Archive for June 2010

Democratic chief takes Mufi to the woodshed

June 20, 2010

Mayor Mufi Hannemann got a dressing down from Democratic Party Chairman Dante Carpenter for not minding his manners at the recent state Democratic Convention, where Hannemann stumped as a candidate for governor.

In a 2 1/2-page letter to Hannemann, Carpenter complained that the mayor and his campaign committee decided not to sponsor a breakfast it was expected to host, “created turmoil” by hosting a competing campaign event that drew delegates away from Resolution Committee meetings, breached an agreement on the time for the mayor’s speech to the convention, ignored the time limit on the speech despite repeated warnings and tried to bamboozle hotel audiovisual people into playing an unauthorized campaign disc after the Hannemann speech.

“Working with your campaign representatives at times became cumbersome and created confusion,” Carpenter said. “Misunderstandings between your campaign representatives and the convention committee were numerous.”

Carpenter said that even after the Hannemann campaign was asked to avoid having its Friday night event interfere with the Resolutions Committee, the campaign placed invitations on the chairs of all the committee meeting rooms.

“At minimum, your Friday function represented a ‘distraction’ while at worst it was disrespectful of the very core reasons for the Friday night Democratic Party’s convention meetings — the serious participation of convention delegates engaged in developing Democratic Party principles,” Carpenter said.

He said the Hannemann campaign insisted on a written agreement for the time of Hannemann’s speech, then breached it.

“The written agreement stated that you would speak for five minutes with 1-2 minutes of ‘wiggle room.’ In fact, you spoke for 12 minutes and even when called on subtly three times by me (‘… Mufi, Pau’) to wrap up your remarks, you did not.

“In addition, during your speech your representative approached the Hilton’s AV people and gave them a disc to play at the end of your speech and informed the Hilton people that the convention committee had approved it. Hilton people checked and discovered that no such arrangements had been made or approved to place special for music for you and they did not. This representing yourself to the Hilton AV people was inappropriate; putting our people in the position of having to tell Hilton that no arrangements had been made was embarrassing for all concerned.”

Carpenter expressed disappointment that Hannemann didn’t participate in the nitty-gritty of the convention’s work.

“In your speech you spoke about your mentors, specifically Senator Inouye and Governor Waihe’e; both excellent examples of outstanding, committed Democrats. For your information, both Senator Inouye and Governor Waihe’e participated in many aspects of the 2010 convention, voting on resolutions, SSC members, national committeeman and state convention chair elections.

“It was a privilege for me to be able to look out over the delegation and see these two men sitting at the table with the delegates from their districts and precincts. Had you followed the examples you cited, I am sure that the delegates from your district and precinct would have enjoyed having you sit with them and share your views on the platform, resolutions and changes to the party’s constitution, as well.”

As party chairman, Carpenter says he’s neutral in the primary contest for governor between Hannemann and former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. When Carpenter served in the state Senate in the early 1980s, he and Abercrombie were both members of a faction led by Ben Cayetano.

Saturday flASHback

June 19, 2010

The gubes have a starring role in this week’s flASHback column in the Star-Advertiser, “Inouye’s long Senate career is second only to 1 other.”

Roundtable unbusinesslike on HB 444

June 17, 2010

We’re always hearing that government should be run more like a business.

Well, if the Hawai’i Business Roundtable’s bungled lobbying on civil unions is an example of the ideal, spare us from that.

The Rountable, a normally respected group representing Hawai’i’s biggest companies, came late to the game in urging Gov. Linda Lingle to veto HB 444 based on an array of technical concerns that seemed less than compelling.

Worse, the recommendation was made by the group’s 10-member executive committee with questions raised about whether all members of the committee were on board and the extent to which the Roundtable’s 44 members were polled.

You’d think experienced business executives would know better than to play fast and loose on so emotional an issue.

Gay rights groups that support HB 444 struck back by threatening a consumer boycott of Roundtable members, and not surprisingly, individual companies started backtracking from the Roundtable’s position.

Today, the Human Rights Campaign announced that Roundtable members Time Warner Cable Inc., Aon Corp., Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., and Marriott International Inc. were backing HB 444.

We’re left to scratch our heads about what the Roundtable leadership was thinking by so haphazardly injecting the organization into the controversy. These are heavy hitters who don’t exactly need to issue a press release to get the governor’s ear.

All in all, not very businesslike.

Rod Tam sees the light; Abercrombie hears the music

June 17, 2010

Councilman Rod Tam is pitching himself as “Lightning Rod” on his campaign signs in his run for mayor.

The American Heritage dictionary defines a lightning rod thusly: “One that attracts and absorbs powerful, typically negative feelings and reactions, thereby diverting interest from other issues.”

I guess it proves the old adage that if you give a monkey a typewriter, sooner or later he’ll say something that gets it right.

Another interesting campaign slogan is Mufi Hannemann’s “standing tall for all of us,” a not-so-veiled reference to the fact that he’s about a foot and a half taller than his Democratic rival Neil Abercrombie.

Actually, that almost qualifies as subtlety for Hannemann. How long can it be before he entertains campaign audiences with Randy Newman’s “Don’t Want No Short People ‘Round Here.”

The governor’s race moves to Pittsburgh (Can we keep it there?)

June 16, 2010

I’m finding it hard to get too bothered by the flap over Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s side trip to Pittsburgh for a campaign event while in Washington on city business.

The Piitsburgh event, first reported by KHON-TV, was sponsored by a rail consultant and billed as a fundraiser for Hannemann’s campaign for governor, with donations of $500 to $5,000 suggested. Several Pittsburgh Steelers attended.

Both the mayor’s office and his campaign office initially said they weren’t aware of the side trip and his public schedule was unclear on what he was doing and when. Questions were raised about whether required notifications were filed with the Campaign Spending Commission.

Hannemann tried to put the controversy to rest by saying he viewed the event as a “meet and greet” and wouldn’t accept any of the donations. He told KHON:

“With respect to event in Pittsburgh, in my view although it was a fundraiser, I saw it more of a meet-and-greet, to be able to touch base with folks who have known me since college, and with the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of my favorite teams. No donations collected that evening, and I’m not coming back to Honolulu with contributions, nor will I accept any contributions from that fundraiser.”

But the rival campaigns of Neil Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona weren’t going to let him off that easy.

Abercrombie:

“The people deserve answers to many questions including: Was the trip to D.C. necessary or was it designed just to get to Pittsburgh while piggybacking on official city business? Why was there no proper notice to the Campaign Spending Commission? Why was the wrong date listed in the fundraiser’s filing? Why did an official city release say the mayor was meeting in D.C. when he was actually campaigning in Pittsburgh?”

GOP Chairman Jonah Ka’auwai:

“The Honolulu Mayor has used taxpayer dollars to advocate for the reckless rail transit project, he raked in more than $200,000 from donors linked to government contractors in the last six months of 2009, and now he’s raising big money from consultants seeking rail contracts. While he’s whacking the rail transit piñata for all the goodies he can get, he’s raising property taxes and increasing fees on just about every other service the city provides.”

It bothers me that transit donations are figuring so big not only in Hannemann’s campaign, but also in that of his preferred successor as mayor, city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, and City Council members.

It makes you wonder if the $5.3 billion project is being carried out for the benefit of the taxpaying public or for private interests who stand to make big money off of rail.

But plenty of rail donations are being collected right here in Honolulu, and I don’t see it as a major special concern that the mayor went to Pittsburgh to get some. All of the major candidates have held Mainland fundraisers.

The suggestion that Hannemann used a city trip to Washington mainly to get to a campaign event in Pittsburgh appears rendered moot by the fact that he brought home his long-delayed federal approval of the rail EIS; obviously, the mayor had legitimate city business in Washington.

The Campaign Spending Commission can sort out any questions about event postings and notifications, which seem relatively minor as far as potential violations go.

***

I have more thoughts on rail and politics in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Mayor uses rail failings as boost to governor bid.”

Jackass justice

June 15, 2010

My head is spinning over the arrest on the Big Island of a Census taker in Puna for entering the property of an off-duty cop who didn’t want to be bothered.

The cop called in his buds on the force and the Census worker, 57-year-old Russell Haas, waited outside the gate for the officers to arrive, thinking they’d smooth things over and help him get the information from the recalcitrant resident.

Instead, they crumpled his Census forms and threw them at him, told him to “get the hell outta here” and arrested him for trespass when he didn’t hop to. (The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has the details here; some of the reader comments at the end are quite entertaining.)

The county prosecutor is backing the apparent police overreaction, filing misdemeanor charges against Haas that could cost him $1,000 and 30 days in jail.

If there’s good reason for this heavy-handed law enforcement, police and prosecutors aren’t saying. They’ve thrown up a veil of secrecy that includes refusing to name the officer who filed the complaint.

The outraged U.S. Attorney, who usually prosecutes cases, jumped in as defense counsel for Haas and petitioned to have the case transferred to federal court on O’ahu.

The way U.S. Magistrate Kevin Chang last week bent over backward to accommodate the transfer suggests Big Island prosecutors will be thrown out on their okole if they don’t drop the charges before the case proceeds further.

Our civic atmosphere is polluted and our public institutions clogged by people basically acting like jackasses over inconsequential matters.

This story has circulated around the country, naturally, adding to the growing impression among our fellow Americans that we’re seriously conflicted in Hawai’i as to whether we want to be part of the union.

And it adds to the increasing reputation of my beloved Big Island as an uncouth backwoods.

Law enforcers over there still haven’t wiped the Peter Boy egg off their faces in the minds of many, and it’s disturbing that they’re not smart enough to realize they can’t keep looking like bumbling fools.

Monday medley: teacher tenure, home runs and iPads

June 14, 2010

Star-Advertiser editorial writer Christine Donnelly continued her look at the principals’ view of the education universe with an excellent piece on teacher tenure.

In a nutshell, principals want more flexibility to hire teachers who best fit the needs of their schools and not be as bound to the seniority system.

They’re frustrated that younger teachers they’ve trained to carry out their programs can be bumped by more experienced teachers who may not be as good a fit for their schools. Some principals think tenure also breeds a sense of unhealthy complacency. From Donnelly’s article:

Farrington High School Principal Catherine Payne said the teacher-transfer process is a vestige of an outdated way of thinking that is holding back the public schools.

“You want immediate improvement in the public school system? Get rid of tenure — for everybody. The system, the way it works now, fosters a sense of job entitlement among some people. It’s not everybody, definitely not. But even if you have one or two people on the staff who act like they have a job for life and don’t have to work hard to keep it, it has a very negative effect,” said Payne, explaining that while only teachers and principals gain tenure, other school employees gain similar job security known as “permanent status.”

Payne said replacing tenure with progressively longer contracts based on fair performance evaluators would make employees less complacent while protecting their rights.

“I tell people this all the time. It would help. A lot. That said, I don’t have high hopes that it’s going to happen.”

Acting Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and the teachers’ union are open to discussing changes to the tenure system in upcoming contract negotitions, but as always, the devil is in the details. The HSTA was also open to drug testing until refusing to implement the agreed-to contract.

In any case, it’s good to see some of the shouting about education being replaced by thoughtful discussion of the nitty-gritty ways we can improve our schools, and Donnelly has been doing an especially good job of facilitating this.

***

Stephen Tsai had a fascinating story that answered the question that was puzzling me last week about the power surge in women’s softball, which he reports is mostly the result of lighter composite bats with bigger barrels and more flex and bounce.

This takes nothing away from the NCAA record-setting home run binge of the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine this year.

It takes tremendous athleticism and eye-hand coordination to get the barrel of any bat on the high-caliber of pitching at the top level of college softball. Not to mention that other schools use the same bats as the Wahine, but weren’t able to go deep nearly as often.

***

I was watching my 6-year-old granddaughter working on an Apple iPad yesterday and it struck me that kids her age will probably never have much use for traditional computers and laptops with keyboards and upright screens.

She watched videos, browsed the Web, listened to music, played games with unbelievable graphics, drew funny pictures of her big brother and used innovative programs that drilled her on reading and math — all by gliding her little fingers intuitively across the screen with no instruction required.

By time she’s of an age where she needs to type in a lot of data, the iPad will be in its third or fourth generation and will likely have new input options that make the traditional keyboard obsolete.

I’m at the point where I’m doing 90 percent of my writing on an iPod Touch that fits in the palm of my hand, and I’m not yet convinced that the bigger iPad would be better for the task.

(I’ve heard all the cracks about how this explains my small thinking.)

flASHback’s new home

June 12, 2010

I’m not going to get into a heavy critique of the Star-Advertiser’s launch week. I had my turn calling the shots, and others deserve to have theirs without me heckling from the cheap seats. But I’ll say this:

Because of my Saturday “flASHback” column that reviews the week’s news, I’m very sensitive to local story counts.

After the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin went through newsroom layoffs and buyouts last year and one TV newsroom disappeared, the weekly news pickings got so slim at times that I found myself scouring high school math club newsletters for material.

When the Star-Advertiser asked me to continue the column after the two newspapers merged, I worried that there might not be enough news items to choose from to sustain it.

Maybe this was just a good news week, but the early verdict is that the Star-Advertiser passed the “flASHback” local story count test with flying colors.

When I sat down to write the column, my list of possible items that I compile from daily news accounts was the longest it’s been in awhile.

I don’t know if the punchlines were any good, but I can’t complain about the source material and hope it keeps up this way.

Which is a long way of pointing you to this week’s “flASHback” on the news that amused and confused, “Lingle and Hannemann take their shows on the road.”

Will Aiona veto HB 444 (II)?

June 11, 2010

Would somebody kindly look at this press release from Rep. Tom Brower and decipher for me exactly what he wants Aiona to do and what his logic is — if there is any.

Isn’t this the legislator who put out a press release calling the House passage of HB 444 a perversion of the Democratic process after he voted for the bill himself?

CIVIL UNIONS: How is Acting Governor Acting?

I wonder, on some political or personal level, might Lt. Governor Duke Aiona be open to allowing the civil union bill to become law?

During Governor Linda Lingle’s two- week absence, House Bill 444 is in the hands of our state’s leading opponent.

Despite public rhetoric against the bill, Aiona has yet to take the ultimate step to stop it: Veto power.

Article 5, section 04 of the Hawaii State Constitution states that “in the event of the absence of the governor from the State… such powers and duties shall devolve upon the lieutenant governor during such absence or disability.”

Aiona has exercised his veto power on one measure during Lingle’s absence (Senate Bill 2401).

If he does not take advantage of this power and (hypothetically-speaking) the bill becomes law, he cannot say he did “everything” he could to kill the bill. Whether he makes a choice or not, he still has made a decision. He would be just as responsible as the Governor and the other legislators for the bill’s passage.

Making the tough decisions and accepting the consequences of his actions—this is his chance to show he is more than a seat warmer.

As one of the 31 House members who supported civil unions, I encourage Aiona’s support. It would send the message to Hawaii that its top government officials understand the difference between civil unions and traditional marriage, and that we have enough safeguards in our State Constitution to protect the sanctity of marriage.

Mahalo,

Tom Brower
State Representative
Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako

Can principals save Hawai’i schools?

June 10, 2010

Recommended reading in today’s Star-Advertiser is Christine Donnelly’s piece on the role of principals in reforming public education, “Principals take lead setting agenda.”

I thought principals were notably absent from the school reform debate of 2003-2004; this time they are stepping up and speaking out.

Admittedly, one of their motivations has been to fight off proposals in the Legislature to cut their work year — and their pay — from 12 months to 10 months, but virtually every model for improving public education gives principals more authority for running their schools and more accountability for results.

One passage of the Donnelly article especially stood out to me:

“Certainly the budget proposal was a galvanizing factor, but even before that there was a sense that the principals’ perspective was missing from a lot of really important discussions going on about education reform,” said Moanalua High School principal Darrel Galera, the MetLife/National Association of Secondary School Principals Hawaii High School Principal of the Year. “I’ll just say it straight out: We already have the means in Hawaii to improve our school system, and that’s by tapping into the expertise of the many, many excellent principals whose schools are thriving even in this challenging environment.”

A lot of good things are going on in our schools despite all the problems, and we need to do a better job of getting initiatives that are working in one school — including the charters — into other schools.

A couple of telling results from a survey of Hawai’i principals:

  • On the question of what’s needed most to improve schools, more funding finished only third behind leadership and communications.
  • The principals expressed only lukewarm support for performance contracts that were included in the 2004 reforms, but never implemented.

If the principals want more authority, they’re going to have to put their money where their mouths are on accountability.

Four principals will be on PBS’ “Insights on Hawaii” at 7:30 p.m. tonight to discuss the surveys.


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