Posted tagged ‘Linda Lingle’

Public housing agency seeks ethics waiver for finance job

February 7, 2011

Linda Smith, senior policy adviser to former Gov. Linda Lingle, has apparently moved into a new position as financial adviser to the Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority, on whose board of directors she served as the governor’s representative.

HPHA is maintaining silence on the matter, with several messages requesting information from executive director Denise Wise and Smith going unanswered. Sources who deal with the agency say Smith has been working there since last month.

HPHA advertised in the fall for a chief financial management adviser, setting a Nov. 4 deadline for applications and listing a salary of $80,000.

Les Kondo, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, confirmed that Smith subsequently asked for advice on whether it would violate the ethics code if she moved from the board of directors to a staff position. She was advised that state statute didn’t prohibit her from taking the position.

However, Kondo said the ethics office is taking another look at the matter after receiving a new request from HPHA last week for a formal waiver to satisfy the federal government, which appears to be paying part of the salary. Kondo said the waiver request had new information about the timing of the move from one position to the other.

At their December 16 meeting, HPHA directors went into executive session to discuss a motion “to approve a waiver from the conflict of interest provisions of Sections 19(A) of the annual contributions contract between the Hawaii Public Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Chief Financial Management Advisor position.”

Directors said the closed meeting was necessary to consult with attorneys on the board’s “powers, duties, privileges, immunities and liabilities” relating to the waiver. After the executive session, the board unanimously approved the waiver without discussion.

The HPHA board is chaired by retired Boeing executive Travis Thompson, one of Lingle’s closest allies as her finance director on Maui, her transition chief when she was elected governor and a major donor to local and national Republican campaigns.

Lingle’s failed legacy

December 7, 2010

I’ve been asked why I didn’t join in analyzing the legacy of outgoing Gov. Linda Lingle. In all honesty, I don’t think she’s left one that will be judged of much significance.

I hate to be uncharitable, but 25 years from now, I doubt that the Republican Lingle’s eight-year break from Democratic rule will be remembered much more than Eileen Anderson’s brief stint as Honolulu mayor between Frank Fasi’s two extended terms.

Lingle has taken much criticism for not extending coattails to other local Republicans, saying it wasn’t her job to get GOP lawmakers elected.

The number of Republicans in the state House fell from 19 to seven and in the Senate from five to one while Lingle was busy padding her own nest in national GOP politics by spending more time than any other governor from either party out of state on the presidential campaign trail.

Lingle didn’t understand — or didn’t care — that her only chance of shaping state policy and changing Hawai‘i’s political culture was to break the Democratic super-majority in the Legislature in order to force her bills to the floor and have her vetoes sustained. Without that leverage, the Democrats could, and did, walk over her at will.

You don’t have to be a Republican to see the value of a healthy political balance.

I thought one of the most astute assessments of Lingle’s failed legacy was made by former Democratic Gov. John Waihee in a Star-Advertiser story by Derrick DePledge:

Waihee said Lingle’s biggest missed opportunity was the chance to lay the groundwork for a true two-party system. Despite Lingle’s historic victory in 2002 and her sweep to re-election in 2006, Republicans have lost seats in the Legislature and appear weaker as a party than before she was elected.

Waihee said Lingle — a moderate on social issues, more conservative on fiscal policy — could have helped create a Hawaii Republican brand. Instead, he said, she gravitated toward the kind of mainland conservatism that has proved unpopular in the islands and “ended up, at the end of her term, palling around with (former Alaska Gov. Sarah) Palin.”

“She really didn’t define what a Hawaii Republican would be like,” he said. “And, actually, I think that’s a loss for the entire state. She started off very committed to building a two-party system, but she ended up with it being more one-party than ever.”

Lingle: Out of favor, but not out of ambition

October 26, 2010

I agree with analysts who say that Gov. Linda Lingle’s low public approval rating is mostly the result of the crushing recession and its side effects such as furlough Fridays.

If you look at the eight-year fever chart of her popularity in the polls, it soared when the economy was up and sank when Hawai‘i’s economic fortunes dipped — just like Govs. John Waihee and Ben Cayetano before her.

I don’t necessarily agree with those who think Lingle’s standing with voters will swing back up once she leaves office and is out of the line of fire, which is a key factor in how credibly she could contend for Sen. Daniel Akaka’s seat in 2012.

We’re a politically contentious state and Hawai‘i governors, who are in the middle of it all, tend to wear out their welcome after eight years. And the lost favorability doesn’t always come back with the passage of time.

Waihee was interested in running for the 2nd Congressional District seat after Patsy Mink died in 2002, but polls showed that his favorability with voters was still so low eight years after he’d left office that the race wasn’t feasible.

Lingle, whose approval rating was a dismal 44 percent in the latest Star-Advertiser poll, would be trying the turnaround in only two years if she follows through on her expressed interest in looking at the Akaka seat.

A candidate’s approval rating is relative to the opponent’s, of course. Akaka’s favorability was solid when he defeated Ed Case in 2006, but it remains to be seen if it’ll hold up with his age even more of an issue this time.

It’s a delicate matter, but there are legitimate concerns that having two 88-year-old senators sets up Hawai‘i  for a punishing nosedive in federal spending here when they pass from the scene and leave Hawai‘i with no senator of any seniority.

If Akaka steps aside, Democrats who likely would run against Lingle such as Case and Mufi Hannemann are coming off big losses and have favorability problems of their own.

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

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