Archive for December, 2010

Happy New Year!

December 31st, 2010

If it’s time for the big ball to make its appearance in Times’ Square, then that means it’s also time for our annual look back at the more colorful moments of 2010 in our annual list of Flubs!

What’s a flub?

Basically there is no textbook definition of a flub. For our purposes,  it’s 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.

The tradition of the flubs was started in 2008 and downsized in 2009 due to budget restraints. This year, the hard-working staff at the Political Radar has brought back the Top 10 for your perusal.

So without any further ado …


Now hiring

December 30th, 2010

The leadership stalemate in the House has caused some delays in planning for the new session in January, but House Speaker Calvin Say has given the go-ahead for representatives to hire session staff.

In a Dec. 21 memo, Say said that each lawmaker will get $4,800 a month for salaries for session staff at this time. The maximum salary for any one session employee is $3,200 a month.

The House, according to House clerk Patricia Mau-Shimizu, usually hires over 140 part-time and full-time temporary workers during session.

According to the clerk, the green light has also been given to hire for the three committees that need the most staff expertise — Finance, Judiciary and Consumer Protection and Commerce.

Committee chairmanships, however, are in limbo until the leadership fight is settled.


December 29th, 2010

Tom Berg, a state House aide, claimed victory tonight in the special election to fill a Leeward vacancy on the Honolulu City Council with 18.49% of the vote in a crowded field.

Berg earned slightly more votes — 2,308 — than he did in his unsuccessful run as a Republican in November in state House District 42, where he drew 2,177 against his former boss, state Rep. Rida Cabanilla, (D-Waipahu, Honouliuli, Ewa).

But his council total was less than the 2,665 votes he captured during his first run at Cabanilla in 2008.

Berg worked for state Rep. Kymberly Pine, (R-Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point, Puuloa), after leaving Cabanilla after a dispute. Pine had expressed interest in the Leeward council seat in 2012. But she ruled out a run in the special election — triggered after Todd Apo resigned from the council to work for Disney’s Ko Olina resort — so she could concentrate on retaining her House seat.


December 28th, 2010

State House Speaker Calvin Say, who is still one vote short of keeping control of the House, has invited his faction to lunch on Wednesday at the Empress Restaurant.

The leadership stalemate has gone on so long that some insiders are legitimately wondering whether it will last until opening day of the state Legislature on Jan. 19.

In 1971, state Rep. Hidoshi Kato’s challenge to Speaker Tadao Beppu went unresolved for nearly two weeks after session convened — 10 legislative days — before Republicans broke the deadlock by siding with Beppu.

According to accounts in The Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin*, Kato and his faction wanted to change House rules and dilute the power of the House Finance Committee. Kato said Finance had become like a “super-committee” with too much control over state spending. He wanted to give subject-matter committees more discretion over state programs, while Finance would continue to set spending limits.

While that was the main reason cited, Kato’s challenge was also about power in an era when Gov. John Burns and the more progressive Thomas Gill fought over the ideological direction of the Democratic Party. Kato, who had the backing of the influential International Longshore and Warehouse Union, wanted more leadership posts and committee chairmanships for his loyalists.

Kato tried to take Beppu out at a private caucus shortly after the November 1970 elections but fell short. Negotiations between the two factions collapsed in the weeks before session, so opening day came and went with no vote on a speaker, new rules or leadership posts and committee chairmanships. Under House rules, Rep. Jack Suwa, who represented House District 1 on the Big Island, became presiding officer.

Beppu, who had been speaker since 1967, had 22 votes. Kato had 12 votes. Republicans controlled the other 17 seats.

The GOP had fun with the stalemate. House Republican floor leader Joseph Garcia, Jr., said people might have to acknowledge “a great error” in electing so many Democrats. Republican lawmakers wore badges taunting Democrats over how much it was costing to have the House in session with no leaders (“Day 2 $19,573.”)

On Day 7, freshman Rep. Diana Hansen, a 23-year-old Windward Republican, used her maiden floor speech to claim majority Democrats were “acting like donkeys” or “like spoiled children squabbling over the biggest piece of li hing mui.”

Democrats also tried to lighten the tension. “The Lord may have rested on the seventh day,” East Honolulu Rep. Dennis O’Connor said, “but the Judiciary Committee will meet at 2 p.m.”

The first break came when Beppu agreed to a House rules package suggested by the Republicans. Kato alleged that Beppu was forming a coalition with the rival party, which Beppu denied.

But on the 10th legislative day all Republicans agreed to vote for Beppu, who also lured one of the dissidents, who would become vice speaker. The vote to keep Beppu as speaker was 40 to 11.

Beppu and the Republicans insisted that their alliance was for organizational purposes only — that no deal was offered and no coalition was formed. But Kato accused Beppu of shaking the foundation of the two-party system.

“Someone once said that a rose by any other name is still a rose,” said Kato, who lost his Judiciary Committee chairmanship and was assigned to lead the Public Utilities Committee.

*(The leadership fight played out in the pages of The Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin in what some consider the glory days of newspaper journalism. Gerry Keir followed the intrigue for The Advertiser; Buck Donham and David Shapiro covered it for the Star-Bulletin.

While their work received better placement than accounts of contemporary leadership struggles — many of the stories ran on the front page — the length of the stories and the level of detail were about the same. The reporters relied heavily on unnamed sources, since the negotiations were mostly private.)

Reaching out

December 21st, 2010

Now that she is moving across the halls of the Legislature to serve in the state Senate, Maile Shimabukuro says she believes she can better serve the needs of the entire Waianae Coast — House Districts 44 and 45 — that are part of her new Senate District 21 (Nanakuli-Makua).

Toward that end, she said wants to hear from constituents as she makes the transition over to the Senate.

Those wishing to do so can e-mail her directly at


December 20th, 2010

Gov. Neil Abercrombie released his two-year budget draft today at a news conference at the state Capitol, a document based largely on figures drawn from the Lingle administration.

Abercrombie described the budget as a work-in-progress that will be revised during the session of the state Legislature that starts in January.

The new governor sought to avoid blaming former Gov. Linda Lingle for the projected deficits. But he had to edit himself when asked whether he would delay state income tax refunds, like Lingle did this year.

I’m not going to delay tax refunds. All that does is extend the grief and pain and phoniness down the road.

OK. I take back the word “phoniness.” No, I do.

Because I said I’m not going to fix blame and all that, and that’s a pejorative term and I take it back. I shouldn’t have said it.


December 17th, 2010

Committee assignments for the incoming City Council have been determined. As previously announced by Council Chairman Nestor Garcia, the to-be-determined member representing District 1 will be head of the Committee on Parks and Human Services.

The new Council will be sworn in Jan. 3.


Greenery II

December 15th, 2010

With questions still swirling as to whether he would become the last of the Big Island’s three state senators plucked for jobs in the new administration of Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Sen. Josh Green says he is “honored” to be where he is, with no mention of looking for a new job.

Green, an emergency room physician from Kona, has been talked about as one of administration’s potential candidates for the job of state health director, one of only two Cabinet posts the governor has yet to fill.

In a statement e-mailed today to  supporters and constituents, Green appears to distance himself from the position.

The full statement:

Dear Friends,

I am honored to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee in the
upcoming legislative session.

I remain committed to strengthening healthcare in Hawaii and I will do
everything I can to make sure that we have the best, most accessible system
in the nation.

As Chairman, I will pursue the priorities that people statewide have
indicated are the most important to them:

1. tougher DUI penalties to prevent drunk driving tragedies
2. keeping doctors and nurses in Hawaii with loan repayment programs
3. strengthening Hawaii’s hospital system and healthcare safety net

For West Hawaii, I will be fighting for a new courthouse, an upgrade to our
emergency medical infrastructure, harbor improvements, repair of our aging
park facilities, and better access to healthcare, especially drug and
alcohol treatment.

While the role of Chairman comes with added responsibility, it also provides
a greater opportunity to stand up for West Hawaii and the entire Big Island
in the coming years on the issues that matter most to our families.

Please contact me anytime with your ideas and concerns. Let’s keep working
together to make the Big Island and all of Hawaii a better place to live.

From my family to yours, have a happy and safe holiday season and a great
New Year.

Omnibus inclusion

December 14th, 2010

With hopes dimming for passage of the Akaka Bill before the end of the year, a massive omnibus appropriations bill for 2011 pushed out by the Senate today offers the potential for revisiting the issue in the future.

The 1,924-page bill is probably more noteworthy for the inclusion of $8 billion in earmarks requested by lawmakers from both parties as the “lame duck” session churns to a close.

But on pages 809-810 of the draft proposal, there is language calling for a study of some kind for establishing a “mechanism” to recognize a Native Hawaiian governing entity.

The language:


SEC. 125. The Secretary of the Interior shall, with funds appropriated for fiscal year 2011, and in coordination with the State of Hawaii and those offices designated under the Hawaii State Constitution as representative of the Native Hawaiian community, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Attorney General of the United States, examine and make recommendations to Congress no later than September 30, 2011, on developing a mechanism for the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity and recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity as an Indian tribe within the meaning of Articles I and II of the Constitution.

A spokesman for Akaka says the senator still is exploring avenues to get the bill passed, adding that the provision in the spending bill basically calls for a report on the most effective way to move forward should the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act be enacted in the future.


December 9th, 2010

State Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa, (D-Niihau, Lehua, Waimea), says she is open to backing state House Speaker Calvin Say but does not want to be the only dissident to break ranks.

Morikawa told Hawaii Public Radio’s Wayne Yoshioka on Tuesday – and us today – that she would prefer that more than 26 lawmakers resolve the stalemate. She said she would consider supporting Say if she is joined by at least a few others, but preferably more.

She said she is going away on vacation for a week and would assess the situation when she returns. “I want to see what goes on with the negotiations,” she said.

Morikawa made it clear in a follow-up conversation – after hearing pushback from our blog post this afternoon – that she will not budge alone. “I just know that I want more people happy,” she said. “I want to end this infighting. I want more people to be involved.”

Morikawa, a county parks and recreation worker active within the Hawaii Government Employees Association, was disappointed that Say did not reach out to her after her election victory. Morikawa defeated former Rep. Roland Sagum III, a Say loyalist, in the September primary and Republican Phil Sterker in the November general election.

Three of the four Democratic freshmen – Ty Cullen, Mark Hashem and Linda Ichiyama — have signed on with Say.

*Update: State Rep. Scott Saiki, (D-Moiliili, McCully, Kaimuki), one of the dissidents, said the dissidents — including Morikawa — have agreed to vote for speaker as a group.

“All 18 of us are a unit vote,” he said.