Archive for May, 2009

Women Showing the Way

May 25th, 2009
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Here’s an event designed for women, by women to get you ready for the 2010 elections.

On June 3 from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. the Hawaii Commission on the Status of Women will host a free seminar on running for political office in the state Capitol Auditorium.

Keynote speaker is Gov. Linda Lingle, who as the first GOP governor in 40 years, knows a bit about bucking the odds in a political campaign.

One panel discussion is entitled “If I only knew then what I know now” featuring: Sen. Jill Tokuda, Reps. Barbara Marumoto, Cindy Evans, Jessica Wooley and Marilyn Lee.

Sen. Carol Fukunaga will talk on technology in campaigns and former state Representative Annelle Amaral will brief you on the  nuts and bolts of campaigning.

Interested? Register at www.hawaii.gov/dhs/women/HSCSW or call 586-5757.

The Late Show

May 20th, 2009
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Anyone who switched off the City Council Budget Committee on Monday after a reasonable hour — the meeting adjourned at 11:09 p.m. and conflicted with the “24” season finale, not to mention “Two and a Half Men” — missed some real drama.

Hanging in the balance was $125,000 being sought by the city Office of Economic Development, the bulk of which ($100,000) was to be used by Mayor Mufi Hannemann for a business trip to the West Coast with the other county mayors to drum up tourism to Hawaii. The remainder was to foster sister-city relations with mainland cities, testified OED Director Ann Chung.

Earlier in the day (before noon), the committee had voted against increasing the OED’s budget, with Councilman Gary Okino questioning whether the office was even needed. Councilman Charles Djou successfully had argued to keep the office funded at its current level ($459,000, according to Chung) noting that every other agency in city government was taking some sort of financial hit.

Roughly 12 hours later, sometime after 10 p.m., Chung returned to the Budget Committee hearing along with city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, to ask for the committee’s reconsideration. It seemed Chung, in her earlier testimony, had forgotten to mention that the mayor already had secured $100,000 in private matching funds from a local unnamed bank for the trip and would seek additional private sector money once the Council demonstrated its commitment. She noted that the other counties also were committing taxpayer dollars — more than what Honolulu was seeking — to the four mayors’ mainland trip.

After some cajoling, more debate on whether the trip was needed and even accusations that the administration was using scare tactics to try and justify the expense, Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia agreed to increase the OED budget by $100,000 with the proviso that none of the money shall be encumbered or disbursed until the Council has been provided proof that the matching funds are there.

The vote on the increase was two in favor (Garcia and Okino) and two opposed (Djou and Duke Bainum) leaving Council Chairman Todd Apo to break the tie. Apo went along with Garcia’s recommendation, but said he had “grave concerns” about doing so and he expected more communication between the administration and the Council as the June 10 budget deadline approaches.

Djou and Bainum expressed outrage, noting that the OED was the only city government agency to see an increase in its budget, with the $100,000 amounting to a 22 percent jump. Both agreed to pass the budget bill, but noted their disagreement.

“The last $100,000 was absolutely disgusting,” Djou said.

Bainum said the mayors’ promotional trip was a nice idea, but noted there are state agencies devoted to drumming up tourism for the state and he would rather see the money spent to offset some of the tax and fee hikes that were being passed by the Council.

Caldwell called their statements nothing more than “grandstanding.”

Familiar voice

May 15th, 2009
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It’s Neighborhood Board election time, and if you live in a subdistrict with a contested race, you already know that voting in this year’s contests is being done exclusively online and by telephone.

A company called Everyone Counts won the bid to carry out the all-digital election. One of their consultants is a familiar face to Hawaii elections: Bob Watada, the former executive director of the Campaign Spending Commission.

Everyone Counts CEO Lori Steele says the company conducts elections all over the world, and prides itself in having staff with elections experience at the local level.

“If we don’t happen to have someone on staff that’s local, we immediately hire someone local so we can learn customs, or we can learn things that are appropriate to the voters and special needs that communities or voters have,” she said. “We hired Bob to help us with that.”

Watada, who is retired and lives with his wife in Oregon, agreed to come on board for a few months.

Aside from advising and lobbying, Watada also is the recorded voice that you will hear if you use the telephone system for voting.

(We kind of think it would be funny if former Mayor Jeremy Harris or attorney William McCoriston were unable to vote online — for whatever reason — thus forcing them to call in and be greeted by a recording of none other than Watada.)  :)

The Legislature’s Losing Bet

May 6th, 2009
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Every session the Legislature’s tax-writing minions try to keep the federal tax code and the state tax code in line. If something is a federal deduction it is also a state deduction.

But this year, to chase a few extra bucks, the Legislature is repealing the deduction of wagering loses for state income tax purposes (HB 1495).

Don’t bet this will back-fill the state’s $2 billion shortfall, because according to the state tax department it will only pick up $300,000.

State Tax director Kurt Kawafuchi notes that “a taxpayer can only deduct wagering losses to the extent of gains, it is important to note that a taxpayer can only capitalize on gambling losses for tax purposes if the person also wins.”

The Tax Foundation of Hawaii notes “While the adoption of this measure would prohibit Hawaii taxpayers from deducting the gambling losses, it is questionable whether the amount of revenue generated from its enactment will result in a windfall.”

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Pono Chong and Blake Oshiro, has passed final reading in the House and is up for a Thursday vote in the Senate.

Swift reaction

May 1st, 2009
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It’s fair to say all eyes at the Legislature were following House Bill 1744 this evening – that’s the proposal to divert the hotel room tax revenue away from the counties and into state coffers to help make up the looming budget deficit.

After the House and Senate conferees decided to defer the bill indefinitely, the Twittersphere erupted.

Here, the varying ways to describe what happened, in 140 characters or less. These are posted in the order they appeared (yes, DePledge was about 45 seconds ahead of us):

@ddepledge House and Senate conferees defer a bill to scoop hotel-room tax revenues from the counties.

@hsbpolitics House-Senate conferees kill bill to take TAT from counties, HB1744 http://tinyurl.com/dhl82q

@hawaiisenate WAM and FIN conf committee held HB1744 which would have authorized counties to add a surcharge on hotel-room taxes http://tinyurl.com/dfndpu

@georgettedeemer HB1744 which scooped TAT funds from counties was deferred indefinitely (killed.)

@KHONnews NO HOTEL TAX SCOOP — Lawmakers decide to defer measure that would have taken away counties’ share of hotel room taxes. Marisa reports.