Archive for December, 2008

Happy New Year!

December 31st, 2008


If it’s the end of  the year, then that can only mean one thing — a Top 10 list of something. Anything!

Thus, the hard-working staff of the Star-Bulletin’s Political Radar blog have hastily put together our Top 10 List of the Biggest Political Flubs of the Year.

There were no hard and fast criteria for this list. A flub was loosely defined as anything that brought embarrassing fallout or unwanted attention to a person or cause. The other common thread among our selections is that all of those involved should have known better.

So without further ado …

10. Bill Brennan: Spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann gets suspended for five days after getting arrested for drunken driving.

9. Rep. Corrine Ching: Lawmaker pleads no contest to excessive speeding, a law she voted in favor of.

8. Kirk Caldwell: Left without an office to run for after a procedural ruling nixes both his run for City Council and state House. (PostScript: Caldwell lands on his feet as the new city managing director.)

7. Democratic Party Caucuses: Chaos ruled as party officials were unprepared for a record turnout at the February preference poll.

6. Kevin Cronin: New chief elections officer criticized over handling of various actions. (PostScript: The Nov. 4 general election ran quite smoothly.)

5. Rex Johnson: Forced to resign as Hawaii Tourism Authority executive director after discovery of his use of a state computer to forward racist and pornographic e-mails.

4. Honolulu City Councilman Rod Tam: Rebuked by colleagues but allowed to keep his post after publicly using an ethnic slur in describing undocumented workers from Mexico.

3. U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye: Apologizes to Punahou President James Scott after suggesting that the school and 1979 alumnus Barack Obama are ‘elitist.’ (Remember, Dan had been an early backer of U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.)

2. Ron Menor: Spends two days in jail and later loses his re-election bid after being convicted of drunken driving following his arrest after a Chicago concert at the Blaisdell Center.

1. Gov. Linda Lingle: Faces harsh criticism (mostly from Democrats) after declining a meeting of the nation’s governors with President-elect Barack Obama shortly after the general election.


Hau’oli Makahiki Hou from the Best Political Team in Hawaii!

Bowled over

December 29th, 2008

Pro Bowl

With news that the NFL plans to skip Hawaii for its annual Pro Bowl, at least for 2010, there is sure to be plenty of finger-pointing over who is to blame.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann took an initial jab.

“We’ve been good for the Pro Bowl and for the NFL, there’s no reason to believe that we cannot be a part of the mix and a part of the attraction in future years for Pro Bowl,” he said at a news conference this afternoon.

He then added: “I wish I had a greater hand in the negotiation. State tourism dollars are at stake. I would have had a deal with the NFL were I in charge”

Gov. Linda Lingle, who is in charge, said only that she was disappointed, but respected the NFL’s decision.

Her entire statement issued this afternoon:

“I had the opportunity to speak with a senior NFL official earlier this month about their future plans for the Pro Bowl.  Our discussion about the partnership between the NFL and the state were open, candid and positive.

“While I am disappointed the Pro Bowl likely will not be played in Hawaii in 2010, I respect the NFL’s decision to play the post-season all-star game in the same city as the Super Bowl, one week before the Super Bowl, on a one-year test basis.

“The senior leadership of the NFL told me explicitly that their decision had nothing to do with anything the state did or did not do, but was an opportunity to try something they had been talking about for years.

“I am optimistic that the Pro Bowl will return to Hawaii in 2011.  I, along with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, will continue to maintain open and ongoing dialogue with the NFL.  The state of Hawaii and the NFL have had a successful and collaborative 28-year relationship, and I am confident that this partnership will continue in the long-run.

Sign of the times

December 23rd, 2008


This year, with economies crumbling all around the world and the state facing a $1 billion budget deficit, the governor’s office has scaled back on a holiday tradition.

Rather than sending out a traditional holiday greeting card, Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona instead have sent out the above flash-animated e-card.

Last year’s card, featuring Lingle, Aiona and his wife, Vivian, was sent to about 4,000 contacts (including members of the media) at a cost of $4,545 (including printing, art/design, envelopes and bulk-rate postage), governor’s spokesman Russell Pang said.

Pang says the e-card was provided to staff members to send out as they please.

Lingle likely will issue a Christmas Day proclamation tomorrow or Thursday, as she has in the past. She already has issued a proclamation for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. (Lingle is one of two Jewish governors, the other being Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Their numbers will increase by one, when Delaware Gov. Jack Markell takes office next year.)

‘Barack Obama’s coming to town’

December 23rd, 2008

Jeff Langcaon, of Aiea, and his two daughters, Samantha and Katherine, created a video, called “Barack Obama’s coming to town,” to the Christmas tune of “Santa Claus is coming to town.”

The nearly 2-minute long video, with drawings and lyrics, is a tribute to the Hawaii-born president-elect, who began his 10-day winter vacation with his family in Kailua on Saturday.

“We had just been messing around and put the video together over the weekend,” Langcaon said this morning. “It took me a couple of minutes to draw the pictures and we just recorded the whole thing on Sunday evening.”

Check out the video here.

Obama Coming to Town


Hannemann disses Lingle’s pay raise proposal

December 22nd, 2008

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann today called Gov. Linda Lingle’s proposal to suspend pay raises for state leaders “symbolic,” saying it would have little impact in the state’s looming $1.1 billion budget shortfall.

“It’s probably more of a symbolic gesture than anything else,” Hannemann said in response to a reporter’s question in an unrelated press conference this morning. “If you look at the amount, it’s not that large.”

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Lingle proposed introducing a bill that would freeze salary increases for roughly 200 state lawmakers, judges and top administrators for the next two years, which would save $4.1 million.

Hannemann said he would not rule out declining pay raises for city administrators and employees, but pointed out that the city’s Salary Commission makes those decisions. The commission approved pay increases of 5 percent to 9 percent for top city officials for this fiscal year.

Hannemann also criticized Lingle for not being more collaborative with county mayors before releasing her proposal.

Hannemann, who frequently clashes with Lingle, also added that, “It’s kind of easy to do it (suspend raises) on the last two years of your term.”

Updated, 3:56 p.m. | Lingle, in an afternoon news conference, responded to Hannemann’s criticism.

“I know that we did notify the Judiciary, the Legislature and I feel we’re being very collaborative with everyone,” Lingle said.

“Again, this is not a part of collective bargaining, this is talking about executive pay raises,” Lingle continued. “What went out yesterday had to do with politicians – elected politicians – judges and the members of my cabinet and the deputies, who are certainly, in my opinion, very deserving of a raise but recognize it’s a time of shared sacrifice for the state.”

The results are in

December 22nd, 2008

Earlier this month, former Congressman Ed Case tested the political waters by asking the public for help in choosing which office to seek in 2010.

Case set up an online survey soliciting input on whether he should run for congress or governor. The survey also allowed for answers of “undecided” or “other.”

In his latest e-mail newsletter and on his Web site, Case listed the results as follows:

Around 40% favored Governor and 40 percent Congress, 5 percent said either, 5 percent favored another office (mostly U.S. Senate or Honolulu Mayor), 5 percent were undecided, and 5 percent said none of the above.

Case says some of the more creative suggestions as to what he should do ranged from “dogcatcher” to “the beach” to “take care of your wife.”

He did not say how many people took part in the survey and acknowledged that there’s no way of knowing whether the anonymous survey is represntative of Hawaii voters.

“Although there’s no clear preference between ‘Washington, D.C. and Washington Place,’ these results are most encouraging and helpful,” Case writes. “Even more valuable are the many separate comments on the whos-whethers-whys of not only 2010 but later elections.

“It’s great political analysis, and demonstrates a keen interest among Hawaii voters in our federal and state election choices throughout this crucial time of transition.”

The survey is still open, and can be accessed through Case’s Web site.

A day on the tarmac

December 20th, 2008

The eagle has landed!

President-elect Barack Obama and his family arrived in the islands today for a holiday vacation that is expected to last through Christmas and possibly up to New Year’s Day.

Obama has no public events scheduled during his stay here.

What that means for the local media is a lot of standing around, and always from a safe distance away. For Obama’s originally-scheduled 3:45 p.m. arrival, we in the local press corps were in place on the tarmac by a United Airlines hangar shortly after 2 p.m. (Special thanks to Mike Navares, general manager for United’s Hawaii operations, for filling us in with some details about Obama’s charter.)

The afternoon in pictures:

^^The fenced-in media pen.

^^ The president-elect’s plane arrives shortly after 3 p.m.

^^ The motorcade assembles.

^^ The traveling press corps exits from the rear of the plane.

^^ Obama makes his way off the plane with daughter, Sasha, by his side. His wife, Michelle, and other daughter, Malia, follow from the door of the plane. (Click the image to view it full size.)

Staying topical

December 19th, 2008

If you’re a frequent visitor to (and we certainly hope you are) you may have noticed the banner ads being run by state Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau).

The ads ask: Who is Gary Hooser? What are his core values? and invite you to watch “The Gary Hooser Story.”

You might be wondering why he would be running ads at this time, when the next regularly scheduled election isn’t for another two years.

In an e-mail newsletter sent today, Hooser poses, and answers, the question.

“Many have asked recently about what my future plans might be with regard to seeking higher office,” he writes. “While the 2008 election is over, the reality is that in a modern political environment the campaign never really ends.

“At the present time my intention is to continue my dedication to serving as the Senate Majority Leader and the State Senator representing Kauai and Niihau. There is no doubt however, that a time will come when there may be an opportunity to increase the level and capacity of my service to our state.  There is important work to be done at all levels.  Ultimately I will make my decision based on how I can best serve the needs of Hawaii’s people.”

Hooser was uncontested in this year’s Democratic primary and easily defeated Republican JoAnne Georgi in the general election. Two years ago, Hooser was among 10 Democrats who sought to replace Ed Case in the U.S. House when Case unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka. (U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono won Case’s seat and was re-elected this year.)

Caldwell considered for City Cabinet

December 18th, 2008

As Mayor Mufi Hannemann prepares for his second inauguration, he will likely change his Cabinet slightly that could include bringing in outgoing state Rep. Kirk Caldwell.

The only official change at this point in Hannemann’s Cabinet is the departure of Henry Eng, director of the busy Department of Planning and Permitting, who is retiring at the end of this year.

But Hannemann declined to elaborate on other directors rumored to be leaving the city after his first term, as he continues to meet with them individually.

“I’m very much knee deep into the whole Cabinet reshuffling, reassignment,” Hannemann said in an interview with reporters. “Some of them are opting to take retirement or go back into the civil service position. I’m not at liberty right now to say who’s going where.”

Hannemann, who has had several Cabinet changes, has a pattern of moving directors around internally or promoting city employees.

One person that has a strong chance of joining the administration include Hannemann ally, Caldwell, who lost his seat in Legislature. He filed to run for City Council, in part because of Hannemann’s influence, but was disqualified from both seats due to a procedural mix up.

Many had speculated whether Caldwell would fill the city’s No. 2 spot as managing director, which would put him in a nice spot to run for mayor should Hannemann seek higher office in 2010.
Both had declined to comment on specific positions.

“Kirk is very much in the mix for something in this administration,” Hannemann said. “He has expressed an interest, and that’s all I can say right now.”

Caldwell said, “I would look at whatever offers would come along and look to see if that was something I could assist the city with and the mayor. I can’t get more specific because there’s nothing specific on the table.”

Hannemann said he could have more concrete Cabinet decisions by next week or at the latest before Jan. 2, his inauguration day.

Coming home

December 18th, 2008

While there’s still no official word from anyone on exactly when President-elect Barack Obama will be arriving in Hawaii for his holiday vacation, some details appear to be surfacing.

In a report on his latest cabinet appointments, Reuters notes Obama is scheduled to leave the mainland Saturday.

And in a blog post focusing mainly on Illinois’ Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Los Angeles Times drops a line that Obama’s upcoming vacation will last 10 days.

The only detail Obama officials will confirm is that the newly-christened Time magazine Person of the Year has no public appearances scheduled during his time in the islands.

Obama also is expected to attend a service in honor of his late grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who died two days before Election Day.