Archive for November 2010

A Target on my back

November 30, 2010

Sometimes it’s the smallest issues that bring out the biggest emotions, and so it was with my column in the Star-Advertiser last week about the fuss over Target’s plans to open in the Don Quijote spot in downtown Kailua.

I just couldn’t see the big deal about one out-of-state company taking over the same space from another out-of-state company for the same purpose.

Target doesn’t have the bad reputation as some other mainland big-box retailers. It’s a good company and a good store; other local communities were almost as excited to get a Target as UH fans were excited about getting invited to the Mountain West Conference.

But opponents of the new store remain certain it’ll ruin Kailua’s character and took my head off for suggesting otherwise. Others wrote to thank me for saying it so they didn’t have to and have their own heads taken off.

One anonymous reader put the issue in the best perspective for me by recounting a conversation with a Target protester that went something like this:

“Well, how about if Don Quijote fixed up its rundown store, paved the potholed parking lot and radically improved the quality of its merchandise?”

“That would be good.”

“Duh, that’s a Target!”
If you’re looking for something different in greeting cards to express your best  holiday wishes, I recommend a couple of lines with musical themes created by out-of-work Honolulu Symphony musicians.

Check out Grin-n-Barrett Cards by Paul Barrett, the orchestra’s principal bassoonist, and Normzart Greeting Cards by clarinetist Norman F. Foster.


Abercrombie serves up waffles on BOE

November 29, 2010

Neil Abercrombie campaigned for governor as a straight shooter who would always let us know where he stands, but as governor-elect he’s been more of a moving target on the matter of how the new appointed Board of Education will be constituted.

Voters said by a solid margin that they want the governor to appoint the BOE and be held accountable for the results. The question on the ballot couldn’t have been more clear:

“Shall the Board of Education be changed to a board appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, as provided by law?”

Now some legislators and interest groups that feed off of public education seem intent on thwarting the will of voters by limiting the governor’s choices to as few as two candidates put forth by a screening committee mostly controlled by interest groups and the Legislature. It would provide no more accountability than the current system.

Abercrombie has been all over the map. During the campaign, he avoided a straight answer on whether he supported switching from an elected to an appointed school board, a change opposed by the teachers’ union that gave him a key endorsement.

He finally said he voted for the constitutional amendment, but suggested he had reservations.

On the question of how the school board would be appointed, he initially indicated that he would work with what the Legislature gave him. Then, in a meeting with senators, he was reported to have expressed a preference for appointing directly without being restricted by a selection committee.

Now, an excellent analysis by Dave Koga in yesterday’s Star-Advertiser reports that he’s waffling again:

A three-point memo from his staff says Abercrombie wants to hear different views on the process, will work with legislators to pass enabling legislation and wants the matter “resolved quickly and in a way that best reflects the voters’ decision and serves the public interest.”

I don’t begrudge Abercrombie a shot at working things out collegially and certainly don’t expect him to get in a public fight with the Legislature before he’s even sworn in.

But I do expect him to be more up front on where he stands, and in the end to stand up for the accountability on education that voters unmistakably said they wanted.

flASHback alert

November 27, 2010

Today’s “flASHback” column in the Star-Advertiser: “Hanabusa gets farewell fete; Lingle has a parting portrait.”

Let the holidays begin

November 24, 2010

Have a great Thanksgiving everybody and knock yourselves out on Black Friday.

My column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “1 giant store is to replace another in Kailua, ho-hum.”

Groups ask Legislature to open it up

November 23, 2010

The House isn’t even organized yet for the 2011 session, but 18 diverse public interest groups are already pressing the House and Senate to open up their operations and make them more transparent to the public.

Letters addressed to members of both houses asked lawmakers to:

— Broadcast more legislative proceedings and post them on the web.

“Without the ability to watch the hearings and floor sessions, a huge segment of our population is excluded from observing the legislative process. Furthermore, with fewer newspapers and TV news outlets in town, there is reduced news coverage about the legislature and citizens are further removed from the process.”

— Give at least three business days notice for all legislative hearings, excluding holidays and weekends.

“With the existing short notice, it makes it extremely difficult for ordinary citizens to write testimony and almost impossible to rearrange their work or personal schedules so that they may attend a hearing.”

— Post proposed bill amendments online ASAP.

“In some instances, proposed amendments are only available in hard copy by visiting the committee chair’s office. This makes it impossible for those who cannot be at the Capitol to see the proposed amendments.”

— Include in committee reports on legislative measures a list of all organizations or agencies testifying on the topic.

“Historically, this information was always listed in committee reports, but the Senate has dropped this practice.  This makes it more difficult for the reader to identify those who supported or opposed the bill. ”

Signing the letters were AARP Hawaii, ACLU of Hawaii, Americans for Democratic Action / Hawaii, Blue Planet Foundation, Citizen Voice, Citizens for Equal Rights, Common Cause Hawaii, Conservation Council for Hawaii, Grassroot Institute, Hawaii Pro-Democracy Initiative, Kanu Hawaii, League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Life of the Land, Media Council Hawaii, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, Right to Know Committee, Sierra Club, and Voter Owned Hawaii.
A  new addition to the local online public policy debate is a weekly Internet radio show hosted by tech wiz and Republican Party strategist Peter Kay, who says he hopes to promote “a distinctly Hawaiian Conservative ideology” through “respectful debate from opposite sides of the political spectrum.”

Listeners can tune in live to the Peter Kay Show and call in questions at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, or if you miss it, download the podcast later for listening at your convenience.

The scheduled guest tonight is Malia Zimmerman, editor of the recently expanded Hawaii Reporter.

City turns around PR disaster on senior fair

November 22, 2010

The cancellation and then rescheduling of the 36th annual Mayor’s Craft and Country Fair at the Blaisdell Center was an unnecessary mess, but I give Mayor Peter Carlisle credit for quickly getting on top of a bad situation and making it right.

The event, originally scheduled for this past weekend, was abruptly scrapped by the city after a disruption at the Kailua farmer’s market over a state excise tax crackdown on cash businesses such as farmer’s markets and craft fairs.

The  overreaction dispirited seniors, who look forward to the event and put a lot of work into it, and it turned out the tax department didn’t even plan to target the fair because it is exempt as a one-time annual holiday event.

This is the part where we’ve come to expect officials to circle the wagons, deny they did anything wrong, hang underlings out to dry, blame the state — anything to evade responsibility.

Carlisle didn’t do any of that, taking responsibility squarely on his shoulders. “This was a mistake made by the City and County of Honolulu,” he said. “We’re responsible for it, and now it’s our obligation to do everything we can to try to set this right.”

And that’s exactly what he did, getting the event rescheduled for Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I could get used to this kind of forthrightness.

flASHback alert

November 20, 2010

My “flASHback” column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “Hanabusa hogs limelight; Dem-Dans still long for lard.”

The TSA’s ‘grope-a-dope’ strategy

November 19, 2010

I’ve earned the right to be a little bit amused by the national uproar over airport body scans and pat downs by security officers.

As a wheelchair passenger who can’t go through metal detectors or x-ray scanners, I’ve been subjected to extreme pat downs ever since 9/11.

I won’t go into the sordid details, but let’s just say it’s always ended with some hairy guy assuring me that he’ll be touching my private parts with only the back of his hands — as if that makes all the difference.

(I know, the TSA guy probably goes home and tells his wife, “You should have seen the hairy guy in a wheelchair I had to feel up today.”)

Anyway, the TSA folks are now in a snit because many travelers are opting for pat downs to avoid going through new full-body scanners that essentially take naked pictures of them.

To discourage people from insisting on the more time-consuming procedure, TSA agents doing pat downs now have authorization to touch private parts with — GASP! — the FRONT of their hands.

As I pondered the implications, I received an e-mail offering me an interview with Trends Journal publisher Gerald Celente, who sees a way to a “happy ending” in all of this.

I’m going to pass on the interview, but here’s what the press release said:

The “Celente Solution”

Just as the Government invariably gets everything else wrong, its grope-the-public strategy is upside-down and inside-out, contends Celente.

“As a strictly heterosexual, if I’m going to get groped in an airport – be it in public or private – I want to be groped by a gal. Period! And, ideally, I would like to choose my groper. Does the TSA have a ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy,” he asks? “What twisted TSA/government bureaucrat put in place this guy-gropes-guy policy?” . . .

Celente readily acknowledges that his “solution” is male-oriented. “I’m speaking only for myself and on behalf my guy friends,” said Celente, “not for women. They’ll have to find their own solution.”

Honor voter intent on the Board of Education

November 18, 2010

I’m glad Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie told Democratic senators that he wants to directly appoint members to the Board of Education, subject to Senate confirmation, rather than be narrowly limited to candidates given him by an advisory council.

Legislators have said they plan to reintroduce a bill vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle creating a seven-member advisory panel that could provide the governor as few as two choices per BOE seat.

The majority of the  panel would be named by the P-20 Council, an unofficial group made up of the Department of Education, the University of Hawaii and various community and business organizations with interests in education.

Abercrombie had previously said that he’d work with whatever the Legislature gave him.

The constitutional amendment passed by a large majority of voters said: “Shall the Board of Education be changed to a board appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, as provided by law?”

The clear intent was to allow the governor to pick the most qualified people available to govern our schools — and be held accountable for the results.

Limiting the governor to as few as two candidates provided by a panel that’s answerable to nobody thwarts accountability rather than advancing it.

How can the governor be held responsible for education with so little real choice in shaping the BOE?

The Legislature’s plan is modeled on a similar scheme for appointing University of Hawai‘i regents, but that was enacted for the primary purpose of handcuffing a Republican governor and was sharply criticized as bad policy by the national body that accredits universities.

The electorate expressed an unequivocal desire for a fresh start in public education. Lawmakers need to put aside the old politics and give voters what they asked for — a school board truly appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Public support for O‘ahu rail is still there; is the money?

November 17, 2010

One seemingly clear message from the recent election is that majority public support for the $5.5 billion O‘ahu rail transit system remains intact two years after voters passed an initiative approving a steel-on-steel commuter line.

Opponents claim rail played a part in former Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s lopsided loss to Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary for governor, but there were many other issues in that campaign and Abercrombie was equally pro-rail.

City races were a better measure of public sentiment on rail. In the special election for mayor, in which rail was a major issue, anti-rail candidate Panos Prevedouros won only a fifth of the vote and finished third against the unequivocally pro-rail Peter Carlisle and Kirk Caldwell.

Anti-rail sentiment didn’t materialize in the four City Council races and a City Charter amendment creating a transit authority, which gave voters an opportunity to express displeasure with rail, passed with a comfortable 63.6 percent of the vote.

The question now is whether the money to pay for the 20-mile line from Kapolei to Ala Moana is still there — a concern not to be taken lightly after the emphatic Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Public support could wane fast if local taxpayers end up having to pick up the $1.5 billion federal share in addition to the $4 billion local share. I look more closely at the new rail equation in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “GOP shift means isle leaders need to discuss rail funding.”

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