Archive for May 2011

Guv signs pay bill; Hanabusa continues house hunt

May 31, 2011

Catching up on a couple of things …

With no fanfare, comment or drama Gov. Neil Abercrombie wisely signed HB 575 to continue 5 percent pay cuts for legislators, administrators and judges for two more years, matching the cuts being asked of unionized public workers.

The measure also continues a freeze on all step increases top state officials would have received since Jan. 1, 2009; if the governor had vetoed the bill, on July 1 legislators would have received 12 percent raises, administrators 17 percent and judges 28.5 percent.

What seemed a simple matter at the beginning of the legislative session became bogged down in maneuvering between the House and Senate and failed to pass out of conference committee.

In the session’s final days, the House accepted a Senate version that many members thought was legally flawed to avoid the public wrath that would surely come if elected officials got pay raises while demanding sacrifices of everybody else.

Abercrombie’s signature suggests the attorney general thinks the measure is legally defensible, and hopefully, we’ve heard the last of this for a couple of years …

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa continues to plug away at keeping her campaign promise to move into the 1st Congressional District she represents.

According to her spokeswoman Ashley Nagaoka, Hanabusa has been holding open houses to sell her Ko Olina home, with the intent of using the proceeds to buy in CD1.

“Until that happens she will have to rent an apartment,” Nagaoka said. “She has narrowed her apartment search down to one building in Honolulu, but I can’t give you the name of the building for security purposes.”


Give some YouTube love to my nephew Jake

May 27, 2011

We seem to have drifted into featuring good music on Fridays, which isn’t a bad way to end the week.

Today’s spotlight is on my nephew Jake Conol from Glenwood on the Big Island, with his soulful cover of Michael Bublé’s “Home.”

I consider Jake to be possibly a major undiscovered talent in Hawai‘i and some others agree; his video of “Wonderful Tonight” a couple of years ago got more than 55,000 hits and glowing reviews from viewers.

He’s been fronting bands in Puna since his talents on the ukulele started to emerge in middle school, but his musical ambitions became secondary after his mom was severely disabled in a tragic highway accident.

Even with the rudimentary production of these videos, Jake’s voice seems to come from someplace deep and real. He can be a wizard on the fretboard, but isn’t into showing off for its own sake. I like his simple guitar accompaniments that bring only as much as the song requires.

Give it a listen and if you agree with me, pass it on and help get the boy some YouTube hits. If you don’t agree, write me off as a proud old uncle.

Dueling ex-mayors

May 26, 2011

Prominent politicians who lose their jobs can be forlorn figures while waiting for the next election opportunity.

Honolulu’s most recent former mayors, Mufi Hannemann and Kirk Caldwell, have been gamely trying to keep their public personas alive on Twitter since September, when Hannemann lost badly to Neil Abercrombie for governor and Caldwell was edged out for mayor by Peter Carlisle.

They started out posting a lot of dorky stuff like city news bites that really don’t cut it with the cool kids, and there’s still a lot of that.

From @KirkCaldwell recently:

– “Congratulations to Dana L. Nakasato, who received the Outstanding Citizen Award for her work in assisting the Honolulu Police Department.”

– “Good news for voters. The voting deadline for Neighborhood Boards is extended until 11:59 pm.”

– “Congratulations to Curtis T. Maeshiro, Civilian Employee of the Year for the second time in his 30-year career at HPD.”

– “Sorry for the late reminder that today is a City furlough day.”

– “Don’t be alarmed by the sirens. Just a test. If you hear them, everything is working.”

And from @MufiHannemann:

– “The Honolulu Police are asking for the public’s help in locating an escapee from OCCC.”

– “Big Island police searching for missing man”

– “Passing on a useful traffic alert: Onramp to H1 Westbound from University Av will be closed from 9–2pm today for guardrail maintenance work.”

– “The ‘Click it or Ticket’ campaign is kicking off today. Make sure to be safe and buckle your seat belt!”

– “It’s National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Is your family prepared?”

But they’re both showing signs of branching out a bit, as well. Hannemann is writing more about his gig with the Hawaii Hotel Association and promotes his new radio show playing pop classics, his Midweek column and his personal appearances.

Caldwell, who’s back to practicing law, tried the ultimate in Twitter cool by hosting a Corn Chowder Tweetup at the Mission Houses Museum Cafe. From the picture he posted, it looked like he got a respectable turnout.

Both are weighing their options for 2012, with Hannemann looking at a races for either the U.S. Senate or U.S. House and Caldwell pondering a U.S. House race or a rematch against Carlisle.

It would be fascinating if they ended up going head to head for Congress. Caldwell. a former legislator, was Hannemann’s managing director for two years and succeeded him as acting mayor.

They didn’t end on the best of terms; Hannemann accused Caldwell of dragging down his 2010 campaign and Caldwell thought it was more the other way around.

Getting my ash kicked over European volcano

May 25, 2011

The renewed volcanic activity in Iceland that is spewing a cloud of ash toward Europe is again causing me grief because of the name of my blog.

As with last year’s eruption, travelers looking for information about flight cancelations search Google for “volcanic ash,” find my blog and ask me for the latest news. When I politely say I can’t help, they call me names.

One Lady Gaga type from England who checked my blog for volcano info and instead saw Neil Abercrombie called me a “friggin’ idiot” on Twitter. Another fellow blamed me for his train being 10 minutes late.

As it happens, my wife is leaving on a trip to Europe this week and even she asks me about the ash situation. Geez, I can’t even pronounce the name of the volcano.

(If burglars or loose women have ideas about taking advantage of the knowledge that my wife is out of town, the former should be warned that I have protection and the latter should give a a few minutes to go to Long’s and get some.)

I am so dead if my wife joins the other Europeans checking my blog for travel information.

Time for the governor to show if he’s got game

May 24, 2011

The next few months will tell whether the Abercrombie administration is going to give us a new day in Hawai‘i or a lot of same old-same old.

Even Gov. Neil Abercrombie admits his administration is off to a slow start, telling an O’ahu Democratic Party group that he and the 2011 Legislature didn’t live up to the high expectations many voters had when Democrats regained control of the executive branch as well as the Legislature.

It’s partly the governor’s own fault. He called for shared sacrifice, but the specifics didn’t seem spread very evenly. His waffling on a general excise tax increase angered both constituents and some lawmakers. He got off message with distractions he created on Barack Obama’s birth certificate and his ill-advised move to shroud judicial appointments in secrecy.

Abercrombie was surprisingly inarticulate in explaining himself to the public; he’s often sounded less like a Ph.D. and more like the kid who came of age in New York during the Yankees heyday of Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel.

But that said, a choppy beginning is difficult to avoid with Hawai‘i’s political calendar, and Abercrombie can still have a good first year if he gets focused and back on point in the remaining months of 2011.

The first four months of the year are the Legislature’s time, and it’s difficult for any administration — much less a brand new bunch — to get a lot done when lawmakers demand department heads at their hearings on a daily basis and the administration doesn’t know the budget number it has to work with.

As the governor was reported to have told his Cabinet, “They run the state for four months and we run the state for eight months.”

So now its Abercrombie’s time. To save his year, he needs to set a clear agenda for his team, avoid new distractions and show visible progress in reshaping the state government as he promised and advancing his initiatives on creating jobs, reducing homelessness, adding workforce housing and encouraging energy and food independence.

He must rediscover his voice from the campaign that brought people together behind him and make sure the sacrifices he asks truly represent fair sharing.

Then he must pull it all together into a compelling program to take to the 2012 Legislature — and sell it with the come-to-Jesus message he gave the O‘ahu Democrats.

Pirates of the Campaign Trail

May 23, 2011

Light is always a good way to start the week, so when KITV posted a random pirate name generator in honor of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” opening, I couldn’t resist entering the names of some of our elected officials to see what it would spit out:

Gov. Neil Abercrombie: Shoutin’ Neil the Pain Distributor

Let. Gov. Brian Schatz: Swabbin’ Brian Chumbucket

House Speaker Calvin Say: Pennyless Calvin Dancer

Senate President Shan Tsutsui: Faceless Shan of the Scull Thieves

Sen. Daniel Inouye: Bacon Fat Dan of the East

Sen. Daniel Akaka: Saggin’ Dan the Snake Wrangler

Rep. Mazie Hirono: Puffy Shirt Mazie the Wealth Taker

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa: Ruthless Colleen Cannonballs

Mayor Peter Carlisle: Eye-Gougin’ Peter the Class Skipper

Council Chairman Nestor Garcia: Noseless Nestor the Horse Kicker

Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro: Decayin’ Keith the Mean

A good man feeling bad

May 20, 2011

The headline is the best statement of the blues I’ve heard and nobody played it better than Sam “Lightnin’ ” Hopkins, who picks, sings and talks the blues in the above video I recently came upon clipped from the 1967 short film “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins.” (Part one, Part two)

A Hopkins blues line was the source of my favorite quote to sustain me in old age, something to the effect of: “I ain’t afraid of dying, it’s just that you have to stay dead so long.”

He was also a source of inspiration to many of the guitar heroes of the Rock Age, in whose wailing sounds you’ll hear a lot of Lightnin’ licks played at warp speed. (His nickname notwithstanding, Hopkins was best known for slow blues shuffles with long runs of triplets that keep drilling deeper and deeper into your gut.)

Not that he wasn’t capable of going up-tempo. I leave you with another video of the old horndog trying to get a party on with a young and demure Joan Baez.


A homeless solution or just another shuffle?

May 19, 2011

When former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann cleared the homeless out of Ala Moana Park during an extended series of torrential rains, it left a bad taste with many because of his perceived motive of getting them out of sight before his family festival at Magic Island.

The 90-day homelessness plan announced by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and his homelessness coordinator Marc Alexander seems to be drawing the same reaction in some quarters for similar reasons.

Because of its timing and strict focus on the Honolulu urban core, there’s a perception that the main motive is to get the homeless out of sight — especially in Waikiki — so they don’t sully the state’s image during the APEC meetings in November that will bring President Barack Obama, 20 other world leaders and 20,000 participants in all to Honolulu.

There are significant differences between the two situations; Hannemann made little provision to care for those he evicted while the current state effort includes ambitious plans to find shelter and treatment for the homeless being  cleared out.

The state’s plan seeks to zero in on the chronically homeless who have been on the streets for years, often have mental disorders or drug addictions and have been known to refuse help that inhibits their freedom to do as they please.

The governor threw down the gauntlet when he said, “We intend to see to it that public space stays public. Public space is not there for private use.”

If he and Alexander do it by more effectively coordinating services and finally finding ways to get these people some real help, they’ll earn major plaudits for contributing to a better Hawai‘i.

If they do it by just shuffling the hardcore homeless out of sight so the APEC muck-a-mucks don’t see our warts, they’ll have some explaining to do.

A housewarming at Casa Abercrombie

May 17, 2011

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and first lady Nancie Caraway moved into the official governor’s residence behind Washington Place this month after staying in their Manoa home during his first five months in office.

The residence, officially known as Hale Kia‘āina, was built at the end of the Cayetano administration so that Washington Place, which previously served as the governor’s residence, could be preserved as the historic home of Queen Lili‘uokalani. Hale Kia‘āina was first occupied eight years ago by Linda Lingle.

Abercrombie’s spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said the governor and first lady delayed moving in until crews completed $40,609 worth of repairs and maintenance involving carpentry, painting and electrical work.

Dela Cruz said the work was paid for with with leftover private funds raised for Abercrombie’s inauguration.

She said total donations of $125,000 were made to the Washington Place Foundation, and other surplus inaugural funds went to the Humane Society ($25,000) and Meals on Wheels ($30,000).

Correction: Donalyn Dela Cruz sent a clarification that the $40,609 for repairs was paid from public funds and not from the $125,000 in leftover inaugural funds that Abercrombie donated to the Washington Place Foundation.

“I’m sorry for not being more clear in the my message regarding Hale Kia’āina,” she said. “I failed to say that the $40,609 came out of the Department of Accounting and General Services budget.”


Abercrombie keeps attacking the public’s right to know

May 17, 2011

The saga of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s secrecy on the names of judicial candidates has taken a troubling new turn with his hand-picked director of the Office of Information Practices, Cheryl Kakazu Park, refusing to issue an opinion on whether state law allows the governor to keep secret the nominees given him by the Judicial Selection Commission.

Park said it’s a waste of time for OIP to become further involved because Abercrombie has said he’ll ignore any OIP opinion against him unless a court tells him he must abide.

Park’s “punt,” as one news story described it, isn’t surprising; her predecessor, Cathy Takase, was fired after ruling against Abercrombie with a letter reiterating a 2003 OIP ruling that the names must be released.

The troubling part is that the governor now has not only shut the public out of the process of selecting judges who wield great power over our lives, but has politicized the OIP in an unprecedented way that diminishes its credibility and relevance.

Former Gov. Linda Lingle released the Judicial Selection Commission’s list of candidates and invited public comment. Both former Chief Justice Ronald Moon and current Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald have followed suit. Former Gov. Ben Cayetano released the names at the end of the process.

Abercrombie claims publicizing nominees detracts from the quality of judicial applicants and that critics of his secrecy haven’t proved he’s wrong.

To the contrary, it’s the governor who hasn’t offered any evidence that secrecy is necessary. He says he’s “been told” that some lawyers don’t apply out of fear that their names will be disclosed, and a handful of lawyers have written public papers supporting him.

On the other side, the last two chief justices, the state Supreme Court as a whole and the Hawai‘i Chapter of the American Judicature Society have all studied the matter and concluded that secrecy doesn’t result in better judges — and certainly doesn’t override the public interest in an open and honest judicial selection process.

Former Chief Justice Moon said lawyers worried about their names being disclosed probably aren’t good candidates to be judges.

Abercrombie is reverting to practices last seen in the Waihee administration,  when when we not only didn’t get better judges, but saw a politically compromised selection process that contributed to the Bishop Estate corruption scandal.

%d bloggers like this: