor Lingle’s political affairs (as one would expect from a person with that title).

…which leads us to the more interesting parts of todays press conference, discussed in breaking news stories (Advertiser here and SB here).

The governor sharply criticized media reports suggesting that federal authorities are investigating whether members of state delegations to Asia conducted themselves improperly.

An Indian national who pleaded guilty to extortion here had attempted to blackmail Awana over his online relationship with a woman in the Philippines.

Lingle called the relationship a “personal matter” for Awana and said she had seen no evidence of misconduct on official state trips and knew of no ongoing probe.

“I have never been contacted once, directly or indirectly” by investigators, said Lingle, who criticized the news media’s “appetite for salacious details.”

Lingle said discovery documents under a court protective order in relation to the extortion case should be publicly released if a judge determines they address allegations of impropriety on state trips. Otherwise, the information should remain sealed, she said.

——–

Awana, Lingle’s former top aide and campaign chairman, resigned after the allegations of extortion and his alleged actions on trips to Asia. Rajdatta Patkar, an Indian national, was sentenced to a year in prison after he pleaded guilty to extortion for trying to blackmail Awana for $35,000. Patkar’s attorney says Awana arranged for women to go on dates with him and businessmen during an official state trade mission led by Lingle to the Philippines in January 2006.

The claims from the Governor, i.e. that she has no knowledge of any investigations and that she (carefully/conveniently) did not press Awana for any details when he came to her to say he had been blackmailed, do not mean much. Still, it seems that we are arriving at the “throw Awana (along with any other johns businessmen) under the bus” stage of the story—should Lingle’s suggested criteria to reveal the emails bear fruit.

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Judiciary keeping a closer cover on its reputation

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 8:01 pm
You may recall a recent example of the Judiciary providing a letter with its side of story after being dressed down by a disgruntled commentator. The issue this time is animal cruelty charges that were dismissed after a 2-year delay in prosecution.

On an emotional level and as a dog lover, I was inclined to share the frustration of the Kauai Humane Society leader, but I think the Judiciary spokesperson makes it clear that the real blame in the dismissal of this case lays at the feet of the slothful Kauai Honolulu Prosecutor.

UPDATE: I originally had the County wrong above.

However, the larger reason I am noting this letter is because it appears to confirm a new trend from the Judiciary. Until recently that branch of government did not engage in much, if any, extra-judicial communication (or spin, if you insist). You’d see an occasional op-ed from the Chief Justice perhaps, but nothing like a routine effort to snuff out public relations brushfires.

Comments (2)
12/2/2007

Good luck, Bruce!

Filed under: General — Doug @ 11:24 am
I was at a small gathering last night to send off a good friend (and former supervisor) who has landed a great job in San Diego. Fair winds and following seas, shipmate.

As the night wore on, I found myself tensely planted in front of a television watching a high-profile athletics event… My alma mater played well (after a stumbling start), or, to put it another way: Winnahs!

Comments (1)
12/1/2007

Kona abuse suspect shot with Taser

Filed under: HI Media, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 10:22 am
Well, it didn’t take long for a Taser to come out of its holster in Kona. The West Hawaii Today reports on the weapon’s first use in West Hawaii and the continuing secrecy regarding the policy behind its use.

Kona police officers used a Taser during an arrest for the first time Thursday afternoon.

Police responding to a domestic dispute in the Kealakehe area attempted to arrest a 34-year-old man, Patrol Capt. Randy Apele said. When the man “failed to comply” with police orders, an officer deployed a Taser.

A medic was called to the scene as a precaution, Apele said. No medical problems were reported.

The man was subsequently arrested and charged with abuse of a family or household member.

Maj. John Dawrs provided more details about how the man was failing to follow police orders.

“He had struggled with officers, and officers had wrestled with him prior to the arrest,” Dawrs said.

Okay, Dawrs has provided a general outline of the incident to the media, so what other information about the incident was not provided by Dawrs that could be found in the official use of force report? i.e. The reports which we were told previously are not approved for public review.

If the use of force report for this incident would offer no additional details, then why keep the report(s) secret? If the information we have is equivalent to the use of force report and the information was released in this case when (it would seem) that the arrest went well, then it would seem that the secrecy was only intended for the reports that describe force used in a more dubious manner. On the other hand, if the use of force report is more comprehensive than the account provided by Dawrs, then what facts are being withheld and why?

Police officers began training with Tasers earlier this month. Deputy Police Chief Harry Kubojiri said last week at least 90 percent of Kona officers would be trained in the use of the electronic control devices. Officers using the device pull a trigger to propel two probes toward the person resisting arrest. When the probes contact the person’s skin, an electrical jolt causes muscles to freeze, allowing police to subdue the person.

Kubojiri on Thursday would not release a copy of the draft general orders regarding use of Tasers. He said he had reviewed the draft and discovered typographical and other errors, which were being fixed prior to the orders being finalized.

“We cannot give out our draft orders,” the deputy chief said. “Our general orders is what we have to live by.”

He said even if West Hawaii Today identified the orders as being in draft form, the publication could harm the department if someone decided to pursue litigation against the department.

Huh?!

The department is using a (usually) non-lethal weapon against suspects with only a “draft” policy in place. I’m not a lawyer, but I’d say the litigation risk to the department is a moot point already. If anything had happened to this suspect and/or if the suspect decides to pursue litigation, then the department’s lack of a formal policy would become a big liability. Publication of the “draft” policy in the media would not make a difference, because the plaintiff would obtain the policy during discovery anyway. It’s pretty mind-blowing, perhaps even reckless, that the police are carrying and using these weapons (with the okay of the Corporation Counsel) before the policy is finalized.

Widening the scope beyond Tasers, the police website presently shows no generic use of force order (number 804), but notes that it will be released to the public pending OIP review. No date is provided for when the policy review was submitted or when the final version can be expected. So, in this indefinite “meantime,” what policy is in place?

Oh, and on an even more meta level, check out the order about media passes and access. Bloggers need not apply.

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