Archive for February, 2009

HTA called in for questioning

February 27th, 2009

The Hawaii Tourism Authority’s second rejection of a contract with the NFL to bring the Pro Bowl back to Hawaii ruffled more than a few feathers — including those of Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona and Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

Now state lawmakers want to know what happened.

The House Committee on Tourism, Culture and International Affairs has asked the HTA to come in for an informational briefing.

“The purpose of the briefing is to ask questions on the HTA’s efforts to secure the Pro Bowl back to Hawaii, as well as other marketing and industry related initiatives,” the committee said in a news release.

The news release goes on to state:

The loss of the Pro Bowl to Florida is significant to Hawaii’s tourism marketing efforts, given the media exposure and worldwide attention provided through this major sporting event.

The Chair of the Committee on Tourism, Culture & International Affairs, Rep. Joey Manahan, is asking for the latest update on the HTA’s negotiations with the National Football League on the Pro Bowl location for future years.  In addition, Rep. Manahan will discuss what legislative initiatives may be needed to help the effort.

On a broader level, the legislature is reviewing a bill to repeal the statute establishing the HTA and has asked for follow up information on the recent audit of the authority.

The informational briefing is scheduled for 9:15 a.m., Monday at the state Capitol, conference room 312.

Aloha Laurie!

February 26th, 2009

It’s a sad day in the Star-Bulletin’s Capitol Bureau as today marks Laurie Au’s last day as the newspaper’s City Hall reporter.


Laurie is a victim of the economy — one of the 17 members of our newsroom staff being laid off at the end of this month as a result of cost-cutting moves by the Star-Bulletin.

Of course, we’ll sincerely miss all of our colleagues who are leaving, but here at the Star-Bulletin’s office in the Capitol basement, Laurie, Richard Borreca and myself are a fairly tight-knit bunch.

Laurie joined the Star-Bulletin in March of 2007 and became the City Hall reporter in July of that year, replacing Crystal Kua, who moved on to become the communications director for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Luckily, we know she will land on her feet. She already has secured a job on the mainland.

Please join us in wishing Laurie good luck as she embarks on the next step in her journalism career, as a county reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger.

Aloha Laurie! You’ll be missed!

Laurie cupcake
^^A good-bye cupcake from Hokulani Bake Shop.

Bainum, the new Kobayashi?

February 25th, 2009

We saw it last year, with the absence of Councilwoman Barbara Marshall, the many deadlock votes of 4-4 in the City Council.

And we see it again this year after the recent death of Marshall, of colon cancer.

When Duke Bainum was elected as the City Council’s ninth and newest member, many political insiders wondered if he would be: independent, one of the Hannemann supporters or (as it seems) another Ann Kobayashi, whose seat he filled.

Kobayashi typically disagreed with Hannemann, who beat Bainum for mayor in 2004.

At the first City Council meeting this year in January, Bainum voted with the “anti-Hannemann” faction. (He sided with Councilman Romy Cachola to keep the rail transit route in Salt Lake.)

At today’s City Council meeting, he also sided with the dissidents attempting to override Hannemann’s veto of a bill that would have banned text messaging while driving. (It failed in a 4-4 vote.)

It could be possible to see more of these 4-4 votes until a successor to Marshall’s seat is elected in a Special Election ending April 23. And maybe then, we can finally determine who has the power in the City Council.

Same-Sex Marriage Debate is Top Issue

February 24th, 2009

The Senate Judiciary Committee is plowing through an estimated 1,300 who have signed up to speak on HB 444, which would establish civil unions for same-sex couples. The crowds appear evenly split between those favoring and opposing the bill.

Here’s what it looked like out in front of the state Capitol this morning.


February 24th, 2009

Twitter logo

OK, we’ve taken the plunge! The Star-Bulletin’s Political Radar team is now entering the Twitter pool!

Don’t know how often we’ll be able to send updates, but we’ll do our best. Check us out today as Laurie Au updates the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on House Bill 444, the measure that would allow same-sex couples to enter civil unions with benefits similar to traditional marriage.

If you want to follow us, go to:

Happy tweeting!

Where’s the love? (Update)

February 23rd, 2009

11:55 a.m.: Updating this post.

I jumped the gun in assuming that the Obama folks were dissing U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono. Thanks to David Raatz for forwarding me an e-mail he received from Mitch Stewart that lists Hirono and not U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. The e-mails were tailored for the districts, so if you lived in the 1st Congressional District, it asked you to thank both senators and Abercrombie. If you lived in the 2nd Congressional District, the e-mail asked you to thank both senators and Hirono.

>>> <<<

10:00 a.m.: Original post.

During the presidential campaign, there was no shortage of faux-personalized e-mails from the Obama camp. Messages purporting to be sent straight from campaign strategists David Plouffe and David Axelrod and even from Barack and Michelle Obama themselves urged people to get involved in the campaign.

With the campaign over, the e-mails from continue to crowd the inbox (see below). Prior to the inauguration, some of the messages asked for contributions to help defray the costs of the “people’s inaugural.” Sometimes the messages just call your attenton to something the new administration has done.

This message from Mitch Stewart (below) asks you to call your representative or senator to thank him or her if they voted in favor of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

Although all four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation voted for the act, this e-mail only lists three members.

Where’s the love for U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono?

For the record, if you follow the link at the bottom of the message to see how your representative voted, it does show that Hirono voted in favor of the stimulus bill.

The e-mail:

Mitch Stewart, <> Mon, Feb 23, 2009 at 6:54 AM
Reply-To: info@barackobama.comTo: “B.J. Reyes” <>

Organizing for America
B.J. –President Obama launched the most ambitious effort to stimulate the economy in our nation’s history when he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Tuesday.Your representatives need to hear from you when they vote for the change you mandated in November. Doing what’s right can be thankless when the culture of Washington tries to make political games out of the issues that matter to everyday Americans.You’re part of a powerful grassroots movement that can change that dynamic. According to our records, you live in Hawaii’s 1st district.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Sen. Daniel Inouye, and Sen. Daniel Akaka’s votes were crucial to passing the bill and creating and saving jobs in Hawaii.

Can you pick up the phone right now to thank Rep. Abercrombie, Sen. Inouye, and Sen. Akaka?

Rep. Neil Abercrombie

Sen. Daniel Inouye

Sen. Daniel Akaka

Report your call.

Here are some suggested talking points for your call:

- I’m calling to thank [Congress member's name] for supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
- I’ll be watching closely online and in the news how taxpayers’ money is spent in the implementation of this Act.
- I encourage [Congress member's name] to continue working with President Obama to lift America out of this economic crisis.

After your call, please record your feedback here:

We still have a long way to go, but working together we were able to take this important first step.

With the plan in place, more than 2 million people will be lifted out of poverty, 20 million at risk of losing their health care will be protected, and 3.5 million jobs will be created or saved.

There will be plenty more ways for you to contribute in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you for your continued support,


Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America

P.S. — If you don’t live in HI-01 or think you have a different member of Congress to thank, you can input your address here and find out whether your Representative and Senators voted in favor of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

Paid for by Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee — 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

City to spend $9 million on wastewater lawsuits

February 23rd, 2009

The City Council is poised to approve several measures Wednesday that would allow the city to spend an additional $1.75 million on several lawsuits relating to wastewater, bringing the total to more than $9 million on lawyer fees over the last five years.

In a closed-door meeting two weeks ago, the city’s Corporation Counsel asked the City Council to approve these fees for Bingham McCutchen, a law firm working the city on two lawsuits.

The city is asking for an additional $750,000 to fight a recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for mandatory upgrades to two major wastewater treatment plants. This brings the total amount paid to this law firm on this case to $2,550,000.

The city is also asking for another $1 million for a lawsuit with several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, relating to sewage spills. That brings the total amount spent on this lawsuit, which started in 2004, to $6,486,000.

The maximum rate for the law firm is $450 an hour.

Meet Gov. Kawamura

February 20th, 2009

Meet Gov. KawamuraHawaii’s governor is a woman, but not the one you think. It is Georgina Kawamura, state budget director.

Gov. Linda Lingle is attending the National Governors Association meeting in Washington. Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona is also in Washington and Attorney General Mark Bennett is already in Washington preparing for his argument before the U.S. Supreme Court next Wednesday in the Hawaii ceded lands case.

According to the state’s order of succession, next up is Kawamura. Staffers report Acting Gov. Kawamura is getting a “lot more phone calls.” The state security detail has also been transferred to Kawamura. Kawamura’s governorship is expected to end Feb. 24.

For the detail-obsessed, here’s the law pertaining to succession:

§26-2  Order of succession to offices of governor and lieutenant governor.  (a)  When the office of lieutenant governor is vacant by reason of the lieutenant governor’s becoming governor, or the lieutenant governor’s failure to qualify, or the lieutenant governor’s removal from office, death, resignation, or otherwise, the powers and duties of the office of lieutenant governor shall devolve upon the president of the senate; or, if there is none or upon the president’s failure to resign promptly from all legislative offices held by the president, then upon the speaker of the house of representatives; or if there is none or upon the speaker’s failure to resign promptly from all legislative offices held by the speaker, then upon the attorney general, the director of finance, the comptroller, the director of taxation, and the director of human resources development in the order named; provided that any officer upon whom the powers and duties of the office of lieutenant governor devolve may decline the powers and duties without the officer’s resignation from the office by virtue of the holding of which the officer qualifies to act as lieutenant governor, in which event the powers and duties will devolve upon the next officer listed in the order of succession.

(b)  When the lieutenant governor is temporarily absent from the State or is temporarily disabled, the powers and duties of the office of the lieutenant governor shall devolve upon the foregoing officers, other than the president of the senate and the speaker of the house, in the order named.

(c)  The powers and duties of any officer acting as lieutenant governor under this section shall include the powers and duties of the office of governor when that office is vacant, or when the governor is absent from the State or is unable to exercise and discharge the powers and duties of the governor’s office, in addition to the other powers and duties of the lieutenant governor.

No person other than the elected governor or lieutenant governor shall become governor, provision being made by this section only for an acting governor.

(d)  An officer succeeding to the powers and duties of the lieutenant governor, under subsection (b) of this section, may designate an officer in the office of the lieutenant governor to perform any or all functions other than those pertaining to the office of governor.

(e)  During the period that any officer, under this section is exercising the powers and performing the duties of the office of governor or lieutenant governor by reason of a permanent vacancy therein, and not otherwise, the officer shall receive the compensation and perquisites of the governor or lieutenant governor, as the case may be.

Hannemann proposes wage freezes in annual speech

February 19th, 2009

Mayor Mufi Hannemann, in one of his most substantive speeches yet, proposed a series of cost-cutting measures in his annual State of the City address this morning.

(Our breaking news story can be found here.)

Some proposals to aid in the city’s $50 million shortfall this year include:

  • Freezing wages for the city’s employees represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers.
  • Possibly merging the Honolulu Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.
  • Cutting TheBoat, Hannemann’s $5 million intra-island ferry system that has been crippled by mechanical problems.
  • Furloughs for Hannemann’s Cabinet members to work without pay for one day a month and rejecting any considerations for a wage increase next year.

Hannemann has not said if there will be increases in property tax rates, but said if there is, “taxpayers should know we turned over every rock” before implementing rate hikes.
Below is the transcript of Hannemann’s 42-minute speech that began with a song (of course).


State of the City

February 19th, 2009

City and County of Honolulu

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann delivers his annual State of the City address today at 10 a.m..

Our Laurie Au will have full coverage in the paper. But we’ll be live blogging during the speech, too.

The live blog is done, but you can read it by CLICKING HERE.