Archive for July, 2011

Back in the Game?

July 29th, 2011
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Former Congressman Charles Djou said he is seriously considering another run at elective office.

Djou said today he has not made a formal decision, and may not in the near future, but that he is seriously considering another campaign in urban Honolulu’s 1st Congressional District.

A run at CD1 would pit him against U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in a rematch of last year’s general election contest in which Djou was the incumbent. Djou had won the seat last May in a special election to fill the final seven months of the term vacated by Neil Abercrombie, who stepped down to run for governor.

Djou had emailed supporters on Thursday lamenting the lack of bipartisanship in the state’s congressional delegation and indicated he was considering a return to politics.

From the email:

The last election, while an amazing experience, took an incredible toll on my family.  I’ve never, however, stopped caring about our state and have continued to advocate for fiscal responsibility at all levels of our government.  Troubled by the lack of bipartisan leadership by Hawaii’s representatives in the US House, I have begun thinking about how I can best serve the people of State of Hawaii.

Staying

July 28th, 2011
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Lawrence Tseu, who was appointed by former Gov. Linda Lingle to the Stadium Authority, is not resigning.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Neil Abercrombie had said earlier this month that Tseu had informed the administration through a secretary that he would resign. The governor had asked for courtesy resignations from 28 Lingle appointees to five major state boards and commissions.

“He is staying with the board,” Kevin Chong Kee, the chairman of the Stadium Authority, said with Tseu’s authorization.

With Tseu’s decision, Abercrombie has only received and accepted a resignation from one appointee through his request. The governor declined to accept the resignation of another, and one appointee had resigned before receiving the governor’s request.

Postal Honor

July 28th, 2011
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U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa today introduced a bill in Congress to rename the U.S. Postal Service office in Kahala after the late Democratic U.S. Rep. Cec Heftel.

The bill restarts the process that stalled after Heftel’s widow, Rebecca, objected to former Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Djou‘s attempt to do the same for the Makiki Post Office. (The full story HERE.)

Here is Hanabusa on the House floor today speaking on the new measure:


Heftel made his fortune in the radio and television industries, and was one of Honolulu’s most successful broadcasters before setting that career aside to become active in Hawaii Democratic politics.

In 1976, he ran and won election to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 1st Congressional District. He served until 1986 when he resigned to run for governor, losing in the Democratic to John Waihee, who went on to become governor.

`Unworthy’

July 27th, 2011
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One of the many political subtexts of the contract fight between Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Hawaii State Teachers Association is that the HSTA was among the public-sector unions that backed Abercrombie in his primary campaign last year.

The HSTA and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly went with Abercrombie — a veteran labor ally — over former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary, while the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers sided with Hannemann.

Wil Okabe, the HSTA president, referenced that history Wednesday in a statement critical of the state’s decision to bring on a private attorney to help respond to the union’s prohibited practices complaint.

It is surprising that our Democratic Governor would hire an anti-union lawyer to represent him and the State against teachers.

The State calls Robert Katz “qualified.”  If what you want is a lawyer with a long history of anti-union activities, who fought against Local 5 and hotel housekeepers, and has sought to restrict the rights of workers to a fair union contract… then Mr. Katz is indeed well-qualified.

Mr. Katz’s website boasts of experience to help employers effectively respond to union organizing campaigns and election petitions.

This turn of events establishes a pattern that we have long wished to deny – the Governor and his administration are behaving in a way unworthy of someone who came to unions a year ago asking for and gladly taking our help.

While we certainly don’t believe that supporting candidate Abercrombie would entitle us to special treatment at the bargaining table from Governor Abercrombie, we are surprised to find ourselves facing one of Hawaii’s preeminent anti-union lawyer as we struggle to protect our Constitutional rights to fair and honest collective bargaining.

Debt Talks

July 27th, 2011
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With mounting concerns over a possible government default and the impact it would have on Hawaii, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa yesterday held a “telephone town hall” to field questions from residents.

The call (from 2:10 p.m. to 3:10 p.m. Hawaii time) to Hanabusa at her Washington, D.C., office reached a peak of 889 callers on the line at the same time, according to a spokeswoman, with hundreds more who called in for all or part of the session.

During the call, Hanabusa’s staff conducted an telephone poll asking: “What is the number one issue concerning you and your family?”

How the 462 responses (asked in the following order) broke down:

1.       Jobs – 72 votes, 16%
2.       Government Spending – 97 votes, 21%
3.       The Environment – 25 votes, 5%
4.       National Security 24 votes, 5%
5.       Social Security 210 votes, 45%
6.       Education 34 votes, 7%

Meanwhile, the situation in Washington remains fluid.

U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, issued this statement late last night, echoing concerns of his House colleagues:

“Reaching a compromise is critical because failure would lead to a harmful downgrade in our nation’s credit rating, causing higher interest rates on our federal debt and putting Americans with a mortgage, car loan, student loan, or credit card at risk.  I am supporting Majority Leader (U.S. Sen. Harry) Reid’s compromise proposal that would protect our nation’s credit rating by eliminating the possibility of default through the end of 2012 and making needed cuts, while protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, programs seniors and other vulnerable citizens are depending on for survival.  While I would have preferred a bill that included increases in revenues as well as cuts, I commend the Majority Leader for working in good faith to reach a compromise.”

Expertise

July 26th, 2011
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The state Attorney General’s office is turning to a private attorney who represented the University of Hawaii when it tried to implement its “last, best and final” contract offer on faculty in 2010 to help defend the state’s decision to implement a similar offer on teachers.

The AG has asked for a procurement exemption to pay $50,000 to Robert Katz, who the state says has unique expertise. Katz represented UH when it sought to implement a new contract after negotiations with faculty had stalled, a move challenged by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

A court never decided whether UH had the right to implement the contract because the two sides reached a settlement.

Labor experts have said the state’s decision to implement its “last, best and final” offer on the Hawaii State Teachers Association could lead to a precedent-setting legal ruling.

The AG’s office, in its procurement exemption request on Monday, acknowledged the unique nature of the issue.

In our department’s memory, the only other time this issue was the center of a controversy was when UHPA sued the State (UH) and in that case Mr. Katz was the lead attorney representing the State.

Retired

July 26th, 2011
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Patrick DeLeon, who has been an aide to U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye since the Watergate hearings in 1973, is retiring.

In a statement Tuesday, Inouye thanked his Washington, D.C., chief of staff for his service and friendship. Marie Blanco will replace DeLeon.

Dr. Patrick DeLeon is one of the most senior staff members on Capitol Hill.  He has served Hawaii and the nation since August 1973.  He is a person of extraordinary background.  He holds a PhD in psychology, a Master’s of Science in MS, and a Juris Doctorate.

Under his service, the importance of nurses, psychologists, and other health professionals was properly recognized.  He has been at the forefront of shepherding legislation related to Native Hawaiians, immigrant children, the people of the Pacific, and higher education.

He has been very active in helping our community college system become full fledged, four-year colleges.

For example, he played a major role in the establishment of the school of Pharmacy and the school of Nursing at the University of Hawaii’s Hilo campus.

I would like to personally thank Dr. DeLeon for his decades of hard work, his service to Hawaii, and most importantly, for his friendship.

Lather, rinse, repeat

July 25th, 2011
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For politicians, the fundraising never really stops. Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, elected with Gov. Neil Abercrombie in November, collected about $59,900 from January through June for the 2014 re-election campaign.

According to state campaign-finance reports, the largest source of donations — $25,000 — came from executives at Mitsunaga & Associates, an engineering firm that was a major supporter of Abercrombie’s campaign and inauguration.

Schatz spent about $39,500, including $30,00 in repaid or forgiven loans from his father, Irwin.

Common law

July 22nd, 2011
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The state, in its response Thursday to the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s prohibited practice complaint over labor talks, rejected the teachers’ contention that there was a statewide governmental policy to impose 5 percent labor savings and an equal split on health insurance premiums on all public-sector unions.

The teachers’ union has argued that such a policy would violate their constitutional right to collective bargaining.

The state contends that Gov. Neil Abercrombie did not establish such a policy, but acknowledges that the governor had spoken about his preferences for 5 percent labor savings as early as January.

The state also acknowledged that its chief negotiator, Neil Dietz, mentioned the potential for 10 percent labor savings and other consequences from a Senate budget draft during negotiations, but notes that there is no allegation that the administration controls the Legislature.

From the state’s response:

Once again, Respondent Dietz admits that he stated that a Senate budget proposal contained a 10% across the board cut, that “nasty things can happen if we let someone else control what happens” and that “we are in a better position if we reach an agreement on cost items” or words generally to that effect.

Those statements were made in a context where Respondent Dietz had also informed HSTA that the Governor had met with Senate and House leaders and personally asked them to hold off implementing any sort of 10% across the board budget cut because there were valid offers on the table with HSTA and UPW.

At the time these statements were made to HSTA the legislature was in fact in the middle of its budget reconciliation process and Dietz duly informed HSTA of this fact as well and indicated that the parties were indeed now at a “make it or break it point” with the budget.

In any event the Legislature is not a named Respondent nor is there any allegation that the named Respondents control the Legislature, a prerequisite if any action of the Legislature is to be imputed to Respondents. Accordingly, the budgetary actions of the Legislature are irrelevant to the instant complaint.

The state agrees with the teachers that the labor talks at times turned heated, such as when Dietz exclaimed: “This is serious f—–g s—t,” and hit the table with his notebook.

Respondents admit that Dietz made his feelings quite well known to the HSTA team, but Dietz denies that he needed to be “calmed down” by anyone, much less an HSTA representative.

The state claims that it had the right to implement its “last, best and final offer” because there was a “common law” impasse in addition to a statutory impasse.

From the state law:

After the fiftieth day of impasse, the parties may resort to such other remedies that are not prohibited by any agreement pending between them, other provisions of this chapter, or any other law.

Sunshine

July 20th, 2011
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The state Office of Information Practices has ruled that the state Reapportionment Commission is subject to the state’s open-meetings law.

In a July 12 advisory opinion, the OIP held that the Reapportionment Commission meets the definition of a “board” covered by the open-meetings law.

any agency, board, commission, authority, or committee of the State or its political subdivisions which is created by constitution, statute, rule, or executive order, to have supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power over specific matters and which is required to conduct meetings and to take official actions.

Deputy Attorney General Robyn Chun, the attorney for the Reapportionment Commission, had argued that the constitutional provision that created the Reapportionment Commission did not expressly provide that it be covered under the open-meetings law. She also contended that the chance that someone might sue to overturn final action by the Reapportionment Commission  under the open-meetings law would conflict with constitutional guidance that legal challenges be reviewed by the Supreme Court. She argued that the Reapportionment Commission is a part of a legislative function and, like the state House and Senate, should not have to follow the open-meetings law.

The Reapportionment Commission, however, maintains that it has been operating under the open-meetings law.

The OIP advisory, issued after a request by Common Cause Hawaii, notes that anyone can file a lawsuit against the Reapportionment Commission under the open-meetings law.

Larry Geller, a blogger at Disappeared News, has filed a complaint with the OIP alleging that the Reapportionment Commission did not provide adequate public notice before taking action on June 28 to include the military and their dependents, nonresident students and incarcerated felons in the population count for purposes of drawing state political boundaries. Geller also alleges that the commission’s technical committee, which is drafting political boundaries, is improperly meeting in private.