Archive for June 2010

These are state legislators?

June 30, 2010

I remember covering O’ahu District Court in the late 1960s when haole hippies brought in on marijuana busts would be offered an opportunity by the judge to have charges dropped if they got on a plane back to the Mainland by midnight.

It’s like deja vu all over again with the move in the Legislature led by Reps. John Mizuno and Rida Cabanilla to establish a  $100,000 “family reunification” fund to give homeless people from the Mainland one-way tickets back to where they came from.

The measure failed in the Legislature last session, but Mizuno and Cabanilla were grandstanding on its behalf this week, with Mizuno putting up $100 to help send a homeless man back to Seattle and urging others to contribute to the cause.

John Fox, director of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, was incredulous that Hawai’i is trying to export its homeless, according to a story in the Star-Advertiser by Dan Nakaso.

“You hear the occasional story of some small reactionary community somewhere wanting to put homeless people on buses,” Fox said. “But I’ve never met or run into any homeless person or service provider who has assumed something like this has actually happened before.”

Of Mizuno and Cabanilla, he said,  “These are state legislators?”

There might be legitimate cases where social service providers would feel the best way to help a homeless person is to help him get home, but to make it official state policy to dump our homeless elsewhere would be another national disgrace for Hawai’i.

No doubt there are vagrants from the Mainland who come here to take advantage of our social services and balmy weather, but it’s a myth that they make up a substantial number of our more than 4,000 homeless on O’ahu, the vast majority of whom are homegrown.

Focusing so much attention on the relatively small number of homeless who are recent Mainland transplants distracts from the real challenge of finding ways to help local citizens who are often physically or mentally ill, down on their luck or drug-addicted.

I have further thoughts on homelessness in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “It’s time to focus on finding where the homeless can live.”

It’s my birthday and I’ll politic if I want to

June 29, 2010

We’ve had dueling gubernatorial birthday bashes this week with Neil Abercrombie celebrating his 72nd with supporters at the Bishop Museum last night and James “Duke” Aiona marking his 55th tonight at Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch and Crab.

I haven’t heard what Mufi Hannemann plans when he turns 56 on July 16, but I wouldn’t put it past the mayor to surreptitiously troll for votes at both of his opponents’ events, as in 2004 when he showed up for both the Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney rallies to hit up Democrats and Republicans alike for support.

Call me old and grouchy, but I get uneasy about the self-glorification of one’s arrival on this Earth as if you’re George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. or the Son of God.

But it’s a time-honored political tradition pioneered locally by the late Mayor Frank F. Fasi, who actually did put himself in the class of some of those icons. Fasi held his first gatherings at the old Hilton Dome for the then-astronomical ticket price of $100.

I don’t know how to end this except in song with the ultimate political birthday tribute — and to wish a good one to Neil, Duke, Mufi all. May they live long and not prosper too much at our expense.

No chocolate-coating the oil disaster

June 28, 2010

I’m not sure that pouring chocolate syrup over three lovely beach bunnies wearing string bikinis and pouty faces was the best way for “Hands Across the Sand” organizers in Waikiki to illustrate the plight of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

I doubt the poor petro-soaked waterfowl have guys lined up volunteering to lick it off of them.

But I can understand why those brought together Saturday by the Sierra Club, Blue Planet Foundation and Surfrider Foundation felt a need to do something to express their outrage over the environmental catastrophe in the gulf that keeps getting worse.

It’s unimaginable that after all these decades of deep-sea oil drilling, there was no plan in place to deal expeditiously with such a disaster that was bound to happen sooner or later. And it’s unbelievable how blithely continued drilling-as-usual is being defended in some quarters.

The Waikiki event tried to turn a negative into a positive by urging us to take the BP disaster as a “wake-up call” to end our oil dependency.

“When we decided to put a man on the moon, there was an assembly of the best and the brightest to figure out how to move forward,” said Robert Harris of the Sierra Club. “Our message to President Obama is that’s what we need to do now. We need a collective vision of how to move the U.S. off of oil. We need a 20-year plan.”

State Sen. Mike Gabbard said, “If there’s any place on the planet that can get off of foreign oil, it’s this place right here. We have sun, wind, ocean thermal, geothermal, waves.”

They’re absolutely right, of course, but we’ve been saying the exact same things with minimal action since the first OPEC oil embargo in 1973-74.

What’s going to make it different this time?

flASHback alert

June 26, 2010

Today’s flASHback column in the Star-Advertiser: “Civil unions issue leads to stumbling and bumbling.”

The business of civil unions

June 25, 2010

Just when I think the Business Roundtable’s brush with HB 444 couldn’t get any more bizarre, it does.

The Roundtable went from a June 4 letter to Gov. Linda Lingle urging her to veto the civil unions measure, to a statement late week that the executive committee stood by the recommendation despite deepening dissent among members like Time Warner, Marriott, Foodland, Starwood and Alexander & Baldwin, to a second letter to Lingle this week doing some serious backtracking.

“Unfortunately, the use of the word veto has become equivalent to some, as a position against civil unions,” wrote executive director Gary K. Kai.

That’s right up there with Bill Clinton saying it all depends on what you mean by “is.”

So in a few weeks, the headline has gone from “Top businesses oppose civil unions” to “Top businesses are divided on civil unions” to “Top businesses rally behind civil unions.”

The Roundtable, which represents 44 of Hawai’i’s biggest companies, has always been one of our most respected business groups, with views on public policy issues that have carried much weight.

But the group comes out of this fiasco looking like babbling idiots on civil unions and with its overall credibility greatly tarnished. Its attempt to provide guidance has provided only an embarrassing distraction from which the governor can take no guidance.

On the other side of the ball, gay rights groups like Citizens for Equal Rights, the Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG-Oahu and Equality Hawaii did a masterful job of turning the Roundtable by putting individual member companies on the spot, serving warning that they’ve matured into a potent political force not to be messed with.

Senator Subordinate

June 24, 2010

KITV had an good story that hasn’t gotten much attention about Mililani state Sen. Michelle Kidani’s off-session job as an aide to new Honolulu City Councilman Lee Donohue, who was appointed to fill the last six months of Charles Djou’s term.

A legislator can’t legally hold a second state job, but Kidani says she’s obtained a city ethics ruling that it’s OK to work for a county.

The position pays her $4,000 a month, slightly more than the $3,856 she makes as a senator. In the off-session last year, she returned to the job with the Honolulu neighborhood boards office that she held before winning the Senate seat from Ron Menor in 2008.

Kidani says there’s no conflict between working for a council member and serving in the Legislature, but that seems questionable.

The city has major dealings with the state, especially on funding, and interests that often differ. She could well find find herself voting as a senator on city issues she worked on as a council aide.

Besides the potential conflicts, it just seems unbecoming for a sitting senator to serve as a council member’s wonk.

The job can’t sit well with her colleagues in the Legislature, who have argued that they deserve higher pay because their jobs, while officially part-time, are effectively full-time.

If Kidani can work a demanding full-time job for another government agency during the eight months the Legislature is out of session, obviously the Senate position is very much part-time.

The return of the out-to-lunch councilman

June 23, 2010

Honolulu Councilman Rod Tam is fully back in the saddle three months after colleagues censured him for the second time in three years and stripped him of all committee assignments for ethics violations relating to $13,700 worth of falsified meal expenses he charged to the city.

In a reorganization announced by the council yesterday to reflect Lee Donohue’s replacement of Charles Djou in the East O’ahu seat, Tam was restored as chairman of the Planning Committee, named vice chair of the Boards and Commissions Committee and given seats on the budget and zoning committees.

It’s simply irresponsible for council leadership to give so much power to someone who has shown so little regard for taking care of taxpayers’ money. Chairman Todd Apo must be getting hard up for votes.

There are only six months left in Tam’s dismal term, and he should have been left to serve it sitting in the corner.

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