Saturday, April 22, 2017
Petty politics should not prevent the Senate from approving a fully qualified PUC appointee
“It is the chair’s belief that Mr. Gorak’s qualifications are not the truly important issue before this committee,” Baker said, reading a prepared statement before the vote. –Civil Beat, 4/21/2017
by Larry Geller
Don’t we need qualified people in government? We ought to be constantly striving for the best public servants. Tom Gorak appears to be very well qualified to serve on Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission. Unfortunately, the politics of Hawaii’s feudal system of government is complicating his confirmation by the Senate.
According to the Civil Beat story (which includes a link to his resume),
He has devoted almost 40 years to public utility regulation at the state and federal levels, authored dozens of papers, spoken at national and international conferences and served as the PUC’s chief counsel from 2013 until Ige appointed him in June to replace outgoing Commissioner Mike Champley.
There was plenty of support for Gorak, with almost all the written testimony in favor, including from the Sierra Club; former Consumer Advocate Jeff Ono; the former head of the state energy office, Mark Glick; well-known Hawaii energy expert John Cole and others.
[Civil Beat, Committee Rejects Governor’s Choice For Utilities Commission, 4/21/2017]
Sen. Baker’s objections appear based on the manner in which Gov. David Ige appointed Gorak on an interim basis. Yes, this bypassed the Senate confirmation process temporarily. Gorak’s appointment was made just before the PUC was set to decide on a $4.3 billion proposal for Florida’s NextEra Energy to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries.
Baker perhaps feels that her own power has been challenged by the interim appointment. This is feudal politics at work.
Further into the article we read of Sen. Baker’s own shenanigans:
The morning hearing went smoothly, save for a few snips from Baker. She interrupted Gorak a couple times, including once right in the beginning when he asked to make an “opening statement” to the committee. She told him this was not court, but that he could make a statement.
For a bit more on Sen. Baker’s conduct of her committee hearings, see yesterday’s article on censorship of testimony. Scroll way down to just below the horzontal line. There’s a video to watch as well.
The current controversy over Gorak’s nomination is temporary. The need for qualified appointees to the PUC and elsewhere in government should be a stronger consideration.
It does not punish the Governor nor change his politics to reject Gorak. But it hurts the people of the state to reject him if he is best qualified to serve.