January 10, 2009

Poinography May 2005 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 1:22 pm



Poi production down

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— Doug @ 6:17 am
I’ve been saving this link specifically for today. This PBN story provides the perfect headline, that’s why.

I am flying to California in a few hours to join a few friends bringing a sailboat to Kaneohe from San Diego. This will be my eighth CA to HI crossing on a sailboat, but every other time I had been entered in a race. Cruising across should change the vibe considerably, since this time we can start the motor whenever the wind punks out!

I hope to be back online by the Memorial Day weekend, but you never can tell with sailing. Until then you may want to forego the comments, because there will be nobody here to approve them for publishing. If I left them “open” this blog would get spammed to death. Ugh.

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Tech tax credit with a twist

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:48 am
I have been critical in the past of tax credits, so I was intrigued by a PBN article describing this new twist on the familiar topic. It may make the idea a bit more palatable, if I can wrap my head around it better.

Under the program, the state would borrow money at a rate of, say, 5 percent, and then invest that money in the SPIF. Private fund managers would assess local firms and decide which companies to invest in. If the investments produced a return of 5 percent or higher, that would be enough for the state to service its debt on the borrowed money. If the investments failed to produce a return high enough to service the debt, then the state would issue tax credits to cover the difference.

Although the state would risk the prospect of having to pay out taxpayer money in the form of tax credits, Chung said that risk was small. Hawaii modeled its SPIF program on a similar program in Oklahoma, which has never had to issue tax credits to make up for lackluster investment performance, Chung said. Such tax credits are known as “contingency tax credits.”

The result is, unlike Acts 221 and 215, the SPIF program might have no negative impact on the state’s coffers.

“With traditional tax incentives, it’s just money out the door,” [Representative] Schatz said. “This may or may not be money out the door.”

I’m not sure, but I think the bill this article refers to is SB 1696, a bill that is still awaiting further action in the House next year. Bond financing is confusing to me (hey, I’m a political scientist, not an economist), and I don’t quite understand how the money flows in this case. The state would pay the bondholders their interest with the investment returns, but where does the money come from to pay the bondholders their principal?

Actually, reading that again, I’m not even sure if I phrased the question correctly, ha ha.

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256 sex offenders off site for now

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:00 am
I was happy to see that the Attorney General is being extra careful to implement the sex offender registry correctly and to err on the side of privacy until some ambiguity in the new law is resolved. The Advertiser has this story, and the SB piece is here.

However, compare this section from the SB report:

The online database includes a telephone number for people to call if they believe the information is incorrect or has been wrongly posted.

Bennett said removing the names was his decision and not the result of any calls to his office.

He said he noticed the listings of the multiple Class C offenders while searching the Web site on Tuesday, and at that point asked staff members whether any distinction had been made as to whether their convictions were from a single incident.

“When I received the answer ‘no’ – because the statute doesn’t appear to require that – that’s when I decided to review that,” he said, adding that the names were removed yesterday morning during site maintenance.

He defended the listing of all the names, noting the new law, as written, does not specify that those with two Class C convictions from the same incident be kept offline.

to this segment from the Advertiser:

An attorney on the staff of state Rep. Sylvia Luke, D-26th (Punchbowl, Pacific Heights, Nu’uanu Valley), one of the authors of the law, called the attorney general’s office with his concerns on Tuesday.

Lawmakers had wanted to keep some lower-level sex offenders off the Web site so as not to link them publicly with violent or habitual offenders. The public would still be able to get information on these offenders through the Hawai’i Criminal Justice Data Center or at police stations.

Lois K. Perrin, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i, said the state, in its rush to post the information, has undermined what lawmakers had intended.

“We have received a stream of phone calls all day from people who believe they were wrongly posted on the Internet,” Perrin said. “The Internet allows hundreds of thousands of people access to this information.

Hmmm. Well, which is it? The AG discovered the error on his own, or the concern was raised outside his office? In either case his reaction is commendable even if his integrity has been called into question.

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Letter lauds PI civil rights

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:41 am
I saw a letter in the SB today that I want to comment on briefly. The letter writer is stirring the Kanno v. NCL pot, and concludes with this:

It’s also personally offensive to me and other Filipinos for [previous letter-writer] Golojuch to disparage the Philippines and my people by questioning our civil rights record. If Golojuch is so concerned about civil rights, I wonder why she’s not worried about the civil rights of Rouse’s 15-year-old victim?

Emily Barroga

Like I wrote earlier, questioning the human rights record of the Philippines is not something only done by so-called “extremists”—our own State Department has been doing it for several years.

For all we know, given the likelihood of an unfair trial in the Philippines, there may not have been a 15-year-old victim.

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Transit tax gets early green light

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:23 am
Yesterday the Honolulu City Council heard a first reading of Bill 40 which would implement HB 1309 and add a surcharge to the GET on Oahu for transit funding. The Advertiser report is here, while the SB piece is here.

Testimony before the Council is limited to 60 seconds (which is absurdly brief) and the two newspapers choose to summarize it even further, but the opponents to rail are having their say all across the local Internet scene yesterday and today.

From Cliff Slater’s testimony at the Council:

Our voters need to understand this and they will not if you confine these hearings to this building [City Council chambers]; our voters can?t take off two to three hours from work in the middle of the day. This, the largest tax increase in our history, should be spelled out in community hearings across Oahu – in the evenings.

I’m for that.

Proponents of rail apparently have no web presence? (I could be wrong. Post a comment if you know of any, please.)

Anyway, the local (and mainland) opposition weighs in here, here, here, here, here, here, and here— that’s only a sample and more will certainly follow.

From the SB article:

The counties have until the end of the year to approve the tax increase if the bill is approved by Gov. Linda Lingle. The governor has yet to decide what she will do with the bill.

The Governor hasn’t signed the bill yet, but, according to the Hawaii Reporter, Lingle said this yesterday:

Gov. Linda Lingle told KHVH 830 AM Morning Talk Show Host Rick Hamada Wednesday that she will sign HB 1309, allowing the state?s four counties to raise the state?s General Excise Tax by 12.5 percent. [sic]

The rate of the increase is 12.5%, the tax itself would change from 4% to 4.5%. The Largest Tax Increase Everâ„¢. Heh.

Also from the SB:

[Councilmember] Marshall said she had heard from constituents who are uneasy about increasing taxes without a transit plan.

But Hannemann said the city still has the 1992 plan to be used as a base as the city seeks community feedback to update the information as part of the federal funding process.

If that’s true, shouldn’t at least one enterprising journalist be describing that plan (and the creation and revision process) in more detail? Much of the opposition is premised on the “pig in a poke” argument, after all. For example, from another HR post:

The Council of the City and County of Honolulu is contemplating raising your taxes 12.5 percent for the next 15 years in order to fund a rail project that is not defined, not designed, has no overall plan and no one really knows where it is going to go or who it is going to serve. Doesn?t this also inspire oodles confidence in the final project?

Back to the account of the KHVH show:

However, small businesses owners listening to the show weren?t pleased to hear the governor?s explanation, called in and told her they would not support her re-election if she allows the taxes to be raised via her signature on the bill. Many small business owners and Republicans – the governor?s primary support base – are angered over her position on the tax issue.

I’m sure those callers are genuinely angry and, like I said earlier, this is a divisive issue among Republicans. Maybe the callers won’t support her, but where are they going to turn? Most of the Democrats support the bill, too. Governor Lingle has a big campaign fund and no primary challenger on the horizon. Maybe next time small business owners will support the option of full public-financing for campaigns?

But the governor maintains she is not raising taxes, and points to the neighbor island counties, which likely will not take the General Excise Tax increase option.

Opponents of the legislation counter the counties do not need the option to raise the state?s General Excise Tax, when they already have taxing and fee revenue streams. If the Honolulu City Council wants to raise taxes to fund the rail, the majority of the 9 members can vote to increase the state?s gasoline tax by around 65 cents per gallon or increase property tax by 30 percent to 35 percent. This would be more honest, they say, rather than hide the increase in a tax most regressive for the poor.

“More honest?” Is honesty the issue for opponents, or is it opposition to tax increases, or is it opposition to mass transit? I seriously doubt that the opponents would support raising the fuel tax and/or property tax rates, but I could be wrong. The GET is regressive, there’s no denying that. I could support raising the fuel tax, except that it could be unpredictably regressive, too. Think of all the low-income folks on the Leeward coast. Almost all the new homes being built for first-time buyers are in central Oahu. Both are among the places with the ugliest and longest commutes to work; factors pressuring residents to buy more fuel. The nexus between a fuel tax and transit funding is patently obvious, though.

Another HR post is from a Director of the National Taxpayers’ Union:

Only the restoration of free market forces in the transportation sector and efforts by the state to encourage private investment in infrastructure projects can help Honolulu and other cities throughout the state break through their gridlock. Given their massive costs and inability to carry large numbers of people, light rail systems would never be built by private industry on its own, so please do not put taxpayers on the hook for this massive boondoggle.

Wha? I shoulda thought of that! Instead of travelling by moped I’ll ride “free market forces” home this afternoon. Maybe I’ll transfer to the “private investment infrastructure project,” since I need to run a few errands on the way. That alternative, uh, proposal has even fewer, i.e. zero, details than what is publicly known about the rail transit option. Build up a constituency and tell us what exactly you’re talking about and then we’ll consider it, sir.

Finally, from VoteHawaii, a post by the President of Charley’s Taxi:

The taxi industry is in crisis ? as are the rest of transportation industries. Over the past 4 years, the total number of taxis is in the low 1300?s, the usual is about 1700 and the highs were in the 1900. High cost has a bad impact on taxi service to the public. Many taxi customers are people who can?t afford cars or seniors who can?t drive ? many who are on fixed or low income.

Thus, it would seem that taxis are not the “free market force” to save us from gridlock. Maybe she would support an increase in the fuel tax, or raising property taxes for her poor and aged riders? Heh. Her opposition to mass transit, and, specifically, the prospect of rail, is so transparently self-serving that it is laughable. Anybody who rides the rail won’t be (stuck in traffic) in one of her taxis, of course.

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Veto season to be more interesting this year

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:59 am
A fun Borecca column in the SB today for the wonkish observers of the Capitol, i.e. people such as yours truly. The column wonders aloud what the Senate power struggle may mean for the prospect of vetoes and veto overrides this year.

According to the state Constitution, both the House and Senate must override a veto with a two-thirds majority. In the Senate that would mean 17 out of the 20 Democrats would have to vote in favor of an override and 34 of the 41 Democrats in the House would also have to approve it.

If a move is made to depose Bunda or if one or the other Senate factions forms a coalition with the five Senate Republicans, it might not be possible to get 17 votes to override.

“I have to figure out if the Senate has the needed two-thirds,” Rep. Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise), the House speaker, said.

It’s actually even more complex than that. Borecca does a good job describing the equation from the Legislature side, but does not provide much description from the Governor’s side.

The Governor’s public position is that she doesn’t want a leadership change in the Senate. Her decisions of which bills to veto have to include that factor now. If she decides to veto a bill that is very important to the Democrats then she practically guarantees a special session. Once in special session the likelihood of a Senate reorganization goes up dramatically. Whip checking the votes in both chambers takes on a much more important role. There are at least as many unknowns for her as for the House and Senate leadership. However, Lingle’s influence and leverage on the legislators is much less, as is her insight concerning their intentions.

Complicating that thought is that Lingle has already vetoed a bill. It’s a relatively low-profile issue (drivers’ licenses allowing for minors to become commercial drivers), and probably not enough for the sitting power bloc in the Senate to risk a Special Session over, but who knows?

Consider also that in the past Governor Lingle could veto high-profile bills and rest assured that her veto would be overridden. That let her play both sides of the issue, to some extent. For example, when she vetoed SB 768 in 2003 (the bill that reinstated collective bargaining) she could count on the Legislature passing it over her veto. With her veto she was able to score maximum political points with all those who think binding arbitration is a bad idea. The Legislature reversed her action and thus those government employees who wanted arbitration got it anyway. They probably were not happy with the Governor’s veto, but at the end of the day they got what they wanted. Annoyed, but not hostile.

This year, however, the calculus is different. If, for example, the Governor vetoes the increase in the minimum wage, suddenly there is some doubt if the Democrats (especially Senate Democrats) will choose to reverse that veto. Thus, it’s possible she could choose to veto the bill and then discover that the Democrats are unable to assemble a two-thirds majority in favor of the measure. Minimum-wage workers might be a little miffed at their legislator for that failure* to fight back, but minimum-wage workers would be more upset with the Governor. Would minimum-wge workers be more upset than the business community would be if she does not veto that bill? Probably not. But the minimum-wage worker reaction (and the reaction of all those sympathetic to minimum-wage workers) at least has to enter into the political equation this year. There are low-wage workers who vote Republican for the “values issues” and such voters might re-consider that position if the Governor waves before their faces an archetypal example of the GOP being “the party of the rich.”

* Remember, if the Democrats did not have the two-thirds majority then there would be no public record of which legislators did not support the veto override—campaigning before their constituents, individual legislators could report (or claim) to have been on either side of the issue.

Last, there’s this additional twist: Since it is not clear if the Senate opposition to Bunda is organized enough to carry out a leadership change, the Governor might want a Special Session for veto overrides to force the Senators to assemble before the coup plotters are ready. That would put the dissidents in the position of rushing to an agreement or having to call a second meeting just to deal with the leadership change. This twist is not a big concern, in my opinion, because I think that by July the dissidents will either have their plot hammered out or they will simply maintain the status quo until January.

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Dobelle shirking

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:53 am
Nice work from the SB today on this report on the skimpy progress made by former UH President Dobelle on a research project that was part of his settlement when he gave up his post. Actually, a one-page memo is probably all we should expect from Dobelle, although it could be humorous to see just how much of his, uh, humility shows through in a completed draft of the research . Heh.

Last month, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin filed a formal Freedom of Information Act request to see documents relating to Dobelle’s research project.

Yesterday, the university turned over e-mails and letters between Dobelle and UH-Manoa Chancellor Peter Englert, who is overseeing Dobelle’s research.

The documents indicate Dobelle and Englert discussed the former president writing a book on the impact of higher education institutions on their communities.

Dobelle also asked for a full-time research assistant, but was denied.

Dobelle did receive a laptop computer and business cards.

On Nov. 10, Englert sent Dobelle a letter confirming the project and requiring quarterly reports beginning Dec. 31. “I would expect to see in your reports discussion of the manuscript outline, target dates for initial drafts and the expected date for completion of the work,” Englert wrote.

But the memo was not signed by Dobelle to indicate his agreement. Dobelle also has not produced the quarterly reports.

However, [Dobelle’s lawyer] said Dobelle has been in contact by phone or e-mail each quarter.

In November, Dobelle was named to another full-time job as president of the New England Board of Higher Education. He started on Jan. 1.

At the time, the university said it did not know how Dobelle’s new job would affect his research.

Dobelle’s settlement, which also paid him about a $1 million in severance and paid his attorney fees, specifically allows him to take another job.

However, the settlement does not require him to turn in anything as part of the research project, said Mike Nauyokas, a Honolulu lawyer who specializes in employment and contract law. Nauyokas, who did not work on the Dobelle case, reviewed the settlement documents and e-mails at the Star-Bulletin’s request.

The settlement does require Dobelle to reach an agreement with the university on a research project. As part of that agreement, the university can and probably should require him to turn something in and set deadlines, Nauyokas said.

Not agreeing to a project could be a breach of the settlement, Nauyokas said.

“You’d think that they might have agreed on this already since the contract is almost half over,” he said.

If the university decides to pursue the matter, the settlement requires the dispute to go to mediation and arbitration rather than court.

No requirement to turn in anything?! ha ha. The UH lawyer who drafted or agreed to that settlement must be pretty ashamed right about now… Okay, how about another FOIA to get a copy of the agreement reached between Dobelle and the university on a research project? “Can and probably should require,” may not mean “requires.” Whatever. Good riddance; this is probably not worth mediation or arbitration anyway.

Unless Dobelle tries to come back.

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Web site listing sex offenders very busy

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:31 am
Both dailies carry stories today reporting on the heavy traffic to the sex offender registry website. The Advertiser here, and the SB here. The SB focuses on a man mistakenly included in the database. The man struggled yesterday to be removed but apparently it required an inquiry from the SB reporter to finally convince the AG to remove his name. Hopefully that was a rare exception and a case of the system being brand new and is not indicative of the type of trouble it will take for anyone else wrongly included to be removed. It should not require going to the media to do this.

With that recent SB series on the housing market so fresh in my mind, I can’t help but wonder what publicizing this information may do to some segments of the housing market. It would seem obvious that a home in the neighborhood of one (or more) of these offenders would be less desirable and could ultimately lower its property value. Will sellers’ agents be obliged to inform potential buyers of this data? Somehow I doubt it. On the other hand, I suppose people already living near an offender might try to refer to this information to have their property tax assessment adjusted downward.

As a single male, I am not afraid of living near a sex offender. However, if I were bidding on a house near an offender’s address I would be tempted to use that information to my advantage in order to scare off other bidders and thereby drive the price lower. In that scenario women and famiies with children will have their housing options squeezed even tighter, of course. The registry is also a potential money-making opportunity for police department budgets, gun dealers and security guard/alarm companies, too. Fear equals money in these markets.

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Chamber of Conflict

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:09 pm
People frequently comment that union workers in Hawaii have a free ride at the Legislature. However, it’s not so hard for organized labor to succeed when the opposing business lobby is fighting among themselves and sending mixed messges. That’s not the point of this Hawaii Reporter piece, but the article is suggestive of a rift in the business community. This has been an ongoing schism. Each time the big economic decisions come to a boil the wounds go deeper and their organization gets weaker.

In 1992, The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii lost a substantial number of its 4,000 members when the supposed business advocacy organization endorsed the Democrats? 1992 proposal to increase the state?s General Excise Tax to fund a heavy rail system.

The Chamber had further erosion of membership when small businesses realized the Chamber supported big business and big government proposals, such as then Gov. Benjamin Cayetano?s 1998 Economic Revitalization Task Force plan. The plan included a proposal to raise the state?s General Excise Tax by 12.5 percent. Vicki Cayetano, Benjamin Cayetano?s wife, is now one of the highest-ranking members of the Chamber board, slated to take over as president in 2007.

So many Chamber members resigned their membership in protest over these issues (there are now 1,100 members remaining, according to their published figures) that the organization made some changes.

What must be especially maddening to the business community is that in each instance the heretical organization is the one with the best-known “brand name,” i.e. The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. Here’s why: the average person assumes that the CoC speaks for business. Even more frustrating for the other business groups is that even if the Chamber only had one hundred members instead of over one thousand, that assumption would probably still hold.

However, Chamber members interviewed for this story say the way the Chamber financing is set up, the more employees a company has, the more it pays for membership – a system that typically gives larger corporations with more employees considerably more influence over the Chamber?s decision making.

That is how most functioning representative democracies operate; larger groups have more influence. Why do they hate freedom? Heh.

In testimony at the Hawaii State Legislature in 2005, president and CEO of the Chamber Jim Tollefson said while the Chamber does not support a tax increase, the need for rail transit as a solution is paramount. Therefore, he said, the Chamber would support the rail knowing a tax increase came along with it.

However, when the Chamber membership howled at Tollefson?s statement, the Chamber restated it had not taken a position and Tollefson was simply discussing transportation options.

In a Chamber board meeting that followed, the Chamber reported that its members took a formal position to oppose the tax. And in fact, the Chamber was one of the groups planning to back the recent “No New Tax Rally” at the Hawaii State Capitol. The Chamber would have joined long-time opponents of tax increases: Small Business Hawaii, the National Federation of Independent Business, the League of Women Voters, Retail Merchants of Hawaii, Hawaii Association of Realtors and many others.

But Friday, just days before the legislative session is scheduled to end May 5, 2005, the Chamber issued a statement to its members from Tollefson.

In the one-page statement, Tollefson once again reversed the Chamber?s position – this time back to the original proposal to support the tax increase and rail – the position that got the Chamber?s members so outraged in 1992.

Go ahead and read it. That statement from the Chamber of Commerce is not exactly a rigorous endorsement of the tax increase. It sounds more like a resigned acceptance of bad medicine for a stubborn illness. Of course, that’s not good enough for the vocal opponents of the GET increase. The Hawaii Reporter piece offers a small conspiracy theory involving the Chair of the Chamber and Mayor Hannemann. I don’t give that paragraph much credit because it is possible for a logical business person to see the value of better mass transit and to weigh it against the impact of a GET surcharge, but it does suggest this: those high-profile members of the Chamber of Commerce are why the big political players (Governor, Lege leadership, Mayor, City Council) take the Chamber seriously.

However, if the Chamber self-destructs and sheds even more of its smaller members because of this, those political figures will still be more likely to listen to the high-profile members who will remain. This squabbling is a big win for the supporters of a GET increase, mass transit, and organized labor; the opposition is in disarray and fighting each other instead of focusing on a common strategy. A textbook case of divide and conquer.

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“Chome Nomski” speaks about UARC

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 11:55 am
Here’s a clever little gimmick posting from, of all places, the Hawaii Reporter. Check it out.

The universities were once thought to constitute a vital, independent, countervailing estate, but the modern university has been converted into an Office of External Research for the State Department, the Pentagon, and the international corporations.

In his earlier days Mr. Horowitz would have been right there at the ramparts protesting against the UARC and agitating against the Academic Bill of Rights. I guess that point of view is no longer considered FrontPage news… Heh.

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New driver checks present few hassles

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:38 am
The Advertiser reports that the new drivers’ license scrutiny is not causing as much trouble as expected.

When a discrepancy is noticed under the new system, licensing officials can either require additional identification from the applicant or delay issuing a new license, he said. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Applicants probably won’t notice anything different unless there is a problem with software that links city and federal databases, he said.

“Normally, the check will be instantaneous,” Kamimura said. “But we have a backup system in place if anything goes wrong.”

A case-by-case basis, eh? Let us hope that it doesn’t result in de facto “profiling” of applicants.

Mr. Kamimura, you might recall, was the one convinced that this poilicy was certain to be a big financial burden. It’s running smooth as silk right out of the gate. So what about that prediction now?

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Registry for sex offenders expanding

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:50 am
Both Honolulu dailies have stories about the renewed online Hawaii sex offender database. The Advertiser piece is here and the SB piece is here. They were obviously both at the same press conference and get mostly the same story, with the exception of their background information:

Although sex crimes are often unreported and recidivism is difficult to monitor, Canadian researchers who examined 61 separate studies estimated the average recidivism rate for sex crimes at 13.4 percent over four to five years.

The state Department of Public Safety put the recidivism rate for the worst sex offenders ? sex felons who were released from Hawai’i prisons and were convicted of new felony sex crimes ? at 2.9 percent since 1988. The attorney general’s office estimates the recidivism rate for all of Hawai’i’s registered sex offenders at 16 percent.

Either that is not an apples-to-apples comparison, or PSD and the AG are each suggesting recidivism figures to their best advantage. PSD wants a figure to show how effective sex offender treatment is, and the AG wants another figure to show how much we need this registry online. The population of “sex felons who were released Hawai`i prisons” is by definition less than the population of “all of Hawai`i’s registered sex offenders” since the latter could include misdemeanants. Also the “new felony sex crimes” are far fewer than the “recidivism rate” because recidivism can be triggered by ANY offense, even a technical violation of parole. Technical violations such as, for example, failing to update information on the sex offender registry…

Incidentally, the website is either on a really inadequate server or it is being deluged with search requrests. It is s..l..o..w.

Despite the lack of statistics showing whether reporting laws are effective, the Lingle administration firmly believes that the new law will better protect Hawaii residents, Bennett said.

“How do you demonstrate that a parent who learns that a sex offender is living across the street and tells their child, ‘Don’t talk to that man, don’t go by that house’ – how can you demonstrate that because of that, that child avoided getting raped or murdered?” Bennett said. “That statistic doesn’t show up anywhere.”

That statistic doesn’t show up because it is vanishignly small. By his own claim 16% of the sex offenders recidivate. Now if you assume that 2,000 offenders are on the database (actually, there are fewer), that would mean that 320 would recidivate over some unknown period of time. How many would recidivate for sex offenses against children? Who knows, but lets make a hugely pessimistic guess and say half, or 160. Of those 160 offenders how many would choose their victim from among their neighbors? Another pessimistic guess, let’s say 100. How many of those 100 offenders live among parents with young children who regularly check the database to warn their children of the offender? Seriously, that young girl raped recently in Waianae, do you think her parents have DSL or do they prefer Roadrunner? Odds are fairly good that low-income families don’t even use the internet. Could this database prevent a sex offense? Of course, but it isn’t very likely.

Parents concerned about the safety of their children would be better off simply sticking to a blanket “don’t talk to strangers” message. This database is at least as much about shaming and crypto-vigilantism as it is about child safety, in my opinion. It assumes that an offender who is known and shunned in his own neighborhood won’t simply relocate or, if he chooses to stay in his current residence, look a little further afield for a victim. Those, sad to say, are both weak assumptions.

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What goes into the price of gas?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:35 am
Much praise to Harry Eagar at the Maui News for this excellent article on the gasoline market in Hawaii. Maybe it will be enough to coax a few more people to testify at the PUC hearings on the gasoline price cap as they happen across Maui this week, maybe not.

First, it starts with an understandable and succinct description of the critics arguments:

But nobody thinks there will be no effect. Mike Kitagawa, a veteran of decades in the retail business who is now on the sidelines, says flatly, ?You?re going to see the demise of more stations.

?We don?t need government regulation,? he says, ?We can go broke fine on our own.?

Another prediction is that one or both of Hawaii?s petroleum refineries could close down.

Several critics who backed Gov. Linda Lingle?s attempt to have the cap repealed or at least postponed presented the cap as a life-or-death matter for the two refineries.

Albert Chee, spokesman for Chevron Hawaii, says, ?I can?t answer? whether it is or not, because that would require the company either to speculate or to divulge information ?that is not meant to be public.?

The PUC has that information, provided under seal that means it is not available to the public at large.

Then it provides this little-known nugget:

In fact, it is uncontested that Hawaii?s refiners make almost all their profits from gasoline, though it represents only a fifth of what they sell (by volume).

As far back as 1990, a study by Nancy Yamaguchi and David Isaak at the East-West Center Energy Program concluded that gasoline was the only product the Hawaii refiners could sell profitably.

Excellent. So simple to say, and so important to the argument, yet I don’t recall ever hearing this before. I don’t know much about the refinery business and it may be that the other products made by the refineries are by-products of gasoline production, but, if not, why sell any product that is unprofitable? Very odd business model.

The situation is complex. The demand for gas and other petroleum products is at all-time highs, and no new refinery has been built in the United States since the 1970s (Hawaii Independent Refinery, as it happens).

Why is that? This link from EnergyPulse suggests that new refineries won’t be built because the reserves of petroleum will soon be declining and any capital directed toward new refineries would be a bad investment.

The ?D? Words

Analysts, economists and industry spokespersons seem very reluctant to talk about depletion or production decline. Chris Skrebowski of ODAC has analyzed the 2004 BP Statistical review of World Energy and has noted that there were 32 countries that were able to increase production in 2003, vs. 18 countries which have been in decline for 3 years or more. In 2003 the growers had to increase production by 7.5% to offset declines of 4.9% for the decliners to give net world growth of 3.7%. Production from the 18 countries now in sustained decline peaked in 1997, and had fallen 10.7% by 2003. More countries are joining the decliners list, their rate of decline is increasing, and the growers list is not growing, so the burden on those still growing is increasing rapidly.

In 2003 several of the growers increased production by near 10%, mainly by reopening wells that had been shut in during the price declines at the end of the last century. Now every one is operating close to or at installed capacity, so a similar increase cannot be repeated. To increase capacity significantly will require large investment and some years. Declines however continue to accelerate. It is only a matter of time, and not much time, before growth is no longer able to offset declines.

Petroleum Background

There is a phenomenon, well known in the oil industry, but little publicized, that when an oil field has been about 50% depleted, production begins an irreversible decline. In 1956 a petroleum geologist named M. King Hubbert applied this concept to an analysis of the lower 48 states, and predicted a decline of production starting about 1970. He was derided at the time, but lower 48 USA oil production has been in decline since 1970. The phenomenon has been named the Hubbert Peak, and the production growth and decline curve is often referred to as the Hubbert Curve.

In 1998, using the best petroleum industry database available, two petroleum engineers (Campbell and Laherrere) applied a Hubbert analysis to the entire world, and predicted a peak between 2000 and 2010. Refined analyses since then focus on 2005 to 2010. In fact, due to economic and political factors, there is more likely to be an irregular plateau, with possibly several small peaks before the decline, but an irreversible decline by 2010 seems inevitable. There is a great deal of real data to support such a view and little but untenable optimism to support alternative views. ?In God we trust, others please bring data!?

I love that last quote, by the way. Although the rest of the information at those links is actually quite alarming (or alarmist, if you prefer).

Back to the Maui News piece, some explanation of why the refineries charge so much for wholesale gasoline to make up for their losses in other products:

The refineries are incapable of making money on fuel oil, says [gasoline “jobber"] Barbata, and almost nothing on jet fuel.

The reason is market power by consumers. Big airlines and local utilities (see note) have the option of bringing in refined product directly. Therefore, they do not have any motive to offer more than the world price for either fuel, and those prices are not high enough to generate profits given the costs of operations faced by the Hawaii refineries.

Of seven categories of petroleum refined from crude ? jet fuel, fuel oil, gas, diesel, naphtha, propane, asphalt ? in Hawaii, Barbata says some must be sold at a loss, and the rest bring in only low marginal returns, with one exception ? gasoline, which accounts for about a fifth of the total.

?The gas cap law seeks to put refiners in the same economic position as an importer,? writes Barbata in an open letter. ?Why would you have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in refining, when all you need to import is (storage) tanks??

Note: I posted on this earlier and according to this previous article, HECO need not bother with that since they have locked in their price for a decade.

Okay, the article goes on with a thorough attempt at explaining how the price of retail gasoline is derived. I don’t want to quote it all back to you, but I’ll end with this excerpt about the PUC hearings:

At the PUC hearing in Honolulu last week, hardly anyone showed up, and the only testimony came from the state consumer advocate.

Attendance may be better here Tuesday. The [gasoline jobbers] McBarnets and Hanada and Makimoto are planning to attend.

Chee of Chevron Hawaii says the low attendance at the Oahu meeting may not indicate indifference. The meeting was at 6 p.m., when most Oahu residents were still in their cars, creeping home and burning lots of $2.43 gas. (Average price: GasBuddy reported that the range on Oahu was from $2.20 to $2.55.)

Heh. While Chevron made how much profit?

Go read the piece, already. Better yet, if you’re on Maui, read it and then testify at the PUC hearing.

Comments (2)
Guard jobs hard to fill in Hawai’i

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:26 am
For some reason, this Advertiser report on private security guards gave me a chuckle. It certainly doesn’t do much to inspire confidence in any security guard I see in the wee hours of the morning, but still.

Shopping centers, condominiums, government agencies and others who hire private security guard companies frequently change contracts these days, in part, because of complaints about the quality of the security officers, said Randall Mack, a member of the state Board of Private Detectives and Guards.

“The graveyard shift is notoriously hard for people to stay awake and the front desk manager or whoever complains that they keep calling and calling and can’t reach the officer at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” Mack said. “Complaints mount up to the point that they get frustrated and say, ‘I want somebody else to do the contract.’ “

But because of Hawai’i’s tight job market, Mack and Ferreira said, the new company comes in and hires the same security officers to do the same job.

“They literally just change shirts,” Ferreira said.

HA HA. Not a bad gig, getting paid to sleep and regularly receiving fresh uniforms to boot.

Apparently, the “race to the bottom” of the wage scale in this industry has reached its nadir when compared to the level of service provided by the emloyees. If none of these poorly-paid guards can stay awake because they need to work so many hours just to survive, then maybe it’s time to pay them a living wage so they can cut back on that overtime? Those hiring the private guard companies might need to look a bit beyond the lowest bidder, too. Unless the presence of a guard on the premises is entirely symbolic to begin with… you can’t really expect to obtain much in the way of vigilance and crime prevention skill on the cheap.

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Navy not pressing UH on $50M deal

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:59 am
An Advertiser article today that raises some question of a deadline for accepting or rejecting a UARC at UH. It’s really ambiguous if the Navy statement is meant to reassure supporters that there is no deadline for an agreement, or to give the supporters some extra arguing point against those who want a drawn-out debate. I suspect that ambiguity is not an accident.

Check out this very interesting section:

To opponents, an agreement with the Navy represents a stronger military presence and more military funding at the university, the university’s potential involvement in the development of weapons for war, further “militarization” of Hawai’i and a clash with the university’s core value as a Hawaiian place of learning.

For the university, it means $50 million over five years ? a hefty boost in research money, including funding for some classified research ? and a chance to become one of the best research institutions in the country.

“You cannot become a big-time research university without doing classified research, but you can still be a great state university,” said John Butler, director of the University of Texas-Austin’s IC2 research institute. “We do lots of classified research here at UT. It’s just what major research universities, like Michigan and Wisconsin, do.”

Yet California’s Stanford University receives more than $400 million in government research contracts, according to figures on its Web site, and has had a firm position against accepting classified research since the late 1960s.

Stanford would seem to call Butler’s assertion into question, to say the least. Unless Butler does not consider Stanford to be a “big-time research university” simply because they decline to do classified research. It’s worth following up on this, because if its true then Stanford might provide a model for a compromise position to resolve the UARC dispute.

The Navy UARC contemplated for UH would be closest to the model at the University of Washington, although without a facility of its own. While UW receives approximately $1 billion in federal research grants and contracts annually, the Applied Physics Lab receives $40 million of that, with much of it going to the medical school, according to William Bakamis, associate director of the UW Applied Physics Laboratory, who is also serving as a consultant to UH. Only about 5 percent of the work is classified.

Can that be true?

Bakamis said “billion,” that’s with a “b,” folks! Wow. I’m not sure what it means if Washington is “closest” to the proposed UARC at UH, since the Navy is only offering UH about $50M over 5 years. Does that mean the other UARCs receive more than $1B in grants and contracts annually? That’s some serious money. In fact, it makes the ~$10M/year they are offering to UH seem, well, insultingly meager, ha ha. It also suggests a reason why the Navy contracting official quoted early in the article really isn’t too concerned one way or the other if UH delays the UARC decision to allow for debate: to someone accustomed to budgets that large we are chump change. With the sum offered it would take over 100 years of funding to UH to equal one year of funding at UW.

Comments (0)
HI-5 hassles

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:58 am
The SB has a piece today that describes the frustrations faced by consumers trying to redeem their beverage containers for deposits. Ugh, it sounds awful.

The problems, however, seem to be more with the recycling companies than with the program itself. If the redemption centers choose to operate more efficiently it seems the problems are not insurmountable. Luckily, it sounds as if some progress is being made to remedy the complaints.

Terry Telfer, president of Reynolds Recycling, oversees the largest number of redemption centers in the state. He knows there are complaints about sites closing when trailers are full or they run out of money.

He says his company is taking the following steps to improve service:

? Add two tractor trucks and drivers to its fleet that collects full trailers from redemption sites.
? Send truck drivers out earlier in the morning, before redemption sites open.
? Extend hours at its main operation center in Halawa.
? Add a second processing site on Sand Island in September, which would handle trailers from the South Shore and Honolulu. The Halawa yard would then serve Leeward, Central and North Shore centers.
? Increase the capacity of each trailer by using larger plastic containers to store recyclables, instead of cardboard boxes.

Telfer said he already has authorized redemption center workers to write checks to customers if they run out of cash.

Another thing that would help, Telfer said, would be if more redemption centers opened.

“There’s more than enough business for all of us,” he said.

Financial incentives being drafted by the Health Department will help retailers and others pay for setting up more redemption centers, Lau said. Rebates and grants will be paid for with money already collected from deposits on containers.

“If you’re frustrated, go to your (grocery) store manager” and ask for a redemption center, said Bottle Bill author Rep. Mina Morita (D, Kauai).

The pending change in the law to allow crushing the containers will obviously allow the redemption center trailers to fill more slowly (assuming that they are presently accepting containers and putting them directly into the trailer without crushing them). Foodland is beginning to follow Representative Morita’s suggestion at a few locations, and I am going to assume other retailers will also provide similar services to customers.

At some point I think the state should amend the law such that if a retailer provides a redemption center onsite then the retailer could be exempt from paying the deposit to the state and pocket that 0.5 cent fee that the state withholds for administering the program. Redemption centers in the community would still be needed to accept containers in a few areas where no nearby retailer sets up their own redemption center, and those could be funded in the current manner. (There may be some shortfall in funds, depending upon how many big retailers shift to that amended form of the law, I dunno) This would have the program operate closer to the way the it works in other states. Redemption at retailers could not be implemented right away because the retailers fought it so strenuously.

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A care home for war heroes

Filed under:
— Doug @ 8:33 am
Something about this feel-good column didn’t sit right with me, and today I remembered what it was. The column is a description of the care home at Tripler Army Medical Center for disbled veterans.

The Center for Aging is for veterans who have medical problems they can no longer handle at home. Some are permanent residents, others are there for rehabilitation. The veterans are screened before being accepted, and there’s a long waiting list. Each has his own TV and telephone. They receive the best medical treatment money can buy.

Just one month ago, however, we were provided this story in the Advertiser. I guess Mr. Krauss doesn’t read the rest of his employers paper very closely, or perhaps his column is intended to raise awareness to fight for more funding for the Center. In any case, the article doesn’t have nearly the upbeat mood as his column.

President Bush’s proposed 2006 budget would:

? Drastically cut financial support for up to 80 percent of the veterans in the nation’s 129 state-run homes.

? Let the VA reduce the number of nursing-home beds from the 13,391 required by law.

? Put a hold on $104 million in grants slated to rehabilitate and build new state veterans homes.


Dr. James F. Burris, the VA’s chief consultant for geriatrics and extended care, said that the nation is facing a time of “constrained national resources” and that the VA does not have enough money to provide nursing home care to all the veterans who might need it.

“It’s not just in VA but throughout the federal government that we’re facing a very large deficit and government has to make responsible decisions about how to allocate the resources that are available,” he said.

“Responsible decisions,” you say? Sigh.

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A tale of progress, missed opportunities

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:40 am
Another dose of post-Legislature analysis today. The SB (which still hates my Firefox browser, by the way) has an article focusing on the business community and their reactions to the session. The Advertiser has a broader article and an editorial.

The perception from many in Hawaii’s business community was that economic development took low priority this year and few industries benefited from 2005 legislation, said Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

From the sounds of the business community, you might be forgiven for thinking Hawaii was entering (or already in) a depression and the legislature was standing by idly doing nothing to help. In fact, tax revenues are higher than expected and Hawaii’s unemployment is the lowest in the nation. Things can’t be too bad in the business climate. Perhaps we are to parse this criticism from businesses that profits are not meeting expectations? I dunno.

House and Senate leaders vowed to deal with traffic and affordable housing when the session began in January and, after adjourning last week, they can legitimately argue that they took action. Along with the new taxing power for counties, the Legislature raised taxes on higher-end real estate purchases to help fund more rental housing.

But just as in the last session when the Legislature approved an education reform package that will unfold over several years, it could take years or even decades before people can tell whether they are better off on traffic or housing.

People would pay higher taxes long before they see any tangible reward, a calculated risk for lawmakers who must answer to voters in the 2006 elections.

Left unexamined is the calculated risk that politicians opposed to rail have assumed. Constituents who are stuck in traffic twice each workday will have time to ponder why those voting “no” have abandoned them. The GET surcharge, after all, does not hit their wallet until after the 2006 election. The higher conveyance tax will not impact a significant number of voters in any one district, and the benefits to renters probably make that an electoral wash anyway.

Lingle said Friday she thought it was a poor session for the business community but has otherwise mostly avoided being negative, even after Democrats floated bills that would limit her power and blocked some of her nominees.

“By and large, they really did stay focused on the major issues. And I feel ? and I hope they would agree, most of them ? that we worked in a much more collaborative way this session. Part of that is because we’re more experienced now. Our directors are more experienced,” Lingle said.

I agree with that comment about collaboration. I’m not sure if it was the result of more experienced directors, or simple pragmatism. Probably both, since the former produces the latter. An interesting follow-up article would be to compare the legislation that passed with the legislation that was introduced as the Governor’s package. My gut impression, confirmed by others that I trust, is that Lingle accomplished extremely little of what she set out to do legislatively; with little to take credit for except those bills from the Democrat’s agenda to which she lent her support or consent.

Comments (1)
Housing series concludes – great neighborhood!

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:39 am
After completing their 8-day series on housing, the SB attempts to sum things up in this editorial. Maybe it’s unfair, but I really hoped for more thoughtful discussion in this conclusion.

The series had its moments, and I’m glad that they took on the task. [You know what’s coming] But. But after all the anecdotes and charts in the past week we’re left with this mostly pessimistic editorial. The forces driving this issue are presented as immutable, necessarily reducing the policy responses to the equivalent of skirmishes covering a retreat. They conclude:

It might be that while government can build low-cost housing or homeless shelters, it cannot control the powerful forces that drive the market. There are too many factors that have stronger influences, such as economic conditions on the mainland, the ups and downs on Wall Street and lending rates set by the Fed. The state might be able to ease the way for more supply, but it cannot direct demand.

If you couldn’t tell already from my prior posts, I am also very pessimistic on this topic.

At some point, the state “easing the way” for more supply will (especially on Oahu) result in a reduction of demand, because that supply of housing will involve so many sacrifices (traffic gridlock, inadequate infrastructure, water, waste disposal, power production capacity, etc.) that buyers will look elsewhere instead of Oahu. By only focusing on the monthly costs of buying and renting the article really missed an opportunity to sound that alarm. But here again, what can you do? Everyone seems to want a taste of their own place before it comes to that, and they are willing to find a way (no matter how absurd) to pay for it. In this scenario, a 30-year mortgage sounds like a fool’s bet!

It’s perverse to admit it, but if Oahu were not a so-called “tax hell” with a reputation for strict land use oversight, an unfriendly business climate, and dubious public schools, this mad real estate rush would only accelerate. A curious and backhanded way to control demand, but it seems to work. Heh.

Footnote: For those of you still hoping to join the game, before you blindly follow a realtor’s advice have a look at this article I read yesterday in Wired. As their opposition to the GET increase for transit would suggest, realtors can be expected to look for the quick buck instead of the best long-term economic decision for their customers. Or, perhaps I sell them short and realtors tacitly agree that, rail transit or not, the decline in housing demand is inevitable. Making hay while the sun shines, and all that.

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Pro-UARC McClain bashing begins

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:31 am
It was easy to predict the backlash against the way the UARC protest concluded this week. A few angry letters in the SB today are probably only the tip of the iceberg.

UH protesters hamper needed research

So all the little Ward Churchill and Michael Moore wannabes at the University of Hawaii are protesting the potential contract between the Navy and UH for classified research. This is research that most likely will assist our Navy in helping to protect sealife and possibly help find alternative fuel sources from deep within the ocean.

It’s research that might assist our military in protecting our harbors and shores (which Democrats – such as these protesters – claim aren’t protected enough). And only 15 percent of this research will be classified as top secret. Not to mention the fact that this contract would bring $50 million to the university.

Are the protesters going to make up the difference and provide UH with the $50 million the university will be losing out on? If this contract doesn’t go through, you know these same protesters will be out again protesting the tuition raises that will be necessary due to the loss of this important contract.

Shawn Lathrop

Sure, the research “most likely” or “might” be good for sealife, alternative energy and national security, but who really knows? In any case, the UARC proposal is not dead yet and we’ve been told by the administration that, even without a UARC, military research is “business as usual” at UH.

His second theme, that of the $50M somehow being used to offset rising tuition is worth some exploration. How much money does the proposed tuition increase need to raise? How much money from a research grant is in excess of what it actually costs to conduct the research? I’m not sure that this “UARC or higher tuition” is a fair argument to make. If it is not then the protesters need to get out in front of that meme.

UH caved in too easily to small group

After reading how the University of Hawaii administration basically rolled over to all the demands of a very small group of protesters against the proposed Navy research center, we now know how UH students can stop the proposed increased tuition costs. Another small group only has do exactly what the first group did and again the UH administration will completely cave in to their demands and roll back tuition costs to 2000 levels. How can this go wrong when the administration has already set the standard by not showing any backbone to the protesters?

Perhaps this administration has forgotten it also owes the people who pay for UH, the taxpayers, a group far larger then 35 protesters, more say in how UH is run. Until then, students, get back in that office and in two weeks you will get those tuition rates back where they should be.

Al Aliment

Clever, but it’s a mistake to conclude that another sit-in could stop a tuition increase. The UARC protesters had several strong arguments against the proposal, featuring some philosophical and procedural concerns. UH would join only a handful of other UARC locations, and that novelty helped the protesters. Tuition increases are not novel, unfortunately.

Lastly, and just slightly off topic, there is also a letter praising how McClain conducted himself during the protest.

Comments (0)

The New Hawaiian Telcom hates Firefox

Filed under:
— Doug @ 8:58 am
I saw this post at Bytemarks and thought I’d use it as a springboard for this meta-comment.

In case you didn’t notice, I didn’t do any posts linking to the SB today. For some reason every time I open a story from their website it crashes my poor old iBook running OS X and Firefox. I have a hunch, but no expertise, that it is caused by those ubiquitous animated banner ads for Hawaiian Telcom.

Anybody else having this problem? What else could be causing it? Don’t suggest that I switch to Exploder or Safari. The SB even pimps suggests using Firefox on their site, so that makes this extra frustrating.

I know at least one geek reads this site. [That would be you, Peter!]

Comments (3)
Workers’ comp change

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:47 am
A few reports today on those workers’ comensation rules I had been commenting on earlier. One in the Advertiser and the Governor’s press release from the Hawaii Reporter.

Twenty-one states rely on treatment guidelines. California enacted guidelines as part of its major workers’ comp reform package in 2004.

A University of California- Berkeley study estimates that California will realize annually 36.7 percent, or $3.1 billion, in cost savings to its system due to those guidelines. Potentially, Hawaii could realize the same cost savings – $98 million ? under the DLIR’s medical guidelines.

I’m a bit surprised that the Advertiser went with the $98M savings headline. Is the comparison to California described more thoroughly somewhere in the 111-page report? Not so far as I can tell. The Berkeley study spoke of a 36% savings, but the actual rates went down only 10%. This “saves $98M” argument needs more exploration before I’ll take it at face value.

Incidentally, the report provides very interesting reading for the Department’s introductory section where we find an encapsulated history of workers’ compensation in Hawaii, a discussion of the current policy issues, and related topics. The report was an ambitious project, surveying lots of legislative history and data, and is something I could wonk out on for a longer time if they had published more.

A few excerpts (page #s are pdf, not hard copy):

-page 10- describing preliminary work -
Formed a working group of several experienced, respected and prominent workers’ compensation attorneys representing the International Labor Workers Union (“ILWU”), Hawaii Employers Mutual Insurance Company (“HEMIC”), Chamber of Commerce, and non-union employees. The Director of Labor and Industrial Relations (“Director”) asked the group to independently review the current language of the Department’s administrative rules and propose amendments or new language to streamline and improve the Department’s operations. To date, the group has not provided proposed language or suggested amendments to the Director.

-page 22- delegation of rulemaking authority -
The Legislature has given the Department?s Director the responsibility to administer Hawaii Workers? Compensation Law. The Director was empowered with two methods to carry out this responsibility: (1) statutory authority under Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) chapter 386 and (2) both broad and specific rulemaking authority contained in numerous provisions in chapter 386. For example, the Director has rulemaking authority in the following areas: negotiation for benefit coverage; vocational rehabilitation; computation of average weekly wages; regulation of psychologists; medical care, services, and supplies; and guidelines on frequency of treatment and reasonable utilization of health care and services. Thus, the Director has broad power to adopt rules that are consistent with chapter 386, including rules governing medical treatment.

Those excerpts pretty much summarize why the DLIR decided to go ahead and implement rules. The section of the report that begins on page 22 describes the rulemaking authority granted to the DLIR. Clearly, it is an attempt to innoculate the new rules, and DLIR rulemaking in general, against the new bill that would (temporarily) forbid the DLIR from rulemaking on workers’ compensation. The section seems to make a very good case for the delegation of rulemaking authority to the DLIR, yet throughout that section you’ll see words to the effect of “the Legislature has given the Department…” What the Legislature gives, the Legislature may take away. To claim the bill is unconstitutional is obviously false. Call it a “power grab” if you must, but any legislature (of the majority party) challenged by an executive branch (of the minority party) circumventing their authority would react similarly.

The Legislature is restricting the rulemaking authority because the DLIR tried to enact by rule concepts that they first proposed as legislation. The proposal failed, providing a clear statement on the will of the Legislature. Here is how the voluminous report refers to that episode (in one brief paragraph):

-page 11-
The third phase involved submitting an omnibus workers? compensation reform bill to the 2004 Legislature that addressed several key cost drivers, while ensuring that the employee is entitled to quality medical care and necessary benefits. The Department presented a comprehensive package of changes because it recognizes that there is no silver bullet, or single initiative, that will provide relief to the system. Addressing fraud – regardless of who commits it – must be accomplished, but addressing this issue alone, will not fix the system or bring relief to Hawaii’s small businesses.

That’s true, although some workers might dispute the claim that the 2004 bill was truly for “ensuring their entitlements,” but the report neglects to mention that the proposal was rejected by the Legislature. Going ahead and trying to do it anyway was pretty cheeky, and the Governor was called on it, and is being punished.

Politically, this is a very slick move by the Governor. The rules omit the most controversial topic (vocational rehabilitation), and it gives the supporters (i.e. management) a month or so to review and (predictably) praise the new rules. I doubt that there would be enough time (before the veto, veto override, and the resulting rule nullification) for the workers’ compensation insurance rates to be lowered, and even if there were time the insurers would be reluctant to adjust rates if the survival of the rules are in question. She can claim it would have been a great thing, even though we won’t really have a chance to test that claim.

The same applies to the opposition, of course. They also have this interim period before the veto battle to publicize their concerns and to argue that the rules would be awful and need to be scrapped.

Reaching even deeper into the bag of possibilities: It is possible, though not very likely, that by omitting the vocational rehabilitation topic the Legislature may let the veto stand and keep these rules in place. That would be a small victory for bipartisanship. It is also possible that the Legislature could overturn the veto during special session and also introduce legislation during special session to incorporate these new rules into statute. Doing that would be a big, fat thumb in the Governor’s eye. Heh.

Comments (0)
Kona has best turnout for gasoline price cap hearing – 3 testifiers

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 7:09 am
The West Hawii Today reports that Mr. Cole of the Consumer Advocate office was not the only person to testify at the most recent PUC hearing in Kona. Two people from the petroleum industry and one other person spoke up.

The PUC is holding a series of meetings around the state to gather input on the cap formula, which must be decided during the summer.

The Hawaii Revised Statutes set forth a pricing structure based on averages in Los Angeles, New York and U.S. Gulf States. ICF Consulting, a Fairfax, Va., company hired by the PUC to assist in implementing the law, recommends a formula derived from costs in the Caribbean and Singapore, other island markets.

With the gas cap already a law, resident testimony simply for or against the measure is belated.

But [76 station owner] Dixson and Mark Leong, vice president and general manager for Hawaii Petroleum on the Big Island and Maui, spoke against the cap at the meeting.


Joel Cooperson, a 36-year resident of Kona, said that as a consumer, he supports the gas cap.

“This is long overdue,” he said. “The gas producers have admitted that Hawaii is their most profitable market. There is no aloha in these corporations. The name of game is profit.”

I praise the newspaper for pointing out that the time for opposing the cap was in the past. The testimony now should be addressed to the best way to implement the gasoline price caps. In that regard it would seem, judging only from the small excerpts provided, that none of this testimony will be helpful.

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More on the “coo”

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:10 pm
Plenty more today about the leadership struggles in the Senate. The Advertiser has this piece, the SB has another, and the Hawaii Reporter adds theirs, too.

Questions were raised immediately about whether the Senate could change leadership at a meeting without formally being in session. A two-thirds vote is required to call a special session, although lawmakers also can return for a day to override a governor’s vetoes or if a governor calls a special session.

The power play puts the Senate leadership into disarray just as Democrats were trying to define the session and transition politically toward the 2006 elections, when they must defend their majority at the Legislature and find a candidate to challenge Gov. Linda Lingle.

Bunda, if he survives as president, could move to dump Kim and others involved from their leadership roles, while the faction that went after Bunda could use the fallout from yesterday to convince other Democrats that a leadership change is critical.

I’m not sure I understand the questions about “formally being in session.” The resolution passed yesterday provides a method to “meet” for the purposes of complying with Article 3, Section 12 of the State Constitution. I am not a lawyer, but I understand Legislatures to have wide authority to regulate their own affairs. Furthermore, the Judiciary is (correctly, in my view) very hesitant to meddle with the internal decisions of the legislature unless they are patently unconstitutional.

Hmmm. A more interesting question is if a majority of Senators could use this rule change to call for a “meeting” to censure, suspend, or expel a Senator for misconduct, disorderly behavior, or neglect of duty (which is another power provided for in Article 3, Section 12, although the new Senate rule does not mention that power specifically).

Consider the Senate organization as it now stands. There are 15 committees and 20 Democrats. Every Democrat is at least a Vice-Chair of a committee, if not a Chair. The Senate President does not sit on any committees as a voting member, so that leaves 19 Democrats to divide up 30 billets (Chairs and Vice-Charis). After any struggle that divides the Democrats 11-9, the only options would be to radically shuffle the committee structure to consolidate into fewer committees, accomodate some of the dissidents as Chairs or Vice-Chairs, or offer some of those billets to the Republicans.

Let’s talk about that last option. It is mentioned in the Hawaii Reporter:

Republicans say if their votes are needed for one faction or the other to take over the Senate, at least some are willing to negotiate, as long as Republicans get something in exchange for their commitment.

More than a decade ago when there were 10 Republicans in the Senate, and their votes were needed for a reorganization, Republicans were granted coveted chairmanship positions of two committees and Sen. Mary George and Sen. Stan Koki became the first Republicans to head up a Senate committee under Democrat control. Republicans and Democrats interviewed for this story maintain the bipartisan agreement worked, but no Republican has been offered a chairmanship or vice chairmanship since and few Republican Senate bills even get a hearing.

So far in this reorganization, Democrats have offered nothing for the Republican votes, which they required to pass the resolution, including no committee chairmanships, vice chairmanships, and no guarantee that certain Democrats hostile to Republicans and the governor would not hold either a leadership position or important committee chairmanship.

Oh, please. Five Senators is not ten Senators. The status quo would seem better to the Democrats than sharing power with the Republicans. This is not to say that the Republicans should get nothing for participating in the reorganization, but that they will get nothing close to that. They just don’t have the leverage and I don’t think the dissidents want the change badly enough. However, if the Democrats remain split as they were yesterday, some (but not all) of those “Democrats hostile to Republicans and the governor” would be removed from leadership and chairmanship roles by default. Senator Kanno, for instance. Senators Hee and English, would benefit, however. (Unless my earlier question about using the rule change to take up ethics complaints were successfully attempted)

Lastly, I’m glad the articles follow up on the Republican schism, too. From the SB:

The resolution also divided Republicans, with GOP members Sens. Paul Whalen and Gordon Trimble voting with those wanting to oust Bunda. During closed-door debate on the resolutions, Gov. Linda Lingle visited with the five GOP members and asked them to “rethink voting to change the leadership,” according to Sen. Sam Slom.

After the session, the GOP caucus voted to strip Trimble of his position as GOP policy leader.

And? So what. Senator Trimble’s former title and $1.00 can get you a cup of coffee. The Republican bench being as shallow as it is, that means Senator Slom will take his place. It is noteworthy that the Governor weighed in on this leadership issue at a “closed-door debate” and that subsequently Senator Slom revealed her position. We can assume Lingle prefers the adversary she knows to the unpredictable result of a reorganization.

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2005 regular session rorschach test begins

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:04 pm
The headline of this SB article is spot on, “Adjournment shifts lawmakers? focus to defending decisions.” The legislature accomplished a few significant things, but for the most part no single issue generated huge public interest. The highest profile bill, authorizing the Counties to implement the GET surcharge, generated very little opposition (or support) from the general public when you consider that it could apply to huge numbers of residents. Sure, there were the transportation planners in support and the taxi/realtor-sponsored opposition, but not much testimony in either direction from the so-called “grass roots.” The one attempt to rally in opposition was pathetic.

From that are we to assume that the public supports the GET surcharge? That they don’t care? I dunno. It will be difficult for the state legislators to frame this issue to their constituents in whatever form supports their position. For starters, the Honolulu City Council is already going to be hearing Bill 40 next Thursday. The same arguments and probably the same testifiers will come forth, it will place the whole question back into the domain of the “unresolved” question. It would make little sense for state legislators to rush out and explain their vote on HB 1309 if, unlikely as it may be, the City Council somehow fails to pass the ordinance to actually carry it out.

On a more generic level, any “explanation” of such a complicated endeavor as a legislative session is doomed to be a subjetive summary. Few people will have or take the time to read all of the session laws and journals from this past session when they are published. Which is okay, because even that enormous task would not be enough to fully understand the session. But voters really don’t expect to attain that kind of comprehension. For most of them it’s enough to give them a paragraph, a soundbite, and let their imagination and partisanship fill in the gaps. If you, dear reader, thought otherwise you’d still be busy reviewing legislation instead of blogs. Heh.

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First post-protest UARC editorials and letters

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:49 am
Neither Honolulu daily wastes any time in reflecting on the just-completed sit-in at Bachman Hall. I’ll start by pulling the concluding paragraph from the SB editorial that supports the UARC and dismisses the protesters.

David McClain, the university’s interim president, handled the protests graciously, surrendering his office for the week. His agreement to hold a public hearing, release related documents that come under the state’s open-records law and postpone final approval of the plan by the regents from this spring until Oct. 1 allowed the protesters to declare victory as they departed Bachman Hall. It should remain a hollow victory.

The rest of the editorial is mostly objective, except for this assertion about the other existing UARC locations:

Their academic prestige and integrity have not been tarnished by the military research.

Since academic integrity appears to me to be the issue that is rising to the top of the protesters’ concerns, both sides will need to do a better job of discussing it than this clumsy attempt by the SB. Next, the SB letters to the editor included these two missives:

Killing UARC proposal is still the goal
The week-long sit-in at Bachman Hall ended Wednesday with the Save UH/Stop UARC Coalition asserting a crucial gain. This was an important step in the process to kill the proposal to establish a University Affiliated Research Center at UH. I have been involved in the movement to study and halt the project since early this year.

A main reason for the occupation was the consultation proc-ess has been seen by many as flawed and insufficient. Interim UH President David McClain has admitted that the provisional approval of a UARC by the Board of Regents last November was insufficient and premature. He has agreed to most of the coalition’s demands.

Time constraints with the end of the semester and the possibility that a UARC contract could have been approved during the summer also contributed to the urgency to act. The coalition felt the only alternative in demanding accountability was to take tangible nonviolent action to publicize the issue.

Those involved remain steadfast in their resolve to end the UARC and bring real peace and justice to our university.

Tony Castanha
UH lecturer

UARC protesters don’t speak for all
The protesters who interfered with the operations of the University of Hawaii system do not represent the opinions of all UH-Manoa students. They are a minority whose opinions differ radically from those of the majority of students. Many students either do not know or care about the proposed University Affiliated Research Center. With the support of individual faculty members, the Stop UARC coalition is able to misinform students about the negative aspects of UARCs, and fails to mention the benefits that a UARC offers.

I support a UARC. Although I will not benefit directly from it, I know many students and professors of science who will. A UARC will provide them with the opportunity to extend their research and the academic freedom to take further advantage of their education. Their research will benefit our university fiscally and improve our national security.

This is a nonpartisan issue. It is about the freedom of students and professors to do the work that they are educated to do. It is about the future of our university. The opinions of the Stop UARC Coalition, although valid, do not coincide with those of many individuals at UH-Manoa.

The Board of Regents should support UARC and should not be intimidated by the demands of a radical and unreasonable organization. UH-Manoa students: It is time to speak out against the Stop UARC coalition.

Jame Schaedel
Chairman, Hawaii Federation of College Republicans

Mr. Schaedel and the College Republicans can be expected to frame the issue using the “academic bill of rights” lens, since they just hosted a lecture by David Horowitz on that very topic. Schaedel is correct that there are many students and faculty who are ignorant or indifferent to UARC. He is also correct that UARC money would benefit the university. However, without knowing exactly what research is being undertaken, or what research is proposed should the UARC be established, it’s premature to say if it has improved, or will improve, national security.

Mr. Castanha’s comment on the timing of the sit-in is worth noting again, too:

Time constraints with the end of the semester and the possibility that a UARC contract could have been approved during the summer also contributed to the urgency to act. The coalition felt the only alternative in demanding accountability was to take tangible nonviolent action to publicize the issue.

Moving on to the Advertiser editorial, they take both sides to task for the way the debate has progressed to date.

At this point, few people have a clear understanding of how this UARC would work, and both the university administration and the opponents must share the blame for that. [UH official] Ostrander has been on the job only since January, and even he acknowledged that consultations could have begun much sooner than they did.

However, neither the angry outbursts from opponents at the few public forums held to date, nor the polarizing tactics such as campus sit-ins have contributed much to the discourse.

This is not the way a public university should conduct its business.

It’s time for the real conversation to begin.

Okay, that’s true up to a point, but, until this week, who really controlled the terms of the debate? To blame the protesters for their tactics and at the same time speak in favor of having a “real conservation” obscures the fact that without those “angry and polarizing” tactics from the protersters there would not have been an opportunity for that conversation. The few public fora were farcical sideshows because the process was insufficiently open, not because the protesters were unwilling to fully express their concerns.

Last, we see this Advertiser letter to the editor:

Opponents of UARC are doing a disservice

With so many other problems at UH, the opponents of the University Affiliated Research Center should spend their fervid efforts on better causes like stopping poverty.

Most of the people who oppose UARC are not from scientific fields and just want to show off their misplaced anti-government and anti-military sentiments.

I am a graduate student in a scientific field at UH, and I can assure you that UARC opponents are doing a disservice to the university system and the state of Hawai’i. UARC will require some classified research, but it is minimal compared to all the other important non-classified research that it will fund.

UARC opponents stand like religious zealots trying to transform this into a radical movement that is based not on hard facts and reliable information but on assumptions and irrational emotions.

Sandro Jube

At least the writer admits that he or she could have a financial stake in this decision. Truth is, I could, too. That makes it all the more crucial for me (and the letter-writer) to keep an open mind when hearing the opposition. If the University actually releases all the relevant files on the topic and a full public debate leads the BOR to make an informed vote then I can live with whatever decision is arrived at. To categorically dismiss the opposition as irrational and emotional does nothing to advance the debate.

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Hilo gasoline price cap hearing another sleeper

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:57 am
The Hawaii County newsppaers each have a report about the PUC public hearings seeking comments about the gasoline price cap law. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald piece is here and the West Hawaii Today article is here.

The only testimony presented came from John Cole, executive director of the state Division of Consumer Advocacy. Cole, who also testified at meetings Monday in Honolulu and Tuesday on Kauai, told commission members that his agency would make recommendations to the PUC on the law set to take effect Sept. 1.

Cole encouraged the public to “express their opinions to the commission regarding this issue, whatever they may be.”


Most of the handful of people at the meeting were either gas station owners or otherwise affiliated with the petroleum industry.

The latter included Melissa Pavlicek, a Honolulu attorney representing the Western States Petroleum Association. Pavlicek said she was attending the meeting to gauge public reaction to the law, the only one of its kind in the nation.

“We have consistently opposed the price cap legislation and we were curios [sic] what kind of testimony it brought out,” she said.

Pavlicek said the association would submit written testimony to the PUC after the round of public hearings is held.

Hmmm. What are we to make of that wait-and-see strategy from the petroleum industry? If they are waiting in the hopes of submitting written testimony that addresses the concerns of the public elicited at the public hearings then, so far, they have been skunked. Until we know what they finally suggest, I will stick with my default interpretation. Namely, the industry will not suggest any refinements to the proposal, because they want it to fail miserably and to be repealed.

The state Legislature last week received a letter supporting the cap from George Saunders, commissioner of petroleum products pricing for the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador from 2001 to 2004.

“I can say from experience that the system worked effectively during my tenure and continues to work as intended today,” Saunders wrote. “The state of Hawaii is ideally suited for pricing regulation because of its island status, as well as its relative isolation from other states in your union. Look for a market that is highly organized, highly efficient and more valid under a regulated system.”

Tonight’s PUC public hearing will focus on the proposed pricing structures of the gas cap law and enforcement procedures. Individuals or organizations wishing to testify can do so orally, in writing or both on the day of the hearing. Written comments to the PUC and DCA can also be submitted at any time following the hearing.

That’s the first comment I’ve heard from any place where a price cap has been in effect. I’d like to know what Mr. Saunders might be able to contribute to the debate, and what else his letter to the Legislature may have said. In particular, I’d like him to review (and submit testimony to the PUC) the PUC proposal and comment on how it may be better or worse than the program in Canada. Maybe some journalist could seek Saunders (and other Canadians with firsthand experience) out for further comment. Cough.

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Pigeons hatch plans in the Senate

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 4:21 pm
When I first saw this Hawaii Reporter story the title referred to rumors of a Senate “Coo.”

“Coo” HA HA HA. That would be “coup,” Ms. Zimmerman. It’s since been corrected, and now the outcome of the final Senate floor session is known. I don’t think it is accurate to say that the coup failed, as much as it probably wasn’t planned for execution today to begin with.

Anyway, after the regular order or the day was completed a supplemental order of the day contained Senate Resolution 137. Before Senators could address this resolution, which was to amend the Senate Rule describing how a special session may be initiated, there was a vote to waive the requirement to give 24 hours notice before amending Senate Rules. That motion carried, 13-12, and the handwriting was on the wall. Then the resolution also passed, 13-12.

Thus, at any time before next January, any 13 (or more) Senators may sign a petition to the Senate Clerk and a special session will be scheduled. During a special session the Senate could be reorganized and Senator Bunda removed from the Presidency.

The HR piece again assigns Senators to various factions:

Though some Democrats are more independent and have not committed their vote for reorganization to a particular faction, the factions are still essentially grouped into five factions.

Still supporting Bunda are Democrat Sens. Brian Kanno, Ron Menor, Will Espero and Lorraine Inouye.

Splitting off from Bunda with Kim is Democrat Sens. Gary Hooser, Norman Sakamoto, Shan Tsutsui and Clayton Hee (Hee is more independent and also supports the faction of Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Waianae, Democrats say).

Hanabusa, the majority leader in the Senate, has four other members in her faction including Democrat Sens. Kalani English, Brian Taniguchi and Russell Kokubun. Reportedly newcomer Sen. Clarence Nishihara, D-Waipahu, who is so far independent, is considered a possible ally for Hanabusa.

Sen. Les Ihara, D-Kaimuki, is aligned with four other Democrats: Sens. Suzanne Chun Oakland, David Ige, Carol Fukunaga and Roz Baker, who possibly favor a reorganization, but are not satisfied with the proposal by the Kim faction on Bunda?s replacement.

When you compare that to the list of those who sponsored the Resolution and supported the resolution, it matches up perfectly for 10 of the 11 signatures. Senator Chun Oakland is the only supporter that didn’t vote with the block HR assigned her to. That doesn’t mean the whole HR piece is true, but it has no obvious flaws. Interestingly, the Senate Republicans also split on the vote, with Senators Whalen and Trimble in support of the Resolution and Senators Hemmings, Hogue, and Slom opposed. I’d be very interested to hear the Hawaii Reporter expound on that schism.

So, it may be an interesting interim this year, but only if the 13 Senators can hold together through the process of dividing the spoils of a reorganization (okay, actually 11, since Whalen and Trimble are not likely to get much—beyond their choice of Committee assignments).

Oh yeah, today was also Adjurnment Sine Die, ha ha. This pretty much overshadowed that trifling detail!

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CSEA records effectively secret

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 4:10 pm
The Advertiser has an article concerning the denial of their requests to have specific information released relating to parents delinquent for large amounts of child support. The Office of Information Practices sided with the Attorney General and CSEA (Child Support Enforcement Agency).

Attorney General Mark Bennett acknowledged that members of the public can look up the records at the Bureau of Conveyances but only if they know the names of delinquent parents, which CSEA won’t release.

Office of Information Practices attorney Lorna Aratani issued an opinion April 29, released to The Advertiser Tuesday, upholding the CSEA position that records in its files, even if they are copies of public records, are protected by state confidentiality laws.

Unfortunately, this new opinion is not posted on the website yet, so I can’t examine the reasoning (or lack thereof) used to deny access. The relevant law, as far as I can tell, is HRS § 92F-12(2), with the exceptions in the following two subsections.

Back to the story, these 42 grossly delinquent parents owe money to somebody. Maybe those parents who are due large sums of child support money read the Advertiser? Ask the readers to finger these delinquent people and then check the records at the Bureau of Conveyances to confirm it. That’s apparently what the AG wants.

Better yet, appeal the OIP decision, and if that fails, then go to court. Don’t just write an article and give up, that’s not the precedent you want to set. Sheesh.

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After-hours skateboarding IS a crime

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 3:49 pm
Skaters can’t get any respect. They get hassled for skating on private property, then, when skaters finally lobby hard and obtain a public skate park, they get hassled for consistently being too noisy after closing time. The Advertiser has the story.

Chad Hiyakumoto, who owns ‘A’ala Park Boardshop on nearby College Walk, noted that some skateboarders don’t wear watches because they’d get smashed in a spill. He also said the city leaves the park lights on until 9:30 p.m., a half-hour after the park closes, which is confusing to skateboarders.

Heh. As it happens, the after-hours skater pictured in the accompanying photo is wearing what?—a watch. So, I propose a few possible alternative solutions instead of adjusting the time when the lights are turned off.

1. “Eh, brah, what time is it?”

2. Install a clock.

3. “Close” the skatepark at 8:30 and shut off the lights at 9:00, if the City is so worried about liability for shutting off the lights promptly.

Chuck Allen of the city Parks Department said a work order has been submitted to the city Department of Facilities Management’s Street Light Division to turn off the park lights at 9 p.m., but said he couldn’t say when that might happen.

Wow, don’t you love bureaucracy?

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Protest at UH ends peacefully

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:48 pm
The Save UH / Stop UARC Coalition has left Bachman Hall after a 7-day sit-in. Both dailies carry the story, the Advertiser has a wide-ranging piece here and the SB has their own lengthy piece here.

Oddly, there is nothing new (or at least nothing online) from the Ka Leo. Go figure.

The Advertiser piece has some interesting comments from Hawaii’s congressional delegation:

From Washington, Hawai’i’s congressional delegation had praise for [UH President] McClain earlier in the day.

“He’s trying to steer a steady course through it, and doing a good job,” said Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai’i. “He’s trying to assure the process of decision-making is an open one where opinions can be voiced, but he is certainly reserving to the administration and the regents the responsibility that they have to make the substantive decision.

“I don’t think anyone can say he’s not fought for transparency. And ultimately, the decision is the regents’ to make, and he recognizes that.”

Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawai’i, said McClain was handling the situation “in a sensitive and appropriate manner.”

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai’i, said he did not think the protest would affect future Navy funding for the university or the Navy’s “commitment and desire” to develop a new relationship with UH.

“There’s a lot of nonclassified research going on there,” Abercrombie said. “The bulk of the research will remain nonclassified.”

They may have only been asked to comment on President McClain, but it is interesting that none of these comments had any praise for the protesters or any recognition of their concerns. It seems that our delegation intends to direct the federal money to UH with or without a UARC, the only questions being the amount and the classified/nonclassified concern.

The Advertiser also has this comment from the Manoa Neighborhood Board meeting where UARC was discussed:

Manoa resident Mimi Sharma asked if UH could really turn down a specific weapons project that the military wanted done if they were paying millions for research.

Ostrander said that if a researcher doesn’t want to participate in a project, there will be no pressure to do so, but only a small portion of the military projects would be classified and many professors are looking to do research in their fields.

That is exactly the point I had made earlier. The researchers are not likely to turn down research money or to protest very strenuously against the restrictions concomitant with the classified nature of any proposal. One can do a lot of rationalization with a generous research grant dangling in front of your face. Attracting grant money is a factor in evaluating researchers for career advancement, and being offered money and rejecting it could only look bad when it comes time to compare that researcher to the more compliant ones.

The SB has a different focus, providing a venue for opponents and supporters to make their case. Then it concludes:

[UH official] Ostrander said the Manoa administration will continue to meet with university community members in small groups.

He said there are core groups of people on both sides who support and oppose the UARC and that there are a number of people in the middle.

“There is a certain amount of apathy on the issue,” Ostrander said. “A lot of folks feel this just doesn’t apply to them in any way.”

The longer the debate continues, the more difficult it becomes for the administration to convince the undecided to support UARC. After the sit-in has shamed them to slow down the approval process, the momentum is definitely with the opponents. However, soon it will be summer and the university community will be dispersed. Next fall the Coalition might find that the momentum has slipped away.

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Another local blogger seeking traffic (pun intended)

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:56 pm
Cliff Slater has started a blog called “Second Thoughts.” It’s about time that a person such as Slater, whose work regularly haunts the op-ed pages of the local newspapers, joins the 21st century. Welcome to the fray. If only the local MidWeek columnists would also follow suit…

His second post swipes at the legislative floor session for being “scripted.” He says scripted, I would say orderly. Parliamentary procedure isn’t pretty, but at least it is uniform, predictable and efficient. If it were unscripted the public would have even less understanding of what the heck is going on, because even the Legislators couldn’t make heads or tails of it without following agreed-upon rules and agenda.

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Governor backs off on big work comp rule change

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:54 pm
According to a PBN article, the Department of Labor and Industrial relations, despite the Governor’s earlier comments boasting of her circumvention of the Legislature, has published a relatively modest reform of the workers’ compensation administrative rules.

The legislation to amend workers’ compensation procedures and to strip the DLIR of rulemaking authority, SB 1808, is awaiting the Governor’s action; i.e. awaiting her almost-certain veto. Assuming other measures are also vetoed, I would suspect this would be a veto the Lege would overturn in a Special Session since the only opposition was from all the Republican legislators (minus Representative Halford, curiously).

It’s all well and good for the Governor to talk tough in front of the Chamber of Commerce in that earlier post, but it seems getting something done became a more important goal than proposing a radical change and getting nothing done. From the PBN piece it appears that (so far) Representative Caldwell is accepting the new compromise language gracefully. That could change as details emerge, of course.

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REAL ID is coming

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:53 pm
The SB has an article and an editorial concerning an unexpected Congressional proposal to make it much more difficult to obtain a driver’s license. The “editorial” is another of the on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand wishy-washy genre. The only clear statement of a position is the headline. If you’re going to editorialize, try to take a clear position—otherwise just put that information into the article and editorialize on something else.

This new proposal is to supplant the as-yet-unimplemented federal law I had discussed earlier. This new idea is just as objectionable. Here is a NYT article that describes it in a bit more detail than the SB.

In mid-April, experts representing governors, state legislatures, motor vehicle departments, police departments, the federal Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the AAA and the American Civil Liberties Union, along with information technology experts, held three days of meetings here to begin planning how to carry out the provisions in the intelligence reform law.

“In December, they recognized the complexity of this process and they set up a system to discuss it back and forth,” said State Senator Michael Balboni of New York, who was appointed by the National Council of State Legislatures to represent the states in negotiations in Washington on how to put the bill into effect. “Now, suddenly, less than five months later, they come back and say, forget all that, we’re going to take this unilateral approach.”

Mr. Balboni’s group said the new rules would cost the states $500 million to adopt.

Privacy advocates have raised criticisms. Timothy D. Sparapani, the chief lobbyist on privacy issues for the A.C.L.U., said the standardized license would amount to a national identification card. And with the data accessible in a single database, he said, “this is a recipe for identity-theft disaster.”

On the local front, the SB report has this:

“It will cost big bucks for Hawaii and Alaska,” said Dennis Kamimura, administrator of the Honolulu Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division. “What the federal government wants us to do is go electronically online with other states to retrieve digital images of other driver’s licenses.”

The digital exchange program is being researched, and another program, yet to be developed, would give access to birth and death certificates in each state, Kamimura said.

“For the contiguous states, it’s not the problem that Hawaii and Alaska face. We do not have land-line connectivity,” he said. “The problem for us is communications. I expect it to be very expensive.”

“The federal government may pay initially, then the states will absorb the cost.”

Uh, there’s this thing called the Internet, Mr. Kamimura, and plenty of fiber optic bandwidth between Hawaii and the Mainland. But I digress.

According to the SB “editorial” this effort will be allowed years to be implemented, so once the deadline draws closer I will probably renew my driver’s license early to stay out of this Orwellian system for as long as I can. I guess I must hate Freedom, eh?

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Anti-UARC Coalition describes broader goals

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 3:52 pm
As the UARC sit-in at Bachman Hall is (probably) drawing to a close, I took note of this Ka Leo article submitted by the SAVE UH/STOP UARC Coalition that explains their intentions for the future. They seem to be intent on re-investing the political capital they have accumulated over the last 7 days.

Negotiations between the Navy and the UH administrators have been conducted in a state of total secrecy. But this type of secret back door business has been going on at UH for decades. Our ultimate goal as a coalition, after we stop UARC, is to create real democracy at UH, in which students and faculty have a say in the direction of our institution.

What specifically the Coalition might mean by “real democracy at UH” remains to be seen. In any case, that is a wholly different kettle of fish than a sit-in. Good luck with that. I’ll be watching closely.

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Ha’iku Stairs offered to state

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 3:51 pm
The dailies both have stories about Mayor Hannemann trying to rid the City of all the hassles involved with the Stairway to Heaven. He proposes to transfer the stairs to State control, after pouring almost $900,000 into fixing them and subsequently having to post guards to keep hikers from using them. The Advertiser has the story here and the SB here.

It certainly is understandable for the Mayor to simply drop back and punt on this issue, but I don’t think the transfer is going to be very popular with the Legislature. Just last year HCR 199 was opposed to City efforts to increase accessibility to the trail, mostly due to complaints of the residents of the surrounding neighborhood.

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the Twenty-second Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2004, the Senate concurring, that DHHL, DOT, DLNR, and OHA are requested to not issue any easements to the City for access to Haiku Valley and the “Haiku Stairs” until such time that all required permitting, necessary approvals, and conditional agreements are identified by the respective agencies and adhered to by the City including but not limited to an indemnification agreement, a memorandum of agreement to share the cost of maintaining the H-3 access road, requirements for preservation of cultural and burial sites, and a change in the Conservation District Use Permit for the H-3 access road which is presently limited to maintenance and without provision for recreational use which must be approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that DHHL is also urged to honor the requirements requested by its sister agencies before finalizing any agreements with the City; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Directors of Hawaiian Home Lands, Transportation, Land and Natural Resources, and OHA, Chairperson of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, the Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, and the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs are urged to submit a report of their findings, recommendations, and actions taken to the Legislature no later than December 31, 2004;

Of course, the report was never submitted, since Concurrent Resolutions have dull teeth. I have completed contemplated the illegal hike a few times. In my view it would be worth a trespassing citation if you haven’t been up there. The views are must be amazing!

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Signing truth to power

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— Doug @ 3:50 pm
No Hawaii angle to this Washington Post story, yet I still recommend it just for your diversion. A tale of a very clever and courageous sign language interpreter in the Ukraine.

It does raise the question of how much oversight is applied to the services provided by these folks in America. Imagine the possible events for this sort of subversion and the possibility for these messages to be broadcast by the major media without a clue: State of the Union, State of the State, State of the City, college commencement ceremonies, religious services, and any other place where a speaker might be of a different opinion than the interpreter.

For that matter, closed-captioning would be susceptible to the same exploit.

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It’s oceanography, up close

Filed under:
— Doug @ 3:49 pm
Short dose of science geekery follows.

The Advertiser has a piece describing an effort to offer high school students from throughout the state opportunities to experience short cruises on the R/V Hi`ialakai. The ship is part of the small NOAA fleet based in Honolulu.

“This is a great opportunity for the kids,” said Ron Pisciotte, a teacher at King Kekaulike High School. “I can explain this in class, I can show them movies, but it’s not quite the same. There is no substitute for seeing how the research is being done.”

That’s so true. Until I went to sea the first time on a research vessel, I had no idea. I knew I would like going to sea, having crewed on numerous sailing trips, but the science aspect adds another very enjoyable layer. It’s been an interesting, if wholly unexpected, career path.

So long as the cruises do not drag on too long and the ports of call are cool.

UPDATE: West Hawaii Today has a piece
now, too.

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Debt load for home-buyers is latent risk

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:43 pm
The SB series on Oahu housing continues, and today they have a piece that confirms my posts that the homes trading hands are not “affordable” for many of the people who buy them nonetheless.

Lisa Tarumoto, who is on the board of directors at the Mortgage Bankers Association of Hawaii, said it has become common for families to dedicate 45 to 50 percent or more of their monthly income to paying the mortgage. In theory, only about 29 percent of a family’s monthly income is supposed go to mortgage payments, and 41 percent should go to all household debts, Hirai said.

If those guidelines were followed, though, many Hawaii families would not be able to buy a home.

“Lenders are loosening their guidelines to allow more homeownership,” said Tarumoto, who is also vice president of mortgage banking at Central Pacific Bank. “More of your income levels are going to your mortgage … and I think people are dealing with it. Their lives may have to adjust.”

Then, from a story in the business section of the SB, we hear more from economist Paul Brewbaker:

This time around, limited housing supply coupled with high demand is likely to keep Honolulu’s prices rising and the market strong for at least the next one to two years, said Paul Brewbaker, Bank of Hawaii’s chief economist.

According to the most recent figures, Honolulu’s single-family home inventory is about three times lower and its condo inventory is about four and a half times lower than it was in the early 1990s, Shapiro said.

“My view on Oahu home prices from this point forward is that they will rise, and then go sideways, contingent on two events of the 1990s – substantive military downsizing or substantial out-migration and significant state-funded homebuilding volumes – not repeating themselves,” he said.

I’m not sure what a “substantial out-migration” means in raw population numbers, but what about another terrorist attack and/or war? Either of those events could throw the broader US economy, and the Hawaii tourism economy in particular, into a tailspin.

Another recent article from Market Watch (free registration required) had this to say:

“Affordability in those areas is beginning to be a problem,” said Thomas Lund, the interim head of single-family mortgage business at Fannie Mae (FNM).

“We don’t believe that the house prices that we have seen at the levels that we have seen in terms of growth are sustainable,” Lund said. He added that home prices rose by an average 11% across the country last year, with some markets, particularly along the East and West coasts, experiencing even stronger price appreciation.

Don Bisenius, a top credit officer at Freddie Mac (FRE) agreed, saying “the absolute level of home price appreciation is not sustainable.”

The market has responded to the threat of higher interest rates by offering borrowers a bevy of new mortgage products that target consumers willing to take on greater risk against rising interest rates, such as interest-only and adjustable-rate mortgage loans.

The same mortgage products that the SB series was describing to first-time buyers yesterday.

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Not much heard at gas-cap hearing

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:50 pm
To what extent do Oahu residents support or oppose the gasoline price cap law about to go into effect this September? Who knows? According to this Advertiser article the entire PUC hearing to take public comments took only 15 minutes.

Last night’s hearing was the only one scheduled for O’ahu, though additional hearings will be held on the Neighbor Islands during the next two weeks. The purpose is to gather public input before the Public Utilities Commission implements the law. However, no member of the public testified at the hearing, which lasted about 15 minutes.

“I hope it’s not a reflection of the public concern,” said John Cole, executive director of the state consumer advocacy office. “It’s a huge thing. No other place in our country has this and few other places in the world.”

Cole, the only person to testify last night, said his office is analyzing the law and will take a position on the issue this summer.

Let me make a prediction that this strange silence will result in another law that follows in the mold of the beverage container deposit program. In the beverage container issue, retailers did not constructively participate in the implementation process and only now are beginning to take steps to make the program less painful for consumers. Likewise, gasoline wholesalers and retailers now appear to be sitting on the sidelines instead of testifyng at the PUC hearing and working with the State to implement this law in the best (or, in their opinion, least disastrous) manner. Come September if this gasoline price cap law results in chaos and the public is upset (or immobilized), the retailers will then try to shift the blame to the State. Then we’ll have another round of the Legislature blaming the Governor, and vice versa. Just watch.

I don’t think the petroleum industry is willing to self-destruct just to make a political point, but I could be wrong. It’s not as if they can easily pack up their elaborate refinery and distribution infrastructure and leave. The retailers are a bit more fragile, but they are not obligated to pass on any wholesale price savings provided by the law.

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Filibuster squabble may stall vote on Akaka bill

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:21 pm
I try to focus on Hawaii politics, but in this case national politics has intersected with local issues. The Advertiser reports that if the US Senate Republicans end the use of the filibuster and the Democrats respond by reducing the Senate to a very slow pace, it could cast doubt on the fate of the Akaka Bill, authorization for ANWR oil exploration, and the transportation appropriation bill that is driving the proposed County increase in GET. As usual, in this post the Hawaiian Independence blog is on top of it earlier and more thoroughly.

These are the key paragraphs:

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said that if the Republicans change the filibuster rules, Democrats might use other Senate rules to slow or stop all but the most essential legislative business.

Exempted would be military and national security legislation and bills related to the continuation of critical government services, Reid said.

The Akaka bill would be stalled along with everything else.

The legislation, originally introduced in 2000, would lead to federal recognition for Native Hawaiians in the same way that it recognizes American Indians and Native Alaskans. It would create a framework for Native Hawaiian governance.

The fight over judicial nominees could also delay the transportation bill, which includes an authorization for a proposed Honolulu rail transit system, and the energy bill, which could lead to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


In the meantime, the senators have been conducting a low-key information campaign to persuade other lawmakers to support the Native Hawaiian bill.

“We’re not formalizing it like having appointments, but I see them on the floor or as we have a minute or two, we can just mention it,” Akaka said. “But I never really say what position are you going to take. I try to act like a good lobbyist by giving them all the information and letting them think about it.”

The senators remain cautiously optimistic about the bill’s chances, if and when it comes up for a vote.

“I still feel that we have a good chance that we can get the votes we need to pass it,” Akaka said. “But we need that floor time, and as the days roll by, I’m getting more anxious to be able to get a time certain.”

Inouye still expects that those opposed to the bill will do all they can to derail it, [Senator Inouye’s spokesman] said.

“He and the members of the Hawai’i congressional delegation believe that the biggest challenge to enactment will be the support ? or lack of support ? from (President Bush’s) administration, [Senator Inouye’s spokesman] said.

On the House side, both of Hawai’i’s congressmen said the support is there for the bill’s approval.

What, no reminder that the Bush administration’s ambiguity is the Governor’s fault?! ha ha.

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What Makes David Horowitz Run

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— Doug @ 5:05 pm
The Chronicle of Higher Education published this profile of David Horowitz and his Academic Bill of Rights effort. It’s a very interesting piece that should be filed away until the inevitable legislation arrives next year.

Prone to hyperbole, Mr. Horowitz does not mean to suggest that leftist professors are trying to kill him. He simply believes he has been blacklisted by academe. Although he says he was a “leading figure in the New Left,” professors do not assign his books, nor do they refer to his work in the hundreds of courses taught on the 1960s, he says. They don’t invite him to speak in those courses, either.

To gain the recognition he believed he deserved, Mr. Horowitz established the center, which features conservative programs such as catered lunches with right-leaning luminaries who discuss their latest books. “I don’t have a platform in The New York Times,” he says.

If he were liberal, he contends, he could be an editor at the Times or a department chairman at Harvard University. And his life story would have already been told on the big screen. Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey, his autobiography, has been out for eight years. “Someone would have made a film out of it if I was a leftist,” he says bitterly.

He claims he would make more money as a liberal, too, “at least three times,” what he earns now. According to the center’s most recent available tax form, Mr. Horowitz received an annual salary of $310,167 in 2003. He declines to give his current income, but in addition to his salary, Mr. Horowitz receives about $5,000 for each of the 30 to 40 campus speeches he gives each year.

College Republicans always invite him. Other student groups never do. “My kids have to scrounge up the money off campus,” he says, complaining that student governments pay liberal speakers more than conservative ones.

If I’m not mistaken, the College Republican(s?) invited him to speak and UH expended the same amount of university funds on Horowitz as was expended on Churchill. I look forward to a film adaptation of his biographical book, but there would be little time to watch it given the, uh, relentless flood of biographical films about liberal academics…

I had no idea it was so lucrative to be a liberal intellectual. Maybe I’ll look into that career opportunity and thereby be able to afford a home on Oahu before I’m 50.

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UARC holding pattern

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 4:54 pm
The usual suspects all have articles today about the UARC protest at Bachman Hall, but nothing really changed today (as of this writing). The Ka Leo, SB and Advertiser all say that UH President McClain will respond today, but apparently there has been some delay while McClain huddles with university lawyers. Or something.

The protesters were able to get a brief interview from Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. A transcript is posted at their blog.

UPDATE: I just heard on KHPR that McClain has postponed any BOR action until October 1. Hawaiian Independence blog has the story and a link to the Advertiser breaking news. If the story is accurate, McClain pretty much capitulated to all the demands that he could. The only demand he did not comply with was out of his control, the BOR would have to rescind their November decision because McClain can’t do that by fiat. He works for the BOR, after all.

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First-time buyers are screwed

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:20 pm
Another installment in the SB series on the incredible housing market on Oahu. Today they publish this article that follows up a bit on what I had been banging on previously.

They add a few more factors to the equation in this piece that I did not previously consider, so their numbers are probably a bit more useful:

Even for those fortunate enough to be able to afford a 20 percent down payment, the monthly outlay for principal and interest can seem overwhelming considering that the median income for a Hawaii family in 2005 is expected to be $67,750.

A person purchasing a median-priced $550,000 home at a 6 percent, 30-year fixed interest rate and putting down 20 percent would pay $2,638 a month for principal and interest, according to Harvey Shapiro, research economist at the Honolulu Board of Realtors. Similarly, buying a median-priced $230,000 condo at 6 percent interest and 20 percent down would cost $1,103 a month.

Overwhelming indeed. That $2,638 monthly payment would be 46% of the median wage earner’s income. However, even that would not be enough. The SB has another piece today that reminds us of the numerous added expenses that buyers unable to do a big downpayment face:

A borrower buys private mortgage insurance to protect the lender in case of default. At today’s median prices in Hawaii of $550,000 for a single-family home and $230,000 for a condominium, a person taking out 100 percent financing would be responsible for monthly PMI payments of $440 and $184, respectively.

Homebuyers also are responsible for homeowners’ insurance, which generally ranges from about $100 to $150 a month for single-family homes, and is covered through association dues for condos and townhouses.

Also, homebuyers must pay real property taxes, which for median-priced homes and condos are $2,062 and $863 a year, respectively.

The monthly mortgage payment when financing 100% of the price of the home (no down payment) would be $3,298, and those additional PMI, insurance, and taxes would add $711 to the monthly burden. That would put the total ($4,009) at 71% of the median wage earner’s monthly income—and supposedly the definition of “affordable” is 30%. Sheesh. That’s absurd!

Since I earn less than half of the median income, pardon me while I gnash my teeth and thank my good fortune to have found an affordable (but tiny) rental (27% of my income) almost 12 years ago and that it is a place that I have grown to like.

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UARC sit-in protesters announce new demands

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:34 pm
The campus newspaper catches up with the weekend developments on the UARC sit-in, while the events unfold and the blog releases the protesters’ latest demands here. Meanwhile the Advertiser summarizes the latest developments in a “breaking news” piece.

The demands are worth a read, please check them out. From the conclusion of their new demands:

We are prepared to continue the occupation of Bachman Hall if Dr. McClain is unwilling to meet these requests, for it would mean the system which was used to establish a UARC ? the same anti-democratic system which has been responsible for stunting the growth of our university as a world-renowned institution ? has not yet changed.

We believe these requests are very reasonable, justified, and consistent with the motto of our university, ?Above all Nations is Humanity.? We stand firm in our resolve to nurture the educational atmosphere of our institution until the UH motto is no longer just a slogan, but a living entity. Now, more than ever, we stand behind the motto of our university because this occupation has showed us that the people of Hawaii stand in solidarity with the goal of achieving our universities values.

Dr. McClain, as the Interim President is in a very unique position. Stopping a UARC would be the catalyst for change and transformation at our university. It would make a lasting statement to any future partners of the University, and to the people of Hawaii, that our University of Hawaii is an institution of peace, co-operation, integrity, and Humanity.

How cheeky is that first paragraph?! The prostesters quickly seem to have forgotten that McClain has already let them know that he considers them to be trespassing and could have them arrested at his pleasure. I guess we’ll see if they have overplayed their hand. In any case, with this latest release they have staked out the moral high ground quite well. President McClain’s public responses so far actually leave some small chance that he may capitulate to these new demands, but I would be very surprised to see it. If he does, stand by for howling from the proponents of UARC and the yellow magnetic ribbons demographic.

The noon deadline seems to have passed without any change, for whatever that is worth. The blog shows no new contact from the administration since the press conference this morning.

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Sour grapes

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 5:04 pm
For the past week or so, each time I plow through my blogroll I get a little chuckle from this post from a disappointed and bitter second-term politician. It’s almost endearing in a way, ha ha.

HB 119 became Act 13, and he didn’t get any credit. Awwww.

His bills, HB 1521 and HB 530, are not the same as the bill that became law, but it started pretty darn close to the same.

The bill that became law does not altogether remove SSNs of those who sign nomination papers, it only requires the last 4 digits of the SSNs.

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Horowitz and Intersectionality

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 4:53 pm
Today the Ka Leo prints a letter from the professor accused of being rude to Horowitz as he visited the UH-Manoa Department of Political Science. I enjoyed the letter greatly, although Horowitz’s supporters may not join me in that sentiment.

I greeted Mr. Horowitz warmly when he wandered into the office and disengaged with him quickly when he wanted to know the provenance of office “propaganda.” He has written that he saw an anti-war poster on my door and that one of the student organizers wouldn’t take courses with me due to this display of political sentiment. In truth, my door has usually only held my nameplate, but that day it also had a poster advertising a conference entitled “Theorising Intersectionality” to be held in Britain in May. Intersectionality may sound like a fighting word to some academics, but I have known few students to be intimidated by it.

Then, Horowitz is hoisted on his own “academic freedom” petard by this conclusion:

Mr. Horowitz seems quite perturbed that the university is no longer a place of intellectual freedom, and yet he has ironically accused me of reading Italian intellectuals and failing to police the bulletin boards and remove posters he finds offensive. These accusations, alone among his litany, are true: I do appreciate the many forms of expression through which my colleagues and my students engage each other, and I will continue to champion them and engage them, rather than police them. Despite the deluge of hate mail I have received from Mr. Horowitz’s aroused supporters, I’d even sponsor his return.

Well, that last comment was gratuitous, but I like it.

Mr. Horowitz will likely be back next year, since by that time there will likely be at least one blowhard legislator willing to introduce his Academic Bill of Rights legislation which would entice him and/or his surrogates to return. Until then, perhaps we’ll hear of Horowitz presenting a paper (ha!) or throwing a pie during a presentation at the British conference later this month. Heh.

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UARC opposition perplexes Ka Leo editor

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HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 4:48 pm
You rarely see a print journalist write a column like this one from todays Ka Leo student newspaper. The author is the Opinions Editor for the paper, and the piece is notable for its unusal introspective, “first-person” vantage. More often editorials argue in an anonymous (even authoritative) second- or third-person voice.

The column was written in reaction to those who had criticized her earlier column that denounced the disruption tactics and theatrics employed at the UARC forums held in the UH-Manoa architecture building. Now, with the occupation of Bachman Hall under way, the author is again struggling to make sense of protest tactics that she does not understand.

I left the protest and struggled with the concept of effective protests for a few hours. I realized that I still maintain the statements that I made two weeks ago and last night. There is no unity in this cause on a large scale because not enough information is distributed.

If protestors have a sit-in, then they must follow through with the protocol involved. That protocol involves purposefully understanding why the sit-in is occuring and thus take part in actvities that support the protestors’ cause, such as letter- and petition-writing. I do not support conducting a sit-in for an incredibly serious issue and then relaxing in McClain’s office to pose for photographs in his chair.

There is a sit-in protocol, and it involves letter- and petition-writing? It might explain why it took hours of struggle for her to come to that, because hers is a novel theory. Even if it were true, it is nothing even approaching a “protocol.” Sit-ins are done so infrequently that to assert the existence of a sit-in protocol is an idea that I find suspect from the start. In any case, the column proceeds to scold the protesters for bad strategy.

The goal of the [occupation] was evidently to attract as much attention from the news cameras as possible. The first suggestion from the protestors was to call the news stations.

There are thousands of students on campus yet very few even knew there was a sit-in. Why is that? Why are we so eager to grab the attention of the TV camera but not so eager to gain the support of those who would be most affected? Why were no letters written to Ka Leo regarding this issue? More than ten thouand people read this paper every day, yet the idea of writing a simple, two paragraph letter was rejected.

Last night I was reminded of the power of words. The protestors are not living up to the potential of their cause, nor are they living up to the severity of their own words. Ka Leo should be flooded on a daily basis with letters to the editor, articles and photographs about UARC. Each day there are none.

Why were there no letters from these protestors sitting on McClain’s desk the next morning? Why were no e-mails written to newspapers and magazines? Why did no one go down to the dorms and knock on doors and talk to students individually?

The reason the protesters bypass Ka Leo should be obvious: the protesters need to gain the attention of people outside the UH community. It’s not as if the UH community counts on Ka Leo as their sole source of information; students and faculty will see and read the mass media accounts, too. What’s more, without the mass media becoming involved the UH administration could have quickly ejected and/or arrested the protesters. Ka Leo, as much as the editor would not like to acknowledge it, is a media bottom feeder (as is this blog, heh). If the protesters wanted to ensure that the UARC went forward they could have followed the advice of flooding the Ka Leo with petitions and letters to the editor. Furthermore, to blame the protesters for the editorial decision of Ka Leo that results in the scarcity of “articles and photographs about UARC” seems completely unfair.

I learned a valuable lesson Thursday evening. To run a successful campaign, we need to see what unites us rather than what divides us. The protest to prevent UARC is winnable and has potential for setting a precedent. However, it needs to be accomplished by undergoing the anonymous, boring work of writing letters and uniting students rather than grabbing the attention of the cameras for a day or two.

If we can unite the students to not go to class, or even not to pay their tuition, it will send a far more powerful message to the adminstration than merely sitting in someone’s office. McClain was asleep at home, and as long as the protestors didn’t eat in his office, he couldn’t have cared less what went on.

For the most part, sit-ins are boring and anonymous work; punctuated by a few minutes of media exposure if they are lucky. The apathy of a large portion of the UH student body can seldom be underestimated, unless you are talking about an imminent faculty strike or tuition increase. Actually, even the huge proposed tuition increase is not gathering much organized opposition.

On a more meta level, is it unusual for an opinion page editor to be taking an active part in a protest and writing a critique of it? Reporting from the scene, sure, but suggesting an alternate strategy? I’ll leave that for the journalism professionals to explain. It seems on the surface to be very unprofessional, but maybe it’s okay for a columnist. I dunno.

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Week-long focus on housing woes begins

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:16 am
The SB has initiated a look at the wide array of issues related to buying, renting and selling housing on Oahu. The introductory piece is here.

It’s being done as a partnership with KITV, but since I don’t watch television I really won’t be able to comment on how that might add or detract from the effort.

From their introductory article a few segments struck me:

The percentage of households that own the home they live in – a statistic linked to less crime, higher graduation rates and other positives – rose to 67 percent in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared with just 50 percent 20 years earlier.

Not everyone is celebrating.

The buying boom has sucked up rental inventory and driven up rents, squeezing the most vulnerable sectors of society. Homeless agencies fear a swelling population of people on the verge of homelessness.

“There are always going to be winners and losers – people who were ready and those who weren’t. It’s the nature of the game,” said Paul Brewbaker, Bank of Hawaii’s chief economist.

—-and later—-

However, despite the vastly different worlds of those who were ready and those who were not, it’s probably premature to talk about a worsening wealth-distribution problem in Hawaii, said Carl Bonham, a professor of economics at the University of Hawaii.

“We were talking about this in the late ’80s, early ’90s, and then the problem went away. It reversed itself,” he said. “In time, prices will slow and incomes will rise.”

Ultimately, however, Hawaii will be stuck with head-spinning market swings unless a stifling land-use regulatory environment is reformed, Brewbaker said.

Hmmm. People who were “ready.” Nice dismissal of all the economic challenges facing very many “unready” people, Mr. Brewbaker.

Then an economist tells us the problem went away in the 1990s because wealth distribution improved? I’d sure like to hear some more discussion of that claim. Likewise, Brewbaker’s offhand remark about land-use “reform” needs to be fleshed out much more, too.

Something like that is hinted at in this comment from the article:

“We call it managing expectations,” said Kendall Hirai, executive director of the nonprofit Hawaii HomeOwnership Center, which counsels buyers on the ins and outs of acquiring a home.

“These days, the single-family home in Kailua that someone wants turns out to be a condo in Pearl City or Waipahu,” he said. “People are learning they have to refocus and that they may have to start off somewhere else.”

Somewhere else may soon mean “not Oahu.”

I don’t have much hope that it will ever be mentioned in this weeklong series of articles, but there needs to be some acknowledgement that single-family homes simply take up too much space. If we on Oahu intend to preserve any undeveloped lands and to accomodate housing needs for the ever-expanding population and to have any hope of relieving traffic congestion then this needs to be acknowledged. We can’t control population directly, of course, but the obsession for single-family homes will continually pressure decision-makers to allow more suburban sprawl onto previously-undeveloped lands. Until we build more high-rises, even if that means condemning existing single-family homes to do it, the demand for housing will threaten the already-fragile Oahu environment.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the water supply and waste problems the population growth engenders. Sheesh.

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UH students occupying Bachman Hall regroup

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HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:26 am
The sit-in at UH-Manoa has been able to generate a bit more media attention today. The Advertiser has two stories, one each from inside and outside the occupied Bachman Hall, and the SB has a story as well. The SB also has an op-ed from a member of the faculty Senate that questions the logic of the opposition to UARC.

The sit-in participants are still blogging, and carefully documenting their exceptionally civil occupation of the offices. They go so far as to remove graffiti left by less-disciplined protestors. The Advertiser piece from inside Bachman is arguably the more sympathetic report and provides many details of the decidedly polite occupation. The SB piece adds a few more examples of that sort, but the chosen headline “Protesters rebuff UH President’s offer” would tend to imply the more usual mental images of “militant” protesters (pun intended).

The Advertiser piece on the administrators’ reaction is the first piece so far to present in a coherent form both the protesters objections and the UH response. In my estimation the dispute boils down to assuring the protesters that UH will abide by, or preferably formalize, this claim:

Manoa administrators say that much misinformation is swirling about and they have tried to put it to rest in three public forums at the university and in meetings with other groups on and off campus. In speaking with The Advertiser editorial board recently, chancellor Englert and vice chancellor for research Gary Ostrander said it is likely that no classified research would be done at all through the UARC.

They said the university would always retain the power to say no to research it did not want on campus, and faculty researchers would never be forced to undertake anything they did not wish to.

“The faculty member can say ‘No, I don’t want to do it,’ and that’s the end of it,” Ostrander said. “We’re committed to a process where all task orders will be reviewed, but if a task order were to propose a weapon of mass destruction we would turn it down. And if there are serious impediments to publication, we would turn it down.”

If each task order were made public and subject to university debate before review and/or aproval, then I think this would be a great compromise. I very much doubt that the Navy would agree to that, however.

What’s left unsaid, of course, is that if the university wants to tap into this new source of research money they need to take on, not turn down, the “task orders.” If UH does not accept the work, one of the other UARCs probably will. For the UH administrators and scientists who are perpetually scrounging for grant money the enticement will be hard to resist. For the rest of the UH community not offered any of this money it will be hard to accept. Guess what? There are more of the latter than of the former.

The SB op-ed author provides a perfect example of this “go with the flow and you’ll get paid” mentality:

The military will get its research no matter what. As much as I believe in peace, I know we must prepare for war. Look what happened to peaceful Tibet when it did not prepare for war.

Incidentally, where were the protesters these past 40 years while classified research has been going on quietly on the Manoa campus? Did that research hurt anybody? Most didn’t even notice it. So, why the uproar now? The idealism has gone overboard and lost sense of reality – a vain attempt to stop the sun from rising. Moreover, even if the UARC doesn’t come to fruition, classified research at UH will not stop

Now, back to my left brain-right brain equation: The left brain argues that the money from the UARC – $15 million plus jobs for grad students and post docs – will help UH provide better education. A UARC would bring national prominence to UH scientists that would attract even more research money. The rolling stone would gather moss, and Hawaii prosper. After all, Hawaii is known for its sunshine!

It is ironic that author chose to mock the protesters by acknowledging classified research has been carried out at UH over the years, especially since he rhetorically asked if it the research had hurt anybody. Actually, UH was involved in de-classified defoliant research during the Vietnam War-era that did result in serious health problems. By its very nature, there is no way to know if the classified research ever hurt anybody. Is that defoliant research incident the type of “national prominence” that attracts more research money? If so, it only took 35 years or so for the “attraction effect” to kick in, and finally the Navy is coming around to dangle money in temptation. Heh.

In the end the author is probably correct in saying that the military will get its research despite any opposition. Maybe not in Hawaii, but somewhere. That does not make opposition any less important, nor the oppositions arguments any less worthy.

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