Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Wanna be an investigative reporter? Check this out
Ian Lind described his process of investigating and writing a Civil Beat article on an HSTA legal action against the Ethics Commission.State Ethics ruling triggers two-pronged HSTA legal action (ilind.net, 3/25/2015)
Ian got his article and a scoop in the process. But it required persistence and hard work. Check it out.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
House adds a bill, subtracts a bill, with less than a day’s notice
by Larry Geller
If you were planning to drive down to the Capitol from the North Shore this morning to testify on SB129, sorry about that… it was taken off the agenda—and another bill snuck in—without the 48-hour notice as required by House rules.
Yup, a waiver was requested and granted. Why? Who knows.
What we know is that the public gets screwed each time.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Frankenbill scheduled for hearing in Senate Agriculture committee on Tuesday
by Larry Geller
It looks like a Frankenbill will be born at the Senate Agriculture meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) when the committee adds totally unrelated language to a bill already passed by the House. The new text, stuck onto the original bill, will not have been heard by any House committee or received its three readings on the House floor.
The description of HB508 HD1 was:
Establishes within the Livestock Revitalization Program a grant program for qualified feed developers. Appropriates funds for the Feed Developer Grant Program, reimbursements to Qualified Producers for feed cost, and a survey of local feed ingredient sources.
If you read the status page linked above, you’d have no idea that the Senate planned to create a monster tomorrow.
The proposed SD1 first adds a huge change to the bill in that it creates grants for establishment of feed mills. These grants can be up to $750,000 per project, which is no chump change. At least, they are still talking about feed.
There is also new language that makes it a Frankenbill because it has nothing, nothing whatsoever, to do with feed. It’s about hemp:
Authorizes the growing of industrial hemp for certain purposes under specified conditions. Appropriates funds for Department of Agriculture staff to assist in registration of industrial hemp growers and seed testing.
Now, I have nothing against growing hemp “for certain purposes” at all. But it should have been in a bill all by itself.
The US Congress is known for tucking away little bits of evilness in totally unrelated bills. This snip is not even a week old, and illustrates the danger of Frankenbills:
Here's one of those classic moments in Congress when lawmakers first said they approved of a bill, and then they read it and found out what they were approving of. That is what Democrats say happened with the human trafficking bill. It seemed like a bipartisan no-brainer. Nobody favors human trafficking, and the bill would create a restitution fund for victims. Both parties were on board until Democrats said they discovered language blocking federal funds from being used for abortions.
[NPR, Abortion Provision In Human Trafficking Bill Delays Lynch Vote, 3/18/2015]
Back to HB508, it would be very easy for someone who supported the original bill to not read the new one completely, and simply submit a copy of their earlier supporting testimony to Senate committees it must pass through. That’s just one problem. The other, as mentioned, is that the new language is unrelated and never considered by the House. My reading of the state constitution is that this is not supposed to happen. Obviously, others think differently.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Cuba has an attraction Hawaii should envy
Bookings to Cuba jumped 57 percent for one New York tour operator in the weeks after Washington said it would renew ties with Havana. In February, they were up 187 percent; and so far this month, nearly 250 percent.—from the AP story
by Larry Geller
Oh, barring a catastrophe, Hawaii will always remain a tourist destination. But look at the numbers in the pull-quote above! Our tourist industry could have some competition.
"Cuba has a very authentic atmosphere which you see nowhere else in the world," Gay Ben Aharon of Israel said while walking through Revolution Square. "I wanted to see it before the American world ... but also the modern Western world comes here."
[AP, Tourists flocking to Cuba 'before the Americans come', 3/23/2015]
The story indicates that Cuba isn’t quite ready for a tsunami of tourists.
Last year, the country welcomed 3 million visitors, a record.
Hawaii and its state legislature have a lesson to teach about democracy
by Larry Geller
I wish the world could see that Hawaii is different—that our state legislators struggle to do the right thing. The news was on page two of today’s paper.
But alas, the Star-Advertiser keeps David Shapiro’s column locked up behind its paywall. Here’s a snip, which makes my point rather than his:
[DLNR nominee Carleton] Ching is a good and accomplished man, but it's simply inappropriate in terms of public trust to give oversight of Hawaii's precious lands and waters to a developer's lobbyist who sought to weaken environmental protections.
It's akin to appointing a tobacco lobbyist as health director or a utility lobbyist to head the Public Utilities Commission.
If [Governor] Ige still doubts he messed up, he should consider that the appointment couldn't pass the nose test of very friendly state senators who gave him every possible benefit of the doubt as a popular former colleague.
[Star-Advertiser p. A2, Ige's DLNR fiasco echoes dark days of Abercrombie, 3/22/201]
We should be proud that we understand government differently, and that the people do have a voice here.
Yes, the world should know that Hawaii did not let its governor appoint a developer’s lobbyist to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Hawaii’s leaders can and do listen to their constituents.
Unfortunately, that news is locked away.
Star-Advertiser, tear down your wall.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
March 21, 2003—NYT: US and British Troops Push Into Iraq
A drone to annoy the cat with
by Larry Geller
When I started writing about personal drones a couple of years ago, they were small winged aircraft. Suddenly, it seems, quadcopters took over. Amazon wants to deliver packages using a quadcopter.
They’re much more versatile. They can hover, go in any direction, even climb walls. They can carry cameras. They can be used to report news, check crops, survey disaster scenes, or to rescue people. Or use one to take selfies.
Or you can use it to annoy the cat.
And it costs just $14 dollars, including postage from China, but you need to have your own joystick controller.
Update: Amazon seems to be testing octocopters for package delivery. See image on this page.
Report: Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale NB Opposes "48 Minute" Bill 1329
by Larry Geller
John Bond reports:
Friday night a special meeting of the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale [Neighborhood Board] voted to oppose Bill 1329 for a proposed race track in the Ewa residential areas for reasons which included the 48 minute public notice and no prior proposals submitted for public review and consideration by the neighborhood board.
HB1329 is the controversial bill that was part of an agenda given only 48 minutes notice before it was heard by FIN on March 5. The waiver of 48-hour notice was requested by House Finance chair Sylvia Luke and granted by the Speaker. The bill enables the creation of a motor racetrack on Ewa Field, a historic battlefield.
Strangely (?), the proponents of the bill, including the assumed future racetrack operators, their attorney and others connected to the project, were able to submit testimony in support of the bill. The public at large was locked out by the outrageously short notice, so there was no testimony in opposition. All in favor, none opposed. That is what the record will show—there is no indication that only 48 minutes notice was given.
- Sunshine? Bills Slip Through During 'Total Solar Eclipse' (Hawaii Free Press, 3/5/2015)
- Outrageous: House gives 48 minute (not 48 hour) notice of hearing—one bill commits $100 million in state bonds (3/10/2015)
- Motorsports bond bill speeds through House, now in Senate as a “blank check” (3/16/2015)
John also reported:
At the meeting one suggested alternative area brought up was the State owned former Hawaii Feedlot which is located in the Campbell Industrial area where the engine noises would be the least disruptive and where many car repair shops are already located.
While a smaller area, the Hawaii Feedlot site may actually be a more appropriate area considering that past local race track ventures have had financial difficulties and would not support a major mainland type of racing facility.
The bill is now in the Senate, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on
Economic Development and Technology (chair: Glenn Wakai).
Note: The Neighborhood Board did not take a position opposing the concept of a racetrack:
At the meeting one suggested alternative area brought up was the
State owned former Hawaii Feedlot which is located in the Campbell
Industrial area where the engine noises would be the least disruptive
and where many car repair shops are already located.
(this point was omitted in the original article here)
Friday, March 20, 2015
Aloha Stadium: Repair or replace, or…
by Larry Geller
Rusting away in the hot sun.
Is it better to spend $200M fix the old rust bucket or $300M to build a new one?
Or should we do something else?
A picture is worth a thousand words. Just change “Qatar” to “Honolulu.”
For the thousand word version, see: Imagine: An Aloha Stadium that generates cooling and electricity (7/27/2012).
Bad bill to morph into good, but isn’t “gut and replace” still bad?
by Larry Geller
Did you know that Hawaii has a tobacco industry? I didn’t, until I read the original text of HB145. The measure, as it was when it went through the House, would provide tax subsidies to cigar manufacturers. Among the testimony in support was a Kauai outfit that grows tobacco and makes cigars. Who knew.
Of course, the testimony against included those with health concerns, because cigars, like cigarettes, are addictive, and cigars cause mouth cancers (for example).
The AG submitted testimony that the bill was likely unconstitutional as it was written. And testimony observed that all of us would end up subsidizing the tobacco industry because the bill created tax credits.
The bill, introduced by Souki, Luke and McKelvey (thought you’d like to know), (and in case you want to research further, check out how much they received from tobacco companies over the past few years).
So this lousy bill passed the House. Cough, cough. Choke.
No sooner did it hit the Senate than “they” (there’s no name attached to the deed) decided it should be gutted it and replaced it with another tobacco bill, one that increases contributions to the Hawaii Cancer Research Special Fund:
Section 245-3(a)( 13), after December 31, 2015, and thereafter, all amounts shall be deposited to the credit of the Hawaii cancer research special fund, established pursuant to section 304A-2168, for research and operating expenses and for capital expenditures.
What’s not to like about that? (I haven’t figured out if the new bill contains any problems, but this appears to be the main thrust). A bad bill won’t pass, and cancer research will benefit from the new.
Actually, the bill is scheduled for surgery on Monday. Here’s the hearing notice, with link to the texts of the bill.
“Gut and replace” makes a mockery of the legislative process. But one can be torn. The original bill was so bad, from a public health standpoint, and this one appears to be so good, what’s not to like?
The new bill will not have been heard at all by the House. I wish someone would take the legislators to court on this (perhaps it has been done? Does anyone know?).
Assuming it passes, it will not have received the requisite three readings by both houses. Also, the record will show that Souki, Luke and McKelvey introduced the bill. Presumably, they did not. But no one will notice. Not even their tobacco industry contributors.
Do the means justify the end? Shouldn’t the practice of “gut and replace” be ended?
Don’t let biased usage get past you in news articles
by Larry Geller
What’s not to like in this snip from the Star-Advertiser’s report on Governor Ige’s withdrawal of Carleton Ching’s nomination for head of the DLNR?
To a certain extent, the withdrawal of Ching's nomination ahead of a Senate vote demonstrated the sway that environmental and conservation interests maintain in Hawaii politics. Many of the groups that supported Ching's pick were tied to construction trade and business-oriented pursuits, while those opposing were generally environmental advocates and conservation-oriented.
[Star-Advertiser p. A1, Nomination Withdrawn, 3/19/2015]
The problem is the usage “environmental and conservation interests.” It’s a common right-wing ploy to try to attribute what is good for the public—you and I included—as a type of “special interest.” Note that on the other side are “construction trade and business-oriented pursuits.” Not exactly. Those are the special interests. The use of “pursuits” seems so non-threatening… yet if we let those “pursuits” have sway, the `aina will be paved over with asphalt.
Contrast the S-A usage with the Civil Beat story on the withdrawal of the same nomination:
That decision helped turn the tide in the closely divided 25-member state Senate against Ching, whose nomination had generated vociferous opposition from environmentalists and others.
[Civil Beat, Senators’ 11th-Hour Decisions Doomed Ching Nomination. 3/18/2015]
There’s nothing wrong with the label “environmentalists”. Or feminists, pacifists and so forth. And the writer recognized that opposition was quite broad by the use of “and others.” All of us care about the environment to some extent. Opposition to Ching’s nomination was broad indeed, and composed or ordinary members of the public who were concerned. Of course, there was also support from individual members of the public.
These are not “interests” and the Civil Beat article did not use that term.
Remember: special interests are the ones that want to put hormones in your milk, build condos for the ultra-rich, transform farmlands into townhouses, risk New York City’s pure water supply with fracking chemicals, build weapons and wage war. And then there’s the rest of us.
Is this a quibble? No, not when it fits into the context of bias in general news coverage in a paper.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
UH reaches into the garbage can again for a process to choose a new athletic director
by Larry Geller
Is the search for the next University of Hawaii athletic director going to turn into another one of those “what in the world is going on in Manoa?” moments?
Ian Lind reports in UH athletic director search raises new questions (ilind.net, 3/18/2015) that the University of Hawaii has formed a search committee to recommend a candidate for athletic director. They made their recommendation. And then the Chancellor came up with his own favorite.
This appears to be a continuance of the UH administration’s dependence on an inferior “garbage can” model of management. I’ve written so much on this subject that I won’t repeat. There are those (including one author of the original paper) who interpret the process as orderly. I don’t think so.
The way problems are handled at UH gives the impression of "rummaging around" inside a garbage can. Orderly rummaging or not, UH can do better.
Where is the business school when it’s needed?
Ethics trumps politics in Senate handling of Ching nomination
by Larry Geller
… Ihara has known David Ige for 29 years and is a close friend of the governor and his chief of staff, Mike McCartney.
A vote against Ching would be a strike against the governor only four months after he was elected. But after much introspection, the senator told Ige on Tuesday that he could not vote in favor of Ching.
That decision helped turn the tide in the closely divided 25-member state Senate against Ching, whose nomination had generated vociferous opposition from environmentalists and others.
[Civil Beat, Senators’ 11th-Hour Decisions Doomed Ching Nomination, 3/18/2015]
During the Senate committee hearing on the Governor’s nomination, Ihara had said that he would vote no in committee, but yes on the floor. It was good to see that after weighing all the competing forces tugging on him, he had the courage to change his mind.
The Civil Beat article notes that as of yesterday morning, before the nomination would have come up for a vote, Senators Ihara, Chun-Oakland, and Kalani English had decided to vote against. Apparently that either doomed the nomination or at least made it questionable whether there would be enough votes for the Senate to consent.
Despite wrangling over numerous contentions measures, I’ve noticed that Hawaii’s state legislature has a tendency to do the right thing in the end. Maybe not soon enough to please everyone, and maybe not everyone would agree, but I am convinced that we have a much more responsive legislature at the state level than at least many states on the Continent. And this is despite its many flaws. Yes, I needed to say that.
That state senators would weigh the multiple ties and loyalties to a former colleague now governor and decide to oppose his strongly expressed will demonstrates this ability to respond to direction from constituents.
I’ll find my Chun-Oakland t-shirt for tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Civil Beat on the spot with news of Ige’s withdrawal of Ching nomination
by Larry Geller
Today seems to be Civil Beat appreciation day at Disappeared News.
But I think Civil Beat did a better job of reporting on Governor Ige’s withdrawal of Carleton Ching’s nomination just before a crucial vote—that the gov possibly calculated would not go well for the nominee. Certainly, many of the floor speeches would have been difficult for Ching to hear.
This way appears to be not only better for the people, but more merciful for the nominee.
During a long recess, Mike McCartney, Ige’s chief of staff, handed Senate President Donna Mercado Kim the withdrawal letter and hugged her. [CB]
Civil Beat got a shot of the “hug.”
(see article for pics).
I felt the Civil Beat story (by Anita Hofschneider) captured the events and reaction of the moment, while the Star-Advertiser was mostly reflection on the contention over the past couple of weeks over the nomination.
Check out both stories:
- Gov. Ige Withdraws Carleton Ching Nomination (Civil Beat, 3/18/2015)
- Ige withdraws Ching's nomination to lead DLNR (Star-Advertiser, 3/18/2015)
Civil Beat reports more fund raisers during session
by Larry Geller
I’m glad Civil Beat is on this, so I can do something else.
No matter how many times I (or they) report on fund raisers during session, it seems to make no difference. Each session, this happens over and over again. I know I’m banging my head against the wall.
I’m glad to see that someone else is willing to do it and can get paid for the effort as well. Clearly, our daily newspaper, which profits from candidate’s advertising, is just not into this sort of reporting.
In Hawaii Legislature in Session? Time to Raise Campaign Money! (Civil Beat, 3/18/2015) Chad Blair reports that
Sylvia Luke (chairwoman of House Finance, which crafts the budget), Scott Nishimoto (chairman of Legislative Management and vice chairman of Finance), Mark Nakashima (chairman of Labor and Public Employment) and Aaron Ling Johanson will hold a joint fundraiser this evening.
Each is asking for $100 suggested contribution.
Now, Luke, Nishimoto and Johansen each represent districts on Oahu. Their constituents could, theoretically, attend the fundraiser and contribute. But Nakashima represents Hamakua, North and South Hilo. That’s a long swim just to drop a few coins into the hat.
As I’m fond of pointing out, when a fundraiser is aimed at lobbyists, corporations and special interests, the public is not well served. And when the fundraiser is held during session, it raises ethical concerns because matters that these folks may be lobbying for could come before the legislators tonight holding their hands out.
For any of the lobbyists or corporations who attend, $100 is a very reasonable investment in a legislator. Lobbyists are not philanthropists—they expect something in return.
I wish there could be a cadre of “shadows” who would track these things—along with legislative votes and other activities (good, bad, positive, negative, whatever) of each and every legislator. This would be compiled onto a website so that come election time, voters could be reminded of what “their” representative has done—for them, or for others. To do this would be a tremendous effort, but could help bring democracy to Hawaii.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Factions and dealmaking at the Hawaii state legislature
With few exceptions, Senate leadership expects members to vote in line with the committee chair.
by Larry Geller (edited 3/18/2015)
The Senate will vote on the nomination of Carleton Ching as DLNR Director tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18, at 11:30 a.m.
The pull-quote above is a snip from the must-read Civil Beat article, Palace Intrigue and the Ching Confirmation Vote (Civil Beat, 3/17/2015). The pull-quote, which isn’t directly related to my topic here nor central to the Civil Beat discussion, nevertheless is a rare description of how Hawaii’s legislature really works. Yes, a legislative committee will almost always cast their votes the way a chair “recommends,” including voting for proposed amendments they haven’t even seen.
So submit all the testimony you like, what will happen is what the committee chair wants to happen.
Why that little snip is important: it illustrates a “The people be damned” attitude that can prevail in any legislative body. That’s also what the Civil Beat article describes. Voting according to factional loyalty is a thing apart from and is the antithesis of voting in the public interest.
Kaui County Councilman Gary Hooser, a former state legislator, emailed this today (snip):
The overwhelming public sentiment against the appointment, the numerous conservation and environmental organizations who are publicly opposing the appointment, the fact that both the Honolulu Star Advertiser (twice) and the Civil Beat both have also taken positions in strong opposition, combined with the blatantly obvious and extremely poor performance of the nominee - translate into the fact that there is no justifiable public policy reason to vote Yes.
If you haven’t read the Civil Beat article above, go read it now. It’s not public policy that many of the senators keep in mind when they vote—it’s which “club” they owe allegiance to.
Factions and deals
The Civil Beat article details the different factions in the Senate and how that may influence the vote tomorrow. Public policy isn’t part of it. Reporter Nathan Eagle has done a superb job of exposing the relationships that may well determine the outcome of the confirmation vote—regardless of the will of the people.
They don’t teach this stuff in any of the classes explaining how the legislative process works. (Also, please see the diagram at the end of this article for my comparison of our legislature to a Japanese feudal system of government.)
And you thought we had a functioning democracy here? Ha.In the meantime, news of “deals” being offered one way or the other have leaked in—that is, deals allegedly offered by the administration to senators in exchange for “yes” votes, or by senators to the administration, offering a “yes” vote in exchange for later support of some kind of project or for other consideration.
It seems that the alleged dealmaking has been overheard in public—in committee rooms or outside at the rail. But obviously, I can’t easily verify any reports. There’s nothing I can report here as “fact.” We expect them to vote according to the best pubic policy rather than whether, for example, just hypothetically mind you, would a school project in Kihei be given favorable treatment if the senators vote “yes” tomorrow?
Or what did Ching mean when he referred to Kawainui Marsh in his confirmation hearing? Is there a promise, hint or suggestion of development in that area which might swing the Tokuda faction mentioned in the Civil Beat article to vote in favor of his confirmation?
It’s not strange that there are no reports of deals asking for “no” votes. The public doesn’t make deals, it demands representation, among other things, of its representatives.
I posted this diagram some time ago. It shows Calvin Say as Shogun, under whom are 20 daimyo or feudal lords. Maybe some of them (such as the chair of the Finance committee) are more powerful than others, but basically, they all obey orders, mostly.
Perhaps, in light of the Civil Beat description of factions in the Senate, I could have drawn some vertical lines to divide the factions, just as they would have been divided in feudal Japan.
Under the committee chairs are all the retainers. As we now know, they vote according to what their feudal lord requests. If they don’t vote as they are told, they might as well commit suicide, because whatever they want for their constituents simply isn’t going to happen.
This worked in Japan for hundreds of years! And it appears that Hawaii has chosen to emulate that proven system of government.
Heck, what state legislature is different? Probably, they’re a lot worse. Hawaii is unusual in that you can walk in to your representative’s office and speak with staff or with the person her- or him-self. That is, if you live on Oahu. If you’re part of a Neighbor Island fief, sorry about that. Ordinary people do have strength here, if they come out and participate in person.
No matter where you live, if you have an opinion on how your senate representatives should vote on the Ching nomination, call them now—the vote is at 11:30 Wednesday. Leave a message.
Stealing Gary Hooser’s list of phone numbers:
Members of the Hawaii State Senate
Baker , Rosalyn H. 808-586-6070
Chun Oakland , Suzanne 808-586-6130
Dela Cruz , Donovan M. 808-586-6090
English , J. Kalani 808-587-7225
Espero , Will 808-586-6360
Gabbard , Mike 808-586-6830
Galuteria , Brickwood 808-586-6740
Green , Josh 808-586-9385
Harimoto , Breene 808-586-6230
Ihara , Les Jr. 808-586-6250
Inouye , Lorraine R. 808-586-7335
Kahele , Gilbert 808-586-6760
Keith-Agaran , Gilbert S.C. 808-586-7344
Kidani , Michelle N. 808-586-7100
Kim , Donna Mercado 808-587-7200
Kouchi , Ronald D. 808-586-6030
Nishihara , Clarence K. 808-586-6970
Riviere , Gil 808-586-7330
Ruderman , Russell E. 808-586-6890
Shimabukuro , Maile S.L. 808-586-7793
Slom , Sam (R) 808-586-8420
Taniguchi , Brian T. 808-586-6460
Thielen , Laura H. 808-587-8388
Tokuda , Jill N. 808-587-7215
Wakai , Glenn 808-586-8585
Monday, March 16, 2015
Honouliuli is safe, but Hawaii is poised to destroy another important WWII historical site
This tweet just in:
- Once Lost, Internment Camp In Hawaii Now A National Monument (NPR, 3/16/2015)
- Motorsports bond bill speeds through House (3/16/2015)
Motorsports bond bill speeds through House, now in Senate as a “blank check”
by Larry Geller
The House has committed you, Hawaii taxpayer, to indebtedness for a motorsports racetrack. Senate approval of the bill is pending now that it has crossed over.
Both houses must agree for the bill to pass out of the Legislature.
At the time I posted last week’s article, the House Finance Committee had given the public only 48 minutes notice that the bill was to be heard, yet supporters and their attorney somehow submitted testimony. This suggests that they knew in advance of the hearing, and it resulted in all submitted testimony recorded as in support, with no opposition.
Also, going into the hearing, the bill text called for approval of special purpose revenue bonds in the amount of $100 million. The committee revised the bill by removing the amounts—leaving, in effect, a “blank check” for racetrack proponents. The final amount could be less, or more, than the original $100 million.
What it also means is that should the Senate fill in the blank spaces, the bill would go to conference committee. The bill also now has a “defective date” of 2030, guaranteeing it can end up in conference if the House does not accept a final Senate version.
It’s a feature of Hawaii’s legislature that the public is excluded from conference committee discussions. The committee meets in public only to announce its actions.
So the racetrack bill, and the amount of its public indebtedness, could end up decided entirely behind closed doors.
Some might be wary of corruption entering a process as flawed as this one.
HB1329 has been assigned to EDT and WAM, though a hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Special purpose revenue bonds are bonds that represent indebtedness of the taxpayers of the State of Hawaii—so we’re talking here about our indebtedness to make a motor raceway happen and to destroy a historic battlefield.
It’s likely that Hawaii will end up in the news nationally, but not in a good way.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Dealmaking for Ching in the Senate—Land and Politics in Hawaii
The people’s needs and concepts of their environment once again are colliding with a political agenda of development and patronage.
by Larry Geller
Strangely, Gov. Ige is being in-your-face active in promoting his DLNR nominee Carleton Ching. Several on-line accounts document his public outburst during the Senate committee’s questioning of the nominee last week.
Ige should know better. That he persists in the face of massive public opposition to his candidate indicates that he may have a specific purpose in pushing poorly qualified Ching over a potentially better choice for the job.
That’s all the more reason the Senate should turn down this nominee. But will they? Richard Borreca knows Hawaii politics. Today he wrote (snip):
The 25-member body is mostly made up of comfortable Ige allies. They worked for his election, backed him against former Gov. Neil Abercrombie after having relied on him as their steady Ways and Means Committee chairman.
Now as governor, Ige is asking his friends to first disregard a strong rejection of Ching by the Senate Water and Land Committee, and then to ignore the full-court press of the potent environmental lobby.
[Star-Advertiser p.E1, Senators’ vote on Ching: Gov or environmentalists?, 3/15/2015]
Resurrecting the PLDC
The downside risk here is that Ching may implement the PLDC policies that the public thought were dealt with already. Interestingly, he may also be in a position to fulfill deals made with senators in exchange for their votes. These deals are allegedly being negotiated already.
Can enough votes be bought? Quite probably. Ige already has three assured “yes” votes, based on statements at the committee hearing: Brickwood Galuteria, Sam Slom and Les Ihara. All he needs is ten more. Some “friends of Ige” will already favor approving the nomination, others may be persuadable.Some dealmaking hasn’t been well hidden. Ige’s “people” do this for him, of course. Some words have been heard in the open. Of course, if you ask your senator if they’ve been approached or offered anything in exchange for their vote, they can be expected to deny it. You can try asking, though. Their emails are on this Capitol.hawaii.gov web page.
Offering deals for votes is not surprising. What is interesting is that Ching, if approved on the Senate floor, could be in a position to fulfill whatever promises are made in exchange for “yes” votes.
In Hawaii, land is power. Land is economic power to developers, and hence a source of political power to politicians who cater to them. The result is top-down imposition of development rights and wrangling with constituents who demand that their legislators respond also to their needs. Ching offered the committee that he would "balance" competing interests. That would be refreshing, but this nominee shows no signs of being willing to support the public interest. See the snip from a Hawaii’s Thousand Friends message below.
This is what’s at stake with this nomination: The people’s needs and concepts of their environment once again are colliding with a political agenda of development and patronage.
Advocates are not happy at the moment—Hoopili is moving forward, meaning that prime agricultural land will be lost forever. It shouldn’t happen, yet it appears inevitable. Now this. Will the public remember Ige’s actions, come the next election? From Borreca:
David Frankel, chairman of the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club, noted that the local environment movement is united against the Ching nomination and it has become an important part of local politics.
"Any senator who has aspirations for higher office has to realize that this vote for Carleton Ching will haunt him. And others facing competitive races will also be haunted by their vote," Frankel said.
Still, it is quite possible that the needed 13 votes will be found to approve Governor Ige’s nomination. As to haunting, should Ching be approved and turn out ok, no haunting. Should his actions thwart the public interest, he’ll still be doing that come the next election, so long memories won’t be required, and Frankel’s warning could be realized.
The potential for accelerated top-down driven development is very real and very threatening if Ching is approved. The downside risk is simply too great, and for that reason, senators should hold out for a better nominee. Sure, Ching might change his stripes. But he might not. He doesn’t answer to voters once seated.
He likely will have to attend to any deals made that put him there, though.
The Hawaii Thousand Friends position does not yet appear on their web page. Here is a snip from the email circulated today:
During the Senate Water & Land Committee hearing on March 11, Mr. Ching:
- referred to the 'aina as "dirt"
- described Hawaii's natural resources as its "brand"
- when asked a hypothetical question about how he would decide priorities for the last remaining 10% of a native forest, he said he would "balance" competing interests (e.g., commercial vs. preservation)
- said it's all about protecting public land, but private land is a little different
- claimed that Hawaii is a real-life laboratory, and that we have been able to balance and sustain our economy
The StarAdvertiser editorial of 3/14/15 entitled Waste no time in voting down DLNR nominee provides a good summary of why Carleton Ching should not be confirmed. An excerpt:
"What Ching didn't bring, however, was any clear understanding of the agency's core mission or vision for how he would approach challenges of resource management. Neither was there any real sign that he had enough interest in the issues to bone up on the administrative processes he would be shepherding.
To read the full editorial, click here.
Related: Panel Recommends Ching Nomination Be Rejected (Civil Beat, 3/12/2015)
Saturday, March 14, 2015
It’s pi day–eat some pie on this once-in-a-century day
by Larry Geller
Well, it all has to do with how we write dates in this country, but what the heck. Let’s celebrate.
Every March 14 is pi day (pi for the Greek letter “π”), but today is “super pi day” because at 9:26 am and 53 seconds, the date and time, written together, will correspond to the first ten digits of pi: 3141592653.
How to celebrate? If you can get down to the KCC Farmers Market this morning, Sweet Revenge has prepared some special pies. Here’s an Instagram posted yesterday of one of them:
Out in the real world, colleges (where people understand the importance of pi) are holding celebrations generally involving baked goods. Yes, it’s a bit irrational, but that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
MIT will celebrate by posting acceptance notices at 9:26 a.m. instead of in the evening today, which should, as they report, make 850 students happy about pi day.
You can rely on pi
In this day and age, when news anchors and politicians lie to us routinely, it’s nice to know that the diameter of a circle is related to its radius in a fixed way, no matter if anyone tells you differently. Truth. There are no “pi deniers.”
But there once were. There is the case of the 1897 Indiana Pi Bill, which would have had the effect of re-defining the value of pi as 3.2. Reading this, it could well have been a report of any day at our own state legislature:
Upon its introduction in the Indiana House of Representatives, the bill's language and topic occasioned confusion among the membership; a member from Bloomington proposed that it be referred to the Finance Committee, but the Speaker accepted another member's recommendation to refer the bill to the Committee on Swamplands, where the bill could "find a deserved grave". It was transferred to the Committee on Education, which reported favorably; following a motion to suspend the rules, the bill passed on February 6, without a dissenting vote. The news of the bill occasioned an alarmed response from Der Tägliche Telegraph, a German-language newspaper in Indianapolis, which viewed the event with significantly less favor than its English-speaking competitors. As this debate concluded, Purdue University Professor C. A. Waldo arrived in Indianapolis to secure the annual appropriation for the Indiana Academy of Science. An assemblyman handed him the bill, offering to introduce him to the genius who wrote it. He declined, saying that he already met as many crazy people as he cared to.
When it reached the Indiana Senate, the bill was not treated so kindly, for Waldo had coached the senators previously. The committee to which it had been assigned reported it unfavorably, and the Senate tabled it on February 12; it was nearly passed, but opinion changed when one senator observed that the General Assembly lacked the power to define mathematical truth. Influencing some of the senators was a report that major newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune, had begun to ridicule the situation.
[Wikipedia, The Indiana Pi Bill]
So the bill got through the first reading in the Indiana Senate and could well have become law. It actually gave three choices for pi. How convenient that would have been.
At least it didn’t seek Biblical justification. Chronicles, chapter 4, verses 2 and 5 would seem to define pi as exactly 3.
See also this NPR article on pi day.
Ok, now to some meal planning. Let’s see… chicken pot pie for a main course, then that awesome pie in the Instagram picture above for dessert.
So if you see this in time, race down to KCC for your share. It will be crowded, but worth it.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Karl Rhoads redacts (mostly)
by Larry Geller
This is a followup to Is “Karl Rhoads” the source of voting record information used by Calvin Say’s attorney that was questionably obtained? (2/22/2015). That article questioned whether information obtained by Karl Rhoads, committee chair of the special committee investigating former Speaker Calvin Say’s qualification to hold office, was improperly provided by Rhoads to Say’s attorney.
Say’s challengers also questioned whether that information, obtained by Rhoads from voter registration files, was used in violation of HRS 11-14 and 11-97 which restricts its use only to election purposes.
Attorney Lance Collins asked that Rhoads redact the information from public view.
The article appeared on Disappeared News on February 22. A partially redacted version of Say’s submission was made on February 23 and posted to the committee's website. The new document includes redactions, but the street addresses are not completely redacted.
The redaction appears to be a concession to Collins’ request that confidential information be removed from Say’s letter:
The Voters request that these issues be clarified and that the Committee be instructed to redact confidential information from the view of the public.
Fine as far as that goes, except that there is no indication that the document posted is not the document submitted by Say through his attorneys. It appears, and any future historian, attorney or curious citizen will find, that the allegedly illegal material is not there.
This may appear a quibble, but the Capitol website is the public record, and often enough it is made to be inaccurate, as I have noted from time to time. Some testimony is never posted, for example, and at times a legislator kills a bill while falsifying the record. “Gut and replace” bills are not clearly identified and often falsely indicate that the material has been heard on the floor. Probably more shenanigans go on than anyone short of a Sherlock Holmes with lots of spare time could discover.
So, good that Rhoads redacted (part of) the material that should not be exposed to public view. He should complete the redaction and also note the change on his web page so that it is clear what he has done.
Here’s the detail, for the record:
This is page 25 of the original document, as submitted to Karl Rhoad’s special committee by attorneys for Calvin Say Bert T. Kobayashi and Maria Y. Wang.
This is the same page as it is posted today. Note the additional redactions. In other words, the document has been altered from the authentic copy submitted by Say’s attorneys. The addresses are not completely redacted.
(These images are intentionally too small to read here, since the information should not have been public in the first place).
In the original document, this page (page 25) has Karl Rhoads name on it as the person who obtained the data. It appears that Rhoads, who was chair of the investigating committee, turned his search results over to Say’s attorney, who included it in his submittal back to Rhoads’ committee.
The revised document has replaced the original on the committee’s web page with no note about the alteration, so that it appears to be the original document. This is a falsification. The document has been altered from the original submission.
A simple note on the web page will do the trick. It’s more than a quibble, especially should it turns out that Rhoads may be prosecuted for violating the statutes. In other words, yes, redact the information, but also say what you have done.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Speaker Joe Souki advertises fundraiser during session far, far from his constituents
by Larry Geller
How nice of Speaker of the House Joe Souki to offer an evening of his time at a Waikiki hotel. The ad appeared in today’s Star-Advertiser here on Oahu.
How nice for lobbyists and special interests who want to buy access to the Speaker. But it’s not so nice for his constituents. Souki represents the 8th House district, Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku and Waikapu on the island of Maui.
How many of Souki’s constituents will attend his shindig? Probably close to zero. I just checked the Hawaiian Airlines website for a deal including staying overnight at the same hotel as Souki’s event, and before all the fees they pile on, it’s $300.85 for a package deal, not including transportation to the hotel. That would be an expensive evening with Joe Souki for any of his constituents. The fundraiser is clearly aimed at folks on Oahu. And he didn’t say “no lobbyists allowed,” did he.
There are many problems with holding a fundraiser during session. Perhaps the most blatant is that lobbyists and organizations who will attend and drop their contributions in his hat may very well have matters pending at the Legislature that he is in a position to advance.
Just as an example—yesterday I reported that Souki approved a waiver of public notice so that a bill that would commit $100 million in bonds to enable establishment of a motorsport center on Oahu could be heard only 48 minutes after the notice. Strangely (?) the racetrack folks knew about it and got their testimony in, but there was no testimony against. How exactly did that come about? Clearly, Souki’s approval of the waiver greased the track for that bill and others on the same agenda.
I admit to not having done the research, but just theoretically—did supporters of any of the bills on the agenda contribute to the campaigns of either Souki or the Finance Committee Chair, Sylvia Luke, who requested the waiver and made that travesty of democracy possible? Just take it as a hypothetical question. It could be any bill, any special interest during the legislative session. The Speaker has a powerful role in advancing or impeding legislation.
The way things work, we won’t even know, during the session, who shows up with bags of gold for the Speaker on March 17 until reports are in, much later in the year.
If there were ethics in politics, then responsible politicians would not hold fundraisers during session. As it is, there oughta be a law.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Outrageous: House gives 48 minute (not 48 hour) notice of hearing—one bill commits $100 million in state bonds
Q: How many legislators does it take to screw the voters?
A: Two: A committee chair and the Speaker of the House
by Larry Geller
The Hawaii state House is notorious for breaking its own rules—it’s not illegal (they make ‘em, they can break ‘em) but it ought to be.
Last Thursday House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke requested—and the Speaker granted—a waiver of the 48-hour notice requirement for an agenda that included a giveaway of $100 million in bonds to unabashedly promote a motorsport center on parkland determined eligible to be declared a National American Battlefield by the National Park Service.
Quite possibly, some members of the public might have wanted to weigh in (or even to learn about) this commitment.
Below is the hearing notice. The date-stamp is at the upper-right: 1:12 p.m. for a 2 p.m. hearing.
That’s 48 minutes notice for a hearing on some important bills.
If you might have been concerned with any of the bills on the agenda, good luck getting into your car, speeding over to the legislature, finding parking (often impossible), getting into the room, and getting heard. But somehow (and it needs to be explained), the principals on a key racetrack bill had enough notice to get their testimony in.
48 minutes notice is not the record
On April 3, Rep. Sylvia Luke, again, then also Chair of the House Finance Committee, requested and was granted a waiver that permitted only 21 minutes public notice for a hearing.
Speaker’s Conflict of interest?
One bill on the railroaded agenda is HB1329, which was introduced by Speaker Souki himself. And then he locked out the public by approving a waiver of the 48-hour notice.
More suspiciously: the public was completely blindsided while the principle beneficiary (Paradise Ohana Automotive Technologies) and their attorneys, were not. The testimony posted on the Capitol website consists entirely of submissions dated March 4 or March 5 by Paradise Ohana, their attorneys at Alston Hunt Floyd & lng, and folks named Grace (George Grace, III identifies himself as a managing member of Paradise Ohana). Another testimony from Paradise Ohana was submitted by Dhevhan Keith Marcelino. How did these people learn about the hearing when the general public was denied notice? Does this amount to special favoritism by members of the House to this organization or to its principals?
Since the public was denied appropriate notice, all the testimony posted was in favor of passage.
Obscuring the public record
Should anyone look back on the legislative record (as might happen in a court case where legislative intent is at issue, for example) it will appear that testimony before the Finance Committee was 100% in favor of issuing the $100 million in special purpose bonds, and that no one objected. It is not possible to deduce that the public was actually excluded from the process. The hearing notice on the Capitol website is minus the date stamp.
The House in particular has practiced this distortion of the public record many times in the past. The late lamented “gas cap,” for example, was killed in a maneuver that withheld an industry-authored amendment from public view until just before the hearing. Disappeared News has documented several other instances over the years.
(Thanks to John Bond for his alert and concern for preserving public parkland, and to the Hawaii Free Press, which was on this issue the same day it happened):
During floor session today (March 5th, 2015) after 1:00 PM, House Finance Chair stood up and requested a waiver of the 48-hour requirement to hear an agenda of bills with just one hour of notice.
In her verbal request to the Speaker of the House, Finance Chair Rep Sylvia Luke failed to demonstrate any “good cause” to request the waiver – a clear violation of House Rule 11.1. The slate of bills can be found at the bottom of this post.
Of particular note is HB527, which is at the top of the list of bills to be heard today. HB527 was supposed to receive two public hearings in the House. The dead bill was resurrected quietly with procedural motions and one of its two hearings were waived. To reiterate, the requirement for HB527’s first hearing was waived, and the second hearing was done with only one hour’s notice.
There effectively was no public hearing on this bill.
[Hawaii Free Press, Total Solar Eclipse, 3/5/2015]
Monday, March 09, 2015
Judge signs off on more than $79,000 in fees and expenses in Occupy Honolulu case
by Larry Geller
Judge J. Michael Seabright signed off this morning on a payment of $79,093.45 in attorneys fees in the case of De-Occupy Honolulu et al v. City and County of Honolulu et al, which settled at the end of July, 2014 with the payment of damages to the plaintiffs.
Judge Seabright also awarded plaintiffs $594.33 in costs.
The (de) Occupy plaintiffs argued and won their settlement essentially on the basis that the City acted illegally in seizing and destroying their possessions. Should cases be brought on behalf of homeless citizens of Honolulu whose personal possessions were shown on video to have been similarly destroyed by city workers in garbage trucks, it is conceivable that taxpayers could be liable for considerably more in fees and costs.
Sunday, March 08, 2015
Mark your calendar: Human Rights day at the State Capitol Monday, March 9
Do you think all of us in Hawaii can enjoy our human rights? What about, for example, those without a roof over their heads whose personal possessions are thrown into garbage trucks by the Honolulu administration?
Come to the State Capitol tomorrow for films, forums and other events related to Human Rights Day. Here’s the flyer (click for larger):
PV panel technology that even HECO may welcome and ratepayers should demand
Rooftop solar power systems are picking up a second job on the distribution grids that deliver electricity to California homes and businesses. Right now, their photovoltaic panels just generate electricity (meeting about 1 percent of the state’s consumption), but within a few months some systems will also start moonlighting as junior grid regulators—a role that could keep them busy even after the sun goes down.—IEEE Spectrum February 2015
by Larry Geller
Anyone who follows the news—and especially readers of Henry Curtis’ blog ililanimedia.blogspot.com—knows that the Hawaiian Electric Company has blocked new installations of rooftop solar panels, leaving 2,000+ homeowners anxiously awaiting approval and stifling Hawaii’s solar installation business.
The issue, in a nutshell, appears to be that HECO says its grid can’t handle all that solar power injected into it and remain stable.
Well, there appears to be a technological solution adopted in California, Germany, Japan and some other countries that turns the tables on the grid operators.
Without getting too geeky about it, utilities spend money on equipment to stabilize voltage and frequency on the grid already. That equipment is located at generating plants and substations, and makes sure that all of your clocks, appliances, computers and all the industrial equipment drawing power from the grid can be operated safely and efficiently. If PV power disrupts the grid, other users would suffer.
Hawaii’s technological backwardness should not stop us from copycatting what California is doing. Their standards would assure that PV installations, in the long term, could continue, and actually could save the utility some money as well.
Here’s the scene, as HECO and other utilities see it:
At times of low power demand, high solar output drove up voltage levels, explains Bernhard Ernst, grid integration director for inverter manufacturer SMA Solar Technology, based in Niestetal, Germany. Such situations prompted utilities to freeze PV installations on certain lines.
[IEEE Spectrum, How Rooftop Solar Can Stabilize the Grid, 2/21/2015]
Germany adopted new standards three years ago, according to the article, which California built on to develop its own standards. Under these standards, PV owners turn into grid regulators, both under normal day-to-day operating conditions and in emergencies.
California’s standard, developed through a collaborative process that began in 2013, pushes the envelope for smart inverters. Though solar causes few problems for California utilities today, rooftop PV is growing fast—by more than 40 percent per year in San Diego Gas & Electric’s territory. The state’s smart-inverter standard starts with Germany’s requirements and then asks inverters to be smarter still.
Adopting (that is, copying) the California standards is something our Public Utilities Commission could do. It would also have the effect of staving off objections that either HECO or NextEra (should the proposed acquisition go through) have to adding privately owned PV systems to the grid.
Of course, this will take some study. The question of whether these new standards should be adopted needs to be handled independently, since ramping up rooftop solar may not be something either HECO or NextEra particularly fancy.
But is it reasonable that we should continue to pay three times the national average for electrical power? The need to reduce everyone’s cost of living should be a priority for the PUC. We’ve been quiet too long on this subject.
If this technology will allow PV installations to be unleashed, and cheaper power to appear on the grid for everyone, let’s go for it.
Monday, March 02, 2015
Human sacrifice in Hawaii--death trap crossings demonstrate failure to provide even the simplest protections
“A typical traffic signal is not appropriate for the crosswalk because it is close to the heavily traveled Castle Junction intersection at Pali and Kamehameha highways, and because the area in front of HPU did not meet the minimum requirement of five pedestrian "incidents" in a 12-month period”—Department of Transportation spokesman Dan Meisenzahl after the death of HPU student Mariah Danforth-Moore
by Larry Geller
I put my smartphone to work as a dashboard camera this weekend to survey crosswalks on one street in Honolulu. The results (below) document a failure of public policy that has resulted in avoidable deaths each year in the city.Hawaii continues to lead the nation in per capita deaths for older pedestrians.
According to Smart Growth America's "Dangerous by Design 2014," Hawaii has the highest fatality rate in the nation per capita for older pedestrians, with 6.81 deaths per every 100,000 adults 65 and older from 2003 to 2010.
Year after year after year, the carnage is allowed to continue. Meanwhile, it appears that the state department of transportation requires “incidents” before making badly needed modifications. And those modifications are made piecemeal, rather than as part of a plan to reduce the collision rate. Year after year, no change, no improvements.
And no one is fired from the departments that allow these avoidable deaths to occur.
Those are strong words, but easy to substantiate. Yesterday I let the dashboard camera run while driving along S. King Street. Below you will see snapshots of each crosswalk that is not traffic-light controlled between town and University Avenue.
Note that only one of them has a blinking light setup and signage across the road, an arrangement very likely to be seen by motorists in each traffic lane. A problem with crossing on S. King St., that is, taking your chances on being killed in order to get across the street, is that a car might stop in a near lane, but drivers in the next lane from that cannot see you and may not stop. To cross cautiously means to poke your neck out at each lane, hoping cars will stop for you to go across. For an older and less attentive person, the maneuvering required might be difficult or impossible. So seniors, in particular, get killed.
The blinking overhead lights and signage would appear to provide a possible solution—so why is there only one crosswalk equipped like that?
Note also that some crosswalks have day-glo pedestrian crossing signs on both sides, some have none at all. Sometimes there is an extra set of day-glo signs indicating “pedestrian crossing ahead.” Mostly, these are absent.
Why is there inconsistency? If #humanlivesmatter then each intersection should be properly marked. If the blinking lights work, each intersection should have them. We should not have to wait until a certain number of “incidents” are counted.
It has been shown that putting signs or traffic lights over lanes increases their visibility to motorists. With regard to traffic signals, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices requires that they be positioned over each lane, according to a Kokua Line article printed last year:
"While this may appear to be an excessive use of traffic signals, studies have found significant safety benefits in locating one signal head per through lane when there is more than one through lane," [DTS Director Michael] Formby said.
[Star-Advertiser, Kokua Line, 8/14/2014]
The sixth picture down shows a crosswalk with not only blinking lights but overhead signage visible across each lane. Why is that not the minimum standard for S. King St., Pali Highway, and other streets where crosswalks are currently death traps?
Let’s begin our journey. Crosswalks at traffic light controlled intersections are skipped.
S. King St. / Birch St. – no signage
S. King St. / Cedar St. no signage
S. King St. / Sheridan St. sign on one side of the street only
S. King St. / nr. Washington Middle School signs on both sides of the street
S. King St. / Times Supermarket overhead signs, lights that might flash
There seems to be a pedestrian push-button at this crosswalk. I didn’t try it, but it should flash the lights, right?
S. King St. / Hauoli St. signs on one side of the street (the sign on the left side appears to be installed at the wrong corner (?) )
S. King St. / Pumehana St. signs on both sides of the street
S. King St. / Wiliwili St. no signs
S. King St. / Kemole Ln. no signs
S. King St. / Poha Ln. no signs
S. King St. / Hoawa Ln. no signs
S. King St. just past Isenberg St., pedestrian crossing ahead signs on both sides of the street
S. King / Coolidge St. signs on both sides of the street
So let’s add this up.
Crosswalks with no signs: 6
Crosswalks with one sign: 2
Crosswalks with two signs: 3
Crosswalks with overhead signs / blinking lights: 1
Total number of crosswalks surveyed: 12
The survey speaks for itself.
It also raises the question of consistency as a safety factor—do drivers get used to expecting signage before crosswalks, so that they become less attentive when those signs are missing?
More people will be killed at inadequately protected intersections.
No one will go to jail for this. No one will lose their jobs for this.
That is, unless ordinary citizens begin to get together and demand action.