January 10, 2009

Poinography March 2005 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 1:16 pm



Coalition of the (hole) filling

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 1:12 pm
Part 3 of a continuing saga (parts 1, 2) concerning Mayor Hannemann’s War on Potholes. Everyone piles on today with pretty much the same story: Advertiser, SB, and Hawaii Reporter.

I still have my doubts about this 3/4 inch layer of interim asphalt, but maybe if they are lucky and it doesn’t rain torrentially before the permanent fix is in place it will be okay. It sounds expensive, and doesn’t lend itself well to an exit strategy, either.

Laverne Higa, city director of the Department of Facility Maintenance, said providing an inch-thick patch coat has proven more effective in some areas than others. “It can last a few years; it can last a few months,” she said.

And she warned it won’t always be pretty: “You may see a checkerboard effect.”

But the first-aid can vastly improve the road, she said.

In other words, in a manner that should sound very similar to other wars, streets initially secured in a hasty and inadequate manner by an undermanned force may become problem areas only a short time later. A further eerie parallel to another war is that private contractors will enjoy a windfall as the administration reduces oversight and increases the flow of funds into this front of the battle.

From todays reports we also learn that concerned residents can report enemy sightings via a new pothole website.* From that point a crack team will descend, within mere months, to the site of the pothole. Last month alone 6,300 potholes were eradicated, and happily, this was done with no friendly casualties. …unlike that other war.

I wish him well, but Hannemann would be well advised to forego posing for any photo opportunities like this for some time.

* Somebody may want to make a minor edit to that site. It features a link for a “pothole request form;” I’d like two, thanks. The link actually leads to a pothole service request form, ha ha. The service request form includes an optional blank for “description of pothole.” Well… it’s a hole, in the street, about yea big…

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Moped safety scare

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:33 pm
The Advertiser today has a somewhat alarmist article about moped safety.

I ride a moped. I wear a helmet, gloves, long pants, a jacket—and rubber slippers, ha ha. It’s a bit sketchy at times, but the economy is great and, almost as important, it’s fun. When it rains—well, I get wet.

George Burmeister, who sells an average of 70 mopeds a month from his Cycle Imports store on McCully Street, said that additional training is needed, but contends it’s needed for car and truck drivers who are either oblivious to moped riders or who see moped riders and fail or refuse to yield the right of way.

Burmeister said that talk about further restricting moped use or requiring safety classes for moped riders is little more than a knee-jerk reaction to a single recent incident, one in which it appears the moped rider was not at fault.

“Fifteen fatalities over a six-year period with more than 15,000 mopeds registered on this island is a super-low percentage,” Burmeister said.

Disclosure: I bought my moped from George. I am very pleased with his shop. Yes, that is a gratuitous plug.

After tracking down some data (not much of it online, sorry) from DOT, it seems that George could have made the same claim about other vehicles. The 15,000 figure he referred to is actually 14,900 and that includes motorcycles and mopeds. According to the 2000 and 2003 Hawaii Data Books there were a total of 652,665 motor vehicles (other than motorcycles/mopeds), which means mopeds comprised at most 2.3% of motor vehicles.

From 1998 to 2004 the article reports there were 15 Oahu moped fatalities. In that same time period DOT says there were 460 fatal traffic accidents on Oahu. Thus, about 3.3% of Oahu fatal accidents involved mopeds during that time period. However, if there are actually only 10,000 mopeds among the combined total of 14,900 (my back-of-a-napkin estimate), mopeds would represent roughly 1.5% of all vehicles on Oahu and account for 3.3% of Oahu fatal accidents. Thus, mopeds are involved in fatal accidents at twice the rate of other motorized vehicles.

The article was focused on safety, but everyone in the article neglected to mention the best part about mopeds: free parking almost anywhere. …all I have to do is live long enough to get there.

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Substitute teachers picket with HGEA, not HSTA?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:45 am
This Garden Island News story makes me wonder if the GIN missed a bigger story than the effort to get a pay raise for substitute teachers. Specificially, is HGEA working to organize the substitute teachers? What is the HSTA position on that?

A recent Hawaii Reporter contributor also mentioned a potential organization effort. He writes:

Hawaii?s substitute teachers are also responding to a drive by Local 368 of the Laborer?s International Union of North America – LIUNA – to organize them.

Yesterday the substitute teachers rallied in front of the Capitol. There could be something to all this. ??

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NCL faces wrath of cruiser snobs

Filed under:
— Doug @ 11:29 am
Today the SB has report about a lawsuit from disgruntled passengers from a Norwegian Cruise Line “Pride of Aloha” cruise.

I got a chuckle from the cheeky sidebar headline: “The Good News: No Icebergs.”

Since launching its U.S.-flagged ships in Hawaii, Norwegian has been plagued by bad weather, production delays, labor issues and a deluge of consumer complaints over amenities and services.

“When NCL first started, they admitted that they were having some problems with service, and there were in fact quite a few complaints,” said Rex Johnson, executive director of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “They went about trying to correct those, and since then we’ve had very few complaints.”

Since the pending litigation against Norwegian stems from the company’s startup period, Johnson said he is less concerned about its potential to affect Hawaii tourism than if it involved a more recent cruise.

Despite bouts of negative feedback – which made it to Gov. Linda Lingle’s office last summer – Norwegian officials have maintained they have been responsive to complaints and that bookings and interest in interisland cruises have remained high.

Customers like Denise Gerhand of Florida, who sailed Pride of Aloha in November, describe a much more pleasant experience.

“I would definitely go again,” Gerhand said. She added that many of the complaints detailed on the Web, in the media and in the lawsuit are much ado about nothing.

Really? The Web, you say? Indeed.

There are many places where you can find an account of a cruise on this particular ship. You can find a few of the common industry-style reviews here and here. Those are informative but not a heck of a lot of fun.

Gerhand also had this quote in the SB:

“I thought a lot of the reviewers sounded like they thought they were too good to have a small shower or a hard bed or have to wait in line. That’s just the nature of cruising. Especially at this price,” Gerhand said. “They didn’t get Queen Mary accommodations because this is not the Queen Mary.”

Of course, one doesn’t have to look much futher on the web to find that style of review. Explain your Queen Mary comparison to this irate customer, Denise. ha ha. He is plenty upset, but this guy is downright obsessive even though his story really doesn’t sound that awful. NCL for some reason threatened to sue that customer to remove his website, which (as my link here demonstrates) will only draw viewers to the site.

There’s a larger message here, of course, about cruise passengers who have become accustomed to crew from lesser-developed nations who provide fawning service for wages that (by US standards) are low. The Jones Act requires NCL to hire US crew for these inter-Island cruises, and the wages offered don’t attract workers that offer the level of service that cruise passengers have come to demand/expect. The type of US staff that does provide five-star service can earn far better wages (and tips) on land, so it’s no surprise that they don’t rush to sign on for an NCL gig.

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Hokulia lawsuit not a real threat to Hawaii County

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 3:04 pm
I’ve been awfully slow in noticing it, but the Hawaii Island Journal’s current editorial has an insightful section discussing the Hokulia lot owners’ lawsuit against the County of Hawaii. I had posted about this earlier and, a bit tangentially, in this more recent post.

The Journal talked with several attorneys familiar with the case who seemed somewhat puzzled by the threat from [Lot owners’ attorney] Baker. Baker was quoted in the newspaper story as saying he didn’t at this time see litigation being filed against the Hokulia developers, a position the attorneys we talked with found strange. Several indicated they couldn’t imagine a court case in which the county, which has a development agreement with Oceanside 1250 and has never stopped the developer from doing anything, would be hung out on its own if the property owners sue. The county didn’t sell the property, they point out. And it was a judge (who has judicial immunity from being sued), not the county, that stopped the project.

Kona attorney Robert Kim, one of the three attorneys who represented the prevailing South Kona activists in the Hokulia case, said he believes the threatened lawsuit is intended in good part to influence the state legislature to pass legislation aiding Hokulia and other developers. Development advocates all over Hawai’i have been wringing their hands ever since Judge Ibarra’s ruling, and predictions of catastrophic consequences to the state’s economic future have been legion.

Well, when it is put in those terms I feel silly for even contemplating the potential impact on Hawaii County of losing the suit. If anybody should be sued by the lot owners it is the developer, not the County, that would be the more legitimate target.

…or so it seems at this point. The way this issue twists from time to time, who knows?

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House HED Committee opposes UARC

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:23 pm
The Ka Leo has new report on the topic of military research at UH, a subject I previously mentioned in this post. The new story focuses on a HCR 238 which is in vehement opposition to the University Affiliated Research Center.

According to Ka Leo, only one person from the University testified in opposition to the resolution, Dr. Vassilis L. Syrmos an interim dean from the Electrical Engineering Department.

Yesterday, Committee Chairman Rep. Tommy Waters, (D, Lanikai-Waimanalo), appeared surprised to learn no UH administrators were present to answer questions.

“Is Peter Englert here? How about (UH’s Vice President for Research) Jim Gaines? Is the president for research here? (UH Chief of Staff) Sam Callejo? A representative from the governor’s office … perhaps?” Waters asked, before finally giving up with a “thank you.”

The resolution is indisputably hostile to the UARC possibility, so it would have seemed important for somebody with a bit more influence to testify in its defense. If for no other reason than to at least deny or dilute some of the claims made in the resolution. That said, these types of hearings are frequently a nearly meaningless forum for legislative grandstanding, since (as the article correctly notes) resolutions have no force of law.

Perhaps the University is willing to take this sort of public shaming, especially since these federal research dollars would give UH a certain degree of “autonomy” beyond even what the Constitutional amendment provided in 2000. Or maybe they just don’t care what the opposition thinks, because Dr. Syrmos is quoted saying:

“We do not anticipate our process to be concluded until later this year,” Syrmos said in the only testimony in support of the UARC, in which he suggested that the university’s engagement with the military through the proposed research partnership is imminent. “It is inevitable that we work with this major part of our community,” he said.

We’ll see about that.

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PBN blurs news/editorial line

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 11:49 am
The PBN has a short article today that shows a bit of their editorial bias. The piece is about a bill to raise the minimum wage. The article quotes the Chamber of Commerce President (or, more than likely, quotes a CoC press release) who is opposed to the bill, and then instructs readers how to testify on the bill. It’s probably a safe bet that few or zero minimum wage workers regulary read the PBN, but it’s still disheartening to see such blatant bias in a “news” piece.

“We need your help to oppose this legislative proposal,” said Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii President Jim Tollefson in a message to members. “Please submit testimony in opposition to this bill.”

Most Hawaii workers, even in secretarial, clerical and food service jobs, already earn well over the state’s minimum wage and there is a statewide labor shortage.

The quote itself is not surprising, but the following sentence actually facilitates Tollefson’s request by providing readers a working hotlink to email testimony—although they throw up a fig leaf “on either side of the issue.” Right.

It’s not as if it would be difficult to get some reaction from supporters of raising the minimum wage. Try this guy, for starters.

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Keiki left in running vehicle briefly abducted

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:02 am
Both dailies carry a dramatic story of the abduction of a young child left in a running car. The Advertiser has it here and the SB here. The incident had a happy ending only a few minutes after it began, but nobody is in custody for the car theft/kidnapping.

There was legislation this year that would criminalize leaving a child alone in a vehicle. HB 289 died in the House Judiciary Committee after a hearing where testimony was received but decisionmaking was deferred past the decking deadline. This is a recurring topic of legislation, and, as in previous years, legislators are reluctant to criminalize this act because so many citizens think it’s not a big deal—bad things like yesterday happen to “other people.”

The father was extremely lucky. The child could have been harmed or not recovered, and, if the legislation had been law, the father could have been arrested for endangering the welfare of a child in a motor vehicle.

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Journalist urges routine checks of public records

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 11:15 am
The UH student newspaper carries this account of a talk by a Pulitzer-winning journalist. It also mentions a fun-to-browse website run by the speaker full of useful links for journalists (and for bloggers, too).

The journalist, Bill Dedman, is critical of the media for not using public records effectively while reporting the news. He acknowledges that examining the public records is more difficult and that editors do not demand it as often as they could. My favorite passage is this:

Dedman said putting too much emphasis on what quotes reporters obtain hurts the overall understanding of a story. He explained that when the reporter is assigned to cover a story, the editor often expects to see a poignant quote in the fifth paragraph instead of looking for the paragraph that explains what is really going on. Dedman said that while quotes are important, the editor should focus on the meaning and depth of a story.

I don’t want journalists to get too carried away with following his advice. After all, quotes without context and stories that don’t explain things well provide the grist that incites me to post in my blog. Heh.

Interestingly, for bloggers the situation is almost reversed; supporting my posts with public records information is my modus operandi, while getting my own quotes is a rarity. Okay, enough meta-blogging for today!

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Lingle waving red meat before the Christian Right?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:56 am
The SB has a report today that debunks the thought I had expressed earlier in a post about a pending bill banning housing discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. I did not think Governor Lingle would want to take a position before she had to. I was wrong:

“I think anything that reduces discrimination of any kind is a good thing,” Lingle said yesterday. “I believe this is the bill where there was a compromise that was reached, and I think that’s also significant.

“I haven’t read it yet, but it’s very likely that I would sign it.”

The compromise made involving supporters and BYU-Hawaii should get the bill to the Governor’s desk, but if she actually signs it there will be some political cost for her. The vocal opponents of all forms of homosexual protection will be livid. If the Governor carries through with her stated intention to sign the bill I’ll be proud of her.

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More air travel turbulence involving Senator English

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:30 am
The Maui News has another piece today where Pacific Wings airline President Greg Kahlstorf alleges that Senator Kalani English is working in concert with Hotel Hana Maui in support of a competing airline. This new competition is not Hawaii Air Ambulance, whose alleged unethical connection to Senator English I’ve posted about many times previously, but a newcomer called Vision Air.

English and Maui County Councilmember Robert Carroll asked for an extended comment period before rewarding another contract to Pacific Wings for essential air service to Hana. This delay upset Kahlstorf, and he makes this ugly assertion:

Kahlstorf charges that English was doing favors for Hotel Hana-Maui, with which Pacific Wings has had rocky relations, and whose principals have contributed to English?s campaign funds.

That’s a probably a bit much.

The article does a fair job of explaining the “essential air service” subsidy that is involved, and describes what would happen if the subsidy were removed by Congress or if Pacific Wings began scheduled service without a subsidy. It’s an interesting situation, even as provinical as it is.

Anyway, it certainly seems that Senator English and small airlines don’t mix! Even if light planes are the quickest way into his district, English would be well-advised to avoid them…

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Honolulu’s Lewis to circumanv on VO70

Filed under:
— Doug @ 10:06 am
File under J: Jealousy.

After a rigorous tryout process, a local sailor has been selected from a huge pool of candidates to be a crewmember for the Volvo Ocean Race. Andrew Lewis will race around the world. I can’t wait for the start, especially now that I/we have a dog in the fight! These boats should be really fast, the website for the race is always extremely good, and Andrew is a good guy. Good on him.

Thanks to the Advertiser for carrying the story. I certainly hope the Hawaii media follow the race when it starts later this year.

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Renewable power plans sought

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:51 am
The PBN has an article today announcing that a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric is looking for opportunities to invest in renewable energy.

According to the standards established by the Legislature, by the end of 2005 8% of HEI’s net electricity sales must be from renewable sources. This latest report seems to be in reaction to that requirement, but keep in mind that the law is toothless insofar as it does not really provide for any penalties if they do not meet the standard on schedule. If the energy provider fails the options are to waive the standard or give them more time. Wimpy.

The investment criteria established by the subsidiary are too strict. They are looking for

projects supplying “firm” power, which the utility can call upon on demand, will generally get higher priority than “as-available” energy sources. Another criterion will be to confirm that the renewable technology is commercially viable and can be positively integrated into the islands’ electric systems. To ensure projects support the key objective of attaining marked increases in the amount of renewable electricity generated in Hawaii, projects must have a capacity of at least one megawatt and a planned date of commercial operation no later than Dec. 31, 2010.

“As-available” sources include wind and solar. “Commercially viable” rules out the still-experimental ideas such as wave energy and ocean thermal energy. The large capacity requirements make it too risky for somebody to try to enter the market who is not sure of their outcome.

With all these limitations, I think it’s likely that HEI is merely going through the motions to indicate an attempt to comply with the standard. I don’t think they are being aggressive in this attempt to invest in renewables, simply because they don’t have to be agressive—because they really don’t have to succeed in meeting the standard.

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Tsunami Lessons – still unlearned?

Filed under:
— Doug @ 8:59 am
Doug Carlson has a different take at his blog today than the Advertiser and SB reports regarding the reaction at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to the large earthquake Monday.

The dailies report that the PTWC is pleased that yesterday they had more success in reaching officials in the area threatened with a tsunami (a disaster that for some strange reason did not materialize, thankfully, despite the very large earthquake).

On the other hand, Carlson believes that PTWC was again falling down on the job by not (also) alerting the mass media in the threatened areas. Carlson has been rather obsessive about the issue (it’s the entire focus of his blog!), and if you read more of his posts you’ll come to find that he’s not simply another blogger talking into the virtual wind—Carlson actually visited the PTWC and questioned them directly. He talks to the responsible officials instead of about them.

That type of offline activity is relatively rare for a blog. The dailies had some impressively thorough coverage today, but I think Carlson’s angle deserves some consideration, too. But if it takes another big earthquake to incite that coverage, I’ll wait, thanks.

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Mysterious non-debate on TANF reserve surplus

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:31 pm
After reading todays Advertiser piece about a debate over how to spend a huge surplus in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families reserve fund, something just didn’t seem right. Maybe I’m reading it all wrong, but I’m not really sure there is anything to debate.

The federal welfare money does come with restrictions. The grant can be used for any of the law’s four main goals: providing aid to needy families, promoting self-sufficiency through job training or marriage, preventing unwanted pregnancies and encouraging two-parent families. But once the federal money is placed into the reserve, it can only be used for direct cash assistance to needy families, limiting the state’s flexibility.
Lingle, in her proposed two-year budget, wants to spend $120 million to increase cash payments and bonuses to needy parents who are returning to work.
Democrats are moving ahead with bills that would raise the monthly federal cash payments to those on welfare by changing the formula that calculates the payments.
[Department of Human Services Director] Koller has warned that raising monthly federal cash payments would trigger increases in state-funded assistance programs, compounding the costs.

First, it sounds like both sides are asking for essentially the same thing. Second, Koller’s warning should also apply to the Governor’s proposal, shouldn’t it?

Then I remembered that I had heard this topic before. Have a look at the glossy booklet that the Governor’s staff stuffed into the hand of everyone who attended the State of the State Address, page one in particular. One of her bullet points intended to lower the cost of living is:

Increasing direct assistance to low-income families with children using federal funds from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Family program (TANF). This “reward work” program, along with other targeted programs, would direct $120 milion in federal funds to the most needy families over the next two years, encouraging more parents to reach self-sufficiency.

DePledge failed to explain just how the Legislature’s and the Governor’s proposals differ. Beyond the contrasting rhteorical frames erected in the mind of a reader, is there some key difference when using the terminology “welfare” vs. “cash payments and bonuses to needy parents” that makes one plan trigger increased state funding and not the other?

Before that, are both plans (or either plan) allowable under the previously noted narrow mandate of how reserve monies may be spent? As written, it’s almost as if the article is trying to fan a debate that really is an agreement. In any case, the issue is poorly explained in this report. Ah, but it’s only $118M, no biggie. Heh.

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“Creative” Chinatown idea

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:04 am
This SB article describes Mayor Hannemann’s goal of strengthening the arts and culture in the Chinatown district. The idea instantly brought to mind the well-known Washington Monthly article (and now book) about the Creative Class, by Richard Florida.

Unfortunately, what Florida wrote about Honolulu is not especially flattering. We rank 23rd out of 32 medium-sized cities in his index of creative class communities, and he is not optimistic about the chance for improvement:

Las Vegas has the highest concentration of the service class among large cities, 58 percent, while West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Miami also have around half. These regions rank near the bottom of the list for the creative class. The service class makes up more than half the workforce in nearly 50 small and medium-size regions across the country. Few of them boast any significant concentrations of the creative class, save vacationers, and offer little prospect for upward mobility. They include resort towns like Honolulu and Cape Cod.

More encouraging, however, is that Hannemann’s proposal aligns well with this segment of Florida’s piece:

The creative class people I study use the word “diversity” a lot, but not to press any political hot buttons. Diversity is simply something they value in all its manifestations. This is spoken of so often, and so matter-of-factly, that I take it to be a fundamental marker of creative class values. Creative-minded people enjoy a mix of influences. They want to hear different kinds of music and try different kinds of food. They want to meet and socialize with people unlike themselves, trade views and spar over issues.

As with employers, visible diversity serves as a signal that a community embraces the open meritocratic values of the creative age. The people I talked to also desired nightlife with a wide mix of options. The most highly valued options were experiential ones—interesting music venues, neighborhood art galleries, performance spaces, and theaters. A vibrant, varied nightlife was viewed by many as another signal that a city “gets it,” even by those who infrequently partake in nightlife. More than anything, the creative class craves real experiences in the real world.

Honolulu is certainly diverse, and the Mayor’s plan is definitely a signal that he “gets it.” I hope this plan gets some legs and does not stumble. The Mayor warns that,

“If people perceive this as another major infusion of city tax dollars, it’s going to be difficult to do.”

[Hannemann] said another obstacle would be if people “don’t understand or appreciate arts and culture, if they see it as a throwaway.”

As long as all this doesn’t drive housing prices up beyond what the people who are actually creative can actually afford, I’m all for it.

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Lehman joins Superferry project

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:38 am
The PBN has a report that a former Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, will be joining the Superferry board. This is a wise addition for them, since the article reports that the Superferry intends to provide a ferry service for the forthcoming Army Stryker brigade which will be based on Oahu and train on the Big Island. We can assume that Lehman has friends in the necessary places to smooth out any rough seas that such a plan might encounter.

I am also amused that the PBN piece also dabbles in a bit of blogging today. Tipping readers off to a Maui News editorial and a Garden Island News article based on a conversation with a Kauai DOT official.

The Maui News piece is vaguely pro-ferry, but scolds the state for how they handled the issue, too:

The plaintiffs want details of the Superferry operation, and they are not willing to trust anything Superferry officials say because state officials allowed an information vacuum to be created.

After the experiences with Kahului Airport and numerous other projects, it should be clear by now to all state officials that even if father does indeed know best, a vocal and lawsuit-prone component of Maui wants to know how, when and why daddy decides whatever. The general information vacuum opens a yawning door to speculation, imagination, creative criticism and lawsuits that can delay, or kill, even good ideas.

Fair enough, I suppose. However, I’m a bit peeved with the tacit insult (if the state is “daddy,” then the opponents are logically “children”) being assigned to the “vocal and lawsuit-prone component.”

The Garden Island News article has a DOT official assuring readers that the impact on Nawiliwili will be tolerable. The piece also offers this useful claim:

If and when the Superferry begins calling on Nawiliwili on a regular basis, [DOT Harbors Division Kauai District Manager] Crowell also isn’t worried about masses of people or vehicles coming off the ship.

Though the Superferry can accommodate 850 to 900 passengers, Superferry officials said they can break even with ridership of around 30 percent, and figure that’s all they’ll get for the first few years they operate, Crowell continued.

According to their proposed fares (on pp. 41-42 of a document they submitted to the PUC here), this means we can now make a rough calculation of the potential profits of a full load to Kauai. Let’s assume the approximately 30% break even point is actually 40%, which means there would be room for another 510 passengers (assuming the lower maximum capacity of 850 passengers). Let’s also assume that they all buy their fares in advance on the internet and travel at off-peak rates. 510 passengers paying a proposed $42 fare would bring in $21,420.

Now lets assume that the ferry could carry the lowest estimate of 85 passenger automobiles. We’ll say that 45 more cars would fill the ferry. Each of those would be $55 for an off-peak trip, for an additional $2,475. Add that up, and a conservative rough estimate for profit on a single off-peak trip to Kauai is $23,895. That’s good money—if they ever start filling the ferry to capacity!

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Chicken and egg problem with campaign spending reform

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:33 am
Todays Borreca column in the SB is about campaign spending, so you know I can’t resist to blog about it. In his column Borreca gives short shrift to publicly-financed campaign legislation because, uh, it is opposed by the Hawaii Christian Coaliton and is “polarizing.” That makes it a bad idea?! Whatever.

Borreca then concludes:

While the campaign spending debate is rapidly polarizing, the simplest reform idea, transparency, is being discarded.

Strong reporting requirements are the basics [sic] of good campaign spending laws, but still Hawaii senators and representatives have exempted themselves from electronic reporting and from requirements that all donations be 100 percent traceable. If every candidate had to file a report via the Internet that would let anyone immediately find out exactly where every dollar came from, the system would be cleanly, honestly and simply reformed.

Now, who would be more likely to support that sort of reporting requirement, a publicly-financed candidate or a candidate financed in the existing manner? Give us some legislators elected with public financing and I suspect you’ll see stronger reporting requirements for privately-financed candidates move through the legislature with relative ease.

It’s should not be an “either/or” situation; the two ideas complement each other. The question is: which reform is the prerequisite of the other?

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Anti Akaka Bill op-ed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:16 am
The SB carries an op-ed contributed by longtime OHA opponent H. William Burgess and his wife. The same sort of piece ran earlier in the Hawaii Reporter, but without this important caveat which the SB includes:

Editor’s note: The Star-Bulletin’s weekly “Big Question” feature is not a scientific poll, nor is it advertised as one. While the responses might be indicative of some of our readers’ thoughts, they should not be used to determine the general public’s opinion.

This begs the question, why conduct and publicize the results of your non-scientific polling if many people are unclear (or capitalizing) on the potential for misinterpretation? But this lame polling is an obsession of nearly all media and not specific to the SB.

Anyway, back to the Burgess piece. The reason they cited the bogus SB poll was to seque into a critique of the scientific poll conducted by OHA that has been a key weapon in the Akaka Bill supporters’ arsenal.

I am dubious of the Burgesses, but kudos to them for actually demanding to see the whole polling report through a UIPA request. They allege that the OHA poll may not have concluded what so many local supporters of the Akaka Bill think/hope it did. If Burgess’ claims are true, this merits some sort of rebuttal or explanation from the supporters and calls into question the integrity of the OHA trustees.

But, even with the deceptive “explanation” of the bill, the 2003 Ward Research report concludes, “In the non-Hawaiian population, however, no consensus exists relative to Hawaiian-only programs, entitlements and a future Hawaiian government. Clearly, non-Hawaiians are not prepared to accept the creation of a Hawaiian nation in the near future.”

This conclusion was never disclosed by OHA. OHA’s shibai of broad public support is often cited as the prevailing “view” of the people of Hawaii. It was mentioned March 1 by Gov. Linda Lingle in her testimony before Congress and by Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona in opinion pieces. Indeed, that assumption of broad public support for the bill underlies the position of our congressional delegation, the local political establishment and seems to have been accepted by the Star-Bulletin and media generally.

If this OHA poll blows up in their face, we can look forward to the Lingle administration and the congressinal delegation eager to take credit, rather than assign blame, for killing the bill. Heh.

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DLNR audit urged in editorial

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:38 am
The Advertiser editorializes today in favor of Representative Schatz’s proposed resolution requesting and audit of the DLNR, I previously posted on this topic.

Note that the two environmental organizations that supported Director Peter Young last week are both groups that pursue the “public-private partnership” of conservation. The Hawaii Nature Center is partially funded through providing lessons to DOE students—and enjoys many corporate donors and boardmembers. The other group, the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, basically bypasses government altogether by outright purchase of lands it wants to preserve. Both of these groups are laudable in many respects, but the public-private partenership does not offer a reassuring model considering the size of the threats to Hawaii’s environement. No private landowner(s), even a benign entity like the Nature Conservancy, should be expected to shoulder this burden. Futhermore, once they purchase a piece of land it is often difficult or impossible for non-member (or non-big-donor-members) citizens to access the preserves. Witness Palmyra Atoll, one of my personal peeves with the Nature Conservancy…

As I noted in my earlier post, I think this is the “realistic” manner of stewardship the Governor prefers. Conservatives, especially those conservatives who value private property rights over almost everything else, would certainly agree.

I’m not sure that an audit will (or even can) denounce this sort of land management philosophy; i.e. I don’t think the legislature can act against this alleged “Thoughtcrime” which in my opinion is underlying the whole debate on Director Young. If Young is removed I have no confidence his replacement would be aligned with the vocal audit supporters—I would suspect the appointment of another “Nature Conservancy-type” of pro-privatization environmentalist.

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Gated communities may be locked out on Kauai

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Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:28 am
An interesting brief story from Kauai in the SB here. Kauai’s Mayor Brian Baptiste plans to introduce a bill to ban gates or guardhouses on private streets leading to five or more homes.

I agree with the Mayor that gated communities destroy any sense of community. Kauai’s housing costs are exploding as more expensive homes are being bought and built there, thus it is likely that the two existing gated communities could soon be joined by more gated communities as the island steadily experiences gentrification. I am a bit unsure if government has (or should have) the power to forbid enclosure of private property, but this could be a politically and legally interesting battle if a developer chooses to fight the bill or challenge any resulting ordinance.

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First Amendment debate – wish I were there

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— Doug @ 8:18 am
The Advertiser covered yesterdays debate in Waikiki between the ACLU’s President Nadine Strossen and Former Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Darn, I wish I could have went!

My favorite segment from the story is this concluding zinger:

Although the subject matter was weighty, the overall mood of the conference was amicable and, at times, even jovial.

The biggest laugh of the day came after Starr jokingly commented that Strossen must defend his right to speak his mind. To which she smiled and agreed, and then added: “But don’t forget that I also defend your right to remain silent.”


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Honolulu daily finally reports on the Akaku story

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HI State Politics
HI Media
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:09 am
Today the SB finally has a report on the controversy surrounding Akaku on Maui. The Advertiser has yet to run anything more than letters to the editor on the topic. Given that the story involves community media, a funding dispute, wealthy developers, and claims of retribution and censorship I would have thought the Honolulu dailies would have been on the scene much earlier. Go figure.

The SB report has most of the relevant details that the Maui News and others have been gathering for weeks. I’ve been posting on the subject based on those contributions. The SB does provide one new detail today:

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has opposed the bills and hopes the various organizations on Maui can settle the dispute without legislation, said state Cable Division head Clyde Sonobe.

“We believe that Maui should decide for Maui,” he said. Sonobe said the department is willing to become a participant to help in arriving at an agreement.

The two bills at the legislature have crossed over and are awaiting action by the money committees. The Akaku board votes Monday on the proposal to surrender 25% of their funding. The legislation could supersede any board decision, of course.

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MHPCC getting more big iron

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— Doug @ 5:19 pm
The Maui News carries a surprisingly geeky (and lengthy) story about a new supercomputer being added to the Maui High Performance Computing Center in Kihei. The new machine will have a 30 terabyte RAID—you’d have to work hard to fill that up with mp3 files.

The article has a well-fleshed-out business development angle, but I took more note of this:

[MHPCC director] Bal says the thrust of the center changed in 2001. Originally, it was given a dual role, partly to do work for the Air Force, partly to offer computational services to private businesses.

It happened that the original manager, the University of New Mexico, was coming to the end of its contract about the same time that terrorists attacked the United States.

In the bidding for a new manager, the University of Hawaii won, and the federal government, always the primary angel of the center, became almost its only customer.

The Cray will be put to work largely on Maui Space Surveillance Center projects. Air Force telescopes atop Haleakala monitor manmade objects orbiting Earth.

The Air Force?s Directed Energy Directorate also has laser projects that use Science City and the computing power of the Kihei center.

The two are linked by a high-capacity data line.

When the computing center was opened, it was said that its computers would be used to attack the ?grand challenges? of scientific research. These included models of climate and weather, designing molecules for defined purposes and similar questions that required the crunching of vast quantities of numbers.

It was also proposed that the power of the machine could be used for some not-so-grand challenges, such as animating movies.

Bal says a grand challenge depends on who is defining it, but he says the computing center has had notable success, for example, in using computers to enhance the resolution of images from space.

Most, though not all, of the center?s work is for the Department of Defense, and the Cray acquisition was a coup for the center and for Cray.

I loves me some supercomputers and the trickle-down technology that reaches the PC market is always cool, but it really bums me out that so much of the industry is driven by the military. I’d respond for one of the frequent MHPCC job announcements if they were busy doing work as, for instance, a render farm for Pixar or Industrial Light and Magic… but I’m not sure I’d sleep well as an employee knowing of the spooky stuff being done over there in the name of our “Defense.”

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Private Colorado prison – backstory

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 4:51 pm
Motivated in part by links provided in Fridays SB coverage of the growing ignomy at the Colorado private prison housing Hawaii women inmates and in part by the first reader’s comment in response to my earlier post, I did some digging on Gil R. Walker and Corrections Coporation of America (CCA). Unfortunately, the free archive on the Advertiser website only goes back 3 months, so I can’t find or link to the David Stannard piece mentioned by the reader. I have emailed Stannard and asked him for his article. The SB piece is via the AP, but the Advertiser continues to monitor the developments using their own journalists and local sources.

Anyway, on to what I found regarding GRW Corporation and CCA. After thinking I had figured out the campaign spending website, I was frustrated that I could not find campaign contribution documentation for candidate and now-Governor Linda Lingle. So, long story short, for now I don’t know if there is any “pay-to-play” overtones. If someone can point me to the right place (I can seem to find every race except state governor!) for checking, please post a comment with a link.

Okay, on to Gil R. Walker, whose initials form the name of GRW Corporation. As far as I can tell they are competitors, not affiliates, of CCA. Perhaps there is some movement of board members and officers between the two (they are both Tennessee-based and corporate boards are often incestous), but at present it doesn’t seem to be the case from what I can tell comparing their websites.

While reading Walker’s bio blurb on the GRW site, I noticed

Before founding GRW, he served as President and COO of PRICOR, Inc. which, at the time, was the second largest and oldest corrections company in the U.S.

“At the time?” What happened? On a hunch I Googled Pricor, and found an excerpt from Covert Action Quarterly about them:

Pricor Once number three behind CCA and Wackenhut, Pricor has taken a different tack from its competitors. It carved out a specialized niche within the private prison industry by convincing underused county jails in rural Texas that they could profit by accepting inmates from overcrowded national and statewide prisons. After cutting its corporate teeth on juvenile education and detention and halfway houses, expansion into adult prisons must have seemed a natural step. In 1986, its first year of adult prison operations, Pricor opened minimum security detention facilities totaling 170 beds in Alabama and Virginia. By 1990, the company looked west to Texas, with its seemingly unending supply of prisoners and profits. Soon, it operated or had contracts pending for six 500-bed county “jails for hire,” mainly in underbudgeted and underpopulated West Texas, and also with one 190-bed pre release center operated under contract with the Texas Department of Corrections. Although Pricor, fueled by its West Texas operations, posted fiscal 1991 revenues of more than $30 million for its adult corrections division, its Texas project was in shambles by mid-1992.

Hmmm. What caused that collapse in 1992? Well, it turns out Pricor (like most private prison companies) has some embarrassing history.

Empty private prisons and municipal coffers plague rural communities around the country. It is in Texas, however, with the nation’s highest number of private prison beds, that this combination has most clearly illuminated the shadier side of privatization. Among the more notorious of many scandals was the Pricor/N Group scheme. Promising ample prisoners and profits, Houston-based N-Group convinced six Texas counties to issue $74 million in bonds for for- profit prison construction to be managed by Pricor.

To ease the deal through the legal and political obstacles, N-Group owners, Houston brothers Michael and Patrick Graham, linked up with local power brokers. They hired an ex-governor’s law firm, signed on a former Texas House speaker as a lobbyist, and took on the husband of the future state treasurer as bond counsel. Covering their bets, the Grahams paid several county attorneys and financial advisers $10,000 each to “review” the deals.

N-Group’s assiduous wooing of politicians paid off: The Graham brothers collected $2.2 million in bond proceeds-but no prisoners showed up, and the counties and the bondholders are left in the lurch. The legal and political fallout continues. In 1991, Pricor was named as an unindicted co-conspirator by a West Texas grand jury for its role in putting together the scheme; N-Group was indicted on criminal antitrust charges. The two companies, along with Drexel Burnham Lambert, the plan’s underwriter, were sued by a group of mutual fund investors who claim to have been bilked out of $70 million in the failed effort.

The private prison profiteers were undeterred. Gilbert R. Walker-Pricor president from 1988 to 1990, when he left the company in the middle of the failed Texas prison deal–and David Arnspiger, a former Drexel official named in the Texas lawsuit, joined forces. As heads of GRW Corporation and Potomac Financial Group, respectively, they put together a similar deal in Walton County, Florida, in 1992. Under the joint proposal presented to Florida officials, Potomac would broker the bonds to finance a new prison in DeFuniak Springs, while GRW would manage the facility. After exposure of Pricor’s shenanigans in Texas, Florida officials declined Walker’s proposal.

Sigh. Now, don’t you feel better that Hawaii is dealing with Mr. Walker to house many of our women inmates? Yuck.

Last, a bit on CCA. While trying to compare the CCA officers and boardmembers with those of GRW I came across this info on the CCA site. Private prisons at one time were extremely lucrative, though their luster on Wall Street is fading. I was still struck to see some rather intriguing high profile names on the CCA board. CCA clearly knows how to gain and exercise influence, and how to cash in on human misery. The two boardmembers that have the most-recognizable names:

Thurgood Marshall, Jr.

Mr. Marshall, a partner in the Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman law firm in Washington, D.C. since 2001, has held political appointments in several branches of the federal government, including Cabinet Secretary to President Clinton, and Director of Legislative Affairs and Deputy Counsel to Vice President Al Gore. In his role under President Clinton, Mr. Marshall was the chief liaison between the President and the agencies of the Executive Branch. In his current legal career, he practices in the firm’s Government Affairs Group and represents clients appearing before federal agencies and Congress. Mr. Marshall, the son of the historic Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, earned a B.A. in 1978 and a J.D. in 1981 from the University of Virginia, after which he clerked for United States District Judge Barrington D. Parker. He chairs the American Bar Association Election Law Committee, and serves as a board member of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and the Supreme Court Historical Society. He also serves as the Vice Chair of the Ethics Oversight Committee of the United States Olympic Committee.

Charles L. Overby

Charles Overby is chairman and chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum, an independent, non-partisan foundation dedicated to First Amendment and media issues. Overby also is chairman and CEO of an affiliate organization: The Newseum, a state-of-the-art museum of news in Arlington, VA. Overby is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning editor in Jackson, Miss. He worked for 16 years as reporter, editor and corporate executive for Gannett Co., the nation’s largest newspaper company. He was vice president for news and communications for Gannett and served on the management committees of Gannett and USA TODAY. As a reporter, he covered the White House, presidential campaigns, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. He was named president and chief executive officer of the Gannett Foundation in 1989. The foundation was renamed The Freedom Forum in 1991. He became chairman as well as CEO in 1997. Overby has served two stints in government: He was press assistant to Sen. John Stennis, D-Miss., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and special assistant for administration to Gov. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

If I were a conspiracy nut I might think that, beyond the obvious local concerns, some of the (Gannett-owned) Advertiser motivation to agressively pursue the current Colorado story is that it makes a competitor of CCA look bad/worse. Heh. Anyway, I’ll certainly think twice from now on when I hear yet another NPR underwriting announcement urging me to feel warm and fuzzy about the Charles L. Overby Foundation and the Freedom Forum.

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Back tomorrow

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— Doug @ 4:58 am
I am going for an overnight sailing trip today (despite the dubious weather) and will be back online Saturday if all goes as planned.

A bad day sailing is better than a day at work!

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Colorado prison firings renew Hawai’i concerns

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:33 pm
The Advertiser is still keeping us informed of the disturbing news from a Colorado private prison housing inmates from Hawaii. Today the latest article is not about the alleged sexual misconduct of staff, but about the discovery that some staff were hired and put in charge of inmates before background checks were completed. The completed checks showed that a handful of employees have checkered legal histories, and those employees face dismissal.

The President of GRW, the private mainland company running the prison, has a history of lying being dishonest and now has approximately zero credibility. From the Rocky Mountain News story:

Gil Walker, president of GRW, said these are the last people who should be working in a prison and should have never been hired.

“We don’t hire questionable people, and that’s the embarrassing part,” Walker told CBS 4 News.

Walker said the company never finished its background checks on potential employees and didn’t know their full histories.

Until the history of a potential employee is known, any potential employee is “questionable.” Therefore, GRW hired questionable people. The last paragraph puts the lie to the second. Walker should be just as “embarrassed” about his demonstrated inability to properly run a prison.

I am curious if the contracts between the State and GRW contain any provision to allow Hawaii prison officials to know the criminal history status of private prison employees. Does the Department of Public Safety know if the other mainland prisons housing Hawaii inmates also employ staff with unknown backgrounds? Will anyone check?

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BYU and GLBT groups compromise on housing discrimination

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:05 pm
The SB has a report on legislation advancing that will prohibit housing discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. Previously these bills have died due largely to the objections of BYU-Hawaii that asserts a religious claim to prohibit homosexuals from their student housing properties.

The compromise in HB 1715 allows BYU-Hawaii to continue their policy, but prohibits the practice among all other landowners without the religious pretext for discrimination. This is a similar theme that has halted HB 1240 concerning Emergency Contraception distribution, wherein religious hospitals demanded a “conscience clause” to avoid the mandate to merely provide information to sexual assault survivors about the medication.

Gov. Linda Lingle has not publicly stated a position on the proposed legislation.

I’m sure Governor Lingle would rather say nothing, preferring to postpone that lose-lose public relations event with that hope that the bill not even make it to her desk.

Finally, there was this:

Opponents asked lawmakers to hold the bill in committee, arguing that the new law would create a special class of people protected under the law.

“You are, if you pass this, allowing gays to take copies of the proposed law when they go to attempt to rent or lease, using this law and forcing landlords to rent to them or be sued,” said Daniel McGivern, president of Pro-Family Hawaii. “This would be discrimination in favor of gays, first and foremost. It is reverse discrimination against all others.”

File McGivern under “unclear on the concept of Civil Rights Legislation.” Sheesh.

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Information access bill stalls

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:39 pm
The Advertiser has a story today on SB 1551, a bill discussed in many local blogs yesterday.

The article reveals why Representative Luke did not hear the bill before her House Judiciary committee: she has inserted the portions she supports into other measures and she does not support the section that would give OIP enforcement authority.

More interesting, however, is the post at iLind on the topic. I count myself among those who doubt that the Legislature could work very well if the Sunshine Law were strictly applied. In fact, at the HB 1309 hearing earlier this week Honolulu Councilman Nestor Garcia got in a didactic (or pedantic, depending upon your opinion of Garcia) zinger on the topic when Senator Hee was pressing him to provide some impression of where the other members of the Council stood on the question of actually raising the GET.

Garcia could only point to the recent resolution the Council passed in support of giving the Council the option to vote on the question. Garcia could offer no insight into the opinions of each individual Councilmember beyond what came to light during the debate for the resolution—to do otherwise would require Garcia to violate the Sunshine Law. Hee was not amused at the civics lesson, but Garcia was correct.

Keep this in mind the next time a County Council makes a short-sighted decision. If Councilmembers could meet informally without having to sneak around they might be able to talk each other out of the more egregious flubs. In a public meeting the temptation is to lay low or to grandstand, not to reveal your own doubts, questions, or ignorance, nor are Councilmembers likely to float trial balloons as counter-offers to whatever proposal is before them. The meetings are televised (such as it is) and the media could report the event in an unfavorable light (assuming any media were there, heh). Another example, standing up to a domineering Councilmember is easier if prior to the confrontation you have built a rapport and/or a strategy with your allies. cf. Iraq War.

There is some trade-off between open government and good government. “Smoke filled rooms” demonstrate the danger of closed government, but Sunshine is not without its own cost. I think the Legislature’s policy of requiring public hearings with advance notice and (in recent years) public decisions is a good compromise.

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Hawaii County Council staff conflict

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Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 12:07 pm
I think I may have a better understanding of what happened last Friday at the Hawaii County Council. In my previous post I was confused. At that point it seemed that their auditor was fired but also had been offered another job. This is what led me to belive that:

County Council Vice Chairman Bob Jacobson, who represents South Kona, Ka’u and Puna, had suggested Frankel lead the office that researches and writes legislation for the council.

My mistake was that the “office” mentioned above IS the Auditor post he was fired from, not some new job offer. Thus, read that as “Jacobson originally suggested Frankel for the Auditor post.”

There is continuing bad blood between Councilmembers in Hawaii County, and a recent history of other staffers being fired for writing “unapproved” memoranda. According to todays West Hawaii Today, Mr. Frankel was dismissed for similar reasons.

County Clerk Connie Kiriu fired Frankel Friday but said she consulted with [Council Chair] Safarik beforehand. Safarik said they had been “in discussion over the past 90 days” and “layers and layers of issues were discussed.”

Kiriu Tuesday repeated her comments provided Friday: “It was a management decision done with the best interest of the office, its members and the county in mind.” She added, “It was an accumulation of actions and inactions,” and that he had previously been put on notice that his job was in jeopardy.

“He was providing a lot of e-mails that were creating issues that were untenable,” Safarik said.

Details are sketchy in these latest reports, but it sure smells of the Council chair micromanaging the support staff. That’s the risk of being an at-will employee, of course, and officially Frankel’s chain of command leads to Safarik. However, it is not good government for dissenting views to be denied any staff support (at penalty of dismissal for the staff). The Legislature does not find the leadership censoring or admonishing the LRB for producing anything unflattering of leadership that was requested by a member. There are also Majority and Minority staff offices at the Legislature who maintain confidentiality; even between members of the same party. It seems now that the Hawaii County Council, with a much smaller membership, may require a similar arrangement.

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Kim lobbies for Hokulia

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HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 3:16 pm
Check out this excellent West Hawaii Today story that is much more detailed than the Advertiser story about Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim’s appearance before the Senate. I had posted on the Advertiser report yesterday.

Wow. It’s a really good piece. I started to pick out some good segments to excerpt, but it turns out that I want to quote almost the whole thing, ha ha. Mayor Kim is his usual self, i.e. very frank, and Medeiros doesn’t put any varnish on his comments either.

Okay, I’ll pull out this one quote:

[Medeiros] said the County of Hawaii is “tied at the waist” to 1250 Oceanside Partners through its developer agreement and “still today walks hand-in-hand” with the developer despite “numerous” violations of county, state and federal statutes.

That is a stronger version of what I was considering near the end of this post.

Go read the story, already!

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DLNR Director taking more flak

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:54 pm
The Advertiser and the SB both have articles on new criticism directed at DLNR Director Peter Young that puts his tenure in [slight] jeopardy. The Advertiser here and the SB here.

I have posted previously on other related LNR issues here and here. The criticisms remain the same; environmental and Hawaiian organizations complain of poor management and question specific decisions made under his tenure. Legislators, especially Representative Schatz who authored HCR 60, voice more concern about funding and staffing problems.

My gut feeling is that most of this is a facade that obscures the real basis of their opposition to Young; which I think is hinted at in the final line in the Advertiser piece:

Young’s opponents remain skeptical. “You hear public-private partnerships are a good idea and they may be, but you can’t rely on the private entities all the time to manage the public’s assets,” [Hawaii’s Thousand Friends Executive Director Donna Wong] said.

As long as there is a Director with that inclination, I think the criticisms will persist. If Young were somehow actually forced out, I really don’t foresee Governor Lingle nominating a replacement with a different mindset, either.

In a statement yesterday, Lingle said, “I continue to have full confidence in Peter Young’s ability to oversee the management and stewardship of Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources.”

“Two years ago, Peter inherited a department that had systemic problems as identified by the state auditor. Realizing that he could not allow this department to run in the same manner, Peter initiated realistic goals to protect our precious environment,” Lingle said.

Clever. This statement wants us to infer that these actions Young is being criticized for are all among the things which the Legislative Auditor has previously suggested be done. “Realistic” is also a subtle conservative codeword. A one-two punch.

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Con Con fallacy

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— Doug @ 1:22 pm
The Hawaii Reporter has a bee in their bonnet about SCR 55 which requests a study on the advisability of convening a Constitutional Convention.

The HR piece has a useful, if biased, account of the two previous (failed) decennial efforts to hold a Con Con. The thrust of the article and the HR’s interpretation of the SCR, however, is bizarre and misguided. It starts:

There already is an effort under way to thwart democracy in the state and undermine any possibility of a Constitutional Convention in 2008.

That sentence is the the thesis of the HR piece, and it is false.

What “effort” is she talking about?!

The SCR will actually study the need and possibility for a Con Con to happen in 2007, i.e. before 2008. Zimmerman mistakenly believes that if the legislature does not allow a ballot measure on the question of holding a 2007 or 2008 Con Con then the opportunity will be lost for another 10 years. In actuality, if the Legislature does not put the question on the 2006 ballot, the Lieutenant Governor must put it on the next general election ballot. There will be a vote. It does not matter what the LRB study finds, what the legislature wants, or even if OHA, Dan Inouye, and John Waihee might oppose another Con Con. Zimmerman should know this, if she actually read the SCR:

WHEREAS, Article XVII, section 2, of the Hawaii State Constitution further provide [sic] that if any nine year period elapses without the question having been submitted, the lieutenant governor must certify that question, to be voted on in the first general election following the expiration of that period; and

Her closing call to action, “time to rally,” should be replaced with “time to re-read the legislation.” Heh.

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Freedom of Information opposed by journalists?

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:56 pm
I received an email asking me to post about SB 1551 and to post the text of a letter sent to “the media” that was not published last week by “the media.” It appears that the Hawaii Reporter and iLind.net were sent the same information and both published it today (the HR doing so without the preamble).

As Ian Lind pointed out, there is now little time for action. Unless Representative Luke asks today for a waiver of the 48-hour hearing notice requirement or the bill is re-referred to a single committee, it will die for the year.

That no media outlet would print the letter is a bit strange at first glance, espeically since the last week was all about Freedom of Information. However, it’s possible that the reason the letter was not published is because the Society of Professional Journalists testified on February 14 against the bill. Section 3 of the bill is the basis of their opposition:

SECTION 3. Section 92-11, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

“?92-11 Voidability. Any final action taken in violation of sections 92-3 and 92-7 [shall] may be voidable upon proof of [wilful] violation. A suit to void any final action shall be commenced within ninety days of the action.”

This means that instead of requiring the OIP to void any action taken in wilful violation of the Sunshine Act, the OIP would have discretion to void the action or let it stand—without having to prove wilfulness.

The SPJ likes the other sections of the bill, so their decision to oppose the entire bill because of a single objectionable section is a bit hard to comprehend. It would make more sense to ask for an amendment to delete that section while supporting the rest of the bill. Odd. You’d think the SPJ would know how to play the legislative games…

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Mayoral dynasty extends to small Wisconsin city?

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Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 1:03 pm
While browsing the Madison, Wisconsin, newspaper today I came across this surprising headline. Possibly a follow-up to an old Borreca column I posted upon.

Mufi, is this your Uncle David? Fun.

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New drivers licenses – behind the “new look” is something more worthy of concern

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:20 am
The Advertiser ran a piece today on the front page about the new drivers license design. Too bad they chose to focus mostly on the aesthetics of the changed document instead of the policy behind it.

A new Hawai’i driver’s license now has added anti-counterfeiting features and a tiny state flag along with a new look that drew lukewarm reviews from folks getting their cards yesterday.

The changes are part of a nationwide initiative since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to make it more difficult to duplicate or alter driver’s licenses, which are commonly used as identification for everything from air travel to buying liquor.

And Hawai’i is in the forefront of the effort.

“We will be the first state in the nation to incorporate the latest national standards for issuance of driver licenses,” said city spokesman Bill Brennan.

Welcome to your new police state, readers. This new “drivers license” is your National ID Card, with Hawaii frosting.

The ACLU opposed the idea in a 2002 press release and speech (see especially part III) because they feared for the loss of privacy.

A recent report by the apolitical National Research Council stated explicitly that standardized driver’s licenses would be a “nationwide identity system,” Corrigan said.

The ACLU also pointed to the introduction … of a measure by Virginia Reps. Tom Moran, a Democrat, and Tom Davis, a Republican, which would force states to comply with nationwide standards for driver’s licenses and require the linking of licensing databases across the country into one giant integrated information bank.

If that sounds alarmist and/or you hate the ACLU, then read the relevant Act of the 108th Congress behind this development, specifically scroll to section 7212, where you’ll find it is no longer just an overwrought libertarian concern, it is now law.

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Hokuli’a exemption idea killed in Senate

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:38 am
Today there is an Advertiser story more notable for what did not happen than what did happen. It appears that the Senate will reject Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim’s request to create an exemption to defuse the Hokulia litigation.

This means the Hokulia developer’s appeal to the Supreme Court and the Hokulia owners’ action against Hawaii County are still in play. It may also mean that more developments on agricultural land are under growing legal clouds.

But Hokuli’a aside, a number of subdivisions consisting of 1- and 2-acre lots on agricultural lands were approved over several decades until Ibarra made his first ruling in 2003.

Cue the ominous music. It certainly has the potential to open a can of worms.

Incidentally, I like the sound of what Senator Kokubun has in mind for HB 109:

Kokubun, D-2nd (Hilo, Puna, Ka’u), said his focus this year is on moving out bills that clarify land use laws so that agricultural lands are identified and protected from future development. The bill before the committee would make it clear that homes are not permitted on agricultural lands if “non-agricultural features” exist such as golf courses, country clubs, hotels, homes not compatible with agricultural activities and covenants that restrict agricultural uses.

This dance isn’t over yet, readers. But the night is winding down.

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Vials were not chemical weapons

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— Doug @ 9:52 am
The Advertiser has a report today that the unmarked vials found under a deceased former chemical warfare officer contain a pesticide and are not chemical weapons. Whew.

The Army said it does not know why almost 80 vials of the restricted-use pesticide was at the house once owned by a retired Army colonel, or why the owner of PF Marine at 50 E. Sand Island Road had more than 30 of them. PF Marine declined to comment yesterday.

Wha? That’s news to me. Did I overlook a previous media report that there was another cache of these vials? PF Marine seems to have some explaining to do.

Todays report does not specify how the Army is going to properly dispose of the vials, but I can assume/hope that it is not by boxing the vials up and sending them to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill… however, it’s the Army, so maybe they’ll divert the waste to Makua Valley.

Okay, that was a cheap shot. Sorry.

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Robo Cataluna

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HI Media
— Doug @ 9:31 am
Is it just me, or is repeating the same “move on” theme a half dozen times in one column a bit much? Does she really think her readers are so dense?

That said, I happen to agree with Cataluna, and have previously made a similar observation to what she says here:

The City Council should be careful about pointing fingers and casting aspersions as well. Members seem all too delighted to be waving papers and clucking tongues over the way Harris spent money and moved money around. However, many of them were right there in office when Harris was doing all the questionable spending they’re only now questioning. It may be a matter of degrees, but there is the smell of complicity.

But the best paragraph is this:

If Hannemann is going to pick through every stitch and knot Harris made, he had better be sure that his own actions can stand up to the same inspection by the next mayor that comes along. One false move, one overly lavish party or curly koa desk, could make him look like the biggest hypocrite ever to ascend the stairs at Honolulu Hale.

Yeah, I know, one could substitute me for Hannemann and Cataluna for Harris, blah blah blah. I promise to try not to repeat myself ad nauseum—at least not in the same post, ha ha.

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NovaSol makes national listing

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:08 am
The Advertiser reports that a Honolulu high-tech company is included on Inc. Magazine’s list of fast-growing companies. It is the first listing in 16 years for a Hawaii business.

I noticed this story for two reasons: first, I know a former employee of the company so I have some vague concept of the very secretive James Bond gee-whizzery they do. Second, I was struck by this quote that doesn’t jibe with what you usually hear from Hawaii business executives:

Rick Holasek, NovaSol’s president, credited the company’s success in part to state tax breaks and incentives.

“It is certainly the combination of strong talent and the pro-business climate in Hawai’i that spread our success and landed us on the Inc. 500 list,” he said in a written statement.

How much did the Hawaii taxpayers pay to get this company on the list? Maybe we’ll find out.

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The wait is over – DOT & Superferry are sued

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:48 am
The SB has a story today about the easy-to-predict lawsuit. UPDATE: The Maui News now has a piece, too.

The lawsuit was filed in Maui Circuit Court by lawyer Isaac Hall on behalf of the Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow and the Kahului Harbor Coalition. Named as defendants were the state Department of Transportation and its director, Rod Haraga; DOT harbors director Barry Fukunaga, and Hawai’i Superferry Inc.

The plaintiffs are asking that Hawai’i Superferry be prohibited from implementing any segment of the project and the state from granting any approvals until an environmental impact statement, or at the very least an environmental assessment, is done. An environmental study is required by law for a project on such a large scale as the Superferry, the lawsuit said.

In reaction, John Garibaldi is basically arguing that his defense (or at least his public defense) will be “other harbor users were not sued for this, why me?”

“No users of harbors, no past operating ferries, no barge companies, no cruise lines that utilize our harbors, none of the container-ship companies or the new-car shipment companies have had to do any type of environment review work related to that,” Garibaldi said.

I am not a lawyer. His is a valid question, and he may even be right that his project is being singled out, but I believe the courts have to rule based on the law and the facts—not based upon the past practice of the approving agency. This should be an interesting case, similar in some ways to the Hokulia litigation and appeals.

The filing of this lawsuit strengthens my expectation that the concurrent resolution at the legislature urging expedition of the negotiations will be a non-starter or will not be of much worth if the DOT complies with the request for more information. DOT is not likely to release much (if any) information with a lawsuit pending.

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Superferry CEO speaking out

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:43 pm
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has a piece today based on a speech before the Hawaii Island Economic Develoment Board last week. The Superferry CEO John Garibaldi has to be pleased with getting so much of his message out in one article with very little of the opposition story.

As I previously reported, the legislative hurdles are mostly solved (save for the bond funding), but I still expect some legal challenges.

Environmental groups could create other problems, something Garibaldi doesn’t care to speculate about. “We’re going out more and more trying to define the issues,” he said. Alien species is an industry issues and not specific to the proposed Superferry, he said. Other transportation industries have not had to prepare similar studies, he noted. “We’re taking our own leadership role.”

An especially frank acknowledgment that they are vigorously spinning (or counter-spinning) the issues. He doesn’t speculate on environmental groups (i.e. legal challenges), but he really doesn’t need to. Heh.

This Wednesday the House will be hearing HCR 86 requesting the Department of Transportation to expedite the negotiations with the Superferry and report back to the Legislature promptly before the bond decision is to be made. I am anxious to see who will be in support and opposition to this resolution. I can see it both ways: it’s possible that supporters could prefer a rapid closure, but supporters may also be worried that any report to the Legislature will be tipping their hand and providing ammunition to the opposition.

Of course, if the DOT rapidly produces a worthless report then there is little point in speculating on what effect it will have. Since the DOT supports the Superferry that’s the outcome I would expect, should this resolution (somehow) be rapidly passed by the Legislature.

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Increase in welfare benefits

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:18 pm
The SB has a front page story on this slow newsday about an effort to increase the amount of General Assistance (a.k.a. “welfare”) payments. The story focuses on SB 475 which is going to be heard in the House Human Services Committee on Tuesday morning.

Unfortunately, the SB story sort of bungles the wonky aspects of the story. It reports that Director Koller from the Department of Human Services testified in opposition to the bill in February before the House Human Services Committee. Actually, SB 475 was still in the Senate in February, so Koller must have presented her testimony to the Senate Human Services Committee. The House actually heard a companion measure, HB 243, but HB 243 was heard in the House Human Services Committee at the end of January.

Nalani Fujimori, deputy director for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, said the Work and Employment Rights Coalition has been trying for more than five years to pass legislation that would increase the standard of assistance. Along with the Legal Aid Society and WERC, Parents and Children Together, the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and several other groups also support the bill.

Fujimori said the measure before the Legislature this year has been the most successful of all the similar bills introduced in past years.

“This is, by far, the farthest we’ve come,” Fischer said.

If the measure passes in tomorrow’s committee, it will head to the House Finance Committee.

That would be the same House Finance Committee where HB 243 was never scheduled for a hearing and subsequently failed to meet the crossover deadline. Uh oh.

Moving from the process to the substance of the bill, the opposition from Director Koller is noteworthy.

State Department of Human Services Director Lillian Koller, whose agency implements welfare funds, says increasing benefit amounts would make “it more difficult for recipients to exit assistance programs.”

More difficult to exit? Hmmm. I think Koller probably wanted to say “more difficult for recipients to be removed from the general assistance rolls.”

In written testimony on the measure, presented at a February hearing before the House [sic] Committee on Human Services, Koller also said that it is “much more effective to reward employment and self-sufficiency activities … rather than to simply increase payments.”

Wha? The phrase “much more effective” begs the question; what is the intended effect of General Assistance? By jumping straight into the use of a relative term like “more,” Koller can sidestep that whole debate—as if it is already agreed upon that the intended effect of General Assistance is to get recipients off the rolls, not to give enough support for recipients to meet the needs of their household. The House Human Services Committee should not let Director Koller coast by tomorrow if she testifies in the same manner.

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Tsunami modeling updated

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— Doug @ 8:38 am
The SB carries this article that provides a follow up today for one of the earliest posts from my blog. This is reassurance that it is likely the outmoded evacuation maps and disaster plans promulgated by civil defense will be replaced. Beyond the immediate utility of this new research, it is personally satisfying that I am acquainted with several of the scientists mentioned and it’s cool to see them get some positive exposure.

I’ll also take this opportunity to give a shout out for a link I added last week to a reader’s blog called Tsunami Lessons.

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Hawaii County Auditor dismissed

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:47 am
I saw this cyptic story in the West Hawaii Today newspaper.

Hawaii County dismissed their Auditor on Friday. It sounds as if there was some resistance from the Auditor, however the article also presents the possibility that the termination was merely to facilitate reassigning the Auditor to a post where he would lead in researching and writing legislation for the Hawaii County Council.

Did the Auditor not want this new post, was he just being a stickler for procedure, or is he playing some kind of Brer Rabbit “don’t throw me in that briar patch” tune? Hmmm.

The writer of the article can’t seem to tell either, yet chose to play the ominous chords more loudly.

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Akaku offers to pay up

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:37 am
After much debate at two public meetings, it appears that the Akaku board has finally decided to surrender and has offered to dedicate 25% of it’s major funding stream to Maui educators. The Maui News has a very thorough story on the latest develoment here.

It remains to be seen how the educators and state legislators (and Mr. Dowling) react to this offer. Under every current proposal (legislators’ attempt to redirect 66% [now an unspecified %], Akaku’s plan for 25%, and the educators’ plan for 33%) there is a reduction in funding for Akaku, so this has to be seen as a defeat for them.

I have no idea when the educators might make any decisions, so my focus now shifts back to the state legislation on this topic. SB 959 is cruising through the House, with only the Finance Committee left to schedule a hearing. HB 784 is not yet scheduled for its first hearing in the Senate and would need to be forwarded to the Ways and Means Committee by Wednesday (if I recall correctly) to meet the 2nd lateral deadline.

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Advertiser plans to redevelop site

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:12 am
I noticed that PBN also carries a piece about the Advertiser building. The dailies could not seem to agree on how to tell the story.

PBN is carrying a report similar to that of the Advertiser/Gannett. In particular, they use the higher tax assessment value of $15.9M. Perhaps the SB came up with a much lower assessed value because this latest report makes it clear that the deal involves two properties. Or perhaps the SB would just like to drive down the bids, ha ha.

While I’m thinking out loud, I think it would be cool if the press operators’ union pension fund were to win the bidding to buy/redevelop the building. …or perhaps David Black should place a bid just for spite.

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Hawaii County planner unusually frank

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 7:57 am
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has another report on the remarks of Hawaii County Planning Director Chris Yuen. Yuen is my hero—again.

The Big Island is committed to more growth and development than its roads, parks and public services can handle.

That’s what Planning Director Chris Yuen told the County Council this week, as he suggested the county be “more strategic” in zoning decisions. Yuen said he has no “ultimate solution” to the problem.

The solution does not lie in stopping development, rather in “in-filling” urban areas such as Hilo and Kailua-Kona to make more affordable housing available to commuters who now clog the roads traveling long distances to work.

Yuen points out that part of the problem is transit-based; in Hawaii County they are falling behind in road construction. The transit debate here on Oahu focuses almost exclusively upon what kind of transit system to choose and how to fund it. The obvious connection of transit issues to urban planning policy is glossed over. Yuen ties them together well.

I believe the same things Yuen discusses are happening in Central and Leeward Oahu, yet I do not recall any Honolulu officials willing to be as vocifierous as Yuen. Perhaps similar things are being said here—with the media coverage of County government on Oahu simply spread too thin to pick it up.

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Production tax credit amounts revealed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:22 am
Gee, I go sailing all day yesterday (leaving before the Advertiser gets their Saturday edition posted) and this is what I miss: an article that provides some figures for what the television production tax credits amount to.

I had posted on this earlier and made my own estimate of the cost. The new article doesn’t itemize the credits awarded to each procution, but it looks like my back-of-the-napkin calculation of $1M for “Lost” was probably too low. I’m curious why the state chose to release this information that has previously been withheld by tax officials as being confidential or unavailable. Perhaps one motivation is to defuse the legislation moving along that would require an accounting for all of the tax credits and GET exemptions previously bestowed. i.e. They might being throwing us a bone to keep the really egregious credits and exemptions confidential.

Which reminds me, on my visit to Ko Olina yesterday I did not see any promised “world class aquarium” despite the millions in tax credits awarded to Jeff Stone to add that feature (among other, more profitable, features that are popping up out there) to his sprawling domain.

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Off to Ko Olina I go

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— Doug @ 6:06 am
I’m racing from Kaneohe to Ko Olina today. Boy, I hope the wind picks up! Maybe by the time I get home the Advertiser’s Saturday edition will be online…

While I’m out there I may check on the progress of Jeff Stone’s promised “world class aquarium” and report back. I may also buy a jillion-dollar home or perhaps wiggle my toes in one of his four manicured lagoons.

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Senate Judiciary re-thinks vague anti-squatter law

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:57 am
The SB reports that the awful Act 50 of 2004 that I was moaning about earlier is facing repeal in the Senate. Hooray for that. The House has similar thoughts, so some progress should be possible this year.

Senate President Robert Bunda, who introduced the bill that became Act 50, said his constituents in the Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea district support the law because it addresses the problem of “people who are in perfect condition to work but don’t, and they choose not to live in homes, but to live on the beach.”

Bunda said he would discuss his concerns with Hanabusa and House leaders as the proposal proceeds.

If that was the problem to address, then this time try enacting a law that addresses that problem. This law is a “sledgehammer vs. mosquito” debacle. Attorney General Bennett’s limp assertion that the law would withstand a legal challenge almost makes me wish nothing happens so the courts can strike down the law and put egg on his face. But, after all, it was he who argued before the US Supreme Court that “there shouldn’t be a test where the government has to prove legislation is rational!”

It’s still fun rubbing that in…

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Editorial “science” arguments hit-or-miss

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 5:43 am
Todays SB editorials are instructive on the topic of science reporting. The first one on drug testing gets it wrong, the second one on flouridation is a bit better.

First the poorly done example:

University of Michigan social scientists found in a national survey two years ago that 37 percent of high school seniors at schools where they were tested for drugs reported to have smoked marijuana, compared with 36 percent at school without drug tests.

Mid-Pacific should survey its students before the end of the current school year, then take a similar survey next year. That should provide a clear picture of the program’s effectiveness.

The difference between 37% and 36% self-reporting of marijuana use is probably insignificant (though I admit I don’t have the Michigan study readily available). I question how a statistic that actually shows more marijuana use at schools with testing speaks to the need for testing at more schools, but whatever. I think that finding probably is more indicative of the near-uniform distribution of high school seniors who are comfortable with admitting (or falsely claiming, since it is only a self-report) that they smoke marijuana. What it says about the actual amount of marijuana use among high school seniors is almost nothing.

Therefore, the suggestion that Mid-Pacific do a similar pointless survey is dumb odd for the same reason. Furthermore, what is considered “effectiveness” for this program? More drug use? Less students reporting drug use? This is junk science to support a symbolic “war on drugs” sideshow. It would require an unconstitutionally strict drug testing regime for many years to get any worthwhile data.

Next, the flouridation piece. It is science-based, but doesn’t try to offer any layman attempts at interpreting the results. It suggests more research and education be done (as do all science reports, ha ha) but does not hypothesize its own theories.

Sure, it also happens to agree with me. But the latter column is still a better science effort than the former.

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Illegal Bed and Breakfast or irresistible revenue stream?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:05 am
Borreca’s latest piece in the SB addresses the topic of illegal (and legal) Bed and Breakfast operations and the difficulty in collecting taxes from these operations. I had previously posted on this topic here. This very week, in fact, I am entertaining guests who are staying at a bed and breakfast. I have no idea if it is a “legal” or pirate operation, and frankly I don’t care.

It was a bit amusing to read how Borreca catches Governor Lingle as she and her Tax Director are not quite on the same script:

“Now, with our integrated state tax system, we are able to cross-reference those names with whether people in fact paid the transient accommodations tax and paid the general excise tax,” Lingle said.

“That is all going on right now.”

However, Kurt Kawafuchi, state tax director, said he was not sure if the project had been implemented yet. He said it was definitely in the planning stage.

The more interesting issue, as the hotel industry officials in the story remark, is that the Governor is hoping to tax illegal activity instead of curtailing it. It’s too darn lucrative to shut them down! Heh. Pro-gambling folks should take note, eh?

LATE EDIT: I just noticed the prominent quote from the Governor (hidden in plain sight, ha ha):

“Most of the e-mail came from those who don’t like bed and breakfasts in Kailua, because it is turning their nice residential community into one where people come and they are partying all day and night. People ask whether they are paying their appropriate taxes.”

Now is that a caricature of Republican concerns, or what? No taxes, no partying. ha ha.

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Citizen’s common sense prevails with mystery vials

Filed under:
— Doug @ 10:29 am
The SB follows up a bit more on the concern I had yesterday that the woman who found the suspicious vials under a house was told to discard them in the trash. The culprits are at the city Bulk Pickup service. It goes unsaid, but I certainly hope that somebody was counseled on that advice…

Fortunately, the woman decided that wrapping the vials up and tossing them on the curb was a bad idea and so she kept calling until finding someone willing to treat the potential problem with a bit more caution.

“When I called bulk pickup about it, they said wrap it in paper and box it up and put it in my garbage,” McArthur said of the mystery substance that she found underneath the Wilhelmina Rise home of Ernest Thomas, a former Army chemical warfare officer.

But “I was visualizing the guy putting it in the truck and the truck blowing up,” McArthur said.


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All hail Docushare!

Filed under:
— Doug @ 10:15 am
I’m very pleased, almost overwhelmed really, to see the amount of information available at Honolulu County’s new website for City Council information. The SB has a brief story and the link to this cache of data. They even include correspondence and scanned copies of testimony. Wow.

This more than makes up for the grumbling I had made earlier! Docushare makes the Legislature site look stingy and skimpy in comparison…

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Gannett up to something with Advertiser building

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 9:35 am
It’s interesting to see how the competing dailies cover the story of a potential real estate, uh, transaction involving the Advertiser Building. The Advertiser piece speaks of it as a “redevelopment” deal. The SB piece calls it an outright sale.

Both reports lead me to think that if a deal goes through the end result will be the newspaper remaining in some portion of the property while the rest of the space is dedicated to a gentrification project involving a possible mix of condominiums, offices and retail space.

These two reports also disagree on the assessed value of the property. The Advertiser says it is worth $15.9M, the SB pegs it at $8.5M. How can these amounts be so different?

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Mid-Pac to start drug tests

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:04 am
Both dailies carry a story about Mid-Pacific Institute announcing that they will begin a drug-testing program. The Advertiser piece is here and the SB piece here.

Both parents and students must consent before the random testing would take place. Urine samples will be collected from students on campus by an independent laboratory, which would send the results directly to the parents. Any consequences would be up to the families involved, not school officials. The school will pay the cost of the urine tests, roughly $25 each.

It began with easy-to-circumvent canine drug searches, and now we learn of this all-voluntary urinalysis. Who can say why, but for some reason Mid-Pac is displaying a strange affinity for inherently coercive invasions of privacy that are ultimately symbolic gestures having no likely effect. Given that characteristic, it comes as no real surprise that the Lieutenant Governor and the Honolulu Prosecutor speak so highly of the place. But talk is cheap, at least the Prosecutor actually sends his son to the school.

Isn’t it a strange day when a comedian (Andy Bumatai) has better quotes in an article than the figures of authority?

Another meeting in November was led by parents who oppose the program, including attorney Lerisa Heroldt and Andy Bumatai, a stand-up comic and businessman.

“There are far too many unanswered questions,” Bumatai said. “And this is not accomplishing anything that can’t be done in the privacy of your pediatrician’s office.”

Bumatai said he saw the program as institutionalizing a “Big Brother” lack of trust and privacy, and found Aiona’s and Carlisle’s talk of putting drug testing into schools across the state frightening.

The Advertiser story sidebar also links to a list of what the government considers to be model programs to address substance abuse. Urinalysis is not one of them.

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Merrie Monarch tickets on eBay

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:20 am
I love eBay, I’ll admit that right up front.

The Advertiser, however, has this article today that reports on some active eBay auctions offering Merrie Monarch tickets (and other related stuffs) for sale. The headline editorializes a bit with a gratuitous “Auwe!”

The festival employs an arcane box office system for its prestigious hula competition that requires ticket-buyers to mail in money orders or cashier’s checks during a very narrow selling window. Buyers may purchase only two full sets of tickets.

Tickets are processed by hand, first-come, first-served, and dispatched through the mail.

There are about 5,000 seats in the Edith Kanaka’ole Tennis Stadium when it is in Merrie Monarch configuration. However, seating space for competing halau, family of halau members and VIPs leaves a scant 2,700 or so seats for the public.

If the festival is really so concerned about resale of tickets they need only make the tickets non-transferrable, serialize them, and match names with seats upon arrival. Except that would probably exclude a lot of people who are already having surrogates purchase tickets on their behalf and exchanging (or even selling) them in private fora. These eBay sales are only more blatant (and I suspect more profitable) manifestations of what has always been possible.

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Former Representative reports from Iraq

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— Doug @ 2:42 pm
It’s mostly banal rear-echelon-kine memoirs, but I just finally noticed that the Advertiser carried a Dispatch from Iraq written by former Representative Tulsi Gabbard-Tamayo.

Before any readers jump all over me for downplaying her service, I am a USMC Desert Shield/Storm veteran and I feel I am qualified to pass some judgment on the matter. Furthermore, if I recall correctly she’s over there of her own free will (others in her unit were not ordered to deploy), which I readily admit is brave in and of itself.

Banality in military reporting is the ideal, rather than excitement and/or heroism; especially to those who are writing it! For her sake, I hope any further reports from her will be either a) equally banal, or b) describing her departure from the combat zone.

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Lingle v. Congressmen—again

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:33 am
Take a look at the Advertiser’s Letters to the Editor for today and scroll to Lingle administration is politicizing the Akaka bill.

I’m almost pleased to see this, after my recent frustration. Congressmen Abercrombie and Case try to put the backbiting to rest and pledge to work together for the common goal of passing the Akaka Bill, but not before taking one (final, they hope) dig at the Lingle administration. We’ll see if the Governor’s people can do better on the diplomacy front, or (better) resist the urge to carry on with this bickering altogether.

Also, notice that Congressman Case’s website contains a prominent link to the letter he and Abercrombie sent to Governor Lingle. This kind of communication is okay, but I question their decision to publicize the critique. I’d link directly to the letter, but Case’s webmaster used spaces in the url and my blog software doesn’t accept links like that.

Lastly, the Advertiser webmaster bungled the links included in the published letter to the editor. Try test your links before publishing the webpage, eh?

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Hawai’i senators help open Arctic to drilling

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:02 am
Both dailies carry the news that Hawaii’s US Senators crossed party lines to support drilling for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Advertiser here, and the SB here .

I’m a bit surprised that the Advertiser (unlike the SB) did not at least mention the possibility that some vote trading is at play here. i.e. that there is a possible, I’d even venture to say likely, connection between the ANWR drilling and the Akaka Bill. From the Hawaii Island Journal we see this:

Although Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman John McCain, (R-Ariz.) recently came out in clear opposition to the Akaka/Stevens Bill, Frank Oliveri of the Honolulu Advertiser’s Washington Bureau reported on January 12 that there will be hearings early this year and a Senate vote on federal recognition of Native Hawaiians.

“The clarifying comments from McCain’s office came after a meeting between McCain and Inouye late Monday (January 10) when the committee chairman’s position was discussed,” reported Oliveri, who also noted, “Late last year, Inouye and Akaka secured promises from Senator’s Frist, Kyl and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., then chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, that the bill would get its day on the Senate floor before Aug. 7, 2005.”

Oliveri reported that last October Kyl and Domenici pledged on the Senate floor to, “ensure that the Akaka bill would be considered by this body…. In return, Inouye and Akaka promised not to push for the bill’s passage as a rider on a massive spending bill late last year and also to support 32 bills pending in the energy committee. Those bills from Domenici’s committee passed by voice vote Oct. 10, 2004.”

ANWR drilling was not among those 32 bills (as far as I can tell, since I still am not very adept at using Thomas), Senator Inouye has consistently supported ANWR drilling and he is very close with Senator Stevens of Alaska. Nevertheless, the suggestion that vote trading occurs in the Senate is certainly not something to be dismissed out of hand.

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Property owned by Rep Tsuji burns down

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:14 am
There is an intriguing report in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald today about a suspicious fire that destroyed a run-down building owned by Representative Tsuji near Kalaoa Camp.

“I was in my house, watching TV, and then I came out here, and I saw my dad talking to (a neighbor), and then we noticed flames,” said one young neighbor, Sam Sniffin Jr.

His father, Sam Sniffin Sr., described Tsuji’s property as a haven for drug addicts and homeless people, and said he wouldn’t let his children walk down by the houses.

“We were in the process of cleaning up and grading the property,” Tsuji said, who had just visited the site of the fire.

Good riddance. The place sounds as if it was a blight.

I am a bit puzzled that in that quote the story notes that Tsuji “had just visited” yet later in the story it says Tsuji visited “within the last 45 days or so.” The first version could logically lead readers to suspect Tsuji of arson, which is not fair at this point.

It would be interesting to know if the claim made by the neighbors that the burned house was “a haven for drug addicts and homeless people” is true, and, if that is true, if any official action was taken to address that situation (by Tsuji or any other party).

Comments (1)
Chemical weapons cache under a house?!

Filed under:
— Doug @ 8:37 am
Nice work by Leila Fujimori of the SB in this report on the unidentified vials under a house on Wilhemina Rise. I confess that I don’t watch television, but I did not see any of the other media reporting that the deceased resident of the home was a military man who dealt with chemical weaponry. This fact certainly adds more fuel to the possibility that the vials may be dangerous.

The article also describes what happened after the vials were found, and this is troubling:

[The deceased man’s caregiver] said that during the next months she called various companies and agencies and was even told by one agency to wrap [the vials] in newspaper and dispose of it in the garbage.


This cavalier attitude demonstrates why the people on the Leeward Coast deserve some sort of “benefit package” for hosting our Oahu landfill! We are only lucky that such lame advice was not followed.

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Television & classified ads—together at last

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 1:09 pm
The SB has this quasi-article/advertisement announcing that digital cable customers will be able to review newspaper classified ads on their television. Uh, okay.

We need this?

I have my doubts that (m)any people will choose to use their television in this way. Therefore, if I were an advertiser being offered to use this medium, I would insist that I only pay for each time my ad was actually “served” to a customer. Digital cable systems are actually computer networks, so operators can readily track this activity. This type of fee structure would be akin to (the uber-annoying) click-through banner ads on websites. Advertisers only pay the host each time somebody actually views the ad.

Oceanic and the SB are eager to point out the gee-whiz high-tech novelty, but I suspect they won’t offer up my recommended billing option. That idea would be uncommonly pro-consumer. Call me cynical.

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UH paper defaced in distribution boxes

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 12:51 pm
Odd. The Ka Leo reports here that papers in their distribution boxes were tagged by unknown perpetrators.

I can recall a handful of times while I was a student that the Ka Leo was “stolen” (they are distributed free of charge) from the boxes before students arrived on campus. To my knowledge they have never apprehended any of these people. Whoever is responsible took a slightly different tactic this time, only adding their own message instead of removing the papers altogether. To hear the Ka Leo put it, the perp in so doing saved a whopping $279 on equivalent advertising space.

This type of direct action against media is a form of culture jamming. I haven’t seen much of it in Hawaii to date. Perhaps it is the sign of more to come.

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Flouridation opponents not smiling at legislators

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:26 pm
The SB has this article on the fate of SB 15, which is probably going to die in the House Health Committee through inaction.

This year’s Senate Bill 15, Senate Draft 1, does not specifically mention fluoride, but would ban “any product, substance or chemical to the public water supply for the purpose of treating or affecting the physical or mental functions of the body.” Common chemicals used to make water drinkable, such as chlorine, are not included.

This topic is another perennial brouhaha, since flouride is scorned by so many conspiracy theorists. I came from an area with flouridated water (as do the majority of US systems), and none of the anti-flouride people ever seem to explain how it is that if flouride is so unhealthy that other communities using it do not remove flouride from their water system. The negative effects of flouride are asserted, but not demonstrated among those who drink flouridated water; the positive effect of reducing dental caries is never disputed.

I suppose now I’ll see if any of the anti-flouridation people read my blog…

[chop chop chop chop] Is that a black helicopter?

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No need for the secret itinerary

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:33 am
I found this Garden Island News story and got a bit of a chuckle. Lieutenant Governor Aiona made a trip to Kauai recently to participate in a Counter Drug Demand Reduction conference. While on the island he did some other business. Yawn.

The amusing part is juxtaposing this:

Following his visit at About Face, [Governor’s Kauai Liason] Yoshida said Aiona was headed to the airport and back to O?ahu. No advance warning of his Kaua?i visit was afforded to local media, for security purposes, officials said.

with this:

One student asked, “Who are you?” to which the lieutenant governor replied, “That’s a very good question,” seizing the opportunity to answer the student as well as pointing out the three branches of government and where he fits in within the framework of the branches.

Aiona’s security concerns may have been a bit misplaced, ha ha. He was a good sport about it, though, turning the question into an opportunity to teach a civics lesson.

On a more serious note, if “no advance warning was afforded to local media,” then how did Dennis Fujimoto get this story and the photo? Has the LG instituted his own Presidential-like “media pool” system where one reporter is tasked with reporting for all media?

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Randal Lee confirmed by full Senate

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:41 pm
No opposition, 22-0. Congratulations, your Honor. Sigh.

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Superferry concurrent resolutions

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:32 am
There are now Concurrent Resolutions at the legislature that request the DOT to expedite negotiations with the Superferry and come to an agreement this month. The intent is to then have information for legislators to review while debating the $40M bond issue.

The legislation is HCR 86 and SCR 67.

In particular, the request is for the DOT to provide information concerning “the repayment schedule for the reimbursement of general obligation bonds, an outline of the terms for the use of the harbor facilities, and the impact on existing use of the harbors.” This sounds like a rather tall order by the end of the month. On the other hand, the Superferry people have frequently said that they’ve been working closely with DOT and have made great strides to mitigate the impacts of the ferry, so, if that’s true, then complying with such a resolution might be an easy matter.

These resolutions are new and so far neither has been scheduled for a hearing. Simply passing these resolutions would take at least another week, and that would require very motivated legislators to pull that off. Legislators could certainly amend the deadline in the resolution, but as written the timing seems a bit far-fetched.

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Libertarian critique of public campaign financing

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:52 am
The HR has a piece by Libertarian Tracy Ryan in opposition to publicly financed campaigns. Ryan’s argument is that it will make incumbents and challengers more, not less, beholden to special interest groups.

No person running for office will convince three hundred registered voters in a district to donate the required token sums without the help of an organized membership group behind them. For Democrats read unions, for Republicans read church groups, for Greens read anti-development “not in my back yard” groups and environmentalists.


The new procedure was written to prevent pro-business and pro-development candidates from qualifying for “clean money”. This is dirty politics period.

I think Ryan is far too cynical and condescending in offering this advice from “the real world.” It will indeed take some hard work and pounding of the district pavement to gather the qualifying donations, but it will be possible without the assistance of union members, church groups, or environmentalists. The pro-business or pro-development candidate could also qualify; all he or she needs to do is to find 300 like-minded voters. If they can’t find that many, well there are always the businesses and developers who that candidate can approach and solicit donations to campaign under the existing rules. Publicly financed campaigning is an option, not a requirement, after all.

If Ryan can’t even find 300 libertarians in the district to make a token contribution, then I don’t think it is unfair to withhold public funding from Ryan’s campaign. Fringe candidates will still be fringe candidates, sorry.

Ten years from now most elections will include a union owned Democrat, a Christian Conservative Republican, and a business hating Green Party candidate.

Ten years from now?! I think Ryan should have written “for the last decade.” No matter the outcome of this legislation, the influence of these groups is not going to suddenly disappear, but publicly financed campaigns offer the best hope for somebody to have a viable shot to enter politics from outside that milieu.

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HTA wants reward for Convention Center losses

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:10 am
The Hawaii Tourism Authority is seeking a 15% increase in its budget this year, according to this SB article. As it happens, other articles today announce that the HSTA seeks a 15% raise this year. This debate could be good… which group can make the better argument for more money? Don’t answer yet, read on.

The article then proceeds to this topic:

In other business, the HTA and the Hawaii Convention Center received positive financial audits from accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP. The audits did not recommend any changes.

“They found that everything was hunky dory,” said Rex Johnson, executive director of the authority.

The audit found the Hawaii Convention Center posted a $2.7 million loss in its last fiscal year. However, that was the best year since the center opened in 1998, said Lloyd Unebasami, chief administrative officer for the HTA.

“They finished the year about $800,000 better than was expected,” Unebasami said.

I kinda wish my accountant would tell me everything was “hunky dory” if I lost $2.7M in a year. But if I had expected to lose $3.5M then it would be party time and obvious justification to ask for a bigger budget.

If that was our best year for the Convention Center, how bad was the worst year?!

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More Akaka Bill finger-pointing instead of solidarity

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:49 am
Scroll to the second-to-last of todays Advertiser letters to the editor and you’ll find the Lt. Governor joining the fray in the “who killed the (not-even-yet-dead) Akaka Bill” row. This stuff has to stop, it’s pointless. Maybe now that everyone (all 4 members of the Congressional delegation and now both voices from our Executive branch) has had a whack they’ll all get back to work.

But since its out there now, note how Aiona lowers expectations for the Governor from winning the Bush administration support to first ensuring neutrality from the President. Hmmm.

It’s really becoming a petty contest to see who can get the last word. There will be plenty of time for that after the bill becomes law or dies.

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Oops. Watada is retiring not grandstanding

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:36 am
When I’m wrong, I’m wrong. My snarky final paragraphy in yesterdays post about publicly financed campaigns wasn’t fair to Bob Watada. I still stand by the rest of the post, however.

Mahalo to Ian Lind for the correction and for pointing me to the HR piece by Ryan. …and for his link to my blog, of course. A link from the high-traffic ilind.net drives up the hits here like you wouldn’t believe. Heh.

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Watada flames publicly-financed campaigns

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:39 am
The SB carries a curious op-ed from Campaign Spending Commission Chairman Bob Watada. First, before starting my critique of his piece, I do agree with Watada that all candidates should be required to file spending reports electronically so it is easier to follow the money. That would be a worthy amendment to pursue.

However, other than that point I don’t see much value in what he wrote. Mr. Watada is certainly entitled to his opinion, but it would be better if his opinion made any sense.

He writes:

Proponents of this faux campaign finance reform claim that special-interest ties to elected officials will be cut. This simply defies logic. Special interests’ sway on public policy is complex, but mostly centered on the decision makers while in office. In a campaign, special interests tend to give contributions to both sides to cover their bets, or concentrate campaign help on certain friends.

The so-called special interests love the Maine program. Before, they were hassled by four or five candidates for contributions to the same office. Now, they are not hassled to give to any candidates, thanks to the taxpayer. The special interest funds are now directed to legislative political action committees that are not regulated or required to disclose who they got the money from.

The real election takes place in selecting officers and chairmen for the key committees after they are elected. This is all done in secrecy. The special interests then descend on the already elected official to influence policy decisions and get their share from the public trough. Did Schatz forget to tell you that lawmakers have exempted themselves from the ethics laws and are not required to declare a conflict of interest?

His first paragraph points out the main flaw of the current system, (i.e. “special interests tend to give contributions to both sides to cover their bets”) yet Watada presents that information as if it proves the futility of publicly financed campaigns. Wha? Pointing out that practice actually argues in favor of publicly financed campaigns, since it will frustrate that strategy.

The second paragraph may be true, but it is not the fault of publicly financed campaigns that the US Supreme Court has more or less equated political donations with speech. Regulating PACs is something worth pursuing, but it is a separate topic. To expect publicly financed campaigns to remedy this problem is unreasonable.

The third paragraph is the most weird. Selection of legislative officers and committee chairs is certainly important, but publicly financed campaigns will make that process no more secretive than it already is. “The special interests then descend on the already elected official to influence policy decisions and get their share from the public trough.” Okayyyy. That is what we call the legislative process, sir. Perhaps Watada would prefer that our legislators went into seclusion after being sworn in and only announced legislation after the whole session is adjurned? If so, Watada needs to advocate for the lege to amend the Sunshine Law, not the campaign finance laws.

Finally, Watada offers this gem:

Schatz and the clean election proponents want you to believe that this will be the end of political corruption. Political corruption takes place when corrupt politicians illegally line their pockets and friends’ pockets at the expense of the taxpayer. Whether candidates are 100 percent publicly funded or not, political corruption will continue.

Looking beyond his circular logic (“political corruption takes place when corrupt politicians…”), Watada overlooks that a corrupt politician’s “friends” are most often his contributors. With publicly financed campaigns the taxpayer is the politician’s “friend.” Evidently Watada is worried about the likelihood that legislators might actually continue to help their new friends.

I wonder if the real reason Watada doesn’t like the idea is because it would make him much less of a celebrity. Regularly exposing campaign contribution violations places Watada in the media—and in a very positive light. With publicly financed campaigns Watada becomes another anonymous bureaucrat, carrying out an important task without any recognition.

Comments (1)
Bennett and ACLU fixin to fight

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:32 am
The SB has a piece that notes potential legal action by the ACLU against Act 50 of 2004. The ACLU is supporting the repeal of the Act (via HB 806) and their suit will be withdrawn should that bill become law.

Excluding people from public property should require some due process. Check out the definition of “reasonable warning or request” from the Act,

For purposes of this [section,] paragraph, “reasonable warning or request” means a warning or request communicated in writing at any time within a one-year period inclusive of the date the incident occurred, which may contain but is not limited to the following information:

(i) A warning statement advising the person that the person’s presence is no longer desired on the property for a period of one year from the date of the notice, that a violation of the warning will subject the person to arrest and prosecution for trespassing pursuant to section 708-814(1)(b), and that criminal trespass in the second degree is a petty misdemeanor;

(ii) The legal name, any aliases, and a photograph, if practicable, or a physical description[,] including but not limited to sex, racial extraction, age, height, weight, hair color, eye color, or any other distinguishing characteristics[,] of the person warned;

(iii) The name of the person giving the warning along with the date and time the warning was given; and

(iv) The signature of the person giving the warning, the signature of a witness or police officer who was present when the warning was given and, if possible, the signature of the violator.”

It is not “reasonable” to prohibit someone from public property without carefully proscribing what a person needs to have done to merit exclusion. The law only requires advising a person that his or her “presence is no longer desired?!” That is far too vague a standard, in fact it is not a standard at all.

If the intent is to remove squatters, then make that clear in the law (even though I would still think it is bad policy, at least it would be a policy). As it stands the police could simply tell you or me to stay out of a public park for any reason, or no reason, and that would be considered “reasonable” enough to prosecute us for trespassing if we return within one year. That is absurd.

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Representative Luke scolds AG

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:10 am
Last week we saw in several media outlets a diatribe written by the Attorney General and several other law enforcement officials. Today the Advertiser has in its Letters to the Editor an “outraged” response from the House Judiciary Chair, Representative Luke [scroll to the very end of the link to read it].

The Attorney General has already made overtures to patch things up with the Chair, but it seems Representative Luke either sent her public reply before that effort, or felt that a public response was necessary despite the AG’s retreat. However, in either case, why would Luke conclude her letter to the editor like this?

Speaking through the media hurts our ability to work collaboratively on other important issues for the future.

Representative Luke also shows some tortured logic when she first questions why the Governor would be exempt from the new bribery policy and then points out that the Governor should not be liable for her own meals and expenses when invited to appear in her official capacity. Very odd. Luke may not agree with the legislative tack taken in the bill, but it is certainly not “unclear” why the Governor was not included since Luke herself offers a defensible reason…

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Hiking with cell phones; fees for rescue

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:50 am
The SB has this article today that reveals the mixed messages sent to hikers regarding cellular telephones and safety.

The article has several quotes from an experienced hiker who says people rely on their telephone to get them out of dangerous situations that they should not have put themselves in. Carrying a telephone and not using it is apparently impossible for some hikers (and non-hikers, too). Yet everyone in the article says that hikers should carry a telephone, among other supplies. The Legislature is considering a bill (again, since they never seem to be able to pass one) that would reimburse rescue agencies for the cost of conducting rescues of people deemed to be at fault for their own predicament.

If nothing else, the article provides a good service just by printing the sidebar of all the recommended safety precautions for hiking. My own philosophy on these matters is slightly different, however: I take whatever I need to be self-sufficient for most situations. I hike alone, and I don’t even have a cellular telephone, much less carry one on the trail. If I am injured or killed on the trail, that’s my problem. Oh, did I mention that I carry a sharp axe and a machete and cut down trees and shrubbery? ha ha. Taking responsibility for my own survival in remote locations is a big part of why I like hiking (and sailing, too, for that matter).

Do what the article suggests, not what I do! I’ll pay my taxes for rescuing your silly okole and won’t grumble.

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DOT proposes barge to serve as ferry dock

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:00 am
The Maui News has this article with a description of the Superferry boarding barge scheme at Kahului Harbor. I was able to find this site where those unfamiliar with the harbor can find semi-helpful photos and a map.

The description of the placement of the barge relative to the existing pier and to the Superferry is poorly written in the article; it really calls for an illustration (or a much more precise verbalization). In the end all that’s clear is that there will be a u-shaped route from the pier, onto the barge, and into the rear loading door of the Superferry.

It’s not clear if (or where) this barge could move when the Superferry is not in port. In effect, it appears to be a new piece of pier; it just happens to float.

I’m also trying to visualize in my head how large trucks with cargo will negotiate any u-turn onto the ship, particularly if the tide is ever such that the ramps need to be steep and/or the ship and barge are surging up and down in the swell. Could be really exciting.

The clock continues to tick for the opponents to decide if/when to sue for an EIS.

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HPD seeks surveillance volunteers

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 7:32 am
The SB has a short piece about an effort by HPD to find volunteers willing to monitor security cameras set up throughout Chinatown.

Isn’t there a term for people who monitor security cameras?

Yes, actually. Such people are called “private security guards.” That career pays poorly, but at least they are paid. I can’t say that a bunch of bored senior citizens watching over Chinatown for no pay is going to make things safer. Volunteers are going to be few if they are prohibited from exploiting the cameras to engage in the high tech voyeurism for which the cameras are so well-suited. I don’t think you’ll find too many volunteers among those who have access to broadband internet, if you know what I mean.

Who is it that asks, “do we need it, can we afford it, can we maintain it?”

Anyway, it’s perfect that this is happening in Chinatown! I urge some of the artiste denizens of that hood to check out this link for some inspiration… if there was a good chance to see a performance then maybe I would volunteer for a few shifts.

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Freedom of Information Page

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 7:05 am
Both Honolulu dailies go full-bore on the Freedom of Information Week hype. I’m not against FOIA, and it is obviously crucial to bloggers, but the topic in and of itself doesn’t provide much to blog about, heh. When information is withheld, that’s when I’m more likely to do a post.

However, just to play along I will post a link to a short Advertiser page that gathers FOIA sources together for us. If you’re impatient and only want to see what I thought was the best of the links, check out this.

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HECO whistleblower files lawsuit

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:38 am
Saw this interesting PBN report about a HECO employee who claims he was fired for making claims that his co-workers were using drugs.

Personally, I think employee drug testing is bogus. Workers should come to work sober, but what happens after work is not the employers’ kuleana. If employers want that type of control over hourly workers, then let’s talk about employers paying workers for those off-duty hours of sobriety.

However, if you’re going to have a policy, and the policy is necessary to comply with a federal law, then you had better be darn careful if you choose to dismiss an employee who has previously reported a policy violation.

That said, even if they lose the lawsuit, I really don’t think HECO has much to fear about losing their federal contracts for 5 years due to non-compliance with the drug-free workplace law. Who is the HECO competition? Oh yeah, they are a monopoly.

Is the federal government so serious about this drug-free workplace law that they are willing to have federal facilities in Hawaii go electricity-free for 5 years? No.

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Senate about to promote watchdog to lapdog

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:25 am
A follow-up to an earlier post is due, now that the SB reports that Randall Lee has been confirmed as a judge.

Mark the date and in a year or two compare “before and after” the amount and quality of prosecutions regarding illegal campaign contributions. I suspect we’ll miss this guy.

…Unless we get publicly-financed campaigns! [sorry, had to say it]

Meanwhile, the pay-to-players are saying “good riddance.” Sigh.

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More dubious partisanship

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:13 am
Previously it was the Governor who talked stink about our US Senate delegation to accuse them of not doing enough to advance the Akaka Bill. Soon after she wisely made nice and downplayed that mistake.

Now, however, it’s the US House delegation pointing fingers back at the Governor. See todays Advertiser report.

It would really help to understand this story if it was made clear which side told the media about the dispute. i.e. did the Congressmen release their letter to the media, or did the Governor do it?

I can certainly understand the Congressmens’ urge to rub Lingle’s face a bit in her campaign strategy that emphasized her ability to deliver the Bush administration support for the Akaka Bill. It is too soon to know if she is flubbing it or not, but I think the timing of this public dispute is all wrong. The Congressmen were correct to tell the Governor by letter if they think she is pursuing the wrong strategy, but this scolding should not have been released to the media at this time by either side.

There would be plenty of time for the Congressmen to point fingers at Lingle (and release the text of their letter) had the Bush administration came out in opposition to the bill and killed it for this year, but demonstrating some cooperation at this point in the game would make more sense. Hopefully the governor will take a lesson from our US Senators and handle this as they did; with grace. So far, however, she is worsening the situation by sniping back. She has little to gain (few voters are going to hold Case and Abercrombie responsible if the bill fails in the Senate—it’s a lock in the House) and could potentially harm the chances for the bill.

Congressman Abercrombie has offered at least a glimmer of this grace:

“She got in (as governor) in great measure because of her alleged relationship with Mr. Bush,” he added. “I would suggest that a cease-fire gets called, that she turn her face in the direction of what she’s supposed to take care of.”

Perhaps Governor Lingle is so used to the will of her own executive branch having so little influence at the Hawaii legislature that she has assumed that things are similar at the Congress. Heh.

Putting on my lesser-used Machiavelli hat, maybe this is a Lingle ploy to make a big scene in the hopes that President Bush will dramatically come to her political rescue by supporting the bill. Heck, he may have already let her know of his support! This outcome would silence her critics and she comes out smelling like a rose.

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Maui council seeks Superferry EIS

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:31 am
As expected, the Maui County Council has passed a resolution asking for the Superferry to be subject to a full EIS, says this Advertiser article. Kauai County has also asked for the review.

Much like the Honolulu County Council website, I can’t seem to find the text of either the Maui resolution (05-105) or the Kauai resolution (2005-15). What is it with county governments and poorly-run websites?

State transportation officials have decided that an environmental impact statement is not required, and the state Legislature last week shelved a bill requiring a study.

We must remember, readers, there are THREE branches of state government. The executive and the legislature have had their say. Sometimes, however, the opinion of 2 out of 3 branches of is not enough. Those that want an EIS now have only one option left and <100 days to exercise it.

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Binoculars, Moloka’i land auctioned

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:37 am
The Maui News, Advertiser and the SB each carry stories about the auction of a large parcel of land on Molokai yesterday.

A lot of space given to descriptions of the actual auction, but the story is basically this:

Some Moloka’i residents worry that wealthy Mainland investors buying large parts of the rural island will raise property values and taxes so much, families who have lived here for generations won’t be able to afford homes. Others were more offended by advertisements that touted the agriculture- and conservation-zoned property near Kawela as having “excellent development potential,” though it is uncertain whether even one home would be allowed on beachfront parcels under state land-use regulations.

I’ve commented on this before, but Walter Ritte (the opposition’s unofficial spokesman) summarizes the community impact thusly:

Ritte has said he was never concerned about the controversy sullying Molokai’s image as the Friendly Isle.

“This is not the Friendly Isle,” he said.

“We’re very, very guarded now. We’ve been ransacked so many times that … we used to give aloha as unconditional. Now it’s very conditional – you have to earn our aloha.”

I’m not so sure these buyers are coming for the aloha. Those days may be gone.

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Santa should have converted his lease to fee!

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:06 am
This Advertiser story is pretty fun.

Notice how the County government is concerned about finding affordable housing for a few blobs of cement, but has nothing in the works for affordable housing for our non-concrete residents. Also notice that Councilmember Kobayashi suggests that this soon-to-be homeless couple camp out all year on the public fountain in front of City Hall, while the police roust those living at city parks and beaches.

City Council budget chairwoman Ann Kobayashi asked Chang yesterday to consider keeping Shaka Santa and Mrs. Claus on display year-round above Honolulu Hale’s fountain and changing their appearance with the season.

During a recess from committee hearings, Kobayashi suggested the possibility of renaming the couple to something like “Mr. and Mrs. Honolulu” and dressing them accordingly and letting them promote community events. Kobayashi said the city could also offer cash prizes for student contests to come up with seasonal attire for the couple.

How about “Mr. and Mrs. Homeless?”

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More charges in prison sex case

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:45 am
The Advertiser is still keeping close tabs on the story of the Hawaii inmates sexually assaulted at a Colorado private prison. The SB is not.

Putting the lie to the previous statement of Gil Walker, the spokesman for the prison operator, wherein Walker said that the warden resigned February 18 for unrelated reasons, this most recent article reports that the warden is being charged with a felony for allegedly hindering the investigation into the sexual assault allegations.

He further tries to spin the story to downplay his culpability, despite his tattered credibility:

GRW’s Walker said the Brush prison is safe, and that inmates comment it compares favorably to other places where they have been housed.

“It’s very unfortunate that this incident occurred, but in this business it occurs in everybody’s facilities where there are females,” he said.

What a creep. Is that supposed to reassure us?

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Cachola “goes to far”

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:05 am
The SB has an editorial today (the second topic at this link) in opposition to Councilmember Cachola’s proposal to compensate Kalihi residents for expanding the wastewater treatment plant.

Leads me to assume that the SB also opposes the Mayor’s “benefit package” for the Leeward Coast residents forced to accomodate the expansion of the Waimanalo Gulch landfill.

Cachola’s district is not alone in housing the ugly necessities of civilization. His plea for special remedy should not be approved.

Comparing a distant police station or golf course to a smelly landfill or a wastewater treatment plant is an apples and oranges argument. The “ugly necessities” are not evenly distributed by district, not by a longshot.

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First Amendment events

Filed under:
— Doug @ 7:50 am
A whole slew of upcoming events are planned to observe First Amendment topics from this weekend until April 2nd. The SB has a story and event calendar here.

Also, I will take this opportunity to remind readers again of the ACLU debate with Nadine Strossen and Kenneth Starr on March 26.

Comments (0)

Senator English under heavy scrutiny

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 3:39 pm
Senator English may be regretting his free rides on an air ambulance. The State Ethics Commission and the Campaign Spending Commission are both investigating him on this topic, according to this Maui News article. Representative Carroll is also under a darkening cloud of suspicion for her dealings with Maui Air Ambulance.

This segment caught my eye right away:

A private investigator in Honolulu told The Maui News this week he?d been retained by the Ethics Commission to investigate English regarding gifts of free travel and lodging the senator received from Hawaii Air Ambulance.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Dan Mollway confirmed the investigator was working for the commission, but declined to discuss what case he was working on.

The commission is required by law to keep its investigations confidential until they go to a public hearing.

But Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Robert Watada said it was no secret that English was the subject of an Ethics Commission investigation, and that his agency is following the case as well.

?What I?m not supposed to say but what everyone knows is, yes, the ethics office is looking into it,? he said.

What gives?!

I’m all for whistleblowing and a free press, but come on. This PI tips off the newspaper, the PI works for the Ethics Commission, the Ethics Commission is required to keep investigations confidential until a public hearing. So how is this blatant breach of confidentiality being dealt with? At the very least it seems like either the Ethics Commission wanted the PI to leak the story and convict Senator English in the eyes of the media, or the PI should be held accountable for failing to maintain confidentiality. The “P” is supposed to mean “Private,” right?

Okay, then the Campaign Spending Commission Director confirms the existence of the Ethics Commission investigation, even though the Director admits that “he is not supposed to say” things like that. So… it’s okay to breach confidentiality as long as you know you are not supposed to do so? Doesn’t seem legit to me at all.

These antics seem to be, um, how you say? Ethical Violations.

Okay, enough ranting on that. Back to the blogging:

The article also reveals that Senator English spent several weeks in a Honolulu apartment owned by the Hawaii Air Ambulance CEO. My previous understanding was a few nights or maybe a weekend—sort of swapping visits with time spent visiting the Senator’s place in Hana. A few weeks sounds quite a bit different.

Laying off of Senator English, Representative Carroll’s situation is also starting to sound a bit more suspect (and confusing, frankly):

Watada said his agency also is looking at Maui?s newest legislator, Rep. D. Mele Carroll, because of her ?close relationship? with Hawaii Air Ambulance during last year?s election campaign.

One-third of the $28,600 raised by Carroll in last year?s unsuccessful campaign for Maui County Council came from Hawaii Air Ambulance officials, employees and family members.

Carroll, who worked as an aide to Mayor Alan Arakawa, often represented Maui County in lobbying for and organizing a local helicopter ambulance system ? a program seen as potentially competing for revenue with Hawaii Air Ambulance.

Carroll could not be reached for comment Wednesday. She has said previously that she had a personal friendship with the company president and his family, but that she acted independently while lobbying for the helicopter program.

Why would a company contribute so much money to a candidate who formerly lobbied on behalf of their competitor? Very odd. Odd is not necessarily illegal or unethical, of course.

What’s that you say? Publicly-financed campaigns? Good idea.

Comments (0)
Akaku punted on dividing funds

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 2:59 pm
A very informative Maui News story that answers many questions I had previously posed.

First, after a long meeting there was no decision made on any proposal to share some amount (from 14% to 33%, there are competing ideas) of the PEG money with Maui Community College and the DOE. Furthermore, no date has been set to reconvene and make a decision. The longer the board delays, the more likely that legislation at the Capitol to force their hand will proceed.

Second, there were additional demands made of Akaku: voting seats on their board, surrendering some of their cable channels, a share of lease profits on the building they occupy and intend to buy, and a share of the capital funds. That’s a lot to ask, but maybe it’s just an opening salvo of negotiations.

Third, Olelo on Oahu shares 25% of their PEG funds, but no power- or profit-sharing, with the UH and DOE.

A nine-hour meeting! Ugh. I don’t wish that type of torture on anybody…

Comments (0)
Rohter’s channeling of Karl Rove

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:19 pm
Have a look at the thoughtful satire this week in the Honolulu Weekly from Ira Rohter wherein we find an imagined letter from Karl Rove to Governor Lingle.

The HW does not post its current stories online (you’ll have to wait until next week), but a longer version of the piece is also available on Rohter’s personal webspace.

Even though the article is satire, many of the ideas “Rove” throws out will probably be considered, if not actually implemented, and many of them would certainly work to the Republicans’ advantage.

Highlight new party spokespeople. The Party needs new faces to better reflect its new agenda. If I can be candid, the public needs to see less of genial spokesmen like Representatives Galen Fox and Barbara Muramoto, and more red meat types such as Jerry Coffee, to highlight war themes, and photogenic and smooth moderate, such as Councilman Charles Djou. Get them to write Viewpoints for the newspapers, appear on radio talk shows, and put up their own blogs to address partisans.

Oh, please, please, please, do this! I would be eternally (okay, momentarily) grateful to have added material from any (or all) of these four for me to riff on here.

Comments (0)
Akaka bill is amended, gains 2 Republican sponsors

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:56 am
The Advertiser reports on the passage of the Akaka Bill from committee at the US Senate. The SB has an AP report on the topic, too.

Beyond the fact that bill passed out of committee as expected, these reports contain two noteworty points:

Senator McCain amended the bill “to make clear that native Hawaiians would not be eligible for federal programs and services available to American Indians.”


“Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday received confirmation that two Republican senators, U.S. Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have pledged to co-sponsor the bill.

The enlistment of GOP support is very helpful because the bill could pass with as few as four Republicans voting for it in the Senate, said Clyde Namu’o, administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. “

Only the Advertiser contains any reaction from the bill’s opponents, and neither article offers any insight into the Bush administration stance on the issue, which remains unknown. The silence of the Bush administration has become more than a bit unsettling.

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Wrong. … Again.

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:58 am
Okay, so if you believe Walter Dods as he is quoted in this SB story, then I was wrong in my prediction that he will run for Governor in 2006. I remain skeptical.

Plenny kudos to Borrecca, however, for bringing to our attention 4 Democrats toying with the idea of running against Governor Lingle. They are Representative Kirk Caldwell, Senator Colleen Hanabusa, former Senator Mike McCartney, and Tony Gill of the political family.

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LCC can train people in television skills

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 9:31 am
Another interesting contribution from the Ka Leo today that touches upon two recent topics that are beginning to merge. Specifically, the comments made by BOE member Heftel and the Akaku funding controversy. The report makes Heftel and the UH Journalism department look rather ignorant, or at least reveals their Manoa-centric mindset.

LCC has what sounds like a successful program to train students interested in broadcast media production. So, is the LCC effort funded by PEG fees that UH shares with Olelo?

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Superferry heading for smooth seas, or legal shoals?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:50 am
The DOT has published four notices of their intent to proceed with preparing state harbors to accomodate the Superferry. The SB has a story that paints it almost as a done deal.

However, take note of this:

The purpose of this public notice is to advise all interested parties that any challenges must be made within one hundred twenty (120) days from February 23, 2005, which is the date the DOT sent a letter on this to the Office of Environmental Quality Control and which is the date the State made a formal determination to approve and carry out the project.

This gives the opponents until June 23 to challenge the DOT decision to forego an EIS. I think the only question remaing is “when” the decision is challenged, not “if.”

I’ve been reading HRS § 343 and it’s confusing trying to reconcile these new public notices with the law. The notices say “the Department of Transportation has determined that the subject project will have minimal or no significant effect on the environment and is therefore exempt from the preparation of an environmental assessment.”

This determination of no significant effect is very close to an EIS term of art, “finding of no significant impact,” or FONSI. When a FONSI is issued by an agency it precludes the need for a full EIS, but does not preclude the need to publish an Environmental Assessment for comment and public review. In this case it seems that DOT is issuing a FONSI before even doing an EA.

I’m also curious about this clause describing one of the exemptions claimed to preclude the need for a full EIS:

Alteration or addition of improvements with associated utilities, which are incidental to existing harbor and boat ramp operations, in accordance with master plans that have met the requirements of Chapter 343, Hawaii revised statutes.

I take this to mean that they believe the Superferry operations are covered by a “master plan” previously subjected to an EIS. Where would one look to find records of such a plan and its EIS?

Any lawyers out there? Help.

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News from the Western Front of the “War on Potholes”

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:08 am
Valiant pothole warriors fight street to street in a pitched battle on Guam. Members of the resistance designate targets of opportunity for once-weekly surprise attacks. See the full account here.

No confirmation if our Mayor Hannemann or Council Chair Dela Cruz will arrange for similar photo-ops featuring politicians peeking out of a foxhole pothole somewhere in our fair city, shovels in hand.

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UH students form lobbying group

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:04 am
I noticed this article from yesterdays Ka Leo edition. An organization has formed at the Manoa campus “dedicated to giving students the power to communicate with the state legislature.” So far they have focused on supporting publicly-financed campaigns, but they are officially non-partisan and may tackle other topics in the future.

A few thoughts:

Students Encouraging Responsible Government (SERG) had better be careful about spending money, especially if they ever apply for some of the funding available to them as a campus RIO (registered independent organization). I say this because SERG is dancing near the line between education and lobbying. Now, if students want to lobby, then go for it, but they need to be prepared to fulfill all the registration and reporting requirements—and to not expend student fees in the process.

Last week, SERG members asked students passing through Campus Center to make phone calls to state legislators on behalf of HB 1713.

SERG also gathered about 60 students and community members to provide testimony at a meeting of the State House Finance Committee’s hearing on HB 1713.

“They had never seen students before,” said [SERG co-founder] Barbier. “It was quite an interesting experience because we got yelled at by a legislator.”

The yelling legislator was Representative Moses, for the record. Also, for the record, students testify at the Lege semi-regularly, especially before the Higher Education Committees.

Comments (0)

Akaku board debates fund sharing, but no vote?

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 12:51 pm
The Akaku board meeting I mentioned earlier took place yesterday and the Maui News has this report. Unfortunately either the board did not make a decision or the article simply neglected to report if they adopted the proposal to surrender 1/3 of their funding to MCC and DOE. In my earlier post it was not clear that DOE would get anything out of the deal, so that question remains until I see a more definitive account of what decision was reached.

First, take a look at the photo, where you’ll see that Akaku was videotaping their DOE opponents—I have to respect that demonstration of their commitment to free speech.

Mayor Alan Arakawa dived into the discussion, questioning the cost of government coverage.

The county pays $170,000 to Akaku to broadcast County Council and commission meetings, he noted, and that?s on top of the cable-access funding that was supposed to be dedicated to government coverage.

?The question I?m asking is what?s the money being spent on,? he said.

He also criticized Akaku President Sean McLaughlin, accusing him of polarizing the debate with misinformation, and spreading false rumors that the county wanted to take over Akaku.

He admonished the different groups to work together.

?You?re squabbling about a little bit of money,? he chided. ?It?s not worth the pain this community is going through.?

McLaughlin declined to comment on the mayor?s testimony.

I think the Mayor is being more than a bit condescending, but still I wonder: How do other counties distribute the PEG money? Does Olelo share it with UH and DOE here on Oahu?

If so, then it would be fair to share the money on Maui. Greed in pursuit of good ends is still greed, in my opinion. From the link above, it’s rather brazen and bordering on arrogance for Akaku to suggest that their supporters deliver this message to legislators:

The needs of State education agencies, while worthy, should be otherwise funded.

Easy for them to say, money buys speech and they’ve got the money now. Heh.

Comments (0)
More poop earns more pork?

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:27 am
Honolulu Councilmember Cachola is being asked to support an expansion of the Sand Island wastewater treatment facility, and, according to this SB article, Cachola thinks that residents of Kalihi and nearby neighborhoods should be compensated for this burden by not having to be subject to the proposal for increased sewer fees.

Mayor Hannemann is in a tight spot if he opposes Cachola, since the Mayor has publicly supported a “benefit package” for the Leeward coast residents who are neighbors with the Waimanalo Gulch landfill. That said, the Leeward benefit package is still only talk and it could take a long time to define and provide the benefits.

Hannemann said he also wants to talk to Leeward Coast residents about a proposed benefits package to ameliorate the presence of the landfill in their community.

“I don’t think it’s for us to decide,” he said, about what the community needs. “I think it should come from the community that’s going to be affected.”

The Mayor could string Waianae along for quite some time waiting for some idea of what exactly the community “wants.” Cachola’s idea, on the other hand, is very concrete and the fiscal impact could be quickly quantified.

I actually like Cachola’s idea because the nexus between the community impact and the benefit is very obvious. It’s too bad that rubbish pickup is not itemized for each property owner (the way sewer fees are), because giving Leeward property owners a break on the solid waste disposal fee would make good sense, too.

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No free (-dom) lunch

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:08 am
Malia Zimmerman is a stalwart opponent of publicly-financed campaigns. In this Hawaii Reporter screed commentary she unloads with both barrels. In a bit of ill-timing for her, today both Honolulu dailies editorialize in favor of the concept, here and here.

I won’t bother disputing MZ’s attacks on what the program will cost. If it is or becomes expensive, so be it. I personally don’t think it will be, however. I have my doubts that a huge number of incumbents will forego contributions and participate in the public funding. Until a few brave souls lead the way—and prove they can win.

Zimmerman totally ignores the benefits of publicly-funded campaigns when it comes to reducing graft and influence peddling, yet she still considers herself a government watchdog and an investigative reporter (only when it suits her, apparently).

Lawmakers should not even be voting on this bill ? especially those who have taken public financing in the past or who plan to take advantage of the taxpayers in the future. They should recuse themselves.

Using that (il-)logic, should we expect privately-financed politicians to recuse themselves from casting votes on bills dealing with altering campaign contribution limits? That would only be fair, right?

MZ tips her hand to reveal what I suspect is the focus of her opposition, when she writes:

Taxpayers should be able to keep their money to support themselves and their families – not be forced to spend it on candidates they don’t support who are in political parties to which they are philosophically opposed.

What taxpayers under a public-financed campaign are paying for is a FAIR ELECTION, not to support any particular candidate. As the SUV bumper stickers and ubiquitous ribbon-shaped magnets are so wont to proclaim, “Freedom is not free.”

Comments (0)
“Farmer” selling his re-zoned ag land for development

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:35 am
Check out this Hawaii Tribune-Herald article describing a recently re-zoned parcel of land being sold contrary to the information brought forward while the zoning change was debated. It must make those Hawaii County councilmembers who supported the zoning change either feel like suckers, or a bit uneasy if it can be shown that they knew of the intention to sell.

[The owner], in convincing six of the nine councilors to approve rezoning, said he was a farmer, “not a developer” and he intended to sell 15 of the 17 lots to “area” farmers. He and his brother would be keeping two lots – one, 30 acres and another, 17 acres – for themselves, he said.

With the rezoning allowing lots ranging from 5 to 30 acres, he said that the five-acre lots would be selling for between $100,000 and $150,000 per lot.

The listing for his property on the real estate service realty.com is not so specific, though.

“This prime property is reminiscent of the sugar cane plantation era. A unique and rare opportunity to acquire a 171.66-acre potential subdivision. This has been county approved from (A-20A) to (APD),” stated the listing, which in cluded a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home.

Evidently the Hawaii County Council took the owner at his word and did not follow through with a written condition in the zoning. That was a mistake.

Planning Director Chris Yuen said people have to realize that the county’s zoning code states that rezonings are to go with the land, and “you can’t base decisions on who the individual is that’s applying. Any promises that you want them to keep have to be specific conditions in the zoning.”

Yuen described the Hester Farm rezoning to first agricultural project district on the island as “an experiment” during a planning committee meeting in May.

Can’t say I’m surprised that the “experiment” has proceded in this way. When you are dealing with property potentially worth several millions of dollars you have to allow for the fact that owners might be tempted to follow the letter instead of the intent of the zoning conditions.

Comments (0)
House Floor antics re: GET increase

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:11 am
A very amusing example of partisan and intra-party bickering yesteday when the House debated HB 1309 which would give the counties authority to raise the GET. Unfortunately the official House Journal is not online and takes weeks to prepare even a first draft, so I can only try to summarize the remarks that were made.

It began when Representative Stonebraker (kneejerk conservative Republican) spoke against the bill, and blabbed that during the Republican Caucus there were comments to the effect that Republicans who voted “WR” (i.e. Aye With Reservations) on this particular bill were being “Wimpy Republicans.” Representative Marcus Oshiro (Majority Leader) then made some jest with that comment during his remarks in support. Representative Pine (freshman Republican) spoke up to note that her “WR” vote was meant to indicate “wants rail.”

A short time later, Representative Meyer (Minority Floor Leader) rose and basically read (with no attribution) almost an entire column from the Hawaii Reporter that touted High Occupancy Tollways and dismissed rail transit. Representative Fox (Minority Leader) pounced on Meyer, rebutted the claims made in the HR article, and finished by pointedly noting that it was convenient that Representative Meyer’s district enjoys a very under-used high speed freeway (the H-3 interstate) almost directly to her district from town. Several Democrats then siezed on his rebuke of Meyer, rising to ask that Fox’s remarks be inserted into Journal “as if they were [their] own.” Quite a moment of partisan fun.

It was an interesting example of the Minority deciding to reveal their intra-party squabbles in public. When the Majority party has a division like this they can save face for the party if the choose to recommit a bill to committee, the Republcians don’t have the votes to pull that off so they must fake solidarity or accept embarrassments like yesterday.

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Lake Michigan ferry adding stabilizers to ease motion sickness

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:05 pm
Notwithstanding the SB’s non-scientific “polling” that shows many people claim that they will ride the Superferry, here is an article from Milwaukee that might change some minds.

There is a Lake Express Ferry that crosses from Wisconsin to Michigan which is being retrofitted with expensive foils to deal with rough seas that made for uncomfortable motion onboard last year. Many trips were cancelled for that reason. The boat is a smaller version of the same general design as the Superferry.

Do you think the channels between the Hawaiian islands are more or less rough than Lake Michigan? hmmmm.

Superferry = Pukerferry? Heh.

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First vendor offers container redemption

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:36 am
The Maui News has some very good news for Maui consumers. Now, if only others would follow the lead of this businessman.

?I?m a concerned citizen too,? [the store owner] said. ?I wanted to help take care of the bottles. I think it will help the community, and it will help my business too.?

Hanada?s Ilima Shell on Kaahumanu Avenue has a full-service convenience store while the Aloha Shell on Puunene Avenue carries soft drinks and other beverages for customers.

Since he?s selling beverages that are subject to redemption requirements, he said he thought he needed to provide a convenient way for customers to turn in the containers.

Gee, doesn’t that sound reasonable? His idea of a tax credit for vendors who purchase expensive ($25,000) reverse vending machines is also reasonable. I think I know where at least $5M could be found to pay for this, too.

Now, let’s wait to see if the Hawaii Association of Retailers’ doomsday scenario of filth and unsanitary conditions befalls his businesses now that he has agreed to redeem beverage containers on site…

Comments (1)
Superferry show goes to Kawaihae

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:18 am
The Hawaii Tribune and West Hawaii Today both carry this article that reports on a public meeting at Kawaihae where the DOT and the Superferry CEO were present for questions and comments.

I am not really familiar with the Kawaihae Harbor area, and the best I could do for a map of the harbor is this. The story isn’t as clear as I’d like, but it sounds like the Superferry will displace the small boat harbor, which might then be relocated at some other location inside the breakwall. However, it sounds like there is no firm plan for that relocation nor is there a source of funding for dredging of the harbor and construction of a new breakwall. Surely these would have to be considered “significant” changes to the harbor; i.e. something that would require an EIS.

Residents also questioned the ability of surrounding roads to handle the influx of vehicles, including the intersection of Kawaihae Road and Akoni Pule Highway, and suggested plans for the Kawaihae bypass road should be accelerated.

Fukunaga said the DOT is working on an Environmental Impact Statement for the Kawaihae bypass, but after public meetings and planning, construction wouldn’t start until 2014. He also said the DOT recognizes the need for a light at the Kawaihae Road and Queen Kaahumanu Highway intersection, but that no funding is available.

Several people at the meeting asked why an EIS was not necessary for the Superferry and why the Hawaii Senate killed a bill that would have required one.

[Representative] Evans told the audience the Senate Committee on Transportation and Government Operations voted not to require an EIS after listening to four hours of testimony Wednesday. Legislators were swayed because federal and state laws do not require an EIS for cruise ships and barges, operations similar to the Superferry.

The Superferry and plans for modifications to Kawaihae Harbor won the support of William Akau, a 78-year-old lifelong resident of the area who spent 25 years as a harbor agent.

“You can’t stop the growth and the way they plan to use Pier One is fine,” Akau said. “If this is done right, everyone gets ahead.”

So there is “no funding” for even adding a stoplight, and a bypass road won’t be started until 2014, but the Superferry should be okayed without an EIS and tens of milions in bonds should be issued in the next few months?

I agree with Mr. Akau insofar as his last statement, but the earlier resignation to fate he expresses is not justified. The Senate Committee did not repeal the EIS law. The bill the Senators killed would have been a trump card for those who want an EIS for the Superferry, but the decision does not in any way preclude those people from going down the EIS path. It only makes it a cumbersome and lengthy journey.

Comments (0)
Leidemann doesn’t see it either

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:19 am
Today the Advertiser carries Mike Leidemann’s latest transportation column. In the column Leidemann talks about the Senate transportation bill that I previously posted about here and here.

Am I really the only person that sees a problem with the Honolulu City Council being granted the authority to adjust the GET tax rate for the entire state?!

Bunda had argued early in the session that it would be better to have a state transit authority supervising the county projects, but a bill to that effect was killed in the Transportation Committee, which kept hearing those words “home rule” over and over again in testimony.

Now, it seems like the power is swinging back the other way.

Back the other way? Not exactly. This Senate Bill would be like Congress giving Hawaii the power to set tax rates for the entire United States. Bogus.

Anyway, it’s water under the bridge now. The Senate is going to recommit (i.e. kill) it today at third reading.

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Capitol memorial service for helicopter crash KIAs

Filed under:
— Doug @ 12:55 pm
In a few moments I will join a large crowd gathered in the Capitol rotunda for a memorial for the 27 Marines and 1 Sailor killed in the January helicopter crash in Iraq.

It will be streaming on the internet, with a link available on the Governor’s webpage.

Comments (0)
More details on Akaku v. Dowling

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:14 am
The Haleakala Times has this report with more background of the legislation aiming to redirect money away from Akaku and force them to share cable access funds with the Maui Community College and the DOE. It’s now apparent to me that Dowling is behind these bills, but it was interesting to hear the views of Akaku and MCC in a bit more detail (still nothing from the DOE folks, though).

The conclusion of the article points to a possible resolution that could occur tomorrow:

Faced with losing two-thirds of their funding, AKAKU Board Chairman Myles Inokuma said he met with MCC Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto in an effort to work out a solution.

?If we teamed up with education, we would be stronger,? says Inokuma. He says that in the early days of cable access, the public part of PEG wasn?t funded at all, so they needed the bulk of the money. Now that they are more developed, he is not opposed to giving MCC money.

Inokuma, who worked as an executive assistant for former Maui Mayor James ?Kimo? Apana, presented a written proposal to his board that may solve the dispute.

?We would provide 33 percent of our (PEG) funding to MCC,? he says. ?One-third, I think we can make work. Two-thirds, I don?t think we can live with.?

The proposal will go to the board?s executive committee March 2. That committee will either recommend it or not, and after that the proposal will be put on the agenda for the board?s March 8 meeting. It would amount to more than a quarter of a million dollars a year in funding for MCC. ?Either way the full board will vote on it,? says Inokuma.

The two bills, SB959 and HB784, are still alive and working their way through the Legislature. [Senator] Baker says she voted for the bill in her Senate committee to advance discussion, but doesn?t expect that it will be passed. ?It is a vehicle bill to get the parties talking,? she says. ?I don?t think AKAKU will lose two thirds of its funding.?

The next step seems to be up to the AKAKU board. If they reject Inokuma?s proposal, the bills could continue. If they are passed and AKAKU does lose two-thirds of its PEG money, there will be layoffs, as staffing makes up about two-thirds of their annual budget, says McLaughlin. ?AKAKU hopes to resolve the concerns through local deliberations,? he says.

As far as I can tell from this report, under Inokuma’s proposal instead of dividing the money 3 ways (Akaku, MCC, DOE), it will be divided two ways—with Akaku getting twice as much as MCC and the DOE left out of the funding stream altogether. That’s why the lack of information/comment from the DOE is more than a bit puzzling.

Editorial note: The Haleakala Times really needs to work on the format of their website. It’s atrocious.

Comments (0)
Follow the money - how to

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:42 am
Last week I was a bit disappointed that I could not find information about which Hawaii candidates receive money from petroleum companies and how big those contributions are. Today, thanks to another great article by the Advertiser’s Dooley and Pang, I learn that I was looking in the wrong spot.

Dooley and Pang point out that the system is still rather primitive. Candidates are not required to file their reports electronically (which would make searches and data compilation much easier) and the non-electronic reports are only scanned and provided as pdf documents. It makes it a slow task to really ferret out where the money is coming from and who it is going to.

But anyway, to follow up on that earlier post, in the last election Representative Caldwell recieved $300 from Tesoro on December 3, 2003. Considering that Caldwell raised a surprising total of $92,037.92 for the election cycle, I don’t think it’s fair to say he is in their pocket to any great extent.

Hello? Did I just write >$90K for a House seat?! We need publicly funded campaigns.

It was the Hawaii Clean Elections volunteers who helped to scan the non-electronic 2004 documents for the Campaign Spending Commission. The Commission “has been busy with other priorities, among them spearheading a wide-ranging investigation of illegal campaign donations that has resulted in $1.3 million in fines against 87 different corporate and individual campaign donors.”

Sigh. I suppose the Commissioners don’t see any connection? Making these records transparent to all is critical and would discourage flagrant abuses. Publicly funding campaigns would eliminate the issue altogether.

Comments (0)
Affordable housing primer

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:46 am
I saw this piece in the West Hawaii Today. I don’t know that it really cries out for my comment, but I found it a useful summary of the affordable housing issue. Maybe you will, too. Here it is.

I think it was provided by the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, since there is a (bad) link to their site at the end of the article. The working link to learn more about them is this.

Comments (0)
Akaka Bill opponents not allowed oral testimony?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:54 am
The SB pursues the claims made at the US Senate last week that implied almost monolithic support of the Akaka Bill from the Native Hawaiian community. This article, from the Associated Press, gathers some reactions of the opponents.

The first opponent reveals what for me is the most disturbing part of the article, he claims opponents were only allowed to submit written testimony and could not deliver their testimony orally. That would explain the relatively slim reporting of the opposition last week!

“The only ones supporting it are those receiving federal benefits,” said Kai’opua Fyfe, director of the Kauai-based Koani Foundation, an advocacy group that aims to educate Hawaiians and others on “the real history of Hawaii and the current situation.”

The Senate committee heard oral testimony only from bill supporters. Fyfe, who was at the hearing, told the Associated Press that he and other opponents were refused permission to testify and were told to submit their testimony in writing.

Now, I know the US Senate is much more busy than the Hawaii legislature, but to outright muzzle the opposition in that manner (especially after travelling all the way to DC!), if in fact that really occurred, is disheartening and, well, wrong.

The report also quotes Dennis Kanahele, Lela Hubbard and Bruce Fein. The three all have differing opinions of why the bill is flawed and what the better solution would be, yet they also were not heard before the US Senate last week.

I think the request they made for Senator McCain to come and take testimony here in Hawaii is a reasonable compromise, but only if EVERYONE is allowed to participate.

Comments (0)

Lot owners banking on Hokuli’a

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:24 am
People wonder why I seem hostile to Hokulia? This Advertiser article is a good reason why.

I can be somewhat sympathetic to a buyer who paid (huge amounts) for property before the project was halted, but for speculator/gamblers to now buy parcels there on the cheap in full knowledge of the risk that the project may never proceed is almost too much. However, they seem pretty confident that they are going to win:

“They’re taking a chance that justice will come,” said Dean Gilpin, a principal with real-estate brokerage firm Ross Gilpin & Associates Inc.

The firm has handled most Hokuli’a resales after Ibarra’s decision, and Gilpin and some partners joined in to buy four lots themselves. “I believe in it,” he said. “I know that it’s going to get fixed. It’s a question of time.”

Presently buying a Hokulia lot is only an expensive way to gain use of the existing golf course. However, even if lot-owners lose at the Hawaii Supreme Court they could win their lawsuit against Hawaii County. Because they are buying at this late date, I would hope that these come-lately speculators should be excluded from any damages awarded if the County loses the suit. Otherwise, what is the risk in this speculation?

Gilpin said a stack of disclosure documents two feet high was burned onto compact discs for prospective buyers to make sure they are clearly aware of the project’s legal trouble.

But that hasn’t dissuaded buyers that include veterans of Hawai’i’s real estate industry, such as Schuler Homes founder Jim Schuler and the owners of Clark Realty Corp.

If only it were more lucrative for these tycoons to invest in affordable housing… it’s telling how there are no lawsuits to fight to advance affordable housing efforts. Heck, we can all do without lawsuits, but how about it if more attempts were actually made to develop enough affordable housing projects.

When millionaires are forced to live with three generations of their family all in one mansion then maybe I’ll shed a tear or speak up in favor of more luxury developments.

Comments (2)
Architects, engineers cut donations

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:45 am
Wow! This is good stuff today in the Advertiser today. Two revealing stories (here and here) and two interesting tables of campaign contributor data (here and here). Way to go, Mr. Dooley and Mr. Pang.

The first article describes the effect recent investigations and prosecutions have had on campaign contribution activity from architects and engineers. It adds a little fuel to the fire I posted about earlier to the extent that the prosecutor leading the charge has been nominated for a judgeship. Architects and engineers will probably be lobbying for his confirmation, heh.

My main critique is that the article doesn’t give much play to the possibility that these contributors may be scaling back their contributions less out of fear of prosecution than relief that they no longer have to “pay to play.”

The next article is actually pretty amusing. During his research for the piece Dooley discovered that the records for some of the contributors were incomplete, so he spreads the word and gets some red-faced contributors and campaign spending staff trying to explain why a journalist has to compel them to follow the law. Good stuff.

These articles are good for momentary fun, but wouldn’t it be a relief to have publicly-financed campaigns? These articles are more evidence that even with existing contribution laws in place hundreds of violations still occur with almost no consequence. It’s shameful.

The two charts are also very useful, but I have a few nits to pick.

What pieces of legislation are these big contributors associated with, if any?
Calvin Say is House Speaker, not Senate President.
Once session adjurns, it would be interesting to pull this chart out and see if these contributions had any concrete benefit for the contributors.

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Dynastic legislators

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:13 am
The latest Borreca column in the SB is a fun look at a pretty intuitive but seldom mentioned aspect of the Legislature—the many family connections that permeate the building. It also tells us something about the power of name recognition and the power of incumbency, and the different perspective of what inspires a political life that non-politicians (and even many inside politics) cynically dismiss.

A few things I’ve wondered before and I wish Borreca had answered:

How many legislators have served (or are serving?) concurrently with a family relative? He mentions the divorcees, but beyond that.
Is Blake Oshiro related to Marcus, Paul, and Robert?
What is/was the shortest- and longest-running family dynasty at the legislature?
Was there ever a Republican version in the territory days, or since?
If I recall correctly, the Congress has its own Historian, that would be a real luxury for our legislature. Definitely not a “core service” of government, though. Maybe a possible PhD dissertation topic, ha ha.

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Monitoring reports from prisons holding HI inmates

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:47 am
An excellent article by Kevin Dayton in todays Advertiser. The state regularly monitors (quarterly, I believe) the facilities that house the inmates we have exported. I have seen a few of these reports previously, and apparently I was able to see less redacted/censored versions than those Dayton was provided. All I recall was inmate names being blacked out, not entire pages. This was during the Cayetano administration, so maybe that explains the difference, maybe not. Also, the reports I saw were provided to a legislator, not to the media, which is another possible reason it was less censored.

The problems described in the recent reports are similar to issues that I recall from the earlier reports. Gang problems, contraband problems, poorly trained staff, “manipulative” inmates. The operators were promising progress years ago, too. Have they delivered? Well, at least there are no reports of sexual assault at this facility!

Even if they really don’t ever improve, the threat of cancelling the contract and removing our inmates is in reality pretty hollow. It takes quite a while to arrange for a place (in-state, or on the mainland) to put these people.

The thing I tried to keep in mind back when I was reviewing these reports is that the person being sent to evaluate the prison has a lot of mixed loyalties and objectivity problems; s/he may want to paper over conditions or exaggerate problems depending upon what is anticipated to please Hawaii supervisors and/or the private prison operator, s/he often has adopted the institutional prejudice in favor of staff and against inmates, and s/he has to trust those inmates and staff confiding in him or her to be honest about problems with the facility. It’s pretty hard for somebody to drop into a facility and quickly get an accurate feel of all that is going on, especially when everyone s/he speaks to inside has things to gain from spinning things to their advantage.

Nevertheless, for some reason I/we trust these reports to give an accurate overall impression, and on the whole the reports were/are mostly foreboding—or at least uneasy and vigilant. Perhaps since that is my overall opinion of private prisons it explains why I trust these reports.

Hint: If only there were quarterly reports like this generated for our in-state correctional facilities that the media could scrutinize… there’s a follow-up story either way; the contents of said reports, or why our own facilities are not regularly and systematically evaluated. The private prisons have their share of problems, but we only know about them from publicized scandals and from these reports. The Hawaii facilities may be just as troubled, but we have to wait for scandals to recognize trouble?

Comments (0)

Gas price-cap rebels take a stand

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:19 am
Nice work in this Advertiser piece. The topic is HB 1705, which could give Governor Lingle an option to not implement the gasoline price regulation.

The bill has an interesting history. It was originally referred to Representative Morita’s Energy Committee and Representative Hiraki’s Consumer Protection Committee. Then it was re-referred a week later to a joint hearing between those committees. It was at Morita’s discretion to schedule the bill, and she did not choose to hear it. Evidently Representative Morita was prevailed upon to waive her jurisdiction of the bill on Thursday, allowing Representative Hiraki to hear the bill that afternoon and file the amended bill before yesterdays decking deadline. Note that Representative Morita was one of those absent from the CPC hearing. Sorry for the wonk-out, but that’s about as slick as it gets at this point in the session. [small potatoes compared to conference committee time, though, heh]

As for Senator Menor’s insinuation that supporters of HB 1705 are influenced by the petroleum industry lobbyists, that should be easy enough to check. Have a look at the contribution reports.

Ooops. The site has no information regarding conributions for 2004. What the heck?!

In 2002 Representative Caldwell received $250 from Tesoro on September 6. Then another $250 from Tesoro on November 1. That hardly qualifies him as “caving in to the oil industry lobbyists.” At least not as far as we can tell with outdated data. Grrr.

This should easily be one of the most lively bills debated on Tuesday, but only if it is not recommitted to committee after a very possible trainwreck in the caucus session on Monday.

Comments (0)
District pork for councilmembers looks more like gristle

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 6:33 am
Damn it, “no money” really means, “no money!”

Who knew?

The Advertiser has this first hint of the challenge of fiscal discipline at the Honolulu City Council. All this austerity and no property tax relief = grumpy constitutents and skitterish Councilmembers. Can they resist the urge to spend over the Mayor’s objections?

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Quorum troubles at Hawaii County Planning Commission

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:14 am
The West Hawaii Today article describes a bigger problem than might first be apparent. If you look here you can see what topics the lack of a quorum has been delaying. Now if you are anti-development you may see this inability to conduct business as a good thing, but keep in mind that things like, say, affordable housing decisions are likely to pass through the planning commission. If they can’t conduct business, or have a huge backlog when they finally can achieve a quorum, then it slows down needed projects just as much as the rest.

The aftermath of the Hokulia decision might be making it harder for the Mayor to find people willing to serve on the Commission, but it would be hard to verify that hunch since the Mayor wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) be obligated to reveal his discussions with potential nominees.

It’s never good when a governmental body is hamstrung by lack of quorum. That said, it’s not a good idea to approve actions based on decisions made without adequate consideration, debate and support.

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Publicly funded campaign bills decked for crossover

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:53 am
Both chambers have a version of a bill to establish publicly funded campaigns. Tuesday there should be some lively floor debate on the topic, but I expect the problem won’t be in the basement level but on the fifth floor. (that’s the legislature and the governor, respectively, for those not familiar with the Capitol architecture)

The SB has this story to bring readers up to date, with an additional description of how a key supporter sees the process as working.

So far the Advertiser doesn’t have a Saturday edition online, maybe they have the story, too. I have a big day of entertaining visitors ahead and can’t wait around…

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Home rule editorial oversight

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 1:11 pm
Beating the horse from yesterday, today we see this SB editorial with the title “Legislators loath to let counties decide.”

The editors have it backwards, at least partially. The Senate is willing to let Honolulu County to decide the future of the GET, but only Honolulu County. Furthermore, the Senate is willing to let Honolulu County’s decision implement a GET increase for the whole state. Just like I said yesterday, sorry.

Whatever happened to no taxation without representation?

The neighbor isle taxpayers must be pissed, or they should be. Why should 9 folks on Oahu, who neighbor islanders never voted for (or against), have any authority to increase their taxes?

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Superferry EIS legislation held in committee

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:03 pm
Well, this week certainly has been an interesting one for the Superferry issue. Many new stories on the topic were published yesterday and today. Yesterday the PBN had this report, the SB had another, and of course the Advertiser , too. Today there is this Advertiser column as well.

I went beyond the newspaper reports and reviewed the written testimony submitted to the Senate Transportation Committee. I also checked out a fair amount of the PUC documents regarding the Superferry. Whew.

As can be expected in such an important issue, both sides make strong presentations of their arguments. After reviewing the material I think the decision to hold this bill to require an EIS was correct. However, I am not yet persuaded that the EIS process should have been waived for the project. I expect the opponents of the project to sue on these grounds, and I think they will have a strong case.

To those who posit that there is a coordinated effort by the Superferry opponents to derail the project “at the 11th hour,” I would point out that until October 11, 2004 there was no notice of the schedule for public hearings before the PUC regarding the application of the Superferry to obtain a certificate. [incidentally, that schedule link is broken at the PUC site, coincidence?] To demand that the “come-lately” opponents should have been actively fighting a plan for which they knew few specifics, before that October announcement is unfair. In fact it appears that the earliest document of any sort on file with the PUC regarding this matter is from July, 2004. Which is much less than one year ago.

Dave Shapiro asks in his Wednesday column,
If the environment was such a concern, why wasn’t a bill introduced in last year’s Legislature, when Superferry plans were well-known? Why wasn’t more made of the issue before the Public Utilities Commission?
Answer to Shapiro’s first question: There was no reason to write a bill last session demanding an EIS because it was quite logical to assume that the Superferry would be required to comply with the law. There was no way at that time for anyone to know that the DOT would unilaterally decide to exempt the project.

Answer to Shaprio’s second question: The PUC is not the proper venue to raise or adjudicate EIS-type concerns. It would be quite logical for opponents to assume that the project would comply with the EIS process and that they would have adequate time to voice their concerns in due course.

If you follow the PUC link and look at page 3 of Exhibit 27 you’ll see a photo from the Advertiser that marks the beginning of construction of the ferry—In June. 2004. Which means Superferry must have either a) recklessly proceeded with construction before they knew they had the necessary okays, or b) they had tacit approval and wanted to get underway before the public could even officially learn of the details of the project, before the opposition could mobilize, before the PUC issued its December 2004, Decision and Order, and before the DOT issued its December 9, 2004, Letter of Intent which “outlines the general terms, arrangements, and conditions under which the DOT intends to enter into the formal agreement,” for “the use of harbor facilities at Honolulu Harbor, Kahului Harbor, Nawiliwili Harbor and Kawaihae Harbor.” (this quote is from page 7 of D&O, since the LOI is a confidential document)

Something doesn’t add up, readers.

If anyone could explain this strange chronology to me, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to post it. Otherwise, I think we have to support the EIS process, even if it means Superferry has to re-do its financing if/when the process is completed.

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House Finance version of state budget

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:21 am
A few comments regarding this Advertiser report on the latest draft of the Executive Budget bill that will be filed later today by the House Finance Committee.

First, in an interesting development in the topic of slowly moving government offices to Kapolei (on which I previously have posted). The latest draft will delete $95M in funding for a new Family Court building in Kapolei. Now this could be read a few ways: a snub to Chief Justice Moon who explicitly asked legislators to support it, a favor to the unions with members who oppose being moved out there, or a juicy lumpsum that could be cut to pay for numerous other priorities of the legislators.

Second, since the House draft removes the tax relief proposed by the Governor, that gives the Senate a bit more leverage to support the Senate WAM Committee’s new “GET increase/tax relief/transit” scheme, should the Senate also choose to leave tax relief out of their draft of the budget which they will produce in April.

The House is waiting for the new Council on Revenues projection and intends to base their version of tax relief on whatever additional revenues are in the projection. It will be an interesting budget conference if the COR projects not much growth…

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Prison sexual assault charges filed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:54 am
I am pleased to see some follow-up stories in both Honolulu papers regarding the previously-mentioned alleged sexual assault of Hawaii women inmates on the mainland. The Advertiser piece is here, while the SB piece is here.

One of the corrections officers is being charged with two felony counts. Again, I hope the media follow the developments of his trial.

I am more than a bit annoyed by the soft handling given to Gil Walker, the president of the company that runs the prison where the alleged assaults took place. The SB reports at face value his assertion that the sexual contact was consensual. Whose investigation showed that, his company’s own investigation? The Advertiser reporter somehow lets this dubious claim slip by without comment or question:

Walker said there have been two other incidents at the Colorado prison recently: A guard allegedly passed notes to a female inmate and the prison’s substance abuse director allegedly had sexual contact with another inmate.

The guard accused of passing notes was asked to resign for breaching company rules, and the other incident remains under investigation, Walker said.

Prison warden Rick Soares resigned on Feb. 18, but Walker said that was not related to any of the current accusations.

Not related to any of the current accusations. Oh, please! The prison has all the signs of a serious sexual assault problem, but Soares resigned for some other reason? Sure, whatever.

Comments (1)
HMSA reserves facing many threats

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:58 am
This SB article describes the competing ideas to reduce the amount of reserves held by HMSA. The Governor would like to rebate some of the HMSA reserves to the customers, Senator Menor would like to freeze rate increases until the reserves are spent down.

I am not a lawyer, but I recently heard some chatter about a pending class action case that could cost HMSA a lot of money. It’s hard to find a no-fee way to look at the documents online, but I did find this link which gives the gist of the suit. HMSA is already the target of its own suit (see last paragraph of the link) but the chatter I heard recently said it may also be included in the larger class action.

So, long story short, the Senator’s plan may not work if HMSA loses the lawsuit and the plaintiffs take the first bite of the reserves apple. If the intent is to lower the reserves and benefit consumers, then it may make more sense to try the Governor’s rebate plan.

Of course, if HMSA loses either suit, and the damages imposed are very high it could be enough to bankrupt HMSA, which obviously would not serve the state’s interests.

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Pols hold fingers to the media breeze. Who knew?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:20 am
This is certainly a peculiar article from the UH student newspaper, Ka Leo O Hawaii.

Most people have heard the lament that television news doesn’t cover state and county politics very well. We’ve also heard the typical response: ratings (i.e. the viewers) decide where the focus of a 30-minute newscast is placed. Obviously the legislature needs to be responsive to current events, but at some point it becomes reactionary shameless pandering.

What is a bit odd is that here we have Representative Wakai, a former television journalist, describing the problem at the same time making it clear by his actions that he is part of the problem.

Wakai said he introduced several bills in the state House that were based on reports he saw on television or read in newspapers.

In what he called his most controversial bill, Wakai addressed a ban on human consumption of cat and dog meat. After seeing other news reports, Wakai introduced a bill concerning a story about a local cemetery that had removed bodies from their purchased plots and resold the spaces. The bill would require cemeteries to map out plots to prevent the removal of people’s remains.

Wakai discovered the influence of the media on politics while working as a reporter for several Hawai’i news operations. After starting his reporting career in Guam and Saipan, he broke into local news in 1995 at KHON Fox 2 and later moved to KHNL Channel 8. While media influence on government is evident, Wakai said he was concerned with the small amount of legislative coverage in the islands. He said he feels that government reporting does not receive enough attention from the news media.

“It’s really been de-emphasized,” Wakai said. “Government reporting is not interesting to TV.”

Wakai said legislative stories often take a back seat to more interesting events with visually exciting footage.

Wakai’s solution? Introduce legislation addressing the visually exciting topics the television media are already talking about! If you can’t beat them, join them. Maybe not the lesson Wakai intended for the student journalists, ha ha.

Is the point to do what needs to be done, or to do what will be on television?

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Senate plan would have State, not counties, increse GET—with Honolulu’s okay

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:04 am
Both dailies have reports on SB 1366, which will increase the GET to fund mass transit and provide for various tax cuts to partially offset the impact. The Advertiser’s is here while the SB has it here.

Unfortunately the amendments made to the bill, which both articles describe, are not yet available online because the Senate Ways and Means Committee has not filed the new draft and standing committee report.

From what we can learn from the articles the new draft goes like this:

GET increases from 4% to 5% if Honolulu approves a rail transit plan by 2006.
Those revenues would be earmarked for transit, divvied up between the counties, and any “excess” revenues would fund changes in the standard deduction and a credit for taxes paid on food and medicine.
I would have preferred if the articles had raised this point: the tax relief also seems to hinge upon Honolulu City Council approval of a rail transit plan. i.e. if there is no hike in the GET, there will be no adjustment of the standard deduction and no $50 credit for taxes paid on food and medicine. They didn’t offer that clarification, of course, because that is only my (informed) presumption and these reporters were working from a verbal description of the bill provided at the WAM hearing. It’s possible, but not likely, that the new draft will offer the tax relief even if the GET does not increase.

It’s hard to see how this Senate plan could be reconciled in conference against the House plan which merely grants the authority to the counties to decide if a GET increase for transit is what they want. Someone will have to blink.

The Senate Bill basically has the Honolulu City Council speaking for the whole state! That’s not home rule, readers, that is the Senate ducking a big decision while passing the buck to the one body they anticipate will make this tough decision in the manner they prefer. …which may itself only be wishful thinking.

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Lingle and Bush administration discuss Akaka bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:03 am
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald and the West Hawaii Today both carry the same interesting story that gives a tiny bit more insight into Governor Lingle’s interaction with Bush administration officials regarding the Akaka Bill than readers could find in the Honolulu dailies.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Lingle said she met this week with White House budget director Joshua Bolten and Bush advisors Karl Rove and Claude Allen about the bill.

Lingle, who slept two nights at the White House, said she also raised the issue with Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney during dinner.

In her meetings, Lingle said she explained how the state of Hawaii faces a flood of legal challenges in how it handles Native Hawaiian homelands, education and other grants.

A federal law would give the state ammunition against these claims, the governor and Attorney General Bennett said.

“We believe we can with passage of this bill have a clear mandate once and for all for the dismissal of all lawsuits,” Bennett told the committee.

But the White House has its own legal questions. Lingle said.

Bush administration officials continue to express doubts that the federal government can recognize Native Hawaiians as it now does Native Americans and Native Alaskans, Lingle said.

“The official concern is tied to the constitutionality of the bill,” Lingle said.

Specifically, the Justice Department has suggested the Indian Commerce Clause does not apply to Native Hawaiians, who were never organized as a tribe like Native Americans.

White House officials also have questioned whether a Native Hawaiian entity would promote racial preferences, Lingle said. That view is also shared by several dissident groups in Hawaii.

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said Tuesday that the administration has yet to take a position on the measure.

Kudos to Samantha Young for getting this angle of the story which I had not read anywhere else!

I am surprised that Bennett was so frank in acknowledging that the Akaka Bill is good “ammunition” against existing and potential legal challenges from Native Hawaiians. Bennett’s reasoning certainly was not the focus of the governor’s testimony to the Senate. Begs the question of whether the Lingle administration thinks the Akaka Bill is good for Hawaiians, or just legally expedient for the State, or a happy combination of both. Hmmm.

Also, note that this report even includes some discussion of the nature of the (as-yet-unspoken) Bush administration position. Apparently those groups against the bill (those that I snarkily noted yesterday as those usually ignored by legislative bodies) may have an ally in Bush.

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Blogs to be regulated as campaign contributions?

Filed under:
— Doug @ 8:14 am
This could very well fall into the category of chicken little, but this topic is making its way around the blogosphere.

The link is to an interview with one of the FEC Commissioners. The Commission will soon be taking up the topic of whether/how to apply the McCain-Feingold law to the internet. It’s probably inevitable that some sort of regulation occurs, but I hope they don’t go overboard. Restricting the flow of information, or more specifically, restricting the number of sources of information for voters is not a good thing.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. “The commission’s exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines” the campaign finance law’s purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

This means either Congress needs to act to clarify the internet applicability of the law, or the FEC will act. The interview concludes:

If Congress doesn’t change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?
We’re talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet.

Again, blogging could also get us into issues about online journals and non-online journals. Why should CNET get an exemption but not an informal blog? Why should Salon or Slate get an exemption? Should Nytimes.com and Opinionjournal.com get an exemption but not online sites, just because the newspapers have a print edition as well?

Why wouldn’t the news exemption cover bloggers and online media?
Because the statute refers to periodicals or broadcast, and it’s not clear the Internet is either of those. Second, because there’s no standard for being a blogger, anyone can claim to be one, and we’re back to the deregulated Internet that the judge objected to. Also I think some of my colleagues on the commission would be uncomfortable with that kind of blanket exemption.

So if you’re using text that the campaign sends you, and you’re reproducing it on your blog or forwarding it to a mailing list, you could be in trouble?
Yes. In fact, the regulations are very specific that reproducing a campaign’s material is a reproduction for purpose of triggering the law. That’ll count as an expenditure that counts against campaign finance law.

Well, I have no plans to be posting campaign materials on this blog, but I still think this topic is something I’ll watch closely. I have links to the few Hawaii politicians that have their own blogs (and I’d like to have more, if any reader knows of others!) and they may have to come down depending upon how this plays out.


The chicken little hypothesis gains a little strength, according to this guy.

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Fossett about to pass Hawaii in a matter of minutes

Filed under:
— Doug @ 2:45 pm
It looks like Steve Fossett won’t be visible from the ground as he tries to fly non-stop around the world in his high-tech jet. He is too far north of the State. Darn. HOWEVER, there is some concern over his fuel load, so he may be forced to divert and land here. Again. …in which case we could see him, of course.

Anyway, there is a cool minute-by-minute tracking website available here.

He is predicted to finish mid-day tomorrow, if they choose to press on across the Pacific.

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Wi-Fi Mu-fi Ferry

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:26 am
Check out the end of this SB editorial in support of the Mayor’s plan to restart ferry service from Kalaeloa to Honolulu Harbor in conjunction with feeder bus routes. I had not heard of this Wi-Fi onboard the ferry concept:

Technological advances provide the possibility of an added enticement – wireless Internet access allowing commuters to make productive – or entertaining – use of their time aboard the ferry. Hannemann’s appreciation of the benefits of expanding broadband wireless in Waikiki and downtown Honolulu should extend to the ferry.

A research project managed by the U.S. Department of Transportation has proved the feasibility of such Internet access aboard ferry routes in Washington’s Puget Sound area. The project, allowing riders to check their e-mail or access Web sites at fast speeds, was launched last summer and has been expanded to five ferries. It will remain free to commuters until May and then might be turned over to a private operator.

If this works out, it could be an great reassurance to counter my earlier worry that there really is not much incentive for any driver to make the switch to the ferry if it turns out to be not much faster or cheaper.

Furthermore, how about some details (if in fact they exist) about Hannemann’s thoughts of expanding broadband wireless in Waikiki and downtown?! That sounds really sweet, too. Don’t just tease us with that single sentence.

Comments (0)
Akaka bill testimony

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:59 am
Excellent coverage this morning from the Advertiser in this report describing Tuesday’s testimony at the US Senate regarding the Akaka Bill. The SB provided an inferior AP story that is much more skeletal than the Advertiser article.

Governor Lingle is trying to patch up her decision to talk stink about the Hawaii delegation in DC. This change in strategy is a wise move.

Last week, Lingle criticized the state’s two senators for not doing enough to educate Congress about the legislation. But yesterday, spokesman Lenny Klompus said Lingle had no further comment on the criticisms.

“Today was such a positive day, the governor prefers just to move forward, and she is looking forward to next week and the senators doing their part to pass this out of committee,” Klompus said.

However, Governor Lingle’s end of the bargain was to smooth the way in the Executive Branch, thus her explanation of what she did to that end is not very inspiring:

Under questioning from the Indian Affairs Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, Lingle said that she didn’t press administration officials to commit to supporting the legislation.

“I asked them to keep open-minded to let us continue to present information,” Lingle said.

Lingle said she wished she could tell “with 100-percent certainty” what the Bush administration’s opinion would be. “I can’t do that, but I can tell you that I am very optimistic and, again, they know how important this is,” she said.

The other topic the Advertiser article sheds some light on is the question I had of just who/what the opposition against the bill is.

None of the opposing testimony (more accurately, none of those listed in the article) is attributed to what I would consider sources to worry about. Groups like these are routinely ignored by legislators and probably will be in this instance, too. That said, the lawyers who were observing from Honolulu are more worrisome, since they will likely challenge any law that is ultimately enacted.

More troubling, again, is the ambiguity from the Bush Administration. Congressman Case has already seen the bill pass the House once, and sounds confident it could pass again:

Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai’i, said he was optimistic about the bill’s chances for passage in the House. “We have continued to work very well with both the Republicans and the Democrats on the relevant committees in the House,” he said. “My sense is that we’re simply picking up where we left off.”

The real issue is the Bush administration’s position, which is not known, Case said.

McCain noted that the Justice Department was invited to testify on the legislation but did not.

Maybe the Justice Department didn’t testify because they didn’t want to publicly embarrass Governor Lingle by coming out against the bill? Perhaps. Who knows? The vote on the bill is said to be next week.

The Advertiser has now posted the text of Governor Lingle’s testimony here.

Comments (0)
Midweek; now lining your recycle bin twice weekly!

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 10:21 am
Oh, joy. Here’s a piece in the SB heralding the birth of another mailbox-clogging advertorial newspaper. What’s with the strange highlighting of the company names in the article? Odd.

I admit that I read the columnists in Midweek, and I would love to be able to blog on all of them—if only they had the columns online. As far as the other “content” in Midweek, well, I certainly don’t need or want that twice a week.

I am much more excited about Ian Lind’s new online newspaper covering Kaaawa, his home. I’ve added a link to it and I will expect good stuff from them.

Comments (0)

Lost was bluffing, won’t leave

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:08 am
According to the Advertiser, which quotes Barry Jossen, the producer of ‘Lost’ in this story, the whole “tax break or we leave” was shibai.

Still, Jossen emphasized that, contrary to speculation, the tax rebate has never been a make-or-break issue for the show.

“Our decision to base the show in Hawai’i is not reliant on the existence of Act 221 or (the related Act 215) …,” he said. “The issues for us were scheduling, timing, accessibility to L.A. and ease of production here versus Australia. Basing it here was the right choice.”

If that’s the case, then I guess we can assume it was bluff (or poor reporting?) when we read that the ‘Lost’ officials in January said:

Last month officials for ABC’s “Lost” announced the show is considering shooting elsewhere because of Hawai’i’s high cost. Producers want more tax breaks to offset an estimated $500,000 lost on the creation of each episode.

For Jossen to now characterize their own prior statements as “speculation,” implying that his latest conversation was to dispell some sort of “word on the street” rumor is pretty slick. Too bad the Advertiser’s Tsai didn’t press him a bit on that.

Comments (1)
The not-so-super ferry proposal

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 7:55 am
The Honolulu dailies both note a few more details released by the Hannemann administration yesterday concerning the Kalaeloa to Honolulu ferry and bus system. Really not much meet on this story yet, but the Advertiser has it here and the SB has it here.

The last time the ferry service was running the State was in charge and the fare was free when it began, but not enough people continued to ride and it was phased out after 15 months. This time there is no mention of the fare for this County-run system, but since a bus ride is involved I would guess that it is at least $2. According to the stories there is little or no time savings, so, other than novelty and/or liberal guilt to relieve traffic on the freeways, I’m having trouble seeing why riders would choose this means of transport.

Just for fun, compare the fancy Advertiser graphic to the relatively crude SB graphic.

Arrows. Impressive! Did their professional illustrator have the day off?

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Governor Lingle lobbying in DC

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:38 am
Perhaps even as I post the Governor will be testifying in support of the Akaka Bill before the US Senate. Both dailies have the story of her lobbying Senator McCain and President Bush on the topic; SB here and Advertiser here.

I wish I were more savvy with the legislation tracking system at Congress, but I’m not. I hope that Governor Lingle and our Hawaii Senators worked together on a lobbying strategy, but the report from this weekend where Lingle scolds them for dropping the ball suggests that the three of them were not coordinating their efforts. Dumb. All were too busy trying to take the credit or pin the blame, apparently.

Incidentally, if I were channeling Wonkette I would be sure to snicker and wink at the ambiguity in this sentence from both reports:

Lingle spent Sunday night at the White House in first daughter Jenna Bush’s bedroom, and was to have stayed there again last night, [spokesman Russel] Pang said.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if Lingle had stayed with the Vice President’s daughter… ha ha.

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Fossett to pass over Hawaii on non-stop circumnav jet flight

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— Doug @ 7:24 am
The SB has a short piece on this latest adventure for Steve Fossett. I read somewhere else that he plans to cruise at 45,000 feet, so his skeletal aircraft might not be much to see from the ground.

It’s still damn cool. The whole plane (over 100 foot wingspan) is built of composites and weighs only ~3300 pounds when empty of fuel. That’s amazing.

Hopefully Fossett makes it, but if not the next best thing would be another ditching near Hawaii. Heh.

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