Thursday, April 16, 2015

 

A case of legislative immunity in the ongoing Say saga


by Larry Geller

How many laws can a legislator break
Before the Speaker will care?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

(with deep apologies to Bob Dylan)


by Larry Geller

In a letter dated April 10 (see below), Speaker of the House Joseph Souki shrugged off a complaint filed against Rep. Karl Rhoads relating to Rhoads’ conduct in investigating whether Rep. Calvin Say lives in his district and is qualified to hold office.

The response includes a “coded” phrase that looks innocent enough, but turns out to have a very troubling meaning in the context of this complaint:

… I believe that all of Representative Rhoads' actions were appropriately
taken in the exercise of his legislative functions

This is “code” for “But in any case, Rhoads could claim legislative immunity even should there be a violation of the law.” No, Souki didn’t say exactly that, but what it suggests is that there is no use proving the case against him, because, as a legislator, he can’t be hauled off to jail for it anyway.

What Souki is saying explicitly is that he doesn’t care that private information was posted or that part of the personal information remains on the Capitol website, and no, he’s not going to hold Rhoads accountable in any way. He’s turning his head away.


The complaint

Ms. Ramona Hussey and Ms. Natalia Hussey-Burdick, through their attorney, Lance Collins, filed a complaint with Speaker Joseph Souki on March 30 asking the Speaker to deal with the release of their private information on the Capitol website. For reasons that are not clear, Rep. Karl Rhoads provided the personal information to Rep. Calvin Say’s attorney, who included it in a document that Rhoads then posted publicly on approximately February 12. Remember, Calvin Say is the other party in this dispute that Rhoads and his committee were to investigate.

Collins asked that the private data be removed from the website in a letter dated February 20, and in response, Rhoads partially redacted the data and reposted it on February 23, without any notation that it was not the original document.

The data was obtained by Rhoads from election records, but the use of those records is strictly limited by statute and backed up by the Hawaii state constitution’s protection of the right to privacy. From Collins’ March 30 letter:

HRS 11-97(a) states:
(a) A voter's full name, district/precinct designation, and voter status shall be public; but all other personal information, as provided on the voter registration affidavit, shall be confidential except for election or government purposes in accordance with rules adopted by the chief election officer, pursuant to chapter 91.

This provision has been interpreted by the Office of Elections and the various County Clerks to mean that use of the confidential information can be used only for election purposes.

Also from the letter:

Article I, Section 6 of the Hawai'i Constitution (“The right of the people to privacy is recognized and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest. The legislature shall take affirmative steps to implement this right.”)

Rhoads was apparently trying to establish that two of the complainants against Say’ qualifications did not live in the district and so lacked standing, which turns out to be irrelevant since they did live there when the complaint was filed. In any case, he could have just asked them at his hearing, without divulging their personal information to the other side to be used against them.

While deciding not to take action, Souki actually verified in his letter that the information was posted and then partially redacted. He confirmed that. And yet he is taking no action.

Without the coded meaning of the last paragraph, it would not be clear why he can choose to take no action.

Attorney Collins explained the concept of legislative immunity to me. And now I have another concern. If a legislator were to back over me in the Capitol parking lot, it seems they could claim legislative immunity for the deed and I’d be dead and they wouldn’t have this pesky blog to annoy them any longer.

Could they even be immune to prosecution for something like that??

Well, maybe not for that, but you get my point. I’m wondering just what legislators could get away with. That’s a matter for research some day.

Download 20150415 Souki Response from Disappeared News



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

 

Did you know: Hawaii taxes poverty and gives tax breaks to the upper 1%


Appleseed: The wealthiest 1% in our state will receive a $43 million tax cut in 2015 while low-income families are scheduled for no relief at all.


by Larry Geller

Hawaii looks economically like a Republican’s wet dream

(From the Appleseed email, emphasis in the original)

The wealthiest residents will receive a $43 million tax cut in 2015. This entire tax cut will go to the top fifth of households. Nearly all of it (91%) will go to the wealthiest 1%, who will get an average tax cut of $7, 749. HB 886, which would have increased the low income renters and food/excise tax credits and extended the top marginal tax rates, did not receive a hearing by Senate Ways and Means.

The only bill alive, SB 555, proposes an increase to the food/excise tax credit. This refundable credit, targeted at low income families, has not been increased since 2007. The proposed credit increases have been blanked out of the current bill, but previous versions only promised $6.5 million in tax relief for working families.

Our lowest-income families have the second highest tax burden in the country, paying twice the effective tax rate as the wealthiest 1%. Our regressive tax system means the bottom 20% of households pay 13.4% of their income toward state taxes, largely on the GET. With the scheduled cuts, the wealthiest 1% will pay just 7%.

Hawaii has the second highest income taxes on families in poverty. A family of 4 at the poverty guidelines owes $464. On average, a family at the poverty guideline will also have paid $2,371 in GET over the year.

The possible extension of the GET rail surcharge will maintain this regressivity. Regardless of opinions on rail, we cannot further burden Oahu's working families with GET increases. To balance any possible extensions, we must significantly increase the food/excise tax credit.

Hawaii has been criticized incessantly by its struggling Republican party as a one-party state. We certainly are unique in that respect, but I’ve always held that we just do things differently here in many ways. Our state legislature has passed some remarkable legislation over the years. We could show the rest of ‘em a thing or two, starting with our Prepaid Health Care Act of 1974 at least.

On the other hand, our state government has abandoned traditional Democratic party egalitarian doctrines and carried a plantation-style economic oppression of the working class into the present era. That is, pay little, charge a lot. And tax them also, as it turns out.

Party affiliation isn’t gone, but it means less here. In fact, heck, we can protect our 1% quite well, thank you, even without Republicans. And the wealth gap between the rich and poor in Hawaii, which gets no traction in our right-wing press (which depicts our homeless citizens as some kind of vermin, to be removed from sight, instead of visible evidence of the poverty plaguing the state) would be the envy of any Republican-dominated state legislature.

Jenny Lee, Staff Attorney at the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, noted in an email timed to coincide with Tax Day: the wealthiest 1% in our state will receive a $43 million tax cut in 2015 while low-income families are scheduled for no relief at all.

I can’t say it better than Jenny did.  Check out her talking points in the box. Here are infographics she shared, with permission to repost them. So read and weep.

Tax cuts

Tax Unfairness



 

Another Carleton Ching? Petition gathering support opposes appointment of Bill Balfour to Water Commission


by Larry Geller

The vote on this is Wednesday—if you want to submit testimony or sign the petition, best not to wait.

My comment: Climate change is expected to bring increasing drought conditions to Hawaii. Water use and conservation should become increasing concerns. One thing we should do is carefully consider who will be in charge of our water supply!

Do Not Confirm Plantation Luna Bill Balfour to Water Commission

Petition by Karen Chun

To be delivered to The Hawaii State House, The Hawaii State Senate, and Governor David Ige

Governor Ige has chosen to replace esteemed Richardson Law School Professor, Denise Antolini, with an old-style plantation luna who also has worked for Monsanto and Amfac, Inc. This will create a majority who favor the plantations instead of the rule of law.

Where's the "balance"?

There are currently 2,775 signatures. NEW goal - We need 3,000 signatures!

The petition is here, or try below. At the very bottom is text snipped from the petition site, including a link to submit testimony.

Submit testimony here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=GM&billnumber=820&year=2015

Gov Ige's vaunted "balance" is nowhere to be seen in this nomination. You don't balance legal against corporate interests. Legal isn't a "stakeholder." Everyone on the Water Commission is supposed to follow the law. Just so happens the law says the plantations can't grab all the water.

Appointing someone who last time ignored the law and sided with the plantations (he spent 39 years working for sugar plantations) and Monsanto (2 years with them) isn't "balance." It is corruption.

Bill Balfour has voted on several key commission decisions that were later overturned by the Hawaii Supreme Court. No one else serving on the commission now has had their decisions overturned. Why bring back the failed views from the past?



Saturday, April 11, 2015

 

Cute giant floating radar “has been a $2.2 billion flop”



“The management of the [Missile Defense Agency] is one of technologists in their hobby shop," said L. David Montague, a former president of missile systems for Lockheed Corp. and co-chairman of a National Academy of Sciences-sponsored review of the agency. "They don't know the nitty-gritty of what it takes to make something work."

This leads, he said, to programs that “defy the limits of physics and economic logic.”

Of the SBX radar, Montague said: "It should never have been built.”

by Larry Geller

radar

A Los Angeles Times investigation (the article has a better picture of the floating radar parked at Pearl Harbor than mine) found that the US Missile Defense Agency has essentially wasted $10 billion, of which $2.2 billion went for that cute spherical radar platform that adorns Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor like a pearl pendant.

The expensive bauble is said to be able to pinpoint a ping-pong ball 3,000 miles away and 250 miles above sea level. Or alternatively, to be able to detect an object the size of a baseball a continent away.

So while it might be appreciated by sports fans concerned with tracking missing ping-pong balls, it turns out that it can’t really track missiles, which is what it was supposed to do. The field of view is too narrow. When its eye is on the ball, it misses everything else in the stadium.

Although it can powerfully magnify distant objects, its field of vision is so narrow that it would be of little use against what experts consider the likeliest attack: a stream of missiles interspersed with decoys.

SBX was supposed to be operational by 2005. Instead, it spends most of the year mothballed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

The project not only wasted taxpayer money but left a hole in the nation's defenses. The money spent on it could have gone toward land-based radars with a greater capability to track long-range missiles, according to experts who studied the issue.

[Los Angeles Times, The Pentagon's $10 billion bet gone bad, 4/11/2015]

The article describes an agency that can’t manage to evaluate technology, but which has access to billions of taxpayer money. Basically, that money was a gift from the Bush Administration to defense contractors. The projects described are useless and expensive, and of course no one is being held responsible for tapping our taxes to build them.

I notice several days ago that the SBX radar was still in Pearl Harbor, not deployed near Alaska's Aleutian Islands where it could keep track of North Korean sporting events. The cute little sphere seems to have retired in Hawaii. At public expense.



Thursday, April 09, 2015

 

AP: Senators want state to explore interisland ferry system


by Larry Geller

Return of the SuperferryThe Associated Press reported that a pair of resolutions have been introduced today by Sen. Michelle Kidani asking the state Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of an interisland ferry system modeled after the ferries plying Puget Sound.

The article reports that the Hawaii Superferry shut down when a judge ruled that an environmental impact study was not conducted as required. This is true, but the Superferry company actually declared bankruptcy. Losses were predicted by back-of-the-envelope calculations (see box) and reported here, but the question of profitability was not taken up by either government or the commercial media.

From a 2010 AP story:

The Hawaii Superferry was sailing under a facade of success in the summer of 2008—boasting of record ridership—but it had already begun to shortchange the state on its monthly fees, according to an Associated Press review of Department of Transportation records.

The company's inability to pay fully in July 2008 indicates it was in troubled waters nine months before the Hawaii Supreme Court decision widely blamed for the ferry's closure came in March 2009. The court overturned a state law that allowed the Superferry to operate while an environmental impact statement was being conducted.

"They were having financial difficulties already, and that's why they were heading toward bankruptcy," said state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka.

[AP, Superferry was in trouble early in its run, 7/21/2010]

Simple calculations predicted likely operating losses

An early estimate of the profitability of the Superferry operation was developed and circulated by email. Of course, this was speculation, but the legislature might want to be sure that someone will run the numbers well before cracking that bottle of champagne across the bow of Superferry II.

Revenues

According to the company, they expect an average load of about 400 people, and 110 vehicles per trip.

400 passengers x $72 = $28,800
110 vehicles x $65 = $7,150

Total $35,950 per trip

Total trips scheduled per week 26

Therefore estimated revenue per Superferry would be $35,950 x 26 = $934,700 per week.

Expenses

John Garibaldi, Superferry's president and chief executive, stated that the weekly operating cost while the ship is idle and docked at Honolulu Harbor is $650,000 per week.

The current price for marine diesel fuel in Honolulu is $740/metric ton or at least $2.07 per gallon.

If fuel consumption per one way trip is about 6,600 gallons, Kauai or Maui, so the average fuel cost (one way trip) is 6,600 x $2.07 = $13,662
At 26 trips per week x $13,662 = $355,212 per week for fuel. 

So the operating cost including fuel would be $1,005,212 per week.

Oops. 

So based on Superferry's projected load factors, there is an operating loss of $70,512 per week, or $3,666,624 per year.

A later estimate, with more explanation, is here. Note the conclusion: “Hawaiian Air is at least twice as efficient at moving people interisland as is HSF.”

The unsanitary conditions caused by passenger “discomfort” were not covered by the media either(except possibly for one story that made it into the Honolulu Advertiser). But more significantly, the media did not attempt to estimate the cost of running the oil-guzzling engines on the oversized ferry boats and verify that, since the operators waived imposing a fuel surcharge, almost every run resulted in an operating loss. You were able to see estimates here on Disappeared News that suggested the ferry company must have been running on red ink.

If they couldn’t make money, bankruptcy was inevitable. It was the bankruptcy that shut them down.

Note that the Superferry company was a large advertiser. Could that have affected honest reporting on its condition?

I personally find it surprising that there is not some kind of interisland water transportation, but it’s clear that our state legislators bought a severely flawed proposal hook, line and sinker (sorry). The Superferry was criticized fairly from the beginning.

In the end, the state (actually, harbor users) ended up out-of-pocket for infrastructure improvements and we got nothing for it except possibly some souvenir barf bags.

The legislature needs to do better if we are to have a viable water transport system.



 

Hawaii campaign contribution case still awaiting 9th Circuit ruling after 18 months


by Larry Geller

18 months ago today the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in two appeals to a Hawaii case concerning disclosure of campaign contributions and the burden or ban on political contributions under various Hawaii laws.

Now called Yamada v. Snipes, the case was originally heard by Judge J. Michael Seabright in Hawaii District Court as Yamada Et Al. v. Kuramoto Et Al, also referred to as the A-1 A-Electrician case (1:10-cv-00497-JMS-LEK).

As a non-attorney I was nevertheless impressed with the clarity of the District Court arguments and felt that the 9th Circuit would find little difficulty in coming up with an opinion one way or the other. At the District Court level, the State defendants appeared to present a very weak case, while the plaintiffs were direct and incisive in their presentation. From an earlier article:

The heart of the hearing took place at about 11:00 a.m. in a spirited back-and-forth between Judge Seabright and [plaintiff] attorney [Randy] Elf. It was clear that Seabright had studied related cases from other circuits as well as Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that blew the lid off of corporate campaign contributions. During the discussion Elf demonstrated a command of the core issues that was impressive, and which helped Seabright to clarify his own understanding.

For details, please see Hawaii’s campaign spending laws go before the 9th Circuit in Honolulu on Wednesday (October 9, 2015).

Here is what I wrote at the time of the ruling in District Court before Judge J. Michael Seabright:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, Hawaii plaintiffs Jimmy Yamada and Russell Stewart filed a challenge to the constitutionality of several Hawaii campaign spending laws. Judge Seabrook granted an injunction in part, reasoning that the government has no valid constitutional interest in regulating the contributions that plaintiffs want to make to the Aloha Family Alliance – Political Action Committee.

Specifically, Seabright held that there is no legitimate government interest in restricting contributions to organizations that engage only in independent spending, as the Aloha Family Alliance PAC does. He declined to declare the entire law unconstitutional at the preliminary injunction stage.

[Judge does not strike down Hawaii law but grants partial injunction in campaign spending limit challenge, 10/7/2010]

The case on appeal is not the same as was heard before Judge Seabright. It’s impossible to predict, even after listening to the appeals court’s questioning, which way they will decide.

But 18 months does seem a bit excessive, even if they’re considering this case on Hawaiian Time.



 

Civil Beat catches Sen. J. Kalani English fundraiser during session


by Larry Geller

It used to be so lonely here at Disappeared News. I was the only one posting articles when a legislator held a fundraiser during the session, for example.

Now, I can give that up entirely. It’s no longer “disappeared news” since Civil Beat is identifying these legislators.

See Chad Blair’s story: Sen. English Holds Campaign Fundraiser During Session (Civil Beat, 4/9/2015).

Senator English represents Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, Kaho‘olawe, and asked $250 to be with him at the Oahu Country Club last night.

How posh!  How many of his Maui constituents were able to attend, I wonder?

But of course, lobbyists and other special interest representatives would have no trouble in coughing up that much moola for access to the senator.

Some of them may have bills pending that he may be called to vote upon.That’s one of the problems with holding fundraisers during session: it’s called ethics, in the common usage of the term (there’s nothing illegal about holding fundraisers during the session or asking for whatever donation the legislator thinks the market will bear).

And as Blair observed, Senator English isn’t even up for re-election until 2018.



 

Public locked out of testimony on 13 bills today


by Larry Geller

People be damned

“Let the people be damned.” “Who needs their [deleted] testimony anyway.”

Without adequate notice, the public can’t submit testimony or attend a hearing. I’ve reported on a few of these waivers of notice (and missed many), but today takes the cake.

Waivers were requested for 14 bills (listed below). Did you want to testify on any of those? Har, har, you can’t! But you can be sure, with many of these waivers, that somebody was clueful enough to get their testimony in. Just not Jane or John Q. Public.

84 minute notice

Instead of the required 48-hour notice, the public was given only 84 minutes notice.

These waivers were requested by the Chair of the House Waiver Finance Committee Rep. Sylvia Luke. Rep. Luke seems to be making a habit of shortchanging public participation—see here and here. The last link reveals a request for only 48 minutes notice, not quite a record but stunning nevertheless in its disregard for public participation. And yes, the proponents of the bill at the second link, the assumed future beneficiaries of the appropriation it calls for, were “magically” able to submit testimony on “their” bill. There was, of course, no public testimony on the record, but who’s to know why that happened. Sneaky, huh?

And as I said, I’ve missed a few this session.

Now, in fairness, Rep. Luke could not get away with this if it were not for the approval of the Speaker, Joseph Souki.


Here’s the list of bills with links, in case you might have been interested in some of them:

SB1211 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=1211&year=2015

SB521 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=521

SB325 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=325

SB113 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=113

SB661 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=661

SB475  http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=475

SB652 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=652

SB423 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=423

SB524 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=524

SB1305 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=1305

SB1036 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=1036

SB304 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=304

SB1150 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=1150

SB250  for decisionmaking only at 2:05 p.m. http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=250



 

Civil Beat posts major article on beach erosion—read it



Oahu has lost one-fourth of its beaches and of those remaining, about 70 percent are eroding. If state and county officials don’t start working to conserve what’s left of the sandy shoreline, most of the island’s beaches could disappear by the end of the century, say scientists.


by Larry Geller

Civil Beat reporter Sophie Cocke did a superb job with this story—it’s why we need good journalists and media that are willing to employ them. Her story, Oahu Faces a Future With Far Fewer Beaches (Civil Beat, 4/9/2015) is a must-read. There are four related articles highlighted at the top of their page.

LanikaiGo read it now. There’s a morph of Lanikai beach then and now, and a superb slide show with embedded videos—it’s like you’re there, witnessing the beach destruction. The image at the right is snipped from one of the Civil Beat slides.

A mere blogger can’t do a proper job with this issue, but I tried to make a start with Kailua to get even more tourists as Waikiki washes away (4/7/2015). I’m focusing on the economic argument—our economy will crumble along with the beaches unless something is done. I’m hoping our elected officials will take the hint.

As the Civil Beat article seems to emphasize, the City is not doing the right things, and not doing enough altogether. While I hope you will read the Civil Beat article, our mayor and city council had better read it also.

“I think by mid-century we are looking at a future where we are down to just a handful of healthy beaches and by the end of the century those will be disappearing, or gone already,” said Chip Fletcher, a coastal geologist and associate dean at the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, who is one of the state’s leading experts on beach erosion.

What exactly is the future of our economy without tourist beaches?

This yet another aspect of urban planning that needs to be attended to. If our elected officials won’t do it, we need to.

Planning to the people.



Tuesday, April 07, 2015

 

An article on meth that raises more questions than it answered



It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us in trouble.
It's the things we know that ain't so.—
Artemus Ward, quoted in How to Lie with Statistics (1954!)


by Larry Geller

Bad article

A first impression of yesterday’s Star-Advertiser front page: What did Ed Morita, former pastry chef of the Highway Inn, do that was “still bad?” The image looks just like him, including the hat and beard.

But anyway, what is the story about? It purports to show that Hawaii’s crystal meth problem is “still bad.”  Perhaps it is, but the article raises questions that could have been answered had not most of the front page been devoted to a useless illustration.

For example, the graph on the bottom is supposed to be meaningful, otherwise why was it put on the front page? If meth is “still bad,”, how come the number for 2014 is better than any year since 2007?

Oh, and there’s that crazy low number for 2011 (towards the middle-bottom in the image). Clearly something happened that cries for explanation. There was none. That’s an “outlier” that could mean anything. In the absence of an explanation, it must be discarded.

The bar graph represents pounds of meth seized. So the numbers could simply be related to the effort that law enforcement is putting into seizing. If so, then does the recent decline would contradict the headline, in that less is being seized these days. No, it’s impossible to say how that number relates to meth usage, given the unexplained drop in 2011. You’d think that meth usage would change slowly, year to year, as a first guess. As to the unexplained bad year for seizures, that puts the usefulness of this statistic as a measure of actual meth use in doubt.

The meth problem certainly was bad many years ago. Here’s one mention:

Some 37.4 percent of men jailed in Honolulu tested positive for methamphetamine in 2001, higher than any other major U.S. city, the federal government says.

[CBS News, Hawaii Has Huge Meth Mess, 9/12/2003]

That’s a fair measurement, but still must be taken in context, since that number would also depend on the varying priorities of law enforcement in different jurisdictions.

The article raised good questions that beg for better reporting. For example, if there is a 40-person waiting list for drug treatment at one facility, is the budget adequate? Has it been cut, or do we need to spend more on treatment? How long do people wait on the waiting list? Is it just a couple of days (no big deal perhaps) or a couple of years?

As an illustration of my point, a waiting list developed years ago for vocational rehab services in Hawaii when the budget fell short. Because of federally-mandated prioritization, some people on the list received services immediately, others perhaps never. Another example: a waiting list developed for senior services when the governor at the time failed to release the money. The state did not know how long people waited for services, or how many were re-admitted to hospitals because they could not get services. One last example: the list of beneficiaries waiting to receive Hawaiian Home lands is so long and moving so slowly that people die while still on the waiting list. Clearly, writing that there is a waiting list and leaving it at that is insufficient.

So we need to know more than the article said.

The “war on drugs” in Hawaii was also a struggle by advocates to promote treatment over incarceration. Questions arose also and have persisted over mandatory minimum sentences and changing parole to direct those who relapse into treatment rather than incarceration.

There is an educational program directed at school children that the article suggests may be effective—it would be good to have learned more, with useful numbers so that the effectiveness of the program could be evaluated. Does it just sound good, or is it really working? Convince me. With real numbers.

And lets Just Say No to bad statistics.



 

Kailua to get even more tourists as Waikiki washes away



There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Kailua Beach should not begin to wash away until about 2050. The bad news is that Waikiki beach is a goner. The good news is that more and more tourists will then visit Kailua. The bad news, for many Kailua residents, is that more and more tourists will then visit Kailua.


by Larry Geller

Breaking news: The ocean is coming in, folks, and the sand is going out. The On Politics column on the editorial page of today’s Star-Advertiser lays out the facts as we now know them. The information on Kailua Beach came from the abstract of a UH paper related to the links given in the column.

Do tourists visit Hawaii to spend their time in Bishop Museum? Not really. They come for sun and sand. We all kind of know that the sand is on its way out as sea levels continue to rise.

It’s not our fault. Congress chooses to vote again and again to repeal Obamacare instead of doing anything useful to stave off global warming. So just kiss Waikiki beach goodbye. It was nice while we had it.

This erosion should change tourism (and the economy of Hawaii) bit by bit as it begins to happen. Oh, I suppose they could sprinkle some sand around the hotel pools and pretend, but after awhile, when waves lap at hotel lobbies, it’s time to raise anchor and move to another location. That’s costly. At least, pick a spot which has an airport that’s not under water.

Richard Borreca covered a lot of territory in his column in today’s paywalled Star-Advertiser, Constant beach loss will alter Hawaii as we know it (Star-Advertiser, p. A9, 4/7/2015). It’s worth finding a copy of the paper if you don’t subscribe.

Fortunately, Borreca includes several links to a UH website and one of those links to the abstract of a paper that is also paywalled (sigh) by the Springer journal that published it. While it’s discouraging that everyone won’t have a chance to read that important paper, the abstract is scary enough for Flyingnow—since the rest of us seem ok with wallowing in complacency about global warming, who cares, anyway. It’s all we need for the moment. And the links are to some maps you can just look at to get the bad news visually. There’s even a Google Earth flyover of the Honolulu of the future.

Flying might be the preferred way to travel as the roads flood over (see the red spots in the visualization). Those are spots where ground water rises. Even building sea walls won’t help, the ocean sneaks in underneath and bubbles up where it wishes.

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Kailua Beach should not begin to wash away until about 2050. The bad news is that Waikiki beach is a goner. The good news is that more and more tourists will then visit Kailua. The bad news, for many Kailua residents, is that more and more tourists will then visit Kailua.

The paper is Doubling of coastal erosion under rising sea level by mid-century in Hawaii (Springer, 3/18/2015). A snip from the abstract:

We estimate rates and distances of shoreline change for ten study sites across the Hawaiian Islands. Excluding one beach (Kailua) historically dominated by accretion, approximately 92 and 96 % of the shorelines studied are projected to retreat by 2050 and 2100, respectively. Most projections (~80 %) range between 1–24 m of landward movement by 2050 (relative to 2005) and 4–60 m by 2100, except at Kailua which is projected to begin receding around 2050.

Now, if the rate of sea rise is accelerated (which the authors caution they have not taken into account), of course changes will take place sooner.

It’s not only Waikiki’s beaches that will wash away—since tourism is the key to our whole economy, this paper, as well as other studies, ought to start a state-wide dialogue on urban planning in the face of predictable changes due to global warming. If we don’t plan, our economy washes away with the sand. Should we build hotels elsewhere? Where?

It’s no longer just the current tension between covering irreplaceable farmland with profitable developments. Think: a 15-year or 30-year mortgage puts the future owner at risk if there is no viable economy to support the monthly payments. If we let tourism wash away, even the so-called “affordable” housing being foisted on us today will become unaffordable.

SA 20150407And we can’t cope today, as the ridiculously large illustration on the cover of today’s paper confirms. What no one seems to admit is that the gap between need and availability of affordable rentals can’t be closed any time soon. How will we provide enough affordable (meaning low-cost) rentals in the future, unless we have an idea of how to keep those who now work in Waikiki employed? If jobs go out with the tide, the pressure is greater for even cheaper housing to be built.

If we do nothing, most likely we’ll wake up one morning after a storm surge that coincides with high tide to discover that too much sand has washed away to ignore. Hotel operators will panic. We’ll bring in more sand, at great expense.

By that time, I hope our state and local government will be actively planning what to do long-term.

Oh, sure, that’s so far away, why worry ourselves now.



Monday, April 06, 2015

 

House Speaker mum so far on complaint against Karl Rhoads


by Larry Geller

In a letter to House Speaker Joseph Souki emailed on March 29 (dated March 30), attorney Lance Collins lodged a complaint on behalf of two of his clients regarding the actions of Rep. Karl Rhoads while he was chair of a special investigating committee looking into whether former Speaker Calvin Say met the residency requirements to hold office.

To date, according to Collins, there has been no response from the Speaker.

A snip from the complaint:

On February 5, 2015, Karl Rhoads accessed an online database that maintained information obtained from voter registration affidavits. The information accessed includes both the public information (full name, precinct of registration and the status of the voter) and substantial private information (home address, telephone number, etc.,).|

Mr. Rhoads printed a copy of this information about Ms. Ramona Hussey and Ms. Natalia Hussey-Burdick and transmitted it to Mr. Calvin Say and his attorneys.

Mr. Say's attorneys subsequently submitted this information back to Mr. Rhoads on February 11, 2015 marked as Exhibits 1 and 2 to the Special Committee to Consider Misc. Comm. No. 1003.

Why is this a problem? First of all, as Collins notes, the disclosure of the private information was not necessary. And it is also prohibited by law (snip):

HRS 11-97(a) states:
(a) A voter's full name, district/precinct designation, and voter status shall be public; but all other personal information, as provided on the voter registration affidavit, shall be confidential except for election or government purposes in accordance with rules adopted by the chief election officer, pursuant to chapter 91.

Collins asked that the information be redacted from the document posted on the Capitol website, but on February 23, a copy on the website was only partially redacted, as his letter reports. I verified that it is the same copy posted today.

The document is still publicly available here. Nor is there any indication in the revised document or on the Capitol web page that the document posted is not the original as submitted by Say’s attorney and that it has been altered.

Should the investigative committee and Rhoads’ conduct as chair be subject to lower standards than, say, a court proceeding? Apparently not, at least not in Hawaii (snip):

The Hawai'i Supreme Court held that the same tests that apply to judges apply to quasijudicial adjudicators. Sussel v. City & County of Honolulu Civil Service Commission, 71 Haw. 101, 107 (1989). They noted: “There are certain fundamentals of just procedure which are the same for every type of tribunal and every type of proceeding. Concededly, a fair trial in a fair tribunal is a basic requirement for due process. This applies to [quasi-judicial proceedings] as well as to courts.” Id at 107 (citations omitted)

Since the Senate has now formed its own investigative committee to determine if Sen. Brickwood Galuteria lives in his district, the Supreme Court opinion might be something this new committee should keep in mind as well.

The lack of response so far raises again the question whether politically powerful legislators are allowed to break rules and laws with impunity.



 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Mao and Gandhi: Two Asians



Mao and Gandhi shared with Sun Yatsen and Rabindranat Tagore the nationalism of this is our land, not yours; but their practice embraced their firm identity with those downtrodden by feudalism. There was a strategic element: this was the overwhelming majority of the downtrodden, the exploited serfs tilling their masters’ land for a small portion of the harvest–and in India still do. And they had similar solutions: the communes for Mao, the sarvodaya villages for Gandhi. The former were more successful than the latter, Mao changed society, Gandhi not.


Mao and Gandhi: Two Asians

6 April 2015

by Johan Galtung, 6 Apr 2015 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Let us start by summarizing. We are looking at six major leaders of forces and movements shaping centuries–Churchill- Hitler-Stalin-Mao-Gandhi-Mandela–comparing, two at a time. We are looking for similarities and dissimilarities. Some of them are out in the open, in their spoken ideologies. But most of them–maybe the most interesting–are hidden to the untrained eye. There are the similarities when they are from the same civilization and the dissimilarities when different– however much they profess to be on the same or very different lines. The six were themselves hardly aware of this factor.

As Churchill, Hitler and Stalin share the Christian-secular civilization; we would expect anti-Semitism, racism, and little hesitation when killing–by war, starvation (the Lord also did it), by revolution, millions–even with enthusiasm. Deeper down there are deductive reasonings from axioms about race and class and a final state: the British Empire, the Aryan Reich, for one thousand years, and socialism on the way to the final stage, communism forever; run from London, Berlin, Moscow. So we got the triangular Second World War with Moscow entering two alliances of convenience.

Enters Mao. He shares the word “communist” with Stalin (they still use it, long after it disappeared in USSR-Russia). But the Chinese civilization leaves its indelible imprint on that concept, giving the word a very different meaning, commune-ism, common-ism, doing things together, cooperating.

Enters Gandhi. An Asian like Mao, but watch out: there is no Asian civilization. There are West, Central, South–Hindu; Gandhi is here!–Southeast, East–Mao is here!–Asia; all very different–and a sixth, North Asia, Russian Orthodox.

As to ideological differences: Mao used mass violence–power was also that which came out the barrel of a gun–Gandhi used mass nonviolence, satyagraha. But watch out again: Mao’s key source of power was normative, his promise of liberating China from the yoke of imperialism, and the common people from the yoke of feudalism. Gandhi promised exactly the same and also saw power as that which comes from the kshatriyah warrior and turned many of them into nonviolent warriors, building on their courage and readiness to sacrifice for the cause. And he added: better violence than cowardice. Mao did not have a military caste to draw upon in the Chinese structure; the military were roving gangs, headed by “warlords”. He made his own, later organized as the People’s Liberation Army.

One changed the military, the other created a military.

Why were the goals so similar? Not because of deep culture but because of not-so-deep structure. China and India had been impoverished and pillaged by the West during the 19th century; colonizing India, imperializing China, indoctrinating themselves and many locals that it was all to their own best interest. Profit-greedy colonialism/imperialism hitched on to the upper layers of feudalism and incipient capitalism. Mao and Gandhi shared with Sun Yatsen and Rabindranat Tagore the nationalism of this is our land, not yours; but their practice embraced their firm identity with those downtrodden by feudalism.

There was a strategic element: this was the overwhelming majority of the downtrodden, the exploited serfs tilling their masters’ land for a small portion of the harvest–and in India still do. And they had similar solutions: the communes for Mao, the sarvodaya villages for Gandhi. The former were more successful than the latter, Mao changed society, Gandhi not.

Why not? For that the two deep cultures may provide an explanation. For Daoism history is an endless succession of holons and dialectics, of never ending forces/counterforces. Nothing is final. Not so in Hinduism even if finality is eons away: Hinduism has a nirvana/liberation concept where everything goes to rest; material energy converted into entropy after N reincarnations. Daoism would accept this as a holon, but immediately search for forces and counterforces–maybe some of them want to go back to material life?

The Daoism in Maoism was the permanent revolution; the nirvana in Gandhism seems to have been his “oceanic circles of sarvodaya villages”, connecting the whole world. Maoism could more easily accommodate new, or old rejuvenated, forces; Gandhism was blind to that possibility, having found the ideal waiting to be born as the real. Very Western, in a sense.

We note that Gandhism went beyond India, Maoism stopped at the borders of China. Hinduism sees itself as universal whereas China sees itself as unique, reacting strongly when movements in India and Nepal refer to themselves as “Maoist”.

Deeper down we sense another difference: the tendency to deduce the ideal from axioms. The two epistemology axioms of Daoism are about process, not about substance: for Gandhi the horizontal caste system in villages, related horizontally, was substantial. For Gandhi not force-counterforce but the unity of humans was the mantra, from which follows horizontality and circles, encompassing all; “oceanic” meaning “universal”. Not so, the Daoists would say, nothing is forever. It was not.

Common structure generated similarities in the giants; deep culture the differences. What remains from both of them is the fight against oppression-exploitation, the search for horizontality, and from Gandhi nonviolent struggle, satyagraha.
__________________________________

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. He is author of over 160 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

 

Travel aid for 4 hour commutes in Honolulu


by Larry Geller

Live in Central Oahu and drive to town? Don’t leave home without this…
Or if you have one of those 10-hour bus rides…

Commuter Survey



 

The bigger Q: how bad will traffic get?


by Larry Geller

Ok, I just read my own article, and I have a couple of questions (sounds silly, but I do).

One sidebar of the article was about simulation software used by traffic planners to predict conditions on highways and roads. I have no idea if Honolulu’s Department of Transportation uses this kind of software or not (after all, this is low-tech Hawaii…). If they don’t, perhaps they should. At least before the City Council approves any new development in Ewa. But even if they depend on abacuses, I still have questions.

So after Tuesday’s really bad traffic experience, the first question is this:

Q: If Hoopili gets built, how many cars will be added to the daily commute into Honolulu each day, and how long will it take?

And part 2:

Q: If the Koa Ridge project is approved, how many cars will then be added to the daily commute to Honolulu each day, and how long will it take?

So DOT, can you answer those questions?

If not, how come?

If not, dear City Council, do you dare approve these projects? How have we come this far without knowing?

Must we find out how bad it will be when it takes us 2-4 hours to get home several times a month?

After Tuesday, I think it’s fair to say that people want to know the answer to these kinds of questions.

And please, no mumbling about rail, because the number of cars coming into town, for example, isn’t changed whether or not there is rail.

Over to you.


And I have a special inspirational message for the Mayor and for HART, who have come to the state legislature hat in hand for more tax money (paraphrasing a tweet I saw a while ago):

When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of planning by doubling your budget, there’s no limit to what you can’t do.



 

Trial by fire or learn to plan? The traffic jam could spur the beginning of an important conversation



The traffic jam also underscored the consequences of Honolulu’s pattern of approving housing developments without ensuring there is adequate transportation infrastructure in place
.—Civil Beat: Honolulu Traffic Jam ‘A Perfect Storm of Everything Falling Apart’


by Larry Geller

If housing developments continue to be approved, traffic is going to get worse, and the slightest incident (construction, a collision) will increasingly cause intolerable delays.

But you knew that. You knew it because you read widely, including Disappeared News. You know that if we don’t change course, we’re headed for the cliff for sure.

Cliff20150331_184401-1_PerfectlyClear



Neither our city nor our state believe in planning, whether its for development, traffic, affordable housing, the annually growing shortage of medical specialists, or whether it’s for mundane things like maintenance.

Just as nationally we are headed for the cliff of global warming because our leaders won’t take adequate measures to save us, here in Honolulu we are headed for our own cliff—in this case, as more and more homes are built, without restriction, and traffic just builds and builds.

As with global warming, there has been and will continue to be a steady increase in traffic, punctuated

“Human errors” can be simply a failure to plan adequately

The state Department of Transportation is spewing apologies for this week’s traffic gridlock, but no one so far has apologized for the lack of adequate planning that seems endemic in the DOT to begin with. Planning helps prevent human errors from causing trouble:

On most days, errors are caught in time, much as you remember to grab your house keys right before you lock yourself out. Those errors that evade the first layer of protection are caught by the second. Or the third. When a terrible “organizational accident” occurs — say, a space shuttle crash or a September 11–like intelligence breakdown — post hoc analysis virtually always reveals that the root cause was the failure of multiple layers, a grim yet perfect alignment of the holes in the metaphorical slices of Swiss cheese.

[Longreads, Understanding the ‘Swiss Cheese Model’ of Error]

I’m suggesting explicitly that failure to plan causes trouble or even death—for example, when crosswalks are not protected by signage or blinking lights until after a sufficient number of people are killed.

This is no small thing.

by more and increasingly severe “storms.” This time it was piss poor planning for Zip machine contingencies. Excuses (which we’re getting plenty of now) don’t work, planning and checklists do.

The increase in traffic is inevitable, and we know this. It’s because the City Council approves housing developments and our roads just can’t absorb the growth in the number of cars.

Yes, we do know this and have known it for some time.

If we’re not careful, tourists will also figure this out and it could begin to hurt the industry on which the economy of this state depends.

What will the Japanese tourists tell their friends and perhaps the media back home about how they missed their return flights in Honolulu because of a traffic jam?

Maybe “トラフィックが非常に悪かった。私は再びホノルルに行くことはありません。”

Simulation software would demonstrate the consequences of approving Hoopili or other developments

I don’t know if Honolulu uses traffic simulation software. If so, it would seem they could inform the public how bad traffic would get when cars are added at Hoopili, Koa Ridge, or other development they are inclined to approve.

simulation

What I would like to see are the numbers. We know that the planned developments will add cars and that Rail will not help residents shop at Costco, commute to jobs in Waikiki, or get to classes at UH Manoa. As long as there are parking places in town, there will be cars headed into the city each day to fill them, rail or no rail. This ought to be self-evident, and if not, someone needs to substantiate it.

The best way to convince the public (or City Councilmembers, if they were inclined to listen) would be to demonstrate that adequate planning is taking place.

If it is, if the city uses the software that could do it, then we, as taxpayers, voters and citizens, should be shown the numbers.

Yes, I’m a stickler for measurements. Without them, government does what it likes instead of what the people need. And developers get whatever they want, as they do now, at the public expense.

The Civil Beat article linked above is a must-read. In particular, don’t miss the last part, where a University of Hawaii professor lays it out in plain language. I can only snip a little, you need to click over and read the complete article.

On social media, pro-rail supporters leapt at the opportunity to point out that if highly controversial over-budget public transportation system is built, commuters won’t need to be stuck in traffic.

But Kem Lowry, a University of Hawaii professor of urban planning, said Wednesday that the city’s planned rail system is “at best, a partial solution” because it only ensures that traffic congestion will get worse at a slower rate.

He explained that Honolulu’s terrible traffic — among the worst in the nation — is the result of approving more houses than the city’s roads can accommodate.

“Transportation infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth of new developments,” Lowry said. “What we see is a consequence of that.”

We knew that, but perhaps the City Council and the Mayor need to be told over and over again until they get it.

But I suggest that it is not just zoning that needs to be reformed in this city. At the top of the article I listed up some other areas where we know what lies ahead but do nothing effective. If there were a culture of planning and adequate budgeting in this state (and city), then perhaps we could be assured that our quality of life and the health of our economy are being looked out for.

As it is, the only people who will be happy with the status quo are those related to development.  Oh, and the politicians they contribute to, I suppose.

Here’s a related rant: Hawaii—The Hammock State (1/31/2015)



Wednesday, April 01, 2015

 

Honolulu gets a taste of traffic after Hoopili


by Larry Geller

Updated: 2:24 p.m.: Get used to it (at bottom)

State workers

20150331_184401-1_PerfectlyClear
                                                            (click pic for larger)

Ok, it won’t be quite this bad after our prime ag land is sacrificed to build more homes at Hoopili, each with a car or two.

It could get this bad as other Ewa construction completes in years ahead.

Just as our country continues pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, global warming be damned, so does our City Council allow unbridled development despite the inevitable traffic tie-ups that will result.

No, the limited rail route, even when completed, will not take those cars off the road. If we wanted a real transit system we should have planned differently.

So get used to drought, storms, and traffic. We, in Hawaii, likely can’t change the direction of our national government, but we sure can work to prevent deterioration of our economy and quality of life here.

Or not. It’s up to us.


Update:

The zipper lane is expected to be fixed after the evening “rush” hour (we’ll need another name for it):

Another bad night

And then there’s this… it says to stay on the H-1.

Get used to it

So… ready to get used to it?



 

Hawaii’s wartime history includes Chinatown sleaze, embrace it


by Larry Geller

Denby Fawcett: The Brothels of Chinatown (Civil Beat, 3/31/2015), expertly written as usual, was a tour of the lurid lures of wartime Chinatown itself as Fawcett tailed a walking tour of the area led by Carter Lee Churchfield.

The tour is a kind of wacky wildlife expedition; a chance to learn more about the wild life that flourished during the war: the tattoo parlors, bars and sex houses where a hard working prostitute could service up to 12 customers in an hour, up to a hundred men a day.

What a work ethic! Nevermind.

The article brought back memories of the film From Here to Eternity which I saw for the first time last year, out of curiosity—not about the war, but to see what Honolulu was like at the time, even if filtered through the lens of an award-winning but nevertheless fictional production.

And then there is reaction to the article: Tour of WWII-Era Chinatown Brothels Is Disrespectful (Civil Beat, 4/1/2015).

Ok, point taken. But this part of Hawaii’s history in particular cannot be erased. Not only that, but in a sense, it might be inspirational. Even as we struggle vainly to find our niche in high tech, there are a couple of things that Hawaii did and still does well, including tourism and R&R. Perhaps the style has changed, but not the substance.

vlcsnap-2015-04-01-10h20m10s54James Jones’ From Here to Eternity (the book) is set in 1941 Hawaii and not only chronicles the soldiers’ life (described in a review as one of “courage, violence and [the] passions of men and women who live by unspoken codes and with unutterable despair”) but reveals some of the struggles with democratic and gender values that punctuated American life at that time of national anguish (see quotations below).

The 1953 movie of the same name starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine and including an uncredited appearance by George Reeves, is an evergreen drama/romance film based on the James Jones novel that won 14 Oscars and  seven nominations. It does, indeed, include snapshots of Chinatown Honolulu. It ends with Pearl Harbor, or it perhaps could have gone on forever, just as the Chinatown scene actually did.

It’s not over even today, folks.

From Here to Eternity


Sidebar

I can’t remember if anyone said anything profound in the film, but the book, of course, is easy to snip from. Here are some samples, out of context of course:


“They shouldn’t teach their immigrants' kids all about democracy unless they mean to let them have a little bit of it, it only makes for trouble. Me and the United States is dissociating our alliance as of right now, until the United States can find time to read its own textbooks a little.”
― James Jones, From Here to Eternity

“Everybody talks about freedom, citizens," the big man said gently, seeming to draw upon that very sure source of personal knowledge again, "but they don’t really want it. Half of them wants it but the other half don't. What they really want is to maintain an illusion of freedom in front of their wives and business associates. Its a satisfactory compromise, and as long they can have that they can get along without the other which is more expensive. The only trouble is, every man who declares himself free to his friends has to make a slave out of his wife and employees to keep up the illusion and prove it; the wife to be free in front of her bridge club has to command her Help, Husband and Heirs. It resolves itself into a battle; whoever wins, the other one loses. For every general in this world there have to be 6,000 privates.”
― James Jones, From Here to Eternity

“And let me tell you something else, my friend," she said in the precise enunciation of a trained nurse talking to a worried patient. "It is all very easy for a man to talk about living in the present. Much more so than for a woman, who is liable to get knocked up higher than a kite every time the man enjoys himself in the present. That's one thing I don't have to worry about, thank God. But there are a lot of others: such as what I am going to do when my husband kicks me out and then my lover throws me over when he has to support me, and me not being trained for anything but to be somebody's wife and having to do all my politicking and achieving and gain what little success I can by getting behind some stupid man and pushing him.”
― James Jones, From Here to Eternity



 

Hawaii to allow Facebook voting by 2020



If you want to vote the Democratic ballot, “like” the donkey. For the Republican ballot, “like” the elephant.


by Larry Geller

HONOLULU April 1, 2015—Hawaii is poised to become the first state to allow voting by Facebook starting in 2020.

Leadership in the state House revealed a plan to skip proposed all-mail-in voting in favor of technology that they believe will drastically increase the state’s abysmal voter turnout while slashing the cost of elections.

voting machineWhile two bills currently advancing, SB287 and HB124, both require the Office of Elections to implement voting by mail at a county level, the new plan would make them unnecessary.

The mail-in bills recognize that in the 2014 elections more early votes were cast than there were election day walk-ins, and that 83 percent of the early birds voted by mail. But still, of Hawaii residents eligible to vote, only 36.5 percent actually did so.

By some reports as many as 71% of online adults use Facebook, including the younger demographic that often skips voting entirely. Since they already spend most of their waking day staring at or poking the screens of their smartphones, asking them to take just a moment to vote should work well.

They wouldn’t even have to log out of Facebook to do their civic duty. Nor would they need to take time off from work to stand in line at a precinct. The polling place would be in their pockets.

Already there are young people who never purchase postage stamps or mail letters. “By 2020,” speculated Rep. Calvin Soy, “people will no longer know how to write their home address correctly on an envelope.”

A mockup screen suggests that the methodology would potentially overcome many obstacles that multi-ethnic Hawaii experiences, such as language barriers to understanding a printed ballot. Nearly everyone should be able to handle a graphic interface, and the Facebook logon makes it all very automatic.

If you want to vote the Democratic ballot, “like” the donkey. For the Republican ballot, “like” the elephant. And so on, moving through until the final screen.

So the state legislature is planning to gut one of the mail-voting bills and replace it with language that would permit Facebook voting starting with the 2020 elections.

The language will be inserted into one of the mail-in bills by Sylvia Like, Chair of the House Finance Committee, who has extensive experience with “gut and replace.”

The bill would replace the current Office of Elections with a non-profit corporation similar to the Hawaii Health Connector. The non-partisan non-profit would be charged with creating the software to interface national, state and county election systems with Facebook.

“Who knows if there will even be a post office in 2020,” speculated Sen. Sam Slam. “We Republicans, well, I Republican, will be the first to applaud its demise.”



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 

Zombie crossing—a dead bill crosses over to the Senate and becomes undead


by Larry Geller

Zombie crossing[6]

Sometimes a bill crosses over from one house to another—only to die. The other house is just not into that bill. Such is life in any state legislature.

If a bad bill dies, its opponents can move on to the next thing. If a good bill dies, well, there’s always next year…

Not so fast! This is the Hawaii state legislature. No matter how good or bad a bill smells, you can never be sure a bill is either dead or alive!

So, for example, SB165 crossed over from the Senate to the House—where it died. It might have been better left dead, but no, the Senate is going to have its way, one way or the other. So it’s baaack!

What is this ill bill? In part it says, “Requires DAGS to undertake lease buyback processing under the program of centralized engineering and office leasing services. Requires DAGS to facilitate facility agreements between the State and private investors…” Hmmm… could be special interests interested in this one.

zombie[8]

A “Zombie” bill has been created, and this one may be unconstitutional as constituted. HB1366, a bill with a different title, Relating to state acquisition or development of real property. That has nothing to do with lease buybacks or facility agreements. Shucks, any Senator can see that…

Two bills with different titles and different purposes have been combined into one.

It lives!And as with the “Frankenbill” reported earlier, this monster was brought to life in Senator Dela Cruz’ Government Operations laboratory committee.

I don’t think this is the kind of Operation that the Senate ought to be experimenting with.

(image: Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye) in the laboratory, from the film Frankenstein, 1931)



Monday, March 30, 2015

 

Senator Kim, Senator Tokuda: Let the public weigh in on “Frankenbill”



Rule 23 Public Hearings on Bills.

(4) If a bill:

(B) Contains any significant or substantial amendment made by a committee other than the last standing committee to which the bill has been referred; and

(C) The public has not been provided with an opportunity to submit testimony on the significant or substantial amendment;

then, prior to reporting the bill out of the last standing committee, the last standing committee to which the bill was referred shall hold a public hearing to provide the public with the opportunity to testify on the bill.


by Larry Geller

Dear Senate President Kim, WAM Chair Tokuda:

It may seem strange to have Disappeared News read back a rule to you, but somebody’s gotta do it.

We have a state constitution and each House of the Legislature has rules that serve to protect the public interest. When committee chairs either ignore or skirt as closely as they can to flouting the rules, it’s time for a correction.

This session has seen “Frankenbills,” “Zombies,” and waivers of notice that don’t just shortchange the public, they short circuit the democratic process.

This is to ask that rules be followed with regard to HB1180. Senator Dela Cruz inserted language lifted from SB1228 SD2, a bill which relates to public-private partnerships, into HB1180 which requires the state procurement office to establish a database to record inadequate past performance by contractors on public works projects. One has nothing to do with the other. So a “Frankenbill” has been created. This “Frankenbill” has been referred to Ways and Means for its final hearing in the Senate.

The rule kicks in because the language was inserted by Government Operations Chair Senator Dela Cruz at the time of decisionmaking – that is, the language had not been presented to the public at all.

There are, of course, several issues at play here. Inserting the new language into this bill seems highly questionable to start with, but perhaps the most important issue at hand is that the public be afforded a chance to weigh in on the substantial amendments that were snuck in by the Government Operations committee chair.

There are many other bills that have been modified so as to short-circuit the proper process. I’m a bit backlogged in posting the information on Disappeared News but will catch up on a few. It would be a shame if creating these bills became standard operating procedure in either the Senate or the House.

So just to let you know that some of us are watching and hoping the Senate will do the right thing.

All the time, preferably.



Sunday, March 29, 2015

 

Beyond replacing HECO with a bigger HECO—Hawaii needs to get with the technology


by Larry Geller

Today’s Star-Advertiser is worth buying, if you don’t have one. Unfortunately they continue to lock away on-line articles behind a paywall, so there’s not much choice. So borrow one, or… whatever.

There is an interesting triptych of articles in the Insight section on the NextEra/HECO issue, but also, it would be worth finding a copy just to read David Sharpiro’s column on p.2). There’s also an op-ed about the city screwing up an RFP for streetlights—with an apparent technology error in the specs. Technology is not our long suit, it seems.

The three-part “debate” on the NextEra/HECO/rooftop solar controversy is very worth reading. But it misses one key point.

I’m not sure if I can properly articulate it (Henry Curtis, where are you??). But if I could, it would go something like this: “We’re behind on the technology, and so are shooting for something that will be obsolete when we get it.”

Not only can we find ourselves obsolete, but as ratepayers, we’ll be the losers. HECO or NextEra can’t lose, because they send us the bills no matter what.

Now, check out my article from Sunday, March 08: PV panel technology that even HECO may welcome and ratepayers should demand (3/8/2015).

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,  How Rooftop Solar Can Stabilize the Grid, 2/2015]

This self-regulation is key because HECO insists (correctly) that the voltage and frequency on the grid must be maintained within very narrow limits. This is done with a variety of technologies, all of them involving giant machinery located on the premises of the utility companies (see, for example, synchronous condensers. used to manage inductive loads). But that’s so 20th century. They may still be needed because of industrial use on the power grid, but Germany, Japan and California are overcoming other HECO stability concerns through their distributed technology.

We may be “leaders” in rooftop PV installations by some measures, but that’s only because the falling price of solar panels finally crossed a threshold—and created an industry composed of contractors lining up to profit from installation jobs.

So now we have contractors experienced in the basics of solar power, and many of them know exactly where the industry is going.

We need to shoot for that point.

What I read in the paper also falls short in that it doesn’t anticipate progress in energy storage.

If, in the future, consumers will also be storing electricity, if grid operators will be storing electricity, then it will be a new ballgame. Much less fossil-fuel-based generation capacity should be needed.

We need to study and understand the technology

How come you read about what Germany, Japan and California are doing here on Disappeared News? Where are our technology leaders (stop laughing)? The installation business, even if they keep abreast of the latest rooftop gizmos, cannot help us design a future system.


We need an independent, flexible, nimble grid

The future may hold opportunities that will not fit the current model. For example, suppose Costco covered their parking lots with PV panels, and offered to sell electricity as well as toilet paper and Spam to their customers (I’ve suggested that to them)?  There needs to be a framework to accommodate that. It’s not so far-fetched. The small shopping center at the corner of Vineyard Blvd. and Liliha has already covered their parking spaces with PV.

Or suppose someone simply had a lot of roof area and wanted to sell electricity to a neighbor?

Or why can’t a condo buy electricity from a remote solar farm and pay for transport via the independent grid?


We’re not getting the best deal from HECO and won’t get it from NextEra

I doubt that the business plan of these giants includes “power to the people.” Bottom line is profit to the shareholders.

In today’s paper, the NextEra side reiterated that it won’t seek a rate action for four years. In Henry Curtis’ article The Most Unexpected Energy Conversation (ililanimedia, 3/28/2015) he notes that ratepayers would not get a rate decrease in that case, should NextEra, with access to cheaper capital, enjoy significantly lower costs of operation. In that event, NextEra would enjoy windfall profits.

Using technology that would facilitate rooftop solar connections, if that would conflict with profits, is also not on the table.

It’s a choice of way cheaper power for us, or more profit for the giants. Cheaper power also enhances Hawaii’s competitiveness by lowering the cost of doing business here. It should be as cheap as possible for the most benefit.

These objectives are in conflict with maximizing HECO/NextEra shareholder profit.

We, as a state, can take a different path.

If we set out to do it. 

If not, HECO will simply be replaced with a bigger and badder HECO, and we’ll continue to pay as much as they can squeeze out of us.



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