Posted tagged ‘Charles Djou’

Is Water Board out of control?

July 29, 2011

In the fight with the City Council over control of the new rail authority, HART, the Carlisle administration has often cited the Board of Water Supply as a shining example of a semi-autonomous agency that sets its own spending without council oversight.

Former Councilman Charles Djou turned that reasoning around in an op-ed piece in yesterday’s Star-Advertiser, arguing that the Water Board has displayed questionable management and poor judgment and should have to get City Council approval for its spending and rate increases. That would require a City Charter amendment.

The gist of Djou’s argument:

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply is out of control. Over the past several years, BWS has had problems with overpaying management, vague workplace rules and lax fiscal standards. Now BWS seeks a rate increase totaling 70 percent over five years.

The time has come for the Honolulu City Council to re-examine the level of oversight it should be exercising over BWS operations. Currently, the mayor appoints and the City Council confirms the members of the board. Unfortunately, the mayor and Council have failed to hold the board accountable or carefully scrutinize its spending habits.

Today, BWS is asking the public to stomach a whopping 70 percent increase in water rates. If any other public body, whether it be the U.S. Congress, the Legislature or the City Council, were to seek a 70 percent increase in taxes, the response by the public at the polls would be swift and clear.

If BWS actually needs a 70 percent increase for repairing and maintaining our water system, the Council needs to call BWS management on the carpet to ask how and why maintenance was neglected for so long and matters were allowed to fall into such a terrible state of disrepair. If the 70 percent is not needed, and BWS is only asking for a financial cushion for prospective future work, the Council needs to ask management why it thinks this rate increase is a good idea to foist upon local families in the middle of a recession. In either case, this is a clear sign of poor management at BWS.

Because it’s not part of the annual council budget debate, the BWS has enjoyed a fair amount of invisibility in its operations.

But the proposed 70 percent water rate increase in recessionary times has gotten the public’s attention, as has the board’s plan to add to the sting by billing monthly instead of bi-monthly.

I’m not yet convinced there’s a case for a total overhaul, but at the very least the BWS owes us a better explanation of why it needs such a huge increase beyond generalities about maintaining aging infrastructure.

It’s transparency we must insist on because of precedent it sets for HART.


Djou makes sense on rail

June 6, 2011

Former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou took a break from the federal issues that have been his major focus of late and wrote a thoughtful piece in Hawaii Reporter on one of his pet local issues — Oahu rail transit.

Djou notes that the community is as divided as ever on the $1.3 billion project and argues it didn’t have to be that way if the Hannemann and Carlisle administrations had made any effort to build community consensus after the 2008 voter referendum that narrowly approved steel-on-steel rail.

In the months following the ’08 vote, the city squandered any goodwill resulting from the vote. Rather than reach out to proponents and opponents alike, the Hannemann administration, the majority on the City Council and the rail transit division charted a divisive path relying on the narrow mandate from the public to do as it pleased without regard to the nearly 50 percent of residents who opposed rail.

Since the 2008 election, the city has not adequately followed up with any broad outreach to the community in seeking consensus on rail. Instead of pausing to reflect and explain the costs of rail to the public, the current city administration and Council have brushed aside legitimate concerns by rail opponents.

Today, rail is embroiled in litigation and it appears the courts may ultimately dictate how rail gets done.

Djou, a former councilman, speaks with some credibility on the matter. He was the council’s leading rail opponent for years, believing the city couldn’t afford the expensive heavy-rail design being pursued.

But he respected the decision voters made in 2008 in favor of rail and shifted his focus from trying to kill the project to trying to improve it; he brokered the well-received deal to reroute the train past the airport instead of through Salt Lake.

Djou makes some good suggestions going forward.

As long as the city relies on a razor-thin majority favoring rail, it will subject success of the project to the whim of just 2 percent of the electorate changing its mind.

The city should alter its approach and start by making a stronger effort to include those who oppose rail in the decision-making process. …

The City Council should insist on transparent financial plans that clearly explain to the public what will happen to the project, and the city’s ability to finance the project if tenuous federal funding fails to materialize.

Decision-making should include all residents and not be limited to just the strongest rail supporters. …

If we want to move beyond constant squabbles, we need more consensus-building by city officials on this project. They need to understand that reasonable people can disagree.

Mayor Peter Carlisle blew a chance to improve public confidence when instead of bringing in some new faces with a more conciliatory tone, he kept on Hannemann’s top transit people who had lost their credibility with much of public and council because of their dismissive attacks on anybody who dared voice a contrary view.

The new transit authority that will soon be taking the reins has another chance to put a more open and accessible face on the project by bringing in some new players capable of involving a broader spectrum of the community in the planning.

They’ll only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Charles Djou climbs back in the saddle

April 11, 2011

Just three months after he all but swore off elective politics in a pouty exit from his brief stint in Congress, former Republican golden boy Charles Djou seems very much back in the game.

In January, he lashed out at the “Democratic machine” that wrested away the U.S. House seat he held for a few months and handed it to Colleen Hanabusa, saying, “Currently, I have no plans to run for any political office ever again.”

But his plans seem to have changed as he keeps himself visible giving speeches, sending out tweets and writing op-ed commentaries, such as yesterday’s in the Star-Advertiser urging Hawai‘i to modernize its civil service system.

He struck a similar theme in a recent speech on the Big Island, where the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald reported:

Djou said the state is stuck in a plantation-era, 1950’s model of big government, big business and big labor unions. National government, other state governments and private businesses, meanwhile, are changing rapidly to focus on specialization, reduced size and transparency, he said, noting advances in communications technology is aiding that transition.

“Hawaii’s way of doing things is a very 20th Century way of doing things,” Djou said.

Djou, who has returned to law practice, hints he might be interested in running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Akaka if former Gov. Linda Lingle decides not to carry the GOP banner, but more likely he’s looking at another run for the House — especially if Hanabusa or her fellow Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono go for the Senate seat.

In either case, he’s one of the few Hawai‘i Republicans articulate and marketable enough to credibly contend for the state’s higher offices and the local party is no doubt happy to have him back in action.

The unDjouing of Charles

November 3, 2010

A question from the election night mailbag:

Charles Djou vs. Colleen Hanabusa was a winnable race for the Republicans. How did they blow it so badly?

Three reasons that stood out to me:

• The Democrats did a much better job with their get-out-the-vote effort. The Democratic appeal led by Barack Obama himself seemed to resonate while the Republicans’ reliance on too many poorly targeted robo-calls seemed to annoy.

This was reflected in victory margins by Hanabusa and Neil Abercrombie that far exceeded the projections of even the most optimistic Democratic polls.

• Djou made a serious mistake by mostly campaigning straight out of the anti-Obama national Republican playbook that just doesn’t put points on the board in Hawai‘i, where two-thirds of voters still think the local-born president is doing a good job.

Djou would have scored better by focusing his campaign more effectively on the local issues where Hanabusa was vulnerable with voters, such as Bishop Estate, the legislative pay raises and her ties to Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone.

• While both campaigns were viewed as overly negative, the Republicans were seen as dirtier in the end.

The TV spot with the unauthorized, doctored photo making Hanabusa look like Darth Vader backfired on the Djou campaign. The cheesy “Big Spender” ad by the Karl Rove group cost Djou votes every time it ran. When the Republicans finally hit Hanabusa on Ko Olina, they turned off voters by dragging her spouse into it and throwing around the word “corruption” without laying a proper foundation.

Hanabusa, on the other hand, did a good job of mixing in some soothing ads with positive messages about values.

Rove, Rove, Rove your boat

October 19, 2010

Hawai‘i is getting its first taste of mainland style political campaigning with the spate of national ads pouring into the 1st Congressional District race between Charles Djou and Colleen Hanabusa, and it’s not easy on the stomach.

The third-party TV spots are done independently of the campaigns and display little understanding of local sensibilities; you have to wonder if they do the campaigns more harm than good.

There have been bad and misleading ads on both sides, but a spot that stands out to me as one of the worst of the breed is the latest attack ad on Hanabusa by American Crossroads, a group led by Karl Rove that is dumping more than $100,000 into the race in the final weeks.

It’s an amateurish, generic cartoon presentation barely tailored for Hawai‘i, showing a poorly drawn and stereotypical figure of an Asian female sitting on a yacht called the “Big Spender” and tossing around greenbacks.

There’s no mention of local issues as it attacks Hanabusa with GOP buzzwords about “Nancy Pelosiʻs tsunami of spending,” the “trillion-dollar health care program” and “cap and trade.”

These preach to the converted and do nothing to speak to voters who still may be undecided. I wouldn’t be surprised of the cheesy come-on costs Djou a couple of points in the polls.

Rove, who was the chief political adviser to President George W. Bush, is supposed to be one of the smartest GOP strategists in the fight to regain control of Congress. If this bush-league production is an example of his work, I don’t get it.

Talking stink with Charles and Colleen

October 13, 2010

The race in the 1st Congressional District is sinking fast with Democrat Colleen Hanabusa and Republican Charles Djou exchanging accusations that the other side is “smearing” them with negative ads.

Hanabusa called a news conference yesterday to condemn a Djou ad predicting a storm of GOP negative advertising against him in the final weeks of the campaign, which she called “one of the worst negative ads that I have ever seen.”

I’m sorry, but not even close.

Equally disingenuous was the Djou camp’s response through the state Republican Party to the effect of “she started it first.”

If this contest is to be decided by which side has the most pilau ads, it’ll be a tie. Between the two campaigns, the state parties and the Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees, my e-mail inbox is filled with new loads of fresh garbage every day.

The “storm” spot that Hanabusa found offensive was actually quite similar in its formula to an earlier Democratic ad attacking Djou as a Republican lackey because he voted with his party most of the time.

The tried-and-true formula of negative political advertising, which both sides employed, is to get the most unflattering photo of the opponent you can find, edit it to look as dark and sinister as possible, and then massage a few sketchy elements of the opponent’s record to appear similarly sinister.

This race, which has been going on and on and on since Neil Abercrombie announced he was stepping down in the winter, long ago ceased producing any new or useful information for voters.

Blessed are the early absentee voters, who will soon be to hold their noses, mail in their choices and put the unpleasantness in the rear-view mirror.


My column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “Few votes in primary show appointed BOE is necessary.”

Djou a true test for GOP

August 9, 2010

Republicans have had little success in Hawai’i’s big political races in the last 50 years and the few who have succeeded, such as Pat Saiki and Linda Lingle, did it by downplaying party affiliation and stressing moderation.

U.S. Rep. Charles Djou is trying a different way by wearing his conservatism on his sleeve in his run for re-election to a full term against Democratic state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa.

It’ll be an interesting test of whether the mainland-style Republican brand can sell in Hawai’i even under the most favorable conditions.

Djou won the special election to fill the last few months of Neil Abercrombie’s term against a Democratic vote that was split between Hanabusa and Ed Case.

Still, the 40 percent of the vote he pulled was impressive and if he holds that in the general election, he doesn’t need that many disgruntled Case voters to get over the top.

The customary political move in this heavily Democratic state would be to moderate himself to win over Case’s constituency of moderate Democrats and independents.

But he’s done the opposite, seeking out opportunities to be visible in promoting the Tea Party line on economic stimulus, financial reform, tax breaks for the wealthy and extension of unemployment benefits — giving Democrats a clear record to shoot at.

Whether you agree with him or not, you’ve got to give Djou some credit for having the courage of his convictions.

Lingle broke new ground by winning as a Republican. If Djou pulls it off, his new ground would be winning as a Republican who unabashedly acts like one.

Mrs. Heftel to Djou: No thanks

July 21, 2010

U.S. Rep. Charles Djou has gotten a “return to sender” on his proposal to name the Makiki Post Office after one of his predecessors, the late U.S. Rep. Cec Heftel.

Heftel’s widow, Rebecca Glass Heftel, objected to the idea in a sharply worded letter to Djou:

News of your initiative to name the Makiki Post Office building after my late husband, Congressman Cecil Heftel, came as a complete surprise, inasmuch as you have never communicated with me.

It would seem to be common courtesy to consult a widow on issues pertaining to her husband, and since you have chosen not to do so, I must ask you to refrain from any additional efforts in this matter.

Mrs. Heftel is said to be puzzled as to why Djou chose the Makiki Post Office, located under H-1 at Pensacola and Lunalilo, as the late congressman had no particular ties to the area; he lived mostly in Kahala and along Kalanianaole Highway in East O’ahu.

She also feels her Democratic husband and the Republican Djou are polar opposites politically and doesn’t care for any suggestion of an affinity between the two.

In a story in the Star-Advertiser Sunday, Djou said he chose Makiki because some of Heftel’s family still live in the area and that Heftel lived in the neighborhood while serving in Congress.

He said there’s a tradition of naming post offices after former members of Congress, and that the resolution is usually offered by a successor in the same district.

For instance, Djou said former U.S. Rep. Ed Case introduced a resolution to rename the Paia, Maui, post office after Patsy Mink, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka introduced the measure naming the Kapalama post office for Republican Hiram Fong.

Mrs. Heftel copied her letter to Hawai’i’s senior U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who is expected to be sure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is made aware of it. Don’t expect to buy stamps anytime soon at the Cecil L. Heftel Post Office Building.

Meantime, a day after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ripped Djou for trying to raise funds off of a little attention he’s gotten from the national media, his Democratic opponent Colleen Hanabusa is in Washington trying to do the same thing.

In a communication to supporters, she said she’s met with the Huffington Post and is trying to line up interviews with other media to counter Djou’s views on the Jones Act and other issues.

All tied to a solicitation for donations, of course.

Update: Word is that Djou’s office had contacted the Heftel children regarding his resolution and received their approval for naming the Makiki Post Office after their father and their thanks for the honor.

Mrs. Heftel issued a further statement to the effect that a wife knows her husband’s wishes best, but these appear to be family issues that need to be resolved there.

Mr. Djou conquers Washington

July 20, 2010

I received a release trumpeting a national leader of historic importance.

“Few members of Congress, let alone a freshman, have had as much impact on the national policies of our country,” it declared.

Who was this legislative wonder?  Sam Rayburn? Henry Clay? Millicent Fenwick? Tip O’Neill? Shirley Chisolm? “Fighting Bob” La Follette?

No, it was our own Charles K. Djou, according to the latest fundraising pitch in his campaign against Colleen Hanabusa to keep the seat he won in the special election to fill out Neil Abercrombie’s term.

“Despite having served for less than two months, Hawaii Congressman Charles K. Djou is influencing national policy in Washington,” said the solicitation from Team Djou. “He has rapidly become one of the most active and outspoken representatives in the U.S. today.”

All based on getting mentioned a few times in national publications.

Not to be unkind, but after working in Washington for eight years, I can think of few creatures lower on the national political food chain than a fill-in freshman congressman from the minority party representing one of the nation’s least populous states. Well, maybe the reporter assigned to cover such a congressman.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already using the over-the-top claims as Exhibit A in a release entitled “Just Two Months In And Djou’s Already Gone Washington.” If Djou wants to be taken seriously in Washington or Honolulu, he needs to keep his copy writer on this side of reality.

In the meantime, he’s got me humming the Mary Tyler Moore theme song … Who can turn the world on with his smile?

The skin grows thin

June 1, 2010

I got a kick out of U.S. Rep. Charles Djou’s attempt to turn Rep. Barney Frank’s tongue-in-cheek request to see his birth certificate into a fundraising opportunity.

Instead of taking it for the joke it was, Djou climbed on his high horse of self-righteous indignation and declared that Democrats are “already launching attacks” on him and asked GOP donors for $100.



Heck, I made three jokes about Djou in my last “flASHback” column; if he gets supporters to pony up $300 to soothe his booboo feelings, I want a cut.

When I noted that in a Washington speech Djou had called himself “the maker of laws,” but that he’s known better locally as the maker of A, one of his backers called me a “complete moron” and suggested I “move to San Francisco where your liberal BS will be appreciated.”

Actually, I thought Djou’s bush-league response to Frank’s friendly ribbing proved my punchline.

If he wants to play in the big leagues, he’s got to learn to stop swinging at the wild pitches.

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