Poinography!

January 10, 2009

Poinography June 2005 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 1:23 pm

Poinography!

6/30/2005

More on the veto proclamation gaffe

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:39 am
A bit more information on the confusion over HB 1309 today. The Advertiser has a story, the SB has a story (with yet another bad link(!), sending readers to HB 1309 as introduced instead of the final Conference Draft). Finally, there is a piece at Hawaii Reporter that I’d like to comment on, too, even though it does not bear specifically on the veto proclamation issue.

State House and Senate leaders were not so quick to overlook the error as an innocent mistake. Five bills on the veto list had identical errors.

“This is the first time I have seen a situation like this in my 30 years as a legislator. It raises serious concerns not only about the status of the affected bills, but on the precedent set and the integrity of the process. Therefore, we are having our attorneys thoroughly review the matter,” House Speaker Calvin Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Wilhelmina Rise), said in a statement.

Senate President Robert Bunda, D-22nd (N. Shore, Wahiawa), said he could not dismiss the error as a simple typo. “I think, legally, they’re on shaky ground,” he said. “It’s a very big concern.”

But Senate Majority Leader Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), who unsuccessfully sued then-Gov. Ben Cayetano in 2002 over whether he missed a veto deadline, said she does not believe the error threatens Lingle’s veto power. She said the issue is whether the veto message gave lawmakers enough information about the governor’s intentions so, if necessary, they can come back for an override session.

State lawmakers and city officials said it was premature to say whether the error would trigger a lawsuit if Lingle were to veto the transit tax.

Good work on the part of Dingeman and DePledge for raising that parallel to the 2002 case with Hanabusa; I had forgotten about that! (or should I praise Hanabusa for calling it to their attention? I dunno.) Anyway, that case is certainly similar, but the issue in this case is slightly different. I am not a lawyer, but it would seem to me that, just as a legislative Bill requires an “enacting clause” to actually carry out its intent, if the errors in the final mention of the bill numbers of these 5 proclamations are errors in the “proclaiming clause” (if you will), then the proclamation may be invalid. For example, if that final sentence were “I hereby notify the Legislature of my intention to veto HB 9876,” then I think citing the wrong bill number would be a fatal flaw. Again, I really wish these proclamations were online, but they are not.

In the SB Borreca and Kua have some useful comments from the City Council perspective on this issue:

The confusion is leading some at City Hall to question whether to move ahead with plans to raise the excise tax.

City Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said if the governor vetoes HB 1309, the Council should not continue to vote on its measure to levy the tax increase even if the legality of the governor’s veto remains in limbo.

“Once there’s a veto we shouldn’t take action,” Kobayashi said “It makes it really questionable whether we can take action if there is this cloud.”

Kobayashi said that before the Council takes a second vote on its measure, Bill 40, on Wednesday, she would like city attorneys’ advice on whether they should continue.

Council Transportation Chairman Nestor Garcia said he wants the Council to vote on Bill 40 next week as he keeps his eye on how the Legislature and the governor work to resolve the veto-message issue.

“I hope it will be decided on the merits. It’s too important an issue to be decided on a technicality,” Garcia said.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann also said there is nothing to stop the Council vote next week. He said the public needs to know where the city stands, and he does not want a “technical flaw” to derail that.

Kobayashi’s comment is, in my opinion, another example of what I discussed after the Council decision on June 6 to push the 2nd reading of Bill 40 to July 6—there is no political (or real-world) upside for the Council to approve Bill 40 before HB 1309 is law. However, Mayor Hannemann and Councilmember Garcia are correct insofaras the vote next week is only the 2nd of 3 readings, so Kobayashi’s concern (whether based on my rationale or something else) is not a valid reason to stop a vote on July 6. However, I would certainly expect a pause before the 3rd and final reading if HB 1309 is in any way still under doubt.

Finally, the Hawaii Reporter piece by Don Newman had this to say:

This then, is a state responsibility which the Lingle Administration is abdicating in favor of giving the City of Honolulu the ?home-rule? opportunity to raise the GET for a single county. The traffic congestion problem on the H-1 is a state responsibility. The H-1 is a state highway. The congestion problems of that transportation corridor is a state responsibility. So why is the governor ducking the issue and placing it on the back of the city?

There is some question as to the legality of a law that restricts a state bill to address a single county, which violates the state constitution. The portion of H.B. 1309 that says that the GET increase on Oahu, and Oahu alone, must only address transportation issues in a certain manner is questionable. The legal challenges to this aspect of the law may cost both the city and the state yet more money. Is anyone thinking ahead towards such issues? It doesn?t appear so.

That first argument, tying the traffic congestion to the H-1 and thereby tying it all to the State, is somewhat persuasive.

The second argument is a non-issue. If HB 1309 “violates the state constitution” for treating Oahu differently than other Counties, then there are scores of laws on the books that would fail for the same reason. The bill does not actually speak to Oahu directly (they never do), but refers to “each county with a population greater than five hundred thousand…” The words “Oahu” or “Honolulu” never appear.

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McClain seeks replacement

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:22 am
The Ka Leo student newspaper at Manoa has an interesting story about the search for a replacement for outgoing Chancellor Englert. The Advertiser has a piece, too.

[UH President] McClain hopes to be able to name an acting or interim chancellor by Aug. 1, but the Faculty Senate Executive Committee warns that any choice should not be rushed.

“We have not had the process we’d like to have in choosing the leader of our campus,” said Robert Bley-Vroman, president of the Faculty Senate committee. “It needs to be a process Manoa-driven and faculty-led.”

——–

McClain said he would consult widely with campus constituencies, including students, and has included in his consultations Teichman and activist student senator Katie Barry. But faculty leaders have not been satisfied.

“There’s concern around the idea about an appointment of an interim chancellor that the decision could be made in the matter of a week or so,” said Bley-Vroman. “It seems really short. … If we were to begin a serious search for a permanent chancellor relatively soon, but not in the next week, that would help with some of the concerns.”

But McClain has said he wants to have a new interim or acting chancellor in position when Englert’s term is up and would expect that person to be there for as long as two years.

Englert’s contract ends July 31, and McClain has said it will not be renewed.

UH spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka, associate vice-president for external affairs, said McClain wants to leave an interim chancellor in place until a new president is selected ? which could be as early as next summer.

“The reason being,” said Tanaka, “is that whoever the president is should have the opportunity to mount the chancellor search.”

The Advertiser goes on to list 5 people being considered for the appointment and a bit of speculation on the candidates. The Ka Leo repot is interesting for its description of the Faculty Senate debate over the process that McClain is using in this search and about the proper role for a chancellor.

Dr. Roger Lukas, member of the Senate Executive committee, who was also present at Monday’s meeting, sees the role of the chancellor involving a combination of operational and leadership roles. “I think it’s both. The chancellor will delegate for routine tasks, and he is responsible for the smooth operation of the campus. But he’s also a leader.”

Lukas says the Faculty Senate will soon be ready to make a public statement about the selection process, and the best choice may not be the most democratic one. “Democracy works in funny ways. Not all forms [of democracy] are equal and a vote by all popular constituents might not be the best way,” says Lukas.

Until a new process can be designed, McClain is not deciding in isolation. “McClain has consulted with a broad range of faculty leaders,” says Bley-Vroman. While he says that McClain is consulting with deans and is willing to listen, the flow of information is backwards – “we should be giving him names, not the other way around.”

Regarding any names that may be circulating, Bley-Vroman declined to comment. “But [I have no comment] because we shouldn’t be doing it this way. This is not how the process should work.”

Lukas: “Democracy works in funny ways.” Uh oh. Stand by for something undemocratic, heh.

As for Bley-Vroman’s comment about “how the process should work,” I’m almost sure there is a written policy somewhere. The University loves their bureaucracy, after all. In any case, I think it’s unlikely the BOR or the President will cede this decision to the Faculty Senate.

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BOE plan raids some schools to aid others

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:01 am
After a long wait, the “Weighted Student Formula” portion of the Reinventing Education Act has been applied to the actual budget figures of DOE schools. As expected, the result is a significant redistribution of money (well, theoretically, since the formula was applied to last school year figures and there is no actual change in funding levels at this point). The Advertiser story is here, and the SB story is here. Both stories includes tables and charts of the data.

I’m not sure if it was part of the design of Act 51 or not, but (since I don’t have children) the totals are the most interesting part to me. The columnar formatting is kicking my butt in WordPress, so quoting the report won’t work, sorry. Just look at the very end of the table and you’ll see that the net changes in both elementary school funding and middle school funding are ZERO. Is that because schools at different levels were not pitted against each other, i.e. is it an artifact of the formula itself, or is it because DOE had already done a perfect job of distributing the funds between the levels of schools? Cough. However, then you’ll see that the high school and combination school funding made slight gains and losses, respectively. Curious.

Then there was this from Senator Chun Oakland:

Some lawmakers are pushing for additional money to help schools that stand to lose. The money could come from an unexpected state surplus that was recently announced, and should be considered if a special legislative session is convened, said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, D-13th (Kalihi, Nu’uanu).

“At least it would make schools that would lose, whole,” she said.

Preventing any school budget cuts under the weighted formula could cost $29 million per year, according to one estimate, Chun Oakland said.

“We’re still in the process of discussing, do we outright grab the $29 million, or do we attach to that possibly a requirement that a matching $29 million come from the state and district (DOE) offices to go to the schools as well?” she said.

[House Education Chair] Takumi said he opposes special subsidies for schools that stand to lose, because it would defeat the purpose of having a weighted formula.

No kidding, Representative Takumi! I really don’t understand the Senator’s comments. Did she not comprehend when she voted for Act 51 that this would be the result? However, in its own odd way, her comment does raise an interesting issue: the weighted student formula did not consider if the money budgeted to operate the DOE offices is, uh, “weighted” properly against the needs of the schools. That’s a whole separate can of worms.

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Mental health director is no longer resigning

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:17 am
Well, after about a week of uncertainty (I mentioned it here yesterday), it would now seem that the Dr. Hester, the Adult Mental Health Division Director at DOH, will not resign. The Advertiser has this story and the SB also runs an article.

Hester has been working on the Department of Health’s community mental health plan, which must be implemented under a federal consent decree by June 1, 2006. The plan would provide services and treatment for Hawai’i’s estimated 9,000 seriously mentally ill residents.

A three-member panel of mental health experts evaluating the state’s progress visited Hawai’i earlier this month. They’ve had discussions with state and federal lawyers as well as Health Department officials and will submit their findings to federal Magistrate Kevin Chang.

Chang is expected to issue a report next month.

Health Director Chiyome Fukino yesterday said they’ve been talking to Hester and she never accepted his resignation.

I’m no employment law expert, but if an employer “resigns” does it need to be “accepted” by the employer? If not, then I’d say he resigned and she convinced him to return. Whatever.

Lingle’s spokesman Russell Pang referred questions about Hester to comments she made on a weekly appearance on KHVH radio show yesterday morning.

The governor praised Hester’s work in improving mental health services and said the issue involves the federal court trying to “insert” itself into the department’s mental health division.

I’m really not familiar with the issue, but it sounds eerily similar to Felix. If that’s a fair comparison then I’d say the federal government would not be trying to “insert” itself into Adult Mental Health unless there were significant unresolved problems. However, the SB report quotes Representative Green, the House Health Committee Vice-Chair:

He said “the whole crux of it” is whether the state needs a federal court evaluation committee with people from outside the state to help complete a community mental health plan, due next June.

Hester designed the court-ordered plan and had completed 74 of 88 tasks outlined in it when he said he was removed from the project in a restructuring after the federal team was here.

“If the court feels it’s necessary to have some sort of evaluation committee, we’re going to have to deal with it,” Green said, pointing out the state can choose whether to follow the advice.

Whatever recommendation is made, he said, “Dr. Hester is committed to the patients, and the state is committed to him.”

Meta comment: when Pang refered questioners to the KHVH radio show comments did he leave it to the reporters to dig that up, or did Pang provide a recording, transcript or summary of the show? Pang’s is an interesting response, either way. If the Governor finds time for an hour-long radio show each week it seems that Lingle could hold (more) frequent question-and-answer sessions with reporters (including Mr. Hamada and all the rest). It’s easier, of course, to use Pang as a buffer between herself and the reporters, while she speaks out on talk radio where it is easier to cultivate an environment more conducive to her staying “on message.”

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6/29/2005

Conspiracy theories are supposed to at least make SOME sense

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:28 pm
The Hawaii Reporter has a posting providing the most detail I’ve seen as to what exactly was the mistake in five of the Governor’s proclamations announcing her intention to veto. The Capitol website does not (yet? ever?) have these kind of messages posted, nor does the Governor’s website, so I can only take HR at its word that they describe the errors accurately (shudder).

Linda Smith, the governor?s senior policy advisor, says a clerical error by a staff member caused five intent-to-veto proclamations to contain the wrong bill number in the final sentence of the proclamation, or one of three times the bill number was listed. Essentially the bill number in the final paragraph was not changed, a Lingle staff member discovered upon further review. A proclamation summary sent by the governor along with 33 intent-to-veto messages, was not flawed and contained all the correct information, Smith says.

State Attorney General Mark Bennett says the incorrect bill number in the final paragraph of the five proclamations does not negate the veto messages the governor sent to the Hawaii State Legislature.

In a verbal ruling made late Tuesday, Bennett told the governor she should issue supplemental proclamations with the correct bill numbers throughout, which the governor did. Bennett says he believes these supplemental proclamations will withstand any legal challenges. Smith says the governor also notified the House and Senate leadership.

Democrats in the House and Senate already looking for a reason to override at least a portion of the 33 bills the Republican governor may veto, accused Lingle of intentionally making the clerical errors on the proclamations in part to distract from her possible signature on HB 1309. Smith maintains the errors were just that – clerical errors – and not intentional.

Huh? To distract who?

Which Democrats, exactly, are making this accusation of Lingle? Of course, none of these “Democrats in the House and Senate” are named in the story.

In any case, it would be a stupid strange accusation for a supporter of HB 1309 to make, because legislators looking for a reason to override vetoes would be pleased as punch if the Governor made this error intentionally. If the veto message is found to be invalid, there would obviously be no need for those legislators to seek the 2/3 majorities necessary for an override. The bill would become law, with or without Lingle’s signature.

A more plausible (but equally hearsay) conspiracy theory would have rail opponents accusing the Governor of intentionally making this error. In that scenario, Lingle supports the bill and only made the “error” because she fully expects the bill to become law. The “mistake” would thereby provide her a semi-plausible “I tried to veto it” cover story. The Advertiser reports that the proclamation errors were found by the LRB, not (as the HR piece said) by a Lingle staff member, but that’s only relevant if you tend to believe this “opponents are angry” theory. Opponents could read the need for outside intervention as proof that the administration was hoping the error would go undetected even longer. Heh.

The SB piece, which is much more meaty, reveals this new wrinkle:

“If he (Hannemann) wants to realize the revenues, then he needs to set up and start collecting that tax. It is clearly a home rule issue and that means they should be the ones assessing it,” Lingle said.

To do that the Legislature would have to change the law. Lingle said if she doesn’t get a promise in writing to change the law, she will follow through on her threat to veto the bill.

“Just being willing to talk about it in 2006 would not be enough. I want them to make a public commitment that they will make this change,” Lingle said.

“They have to say so in writing and it has to be public,” Lingle said. “It they don’t make this change, I couldn’t support this bill as it stands.”

But even strong supporters of the transit tax bill, such as Sen. Willie Espero (D, Ewa-Kapolei-Ewa Beach) won’t promise specific results.

“The Senate president and the House speaker can’t speak for all the members,” Espero said.

“I don’t think anyone is in position to promise that a bill will look any particular way by some specific time.

“We will work hard to accommodate her request because we who support rail want this to happen, but to (force a) promise is not the appropriate way of forcing us to do what she dictates,” Espero said.

Senator Espero is correct. The Governor simply sounds desparate in making this demand. Surely, she (or her advisors) must realize such a written promise is unreasonable, not to mention legally worthless.

Finally, returning to the HR piece, Attorney General Bennett thinks he has resolved the problem. Is his verbal ruling “late Tuesday” and the “supplemental proclamations” really enough to un-do the error made on Monday? If Lingle goes through with the veto and this fiasco is challenged (and I can’t see how it won’t be challenged), then we’ll see. What a mess.

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Governor vetoes workers’ comp bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:56 am
Both dailies run the same AP story from Jaymes Song about the previously-announced veto of SB 1808. The Advertiser runs it (with a Governor headshot!) is here, while the SB has it here. That particular bill has been ridden pretty hard at this blog recently, so I’ll just focus on this one new angle.

[House Labor Committee Chairman Kirk Caldwell] said the Democrat-controlled House will have enough votes for an override, but that he is uncertain whether two-thirds of the Senate will follow.

Really? SB 1808 passed Final Reading on a straight party line vote in the Senate, 20-5. I would be very surprised to see four senators change their vote. …unless Caldwell’s comment is obliquely making reference to the larger question of the Senate calling for a special session for veto overrides (and Senate leadership change) or not.

Speaking of Caldwell, since both papers leaned on the AP to cover the Governor’s event I was a bit surprised that neither paper has any report on Caldwell’s briefing on the Workers’ Compensation topic. A media “win” for the Governor on that one, clearly.

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DOH dodging Lege?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:34 am
As far as I can tell from this SB article, the Department of Health is stonewalling Legislators trying to understand what is happening in the Adult Mental Health Division.

Dr. Chiyome Fukino, state health director, sent [Representative] Arakaki a letter saying she couldn’t attend “due to a conflicting obligation.” As department director, she said she would feel more comfortable being the spokesperson for issues “of such paramount importance” rather than send a staff member.

Arakaki said he couldn’t reschedule the meeting because he’s leaving today for the Philippines and he thought it was important to have a public airing of the situation.

He said he heard health officials were instructed not to appear at the briefing. Department spokeswoman Darcie Yukimura said employees were told they could take personal leave to attend the meeting and speak as individuals.

Heh. Who could Fukino have sent as a spokesperson? Everyone in charge has left, and that’s the problem. Leaving that aside, what “conflicting obligation” was more important than discussing the seeming implosion of the AMHD? There was no way to delegate that obligation to her staff or to reschedule it for a later date? If you say so. Fukino must be up to her armpits in crises over there!

If I’m not mistaken, Fukino’s calendar should be accessible under the Sunshine Law. In the information vacuum I am forced to assume she was just blowing off the Legislature and/or has something to hide.

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Maui worries that new houses won’t help residents

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:16 am
Interesting Maui News article describing how the Maui County Council is struggling to approve an A&B devlopment of 150 homes in a way that will assist the growing majority of Maui residents that are priced out of the housing market.

A&B agreed to set aside 15 percent of the units ? about 23 homes ? for affordable housing for families earning between 100 percent and 120 percent of the median income, but A&B spokesman Mercer ?Chubby? Vicens said the developer wants to do everything in its power to sell the market homes to Maui residents.

?Our subdivision will be meant for local residents,? he said more than once.

But only if residents can come up with about $700,000, a price tag that didn?t impress all council members.

I had alluded to this earlier, and it’s a tough nut to crack. It’s a free market, for better or worse.

There was strong support from council members for figuring out a way to legally limit the sale of homes to Maui residents. Deputy Corporation Counsel James Giroux said it?s difficult legally for government to attach such a condition. Developers can, in their own way, restrict the sales by how they market and sell the project, he said.

?The private person can do what government cannot,? Giroux said. ?We can encourage a developer to make a condition that maybe we can?t make ourselves.?

But Anderson cited Mainland projects where federal money designated homes only for police officers or only for teachers. She said Big Island Mayor Harry Kim had inserted restrictions, and she urged county attorneys to research case law so Maui lawmakers could do the same.

Vicens indicated that A&B would do whatever it could to ensure the homes become occupied by Maui residents.

?We?ll take every measure to look at the legal aspects of what we can or can?t do to get that buyer to be a live-in buyer,? he said.

That is very encouraging news, but the proof will be in what A&B is able to propose after researching their options. I was a bit puzzled by this, however:

As planned, the subdivision would integrate various types of housing and lot sizes. When [Councilmember] Hokama suggested to separate the affordable homes and consider smaller lots to get prices down even more, Vicens said that wasn?t what the company envisioned.

He said A&B has been talking with four ?affordable housing entities? to make sure the entire project is attractive and that passers-by can?t distinguish a lower-cost home from a higher-priced one.

?We don?t want to stigmatize anybody,? he said. ?We want local residents to have a house they can be proud of and not be stigmatized.?

If there is no difference in lot sizes and outward appearance then it would seem to follow that the “affordable” homes would probably face the high(er) property taxes associated with the “unaffordable” neighboring properties. If I’m not mistaken the assessed value of a property is public record, (on Oahu there is even this cool website to look them up) so the “stigma” argument is sorta shaky.

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Planet of the Mandarin Apes

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:52 am
A UH Professor has written another op-ed for the SB today. Singh has previously commented on the anti-UARC protest, alcohol regulation on campus, and other University issues. Apparently he is the SB “go-to” voice from Manoa.

In this piece he argues that professors do not know how to manage (nor, he argues, do they know how to teach) because they lack formal training in those topics.

University leaders mostly come from professorial ranks. But where do the professors come from? They come from exotic and traditional fields of study, have often slaved years to get their Ph.D.s and have developed a keen expertise in their areas of specialty. Now, have they acquired a keen sense of administration and management, cost control and project planning, law and business planning, finance and politics, quality management and reengineering, innovative management and can-do attitude that are essential for a university administrator? The answer, by and large, is a flat and factual no.

——–

The biggest problem of university administrators can probably be pinpointed as personality and judgment problems, where they are unable to see proper visions, motivate effectively, or negotiate, mediate and resolve conflicts efficaciously. Basically, their administrative skills often reflect what people might learn off the streets. What’s worse is that they could bring the street mentality to the university.

“Street mentality?” What the heck is that? Wall Street mentality ? The “mean street” gang mentality? The “man on the street” mentality? I dunno. Singh suggests a remedy.

For those who realize it at UH, there is a chance to begin to initiate remedies. It requires a vision that spans decades wherein we seek to build a cadre of educational administrators starting from the junior levels of their career. Without this revision to our vision of education, I am convinced that we display characteristics of the “Planet of the Apes,” starring Charlton Heston (1968), where university administrators (portrayed as apes) behave autocratically, irresponsibly and unwisely. It is time to take the bull by the horns.

Wow, get an editor. That (lack of) transition from apes to bulls is so clumsy that it is painful to read! Anyway, it’s good that he chose the Planet of the Apes theme, since his remedy is also from the realm of science fiction, in my opinion. What junior-level university employee would want to join a cadre of administrators? Junior academics are interested in getting tenure, which means publishing. I don’t see them becoming interested in investing a decade (or more) to advance up the ranks of the administration while their academic pursuits necessarily suffer. Few would have any faith that (without tenure) he or she would still be working at the same University for all those years. Perhaps Singh meant to suggest a cadre of non-academics should administer the University; such as those with MBA degrees, or other “non-street” folks. As if the faculty would ever accept that…

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Lingle’s veto list fixed, after deadline

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:53 am
Ooopsie.

The GET surcharge may become law in its current form if the Legislature can persuade the Judiciary that typographical errors invalidate the Governor’s attempt to provide the required notification to the Lege of her intent to veto. Both papers cover this, of course. The Advertiser here and the SB here. I don’t have the mad illustration skillz that Talk Stink is known for, but I do offer the Stink this screenplay idea:

Setting: Aloha Stadium

John Madden: Welcome back, fans, to sunny Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Please pardon our rust. The game has come down to this play, with the Legislature leading the Executive 3-2 in this peculiar game notable for its complete lack of touchdowns. The Executive has possession and it is fourth and short as the clock ticks down the end of the first overtime.

Al Michaels: John, Governor Lingle has been in disarray these last few posessions, and for some unknown reason has been running down the clock even though she trails in this crucial game.

JM: Indeed, Al, and Executive fans are still murmuring about her decision on second down to run the L-formation and call the “Legacy Lands” audible. Well, let’s see what comes next.

AM: John, the Legislature has substituted for a new nose tackle with a bit more size. It looks like… can it be? Mufi Hannemann? Well, that inter-league sub might shake up the Executive, Mufi’s seen occasional action this season on big plays, so its really not a surprise to see him again in crunch time.

JM: The Executive backfield is in motion, with everyone shifting slightly to the left, with Duke Aiona in offset motion to the right. Here’s the snap. Lingle drops back into the pocket, with her receivers Bennett and Kawafuchi slightly tripped up at the line of scrimmage. She’s running out of options.

AM: It looks the Executive line might hold long enough, but…

JM: No, Al, it’s a quarterback sneak! She’s going up the middle with her fabled “Home Rule Spin” that leaves the Legislature defense momentarily on their heels. She has running room…

AM: She’s at the 40… 30… 20… 10… 5… It seems that she’s reaching down into her sock for something.

JM: Is that a veto Sharpie®?! IT IS!

AM: Can you believe it? FUMMMMMMMMMM-BLLLLLLLLLLLE!

JM: Wow, look at the lawyer pile on that loose bill, excuse me, ball. It’s gonna take officials a while to sort this out. The clock has expired. We’ll be back after these messages from Outback Steak House, our proud new sponsor of the Government Broadcast Network.

On the sidelines, Executive Coach Linda Smith hurls her headset at the bench in disgust, nearly knocking waterboy Galen Fox off his feet. The fans, although most of them had left 45 minutes ago to beat traffic, are stunned.

—– pau —–

Well, that was fun. Go, Stink, go!

Comments (2)
6/28/2005

The veto candidates are revealed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:26 am
Yesterday we finally were made privy to a list of the legislation Governor Lingle plans to veto. The SB has two stories on this topic; one an overview and another that is focused on a new wrinkle raised by the Mayor concerning the GET surcharge implementation. The Advertiser has a piece that incorporates both topics. Since there have already been pre-emptive articles and posts on the GET surcharge, I’ll try to confine this post to what is new.

Hannemann said that he knows the governor has a tough decision to make but that the city does not have an administration in place to collect the surcharge. The cost to the city would be at least $50 million, and it would take a minimum of six years to get such a tax collection system up and running, which would mean lost time in revenue collection.

“We’ve got to start from ground zero,” Hannemann said. “It would be very, very difficult for us to do it from a financial point of view.”

City Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi agreed.

“It’s not an easy thing,” she said. “It seems easier for the state to do it.”

The mayor said that the bill could be changed so that the 10 percent collected from the tax would go to the state Tax Department – and not the state general fund – to help offset the additional administrative costs.

He also said he believes it would be best to discuss the issue next regular session instead of having to “cram” it into a special session.

Six years to establish the municipal system for collecting the surcharge?! Wow. That’s slow. The $50M figure seems questionably high, and the set-up funds would necessarily be drawn from existing revenues and not from the (delayed) surcharge itself. Hannemann is making it sound pretty hopeless, that much is clear.

Hannemann suggests that the administration costs be given directly to DOTAX, basically ignoring the Governor’s “State hands off” message. I continue to think that the practical (if impolitic) compromise is to reimburse DOTAX only enough to cover the actual expenses incurred, with no “surplus” remaining in state coffers. The 10% figure in the bill is too clearly too much, and directing that money to the General Fund won’t fly.

Hannemann has a good point about the risks of “cramming” this topic into a special session, but I’m surprised he does not want to put this subject to rest sooner rather than later. The question of federal funding seems to demand some urgency, as I noted in the earlier post.

Meanwhile, Hannemann said he does not see anything to prevent the City Council from moving forward July 6 with voting on Bill 40, the measure that would actually put the tax increase into effect.

“I’d like to go forward because we don’t know what she or the Legislature is going to do at this point,” Council Transportation Chairman Nestor Garcia said.

Kobayashi encouraged some patience. “I’d like to hear from the Corporation Counsel on the legality of us voting on the tax increase,” she said.

Wha? The legality of voting on the tax increase? I have no idea what Kobayashi is talking about. Unless HB 1309 is vetoed (and not overridden) before the third reading vote on Bill 40 is made and the Mayor signs it, there is no question that the ordinance would be “legal.” The July 6 vote will be second reading and (as I understand it) the third reading would not be until August—presumably after a special session where the veto/override question would be made moot. If a special session or the 2006 regular session changes the enabling legislation the Council may be forced to amend their ordinance, of course. But there’s nothing “illegal” about that, it is just politically messy.

The Advertiser piece has a few additional noteworthy nuggets:

Lawmakers have said they would consider Lingle’s request, either in a special session in July or next year, but it is unclear if they have the two-thirds votes necessary in the House and Senate to override a Lingle veto. Although the issue had been raised by the administration before, it was not a dominant theme in the extensive debate over the tax at the Legislature.

“They simply didn’t want to listen to us on this point and we were trying to make it clear that we felt this was a real flaw in the bill,” Lingle said yesterday at a news conference. “And it’s unfortunate that it can reach this point where they could have just made that change, collaborated with us somewhat on it.”

Hannemann also said it was unfortunate that such a critical issue was not settled much sooner. The City Council is scheduled to hear the transit tax again on July 6, six days before the July 12 deadline for Lingle to decide whether to veto the bill.

“I’m still very hopeful that she will, in the end, at least let it become law without her signature,” the mayor said.

The city estimates it could cost $10 million to $12 million in computer hardware and software expenses to start collecting the tax, and an additional $30 million over the first four years of collection.

The state, which already collects the excise tax, estimates that it would initially cost $3.6 million to start administering the additional tax and then about $2.5 million a year thereafter. Central to the administration’s objection is that the state could receive as much as $15 million a year from the new tax, much more than the state Department of Taxation needs for collection.

Hannemann cautioned that the city figures are quick estimates and would likely be revised if the tax moves forward. State tax officials also suggested that the city’s estimates might be too high.

I honestly do not remember the administration raising this “home rule” concern over administration of the tax, and I was present for much of the public debate on HB 1309. Doesn’t mean it never happened, but it must have been pretty subtle for me (and all the media) to miss it. Who cares? Well, it’s the difference between a flip-flop from the Governor and a tactical/drafting mistake by the Legislature, if that matters to all those who are closely following this bill… The administration testimony and correspondence on this bill is public record, it will either be in there or not.

Finally, did you catch how Mayor Hannemann quickly hedges on the cost estimates he provided here for administering the tax? $10M in computer hardware?! I doubt that. The equipment budget for the entire IT division of the City is only just under $900,000 next year.

Oh yeah, the Governor might veto 30-some other bills, too. If there is something among those bills you’d like to hear about, leave a comment and maybe I’ll plow into it.

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This man needs a blog

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:45 am
Senator Hooser submitted an op-ed that runs in the SB today. His topic is “getting involved.” This is hardly an uncommon topic for an editorial page, although more typically it is a columnist or editor urging readers to participate in government, not a politician.

While sheer numbers and the loudness of the testimony does not in and of itself ensure success, being absent or silent on the issue is a guaranteed formula for defeat.

Therein lies the challenge. While many complain about the unresponsiveness of government, most are too busy or preoccupied to be part of the solution. While people might believe they are powerless, the reality is they have significant power, but a majority choose not to exercise it. Perhaps they are too busy working. Perhaps they are stuck in traffic on their long commute between job, school and soccer practice. To be sure, there is a long list of valid reasons why more people do not get involved, but somehow we must get past the excuses.

My message to the residents of our wonderful state is simple and direct.

Begin the conversation today. Speak to your neighbors, friends and family about the issues. Get involved and be part of the process. Marion Wright Edelman said, “If you do not like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it, one step at a time.” You have the power. As an individual you can affect the outcomes by testifying at hearings, writing letters to the newspaper or by supporting an advocacy group and/or political party. Better yet, get to know your senator, representative or council member.

He goes on to provide his telephone number and email address for those who wish to contact him. That’s a good start, but communicating by asking for calls and email is mostly reactive instead of proactive on his part. If Hooser were to have a blog those conversations could be two-way and available to everyone with internet access.

However, if Hooser (or any other politician) begins a blog then hopefully he would update it a bit more often than Reps. Schatz and Karamatsu do, ha ha. Seriously, I’d love to have a big collection of links to politicians’ blogs!

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Gotta love the internet

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 7:51 am
While browsing at Technorati for “Mufi Hannemann,” I came across a blog called “hawaii80896” that is, uh, delightfully cryptic. The “posts,” if you want to call them that, are ungrammatical sentence fragments that are almost haiku. “Boyfriend!”

But they did mention Mufi and Governor Lingle, ha ha.

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MIT Weblog survey

Filed under:
General
Science
— Doug @ 7:02 am

If you have a blog and haven’t participated, please do.

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6/27/2005

LG Aiona profiled

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:03 am
Two pieces from Borreca in the SB today that focus on the Lieutenant Governor. One article is on his governing and another is on his faith.

Much of the first piece deals with Aiona’s “War on Drugs” efforts, but there is some discussion of his political persona, too.

Former Gov. and Lt. Gov. Ben Cayetano says Aiona is affable but appears to be stage-managed by Lingle and her handlers.

“Since Aiona’s public statements are done through Lingle’s public relations people, I think there is a perception that Aiona is not really his own person and that his actions are carefully scripted by Lingle’s office,” Cayetano said.

“Aiona hasn’t really had the chance to break out and show his independence. Surely, he does not agree with Lingle on everything, does he?” Cayetano asked.

Milner added that lieutenant governors, being second in command, have to decide how independent they can be. “Part of it is how much you want to break out and how good you are at it.

“But it is clear he hasn’t broken out. It is also not clear that he has an independent base of support or that he is highly visible in the community in any serious political way,” Milner said.

Cayetano is a bit harsh. Is there much history of any LG in Hawaii publicly disagreeing with his or her Governor? In the first term?! I’m not sure, because I’m not a Hawaii political historian by any stretch. However, in this age of carefully groomed media images I think that we are almost consigned to “careful scripting” from the administration, no matter which party it may represent. I think Milner’s comments are more fair, but his “no independent base of support” theme could have been a nice segue to the second article.

That second article documents Aiona’s ardent faith and his participation in a Christian rally that has gained him some critics. It could be that Aiona’s “independent base of support” is to be found among people of faith, where he might be becoming “highly visible” due to this sort of exposure.

David Panisnick, a professor of religion at Honolulu Community College, said you cannot expect someone to “divorce themselves from whatever religious ideology they have.”

“They can do whatever they want, but they also have to pay the penalty if the voters think they went over the top,” Panisnick said.

Aiona does not back away from his strong religious convictions, and said he knows how to keep church and state separate.

“There may be some people in a certain faith that may be offensive to some people and will then brand everyone who calls themselves a Christian, and as a result they have a different perspective of what a Christian is or is not,” Aiona said.

But, as a former judge, Aiona said he knows the law and knows how to apply it with neutrality.

“(I don’t think) there is anyone in this whole building, and that includes legislators, who has any greater respect for our system of laws and the criminal justice who can top me.

“If there is anyone who understands the separation of church and state, it is me. I really understands what it entails,” Aiona said.

Panisnick noted that “separation of church and state is not separation of church and politics.”

Indeed! For that reason it is unfortunate that Borreca did not get further comment from the LG about the canoe hale partnership involving a state park where the Advertiser reported that Aiona had advised the New Hope Christian Fellowship group before they came before the BLNR. There may be nothing to it, but that is still pretty hazy and I would have liked some explanation of his role.

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Leverage? If you say so…

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:18 am
A very odd editorial in the SB today claims that by approving an increase in the conveyance tax the Governor gains leverage to decrease taxes. Here’s the argument:

As confusing as this may sound, Lingle’s approval of the measure gives her part of what she and the Democrat-dominated state Legislature wanted; that is, a boost in funds for affordable rental housing. Two other parts – 10 percent of revenue gains for land conservation, 25 percent for watershed and natural reserves protection – she doesn’t object to since she sees them as aids to the well being of two of the state’s key economic interests, tourism and agriculture.

The final element is what disturbs the governor. It sends the biggest slice – 35 percent of the conveyance tax increase – to the general fund, the universal reservoir from which lawmakers disburse money.

Lingle wants to return 10 times this amount to taxpayers and will push legislators, either in a special session should one be called this summer or next year, to get this done. Her consent on the bill allows her to declare a win for the acceptable components, then put heat on lawmakers to enact the cuts to achieve her objective.

[blink] [scratches head]

Ya think? “Heat” from the Governor is not what it takes to persuade the Lege to enact a tax cut. Lingle has been proposing a variety of tax cuts throughout her tenure, with little to show for it. This strategy is not going to be considered a “win” by those who buy the properties for more than $600,000 and face the increased conveyance tax. Everyone else, i.e. those that don’t pay the increased conveyance tax, would welcome a tax cut if it came about, but history does not suggest that those voters will be motivated by an increase in a tax they do not face (or by exhortations from the Governor) to lobby vigorously for a tax cut. A tax cut could certainly still happen, but I don’t see this as the impetus.

To Lingle’s wavering supporters, the editorial’s optimistic “rope-a-dope” interpretation of her approval of this tax increase is bound to fall flat, or at least result in a standing eight-count for the Governor.

Beyond that, the attempt by the Governor to pressure lawmakers into lowering taxes to return from the general fund ten times the amount collected by the conveyance tax increase is gonna be a hard sell. The “ten” multiple seems to have been pulled out of the sky, and it remains to be seen how she proposes to pay for it.

Finally, there is this:

She seems to know when to roll ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

Nice mixed metaphor. Or is that some kind of thinly veiled message to the many marijuana users of Hawaii? ha ha.

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UH-Hilo student government fisticuffs

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:57 am
Well, as he promised, we haven’t heard the last of Dylan Nonaka. After being rejected by a dramatic vote at the State Senate this year for a seat on the UH Board of Regents, Nonaka returned to UH-Hilo where he is the Vice-President of the student government. The opponents of Nonaka’s appointment have a few seats in the student government, and let’s just say there is very little aloha between the two factions. According to this Hawaii Tribune Herald story, things are so tense within that august deliberative body that allegations of violence have been made and the President has resigned.

Student Senator Justin Avery said UHH Student Association President Charleen Ipo Melendez struck him three times May 26 during a discussion of students’ perceptions of the campus governing body. Avery said six student senators and Ellen Kusano, the Campus Center director, were present when the alleged assault occurred.

Avery went to police and filed complaints of assault and criminal property damage against Melendez, who has since resigned her post. Avery also filed complaints with university officials, alleging Melendez violated the student code, and against Kusano for allegedly doing nothing to stop the assault or to assist Avery after it happened.

Avery and Melendez appeared June 17 in Third Circuit Court on Avery’s request for a temporary restraining order against Melendez and a claim for damages to his digital camera, which was knocked from his hand during the incident that occurred in the university’s campus center. “I was assaulted,” Avery told Judge Napua Brown.

Melendez told the judge that a “mutual affray” had occurred and that she was “sorry it happened.” But Brown cut off Melendez’ remarks and assigned both matters to mediators in an attempt to work out an agreement before a Sept. 16 hearing date. Melendez told the Tribune-Herald after the hearing that she has “nothing to say” about the matter.

——–

Avery, who was elected to the UHHSA by students in April, wanted the seat because of what he considered “a lot of inconsistencies with government and students.” The student government appeared to be acting against the interests of the students, he said, citing student senators’ support this spring for the nomination of UHHSA Vice President Dylan Nonaka for a student seat on the university’s Board of Regents. Avery said Nonaka had backed tuition fee hikes for university students while, in his estimate, better than 80 percent of the student population opposes higher tuition fees.

The UHHSA operates with a budget of about $75,000 a year raised from mandatory fees charged to students to enrich the quality of campus life.

Nonaka’s bid for the regent’s post was scuttled by state legislators who noted that more than 200 e-mails had been received from students opposed to Nonaka’s appointment. Nonaka’s supporters, however, claimed the e-mails were the work of an orchestrated campaign of opposition promoted by the campus club Global Hope, of which Avery was president in 2004-05.

——–

Nonaka, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, believes the tension is the result of politics related to his bid to become the student member of the Board of Regents and his qualified support for tuition hikes. Nonaka described Avery as an “extremely far-left activist that despises me because I support my country.” Avery’s actions are a “personal attack, trying to bring the student government down,” Nonaka said. “In my opinion, it’s politically motivated.”

Avery believes he’s being targeted because he asks critical questions about UHHSA proposals and is frequently opposed to its majority positions. He described the student government as “very local-oriented … .They’re all buddies.” The only other Global Hope-connected student senator, Randy Rambo, resigned from UHHSA on May 24.

“They drew first blood, not me.” ha ha. Sorry, I joke at Rambo’s expense… ignore that.

The article also describes how the UH-Hilo Student Association Board is working to remove Avery, since Avery did not respond to a letter asking for his resignation. For his part, Avery is also seeking the resignation of a faculty advisor to UHHSA whom Avery considers to be pro-Nonaka.

According to Avery, the alleged assault immediately followed an exchange over polo shirts and some gestures made by the President. These juvenile antics are all the more strange since (according to Nonaka) the former President is 50 years old.

Funny how the only time the off-campus media care about on-campus politics is when things get ugly. I can hardly wait for the UH-Hilo bloggers and Hawaii Reporter to get a whiff of this…

Comments (1)
Dueling events scheduled for SB 1808

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:15 am
Another layer is peeled from the onion that is the workers’ compensation showdown embodied in SB 1808. My last posting on the topic was on the news that Representative Caldwell’s House Committee on Labor was to have an informational briefing tomorrow morning.

Now I learn, via this Hawaii Reporter story, that the briefing is scheduled at (almost) the same time as the Governor (along with key figures of her cabinet important to the business community) plans to be in Waikiki at a Small Business Hawaii event.

House Labor Chair Caldwell did not return calls to Hawaii Reporter by deadline for this story. Reportedly he scheduled a hearing at the same time as the Small Business Hawaii event – only for union representatives and fellow Democrat lawmakers – to rally support to override the governor?s veto, which requires a two-thirds vote in both Houses.

There is a deadline for blogger journalism? Who knew? ha ha.

From the public notice of the information briefing:

To assist the Committee on Labor and Public Employment in obtaining valuable insight as the House of Representatives deliberates on possible subsequent action on Senate Bill No. 1808, Conference Draft 1, the Committee has requested representatives from business, labor, health care providers, insurers, and other affected parties to comment on the implementation of these administrative rules, the possible veto of Senate Bill No. 1808, Conference Draft 1, and other issues relevent to this topic.

PRESENTATIONS WILL BE ALLOWED BY INVITATION OF THE COMMITTEE ONLY. OTHER ORAL TESTIMONY MAY BE ACCEPTED BY THE COMMITTEE AT THE DISCRETION OF THE CHAIR AS TIME MAY PERMIT AFTER THE CONCLUSION OF THE PRESENTATIONS.

Time will tell if the only oral presentations allowed (or offered) at the briefing are from “union representatives,” but the public notice definitely includes Republican members of the Labor Committee, Fox and Meyer, so the “only for fellow Democrats” statement in the HR report is false.

The timing of the briefing is probably influenced at least as much to provide a rapid response to todays deadline for the Governor to announce intentions to veto as by any desire to upstage the SBH forum. Choosing Tuesday for these events is savvy scheduling from both sides of the issue, in my opinion.

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6/26/2005

Commerce group faces challenger

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:07 am
The SB carries an op-ed in the business section today by Bev Harbin of the Employers’ Chamber of Commerce. The piece takes aim at the perceived failings of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, and suggests to Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii members that they should reconsider their membership.

The Employers’ Chamber of Commerce was created to support small-business owners, managers and – yes – employees.

We have established credibility among legislators and with the administration because we understand the issues that affect small businesses and we are articulate in discussions about them. We track the bills. We testify. We make some waves. We get heard.

The Employers’ Chamber of Commerce is ready to step into the loss of the voice of small business, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. But we need some help.

You might consider the return you currently feel you get from the dues you pay for your Chamber membership … and whether they might be applied more effectively somewhere else.

Very interesting. Again the Right-leaning side of Hawaii’s political culture is airing dirty laundy in public.

Harbin has many criticisms of the Chamber of Commerce record at the Legislature this past session. It is a fair summary of the Chamber’s highest-profile lobbying this year, with the exception of one bad reference to a workers’ compensation bill (SB 1808 is lumped together with HB 1309).

If it is true that the Employers’ Chamber of Commerce was created to support (in addition to owners and managers) small-business employees, then it is unclear why Harbin refers to the Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO collaboration as an “unholy alliance” and why she takes umbrage at the proposal to publicize the names of those businesses paying employees so poorly that the employees qualify for state-subsidized health coverage.

Beyond that, if the Employers’ Chamber of Commerce has credibility, tracks bills, testifies, makes waves, and gets heard… then why did all the Legislation that she deplores advance? She doesn’t say so directly, but she implies that because the ECC is weaker than the CoC (and AFL-CIO) her group is powerless to do anything. Hence her appeal for CoC members to consider switching loyalties.

According to a February 2005 Hawaii Business story, Harbin’s group has no membership (neither required or offered), while the CoC has 1,100 members. The “no membership” organization is a common way for small groups to have more influence than a small group that keeps a tally of members. How ECC is funded without any “members” is a mystery, though.

Perhaps if Harbin’s op-ed is successful CoC will see so many defections that they will switch to a “no membership” format. Heh.

Comments (0)
Lingle outlines issues at stake in bill to raises taxes for transit

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:16 am
Both Honolulu dailies publlish the op-ed by Governor Lingle describing the veto decision looming before her. The Advertiser has it here, and the SB link is here.

The familiar rhetoric of the op-ed offers nothing that has not been heard before by anyone paying attention. Since the piece is so scrupulously wishy-washy, it will not appease the opponents of the GET surcharge, nor will it please those who support a rail system on Oahu. About the best thing I can say about it is that at least it includes her email address and urges citizens to contact her in the next few weeks while she negotiates with the Legislature and before she must make a final decision.

You can decide for yourself if all of this is evidence of “listening to the wise constituents” or “holding her finger to the political wind.” Either way, tomorrow we will be one day closer to a definitive answer.

Comments (1)
Judiciary takes Kapolei comments online

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:46 am
I was somewhat surprised by this PBN story about a solicitation for public comments regarding the Judiciary construction in Kapolei.

I recall the debate about the wisdom and expense of putting a new Family Court facility in Kapolei. What is surprising, however, is the other intended purpose of this construction:

The state Judiciary is now accepting public comments on its Web site regarding the proposed Kapolei court complex and juvenile detention facility.

This is the first I had heard of any juvenile detention facility (i.e. “jail?”) for Kapolei. How did this slip under the NIMBY radar? Hmmm.

Comments (0)
Legacy Lands Act; who pays the higher conveyance?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:19 am
The Hawaii Reporter has a first-hand account of the Legacy Lands Act bill-signing ceremony. Beyond the reported “hissing” at Zimmerman’s attendance and questions, I found this segment to be notable:

The conveyance tax hike would affect only the “rich” in Hawaii, the governor maintained, those involved in real estate transactions of $600,000 and above. She noted real estate sales figures in 2004 documented that just 4.7 percent of real estate transactions would have been affected by the tax increase had it been in place in 2004.

When pressed by Hawaii Reporter on her 2004 figures, and reminded that the median price for real estate sales in three of four counties currently exceeds $600,000, the governor said she is not privy to those recent figures. She maintained she based her decision on the 2004 numbers.

But Realtors say the governor?s figures she used to justify the tax hike are embarrassingly outdated. In fact, on Oahu, the median price of a home as of May 2005 was $610,000 – $10,000 over the $600,000 limit that kicks in the tax hike when the property is sold. On Maui, the median sale price of a home is now $780,000 or $180,000 above the $600,000 limit. On Kauai, the median price of a home is now $665,000, or $65,000 above the cap. Only on the Big Island is the median price below $600,000 – as of May 2005, it was listed at $371,000.

On first reading that sounds like a strong argument.

However, the strength of the argument seems to stem from the fact that HR and the realtors conflate “buyers of median price homes” with “buyers with median incomes.” Let me explain.

As I posted during the SB series on affordable housing (here and here), folks at the median income can’t afford to buy homes at the median selling price. It’s not even close.

A family on Oahu would need an income of $162,860 to “afford” a median-priced home selling for $610,000. That level of income is 240% of the median income of $67,750. What defines “rich” is a tough one, since most everyone prefers to consider themselves “middle income.”

That “affordability” calculator is probably being left by the wayside during this housing market bubble exuberance as lenders are willing to allow borrowers to cross into the “unaffordable.” Buyers are probably spending in excess of the recommended percentage of their income on housing. However, a median income Oahu family to buy a median-priced Oahu property would be spending $2,620 per month (assuming a $122K downpayment of 20%, and 5% interest for 30 years). That mortgage payment would equal 46% of their income. That amount does not even include the mortgage insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and property taxes!

Joe and Jane Six-Pack will not be paying the increased conveyance tax.

Comments (0)
6/25/2005

Lingle threatens veto of tax hike for transit

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:20 am
In a bit of grandstanding, the Governor has begun to make vague statements about what vetoes she intends to announce on Monday. The real news will be Monday, yet still the Advertiser and the SB both have this “story”, here and here. I’ll play along and post on the topic today, too.

The threatened veto hinges on a politically charged, yet functionally innocuous disagreement.

Lingle, a former mayor of Maui County, has stated repeatedly that she supports giving more taxing authority to the counties. She objects to the section in the bill passed by lawmakers this May that calls for the state to administer the new surcharge. Even more pointedly, Lingle said she objects to a stipulation that the state keep 10 percent of new taxes collected, which would amount to an estimated $15 million.

Administration officials believe the amount that would go toward the state far exceeds what it would cost to administer and distribute the tax and have suggested that the remainder would amount to an intended windfall for the state treasury.

State Tax Director Kurt Kawafuchi said even with ballpark estimates, it would cost no more than about $3.5 million annually in administrative costs.

As I said earlier, it is my recollection that DOTAX asked for that provision. Again, I believe setting up a new County system to collect a GET surcharge is inefficient and a burden on businesses who would need to deal with two taxing authorities instead of one. Thus, amending the portion of the GET surcharge withheld by the State for administering it makes sense, but taking DOTAX completely out of the loop does not make as much sense, in my opinion. Still, for political reasons, Governor Lingle wants to wash her hands of the GET surcharge as best she can.

Lingle said she wanted the bill changed so “that they will make it not only a county option, but that the county will implement, the county will collect and the county will assess – so the state won’t have any involvement.”

Lingle does not like the stipulation that 10 percent of the funds collected by the new tax be given to the state to pay for collecting the tax and sending it to the counties. She said the counties should be responsible for collecting the tax and spending the money.

Senate President Bunda is willing to discuss the Governor’s preferred solution:

“The crux of the matter is a change in the bill that would allow the counties to administer and collect the tax themselves, thus allowing the counties to keep 100 percent of the tax increase less the cost of collection,” Bunda said. “We will address the governor’s concerns and her specific requests when she presents them to the Legislature next week.”

Presumably, lawmakers could take up the change in authority when it reconvenes in January since the new tax is not supposed to be in effect until Jan. 1, 2007.

While technically true, that is a shaky presumption because (as I posted here) it ignores the two other players in this show, i.e. the County and the feds. The City Council can only base their efforts on existing state laws. The Council may not take action on potential amendments to the law. The City has no means to administer or collect a portion of the GET, nor would it be lawful for the City to establish the means until the State grants them that authority via enabling legislation. The Council (if we are to believe the “hurry up” voice from our Congressional delegation) must act this year and will not want to wait until the end of the 2006 legislative session if the risk is that delay will kill any chance of federal funding.

In the SB version, Governor Lingle makes almost the same presumption:

Lawmakers have the option of meeting this summer to amend the bill to address Lingle’s objections, but the governor said they also could do it next year in their regular session.

“They would not have to come back (in a special session). They would have to make a public commitment that they would do it, because it doesn’t go into effect until ‘07,” Lingle said.

“If there is no commitment, then I will have to look at it a lot closer than if they were willing to make those changes,” Lingle added.

A “public commitment” is, uh, not exactly binding on the legislators, to put it mildly. Less-cynically, a “public commitment” carries no force of law, which is what the City Council needs to have settled before they may act with the type of finality that will leave no doubt to the feds as to their intentions.

The options are:
- Veto: the whole issue is dead unless a) the House can find the votes to override the veto; or, b) the Lege can pass a bill in a special session to address the concerns in the veto message. I’d say a) is unlikely, b) is possible.
- Approve, no special session, amendments proposed in 2006 Lege: City Council would pass Bill 40 and then be forced to wait in uncertanty until Spring 2006 to see if they will be authorized to establish their own GET collection mechanism. Feds may not wait.
- Approve, no special session, no follow-through on “public commitment” to amend in 2006: Governor Lingle gets a lot of egg on her face.
- Approve, with special session: the City Council can amend Bill 40 this summer to reflect the product of the special session.

Governor Lingle does not want a special session which could lead to a Senate reorganization, and (of course) neither does Senator Bunda. Governor Lingle would surely like to find some political cover by shifting this surcharge entirely to the County. Mass transit has become only a tertiary issue in this debate, in my opinion.

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Eminent domain in Hawaii; US Supreme Court fallout

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:30 am
Again, identical stories (here and here) in the Big Island newspapers. The subject this time is the possible impact this weeks US Supreme Court ruling on property rights might have on a dispute in Kona involving the condemnation of private property to build a bypass road as part of the “community benefit” requirements of the (stalled) Hokulia project.

As you might expect, lawyers for the County think that the new ruling serves to bolster their argument. Lawyers for the property-owner, on the contrary, consider the issues in this case to be different from the SCOTUS ruling.

I am not a lawyer, but I believe that the County will be able to condemn this property for the bypass highway. Whether the County will pursue the condemnation while the Hokulia issue is unresolved is another question. Does the area already need the bypass road, i.e. even without the new develoment? I dunno. If so, that would transform this case into a routine exercise of condemnation for a “public use.”

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True cost double on beach events

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:03 am
Lots of shock and awe today after another report from the “un-Higa” auditor at the City. This time Tanaka blasts the unreported expenditures for Sunset on the Beach and Brunch on the Beach. The Advertiser has two pieces, here, and here; the SB has one here.

Somehow, even though one of Tanaka’s complaints was that many records are missing, the audit cites a total of $4,527,205. Pretty darn precise for having missing data, but whatever. Maybe an “at least” shoud be prefixed to that figure, I dunno. Mayor Harris had reported a figure of $2.07M. There’s obviously a problem.

However, I’m not going to cut much slack to the City Council under Mayor Harris. They may have had trouble determining the costs beyond what the administration told them, but that only goes so far. If it’s obvious you’re being given bogus figures you need to ACT, and it was obvious. For instance, look at the graphic in the Advertiser piece, in 2003-2004 the reported cost was ZERO. Wha?! That figure should have raised a few questions at the time, doncha think?

City Councilman Gary Okino said he was troubled by the audit but not surprised.

“There was a commitment of a lot of city resources,” Okino said yesterday. “It was clear to me that the cost was way more than what they were telling us.”

Okino said the worst part of the program was that it steered city staff and money away from such core city services as fixing potholes, cleaning parks and routine police patrols. “It was diverting city funds and resources from other things that have higher priorities,” he said.

When he saw the $4.5 million cost, he said, “that could have fixed a lot of roads.”

Or, as another recent audit of Harris’ administration suggests, that money could have shoddily fixed a few roads several times each, ha ha.

Kudos to the SB for including this extra angle to the story:

Neither Harris or former Managing Director Ben Lee could be reached for comment yesterday.

The Star-Bulletin located Harris on Thursday outside his home, but he said he would not be responding to any criticism against his administration from the auditor or the Hannemann administration.

“I don’t think it’s right for him to just say, ‘I’m a retired mayor now, I’m no longer there,’” Hannemann said yesterday.

A former administration official who did not want to be identified said that the Harris administration members are proud of the Sunset, Brunch and Rediscover events and that it was the individual city departments – not the mayor’s or managing director’s office – that kept their own fiscal and employee documents.

Mayor Hannemann’s chiding of Harris’ silence is curious. What would be a better response from Harris? Anyway, despite Hannemann’s lamentations, it doesn’t matter what Harris says in his own defense because the time to hold him accountable has past.

The other news on the subject is that Hawaiian Telcom has committed $125,000 to become a corporate sponsor of several upcoming “on the Beach” events. As I asked before, I don’t know exactly what the sponsor intends to receive in exchange for the fee and the articles don’t spell that out.

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Anti-tax group blasts Lingle

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:25 am
After Governor Lingle approved the “Legacy Lands Act” that raises the conveyance tax on certain properties she immediately began to draw fire from the anti-tax activists. Chief among them would be, of course, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. The Hawaii Reporter (unsurprisingly) reproduces the full text of the ATR press release here. Meanwhile, in the PBN there is a piece with some reaction from the Lingle administration and this admonition from ATR.

Norquist’s group is highly influential in national Republican political circles. While Republican legislators said they disagree with Lingle’s decision, none made a point of publicly criticizing the popular governor.

Norquist put Lingle on notice that she is expected to veto the bill that would allow counties to increase the general excise tax to pay for public transportation programs.

“One can only hope that she does not repeat this mistake with the excise tax and uses her veto instead,” he said.

Nationwide, many state legislators and governors are regretting their hasty decisions to sign the ATR “no new taxes” pledge. As more of them break the pledge, it becomes less-newsworthy to comment upon each additional breach, and if these politicians manage to be re-elected it will be a sign that ATR’s influence is beginning to wane on the state level. On the national level they are still riding high.

Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform, keeps watch on other K Street firms and calls attention on its Web site to the ones that are out of line. According to a report in The Washington Post in 2003, an official of the Republican National Committee told a group of Republican lobbyists that thirty-three of the top thirty-six top-level K Street positions had gone to Republicans.

Despite its effectiveness, “the K Street Project is far from complete,” according to Norquist, who says, “There should be as many Democrats working on K Street representing corporate America as there are Republicans working in organized labor?and that number is close to zero.” He wants the project to include not just the top jobs in K Street firms, but “all of them?including secretaries.”

Subtle as a sledgehammer, that man.

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St. Francis to be state’s only for-profit hospital

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 7:02 am
The Saint Francis medical centers are about transform from non-profit facilities to become for-profit. The PBN has a story that (predictably) focuses on the business side of the changeover.

For-profit entities are eligible for certain tax benefits and capital financing. A not-for-profit has tax advantages but also is limited in terms of making greater returns because any profit made is required to be invested back into operations and facilities.

“A for-profit has probably more opportunities to take advantage of tax benefits and have greater returns than a nonprofit, which essentially has to break even,” [St. Francis CFO] Tiwanak said.

The new finance structure, along with a new operational model that puts the decision-making on physician owners, is the recipe that the doctors’ group expects will transform hospital operations and boost revenue.

In the new organization, St. Francis doctors will be responsible for operations as well as administration, patient admissions, providing the right services and making sure that facilities meet regulatory codes.

However, in this Wikipedia entry there is some discussion of the impact on patient care this difference may make.

The secret to the success of for-profit medical providers is positioning themselves in the medical marketplace so that they offer profitable services while avoiding unprofitable areas. For example, they insure healthy people to the extent possible, avoiding the chronically ill. They avoid services such as emergency medicine which are likely to be used by the indigent while concentrating on well funded areas such as medical rehabilitation.

They have been criticised by elements of the medical establishment as providing inferior care at higher cost.

What will this mean for the rest of the staff (nursing, admin, etc.), layoffs? The PBN piece only mentions that current St. Francis doctors will continue to practice without having to become investors.

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6/24/2005

Lingle fires back at foe of Akaka bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:13 am
As the vote on the Akaka Bill draws nearer (a Senate agreement calls for a vote by August 7), Governor Lingle is challenging a key U.S. Senate Republican who is opposed to the bill. The Advertiser has a story here, and the SB has Borreca’s report here.

Lingle said the report incorrectly implies that ? should the Akaka bill be approved and signed into law ? Native Hawaiians would no longer be governed by U.S. laws, she said. “Continuing to put out misconceptions, really, it leaves you with a false conclusion based on facts that simply aren’t true,” she said.

The governor said she may travel to Washington to lobby for the bill if supporters deem it critical.

With a vote on the Senate floor perhaps just weeks away, both supporters and opponents of the Akaka bill are mobilizing their forces and stepping up their lobbying efforts. Senate Republicans, led by Kyl, have blocked the bill since it was first introduced in 2000, but agreed late last year to allow a vote on the bill by Aug. 7.

Lingle said yesterday she has been getting “some indication” the vote could happen as early as the second or third week of July.

The Senate Republican Policy Committee is composed of GOP Senate leaders and the chairmen of the Senate’s standing committees. The committee’s role is to formulate and implement policy and help shape the GOP game plan. Kyl has been chairman of the committee since 2002.

The report concludes by saying, “Congress should not be in the business of creating governments for racial groups that are living in an integrated, largely assimilated society.”

I’ll leave aside the issues of “who is correct?” I know just enough about the topic to be tempted to say something ignorant, ha ha. Instead, I’ll focus on the politics of all these dueling statements.

The question is obvious: “how much influence does Kyl and his edicts from the Republican Policy Committee have over the Senate Republicans?” Answer: probably more than Governor Lingle.

It was just the latest action Kyl has taken against the Akaka bill. Last week, he inserted into the Congressional Record several documents collectively titled “Hawaii Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand,” written by Washington-based attorney Bruce Fein. The goal of that report was “to inform lawmakers and the public about the (b)ill’s deficiencies and ramifications,” said Fein, who is under contract by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which opposes the bill.

Very interesting the way this bill has the potential to derail Hawaii GOP efforts to reach out to Native Hawaiians. Those Native Hawaiians that support the bill will be upset that the RNC appears to be opposed to the idea. Meanwhile, those Native Hawaiians that oppose the bill will be upset that the Hawaii GOP supports it. Either way, it is hard for this schism to be of any help to the “big tent” efforts of the Republicans (locally or nationally), except insofaras as they are willing to stand with (or against) a small minority. Maybe if we were a “swing state” it would be different.

Incidentally, while searching for those Fein documents, I found a site that explains the origins of GIH and the Hawaii Reporter.

Because the institute focuses on the importance of the individual, the name Grassroot was chosen over Grassroots. It was founded by Dick Rowland (President) and Malia Zimmerman (Vice President), with the encouragement of other local activists, small business-owners and intellectuals. Rowland acknowledges the important role of the service organizations in advancing the free-market movement, saying ?Absolutely essential was, and is, the support and encouragement flowing from the State Policy Network and Atlas in the form of startup money, helpful networking, meetings, advice and leadership. The Heritage Foundation, a generous and considerate friend, was also helpful.?

Good to know. For the record, Poinography is funded for 2005 by $60 of my own money.

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Big Island raids net largest drug seizure

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:25 am
Lots of coverage today of a large crystal methamphetamine raid on the Big Island. The two Big Island dailies (again) have identical stories (Hilo- and Kona-side) and the Advertiser has a piece, too.

By the way, the introductory paragraph from the Big Island account is uncommonly thick with irony.

A two-story house on Kawili Street in Hilo displays an American flag and a sign with these words: “Neighborhood Watch. All suspicious activity is reported to police.”

Federal and county officers raided it Monday, along with nine other houses allegedly connected to high-level crystal methamphetamine, or “ice,” distribution.

Ah, the powers of observation provide good entertainment at times, no?

Since this big arrest follows so quickly on the heels of what I had mentioned yesterday, I can’t help but draw the two stories together.

The operation was a joint effort with the Police Department’s vice squad and ice task force, plus federal agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement task force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the IRS.

“It was based on our information,” [Big Island PD Chief] Mahuna said. “And they provided the connectivity and the technical know-how.” The U.S. Attorney’s office is prosecuting the federal cases, while the Hawaii County Prosecutor’s Office will prosecute the people with state charges.

Just as Chief Mahuna told the Councilmembers, his officers gather a significant amount of anti-drug intelligence. It is unknown whether those arrested yesterday are “radicals” or “subversives.” However, their noted flag-flying patriotism might suggest otherwise. Heh.

All kidding aside, it’s great to see a bust of so many high-volume traffickers. I don’t think it will put a dent in the demand for ice, but until the small-time dealers sort themselves out it will reduce the supply. Nice work.

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New Hope explains “kokua partnership”

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:58 am
Following up on my suspicions yesterday, I noticed that today there is a letter to the editor in the Advertiser from the Pastor of the New Hope Christian Fellowship church. The Pastor of the church writes,

What was raised as an issue was the “exclusive use” of a canoe hale in a state park. To clarify, the proposal as drafted has no reference to “exclusivity of use” of the hale. Let me share some background.

——–

We looked at fulfilling an existing program, the Curator Program, by stepping in and helping. We discovered that these programs, however well-intentioned, still fell short. For example, at the Sand Island State Park, there are long-neglected baseball fields that have not been used for years.

Therefore, we arrived at forming a “kokua partnership” in which a nonprofit organization such as ours would provide “sweat equity” in exchange for use of resources. It would be a new program that could be arranged between any nonprofit for any other state park that needed volunteers.

——–

As for the issue of the two canoe hales, we are financing them at our own expense with no ownership interest or rights to exclusive use attached.

The bottom line: New Hope’s heart has always been to resource the community. In any way possible. This is an endeavor that would partner with the state to do that.

I’d really like to read the draft proposal, but according to the agenda the LNR folks will only fax it to those who ask for it and I’m not in the mood to pester someone to receive a fax for me right now.

That said, this explanation makes a little more sense, but where does the Lt. Governor fit into all this? Why did the Pastor refer the Advertiser’s reporter to Aiona if he is not involved? Odd.

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MAILE alert musings

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:41 am
Another infant was briefly kidnapped yesterday, and today both Honolulu dailies have stories about the lessons learned from exercising the Amber Alert system. The SB article is here and the Advertiser has this story.

There were some technical mix-ups that delayed the automated radio and television announcements for a few minutes, but the information was relayed via the internet to the local media very promptly. At that point the radio stations took the matter into their own hands and broadcast the information.

At 2:51 p.m., police sent out an e-mail to the media notifying them a truck with an infant inside had been stolen. The notice was posted on the Internet and read on the air by radio deejays.

DHL Express dispatcher Lori Joaquin got the word from a co-worker and sent a text message to all her delivery truck drivers on the road.

By 3:18 p.m. – five minutes after the MAILE alert had been partially issued – DHL driver Curtis Vires sent a message to Joaquin saying he had found the truck in the parking lot of the First Assembly of God church at 3400 Moanalua Road. Vires found the baby uninjured in the back seat of the truck, which was parked and running with the air conditioner on.

Hmmm. Wouldn’t it have been helpful if the local wireless providers had the means (and the willingness, if the means exist) to text message every subscriber with an SMS-capable phone on their networks and transmit the emergency information, be it MAILE alerts or civil defense warnings? If you want an even more high-tech and geeky response, you could text message only those subscribers within range of the network “cells” nearest the incident.

Anyway, I’ll take off the geek hat and put the wonk hat back on.

Police got a 911 call about the incident, which happened in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven near the intersection of Nuuanu Avenue and North Kuakini Street, about 2:27 p.m. Vaima Philpotts told police that she had left her 4-month-old girl, Tauhani, in the back seat of her pickup – with the air conditioning on – while she went inside the convenience store. When she came out minutes later, her car and baby were gone.

William Philpotts said last night that it was the first time his wife had left their baby in a running car unattended. He said the baby was sleeping and that she did not want to wake her up.

“Since this happened, we’ve gotten a lot of calls from friends and other people who had said they had done the same thing. They realize, as we do, how dangerous it is,” he said. “As much as an inconvenience it is having them wake up, it’s well worth it in the long run, avoiding the anguish and the terror of the reality of a situation like this.”

This was the first time the mother did that, huh? The first time in four months, ha ha.

Of course, to echo the father, “in the long run” it is worth the inconvenience to put on a safety belt or wear a motorcycle helmet, too. But people seem to intuitively know that the odds of their child being kidnapped during an auto theft (or vice versa) are vanishingly small (and smaller by an order of magnitude than the risks associated with not wearing a safety belt or helmet, I might add). Furthermore, the odds of an infant woken up from a nap becoming grumpy are almost 1:1. We all know that in Hawaii many people like to gamble. Heh.

Anyway, we all breath a sigh of relief for this family. But I am reminded of HB 289, which would find the parent who had left the infant unattended charged with a petty misdemeanor. The intent of that bill was more focused on children who are left unattended and then set a vehicle in motion, but the bill would also apply in a theft/abduction case such as this, or in a case where nothing happened to the child beyond being left unattended. The bill is stalled in the House Judiciary Committee, and similar bills in the past have also failed to advance.

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Uh, nevermind

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:08 am
Browsing the SB letters to the editor today, I noticed a letter from Representative Lee publicly asking the Governor to sign HB 1393 into law. Since the online edition provided a link, I followed it.

The link included in the letter leads to the wrong draft of the bill. What’s more, if you follow my link above, you’ll note that the bill was signed into law this past Wednesday. I suppose the letter may have been posted by Lee before the signing, or maybe the SB has some lag time in printing letters to the editor, but the whole little episode makes them both (Lee and the SB) look a bit silly.

Not that the average reader would care, just wonks like myself.

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Lingle to speak to MCBH; heal the lame; raise the dead

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:56 am
Browsing the latest weekly edition of the Hawaii Marine newspaper I noticed (on the bottom of page one) a story announcing that Governor Lingle will be giving a speech on the Kaneohe Marine Corps base next Tuesday evening.

Yawn. “Whatever,” you might be thinking. Anyway, consider the “fair and balanced” nature of the story lede:

The Governor of Hawaii, since taking office in November 2002, has made a major impact on the Aloha State by building the economy up to the point of being the strongest it has been in 10 years, bringing the unemployment rate down to one of the lowest in the nation, increasing job growth around the state and greatly improving personal incomes for the citizens of Hawaii.

Gee, I had no idea that our Governor has sole control over the economy! She’s amazing, and I’ll bet the Marines can’t wait to hear her speak about “leadership” and her “secrets to success.” Heh.

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6/23/2005

Hawaii County PD v. “subversives and radicals”

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 12:06 pm
Identical stories in the Big Island papers today about a Councilmember questioning the need for the PD to overtly acknowledge that officers spend 4% of their time monitoring radical and subversive groups. Read the pretty green border version here, or the subdued blue-theme style here.

Chief Lawrence Mahuna [said] that the policy is meant for anti-terrorism and anti-drug intelligence, not to violate anyone’s civil rights. Mahuna said he is ultimately responsible for making sure the policy is not abused and vowed that he will make sure the policy is properly enforced.

“I can tell you that under my watch, no one is looking at anyone for their religious beliefs or political activities,” Mahuna said. “Part of the job of the police department is to ensure civil liberties are kept intact.”

Mahuna said he has no intention of eliminating or modifying the policy. The vagueness of the policy, Mahuna said, is necessary to ensure officers can gather intelligence in any area that protects the community.

“I can’t get more specific than that and exclude things that are potentially harmful to the community,” Mahuna said.

The chief’s statements are complete non-sequitors!

If the policy mentions “radical and subversive groups” but is meant for “anti-terrorism and anti-drug intelligence,” then the current wording only makes sense if you consider all drug offenders to be radical or subversive and if you consider all radical or subversive political groups to be terrorists.

Further, the Chief argues that the policy is necessarily vague, yet if the chief can summarize its meaning as being focused on “anti-terrorism and anti-drug intelligence,” then obviously that is the way to modify the policy to make it less vague.

Please, Chief, try to follow the Constitution. Leave the secret monitoring of political and religious groups to the feds using their PATRIOT Act powers…

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Englert not renewed as Manoa chancellor

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:12 am
Both Honolulu papers carry the story of UH President McClain not recommending a renewal of the contract for Peter Englert as UH-Manoa Chancellor. The Advertiser piece is here while the SB piece is here. No specific reason is given for the decision, which means—speculation! ha ha. Both reports have quotes from Englert’s critics and defenders.

From the Advertiser:

McClain said his recommendation was based on an evaluation of the Manoa campus leader.

Can we assume that the “evaluation” was conducted entirely by McClain, or were others involved? I dunno. If there were others I would hope that they would have been named.

Englert also pushed for a proposal to establish a Navy research center that would bring in about $50 million in military funding, including some classified research.

Students and other opponents of the center occupied McClain’s office to protest the proposal.

McClain said the discussion and consultation on the University Affiliated Research Center proposal is continuing and will not be affected by Englert’s departure.

I am very curious what the anti-UARC protesters might have to say about Englert’s departure. Unfortunately, neither report sought them for comment.

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Unusual “briefing” to consider veto override

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:14 am
The SB has a report today announcing that the House Labor Committee has scheduled an informational briefing in anticipation of the Governor’s veto of SB 1808. For a reminder of the history of this dispute, you might read my previous posts here and here.

This is a fascinating political chess match. Representative Caldwell has made his first move by scheduling this briefing before his Committee for the day after the Governor will almost certainly signal her intention to veto SB 1808. Caldwell’s language in the article certainly suggests (but does not confirm) that he favors an override of the veto, but (as I explained earlier) his reaction could hinge on how the administration, businesses, and labor make the case for (or against) the changes Lingle made to the Workers’ Compensation rules.

Honestly, I have no prediction as to which way this will go. Which makes it all the more interesting.

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Church’s offer: Trade cleanup for park space

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:50 am
The Advertiser story on New Hope Christian Fellowship’s offer to maintain a public park, erect two canoe hale, and then, in return, have exclusive use of one of the canoe hale is thick with political implications. However, the most obvious implication was raised and then quickly dropped by the article:

New Hope Executive Pastor Elwin Ahu declined to comment on the request, and directed questions to Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, who has worked with the church in an advisory capacity on the request.

Aiona’s staff told The Advertiser that Aiona advised the group on the project, but had no involvement officially and had no comment on the effort.

The Lt. Governor is an “unofficial” advisor and is “not involved” in the project, even if Ahu drops his name. Hmmm, if you say so. No story there, obviously. Sheesh.

Peter Young, chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said the state attorney general’s office is looking into legal questions about the New Hope curator agreement for the Land Board.

Young said a decision to accept the agreement or not will be up to the Land Board. He said church leaders have told him if the canoe houses are not approved, they would still move forward with their volunteer project.

Here we go again. Is this “casework,” and “constituent service,” or “unwarranted advantage” for that church? Until it is better understood what “advice” Aiona may have provided, any claim that the BLNR and the Attorney General will consider this agreement without consideration of a connection to the Lt. Governor is dubious. The LG’s “no comment” certainly breeds suspicion and was the worst possible response, in my opinion.

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NACO convention needs more “sponsorship” money

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:18 am
The SB has a very confusing article about the effort in Honolulu to raise sponsorship money for the National Association of Counties conference next month. Lots of figures are thrown about, but not enough explanation or context, in my opinion.

The City Council’s Executive Matters Committee will take a request today to accept the nearly $470,000 in cash and in-kind donations for the conference.

The full Council, in a special meeting today, is also expected to accept an $85,000 donation from Maui County to help pay for $229,000 in transportation costs associated with the conference.

First, the $470,000 doesn’t seem to show up in the chart attached to the article. Where did those contributions come from? How were those contributions raised if the Council is not allowed to solicit money?

Second, I suppose my ignorance of the convention business is showing, but it seems a bit odd that the NACO is getting a free ride (so to speak). Does the host (i.e. Honolulu) have to foot the entire bill for this conference?! It sure sounds like that is the case. Let’s see, negative news articles across the country, over a million dollars in expenses, and the benefit to Honolulu is, uh, someone remind me, please. It’s not like the Waikiki tourism economy is hurting right now…

Instead, the city hired Arizona-based Capital Connection as part of a $75,000 contract to seek private donations. Last year, Capital Connection, with the help of special event consultant Stacey Pawlowski, helped raise $500,000 in private sponsorships for the national counties conference held in Arizona.

The Council budgeted $815,000 to pay for conference costs. While the Legislature appropriated $50,000 last year for the conference, the governor did not release the money. This year, state lawmakers did not appropriate any money for the convention.

So far, Capital Connection has raised $20,500 in private cash donations and $2,500 in in-kind donations.

“If Capital Connection is unable to produce an acceptable amount of … sponsorships, I’m definitely going to be disappointed,” Dela Cruz said. The contract calls for a $350,000 fund-raising goal.

Pawlowski said that at NACO’s convention in Arizona, about 40 percent of the donations came in during the last month before the conference.

Is that $75,000 contract over and above the $815,000 budgeted to pay for the conference? Is the $350,000 sponsorship goal included in the $815,000 budget? What I’m getting at is, exactly how much is this conference expected to cost the City; $815,000 or $1,240,000?

If the sponsorships don’t pan out, Councilmember Dela Cruz will be “dissapointed.” I’ll bet. However, is there any recourse for the City in that contract if Capital [dis-]Connection is unable to meet the goal? Even if they again manage to raise 40% (i.e. $140,000) in the final month, that would leave the City with less than half of the goal.

Before anyone hyperventilates too much about that shortfall, take a look at the article for the intended uses of the money: Brochures, promotions, banners, information booths, and … wine? All expected parts of a convention, sure, but also things that are too often overly-extravagant. Some of you have been to a convention, I’m sure. Altogether too much glossy crap, three-ring binders that contain every slide of every PowerPoint presentation, fancy plastic grab bags, CD-ROMs, etc. Don’t you feel important and professional when loaded down with it? All of that stuff gets tossed in the rubbish anyway.

I’ll bet they plan to buy every last participant a floral lei. Hey now, wouldn’t want this to look like a “junket,” would we? Nix the lei, and no hula dancer greetings, either. Insted, set up a forced march from the airport to Waikiki with the visiting officials dragging their luggage barefoot down Nimitz highway at about 2:00 pm when it’s nice and hot. Bread and water for rations. Hold the seminars in un-air-conditioned elementary school gymnasia or, better yet, outdoors with stern convention luna patrolling on horseback and cracking whips to keep conventioners awake through 18-hour meeting schedules… all televised via satellite to the mainland, of course.

Well, maybe there’s a middle ground, too. Heh.

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6/22/2005

Tamer growth in economy expected

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:04 pm
The two Honolulu dailies each include a story today based on a new report from the UH Economic Research Office. The Advertiser piece is here, while the SB article is here. The last time they issued a repot I commented that we are expected to take their forecast at face value. The Advertiser does just that once again. However, mirabile dictu the SB throws us a bone:

The UH Economic Research Organization bases its forecasts on statistical models developed by the group’s economists, [report co-author] Gangnes said.

Oh. So that is how they do it. Much more clear now, yeah? Sigh.

Those models include what factors? Which factors are objective, and which are assumptions? You can get some flavor for this if you read between the lines.

Byron Gangnes, one of the forecast’s authors, attributed the slowing to a simple cause: a shortage of workers and hotel rooms needed to sustain current growth.

“This is driven by our view that the labor force is not going to grow faster than a certain rate,” Gangnes said. “And that constrains the growth of jobs, and that in turn constrains income growth.”

Assumptions in that paragraph: there is a certain maximum rate of growth for the labor force; there are factors that restrict growth in the labor force; and, incomes growth is tied to a growing labor force.

Are all those valid assumptions? I dunno. Obviously there are no data for the future, but do historical data support these assumptions?

The problem, Gangnes said, is that increasing prices could lead to a cooling of this growth. With hotels already running occupancies in the 80 percent range on Oahu and no new rooms opening soon, Gangnes said, visitors might opt to stay away as fuller rooms push up rates.

Likewise, commercial developers and home builders might decide the cost of workers is simply too high to keep building at the current pace as the supply of skilled workers becomes increasingly tight, Gangnes said.

The result, he said, will be a “pattern of a slowing local economy but not a stagnating one.”

Again, a lot hinges on assumptions. Visitors “might” opt to stay away. Builders “might” decide labor costs are too high. These are not wild-eyed assumptions, but somehow these three economists quantify this inherently murky hunch and emerge with what seem to be artificially precise growth predictions, such as, “construction jobs to grow by 7.5% on Oahu.”

True, nobody would reprint (much less pay for) their report if they only said, “we’re not sure,” or, “we think it might be a little bit better,” but I just can’t get comfortable with being asked to take all this pseudo-precise work at face value. Like I said in that earlier post, perception of the economic future can become reality in important ways.

Finally, the report includes this bullet point:

The four counties face common challenges that have arisen with the robust growth of recent year. These including declining home affordability, tight labor markets, high capacity utilization in tourism, and overburdened infrastructure. On the Neighbor Islands, concerns about excessive growth have increased.

Yup, yup, yup, and yup! I won’t argue with them on those points.

Comments (0)
Libertarian critiques Republicans

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:48 pm
After blasting the public employee unions in the Advertiser earlier, today I see a piece from the Libertarian Party Chair Tracy Ryan in the Hawaii Reporter. The earlier piece criticized the Democrats and the Republicans for their loyalty to the unions, but this op-ed goes in a very different direction.

Ryan discusses how the Libertarians can fit into the essentially-two-party system without abandoning their own platform. It’s a revealing piece.

Republicans and others on the “right” will occasionally be distraught over Libertarian criticisms of their leaders and agendas. There is a feeling that we should unite to defeat the “evil empire” of the liberal Democrats. This sort of coalition makes the most sense if the parties to be united agree on virtually every issue. This is never the case. It is certainly not so among Democratic voters. They have many differing interests and views. It has been the policy of the Democrats to keep their coalition strong by creating a fear and distrust of the Republican Party.

Heh. That’s funny. If you read the “left” elite media, you’ll see that the Democrats are often wringing their hands about the factionalization within their party and bemoan how the Republicans manage to somehow keep together a strong coalition of often-disagreeing Christain fundamentalists, defense hawks, pro-gun activists, anti-abortion advocates, and CEOs. Grass is always greener, yadda yadda.

Despite our disagreements, the Libertarian Party has not run its candidates with any plan to undermine the Republican Party, to tip elections, or for any other purpose than to promote libertarianism.

We haven?t run a candidate in any state legislative race against an incumbent Republican in my memory. We have sought candidates who can appeal to both Democratic and Republican voters.

The political demographics of this state should be obvious to anyone. Libertarians will never come to power by splitting votes with the Republican Party.

Both of our parties must realize that we need to get Democratic voters to move in our direction. Forming tight coalitions of anti-Democrat minded people seems among the least effective ways to achieve this.

So much for the “rally the base” strategy, then. Triangulate, triangulate, triangulate.

Comments (0)
Large affordable housing project announced for Big Island

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:41 am
Both Big Island newspapers carry stories today about a partnership between the County and a mainland developer for a large affordable housing project in Waikoloa. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald piece is here and the West Hawaii Today piece is here.

The new project, dubbed Kamakoa Vistas, will include 1,200 homes for sale, ranging from town homes to single-family detached houses and rental units “interspersed strategically throughout the community to create a village setting and to promote social interaction,” according to the Housing and Urban Development Office. More than half of the 268 acres, located mauka of Waikoloa Elementary School on Paniolo Drive, will be used for residential development while the rest will be used for parks, open space and community facilities, Kim said.

All of the homes and rentals will be sold to families or individuals in a range of 50 to 140 percent of the county median income, which stands at $52,500 for a family of four in 2005.

“We want always to keep it within a price range that is affordable and make sure we never forget who our target group is,” [Mayor] Kim said.

Again, with the “% of median income” jargon. Sigh.

Anyway, it sounds really cool, even if it will take 10 to 15 years to complete the project. The infrastructure work is said to be scheduled to begin next March.

Representatives from [developer] UniDev could not be reach for comment Monday afternoon, but in a statement, Executive Vice President Jeff Minter said that the project “will be respectful of the land forms and general environmental conditions of the area and be a good neighbor to nearby communities.”

Kim echoed that sentiment, telling West Hawaii Today that he doesn’t expect a backlash of a “not-in-my-backyard” mentality from the Waikoloa Village community on the proposed development.

“We will assist and welcome the existing community to be part of the planning process,” Kim said.

I’m not familiar enough with the Big Island to evaluate the significance of that last excerpt. Has there been a history of affordable housing developments being opposed in the Waikoloa area? I dunno.

Incidentally, take a look at the introduction to the WHT piece:

In more than four years since Mayor Harry Kim took office, he has never found the need to call a press conference.

So when the press releases were sent out saying Kim would holding a press conference in Waikoloa Monday, it must have been something big. And for anyone struggling to find a place in Hawaii’s housing market, it was big news.

Can that possibly be true? Mayor Kim’s first press conference?! Nah, it can’t be true…

Comments (2)
Isles a hard sell to U.S. taxpayers

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:47 am
The Advertiser has another chapter in the tale of mainland County officials taking criticism over plans to convene their National Conference in Hawaii. It’s been all over the national papers, so I suppose the Advertiser may have felt they had to publish something, but there really isn’t much more to say. I actually was reluctant to post about this again, were it not for this quote.

Rex Johnson, Hawai’i Tourism Authority’s executive director, said he has never seen such vitriol aimed at a meeting here.

“Just how damaging it is, you really don’t know,” Johnson said. “But it can’t help you because all the things that we try to do to establish Hawai’i as a business destination, this puts clouds on that. So it certainly makes it harder, you bet.

“It just goes to show that we are not able to get out our message as to what a wonderful business destination we are as well as leisure,” Johnson said. He said tourism officials will continue to pursue the convention and meetings market, including government events, which make up a small part of the business.

“I don’t think it’s earth shaking or the end of us trying to market business at all,” he said. “It certainly won’t be that, but it’s kind of unfair when you get branded as something and you’re fully able to compete as a business destination.

“I think we’ve got a good strategy on it that we’re pursuing right now. Will we change our strategy trying to market to business or for conventions? No. We think we have a good strategy and we’ll continue to pursue this strategy.”

That’s all well and good, but, as much as it is congruent to my earlier opinion, Johnson’s statement is also an acknowledgment that there is really nothing HTA could do or say to convince government workers (more accurately, to convince those watching every step of government workers) that Hawaii is a “business” destination and a politically defensible choice for their convention needs. Why throw money down that hole?

It’s not even a big hole. County officials want to convene in North Dakota to cover their political hides? More power to them! Send me a postcard.

Comments (0)
Chamber of Commerce transit forum

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:24 am
The Hawaii Reporter seems to be the only place to read an account of a Chamber of Commerce transit forum held yesterday. As with most things I read at the HR, I would not take the account at face value, but it is better than nothing.

A lot of competing claims from the people on the panel, most of them not new for those who have been following the debate. A few things in the account did attract my interest, though.

Councilman Okino flatly rejected alternative ideas such as HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes saying simply ?they won?t work.? He claimed that the cost of ramps to access HOT lanes would cost $200 million each for an ?elevated busway,? which is not exactly the same thing has a HOT lane. Another assertion was that the H-1 wasn?t designed to handle the weight of a flyover, never noting that the same problem is going to have to be dealt with by a rail project.

Did Councilmember Okino really say the ramps to access a HOT lane are $200M each? Ouch. Anyway, what “exactly” is the difference between an “elevated busway” and a HOT lane? Whatever the difference is, I think it’s safe to assume that both designs would need some sort of ramp for travellers to gain access, and that there would be some cost for HOT lane ramps. How much?

The next assertion [from Okino] was the HOT lanes don?t relieve congestion and that they are losing money, which makes one wonder why they are springing up all over the country. The problem with flyover lanes, he noted, is that they must return to street level when they enter the city.

This congestion relief argument has always confused me. If HOT lanes with on-the-fly toll adjustments are meant to maintain a certain optimal traffic flow on the HOT system, doesn’t it follow that HOT lanes only “control congestion” for those drivers that can afford to use the HOT lanes.? In the future as the non-HOT (COLD? ha ha) traffic inevitably becomes more congested, then what? Is there any upper limit on how high a fare would be set to keep the HOT lane moving smoothly? Without some human intervention it would seem that if there were a fender-bender on the HOT lane the fare could rapidly shoot up to absurd levels as the system grinds to a near halt. Of course, in a complete traffic stoppage the HOT fare would (logically, at least) be infinite!

Sidenote: I just realized the potential for mischief by someone with access to the computers calculating fares on a HOT system… Heh.

Next, from the author’s comments on Cliff Slater’s and City DOT planner Hamayasu’s presentations:

The federal subsidy contribution is limited to $500 million so the remaining Honolulu portion will be an estimated $3.1 billion (minimum). This will leave a $3 billion dollar deficit in 15 years when the GET tax increase is set to expire, meaning it will have to be renewed.

——–

An interesting side note was the admission that the $2.7 billion was not an accurate estimation but one done ?on the back of a restaurant napkin.? In other words, no one really knows what rail will really cost. Despite the FTA regulation that they will not contribute for than $500 million toward a rail project, Hamayasu stated that a federal contribution of $1 billion could be possible.

Where did that $500M maximum contribution assertion come from? To date I’ve heard and read things about “X% federal matching funds,” but nothing about a solid cap.

From the Q&A portion:

Asked about being stuck on the H-1, [Councilmember] Djou admitted this was a problem but the main issue with the rail was there is no plan, ?no idea what the system is? and then considered the nature of the politics of federal funds. With a Republican-dominated Senate and House, and Republican president, what were the real chances that rail would be funded for Hawaii? The only real long-term answer was the development of the Second City as planned.

Interesting insight on the federal funds, but Djou should not underestimate the power of porkbarrel politics.

Anyway, if what Djou says about the “real long-term answer” is true, then what are the “real chances” of the Second City being developed in time to remedy the traffic congestion? What would developing the Second City cost taxpayers? Would Councilmember Djou support that “solution?”

Come to think of it, if housing keeps sprawling expanding into that area, it may soon become impossilbe to develop a Second City…

Comments (1)
Kauai group appeals to State Supreme Court for tax relief

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:12 am
As I posted earlier, the citizen group fighting against a tax increase on Kauai has appealed to the Hawaii Supreme Court after losing at the Circuit level. Today this Garden Island News editorial echoes my hunch that the citizens will lose the appeal, draws a parallel to the dispute between the County Council and the OIP, and then concludes with this:

Again, we seem to have two separate realities here. One is the County Council and the county administration’s, who have won in the Fifth Circuit Court in declaring the property-tax-reform amendment unconstitutional. The other is the belief by the Ohana Kauai members, and by many voters and taxpayers, that the amendment was legally approved and should be the law of the land.

——–

The big picture question here is whether ? and how ? voters may react against this separate reality when the next election cycle begins. Will this be enough to shake up the political status quo of Kaua’i? We shall see.

Have any Kauai politicians sided with Ohana Kauai in this dispute? I would be very surprised to see any wholesale removal of the Councilmembers and/or Mayor over this, but stranger things could happen. Ohana Kauai could lose the legal battle but win the anti-tax war.

Comments (0)
Colorado Lege tired of out-of-state inmates

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:54 am
From Colorado there is this story from the Rocky Mountain News that aniticipates (again) the removal of out-of-state inmates from the Brush private prison, a facility that houses female inmates from Hawaii and is under intense scrutiny for its operations practices.

Hawaiian officials are rebidding their contract to house 80 women who are in Brush. Twenty- one state lawmakers urged their governor in April to move those inmates “immediately,” the Honolulu Advertiser reported.

Hawaii’s public safety department doubled its monitoring of Brush conditions this spring. It’s set to award the new contract soon. Officials won’t say who’s in the running, but a spokesman said the sex scandal could play a role.

“Because of the recent past,” said Mike Gaede, the spokesman, “the possibility exists that we could be getting out” of Brush.

Some Colorado lawmakers pushed to ban out-of-state inmates from state prisons earlier this year.

A legislative committee rejected the plan, after a representative of the state’s largest private prison contractor, Corrections Corporation of America, warned it might have to close a prison for lack of funds if the bill passed.

But before the representative testified in February at the Capitol, officials in Washington and Wyoming say they’d already been asked to move their male inmates from Colorado to free up beds for in-state prisoners.

Morgan said Monday that more than 100 women and nearly 300 men – who are all supposed to be in prison – are in Colorado county jails, waiting for prison beds.

That’s enough prisoners to cushion private prisons from any effects if the other states pull their inmates, she said.

Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo, who sponsored the bill to ban out- of-state inmates, called those numbers “certainly a contradiction from the testimony” legislators heard.

What a surpise, CCA exaggerated in their previous testimony. I believe it would have been more accurate for them to testify that without the out-of-state inmates CCA might want to close the prison because the in-state inmates are probably not as profitable. I suppose this means that CCA won’t be hiring the necessary (but costly) staff needed to run a safe and humane prison…

Comments (0)
6/21/2005

Can Hawaii handle 8 million guests?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:12 am
A nice attention-grabbing headline, but the accompanying PBN story is unfortunately unable to offer much in the way of answering the rhetorical question. It hints toward, “no,” but doesn’t come out and say it.

The article reports that (who?) has forecasted that 8 million visitors will come to Hawaii in 2008. Wow.

While the prospect of a million more customers is welcomed by most in the tourism industry, the impact of a 14 percent increase in tourists in a little more than three years has caused some planners, public officials and industry experts to begin discussing whether Hawaii may be reaching its “carrying capacity” and sustainable tourism and sustainable growth goals.

What makes resolution of such debates difficult is the lack of objective data beyond visitor arrival numbers to determine how many people can comfortably “fit” into Hawaii at any given point. Can Hawaii handle 8 million tourists or more or did the state pass its limit at 6 million?

From that introduction, the rest of the article talks to a variety of officials and experts, and few of them have much positive to say other than the big increase in visitors will be a short-term economic boost for certain sectors of the economy.

On a more meta level, even if everyone agreed that this is a crisis, what can be done about it? As part of the United States, citizens from other States (and many Western countries) may freely travel to (and from) Hawaii. If a visitor chooses to buy property in Hawaii at prices that existing residents can not afford, there is no way to stop those transactions in a free market. So, what can State leaders do if/once it is agreed that this is a problem? Well, the options to reduce the impact of this huge number of visitors are few, as far as I can tell.

Reduce visitors: Restrict landing rights at airports and harbors.
Ease congestion: Raise taxes on non-resident vehicle rentals.
Out with the old, in with the new: Curb new hotel and resort development, channel this investment into redevelopment of aged facilities.
Ease infrastructure demands: Penalize inefficient/wasteful tourist industry utility customers.
Drinking water? That’s a tough one. Finding enough service industry employees to staff the tourism jobs? Another tough one. Those two alone might make the de facto “decision” before policy makers ever get past the bromide stage.

Comments (0)
4-H is not for vegetarians

Filed under:
General
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:02 am
I was involved in 4-H as a boy in Wisconsin (Fitchburg Fireflies represent, y’all!), so I was compelled to read this feature story from the West Hawaii Today about a girl and her brother raising swine and sheep for show.

Victoria admits she is attached to her animals, and that the grimmest part of the day is often when the animals are auctioned off for slaughter.

“They’re my best friends and we sort of have a special bond. When I’m sad, I visit them and they help me feel like I’m not alone,” she said. “But in 4-H, you learn to accept that the animals you raise will most likely end up in somebody’s freezer. They’re food and they taste good. I try not to get too sad because I know next year, I’ll get another animal.”

I never participated in the livestock events, but what she said was always the unspoken comment back when I was part of 4-H. Heh.

So, this post is not about politics. Forgive me.

Comments (0)
6/20/2005

Lessons of California’s Toll Lanes

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:32 pm
A timely story in the Washington Post today, especially for Cliff Slater and his allies. The article describes the high amount of use and the ever-increasing tolls charged on HOT (high occupancy tollway) lanes in California.

Part of the reason HOT lanes are gaining in popularity, said Robert W. Poole Jr., director of transportation studies for the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit libertarian group, is that the California lanes offer a decade-long track record.

“They’re considered a success,” Poole said, “and we really don’t have many of those in transportation.”

There have been some bumps in the road, however. The private firm that built the Express Lanes through the median of Route 91 – the primary link between booming Orange County and the fast-growing but cheaper suburbs of Riverside County – negotiated a “non-compete” clause in its original contract that barred local governments from making any improvements on the free lanes that might steal customers from the four-lane toll road.

Commuters eventually balked, though, and Orange County ended up buying out the firm for $207.5 million in 2002, allowing it to finally add some long-awaited lanes to the freeway.

The county takeover also came with a promise – written into the state legislation that authorized it – that tolls would be lowered. And indeed, when the Orange County Transportation Authority first took control, it opened the toll lanes free of charge for cars with three or more travelers.

But the tolls kept rising. And when the HOV-3 option caused revenue to drop, OCTA started charging carpoolers half-price during busy hours.

OCTA spokesman Ted Nguyen said the price increases are a necessary part of the agency’s strategy to keep traffic moving smoothly on the Express Lanes. If too many cars are filling the toll road, it seems fair to raise the tolls to a level that will thin the crowd, he explained.

“We found that when they pay a price, people want a predictably smooth ride,” he said. “Our goal is to maximize the number of people through the 91 corridor.” Most of the price hikes have been imposed on the afternoon Orange County to Riverside County traffic, which just hit the maximum of $7.75 a trip. Traveling the roads at less busy times can still cost less than $2.

I’m not sure if the California system is an elevated system like Slater usually puts forth, nor does the article mention the cost to implement the HOT system. It’s an interesting story, in any case.

Comments (4)
City hopes to revive local interest in Hanauma Bay

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:21 am
The City is trying to stop the practice of “taxi-vans” bringing tourists to Hanauma Bay for snorkeling. According to this Advertiser piece, the tourists are crowding out local residents 7:1.

Limiting commercial activity is the key to managing the bay and eliminating overuse, officials say.

One of the ways the city does that is by limiting the number of permits for tour companies.

Tourism magazines include ads for dozens of tour companies offering tours to Hanauma Bay. Yet only 21 companies are licensed to bring guided tours to Hanauma’s shores, Hong said. Twelve of those permits are issued to companies seeking annual permits, while the rest are assigned to those asking for daily or monthly permits, Hong said.

These are the only companies allowed to bring snorkeling or scuba customers in groups to the bay. And they are allowed to bring only six people, including instructors, down to the water.

Taxis also are allowed to bring visitors to the bay, Hong said, and this is where tour companies have found a loophole. By claiming the status accorded to legitimate taxis, they manage to bring scores of people to the bay.

The City Ordinances related to the use of the Bay are here, but I see no mention in there of fines for those exploiting the “taxi” loophole. (which is probably why it is called a “loophole,” genius!)

I did find this story from a few weeks ago at PBN about random sweeps for these loophole exploits, but from that story it seems as if the penalty for a violation is not very strict and certainly would not be a deterrent if each vanload of snorkelers could net the “taxi” a few hundred dollars. It also seems as if the unlicensed companies arranging the tour may be unaffected if they simply hire taxis to move their paid customers and the tour companies don’t provide the transportation themselves.

The two companies cited by the inspectors at Hanauma Bay must go to court. Since it’s not a misdemeanor but only a violation of a city ordinance, an administrative judge typically sets a fine and dismisses the case.

However, the vehicle must be inspected again by [City official] Kamimura’s division to make sure it’s in compliance with all rules before it can go back on the road. For instance, a 12-seater van would have to remove the extra seats so it is able to seat just eight people.

“I do care about the fact that they come back down and bring the vehicle to be inspected again by us,” Kamimura said. “They can put the additional seats back in anytime, but I can make sure that down the road if the same guy comes back then we can take administrative action against the taxi company.”

Tthe last time I went to Hanauma Bay the cashier exclaimed that I was the first Hawaii resident she had seen pass through on her shift, and I had stood in line that morning for quite some time.

Comments (0)
HECO plan defended in op-ed

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:46 am
A well-known member of the Leeward Oahu community has an op-ed in the Advertiser today speaking in favor of the HECO “give-backs” that were in the news a few days ago. It addresses some of my earlier comments and clarifies a few things.

Since February, community representatives and leaders have been meeting with Hawaiian Electric to discuss the new plant and a wind farm proposal and all of the impacts of both on our communities. After our initial questions and discussions, we asked HECO to separate the dialogue for the projects since the two are completely different situations.

HECO will complete the wind farm proposal dialogue process in the next few months, and we plan to comment on that process and its results then.

Looking through the rest of the HECO press releases, I don’t see that any notice was provided of the meetings about the new power plant at Campbell Industrial Park that produced these proposed “give-backs.” These types of meetings are not subject to the Sunshine Law by any stretch, but it is too bad that the general public and media could not have been informed and allowed to know what was going on.

So what does the community receive? A 7 percent rate discount for residents in the immediate neighborhood of the plant. This giveback focuses on residential ratepayers because the proposed peaking unit would operate in the early evening and therefore residents are the ones primarily impacted. We also agreed that the discount rate would only apply to a base average electrical use amount, so that we do not encourage excessive energy consumption.

Another community benefit will be getting the Kahe Power Plant off the use of potable water for its boilers and into using recycled water. This act is one of the most significant environmental steps that we could take.

Three additional air-quality monitoring stations will be sited: one makai of the new unit, one in Nanakuli and one in the Wai’anae/Lualualei area. Hawaiian Electric also has agreed to resume fish-monitoring studies. Together, this package of environmental monitoring will help provide us with solid, reliable data with which we can make informed future decisions.

These three community-initiated proposals are supported by Hawaiian Electric. It will submit a request to the Public Utilities Commission that these givebacks be paid for by all O’ahu ratepayers for the benefit of its West O’ahu/Wai’anae neighbors. We agree with that view and hope that the rest of O’ahu will understand and appreciate the burdens that we assume on all our behalf.

That last paragraph seems to confirm my interpretation that the rest of Oahu ratepayers will subsidize many of these “give-backs,” not HECO.

We feel that this has been a fair process and welcome the opportunity to build what we hope can be a beginning template for how we as an interconnected island community solve one of our most challenging problems: how do we equitably share the burdens of basic, islandwide infrastructure needs among all of us ? from North Shore to Hawai’i Kai and from Kane’ohe to Wai’anae ? without unjustly burdening some of us. These challenges will only grow as our population increases, and we must seek processes that lead to social equity and fairness.

To do otherwise will continue to erode the aloha between us all ? aloha that makes this the place we want to live and raise our families in.

Well said, and I share those sentiments.

However, I’m still not convinced that the PUC has the authority to approve these “give-backs” and the rate structure that would pay for them. I’m also unsure how the rest of Oahu will react to this “give-back” idea that is being presented almost as a fait accompli. We’ll know more on those topics when the PUC holds hearings on the rate proposal.

Comments (0)
Guam bungles executive order regarding military presence

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:09 am
I noticed this story from Guam about a strange message sent by their governor to the military. An executive order from last week had some contradictory language about Guam’s opinion of military presence.

While not saying that the executive order was in error, governor’s spokesman and Guam Economic Development and Commerce Authority acting Administrator Tony Lamorena yesterday said the executive order will be revised so that it clarifies that the government of Guam does not oppose the military’s presence and buildup on island.

At issue is a line in the June 13 executive order, which was signed shortly before the governor left for the Horn of Africa, that reads: “Whereas, the government of Guam in proceeding with its efforts at land return in no uncertain terms oppose military presence in Guam.”

Lamorena yesterday said, “We’re not saying it’s in error, but some people are reading it different. So we are going to make it more clear.”

He said the government does not oppose the military’s presence on Guam. Lamorena pointed to a proceeding line in the order that reads: “Whereas, on the contrary, the government of Guam desires an increase in military presence and are proud of being an integral part of U.S. military strategy in the Pacific Region and its efforts to obtain excess military lands are simply recognition of the finite amount of land available for development in a small island environment.”

Guam officials plan to quickly clarify the message, but the gaffe probably tips the scale even more in favor of Hawaii being designated a homeport for an aircraft carrier battle group and hurts Guam’s hopes for that designation. All that assumes that the military even noticed the “error.”

Comments (0)
Garden Isle News offline?

Filed under:
General
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:00 am
Anybody have an explanation?

Yesterday and today I get a Kauai weather map from the usual link, and that’s it. Odd.

Comments (0)
6/19/2005

Advertisements in DOE schools?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:16 am
The SB has a report today about the upcoming discussion of allowing the DOE to raise money by accepting advertisements on the grounds of public schools and libraries. This is a form of fund-raising being used across the nation and it is becoming more pervasive. Hawaii is home to a neighborhood board so desparate for money that shills for a steakhouse, so I suppose this should not be a surprise…

The plan floated by [BOE members] Toguchi and Lee would continue to ban advertising in classrooms and teaching areas, but allow it on building walls and other public areas of schools and libraries. It would allow only content that “shall be consistent with the mission” of public schools and libraries, and “promote positive behavior, educational activities, health and wellness, co-curricular activities, physical activities and athletic events.”

For example, Toguchi said, a company might want to put up a sign saying “Study hard,” or “Congratulations, graduates,” along with its logo.

“In order for the idea to be accepted, it has to be very restrictive,” Toguchi said.

——–

“I think we’ve got to start off really small,” [BOE member Cox] said. “We’re not here to sell all the Pepsi products that they want to get sold. If you start small and it’s not looking so good, then we can stop it.”

I tend to think that the opposite is true, too. i.e. If you start small and it raises a good stream of ad revenue, then the BOE will be very tempted to expand it.

“It’s for the keiki!” Sigh.

Comments (0)
Two terms is Hawai’i preference

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:59 am
Hooray for the (more) prompt online publishing of the Advertiser opinion section today. It includes an op-ed by Jerry Burris that speaks of the pattern of Hawaii governors serving consecutive terms. After going into a bit of the history of Hawaii governors, Burris concludes,

But there are increasing signs that the campaign against Lingle’s re-election will be less about winning the governorship and more about holding her feet to the fire and establishing name recognition for Democrats who have aspirations down the road.

At this point, a serious candidate would be raising money, making public appearances and generally building political momentum.

What we have seen are mostly rumors and speculation about people, ranging from former state Sen. Mike McCartney and current ones such as Colleen Hanabusa and Robert Bunda to long shots such as U.S. Rep. Ed Case and Big Island Mayor Harry Kim (nominally a Republican today).

A campaign that forces Lingle to answer for her first four years and establishes a name (or names) for future battles would be far from useless. But it would also suggest a recognition that in Hawai’i, we tend to elect folks and let them have their full time, for good or for ill.

This is an interesting inerpretation, but I’m not so sure past history is a good indication of what this next election will hold. The main difference, of course, being that this will be the first time in a LONG time that Hawaii will see a governor from one party seeking re-election while the opposite party solidly controls the Legislature.

With the economy humming along quite nicely, both parties will seek to take credit for all the accomplishments of the years encompassing the first Lingle administration. Except for vetoes and overrides, neither party can campaign very hard on any perceived “failures” since they both share some responsibility. Status quo is often the default position for content voters. I don’t see much on the radar in the form of differences between the parties that will motivate enough voters to discontent.

As for the 2006 race being a holding pattern to allow for Democrats to establish one or more candidates for 2010, I am skeptical but can’t deny the logic of Burris’ argument. During all those years of multi-term Democratic governors, who were the candidates being fielded by the GOP? Other than Lingle’s loss in 1998 that positioned her for a victory in 2002, one can’t say it was a winning strategy…

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6/18/2005

HECO submits plans for new plant

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 5:02 pm
Several stories today about a HECO plan to build another electric power plant in Campbell Industrial Park. PBN has a very short piece, the Advertiser has a bit more here, and the SB has a 3-article package here .

The most novel part of this plan is that HECO is offering incentive “give-backs” to the Leeward community that is considered to be the most affected.

HECO’s proposed “give-backs” to the Leeward Coast would recognize it as host for four existing power plants, Oahu’s only industrial park, a deep-draft harbor and the island’s main landfill, said Robbie Alm, the company’s senior vice president for public affairs.

That right there should tip you off to the fact that something fishy is going on. Why would HECO assume the “give-back” role for all those other (non-HECO) burdens that the Leeward Coast has shouldered? More on this later…

The proposal comes with several “community give-backs,” including a 7 percent rate discount for customers in the area encompassed by ZIP Code 96707. That would include 7,000 to 8,000 residents in Makakilo, Kapolei, Honokai Hale and Ko Olina.

Other initiatives include the construction of three environmental stations along the Leeward Coast to monitor air quality, and a fish-monitoring program. HECO also said it would prepare a “report card” for the community on its activities.

Sounds pretty sweet at first glance, doesn’t it? The SB piece tallies all these “give-backs” and the price of the plant and concludes,

These give-backs would be in addition to the $130 million for a new 100-megawatt power plant, bringing the total package cost to about $142 million, said Robbie Alm, HECO vice president for public affairs.

Well, here’s where I start to rain on the parade. As I understand it, in setting rates the PUC has a pretty straightforward calculation to make. It involves revenues and expenses, and guess what, most of those “give-backs” will probably be reported as expenses. Therefore, I believe that the rest of the ratepayers will finance those “give-backs” and HECO will still make the same rate of profit as usual. Not that I begrudge HECO a fair profit, but to spin the “give-back” as a magnanimous gesture on their part is, uh, dubious. Notice how HECO consulted with the 96707 community for a laundry list of what they desire, and will now effectively attempt to send the bill to the rest of Oahu. Heh.

Next, I believe that there is a good chance that the PUC will not approve a rate for one particular area that is less than every other area. Look at HRS § 269-16 and you’ll see,

… The commission, upon notice to the public utility, may suspend the operation of all or any part of the proposed rate, fare, charge, classification, schedule, rule, or practice or any proposed abandonment or modification thereof or departure therefrom and after a hearing by order regulate, fix, and change all such rates, fares, charges, classifications, schedules, rules, and practices, so that the same shall be just and reasonable and prohibit rebates and unreasonable discrimination between localities, or between users or consumers, under substantially similar conditions , …

I definitely agree that the Leeward Coast bears an unfair amount of the undesirable infrastructure on Oahu, but is it “just and reasonable” to single out a single ZIP code to reeive the “give-back” and to imply that the HECO rate adjustment is to compensate for all those other non-HECO blights on the community? I think that will be a tough case to make at the PUC.

Not that HECO would really care if the “give-back” were denied by the PUC. They would still come out looking like a generous corporate citizen simply for filing the rate application with the PUC. A savvy PR/spin move on their part, in my opinion.

Alm credited Mayor Mufi Hannemann with pushing for the community givebacks.

Jane Ross of Honokai Hale was on the community panel and said she appreciated HECO’s effort to meet their concerns. She said she entered the talks with an open mind, but wasn’t happy that another industrial plant was proposed for Leeward O’ahu.

“It’s not something that I would welcome with open arms, but it probably would have happened anyway, whether we would have wanted it or not,” she said. “So I thought it was really big of Hawaiian Electric to even think of giving some kind of a payback to the people who were going to be the most impacted.”

She said HECO did reject some of the community’s suggestions, including the construction of a new hospital and placement of all electrical lines underground on the Leeward Coast.

If Mayor Hannemann wants to recognize the Leeward Coast residents and ameliorate their perpetually shabby treatment I think he needs to compensate them by disproportionate CIP spending in the area or by lowering property tax rates in the area, not by shuffling the task off to the PUC.

It’s unlikely he’ll go down either of the routes I suggest. If taxes go up elsewhere to compensate, then the City (minus Councilmember Apo, I suppose) bears the political cost. However, if utility rates go up elsewhere to compensate, the City doesn’t have to dirty its hands. A no brainer for Hannemann—if this “give-back” works.

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492 affordable homes to be built in Kapolei

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 7:12 am
Good work today from Andrew Gomes of the Advertiser gives us this story describing a large affordable housing effort at Kapolei. It is encouraging to see almost 500 new units on the horizon, but a bit overwhelming since the “need” is pegged at 30 thousand new units statewide.

I’m especially pleased that Gomes saved me the trouble of having to calculate the real meaning of “affordable” for this development. He’s at a slight disadvantage since the figures will change before the units actually become available for sale, but it is still much better than the typical “x% of median income” uselessness.

If they were available today, monthly rent for 143 homes would range from $711 for a studio up to $1,964 for a 4-bedroom unit for those earning $40,680 to about $47,000.

Monthly rent for another 144 units would range from $948 to $1,185 for studios on up to $1,572 to $1,964 for 4-bedroom units for families earning $54,250 to $67,750.

Sale prices for the 205 homes assuming a 6 percent mortgage rate range from about $333,000 to $389,000 for families earning $81,300 to $94,850.

The only confusion I have is that there seems to be large gaps in those offerings. What about families that earn $47,000 to $54,250, and families that earn $67,750 to $81,300? Are they really ineligible? Weird.

Likewise, it seems unfair (if it is true) that only the above-median income families will be allowed to purchase a home, with the median and below-median income families consigned to renting.

Also, I’d like to know more about this passing comment:

Castle & Cooke’s bid, which estimates total project development cost at $108 million, involves private financing with some proposed state tax-credit financing. The state is contributing the land.

What kind of state tax-credit will they be seeking and what happens to this project if the credit is not approved by the Lege?

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Ex-lawmaker joins A&B

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:45 am
A brief blurb today in the Advertiser announces that former Representative Paul Oshiro will be leaving Hawaiian Telcom and joining Alexander and Baldwin as manager for government relations. No word if this is a new position in the A&B organization, or if Oshiro is taking the post from someone.

He is still quite respected in the House, so A&B is lucky to have him. It can’t hurt that Paul is from the Oshiro political dynasty, either.

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6/17/2005

“New” HELCO plant officially opens

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:17 am
The West Hawaii Today has a story about a new electric power plant at Keahole. Well, “new,” in the sense of something that has been in operation for a year, but whatever.

[HELCO President] Lee said the obvious benefits of the Keahole plant include more reliable supply of energy to West Hawaii, and reduced loss of power – and therefore a savings of fuel – because electricity does not have to travel long distances to get to West Hawaii.

However, Lee said significant benefits are also derived from a 2003 settlement with opponents of the plant who fought for more than a decade to prevent HELCO from building the plant.

———

Lee admitted the decade-long legal battle will ultimately add “millions” to the cost of the plant, and the increased costs will be paid by the customers.

“But we also learned a lot while working with the community,” Lee said. “We took a diverse group and came up with win-win solutions.”

It would have been useful to include some comment from the other side of that decade-long legal battle. Do they have the same upbeat assessment of this new power plant? Do they consider it a “win-win solution,” too?

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Big Island tokes its way to 7th place

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:03 am
The SB has a story today based upon a federal report that ranked the Big Island 7th among national regions surveyed in 1999-2001 to determine the percentage of people who report marijuana use over the past 30 days. in 1999-2001. Why it took them so long to release these data, I don’t know. Nor do I know why the SB article includes a link to the Department of Health and Human Services instead of to the report, a report which is not at all conspicuous at the HHS website.

According to the report, 5.1 percent of people around the country reported using marijuana in the previous 30 days.

——–

On the Big Island, 9.22 percent of residents said they used the drug. On Oahu the figure stood at 6.89 percent, while it was 8.01 percent for Kauai and Maui counties combined.

Insert your own Cheech and Chong or Half Baked jokes here.

From the HHS report:

The distribution of substance use in the United States is likely to be a function of many factors, including attitudes toward substance use, various socioeconomic factors, supply of and demand for the substances, extent of law enforcement activities, and the effectiveness of various prevention, treatment, and mental health programs. Data from these other sources need to be analyzed in conjunction with the different substance use measures in order to better understand the underlying dynamics of the process.

In 2006, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) will produce a second set of substate estimates for the above treatment planning areas that also will reflect any State geographic changes in the interim. Estimates will be made for approximately 20 substance use measures, including the ones in this report, plus measures of alcohol and illicit drug dependence and abuse, and serious mental illness (SMI). The estimates will be based on data from the combined 2002-2004 NSDUHs (National Surveys on Drug Use and Health). To the extent that States maintain their current definitions of substate treatment planning areas, the newer estimates can be compared with the earlier ones.

Tables and maps of the data are here and the report includes far more than just data on marijuana use. Scrolling down the page you’ll find data separated by sub-state region regarding:

- average annual rate of first use of marijuana;
- perceptions of great risk of smoking marijuana once per month;
- use of any illicit drug in the past month;
- use of any illicit drug excluding marijuana in the past month;
- cocaine use in the past year;
- alcohol use in the past month;
- binge alcohol use in the past month;
- perceptions of great risk of having five or more drinks of an alcoholic beverage once or twice a week;
- cigarette use in the past month;
- any tobacco product use in the past month; and,
- perceptions of great risk of smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day.

The reason why the SB chose to only focus on that single marijuana statistic is a mystery, since all of these data are (or should be) of equal interest to the readers. Is Hawaii near the “top” across the whole range of these substance abuse data? No.

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Envision Hawaii

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 8:55 am
Almost too late to matter, but I’ll post a plug for the Conference to be held at Kapiolani Community College tomorrow by Envision Hawaii . If enough people in the target demographic (20s-30s) attend then it should be interesting. The intent of the conference is to begin to prepare younger people to fill the leadership gap that may form when a lot of the baby boomers who are currently running most of this community finally begin to step back and/or retire.

I’ll be in a doublehand sailing race Saturday in Kaneohe. If it were not the only such race on the calendar this year, then I would have skipped it to attend the conference.

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Advertiser News Building may share space with condo

Filed under:
HI Media
— Doug @ 8:30 am
A few months back I posted about two different spins on the future of the Advertiser Building. Today the Advertiser follows up on that story with this article.

The property under The Honolulu Advertiser’s Kapi’olani Boulevard headquarters could soon give rise to a residential condominium as high as 400 feet while possibly preserving the historic News Building.

——–

[Broker for Gannett] Grubb & Ellis said in its offering that an architectural historian determined that the building, which is one of three on the property, meets criteria for inclusion on the register.

However, restoration and reuse of the News Building would be determined by development proposals and the selection process.

Gannett is seeking a joint-venture proposal, in which case a developer would finance redevelopment, as well as an offer to buy the Advertiser property.

I did a quick search of the Gannett and Grubb & Ellis websites, but I could not find the RFP for the property. Just imagine, if I could actually afford to buy a place, I could one day be writing from a condo high above the same newspaper that provides much of the grist for this blog, ha ha.

Seriously, though, I do wonder what becomes of the Advertiser newsroom as this process goes forward. It probably can’t stay put during redevelopment, and if the News Building is sold the Advertiser would probably have to hit the road permanently. Maybe they’ll move makai down the road and get a place next to the SB, just like old times…

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First Reading – new blog

Filed under:
General
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:35 am
Well, hello to you, too!

Just noticed in my referrer log a few hits from this new blog that is a service of the Legislative Reference Bureau Library. I’ve added a link to it in my blogroll.

Incidentally, if you haven’t already followed the LRB Clips link, then check that out, too. It is a nice, tidy, one-stop quasi-news aggregator service.

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6/16/2005

Party swtich for Kauai Councilmember

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:18 am
Well, he had my scrathing my head earlier, and today a letter in the Kauai newspaper has me confused again about Kauai Councilmember Jay Furfaro.

The Kauai Council races are officially non-partisan, so the letter-writer’s claim that Furfaro switched from Republican to Democrat is hard for me to confirm. Especially since the “this morning’s paper” that is referred to in the letter is pretty elusive so far, too. Maybe the announcement she speaks of is not included in the online edition, I dunno. I couldn’t find it anywhere, in any local media.

So, assuming it happened for a moment, the question is: why? Jeff Stone might have a reason to prefer Democrats, since it was the Democrats at the Legislature who awarded his Ko Olina project a big tax credit, so maybe Stone convinced Furfaro (his subordinate) to make the switch? Grooming him for a Lege campaign? Pure speculation.

Yawn. Forgive me. It’s a slow blogging day, ha ha.

UPDATE: Another letter today (Friday, June 17) on the same subject, though I still don’t find any articles about his change of party affiliation… However, I did find a page at the GOP Hawaii website that still considers Furfaro to be a Republican.

UPDATE 2: Yet another batch of letters premised upon Furfaro’s switch. The letter from the former Republican Party President (of the Kauai chapter, I assume) takes Furfaro to task for a conflict of interest, but it’s unclear if he and the other letter writers were so concerned before the party switch.

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Colorado private prison housing Hawaii inmates audited

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:11 am
Thanks to my good friend Kat Brady who pointed out that the Colorado State Auditor has published an audit on the private prisons in that state. You may recall that staff at a Colorado facility was reported to have been having sexual contact with female inmates from Hawaii and that the management had hired some staff before completing background checks. I have made numerous posts on this topic some time ago (from oldest to newest: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

The audit does not reveal any new allegations concerning the Hawaii inmates, but several sections of the audit address issues previously discussed in the media and here at my blog.

First , [Auditors] identified 4 out of about 300 current private prison employees in our sample who appeared to have questionable backgrounds when hired by the private prisons. Records indicate that these private prison employees, prior to applying for employment at the private prisons, were convicted of crimes such as aggravated motor vehicle theft, assault, criminal mischief, and harassment. Monitoring Unit staff report that they have no contractual or statutorial authority to keep applicants such as these from being hired by private prisons, even if they consider the applicants’ backgrounds to be questionable.

Second, [Auditors] found that controls do not exist to ensure that criminal background checks are completed for all private prison employees. Through a case file review of 22 current private prison employees, we identified one employee who has never received a criminal background check by CBI. The department was unaware of this employee. According to Monitoring Unit staff, the private prison employee database is not cross-referenced with with background checks provided by CBI to ensure that new hires have had the necessary background checks performed.

Lastly, [Auditors] found that private prisons often hire applicants and allow them to begin training and working before CBI criminal background checks are completed.

So, from this we can deduce that the Colorado officials were aware of the staffing problems but felt powerless to respond. Did the Monitoring Unit ever contact Hawaii officials (or any of the other states housing inmates in the Colorado private prisons) to at least notify us of the situation? Somehow I doubt that. According to Mr. Gaede from the Hawaii DPS, Hawaii was counting on Colorado for “day-to-day” monitoring on our behalf. Ooops.

Missed visits: [Auditors] reviewed the private prisons’ entry logs for Fiscal Year 2004 and found that monitors did not consistently visit their assigned private prisons on a weekly basis.
Visit duration: The Monitoring Unit has established a goal that staff should spend approximately 20 hours per week at their assigned private prison. However, interviews with monitoring and private prison staff and our review of the private prisons’ entry logs indicate that staff are typically on-site for less than 10 hours per week. [Auditors] found that 5 of the 9 states we surveyed require their monitors to spend more time on-site at the private prisons, ranging between 30 and 40 hours per week.
Wow. Compare even the skimpy 10 hours of monitoring per week figure to the Hawaii policy of sending a monitoring team for a few days per quarter. No wonder so many problems escape the Hawaii monitors’ notice and metastisize.

The overall goal of contract compliance monitoring is to ensure that noted deficiencies are corrected in a timely manner and that the contractor consistently complies with the contract. Remedial provisions contained in contracts provide one way to enforce compliance, should continued deficiencies be noted by the Monitoring Unit staff.

——-

Continued noncompliance by the private prisons can threaten public safety, as evidenced by the riot that occurred at one facility in 2004. Noncompliance can also lead to the unequal treatment of Colorado inmates, which could result in litigation against the Department. We reviewed the contracts between the Department, local governments, and private prisons, and the processes used by the Department to enforce the terms and conditions of the contracts. [The Auditors] found that although the Department has documented continued contract violations on the part of the private prisons, it has failed to take action to enforce the terms of the contracts.

——–

In making improvements to its contracts, the Department should consider effective practices used for enforcing contracts in other states. For example, Oklahoma’s contracts contain a list of values for differenct contracted areas and a specific calculation for determining liquidated damages when a violation in any area occurs. The calculation is weighted so that violations of critical areas, as determined by Oklahoma, result in higher penalties.

Colorado monitors their private prisons weekly, and still was found to have difficulty in obtaining the type and quality of service they had contracted for. Hawaii sends a team every few months. Why is it that reviewing the private prison services for which Hawaii pays millions is an afterthought until an egregious event raises the topic to the level of scandal? We threw these inmates to the wolves and now we check on them every few months or when the screaming gets too loud. Shame.

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6/15/2005

Deal sealed for homes at Kalaeloa

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:41 am
Both Honolulu dailies have articles about a California-based real estate investment firm buying over 500 homes at Kalaeloa. The SB piece is here and the Advertiser piece is here.

Recent Hawaii acquisitions by Carmel Partners capitalize on Hawaii’s housing crunch, as well as its booming tourist and military economy.

“We continue to be very interested in the Hawaii market,” Beda said. “The ideal opportunity that we are looking for is a value-add apartment renovation deal.”

Plans for Carmel Partners’ most recent Hawaii acquisition call for substantial renovation. Carmel plans to spend between $5 million and $8 million to renovate Orion Housing, Orion Park and Makai on the former Naval Air Station in Kalaeloa.

“We’ll invest in the common areas and we’ll renovate the interiors as the units turn,” Beda said, adding that rents in the mostly occupied complex may rise.

Oh, joy. The bright side is that the units are getting some sort of “renovation” out of the deal, but I smell a flipping operation and anticipate the likely-shoddy superficial improvements that are typical of that process. It seems to be the Carmel modus operandi:

The company in mid-2002 bought the 700-unit Moanalua Hillside Apartments complex for nearly $50 million and spent roughly $10 million on improvements including apartment upgrades, a sand volleyball court, putting green and bike racks.

Carmel sold the complex to an affiliate of Los Angeles-based Douglas Emmett Realty Advisors for $108.5 million in January, according to property records.

Not a bad turnaround profit, eh? Around $40M, give or take. Maybe the Moanalua Hillside is a much better place in just two years, I dunno.

Carmel bought the 520 homes from Ford Island Properties, a private partnership that acquired the homes and other real estate at Kalaeloa two years ago from the Navy as part of a deal requiring the partnership to finance and construct new and upgraded facilities for consolidated Navy operations at Pearl Harbor.

Ford Island Properties spent roughly $5 million renovating and renting the former Navy homes at Kalaeloa, most of which were in major disrepair or empty and unsuitable for tenants.

Two years ago while still under Navy control, only about 190 of nearly 550 Kalaeloa homes were occupied. Ford Island Properties this year increased the number of rented units to about 480.

What happens to any civilians renting these Kalaeloa units if an aircraft carrier battlegroup is assigned to Oahu and Barber’s Point re-opens? I would assume civilians would not be allowed to renew their leases if that were to occur. The SB piece even mentions the possibility that some of the units may be sold “if that were someone’s exit strategy.” Sold to who? Again, until a firm decision is made on the aircraft carrier homeport, it would seem unwise for a civilian to buy property on the former Navy base.

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Residency law as population control

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:54 am
The Advertiser editorializes today in support of the lawsuit challenging the residency requirement for State and County jobseekers. According to the piece the policy was found unconstitutional twice in the 1970s, yet the existing law persists in similar discrimination against non-residents.

They continue:

The law was originally seen as a way to control population growth through in-migration and to protect residents’ access to jobs so that they wouldn’t need to relocate away from family. Even that thin rationale no longer applies, with the current unemployment at an all-time low.

Uh, make that “part of that thin rationale no longer applies.” I agree that the unemployment situation is very favorable, but the population growth issue, which is basically never discussed except by a few persistent environmentalists, is still very real, in my opinion. The scarcity of affordable (heck, even unaffordable) housing options should give any non-resident job applicant pause. If a non-resident is selected for hire but can’t find a place to live when he or she arrives in Hawaii then this lawsuit will be a Pyrrhic victory for the workers and for taxpayers, at best. Unlike when new military families are ordered to the island, there is no federal money to help offset the impact of the arrival of new State and County employees. Luckily the impact of these new hires would be much smaller than, say, the arrival of an aircraft carrier battle group, but there will be some impact on our infrastructure, transit situation, schools, etc.

Casting the hiring net wider would raise the level of competition and increase our chances of finding the best and brightest candidates to meet our needs. And that ultimately would result in higher-caliber employees hired to do the public’s work.

Higher-caliber employees could be hired, surely. But what about retention? Constantly churning through non-resident hires is a real possibility. I think the benefit of getting better people outweighs that concern, but I think it’s important to acknowledge it and to change the residency requirement with our eyes open.

Comments (1)
Store’s open

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:06 am
An intriguing piece in the Advertsier today by Eloise Aguiar about two women who have begun a “Free Store” in Kailua. At their small stand they give and take items without payment as a quiet challenge to the norms of private property and capitalism.

Developed by Gaye Chan and Nandita Sharma, the giveaway takes its inspiration from the “diggers” movement, said Chan, a photography professor at the University of Hawai’i.

According to Wikipedia.org, the movement sprung up in England in 1649 when several individuals began to plant vegetables in common land in the county of Surrey at a time when food prices reached an all-time high. They invited others to join them in using the common land, which alarmed authorities, and the “diggers” eventually were driven away, the Web site said.

———

Chan said their use of the land comes from a political and philosophical belief that the planet and the people on the planet would benefit most from the common property rather than from private property or state owned public property.

“Our position is we do not ask permission because we refuse to acknowledge that they have authority over land because we insist that land can be shared,” Chan said.

Meeting, talking to and learning more about their neighbors has been a benefit of the project, Chan said.

According to Chan’s resumé, the Free Store is an installation art project, however, that may not be clear to some readers of Aguiar’s piece. Actually, it’s hard to tell if that was even clear to Aguiar. One way to identify good installation art is when it is mistaken for something else, no? Curiously, Chan’s resume lists a 22 Pauahi Street address for the store. Hmmm.

On a similar theme, Chan has also created a website loosely modeled after eBay that she calls “freeBay.” Clever. At the freeBay site there are a handful of items available for no cost. I went ahead and ordered a free book! Neat.

It’s pretty rare for a contemporary political philosopher to get any exposure in the local media, to put it mildly. I must say, however, that the “digger’s” movement history istantly brought to my mind Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons. Sigh.

Comments (1)
6/14/2005

Democratic Party is hiring staff, looking for candidate

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:28 am
Borreca is a bit late to the party, but his column today on speculation about potential Democratic candidates for Hawaii governor has a few interesting bits.

With extra funds expected from the national Democratic Party, [Chair] Galuteria said he plans to expand the local organization.

First, the Democrats have named a new executive director, Pohai Ryan, former Kailua Chamber of Commerce executive director, and are looking for a political director and a technology director.

“Also, we want a political director, a finance director and a communications director,” Galuteria added.

I wonder if that means the national Party is providing all of the funding for this expansion, or only some portion. I would guess that it will cost well into 6-figures to hire 4 new staff for the duration of the 2006 campaign.

The party chairman, completing his first year as head of the state party, said he has also been asked to consider running himself.

“Certainly, I would love to. In talking to some people, it is a compliment to think I had the faculties to lead Hawaii.

“It would be presumptuous for a first-term chairman of the party to toss my hat into the ring. I don’t see myself doing it this time,” Galuteria said.

The Democrats’ candidate, Galuteria said, should be someone “who understands Hawaii and its diversity.

“We are almost moving back to the plantation days of the haves and the have-nots. We should have someone who has the trust of the people – legislative experience would be good, but if he or she surrounds herself with good people, it is not necessary,” Galuteria said.

Wha? Who asked Galuteria to run? I agree with his decision to decline. As for the last statement: yawn. Could Galuteria have been any more banal? Of course, I don’t expect him to reveal much of the Democratic strategy in public, but do readers/voters really take anything away from non-substantive rhetoric such as that? If you have nothing to say, “no comment” works better, in my opinion.

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Officials defend ‘residents only’ rule

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:11 am
Both Honolulu dailies follow up with the lawsuit filed on behalf of a out-of-state applicant for City employment who was disqualified due to his non-residency. The Advertiser article is here, while the SB piece is here. I posted on this topic last week, when I noted that I was unfamiliar with the previous legal challenges to the State law that directs the City to disqualify non-resident applicants.

[An ACLU attorney, Lois Perrin] recalled that the city administration in the past also argued against the residency requirement. That was in 1985, when former Mayor Frank Fasi hired John Hirten to serve in his Cabinet, when the state raised the issue. By the time the state Supreme Court ruled, Hirten had lived here for more than a year and the point was moot.

Perrin said a similar law requiring a one-year residency was struck down in federal District Court.

A “similar law” was struck down, but the law being challenged still stands? That’s better than nothing, but I’m still pretty confused. When was that federal District Court ruling? The State law has been amended several times in recent years (1994, 1998, 2000, and 2002), so maybe one of those amendments was intended to make the law conform to the Court’s decision? I dunno.

Attorneys for the state and the City and County of Honolulu plan to meet next week with lawyers representing a Florida man challenging a law that requires applicants for most state and county jobs to be Hawaii residents at the time they apply.

The federal lawsuit could pit the city against the State of Hawaii.

That possibility in the SB story is speculation, not fact. Sure, the City argued against the law under Mayor Fasi, but I see nothing in the story to suggest that the Hannemann administration will take the same position. In fact, the City spokesman had very little to say because the City has not yet been served the suit. Taking one step back, it seems odd that the City was even named in the suit since it seems they were only following the State law.

Again, I am not a lawyer, so I’ll just sit back, pay attention, and try to learn from all this.

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Two of 5 employers will hire, but…

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:40 am
Many of the Honolulu media carry stories based on a localized version of this Manpower, Inc. press release (which also privdes a link to a pdf of the nationwide report and data). The PBN piece is here, the puny Advertiser piece is here, and the SB has a piece here. It would seem like it is a decent time to be a skilled person looking for a new job in Honolulu. Unless you’re a pessimist, in which case the headline would be “Three of 5 employers won’t hire.”

In its latest quarterly survey, Manpower found 40 percent of the Hawaii companies it contacted said they were inclined to hire more people between July and September. The rest said they expect to maintain staffing levels, while none said they intend to reduce their work force.

—and—

The national results of the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey say U.S. employers expect a stable hiring pattern to continue into the third quarter.

Of the 16,000 U.S. employers who were surveyed, 31 percent said they plan further hiring while 6 percent expect staffing declines. The majority, 57 percent, anticipate no change, while 6 percent of companies said they are uncertain.

It’s a nice change to be on the favorable end of a national comparison. What is Hawaii doing that the mainland is not? Perhaps these reports should have sought an explanation from Senator Hemmings, ha ha.

Kidding aside, there are some blemishes on this economy if you really scrutinize it. For example, there is another PBN story that describes how unemployment claims are slowly rising from their historically low levels. I guess Manpower did not survey the right sample of companies before they issued the “none said they intend to reduce their workforce” forecast.

Out of curiosity, I asked Manpower to send me the local data mentioned in their “note to editors” part of the press release. In (quick) reply, Manpower provided a short MS Word file that basically has the quotes used in the linked articles, and nothing more. I was hoping it would provide some idea of how many Honolulu businesses they surveyed, how those businesses were chosen, etc. Nope.

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Officials Bow Out of Conference in Hawaii

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:46 am
I saw a link to this AP story at Ian Lind’s blog today. It’s more on the “problem” of Hawaii being known as a paradise and the implications this has for government conventioners coming here to do business. I’ve done some posts about this earlier (here and here).

Is this really a problem if a few County government officials from cash-strapped locales cancel their travel to the convention? I say it’s not. The usual customers for our convention center are trade and professional organizations, not government officials. If a bunch of doctors, or lawyers, or dentists, or accountants, or engineers, or scientists, or whatever books the HCC to host their convention it is not as if those professionals that choose to attend are held accountable for that decision by some outside authority. Politicians who choose to attend, on the other hand, are held accountable by voters and pundits who are quick with the predictable “junket” criticism.

I think government associations are a niche convention market we can live (with or) without.

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Too much “da kine” to store in too-small homes

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:24 am
According to this Advertiser article, there is a demand for self-storage facilities on Oahu that is unfilled. A big new facility on the Hawaii Kai waterfront is planned to relieve some of that demand.

The [Outback Steakhouse] Hawai’i Kai Neighborhood Board in November voted to support the Stor-Secure project, which responded to community group suggestions to make the building design more attractive.

“It’s not going to look like the typical self-storage looking like a concrete block,” said Lester Muraoka, area neighborhood board chairman [as he hungrily plunged into another order of Kookaburra Wings].

Well, that’s a relief. Who would want to store miscellaneous crap possessions in an ugly building?!

Emerging as one of the larger Hawai’i-based storage developers is MW Group, which started with a $15 million facility in Mapunapuna five years ago, and followed that with a complex in Pearl City scheduled to open later this week.

MW Group plans a third storage project in Kaimuki on the former site of a used-car lot at Wai’alae Avenue and Kapi’olani Boulevard across from a Public Storage facility. A fourth storage complex is planned in Kapolei by MW Group, which intends to develop two more on O’ahu.

“We have long realized that there is a great need for modern storage facilities in Hawai’i due to smaller homes, limited garage space and no attics or basements,” said MW Group principal Mike Wood.

Stephen Stadlbauer, a principal with local real-estate appraisal and consulting firm Lesher Chee Stadlbauer Inc., said there is 1.7 square feet of self-storage space per resident on O’ahu ? well below the four square feet per person that an industry almanac pegs as supply-and-demand balance.

Stadlbauer said that even with an additional 1.1 square feet of storage space per person in the development pipeline, O’ahu would still be under-supplied, though urban Honolulu and the ‘Ewa plain will approach or surpass optimal supply.

Gee, it couldn’t be that we just buy more than we need, could it?

If you think about it a bit, by providing a place for stashing all this random junk, these facilities are effectively (albeit temporarily, and without cost to the taxpayer) relieving some of the burden on our landfills. Whodathunk we’d ever get community approval for “landfills” in Hawaii Kai, Kaimuki, and Kapolei? Perhaps the City Council should get into this “storage” business, too, ha ha.

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6/13/2005

2006 Governor’s race; still only rumors of Dem candidate

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:32 am
Today I was tipped to this piece from KITV (dated last Thursday) by an email reflector. I don’t watch television, so I will miss anything that the print people don’t pick up. A compromise I’m more than willing to make, ha ha.

According to the report, Republican Harry Kim was approached and asked to switch parties and run for Governor as a Democrat. He declined.

Some analysts point to why Democrats would have reach into the Republican ranks.

“I think it’s pretty clear they are running out of candidates or at least high-profile candidates for a high-profile office,” political analyst Don Clegg said.

So far, Democrats have floated names of prominent members as possible candidates, including businessman Walter Dods and retired Gen. Eric Shinseki. Both are no longer in the picture. U.S. Rep. Ed Case appears to be content in Washington.

Manoa lawmaker Kirk Caldwell told KITV 4 News he would not pursue a run for governor.

Two Democrats still considering the possibility include Mike McCartney, who is the station manager of PBS Hawaii, and labor lawyer Tony Gill, the Yale-educated son of former Lt. Gov. Tom Gill.

None of those potential Democratic nominees are new, but the comment from Representative Caldwell that we would not run is a change from before. I do not know how KITV reached the conclusion that Shinseki is “no longer in the picture.” I don’t say that to dispute it, but if Shinseki has gone on record anywhere in that regard then I missed it.

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Makakilo rivalry gets ugly

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:13 am
The long-standing feud between political rivals in Makakilo now has another chapter. This time Representative Moses and his wife are seeking a TRO and filing harassment charges against his perennial opponent, Maeda Timson, and her husband. The SB has the sordid tale in all it’s oddity.

In any other district this type of behavior would be hard to imagine, but given the venomous history between the two sides it’s almost not even news. I was, however, struck by this segment of the article:

Moses and ["community activist"] Golojuch said that at the meeting Moses questioned the accuracy of the minutes from an April meeting, when traffic-calming measures were discussed after a traffic fatality.

“He got up there and basically accused the neighborhood board assistant of not doing her job, of deleting things from the minutes,” Golojuch said. “It was not his place to say anything.”

Moses said he did not want the minutes approved without accurately reflecting the discussion.

Moses and Golojuch said Moses at one point called Timson “dishonest.”

Moses said, “I was ruled out of order, and I left.”

I can’t comment on the validity of Moses’ concerns regarding the minutes of the meeting and their accuracy. In any case, Representative Moses will probably really be upset when the change announced earlier by the Neighborhood Commission results in Neighborhood Board minutes that are incomplete by policy, ha ha.

As an interesting legal question, if the TRO is granted, then what happens if Mrs. Moses wants to attend a Neighborhood Board meeting where the Timsons and Golujuch are likely to be present? Hmmm.

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Bringing tinting criminals into the sunlight

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:45 am
The SB has an article that provides some surprising statistics about vehicles with window tinting darker than legally allowed. Thousands of vehicles are cited every year. The fine has been almost tripled for this offense, from $97 to $287, and HPD now has many officers equipped with the instrument necessary to determine if a tint is too dark.

Even with the higher fine, tinting shops still report getting numerous requests for illegal tinting, which they say they turn down for fear of paying the $537 citation for applying illegal tint.

Under the law, tint shops are also required to reapply legal tint on a violator’s car for free or reimburse a customer the cost of the original job.

At T&T Tinting in Salt Lake, anywhere from 20 to 40 people come in every month asking for illegal tint, said customer service representative Jennifer Canianes.

“People know the law and they just want it darker,” she said, adding that most customers can be convinced to go legal, while some find a willing tint applier elsewhere. Most illegal tints, she said, are likely put on by friends or relatives – not in shops.

Wouldn’t it make sense to dismiss or reduce the fine for a violator willing to help prosecute the tint shop that provided the illegal tint? It seems unlikely that the bulk of the illegal tinting is conducted by “friends and relatives.” That would make a good cover story for tinting shops providing illegal tints to coach their customers to recite, however. Heh.

The current enforcement effort seems to mostly target the consumer instead of the supplier. I am surprised that the article did not determine (or mention) how many citations for illegal tint application have been issued. Is that because that number is very small?

If that’s the case, then it isn’t surprising since law enforcement seems to be much more accustomed to going after the small-time symptom of crime instead of the cause. Compare the number of drug manufacturing convictions to the number of small-time drug distribution/possession convictions, for instance.

Meanwhile, state Transportation Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa said “practical exceptions” are made to the tint law for vehicles used by the FBI, Secret Service, some police detectives and high-level government officials. “We don’t go after those groups. Obviously, it’s for security reasons, particularly for the high-level security issues,” Ishikawa said. “Legally, they’re supposed to be no exceptions. We try to make practical exceptions.”

What’s this “we” you speak of, Mr. Ishikawa? The County police enforce this law, not State sheriffs. Of course, since the State does not allow the Counties to keep the fines collected for traffic violations, citing one of the Federal or State violators would be not worth the paperwork and interjurisdictional bickering that would result…

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6/12/2005

Why the delay?

Filed under:
General
HI Media
— Doug @ 9:19 am
Can anybody explain to me why every section of a new weekend online edition of the Advertiser is available promptly EXCEPT the Opinion section, which doesn’t show up until many hours later? Today it didn’t appear until about 9:00 AM HST.

Is there some sort of embargo policy? I dunno. It’s annoying for me as an early-riser/blogger, I know that much.

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Beach festival future cloudy

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:01 am
The Advertsier carries a story that suggest the Brunch on the Beach and Sunset on the Beach programs in Waikiki may be unable to continue in 2006 despite their popularity. It’s no surprise that these events are popular, since they are subsidized by the City they are great “bargains” for those who choose to attend and a shot in the arm for the Waikiki merchants. I’ve never made it to one of these events, but I’ve only heard good things from people who have.

Tom Kiely, chief executive officer of sports marketing company Team Unlimited, said the popularity of an event has nothing to do with finding a new sponsor.

“Major corporations aren’t really interested in that,” Kiely said. “Major corporations honestly are interested in creating revenue and generating profit. It’s the responsibility of the producer to demonstrate to the sponsor why it is a good investment of their money. Whether it’s a Sunset on the Beach or any other event, you got to demonstrate that it is a good value.”

Kiely said private sponsors want to either sell something, promote a new product or increase their name exposure.

“The sponsorship will be a percentage of what they are going to sell,” he said. “For the Brunch and Sunset, they have to become a working, marketing arm of the sponsor. Unless they are willing to do that, they shouldn’t try to get into the game.”

I’m a little confused by all those pronouns in that last quote. Who is “they?” Who is “the producer?” I think that “they” is “the producer” which is the Waikiki Improvement Association, but that’s just my best guess.

Anyway, the earlier part of that excerpt spells out pretty clearly why these events work as publicly-subsidized gatherings and will probably fail without the subsidy: giving things away for free is a money loser for major corporations. Duh. The Waikiki Improvement Association has been given a free (or heavily subsidized) ride at taxpayer expense and it’s coming to a halt.

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Grand Old Pickle

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:29 am
Today Borreca digs into the growing public discord within the Hawaii GOP as the fate of the GET increase will soon be decided (or revealed, if it’s already decided). His column provides me a few things to gnaw on.

On the record Lingle says she is still studying the tax plan, but Slom says she is telling members of the GOP caucus that she expects legislators to promise that they be willing to make changes to the tax bill during the next session or she won’t sign the bill.

“But what happens if they tell you they are going to do it and then they don’t do it next year?” Slom worries.

Indeed. What happens?

What happens is this: it would make the City Council begin again from scratch. Governor Lingle’s publicly-stated concerns with HB 1309 (which were the subject of an earlier post) would conflict with the existing Bill 40, in my opinion.

First, the concern about the State administering the GET tax surcharge and taking a 10% cut for providing that service to the County. If the legislative leadership agreed to address that concern then the City Council would have to set up their own bureaucracy to collect the tax. That sounds easy, but there is no guarantee that the legislature woud actually pass an amendment to address that concern. Furthermore, the Council has no authority to pass an ordinance to collect a GET tax until the State grants it to them, so the Council would have to wait. The December 31, 2005, deadline would pass, HB 1309 would sunset, and the federal government would conclude that Honolulu has bungled the process once again.

Second, the concern that HB 1309 is too limiting regarding Honolulu’s transit solution options would face a similar chicken-and-egg problem. Bill 40 would have to stay in its current form (i.e. excluding any new spending on existing buses, roads, etc.) until the legislature makes the amendment to broaden the allowable uses of the GET surcharge revenue.

The legislature could, of course, make these amendments in a special session, but would they? That’s a big unknown for the Governor. If HB 1309 is not amended this summer in a special session then Bill 40 almost has to be shelved. The other scenario would be for the Council to pass Bill 40 in compliance with the existing form of HB 1309, with the possibility that the ordinance woud need to be repealed and a new bill introduced if the amendments to the enabling legislation are made. Very messy.

Then there’s the federal government and Congress watching this whole clown show. If the Council passes Bill 40 and then repeals/amends it, what would that mean to those allocating the federal money? Would Honolulu look “committed” to a local funding source for improving transit? Would Honolulu seem deserving of federal help? Uh, no.

While Lingle is in China, the GOP is at home fretting about a series of other bills considered either tax increases or anti-business.

The bills include measures to raise the conveyance tax on real estate sales of more than $600,000. Soaring real estate prices mean that $600,000 is a price that would add extra taxes on many sales.

Another bill raises the minimum wage in 50-cent increments until it reaches $7.25. But there is nothing to balance the increase against a larger “tip credit” for waiters and others who earn most of their money from tips.

The GOP caucus wants Lingle to veto both bills.

“None of us agree on those bills,” says Republican Rep. Barbara Marumoto.

Not true. A handful of House Republicans supported HB 1308 and SB 294. Heretics! ha ha.

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6/11/2005

Noble sentiments from the Lingle Administration

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 2:59 pm
Just getting around to commneting on this slightly stale exchange between the Lingle administration (via DAGS director, Russ Saito) and the Hawaii Reporter. The first salvo was a piece titled Governor’s top campaign promise still not kept which was posted on June 2nd. Saito’s response was posted June 8th. The HR piece by Malia Zimmerman is labeled “the first in a series,” but so far I have not seen any further installments.

Both pieces are a bit tedious and somewhat slanted, which is to be expected. However, what (finally) caught my eye was this exchange:

Zimmerman wrote:

Why isn?t the Lingle administration debarring companies that commit politically motivated crimes?

Especially when a Republican administration can use the opportunity to stomp out Democrats? supporters and the Democrats? primary money stream before the 2006 election when Lingle is up for re-election against a Democrat candidate.

To which Saito responded:

We take great issue with one statement made by the Hawaii Reporter. It was noted that the lack of debarments could not be understood, “[e]specially when a Republican administration can use the opportunity to stomp out Democrats? supporters and the Democrats? primary money stream before the 2006 election when Lingle is up for re-election against a Democrat candidate.”

If we were to use the administrative or debarment process to go after companies on a political basis, we would be as corrupt and reprehensible as those who built and participated in the pay to play system. This administration will never act in such a way.

No, never! That assurance should make us sleep better, dear reader.

On a more meta level, it’s illuminating to see the Governor attacked from the right at the HR and to see that Lingle cares enough about what Zimmerman writes to respond and then, finally, to study how she responds. I’ll certainly pay more attention if part 2 of the series is ever posted.

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Map may point to Kamehameha’s burial site

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 9:08 am
Timely stories on this Kamehameha Day about a possible site of the grave of King Kamehameha. The best of the bunch are on the Big Island, such as this article from the West Hawaii Today. Here on Oahu, the Advertiser and the SB each run a piece, too.

I expect that Scott Crawford may have better insight on this once he notices this story (he’s busy today, but he knows the articles are out there), but I’ll take a whack just because one aspect of this story interested me: the Thurston family connection.

The mapmaker listed the coordinates of the [possible burial] site, and [Hawaiian cultural historian] Medeiros said that location is “Thurston Point,” on Kailua Bay in Kailua, Kona.

A portion of the property was dredged in the 1950s to make a channel from the sea to create lagoon out of what have been labeled on some maps as “royal fishponds.”

To protect the channel, property owner and former Advertiser publisher Lorrin P. Thurston also constructed a seawall and breakwater, which encroached on state property. The structures became an issue last year when the new owner, Big Surf Trust, received permission from the state to purchase the public land.

The burial site may have been destroyed when the channel was built, Medeiros said. “I’m just wondering if he might still be out there under something.”

According to this history of the Honolulu Advertiser, Lorrin P. Thurston was the son of a key player in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy and the uncle of Thurston Twigg-Smith who seems to be continuing that work even today. I think it is understating the case to say that the Thurston ohana is not in favor of Hawaiian Sovereignty.

Thus, it could be an explosive development if it turns out that this site is the burial place of Kamehameha. Not only because it is on property so connected to the Thurstons, but also because the Thurston family subsequently dredged the land and, intentionally or not, may have destroyed the burial site in the process. One last irony, for those of you who (like me) are not fans of Microsoft, the current owner of the property in question is rumored to be Microsoft multi-billionaire Paul Allen. Sheesh!

The West Hawaii Today piece carefully points out several times that this potential grave site is far from a sure thing, but the story still strikes me as a fascinating development.

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Narconon nixed by DOE

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:27 am
A SB “Whatever Happened To” story today follows up on the DOE discussions with the, uh, quirky anti-drug program known as Narconon.

Apparently the DOE came to a conclusion similar to my earlier comments, which is to say that the Narconon program is not one that should be pursued any further. Also, as I predicted earlier, Mr. Carr won’t shut up about the rejection and claims his program is being unfairly treated.

Clark Carr, president of Hollywood-based Narconon International, said in a statement that “the education’s department’s actions are erroneously based on a highly prejudiced report done by a California-based organization which intentionally did not examine the volume of facts presented to them concerning the scientific basis and underlying efficacy of the NN program.”

Pretty sly for the SB piece to mention that Narconon is “Hollywood-based” in the same paragraph where Mr. Carr seemingly tries to dismiss the Narconon critics by labeling them “California-based.” Kudos to Rosemarie Bernardo if that juxtaposition was intentional. Heh.

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Questions raised over worker-training bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:12 am
Another possible veto target is identified in a PBN story about SB 813. State funds were very tight, so legislators attempted to use this bill to direct some federal money toward coqui frog eradication under the rubric of a workforce development initiative.

Among the provisions at issue is one that would give $1.7 million a year for two years to a county work-force development agency on the Big Island, provided that the agency set up programs to eradicate coqui frogs, an invasive species that has antagonized residents with its grating croak. Supporters of the bill have said the coqui frog provision is important to Big Island constituents and that it is an appropriate use of the money, while critics have said the coqui frog has no place in it.

The Lingle administration has pointed to a letter from the U.S. Department of Labor saying it vindicates the bill’s critics.

Written by U.S. Department of Labor Regional Administrator Richard Trigg, the letter states that sections of the bill are “unclear and, if enacted, would require careful monitoring” to ensure that Hawaii was using federal work-force development money in accordance with federal law.

For example, Trigg points to a provision of the bill [§ 4 in this link] that appears to say the money would be allocated to the counties before the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations received its portion. But Trigg says that federal law requires the state agency to receive the money first, then distribute it to the counties.

Trigg also notes a concern about the coqui frog provision, saying that the money can be used only to refer employment seekers to coqui frog eradication jobs and not to offer coqui frog eradication training.

I don’t have the benefit of seeing the entire letter, but Trigg’s concern with § 4 is probably a non-issue, in my opinion. The state agency (i.e. DLIR) has the money now. This bill is merely a vehicle to disburse some of the federal money that is sitting unused at the DLIR. Indeed, look at § 3 of the bill, where it begins:

There is appropriated from the unemployment insurance trust fund from moneys deposited pursuant to section 383-123(b) [i.e. the federal funds received years ago] the sum of $10,000,000…

Trigg’s second concern, about the propriety of using the federal money for the coqui frog eradication, may have some merit. I’m not familiar with the federal law so I won’t comment on that claim. I will say this, however, because § 6 of the bill is a severability clause it means that if that coqui frog eradication project is an unlawful use of the money then the bill need not be vetoed for that reason only. The other appropriations which are more obviously aligned with the intent of the federal law could then proceed.

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Matson raises fuel surcharge

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:40 am
The usual suspects all run stories on the announcement from Matson of a higher fuel surcharge. The PBN piece is only a cursory blurb, while the Advertiser and the SB give the topic a more thorough treatment.

The first thing I noticed is that the SB takes a cue from the transit tax opponents’ rhetoric and calls this a “9.5% increase” instead of “a 1% increase, from 10.5% to 11.5%.” Those editorial decisions matter to those people who only skim the headlines… Actually, if you compare curent shipping costs to the total costs after this surcharge increase it will be a net gain of 0.905% (i.e. 111.5% vs. 110.5%). The two (thorough) articles helpfully include a few examples of the real world impact, which help to mitigate the mathematical confusion.

The price to transport a can of beer, for example, would be an additional half-cent, [Matson spokesperson] Hull said, while a 20-pound bag of rice would cost about seven-tenths of a cent.

Hold the phone, what a deal! I assume they meant to say the bag of rice “would increase in price by” instead of “would cost.” ha ha.

Another “price of paradise” story, surely. However, on the bright side, this is welcome news for local producers of goods. They will enjoy a slightly greater competitive advantage over imported goods.

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6/10/2005

Now playing, in three part harmony

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:53 am
Yes, I noticed that the Advertiser has joined my motley chorus and is now among the voices commenting about the delay at the City Council regarding the GET increase for transit. Thanks for asking.

Since the vote on July 6 will only be the second of three readings for Bill 40 at the City Council, it is clear that the Governor will have to show her hand first, then the Council, and then the dealer Feds.

Assuming the Governor and the Council go ahead, after all this sound and fury it would really be something if Congressman Abercrombie has trouble or is ultimately unable to send some of the federal money to Honolulu. At that point we could expect to see another round of our Congressional delegation and the Lingle administration trying to disavow responsibility a la the earlier Akaka Bill bickering.

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Former lege candidate faces harrassment complaint

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:28 am
Both Hawaii County papers have the same story about a DOE employee facing allegations of sexually harassing a co-worker. The Hilo story is here, while the Kona story is here.

It sounds like a sadly routine complaint, except for there are a few potentially political twists. First, the allegations are against a former Republican candidate for the State House of Representatives who ran unsuccessfully in 2002 and 2004. Second, his attorney is Ted Hong, a Lingle nominee who was recently rejected by the Senate for a judge appointment after a partisan skirmish in March.

Leslie Fox, a 30-year-old Spanish teacher at Waiakea High, filed the complaints against Brian Jordan, 50, and the DOE. She told the Tribune-Herald that Jordan made sexual comments to her several times while staring at her body.

Fox also said she heard Jordan make inappropriate comments about a female student. The student complained to school officials but later withdrew her complaint.

Jordan, who ran as a Republican for the state House District 4 seat held by Helene Hale, was master sergeant of Waiakea’s Navy junior ROTC program. He declined on Saturday to discuss the accusations against him.

“I’d rather not say anything,” Jordan said, who is married. “This has been pretty ugly.” He referred further inquiries to his attorney, Ted Hong.

Obviously, unless Jordan is thoroughly exonerated, another attempt at running for office would be very difficult for him. Another interesting aspect of this tale is that Fox also alleges that the DOE “lost” her complaint and retaliated against her for filing it. That charge alone is worth a thorough follow up by the Civil Rights Commission.

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City hiring policy faces challenge

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 11:05 am
The Advertiser has an article today about an ACLU lawsuit on behalf of a non-resident who is seeking a County job. Under HRS § 78-1 the State and County do not hire applicants who are not residents (other than to fill certain “critical positions” and to recruit police officers).

The annotations for that subsection of the HRS suggest that this issue has been challenged before, and I would conclude, since the law is still on the books, that it was upheld by the court. However, I admit that I am ignorant of how to look up those case histories. If someone can help me in that regard, please post a comment.

This could be an interesting case, so I hope it is followed closely in the media.

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Kauai tax relief heading to State Supreme Court

Filed under:
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:09 am
A brief PBN piece announces that the property tax relief approved by Kauai voters in a 2004 ballot question and subsequently overturned at Circuit Court will be appealed at the SC.

As I commented previously (here and here), I think the County will prevail and the tax relief will be invalidated.

Tangentially, while trying to find out the Hawaii SC calendar for this case I came across this useful Findlaw page that compiles a lot of good links (and a few bogus links) for Hawaii judiciary information. From there I found a schedule of oral arguments, but I don’t see this particular case on the schedule.

An oral argument is a presentation of a case before a court by spoken word. Lawyers or parties representing each side in a dispute have 30 minutes to make their case and answer questions from Supreme Court justices or the Intermediate Appellate Court judges. Oral argument is only one part of the decision-making process and may not be held in every case.

To argue before the court, a party must have first submitted a written brief. In preparation for oral argument, the justices or judges and their law clerks read relevant parts of the trial court or agency record, read the briefs, review cases, statutes, and constitutional provisions cited by the parties, and conduct independent legal research on the subjects of the argument. After oral argument the justices or judges prepare a disposition based upon their understanding of the law that applies.

That could mean this particular case is still in the brief stage, or there may be no oral argument in this case.

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6/9/2005

Uncle Sam’s Towing at your service, Comrade

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:47 am
A plan for socialized towing services on the H-1 has led to a lawsuit from a company that has the sole-source contract with the City to provide towing services to HPD, according to this Advertiser article. The City contractor pays the City for the exclusive towing rights and motorists in turn pay the contractor for any service provided. The lawsuit has delayed the bidding to begin offering roadside assistance to motorists on the H-1 with all services subsidized by the federal government.

I travel by scooter, so what happens on the freeway really doesn’t concern me since I can’t enter it. That said, I think the idea is pretty strange. The array of free help to be offered is broad, though I have heard that squeegee services will still only be offered on a “tips only” basis at select on- and off-ramps.

Rather than face a lengthy court battle over the bid proposal, state officials might consider amending it to offer some level of free assistance that doesn’t compete with Stoneridge’s city towing contract, [attorney representing the City contractor] Kawata said.

The state’s bid proposal earlier this year would require the contract winner to provide basic services to stranded motorists, such as fixing a flat tire, taping a radiator hose or providing gasoline.

In addition, the contract called for the towing of disabled vehicles, removal of roadway debris, basic fire extinguisher use, helping police, fire and medical officials at crash scenes, assisting sick or injured motorists with basic first aid and notifying local emergency agencies of incidents.

With apologies to Lenin, “While the State exists there can be no free towing; when there is free towing there will be no State.”

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Fossil fuel and renewable power plants planned

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:05 am
Many power generation-related articles in the local media today. PBN has this miniature piece about a proposal for a new wind turbine facility in Makaha, while the SB has a much more thorough article on the same topic. Meanwhile, the Advertiser skips the wind power angle and runs a story that says HECO is planning for another fossil fuel-driven power plant on Oahu by 2009.

I’m a supporter of renewable energy, so I’m hopeful that the wind power facility can be a success. I’m not sure how the 39 megawatt wind power facility would compare with a new fossil fuel-driven power station in terms of capacity, but somehow the state is supposed to reach a goal of 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. If it’s true that we currently are at 11% renewables and still plan to meet that 20% goal, then it would suggest that either the new fossil fuel-driven plant is not going to be very big or a lot more renewable energy generation ideas need to be announced. Of course, the seeming shortfall may be partially reduced by the watered down definition of renewables (amended in 2004) that now includes “quantifiable energy conservation measures” as part of the renewable energy production. That amendment was a bad idea and a gift to HECO, in my opinion.

Lastly, the Advertiser article refers to a new Integrated Resource Plan, but I can’t seem to get the pdf files to open correctly on this Linux machine. Darn. Hopefully it’s just a quirk and they’ll open for readers who are Mac and Microsoft OS users.

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Vice-Speaker called to active duty

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:55 am
Maybe I missed this while I was at sea, but this Hawaii Reporter article is the first I had heard that Representative Takai has been called to active duty. As far as I can tell he is serving domestically, not in Afghanistan or Iraq, so maybe the other media didn’t think this was worth mentioning.

“While I am dedicated to my service as a state Representative, Department of Defense regulations require that my civil office functions not interfere with the performance of military duties,” Takai writes in a letter he has been sending to constituents who contact his office.

Takai says he was recently was [sic] deployed as the Army National Guard Deputy State Surgeon specifically to provide support for units deployed and returning from active duty.

Because he cannot correspond with constituents, Takai has left his two office personnel – Lisa Vargas and Kendall Matsuyoshi – in charge.

House Speaker Calvin Say, the only person above Takai in the legislative Democrat hierarchy of the House, was not available for comment today on how Takai?s leadership role is being filled while he is away.

The Vice-Speaker’s leadership role? During the interim? Those duties are, uh, few. During any special session his absence could become more of an issue, but the legislature can function without him (or any other legislator) quite smoothly.

I wish him well.

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6/8/2005

Ethics panel gives guidelines to legislators

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:34 am
A letter to legislators from the Ethics Commission forms the basis of this Advertiser article today. After making a phone call I now have a copy of the letter, faxed to me courtesy of the Commission.

In the letter the Commission still does not provide a clear explanation of just what is considered to be an “unwarranted benefit or advantage.” Nevertheless, the letter provides some insights into the Commission’s thinking on “casework” and “constituent service” that are instructive. This excerpt is particularly useful:

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission believes that it cannot categorically prohibit a legislator from assisting a non-constituent, or from becoming involved in a private dispute on behalf of a constituent. However, when the type of assistance given by a State legislator goes beyond helping a constituent on a matter before a State executive branch agency, it is more likely that concerns will be raised under HRS section 84-13. In all such cases, the underlying requirement of HRS section 84-13 is that such representation by a legislator on behalf of a constituent or party must be fair, or the actions of the legislator may be considered to grant an “unwarranted advantage” for a private party.

In order to be fair, the Commission believes that before taking sides, so to speak, under HRS section 84-13, a legislator must review the merits of both sides to a controversy or case, and become knowledgable of the claims of both sides, and the facts of the situation. A constituent’s claims must not be taken at face-value. If a constituent’s claims prove to be inaccurate, a disservice is done with regard to trust and confidence in state government. Trust or confidence in the state legislator may also be undermined. Further, a legislator’s conduct may violate HRS section 84-13.

In accordance with HRS section 84-13, the Commission believes that when rendering “constituent service,” to be fair, a legislator must make an effort to ascertain the merits of both sides of a case first. If a legislator believes that a case is meritorious, the State Ethics Commission believes a legislator may intervene, but not in a manner which is coercive, or in which direct or indirect threats are made, or reprisals suggested. A legislator must generally act as a facilitator in such cases, and, after reviewing the merits of both sides, may express a judgment. The role of a legislator when performing constituent service is to act in the interests of the public, or in the interest of justice or equity. This is mandated by the “Fair Treatment” section of the State Ethics Code. If a legislator acts without examining the merits of both sides and the facts of the case before acting, a legislator may accord one side an unwarranted advantage, in violation of HRS section 84-13.

From that it would seem that legislators have pretty wide latitude to act, so long as they make an effort to review both sides of the issue first. How this advice applies to a situation where the opposing side is unwilling to participate in that review is unclear. That is, if the opposition (e.g. NCL or Turtle Bay Resort) tells the legislator(s) to stay out of the dispute, then what? Is that enough of a review, or is the legislator barred from any further intervention at that point?

The second part of the article is just as interesting.

The state Office of Information Practices, meanwhile, ruled last week that [Senator] Kanno must give The Advertiser a copy of a letter he wrote to the Philippine ambassador in Washington in January 2000 asking him to investigate whether Rouse received due process at his trial in the Philippines for a sex crime.

Other lawmakers have said they knew Rouse as a gay rights activist and some said they were aware of his conviction in the Philippines when they helped him with Norwegian, but Kanno has declined to comment.

The letter to the ambassador shows that Kanno knew of Rouse’s conviction. Rouse has said he was set up by authorities. While he was in prison, he was able to obtain similar letters from politicians from several states.

Attorneys for the Senate and House advised lawmakers that such letters are personal and do not have to be disclosed to the public, but the Office of Information Practices has taken the position that correspondence on official letterhead is public. Kanno referred to the legal advice, along with concerns about Rouse’s privacy, in at first denying The Advertiser’s request for any Rouse-related records, but he released a copy of the letter on Thursday.

This amplifies what I wrote earlier, because if Senator Kanno knew of this conviction in the Phillippines and still chose to intervene with NCL it makes it unlikely that Kanno took that step without a good cause. Here’s the relevant section of that prior post:

To think that Kanno would have blindly came to the worker?s defense if he thought his dismissal was legitimate is illogical. Kanno had nothing to gain from intervening, and would surely recognize the ethical implications (not to mention the bad publicity) of intervening on behalf of a sexual harasser, and a homosexual one, to boot. It just doesn?t make sense that Kanno would have intervened unless he had faith in the worker?s account of events and felt compelled, even obligated, to defend him.

If they have not already begun, it would sure be great if the Ethics Commission moved promptly on this Kanno investigation.

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School fixes should not be politicized

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:20 am
The Advertiser finally gets around to editorializing on the process that finds CIP money going to DOE projects that are more likely to be suggested by legislators than by the prioritized list provided by the DOE. The Brannon article on this topic Sunday led to my post and to another comment from Peter at VoteHawaii.

I’m following along with their editorial just fine until the end.

Legislators have a right, indeed a duty, to fight for their districts. But that fight should take place at the Department of Education, as priority construction lists are drawn up.

If legislators feel the DOE list is out of whack, they should say so and explain how it should be fixed, rather than simply substituting their own priorities.

Far more construction money was approved for projects identified by legislators than was approved for projects identified by the Department of Education. That may reflect political reality. But it is no way to run a school system.

The place for legislators to fight for their districts is in the Department of Education, as it builds its construction priority list, not in the caucuses and back rooms of the Legislature.

Sorry, but I simply don’t see how the DOE is a better venue than the caucuses and back rooms of the Legislature for legislators to fight for CIP spending at schools serving their districts. Neither place is especially open to public observation and input. Ultimately the legislators control the purse, so I think the predictable end result would be that the CIP “priorities” would converge toward the legislators’ input and diverge from the DOE list. Thus, the outcome at the schools would change very little.

I maintain that a much more open process of establishing, justifying, and publicizing the DOE priority list is critical. Only then will circumventing or ignoring the priority list become a concern for legislators.

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Special session for a tax cut?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:59 am
Borreca gives us another good column today, this time a piece about a potential tax-cutting agenda for the (still theoretical) special session. The Governor tends to lean from theoretical to likely, given this coy comment:

“I would certainly hope that if there is a special session this summer – and glancing over the vetoes that might occur, I think there would be a special session – we would expect tax relief to be a critical part of the agenda for the Legislature,” Lingle said.

The vetoes that might occur? Ooooh, tell us, tell us! Yawn.

I made the bulk of my veto and special session comments before my last sailing trip in this post, so I won’t rehash all of that again. However, this column also provides us this medley of quotes from Senate President Bunda:

“If we are talking special session, we should consider tax relief,” Bunda said.

—and—

Bunda said a special session is still “up in the air.”

“It is still fluid, I am still trying to feel out a special session or even if we can have a veto override session,” Bunda said.

That’s the big mystery, folks. Do his supporters and opponents have their leadership defense/change alliances formed and ready to move on July 12, or will the Senators allow the vetoes to stand? Gee, when it comes to Special Session intrigue I lament that the TransPac race begins on July 11!

Nah. Who am I kidding? A bad day on the ocean is better than any week of legislation.

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Editori-aoke

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:32 am
Hmmm.

If you’ve been reading this blog closely, then this SB editorial on the Honolulu City Council antics regarding the GET increase for transit might sound awfully familiar.

Compare the editorial to my posts here, here, and here and decide for yourself if you see the, uh, similarities. Heh. Maybe I’ll add a motto to the masthead.

Poinography: Wednesdays editorials on Tuesday, and the previous Saturday and Thursday.

ha ha

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New panel to take credit for economic vitality

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:53 am
Kudos to Sean Hao for this classic lede to his latest article about a group formed by the Governor to make economic plans for the state.

Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday announced the creation of a commission aimed at staving off Hawai’i’s next economic downturn.

Once completed in October, the report by the “Economic Momentum Commission” would share shelf space with several prior studies and plans done during the 1990s and earlier, including those with names such as the Hawai’i Economic Revitalization Task Force, Hawai’i Tomorrow, Hawai’i 2020 and Ke Ala Hoku.

Heh. The story could have ended right there.

Groups like this are odd political beasts. Drawing from so many sectors of the political and business community they tend to be very banal in their recommendations in order to reach a consensus. The members of the group tend to look around and say, “Wow, these are truly the powers-that-be, so I should be honored to serve. Just don’t ask me to cut my own throat and we’ll get along just fine.”

A common theme in several plans for Hawai’i’s economy over the years ? including the Hawai’i Economic Revitalization Task Force in 1998 ? has been tax reform. That task force’s recommendations resulted in a cut in individual income taxes and reforms of the general excise tax on the resale of services. However, other task force recommendations such as reductions in corporate income taxes and increasing the general excise tax were never enacted.

Another theme in past reports has been the need to diversify the state’s visitor-based economy. That’s been discussed for decades, but long-standing hurdles include Hawai’i’s geographic isolation, powerful unions, high labor costs, a tough tax and regulatory environment, a lack of available workers with high-tech skills and an emphasis on controlled economic growth.

Representative Schatz gets the money quote in the article: “In order to make this work, we have to sustain the effort when all the cameras have left.”

Thumbs up, people!

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Nieghborhood Board plans to curtail long meetings run into opposition

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:34 am
An interesting piece in the Advertiser today about a decision from the Neighborhood Commission Office Executive Secretary to implement changes meant to shorten the length of Neighborhood Board meetings. City employees, known as “neighborhood assistants,” attend the meetings and take minutes. The assistants will now only attend for 2 hours and will take less-detailed minutes.

In her monthly newsletter, [Secretary] Hufana-Ablan says the time restriction for assistants will start in July and will reduce overtime pay for meetings that run on for hours. She said the changes regarding minutes are new office policy and will take effect immediately. The move will save the city in two ways ? worker time in transcribing notes and money on paper.

“Most of the board meetings are more than three hours,” Hufana-Ablan said. “They start at 7 and finish at midnight. It’s not really effective for my (neighborhood assistants) and it costs a lot of money for the city, so we have to cut down.”

Hufana-Ablan said the purpose of the boards is to increase participatory democracy, involving communities in the decisions that affect them, but when meetings go on for too long, people will not waste their time attending.

“If people find out it is limited to two hours, more people will attend,” she said. “Right now, based on my observations and talking to people about their concerns, the response is the meetings are too long. If we cut it to two hours, maybe more people can participate.”

The Neighborhood Commission Office operates with an annual budget of about $700,000, which pays for everything, including salaries, to run the boards, she said.

To save time, the meetings need to be run in a way that is effective for the boards and the commission office, Hufana-Ablan said.

“What is going on is that anybody can speak for how long on any issue and another person will speak again on the same topic,” she said. “They just go on and on and on and on. It’s not really effective.”

Wha? By what measure is lengthy testimony not effective?! Well, that would depend upon what she considers to be the desired “effect” of a functioning Neighborhood Board.

Her comment that more people can participate in a shorter meeting is downright cryptic, unless by “participate” she means “attend as spectators only.” Neighborhood Boards are already relegated to little more than the farm leagues where potential City Council and Legislature candidates often serve to cut their political teeth and get some name recognition. The Boards have no taxing or spending authority and may only issue resolutions expressing the community viewpoint on various issues. Incidentally, it seems the more persuasive of the Boards are those that consistently have the longest meetings, go figure.

By attempting to limit Board meetings to two hours and by publishing the minutes of the meeting in a reduced barebones format the Boards will only slip further into irrelevancy. Call me cynical, but I suspect that further neutering the Boards is the “effect” sought by the Secretary.

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Didn’t see these revenus coming, did you?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:03 am
After the Council on Revenues and the Economic Research Office forecasted a growing economy, guess what? The economy grew. Those folks are good, yeah?

The Advertiser has this short blurb on the figures released for the 11-month total of general fund revenues. The $3.6B figure puts the state right on pace to meet the CoR forecasted total for FY 2005.

I suppose it isn’t “news” if the forecast is correct? If the revenues were ahead or behind the pace would it have been mentioned?

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6/7/2005

Libertarians offer cure for plague

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:37 am
An unexpected op-ed in todays Advertiser from Libertarian Party chair Tracy Ryan. It’s another comment on the power of the public employee unions. I know, it sounds like a yawner, but the twist is that Ryan assigns the Republican Governor to be among those in the same state of thrall to the unions as the Democratic Legislature.

As for the current governor, she has spent the past five years avoiding the issue of the power of public employees. Statements she made to the Small Business Hawai’i annual conference in January 2002 indicated her equivocation. She said she would only cut government employees through attrition.

Even some of the Democrats on the panel rolled their eyes at this one. She has openly sought the support of the unions representing teachers and university faculty who were angered over Cayetano’s handling of their contract negotiations. She has criticized Cayetano for allowing these unions to strike. In short, she played right into the hands of the public employee unions Republicans only now wish to publicly take issue with.

Both parties need to concentrate on cleaning up their own houses. Democrats who feel the current cast of characters have sold out to the public employee unions need to work to replace them through their own primaries. The alternative is to have the GOP use this issue effectively to take political power in the state.

Fiscal conservatives have to reinvent the Republican Party and take it away from the control of the empty-suit Lingle administration and the spin doctors who drive its policies. I find that there is widespread dislike for the Democrat-controlled Legislature among voters who don’t want to support a Republican alternative they see as nothing but fear-mongering and name-calling.

Fair or not, that’s how many feel.

It’s a bit curious that the Libertarian Party, with precisely zero members holding elected public office (as far as I know), has decided to prescribe a cure for what ails the two mainstream political parties. Doctor, heal thyself! Still, Ryan’s observation of the public sentiment can be seen as another example of the frustration that fiscal conservatives in Hawaii are finding in the Hawaii GOP.

Anyway, unlike the Libertarians, both parties know that you won’t get far in politics in Hawaii by ignoring the unions. Fiscal conservatives may be unhappy with Governor Lingle, but they do not form the base of her support. I think the Governor has made (and will make) much more gains by appealing to the “values voters” and riding the George Bush coattails than by demonizing public employee unions.

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Bill to raise excise tax on hold

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:12 am
Both Honolulu papers have stories about a Honolulu City Council decision to delay 2nd reading on Bill 40, the GET increase for transit. The Advertiser piece is here and the SB article is here.

Why the delay? Well, the explanations vary. The Advertiser story says this:

The rail tax vote was postponed after council members expressed concerns about putting a financial plan for mass transit in place before a preferred transit option is identified. Another issue is whether Honolulu will qualify for federal funding.

Neither of those concerns will go away in one month, so that explanation is pretty flimsy. The SB has this more multi-faceted explanation for the delay:

Councilman Rod Tam offered the amendments to the bill last week, and Hannemann said there was not enough time to consider all the ramifications.

Tam said the postponement “gives us time to get more of the details from the mayor.”

He blamed the administration for failing to provide detailed information on the rail system, including financial plans and a plan for the rail route.

Hannemann said postponing the vote does not send a negative signal to Gov. Linda Lingle, who said earlier that she will wait until July 12 to take action on the legislative bill that authorizes counties to increase the general excise tax to fund transportation projects. Hannemann also said the delay should not hinder efforts to seek federal funding.

“I still think that we’re still on target in terms of moving something out,” said Hannemann, who said the delay gives the city more time to make sure any bill that raises taxes is properly considered.

Councilman Romy Cachola said the decision should not be interpreted “as if the Council has cold feet or are in disarray.”

Rather, it will allow other parties to give input, and allow the Council to look at alternatives, he said.

When asked why he proposed the postponement, Councilman Nestor Garcia said he needed time to “make sure what we’re doing is where we want to go.”

Again, neither the financial plan nor the rail route will be ready in a month, so the delay won’t help in that regard. Councilmember Cachola for some reason fell into the “don’t think of an elephant” trap, by disavowing cold feet and disarray readers are inclined to suspect—cold feet and disarray. Heh. Councilmember Garcia’s comment only reinforces that interpretation.

Personally, my explanation is a combination of cold feet and the comment I made at the end of an earlier post: Why should they rush this bill through to the Mayor if Governor Lingle might veto the enabling legislation? If the bill is all but complete and then that veto were to happen Councilmembers who support the bill would be left with only the political downside of supporting the GET increse, with no potential transit improvement upside. Furthermore, if they had passed their bill before Lingle announced her decision the scrutiny and pressure on the Governor to veto HB 1309 would only increase. I’m sure Lingle would rather not be in that box, and since they need her support to make anything happen Councilmembers in favor of rail transit wouldn’t want to put her in there.

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Only Kobabyahsi can stop GET apocalypse?

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 9:46 am
You just don’t see very much old-fashioned hyperbole in the local media, but the best place to look for it today is this Hawaii Reporter piece about the GET surcharge for transit.

If the record tax increase passes, many more local families will be torn apart because their children will not be able to afford to live in Hawaii, and will continue to leave the state in search of affordable homes, jobs, a better education system and a lower cost of living.

If the record tax increase passes, more families will suffer when one or both parents have to get yet another job to pay the bills and so spend less time with their kids. Or worse, domestic violence, substance abuse and child abuse will increase because of more financial stress on families.

If the record tax increase passes, more businesses will close because they cannot afford the taxes and mandates imposed by Hawaii government. They won?t be able to continue to operate in the state rated with the highest overall tax burden and the “worst place to do business in the nation” stigma. Businesses taking their operations elsewhere will take their jobs with them.

Whether they accept the responsibility or not, Lingle and Kobayashi are now solely responsible for making the decision whether to raise the General Excise Tax. They are responsible for deciding whether to further destroy the quality of life for the more than 1 million people who live in Hawaii, particularly on Oahu, or to improve their quality of life.

What’s more, for every person that supports the GET increase, I have it on good authority that God kills a kitten. Seriously, it’s hard to take seriously these dire predictions. GET increase = bad schools, business failures, substance abuse and domestic violence? Please.

Furthermore, the contention that Kobayashi is the key player in this debate is, uh, arguable. The article asserts that,

Council members Rod Tam and Donovan Dela Cruz are wavering in their initial support of the record tax hike, but they will vote with Kobayashi – if she turns against the tax increase, they both will too, and that means Bill 40 will die along with the tax hike.

I suppose Kobayashi’s ego might like to hear of this purported iron grip she holds on the votes of Tam and Dela Cruz, but it is hard to see why it would be true. Why is Kobayashi’s influence so strong on those two and yet unable to influence any of the four solid supporters of Bill 40? It seems as if some people are trying to set Kobayashi up as the next Rene Mansho, i.e. the latest personification of the “vote that killed transit.” However, giving Kobayashi that label might upset Djou, who has already loudly laid claim to the “transit/tax slayer” mantle.

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50 Hawaii icons – Golden Anniversary of Hawaii Business magazine

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 9:14 am
Unless you are a longtime kama`aina or a hardcore Hawaii history buff, I’m sure you’ll learn at least a few things from the 4-part story in the 50th Anniversary Edition of Hawaii Business Magazine. It’s a list of 50 “icons” of Hawaii during that timeframe.

The entries most relevant to me and this blog are: The Big Five, Harry Weinberg, Chinn Ho, Matsuo Takabuki, Bob Oshiro, Elmer Cravalho, William Richardson, John Burns, and Ah Quon McElrath. Check out the story when you have some free time.

Congrats to the magazine for reaching the milestone, too!

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Review of City assets should be done carefully

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 8:51 am
Another of those moments today where I find myself wondering if I’m a freelance editorial page writer. Compare this Advertiser editorial with my post from last week. The conclusion of my piece is thematically very similar to this from the Advertiser:

The team will likely make recommendations from a business point of view on whether properties should be kept or sold, and that makes sense. But the administration and council also must think beyond that. While promises of short-term profits are alluring during tight fiscal times, the city must opt for prudent long-term public policy and stability.

True, in some cases, selling would be the wisest course, given the current hot real estate market, but a longer view must be taken in others. The team also should explore openings for public-private partnerships that could generate a sustainable revenue stream for the city, as well as ways to encourage affordable-housing development, one of our most critical needs.

Thankfully, Charles Djou’s opinions notwithstanding, the City is not a corporation beholden to shareholders who demand profit maximization. If that were true it would be trouble, because affordable housing is almost surely not the most lucrative use of City property.

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6/6/2005

Gov’s policy advisor praises Rep. Fox, scolds Hawaii Reporter

Filed under:
HI State Politics
HI Media
— Doug @ 10:47 am
Finally we begin to get a peek behind the Republican curtain regarding the removal of Representative Fox from his House Minority Leader post last week. (Still nothing at the GOP Hawaii website about the leadership change, by the way. The official House website also still shows Fox as Minority Leader)

Today we find this piece at the Hawaii Reporter from the Governor’s senior policy advisor, Linda Smith. Smith chides the Hawaii Reporter for an article last week that was not very flattering to Representative Fox. That piece, by Malia Zimmerman, had this to say about Fox:

Behind the scenes, throughout the 2005 Legislative session, which runs from January to May, Fox was hounded by Republicans, conservatives and business owners, who were angered over his lack of leadership of the minority caucus.

Some of the Republicans in the House voted with their Democrat counterparts and against businesses and the free market on important issues as did Fox. Critics, some of his harshest being Republicans, attributed those anti-business votes by Republican House members in part to Fox?s weak leadership and his inability to educate fellow Republicans on key issues, rather than independence of caucus members.

Coming to Fox’s defense, Smith has this to say in rebuttal:

[Fox] has deftly balanced his leadership duties with ensuring that all members of the [Republican] Caucus are given full and fair latitude to shape the ongoing policy debates of our times.

An outstanding leader is someone who nurtures young leaders and knows when it is time to give them an opportunity to lead.

Actually, despite the banality of Smith’s words, Smith’s comments and Zimmerman’s are not incompatible, but the conservatives Zimmerman talked to are probably not much interested in “full and fair policy debates.” Those conservatives and business owners would prefer strict party discipline. Such as, for instance, the way Tom DeLay had been known to lead the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.

It remains a very open question if Representative Finnegan is, or will become, the disciplinarian those folks seek. Even if that were her desired leadership style, Finnegan (or any other Republican) really has very few carrots and sticks to keep the Caucus under her control. It would seem that Finnegan can count on scoldings from Hawaii Reporter to punish her and/or all those who “stray” from the conservative path, however.

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NCL learns from Pride of Aloha launch

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:09 am
The Advertiser has this report about the new Norwegian Cruise Line ship about to make its way to Hawaii. The article fosuses on the steps taken to avert a repeat of the bad publicity that the earlier cruises of a sistership suffered.

[NCL America’s] Kritzman said the turnover rate isn’t unusual for a large, startup hospitality business. But it represents a challenge in launching a U.S.-flagged ship, which must employ U.S. workers and follow U.S. labor laws.

The employee turnover at the company’s international ships are “very, very low,” he said.

“People just don’t leave those jobs. They get paid very well compared to what they’d make at home [emphasis mine]. Relatively speaking, they get paid extremely well.”

With a U.S.-flagged ship “we’re competing with the U.S. workforce and U.S. pay scales (and) work standards.”

Recruiting and training employees is a key issue for NCL, which has partly blamed a lack of experience among crew members for the Pride of Aloha’s growing pains.

I continue to think that the “lack of experience” is only symptomatic of a bigger problem. For the salary and working conditions offered by a cruise ship a skilled restaurant or hotel worker in the United States can make much more money in a shore-based job. Crew members sign on for a short while and soon become get fed up with it. I don’t predict that NCL will be overcoming the staff attrition and service quality problems unless or until the wages improve. If their recent run-in with Senator Kanno (and others) is any indication, the company has some, uh, disagreeable employment practices that might also be hurting retention, too.

“The revenue numbers have been good,” he said. “We don’t discuss specifics, but we’re pleased. … On a steady state business, when you take out startup expenses, it’s basically according to plan. The startup costs have been a little higher than we anticipated, but that’s really just an investment.

I’m no accountant and I haven’t seen their books, but I think they will have to consider putting a bit of that revenue back into salaries. I don’t think the “startup costs” are as temporary as Kritzman believes them to be.

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Extra-terrestial poi!

Filed under:
Science
— Doug @ 9:38 am
A cool NASA program and an enthusiastic charter school on the Big Island have joined together. The result is described in this Hawaii Tribune-Herald piece about their experiment that will entail sending some kalo plants up for a rocket ride later this week.

Waimea Middle, a public charter school, was one of the first 50 NASA Explorer Schools chosen two years ago and given the challenge of helping the space agency develop new ideas for space travel.

Noetzel asked her students what Hawaii might offer. They discussed the cultural aspects of taro with Hawaiian practitioner Pua Case, the school’s student services coordinator, who told them taro is still viewed by many Native Hawaiians as a cherished “elder sibling,” reflecting the connection between Native Hawaiians and nature.

“The cultural connection supports learning because few, if any, of our students would associate taro and poi with science and technology,” [teacher] Noetzel said. But 2,000 years ago Polynesian voyagers depended on poi when they set out to explore the Pacific– an experiment likened to NASA’s exploration of space.

That is some very cool stuff. The article concludes with some information about a webcast of the event:

For more, log on here, where NASA will conduct a live Webcast at 8 a.m. Thursday featuring the Waimea students and Noetzel describing the experiment and showing footage of the launch and recovery.

And when they get poi from space, all they will need is some fish, rice, lomi salmon, pipikaula perhaps – auwe, there’s still a lot of work for the first space luau. But it’s a start, and it could just be out of this world.

Hmmm. Can you picture this scene someday?

“Open the poi bay door, Hal!” ha ha

Comments (0)
Case clearly will run for US Senate when incumbents are pau

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:28 am
Close on the heels of what Borreca had written and I had posted about earlier, this West Hawaii Today article puts Congressman Case clearly on record with his intent to run for the U.S. Senate.

Case, however, remains committed to his moderate approach and to increasing his seniority in Washington. With Hawaii’s Sen. Daniel Akaka and Sen. Daniel Inouye both in their 80s, the state is facing a leadership transition on the Senate floor. Case hopes to step in.

“When there is an opening in the U.S. Senate, I intend to run for the seat,” Case said.

File that under “confirming the obvious.” Some comment on that quote and an explanation of his own ambitions (if any) from Congressman Abercrombie would be interesting, wouldn’t it? The young upstart reaching around him for the brass ring and all that…

Comments (0)
One in three to enlist in military from American Samoa?

Filed under:
General
— Doug @ 9:20 am
Sort of stretching the self-imposed subject boundary of my post topics, but this article from New Zealand describes problems with recruiting people for military service from American Samoa.

Sergeant Suiaunoa says the number of deaths in recent conflicts has affected recruiting.

But he says recruiting targets have also risen.

“We have some of our sons and daughters who?ve paid the ultimate price. But [because of] the war on terrorism, our recruiting command has been asked to increase the enlistees by 20,000 recruits,” he said.

According to this link the total population of American Samoa is less than 60,000 people. How the heck can they expect 20,000 to join the military?!

Comments (1)
6/5/2005

Politicians pick which schools to fix

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 8:26 am
A nice piece of work by Johnny Brannon today in the Advertiser story about education CIP decisions. It provides a good balance of data and comments from players in the process.

I’d like to key in on two segments of the article.

First:

The Department of Education and the board draw up a prioritized list of projects and money requests for each state budget cycle, but the Legislature decides what makes the final cut.

…and, Second:

“There’s never enough money, so you’re always fighting over limited resources, but this is about control,” [Representative] Schatz said. “This is about whether principals and teachers and parents should be listened too [sic], or whether the DOE’s central administration should be listened to. … There’s no monopoly of wisdom about community needs either in the DOE or in the Legislature or in the governor’s office. And so this process of push and pull and give and take ends up giving us a better product in the end.”

Representative Schatz may have a point in spite of himself, but his comment is a non-sequitor. I’m not sure it is fair to compare a prioritized list from the DOE/BOE, the essentially unranked list of what ends up in the CIP budget, and the projects for which the Governor actually releases funds to proceed. I don’t think the DOE/BOE does enough to explain how they arrive at their priorities, but at least the projects they propose are ranked in some manner. The budget bill could be considered a de facto ranking of priority as seen by legislators, but only in the sense of two ranks—funded or unfunded. Surely (or at least hopefully) Schatz does not mean to say that every project included in the budget is considered more important by legislators than every unfunded project left out of the budget. As for listening to teachers, principals, and parents, it is unlikely that they will be able to objectively compare their needs to other schools outside of their own and it is unrealistic to expect that from them. To a large extent that holds true for legislators’ concerns for schools serving the children of their district, too. In any case, to say this chaos gives us a “better product” is a bit of a stretch, unless the “product” spoken of is something other than schools.

With the economic forecast posts still fresh in my mind, this would be another example where it would be useful for a better exposition of how these decisions are made. To suggest that the legislators’ decisions are purely political and the DOE/BOE decisions are purely objective is an easy shorthand, but it may not be true. The DOE/BOE, were they able to explain their decisions and ranking methodology better, would probably find it is harder for the Lege to disregard their input. Barring that outcome, it would at least pressure legislators to explain their own methodology when choosing other priorities.

Comments (0)
Chandeliers at Lege get pricy refurb

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 7:48 am
You know things are slow in the newsroom when there is a pretty big article in the SB about the chandeliers in the House and Senate chambers being refurbished. Nevertheless, as one who has had an ambivalent opinion of our Very Brady interior design at the Capitol, the article is an interesting read.

The artist who created the chandeliers, Otto Piene, said they were not designed to be flashy disco lighting or something from a ’60s light show. Instead, the sun and moon were to have a “gentle rhythm.”

Piene is a sculptor, painter, and author and is the former director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“They were not aggressive. The sun has white light distributed over golden globes that would perform a light play and you would see the rainbow on the surface of the walls and ceiling.

“The moon is a silver orb and pale. It is lighted inside by layers of colored bulbs that make it appear the inside of the moon is alive with the colors of the rainbow,” Piene said.

Far our, man!

In their most recent state of repair the chandeliers are just plain odd and anachronistic. If the contractors are able to restore them their original state it sounds as if these fixtures would be even more unusual.

Incidentally, concerning this issue:

Originally controlled by a primitive 1971 computer that only a few people knew how to operate, the two chandeliers now only turn on and off.

It would be a relatively trivial project for some geeks engineering students using technology similar to what is behind this device to reproduce the groovy rainbow color changes in the chandeliers using LEDs. The lightshow could then be customizable and LEDs are far more reliable, lighter, and more energy efficient.

I’ll be sure to send DAGs an invoice for my unsolicited consulting work. Heh.

Comments (0)
Borreca surveys Senator Akaka’s re-election bid

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 6:30 am
Todays SB Borreca column once again picks the scab of “who will run for ______ in 2006.” This time the blank is US Senate.

To begin with, I almost couldn’t believe it when I saw this part of the piece:

Since Akaka was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1990 in a special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Spark M. Matsunaga, he has raised just $4.1 million, roughly the same amount that Hillary Clinton collected this year.

That’s amazing. If there is a US Senator with even less fundraising than that, I’d be surprised. I’m actually encouraged by this inasmuch it suggests the Senator isn’t spending all of his spare moments dialing for dollars.

The real crux of the column is this, however:

If Akaka were to either not run or not finish another term, much of Hawaii political establishment stands ready to fill the vacuum. Everyone from Lingle to John Waihee would consider a run for the Senate. Even Hawaii’s two congressmen, Case and Rep. Neil Abercrombie, would be interested. If Case and Abercrombie were to go for a Senate seat, the rest of the political class would jump into the fray for a seat in Congress.

One thing not explicitly mentioned in the column but is worth noting is this: Governor Lingle is the only Republican mentioned to run for a Senate seat. No other Republican even comes close to her notoriety and ability to raise money. Despite her protestations, Lingle would face a lot of pressure and almost have to run unless the Republicans were willing to concede the seat to the Democrats. In that event, who would the Republicans run for Governor in 2006? Duke Aiona? Hmmm.

Comments (0)
6/4/2005

Hula Bowl to leave Maui, shake down Oahu instead

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 7:43 am
Several stories today suggest that the Hula Bowl will be leaving Maui and could once again be held on Oahu next time after almost a decade on the Valley Isle. The Advertiser, SB, and PBN each have an article, but I was more interested in this Maui News piece that has some tasty quotes from Mayor Arakawa of Maui.

?From our perspective, we are not prepared to give [the Hula Bowl owners] any more concessions just to keep them on Maui. Quite frankly, it hasn?t been great economically for the county. The package that they have tried to put together for the community has not helped attendance, which has been sparse.??

Arakawa added that the game has been in financial straits for the last few years. Even with new ownership in place for the 2005 game, getting payments due for county services was not easy.

?We have had trouble collecting money for the police officers who provided security and other agencies,?? Arakawa said. ?They wanted us to cut back even further for security. There are a number of other things that they may be able to get from Oahu. If that is what they need to do to survive, we are not going to fight the issue.??

What a refreshing bit of candor. Compare that to the SB description of the Oahu reaction:

Hula Bowl representatives also met once with Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and have spoken with a Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau official.

“As a courtesy, they contacted the mayor’s office,” Hannemann spokesman Mark Matsunaga said. “We did not solicit them, and we haven’t heard from them since. If the game does come back, Mayor Hannemann would look to assist it as he would any major sports event.”

Rex Johnson of the Hawaii Tourism Authority said the HTA provided $25,000 to the Hula Bowl last year, but proposals for funding for next year won’t be reviewed until August.

“There’s certainly been talk about the game being at Aloha Stadium,” he said. “The Hula Bowl will likely be one of the many proposals that comes through our door this year.”

Only time will tell how far the State and the City will bend over backward to accomodate the Hula Bowl. Frankly, I think moving the game makes about as much sense as lipstick on a pig. There are simply too many bowl games. Too few of the best players, who are looking to impress NFL scouts, are willing to risk injury playing in the Hula Bowl. It’s therefore no surprise tha few fans are so catholic in their team allegiances as to get excited about watching two squads of B-list players from an array of conferences go through the motions on what is to the players essentially a junket to Hawaii.

Comments (1)
Tam’s amendment to GET increase for transit gains support

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 7:10 am
According to this SB article, the amendment to the transit GET increase bill offered by Councilmember Tam (previsously discussed here) has found two more supporters. The bill and the amendment will be on the Council agenda Monday. If it passes the bill would then be scheduled fors 3rd reading next month.

The proposal would allow the tax to be levied on Jan. 1, 2007. The City Council may reconsider the tax hike later if three conditions are not met: The operational, financial, developmental and route plan for a proposed transit system must be completed; the Council must vote to approve such a system; and a commitment of federal funding must be made.

Even if the amendment fails, the Council does need to grant itself authority to reconsider the tax hike at any time (so long as they comply with the enabling State legislation). I can only chuckle when legislative bodies see the need to include “escape clauses” in legislation. It’s not like they are amending the City Charter! Given this fact, Councilmember Djou is correct:

“It’s a vehicle to oppose a tax increase while voting for a tax increase,” Djou said. “Either you favor the tax or you don’t. The reality is you have to pick a side.”

Taking one step back: it’s also a bit amusing that (as the article correctly points out) all of this Council manuevering is going forward before the Governor has even approved the enabling legislation or allowed the bill to become law without her signature… Imagine if Lingle vetoes the bill and the legislature is unable to muster the support to override the veto. In that case these 7 Councilmembers will have put themselves on record in favor of this GET/transit issue yet will be unable to show anything for it—good or bad.

Not that I seriously think the Governor will veto the bill.

Comments (0)
New owner takes over Kauai newspaper

Filed under:
HI Media
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 6:34 am
Briefly, a follow-up to yesterdays post. The Garden Island News has a new owner. Lee Enterprises, Inc. has bought the paper (and others of the Pulitzer family), beating out Gannett.

The Advertiser has the story here. It includes this ominous quote:

“It’s a shame that the Pulitzer name and its reputation is now gone from the American newspaper industry,” said Ed Bishop, a professor of journalism at Webster University in suburban St. Louis and editor of the St. Louis Journalism Review.

Bishop also expressed concern about whether Lee will be able to absorb the cost without cutbacks. “If they can do it by increasing revenue like Mary Junck [Lee’s Chairman] says they will, great,” he said. “If they do it the way it’s normally done in these acquisitions, by squeezing the newsroom and the news holes, that’s not great.”

I’m not sure there is much to squeeze at the Garden Island News, so maybe their small size will spare them some of that pain. ??

Comments (0)
6/3/2005

Jim Hall obituary

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:08 pm
Slowly pawing through the articles that I missed while at sea and I was saddened to see an obituary for Jim Hall.

I knew Jim as an avuncular, gentle man who was surprisingly sharp and doggedly committed to his work. I worked closely with Jim during the effort to reform the policy that was sending so many first-time, non-violent drug offenders to prison instead of to substance abuse treatment. Among some of his Republican colleagues this was not a popular position for him to champion, but he perservered. He tirelessly pursued and researched various ideas and strategies to support and to improve the legislation, knowing full well that he and his party would not get much credit for the work.

He also told fascinating yarns about his work in D.C. and his extensive travels.

I chatted with Mr. Hall a few times when he visited the Capitol this past session, by that time he was using a walker and looked very frail but was still in good spirits. Jim will be missed.

Comments (0)
Editorial supports legislators who took a stand with Turtle Bay Resort workers

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 10:56 am
The SB editorial today comes down in defense of the 29 legislators who gave their support to workers at the Turtle Bay Resort who have been without a contract for several years. As I did earlier, they point out that it is not an ethical problem.

Where the editorial gets a bit off track is when it tries to contrast this case with the previous situation involving Senator Kanno and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Ethics rules unquestionably forbid a legislator from muscling a private company about an isolated personnel matter. They do allow politicians to exercise their First Amendment right to comment on a dispute about a company’s general labor actions. Turtle Bay employees claim the hotel is stalling negotiations over a new contract.

In fact, the ethics rules provide for no such prohibition or allowance. I’ve been through the rules before, and I commented on this topic thoroughly during the earlier Kanno situation.

The SB editorial is hoping to sound authoritative by splitting these two events into a “one worker benefits” vs. “a group of workers benefit” dichotomy. The law makes no such distinction. The law is equally squishy silent as to what “unwarranted privileges, exemptions, advantages, contracts, or treatment, for oneself or others” actually entails. The SB has every right to editorialize on how they view the propriety of these events. I think they overstep when they try to prop up their argument with dubious, if not outright erroneous, interpretations of the ethics law. Most of their readers will take them at their word, so it’s important for them to clearly distinguish between fact and opinion.

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UH raises forecast for state economy

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 9:56 am
After the Council on Revenues revised their forecast recently it comes as little surprise that today we see articles in the Advertiser and SB concerning a new report from UH economists who have also revised their economic forecast for the fiscal year upward. The study is from the UH Economic Research Office. (incidentally, in addition to that .com address, the Office also has a .edu website here) The tenor of this new ERO report is predictable partially because one of the co-authors, Carl Bonham, is also a member of the Council on Revenues. Thus, it really isn’t surprising that this economic forecast for Hawaii is in line with the just-released revenue forecast from the Council.

Much as the Council on Revenue forecasts are considered to be credible even with no explanation of their methodology, it appears the ERO follows the same modus operandi. Gathering data of the various economic indicators is an objective exercise, but the forecasting part is obviously not. What assumptions do they apply when generating (and then revising) an economic forecast? We don’t know. It can certainly be argued that just by being released these reports have some impact on the economy. If enough “official” people say the economy will slow down or speed up, and that becomes the common wisdom, then big economic players will tend to act accordingly. That’s why the lack of any insight into how these forecasts emerge is so frustrating.

It’s also notable that the ERO provides the “Executive Summary” to the media for distribution to the public (i.e. to Hawaii taxpayers in general) and the more detailed reports are only provided to sponsors who have made sizable contributions. Is this the way a public university should operate? I dunno, but the pseudo-proprietary nature of the other data doesn’t sit as well with me as I’d like. I have not seen the budget for the Office, but according to the posted subscription rates the current sponsors as a group only contribute ~$60,000/year, so I would expect that the bulk of the funds to keep the Office afloat, with 8 associates on staff and several graduate students, are state moneys. We should get the full data stream, in my opinion.

Comments (0)
New owner for Garden Island News?

Filed under:
HI Media
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 8:28 am
I noticed at the end of this editorial that the Kauai newspaper is getting a new owner. I have no idea if this means good things or bad things for the news and editorial content of the paper and what impact it could have on the existing staff.

I’m hoping there will be some more informed comments about this at iLind, since he has a better sense of the local media pulse than I do.

Comments (0)
6/2/2005

Turtle Bay management requests legislators withdraw support of union workers

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 11:14 am
Todays Borreca column tells the strange tale of a letter sent by an attorney representing Turtle Bay Resort to 29 legislators who had indicated support for the union workers at the resort. The workers have been without a contract for several years.

“We request that you or Local 5 publish a statement notifying the public of such a withdrawal of your support,” the letter said.

Heh. Sure. I’m certain they’ll get right to work on that.

All snarkiness aside, in the real-world labor/management dispute this letter is a non-issue. The support of these Legislators for the workers means just a tiny bit more than nothing. Potential guests who cancel their reservations in order to participate in a boycott are probably not very many, and of those few who were wavering in the decision to participate in a boycott it would be a ridiculously small number who would be aware of, much less persuaded by, an obscure letter signed by 29 state legislators.

I could be wrong, but it’s not as if a great number of Oahu residents stay at the resort, and people from out of state don’t know or care who (for example) Colleen Hanabusa and Maile Shimabukuro are, much less their opinion of Turtle Bay Resort management.

Perhaps in San Francisco, where the Turtle Bay Resort’s lawyer was writing from, the opinion of a state legislator can influence the booking decisions of hotel guests, but not here.

Comments (0)
Big Island readies for Hokuli’a lawsuit

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Neighbor Islands
— Doug @ 10:25 am
Well, it could be that the Hokulia lot owners who were rattling their lawsuit saber during the legislative session may actually go ahead and proceed with it. The Advertiser has this report that the Hawaii County Council is lawyering up in expectation.

The Hawai’i County Council yesterday authorized Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida to select a lawyer to represent the county and spend up to $50,000 in legal fees.

Earlier this year, a lawyer for 96 Hokuli’a lot owners indicated the group would file a $200 million claim against the county and would sue if problems with the project aren’t resolved.

Ashida yesterday said he sees no basis for a lawsuit because the county has done nothing wrong and was not responsible for stopping the project.

The seemingly quixotic nature of the suit is something I had posted about earlier, and I think that previous logic still applies. Back then I thought the lawsuit threat may have been to try to influence pending legislation, but now it seems that the lot owners think that dog will still hunt. Go figure. The ducks have flown south already.

Comments (0)
Lingle won’t say if she’ll sign transit tax bill

Filed under:
HI State Politics
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 10:13 am
Yawn. Oh, the drama. Will Governor Lingle sign the bill authorizing the GET increase for transit?

The Advertiser has a piece that I interpret as indication that she will, while the SB article leaves a bit more uncertainty and has some hints of discord at the Honolulu City Council level.

Lingle said she plans to use that time [before June 27] to make certain that her concerns about the bill will be addressed in the 2006 session of the Legislature.

It’s possible she could veto this bill and spell out in the veto message exactly what those concerns are and make it clear that those are necessary for a bill to be accepted next year. I would not expect that veto message, however, because the tax won’t be imposed until 2007 anyway. What’s more, if she vetoes this bill and Congress leaves Hawaii out of the funding stream (as threatened by Congressman Abercrombie) it could be too late next year to matter.

Both articles also had this curious comment from the Governor:

Lingle said one of the concerns she has about the bill is the provision that allows the state to take 10 percent of the amount collected for administering the tax.

Staff at the Department of Taxation had requested such language, so, unless communication between the Department and the Governor during the session was poor, it seems a bit odd that suddenly the provision is objectionable to the Governor. The alternative would be to require the affected Counties to each set up a GET collection bureaucracy of their own, and then businesses in affected Counties would have to calculate and remit GET payments to two (or more) recipients. This provision of the bill makes sense, and it will cost something to implement it. Would that administration expense be 10%? Maybe not, but it is not zero. Whatever it costs, I believe DOTAX could do it cheaper than getting a County system (or systems) started from scratch.

Councilman Rod Tam, who has supported the measure so far, is offering an amendment that would not impose the tax hike on Jan. 1, 2007, unless three conditions are met: The operational, financial, developmental and route plan for a proposed transit system must be completed; the Council must vote to approve such a system; and a commitment of federal funding must be made.

The federal commitment requirement sounds reasonable, but I have serious doubts if the plans and Councial approval could be complete before 2007. That said, the feds have the money, and as “dealer” in this game they get to play their cards last—not first. It could be that Congressman Abercrombie has been overstating the extent to which the feds insist on a local commitment, but from everything I’ve read and heard (most of it from or attributed to Abercrombie or his proxies, as it happens) it seems the feds will expect a commitment from the County and probably won’t entertain this condition that they (the feds) commit first.

Comments (0)
6/1/2005

Revenue forecast boosted for state

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 1:54 pm
Well, shucks, it turns out that the Hawaii economy is humming along quite nicely and outperforming the official revenue forecast as provided by the Council on Revenues. Both dailies have the story, the Advertiser and the SB pieces both key in on the potential for providing tax relief during the next legislative session.

From the CoR website:

The Council is not required to comply with the law on open meetings for public agencies when confidential tax information is discussed, but all estimates submitted to the Governor and Legislature by the Council are public.

Without going into confidential tax information, it would sure be nice for the Council to explain exactly how they make each forecast, which specific factors built into their formula they had misjudged, and by how much. The existing “black box” process that simply has the Council ejaculate a number every few months is subject to suspicion, if not outright manipulation. For example, the public employee unions might well be wondering if the last forecast was intentionally calculated and/or reported low to give the state a better bargaining position during salary negotiations. On the other hand, fiscal conservatives might suspect that this new forecast is misleadingly optimistic and will lead to a rush of government and community groups pleading to the Legislature next year for a share of this new-found (actually, newly-expected) booty.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I expect the Council to predict the economic future accurately every time, but by churning out a single figure instead of a range of possible outcomes they imply (or perhaps it is more fair to say that the media infer) an accuracy that is simply impossible to achieve. We should know where this artificial accuracy comes from.

It’s also amusing to see Senator Hemmings trying very hard to spin this good economic news as evidence of bad Democratic policy decisions at the Legislature. He wants to simultaneously point out that the economy is both affected and unaffected by what is done at the Legislature. Whatever.

Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai’i Kai), said the economy appears strong despite what he believes are ill-conceived public worker arbitration awards and misguided tax increases approved by the Legislature. “Once again we receive a projection reaffirming that Hawai’i’s economy is booming despite the horrendous economic policies perpetuated by the Legislature,” he said.

Where is all this unexpected growth in tax revenues coming from if the economy is so bad, Senator?

It’s a mystery, and since the CoR process is conducted sub rosa it’s hard to take any of their predictions too seriously. Unforturnately, we have to take them seriously, because by law those predictions become the bottom line for all budget decisions.

It’s past time the local media probed this topic a bit more, rather than simply taking the Council prediction at face value every time it is “revised.”

Comments (0)
House Republicans choose Finnegan

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:58 pm
I can’t say I’m surprised that House Republicans have replaced Representative Fox as Minority Leader. His support of the bill granting GET increase authority to the Counties was probably the nail in the coffin after their huge loss of Minority seats in the 2004 election. Repulican House members have selected Representative Finnegan as his replacement. The Advertiser has the story here and the SB has it here. Sort of surprising that the GOP Hawaii website has no mention of the change, but it could be forthcoming.

Looking through the thin ranks of House Republicans, Finnegan was the obvious choice in my opinion.

Finnegan, R-32nd (’Aliamanu, Airport, Mapunapuna), will lead the House GOP caucus into the next session, where Republicans likely will work closely with Gov. Linda Lingle to draw policy contrasts with majority Democrats ahead of the 2006 elections.

I’m not sure how keen a political instinct she has, to what extent she has leadership potential, nor how well she will work with the Governor’s team. She will have to come up to speed quickly through hard work instead of wisdom.

Both articles quote House Democrats as politely welcoming Finnegan to her new post, but I think Democrats were becoming a bit complacent under the Fox regime. There will be a period where both sides will be surveying the new political terrain and then the partisanship will resume in a modified form.

Comments (0)
Guam perspective on aircraft carrier homeport

Filed under:
HI State Politics
— Doug @ 12:18 pm
I can’t believe that I had not posted on this topic yet, but today I noticed a story from Guam about the potential for another US Navy aircraft carrier battle group to be stationed in the Pacific. Hawaii and Guam are the two ports that seem to be under consideration for the homeport location.

Previously this has only been tangentially mentioned in the transit issue, since if a carrier group came to Oahu it would add several thousand more people to the Kalaeloa and Pearl Harbor areas. It also obviously raises other infrastructure and education issues on Oahu.

Anyway, in this article we hear the pros and cons of sending it all to Guam: similar infrastructure concerns, located closer to the geopolitical flash points, worse unemployment in that community, more available training areas (read: bombing ranges?), and concerns over militarization and further colonization from representatives of the indigenous Chamorro population.

Millions, if not billions, of dollars in federal spending would be needed to upgrade the island’s dilapidated water and sewage systems, plus its relatively limited road network and school capacity.

Camacho acknowledged Hawai?i has an advantage over his island for such reasons. The 50th state also can count on the political clout of Senator Daniel Inouye and the rest of its congressional delegation to boost its cause, Camacho said.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo has said that Guam?s running for an aircraft carrier has been an uphill battle, but she continues to tout Guam? advantages over Hawai?i.

Bordallo has said she and her office continue to work with government leaders and the Guam Chamber of Commerce to market Guam?s strategic importance to the military.

“Even if Hawai?i does get the aircraft carrier, Guam will get a considerable economic benefit from support ships in our region and liberty calls,” Bordallo has said.

Delegate Bordallo is probably on the right tack. Senator Inouye is not going to send all the pork funding to Guam if he can send it to Hawaii. Guam can best hope to get the scraps.

Comments (2)
Hannemann names economic development teams

Filed under:
Honolulu Politics
— Doug @ 11:57 am
Several articles today about mayor Hannemann’s latest announcement regarding the Honolulu economy and some private sector appointees tasked with “increasing the economic pot,” whatever that might mean. The PBN has a piece here with very few details beyond a list of names and backgrounds of the appointees. The Advertiser and SB articles focus more on the prospect of selling some city property to raise revenues.

“I want to take a much more comprehensive look, and I don’t want to do this based on a willy-nilly approach that oftentimes permeates City Hall and that whenever you’re faced with a budget crunch, a budget deficit, oftentimes someone recommends a piece of land that should be sold,” Hannemann said.

Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said he is pleased that the mayor is expanding on Council’s work.

“If there are properties that are not in the best interest of the city to hold then we can use revenues from the sale to reduce the debt service and maybe even pay for capital improvement projects in cash,” Dela Cruz said.

Hannemann said that he realizes there are concerns about the city’s affordable housing inventory and that “whatever we decide to do with it, that we need to maximize opportunities for our people to … have affordable housing.”

From the PBN piece it seems that all the people appointed to make this decision are developers, realtors, and property/money managers. It stands to reason that the City has some property that it would make sense to unload, but I see an obvious conflict of interest for this particular group to recommend which parcels are most suitable for sale. It would seem likely that they (or their market sectors in general) stand to profit from these decisions and I’m not confident that the appointees would hold the “best interests of the city” as their top priority. The Council may have previously attacked the problem in a willy-nilly manner, but this organized approach may end up being a streamlined fleecing of City that sees the most desirable properties unloaded at unfavorable prices in the interests of a quick burst of cash flow. We shall see.

The Honolulu County Council would (I assume) still need to approve of any sale(s) recommended by the appointees, but at that point affordable housing advocates would be fighting a battle against the tantalizing revenues expected from the sale. The Council is so strapped for money that I would expect them to leap at any proposed source of revenue, especially if they can pin the parcel selection on a panel of “experts.”

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2260 nautical miles, 5 tuna, 17 days, and 9 hours later

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Sailing
— Doug @ 6:39 am
I’m back. We had less than average trade winds for much of the trip so the going was often pretty slow. Thankfully we had spinnakers to fly during daylight hours or it would have been even uglier.

The boat performed pretty much flawlessly, which for an almost-new boat that I had never sailed on before was a bit of a relief. Now all I need to do is come up to speed on over two weeks of news that I’ve missed. Oh, and go see Star Wars, ha ha.

Thanks for your patience.

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