The political gods smile on Mufi Hannemann

Posted September 7, 2011 by David Shapiro
Categories: Volcanic Ash

Tags: , ,

After the embarrassing drubbing former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann took from Neil Abercrombie in last year’s governor’s race, who would have thought he’d have a chance to climb back into one of the state’s top offices just two years later?

But the 2nd Congressional District seat opened by Mazie Hirono’s run for retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s job seems a golden opportunity for Hannemann to reclaim a choice spot on Hawai‘i’s political ladder.

The dismal 37.8 percent of the vote he received against Abercrombie was a stunning repudiation, and he’d have a lot to worry about if he had to go one-on-one against another top Democrat.

But this congressional race could draw a half-dozen candidates or more, and Hannemann would need only a plurality to win. If he held anywhere near that 37.8 percent, he’d win in a landslide; Hirono won a multi-candidate primary in 2006 with barely 20 percent of the vote.

Hannemann will have a substantial bankroll and likely a long list of business and labor endorsements that his current announced opponents — freshman City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard and veteran congressional aide Esther Kiaaina — will find difficult to match.

Former state Sen. Gary Hooser has also expressed interest, but he seems to have peaked with middle-of-the-pack finishes in the 2006 congressional race and last year’s Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

No Republican candidate of any weight has emerged.

Unless there’s a surprise entry or Hannemann makes more of the foolish mistakes that did him in against Abercrombie, this race looks like his to lose.

Advertisements

A ‘waha’ state of mind

Posted September 6, 2011 by David Shapiro
Categories: Volcanic Ash

Tags: ,

My last “serious” column before going on vacation was about Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s tendency to orate over and over about the state’s problems without having new progress to report in solving them.

A reader wrote in using a word to describe the governor that I haven’t heard since my days in Hilo High — “waha.” It technically means “mouth,” but carries a broader meaning of all talk and no action.

I started to see a pattern when the word popped up again in another e-mail containing what the reader said was an old Hawaiian saying:

Hana ka hoe (Work the paddle),
pa‘a ka waha (close the mouth).

These struck me as very profound words whose applicability went well beyond the governor to everybody in public life from the local City Council to the U.S. Congress — and maybe even those of us who comment from the sidelines.

As we come out of Labor Day supposedly renewed for the rest of the year, we’d make more progress toward getting past our differences and solving our stubborn problems if we all paid more attention to working the paddles.

Gone fishin’

Posted August 21, 2011 by David Shapiro
Categories: Volcanic Ash

Tags:

I’m taking a little time off to spend what’s left of the summer paying attention to things other than the news. See you after Labor Day.

New twists in teachers contract dispute

Posted August 18, 2011 by David Shapiro
Categories: Volcanic Ash

Tags: , , ,

The state Ethics Commission is likely to take more flak from high places for its advisory ruling that led Sesnita Moepono, one of three members of the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, to withdraw from the prohibited practices case involving the Hawaii State Teachers Association contract.

The ethics determination was pretty much a no-brainer; Moepono’s husband is a student services coordinator in the DOE and a member of HSTA, giving her a direct financial interest in the outcome of the union’s attempt to overturn a state-imposed contract that hits members with 5-percent pay cuts and increased medical premiums.

Moepono has been open about the conflict and her integrity is not in question, but the ethics law is clear: “No employee shall take any official action directly affecting … a business or other undertaking in which he has a substantial financial interest.”

With Moepono recused, the remaining board members, Chairman Jim Nicholson and Rock Ley, will decide the case.

The three members are appointed with one representing management, one representing labor and the other representing the public. Ironically, Moepono was appointed by Abercrombie as the management representative, while Ley is the labor representative and Nicholson the public representative.

Hearings on the prohibited practices case were supposed to start this week, but got sidetracked by HSTA’s complaint that Abercrombie and the DOE engaged in improper ex parte communication with the board.

Nicholson and Ley rejected that complaint today and rescheduled the start of hearings on the main complaint for Aug. 25.

Governor must answer, ‘Where’s the beef?’

Posted August 17, 2011 by David Shapiro
Categories: Volcanic Ash

Tags: , , ,

In his speech today updating constituents on the status of his “New Day” program, Gov. Neil Abercrombie once again did an excellent job of describing the major challenges that Hawai‘i faces.

But he still hasn’t gotten to the hardest part — prescribing specific remedies that a critical mass of Hawai‘i residents will support despite the sacrifices they will certainly entail.

The governor basically declared that he has state finances in the black and the wheels of government aligned more to his liking and is now ready to focus on a “gathering storm” that threatens Hawai‘i’s  future.

He identified the five elements of the threat as the massive debt we face with some $22 billion in unfunded pension and medical benefits owed public workers, soaring healthcare costs, our over-reliance on outside energy and food, inadequate support for education and social services, and the potential for huge federal funding cuts.

His solution, as always, was his “New Day” plan to create jobs around a sustainable economy, invest in our children and make state government more efficient.

Abercrombie encouraged everybody to join in the sacrifices and took aim at Hawai‘i’s status quo that he was long seen as part of.

“The status quo insists that we conform to the way things have always been,” he said. “It is obsessed with illusory short-term gain at the expense of long-term stability. It favors the few. It outflanks the middle class, and it marginalizes those who need help the most. It questions and casts doubt upon new ideas. It stifles creativity and limits opportunity.”

It’s hard to argue with his logic, but the devil will be in the details — of which he offered few.

Abercrombie’s biggest problem is that he’s burned much of the political goodwill he had after landslide victories over Mufi Hannemann and James “Duke” Aiona.

Part of it was unavoidable, such as his necessarily tough stand in union negotiations that angered some of the noisiest labor and “progressive” elements of the Democratic Party.

Demanding that his political base make the same sacrifices as everybody else should have won him points with moderates and progressives who have always been suspicious of him.

But Abercrombie unnecessarily antagonized them with missteps such as his pointless tizzy fit on the Pro Bowl, his decision to shroud judicial appointments in secrecy for no good reason and a perceived arrogance exemplified by his infamous “I’m not your pal” remark.

He needs to smooth over some of the self-inflicted ill feelings and regain political capital so that next year he can face a Legislature that disregarded many of his ideas this year from a position of greater strength.

If he’s seen as weak and lacking public confidence, it’ll be everyone for themselves and he’ll get little cooperation on the shared sacrifices he seeks.

HSTA flounders in labor battle

Posted August 17, 2011 by David Shapiro
Categories: Volcanic Ash

Tags: , ,

The Hawaii State Teachers Association is making self-defeating moves in its legal fight to overturn a state-imposed contract that hits teachers with a 5-percent pay cut and a greater share of medical premiums.

The HSTA’s complaint to the state Ethics Commission that Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Department of Education engaged in illegal ex parte communication with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board backfired when the labor board delayed hearings on the union’s prohibited practice complaint to instead hear evidence on the suggestions of bias.

That’s not what HSTA wanted at all; it was looking to take a political shot at Abercrombie and the DOE and instead winds up on the defensive explaining itself to an unamused labor board.

The ethics complaint, over a letter the employers sent to the labor board suggesting directed mediation to resolve the dispute, has even some labor lawyers scratching their heads.

The administration also sent a copy of the letter to the HSTA, making it difficult to sell an argument that the employers were operating behind the union’s back.

The other questionable move was issuing subpoenas to have top legislative leaders testify before the HLRB on the budget they passed in April that assumed a 5-percent pay cut for the teachers.

The union argues that this locked in the pay cut before negotiations concluded, denying the teachers their right to collective bargaining.

It’s another legal stretch. The Legislature often must pass a budget before all labor negotiations are done and makes its best guess on labor costs. If negotiations turn out differently, the budget is adjusted.

HSTA leaders are acting like they think they have already lost the legal battle and are instead fighting a clumsy PR war.

Partying and writing don’t mix

Posted August 16, 2011 by David Shapiro
Categories: Volcanic Ash

Tags:

I attended a family birthday celebration at Dave & Buster’s last night and got through it by consuming several Black and Tans, so instead of  trying to write, I’m going to leave you a video shot Saturday of Ilisa Peralta’s guitar students performing Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” My granddaughters Sloane, 8, and Nakaylee, 7, are seated front and center in their first public performance, and they rock.


%d bloggers like this: