Abercrombie stirs the political pot with resignation demands

Give Gov. Neil Abercrombie credit for audacity in his attempt to get resignations from former Gov. Linda Lingle’s appointees to the Public Utilities Commission, Land Use Commission, Public Housing Authority, Board of Land and Natural Resources and Stadium Authority.

If they comply and allow Abercrombie to name his own people, it’ll vastly increase his control of state government and virtually wipe out any vestige of the Lingle administration.

While the governor is free to ask for the resignations, the commission members have no legal obligation to honor his wish and it remains to be seen how many will do so.

But he doesn’t really need all of them to resign, just enough to be able to appoint a new majority to the boards — or even get him closer to a majority. Most of the terms at issue will expire by 2014.

Abercrombie’s request is unprecedented — neither Lingle nor Ben Cayetano before him asked for mass resignations — and it seems to fly in the face of longstanding state policy on boards and commissions, which is to stagger terms to encourage stability and orderly succession to prevent exactly the kind of abrubt political shift Abercrombie is seeking.

But the Democrats who made those rules expected endless successions from one Democratic governor to another and didn’t count on a Republican like Lingle getting in the mix.

I have no inside dope on how those asked to resign will respond, but for most I suspect it’ll be along the lines of the two-word letter Abercrombie was noted for sending out as a legislator.

If you don’t remember what those two words were, you can find a clue in the famous cheer by Country Joe at Woodstock: “Gimme an F … “

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11 Comments on “Abercrombie stirs the political pot with resignation demands”

  1. Cute Lunatic Says:

    Yeah, I agree about the stability part. If they all should decide to resign at once, there will be no one with experience left to lead. It will be on the job training with procedures having to be re-learned.

  2. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    As someone who regularly attends meetings of the Land Use Commission, the Board of Land & Natural Resources & the Stadium Authority and who works directly with employees & other NGOs to implement Hawaii Housing Authority policies, I am find the members of these entities overwhelmingly dedicated & hard-working. I also attend the UH Board of Regents meetings on a much less regular basis – about four times a year – because they often conflict with the BLNR & Stadium Authority meeings.

    What’s on the Agenda determines which one I’ll attend.

    Does that mean I agree with all their decisions? Of course not – but that’s not why I attend these meetings. I do so because I care about land use, the environment, the University of Hawai`i System, the future of high school/collegiate/inter-collegiate/professional/international sports in Hawai`i, and am dedicated to providing decent housing but cannot afford to pay market prices. i want to make sure that I understand the policies being set by these decision-makers.

    FYI: I strongly supported the legislation establishing the Regents Candidate Advisory Council and have found that the quality of the candidates presented to the Governor has signficantly improved over the past several years. Abercrombie objects to having candidates vetted before being presented to him and wants to make direct appointments like they were before. .

    Back to the current situation – the members are not required to resign and I hope that they will stand fast.

  3. Richard Gozinya Says:

    I’m gonna bet the Gov gets a lot of resignations. The cost of not resigning is simply too high – the reality of sandbox politics is the threat of retribution. Why ask for the level of grief that can be supplied by a Gov who might be interested in evening scores. After all, most of these positions are not even paid.

    Nope, better to cloak the resignation as a noble and selfless act for the greater good.

  4. zzzzzing Says:

    I find Gov. Abercrombie’s moves thus far to be highly disturbing. Even the Star-Advertiser is starting to put up a fuss in the Editorial section. Clearly, Hawaii, we have a problem…

  5. Kolea Says:


    I don’t think your reference to the expectation of Democratic lawmakers is fair in this case. Neither of us know what the Dems in the Legislature might think of Neil’s request. I expect they are at least as flummoxed as you and I over this one.

    I have been pretty consistent on the question of concentrated executive power, regardless of which party holds the Fifth floor. Like CWD, I supported the creation of the committee to nominate appointees to the Board of Regents. People who do not recall Lingle’s attempts to exert heavyhanded control of the “autonomous” University through appointment of her top political cronies were not paying attention.

    After Lingle handpicked a fake Democrat, Bev Harbin, to fill the Downtown House seat, I strongly supported legislation to restrict the Governor’s –ANY Governor’s– freedom to appoint people lacking support of the resident members of the political party–ANY political party– they were being appointed to represent in the district.

    For the same reasons, I opposed the Constitutional amendment giving the Governor exclusive power to appoint the Board of Education. Some people, including (I think) you, Dave, said it focused responsibility for our schools on one person, making the Governor “accountable” for the success or failure of our schools. Neil certainly bought that argument and appears to be applying it now, with a vengeance, on a broad range of important decision-making bodies.

    And why does the logic on the appointed BOE not apply equally to these other significant boards? If the Governor wants to bring to fruition his ideas on economic development, “food security” and job creation, why should he not be able to put into place people who “share his vision” as outlined in his “New Day” agenda? After all, hadn’t he received an overwhelming, landslide “mandate” to carry out his agenda in the last election?

    Abercrombie’s call for unprecedented control of these major boards and commissions is contrary to the logic we have built into the State Constitution. They should NOT be rubber stamps for the sitting Governor. They are appointed with the “advise and consent” of the Senate and their terms are consciously designed to provide continuity AND a degree of independence from the Executive.

    Abercrombie has no patience for such “checks and balances,” not when they “check” his ability to deliver on his campaign promises and his ideas on how to solve the challenges facing us.

    I am further disturbed by this call for increased executive power at a time when Abercrombie’s team has been huddling to develop a strategy for dealing with the ever-increasing resistance they are running into. In the Legislature, in the broader community, in the Democratic Party AND, somewhat surprising, within his campaign organization itself. Forgive me if I am a captive of my Aikido training, but I suggest the a strategy geared towards “Soft Power” is appropriate here. LISTENING and meeting. And meeting IN ORDER to listen. Trying to WIN people over rather than RUN people over (with a nod towards the AARP here).

    Maybe Neil is a captive of his Powerlifting experience instead. Just apply will power and exert yourself everharder to accomplish your goals.

    While there are people in Hawaii who will ALWAYS be Abercrombie-haters, there is also a large number of us who have always been Abercrombie supporters. Heck, I signwaved for him when he was running for City Council.

    If Neil is inclined to think he “received a mandate” in the last election to take charge, let me suggest a counter-argument. He “received a mandate” for his argument that the election was NOT about empowering him, but about empowering US. It was in large part because he was so good at connecting with people with grace, humor and apparent humility during the campaign, that a lot of voters decided to put their trust in his election, rather than either Mufi or Duke.

    Faced with the challenge of growing resistance, their MAY be a natural tendency to develop a siege mentality, a bunker mentality, double down, and try to push through the resistance, “Roll over” the resistance, view critics as enemies, treat doubts among former supports as signs of disloyalty.

    A coin is balancing on its edge right now. In my view, the fate of this administration will largely depend upon which way they push that coin, which face is revealed. The sense I am getting is they are leaning towards “hard power.”

    Dave, I apologize for hijacking your blog. Your post deals with a very timely and significant matter. My comments here are directed more to people close to the Governor, many of whom I still regard as friends, than to you or the other readers. Thanks for the opportunity.

  6. David Shapiro Says:

    Kolea, the appointment of all the BOE members at once was a one-time thing because of the constitutional change. They are on staggered terms now just like all the other boards.

    A major problem with the regents panel is they can give the governor as few as two choices, which in the latest round resulted in no nominees that the governor really liked or the legislature would confirm.

  7. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:


    Read the Minutes of the Regents Candidates Advisory Council over the past five years. Although they certainly do urge that a wide ramge of people place their nzmes up for consideration, they cannot make decisions without those applications in front of them.

    Why don’t you apply for the Board of Regents or the RCAC itsself. For a complete list of the boards & commissions including the BOR and the RCAC, click http://hawaii.gov/gov/about/BC_List.pdf

    For information about applying for one of them, click http://hawaii.gov/gov/about/boards-commissions.html

    Although I cannot swear that my numbers are absolutely correct, I believe that each Regentx vacancy over the past five years has had about 8 or 10 applicants who were then vetted by the RCAC. They in turn sent at least three names per sea to Linglet.

    Why more qualified people did not submit their CVs last fall when the vacancies were announced is something I don’t know – but the fact is that the names sent to Abercrombie are folks who walked through the door.

    Why didn’t he send his choices to apply? Probably because he was too busy dealing with other issues.

    A quick reminder – the UH System, unlike the DOE, is quasi-autonomous and there must be a way to keep Gov. XYZ from stuffing the BOR with his picks.

  8. Frankie McCurley Says:

    It seems to me that Abercrombie was able to pull the proverbial “wool” over everyone’s eyes with a lot of campaign promises. These so called promises were enough to get him in office and now that he is there, he will do what he pleases until the state of Hawaii determines in 2014 that he has no business being the Governor of our great state. Hopefully in 2014 the people will look at his record and vote based on the true issues and not based on the way the unions lead or their family tell them to vote. Of course all the unions jumped on the Abercrombie bandwagon and now look they are also feeling the hard end of the Abercrombie stick, so to speak. May God help our state and our Ohana recover from this situation.

  9. Andy Parx Says:

    I fail to see what the big deal is- just because it’s “always been done that way” doesn’t mean the new way is the wrong way.

    The problem is that the state boards and commissions have been populated by party insiders and activists for the last eight years. And since the state is probably 5-1 (and that’s being generous) non Republicans (Dems and Independents) the pool of “talent” was really small to begin with (picked from 20% of the adult population). So when combined with Lingle’s penchant for selecting. in most cases, Republican hacks and cronies (I can’t think off-hand of a well known Dem she selected) it resulted in over politicized boards and commissions selected from an all too small set of candidates.

    And I’m not a Dem or a Repub- I’m a Green and we never get our people on boards and commissions. Nor am I particularly a Abercrombie supporter although I have to admit to being a de facto “least evil” anti Mufi and Duke guy.

    I just don’t see how all these accusations of “playing politics” since he took office aren’t like being “shocked shocked” to find gambling at Rick’s. The only one that got me ticked off a little was Cathy Watase and that’s because OIP is a place where a good degree of independence is essential.

    Is the argument that he’s failed to hide the politics involved?.. that he isn’t slick enough? If so, wouldn’t you rather it be apparent than be in doubt?

    Tempest in a teapot Dave, tempest in a tea pot…

  10. zzzzzing Says:

    @ andy parx – you should read civil beat’s story on this & how the Dem-controlled legislature unanimously approved these appointees. There are many qualified people on that list from both parties, some of them Abercrombie supporters – and it appears that Gov. Abercrombie made no effort to contact them to find out if they’d help him.

    I hope they stand their ground & ride out their appointments.

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