Archive for July 2010

Leonard gets key endorsement

July 31, 2010

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Klein has thrown his enthusiastic support behind his former law clerk Katherine Leonard as Gov. Linda Lingle’s nominee to be Hawai’i’s first woman chief justice.

Klein, who was appointed to the court by former Gov. John Waihee and is now in private practice, issued a statement that he “completely and without reservation” supports her nomination and that Leonard “compares very favorably with past Chief Justices who have administered our court system.”

The statement by Klein, who presumably was interviewed as part of the administration’s vetting process, should help head off attempts by attorneys led by Eric Seitz to get the Hawai’i State Bar Association to oppose the nomination when it goes before the State Senate for confirmation.

The Hawai’i Women Lawyers and Leonard’s former law partner have also jumped to her defense in advance of a hearing Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Here is Klein’s full statement:

Judge Katherine Leonard was the first law clerk I selected to assist me when I was elevated to the Hawai’i Supreme Court in 1992. She served with great distinction. I am well aware of her legal capabilities, her intellect, her demeanor, and her aloha for Hawai’i, and I completely and without reservation support her nomination as Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court. The Judicial Selection Commission has qualified Judge Leonard for the Chief Justice’s position, and by background and experience she compares very favorably with past Chief Justices who have administered our court system. I urge my fellow attorneys and citizens to support Judge Leonard’s nomination and I hope for her prompt confirmation.

flASHback alert

July 31, 2010

Today’s flASHback column in the Star-Advertiser: “Hannemann sticks to transit during hopeful transition.”

Old friends bow out

July 30, 2010

Today is a most significant day in local newspaper history with the retirement from the Star-Advertiser of Helen Altonn, Mary Adamski and Ben Wood, giants of our business who among them have nearly 150 years of experience covering some of Hawai’i’s biggest stories since statehood.

As best as I can recall, they are the only three left who were already there when I first walked into the Star-Bulletin newsroom more than 42 years ago as a student wannabe with much to learn from all of them.

Helen Altonn is hands down Hawai’i’s greatest living journalist. An image of her I’ll always remember was a photo on the office bulletin board of her going off on Lyle Galdeira when he was the flack for some state agency and wasn’t coughing up the information she wanted.

Helen had fury in her eyes and veins popping out of her forehead while Galdeira just kind of wilted into the pavement.

The lesson I learned: A good reporter holds nothing back in fighting for the information readers need.

My first job was covering the police beat on weekends for Mary Adamski, and she took me down to the old station on Young Street to introduce me around.

I was totally intimidated after seeing her byline so many times and trailed a few deferential steps behind her. Mary kept yelling at me, “Stop walking behind me!” but I couldn’t help it. The lesson I finally learned: A good reporter is intimidated by nobody.

The original “Hawaii Five-0” was starting its run back then and Ben Wood was the entertainment reporter. He did a story on one of the stars and got a snotty note to the effect that Jack Lord was the only “star” and the rest of the cast should be referred to as featured players or somesuch.

Ben wrote a column taking note of this — and vowing never to visit the set again. I suspect he relented, but the lesson that impressed me: A good reporter doesn’t kowtow to anyone’s bloated ego.

These three represent experience and institutional memory that will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace as the news business continues to shrink.

But they’ve all done more than their turn and I wish them the long and happy retirements they richly deserve.

What’s Lingle’s Legacy?

July 28, 2010

While many politicians get all “aw, shucks” when talking about their legacy and say it’ll take care of itself, Gov. Linda Lingle obviously takes this stuff very seriously.

I drew a bit of blood in a way I hadn’t intended when I said in my column today about her appointment of Katherine Leonard as chief justice of the state Supreme Court: “After eight years of getting nowhere with the Democratic Legislature on her policy initiatives, the Judiciary is Lingle’s only clear legacy.”

Her senior communications adviser Lenny Klompus responded with a lengthy letter to the editor to the Star-Advertiser outlining his view — and presumably hers — of Lingle’s broader legacy.

I’ve been gathering string for a more thorough review of the Lingle legacy as her term nears an end, and it’s handy to have a clear statement on how the administration sees it.

Toward that end, I’d be interested to know what the folks who post here think will be remembered most about the Lingle years. I don’t know if the Star-Advertiser will publish Klompus’ letter — I hope they do — but I’ll paste it here in hope of getting your thoughts. (Note: From the discussion below, I posted here a copy of Lingle’s 2002 campaign promises, “A New Beginning for Hawai’i,” for those who care to compare the lists.)

Governor Lingle’s Legacy Anything but Narrow

In David Shapiro’s July 28 column, he implies that Governor Linda Lingle’s legacy will be narrowly defined by her judicial appointments. While Shapiro correctly points out that the Governor has appointed 3 of the 5 Supreme Court Justices, pending Judge Katherine Leonard’s confirmation as Chief Justice, 5 of the 6 judges on the Intermediate Court of Appeals and more than half of the Circuit Court judges, he is vastly overlooking the Governor’s many other accomplishments of her nearly 8 year service.

Specifically, the Governor has:

-Led the effort in the state’s transition to a secure, clean energy future. By establishing the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), in partnership with the federal government, the Governor has not only begun the huge strides to reduce Hawai’i’s dependence on oil, but has also laid the groundwork to continue the transition to energy security long beyond her Administration;

-Initiated and oversaw the modernization of our state’s transportation systems, including harbors, highways and airports;

-Revamped state animal quarantine regulation laws to lessen the burden on pets and pet owners;

-Awarded more leases to Dept. of Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries over the past seven years than in the trust’s previous 80-year history;

-Transformed the state’s procurement process to ensure openness and transparency;

-Brought the issue of chronic homelessness to light and creatively addressed the challenge, including working with community partners and neighbor island mayors to build and open seven homeless shelters and transitional housing projects on O‘ahu and two on Kaua‘i;

-Expanded Hawai‘i’s role in the Asia-Pacific region through new international partnerships, especially with China, creating new opportunities for Hawai‘i businesses and students;

-Dramatically cut and streamlined fees and assessments for businesses and created an online portal of information and access for consumers and businesses;

-Reduced the number of children in foster care by 50 percent, while achieving one of the lowest child re-abuse rates in the nation;

-Protected and ensured the long-term state-federal-community management of Hawai‘i’s pristine Papahanaumokuakea; and

-Reinvigorated public education through a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) with hands-on learning applications like robotics.

This listing of projects ushered in and overseen by the Lingle-Aiona Administration is merely a snapshot of what Governor Lingle and her team have been able to accomplish during their time in office. As she moves into her final months in office, we will certainly see the list continue to grow.

Finally, despite Shapiro’s claim that the Governor spent “eight years of getting nowhere with the Democratic Legislature on her policy initiatives,” the fact is, the Governor’s achievements at the legislative level are impressive, given the immense political roadblocks by the majority party.

Approximately 42 percent of all bills introduced by the Administration and bills that were closely related (or in some cases identical copycat bills) to the Administration’s were passed by the Legislature, including 48% this past session.

Considering that the House Majority was able to get only 50 percent of its legislative packages passed between 2003 and 2009, and the Senate Majority was only able to squeeze out a 45 percent success rate with its packages between 2006 and 2009, the success rate of the Governor’s legislative initiatives demonstrates the merit and caliber of her Administration’s proposals.

It’s interesting to note that in the 2010 legislative session – in the midst of the most severe economic crisis facing our state – the House and Senate Majority didn’t even bother to submit legislative packages, so their success rate is zero percent.

The Governor’s accomplishments – at the administrative and legislative levels – will have long-term beneficial impacts on Hawai‘i’s future, ensuring Governor Lingle’s legacy will be remembered far beyond her significant appointments to the Judiciary.

Leonard Klompus
Senior Advisor — Communications
Office of the Governor

CJ nominee Katherine Leonard faces the first blades

July 28, 2010

The knives are starting to come out on Gov. Linda Lingle’s nomination of Katherine Leonard to be new chief justice of the state Supreme Court, but so far the cuts have only been surface wounds.

Attorney Eric Seitz struck the first public blow with a letter to the Hawaii State Bar Association urging opposition when Leonard goes before the State Senate for confirmation. He said she’s ill-equipped for the job because of poor temperament, a lack of administrative experience and only two years of judicial experience on the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

The question is whether it’s just Seitz being Seitz or if there’s broad sentiment against Leonard in the legal community as he claims.

The 400-member Hawaii Women Lawyers jumped to her defense on all points raised by Seitz, as did one of her former law partners, Karl Kobayashi, who said she displayed a sharp legal mind and good administrative skills when he worked with her at Carlsmith Ball LLP.

The Bar Association found Leonard qualified when Lingle named her to the appeals court, and a key is whether the rating is repeated on the new appointment. A recommendation is expected before the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its hearing on the nomination next Tuesday.

Senators enjoy taking a scalp from a gubernatorial nominee now and then, but it will be difficult to do so on the first woman nominated for chief justice if the Bar Association rates her qualified and she presents herself well at the Senate hearing in answering critics such as Seitz.

I have further thoughts on Lingle and the Leonard nomination in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Judicial appointments will define Lingle’s legacy.”

Mufi embraces Superferry

July 27, 2010

An intriguing part of Mufi Hannemann’s economic plan in his campaign for governor is a proposal to bring the Superferry back to Hawai’i.

He didn’t flesh out the idea, saying only, “Restore the Superferry. Do it right with environmental protections and an EIS. Don’t waste the taxpayers’ investment.”

As appealing as it may seem to supporters of the short-lived interisland ferry service that was taken down by environmental protests and adverse court rulings, it’s difficult to see it happening.

No private investors in their right minds would invest significantly in the venture after seeing the original Hawaii Superferry’s $300 million investment flushed down the toilet in a capricious legal and regulatory climate.

Public opposition in some quarters on Maui and Kaua’i seems as insurmountable as ever, and the Superferry failed to meet its passenger and vehicle traffic projections in the time it operated before dismantling the company  in bankruptcy proceedings.

A reborn Superferry would likely require heavy state involvement and steep public subsidies. So in essence, after running out of town the private operators who proposed to pay their own way, we’d come back with ferries floated on the backs of taxpayers.

Only in Hawai’i.

Do or die for Hawai’i GOP

July 26, 2010

State Republican Chairman Jonah Ka’auwai is making some good moves in trying to dig back from the GOP’s disastrous 2008 legislative elections, when the party failed to field candidates in 40 percent of the races and ended up with an irrelevant minority of six of 51 House seats and two of 25 Senate seats.

Ka’auwai recruited candidates for nearly all open seats this year, an important statement that Republicans will fight to retain their status as a major political party in Hawai’i.

Just as important, he recognized that he can’t win ’em all and set a reasonable goal of doubling up this year to 12 House seats and four Senate seats and building from there in future elections.

Reasonable, but still daunting in a state in which nearly every legislative district leans Democratic. And the Republicans start with a handicap after two of their safest seats were put into play when Sen. Fred Hemmings retired and Rep. Lynn Finnegan left the Legislature to run for lieutenant governor.

But there’s a lot of voter discontent after the crushing recession, which tends to favor the out party, and the GOP has some energy going after U.S. Rep. Charles Djou’s victory in the special election to replace Neil Abercrombie.

Republican House and Senate candidates have hot-button issues to work with in the economy, civil unions and the 36-percent pay raise incumbent legislators took for themselves while demanding sacrifices of everybody else.

If the GOP can’t make gains this year, its future is grim as a credible political force in Hawai’i.


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