Archive for May 2011

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.

Hawai‘i federal judges look like poster kids for rail suit

May 16, 2011

There’s more than a little irony in the decision of all of Hawai‘i’s  federal judges to recuse themselves from presiding over an environmental lawsuit seeking to stop the $5.3 billion O‘ahu rail project.

The judges stepped aside because eight of the nine of them signed a letter in 2008 asking the city to reconsider the rail route, expressing security concerns about an elevated train whizzing down Halekauwila Street right past the windows of their chambers.

The mass recusal throws the lawsuit filed by former Gov. Ben Cayetano, state Sen. Sam Slom, businessman Cliff Slater and others to Judge A. Wallace Tashima of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The irony is that the judges might be one of the best examples of the plaintiffs’ claim that city officials gave illegally short shrift to alternate proposals in their headlong rush to ram the project through on an accelerated schedule.

Federal buildings have been one of the most worrisome targets of terrorist attacks since the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Hawai‘i judges made a reasonable argument that running the train so close to the Honolulu federal building posed unacceptable risks.

They received an arrogant and insulting response from the city to the effect that there are easier ways to blow away a judge than from a train, typical of the hostility toward reasonable concerns raised by responsible people that threatened any delay in the project.

If the Hawai‘i judges won’t be wielding the gavel, they might make interesting witnesses.

Mailani gives fresh voice to the ‘aina

May 13, 2011

I’m not a music reviewer, but I enjoy passing along new releases that resonate with me and Mailani fills the bill with her new album “‘Aina” (Mountain Apple, $15.98; iTunes, $9.99).

I seldom find an album on which I really like every single cut, but it happened with her debut solo CD “Mailani,” and “‘Aina” does it again as Mailani moves easily between the traditional and the modern.

Highlights include Jon Osorio and Randy Borden’s “Hawaiian Eyes,” a moving “Kaula ‘Ili” with her Papa talking story over the music, “Ka Nani o Kā‘ena,” an original she wrote with Keola Donaghy, a soaring “Tewe Tewe,” Robert Cazimero’s “Pane Mai” and U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

She doesn’t bring much new to “Yesterday” over the Paul McCartney version except a verse in Hawaiian, but it’s a beautiful song that fits her strong voice.

That voice is what makes Mailani’s recordings special, and it’s nicely highlighted with simple arrangements and backup — mostly herself on guitar, Trey on ukulele and guitar, Seann Carroll on percussion and Shawn Ishimoto on bass.

Mailani has been around since she formed the popular duo Keahiwai in high school, and with “‘Aina” she’s hit full stride. See for yourself with the video of “He‘eia,” one of the cuts from the CD.

Was the Senate heroic or peevish on unfinished business?

May 12, 2011

State senators acted like there was something noble in their decision to rigidly enforce a procedural deadline, resulting in the Legislature adjourning with major business left unfinished.

According to news reports, Senate President Shan Tsutsui choked up as he thanked senators for backing a leadership decision to cut off conference committees at exactly the 6 p.m. deadline on their final day instead of letting them go on until midnight, as is customary.

As a result, the Legislature didn’t fund legal settlements the state agreed to, bringing a stern lecture from a federal judge, or pony up for security for the APEC conference we avidly courted. The UH medical school was cut off from tobacco funds and the pay bill for legislators, administrators and judges was botched.

There seems a growing certainly that a special session will be needed to clean up the mess, which makes you wonder about all the self-congratulation among senators.

Tsutsui described the sudden procedural fussiness as a blow for “greater transparency, openness, accessibility for the public,” while Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria called it a “sea change.”

I’m as much a supporter of transparency and openness as anybody, but I don’t get it. How is the considerable expense of a special session better than spending six more hours taking care of necessary business while they were already in session?

Some who follow the Legislature more closely than I do say it was mostly a display of senatorial pique at the House and Gov. Neil Abercrombie over some budget decisions senators didn’t like.

If there’s any validity to that, we should send Shan and Brickwood the tab for the special session and give them something to really get choked up about.

Obama on the political rebound?

May 11, 2011

It’s amazing what a gutsy move to settle an old score can do for a president’s standing with voters.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating surged to 60 percent of voters in an Associated Press-GfK poll after the dramatic Navy Seals mission that killed Osama bin Laden, recovering from a low of 47 percent after last year’s Republican gains in midterm congressional elections and approaching his high of 64 percent after his election in 2008.

Bin Laden’s ability to elude U.S. pursuers after sponsoring the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks was a festering frustration for the American public, and bringing him to justice dramatically improved Obama’s marks on keeping the country safe, with 73 percent now saying they’re confident in his ability to handle the terrorist threat.

The surge of approval spilled over to domestic issues, with 52 percent now saying they approve of Obama’s handling of the economy despite the slow recovery from the recession and continuing high unemployment.

The raid that took down bin Laden in Pakistan came shortly after the president took the offensive against the “birther” conspiracy by releasing his Hawai‘i birth certificate and stepped up his aggressiveness in battling Republicans on issues from the budget to immigration reform.

Public opinion is fickle and his standing with voters could go south again just as fast as it rose if he ends up on the unflattering end of the next big story.

But the timing of the latest surge couldn’t be better for Obama as he launches his campaign for re-election in 2012 that many considered hopeless after Republicans took firm control of the House and made major gains in the Senate.

He’s clearly trying to follow the pattern set by Bill Clinton in 1996 when he fought off a popular belief that he’d become irrelevant by deftly handling a similar GOP takeover of the House and cruising to easy re-election against a weak Republican field.

If Obama goes into the 2012 election strong, it would bode well for Democrats’ chances of keeping control of the Senate and have major implications in the Hawai‘i Senate race to replace the retiring Daniel Akaka.

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