Parliamentary clown show ends in BOR nominee rejection
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 10:23 am
This Advertiser story condenses about 90 minutes of bickering into a few paragraphs that establish the facts of Dylan Nonakaâ€™s rejection by the Senate.
Senate Republicans angrily walked off the floor last night before a vote could be taken on the nomination of University of Hawaiâ€™i-Hilo student Dylan W.J. Nonaka to the UH Board of Regents.
A governorâ€™s message retracting Nonakaâ€™s nomination was sent to the floor at around 9 p.m. as debate on the nomination was under way. Republicans said the message made a floor vote illegal and left the chamber in protest.
Similar to the full-Senate vote where Kai was rejected, Senator Hee presented another rambling comment on the floor. Last night he read from some of the opposition testimony submitted to his committe and spent quite a lot of time reading submissions from people reporting that their testimony at the hearing and/or signature on petition form letters were fraudulent or collected by deception. Frankly, Senator Heeâ€™s droning stacatto delivery made it even harder to follow what points, if any, he may have been trying to make. In any case, his words were not enough to persuade most observers to his side. Luckily for him, he did not need to sway the observers, since his colleagues supported his recommendation anyway.
When Senator Hemmings rose on a point of personal privilege to inform the Senate he was in receipt of a Governorâ€™s message withdrawing the nomination, the Senate quickly recessed. When the President called them back to order Hemmings rose and continued to notify the Senate of the message. At that point Senator Hanabusa rose on a point of order to ask if a point of personal privilege was in order since Senator Hemmings had already spoken twice on the main motion before the Senate (i.e. the motion to deny confirmation to Nonaka). Senate President Bunda quickly (and, in my opinion, correctlyâ€”see note) ruled â€œno,â€ another Democrat rose and moved to consider the previous question, another instantly seconded it, Bunda called for a voice vote on the motion to call for the previous question and it passed. Just as suddenly, the roll call vote began as Senator Hemmings and Senator Hogue were left stammering and decrying the vote as â€œillegal.â€ As Hogue was tossing his microphone down on his desk in disgust Senator Bunda directed the Sergeant At Arms to escort them out of the chamber. The other Republicans followed suit. Too weird.
Note: Section 222 of Masonâ€™s Manual of Legislative Procedure concerns Questions of Personal Privilege:
1. Questions affecting the rights, reputation and conduct of members of the body in their representative capacity are questions of personal privilege.
2. Questions of privilege of members must relate to persons as members of the body or relate to charges against their character which could, if true, incapacitate them for membership. They are not entitled to the floor on a question of personal privilege unless the subject which they propose to present relates to them in their representative capcity.
3. Persons raising questions of personal privilege must confine themselves to the remarks which concern themselves personally. When speaking under a personal privilege, members have no right to defend any persons other than themselves.
Basically, once the motion had been made to deny Nonaka it was too late to withdraw the nomination without the senate voting to lay the motion on the table or to postpone, amend, etc. Only the person making the motion (i.e. the Majority Leader) could have withdrawn the motion.
The result of the vote would have been the same anyway, so the only reason I could see for the Governor to attempt to withdraw the nomination at that (too) late stage is this:
No person who has been nominated for appointment to any office and whose appointment has not received the consent of the senate shall be eligible to an interim appointment thereafter to such office.
So it goes. While the Senate debated this nomination all conference meetings necessarily ground to a halt, so they had quite an audience on the closed-circuit television feed. What a show.
No-Such-Agency building to generate 700 jobs
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:23 am
Catching up a bit from my absence yesterday, there was this Advertiser article that certainly surprised me and at least one acquaintance I have in the intelligence community. I hope that Cole follows up with another report if he attended the Friday night meeting at Helemano Elementary School.
The National Security Agency is obsessively secretive. Most people in Hawaii probably did not know that they have a significant underground operation in Kunia. I certainly wasnâ€™t aware of that facility until a few years ago when I read mention of it in Body of Secrets by James Bamford. Since then Iâ€™ve heard that the facility is ramping up rapidly as the end of the Cold War and urgent demands for intelligence post-9/11 requires casting a much broader intelligence net. The Kunia facility is very crowded, dilapidated, and, as a bunker accessed by elevators and with only one (long) tunnel leading inside, a potential firetrap in an emergency.
The bulk of the demand for workers at this new facility is almost certain to focus on linguists, analysts, signals intelligence experts, and cryptanalysts. Iâ€™m not aware of a large pool of idled workers in those specialties on Oahu, but by 2010 this could be great employment news for them. That said, these people are in great demand at the present time for existing NSA and military work, so itâ€™s possible that some Hawaii natives might be able to return home once this place is on line. If the NSA werenâ€™t so secretive you might also expect something like the HCC-PHNSY partnership to provide technical training and guaranteed employment upon completion. Since itâ€™s fresh in my mind, a UH-Manoa UARC is also a logical collaborator in this facility, should both come to pass.
Off-campus UARC protest coverage is tepid
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:13 am
As you might expect, the campus newspaper has the most thorough coverage of the sit-in at the UH Presidentâ€™s office. Ka Leo O Hawaii had many more details Friday than todays SB piece and a piece the Advertiser ran yesterday. The student journalists, of course, have the luxury of spending more time on the scene and I suspect they also have a better rapport with the protestors and other sources. It shows. However Ka Leo is only a 5-day/week paper, so if this ends over the weekend they will be scooped. Heh.
For example, now that the Saturday online edition has finally been published, todays Advertiser piece is pretty decent.
KTUH is also covering the protest, or so Iâ€™ve been toldâ€”-I do not live within their broadcast area but they have a web stream.
However, if you want the absolute freshest material, the protestors are also blogging events as they develop, which is a really cool use of this medium. A daily newscast or newspaper just canâ€™t react as quickly as a blog, and things could be very fluid as the protest continues and the threat of arrests waxes and wanes.
For better or for worse, non-violent protest is not a very sexy news story until the either side acts violently and/or makes arrests. I commend the protestors for remaining non-violent and civil, but if the UH administration continues to peacefully work around the occupation it will be hard to sustain public and media interest in the protest. It is encouraging that the two sides are talking, and I would hope that after each small groups of students meets with President McClain they promptly update the blog with the contents of those discussions.
While they are sitting in the office, which Iâ€™m sure is an almost entirely tedious affair when the media (or recently, musicians) are not present, the protestors might also think about a more focused message for each time the media arrive. The present reports paint the protestors as coming together from a wide array of concerns. Each is given a cursory mention, but none are elaborated upon. If they could agree amongst themselves to stay â€œon messageâ€ when the media appear, even if that means focusing on different themes each day, I think it would be a better communication strategy. However, achieving that type of group discipline could be like herding cats.
On a more meta level, itâ€™s also possible that it is not among the protestors goals to be a slick media campaign. Getting bad, disjointed, or indifferent press is not a bad thing if the talks with the President are productive and the protestors learn from each other and form solidarity. This issue could mean more to them than soundbites, is what I mean.
GET increase agreement reached, sent for vote
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:03 am
The Advertiser will probably have a story when it finally goes online, but this SB piece by Borreca gets most of the facts correct about the legislation to give Counties the authority to apply a 0.5% surcharge to the 4% General Excise Tax. If I were to quibble it would be that the description of HB 1309 in the sidebar is not as clear as it could be.
By Dec. 31 each County Council must hold a public hearing and then vote on the tax increase proposal.
Should be â€œby December 31, 2005, each County Council that wishes to implement the GET surcharge must holdâ€¦ etcâ€ It is not mandatory for every County Council to bring this matter up. See section 2 of the Conference Draft. Maui County, for instance, has already publicly said that they have no desire to consider this option.
I am pleased that the sidebar also begins to describe Mayor Hannemannâ€™s timetable for this mass transit proposal. It would now be useful to expand on this and to inform readers of the process and timetable involved in winning Federal Transportation Administration support and congressional approval for matching funds.
Perhaps because that process is not well understood, on Friday the Advertiser had this editorial that made some unattainable demands.
If the Legislature does the right thing and passes the optional county tax, it should come with two strong conditions:
* That no county actually impose the tax until and unless it has a fully developed, fiscally sound and publicly acceptable transit plan in place; and,
* That the state be specifically prohibited from reducing its financial support for a county that raises the tax. If the state cuts its support, then the optional tax becomes nothing more than a general tax increase.
On the first condition, however well-intentioned, I donâ€™t believe the federal timetable for this funding cycle allows that much time. The State and County are expected to pass something to show â€œgood faithâ€ but the bulk of the federal money wouldnâ€™t start to flow until after a (sure to be long and contentious) exploration of the transit plan details and alternatives. Iâ€™m not an expert on the minutiae of this topic, but Iâ€™ve talked to others who are more familiar with it that I trust. It is not necessary (or helpful) to dive in without looking, but to even become a player in the federal money game local governments have to start wading in, and soon. That said, this condition is a useful suggestion to make to the Counties should they choose to begin drafting the enacting ordinance. Counties could stipulate that continuing the surcharge after the planning and design phase will be contingent upon attaining certain milestones along the federal funding path, for instance. Iâ€™m not endorsing that idea right away, but it could be worth considering.
The second condition is, well, wishful thinking. There is no way to prevent the State (i.e. the Legislature) from amending (or repealing) laws in the future. Nor, in my opinion, should there be any restriction on that power except in narrowly defined arenas. A power that drastic would require a Constitutional amendment. It is too late to propose any legislation for a ConAm this year, of course.
This applies to the counties, too. Should any county enact a surcharge and the federal money dries up (or never comes) they could repeal the surcharge.
UPDATE: Now that the Advertiser has a Saturday edition online, they have this story on the GET. It provides a great summary that captures the content, if not all the intrigue, of the conference committee negotiations. In this cae I think focusing the report more on the outcome than on the process is wise, even if that choice is forced upon them by lack of insight into the process or a need to protect sources. Sometimes the process is drama, sometimes it is farce. To tell the conference story more completely would take a lot of column inches, a lot of time, potentially compromise their future access to reliable sources, and probably bore most readers to tears. That applies to me, too.
Take a break
â€” Doug @ 5:17 am
Just a warning that Friday is probably going to be a day without much (if any) posting. Iâ€™ve got plans for the evening, if you know what I mean.
While Iâ€™m on the subject, you might as well know that in mid-May Iâ€™ll be away on a sailing trip for a few weeks and the blog will lie dormant then. Iâ€™m a seafaring guy, these gigs will be a fairly regular occurrence. Another one in July (for the Trans Pac race) and then a third trip, to the North Pole(!), for all of August and September.
The latter two trips might allow some internet access, weâ€™ll see.
Student BOR nominee rejected in committee
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:07 pm
Senator Hee has dispatched another Board of Regents nominee appearing before his Committee, this time for the student member position. The SB has this account of the hearing. The Hawaii Reporter has one, too, but their piece is (as usual) a bit more bombastic.
From the Advertiser:
The Senate Higher Education Committee voted against the appointment of Dylan Nonaka by a 4-1 party-line vote. The move came even though committee Chairman Clayton Hee appeared pleased with many of Nonakaâ€™s responses to questions from senators.
â€œWhatâ€™s troublesome to the committee is the number of individuals who testified in opposition,â€ said Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe).
Compare to the Hawaii Reporter piece posted before the actual hearing:
Only this time, Hee is focusing his Abu Graib-like [sic] interrogation tactics on a popular student at the University of Hawaii-Hilo â€“ Senate student council vice president elect Dylan W. J. Nonaka.
Nonaka, a local boy and former U.S. Marine, was nominated last week by the governor as the student representative to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and is up for confirmation today at 2 p.m.
But Hee and a handful of radical student and teacher activists at U.H. Hilo from a group called Global Hope, known for its anti-war protests and speech against America, have been rallying against Nonaka behind the scenes. Hee has been soliciting by email negative testimony from these activists in an effort to justify his reported plan to knock down Nonaka?s confirmation.
Wow, thatâ€™s a pretty thorough smear, isnâ€™t it? Was Senator Hee given any chance to address those allegations? Apparently not. Any evidence of this alleged conspiracy or was it so far â€œbehind the scenesâ€ that it is impossible to verify? Sheesh.
Just to remind readers, every public hearing notice â€œsolicits testimonyâ€ from interested parties. This group, or any other person, has every right to participate as they choose; in support of, or in opposition to, the nominee. Apparently the Hawaii Reporter thinks that opposition to a nominee chosen by her the Governor is on its face inherently suspect. Hereâ€™s the oh-so-objective assessment of the group from the article:
But that did not stop radical leftist anti-war activist group on the U.H. Hilo campus from using the misquote of Nonaka to launch a campaign against him, even putting up posters against Nonaka on campus trying to rally others against him.
The nerve of those kids, eh? Who said they could express an opinion?! The next thing you know other groups will be using the internet and talk radio to organize marches in the Capitol rotundaâ€”but with less immediate effect. Heh.
Gasoline price cap almost sure to begin September 1
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:29 pm
The SB has another update on the legislation, or rather the lack thereof, to thwart the implementation of the gasoline price cap. Unlike last time, this piece provides a much better explanation of just what is (and is not) going on.
It appears as if Representative Moritaâ€™s HB 863 (which would gather data from the petroleum industry to allow DBEDT to better monitor the industry) will die in the crossfire because Senator Menor realizes that if he conferences on the bill Representative Hiraki will try again to insert the language to require the Governor to authorize the gasoline price cap to go into effect.
Hiraki (D, Kakaako-Downtown) raised the possibility of a floor amendment and said he is not willing to concede until final action comes next week. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn next Thursday.
I donâ€™t lay good odds on that floor amendment strategy. Hereâ€™s why: For a floor amendment to proceed they would have to find another bill with a suitably broad title to encompass the amendment. Whatever bill they chose, the bills underlying (original) content would instantly be in jeopardy of not becoming law because if the Senate did not succeed in overcoming Senator Menorâ€™s objection and the floor amendment did not pass in the Senate it would mean that the (floor amended) House version of the bill and the Senate version of the bill are not the same; effectively killing the bill. At this point of the session most of the bills still moving are dear to some significant constituency, and those legislators will not lightly entertain the prospect that their hard-fought bill could die by pursuing this shenanigan.
That said, the very unusual mention in a Senate standing committee report of a failed attempt to amend HB 863 does raise a significant question of Senator Menorâ€™s ability to beat back a challenge to his prior concurrence as Chair of the subject matter committee.
HPD vice allegations linger
â€” Doug @ 6:03 pm
The dailies both have stories spawned by recent remarks by HPD Chief Boisse Correa regarding the officers alleged to have been involved with illegal gambling. The Advertiser piece is here, while the SB piece is here.
The Chief has no new information to report. The only news is that the police officers union (SHOPO) is trying to have the officers put back on the payroll while the ongoing investigation continues. According to the Advertiser article after 30 days of leave without pay the department must â€œshow causeâ€ to prolong that leave.
Iâ€™d be interested to know if HPD has made any further gambling arrests while these officers are out of action. The investigation may have blown their undercover status, for instance, or in some other way made other potential suspects (HPD and non-HPD) much more careful and hard to implicate for criminal activity. The investigation might also compromise any pending charges against defendants charged with illegal gambling whose arrests may have in any way involved the officers under investigation. A micro-scale Ramparts debacle, if you will.
â€œItâ€™s a sad day that all of this is unraveling at this time,â€ said Correa, speaking after an awards ceremony at HPDâ€™s Alapaâ€™i Street headquarters yesterday.
Usually the story from this event is a feel-good catalog of the various officers being awarded for meritorious service. Not this time. The awardees are denied any accolades and overshadowed by the bad news.
Realtor unable to sell himself as conservtion advocate
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:38 pm
The Senate is not going to be accused this year of being a rubber stamp when asked to confirm Governor Lingleâ€™s nominees to serve on various boards and commissions. The SB has a report on a few of the latest nominees to the Board of Land and Natural Resources to be turned away.
[Senator] Kokubun said members put tough questions to the real estate agents because they wanted to be sure that they would uphold the boardâ€™s constitutional duty to protect the stateâ€™s natural resources.
Unconvinced, Kokubun advised Gov. Linda Lingleâ€™s chief of staff, Bob Awana, that the two did not have the votes to get out of his committee.
[Failed nominee] Lowson, currently president of the Hawaii Association of Realtors, said yesterday he regretted he was unable to convince senators that a real-estate person could also be conservation advocate.
Maybe a real-estate person could advocate for public lands, but the President of the realtors? A pretty strange choice on Lingleâ€™s behalf. Also, the Hawaii Association of Realtors is one of the most vociferous opponents to the proposal to authorize the Counties to increase the GET for transit purposes, just to remind readers. We are not told exactly what questions and answers led to Kokubunâ€™s disapproval, unfortunately. Also too bad that article names but does not give any detail about the other withdrawn nominee, Berton Hamamoto. Who da guy?
Hamamoto is a politically active realtor, too. Had they both been confirmed it would have only added to my fears that LNR is abandoning its mandate on Lingleâ€™s watch. However, I predict her interim appointments could be two more people of the same mindset.
Local media surfaces on Abercrombieâ€™s action
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:11 pm
The SB has this article today that seems to be the only local mention of the story I saw in the Washington Post and commented on Tuesday. Nothing more to really say, just like the WaPo this piece says that Congressman Abercrombie amended an ethics filing to clarify how a lobbyist that originally paid for a trip to Boston was then repaid by the non-profit group that invited him to their gathering. Were it not for the Tom DeLay flap, this would not even bear mentioning.
Aloha, Haleakala Times readers
â€” Doug @ 4:43 pm
I donâ€™t know how many people might take notice, but this fledgling blog of mine got a brief mention in this Haleakala Times story. Hooray.
Now, if only they would do something about that awful typesetting at their website. It almost hurts my eyes to read it. Ugh.
Legislators to handle ethics complaints in-house?
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:42 pm
Another batch of items on ethics today. The highest profile being this Advertiser piece that discusses a request from Representative Meyer to the House Speaker to investigate the (un-named) House members who co-signed the letter to Norwegian Cruise Line on behalf of a former employee terminated after allegations of sexual harassment. The Hawaii Reporter has the full text of Meyerâ€™s request here. In her piece, Meyer writes:
In our democracy it is important for the people to trust those who represent them. As elected officials, senators and representatives are servants to their communities, not promoters of petty, private vendettas.
Meyer should have made it more clear who she is referring to when she says â€œcommunitiesâ€ and who she is referring to when she says â€œprivate vendetta.â€ Heh. One could interpret â€œcommunitiesâ€ to include those homosexuals wrongfully dismissed from employment and the â€œpromoter of a petty vendettaâ€ to mean NCL. But if I made that interpretation then I would be guilty of voicing an opinion without considering all the factsâ€”just as Meyer has done in her request. Meyerâ€™s request really doesnâ€™t seek an investigation of the facts, her mind is made upâ€”she seeks punishment.
Moving on. After a brief hiatus, Representative Schatzâ€™s blog is back with a post riffing on a theme reminiscent of Borrecaâ€™s recent column in favor of a standing legislative Committee on Ethics.
The establishment of such a committee would demonstrate that we will treat ethical accusations and transgressions seriously. In addition, it would help those who are being unfairly hanged in the court of public opinion, to clear their name.
Schatz wants to model this Committee on the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct at the U.S. Congress, but without the dubious rules that are (for now) propping up House Majority Leader Tom Delay. Realistically, itâ€™s too late to establish this new Standing Committee in the two weeks remaining of the session. That may not be necessary, however, since Hawaii House Rules , particularly Rule 27.13 and Rule 28.3 would seem to be able to take up these issues.
Representative Meyer appears to want something like a Rule 28.3 investigation. But, according to HRS Chapter 21, any investigative committee established pursuant to Rule 27.13 requires a resolution or a law to begin. There may not be a majority of the House in favor of such a resolution to begin an investigation.
Out of curiosity, I had a look at the National Council of State Legislatures website to see what they had to say on Ethics. I found a lot of information, but hereâ€™s a taste from a short primer on Ethics Commissions and Ethics Committees there is this:
Why do many states have two entities, a committee and commission, to address the same issue of legislative ethics? One reason is because the public tends to question the validity of a government who regulates their own ethical conduct.
Courts have upheld state legislaturesâ€™ right to set and impose its own ethical rules, usually based on a separation of powers ruling. Despite the legality of the action, our government is â€œof the peopleâ€ and must respond to the publicâ€™s skepticism, warranted or not. The question then lay in the validity of internal versus external oversight.
The NCSL also has this succinct chart that summarizes the differences between an Ethics Commission (which Hawaii has), and Legislative Ethics Committees (which we donâ€™t have). The chart is flawed, in my view, in that it says that every state has an ethics committee in some form. In Hawaii, according to their so-called comprehensive list by state, the NCSL says that the House Committee on Legislative Management handles this topic, but in practice (and according to the Committee description in the House Rules) I would disagree. I count only 26 states that have a Committee with the actual word â€œEthicsâ€ in its title.
Letters to the Editor bonanza
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:40 pm
I suppose readers might expect me to comment on the â€œno tax reliefâ€ articles in both Honolulu dailies today. However, I donâ€™t want to play along. I could churn out something banal about it, but Iâ€™ll spare you. Instead I will blog about the things that interest me. Trust me, I think youâ€™ll prefer that I not write about uninteresting topicsâ€”my writing needs all the help it can get, ha ha.
Enough on that, what did interest me today was all the interesting arguments found on the Advertiser letters to the editor area.
The first one Iâ€™ll mention is a letter about Representative Glenn Wakai submitted by one of his supporters:
A year ago, feral chickens were causing us many sleepless nights. When Glenn found out about our troubles, he bought a trap and caught 21 chickens himself. He didnâ€™t pass off the project to someone else. He was climbing in our backyard every other day, for seven weeks. How many elected officials would go to such great lengths to help their neighbors?
Every politician promises to work hard, but few respond like Glenn. We think itâ€™s great that he can get the media to highlight his good work. Maybe the news coverage will encourage others to provide innovative and hands-on solutions. Glenn breaks the mold of a politician and is a true community leader.
If a feral rooster crows in your neighborhood and Representative Wakai captures it without any media attention, did it make a noise? ha ha. â€œMaybe the news coverage will encourage others to provide innovative and hands-on solutions.â€ Yeah, maybe. Donâ€™t hold your breath. In a curious coincidence, the immediately preceding letter was from a writer fed up with coqui frogs. If Wakai tackles that problem without issuing a press release then his constituents would have something to crow about.
Up next was a letter from an HGEA negotiating committee member responding to Governor Lingleâ€™s harsh comments about the arbitrated award:
What Gov. Lingle also failed to mention is that [the State] did not want to negotiate salaries with HGEA. She contends that they offered 1.5 percent and 4 percent increases. But when? The last day final positions had to be submitted is when we had no chance to respond. Thatâ€™s why we ended up in an arbitration hearing.
If Gov. Lingle doesnâ€™t like binding arbitration, common sense would tell you to negotiate in good faith to avoid it.
A more objective source for this argument would be better, but the underlying point is well-taken. Keep this in mind, however: Governor Lingle would like to see binding arbitration repealed (again), so to that end it is instrumental to exercise the process a few times in order to highlight the unfavorable (in her view) arbitration awards and thereby perhaps build public demand for a repeal. Itâ€™s harder to run on the anti-arbitration issue if arbitration really has not been demostrated to be a problem, is my point. Agreeing to a contract before arbitration likely would have required Lingle to accept an even more costly deal, since HGEA could run out the clock on any lower offers and go to arbitration, or not, as they pleased. The Governor needed to lose this battle to have any hope of winning her war against arbitration.
Last, we have this letter from Representative Morita in response to Lee Catalunaâ€™s latest column in Sundayâ€™s Advertiser.
We fully understand that itâ€™s crucial that victims have legal access to protection, but when TROs are abused and used as a sword instead of a shield, this significantly affects, and potentially severs, the irreplaceable relationship between a parent and a child.
This bill would require that the TRO petition be part of the overall case review, and not the sole criteria that hamstrings a judgeâ€™s discretion to determine what is in the best interest of the child.
After Catalunaâ€™s first piece I had posted similar thoughts. Catalunaâ€™s new column is just as flawed as the first, and Moritaâ€™s response is quite restrained. Cataluna had said:
There are other points that erode the TRO protections, but the worst is that the person asking for the restraining order has to prove that PHYSICAL abuse has occurred. Not just property damage, not just kicking the dog, breaking dishes and slashing the tires, not just saying â€œIâ€™m gonna get you.â€
This is an important point for those who dreamed up this bill. This is what they want:
â€œSpecifying that abuse allegations to support a PO or TRO involve actual physical abuse or threats of physical abuse that would likely result in actual physical abuse.â€
So all the rest of the crazy, abusive, controlling, scary stuff is supposed to just be ignored.
Where did that â€œwhat they wantâ€ quote come from? She does not say. It is not from any draft of HB 1378, as far as I can tell online. Maybe a conference draft proposal? I dunno. If it isnâ€™t in the bill, it wonâ€™t be part of the law; I do know that.
In any case, saying, â€œIâ€™m gonna get youâ€ would have to be considered a threat of physical abuse and would support a PO (protective order) or TRO (temporary restraining order). Breaking dishes, kicking dogs, and damaging property is indeed crazy, abusive, controlling, scary behavior. It should also result in a PO or TRO.
However, that is the type of behavior that a judge could reconsider when deciding to deny or restrict custody or visitation from a parent. If on second review a judge still finds it worrisome enough, then custody or visitation should be restricted or denied. Another option, a reasonable alternative which Cataluna omits, is that the court can provide for supervised contact with the childâ€”so long as the bad behavior leading to the PO or TRO is not directed at the child.
People lie under oath all the time, from traffic court to Congress.
But how often does it happen at Family Court? There is a crucial question that has not been answered. The Legislature has heard anecdotal testimony, but there hasnâ€™t been any quantitative evidence.
Itâ€™s pretty hard to imagine that this is occurring often enough to warrant a change in the state law designed to protect the lives and safety of victims of domestic abuse. The process of applying for a temporary restraining order is so odious, soul-sucking and sad, itâ€™s hard to fathom many people putting themselves through that with nothing but lies in their hearts.
So her argument is that if occasionally a parent is denied visitation and custody rights because the other parent lied during a PO or TRO hearing that is the price we have to be willing to pay for safety. There shold be no need for supporters of the bill to quantify the frequency of that outcome. â€œHard to imagine this occurring often enough?â€ She acknowledges herself that it happens, and even once is too much. Following her logic, since most jury trials end in conviction we should simply lock the accused up after the preliminary hearing and plea. If defendants donâ€™t like it, they can always appeal, right?
Not in my judicial system, thank you. Denying contact with ones own child is arguably as bad as, or worse than, any other punishment the State can impose, we must guarantee strict due process before taking that step.
The Legislature has no business eroding current TRO laws. If they want divorce reform, call it that. If they want to help the kids, pay for alternatives to violence- and family-counseling programs. If they want to help fathers who feel wronged by their exes, support hoâ€™oponopono or family mediation. And if they want to â€œfixâ€ Family Court, put more money into the system.
Those are all worthy goals, but they donâ€™t remedy the problem the bill seeks to resolve. More money and alternative programs canâ€™t provide due process to a parent fighting to retain custody or visitation, only amending the PO/TRO law guarantees due process.
Act 50 repeal bill finalized
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 4:55 pm
I didnâ€™t want this to without some comment even though I have little to add. I am glad to see news in the Advertiser that Act 50 will likely be repealed and a law more focused on illegal squatters could take its place. Credit is due to Senator Bunda to coming around to the prevailing viewpoint, allowing the conference committee to proceed, and endorsing this proposal that repeals a law that he introduced at the request of his own district.
Iâ€™m not a huge fan of this particular alternative which creates a misdemeanor offense, but as I wrote earlier, Act 50 simply has to go.
â€” Doug @ 7:05 pm
I saw this link on Dave Winerâ€™s blog about some new outfit marketing itself as a â€œBlogging Relationsâ€ firm.
I suppose it really isnâ€™t a surprise. Flacks exist to spin, and in their eyes (and the eyes of their clients) the world of blogs must appear to be hopelessly â€œunderspun.â€ It is a bit amusing to think that some company would pay these BR folks for consulting. Clients could easily acquire using Technorati, Feedster, and the like enough information to keep tabs on their own image in the blog worldâ€”all without cost.
Anyway, I like it better where it is journalists, bloggers, and readers against the PR/BR machine. I trust the blog world will be quick to reveal the more clumsy attempts at BR. The more subtle stuff is already out there and it hasnâ€™t killed the medium yet.
Still, I must admit my first reaction was, â€œSheesh, have blogs jumped the shark already?!â€
Teacher pay raises spun much differently than HGEA award
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:52 pm
Itâ€™s instructive to compare the Advertiser, SB, and Hawaii Reporter versions of the new contract up for ratification by members of the Hawaii State Teachersâ€™ Association. The contract is comparable to the HGEA arbitrated award, but the coverage reveals less gnashing of teeth from the Governor.
I begin with the Hawaii Reporter piece, which keys in on how this new contract would affect the implementation of Act 51 of 2004. Specifically the potential impact on the School Community Councils that were included in the Act instead of establishing decentralized elected local school boards (which mostly Republicans supported).
However any hope the Democrat majority in the Legislature had of decentralization disappears with this contract. Now the union can negate any policy decision the [School Community] Councils make.
Democrats ignored a plea from Hawaiiâ€™s Republican governor to decentralize the public education system by creating at least seven locally elected school boards, which could make decisions more on a local level and allow the people in the system more independence.
Wait just a minute, the Democratic majority in the Legislature is to blame for a new contract negotiated by the Republican governor? Assuming that the contract indeed gives the union this power to negate policy decisions (which may not be a valid assumption without having personally read the agreement myself), this concession was agreed to by the Governor. If anyone gave away the farm on this issue, it was not the Legislature. Nor is there any arbitrator to pin the blame on; the Governor was quick to remind everyone how much better a negotiated settlement is compared to arbitration:
â€œThe agreement between the state and HSTA is an example of how the negotiation process between unions and government employers is supposed to work. Through open dialogue at the bargaining table, and without being bound by a third-party arbitrator, all the parties were able to reach a fair agreement.â€
If the union now has that power to overrule the School Community Councils it may have been granted only to tempt the union into actions that the Governor hopes will motivate more support for decentralized elected public school boards. Or maybe the Governorâ€™s negotiator just caved in. Or maybe the agreement really doesnâ€™t grant the union anything of the sort. What do you think? I dunno.
Moving on, the SB piece about the settlement mentions some contract discussion pertaining to the No Child Left Behind Act:
Throughout the negotiations, the HSTA has complained about the mushrooming paperwork, time demands and other pressures that divert teachers from their core teaching responsibilities.
These stem from increased pressure to monitor student progress and prepare students for the high-stakes standards-based testing that determines whether a school is in compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The act levees sanctions on schools that fail to comply.
The union, however, did not win concessions from the state on this issue. Instead, it won an agreement to establish a committee of teachers, Department of Education officials and Board of Education members to analyze the problem and issue a report by June 30, 2007, the final day of the new contract.
Iâ€™m not even sure the State could negotiate about the implementation of a federal law, but whatever. â€œAsk for the impossible, get a report,â€ is a much better tactic from the union than, â€œask for a report, get blown off.â€ Heh.
Last, the Advertiser piece gets a wide range of reactions from teachers, including one that reveals a bit of distrust of their own union:
Randy Myers, a teacher at Sunset Beach Elementary, said he was hopeful but cautious. Past experiences with the state Department of Education and HSTA have made him leery, he said.
â€œI donâ€™t trust the DOE, as a veteran teacher, nor do I trust the union on this until I really explore the details on it,â€ Myers said. â€œI am suspicious when thereâ€™s such a quick turnaround on the ratification. Theyâ€™ve done this with previous contracts, where the unionâ€™s out there just beating the drum and rallying the forces and giving statements about how wonderful this is and everything. And I hope it is, but Iâ€™m not so sure.â€
A fair stance to take. The teachers vote on Thursday and then weâ€™ll have some idea of what they think of the deal.
Superfery has harbor modifications, support in hand; poised for court
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:11 pm
The Advertiser published this article about changes made to the Executive Budget in conference committee. One of the changes they report is the bond funding for Superferry harbor improvements have been replaced after the Senate had previously removed them.
On that same topic, the SB has their own piece about a public opinion poll conducted on behalf of the Superferry that found strong public support of the concept.
It looks as if the Superferry now needs only to fend off the lawsuits demanding an EIS and then will be able proceed. I donâ€™t know how likely it is that they can resolve that before exceeding their own self-described project deadline, but maybe that deadline was more of a legislative debating point than a hard-and-fast criterion to proceed. Heh.
Iâ€™d still like somebody to follow up on Senator Tsutsuiâ€™s earlier claim that there were others looking to enter the ferry market, unless that was only political gamesmanship, too. Whoever that potential competitor is, they probably donâ€™t have $40M in harbor improvements lined upâ€¦
Marshesâ€™ importance recognized
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:13 pm
The Advertiser has another story that is local news for me. This time itâ€™s a report that Kawai Nui Marsh and Hamakua Marsh, just over the ridge from me, have been named Wetlands of International Importance.
The Kailua wetlands are the first in the state, joining 21 others throughout the nation and more than 1,400 worldwide that have been cited under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty designed to identify and protect the worldâ€™s most important wetlands.
That sounds promising, but I had trouble determining what type of â€œprotectionâ€ this actually provides for the two marshes. The article basically leaves it as an assertion, but even the Ramsar website is vague. I suspect that this designation, like many international agreements, probably doesnâ€™t have much/any legal weight should there be any threat to the areas. As far as I can tell, this designation will â€œraise awarenessâ€ and result in some fancy signage. Hooray.
The designation had strong community support. Hawaiâ€™iâ€™s Thousands Friends was joined in recommending the designation by the National Audubon Society, The Outdoor Circle, Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club, Hawaiâ€™i Federation of Garden Clubs, Kailua Neighborhood Board, â€˜Ahahui Malama I Ka Lokahi, Les Jardin Windward Oâ€™ahu Academy, Pohai Nani Good Samaritan Retirement Community, Kailua Historical Society and Waihona â€˜Aina Corp. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Honolulu City Council, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Gov. Linda Lingle, U.S. Rep. Ed Case and others also backed it.
With that group of supporters itâ€™s not likely the marshes will be threatened, at least not anytime soon, but some sort of federal or state protection would be even better.
DeLay probe has Abercrombie on best behavior
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 4:55 pm
Itâ€™s not often I get to link to a Washington Post article, but this one mentions an Ethics Committee report that I had not heard of locally. Congressman Abercrombie is one of several politicians mentioned who have recently come forward as a result of the burst of interest in ethics rules among lawmakers in D.C.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) even asked the ethics committee to investigate him after a reporter for the newspaper Roll Call pointed out that a travel disclosure form from 2001 listed the lobbying firm Rooney Group International as paying for a $1,782 trip to Boston, which would be a violation of House rules.
Abercrombieâ€™s aides said they have since determined that the lobbying firmâ€™s expenses were reimbursed by the nonprofit group that Abercrombie addressed on the trip, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. House rules state that the prohibition against lobbyists paying for membersâ€™ travel applies â€œeven where the lobbyist . . . will later be reimbursed for those expenses by a non-lobbyist client.â€
Just recently I commented that if the Hawaii legislature were to establish an ethics committee it would probably sit on its hands most of the time, just like in D.C. However, it now seems that the D.C. ethics committees are starting to get a bit more active.
The threats and maneuvering mark the end of an ethics truce that has existed between the parties since the battles that led to the downfall of House speakers Jim Wright (D-Tex.) in 1989 and Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1998. Since then, the parties have largely refrained from filing charges against each other out of a calculation that they both lose in such contests.
The anthill has been kicked, now letâ€™s see what happens.
Kalapaâ€™s unique interpretation of cigarette taxes
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:31 pm
Lowell Kalapa of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii has this rambling wide-ranging op-ed in the latest West Hawaii Today. Should I ever see a positive comment from Kalapa regarding any change in tax policy it would shock me so much Iâ€™d probably faint. Iâ€™m a willfully naive halfwit, when compared to his perpetual cynicism.
Anyway, his first theme in this column is that the Counties will be tempted to use any increase in GET to pay for public employee raises, even though it is intended to fund mass transit needs. Never mind that the bill hasnâ€™t even emerged from conference committee. Never mind that in many of its previous drafts HB 1309 limits how the additional revenues may be spent by the Counties that choose to increase the GET.
Moving from that topic, next he lobs out this weird argument about the possibility of increasing cigarette taxes:
In the case of the increase in the tax on cigarettes, lawmakers seem to rationalize the increase on the basis that this particular product is bad for oneâ€™s health and that by raising the tax on cigarettes the higher expense will force smokers to quit. That seems illogical if one argues that smoking is addictive and unless one truly wants to quit, those who smoke will continue to do so. What a higher tax and, therefore higher prices, will probably do will be to push smokers to find other sources for their fix. This means illegal and untaxed product will be pursued by smokers.
Not only does this mean that tax collections will be affected, but the amount that the state receives from the tobacco companies as part of the master settlement agreement reached several years ago with the states and the companies will be affected. This is because the amount that each state receives is based on the consumption of cigarettes in that particular state. A migration of where smokers buy the product will affect the consumption numbers and therefore how much Hawaii receives under the settlement.
First, a bit of bad news for Kalapaâ€™s little spiel: SB 1236 is not moving, there is no increase in the cigarette tax in the legislative pipeline. The bill died in the House.
UPDATE: Iâ€™ve noticed HB 1465 is still technically moving, but there has been no conference meeting scheduled as of yet. The rest of the post still applies, in any case.
Nevertheless, his argument is too damn wacky to pass up, so Iâ€™ll take the easy shot. The â€œrationalizationâ€ behind the bill is not simply that it will make smokers quit smoking. The higher cigarette tax would have been intended to prevent young smokers from starting to smoke, and to encourage addicted smokers to try to quit.
His observation that by raising the cigarette tax we will encourage the use of illegal drugs is a non sequitur. If it were true that users compared tax rates and dosage prices before choosing their means of addiction, then: nobody who was a strict anti-taxation zealot would smoke and all such people would instead use illegal drugs; and, nobody who was strictly price conscious would pass up the relatively inexpensive (compared to illegal drugs) per-dose price of cigarettes. Some economists may be smokers, but not all smokers are economists (too bad about that, heh). Nevermind the fact that smokers can buy, posess, transport, sell and ultimately smoke cigarettes with no fear of being arrested. Thatâ€™s worth a few extra cents per dose, at least.
His next point, that if fewer people buy cigarettes Hawaii will get less tobacco settlement money is technically true, but incredibly myopic. Does he really mean to suggest that the State should be lowering taxes on cigarettes to increase cigarette sales and thereby maximize our share of the tobacco settlement money? Thatâ€™s absurd. He might just as well also suggest that we provide cigarettes to the older population in order to hasten their deaths and lessen our long-term healthcare costsâ€¦
Okay, this post is dragging on, so Iâ€™ll wrap up with this:
Unfortunately, it appears that the poor taxpayer will end up on the cutting room floor again. Not only will there probably be no relief for you, the taxpayer, but there is every possibility that lawmakers will turn up the heat on taxpayers. Lawmakers will probably get away with it again because the taxpayer is too busy working two or more jobs just to try and make ends meet.
Itâ€™s the same with darn near everything coming out of his organization, but in case you missed it, hereâ€™s the unspoken (but obvious) rhetorical frame for his column: only tax relief benefits the taxpayer. Mass transit does not help the taxpayer. Addressing public health problems does not help the taxpayer. Offering competitive salaries to attract and retain good government workers does not help the taxpayer. You get the point.
Kalapa is a one trick pony. â€œAll taxes are bad.â€ Yawn.
Public needs to know traffic danger zones
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:27 pm
This Advertiser editorial provides a brief follow-up to an earlier post about the DOT sharing traffic safety data with the public.
The DOT consultantâ€™s contract promises â€œeasy extractionâ€ of select data entries, so that barrier could be reasonably surmounted.
The Office of Information Practices has ruled that the data is [sic] indeed public property, and transportation officials recently directed The Advertiser to work with its computer experts on a solution.
Taxpayers deserve access to information that can guide all of us toward greater safety on our roads. The state must provide solutions to make that happen quickly and efficiently.
Weâ€™ll see how â€œquickly and efficientlyâ€ those data arrive, and how fast the Advertiser can assemble them into a usable form and present a follow-up article to their first report. Okay, credit where credit is due, theirs is actually the second report Iâ€™ve seen.
State budget difficult for non-specialists to parse
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:06 pm
Another timely and interesting piece from Borreca in the SB today, this one about the complexity of the Executive Budget and the expertise required to understand it.
There are few people in the state with that depth of knowledge of the stateâ€™s arcane budget details, [Senate Ways and Means Chairman] Taniguchi said.
â€œRod (Tanonaka, Ways and Means chief clerk) is one of the five best persons in the state to understand the budget, and right now he is probably tops,â€ Taniguchi said.
Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai), who has sat on five conference committees, admits that when it comes to the budget, the House and Senate clerks are some of the most powerful people at the Legislature.
â€œWhen we make a first pass at the budget, that first pass is from details prepared by the staff. â€¦ I would say that the WAM and House finance staff has more power than most senators or representatives, but they have been working with the numbers all year long,â€ Slom said.
Iâ€™m not sure if Senator Slom is lamenting this fact, or just noting it for the record. In either case, it pretty much has to be like this. Any document that complex requires a fully-focused staff to scrutinize and to make adjustments. Legislators have thousands of bills to review, these people have ONE and it is plenty.
Over the years, Taniguchi says, the budget negotiations between his committee and the House Finance Committee, led by Rep. Dwight Takamine (D, Hawi-Hilo), have mellowed.
â€œBefore, it used to be much more of a battle. You would see which side could come up with the best information on a program to trump the other side. Now it is more collaborative.
â€œWe prepare our separate budgets and we go into conference. It is much more a matching of the notes on each side,â€ Taniguchi says.
If there is to be sharp disagreement, it is with the majority Democrats and Republican Lingle.
Actually, that disagreement with the Governorâ€™s office was also the case in the past; i.e. even when the Democrats controlled the Legislature and the Executive. Now that the Republicans control the Executive, it is a bit surprising that there are no Republican legislative staff producing their own worksheets to affirm or rebut the Governorâ€™s budget submissions. Or do such people exist and they simply donâ€™t have any input in the process?
If these staff donâ€™t exist, they should. The Republicans could now at least expect full cooperation from the Executive departments under the Lingle administration, something that would be unlikely in the days of a Democratic governor. In the â€œbad old daysâ€ they would have no budget worksheets and would be stonewalled by the Executive departmentsâ€”back then they had a good reason to decry the budget conference process.
Now, however, if Republican legislators want any kind of meaningful input into the process, they should refer to their own data from their own staff. Clearly, â€œmatching notes from both sidesâ€ doesnâ€™t mean much to Republicans when both sides are of the Democratic party.
Marimed facing serial theives
â€” Doug @ 4:53 pm
This is a story from my own neighborhood and it involves boats, so I took special interest. You may not care, but itâ€™s my blog. Heh. Anyway, itâ€™s based upon this SB story about a string of thefts from the Marimed Foundation.
Marimed is a really cool program that â€œuses activities on and around the ocean to help Hawai`iâ€™s young men make the often stormy passage through adolescence. â€ They used to have a run-down, but handsome, topsail schooner anchored in Kaneohe Bay. That vessel became a bit much to operate, so they now have a slightly smaller vessel. They take troubled young men out to sea and teach them all the lessons that such travel inherently entails.
Anyway, their shoreside facilities are repeatedly being hit by thieves who take their support boats and other equipment. This really sucks. Even though the gear is locked up, I suppose these are the risks of leaving boats moored overnight in relatively secluded spots. I sure hope they catch the thief. The incident where a thief took a small boat when it was tied off overnight to the Makani Olu was especially harsh. You simply DONâ€™T steal a dinghy tied to a ship with people onboard; if anything happens onboard and they need to go to shore they are stranded!
Stealing from non-profits is just bad karma, to boot.
Poi may help fight colon cancer
â€” Doug @ 4:47 pm
Visit this site often! Tell your friends! It could save you by protecting your colon, according to this Advertiser report!
In a laboratory experiment, an extract of poi, placed in a test tube with colon cancer cells from rats, inhibited the cancer cells from dividing. The extract, when combined with rat white blood cells, promoted their growth.
So, there you have it: scientific proof that this is a healthy blogâ€”for a ratâ€™s okole.
Hey, Iâ€™ll take whatever accolades I can get, ha ha.
Affordable rent, but what about affordable home owning?
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:42 am
Representatie Nishimoto submitted this op-ed to the SB today. The piece comes close to answering some of the questions I want to see answered about affordable housing.
The rule of thumb for affordable rentals is to spend 30 percent of your gross income for rent. That means that a family of four earning $50,000 per year should be paying about $1,250 per month for rent.
Now weâ€™re getting somewhere. Letâ€™s extrapolate from that to consider what it may mean for home buying power for that family.
$50,000 per year is 74% of the $67,750 median income. Assuming a mortgage rate of 5.625% APR, that $1,250 monthly payment could buy a home on a 30 year mortgage selling for $217,000 according to this handy widget I came across. A family at 140% of the median income, earning $94,850 annually, could swing a payment of $2,370 per month and thereby afford a home selling for about $412,000.
Somebody should explain how any of the affordble housing bills still moving are going to help (m)any families at 140% of median income , much less at-(or below-)median-income families, to buy a home when the median selling price on Oahu is currently hovering around $550,000. I guess folks like me are trapped in the rental market forever?
Borreca on ethics
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:05 am
From this Borreca column in the SB today, it appears that he and I think somewhat alike regarding the sudden flood of ethics complaints.
His suggested response is this:
If the lawmakers wanted to put ethics on their â€œmust doâ€ list, they would also consider creating permanent, equally balanced legislative committees to handle ethics questions, then the public would have somewhere to go for action and answers.
A laudable idea. I would agree that prompt â€œaction and answersâ€ are missing from the Ethics Commission as currently conceived.
You knew there was a â€œbutâ€ coming, didnâ€™t you? But, any legislative committees established would face the same obstacle as the ethics committees at Congress. There could very likely be an unspoken truce because the members appointed to the committee would face political retribution from their colleagues if they ever broke partisan ranks to consider anything but the most egregious violations. If there were no ethical lapses this would not be an issue, but the mere need for a committee shows that there are ethical lapses and it also suggests the committee wouldnâ€™t function properly. Self-policing wonâ€™t work in most cases.
Carlisle takes SB to the woodshed
â€” Doug @ 8:46 am
I wish I could say that I knew from the start that there were problems with the story and that is why I didnâ€™t do a post about the allegations against Peter Carlisle in last weekendâ€™s SB. The truth is that I was sailing both days that weekend and just didnâ€™t have a lot of time for blogging, ha ha.
Anyway, in his op-ed this week Carlisle really makes a good argument that awarding a contract to his campaign manager may not have been unethical and rips into the SB for saying otherwise. The SB printed a â€œclarificationâ€ concerning the specific amount of the contract, but, so far as I can tell, maintains its editorial opinion.
The part of Carlisleâ€™s piece that swayed me the most is this:
Your editorial repeated what I told your reporter: â€œYou canâ€™t hire someone for working on your campaign. Thatâ€™s just dead, damn wrong. But you can give them a job if they are qualified for it and are capable of doing it well.â€ Your editorial then commented, â€œThat has been the rationale of numerous company officials who donated large amounts of money to former Mayor Jeremy Harris and then received contracts from the city.â€
There is a glaring difference between the hiring of Nakamuraâ€™s company and what was done in the campaign spending cases surrounding the Harris campaign. Working on a campaign or serving as a campaign chairman is perfectly legal. I believe such political associations and expressions are constitutionally protected and encouraged in our democracy. In the campaign spending cases, company officials engaged in money laundering, giving contributions under false names and exceeding campaign spending limits by bundling contributions. These activities are criminal acts that subvert our democratic process. The analogy in your editorial is blind to this obvious and essential fact. In a courtroom, such a flawed analogy would be torn to pieces.
Process servers are political punching bags for some reason. They serve an important purpose for the Judiciary to function smoothly, yet they are relegated to a hand-to-mouth existence that really only makes the work suitable as a second job. They frequently have turf battles wth other law enforcement bodies, and almost always lose. A big part of their problem is leadership, in my opinion, the leaders of the group consistently make strange political choices that backfire. But enough on them.
The bigger issue Iâ€™d like to comment on is campaign staff being hired by politicians after a campaign is concluded. Carlisle takes care to point out that (former HPD chief) Nakamura is well-qualified to provide process service to the County. That is an exceptionally non-partisan position, it requres some professionalism, but it is more or less a patronage appointment. However, many of the campaign staff subsequently hired by politicians are placed in professional positions that, as a result of those hirings, become much more political than they should.
A person skilled at helping a politician win an election has demonstrated some ability to approach issues with an eye for votersâ€™ reaction. For discussion purposes, letâ€™s call the person â€œRove.â€ Once given a job after the election with the winning candidate I think it is expecting too much from Rove to set those electoral concerns aside. It is naive to expect Rove to counsel the politician on the merits and demerits of an idea without regard for the political impact. The proper task of the staff is to be objective, in my opinion. The electoral impact of a policy should stay as submerged as possible, or, at the very least, Rove should supply those comments after the objective options are brought forth from a different member of the staff. Rove should not have undue influence.
Bill expanding fair-housing laws sent to Governor
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:58 am
Yet another follow-up on the compromise bill to provide protection against discrimination in housing while exempting the BYU-Hawaii from its reach. This latest Advertiser article informs that HB 1715 is on its way to the Governor for her signature or veto.
Not much new to report on the bill itself, but it seems the opponents are sounding off in hopes of a veto.
Rep. Mark Moses, R-40th (Makakilo, Kapolei, Royal Kunia), said he voted against the bill because heâ€™s bothered by language that refers to â€œa personâ€™s actual or perceived gender.â€
â€œWe all know youâ€™re not supposed to discriminate for any reason; itâ€™s already law,â€ he said. â€œBut now weâ€™re adding this thing about â€˜perceived identity.â€™ I donâ€™t know perceived by who ? perceived by me or perceived by the person that Iâ€™m looking at.â€
Is Representative Moses being intentionally obtuse? Hereâ€™s how the bill defines gender expression or identity:
â€œGender identity or expressionâ€ includes a personâ€™s actual or perceived gender, as well as a personâ€™s gender identity, gender-related self-image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression, regardless of whether that gender identity, gender-related self-image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression is different from that traditionally associated with the personâ€™s sex at birth.
The â€œpersonâ€ spoken of is the potential tenant, obviously. Is Representative Moses worried that a tenant may face discrimination if there is difficulty percieving the landlordâ€™s gender identity or expression? Iâ€™m unaware that there is a problem with that, but if Moses would like to provide protection for that type of oppression he should proceed with legislation next year, ha ha. Otherwise that sort of semantic quibbling only reveals a desperate (and failed) attempt to find a rational means of opposing this compromise bill.
City vehicles free to roost unmolested again
â€” Doug @ 7:35 am
The Advertiser has a report that officials have given up using GPS equipment to track parks department vehicles. Originally this was explained as a method to allow the vehicles and workers to be more efficiently dipatched to areas needing maintenance.
I seem to remember that it was also a method to crack down on city workers who, the story goes, would park their vehicles in secluded areas and take naps. Probably not a very good labor-management relations ploy to tout the system for that mission. Heh. Apparently even the managers didnâ€™t want it, so even that theory has its holes.
Harrisâ€™ former parks director, Bill Balfour, had said he had no use for the tracking equipment when it was first installed, Kobayashi said.
â€œThe parks director never asked for it and didnâ€™t want it,â€ she said.
Parks managers said they had no desire to track employees, which would have required putting a parks worker at the monitoring station rather than working in the parks, according to city Information Technology Director Gordon Bruce.
â€œThere was no desire on the part of management to deploy, so the system was not fixed or deployed,â€ said Bruce, who is now tasked with finding alternate uses for the equipment.
As for an alternate use for the equipment, I have this idea: install it on city vehicles (or maybe commercial vehicles willing to volunteer) and send these vehicles throughout the island during rush hour. Have a website where the public and the radio traffic reporters can see in real-time not only where traffic is backed up, but even how fast the traffic is flowing. (Amateur radio has this technology, so I know it exists) As drivers circulate the island this data could be useful for those about to choose a route or to make a decision on when to leave. This is not a â€œneed to haveâ€ project, but since the capital is already sunk, why not?
Advertiser suggests more hearings for Akaka Bill
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:11 am
The editors at the Advertiser have this piece arguing for another opportunity for the public to testify on the Akaka Bill.
Members of Hawaiâ€™iâ€™s congressional delegation have said that residents already expressed their thoughts during initial hearings held on Oâ€™ahu. At the time, those who testified represented the spectrum of views from the Hawaiian community. Some praised the notion as an imperfect but necessary step to secure the constitutionality of Hawaiian-only programs; others maintained that only restoration of complete sovereignty would suffice. But a voice clearly missing from that encounter is that of non-Hawaiian residents.
That was almost five years ago, and despite the significant political barriers that remain, many believe the billâ€™s prospects for passage have improved with bipartisan support from the stateâ€™s leadership and new allies signing on in the Senate.
Congressional staffers say hearings at this point in the game would be a step backward. Yet it is difficult to move forward with so many unanswered questions.
I will start by reminding readers that I am not an expert on this topic. I have at least read the bill, however. I also admit that I really donâ€™t know the legislative process at Congress with anything approaching my familiarity with the process in Hawaii.
As I understand the bill there will be months of debate and public participation established (should it pass and be signed by President â€œnot openly opposed to itâ€ Bush). Then the Congress would have to ratify whatever comes out of that process. Nothing of substance is going to sneak through â€œunder the radar,â€ because the Akaka Bill only sets up the groundrules for the substantive debate.
If non-Hawaiians did not participate in the past that is unfortunate. It is not unusual, however, for important legislation to slowly meander through the legislative process without comment from those who did not know what impact it could have on their interests.
The Advertiser should be careful what they wish for. All legislation could slowly grind to a halt if this rationale were to be applied widely and public hearings were provided until â€œunanswered questionsâ€ are resolved. This might lead to better government, but it would certainly maintain the status quo in the meantime. e.g. Superferry EIS, Hokulia, etc. The Native Hawaiians have been forced to wait too long already, in my opinion.
Regent nominee plans ethics complaint
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:47 am
Sheesh, twice in a month Iâ€™m consulting the Ethics Code?! This time Iâ€™m browsing in reaction to an Advertiser article about the campaign fundraiser tickets sent to John Kai.
Hee apologized on the floor of the Senate earlier this week for what he said was too much enthusiasm by staffers in distributing tickets and said the regent solicitations should not have happened. He said staff members have been admonished.
But he also said that it wasnâ€™t one person who confirmed or didnâ€™t confirm a candidate, it was 25 members of the Senate who voted 15-10 against Kai.
Asked for additional response yesterday, Hee said the law â€œprovides that you cannot send campaign material to state offices nor can you use state facilities for campaign purposes. As far as I know we did neither of the two.â€
There are Ethics Commission advisory opinions on the subjects of sending campaign material to state offices and on using state facilities for campaign purposes, that is true. Those opinions, however, are formed by Commissioners tasked with interpreting HRS Â§ 84. To that end, HRS Â§ 84-11 would seem to forbid a legislator from soliciting money from a nominee due to appear at a confirmation hearing. However, Hee did react as soon as this was brought to his attention, and those advisory opinions often take care to distinguish between behavior voluntarily halted before an Ethics Committee ruling and behavior that is ongoing at the time of the complaint.
Put up or shut up on vehicle confiscation, sez Lege to DOT
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:04 am
Drunk driving is not funny, but I still had to chuckle at the conundrum facing Governor Lingle over HB 919 described in this SB report.
I posted about this earlier. At each hearing the Honolulu Police Department opposed this bill. The bill allows for the confiscation of vehicles from drivers who are repeat DUI offenders. The HPD opposes the idea because it has insufficient space to store the vehicles, no funding to carry this out, and is concerned about liability while the vehicles are stored.
At every hearing the DOT supported the bill, piling on while the hapless HPD spokesperson took the heat from the legislators.
When the Senate finally listened to the HPD concerns and relieved them of the responsibility to store the vehicles by assigning the task to DOT, now the DOT has second thoughts. Hypocrisy much?
I think it will become law anyway. The effective date is July 1, 2007, so the Governor has ample time to resolve the storage problem. She almost does not dare to veto this bill, after all she has said about home rule for the counties, unfunded mandates, etc. Further, MADD is not a group for any politician to ignore, and they want this law badly.
BOR member denounces Senator Hee
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:49 am
The SB has an article that recounts the criticisms leveled at Senator Heeâ€™s treatment of John Kai at his recent failed confirmation hearings. The Hawaii Reporter has another piece on the same themes authored by a judicial nominee who was rejected by the Senate, Ted Hong.
At a meeting yesterday, regent Vice Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta asked for a formal resolution to express the boardâ€™s concern over Kaiâ€™s treatment before the Senate.
â€œThere is a political element to this that is completely inappropriate,â€ Lagareta said.
Regent Lagareta should go forward with her resolution, if for no other reason than I am curious to know what specifically she expects of a confirmation hearing as compared to what John Kai faced. She should know, of course, that a BOR resolution has even less weight than one from the Legislature. Heh.
The need for a policy about UH employees splitting their time with legislative work is a valid concern for the BOR to address, too. Dr. Agbayani has resigned from Senator Heeâ€™s staff, but the policy that found her becoming an advisor for Hee is not new (nor is it unique to UH, other agencies occasionally â€œloanâ€ workers to the Legislature during the session). Agbayani administered a scholarship I won during my undergraduate years so I may have a skewed view of her, but I think she is an honorable woman even if her history alludes an image of a partisan hack.
Ted Hongâ€™s acerbic piece at the Hawaii Reporter is another thing, though. His â€œpay to playâ€ allegation falls flat, in my opinion. Was Hong asked to â€œpay to play?â€ Did Hong pay? Whatever.
Readers may recall that Hong was rejected in part for his lack of â€œjudicial temperament.â€ The tone of his latest article would support that charge.
Senate will meet with House about Act 50
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:52 pm
Not much to comment about regarding this SB report that HB 806 to repeal Act 50 now has Senators assigned to the conference committee. This is a welcome update to yesterdays worrisome post. They will begin their meetings with the House on Monday. Hooray.
Act 50 allows authorities to ban individuals from public property for up to a year if they return to a site after being issued a warning to stay away.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has challenged the law in federal court as unconstitutional, but says its lawsuit will be withdrawn if Act 50 is repealed.
Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa said colleagues would consider accepting the House version of the bill, which repeals Act 50 and creates a new petty misdemeanor to address squatters on public property.
Itâ€™s too bad legislators did not foresee the consequences of this bill last year. It was just as patently unfair at that time. Whatever. Iâ€™ll accept the progress and shut up.
Horowitz not welcomed enough, so it must be the liberals fault?
â€” Doug @ 8:36 pm
Another report from someone who attended the Horowitz lecture at UH Manoa is here. It even includes a bit about the message, which is useful, but the parts about the principals behind the lecture are more interesting to me.
Horowitzâ€™s tour was co-sponsored by the U.H. Manoa Political Science Department, but when he came to meet Political Science Department faculty, only one professor came to the reception.
Department Chair Dr. J. Goldberg-Hiller declined to participate introducing himself to Horowitz as, â€œone of those liberals you have on your list.â€ Horowitz later responded by saying Hiller is neither a liberal in the classical sense nor is there any â€œlist.â€
Said Horowitz, the Academic Bill of Rights is designed to protect students and professors of all political persuasions. He then cited several examples where he had defended the free speech of left-wing academics â€“ including Ward Churchill.
I am not an objective source since I am (twice) an alumnus of that department, but I think Hiller handled this very well. Itâ€™s actually a bit amusing to hear Horowitz say there is no â€œlist,â€ when the Students for Academic Freedom website maintains a (very buggy) database of complaints against â€œbiasedâ€ faculty. If that database would permit me to scroll past â€œKâ€ without crashing maybe I would find UH on the listâ€¦
If Horowitz supports Ward Churchill I certainly donâ€™t remember Horowitz saying so publicly when that was the outrage du jour. Many might have re-evaluated their opinion of Horowitz, positive or negative, if that had been the case. Maybe Horowitz actually said it, but apparently if nobody pies him Horowitz does not get any media coverage. Heh.
Like many U.H. Manoa liberal arts professors, Hillerâ€™s office door is festooned with anti-Bush materials. Some speculate the Political Science co-sponsorship came only to spare the University the embarrassment of refusing to hear Horowitz? speak on academic freedom after hearing Ward Churchill attack the reputation of the 9-11 dead. Said Hiller, â€œit took us only 30 minutes to decide to host this.â€
â€œSome speculate,â€ what a pusillanimous way to put it. I suppose it is impossible for â€œsomeâ€ to accept that Hiller could possibly believe in academic freedom and is embarrassed neither by hosting Churchill nor by hosting Horowitz? The political science department is not a place known to avoid controversy.
UPDATE: Noticed a Honolulu Weekly story in anticipation of the talk, but published before Horowitz actually had spoken. Maybe next week theyâ€™ll have a story?
In an eye-for-an-eye move, the College Republicans at the University of Hawai?i, also known as the Conservative Coalition, have invited Marxist-turned-right-wing activist David Horowitz, to speak today at the UH.
Jame Schaedel, the coalition?s chairman, acknowledges that the invitation was a reaction to the February visit from controversial, liberal professor Ward Churchill.
Says Schaedel: ?We wanted to see if we could get a conservative speaker of [Horowitz?s] stature, to prove a point that there is academic freedom. Allowing him to speak on campus shows that there really isn?t that big of a bias, speakers-wise. The problem then goes back to the people who should benefit the most from this university, which is the students. There?s bias against students in the classroom.?
If that is true then those students who allege bias should be more vocal on the website I mentioned above. I finally got it to work and only saw a single complaint about HPU, nothing from UH.
Bush administration mum on issue important to Guam natives, too
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:44 pm
Saw a reprint from the Pacific Daily News (Guam) and noticed a parallel to Hawaii.
In Washington D.C. there is an effort to pass some legislation that is intended to provide some long-sought benefits for the indigenous population. The Bush administration declined to testify at a hearing on the topic.
Robert Underwood, a former Guam delegate to Congress, said the central issue is whether Congress will let bureaucratic concerns derail the process again.
â€œThe apparent failure of the federal bureaucracy to appear today except as note-takers may be taken as a positive sign that while they will not openly support, they will not openly oppose,â€ he said.
That should sound familiarâ€¦
Face time is still king
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:33 pm
Interesting comments from the outgoing leader of the Maui Chamber of Commerce in this Maui News article. In her comments Lynne Woods describes the trevails of a neighbor island business group trying to influence the legislature.
?The point is, small business is very seldom at the table? when the policy options are being debated, she says.
Woods has tried to get more small-business input by frequent mailings and e-mailings, though the response rate is lower than she?d like.
The use of e-mail is a big change over the past decade.
In her early years, during state legislative sessions, she and other chamber spokesmen would ?fly to Honolulu five days a week? to testify on different measures ? workers? compensation changes were (still are) a perennial theme, but there were many others.
?We can no longer do that,? she says, both because of the expense and because of the erosion of interisland flights.
So Woods lobbied legislators to try to make them understand that ?fax and e-mails really do need to be considered, especially from the Neighbor Islands. We cannot get there.?
This required a change in attitude for some lawmakers. Woods says she was told flat out more than once that if the chamber did not testify in person at a committee hearing, that would be taken as a sign of indifference.
She believes legislators, especially local ones, now are sensitive to the chamber?s dilemma.
Despite what she says, there is still a great deal more weight assigned to a testifier who actually attends the hearing, delivers testimony orally, and is available for questioning if needed. This is not to deny the cost and inconvenience involved for neighbor island residents, but it still holds true. Legislators are people, too, and they like to return respect to those who show respect. Hawaii is not alone in having a Capitol geographically isolated from many residents. Short of a roving legislature or some high-tech teleconferencing solution, there is really no avoiding it. Some constituents will enjoy the benefit of proximity, many will not.
With only 48 hours required between a public hearing notice and the actual hearing, the only reliable ways to get testimony to the committee on time are by hand delivery, by fax, or by email; the US Mail is simply too slow. This is one of my long-standing complaints about the legislative process, but with the limited amount of time allowed for the session it would not be possible to give much more advance notice and still efficiently process all the legislation. While Iâ€™m lecturing, late written testimony is almost not worth submitting, and by â€œlateâ€ I mean anytime after 8 hours before the hearing. Submitting testimony in writing without including contact phone numbers is also not a good idea. If a piece of written testimony offers an amendment but nobody is there (and no contact information is available) to clarify the suggestion it is hardly ever incorporated into the legislation. End of rambling about testimony.
Woods says the most memorable achievement of her term was persuading the chamber to endorse political candidates.
The chamber had always spoken up on issues, and its Government Affairs Committee is one of its most important components, but Woods says there was considerable doubt about the wisdom of endorsing candidates for office.
?There was a fear from the business community, in the past ? I really say this was in the past? of retaliation from the bureaucracy, she says.
This was more of a problem at the state level, she says.
?I felt the only way we could turn things around was to begin to support politicians that understood the needs of the business community and how to balance the needs of labor and business,? she says.
The chamber has now made endorsements in two elections, with a majority of its candidates winning.
Without knowing what candidates they have endorsed itâ€™s hard to judge their success. If their endorsement is coupled with campaign volunteers and/or donations then this effort is something to be noted. If itâ€™s most often a press release endorsing a strong incumbent, then less so. Anyway, getting people elected should not be the goal. Implementing favorable legislation should be the goal. I wonder how she would judge her tenure by that metric.
Hawaii Medal of Honor unintentionally demeaning
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:45 pm
The Advertiser has a short mention of Governor Lingleâ€™s decision to sign HB 8 into law, thereby establishing a Hawaii Medal of Honor. The criteria to earn this decoration sound somewhat similar to those for the Purple Heart.
The PURPLE HEART is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.
The key diiferences being, of course, that all the recipients of this new award are deceasedâ€”being wounded is not enough to earn the award, and that every recipient must have some connection to Hawaii by birth, residence, education, or military assignment. I have no problem with awarding something to recognize these men and women, but I am very uneasy that they chose to name this award a Hawaii Medal of Honor.
The Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH) is the highest award for valor and the name of this new Hawaii award diminishes the stature of the CMH since there is no requirement for demonstrating any valor to receive a Hawaii Medal of Honor. Frankly, I donâ€™t know what these people were thinking. Call the award anything else you like, but NOT THIS.
When I first arrived at the Kaneohe Marine Base all Marines were quick to point out that our base Sergeant Major wore the CMH. After my enlistment ended I also had the honor of working at the Veterans Administration alongside another of the few CMH recipients who lived to wear his award. To say those awarded this decoration are held in high esteem by their comrades is a great understatement. Even the most jaded troop knows that the character of a CMH recipient is not to be doubtedâ€”he is unarguably a combat-tested hero.
Giving out an award with such a similar name without first finding evidence of any valor is wrong. If I were a next-of-kin awarded this medal in the name of a recipient involved in a routine combat casualty I would politely, but firmly, refuse it.
Iâ€™m not as much angry about this as I am sad.
New rules try to beat new laws to finish line
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:06 pm
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has an interesting article based upon remarks about workers compensation reform made by Governor Lingle at a recent gathering of businesspeople.
Legislation is one way to make change, Lingle said, but there are other ways, so her administration took a different tack. State Labor Director Nelson Befitel is working to establish new administrative rules that would bring reform into place without the Legislature being involved.
Heh. I couldnâ€™t have soft-pedaled the issue any better myself. This is a major confrontation between the executive and the legislature and as such will be a defining separation-of-powers battle for both branches.
The bill mentioned in the article, HB 1733, is dead for the year. (It is getting annoying how often reports make mistakes like thisâ€¦) The legislation to strip the Governorâ€™s rulemaking authority on workers compensation that is still moving is SB 1808; SB 1808 is pending the assignment of House conferees and then may proceed to conference committee meeting(s).
Although the proposed rules have not been released yet, Befitel outlined them Monday and said they should be released to legislators by the end of this week in an attempt to head off passage of the legislation restricting administrative rules changes. â€œHopefully they will back off their bills,â€ Befitel said.
Befitel said the administrationâ€™s strategy was three-pronged, including the legislative package, the change in administrative rules, and a tightening of internal procedures to be more efficient. â€œWe made it clear there are three components of reform. We can do two out of three.
Releasing his new rules by the end of the week, eh? (I didnâ€™t see them on the DLIR website yet) Classic brinksmanship – an old legislative ploy that, since they are assuming the roll of legislators, the administration may as well exercise, ha ha. It is possible that these new rules are a compromise that will be acceptable to all parties and to the legislature. However, Iâ€™m not holding my breath in expectation of that.
Lingle said the rules changes would save businesses money. â€œ(Legislators) should be applauding the labor director for showing them a different way.â€
Wha?! Is applause part of the new rules, too?
Busy meeting at Hawaii County council
â€” Doug @ 6:38 pm
The West Hawaii Today has a piece recounting a busy meeting of the Hawaii County Council. The brief Hawaii tribune-Herald piece focuses on only one topic.
That one topic is this (the article in its entirety, actually):
County Council members passed a resolution Tuesday calling on the Hawaii Superferry â€“ the Honolulu-based company planning to offer daily passenger, car and freight service between the Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai â€“ to prepare an environmental impact statement.
The vote was 8-1 with James Arakaki of Hilo opposed. He voiced concern that requiring Hawaii Superferry to prepare an EIS could mean that existing shipping companies and cruise lines might also have to prepare such an environmental assessment.
So Hawaii and Maui have now both passed Council resolutions asking for a Superferry EIS. That project is really on a lee shore right now, and at the worst possible time!
The other items dealt with by the Council are just as notable. A committee voted for this:
Earlier Tuesday in finance committee, council members, with a 5-4 vote, passed Bill 78 to create a permanent funding source to be used for acquiring public lands.
The bill calls for 2 percent of real property tax to be set aside for the fund, along with general obligation bond proceeds and private donations. Bill 78 has to pass two more readings before it becomes law.
That is a pretty bold move, but it sounds iffy it will survive another Council vote and pass.
Last, they almost acted to prevent a reoccurence of the Hokulia issue, but deferred action. Partially because they were unsure of what possible impact that might have on the pending lawsuit.
Bill 80 â€“ which discourages the use of agriculture lands for urbanization or subdivision development â€“ was postponed in Hawaii County council membersâ€™ planning committee until May 3.
The legislation bans subdivisions on agricultural land if they have resort-like features; an inadequate supply of water to support agricultural operations; a golf course with lots for residential use; gated or limited entry to more than four lots; or any dwelling greater than 3,500 square feet.
Council members have a briefing about the Hokulia litigation in executive session scheduled after todayâ€™s regular meeting, and they hope to determine then whether Bill 80 will negatively impact that development.
Interesting things are afoot over there. It looks unlikely any assistance on the Hokulia matter will emerge from the legislature (but you never can tell until Aprl 29), so on May 3 it may be up to the County to decide their own fate.
No conference on Act 50 repeal?
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:23 pm
In a previous post I was pleased to see that the legislature was nearly completed with repealing Act 50 of 2004. This is the law that allows for people to be removed from public areas for a year on almost any pretext. It was intended to remove the homeless from public parks, but was so broadly drafted that it was challenged as unconstitutionally vague.
When you last heard from me HB 806, a bill to repeal Act 50 of 2004, was positioned for conference committee meetings after passing 3rd reading in the Senate unanimously. However, the meetings are stalled at this point because the Senate has not named the members of its conference committee. These members are named by the Senate President.
HB 806 is not the only bill in this situation and there is still time for the Senate President to name conferees, but it is becoming a bit worrisome. Have a look at who introduced SB 2294 of 2004, the bill that became Act 50 of 2004. Uh oh.
ICF report on gas cap available
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:08 pm
Success, the ICF report I wanted to see earlier can be found on the PUC server as a big pdf file. Itâ€™s very, uh, thorough.
Now, if only it were not so incredibly dense and full of unfamiliar jargon. Sheesh, I just donâ€™t have the time right now to plow through it. Maybe later.
Affordable housing misperception
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:03 pm
This SB editorial about affordable housing made me realize that Iâ€™ve been making a fool of myself in my recent posts about the topic. Iâ€™ve been using the wrong term, and I apologize. It is â€œmedianâ€ income, not â€œpovertyâ€ that is the baseline for all these percentagesâ€¦ mea culpa.
For the most part I agree with the editorial (or the editorial agrees with me, if you prefer, ha ha), but re-adjusted to use the proper reference, the crux of my earlier questions remains the same:
What selling price for housing is considered â€œaffordableâ€ for someone at 140% of the median income level?
What Iâ€™m getting at is this: if 140% of the median income for a 4-person family equates to a family income of $94,850, then how much monthly mortgage payment is considered â€œaffordableâ€ for that family, and what price house would that payment allow when spread out over a 30 year mortgage at current interest rates? If the current median home price is just over a half-million dollars and these proposals result in tax incentives for developers who provide $450,000 homes (for argument purposes), then whatâ€™s the point? In that scenario few additional buyers would benefit.
Another way of asking almost the same question: at what % of the median income is the average buyer of a median-priced ($550,000) home? If it now takes 200% (for argument purposes) of the median income to buy a median-priced home, then homes affordable at 140% might not be very desirable places for builders to build or for buyers to buy.
Princeville hotel sale oddity
â€” Doug @ 5:50 pm
Iâ€™m still scratching my head over this Garden Island News story about the complexity and mixed messages associated with the sale of the Princeville Resort last month.
The cast of characters includes a group of investors and individuals intertwined in a myriad of ways. The sale involved Jeff Stone (of Ko Olina notoriety on Oahu), a small handful of LLP and LLC businesses, and others. Apparently the resort changed hands (in pieces) at least twice that day. Honestly, itâ€™s really hard to follow exactly what happened, who the winners are, and what it means. Iâ€™m not even sure if it is especially newsworthy that a complex business transaction occurred, but whatever.
However, check this out:
Jay Furfaro, general manager of the Princeville Operating Co. LLC (limited liability company), told The Garden Island the Princeville hotel asset is owned by Princeville Hotel LP. Its general partner is Princeville Hotel LLC, which is managed by Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers (CSRA) on behalf of the partnership. Stone is also a principal and officer of Princeville Hotel LLC.
According to the March 18 joint press release, â€œthe Princeville Hotel will continue to be managed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Worldwide Inc., following the closing of the sale of the Princeville Hotel to Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors LLC.â€
Furfaro, who also serves as a county councilman, said CSRA leaders, as asset managers, will handle all operational and renovation decisions.
Upon the announcement of the purchase in the March 17 press release, Stone said, â€œwe look forward to restoring this one-of-a-kind property, a North Shore icon for so many years, to the grandeur it enjoyed in the past,â€ of the Princeville Resort (the hotel).
Stone promised at that time an eventual multi-million-dollar renovation of the Princeville Resort, and said his group was â€œcommitted to the success of Princeville.â€
Cornerstone is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of the Mass Mutual Financial Group.
In 1998, Cornerstone/Mass Mutual officials teamed with Stone to purchase the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina in leeward O?ahu.
Like I said, the transaction is complicated and hard to wrap my head around. So much so that it seems to be a deal almost intentionally cryptic. However, the political end result I keyed in on is this: Jeff Stone now has close business associates on two County Councils; Councilmember Apo on Oahu, and now Councilmember Furfaro on Kauai.
Kai is not confirmed to BOR
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:41 pm
The SB and Advertiser both report that Senator Hee apologized for soliciting donations from the Board of Regents nominees coming before his committee. Hee also returned the donations to those that had contributed.
At the Senate floor session today Senator Hee withdrew his committee report denying advise and consent for John Kai, a strange twist. Then Senator Chun Oakland moved to advise and consent in favor of Kaiâ€™s nomination; Senator Trimble seconded the motion. A half-dozen or so floor speeches were made, with everyone praising the nominee but not everyone supporting his confirmation. Senator Hee gave a long speech putting forth his rationale for opposing Kai, and it was not a very clear argument. Hee â€œdisagreedâ€ with Kai, but kept saying that disagreement did not mean Kai was wrong. The oddest part of the speech was when Hee displayed a series of pictures showing buildings in disrepair at Hawaii Community College that were supposed to demonstrateâ€¦ well, I donâ€™t know actually. Then came a rollcall vote on the motion to confirm Kai and advise and consent to GM 290. The motion failed, 10 ayes to 15 noes.
Just for fun, for those readers playing along on the home game with the Hawaii Reporter faction guide; Senator Kokobun did not vote with his HR-designated faction, nor did Senator Chun Oakland. Heh.
Horowitz heard at UH? pied? I dunno
â€” Doug @ 5:14 pm
I didnâ€™t see anything in the print media. Did any of you readers attend his talk? Is there a transcript anywhere? How big was the audience? Any demonstrators or outspoken members of the audience?
I have only come across this blog post from someone who saw the video link to UH-Hilo. He reports an audience of 25 (in Hilo, or at Manoa, or both?).
Horowitz also made the obvious point lost on those that politicize the academy, that bias harms liberal or leftist students more than conservatives. While conservatives are very familiar with their opponents arguments, liberal/left students spend their time in an echo chamber where they never learn opposing views.
Of those (few, but vocal) students who are politically aware and drift to the left, I would say that it takes some amount of knowledge of the perspective of the right for anyone to truly adopt a position on the left. What I mean is, many (too many) on the left define themeselves as being â€œnot on the rightâ€ and then rattle off a laundry list of conservative opinions that they disagree with, and are often unable to define their politics as what they stand for. Horowitz apparently meant to imply that conservative students remain unswayed by mushy-headed liberal faculty even though conservative students are not exposed to conservative professors for opposing views, meanwhile liberal students would be unable to resist the indoctrination arguments of conservative faculty if those opposing views were aired more often. Either students are dumb, or theyâ€™re notâ€”thatâ€™s non-partisan, ha ha.
Maybe. Not. I think it is odd how this debate overlooks other obvious factors which skew college-aged people to the political left: many of their parents are on the right and students are at a rebellious age, the right is moralistic about diversions young people like to indulge (casual sex, substance use, other reckless behaviors, and immersion in popular culture), and the vast majority of their celebrity â€œpeersâ€ are of the same mindset. All the â€œAcademic Bill of Rightsâ€ you want wonâ€™t change that, Mr. Horowitz.
Anyway, this teleconference was not the headliner event for Horowitz Another talk in a bigger venue was held later in the evening and I still donâ€™t know anything about that appearance (or its attendance).
Please post a comment if you have any insight or links. Mahalo.
UPDATE: While I was blogging, this was also posted from a person at the later talk. The account is from someone sympathetic to Horowitzâ€™s message, but he seems to have been mostly disappointed with the talk.
Regent nomination hearing fallout
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:13 pm
The Hawaii Reporter has a bit more to offer today on the topic of John Kaiâ€™s rejection by Senator Heeâ€™s Higher Education Committee. Much of this article has been heard before, but there are some new tasty bits:
But objective observers of Kaiâ€™s hearing with Hee and his committee say Kai was weak in some of his responses and general knowledge of the University and its operations, even after having been on the job for more than 10 months. This was especially compared to de la Pena, a product of the University, and other recent nominees.
But these same observers indicate that at least part of the explanation for Kaiâ€™s seeming lack of preparation and general background knowledge, especially in his first hearing, rests with the executive branch. The governorâ€™s office has been criticized for not adequately preparing board and commission candidates for what often is a personal and brutal process, especially before television cameras, where politicians enjoy pontificating.
Iâ€™m not remembering where Iâ€™ve read this charge before, but I know I have seen it. Itâ€™s an interesting criticism for a few reasons. First, if a Committee has a pre-disposition to oppose a nominee it would not matter who prepared the nominee for the confirmation hearing. Second, if the preparation is overt it could leave the impression that the nominee is not able to think for him/her-self. Third, if it becomes obvious that the nominee has been coached to stay â€œon messageâ€ it could backfire if the committee is unable to get answers to challenging questions. Those three points aside, it would seem that the Governor could do more to publicly support her nominees once they come under fire. For instance, itâ€™s telling that this article quotes a Lingle appointee/surrogate (Lagareta) instead of hearing the Governorâ€™s defense of Kai. But keep some perspective, this is not a cabinet post weâ€™re talking about in this case.
The article also has this news:
University regents say they were offended when in recent weeks they received a solicitation from Hee to attend his political fundraiser.
And the tickets â€“ which were $25 each person â€“ weren?t just mailed to the regents, but they were mailed to the interim regents about to come before Hee for confirmation consideration.
â€œMaybe I should have bought the tickets instead of throwing them out,â€ Kai says, noting the other interim regent who did purchase the tickets was confirmed. He says he was insulted by the solicitation, particularly the timing.
This what not a wise move on Heeâ€™s part. The way fundraiser events usually happen is that a few complimentary tickets are mailed without charge to an array of influential people and officials. If an invitee chooses to attend they may; reimbursement for these complimentary tickets is technically â€œvoluntary.â€ For that matter, itâ€™s an open secret that many people (support staff from the Legislature, typically) at a fundraiser are there as much for the free food as for showing support of the candidateâ€”the campaign tolerates this to some extent. Itâ€™s tolerated both to give the impression of a big turnout and, of course, because candidates would be fools to alienate the staff. Staff are the people who can sometimes make good things happen for the legislator who let them graze before a nice buffet.
Oops, back to topic.
Despite the usual procedure, I can understand how a person facing a confirmation hearing before the Senator who sent him â€œcomplimentaryâ€ fundraiser tickets would be intimidated if he or she was not familiar with this practice. However, the implication that Heeâ€™s vote (or his soft glove treatment at a confirmation hearing) could be had for a $25 donation is a bit far-fetchedâ€”but the perception is arguably there, if not the reality.
Report lifts hope for gas cap
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:48 pm
Both papers have stories about the gasoline price cap informational briefing held yesterday. The Advertiser here and the SB here.
The SB provides an explanation of how the price cap is calculated, which is something I had been waiting for. However, I would sure like to read this ICF study that both articles refer to. Iâ€™m trying to get a copy of it, since it was paid for with public funds it should be available with enough digging.
Both pieces point out the following caveats, and warn that prices would be higher if the cap were in place now.
Any potential savings under the law hinge on gasoline dealersâ€™ passing savings on to consumers. However, some Oâ€™ahu retailers contend the savings may not be passed on because margins on gasoline are low relative to high land, labor and tax costs.
That leaves little potential savings to pass on to consumers, said Bill Green, a former owner and now consultant to Kahala Shell.
â€œIf there was savings we would pass it on if we could,â€ he said. â€œIt may be a penny or two but there isnâ€™t much there. Weâ€™re all operating on such skinny margins.â€
According to ICF, margins on wholesale gasoline sales typically well exceed margins on comparable sales on the Mainland.
The SB article then made an attempt to talk about the related legislation, and, sorry to say, for a second time they appear to have botched it today. The two bills related to this story are HB 863 and HB 1705. Only HB 863 is mentioned (and, here again, they link to the outdated original draft of the bill) in the article.
However, the Senate has advanced a proposal in House Bill 863 that would give Gov. Linda Lingle the authority to decide whether the cap should go into effect. Lingle, who opposes price caps, has said she likely would not implement the cap if the decision is left to her.
Actually, that authority is not in any draft of HB 863. The attempt to insert it into that bill failed, regular readers may recall. The authority is in HB 1705, but that bill was killed by inaction in Senator Menorâ€™s Consumer Protection committee.
Unless some funny-kine conference meeting arm-twisting occurs behind the scenes, Senator Menor will not have to discuss giving the Governor that authority at conference deliberations. It is outside the scope of the differences between the House and Senate versions of HB 863. There is no conference on HB 1705 because it never passed the Senate.
Whistleblower on DOE testing is snubbed
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:18 pm
The Advertiser has more on the DOE schools suspected of cheating on an important NCLB test regime. One school has been cleared of any wrongdoing, but the substitute teacher who made the allegation is paying a price.
Cinde Fisher, the substitute teacher who reported possible irregularities at Puâ€™uhale, was not surprised to hear that the school was cleared of wrongdoing but maintains her belief that something was not right.
And while she said the principal of the school has told her she wonâ€™t be asked to sub there again, she does not regret reporting what she felt were serious problems with the testing. She is sending letters detailing what she called retaliation for coming forward to the principal of the school, DOE officials and members of the Board of Education.
DOE officials have encouraged the reporting of any possible irregularities involving testing, saying the integrity of the test depended on rooting out such problems. Hamamoto encouraged teachers and staff to report any resulting retaliation.
â€œIf you feel that youâ€™re being retaliated (against) or singled out or discriminated against, please let us know,â€ Hamamoto said.
Itâ€™s pretty clear that Fisher has a good case to claim protection as a whistleblower. At least thatâ€™s how I would interpret HRS Â§ 378-62. I can only assume that once the DOE officials get her letters this misguided principal will be forced to reverse the decision to no longer hire Fisher. â€¦but maybe not on testing days, ha ha.
GOP Representatives hold affordable housing PR stunt
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:08 pm
Both dailies have stories about a small group of House Republicans (actually, there are no large groups of House Republicans, ha ha) that made statements in favor of the Senate plan for affordable housing and against the House plan. The SB has this piece, and the Advertiser has a brief AP piece.
Rep. Kymberly Pine, R-43rd (â€™Ewa Beach, West Loch), called the House bill â€œjust a dreamâ€ that is unlikely to bring Hawaiâ€™i residents the affordable housing options they need.
Pine said a House plan to raise the conveyance tax on homes assessed at $600,000 and higher would hurt larger families who pool their money to by[sic] a larger home.
Just as she has every time the measures has come to the House floor, Representative Pine again persists here in believing the conveyance tax to be a tax paid by the buyer. HRS Â§ 247-4 is clear, the conveyance tax is paid by the seller. A large family purchasing a house will not pay conveyance tax when they buy, only if or when they sell! Furthermore, a large family with enough financial resources to pool money to buy an expensive home does not necessarily deserve any special accomodation regarding the conveyance tax, in my opinion.
From there it gets worse. The SB story refers to (and the online version links) the wrong drafts of HB 1303 and SB 179. In fact, the original draft of SB 179 they linked to is a short-form bill and does precisely nothing. Oops.
I donâ€™t speak for the Republicans, but I suspect that they support HB 1303 SD2. However, SD2 does not contain any â€œtax incentives for developers willing to partner with the State.â€ I have no idea what bill Representative Pine is talking about, but it isnâ€™t HB 1303 SD2.
Senate Bill 179, a similar affordable housing measure, would shut down the housing market because it places too many limitations on developers, [Pine] said. The bill requires developers to pay licensing and impact fees.
Hmmm. Here again, did the SB simply take Pineâ€™s word on this? I searched every draft of HB 179 and nowhere did I find the word â€œimpact.â€ The word â€œlicenseâ€ appears only in HD1 and HD2 in the context of the Sections 21 and 22 of the respective bills which establish the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Administration (HHFDA). The context was that the HHFDA may enter into a license agreement with the State or County. Thatâ€™s the only mention of licensing.
What gives? It would be good if Pine had her story straight, but it would also be good if the SB bothered to check. Am I missing something, or is this a total screw-up? Too weird.
Lingle tries to revive her affordable housing ideas
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:35 pm
Playing a bit of catch-up on the affordable housing topic that the Advertiser dove into yesterday, the SB has a piece that describes the Governorâ€™s preferred solution to provide immediate relief for those in need of affordable housing.
Governor Lingle submitted SB 798, but it was never heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. HB 689 was the House companion bill, but it never emerged from its first hearing. Both bills aimed to provide $4,000 tax credits to developers for each of the first 2,500 affordable units completed by the end of 2007. Now the Governor wants her idea inserted into the affordable housing legislation that is still moving.
This article, and the Advertiserâ€™s piece I posted about yesterday, have raised the following question: What selling price for housing is considered â€œaffordableâ€ for someone at 140% of the poverty level? It would obviously depend on the family size (and Iâ€™d like to know the poverty figure for a single-person household), but Iâ€™m sure many people are curious to know what selling prices these various proposals could lead to.
What Iâ€™m getting at is this: if 140% of the poverty level for a 4-person family equates to a family income of $94,850, then how much monthly mortgage payment is considered â€œaffordableâ€ for that family, and what price house would that payment allow when spread out over a 30 year mortgage (at current interest rates)? If the current median price is just over a half-million dollars and these proposals result in tax breaks for $450,000 homes (for argument purposes), then whatâ€™s the point?
Another way of asking almost the same question: at what % of the poverty level is the average buyer of a median-priced home? If it now takes 200% to buy a median-priced home, then homes affordable at 140% might not be very desirable places for builders to build or for buyers to buy.
Maui legislators assess session
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:25 pm
The Maui News had this story a few days ago that Iâ€™m just now taking notice of. Basically it covers the entire Maui delegation to the Legislature and reports their assessments of this session and what it might mean for Maui.
I like this formula of getting comments from all of them, even those that are not veterans, and the one that as minority party members is really not a â€œplayer.â€ I think other media should take up this model. Here on Oahu where the population density is much greater it would probably have to be a multi-part series, perhaps done by region.
It would inevitably produce some very provincial stories, but it could also provide interesting segments like this:
Tanaka said his first term in the Legislature had been an education in partisan politics ? he didn?t like the arrangement, but he learned to work with it.
He said Maui?s representatives worked together and coordinated with the delegation?s sole Republican, South Maui Rep. Chris Halford, to make sure that bills all agreed with were proposed by Democrats, to have a better chance of success.
?That?s the first thing I learned: the Republicans don?t have any power whatsoever on any bills,? Tanaka said.
With a decade of being a member of the minority party under his belt, Halford was realistic about his role. The session was a bit of deja vu to his first term, Halford said, because both times members of his party made up less than 20 percent of the House, and he was the only Neighbor Island Republican in the chamber.
?I know I won?t get credit. Getting credit as a minority is difficult anyway,? he said. ?But as a hyperminority, it?s not constructive to work to get credit.?
Instead he worked with Maui?s Democratic delegates on projects on which they agreed, and found success with capital improvement projects.
?Right now I?m pretty optimistic that we?ll fare well, because the Maui legislators are pulling together,? he said.
Itâ€™s encouraging when legislators who usually keep a low profile speak up and we learn that they are actually collegial instead of ambitious grandstanders. In regions other than Maui? Your mileage may vary, ha ha.
Hemmings on equal opportunity for ideas
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:22 pm
Senator Hemmings contributed this essay to the Hawaii Reporter. I am guessing that it was inspired by, if not the basis of, his participation yesterday at a forum on the UH-Manoa campus about academic freedom.
One step further back, both his essay and the forum were obviously inspired by David Horowitzâ€™s â€œAcademic Bill of Rightsâ€ (ABOR) campaign. [Reminder: he speaks at Manoa on Wednesday] Hemmings does not really level any specific charges, but claims:
Clearly, all ideas deserve equal opportunity to be heard regardless of whether they are unpopular, unsettling, or false. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, â€œ?in a democracy, one has to give all of these ideas an equal chance to be heard, in the faith that the false, the ignoble, the useless will be crowded out by the right ideas, the ones that will facilitate progress in a democratic manner.â€
This is the spirit of a true, free marketplace of ideas. Since free-speech law does not necessarily produce effective competition, it falls to our educational institutions to be the vanguards for competing ideas. Otherwise, universities become unwitting participants in indoctrination, if only through benign neglect, which is hardly the mission of a state-funded institution of higher learning.
Hard to be against that, especially when put in those terms. Unfortunately for him, the ABOR can be seen in other terms. Terms which Iâ€™m sure Hemmings would insist that I put forth here and now. Heh.
For instance, have a look at the American Association of University Professors position statement on ABOR. There youâ€™ll find:
Skepticism of professional knowledge, such as that which underlies the Academic Bill of Rights, is deep and corrosive. This is well illustrated by its requirement that â€œacademic institutions . . . maintain a posture of organizational neutrality with respect to the substantive disagreements that divide researchers on questions within . . . their fields of inquiry.â€ The implications of this requirement are truly breathtaking. Academic institutions, from faculty in departments to research institutes, perform their work precisely by making judgments of quality, which necessarily require them to intervene in academic controversies. Only by making such judgments of quality can academic institutions separate serious work from mere opinion, responsible scholarship from mere polemic. Because the advancement of knowledge depends upon the capacity to make judgments of quality, the Academic Bill of Rights would prevent colleges and universities from achieving their most fundamental mission.
When carefully analyzed, therefore, the Academic Bill of Rights undermines the very academic freedom it claims to support. It threatens to impose administrative and legislative oversight on the professional judgment of faculty, to deprive professors of the authority necessary for teaching, and to prohibit academic institutions from making the decisions that are necessary for the advancement of knowledge.
I fully expect someone (likely Hemmings) will introduce the ABOR legislation next year. If it is ever even heard, it will fail.
Governorâ€™s message to UH students
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:16 pm
Ka Leo O Hawaii, the UH-Manoa student newspaper, has printed a message to the students from Governor Lingle. Is it just me, or is it written in some sort of weird hybrid dialect combining condescension and patronization? Probably just me.
In addition to higher education, I am focused on many other important issues facing our state. Two major initiatives include creating more affordable housing and keeping our residents and visitors safe.
April is an exciting time of year for us in state government, as the legislative session is winding down. I remain optimistic about this session. Of the 200 bills my administration proposed, many are moving through the legislature as well as others that incorporate, with revisions, the spirit of our bills. This means most of our initiatives are still being discussed as of this writing.
Between your classes, I encourage you to visit my Web site (www.hawaii.gov/gov) for additional information about my proposals, and how to contact your elected officials to support initiatives that improve the quality of life for the people of Hawaiâ€™i.
As students, you can offer fresh insight on many of our community issues. I look forward to hearing your ideas. I urge you to e-mail me at Governor.Lingle@hawaii.gov. I hope to hear from you soon.
Mahalo for reading my column, and best wishes with â€œfinalsâ€ as the school year comes to a close on May 15!
What I had expected her to say:
All right, you liberal brats, quit making waves about the University Affiliated Research Center proposal, enough screaming and hollering about the recent rapes, donâ€™t you dare to throw a pie at Horowitz, and, for crying out loud, lay off the beer! Watch your step or Iâ€™ll send Duke over there againâ€¦
Go Bows! Warriors!
Hayashi on â€œhuman shieldâ€ labor bill
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:18 pm
Stuart Hayashi contributed this piece to the Hawaii Reporter about SB 1352 which was opposed by Republicans because it contains an amendment from HB 266 which they find offensive. Heâ€™s emerged as the public intellectual (and spokesman?) for the House Republican caucus, it would seem.
Hereâ€™s how he concludes his piece:
When you hear that most of the House Republicans voted â€œNoâ€ on this bill, please bear in mind that they wholeheartedly agree with the section that allows public employees paid leave as they donate bone marrow. The Republicans felt compelled to reject SB 1352 SD1 HD1 on account of what Democrats snuck into it on April 8.
Basically, the House Majority used the bone marrow section as a â€œhuman shieldâ€ to ward off any Republican attempt to deny the passage of the same special-interest, union-oriented language that was already struck down when it was in HB 266.
The billâ€™s official status page says that on Thursday, April 14, 2005, the State Senate expressed disapproval of the â€œHouse amendments.â€ Of course, that is no guarantee that the objectionable changes will be removed.
The HD1 amendment to SB 1352 made on April 8 happened at a public hearing*, the committee vote was public, the committee report was filed promptly, and then twice over 4 days the full House passed the bill over the opposition of most (but not all) Republicans. Not very â€œsneaky,â€ in my view.
* Note that the directions at the end of the notice read that the Committee would accept written testimony up until 24 seconds before the hearing, ha ha. I can only guess that is because they had asked for a waiver of the 48-hour hearing notice rule.
Anyway, itâ€™s more than a bit misleading for Hayashi to say that the contents of HB 266 HD1 were â€œstruck downâ€ because that HD1 language passed third reading in the House. That means the HD1 is the â€œHouse position.â€ Once in the Senate, the HD1 was amended to a substantially different SD1 position by the Labor Committee (with only one opposing vote) and then the full Senate voted unanimously to pass the SD1 at second reading. The SD1 language was never heard by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The end.
Thus, it would be more accurate to say that the SD1 language failed to advance, then to say the HD1 language was â€œstruck down.â€ When instances like this occur it is quite common for members from the introducing chamber (in this case, the House) to insert the contents of a stalled bill into an active bill from the other chamber; in this case SB 1352 had a broad title that would allow for that. Thatâ€™s what happened. The waiver of the 24-hour notice was necessary since it was not known if the WAM Committee would schedule HB 266 in time to meet the decking deadline, and it became apparent that WAM had decided not to schedule it.
As it is for every piece of Senate legislation amended by the House, before conference meetings begin to resolve the differences between the two drafts of SB 1352 (the SD1 and the HD1), the Senate must first signal its intentions by sending a routine formal message to the House informing that the Senate disagrees with the amendments made by the House. This message says nothing specifically about the Senateâ€™s opinion regarding the insertion of HB 266 HD1, and in fact the more fundamental problem with the HD1 is its defective effective date. If you read the Standing Committee Report youâ€™ll see that the effective date was changed by the Finance Committee to â€œencourage further discussion.â€ That is what where we stand now, we await that discussion at a possible conference meeting.
Hayashi may know some dense political theory, but he is not the Alpha procedural wonk! Heh.
Akaku dispute pau; but legislation still moving
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:12 pm
Interesting revelation in the Haleakala Times where there is this article reporting that Everett Dowling (the developer behind efforts to re-route funding currently going to the Maui community television group Akaku) was (is?) a member of the Akaku finance committee. Itâ€™s hard to believe that previous reports would not have mentioned that!
Anyway, this is also the first piece Iâ€™ve seen that reports on a settlement made April 15:
According to Inokuma [Akaku board president], the board voted 10-3 to pay MCC $132,000 in cash and to give the DOE and MCC 25 percent of future franchise fees. For the next three years, another 8 percent of the franchise fees will be paid for a total of 33 percent for three years.
During the first year, the DOE will get the 8 percent and for the next two years it will be evenly split between MCC and DOE, Inokuma said.
Board members Danny Agsalog, Jay April and Nikhilananda voted against the proposal.
Akaku will also give four voting board seats to representatives of MCC and the DOE. Two will be appointed immediately to fill existing vacancies and two more will be appointed June 30, when the terms of Boy Kanae and Paul Horikawa expire. That will bring the number of board seats to 15, said Inokuma. MCC and BOE will not get any future revenue from rents or the sale of the building, as was first proposed, he said.
The legislation that triggered the whole thing hasn?t gone away. SB 959 and HB 784 have both crossed over and are still alive, although they have been considerably weakened.
Actually, thatâ€™s not true. HB 784 is stalled in WAM and dead for the year.
By the way, I cleaned up the above excerpt, but this article is another example of the usual crappy format on the screen from the Haleakala Times. Every sentence is left-justified?! It is really visually distracting. Auwe.
Slick new podcast emerges
â€” Doug @ 5:09 pm
Peter Kay has added a podcast to his new blog. Itâ€™s sort of odd hearing his familiar voice talking about local news instead of telling me how to peform some computer tweak, but it sure sounds professional and sets the bar pretty high for rest of us local bloggers. Check it out.
Iâ€™ve added a link to him. Mahalo for your link to me, Peter!
State wrestles with housing plan
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:47 pm
I recommend this Advertiser report that gives another primer on the affordable housing issue while discussing the various legislation still advancing on the topic. In combination with the spiffy graphic, itâ€™s a very informative piece.
One thing I see as key to the conference is if this can be shown to be true:
â€œThe economics of being able to build a project essentially means that you have to build houses that youâ€™re selling to people at 140 percent of the median income to help subsidize the housing youâ€™re building and selling to people who maybe are at 60 percent or 80 percent, or even 30 percent,â€ said Linda Smith, the governorâ€™s senior policy adviser.
My suspicion would be that developers are not going to build many units to be sold below the 140 percent of poverty income level unless they are required to. Iâ€™d like to see a guarantee that at least some respectable amount of units for the 60, 80, and 30% buyers will be available, combined with the Senateâ€™s higher 140% eligibility level.
Another thing I am a bit nervous about with the Senate Bill is the language repealing Land Use Commission authority from affordable housing projects. My fear would be that developers would use that loophole to build on sensitive lands and then later â€œinfillâ€ with more (unaffordable) sprawl once the infrastructure is established and the LUC sees little need to preserve the adjoining parcels. Camelâ€™s nose under the tent, and all that.
Aside: â€œLaura Thielen, executive director for the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance, saidâ€¦â€ Isnâ€™t Laura Thielen now the Director of the Office of Planning? Is that a quote from testimony before that appointment, or can she wear both those hats at once? Hmmm.
The â€œmessageâ€ of the veto
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:22 pm
The SB has a useful piece exploring the prospects for vetoes by the Governor this year. They correctly point out that there is still time in the conference meetings for legislators to soften some of the bills currently heading toward a veto.
The comments they gathered are the more useful bits:
Those include a proposal that would require the administration to hold public hearings when deciding whether to restrict funds allocated by the Legislature.
â€œThat one, if it passes and she vetoes them (and itâ€™s overridden), thatâ€™s really playing hardball,â€ said Neal Milner, a University of Hawaii political scientist. â€œThat says theyâ€™re really saying they want to make changes in the way the state operates.
â€œThat, to me, is a real escalation of the political struggle between the governor and the Legislature, because it really does mean theyâ€™re willing to take it a step beyond where they have before.â€
Maybe. So far as I can tell, they are speaking of HB 1666, but that bill was â€œguttedâ€ in the Senate to take up a different topic. If it emerges from conference in the form of the House Draft 1 (the language the Governor opposes) it would not be on very strong footing for a veto overturn should the Governor choose to veto it. The Senate did not even pass a bill on that topic, so it would not seem likely they would find a 2/3 majority to take up the fight.
â€œI think a lot of them are actually being set up for her to veto,â€ said Minority Floor Leader Colleen Meyer (R, Laie-Kahaluu). She specifically cited bills being pushed by labor unions, including a proposal to raise the minimum wage in Hawaii.
â€œTheyâ€™re setting the trap: Republicans donâ€™t care about the working poor, but we do and look what the governor vetoed,â€ Meyer said. â€œI see that they can be setting this up in the big picture, forcing her to veto a certain amount of these and then using that against her.â€
Oh, please. Nobody is â€œforcedâ€ to do anything or to interpret a veto message in a single way. If the Governor chooses to â€œcare about the working poor,â€ nobody can stop her. That does not mean she canâ€™t veto the bill and still make that claim. Meyer probably thinks she is showing some political sagacity with her banal observation, but in reality her quote sets the trap for the Governor much better than if it came from a Democrat.
State â€˜protectingâ€™ traffic information
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:51 pm
The Advertiser has this article today describing how the State does not divulge traffic accident data due to liability concerns. I had commented on this yesterday, and itâ€™s cool to see this piece expand even more on that theme.
State and federal laws specifically exclude state traffic data from being admitted into such civil cases.
However, Takeshita [of Hawaii DOT] said many Hawaiâ€™i attorneys find ways around the law by obtaining similar information from county police departments, the same source The Advertiser used to obtain traffic information for an accompanying series of stories identifying some of the most accident-prone locations in Honolulu.
Iâ€™m a bit confused if this means that attorneys may use the police data to sue the State or federal government for traffic accidents at locations known to be unsafe, or if it means that lawyers may only use the data to sue for accidents that occur on County-owned roadways.
In response to an Advertiser freedom of information request, the state Office of Information Practices ruled last month that traffic-accident data must be made available to those requesting it.
However, it accepted a DOT assertion that it cannot segregate the public and private information from other data, ruling that the state does not have to provide the information to researchers and others in an electronic form, thus making it largely useless for scientific, academic and other analysis.
Again, this sounds pretty awful, but what does it mean? If it means the State has the data in electronic form but will only release them in an analog form, then it is indeed awful. However, if it means that the State collected these data using some archaic paper-based system or obsolete computer technology and simply does not have them in an electronic form usable by those who seek it, then it is a bit more understandable.
Government agencies have been notorious for making decisions about gathering and storing data in formats, and on hardware, that are proprietary or incompatible with those of other agencies. But I think itâ€™s attributable to bad IT leadership, not to an intention to â€œprotectâ€ the data.
Campaign announcements and speculation beginning
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:22 pm
A strange coincidence finds a Robert Rees op-ed speculating on the future of Hawaii politicians published today in the Advertiser while this SB story has the Governorâ€™s announcement that she has no intentions other than to run for re-election in 2006.
Rees says this about a Lingle run for US Senate:
Lingle reportedly has engaged an exploratory committee to evaluate her chances, and certainly the Republican National Committee is encouraging her to run.
While Lingle says:
â€œIâ€™ve never received a call from any official at the national level â€“ Republican, Democrat, Green or anybody else â€“ asking me to run for anything. They know that I intend to seek re-election as governor,â€ she said.
Clearly somebody is incorrect, but the more interesting part of the Rees article are his comments about Senator Dan Inouye:
In fact, Inouyeâ€™s lapses [controversial votes on ANWR drilling and the Keating Five] can be understood not as one-shot deals but as classic examples of shrewd and continuing reciprocity, one of the very traits that make him so powerful. After all, Stevens ? and even McCain of the Keating Five ? have of late helped along the Akaka bill, the pending legislation that purports to put Native Hawaiians on the road to self-determination. When Stevens visited Hawaiâ€™i to attend a function honoring Inouye, the Republican went out of his way to admonish an embarrassed Gov. Linda Lingle not to overplay her Republican cards in Washington. â€œIf you want something done in Washington,â€ warned Stevens, â€œtake it through Dan.â€
So, apparently Rees thinks Inouyeâ€™s ANWR vote was not part of an Akaka bill â€œdealâ€ but rather part of a â€œcontinuing reciprocity.â€ I agree those relationships are key to his power in the Senate. However, that subtle difference in scope Rees describes does little to make those votes less disappointing to Inouyeâ€™s critics.
Rees also has some worthy observations about potential candidates to replace Inouye if the need arises. Iâ€™d like to see a similar column from Rees on the topic of potential Democratic candidates for Governor.
Philippines human rights and the Kanno allegations
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 4:58 pm
As every person following the story knows, the worker that requested help from Senator Kanno had previously been jailed in the Philipines for a sex crime conviction. He claims that his trial was unfair and, for the most part, the media have ran stories with that claim (in some form, however cursory). The public, however, has little patience for yet another convict who claims, â€œhe didnâ€™t do it.â€ That attitude is a luxury we have living in a country with a fair and honest Judiciary.
In contrast, the United States State Department had this to say in a 2005 report about the judicial system in the Philippines:
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judicial system suffered from corruption and inefficiency. Personal ties and sometimes venality undermined the commitment of some government employees to ensure due process and equal justice. The result was impunity for some wealthy and influential offenders and widespread skepticism that the judicial process would produce fair outcomes.
A 2003 State Department report about their system added these details:
Low pay rendered both judges and prosecutors susceptible to corruption. There were many allegations that judges accepted money or other bribes. Legal experts inside and outside the justice system criticized relationships between some judges and individual or corporate litigants. Some lawyers acted as â€œcase fixers,â€ gaining the favor of judges and other court officials and allegedly bribing some witnesses.
In 2000 they had this:
Legal experts inside and outside the justice system also criticize personal and professional relationships between some judges and individual or corporate litigants. Some lawyers act as â€œcase fixers,â€ gaining the favor of judges and other court officials, and allegedly bribe some witnesses. Technically it is illegal to settle criminal cases out of court, but the practice of reaching an â€œamicable settlementâ€ is routine. In some cases, without key victims or witnesses to testify, prosecution is problematic.
There are no jury trials, by the way. These are bench trials before a single judge.
Now, does that sound like the manâ€™s claim of being railroaded for not agreeing to extortion sound more believable? I say it does.
Talk by Mazie Hirono
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 4:27 pm
Announcing another talk that may be of interest to readersâ€”that I will be unable to attend.
â€œWomen and Politicsâ€
Mazie K. Hirono
Spring 2005 Womenâ€™s Studies Colloquium Series, April 22, 12:30pm, Saunders 244, UH-Manoa Campus
Mazie K. Hirono, former Lt. Governor of the State of Hawaii and recent Democratic candidate for Governor will discuss her reflections on the situation of women in politics both locally and nationally. A standout legislator and strong advocate for womenâ€™s issues, Hironoâ€™s observations provide a lively end to this yearâ€™s colloquium series.
Mazie Keiko Hirono served two 4-years terms as the State of Hawaiiâ€™s ninth elected Lieutenant Governor, becoming Americaâ€™s first immigrant woman of Asian ancestry elected to statewide office. She was the Democratic Party candidate for Governor in 2002, one of a handful of women in the United States to become their partyâ€™s nominee for Governor.
Molokaâ€™i feels heat of housing market
â€” Doug @ 9:00 am
This Advertiser piece about rapid changes occuring on usually slow-moving Molokai is very thematically similar to a previous post based on a Maui News article.
Again, itâ€™s hard to deny that a lifestyle is threatened, the questions are: what can be done about it, and what should be done about it?
The Maui News article mentioned a possible planning and zoning solution, although it is quite drastic. This article only offers up an existing response:
One aid for property owners is a circuit-breaker tax credit, which caps property taxes to no more than 3 percent of a taxpayerâ€™s adjusted gross income for residents who qualify for the homeownerâ€™s exemption on real property taxes. But Miller of Friendly Isle Realty said many residents donâ€™t know about the credit.
I wish I knew more people from Molokai to get some of their input. I have one friend over there via amateur radio, and thatâ€™s all. Iâ€™d love it if he were to comment, but the issue is a sensitive one among that small community.
Akaka bill debate may not fit on Senate calendar
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:48 am
The SB has a thorough story detailing some parliamentary manuevering that could thwart passage of the Akaka Bill. Itâ€™s stories like these that make me wish I better understood the inner workings of Congress, since they can be very arcane.
In agreeing to allow the so-called Akaka bill to go to the Senate floor for a vote by Aug. 7, Sen. John Kyle, R-Ariz., requested 45 hours to debate the issue on the Senate floor.
Thatâ€™s a huge block of time, especially considering all the things the Senate needs to get done before August 7. I would guess that if Kyle is not granted the request for this debate time he would then (also/still) have the option of putting another hold on the Bill. It is unclear to me if the Senate President (Frist) has unilateral authority to accept or reject Kyleâ€™s request, or if that is subject to a vote of the whole Senate. In either scenario, an indication from the Bush administration might provide some, uh, guidance to that decision. Cough.
In my full â€œcynical conspiracy theoryâ€ mode: The Bush administration may have suggested this strategy to Kyle to save face for the President (who, under this theory, intends to veto the bill were it to pass) and/or Governor Lingle (who has failed to persuade the President to publicly support the bill and sign it should it pass). Kyle would be the willing bag man, facing no real political repercussions in his district for merely exercising a parliamentary rule.
[OHAâ€™s administrator] Namuo also said the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which approved the bill on March 9, hasnâ€™t yet filed its report.
Until it does, the Senate cannot take a floor vote on the bill, which would grant native Hawaiians the same rights of self-government enjoyed by American Indians and Native Alaskans. The measure also would allow Hawaiians to form a native government.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, who introduced the bill, is working with the Senate leadership to get it scheduled, including setting the length of time for debate, according to Donalyn Dela Cruz, his press secretary.
Is the delay in filing that report fromthe Senate Indian Affairs Committee exceptional, or does that amount of delay usually indicate something more ominous? I donâ€™t know.
No systematic approach to traffic analysis
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:25 am
The Advertiser has this piece on the lack of any organized effort by Honolulu to study where traffic dangers existâ€”until after the danger is revealed by a crash. The article is one of a series of today on traffic safety and the series is worth checking out.
This is very similar to an earlier post from Hawaii County, except there the issue was the State DOT was unwilling to reveal data that they (may) have collected. The State is (mistakenly, if you believe the article in the earlier post, and cynically) worried that if it is shown that they know where dangerous areas are and do not take steps to ameliorate the danger then they would be found liable when collisions occur. The Counties would have similar concerns, it seems obvious.
Recently SCR 107 has been advancing through the Legislature to try to gather safety and public health data related to vehicle accidents in Hawaii County. These liability concerns were raised at that time as a sticking point for trying to deduce why the fatality rates are so much higher in that County. To be fair, other factors were raised, too, such as the great distances travelled, lack of affordable housing near job sites, lack of rapid access to hospital trauma centers, etc. At a recent public hearing it was amended by the House to ask for the data in a tone less critical of Hawaii County, but that new draft will not appear on the website until the standing committee report is filed and acted upon.
Women inmates from Hawaii housed in Colorado wait for succor
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:59 am
The Advertiser is out front again and doing some good work reporting this story. The more we know, the worse it seems to smell, but we need to know. Nice work.
Michael Gaede, spokesman for the Hawaiâ€™i Department of Public Safety, said Hawaiâ€™i prison officials are not aware of any retaliation against the Hawaiâ€™i women inmates.
Well, they are aware now. Will they react or continue to wait for some sort of official contact from Colorado?
Answering one of my earlier ruminations, the Advertiser includes this useful passage:
Gaede said Hawaiâ€™i has no immediate plans to remove its prisoners from Brush, but said the prison officials are studying other options the state may pursue when Hawaiâ€™iâ€™s contract with GRW Corp. expires on July 31.
GRW is a Brentwood, Tenn.-based company that owns and operates the Brush prison.
Gaede said the state published a request for proposals from prison operators last week to find what other prison companies are interested in housing the Hawaiâ€™i women inmates.
My only follow-up would be to point out that the â€œbring them homeâ€ argument made by Representative Thielen, however well-intended, could only happen if 80 beds were to be made available in Hawaii. These women could come back to Hawaii, but only after the Department finds 80 beds somewhere (most likely out-of-state) to shuffle the women around. The women inmate population under DPS control canâ€™t be entirely housed in Hawaii unless or until their population is reduced by sentencing, parole or probation actions.
Gaede said the state is relying on Colorado state corrections officials for day-to-day monitoring of the prison. It was Colorado state prison officials who investigated the sexual misconduct allegations, and sent teams of state corrections workers to the Brush prison to help with staff training there.
However, Gaede said, Hawaiâ€™i has expanded its regular quarterly monitoring trip to Brush, which is scheduled for May from two days to four days, and has increased the size of the staff that will go on that trip from two to five to conduct a more thorough inspection of the facility.
Is Colorado really monitoring on-site on a day-to-day basis? That sounds unlikely. I canâ€™t help but wonder: how cool would it be if the Advertiser (or any other media outlet) was able to convince DPS to invite a reporter [Dayton] to come along on the monitoring trip to report firsthand (with some allowance for redaction)? While out there some probing questions could be asked of the Colorado officials allegedly â€œmonitoringâ€ the facility.
A guy can dream, anywayâ€¦
â€” Doug @ 6:19 am
I will be changing my schedule for a while and wonâ€™t be able to do my usual early posts on weekdays. Try checking late afternoon or in the evenings for new items. Hopefully.
Now weâ€™ll see if my early-riser brain writes as well on that schedule, ha ha.
Moving from a weekday AM edition to the PM edition, if you want to make an analogy.
Hawaii County Legislative Auditor re-definition proposed
â€” Doug @ 6:18 pm
Two Hawaii County newspapers, almost the same story. If you like a green color scheme read the Hawaii Tribune-Herald report, if you prefer blue and a bit more detail then I recommend the West Hawaii Today. Must be one of those JOA deals.
Anyway, the notable part of this piece is:
Higa said the County Council plans to undergo a reorganization of more than 50 positions in the Legislative Auditorâ€™s Office, council and committee services, council support and election divisions.
He said council members have â€œtossed aroundâ€ the idea of changing the county legislative auditorâ€™s role for some time, but it was deemed necessary after South Kona Councilman Virginia Isbell independently conducted interviews with all the county departments about next yearâ€™s budget and â€œit was difficult for her to compile information and get the answers at a specific time.â€
Also, Stacy Higa said the reorganization will entail empowering council members to hire their own council and legislative assistant to assist them in drafting legislation and doing research.
Currently, council aides and legislative assistants are employees at the will of the council chairman.
Higa said once the reorganization occurs he hopes to see the deputy county clerk overseeing the operations of council services staff, which are Civil Service employees.
It sounds to me like this change is way overdue, given the shenanigans under the prior Council Chairâ€™s tenure. Even if it seems to be more staff influence related to the ouster of the former Chair, itâ€™s a good idea. I canâ€™t imagine how the Council could have ever functioned under the existing arrangement.
State workers to get 5% raises
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 6:01 pm
â€œHow to frame the HGEA pay raise”was the question facing headline editors today. The Advertiser says 5% over two years, the SB says 10%, and then puts the over two years clarification in the first paragraph.
Those things matter. Some people (but surely that crowd does not include you, dear reader) probably donâ€™t actually read the article.
Iâ€™d really be curious to see what one of these arbitration award reports looks like and to know the data used to derive the award. This information is probably public, or should be. When the Budget Director says that the arbitrator made x, y, or z error, it would be great if she were able to point us to something a bit more substantive and we could run the number ourself if we like.
I went looking at the HGEA and Hawaii Department of Budget and Finance website to see if either might have it already. No luck. I did see this cheeky little zinger in the HGEA press release that wasnâ€™t quoted by either paper:
â€œThe arbitration process works and it is sour grapes for the governor to say it does not. She praises the process when it gets her what she wants for the firefighters and police officers, but she blasts the process when she loses. It is her and Governor Cayetano who have killed the morale of public employees.â€
The firefighters and police officers both being unions that endorsed Lingle for Governor, if I recall correctly. Iâ€™m a bit confused, however. Arenâ€™t members of HFFA and SHOPO (mostly) County employees? If so, itâ€™s easy for her to praise a salary package for these most-revered civil servants, moreso if it is a raise that has to be paid by someone else.
Gas cap would often cut wholesale prices
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:27 pm
Nice work from the Advertiser on providing us this article about a new study conducted in advance of implementing the gasoline price cap. We (the taxpayers) paid $121,000 for this study, so I would hope very much that it is promptly posted online somewhere for public review.
In the study a new formula was devised and when applied to the current market it found wholesale gasoline prices could be around a dime per gallon cheaper. Not bad if that were passed on to motorists buying fuel!
You can already hear the opposition waving around the previous study that was less optimistic and calling this new study flawed. This is akin to the global warming debate, now each side will believe which report pleases them. Sigh.
Have a look at this:
â€œWhat is the intent (of the law), because if itâ€™s to lower prices, the report states you canâ€™t guarantee it,â€ said Melissa Pavlicek, a spokeswoman for the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents ChevronTexaco Shell Oil and Tesoro Petroleum. â€œThey also confirm that the law could also affect the viability and sustainability of our energy sector.â€
Are there some missing commas in there? In particular, is there now truly one company named â€œChevronTexaco Shell Oil?!â€ This merger stuff is getting out of hand if that is the case. Also, notice how the petroleum industy is subtly hijacking adopting the environmentalist term â€œsustainability,â€ while using it to refer to their profits. Heh.
Senate to give Regent appointees second audition
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:14 pm
Both papers report that the Senate will hold an unusual second confirmation hearing for two Board of Regent nominees who did not perform well at their first appearance. The SB has it here, and the Advertiser has theirs here.
Hee said he was concerned that the nominees did not demonstrate a working knowledge of university policies and operations on issues such as stem cell research, classified research and genetic modification, despite having been in their posts on an interim basis for several months each.
â€œI expect the two interim nominees to respond favorably and with some modicum of expertise,â€ Hee said on the Senate floor. â€œWe expect answers, and this opportunity gives these interim appointees yet another chance to prove that they know what theyâ€™re doing on the Board of Regents.â€
If these nominees had not been already serving on an interim basis for some time I would think Senator Hee to be asking a bit much. Usually confirmation hearings are quite pleasant, unless the nominee has a bunch of enemies and/or political baggage. A whole lot â€œoh yes, weâ€™ll be very responsive to the Legislature,â€ and the like. But thereâ€™s a new Sheriff Chairman in the Higher Education Committee, and it seems that is not his style.
The nominees should be prepared to answer a battery of questions including their knowledge of fiscal audits of the university and the appointing and evaluation of a president for the system, Hee said.
Use a number 2 pencil. Make no stray marks on your answer sheet. Show your work. You have 45 minutes. Turn over your test materials and beginâ€¦ now.
Other schools linked to improper testing
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 5:02 pm
What a non-surprise, it turns out that maybe there is more than a single school bending the rules for the assessment tests that mean so much to the reputation of the faculty and administrators. The Advertiser has this piece listing several other schools being scrutinized.
[DOE test development specialist] Chin-Chance is also looking at reports from substitute teacher Cinde Fisher, who detailed potential problems during a fifth-grade testing session at Puâ€™uhale.
Fisher said she saw an educational assistant stop at the desks of two different students to write something down on a piece of paper while the students were still working through the test questions. â€œThe (test) books were still open on their desks,â€ she said.
One girl later said the educational assistant had helped her with a problem on the test, Fisher reported.
Chin-Chance confirmed that Fisher had made a complaint.
The allegation is still unproven, but even so itâ€™s fun to crow, â€œI told you so,â€ about the substitute teachers possibly being a better cohort of test proctors.
â€” Doug @ 7:36 am
Iâ€™ll try to post later today. A few notable things in the news today.
More sailing tomorrow, too. Someoneâ€™s gotta do it!
Senate leadership change alleged
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 2:05 pm
Consider the source, but the Hawaii Reporter has this post that divides the Senate into 5 factions of 5 members each. How tidy!
How such a dead-even stalemate in any way indicates momentum for a change in President is left unexplained. This report is fun for gossip value, but since Zimmermanâ€™s â€œSenate sourcesâ€ are anonymous (and almost certainly have a dog in this fight) Iâ€™m not ready to give it much credence until I see something more overt.
There is this, however:
But the pressure may be getting to Kim. Yesterday she shocked her Senate peers when she took a point of personal privilege on the Senate floor and launched into a 5-minute tirade against a fellow Senator she left unnamed, saying she is being blamed for leaking the scandal about Kanno to the press and retaliating against him [for, according to the Advertiser, failing to join her in trying to oust Bunda as president].
I neglected to comment on a similar report on Kimâ€™s comment in the Advertiser. How would Kim have known of Rouseâ€™s history and/or connection to Kanno? Hmmm. I believe itâ€™s much more likely, but I know of zero evidence, that whoever it was that revealed the Kanno-Rouse story is connected to the aggrieved party, i.e. they were tipped by NCL. If I were to make a guess at which Senator could fill that role, I would first exclude those who introduced SB 1002. Iâ€™m not convinced that the revelation came through a Senator anyway.
Kanno investigation should be prompt, Bunda says
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 11:19 am
Okay, Iâ€™m a little burnt out on the topic after drafting that earlier megapost, but the Advertiser has this article that has some new comments from Senator Bunda, Dan Mollway, and Governor Lingle regarding the Kanno ethics investigation.
Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), in a letter to the ethics commission, said lawmakers are in a critical time of the session, with conference negotiations between the Senate and House on legislation. â€œWhile I would ask that you expedite a response to the complaint, I believe that we need to ensure that all of the relevant facts are brought to the commissionâ€™s attention not only in a timely manner but one that is in a manner required by statute,â€ he wrote.
Dan Mollway, executive director of the ethics commission, said any probe would likely take longer than the few weeks remaining in the session.
Gov. Linda Lingle said Wednesday that she believes it was reasonable for Kanno to talk with NCL about employee Leon Rouse. But she said he and other lawmakers may have stepped over the line with the resolutions that mentioned the cruise lineâ€™s tax situation. â€œI think itâ€™s appropriate for the ethics commission to look at,â€ the governor said.
Heh. Governor Lingle has it exactly backwards, at least as far as I understand the ethics law. Legislators can legislate on whatever topics they want, the ethics limitations are put on every other action of a legislator.
Cue the tape: As her own Attorney General has said before the US Supreme Court, â€œthere shouldnâ€™t be a test where the government has to prove legislation is rational.â€
Waiâ€™anae students must retake tests
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 11:10 am
I got a few chuckles from this unintentionally humorous Advertiser article following up on the DOE cheating allegations at Waianae Intermediate School.
This is the first time any impropriety regarding the Hawaiâ€™i State Assessment has been discovered. It appears to be an isolated incident, since no other schools have reported possible breaches, McClelland said.
Hmmm, and why would they ever report a breach of propriety? The schools benefit from high scores and are penalized for low scores. With little (no?) oversight, this methodology begs for abuse.
In related news, a recent telephone survey among 16-year-old youths found that less than 2% masturbate.
Then there was this, which puzzles to me every time it is mentioned:
The high-stakes assessment is used to determine how well schools are getting students to grade level in reading and math. Schools must make â€œadequate yearly progressâ€ in each subject area or face sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Waiâ€™anae Intermediate was notified last month that it will come under the strictest penalty under the law with the next school year ? takeover by the state.
Um, the DOE schools are already under State control, arenâ€™t they? Thatâ€™s as strict as the NCLB Act punishment gets? Maybe it is not worth the effort to cheat if thatâ€™s the worst consequence, ha ha. Cheating takes some initiative, which somebody at Waianae obviously has, misguided as it may be.
Curbside recycling stillborn? Honolulu budget debated.
â€” Doug @ 10:54 am
The SB has a piece describing the amendments made by Budget Chair Kobayashi of the Honolulu City Council.
A few projects here and there were trimmed or removed, as you might expect. One particular change caught my eye:
The committee also approved a cut of $500,000 that Budget Director Mary Pat Waterhouse said was intended to carry out the second phase of Hannemannâ€™s Mayorâ€™s Review, an auditlike look at the cityâ€™s finances and functions.
The first part of the review, conducted in the first two months of Hannemannâ€™s administration, identified problems in determining the financial and operational status of the city. The second part would recommend and carry out solutions to the problems.
I was extremely dubious of this â€œauditlikeâ€ review, if you recall. On the other hand, if the Mayor truly could resolve all the financial and operating problems for $500,000 that would be the deal of the century, ha ha.
I also took note of this comment, although it isnâ€™t clear if this was actually a budget amendment or only thinking out loud from Kobayashi:
But Kobayashi said that the city might need to rethink rolling out curbside recycling given the stateâ€™s current bottle redemption program and the recycling program undertaken by the schools.
â€œAre we actually going to do that?â€ Kobayashi said. â€œFor the city to get into this, the cost is at least $4 million and then $1.2 million for the maintenance. Maybe we should coordinate more with the state.â€
Previously the City was concerned that with the low redemption rate for beverage containers the curbside recycling may be overwhelmed when it finally starts up and has to deal with a big backlog of containers they fear people have been hording. I donâ€™t know what â€œcoordinating with the stateâ€ meant, but killing the curbside recycling program is not the right reaction. The Cityâ€™s own recycling coordinator has said that the two programs complement each other, and the landfill problems are not going to subside until we decrease the flow of rubbish by removing recyclables.
Recycle at Foodland, earn in-store credit
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 10:32 am
Finally, a major retailer appears to have blinked in the standoff regarding beverage container redemption at retail sites. The Advertiser has details of Foodlandâ€™s plan to bring this opportunity to Oahu (formerly offered only at two service stations on Maui).
â€œWe know consumers have been faced with many challenges redeeming bottles and cans,â€ said Sheryl Toda, a Foodland spokeswoman. â€œWeâ€™re committed to doing our part to help.â€
Under the storeâ€™s plan, recycler Rolloffs Hawaiâ€™i will set up a mobile redemption center at Foodland locations on Beretania Street, in â€˜Ewa Beach and Laâ€™ie on alternating days. Consumers will be able to turn in their empties in the Foodland parking lot and get a receipt, which can be redeemed for cash or goods inside the store.
I owe Ms. Toda an apology for my earlier taunting. This is an excellent development. If it works and is expanded the other big grocery stores might be persuaded to offer a similar convenience.
Hawaii women inmates in Colorado allege more ill treatment
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 10:15 am
The following is an email I received from my good friend Kat Brady of the Community Alliance on Prisons. This email was sent to all legislators yesterday. I have highlighted the most egregious allegations.
Who will investigate these claims?
UPDATE: Wow, after seeing it in final form, this is a another long post! I hope you read it. Click the â€˜moreâ€™ link to continue.
Senator set up for a fall
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:12 am
Wednesday saw numerous editorials and columnists sharpening their knives for Senator Kanno. The authors included David Shapiro, the Advertiserâ€™s editorial board and the SB editorial board. They made some valid points, and some points Iâ€™d like to expand upon.
This is a lengthy post. As I was finishing it up this morning, I see that Richard Port has a piece on a very similar theme but with less rambling detail. His piece is here.
Anyway, hit the â€˜moreâ€™ link to see my thoughts. Another disclaimerâ€”I was acquainted with the worker and heard his version of events privately before he resigned. If that colors this post, so be it. Readers may judge my credibility as they see fit. These words are mine, not his.
More from Lingleâ€™s talk with journalists
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 1:39 pm
The Maui News has a report with some additional tasty nuggets from yesterdays press gathering with the Governor.
Lingle said she would support a proposal moving forward in the Legislature to give counties the power to impose a general excise tax to pay for mass transit projects.
Under the plan, counties could implement an excise tax of up to 1 percent, as long as the money would be used to solve transportation problems.
Lingle said that while she would prefer allowing counties to decide how to use the money, she was glad the bill would give them a degree of home rule.
?Counties should have that authority,? she said.
Borreca paints a picture of the Governor much more insistent that the counties not be limited to expending the new revenues on transit. This Maui News piece seems to imply that flexibility is her wish, not her demand.
On an issue that has received national attention, Lingle said she was optimistic the Native Hawaiian recognition bill ? commonly known as the Akaka Bill for its introducer, Sen. Daniel Akaka ? could be passed into law this year ? and that President George W. Bush will not stand in its way.
There will be enough Republican votes to ?guarantee passage,? as long as Democrats deliver the votes they have promised, said Lingle, who has been lobbying GOP members of Congress on the bill.
She felt the fact that Bush has not commented publicly on the bill was a good sign.
?The president has not vetoed one bill in the four years he?s been in office,? she said. ?If Congress passes this bill, I think there?s good reason to believe it will become law.?
[Senator] Hanabusa challenged Lingle?s assertion that open support by Bush is not needed to assure passage of the Akaka Bill, noting that both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans.
?I think that the White House role is critical,? Hanabusa said.
Heh. I suppose Governor Lingle did the best she could to spin Presidential silence into â€œnot opposed.â€ Her guarantee of enough Republican votes to pass it through Congress is news, though. That lobbying success is something she deserves credit forâ€”if those votes actually are cast.
Wyoming removes women inmates from CO prison
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:24 am
The Advertiser is still on top of the story about the private Colorado prison housing female inmates from Hawaii. The main news today is that Wyoming has decided that problems at the facility are sufficient to compel them to remove their women altogether.
Hawaiâ€™i has 80 women inmates at Brush, and there are no immediate plans to move the Hawaiâ€™i inmates out of the prison, said Michael Gaede, spokesman for the Hawaiâ€™i Department of Public Safety. However, Hawaiâ€™iâ€™s two-year contract with GRW Corp to house inmates at Brush ends on July 31.
Okay, no â€œimmediateâ€ plans, but what are the DPS intentions after July 31? Is the State soliciting other bids for this contract or making plans to return these women to Hawaii?
In other developments, the article has this:
Two other members of the prison staff were charged in an alleged cigarette smuggling ring.
Five women inmates from Hawaiâ€™i and two family members of Hawaiâ€™i inmates have also been charged in that case.
There may be a bigger story there, with a little more digging. Cough.
Governor weighs in on high-profile Bills
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:30 am
Borreca has a good report based upon a conversation with Governor Lingle on the marquee issues of this legislative session.
On HB 1309 giving counties authority to implement a GET increase for transit:
Noting the counties should have the power of home rule, Lingle told reporters yesterday in a meeting at her state Capitol office that a county-option tax increase should not be limited to transit improvements.
That, of course, would provide additional ammunition to those that already are leery that this is going to be a boondoggle once the Counties get this money. Mayor Hannemann has come out in strong support of rail transit, but it is not unreasonable to think that the Honolulu Council if given the option to fund other, as they say, â€œneed to haveâ€ projects, might blink.
The article also contains a signal from Senator Taniguchi that he is wavering in, if not already withdrawing, his support of HB 1309:
Sen. Brian Taniguchi, Ways and Means Committee chairman, said the Legislature â€œwants to be sure the money is used for the purposes we thought they were asking for, and that is transit.â€
Before using an increase in the excise tax to fund more county services, Taniguchi said the counties should exercise the taxing powers they already have.
â€œThey have the power with the fuel tax and car registration and property tax,â€ he said.
Taniguchi said he is not convinced the transit tax increase is needed this year.
I donâ€™t get it. Is it needed?! Taniguchi thinks that Congressman Abercrombie is bluffing? Or does he think the County Council will raise fuel, car registration, and property taxes enough to generate sufficient revenue to convince the federal government that Honolulu is serious about rail and deserves to receive federal funding help? Bizarre.
Folks, itâ€™s almost time to move on to the question of â€œwho is to blame for inaction on traffic congestion?â€ It seems to me that Lingle and Taniguchi are scouting their terrain for that battle.
Finally, on publicly-financed campaigns the Governor had this to say:
Lingle also told reporters that she would veto a campaign spending reform bill, HB 1713, that would allow candidates to pay for their campaigns with state money if they promise not to accept outside donations.
Lingle called it the worst bill this legislative session.
â€œIt will charge the taxpayers to run elections â€“ to make them pay for campaigns of candidates. I think the taxpayers would revolt against it.
â€œIt would force them to support candidates they may be bitterly opposed to,â€ Lingle said.
That veto threat is disappointing, but not unexpected. Depending upon what form the bill emerges from conference committee a veto overturn is entirely possible, if the supporters donâ€™t wilt.
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:54 am
A SB editorial today that calls for the State to appropriate enough money to come to the aid of areas fighting coqui frog invasions, due to the economic impact of the frogs.
Where have I heard that before? Is there an echo in here? This part is news to me, though:
While people power works on the ground, the real estate group, concerned about the frogsâ€™ effect on property values and agentsâ€™ responsibility to alert buyers to infestation, is lobbying government officials to help out. The group wants lawmakers to provide funds and is talking with county officials, who are drafting a bill to require landowners to keep their properties free of pest species.
The problem is ecological, said Bob Hansen, head of the associationâ€™s coqui subcommittee, but it also could lower property values. Even in todayâ€™s booming market, few would want to buy a house if chirping frogs will keep them awake at night.
Mauiâ€™s infestation isnâ€™t as bad as the Big Islandâ€™s, which earlier this year reduced Mayor Harry Kim to begging for help from the state. If his pleas arenâ€™t enough, perhaps the barks from business will make legislators listen.
â€œThe problem is ecological.â€ Funny, I donâ€™t recall any testimony from the realtors on any other invasive specie issues. Itâ€™s really about their commissions, obviously. Besides, if landowners were to be held responsible for eradicating invasive species, wouldnâ€™t that have an even more chilling effect on the real estate market? Unless there are some missing details on this proposal, it doesnâ€™t fit with the larger theme of the editorial, i.e. the State should relieve the private sector of this burden.
Safarik alleges coup
â€” Doug @ 7:37 am
Both of the Hawaii County dailies have stories about former Council Chair Safarik asking the Office of Information Practices to look into whether the Council acted improperly in the lead-up to his removal as Chair. The West Hawaii Today has it here and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald piece is here.
Well, this sure seems to be a quixotic farce. Safarik accuses the other eight Councilmembers of meeting to plan his removal, yet he has acknowledged that he met with other Councilmember prior to the reorganizatin that installed him as chair. He is also upset that on the morning he was removed the full Council (including Safarik!) voted to change the afternoon Council agenda to take up the vote on the reorganization. Safarik now says that vote in favor of amending the agenda was a â€œmistake.â€ Heh. Indeed.
The newly-appointed council chairman, Stacy Higa questioned Safarikâ€™s motives for filing a complaint when the reorganization was simply a matter of Safarikâ€™s colleagues unanimously agreeing they disliked his management style.
â€œDoes he want us to go into extreme detail on how we disliked his management style? Does he want a public assessment of that? What are we going to gain from this?â€ Higa asked.
I think that is what Safarik wants. Higa and the other seven should give it to him, if thatâ€™s okay with the County Clerk, of course.
Abercrombie interviewed by Native American Newspaper re: Akaka Bill
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 3:09 pm
I noticed a new post at the Hawaiian Independence Weblog about a multi-part interview with Congressmember Abercrombie regarding the Akaka Bill. The interview was from the Indian Country Today and can be found at these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
Iâ€™m still not familiar enough with the topic to really comment intelligently, but have a look at what HIW says on the topic. For my part, I did find the following exchanges scattered throughout the interview that riff or expand on themes seen here before:
ICT: Why does the bill emphasize that it shall not be construed to authorize any gaming activities?
Abercrombie: Does the phrase â€˜â€™support of Indian tribes who have gaming’â€™ ring a bell? We want the support of Indian tribes. You get into gaming, then youâ€™re competing with them.
ICT: What kind of support do you have among Hawaiian residents as a whole?
Abercrombie: Again, an overwhelming majority were for it. But over time, especially as the thing doesnâ€™t get passed, you get the extremes writing in the newspaper complaining about it. Are there 1,000 people in the state who even know whatâ€™s in the bill? For all practical political purposes, itâ€™s quite clear that the overwhelming majority of people are for it in the sense that they donâ€™t know anything that would make them be against it.
ICT: You have the support of your own Republican governor.
Abercrombie: Thatâ€™s what they say. Thatâ€™s the public perception. But to my knowledge, the Republican governor [Linda Lingle] has never exchanged a word on this with the White House except perfunctorily.
ICT: You canâ€™t speak for the White House, but â€¦
Abercrombie: I canâ€™t speak for the White House, but I can speak for what the White House did because I was there when it happened. The Office of Management and Budget director, Mr. Joshua Bolten, explicitly stated to the Appropriations Committee in the House that the White House was opposed to this.
ICT: Is it a philosophical opposition?
Abercrombie: No. Itâ€™s an appeal to the right wing of the Republican Party, the 21st century version of the Know Nothings. Racial preferences [they argue], affirmative action, special privileges, reverse discrimination: it even gets into the immigrant argument.
The sad part is that the Akaka bill, which really has nothing to do with any of this stuff, is trapped in the â€˜â€™Well, we couldnâ€™t get the Indian tribes, we couldnâ€™t get the Native Alaskans, these are the only guys out there, tough luck that they didnâ€™t get in on the deal 30 years ago.’â€™
Just think about it: What possible threat are Native Hawaiians to anybody up here on the mainland in any way, shape or form? Thereâ€™s a strain of nativism, which is ironic.
ICT: What are the billâ€™s prospects?
Abercrombie: In terms of legislation, I think theyâ€™re excellent. In terms of executive approval, theyâ€™re pretty bad. And the bill wonâ€™t move, in my judgment, particularly with the Houseâ€™s concern, absent the approbation of the White House.
ICT: Are you saying the wrong man won in November?
Abercrombie: If anything, it has to do with the wrong woman who won in 2002. Part of the victory of the governor was that she could do something for the Native Hawaiians that Democrats could not do, that she would have access, that she would have political leverage with the Bush White House. But I havenâ€™t seen any evidence of that. Iâ€™d be happy if she could – it would help her in 2006 – but youâ€™ve got the bigger question here of justice for the Hawaiians. She has been, at best, supine. Maybe sheâ€™s waiting for the right time.
The interview is a good find. Watch HIW for much better coverage of this topic than what you find here, that is my strategy and my advice.
USDA denies grant to fight coqui
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 12:38 pm
Itâ€™s a bad news day for federal pork spending coming to Hawaii. The Advertiser carries this account of a USDA decision to withhold grant money to help Hawaii eradicate coqui frogs.
The decision means that the $9M requested wonâ€™t be provided. That is more than twice the entire $4M budget for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, so the grant would have made a huge impact.
Recent stories from Hawaii media suggest that sometimes neighbors working together are succesful in killing the frogs without government assistance, but that strategy required a coordinated effort and is funded by the residents of the area. It may not be realistic to expect that to work statewide.
If there is any upside, these noisy little frogs may be the only thing that can possibly drive down real estate prices to an affordable level. Heh. As far as that goes, the negative impact on property values leads me to wonder if residents of infested areas are given any relief on their property tax assessment.
Anti-ice task force may be in jeopardy
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 12:25 pm
A very good piece in the Advertiser this morning from Peter Boylan about the local impact of a proposal for a large reduction in federal funding for drug law enforcement. Between this news and the fact that the HPD vice section is under an FBI cloud, drug dealers and users may soon be breathing a bit easier in Hawaii. Maybe this funding cut will put an end to the Operation Green Harvest helicopters on the Big Island, and it might also have an impact on the Weed and Seed activities throughout the State. Weâ€™ll need more details as the budget advances.
John Horton, associate deputy director for state and local affairs in the Office of National Drug Policy, said the [Bush] administration takes the methamphetamine epidemic seriously, budget cuts notwithstanding.
â€œWeâ€™ve had to make some tough choices,â€ Horton said. â€œIf we had unlimited money, it would be different.â€
Those â€œtouch choicesâ€ were made necessary by the previous decisions to fight for huge tax cuts and to fund enormous increases in military spending for continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, if the US military or the government of Afghanistan was successfully eradicating the poppy crops in Afghanistan, then this reduction in federal assistance against illegal drugs would be slightly less disheartening. We are witnessing a shifting of funds from the failed â€œWar on Drugsâ€ to the â€œGlobal War on Terror.â€ Sorry, I try to focus on Hawaii politics, so enough on that theme.
Iâ€™d like to know the reactions of our Hawaii Congressional delegation. Maybe our Governor can use her access to President Bush to restore some of this funding, too. Just like the Akaka Bill? Oh, boy.
If Borreca was correct that the Governor â€œnever wavers in support for all President Bushâ€™s decisions,â€ then Lingle will support the Presidentâ€™s decision to make this budget reduction. We shall see.
Payments to ONE bottle redemption center slow for a valid reason
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:34 am
The beverage container redemption center operators that revealed problems with slow reimbursement from the State Department of Health should be paid more promptly in the future, according to stories in the Advertiser and SB.
The State did not try to downplay the problem, admitted the inefficiency, and took steps to make it work better. Good on them. Even better, itâ€™s also good to see that the State did not let the fact that one of the companies owed them back taxes escape their notice.
Yesterday Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones said the issue was complicated by general excise taxes owed by Island Recycling dating to 1999. Jones said state officials previously were unable to discuss the issue because of taxpayer confidentiality laws.
Jones said the state Department of Taxation filed a $146,148.27 lien yesterday against money owed Island Recycling by the Department of Health.
Iâ€™m a bit confused why taxpayer confidentiality is no longer an issue, but whatever. It must be because the lien was filed and thatâ€™s a public document. ??
The SB was unable to get any reaction from Island Recycling, but the Advertiser was able to get some comments from the President.
Island Recycling owner Jim Nutter said he didnâ€™t learn until yesterday that the state was seeking a tax lien.
At issue in the unpaid excise tax was income Island Recycling received from the city to subsidize its cost of shipping out glass for recycling, Nutter said.
â€œWe thought that since we didnâ€™t keep the money that we shouldnâ€™t have to pay a tax on it,â€ Nutter said. â€œOur tax attorney said the same thing, but we disputed it and we lost.â€
Until yesterday, Nutter said, he thought the company had an agreement with the Tax Department to pay the excise tax over 12 months, he said.
Well, now that they have all that squared away, we can shift back to a focus on problems on the consumer side of the process.
Hawaii County Clerk nominates an Auditor
â€” Doug @ 2:34 pm
West Hawaii Today carries the story that a Hawaii County prosecutor has been selected as a nominee to become the County Legislative Auditor.
Last week I was inclined to think that the staff at the Hawaii County Council has an impressive amount of influence on the councilmembers.
The legislative auditorâ€™s position has been vacant since March 20. Thatâ€™s when [County Clerk] Kiriu fired David Kimo Frankel, calling the surprise move a â€œmanagement decision done with the best interest of the office.â€
Following that, the council last week approved a new organization that replaced Chairman Gary Safarik of Puna with freshman Hilo Councilman Stacy Higa.
Higa said he met recently with Smith [the Clerkâ€™s nominee for Auditor] and found him to be a â€œtop-notch personâ€ and very professional.
â€œIâ€™m not opposed to it,â€ Higa said when asked if he will vote to confirm Smith. â€œIâ€™m for whatever Connie (Kiriu) wants. I support her as county clerk completely.â€
Well, that quote seems to be another brick for the foundation of my earlier assessment. The staff over there have some significant political influence and councilmembers are quick to act, even publicly, to keep the staff happy. To put it mildly, thatâ€™s not usually the case in politics.
Ethics probe of Kanno sought
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 12:48 pm
Both dailies have similar reports on the letter sent from the Senate Minority Caucus to the State Ethics Commission asking for an investigation of Senator Kanno. The Advertiser here and the SB here.
Kanno issued a press release in response, part of which said:
I believe that the issue at hand is really about the appropriate role of a legislator. In my 12 years of serving the people of my district and of the state, I have always believed that constituent service is important for all elected officials. When someone contacts my office for help, we have and will continue to look at what is the proper and appropriate way to help.
That is more or less what I said earlier. Here is the statute that would apply should this lead to an ethics investigation:
HRS ? 84-13 Fair treatment. No legislator or employee shall use or attempt to use the legislatorâ€™s or employeeâ€™s official position to secure or grant unwarranted [emphasis mine] privileges, exemptions, advantages, contracts, or treatment, for oneself or others; including but not limited to the following:
(1) Seeking other employment or contract for services for oneself by the use or attempted use of the legislatorâ€™s or employeeâ€™s office or position.
(2) Accepting, receiving, or soliciting compensation or other consideration for the performance of the legislatorâ€™s or employeeâ€™s official duties or responsibilities except as provided by law.
(3) Using state time, equipment or other facilities for private business purposes.
(4) Soliciting, selling, or otherwise engaging in a substantial financial transaction with a subordinate or a person or business whom the legislator or employee inspects or supervises in the legislatorâ€™s or employeeâ€™s official capacity.
Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit a legislator from introducing bills and resolutions [emphasis mine], serving on committees or from making statements or taking action in the exercise of the legislatorâ€™s legislative functions. Every legislator shall file a full and complete public disclosure of the nature and extent of the interest or transaction which the legislator believes may be affected by legislative action.
Considering the first bolded section, I think even the Republicans would agree that there was nothing, neither warranted nor â€œunwarranted,â€ to be gained for Senator Kanno, those who signed the letter, and those who introduced the resolutions. Next, I would interpret the second bolded section to mean that all the resolutions introduced could not be found in violation.
NCL argues that because they rebuffed Kannoâ€™s visit and the subsequent letter the resolutions were introduced as punishment. So what. Nothing prohibits legislators from introducing â€œpunitiveâ€ legislation! Reminder, folks: legislators write our PENAL CODE, punitive is part and parcel of the job description.
We entrust legislators with wide discretion to consider how to punish actions that are found to be objectionable, and it seems that Kanno gave NCL two chances to address the concerns of the former employee and only after both attempts failed did Kanno draft the resolutions. At that point Kanno had a valid basis to assume that if this employee was treated in this manner, it could happen again to another employee. As chair of the Senate Labor Committee, taking up this topic is well within the purview of his oversight. It doesnâ€™t mean the resolution is automatically a good idea, but the merits and demerits of the idea would come out during the legislative process. Introducing these resolutions was not unethical, in my opinion.
The resolutions asked for an accounting of the NCL sexual harrassment policy and a study to determine if the Hawaii-based cruise industry (of which NCL presently enjoys a monopoly of US-flagged ships) should be subject to the transient accomodations tax. The former is not an especially onerous request, if in fact NCL has a written sexual harassment policy they need only hand it over for inspection. The study would have no force of law, thus no matter what the study might find, it would require additional legislation to actually subject cruise ships to the transient accomodations tax. There again, the merits and demerits of that idea would be revealed in the legislative process.
On the other hand, the letter sent to Norwegian Cruise Lines, the text of which (as far as I know) has not been published anywhere online, could be grounds for an investigation and may be an ethical violation. The Ethics Commission would have to decide whether by meeting with NCL on behalf of, and writing a letter seeking restitution and travel expenses for, an employee who alleged an unfair employment practice, Senator Kanno was in fact seeking treatment â€œunwarrantedâ€ for that former employee. Without access to the letter and all the facts, we just canâ€™t tell.
Lastly, all the reports I have seen have failed to mention the following parallel: This former employee alleges that his conviction in the Phillipines and his termination by NCL were both results of denials of effective due process to confront accusations of sexual impropriety. If that is correct (and, again, we just donâ€™t know) then after spending many years in prison the first time it is not surprising that the employee would fight so hard when he believes it has happened to him again.
Slow accounting hobbles beverage container program
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 10:14 am
Another Advertiser article keeping readers informed about the beverage container deposit program. Of the two pieces today, this is the â€œbad newsâ€ story, compared to the â€œbetter newsâ€ story.
Stores began collecting 5-cent deposits on each eligible container on Nov. 1. Starting Jan. 1, shoppers were able to take their containers to recycling centers to get back the deposit. The program has been plagued by a low participation rate in part because the low number of recycling centers made returning bottles inconvenient.
If some centers close because of the stateâ€™s failure to reimburse them for deposits paid, the problem can only get worse.
This could become the biggest problem the program faces. Forget allowing crushing of the cans, forget not enough redemption locations and inadequate business hours for consumer convenience, forget undercounting the containers by weight; those problems are on the consumer end. If the redemption centers have cash flow problems and go out of business because they are not being promptly paid, then the gig is up. These payments need to be efficient if the program is going to thrive.
Big Island residents also receive scrap value for redeemed cans
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 10:00 am
Wow, when I posted a while ago on what the beverage container deposit program has done to shortchange scrap metal collectors I didnâ€™t expect anybody to offer any remedy.
The Advertiser has a piece where we learn that consumers on the Big Island have an opportunity to get their beverage container deposits redeemed AND be paid for the scrap value of the can.
The fact that consumers donâ€™t get paid the aluminum value for cans could be one reason redemption rates have been below state expectations. Of the 11 states with beverage container deposit laws only one, California, allows consumers to receive the scrap value of aluminum cans.
This is good news for Big Island consumers near this recycling center, but I note that if it becomes common to pay the beverage container redemption customers the scrap value it would be a big disincentive for anyone to enter into the redemption business. We shouldnâ€™t expect anyone to voluntarily enter into the redemption/recycling business for almost zero profit.
Restraining order process amended
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:47 am
An Advertiser column today tries to make the case that HB 1378 is an affront to domestic violence and threatens the safety of people seeking the protection of a restraining order.
HB 1378, which goes to a Senate floor vote this morning, contains several points aimed to beef up the rights of the accused. The most dangerous of these measures states that any finding of fact or ruling made in connection with granting a restraining order or protective order shall not be binding in any other Family Court proceeding, including child visitation.
Please, indeed. There is another clause in the bill not mentioned in the column. Section 2 of the bill amends HRS Â§ 586-3, specifically to say:
(d) If a suit for divorce or a child custody proceeding is pending, any petition for a protective order may be filed in that same proceeding to the extent practicable. Any decree or order issued in a divorce or child custody proceeding subsequent to the petition being filed or an order being issued pursuant to this section, in the discretion of the court hearing the divorce or child custody proceeding, may supersede in whole or part the orders issued pursuant to this section. The rendering court shall forward all subsequent decrees relating to the divorce or child custody proceeding to the court having jurisdiction over the petition for a protective order. The factual findings and rulings made in connection with the granting or denying of a protective order shall not have binding effect in any other family court proceeding, including child custody determinations under section 571-46, and the court in such proceedings shall give de novo consideration to the facts and circumstances alleged in making later determinations of custody and visitation affecting the parties.
This clause means that the court shall hear again (i.e. â€œgive de novo consideration”) the facts and circumstances alleged in the restraining order. The column, however, implies that due process is inevitably unfair to victimsâ€”sometimes.
Domestic abuse, by its very nature, takes place behind closed doors without witnesses. It is the judgeâ€™s responsibility to evaluate each claim on its merit. The judge is trusted to, well, pass judgment. Thatâ€™s why they get to sit on the high chair and wear the black robe.
I trust the judges, too, but the â€œpreponderence of evidenceâ€ standard should not be enough to be accepted as undisputed fact in a later proceeding. If the allegations were/are valid, I trust that another judge will come to the same conclusion. Judges are, correctly, inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to victims when issuing restraining orders. The much more punitive action of removing or limiting child custody, however, deserves another layer of due process to examine if that initial decision was valid.
â€” Doug @ 9:05 am
Continuing on the pieing topic, there is this Hawaii Reporter story recounting how a â€œhippishâ€ woman threw a pie at Augie T from KDNN-FM.
[The victim is] also a conservative who supports President George W. Bush, the war on terror, America?s troops and local Republicans ? despite the fact that he grew up dirt poor on welfare and in public housing ? and now has a gay son.
It?s his patriotism and an invitation, which he recently accepted, to entertain the troops in the Middle East later this year, that landed him a pie in the face this weekend just before he went on stage at a theater in Honokaa, a tiny town on the island of Hawaii.
Maybe I was a bit hasty in my thinking that Horowitz wonâ€™t be pied in Hawaii. Or perhaps this â€œpie in the faceâ€ strategy is working so well to motivate the conservative base that this rash of conservative pieings comprise a coordinated campaign. The assailant delivered a letter before the private pie ambush? If you say so, Augie.
Lastly, the description of the victim that begins that excerpt is almost trying too hard to scream â€œbig tent Republicans!â€ A true â€œrags to piesâ€ story. Heh.
Wow, I thought *I* was wonky
â€” Doug @ 8:40 am
If you have a spare 20 minutes and enjoy political philosophy, take a look at this five-part (uncompleted) essay on the social contract. Part 1 and Part 2. UPDATE: Now there is a Part 3. UPDATE: â€¦and a Part 4. UPDATE: â€¦and a Part 5.
Quite a lengthy rumination, yet (so far) it has not clearly came to a pointâ€”I have no idea exactly where he is heading beyond a vaguely Ayn Rand-ian theme of individual rights. I wouldnâ€™t normally link to it, except that the author works in the House Minority Research Office.
Some big thinkers over there, it would seem. Or at least one.
Response mixed to bottle-law proposal
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:51 am
Some confusion in comparing todays Advertiser article regarding beverage container redemption centers at retail locations against the SB story from yesterday.
â€œWe understand the public wants more redemption centers and weâ€™re trying to help with that,â€ said Larry Lau, DOH deputy director for environmental health.
The concept has the support of both retail trade associations, the Sierra Club and several operators of existing redemption centers.
Members of the business community expressed some reservations about the proposal during a hearing last week, however. The proposal also was opposed by the state tax and health departments, and even raised concerns from the Sierra Club Hawaiâ€™i Chapter, one of the main proponents of the bottle law.
Hmmm, forgive me for being pleased yesterday. There is still time to hear more from the players regarding this bill, but my praise for the SB piece may have been premature.
From Pangâ€™s piece it now seems that the â€œsupportâ€ for this tax credit/grant idea is broad, but not very deep if you really dig into it. I havenâ€™t read the testimony, but if I had to guess Iâ€™d say the testimony probably was drafted in the â€œsupport of the intentâ€ style. Often such testimony offers up major concerns (or doesnâ€™t mention major concerns and instead tosses out vague platitudes) from testifiers who, for various strategic reasons, donâ€™t want to be listed as â€œopponentsâ€ of the bill when the standing committee report is written.
Hawaiâ€™i at bottom in child-support ranking
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:59 am
Jim Dooley is unstoppable. Today the Advertiser carries another great article from him; this time Dooley digs into the pathetic condition of child support collections in Hawaii.
The first three paragraphs drop the bomb, and then Dooley meticulously lays out the background to flesh out the story. Itâ€™s an impressive effort.
The second paragraph is the most distressing part of the problem:
The figure might have been even higher, but state officials last year found a new way to improve the numbers: They shelved nearly 5,000 accounts worth $11.8 million so they are no longer reported to federal regulators as delinquent.
However awful that may sound, it is slightly tempered by a later revelation:
The accounting change that allowed the state to clear $11.8 million in overdue payments from the books â€œhas never been done before here,â€ [Hawaii Attorney General] Bennett said. But he said it was approved in advance by federal officials and should substantially increase â€œincentive paymentsâ€ that the federal government grants to Hawaiâ€™i and other states for improved collection performance.
I interpret that to mean that by cooking our books a bit we can get more federal dollars to flow to Hawaii. But will that federal money improve (the non-jiggered) collection success, or will the only result be an artificial jump in our statistics after a bunch of cases were swept under the rug? If those federal dollars improve the collection situation then it might make sense to play along, especially since it just so happens that it makes the state look a bit better. Not a hard political decision to make, actually. BUT, thereâ€™s a big catch.
According to the state, 2,491 of the child-support accounts that were shelved last year involved $5.9 million in welfare assistance paid to the custodial parents who were not receiving child support from their former partners.
Thatâ€™s taxpayer money the state will no longer actively try to recover from delinquent parents.
I wish we could see more work like Dooleyâ€™s. His is a great article and obviously involved a lot of research, check it out.
Govâ€™s radio spots – dueling letters to the editor
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:33 am
The final two letters to the editor in the SB today are from House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro and from the Governorâ€™s Communication Manager Lois Hamaguchi.
Both letters address the previously mentioned 60-second radio spots the Governor is producing weekly for distribution to radio stations. Hamaguchi claims that these spots are not Public Service Announcements, yet does not address the point of why these â€œRadio Addressesâ€ deserve free broadcast time if they are not PSAs. Hamaguchi also points out that the spots are produced â€œat no cost to the taxpayer.â€ Accordingly, this raises the question if KHVH should be required to report the value of this â€œin kindâ€ donation of production services.
Oshiro acknowledges that a few other governors distribute these type of spots, but points out that Massachusetts Governor Romney pays for the broadcast time with campaign funds. Oshiro also asks for equal time from broadcasters. Frankly, I think simply asking that question is a waste of his time since broadcasters can easily choose to ignore him. Oshiro (or any scrappy politician, for that matter) should instead approach KHVH and ask them to produce (without charge) opposing spots modeled scrupulously after the Lingle spots and then distribute them for broadcast statewide (after getting a ruling from the Campaign Spending Commission and the Ethics Commission, of course). This would put the ball squarely in the broadcasters court to explain their rejection or to broadcast the opposing viewpoints.
As I wrote earlier, I would love to see free airtime for this type of debate. That said, I donâ€™t have much doubt that the spots would soon descend into the attack ad gutter.
Kauai to take up vacation rental regulation
â€” Doug @ 8:03 am
Kauai is taking a systematic look at the bed and breakfast phenomenon, according to this Garden Island News piece.
County Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura told the gathering, â€œone of the hopes for this meeting process is to get good data identifying where they are and how many there are.â€
Participants were given maps and asked to provide locations of rentals on the handouts.
Sounds a bit like trolling for zoning and tax violator snitches to me. Whatever. The report describes the rest of the meeting in terms that sound very much like it was a very â€œIâ€™m okay, youâ€™re okayâ€ event with a â€œfacilitatorâ€ and all that warm and fuzzy alternative dispute resolution jargon.
It will be interesting to see which direction this goes on Kauaiâ€”pro owner-occupant, or pro bed and breakfast. The County needs to balance the prospect of much higher tax revenues against the possibility that if unchecked the Kauai housing market might become dominated by itinerant â€œoccupantsâ€ instead of actual residents.
Progress on redeeming containers at retailer locations
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:54 am
It now seems that the solution to persuade retailers redeem beverage container deposits on site is to help them pay for the redemption equipment. Thatâ€™s according to this excellent SB report and follow-up to a previous encouraging story.
I suppose public outcry has finally convinced retailers to set aside their concerns about sanitation and space requirements. In any case, it is encouraging that the Lege and the DOH almost appear to be in a race to make this happen. There are bills and administrative rules that are both basically on the same tactic. I did not anticipate that weâ€™d be having this â€œproblem,â€ ha ha.
The only caveat I have with this proposal is that it could result in a mad rush to apply for these reverse vending machine grants and tax credits and, since the law only requires redemption sites every two miles, the smaller stores might be put at even more of a competitive disadvantage if they are not chosen and customers see that at CostcoSafeFoodStarLandWalMartWay they can redeem their containers but they canâ€™t redeem them at the neighborhood grocery or gas station. Maybe the grants and tax credits should be means-tested? Even once the program is fully up and running, as the balance of the beverage container deposit fund permits the tax credits and grants should be continued, even if that means redemption centers end up very close together.
Hiking trail maintenance woes explained
â€” Doug @ 7:32 am
I was pleased to see a nice Advertiser article that addresses the perpetual problem of maintaining the network of State hiking trails. Especially since the piece gave some deserved recognition to the volunteers (and civil servants) who have been toiling in obscurity. Hooray for Randy, Mabel, Aaron, and the rest!
I am especially pleased that the article provided the HTMC contact information to guide any reader who might have been motivated to volunteer. I do this work on an ad hoc, solo basis, and I love it. In fact, I should be out there right now, ha ha. â€¦thereâ€™s something about swinging an axe thatâ€™s just really satisfying.
Cheating on DOE tests
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 7:01 am
The allegations of cheating on high-stakes testing gets play from both dailies, though the Advertsier broke the story previously. Todays Advertiser update is here and the SB article is here.
Education and the DOE is not an area of expertise for me, but even a laymen can see that these high-stakes tests mean more to administrators and teachers than to the students. Iâ€™m not even sure if â€œcheatingâ€ is the best word to use for the actions described in the articles. Usually when I think of cheating on an exam it involves students trying to game the proctors; this case involves the proctors trying to assist the students.
The test booklets arrive in sealed cellophane packets that are not opened until shortly before the test. â€œThe test administrator is required to maintain those in a safe location where other staff and students cannot get to them,â€ [DOE official] McClelland said.
Every test booklet must be accounted for and returned to ensure that no copies of the test questions are floating around.
However, the department depends on the integrity and ethics of test administrators and school personnel to guard the booklets. â€œWe rely a great deal on what we say in the security agreement,â€ McClelland said.
Foxes guarding henhouses much? Given the low risk of detection, the shame and penalty for low scores, and the potentially high reward for cheating it is wishful thinking for the DOE to depend on integrity and ethics.
Maybe the disgruntled substitute teachers, charter school supporters, or administrators from outside districts should proctor these new tests. Heh.
Legislatorâ€™s aide resigns
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 11:13 am
Both dailies run stories on a legislative worker who has resigned over revelations that he has a criminal history. Youâ€™ll find them in the Advertiser and the SB.
Talk of his criminal past had been swirling about all week, and anyone familiar with how to conduct a web search could confirm the story. I actually thought that the previous Advertiser story would break the news, instead that piece publicly â€œoutedâ€ the worker while focusing more on the â€œNCL v. Kannoâ€ angle.
We may never know for sure, but I certainly suspect NCL or its allies made sure that his past history became the subject of this whisper campaign. The timing is just too convenient, in my opinion. I donâ€™t mean all this to exonerate the worker. The worker took an unbelievable risk in requesting the legislators to become involved on his behalf against a powerful adversary without anticipating (or in spite of) the potential for his past to be revealed on terms other than his own. Shockingly poor judgment, but it happened.
Legislators do not routinely ask about criminal history when hiring decisions are being made. Given the stigma associated with being a felon (especially for the offense he served time for) it is certainly easy to understand why an applicant for legislative work would not voluntarily disclose that information. Donâ€™t ask, donâ€™t tell; to use a pregnant turn of phrase, heh. This man was held accountable for his conviction and served several years of prison time. He was not the first former convict to serve in the legislative staff (and, since I set myself up for the easy joke, over the years several legislators have reversed the sequence) nor will he (or should he) be the last.
Despite all that, the pressure brought on by (and the unstated assumption of) all this media exposure is expected to lead the public to the conclusion that former felons should not be hired by legislators. I donâ€™t agree with that blanket assumption. Former felons have paid their debt. What jobs are â€œacceptableâ€ for them to hold? People at some point deserve a second chance. Itâ€™s all well and good for legislators to talk about reintegrating offenders into society, about how lack of employment opportunity contributes to recidivism, but when legislators actually step up and lead by example we are expected to believe that hiring an offender is a â€œscandal.â€ Sigh.
To be fair, thatâ€™s actually not congruent with the circumstances presented in the instant case, since the legislators that recommended and hired him for legislative work did not know of his incarceration. We can only guess if he would have been expected (or if he would have offered) to resign had his past come to light without the simultaneous NCL dispute. Nor can we know if the media would have put this story on the front page if not for the NCL dispute. My guesses are â€œsadly, yes,â€ and â€œhopefully not.â€
The irony is that I actually think his claims about NCL labor/management problems are worthy of examination, but, because he was probably the worst possible poster child, now that question will simply fade away. NCL 1, Lege 0.
Kimâ€™s amendment to gas cap fails – for now
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:50 am
The Advertiser carries the news that Senator Kimâ€™s scheme amendment to the gasoline price cap law was not attached to HB 863 as she had hoped.
What is a bit odd however, is the Senate Standing Committee Report reporting this decision to the President and members of the full Senate. It is unusual, Iâ€™d even say unheard of in my recent memory, for a SSCR to discuss amendments that were proposed but not incorporated and then to explicitly and publicly pin that onto the lack of prior concurrence from the subject matter committee chair. Usually any written discussion within the SSCR of a failed amendment is only to demonstrate that alternatives were considered, found lacking, and dismissed.
However, following lengthy discussions with the Chair of your Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Housing, the Chair would not give prior concurrence to the amendment. Your Committee will respect the desires of the Chair of your Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Housing and will not include that amendment in this measure at this time. However, your Committee respectfully requests that the Chair of your Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Housing [i.e. Senator Menor] continue to consider the merits of H.B. No. 1705, H.D. 1 during conference committee deliberations on this measure.
HB 1705, i.e. the bill the amendment was modeled after, was never heard before Senator Menorâ€™s CPH Committee, so there will be no conference committee deliberations on that topic unless legislators choose to disregard the mutually agreed to conference rules that prohibit inserting material into a measure that is beyond the scope of the latest House and Senate drafts under comparison. With Senator Menor almost guaranteed to be a Co-Chair of the Senate conference committee on this bill (if tradition holds it is quite likely Menor will be the lead Co-Chair) it is unlikely that he would set aside the conference rules and agree to consider the language he has rejected twice already.
Knowing that, by including this paragraph it really seems clear that this is a last-ditch effort to make Senator Menor the â€œownerâ€ of the gasoline price cap lawâ€”which most of these same Senators had voted for in 2002 (and amended unanimously in 2004).
5/2/2002 S Passed Final Reading, as amended (CD 2). 18 Aye(s); Aye(s) with reservations: Senator(s) Chun, Sakamoto . 7 No(es): Senator(s) Hemmings, Hogue, Ige, Inouye, Kawamoto, Matsuura, Slom. 0 Excused: none.
This is why I love following the conference committee processâ€¦
FBI digs deeper into HPD
â€” Doug @ 7:19 am
The Advertiser is keeping close watch again on the ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption within the Honolulu Police Department. There is not much new to report, a few more homes of officers were searched.
The fact that one of the homes searched was that of an officer from a special unit that works closely with the federal authorities does raise the stakes some. First, it makes me wonder if the FBI will be investigating its own agents for possible connections to the alleged activities. Second, if the allegations are true it could damage the trust necessary for the FBI to share information (and cross-deputization) freely with the HPD. Third, if the allegations are false it could make the HPD a bit leery of sharing information in the other direction if they started to consider the FBI an adjunct of the (scorned) HPD Internal Affairs section.
The cross-deputization is a common practice as part of the â€œWalk and Talkâ€ drug interdiction program at State airports and to apprehend bank robbers. Iâ€™m not sure what other circumstances might call for cross-deputization, however.
Senatorsâ€™ support of fired cruise worker questioned
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 1:44 pm
I am of very mixed feelings regarding this Advertiser article about Senator Kanno and other legislators intervening in a dispute between Norwegian Cruise Lines and a dismissed employee who is now a legislative staff worker.
I know the worker as an acquaintance. I resent the fact that the report saw any need to point out his political activity from 15 or 20 years ago; it is irrelevant to the larger story. The only motivations I can conceive of that might explain that editorial decision are that the inclusion was an attempt to shame and smear the worker while adding a bit of tongue-clucking â€œspiceâ€ for the lowest-common-denominator reader. This could have been handled worse and maybe sold more papers, but the manâ€™s past is not the issue here and he has been treated unfairly.
However, the issue of legislators using their influence against large businesses and the practice of other legislators co-signing legislation after only a cursory glance is worthy of a story. I strongly agree with that editorial decision.
As I mentioned yesterday, there is a plethora of resolutions that really donâ€™t belong before the legislature. This particular resolution however, is not among them. Anyone who believes that politically connected people do not nudge legislators to draft resolutions to support special interests needs to think again. Quite often Resolutions see the â€œlittle guyâ€ fighting an established powerâ€”unlike Bills, which are more often the opposite, but I digress.
For the Chair of a Labor Committee to introduce a resolution on behalf of a worker who alleges a potential labor relations problem is entirely defensibleâ€”it is for the hearing process to weigh the pros and cons of the actual resolution. If including the topic of studying the taxation policy applied to cruise ships makes the resolution too â€œpunitive,â€ that would come out at the public hearing as well.
The Senatorsâ€™ letter to NCL may have been inappropriate, but without reading it that is only conjecture. Legislators draft letters on behalf of constituents almost every day, dealing with things from the mundane to the profound. Constituents and voters, strangely enough, actually believe that elected officials represent them. Go figure.
Lastly, the practice of legislators signing legislation without having fully read it is, unfortunately, never going to be resolved with the current legislative calendar. When introduction deadlines draw near legislators simply have too many documents shoved in front of them in one day to allow for a careful review before they sign on as a sponsor. Human nature (i.e. procrastination) and the incredible workload placed on the drafting agencies being what they are, those introduction deadline days are always a clown act. There again, however, after this flurry of activity the legislative process should weed out those measures that should never have been introduced.
Hee puts insurers in a box
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 12:27 pm
The SB carries this article that describes the interesting amendment made by Senator Hee to HB 150 (a bill to institute a graduated drivers licensing system that I have posted about before).
With two rural Senators (English and Whalen) in opposition to the bill, Senator Hee was in a position to insist on an amendment in order for the bill to advance. The Committee gave the amendment to him, and the bill passed 4-2.
[Hee] supported the bill with amendments suggested by Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Kalihi-Liliha) that would have the law expire after three years. In the meantime, the state Transportation and Health departments would study whether the program is reducing crashes involving young drivers and report to the Legislature.
If the data shows a reduction in crashes after three years, future Legislatures would be charged with keeping it alive and deciding whether to impose the rollbacks on insurance companies.
Strange that it was Hee, not Chun Oakland, who demanded her amendment. But whatever.
I like the amendment, even though I donâ€™t have auto insurance. Iâ€™m not sure if it may be too cute by half to survive Conference, but it is certainly clever. The legislators will have to decide if this part of the bill could be a â€œpoison pillâ€ if it goes to the Governorâ€™s desk. The Senate draft also includes a three year sunset provision. Of course, in three years there could well be a different Governor if Lingle does not run, or runs and loses, or gives up her seat for another political opportunity.
Some pedestrian deaths get more reaction than others
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 12:06 pm
The SB has a thorough article describing the rapid response to the recent pedestrian fatality involving a 15-year-old Makakilo boy. The Advertiser has a similar, but inferior piece.
Ed Hirata, the County Transportation Director, proposed traffic calming measures such as a median strip or narrowing the road to one lane in each direction (currently it is a four lane street) to make the crosswalks safer.
â€œGiven what has happened, I think we need to take a real hard look at doing this because there is a need to slow down the traffic and combat the speeding,â€ said Ed Hirata, city transportation director.
Hirata said the traffic-calming device could be done with four lanes, but it might not work.
â€œIt would seem to me that if you wanted to make it easier for this crosswalk to work, the best way is to narrow it down to two lanes and make it easier for pedestrians to cross, and if weâ€™re talking about schoolchildren, all the more that we slow down the vehicles,â€ he said.
Contrast this County response to that of the State DOT after recurring fatalities of elderly pedestrians along the six lane Pali Highway in Nuuanu Valley. The DOT has tried various strategies to make the crosswalks more noticeable, but restricting the flow of traffic has never been an option seriously discussed. Another contrasting example of DOTâ€™s response is Farrington Highway, which is a four lane arterial road with many pedestrian fatalities and relatively little speed reduction proposed or effected.
The planned addition of school bus stops along Makakilo Drive so it will be possible for students to board from either side of the street is the most obvious solution. The options that involve slowing down traffic could provoke a driver backlash once the memory of this recent fatality fades, if not sooner.
Which reaction is better, the State or the County?
Horowitz pied in Indiana
â€” Doug @ 2:13 pm
Compared to this incident at Butler University on Wednesday, David Horowitzâ€™s speech in Hawaii will in all likelihood be less messy.
On the other hand, maybe it requires a pie-ing to garner him any media exposure [those darn liberal media!], and Horowitz was willing to take a pie to the chest of his French-cuffed shirt if it earns him a chance to denounce his â€œfascistâ€ tormenters via soundbite. Lose the battle (or stage the battle), win the war; so to speak.
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 1:09 pm
The Senate has removed bond funding for the Superferry, blah, blah, blah, youâ€™ve heard that from me before. What is more interesting in this Maui News piece are the comments of Senator Tsutsui. If there was any doubt before that maybe he was just being fiscally responsible by denying the bonds, I think it is now pretty clear that Tsutsui opposes the Superferry.
John Garibaldi, chief executive officer for the Superferry, was still hopeful that the funds would be included in the final budget.
?I?m sure it will be one of the livelier topics (in conference),? said Garibaldi. ?We?re confident that with 75 percent of Hawaii residents supporting the Hawaii Superferry, the Legislature will look at this budget line and think about the affordable, alternative transportation that we will provide.?
Tsutsui might disagree. He said he ?doubts? that the Superferry will pass the Legislature this year even after the upcoming negotiations with the House.
Isaac Hall, attorney for the Maui organizations that filed the suit, realizes that more discussions are on the horizon, but offered praise for the Senate for considering the bigger picture.
?We?re pleased the Senate has concerns about the harbor congestion and environmental impacts and that they?re taking a look at some of the serious questions raised by this project,? said Hall.
Garibaldi has said that the Superferry needs $40 million in state funds for harbor improvements to launch the project, but the company has every intention of paying it back.
Tsutsui said Gov. Linda Lingle?s request for the money to be issued in general obligation bonds was changed by lawmakers to revenue bonds to ensure that Superferry officials would be obligated to reimburse the state.
?Hey, if this service is going to be so profitable and beneficial, they should at least bear a part of the responsibility for the infrastructure,? said Tsutsui. ?I?m not in here to give them a free ride.?
While Garibaldi has said that the delay in the funding or the requirement of an environmental review would sink the Superferry, Tsutsui said lawmakers have been told of other businesses interested in starting up similar ventures.
There we have Senator Tsutsui a) pessimistic about the bonds being included in the budget; b) doubting the entire concept of the State helping this private company with free harbor infrastructure; and c) saying that Superferry isnâ€™t the only show in town. I infer from â€œcâ€ that Tsutsui thinks Mr. Garibaldiâ€™s threat of no ferry service is hollow.
! So who is this other potential ferry operator who is willing to do an environmental review and wonâ€™t need immediate state funding? That would be a storyâ€”if it were true.
Gas cap jujitsu from Senator Kim
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 12:44 pm
The SB offers this article about a shrewd political manuever being attempted by Senator Kim. The Senate Ways and Means Committee had a hearing decision-making on HB 863 yesterday, and deferred action until Friday.
At the hearing Senator Kim proposed that Governor Lingle be given the obligation to take explicit action to implement the gasoline price cap law or to kill it by inaction. This reverses the default position from implement to kill.
Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa) is asking that the law be changed so Lingle would have to announce her intention to implement it, or the price regulation would not start.
The law as written allows Lingle to stop the regulation from going into effect if she feels it would hurt the stateâ€™s economy. The proposal would give her the burden for starting the law.
â€œThis would say she needs to publish in a newspaper her intention to implement it â€¦ saying that it would be in the best interest of the state,â€ Kim said.
For any legislators nervous about the bill (and there are plenty of them), this provides perfect cover and enables them either to deflect blame to the Governor should the gasoline price cap be a disaster OR to blame Lingle for continuing high prices if she does not implement the price cap. In its current form, of course, the Legislature would get more credit for success, but apparently the supporters of Kimâ€™s amendment do not think success is the likely outcome.
Curiously, the article does not mention what (if anything) WAM Chairman Senator Taniguchi thought of this proposed amendment. Also left unsaid is that the first choice Governor Lingle would have to make is whether to even sign HB 863. If Lingle veotes the bill (or it does not arrive at her desk with the amendment Kim proposes) the gas cap will go into effect unless she declares that it will hurt the stateâ€™s economy.
Thus, if this amendment survives, Lingle would have a political and economic calculation to make, too; does she want to be seen as the risk-taking agent of change and consumer protector, or as the preserver of the free market and stooge of the oil industry? [In other words, how much does she want to be like President Bush, if you recall Borrecaâ€™s argument. Heh.] Depending upon her true opinion of the economic impact, she can pick whichever option (new bill or existing law) puts her in the best political light.
Hawaii County debates Superferry EIS resolution – and resolutions more generally
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 11:40 am
The West Hawaii Today has an interesting account of the debate at the Hawaii County Council (pre-leadership change) to consider a resolution asking for an EIS for the Superferry project at Kawaihae Harbor. In the end they decided to defer action until April 19.
The more interesting part of the article for me is the open discussion of the (f)utility of County Council resolutions.
South Kona Councilwoman Virginia Isbell questioned what council members would say to legislators without a resolution offering the councilâ€™s official stance. In her mind, â€œa postponement is a statement that we cannot make up our minds.â€
Ikeda suggested the resolution â€œmight be moot if we cannot get the support of state representatives.â€ Safarik said he didnâ€™t know if a resolution was â€œpowerful enough,â€ and that council members would be â€œshouting into the windâ€ by passing it.
He offered that the resolution is â€œa challengeâ€ to DOT and the state Legislature and â€œwhen you challenge, you become adversarial rather than be cooperative.â€
Vice Chair Bob Jacobson, representing Puna, Kaâ€™u and South Kona, encouraged his colleagues who think resolutions are â€œweak and donâ€™t say anythingâ€ to ignore all those that have been previously approved â€“ including the one supporting the controversial Hokulia development.
â€œI think the buck stops with us. If we want to delegate powers and opinions to Honolulu, then thatâ€™s the message we want to send,â€ Jacobson said, adding he believes council members â€œowe it to our constituents to look out for the environment.â€
My personal opinion is that close to half of all resolutions are gratuitous armwaving. Those would include all resolutions that I oppose, ha ha.
Resolutions at the Legislature requesting the Congress or the Bush administration to do x, y, or z, are next to pointless. Especially since the timing is usually such that the resolution bemoans some (in)action that is so far along (if not already completed) that even if the Congress was persuaded it would be too late. For examples, see 80% of the â€œurging the United States Congressâ€ resolutions heard before the House International Affairs Committee.
I donâ€™t deny that these resolutions provide fora for advocates from both sides to air their arguments in public. That makes for some interesting debate (and more than a few good blog posts) and forces people to form or re-examine their own opinions on the issues of the day. However, thatâ€™s a small consolation for the amount of sound and fury expended in the tedious political effort at the â€œwrongâ€ level of government to have an impact.
There are other important issues within the purview of their control deserving the attention of Legislators and Councilmembersâ€”issues that are left unaddressed because of time constraints and legislative deadlines. There is only so much time in a day and the session is only 4 months long (yes, I know, the Council meets all year, but in Honolulu, due to the monthly hearing schedule, each committe actually has fewer days to act than legislative committees!). Opinionated people should start blogs! [wink]
Hawaii County has new Council Chair
â€” Doug @ 10:11 am
If the account in this SB article is to be believed, the professional staff at the Hawaii County Council have quite a lot of influence over the Councilmembers.
After two extremely dubious decisions to fire staffers, which I posted about here and here, it would seem that the remaining staffers managed to band together and persuade the Council to select a new leader. Impressive.
Safarik fired legislative assistant Rory Flynn in January for carrying out an assignment given him by minority Councilman Fred Holschuh.
Legislative Auditor David Kimo Frankel was fired last month by County Clerk Connie Kiriu, who was under Safarikâ€™s direct supervision. No reason was given.
â€œThe staff terminations caused a lot of anxiety in the staff team,â€ said Kona Councilman Angel Pilago. Some staff had gone to Council members expressing worry about how safe their jobs were, Pilago said.
Safarik had chaired a regular meeting of the Council in the morning but went home in the afternoon â€œbecause he felt ill,â€ Jacobson said. Safarik could not be reached for comment.
Pilago said the 8-0 votes showed a strong cooperative effort between East and West Hawaii members.
Gee, I sure hope Councilmember Safarik feels better soon. Kicked-to-the-curb-osis is a tragic and very uncomfortable ailment, but usually not life-threatening.
Mayorâ€™s right-hand man backed
â€” Doug @ 9:20 am
Despite the comments made when he was nominated, Jeff Coelho has easily been confirmed to his post on Mayor Hannemannâ€™s staff, according to this Advertiser story.
He said the Hannemann administration strives to answer questions quickly and without adding bureaucratic hurdles.
â€œOur department heads are empowered to answer your questions,â€ he said.
Coelho said some answers just take longer than others. â€œIf I donâ€™t know the answer, I will tell you I donâ€™t know the answer and I will seek the source to find the answer.â€
The job pays $112,455 a year.
This is the Kabuki aspect of the confirmation hearing process. It must be said.
If we had a nickel for every time a confirmation hearing contained this boilerplate exchange of openness and cooperation rhetoricâ€¦it might be almost enough to pay a week or two of Coelhoâ€™s salary.
Development vs. show business
â€” Doug @ 9:07 am
I was struck by this account from the Samoa Observer and how it might parallel Hawaiiâ€™s situation.
Samoa has lost out as a location for the filming of a French movie on the life of literary giant Robert Louis Stevenson because Apia is too â€œdeveloped.â€
Instead, the filming will be done in Cuba, with the Cubans reaping the money and other benefits coming from being the site for the filming.
The movieâ€™s French producers scouted possible sites in Apia last year. But they were apparently disappointed so little of the Apia of the past remained.
I hardly have to add anything. If Oahu isnâ€™t more careful with our planning and permitting this could happen here, too. Not that Iâ€™d really shed a tear about less big (and small) screen exposure for the State.
Nothing mentioned in the article on the possibility that Cuba offered a (better) tax incentive, strangely enough.
The Outback Neighborhood Board ShowÂ®
â€” Doug @ 8:54 am
The Advertiser has this amusing/surprising story about the one of the most blatant examples of business influence on politics.
The Hawaiâ€™i Kai Neighborhood Board doesnâ€™t have enough money to pay for the taping of all its meetings to be broadcast on â€˜Olelo.
But a sponsor, Outback Steakhouse, has stepped forward to pay for the taping of the monthly meeting set for at 7 p.m. April 26 at the Hahaâ€™ione Elementary School cafeteria. In return, an Outback banner will hang behind board members during taping.
I canâ€™t believe that the Board agreed to that! The question Iâ€™d like to know is if the Board offered this advertising recognition or if the steakhouse demanded it. Will Outback Steakhouse be selling pupus at the meeting, too? Sheesh.
See how easy it is to cross the line from admirable, feel-good community service to bone-headed, crass publicity grab? I guess the Board cares more about getting their faces on television four more times this year than they do about maintaining any semblance of professionalism and objectivity.
Library arson getting more coverage
â€” Doug @ 8:17 am
The Honolulu dailies each have basically the same stuff Ka Leo ran yesterday concerning the fires being set in Hamilton Library. Advertiser and SB.
I am glad they also decided that the news value outweighs the risk of fueling (pun intended) the arsonists urge for attention. Now weâ€™ll see if the new sign-in process and cameras can stop the fires or lead to the apprehension of a suspect.
Bottle bill redemption showing much improvement (updated)
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 11:03 am
Encouraging news in the Advertiser that the beverage container deposit and redemption program might actually be getting the kinks worked out. Perhaps it could actually work without the participation of retailers as redemption centers. It would be more convenient for consumers, of course, to be able to redeem at the same places they purchase the beverages. The latest increase in redemption shows that in March the state refunded an amount equal to more than 60% of the amount of deposits collected. This is not to say that all those containers redeemed last month were purchased last month, of course, since January and February saw so little redemption activity. In any case, itâ€™s a good sign.
On the other hand, another Advertiser articles shows there is now some concern that there may be a huge backlog of un-redeemed (and un-discarded) containers that could overwhelm the curbside recycling program when it finally gets under way later this year. The contract for the collection of recyclables is based upon a certain amount of use, and if residents horde these containers until the program starts there would be more recyclables put out at the curb than contracted to be collected.
The County has to rely on the State to facilitate more redemption by consumers, and now it looks like the State may be able to deliver just that.
This month, anway. Stay tuned.
Update: The West Hawaii Today tells a story of some redemption centers leaving the market because of slow payments from DOH and for other (unrevealed) reasons. All is not well in Hawaii County, it would seem.
DUI vehicle forfeiture responsibility is hot potato
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 10:39 am
Both dailies have articles concerning legislation to take vehicles from habitual DUI offenders. The SB piece is here and the Adertiser has it here.
As is their habit when this topic is discussed, the Honolulu Police Department testified in opposition to HB 919 because they donâ€™t want to deal with the humbug of confiscating and storing these vehicles. In deference to this perpetual lament, Senator Hanabusa recommended to her Judiciary committee an amendment to the bill to give that responsibility to the State DOT. The DOT, which consistently supports the bill, quickly demurred with the same argument as HPDâ€”no space.
Why not make this â€œstorage problemâ€ self-funding by allowing for the seizure and rapid auction of any vehicle forfeited by the convicted repeat DUI offender? If we offered the revenue of such sales to the executing agency you would see DOT and HPD fighting for the authority to carry out this programâ€¦ with the state, of course, giving it to DOTâ€”and then raiding the funds, ha ha.
The law would have to exclude DUI offenders from the bidders to prevent the offender from simply buying his or her own car back, but the concept could work and would not require a large storage lot. Also, with that restriction on bidders, a single-car family of a repeat DUI offender might have a chance for a different driver in the family to repurchase the car. Sure, there wouldnâ€™t be any guarantee that the repeat DUI offender would not drive the vehicle (illegally, i.e. with a suspended or revoked license) but if the family really needs private vehicle transportation they would obtain another vehicle anyway (a vehicle that the offender could also [illegally] drive) and, besides that, the bigger loophole is that if the offender was not the registered owner of the vehicle used in the repeat DUI offense the vehicle is not subject to forfeiture.
If Iâ€™m not mistaken, the federal authorities have the authority (under the RICO statute) to do this to the assets of narcotics defendants even before they prove the accused is guilty, and somehow that injustice was held to be Constitutional, so imposing this on convicted offenders could probably withstand judicial scrutiny, too. Itâ€™s not as if DUI convictions are frequently overturned on appeal, but in that case the government should be liable for the value of the vehicle.
HPD reputation reeling
â€” Doug @ 9:15 am
Itâ€™s getting hard to deny the whiff of corruption at the Honolulu Police Department brought about by back-to-back allegations of officers involved in vice crimes. Today it is cockfighting and last week it was methamphetamine trafficking. Peter Boylan of the Advertiser is on a roll!
Just last week he wrote a report on cockfighting that included this segment:
John Cambra, 53, a longtime state employee who lives on his familyâ€™s 30-acre compound in Kahaluâ€™u, grew up around gamebirds.
Today he runs Cambra Game Fowl Farm/Onipaâ€™a and sells fighting roosters to cockfighters in Guam, Latin America, Micronesia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, California and New Mexico. His roosters range from $300 for a well-muscled, dark-colored rooster with his comb and gobble trimmed to $1,200 for a multi-hued gamecock that could double as a show bird.
He made $21,000 selling birds last year and he said the side business has helped him put two sons and a daughter through college. A 2003 federal law prohibits the interstate transportation of chickens for fighting purposes, so he has buyers sign affidavits saying they wonâ€™t use the bird for fighting.
â€œMy great-grandfather fought roosters; my grandfather fought roosters; and my father fought roosters,â€ said Cambra, standing in the middle of his yard, which he converted into a gamebird farm compete with incubators, feeders and watchdogs.
He currently has about 500 chickens of various ages at his Kahaluâ€™u farm, as well as ducks and pheasants. He also rents a two-acre farm in Louisiana, where fighting birds still is legal. Cambra does all his fighting in Louisiana these days because he doesnâ€™t want to risk his legitimate business of selling birds, nor does he want to get his family in trouble.
â€œMy sonâ€™s a policeman; my brother is a policeman; I donâ€™t want to jepordize [sic] them,â€ he said.
Wow, if the allegations are proven to be true and if any of the suspended officers are named â€œCambraâ€ then that last statement seems almost like this breeder was thumbing his nose in ironic defiance of authority. According to todays story, the residences of two officers from the Windward district were searched.
Also from the earlier story, we hear from HPD Lieutenant Walter Ozeki of the gambling detail:
Ozeki said there have been times when his antigambling unit had as few as four officers. But that number has increased significantly, he said, allowing the unit to change tactics and put more emphasis on cockfighting.
He said he believes he now has the right mix of detectives with the array of skills needed to infiltrate fights and make arrests.
Hmmm, it certainly sounds likely that his officers â€œinflitratedâ€ the fightsâ€¦ or did he mean to say â€œinstigate?â€ Heh. His officers are innocent until proven guilty, and it is also likely that many of the potential prosecution witnesses are, uh, not exactly unimpeachable pillars of community morality. The prosecutors, FBI and HPD internal affairs will have their work cut out for them to prove these allegations.
Arsonist hits reopened Hamilton Library
â€” Doug @ 8:38 am
Ka Leo has a disturbing story about what appears to be a serial arsonist in the recently-reopened Hamilton Library. The library has no functioning fire alarm system for now (it was destroyed in the flooding last year) and in the interim has established a well-intentioned but crude system of lookouts, walkie talkies, and air horns.
I recognize the necessity to get the library back open to students (no research university can function without a library) and Iâ€™m no fire code expert (though my father was a deputy fire chief), but this raises the hair on the back of my neck. The culprit(s) must be apprehended, and soon, before a tragedy occurs. Otherwise, the potential liability would probably spook the UH attorneys and compel a decision to shut the library until a working fire alarm system is in place.
â€œIt appears that someone is trying to get attention through these malicious acts of vandalism,â€ said UH Librarian Diane Perushek. â€œAnd frankly, weâ€™re not sure just what the point is.â€
By telling all ten of my readers this tale I could be feeding attention to the arsonist, so I can only hope that isnâ€™t true. On the other hand, if the culprit wants media attention from the bigger outlets (beyond blogs and Ka Leo) s/he may continue to set bigger fires until those media canâ€™t hush it up any longer. Whatever. If it were not for the substandard alarm system in place I probably would not have mentioned it.
Horowitz to speak at UH
â€” Doug @ 8:17 am
Former leftist turned conservative David Horowitz will speak at UH-Manoa on Wednesday, April 20, 2005, according to this post at the 50th Star.
Horowitz is nowhere near as controversial as Churchill, but it will stilll be interesting to compare the lecture attendance and (possibly) the size of the protestor crowd outside the event. Hopefully the organizers of this lecture learned from the troubles of the previous event and have better contingency plans in the (unlikely) case of an overflow crowd.
I suspect the organizers are hoping that there will be a big effort to cancel this lecture and/or scold the UH for hosting it. I doubt (m)any will step into that hypocrisy trap. We shall see.
Senate makes big amendments to GET increase
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 1:50 pm
Just as predicted in the Advertiser this morning, today the Senate Ways and Means Committee made some significant amendments to HB 1309 – the bill to authorize the counties to increase the GET to fund mass transit.
Much like their past effort, which imploded at caucus, had to be recommitted and therefore died at first crossover, WAM again ties a GET increase together with a tax credit to (minimally) offset the impact. This time the increase is only 0.5% instead of a full 1%. For Oahu the increase must be approved by December 31, 2005 (even though our Congressional delegation implies that time is running out in a matter of weeks or months) and the revenues raised could only be used for capital and operation costs for a fixed rail mass transit system.
Majority Democrats in the Senate told Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Honolulu City Council leaders yesterday that they prefer the half-percent addition over the House plan, which calls for a 1 percent surcharge.
Hmmm. Didnâ€™t Councilmember Garcia just give a lecture to the Senators explaining that Councilmembers are forbidden by the Sunshine Law to gather and discuss business in private? ha ha, only serious.
WAM completely removed the seven-page purpose section contained in the preamble of the bill, which led to a curious exchange between Senators Slom and Taniguchi. To paraphrase, Slom remarked that the bill now has â€œno purpose,â€ and Taniguchi said â€œitâ€™s a transit bill,â€ to which Slom replied the title is â€œrelating to taxation.â€ Heh. Then in an obvious gaffe Taniguchi claimed that the County had shared a â€œplanâ€ with him for the transit system, only to quickly backtrack when Slom asked for the details of route, schedule, etc.
On a more meta level, it is a bit odd how WAM operates, especially when compared to the operations of the House Finance Committee. Occasionally WAM Chair Brian Taniguchi will mention during decision-making that he has â€œprior concurrenceâ€ from the subject matter committee chair when he proposes to substantively amend a bill. Oftentimes, however, Taniguchi doesnâ€™t mention that concurrence so we are tempted to assume that he is just doing whatever he likes. For example, this HB 1309 SD2 he proposed is radically different from the SD1 which passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee (as was the ill-fated SB 1366 the first time WAM took a swing at this issue) yet Taniguchi did not mention prior concurrence from Transportation Chair Senator Inouye (she is also a WAM committee member, by the way).
Furthermore, WAM (and occasionally other â€œfinalâ€ Senate Committees) sometimes schedules measures for decision-making meetings only. They (weakly) defend this policy on the pretext that the subject matter committee heard testimony on the measure, ignoring the fact that if the subject matter committee amended the measure then the testimony previously submitted may no longer even properly address the actual contents of the legislation. It certainly makes for an efficient hearing process, but then (when WAM makes wholesale changes to the bill) the measure goes to conference committee and nobody really knows how the interested parties feel about the official Senate position. Maybe thatâ€™s intentional?
Itâ€™s a lame procedure and the public shouldnâ€™t stand for it. Maybe this policy will stand for as long as the bad old days of secret conference committee meetings and un-noticed 3 AM votes, but I hope not.
Housing & employment protection for GLBTs almost law
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:52 am
The SB has a piece today that reports on the passage from the Senate of HB 1715 and HB 1450. The article has a good synopsis, so Iâ€™ll steal quote it:
One bill prohibits discrimination based on a personâ€™s sexual orientation or gender identity during a real estate transaction. Another would update Hawaiiâ€™s current law barring discrimination by employers based on sex and gender stereotypes to include gender identity.
The housing discrimination bill contains a concession for BYU allowing them to continue to deny housing to otherwise qualified tenants who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
I think itâ€™s likely that the House will agree to the Senate amendments simply to avoid the hassle of a conference committee. After that agreement, or after conference, the bills would go to the Governor. Lingle has suggested that she will sign them. Judging from the roster of organizations who testified against these bills, the Christian Right will probably consider votes on these bills as a litmus test in the next election cycle.
No bonds for Superferry in Senateâ€™s budget draft – maybe
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:06 am
The SB has this report that the funding for Superferry harbor improvements has been removed from the Senate draft of the state budget. This according to a press release from Senator Tsutsui, the Ways and Means vice-chairperson.
The comments in the story from Senator Tsutsui and Senator Taniguchi lead me to think this is all a manuever to pressure the Superferry folks for information during (or before) the budget conference committee process.
In a news release, Tsutsui said the $40 million was taken out of the budget because the state has not given the Senate enough information about â€œinfrastructure, parking and other logistics.â€
Tsutsui said he also has concerns about the various competing uses for the Maui harbor at Kahului.
â€œWe have to question what impact it has on all users of the harbor,â€ Tsutsui said.
Gee, you mean some sort of impact statement? Who ever thought of that idea? Tsutsui is the Senator for Kahului, by the way, where the loudest calls for an EIS have emerged.
Senator Taniguchi, for his part, is using the deletion of these funds as a tool to get some answers about how the funding for these harbor improvements will actually work.
Originally, the state has proposed general obligation bonds, which were changed to general obligation revenue bonds, meaning that the ferry would be responsible for repaying the $40 million. But Taniguchi said that scheme could actually limit the amount of money that can be spent for other harbor improvements.
â€œAt this point we are trying to figure out the proposal. We think we would work on it in conference,â€ Taniguchi said.
Taniguchiâ€™s concerns do not sound insurmountable. He sits down with some Superferry accountants and they discuss the proposal in more detail. Pau.
Tsutsui is the stickier wicket. At some point Mr. Garibaldi and the Superferry project will have to either deal with their critics (up to doing an EIS, in the worst case) or risk losing this â€œmust haveâ€ harbor improvement funding. It will be interesting to see if Superferry supporters pile on Senator Tsutsui now and brand him as the replacement for the â€œobstructionistâ€ environmental groups. More likely theyâ€™ll just accuse him of being in the opponentsâ€™ pocket.
Any responses to HCR 86 and/or SCR 67 could also help reduce the uncertainty of this project and smooth the way for the bonds being reinserted into the budget, of course. Strangely enough, those measures are not being expedited in the Senate, despite the time-sensitive nature of the data requested. Everyone loved HCR 86 in the House, including Mr. Garibaldi and the ILWU. Maybe this press release was the Senateâ€™s shortcut around the tedious resolution process?
Newspaper diversity in Hawaii
â€” Doug @ 3:13 pm
While browsing a website I had mentioned earlier, I came across this page of interesting data comparing the racial diversity in newspaper newsrooms to the demographics of the community they serve.
Since 1978, the American Society of Newspaper Editors has urged editors to improve news coverage by employing at least enough minority journalists to reflect their diverse communities. This year again ASNE reported slow progress in total non-white employment, as a result falling further behind the growing non-white population of the nation.
Some of the Hawaii newspapers did not respond to the survey this year, but all of them have responded in the past, if not this year. A diversity index of 100 means that the staff and the community are equally diverse, an index of zero would mean the staff represents none of the diversity of the community.
Hawaii-Tribune Herald diversity index 12
Honolulu Star-Bulletin last reported in 2000
Honolulu Advertiser diversity index 65
West Hawaii Today last reported in 1999
Garden Island News diversity index 83
Maui News last reported in 1999
The end of each report includes some interesting demographic data about each newspaper market. Worth some browsing and thought. Check it out.
Iâ€™m a white male, I might as well add. If that matters to you. Assuming that at least one non-white person regularly reads this blog, my diversity index would thus be ZERO.
Maui County formalizing an affordable housing regulation
â€” Doug @ 11:12 am
The Maui News reports on a Maui County Council bill to formalize the previously ad-hoc requirements for developers to provide affordable housing. Itâ€™s a work in progress, and there are already critics among the affordable housing advocates, but it is more than we see on Oahu. The Honolulu County Council, Councilmember Apoâ€™s committee, to be precise, has proposed precisely nothing on the subject. Not surprising, given Apoâ€™s connections to Ko Olinaâ€”they are not exactly affordable housing providers.
As proposed, the policy would apply to anyone who seeks a change in zoning to build a residential project.
To meet the requirements, developers would have to choose two options from a list: sell 15 percent of the project?s homes at affordable prices; offer the same percentage of affordable houses for rent; pay a ?monetary contribution? to the county; donate land; or provide infrastructure or facilities for affordable projects.
The county?s standard requirement of affordable homes from developers has been 10 percent of the total number of units developed. But the amount varies from project to project ? the council?s Planning and Land Use Committee in 2004 required Makena Resort to provide 25 percent affordable homes for units that could be built under a rezoning request to accommodate changes in the resort?s master plan.
Editors did not include any comment from developers, which is disappointing. Affordable housing advocates, on the other hand, have a few fair critiques of the idea.
?I think it?s just a tiny step off what we already have,? said Richard Michaels, chairman of the Maui Tomorrow affordable housing committee. ?What we?ve been doing has not worked, because we have an (affordable housing) crisis.?
He was disappointed that the proposed requirements would apply only to developers seeking rezoning.
?That lets everybody else off the hook,? he said.
The definition of â€œaffordableâ€ is crucial as these debates go forward. Affordable housing advocates want more opportunities for people earning 50 to 80 percent of the median income to purchase a home. If I recall correctly, the government defines a home â€œaffordableâ€ if a person earning 120% of the median income can afford to buy it.
Hopefully the advocates will be able to make the case that a more vigorous policy is in order and that it should apply more broadly to all new housing and contain some mechanism to thwart speculators, but for now I think the Council is to be commended for at least taking a first step. If only Honolulu could tee up on this problem.
Homeless may face less dispersion
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 10:09 am
The SB has an article describing two resolutions to temporarily halt the policy of periodically ejecting the homeless from public parks, HCR 239 and SCR 186, that are under consideration at the Legislature. The article also mentions a pending lawsuit (which I posted about previously) and some effort to repeal the law the precipitated the lawsuit.
The nonbinding resolution in the House asks federal, state and county governments to place a moratorium on homeless sweeps â€œuntil a program can be implemented by appropriate government agencies to designate areas of large public parks as places where the homeless can stay under supervision.â€
I think this is a very well-intended gesture, but I donâ€™t have any confidence that the request will be accomodated. If past is any prelude, county and state parks officials will fear the wrath of the same public that repeatedly demands the homeless sweeps. As humane as allowing the homeless to use large parks in this way would be, it would also be considered an eyesore and an uncomfortable reminder of the failure to reduce homelessness. If anything, these designated areas would be secluded areas away from tourist scrutiny, I guarantee you will not see these encampments allowed at Ala Moana Beach Park. Everyone likes to talk about the homeless, but NIMBY rules the day when push comes to shove.
Iâ€™m more encouraged by the efforts mentioned in the article to repeal an overly broad trespassing law that was passed in 2004 as an ill-conceived attempt to remove homeless campers from parks. HB 806 in its final form will probably repeal that law, and, if the House draft prevails in conference, will create a more narrowly defined trespassing offense. Act 50 of 2004 has to go.
Trustfunds for fat catsâ€™ pets
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:50 am
Today the SB editorializes in favor of HB 1453 that would validate pet animal trusts beyond the death of the owner. Iâ€™m a pet owner, and I love my pet, but this idea just rubs me the wrong way.
Estates for pets are becoming common. Tobacco heiress Doris Duke left $100,000 in trust for her dog, actress Betty White is leaving a $5 million estate to her animals, and British singer Dusty Springfield is instructing the trustee of her estate to continue feeding imported baby food to her cat, Nicolas.
Seventeen states have enacted laws recognizing the interests of companion animals in civil law. The Morgan Bill, named after the collie of its sponsor, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would make it easier to create trusts for pets, but Congress has taken no action on the bill since its introduction four years ago.
A person now may leave a will appointing a friend or relative as trustee, entrusted with feeding and caring for Fido or Fluffy, but the trustee may discard that instruction on a whim. The trustee cannot be prosecuted for breach of trust. The Hawaii Legislature should correct that invitation to animal neglect.
This is another example of the need for Americans to step back and consider what message this type of legislation sends to the rest of the world. Have a look at this very cool animated graph showing the income distribution curves for the world and for the most populated nations. Pampered pets do not deserve a better standard of living than the billions of people struggling to survive. As a society we canâ€™t even take proper care of indigent widow and widowers.
Itâ€™s ideas like this that make a very steep estate tax sound like a really good policy.
PBN publishes another CoC press release
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:02 am
It suddenly seems that PBN does not even aspire to objectivity. They ran a one-sided report from the Chamber of Commerce last week, and today there is another dose of the same stuff.
This is even-handed coverage? Makes me wonder if the PBN would print press releases from the supporters of increasing the minimum wage, since the editors donâ€™t seem to have the time to draft even a single paragraph to mention the other side of the issue.
PSA or free radio advertising?
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:42 am
The SB has this interesting story about the Lingle administration producing short radio spots for distribution as (free) Public Service Announcements. The Democrats are crying foul, charging that they are political advertising.
The segments are available on the Governorâ€™s website where they are openly categorized as â€œGovernor Lingleâ€™s Weekly Radio Address.â€
I have not heard any of the spots, but I did listen to the current mp3 version and read the archival versions from the website. They are vaguely partisan, but in their current incarnation they hardly seem to be much to cry about.
These spots are clearly modeled after the Presidentâ€™s Weekly Radio Address. As it happens, the Presidentâ€™s statements are rebutted by the Democratâ€™s Weekly Radio Address (which, for some unfathomable reason are not easy to find online).
Thus, it seems clear to me that the correct response is not to censor the Governor or insist that her campaign pay for the media time. The correct response is to produce contrary â€œpublic service announcementsâ€ and put the broadcasters in the position of (finally) giving political debate some free airtimeâ€”even if only in 60 second chunks. I am almost certain that Olelo would be happy to produce reports such as these and convert them to mp3 format.
Oh, and donâ€™t neglect to create an easy-to-find online archive of these PSAs, too!
Borreca says we like left-leaning Lingle
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:20 am
Today in the SB we are offered a political palm-reading by Borreca. He argues that Governor Lingle is moving to the political left while maintaining support from the political right.
What must frustrate Democrats is that while Lingle picks up support with a traditional Democrat agenda, she continues to court conservative groups and has never wavered in her support for all of President Bushâ€™s positions, from the war in Iraq to changing Social Security.
This might be true, but it asks us to presume quite a bit.
Is Lingle picking up support? Are the few progressive items on her agenda the reason for stronger support? Is Lingle really considered a stalwart Bush agenda supporter?
The first two presumptions are a task for a pollster to explore (or for the Lingle administration to release results for a likely-already-completed poll, heh). Itâ€™s obvious that that luring support from among the Democratic centrists is why Lingle and her handlers moved to the left, but itâ€™s not obvious that the presumption this triangulation has been effective is true.
As for Lingleâ€™s support of President Bush, maybe Iâ€™m reading the wrong newspapers (ha ha), but I just donâ€™t consider her as an effective influence agent on behalf of the Bush agenda. She echoed the Bush rhetoric on the Iraq war at the few events where she publicly has to deal with it (somber memorial services, for instance), but on privatizing Social Security? Iâ€™ve never heard her say a peep about that. Lingle is pro-choice, which is hardly the Presidentâ€™s position. Lingle intends to sign a bill giving â€œspecial rightsâ€ to homosexuals facing housing discrimination. Lingle canâ€™t even get a public statement from the Bush administration one way or the other on the Akaka Bill topic.
I agre with Borreca that the Democrats are in disarray, but I think that their situation would be the same even if Lingle had positioned herself further to the right.
Mayor Kim frets over pending land use bill
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:45 am
The West Hawaii Today has a piece today that stirs the pot on the legislative efforts (HB 109, in particular) to address the Hokulia issue and other similar developments on agricultural land. The article provides a sounding board for Mayor Kim to offer his interpretation of the bill (the article itself only refers to a synopsis of the latest Senate draft of the bill even though the full text of the bill is readily available) and for Kim to propose how to fix those portions of the bill he considers problematic.
As I mentioned earlier, I no longer think Kim needs to worry about Hawaii County losing a lawsuit from the Hokulia investors. However, Mayor Kimâ€™s argument in this article concerning the Hokulia impact of the retroactivity of the bill and how that meshes with the grandfathering aspects of the bill is poorly explained. Kim may have a point there, but itâ€™s not clear to see.
The article is long on information, but short on explanation.
OHA response to Burgessâ€™ survey column
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:18 am
It was fairly easy to predict a rebuttal from OHA after the op-ed last week. Unfortunately, the two pieces talk past each other, instead of answer each other.
The Burgessesâ€™ column focused on the conclusion drawn by Ward Research from the poll conducted on behalf of OHA and the Akaka Bill. Burgess claimed that the researchers concluded that â€œnon-Hawaiians are not prepared to accept the creation of a Hawaiian nation in the near future.â€
In response, OHA does not dispute that Ward drew the conclusion cited by Burgess. Instead, OHA provides transcriptions of the questions asked and summarizes the responses gathered.
Another question involved the formation of a new Hawaiian governing entity:
â€œThere has been talk about creating a Hawaiian nation or a Hawaiian government that would represent the Hawaiian people in their dealings with the state and the federal government. Do you agree or disagree that a Hawaiian entity of some kind should be formed?â€
? Seventy-two percent of Hawaiians agreed a Hawaiian entity should be formed, while 20 percent disagreed and 8 percent were unsure (“donâ€™t know.”)
? Non-Hawaiians split down the middle, with more than half (53 percent) agreeing with this proposal, 38 percent disagreeing and 9 percent unsure.
What was the margin of error for this survey? If it is larger than 3%, then the Ward Research conclusion (as described by Burgess) is correct. Or at least more correct than the conclusion OHA draws from the survey:
But this professional poll by Ward Research found that the silent majority of all segments of Hawaii support the continuation of those programs, and passage of the Akaka bill.
I tend to support the Akaka Bill (despite my mostly superficial familiarity with it) but I am not comfortable with how either side has been (mis)using this poll. The inclusion of a survey question referring to the Arakaki lawsuit is especially troubling because it solicits a legal opinion from a random sample of residents, as if the Judiciary should be swayed by â€œscientific pollingâ€ instead of the law.
My bold conclusion: I interpret these columns to show that Burgess and OHA both have valid interpretations of the polling results. The public strongly supports programs for Hawaiians, supports OHA and DHHL, but is wavering on the issue of a Hawaiian government entity. In other words, they are comfortable with the status quo.
â€” Doug @ 11:12 am
I am going to assume that a tantalizing press release from media whore savvy Representative Wakai led to these stories in the SB and Advertiser about Honolulu Police officers being hired to provide â€œextraâ€ service to residents willing to pay for it. Apparently it has been an ongoing practice, so it seems unlikely that both papers just suddenly decided Wakaiâ€™s effort was news.
Is this really what it takes to have adequate law enforcement? What happens to the neighborhoods that canâ€™t afford these fees? Money talks.
After evaluating the success of the first night, the group plans to raise enough money to hire a special duty officer at least every other month for the next year.
Apparently the Moanalua community paid $70 for 2 hours of police patrol. The officers are off-duty and working on their own time.
Hereâ€™s what it looks like to me: if you want quality-of-life crimes to be actively pursued youâ€™ll have to pay for it. For example, everyone talks about speeders and red-light running, but the police donâ€™t have much luck (or is it lack of effort and motivation?) in enforcement. The only sure way to get that done is to pay for it.
I think it is a pretty good scam. The officer gets some overtime to patrol a neighborhood. If the officer finds anything and effects an arrest or citation it can lead to more overtime in order to appear in court. If the officer patrols and no violations are reported, the community attributes it to deterrence. The officers look good either way.
But is it fair?
â€œWe have adequate staffing to address whatever crime problems and social issues in a given area,â€ [HPD Captain] Fujii said. â€œSometimes the citizens in a community want that added feeling of security or protection. We welcome these collaborations.â€
Clearly either the HPD does not have adequate staffing or the HPD is exploiting the fears of the communityâ€”or both.
Maybe Iâ€™ll ask Representative Wakai to pay for a speed trap* on the H-3 where racers gather near the Kaneohe Bay scenic lookouts around 3pm every Sunday afternoon for several hours of unmolested funâ€”in broad daylight. Or maybe I should ask Representative Thielen (itâ€™s her district, after all) to pay the fee, write the press release, and take the credit. Plus, itâ€™s a story the transportation and crime beat reporters would not even have to stay up late to cover!
* They had better include a helicopter unit, because I think these people use cellular telephones to conduct surveillance in advance of each heat.
DLNR audit resolution advances
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 10:13 am
The SB carries this piece on the House Concurrent Resolution calling for an audit of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Some parts of the article are based on a new draft of HCR 200 that finally emerged after several hearing reschedulings. As of this writing, however, the HD1 is still not yet available online.
Without seeing the actual draft itâ€™s hard to say what direction they went, but I am somewhat heartened to read this:
House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Chairman Ezra Kanoho said he wants the audit to emphasize â€œwhatâ€™s going well, as well as whatâ€™s going wrong.â€
But committee Vice Chairman Brian Schatz said he believes the public wants an answer â€œto the big-picture question of, how are we managing our natural resources, and how can we do a better job of it?â€
House Concurrent Resolution 200, HD 1, says it will â€œgo beyond an ordinary management audit to one that addresses the long-term mission of the DLNR and their ability to sustain the resources entrusted to them.â€
Representative Schatz appears to be speaking to the issue I posted about earlier; i.e. exactly what is the LNR philosophy regarding conservation and what might that mean for the future?
I am not optimistic that the audit will be able to provide anything of much use on that particular topic. I think the Auditor is well-suited for comparing operations to the legislative mandate, and examining the fiscal situation of auditees. On those topics the information usually exists in some form (with varying degrees of objectivity, of course). Getting a handle on the â€œmissionâ€ and philosophy of the auditee is pretty darn squishy and opens the Auditor up to inevitable charges of partisanship and subjectivity. The Auditor should be descriptive, not prescriptive, in order to maintain any credibility. If the Legislature is not happy with LNR policy, then make the mission more explicit and hold the Executive to the task of, well, execution.
As for the Chairmanâ€™s desire for the audit to also discuss â€œwhatâ€™s going well,â€ donâ€™t hold your breath. The Auditor only has a limited amount of time to complete all the audits assigned each year, and accounting for what is â€œgoing wellâ€ is not a particularly efficient use of that time if there is any question that more problems are yet to be discovered and discussed.
Anyway, we can certainly count on Governor Lingle, Mr. Klompus, Director Young, et al to let us know what is going well. Heh.
Insurers cashing in on tax credits, too
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:30 am
Another Advertiser story on the fiscal impact of generous tax credits. During the past two years the State has foregone about $40M in tax revenue that would have been collected from the insurance industry.
Meanwhile, tax credit data for the other, presumably bigger, investors in that lucky crowd will not be available until summerâ€”well after the Legislature adjurns. Go figure. It wasnâ€™t too long ago that we heard Senator Bunda bemoaning the fact that public employee salary increases would preclude any chance of tax relief for the middle- and lower-income residents. Well, hereâ€™s an example of a place where more revenue could be derived. I simply donâ€™t accept that were it not for these credits then none of the investment would have been made.
Still, despite a rise in tax credit claims among insurers, revenue from the stateâ€™s insurance premium tax rose to $78.1 million in fiscal 2004 from $73.2 million in fiscal 2003 .
â€œIt has not had a significant impact on the tax revenues of the state,â€ said Hawaiâ€™i Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt, of the tax credits. â€œThe insurance industry has still been doing well.
â€œSo it looks like itâ€™s achieving some good things.â€
Wha? Good things for whom? Higher insurance premium tax collections mean customers paid more for insurance. Even accounting for that increase of $5M in premium tax revenue, this part of the tax credit results in a $15M net loss for the state. All this to â€œcreateâ€ some (unknown) portion of those 600 new jobs attributed to the tax credit?!
If this is to be public policy then at the very least the Department of Taxation should be required to accurately account for what it costs and who benefits. They should also make the data regularly available. After all, we wouldnâ€™t want to create a culture of dependencyâ€¦
Hawaii impact of SCOTUS eminent domain case
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:40 am
The PBN has a story about the potential impact of a US Supreme Court decision on Kelo vs. City of New London which involves a Connecticut municipality that wants to condemn some homes by eminent domain for the public interest value of making the land available for a private development that will bring in more tax revenue.
Attorney General Mark Bennett said Hawaii has sided with New London in the case, arguing that cities should be able to â€œcondemn a property for the purpose of improving its economy.â€
Still, the case is believed to have implications for Big Island property owners like Robert Nigel Richards and Charles William Coupe, whose land on the western slope of Hualalai has been in their family for generations.
They are fighting the countyâ€™s efforts to use eminent domain to take a portion of the land and give it to a developer who needs the land to build an access road to a planned resort.
I had heard of (and repeatedly mocked) the argument our AG made to the SCOTUS regarding the gasoline station rent cap law, but my hat is off to the PBN since I donâ€™t recall ever hearing of Hawaiiâ€™s involvement with this case.
This case has some potentially sinister implications. I donâ€™t know exactly what type of land use results in the maximum possible tax revenue, but I am pretty sure it is neither conservation nor affordable housing. I really donâ€™t see any way to see this other than expropriating property for the richâ€”on the assumption that the city will get their own piece of the action. Turbo gentrification. Auwe!
Akaka Bill workshops
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:11 am
Only a few hours after I mentioned the public fora hosted by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement I noticed the Maui News has a piece based on one of their events. Cool.
A fair amount of meaty stuff in this article, too. Injecting a little personal note, I know both of the CNHA people mentioned in the article from their former work at the Legislature. [wave]
I think these events are very encouraging. The article did not have space to go into great detail, but apparently the Council representatives explain each of the 11 sections of the bill and exchange comments and questions with members of the audience. From what I can tell it also seems like they handle dissenting views with polite respect. Mostly. There was a few subtle jabs from the Council at the lack of organization and coherence of Hawaiians supporting independence.
Danner said in other federal recognition scenarios, native people only get one to six years to file claims. She said that if Native Hawaiians aren?t able to state their claims within 20 years ?then we have a real serious issue in our community.?
Danner said she?s yet to hear from supporters of an independent Hawaii about what process Native Hawaiians could follow to achieve independence.
She supports passage of the federal recognition bill for Native Hawaiians, but she doesn?t stand in the way of those seeking independence.
Since I canâ€™t seem to find a thorough discussion of the Akaka Bill in the places I expected to cover it, ahem, maybe I will attend the CNHA forum when it comes to Waimanalo on May 3.
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 10:51 am
I had good fun with my War on Potholes satirical post yesterday. Not willing to be left in the shadow of the Mayor, the DOT has announced that they will be fixing potholes, too. Furthermore, the DOT will not be using any wimpy 3/4 inch layer of asphalt, but rather two whole inches of Superpave; in some places up to six(!) inches of this steaming black elixir. This is not your Mayorâ€™s asphalt, folks.
[DOT Director] Haraga said contractors will use an asphalt mix called â€œSuperpave,â€ the same that was used to resurface Moanalua Freeway.
The mix is described to be more of a hardened asphalt resulting in a smoother surface. Haraga said the mix is expected to last 10 to 13 years.
Itâ€™s about time officials are jockeying to be â€œtoughest on potholes.â€ The PBN has a story today about the rapid increase in pothole damage claims. The state faced 36 claims in 2002, 94 claims in 2003, and 401 claims in 2004. Honolulu County faced 39 claims in 2002, an unreported amount in 2003, and 353 in 2004. Comparing these figures is not completely straightforward, since the State highways are (duh) statewide and there are many more miles of state highways than Honolulu County highways.
Also, for those filing a pothole damage claim against the State, the PBN story has this useful point:
[A DOT risk management officer] said the majority of claims rejected usually are due to â€œfailure to show damage at a particular location.â€
It appears that only about 1/3 of the amount of money claimed is actually awarded. Iâ€™m not sure if the big increase in claim activity should be solely attributed to more potholes. As one tire dealer says in the piece, custom rims and low-profile tires are expensive and common aftermarket upgrades and they are more susceptible to damage.
Signs of finger-pointing remain
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 9:31 am
It looks like the ill-advised public spat over the fate of the Akaka bill continues. The Advertiser and the SB each carry a report today on an informational briefing on the Akaka Bill topic yesterday at the Legislature that featured the Congressional delegation (minus Akaka, curiously).
Itâ€™s a bit more subtle this time, but the mudslinging is still there:
â€œThe question is not whether we can pass it out of the committees, but itâ€™s whether or not the Bush administration will look favorably on the legislation,â€ Abercrombie said.
He reiterated the delegationâ€™s latest position, that the stateâ€™s Republican governor is best positioned to lobby for Bushâ€™s support. After the briefing, two members of Gov. Linda Lingleâ€™s administration ? Attorney General Mark Bennett and Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairman Micah Kane ? said the discussions theyâ€™ve had with the president and his administration have been positive.
The delegation has asserted that an attempt to pass legislation supporting federal recognition last session was spiked because of a thumbs-down from the White House, but Bennett maintained that his contacts within the White House say no such signal was sent.
â€œThe (Bush) administration has expressed no opposition to this bill,â€ Bennett said. â€œTheyâ€™re not shy about telling if they have a problem with the bill.â€
Well, soon enough the rhetoric wonâ€™t matter, but it looks as if this nonsense might continue right up until the final vote on this bill. At least the Lingle administration did not counter-claim that it was Abercrombieâ€™s fault.
Moving on, to deal with the many questions and concerns the public has about the Akaka Bill a group called the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement is planning to host public meetings throughout the state. I donâ€™t claim to be an expert on Native Hawaiian politics, but this was the first time I had heard of this group. Anyway, itâ€™s too bad their board does not include OHA, because I am really curious to know the OHA response or rebuttal to the claim that they did not accurately report the results of a public opinion poll on the Akaka Bill. The CNHA public meeting schedule is here.
Subs unionization or â€œassociationâ€ effort?
HI State Politics
â€” Doug @ 8:37 am
The Hawaii Reporter has more today on a topic that I was musing about yesterday regarding substitute teachers, the HSTA, and other unions.
Rarely an example of unbiased reporting, in this piece the HR also adds a layer of, uh, confusion. What, exactly, is the message of this article? It veers from conversations with substitutes and teachers, directly into editorializing on Legislators â€œbought and paid forâ€ by the HSTA and a â€œclear choiceâ€ for educators. Whatever.
Statistics show the trend of teachers moving away from the National Education Association and into professional teachers? associations is growing across the country. Membership in states like Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Kentucky is shrinking dramatically.
Gee, what a surprise that those states are all right to work states without collective bargaining protection.
The HSTA incorporated in 1971 in order to fight for teachers? rights. Now, 34 years later, the same people who helped form the union are still in power, making 6-figure salaries, while teachers? salaries average tens of thousands of dollars less than they would have realized without having a union to ?represent? them.
Tens of thousands less? Thatâ€™s a pretty big assertion to make without evidence. Then thereâ€™s this:
Many substitute teachers at the rally expressed their distaste for unions, but enthusiasm for belonging to a professional association. They felt the unions are â€œgreedyâ€ and â€œtake far too much money from membersâ€ without providing much in return. Others were surprised when they realized they did not have any liability insurance and that the [Association of American Educators] provided that protection at a minimal cost.
The substitutes might also be surprised to know that AAE may not negotiate on their behalf with the DOE regarding pay and benefits. Join the AAE for the liability insurance if you like, but donâ€™t expect them to replace a union altogether.
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