Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Star-Advertiser columnist documents reasons why tech firms generally must (I repeat, must) flee Hawaii
by Larry Geller
It feels great to be validated from time to time. I’ve been pressing on this issue since 1989 and in this blog for more than a decade. It seems obvious to me: Tech firms almost inevitably find they have to relocate in order to succeed.
As a result, our state government spends a fortune promoting “high tech” only to see successful firms (or firms that want to be successful) pull up stakes and head to the Mainland.
And that’s just what those firms should do.
Usually I write something like this: “One day the bean counters will come knocking at the CEO’s door and let him know that it is not in the stockholder's interest to keep the operation in sunny Hawaii.”
Of course, that applies also to privately held operations. It doesn’t matter how much the founder likes surfing, hiking or snacking on our wonderful mangos or lychee.
That knock will inevitably come.
In today’s Star-Advertiser (paywalled) Mike Meyer relates in his Tech View column how a startup thrived after moving to San Francisco in 2015. A snip from his column:
Q: Does the San Francisco Bay Area make sense for local companies that have decided to make the move to the mainland?
A: If you are a B2B SaaS (software as a service) startup like we are, then yes, without a doubt.
Q: Can you provide some metrics as far as growth and sales that have occurred after your move?
A: Our staff grew from three to 12, and we’ve gone from six to 700 customers since moving to S.F.
Hawaii does have some financing options, but the article points out that there are more in SF. Even if a startup is backed by a Hawaii venture capitol company, the funders will expect their investment to succeed, basically. If that means the startup moving to the Mainland, then the funders will at some point push for that. So Hawaii backing doesn’t mean the entrepreneur is going to be able to enjoy surfing here forever.
Customers, suppliers, engineers, scientists, and a robust support structure are there, not here.
There’s not much to be done about Hawaii’s isolation. Nor is Hawaii unique. I imagine a tech startup in the middle of Wyoming faces similar prospects—move or stagnate. Move or close up. Wyoming probably has a lower cost of living, though. Our high costs work against tech companies remaining or relocating here.
One thing I learned from the article: Hawaii is a great place “to develop code in relative secrecy.” Ok. That might also apply to Wyoming, though.
Poor tech opportunites impact our public school and college graduates as well. STEM programs are great, and certainly, every student is entitled to have the best education. Those who become enthusiastic and those who excel in science and maybe graduate at or near the top of their class face pressure to move to the Mainland for job opportunities—shattering the strong cultural preference to keep families together.
Sure, there is some high-tech here. No contribution to our economy should be discounted. But the basic impediments remain.
And no matter how good our educational system might become, or how much we can improve venture capitol opportunities, the knock will still come one day on each door.
I often add to my many articles that there does not seem to be a solution in sight. Islands in middle of the ocean usually don’t do well. Maybe they have guano, but that doesn’t last long.
So thank goodness we have a thriving tourism industry. Or we’d be trading stone money for those mangos and lychee.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
New complaints challenge human rights abuses in Hawaii's fishing fleet
The story reports that a complaint has just been filed with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
Simultaneously, an agency of the Hawaii State government has denied without public hearing a petition filed by a Native Hawaiian waterman challenging the state's issuance of fishing licences to foreigners who cannot land in Hawaii. The denial will trigger an immediate court action.
The following snip is from an article in the Bangkok Post:
Turtle Island Restoration Network told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they filed the complaint last week with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. The filing asks the panel to determine the responsibility of the US for human rights abuses against foreign workers in Hawaii's longline fishing fleet.
An Associated Press investigation into the seafood industry revealed that hundreds of men are confined to Hawaii boats that operate due to a federal loophole that exempts the foreign fishermen from most basic labour protections.
Many come from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific nations to take the jobs, which can pay as little as 70 cents an hour.
The fleet catches $110 million worth of luxury seafood annually.
Today attorney Lance Collins issued a press release regarding the dismissal of a petition filed with the Board of Land and Natural Resources on April 12 (see below). Not only did the BLNR delay responding for three months, but they also issued their denial without holding the customary public hearing.
Collins announced that the denial will be appealed immediately to the Environmental Court on Maui.
It is fair to say that the issue of human rights violations uncovered by an AP investigation published September 8, 2016 will stay in the public eye worldwide until the state government takes effective action to end the abuses. At the root of the problem is the illegal issuance of fishing licences by the state to foreign fishermen who are not allowed to set foot in the state.
Press Release 7/20/2017
The Board of Land and Natural Resources denied Native Hawaiian waterman Malama Chun's petition seeking to stop the Department of Land and Natural Resources from issuing commercial fishing licenses to non-resident fishermen who are confined to boats at Honolulu and Hilo harbors when at port. The Board refused to address the substantive issue of its Division of Aquatic Resources illegally issuing commercial fishing licenses to non-resident fishermen who are not legally allowed to enter the United States and as a consequence of their status are held in prison-like conditions on their boats while docked in Honolulu and Hilo. The Board also did not hold a public hearing to deny the matter – going against its traditional custom of making its decisions at public meetings.
On April 12, 2017, Malama Chun, a Native Hawaiian waterman, who fishes, filed a petition with the state Board of Land and Natural Resources challenging DLNR's Division of Aquatic Resources practice of issuing licenses to foreign fisherman who have been refused permission to land in Hawai'i by U.S. authorities and have been ordered deported.
State law restricts the issuance of commercial fishing licenses to persons “lawfully admitted to the United States” Foreign fishermen working in the longline fishing industry are refused permission to land in the United States by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and are also ordered deported. However, using a loophole, they authorize the fisherman's boat captain to hold the fisherman's passport and the deportation order and allow the boat captain to determine when the deportation is to occur. To enforce the deportation order, the piers at which the fishing boats dock are heavily militarized and access is restricted.
Chun said, “The members of the BLNR must have been too ashamed to make their decision at a public meeting. The situation is bad for these fishermen and its bad for Hawaii's people. And I know in their hearts they know its wrong which is why they didn't give us a public hearing before deciding.”
Chun's attorney, Lance D. Collins, added: “The Board's claim that Mr. Chun has no interest in their illegal issuance of commercial marine licenses is not only erroneous but absurd. We will be appealing this decision to the Environmental Court immediately.”
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Hawaii might look to Europe for offshore wind power innovation
Europe’s offshore wind power industry recently achieved a major milestone: three projects to be built without government subsidy. Bent Christensen, who is responsible for energy-cost projections for Siemens’s wind power division, credits industry-wide cost cutting that has outstripped expectations. “We’re three to four years ahead of schedule,” says Christensen.
Part of the cost breakthrough is due to recent innovations in power transmission technology.
Hawaii cannot count on local development to make offshore wind power feasible. Staying in touch with European leaders may work well for us and help reduce the outrageous rates we pay for electricity at present.
Tuesday, July 04, 2017
Hawaii should fear a "knapsack" attack more than a N. Korean ICBM
In Hawaii we probably should be worrying about our vulnerability as a future missile target. We should, however, also be concerned about a more immediate potential threat: conventional targeting of tourist or military facilities in conventional terror attack.
Do you think it couldn't happen here?
Watch the sky tonight, particularly if you live on the upper floor of a condo or anyplace high over the city. I'll bet there will be plenty of illegal aerials, as usual.
Even though they have long been outlawed there seems to be no way to stop them.
Clearly, it's pretty easy to bring them in. Your neighbor may be buying them and then shooting them off each year with impunity.
We can't keep them out it seems.
This inability to keep out explosives could be a more immediate threat than expecting a N. Korean atomic bomb to be launched in our direction one day.
Tourism clearly is a common terrorist target, as we all too often read in the news. Terrorism is aimed now at innocent gatherings of civilians and at places popular with tourists. ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi declared a jihad against tourism. It works very well for the evildoers, who seek the media attention the attacks bring even more than the death toll they can achieve.
Professor Johan Galtung named what I am describing as "knapsack" attacks. That is, someone brings the material into Honolulu and then uses it to blow something up.
The lesson from the repetitive display of illegal fireworks is that this may be very easy to do.
The targets might be malls, PXs, Waikiki beaches or hotels, or Chinatown nightclubs or gatherings.
Any such incident would likely have a lasting impact on tourism, the driver of the state's economy.
A "knapsack" attack is very low-tech and doesn't risk nuclear counter-attack. Why anyone would concentrate on developing and then dropping a missile on us escapes me, to tell the truth.
What to do about this? I suggest we begin talking and not just waiting for it to befall us.
Monday, July 03, 2017
Repost 2017: History that should not—and will not—disappear: July 4, 1894, illegal overthrow of Hawaii completed
“President Cleveland further concluded that a "substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair" and called for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.”
by Larry Geller
Cannon on the steps of the occupied Iolani Palace
On July 4, 1894, the Republic of Hawaii was declared, with Sanford B. Dole as president. The illegal overthrow of the independent nation of Hawaii was complete.
Yes, although your daily paper may want you to forget this, it is history that should not be ignored. There’s even a federal law confirming the truth of the history they refuse to print.
From the Apology Resolution, United States Public Law 103-150:
Whereas, in a message to Congress on December 18, 1893, President Grover Cleveland reported fully and accurately on the illegal acts of the conspirators, described such acts as an "act of war, committed with the participation of a diplomatic representative of the United States and without authority of Congress", and acknowledged that by such acts the government of a peaceful and friendly people was overthrown... President Cleveland further concluded that a "substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair" and called for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.
Whereas, the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.
A treaty of annexation was never passed by Congress, and President Grover Cleveland withdrew the treaty. Then on this day in history…
On July 4, 1894, the archipelago's new leaders responded to this rebuff by proclaiming a Republic of Hawaii, with Sanford Dole as president. Under its constitution, most legislators would be appointed rather than elected, and only men with savings and property would be eligible for public office. This all but excluded native Hawaiians from the government of their land… [From Overthrow, a book by Stephen Kinzer]
What was the motivation? Need you ask? Why is the US in Iraq?From the Washington Post review of Overthrow:
As Stephen Kinzer tells the story in Overthrow, America's century of regime changing began not in Iraq but Hawaii. Hawaii? Indeed. Kinzer explains that Hawaii's white haole minority -- in cahoots with the U.S. Navy, the White House and Washington's local representative -- conspired to remove Queen Liliuokalani from her throne in 1893 as a step toward annexing the islands. The haole plantation owners believed that by removing the queen (who planned to expand the rights of Hawaii's native majority) and making Hawaii part of the United States, they could get in on a lucrative but protected mainland sugar market. Ever wonder why free trade has such a bad name?
The road leading up to the declaration of the Republic of Hawaii was rocky, and can’t be summed up in a short blog article. Did you know, for example, that a US Senate investigation revealed that a bribe had been offered to Queen Liliuokalani to turn against her people and support the Republic? This snip is from a New York Times article on the Senate investigation, dated 1/29/1894:
The declaration of the Republic was not a single, static event. There was considerable debate in Congress on resolutions condemning the overthrow and proposed annexation. For example, this snip from the 1/25/1894 New York Times will give you an idea of the complexity that we lose in simplifying Hawaii’s history:
Each article is much longer than the snips above. It would be worthwhile to skim the New York Times for a complete account of the Congressional debate. No doubt this has already been done. If not, the articles are available on-line for the harvesting..
If you’re not familiar with Hawaiian history, beware of websites that work hard to re-write it. The true picture of the overthrow is not pretty, nor can the acts of the US government be justified or whitewashed. Google cautiously.
Let your children know that there is more to July 4 than barbeques and fireworks. It is a holiday that tears people apart here in Hawaii. See how you can work this history into your celebrations and festivities, so that it will never disappear.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Homelessness crisis: Let's stop using the bogus term "affordable housing" and say instead (for example) $800/month rent
Waiting for Santa Claus to fly over the Honolulu rail route one day and deliver "affordable housing" does not qualify as a viable plan.
Newspaper articles equating 140% of AMI (Area Median Income) as "affordable" are counter-productive when homeless or near-homeless need housing at 30% of AMI. The lack of journalistic honesty takes pressure off of our elected officials (City Council and state government) to develop concrete plans. Government lets the crisis slide along, and instead put its energy into the gentrification of Kakaako and Waikiki. That of course benefits mainly the ultra-rich and the Whole Foods-type of merchants that the well-off need to enjoy whatever number of months they actually stay in their expensive condo apartments.
I suggest re-starting the dialogue and never mentioning the word "affordable". The word has no meaning without a frame of "affordable for whom." In truth, housing is needed across a broad spectrum of monthly rental rates. Why not talk about the need for and availability of $800/month apartments, $1,000/month apartments, $1,800/month apartments, and so forth? People seek housing according to what they are able to pay.
In the face of competition from those with generous military housing subsidies and the burgeoning Airbnb-type of vacation rentals, the low- and medium-range of rentals will continue to fail residents who are trapped by the low paying jobs prevalent in Hawaii.
In the absence of adequate Section 8 housing and some form of rent control, the best-laid plans, even if they existed, would fall short.
But there is no plan to resolve what is arguably the worst crisis of homelessness since the Great Depression. Rents continue to rise and wages continue to stagnate. Other costs of living increase inexorably as well. Much of our population lives on fixed incomes. There need for realistic plans at a scale that has a chance to make a meaningful difference. Neither our city nor our state have promulgated plans that their constituents can hold them to.
It's important to acknowledge that the housing crisis was recognized at least as far back as 2003, with several newspaper articles at that time calling for action. Yet none was forthcoming. Here's an article from November 16, 2003:
Just as the rail project is viewed by many as a con against the public perpetrated by citycouncilmen beholden only to the development community who pay the largest share of their campaign contributions, the concept that "Transit Oriented Development" will provide much in the way of low-income rental units is also a con.
Bullet points on a PowerPoint slide do not amount to an actual "plan". A plan typically has a budget, personnel assigned or need recognized, a timeline, etc. All measurable, of course, so those in charge can be held accountable to it.
There is no Santa Claus. The hoped-for housing that's needed will have to depend on the ingenuity and dedication of urban planners working for the people instead of wishing for progress led by developers and their agents in city government. So far, government shows no signs of delivering.
The media could fulfill an important role, if it were also dedicated to the needs of newspaper readers instead of newspaper advertisers. They could document how many housing units are needed in each rental bracket and give up on the bogus "affordable" narrative that currently dominates articles.
We need to get all hands on deck to solve this so-far intractable issue.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Honolulu Star-Advertiser publishes illegal vacation rental how-to article
Wednewday’s Star-Advertiser front page is dominated by a pretty useless full-page graphic that illustrates the easy profits to be made in Hawaii's vacation rental business. If, as is likely to happen, this presentation encourages more homeowners and renters to tap this extremely lucrative (though illegal) source of income, the pool of affordable rental housing in the state will be further reduced.
Yes, this is news. The presentation, however, crosses a line into promotion. Tenants cash in despite risks (Star-Advertiser p.A1, 6/21/17) only vaguely suggests, in its closing paragraph on an inside page, that this popular practice might be problematic. Nowhere does the article state that the proliferation of these short-term rentals is a contributor to Hawaii's chronic housing shortage and the growing homelessness crisis.
Of course short-term rentals (think, for example, of those arranged via Airbnb) are usually illegal here, but right at the top of the page is data reporting that fines levied so far this year total only $2,000. The third paragraph states that profits from renting to vacationers can "fetch upwards of $1,000 a week."
Also on the front page is a list describing the size of this business ("the alternative accommodations industry"): $1.4 billion in household income and 34,000 jobs.
Clearly, enforcement is effectively nonexistant. Profits are high. Risks are low. The article can't fail to attract the attention of renters and homeowners curious about how to make money through on-line services such as Airbnb. It mentions five ways to post a listing. It demonstrates that the risk of getting fined is close to zero. No specialized degree or qualifications are needed to make big bucks. Lots of people are already doing this. Sounds worth trying, right?
There is no context or perspective on benefits or harms to our economy or quality of life.
As an article in the Local section, this topic would make more sense. It's not "front-page" news because the societal impact is omitted. What's left is an effective promotion for an industry that demonstrably harms state residents while primarily benefiting out-of-state special interests.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Eight months after the AP revealed slave-like conditions aboard boats in the Hawaii fishing fleet, no fix is in sight
In September, an extensive Associated Press investigation detailing poor labor conditions aboard Hawaii longline vessels that catch ahi and swordfish sparked national attention and public outrage….But eight months later, little appears to have changed when it comes to protecting the foreign fishermen who can’t stray from their American boats docked at Honolulu Harbor without risking deportation.Star-Advertiser, 5/14/2017
by Larry Geller
In truth, nothing has changed to protect the foreign fishermen whose plight was described in the September 2016 Associate Press stories.
(See these AP stories for background)
From today’s article:
The foreign longline fishermen exist in a sort of legal purgatory. While they are legally employed by U.S. vessels, they aren’t actually allowed to step foot on U.S. soil and aren’t afforded the labor protections of American workers.
While locals and tourists at restaurants like Nico’s off Pier 38 dine on the fresh ahi caught by foreign longliners, the fishermen remain confined to their boats just yards away.
[Star-Advertiser p. A1, Isles’ longline industry little changed after investigation, 5/14/2017]
Today’s story revealed that Whole Foods, which had discontinued buying fish from the Hawaii Fish Auction when the abuses were revealed in September, resumed buying the fish in late December.
So much for retailer pressure on the industry to end the abuses.
The concerns expressed initially by our Congressional delegation have gone nowhere.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources heard a petition to change their rules, but denied it.
Bills introduced in the state legislature to prevent licensing of foreign fishermen did not succeed. In fact, there is already state law prohibiting the issuance of fishing licenses to fisherman who cannot legally land in Hawaii, but DLNR refuses to enforce it.
Most recently, a new petition has been sent to the Bureau of Land and Natural Resources in April. Although they are required to hear it, so far they have not scheduled it on a hearing agenda.
The “self-regulation” of the industry described in news articles is effectively non-existent because the document that the fleet operators created and describe as a “contract” is not, in fact, the fishermen’s labor contract, and it is unenforceable—the fishermen have no means to enforce it.
So it’s now eight months after the original AP stories spread around the country and around the world, and nothing has changed in Hawaii to end the abuses.
Monday, May 08, 2017
Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: The Post Glory Exuberance Disorder-PGED
The Post Glory Exuberance Disorder-PGED
8 May 2017
#480 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service
Very well known is post trauma stress disorder, PTSD; no doubt a very painful disorder experienced by many, most, maybe by all of us. Something went very wrong: a shock, violence, physical, verbal, by and to individuals, groups in society, societies, groups of societies. Not only by and to individuals: PTSD does not belong to psychology only.
However, as Buddhist epistemology informs us: there is symmetry to the world. Anything can be seen from at least two angles: to “I walk down the street” add “the street moves toward me, ‘walks me up'”. Was Einstein inspired by Buddhism when he asked his famous question, “Does Zurich stop at this train?” Maybe not; his relativity, “moving relative to each other”, forced that question upon him anyhow.
For Buddhism, however, this thinking goes far beyond movement, into concepts and discourses. What would be the opposite of trauma? Evidently something positive. For one, like this author concerned with war and peace, one type of trauma is defeat in a war and the opposite is victory. Basking in the glory, not suffering the gloom of trauma. And then, if trauma could lead to a state of stress, deeper and more permanent the deeper and more repetitive the trauma, maybe deep and repeated glory could lead to a state of, let us call it exuberance?
This opens for behaviorism: avoid trauma, seek glory. But the idea is deeper. Deep-repeated trauma leads to stress disorder, not only stress. Deep-repeated glory may lead to exuberance disorder: let us have more wars to enjoy more victories! Not only for defense!
We may refer to the same war. Death in a war is a major trauma for the bereaved and all, victory a major glory for many and all. The loser is traumatized, the winner glorified. The loser may suffer deep disorder, like nations traumatized by Western colonialism. Or they may say “Never Again” and launch a peace movement. The winner will do his best to keep war as an institution. Till his time comes to lose.
For micro level analysis, marriages in patriarchic families offer obvious examples. Through centuries an experience so traumatic for women that one way of handling the stress was to become a nun, the frock being a visible No to marriage. But most women lived with stress in a subhuman state that itself was a disorder, indeed. And the man?
Enjoying it all, as so often pointed out having a maid, servant, prostitute and care-taker all rolled into one, the “wife”. A glorious state of affairs leading to a hopefully lasting exuberance multiplied and repeated with mistresses and concubines. Pathological.
But why call it a disorder when men see it as a lasting order? Because of the effects on others, on the victims, on those whose suffering, stress, was and is the condition for his exuberance, glory.
What is PTSD for some may be PGED for others, as simple as that.
But that insight is lost by focusing on only one side, as so often done in Western thought. We mentioned war, colonialism, patriarchy, think also of slavery and racism. So much world history comes up triggered by these terms. But it is mandatory to see both sides.
Why? Because to any PTSD it makes sense to postulate a PGED as a strong cause having that PTSD as effect. If we want to reduce the PTSD it is obviously insufficient to work on the victim side only, with therapies and remedies when PGED reproduces PTSD. A whole system has to be changed. And we have mentioned the names of some of those systems: slavery, colonialism and patriarchy changed or changing; war and racism continuing, to give more content to these assertions.
Take the war system, writing in Easter 2017, as alive as ever with threats of major wars in many places in the “Middle East” (West Asia), the USA-EU-Ukraine-Russia complex, and in the “Far East” (East Asia). The relatively peaceful continents are in the “Third World”, Latin America-Caribbean and Africa; the enormity of violence against them being structural more than direct war.
In this there is a message to those who naively believe that “development leads to peace”; right now it looks more like the other way around. Why, given all the suffering, the PTSD, caused by wars?
Because of PGED enjoyed by the winners. Not only basking in the glory of ticker tape parades and similar orgies, but in billions to the winners, incidentally also to some of the losers unless forced to pay “compensation” being defined as guilty. Wars make money flow.
The world’s major war machine is the United States of America. No US president winning a war has ever been blamed for human suffering caused. The crimes of a President Polk in the 1846-48 war, stealing more than half of Mexico’s territory, do not include human suffering. The war in Vietnam was lost, a terrible trauma for US leaders, population, and the bereaved of 58,000 killed. But not of 3 million Vietnamese? Grotesque insensitivity. Questions raised were not about the political use of war but how to win future wars to overcome the “Vietnam syndrome”.
To win means collective glory and exuberance, individual profits in the billions high up, and some heroism glory and medals lower down. Of/from the millions killed and tens of millions bereaved: no word.
Try one minute, or an hour rather, to contemplate the total PTSD perpetrated by US warfare on the peoples of Afghanistan from 2001, and Iraq from 1991, and 2003. True, there has been no US PGED but even some US PTSD from the “unfinished wars” as CNN calls it. Also true, lots of US psychotherapy for PTSD has been made available both places.
But most in need of counseling are Americans hit by wanting PGED, demanding winnable wars as therapy; disasters to the victims all over, even counting in the millions, with enormities of PTSD in their wake.
We are victims of a negative psychology of individual therapy. And short on a positive psychology to provide work for negative and positive peace, for security and good relations to higher ups who want PGED. And to remove causes of war: unsolved conflicts and unconciled traumas.
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 470 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Legislature acted responsibly in denying rail funding
by Larry Geller
Today’s Star-Advertiser ran a front page editorial accusing the state legislature of failing to fund Honolulu’s drastically overbudget and late elevated rail project.
The article is by a political reporter, but its positioning, its thrust and its conclusion represent a position on the part of the paper’s editors.
Labeling what many consider a sensible decision as an “Epic Fail” in screaming all-caps and accompanied by a cute space-wasting illustration is a clear indication that the paper feels that state taxpayers should somehow rescue this ailing city project that threatens to bar sensible development and maintenance expenditures into the indefinite future.
I cannot do better than post here the arguments made on the Senate floor on May 4 by Senator Laura Thielen. Here’s the video. I would like to pretend that I could state the arguments as well as she could, but that’s not true—please watch the short video which is worth a couple thousand of my words (click the thingy at the lower right for full screen):
[thanks to Donna Wong for pointer to this video]
The Star-Advertiser depends on full-page ads by condo developers. There’s not a development that won’t qualify for a front-page article with space-guzzling photo despite the fact that any particular new or planned condo in Honolulu is far from important news. Rail is expected to bring massive development along its route and so it’s understandable why the paper might take this position. Development equals ad revenue.
For the rest of us, though, we might well prefer air conditioning in the schools or (say) a reduced maintenance backlog or funding of infrastructure improvements that benefit all citizens of the state. None of that will happen if rail drains the needed funds out of state budgets for the indefinite future.
Friday, May 05, 2017
Will state agencies learn from court ruling in OHA Sunshine Law violation?
Following an appeal to the court by the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), the First Circuit Court upheld the Office of Information Practices’ Opinion Letter No. F15-02, which had determined that the OHA board violated the Sunshine Law when it (1) engaged in serial communications outside a meeting when deciding to rescind a letter sent by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO); and (2) did not allow the public to testify on an agenda item scheduled for executive session.—from OIP: What’s New: Court upholds OIP opinion on OHA, 5/5/2017
by Larry Geller
From West Hawaii Today in a 2014 article:
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs violated the state Sunshine Law when trustees corresponded by telephone and email before sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rescinding an earlier letter by Chief Executive Officer Kamanaopono Crabbe.
Then the board violated the law again when it refused to allow public comment before conducting a closed-door session discussing Crabbe’s conduct.
That’s the finding of the state Office of Information Practices in a Nov. 7 opinion responding to a complaint by six Hawaii residents.
[West Hawaii Today, State: OHA broke Sunshine Law, 11/14/2014]
Let me answer my own question, “Will state agencies learn from court ruling in OHA Sunshine Law violation?”
If OHA had learned what Hawaii’s Sunshine Law requires, it would never have taken the matter to court. The OIP opinion was very clear, and has now been supported by a judge.
OHA is a state agency. Whatever they spent attempting to justify their wrongdoing in court is at taxpayer expense.
From OIP’s regular What’s New email:
Following an appeal to the court by the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), the First Circuit Court upheld the Office of Information Practices’ Opinion Letter No. F15-02, which had determined that the OHA board violated the Sunshine Law when it (1) engaged in serial communications outside a meeting when deciding to rescind a letter sent by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO); and (2) did not allow the public to testify on an agenda item scheduled for executive session. As allowed by law, OIP did not participate in the court’s April 19, 2017 hearing and let its opinion speak for itself, which resulted in the court’s “Order Denying Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Board of Trustees’ Motion for Summary Judgment” in S.P. No. 14-1-0543 (JPC).
The May 1, 2017 decision by Judge Jeffrey P. Crabtree has been posted to OIP’s website.
It’s not as though this decision breaks any new ground. Disappeared News reported in a 2013 article on attorney Lance Collins’ win in the Hawaii Supreme Court in a case involving the Kauai County Council’s serial recesses and serial communications in deliberate violation of the Sunshine Law. A snip of the opinion from page 66:
… serial communications regarding Council business circumvented “the spirit of the open meeting requirement” and “thwarted and frustrated” the “strong policy of having public bodies deliberate and decide its business in view of the public.
That decision cited other case law.
If OHA wasn’t aware of its responsibilities at the time of the Crabbe letter to then Secretary of State John Kerry, it was educated by the OIP opinion. It should also have been educated by its attorney.
But they refused to learn.
So one state agency contested another in state court. We pay for all this, of course.
Over the years I may not have agreed with everything OIP decides, but that may be my problem. Overwhelmingly they explain and uphold the Sunshine Law when a state agency ignores a public records request, for example, or violates the open meeting laws.
And that’s with a greatly diminished budget over the years—the Legislature’s odd way of asserting its power over an agency charged with enforcing laws that the Legislature itself has passed (this is from a 2015 tweet by @NathanEagle of Civil Beat):
They also teach the requirements of the law. OHA (and other state agencies) can come up to speed easily—which means that the Kerry letter caper and related violations should not have taken place to begin with.
This is not to single out OHA, of course. The Kauai County Council, in the case cited above, should also have known that they were violating the law. In that instance, I believe they may have known. I base my theory on a video that was given to me many years ago and that unfortunately is gone along with the demise of my late beloved HP TC1100 tablet computer, in which a Kauai County Council member appeared to be debating, on video, whether the Council should follow the Sunshine Law or not.
Perhaps it is naïve of me to expect that this will change.
Thursday, May 04, 2017
Hawaii House rebellion: Shogun resigns, daimyo take a head
by Larry Geller
Today in Hawaii, as in ancient Japan, feudal goverment factions clashed.
In the midst of the fray the House shogun abruptly resigned and a powerful daiymo is being forced from her fief, her head served up on a platter.
Civil Beat reported that Speaker of the House Joe Souki has resigned (see letter via Civil Beat) and that powerful Ways and Means Chair Jill Tokuda will be deposed from her commanding post in the Senate.
I’ve offered the theory that Hawaii’s state legislature does not follow the Democrat/Republican system prevalent in the rest of the country but instead is more akin to the ancient Japanese feudal system.
In the House, for example, the feudal lords (daimyo) are the committee heads. Under the daimyo are their retainers, the committee vice-chairs. The committee members are lesser vassals, obeying the orders of committee chairs on how to vote.
As shogun, the Speaker of the House rules over them all, and somewhere nearby is the emperor, the governor.
The Senate structure is the same.
Tokuda is being blamed for the failure of the Legislature to agree on a funding mechanism for Honolulu’s late and drastically over-budget rail construction. The full story (read Civil Beat or your newspaper) is complicated by pro- and anti-rail factions in the general population. It appears that there is no good solution.
So expect more internecine battles as a plan continues to evade lawmakers.
In the meantime, enjoy the kabuki play.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Street-level rail is more convenient, cheaper, faster to build, and encourages retail development
by Larry Geller
An op-ed in today’s Star-Advertiser pushes the idea of street-level rail from Middle Street.
I’ve been advocating street-level rail because it could be extended all the way out to the Leeward Coast and to Waikiki, thereby bringing people from where they live to most of the places where they work—downtown, Ala Moana and the hotels. It could take tourists to and from the airport.
Street-level transit would encourage retail development along the route, instead of disrupting it with overhead tracks.
Additionally, it would not blight downtown or ruin anyone’s views.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so this short video snip should be priceless. I’m re-running it from an earlier article. It is from a program that aired on PBS e2 (e-squared) series "Portland: A Sense of Place" imany years ago, describing the city planning that helped make Portland, Oregon such a great place to live.
Click the thingy at the lower right for full screen.
Enjoy a great meal for really little at group fundraiser in town May 3.
by Larry Geller
Is it “you get what you pay for” or you “pay for what you get?”
I have found a way to transform these political fundraisers held during the legislative session into a real social benefit. Please read or skim through this until the end. I’m going to reveal a secret.
Yesterday we learned that the price of a Hawaii Speaker of the House would be $1,000 for an evening get-together during session. And although I’ve been comparing our legislature to a medieval Japanese feudal system, there’s no need to carefully wrap your contribution and bow low as it is pushed across the table. Well, you could still bow low, that’s fine.
Again, this is not unethical under the ethics laws (because lawmakers won’t pass bills that would make it illegal). In the normal usage of the word “ethics” it is hard to justify the most powerful person in the House soliciting money contributions while matters affecting the contributor are still pending before the legislature.
Today I learned of other House members holding a fundraiser during session. This time they are ganging up together, and the suggested contribution mentioned is a more affordable $100. And no free parking.
Rep Creagan and Rep. Evans hail from the Big Island. It’s not too likely that many of his constituents can afford the air fare and hotel charge to come to Oahu for this shindig. Rep. McKelvery is from Maui. Rep. Morikawa is from Kauai County. Same for them.
Lobbyists and corporate interests, on the other hand, will be able to walk over after work. So you tell me who this fundraiser is designed to attract?
It oughta be illegal but its not.
Help these legislators feed the hungry
Now, I wouldn’t dare suggest this, but the food at the Executive Center is not terrible, and anyone in town that day could probably indulge for very little. Even for a buck. There’s no minimum charge for admission.
In these times of #Resistance I dream of someone rounding up, say, 100 people and crashing one of these events. And doing it again for the next, and the next…
It could also be a really cheap date. Hobnob with the lobbyists. Find out why they want you to eat GMOs. Or whatever. Finally get to speak with these legislators. Or just enjoy the buffet.
Don’t say you heard that here.
Editorial: Get the complete operating plan before approving any tax extension for Honolulu rail
Sen. Lorraine Inouye and Rep. Sylvia Luke spent the better part of 45 minutes in a testy back-and-forth argument about how far to extend the general excise tax surcharge to provide additional funding for a rail project that is far over budget and far behind schedule.
Inouye wants the GET surcharge to run 10 additional years until 2037, while Luke wants it to go only two years beyond its 2027 sunset date. Their differences reflect sharp disagreements among Senate and House leaders about rail funding and whether the surcharge extension should be used to fund other transportation projects.—Civil Beat, 4/26/17
by Larry Geller
The Honolulu rail project is not just “far over budget and far behind schedule.” It’s much worse than that. There is no plan that assures taxpayers they will be able to afford to use the service when it becomes available.
Until plans for maintenance and operations costs (including approximate fare required per ride), why not withhold funds and make the city sit down and finish the job of planning? Aren’t we as taxpayers owed that?
There is also no plan that guarantees that truly affordable housing will be built along the route, an important promised benefit.
Most people understand the need for planning. For example, assuming a person is not independently wealthy, does it make sense to just quit your job, pack up and move to a new city hoping to find a job? Some people can pull that off, others will end up homeless on the street.
For most people, saying “I like country music, so I should be in Nashville” doesn’t compute unless one can survive there. How much will it cost? How will I pay rent?
Because taxpayers are made to cough up the cost of rail construction does not mean we are each independently wealthy! So we need to have a plan to prevent financial disaster.
Yet disputes over financing Honolulu’s rail system continue, and the project advances inch by inch while still we have no idea what it will cost to use and maintain the system.
The people charged with planning either don’t know how to do it or have been deceptive. Remember the overhead power line fiasco? It was no secret that the high-voltage lines would have to be dealt with, and the cost should have been figured into the budget from day one. But it was either deliberately (my theory) or negligently omitted. Still, the bill will have to be paid.
Now, it is very reasonable to expect that before the first length of track is laid, before ground was even broken, that we taxpayers should have been told what it will cost to use the system. If it’s going to be cost-prohibitive, it should not be built. Period. It’s bad enough that it will serve so few riders because it doesn’t reach where people live or work on Oahu. It’s bad enough that it will blight the landscape.
This is not at all a criticism of mass transit for Honolulu. It is just that we should not be paying for this now or ever (much less through a regressive tax for the next 20 years) if we won’t be able to afford to use it.
Planning for operating the system not only isn’t complete, it may not have been started.
Perhaps the legislature should withhold additional funding until they have an audited, complete plan in hand. Then see if it should be funded.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Shogun of the House to hold out-of-district fundraiser today during legislative session
by Larry Geller
Who is the “shogun of the House?” in this old diagram, the face is still Calvin Say’s, but the current shogun is Speaker of the House Joe Souki. Yeah, I’m still pushing my analogy of the Hawaii state legislature as the Japanese government during the feudal era.
The legislative calendar is at a crucial phase in which bills are assigned to conference committees which meet behind closed doors, out of public view, to impose the intentions of the powerful leadership on each bill.
The shogun (Speaker) appoints the House members of the conference committees. Clearly, the fate of any bill depends on who he appoints and what is whispered to them before they enter those rooms where sunshine never penetrates.
Tonight the shogun is holding a fund raiser out of his district (Hawaii District 8, Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu). He is suggesting a donation of $1,000, more than his average constituent is likely to be able to afford, not to mention the air fare and hotel cost to fly to Oahu to attend his fundraiser.
Simply and particularly because of Souki’s position of power, holding a posh fundraiser on Oahu is likely to attract mainly lobbyists and special interests. This raises ethical questions for me, in the common usage of the term. The Legislature has been unwilling to impose a ban on in-session fundraisers and so they are legal. I am not claiming otherwise. And sure, he has a Constitutional right to hold a fundraiser anywhere he pleases, in the absence of restrictions. I’m sure it falls under free speech rights, the same as are enjoyed by a panhandler standing outside the Royal Hawaiian Center tonight. Inside or outside, same rights.
Still… I wonder if the contributions will be suitably wrapped.
In feudal Japan, and often pictured in period television dramas, a merchant would always make sure that the bribe he was passing to the corrupt official was impeccably presented (see image at right snipped from an episode of the long-running period drama Mito Komon).
In the Mito Komon dramas justice was always done just before the commercials at the 49 minute mark. Each time it looked something like this:
Mito Komon traveled incognito with his two samurai sidekicks Sukesan and Kakusan, fighting crime and corruption. Somehow just moments before the episode ended the three appeared on the scene in a pose something like this. The “mon”, or family crest, would be instantly recognized and everyone would hit the ground with lowered heads.
Then the evildooers would decide to rebel and a sword fight would ensue.
There was never blood nor a costume ripped to shreds, which is how the same actors managed to do the same thing in different roles the following weeks. In Hawaii, also, the same scenes are played out during each annual legislative session. What we are missing, though, is our own Mito Komon.
This year Souki is asking for a suggested donation of $1,000. That’s a step up from much earlier, when $25 would do.
Another difference is that this year’s invitation makes it clear that donations go to “Speaker of the House” Rep. Joseph Souki. Truth in advertising.
Monday, April 24, 2017
Ground Zero, my apartment!
The tubby tyrant has threatened to use his ICBM to reduce the US to ash as the two countries stand on the edge of nuclear war.
US president Donald Trump has vowed to deal with Kim Jong-un and could launch military strikes over his nuclear weapon programme.
One of his nukes, the long-range ICBM, will be capable of reaching the US once it is fully operational, with Hawaii believed to be in his targets due to it being the closest state.—article in UK Daily Star
by Larry Geller
One of several articles in the sensationalist UK paper Daily Star notes that
Downtown Honolulu would also be turned into a crater with buildings in a mile radius of the blast being wiped out.
I was a bit tense last week, but not now. Why? If a North Korean nuke should hit Honolulu, I wouldn’t have anything further to worry about, would I? The Daily Star article gives me reassurance of that.
Unless it misses its target, the “tubby tyrant’s” bomb is headed, according to their map, directly for the rooftop where I live:
The presence of Kourtney Kardashian’s butt next to the map didn’t distract me from noticing exactly where the paper placed that pin on the map.
Our condo has underground parking that could possibly be a suitable fallout shelter if stocked with food, etc., but if Kim’s nuke comes down our chimney, no further worries about that, of course.
The Daily Star ran at least three articles on the subject, here, here and here. The story has legs, though, which might possibly impact tourism if potential visitors take it to heart. From one of several dozen Vietnamese newspapers that picked it up:
Bang Hawaii là mục tiêu dễ bị tấn công vì nằm gần Triều Tiên nhất.
Khu phố sầm uất ở Honolulu sẽ biến thành đống gạch vụn trong khi các tòa nhà cao tầng đổ sụp trước tác động của sóng xung kích.
Hawaii is the most vulnerable target because it is located near the North.
The busy streets in Honolulu will turn into rubble while high-rise buildings collapse before the impact of shock waves.
Another here. No Kardashian pics, though.
Recap: Judge agreed that Gov. Ige’s appointment of Tom Gorak to the PUC was proper, so Senate should confirm him
…THE COURT ACCEPTS DEFENDANTS ARGUMENTS WHICH INCLUDED THAT A VACANCY OCCURRED UPON THE EXPIRATION OF MR. CHAMPLEY'S TERM OF OFFICE. THUS, THE COURT FINDS GOVERNOR IGE'S INTERIM APPOINTMENT OF MR. GORAK WHEN THE SENATE WAS NOT IN SESSION TO BE VALID AND SUBJECT TO ALL OTHER LIMITATIONS FOUND IN ARTICLE V, SECTION 6, PARAGRAPH 5 OF THE HAWAII CONSTITUTION.—Judge Edwin C. Nacino, Minute order, 8/26/2016
by Larry Geller
[See also: Petty politics should not prevent the Senate from approving a fully qualified PUC appointee, 4/23/2017]
Well, the judge said it in all caps, you’d think that the matter is pretty much done with. The pull quote is from the minute order issued on August 26, 2016 by Judge Edwin C. Nacino in the case Morita v. Gorak. Morita did not appeal. It’s over. Done.
Apparently, Sen. Roz Baker disagrees with the judge:
The committee voted 4-3 to not recommend confirmation of Gorak. The decision is now up to the full Senate, which can confirm Gorak if 13 of the 25 senators vote in favor before May 4.
[Committee chair] Baker said the issue with Gorak is not about his qualifications, but how the governor made the appointment without consulting the Senate.
[Star-Advertiser, Senate committee votes against Ige’s choice for PUC, 4/21/2017]
As to the timing of the appointment before the NextEra vote, the company’s proposed aquisition of Hawaii Electric Industries was widely opposed. Nor was Hawaii alone in rejecting this suitor. See: The Public Utility Commission of Texas unanimously agreed Thursday that NextEra Energy’s proposed $18.7 billion acquisition of Texas utility Oncor is not “at this point” in the public interest, RTO Insider, 3/30/2017. Perhaps NextEra needs to read their copy of The Art of the Deal once more.
To turn down a fully qualified appointee is an affront to the public interest.
The Senate should approve Gorak to continue on the PUC.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Petty politics should not prevent the Senate from approving a fully qualified PUC appointee
“It is the chair’s belief that Mr. Gorak’s qualifications are not the truly important issue before this committee,” Baker said, reading a prepared statement before the vote. –Civil Beat, 4/21/2017
by Larry Geller
Don’t we need qualified people in government? We ought to be constantly striving for the best public servants. Tom Gorak appears to be very well qualified to serve on Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission. Unfortunately, the politics of Hawaii’s feudal system of government is complicating his confirmation by the Senate.
According to the Civil Beat story (which includes a link to his resume),
He has devoted almost 40 years to public utility regulation at the state and federal levels, authored dozens of papers, spoken at national and international conferences and served as the PUC’s chief counsel from 2013 until Ige appointed him in June to replace outgoing Commissioner Mike Champley.
There was plenty of support for Gorak, with almost all the written testimony in favor, including from the Sierra Club; former Consumer Advocate Jeff Ono; the former head of the state energy office, Mark Glick; well-known Hawaii energy expert John Cole and others.
[Civil Beat, Committee Rejects Governor’s Choice For Utilities Commission, 4/21/2017]
Sen. Baker’s objections appear based on the manner in which Gov. David Ige appointed Gorak on an interim basis. Yes, this bypassed the Senate confirmation process temporarily. Gorak’s appointment was made just before the PUC was set to decide on a $4.3 billion proposal for Florida’s NextEra Energy to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries.
Baker perhaps feels that her own power has been challenged by the interim appointment. This is feudal politics at work.
Further into the article we read of Sen. Baker’s own shenanigans:
The morning hearing went smoothly, save for a few snips from Baker. She interrupted Gorak a couple times, including once right in the beginning when he asked to make an “opening statement” to the committee. She told him this was not court, but that he could make a statement.
For a bit more on Sen. Baker’s conduct of her committee hearings, see yesterday’s article on censorship of testimony. Scroll way down to just below the horzontal line. There’s a video to watch as well.
The current controversy over Gorak’s nomination is temporary. The need for qualified appointees to the PUC and elsewhere in government should be a stronger consideration.
It does not punish the Governor nor change his politics to reject Gorak. But it hurts the people of the state to reject him if he is best qualified to serve.
Cayetano’s message to Trump is well timed, but perhaps misplaced in the Washington Post
You and I met in 1998 when your Miss Universe
Pageant was held in Honolulu. I recall you
commented on the beauty of Honolulu and how
you felt it was the perfect venue for the pageant.
The rail project plans include seven massive elevated
rail stations 50-60 feet high and the 35 foot high
elevated rail line through the heart of downtown
Honolulu. If built, this will change the beauty and
ambience of the city forever.—former governor Ben Cayetano’s ad in the 4/21/17 Washington Post
by Larry Geller
Former Hawaii governor Cayetano’s message in his Friday full-page ad in the Washington Post is clear, and he may have the right psychological approach for President Trump. He’s asking Trump to cut off federal funding for the Honolulu rail project (see ad, below).
But his expensive ad is in the Washington Post. Does Trump even read the Washington Post? If he does, would he ever get to page 15, which is where the ad ended up? Was Trump even in Washington when the paper was published? Maybe it needs to be re-run in the Palm Beach Daily News.
Maybe someone will actually show it to Trump.
Not only is the psychology tuned to Trump’s thinking, the timing could not be better. No doubt Trump is pissed at Hawaii for fouling up his Muslim Ban executive order. Cayetano offers him a way to apply the screws.
It would perhaps be more effective, though, if instead of the Washington Post, the venue were a commercial on Fox and Friends. That’s what HBO’s John Oliver did.
Oliver ran a series of commercials on a program that Trump is known to watch.
Of course, this is not a serious suggestion. It would be not only Trump who views the commercial but a sizeable chunk of the TV audience that Hawaii needs to attract as tourists.
It’s much less likely that potential tourists will be reading the Washington Post ad.
Here’s the ad. Click for larger.
Friday, April 21, 2017
AG opinion on Hawaii Senate “censorship” of testimony is not the last word
by Larry Geller
A Hawaii Attorney General opinion posted along with an article on April 11 by Civil Beat should not be the last word on this issue. In fact, there is good reason to question the opinion based on its omission of critical case law on the subject.
Chad Blair reported:
Hawaii’s Department of the Attorney General says the state Senate improperly denied a person’s constitutional protected right to submit testimony for legislative hearings.
Such protections are covered by the petition clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. and Hawaii constitutions, Deputy Attorney General Robyn Chun wrote to state Sen. Breene Harimoto on March 29.
Harimoto requested the opinion after learning that the written testimony of a woman working for A Place for Women in Waipio was withheld from lawmakers and the public. The testimony contained personal information about another testifier who was critical of the organization.
[Civil Beat, AG: Hawaii Senate Improperly Withheld Testimony From Public, 4/11/2017]
This would not be the first time testimony has “disappeared” after submission to the Legislature. See below for more on this.
Isn’t an AG opinion the last word on a subject?
Definitely not. The AG (or his deputies) regularly lose in court. It is reasonable to question opinions and even to question whether there might be some bias. We all have biases. This opinion may also—it may have a bias based on religious beliefs, given the particular subject matter.
One never knows, but when an opinion omits pertinent case law, it seems reasonable to question why.
One more snip from the Civil Beat story provides background for this line if inquiry:
At issue is Senate Bill 501, which would require all “limited service” pregnancy centers like the one in Waipio to disclose “the availability of and enrollment information for” reproductive health services.
An earlier version of the bill identified as part of that information abortion services, but the latest version uses the words “pregnancy-related services.”
SB 501 is supported by the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii and the local chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It is opposed by religious organizations such as the Hawaii Family Forum, the Roman Catholic Church in the State of Hawaii and Mauka Makai Ministries.
Let’s dive into the legal issues first.
I was pointed to Schwab v. Ariyoshi, 58 Haw. 25, 564 P.2d 135 (1977) by someone who cares about this issue. This is the key case omitted from AG Doug Chin’s opinion (posted by Civil Beat at the end of the above article or click here).
Google reveals that Schwab is a frequently cited case when legislative procedures are challenged, so its omission is curious.
From The Hawaii State Constitution (Oxford Commentaries on the State Constitutions of the United States), Apr 15, 2011, by Anne Lee, p.99, on Article III Section 12 of our state constitution:
Because the legislature is empowered by Section 12 to determine the rules of its proceedings, the court has declined to investigate possible violations of legislative rules. In general, the judiciary's role in supervising legislative activity is limited to seeing that such activity does not violate any constitutional provisions. Therefore, it will not "interfere with the conduct of legislative affairs in absence of a constitutional mandate to do so, or unless the procedure or result constitutes a deprivation of constitutionally guaranteed rights" (Schwab v. Ariyoshi, 1977).
At issue here, then, is whether there is a constitutionally guaranteed right that testimony submitted to a committee chair or a Senator must be distributed to other members or all members. It’s just not there.
Nor is there anything prohibiting the Legislature from changing, failing to follow, or even violating its own rules. They do so fairly regularly, in each and every session. Advocates may grouse about it, but it’s not illegal.
We need to look at one more case that was recommended to me, though:
Minn. Bd. Commun. for Colleges v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271, 281 (1984). In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the implication by the AG's recent opinion that the "right to petition" the government under the First Amendment can control legislative procedure.
The Constitution does not grant to members of the public generally a right to be heard by public bodies making decisions of policy... To recognize a constitutional right to participate directly in government policymaking would work a revolution in existing government practices.
There’s nothing to prevent any citizen (or anyone else, for that matter) from emailing all the Senators on a committee in order to be heard, as an example. The person whose testimony was “censored” could do that, and perhaps did. So there would be no infringement, as the AG suggests, of a person’s "right to petition" the government under the First Amendment. Email, fax, hand over a letter, whatever—petition away.
So what “bias” may be at play?
It wouldn’t be unusual for a person’s personal or religious beliefs to influence professional views on a subject intentionally or unintentionally. I can only speculate that perhaps this could be why the opinion fell as it did.
SB100 has been strongly opposed by the religious right. It seems that the Senate intends to withhold the personal information revealed in that testimony in order to shield a survivor from further victimization. Others appear to want the opposite.
And here is a photo, posted in a tweet by prolific tweeter Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran dated April 13 (two days after the Civil Beat article) of AG Doug Chin welcoming people to the Hawaii Prayer Breakfast.
There’s no implication of wrongdoing in suggesting that a person’s possible beliefs may influence the thoroughness of a professional work product. It happens.
Did it happen here?
Other instances of “censorship” of testimony
At one time I was a frequent testifier at the Legislature, spending far too many days waiting my turn to weigh in on controversial bills. It did happen that my testimony, submitted well before the committee meeting, didn’t make it into the committee’s paper packet that preceded computerization. It also happened rarely that my testimony did not make it into the compiled on-line pdf file after computerization.
Since I always came with a couple of copies of my written testimony I simply gave it to the chair and went over it orally for the rest of the committee.
Sh*t happens. But mostly, the process worked quite well.
A better example of “censorship” was on public display at a Senate hearing conducted in March, 2012, at which Senator Roz Baker, chair of Senate Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, refused to hear oral testimony in opposition to the appointment of HMSA’s chief lobbyist to a position on the board of the Hawaii Health Connector. The entire incident was caught on video and led to a complaint by two organizations (one of which was Kokua Council, of which I was president at the time) about the chair’s conduct.
I wrote at the time (see first link):
On Friday, March 23, Senator Rosalyn Baker strong-armed approval of the nominees through her committee. She didn’t allow testimony from the public waiting in the room to speak until confronted by a member of the audience. And even then, she interrupted those who did come forward to testify against the nominees. Example: she would not let me refer to information in a Star-Advertiser article I brought with me.
The complaint, of course, went nowhere because the Senate can realistically do almost whatever it wants.
Recently I was asked in an email about apparent censorship of testimony submitted properly via the Capitol website. It took me a while to get to the issue, but when I did, I learned that the Capitol website simply forwards testimony to the committee, where presumably a staff member assembles the testimony as in days of yore. The emails to me included the receipts received from the system.
I did not look at the testimony in question—it doesn’t matter whether I would agree with it or not. In my view, the Legislature should, in general, assure that all testimony is properly compiled. I could not learn from the committee staff if testimony was ever deliberately withheld, and one person’s response wouldn’t necessarily be definitive anyway. Perhaps I could have more aggressively pursued the question, but there was no assurance that I could accurately learn the reason for the disappearance of this particular testimony.
That is not to say that “disappeared” testimony isn’t of interest—it is, just that in this single instance I could not form a conclusion. If there is a pattern and practice of omitting testimony, that alone should be of public interest.
Anyone who is concerned about this, please comment below if you also have had testimony “disappear” that you think was unfairly treated.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Did you know that Blaisdell is a war memorial? Do you care that big bucks may be spent to unnecessarily “improve” it?
The Blaisdell is a “living” or functional war memorial, a common type of memorial from the mid-20th century. Living memorials follow a dual purpose of honoring veterans while also serving the community.—Civil Beat article
by Larry Geller
Thanks to Tanya Harrison (follow her on Twitter as @BlaisdellMemorl), the city’s plans to reconstruct this facility have now been exposed to a larger audience.
Among the several questions Tanya asks is the economic one:
With the problems of rail, homelessness, and infrastructure, why is this a priority? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to simply renovate? The initial estimate of $400 million could easily balloon to more than $ 1 billion. While the powers-that-be wrangle over revenue increases to balance the budget, discussion of Blaisdell redevelopment, budgeted for $12 million next year, is not on the public’s radar.
[Civil Beat, Is Anyone Paying Attention To The Blaisdell Center Makeover?, 4/13/2017]
The planned redevelopment likely links with the theft of Thomas Square as a public park. Taken together, renovation of Blaisdell would whet the city’s appetite for commercial development. But is this in the public interest?
Why has the Arena’s status as a war memorial been shrouded from public awareness as these plans continue?
Read the article at the Civil Beat website. If you enjoy concertgoing or even shopping at the Wednesday farmers’ market, you might also be concerned about this plan, apparently developed with as little public participation as possible.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Petition filed by Native Hawaiian fisherman against Hawaii’s illegal licensing of foreign longline fishermen
75% of workers in Hawaii’s long lines industry are said to be foreign fisherman who are not allowed to even set foot in Hawaii because they are in a technical state of deportation as they fish (see: Three months after the AP revealed slave-like conditions aboard boats in the Hawaii fishing fleet, no fix is in sight, 12/7/2016).
State law is pretty clear but is not enforced: HRS §189-5, titled "Aliens not admitted to United States," states that: “It is unlawful for any person who has not been lawfully admitted to the United States toengage in taking marine life for commercial purposes in the waters of the State.”
The press release explains this new action, which is a petition that the Board of Land and Natural Resources is required to hear. An OCR copy of the petition is attached below.
Wailuku, Maui — Malama Chun, a Native Hawaiian waterman, who fishes, has filed a petition with the state Board of Land and Natural Resources challenging DLNR's Division of Aquatic Resources practice of issuing licenses to foreign fisherman who have been refused permission to land in Hawai'i by U.S. authorities and have been ordered deported.
State law restricts the issuance of commercial fishing licenses to persons "lawfully admitted to the United States" Foreign fishermen working in the longline fishing industry are refused permission to land in the United States by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and are also ordered deported. However, using a loophole, they authorize the fisherman's boat captain to hold the fisherman's passport and the deportation order and allow the boat captain to determine when the deportation is to occur. To enforce the deportation order, the piers at which the fishing boats dock are heavily militarized and access is restricted.
Malama Chun said, "Fishermen are the state's first line of defense in observing and reporting harmful activities that threaten our public marine resources. These individuals are prohibited from freely moving in Hawai'i and are subject to the total control of their employer. They are simply unable to report violations to authorities."
Chun's attorney, Lance D. Collins, added: "The statute is clear when it limits commercial fishing licenses to persons "lawfully admitted" to the United States. Previous to 1949 when "lawfully admitted" was added to the statute, any person could obtain a fishing license."
Under Board of Land and Natural Resources rules, the Board will now consider the petition and either grant a declaratory order confirming the practice as illegal or deny the petition.
Monday, April 10, 2017
It will be Hawaii, not Mar-a-Lago, that is at risk if Trump provokes North Korea
by Larry Geller
The mainstream media seems to love Trump’s “presidential” act of bombing that Syrian air field. They love it. As a distraction from the ongoing investigations into Russian involvement in the election, it’s been a winner.
For the moment, anyway, the tide of media approval has swamped the Russian thing totally, as may have been intended.
The investigations haven’t halted, of course, and could bob to the surface any time soon. In that case, since Trump enjoys “winning,” there has been speculation in the Twitterverse that he could try for an encore performance by provoking North Korea militarily.
If he does that, as I tweeted on Thursday, Hawaii better watch out:
The path of an ICBM would be shorter to Hawaii and opportunities to intercept it fewer. Plus, the islands are home to a vast military presence, including the Pacific Command.
Of course, the United States could then blow N. Korea off the map.
Kim Jong Un would have to be crazy to attack Hawaii. Right? Right??
Well, John McCain recently called Kim Jong Un a "crazy fat kid" on MSNBC. Here’s a report of the reaction:
The state-run Korean Central News Agency accused McCain, and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, of attacking North Korea's "dignity," calling their comments a "grave provocation, little short of declaration of war."
[USA Today, Kim Jong Un, North Korea blast McCain for 'crazy fat kid' remark, 3/30/2017]
And now this:
That Trump may have N. Korea in his crosshairs is a hot topic on Twitter. He seems to be preparing. Preparing something, we don’t know what, since his actions appear to be based more on whim than on policy.
None of this is secret. The tweets have thousands of re-tweets.
Also, and this is a new twist I think in American politics, Trump stands to profit from the military adventures he instigates. The bombing of the Syrian airfield was ineffective—planes took off from it the very next day. But the 60 or so missiles fired drove up Raytheon stock, and Trump invests in Raytheon stock.
There’s nothing funny about this, but there was an article in The Onion that rang too true to be amusing:
…President Donald Trump held a press conference Friday to express his full confidence that the airstrike had completely wiped out the lingering Russian scandal. “Based on intelligence we have received over the past several hours, the attack on the al-Shayrat air base in Homs has successfully eliminated all discussions and allegations about my administration’s ties to the Russian government,” said Trump.”
[The Onion, Trump Confident U.S. Military Strike On Syria Wiped Out Russian Scandal, 4/7/2017]
Today the threat went mainstream, at least in the Honolulu newspaper. The Star-Advertiser gave almost its entire front page to a story about the threat.
In Hawaii a profusion of four-star military commands — including U.S. Pacific Command, which oversees U.S. military activity over half the globe — makes Oahu a strategic and symbolic target. The threat from an unpredictable North Korea, in turn, is prompting a revisitation of some old Cold War practices that until recently seemed laughable.
[Star-Advertiser p.1, Specialists think North Korea poses nuclear threat to Hawaii, 4/10/2017]
The well-researched story by reporter William Cole notes that once we were prepared (as best as one could be, I suppose), but no more:
Nuclear fallout shelters? In 1981 Oahu had hundreds of them. The Prince Kuhio Building could hold 14,375 people — not because it has a secret underground bunker, but because its concrete parking structure could be used as shelter.
“Each one of those facilities had to be surveyed for how much concrete density (was present),” said Toby Clairmont, executive officer of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the successor to Civil Defense. “And they had to be equipped, so they put medical kits in them, food, sanitary kits, all that kind of stuff.”
As time went on, funding for those provisions stopped, and the stocks were disposed of because they became too old, Clairmont said. In the majority of cases, existing fallout shelter markings are out of date and no longer applicable.
It’s scary for many people to realize that Donald Trump really is president.” Some wake up in very real fear of deportation or of losing their health insurance and then their health. For us in Hawaii, we have Trump’s intentions toward North Korea to worry about as well. What he does may well have consequences for us.
What to do about it? That discussion should start immediately at all levels of our government.