Posted tagged ‘Linda Lingle’

Abercrombie off target on blame for schools

October 1, 2010

Neil Abercrombie is fudging both history and constitutional authority in his attempt to stick the Lingle-Aiona administration with the blame for the failure of Act 51, the 2004 law that was supposed to “reinvent” public education in Hawai‘i.

Act 51 sought to weight spending toward students who need it most, give principals more independent authority over their schools, put principals on performance contracts and create school-community councils to guide decision-making.

None of the goals were fully realized, but not for the reasons stated by Abercrombie, who is bringing back some of the ideas from Act 51 as the centerpiece of his education plan in his campaign for governor against James “Duke” Aiona.

Abercrombie said in a statement to the Star-Advertiser, “There is a good reason why many of the best aspects of Act 51 are contained in my plan — decentralized school systems work, and large school districts across the country have been moving in this direction for years.”

Maybe so, but he’s off base in his politicized diagnosis of why so little has happened in the six years since the law passed.

“The reason the Lingle-Aiona administration was unable to implement Act 51,” he said, “had nothing to do with the merits of the act and everything to do with the fact that the Lingle-Aiona administration wanted to pursue a different course of educational reform on its own, like the unsuccessful pursuit of multiple school boards and an audit of the DOE.”

Pure nonsense. Gov. Linda Lingle has absolutely no power to set or implement policies for the Department of Education — and neither would Abercrombie; Act 51 was a creation of the Legislature, and implementing it was entirely the constitutional responsibility of the Board of Education, which as usual, was paralyzed by politics and indecision.

Lingle wasn’t seriously consulted in the passage or implementation of the law, which she called “false reform,” and the Legislature chose not to follow up in any significant way on why the BOE wasn’t fully implementing what it had decreed.

If Abercrombie wants to bring back Act 51, instead of pointing fingers at Lingle and Aiona, he should be telling us what he’d do to get those who really botched its implementation — his fellow Democrats in the Legislature and on the Board of Education — off their duffs.

Lingle: “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems”

August 12, 2010

Gov. Linda Lingle appears to be campaigning for a job with the Republican National Committee with her comments denouncing legislation passed by Congress that could result in Hawai’i getting up to $86 million for extra Medicaid funding and $39 million for education.

Following the line of Hawai’i U.S. Rep. Charles Djou and other Republicans in Congress who opposed the bill, Lingle said, “This federal bailout, like those that preceded it, is intended to be a one-time shot in the arm that must be paid for in the future. It merely defers the day of reckoning that will require a reprioritization of state services and a reduction of spending.”

Lingle’s out-of-the-blue statement hewing so closely to the party line feeds speculation that she sees her future in national GOP politics and is working to shed her reputation among some in the party as a RINO — Republican in name only.

The governor took immediate criticism for her statement from those pointing out that she had joined 41 other governors from both parties in February in asking Congress for extra Medicaid money.

Sen. Daniel Inouye’s office chastized, “It’s too bad Gov. Lingle would rather play politics than attend to the critical needs of our education and health care systems.”

Lillian Koller, Lingle’s director of human services, said the state won’t turn down the Medicaid money, but argued that it does little to alleviate the long-term problem as governors asked.

It’s uncertain what will happen to the education money; it’s intended mainly to stop teacher layoffs, of which there are none planned in Hawai’i. Lingle has considerable discretion in distributing funds to the Department of Education.

Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, the likely Republican candidate for governor, didn’ respond directly to Lingle’s statement, but offered his own views.

He said it “would be very difficult to say no to this money,” and that’s not what the administration is doing, but “this is not something I would go out and ask for.”

Drawing on his experience as a drug court judge, Aiona said the states’ dependency on federal money “is sort of like an addiction right now. We’ve got to find a way to break the addiction. It’s hard for an addict to say no. The more money you give them, the worse you’re going to make it.”

Senate plays bush league on Leonard

August 5, 2010

It’s really difficult to square the Senate Judiciary Committee’s rejection of Katherine Leonard for chief justice of the state Supreme Court with Senate Resolution 26 passed earlier this year criticizing Gov. Linda Lingle for not appointing enough women judges and urging her to appoint more.

Relevant passages of SR 26 that received unanimous support from the 23 Senate Democrats on April 7 after being approved by the Judiciary Committee:

WHEREAS, of the twenty-two judicial appointments made by Governor Lingle, only six have been women …

WHEREAS, the Legislature finds that the appointment of women judges is important, because of the benefit of their life experiences. Judges, and especially appellate judges, (emphasis mine) often have discretion in deciding cases. How this discretion is exercised is often a product of the judges’ life experiences and values; this is undeniably so for many decisions, and especially at the appellate level (emphasis mine) …

WHEREAS, bias, or even the appearance of bias, against women undermines the integrity of the judicial system …

WHEREAS, with more women as judges, the public at large would see the justice system as more representative of diversity and, presumably, more fair …

WHEREAS, the Legislature further finds that appointing women to the bench serves to provide male judges and attorneys with a different perspective, in the course of collegial discourse within community and bar interactions …

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the Twenty-fifth Legislature of the State of Hawaii … that Governor Lingle is strongly urged to use and consider gender equality when appointing judges and justices (emphasis mine) in the future …

Leonard was the only woman on the list of carefully vetted and qualified candidates sent to Lingle by the Judicial Selection Commission, of which two of the nine members were appointed by Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and two more by the bar association.

Now some of the senators who so piously lectured Lingle on April 7 are touting any of the men on the list as more qualified than the woman she appointed in line with their clearly expressed wishes.

Critics have cited no objective standards by which Leonard is unqualified, just the usual subjective putdowns about “temperament,” “gravitas” and “leadership” that have always been hurled at women as they attempt to rise.

Senators ignored men and women attorneys of proven “gravitas” from across the legal spectrum who have vouched in specific ways for Leonard’s leadership, experience and legal mind, choosing to listen only to the politically convenient generalizations of a few — including anonymous bar association directors who won’t even disclose their reasons for recommending against Leonard.

Opponents have not cited a single specific thing of any significance that Leonard has done wrong other than being the appointee of the Republican governor whom Democratic senators love to hate.

First senators try to embarrass Lingle by criticizing her for not appointing enough women judges, then they try to embarrass her by rejecting the most prominent woman she does appoint.

Shame on them for polluting our Judiciary with their bush league politics.

What’s Lingle’s Legacy?

July 28, 2010

While many politicians get all “aw, shucks” when talking about their legacy and say it’ll take care of itself, Gov. Linda Lingle obviously takes this stuff very seriously.

I drew a bit of blood in a way I hadn’t intended when I said in my column today about her appointment of Katherine Leonard as chief justice of the state Supreme Court: “After eight years of getting nowhere with the Democratic Legislature on her policy initiatives, the Judiciary is Lingle’s only clear legacy.”

Her senior communications adviser Lenny Klompus responded with a lengthy letter to the editor to the Star-Advertiser outlining his view — and presumably hers — of Lingle’s broader legacy.

I’ve been gathering string for a more thorough review of the Lingle legacy as her term nears an end, and it’s handy to have a clear statement on how the administration sees it.

Toward that end, I’d be interested to know what the folks who post here think will be remembered most about the Lingle years. I don’t know if the Star-Advertiser will publish Klompus’ letter — I hope they do — but I’ll paste it here in hope of getting your thoughts. (Note: From the discussion below, I posted here a copy of Lingle’s 2002 campaign promises, “A New Beginning for Hawai’i,” for those who care to compare the lists.)

Governor Lingle’s Legacy Anything but Narrow

In David Shapiro’s July 28 column, he implies that Governor Linda Lingle’s legacy will be narrowly defined by her judicial appointments. While Shapiro correctly points out that the Governor has appointed 3 of the 5 Supreme Court Justices, pending Judge Katherine Leonard’s confirmation as Chief Justice, 5 of the 6 judges on the Intermediate Court of Appeals and more than half of the Circuit Court judges, he is vastly overlooking the Governor’s many other accomplishments of her nearly 8 year service.

Specifically, the Governor has:

-Led the effort in the state’s transition to a secure, clean energy future. By establishing the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), in partnership with the federal government, the Governor has not only begun the huge strides to reduce Hawai’i’s dependence on oil, but has also laid the groundwork to continue the transition to energy security long beyond her Administration;

-Initiated and oversaw the modernization of our state’s transportation systems, including harbors, highways and airports;

-Revamped state animal quarantine regulation laws to lessen the burden on pets and pet owners;

-Awarded more leases to Dept. of Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries over the past seven years than in the trust’s previous 80-year history;

-Transformed the state’s procurement process to ensure openness and transparency;

-Brought the issue of chronic homelessness to light and creatively addressed the challenge, including working with community partners and neighbor island mayors to build and open seven homeless shelters and transitional housing projects on O‘ahu and two on Kaua‘i;

-Expanded Hawai‘i’s role in the Asia-Pacific region through new international partnerships, especially with China, creating new opportunities for Hawai‘i businesses and students;

-Dramatically cut and streamlined fees and assessments for businesses and created an online portal of information and access for consumers and businesses;

-Reduced the number of children in foster care by 50 percent, while achieving one of the lowest child re-abuse rates in the nation;

-Protected and ensured the long-term state-federal-community management of Hawai‘i’s pristine Papahanaumokuakea; and

-Reinvigorated public education through a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) with hands-on learning applications like robotics.

This listing of projects ushered in and overseen by the Lingle-Aiona Administration is merely a snapshot of what Governor Lingle and her team have been able to accomplish during their time in office. As she moves into her final months in office, we will certainly see the list continue to grow.

Finally, despite Shapiro’s claim that the Governor spent “eight years of getting nowhere with the Democratic Legislature on her policy initiatives,” the fact is, the Governor’s achievements at the legislative level are impressive, given the immense political roadblocks by the majority party.

Approximately 42 percent of all bills introduced by the Administration and bills that were closely related (or in some cases identical copycat bills) to the Administration’s were passed by the Legislature, including 48% this past session.

Considering that the House Majority was able to get only 50 percent of its legislative packages passed between 2003 and 2009, and the Senate Majority was only able to squeeze out a 45 percent success rate with its packages between 2006 and 2009, the success rate of the Governor’s legislative initiatives demonstrates the merit and caliber of her Administration’s proposals.

It’s interesting to note that in the 2010 legislative session – in the midst of the most severe economic crisis facing our state – the House and Senate Majority didn’t even bother to submit legislative packages, so their success rate is zero percent.

The Governor’s accomplishments – at the administrative and legislative levels – will have long-term beneficial impacts on Hawai‘i’s future, ensuring Governor Lingle’s legacy will be remembered far beyond her significant appointments to the Judiciary.

Leonard Klompus
Senior Advisor — Communications
Office of the Governor

Can the Akaka bill survive legislative ineptitude?

July 7, 2010

The Akaka bill for Native Hawaiian political recognition is complex  legislation that has the potential to change life in Hawai’i in the most fundamental ways.

That’s why I always took comfort that for most of its life, the bill had the support of virtually all of the state’s political establishment from nearly every ideological stripe; I figured if something was terribly wrong, somebody would blow the whistle.

For the same reason, it made me uncomfortable when our Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye pulled out major last-minute amendments without bothering to inform Gov. Linda Lingle, costing them her support.

It was highly suspicious that the senators and the Obama administration felt a need to sneak around behind the back of a Republican governor who for seven years had been a solid ally in lobbying for the bill against the grain of national GOP opposition.

The secret changes they made to give a Hawaiian governing entity a high level of immunity from state laws before any negotiations took place were never satisfactorily explained.

Today’s announcement that Akaka and Inouye are amending the bill again to satisfy Lingle’s objections and bring her back on board restores the original political comfort level.

It’s long past time to start resolving festering Hawaiian grievances stemming from the overthrow of their monarchy, and hopefully it’s not too late to get the Akaka bill on the busy Senate calendar and overcome a threatened Republican filibuster before Congress adjourns for the election.

Akaka and Inouye entered this Congress with an early filibuster-proof Democratic majority, the support of a new president born in Hawai’i and the best chance they’ll ever have to pass this bill.

If they end up blowing it because of their inept overreaching, it’ll amount legislative malpractice.

***

I look at another kind of political pyrotechnics in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Short of banning fireworks, at least pass a decent law.”

Lingle does the predictable

July 6, 2010

The only surprise in Gov. Linda Lingle’s announcement that she would veto HB 444 was that there were no surprises.

She based the veto on her opinion that civil unions are same-sex marriage by another name, a view she telegraphed more than a month ago, and that the issue should be decided by voter referendum — an easy political out that shores up her standing with Republicans opponents of same-sex unions, while not bashing gay voters whose support she courted when she ran for governor.

Lingle said her decision wasn’t based on politics, but the political analysis I wrote more than two months ago stood up pretty well:

(Civil unions supporters) probably right that deep in her heart the governor has no philosophical problem with civil unions. But from the standpoint of 2010 politics, it would be a surprise if Lingle allowed HB 444 to become law.

The immediate political consequence is that it would set her at odds with her lieutenant governor, James “Duke” Aiona, the leading opponent of the measure, and undercut one of his major issues in his already uphill campaign to succeed Lingle.

Aiona has been Lingle’s loyal partner, and she wouldn’t likely do that to him unless she had strong personal feelings on the issue that surely would have surfaced before now.

Lingle also will have an eye to her own political interests.

For much of her term, her moderate views and efforts to reach accommodation with the Democratic Legislature created such tensions with GOP conservatives that many referred to her as a RINO — Republican in Name Only.

As her time as governor nears an end and she eyes a future in a Republican Party that has turned sharply to the right since losing the presidency and Congress to Barack Obama and the Democrats, Lingle has worked hard to shore up her conservative flank.

She turned jeers from the right into cheers by hedging her support for O’ahu rail transit and the Akaka bill for Native Hawaiian political recognition. She’s also won points in the party for stepping up her rhetoric against higher taxes and battling the public worker unions.

It’s difficult to imagine her undoing all the gains she’s made within the GOP by crossing the party on gay unions, one of the biggest conservative litmus tests.

What happens next on civil unions depends a lot on the outcome of the November election.

If opponents of HB 444 manage to take out a few Democratic lawmakers who voted for it, or if the issue has a measurable impact in statewide races, we won’t likely see this bill again for a few years.

But if all the legislators who voted for it easily survive any challenges, and if candidates friendly to HB 444 do well in statewide races, there’s no reason why Democratic lawmakers won’t pass it again next year — perhaps by a veto-proof majority.

Who is elected to succeed Lingle also matters, of course. Aiona would never sign a civil unions bill, while Neil Abercrombie would relish an opportunity to enact it into law. Mufi Hannemann has tap-danced around taking a stance on HB 444, apparently trying to position himself to the right of Abercrombie in the Democratic primary, but to the left of Aiona if he makes it to the general election.

The Democratic primary for lieutenant governor will also provide a read on voter sentiment on civil unions, with two prominent opponents of HB 444 — Robert Bunda and Norman Sakamoto — running against supporters Lyla Berg, Gary Hooser, Jon Riki Karamatsu and Brian Schatz.

Hannemann-Lingle homeless tango gets tiresome

July 1, 2010

Continuing with homelessness, it was disappointing to see Mayor Mufi Hannemann and the Lingle administration  wasting precious energy needed to solve this problem with more bickering over who deserves credit and who deserves blame.

The mayor held a well-attended forum on homelessness this week, offending Lingle’s people who thought it was a campaign stunt aimed at obscuring what they see as a callous disregard for the homeless by Hannemann.

You can read the he said/she said here if you care to, but suffice it to say that both sides need to roll up their sleeves more before there’s any political boasting to be done about solving homelessness in Hawai’i.

Hannemann got off to a bad start  in 2006 when he cruelly and abruptly kicked 200 homeless out of Ala Moana Park with no place else to go to keep them from blighting a centennial bash he planned at Magic Island.

When many of them showed up at city hall to protest, wrongful arrests were made and the city ultimately had to pay $65,250 in settlements.

Once in damage-control mode, Hannemann ridiculously claimed that he booted the homeless from Ala Moana to force the state into action to help them.

To his credit, Hannemann learned from the mistake and in subsequent homeless evictions from Waianae Coast beaches, the city gave ample notice and did a better job of coordinating with social service agencies to help those displaced.

But his continuing claims that homelessness is the state’s problem when 80 percent of the state’s homeless are in his city is unproductive and an argument that few other U.S. mayors would try to get away with.

Lingle didn’t need any prodding from Hannemann’s Ala Moana fiasco to get busy on homelessness; she had already bought heavily into the Bush administration’s ambitious plan to end homelessness in a decade.

The governor built short-term shelters and longer-term housing for the homeless in Kakaako, Waianae and Kalaeloa, but ending homelessness proved more challenging than she expected and the effort seemed to run out of gas in the recession.

At this point, the governor, mayor and Legislature all seem to have the best of intentions for the homeless, but what’s frustrating is the constant political jousting and the potential progress that’s been lost because of their failure to work together.

The veto list lands

June 21, 2010

There was an interesting mixed reaction among leading supporters of HB 444 to news that Gov. Linda Lingle has placed the civil unions bill on her list of possible vetoes.

PFLAG-Oahu obviously didn’t believe the governor that she’s still making up her mind and issued a statement bashing Lingle as though the bill is already dead.

“Hawaii’s Governor has killed the spirit of Aloha and the reputation of Hawaii as a land of  freedom and justice in one death blow to this bill that has passed the 2010 Legislature,” PFLAG said.

“Lingle has said in no uncertain terms that an individual’s right to love and care for another person is of no interest to her or the Republican Party.  She has bowed to Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona and the International Transformation Network that calls for Hawaii to be the first Christian State in the nation.”

Citizens for Equal Rights took a more measured approach, noting with regret that HB 444 is among 39 bills Lingle listed for possible veto. But the group acknowledged that she’s still deliberating and urged her “to consider the significant positive economic impact HB444 could have on the economy at this critical juncture as the state and businesses struggle to rebuild revenue and create new jobs.”

The group then went on to articulate the economic benefits it sees from letting HB 444 become law based on a study by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA.

I certainly don’t know if Lingle’s mind is still open, but having come this far, it would seem to make the most sense for both sides to play it as though it is. There will be plenty of time for bashing later.

HB 444 takes a side trip to China

June 3, 2010

Gov. Linda Lingle is taking all the time available to her to decide on the civil unions bill, HB 444, but the big question is this: Is she really undecided on whether to veto or is she only deciding how to present her veto?

A veto seemed a foregone conclusion as soon as Lingle publicly expressed the opinion that civil unions are just same-sex marriage by another name, which has become standard GOP code in opposing any kind of gay unions.

She’s always said she opposes same-sex marriage and to allow HB 444 to become law with or without her signature would be seen as a slap at her Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, who has made opposition to civil unions a key issue in his campaign to succeed her, and the Republican Party in which she hopes to find a future after she leaves office.

Before leaving on a trip to China that will take her close to the June 21 deadline to signal her intention to the Legislature, Lingle indicated it has become more a matter of how to present her decision.

“This is something that people feel very strongly about on both sides,” she said.  “I’ve had a chance to meet and get to know people on both sides of this, and I don’t want whatever decision I make to in any way diminish one side or the other or make one side or the other feel I’m being judgmental in any way.

“As you know, words are important, they are important to me, and I want to get it right, whatever my decision is.”

At least she’s elevating the dialogue by showing sensitivity to all sides and avoiding the inflammatory political rhetoric that usually surrounds the issue.

If she delivers the expected veto with an uncombative message, it’ll be interesting to see if it emboldens Democratic legislators to try an override.

The conventional wisdom is they won’t after the House came up short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto when it passed HB 444 by a vote of 31-20.

But you never know what can happen if lawmakers call an override session on other bills. After all, House leaders said they weren’t going to take up civil unions at all in 2010 — until they did in a surprise vote at the end of the session.


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