Archive for March, 2012

Good standing

March 31st, 2012
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State Democrats determined on Saturday that Laura H. Thielen, a former director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources under Gov. Linda Lingle, is not eligible to run as a Democrat for state Senate in the August primary.

The party’s state central committee voted to sustain a decision by Oahu Democrats that Thielen would not be a party member in good standing for the minimum six months required before filing as a candidate for elected office.

“It’s not one single voice making this decision,” said Dante Carpenter, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. “This is a group of people who represent the Democratic Party from throughout the entire state of Hawaii.”

Thielen, who lives in Waimanalo and described herself as a long-time Democrat, said she filled out her party card in February and intended to run in the Democratic primary in state Senate District 25, which covers Waimanalo and Hawaii Kai. The filing deadline for candidates this year is in early June, since the primary was moved up to August to accommodate a federal law that protects overseas and military voters.

State Sen. Pohai Ryan, a Democrat in her first term, represents the district.

Thielen said she was looking at her options but is not inclined to accept the party’s decision. The party’s constitution allows for exceptions to the “good standing” rule for candidates who apply for party membership less than six months before the filing deadline. Oahu Democrats and the state central committee declined to grant Thielen an exception.

“It appears that there is an attempt by many of the party’s leaders, especially on Oahu, to pre-select who voters can vote for to represent them,” she said.

Thielen, a former state school board member, was an advocate for Lingle’s failed attempt to break up the state Department of Education into local school districts with elected school boards. She was chosen by the Republican governor as the director of the state Office of Planning and then as the director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Thielen is the daughter of state Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua-Kaneohe), who is well regarded by many Democrats for her stances on environmental protection and social issues such as civil unions. Laura Thielen managed her mother’s unsuccessful campaign against U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, in 2006.

Thielen has donated money to her mother’s and to Lingle’s campaigns but she said she has never been a Republican. She said she wanted to run for state Senate this year after seeing proposals in the Legislature to weaken environmental protection and government transparency.

“I have never been a member of the Republican Party. I have declined offers to join the Republican Party,” she said. “I have always identified myself as a Democrat.”

Democrats, who have dominated Hawaii politics since the 1950s, have overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate and hold the governor’s office and the state’s congressional delegation.

Over the past several years, the party has welcomed new members – state Sen. Mike Gabbard and state Rep. Karen Awana – who had been elected as Republicans but wanted to switch parties.

Democrats have embraced a “big tent” philosophy, but many of the party’s activists have been concerned that Democratic candidates and elected officials have not been faithful to the party’s platform. Some Democrats have also wanted to close the party’s primaries to party members only to prevent independents and Republicans from influencing the party’s selections.

The “good standing” rule allows the party to screen candidates and prevent potential abuses. For example, Lingle appointed Bev Harbin to fill a Democratic vacancy in the state House in 2005, and it was later discovered that Harbin had just joined the party to qualify for the appointment and that she owed back state taxes and had misdemeanor criminal convictions for writing bad checks.

“The Democrats have felt that people were just becoming opportunists to join the party or run in the party because they thought that they couldn’t win if they ran and they didn’t have a `D’’ by their names,” said Lynne Matusow, an Oahu Democrat who serves on the state central committee.

Non-public forum

March 30th, 2012
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State Senate staffers are still smarting over the state’s $100,000 settlement with Mitch Kahle — an atheist activist — for a scuffle after Kahle was forcibly removed from the Senate gallery for protesting an invocation on the last day of session in April 2010.

Kahle, who was acquitted of disorderly conduct, filed a federal lawsuit that included claims the Senate staff violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Kevin Hughes, an ally of Kahle’s who recorded the incident on video and was caught up in the scuffle, was also part of the lawsuit.

Senate staffers countered that Kahle had no First Amendment right to speak because the Senate chamber is a non-public forum.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi, in a January ruling, agreed that the Senate chamber is not a public forum. But that does not necessarily mean that protesters such as Kahle have no free speech rights.

From the ruling:

The Court takes judicial notice pursuant to Fed. R. Evid. 201(b)(1) and (c)(1) of the nature of the proceedings that occur in the Senate Chambers while the Senate is in session and finds that it is a non-public forum. That fact, however, does not mean that Kahle had no free speech rights when he attended the session. The Ninth Circuit has recognized that:

In a nonpublic forum, our scrutiny is less exacting: “In addition to time, place, and manner regulations, the State may reserve the forum for its intended purposes, communicative or otherwise, as long as the regulation on speech is reasonable and not an effort to suppress expression merely because public officials oppose the speakers’s view.” [Perry Educ. Ass’n v. Perry Local Educators’ Ass’n, 460 U.S. 37,] 46, 103 S. Ct. 948 [(1983)]. Such sparing treatment stems from the oft-recognized principle that the “First Amendment does not guarantee access to property simply because it is owned or controlled by the government.” Id. (quoting [United States Postal Serv. v. Council of] Greenburgh [Civic Ass’ns], 453 U.S. [114,] 129, 101 S. Ct. 2676 [(1981)]); see also Int’l Soc’y for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 505 U.S. 672, 678, 112 S. Ct. 2701, 120 L. Ed. 2d 541 (1992); United States v. Kokinda, 497 U.S. 720, 725, 110 S. Ct. 3115, 111 L. Ed. 2d 571 (1990) (plurality op.).

Under this analysis, the primary issues relevant to Kahle’s free speech claims are: whether Kahle was ejected from the Senate Chambers pursuant to a complete, content-neutral ban on public speech during the Senate session; and whether that ban was reasonable. The allegations in the First Amended Complaint and the representations in the parties’ filings in connection with the instant Motion reveal that there are disputed issues of material fact on these issues, and the Court cannot say that the State Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Kahle’s free speech claims.

Frankly

March 29th, 2012
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U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., a fiery progressive, will appear in Hawaii in April for U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono’s Democratic primary campaign for U.S. Senate.

Frank, who is not seeking another term, is a leading liberal voice nationally.

Both Frank and Hirono are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Frank is expected in the islands on April 13.

Hirono is facing former congressman Ed Case in the Democratic primary. Former Gov. Linda Lingle is the top Republican candidate.

Called out

March 28th, 2012
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The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has called on former Gov. Linda Lingle to resign from the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, one of the Republican groups that plan to target President Barack Obama and Democrats nationally in this year’s elections.

The coalition is among several groups working in alliance with Karl Rove, a Republican strategist and former adviser to President George W. Bush, according to a story Tuesday in Politico.

From Matt Canter, a spokesman for the DSCC:

This is a partisan organization that aims to support Karl Rove and launch millions in negative attacks against President Obama and Democrats across the country. If Linda Lingle’s rhetoric about ‘partisanship’ really matched reality, she would cut ties with the hyper-partisan organization and step down from its Board of Directors. Instead, Linda Lingle refuses tell Hawaii residents why she is heavily involved with the hyper-partisan group that’s helping fund Karl Rove’s negative, partisan attacks.

Democrats have sought to tie Lingle to controversial national figures in the GOP such as Rove and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The tactic is intended to undermine Lingle’s claim that she would take a bipartisan approach if elected to the U.S. Senate. U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former congressman Ed Case are the Democratic candidates.

*Update: Lenny Klompus, a Lingle adviser, said Lingle would continue to participate in the Republican Jewish Coalition. He described the Democrats’ message as misleading:

The repeated attacks launched by the DSCC in the past 24 hours are both misleading and disingenuous. Matt Canter, the squeaky wheel of the DSCC, is calling the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) a hyper-partisan organization, but fails to recognize that his very actions are as hyper-partisan as they come.

Governor Linda Lingle has always run as a Republican in her more than 30 years of elected public office. She was a fellow Governor with former Governor Palin. And, Gov. Lingle is in fact a member of the RJC because she agrees with their pro-Israel policies. All of these relationships have been well known and documented, never hidden in the shadowy connections that opponents would like the public to believe. Knowing all this, Hawaii voters, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent have consistently chosen Governor Lingle as their elected leader in local, county and statewide offices.

In 2006, Hawaii voters were not blinded by the partisan rhetoric of organizations like the DSCC, and the people of Hawaii re-elected Governor Linda Lingle as their state’s chief executive with 63% of the vote, winning in all 51 house districts, the largest margin of victory in state history – an accomplishment that has never been achieved by any other candidate of either political party.

Judging by the lack of depth of the candidate the DSCC is supporting in the Hawaii U.S. Senate race, it’s clear that they must put all their effort into distracting voters from the fact that their candidate simply cannot compare with Governor Lingle’s issues-based campaign and her proven record of results. Effective leaders like Governor Lingle don’t need to stoop to the level of the DSCC and their henchman like Canter. The fact is that Governor Lingle’s record does match reality, and the DSCC doesn’t know how to deal with a leader like Linda Lingle.

New GOP executive

March 27th, 2012
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Still basking in the success of attracting more than 10,000 members to its first Hawaii Republican presidential caucus, the state Republican Party has announced a new executive director.

Nacia Lee Blom, a Waimea High graduate and long-time supporter and member of the state GOP, was announced as new executive director in an email from state party Chairman David Chang.

From Chang’s email, sent Monday:

She attended college in the mainland and after a few years of teaching in North Carolina and Virginia, she returned home to Kauai to teach. She later re-located to Honolulu, where she became involved first through fund-raising and grassroots organizing with a local non-profit, and later as a part of my  campaign.  Most recently, Nacia was responsible for logistics and coordination on an Iowa Bus Tour, where she had the opportunity to work with (and meet) many of the republican presidential candidates.

Blom succeeds Dylan Nonaka, who stepped down as executive director last July to start his own political and public affairs consulting firm, the Kahua Group.

Pet causes

March 23rd, 2012
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Social media has a greater role in political campaigns than ever before.

In the race for Hawaii’s open U.S. Senate seat, at least two of the candidates have taken their social media campaigns to, well, the dogs. (And cats.)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Gov. Linda Lingle have unveiled rival Facebook pages for the pet lover demographic. (A Google search did not turn up a similar page for former U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who also is in the race.)

Here, the links to the Hirono and Lingle pages:

Adequacy

March 22nd, 2012
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With little drama, the House Judiciary Committee advanced today a proposal that would give the Office of Hawaiian Affairs greater flexibility to develop high-rise apartments on two Kakaako parcels.

After hearing the measure Tuesday, Judiciary Chairman Gil Keith-Agaran said the bill might not pass out of his committee based on all of the testimony in opposition. Community activists who oppose residential development near the Kakaako waterfront urged lawmakers to scrap the proposal, arguing that it complicates passage of the $200 million settlement between the state and OHA.

Said Keith-Agaran (D, Kahului-Paia):

“I believe this bill is really more a vehicle for continued discussion regarding the adequacy of the settlement. … This gives the public a little bit more chance to talk about whether or not they agree that the $200 million in property that are part of the transaction between the (Abercrombie) administration and OHA is adequate.

“I understand that people do not like the content of this bill, but I believe it is a vehicle for discussion. I would ask that we go ahead and move it forward and we’ll see if it makes it off the floor whether or not Finance (Committee) will hear it.”

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and OHA officials have testified they neither support nor oppose the bill, only that they do not wish it to hang up passage of the overall settlement proposal.

`Green roofs’

March 22nd, 2012
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Thursday shared his vision for urban redevelopment in Kakaako, a blend of residential, commercial and recreational uses that he hopes will evolve into a national model.

As the governor was about to wrap up his luncheon address at the Plaza Club, Nancie Caraway, his wife, rushed to the podium to whisper some advice.

“And green roofs,” Abercrombie said with a chuckle. “I can assure you there will be green roofs, because when I wake up, the first thing the person on my immediate left tells me in the morning is not `Good morning, dear.’ It’s `green roofs.’ It’s what I hear.”

Part VI

March 21st, 2012
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The state Office of Environmental Quality Control is not the only state agency to oppose a state House draft that would give the governor and county mayors the ability to exempt state and county construction projects from environmental review if the projects would have minimal impact on the environment.

The bill, meant to help boost the construction industry, would also relax the special management area review process for state projects.

The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs warned House lawmakers that the bill “could result in irreversible impacts or costly remediation measures in the future.”

The Office of Planning strongly opposed the bill, which would make the office temporarily responsible for processing all special management area permit applications for all state projects. In written testimony, Jesse Souki, the director of the Office of Planning, wrote that the bill would “set OP up for failure, risk federal funding, detract from the effectiveness of the (Coastal Zone Management) program to plan for and manage the sustainable use of Hawaii’s coastal resources, and raise the specter of liability for OP and the state.”

But the state Department of Transportation believes the bill will allow the department to implement projects in a more timely and efficient manner.

The Building Industry Association of Hawaii , the General Contractors Association of Hawaii, and the Land Use Research Foundation of Hawaii also supported the bill.

Environmental and conservation groups, which have led the opposition, asked lawmakers not to to weaken regulatory oversight of state construction.

“This bill is based on a misconception: that we can spur economic development by temporarily removing rules for construction of certain state and county projects,” Mary Steiner, the chairwoman of the state Environmental Council, said in written testimony. “The rules are needed to ensure wise planning and to protect the environment and our unique cultural heritage.”

The House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee and the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee delayed action on the bill until Thursday morning.

Maine course

March 20th, 2012
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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, will appear at a fundraising luncheon in April for former Gov. Linda Lingle’s Republican campaign for Senate.

Lingle has cited Collins, a moderate, as an example for the kind of bipartisan path she would take if elected.

The April 12 luncheon is scheduled at the Sheraton Waikiki’s Kauai ballroom.

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former congressman Ed Case are the Democratic candidates for Senate.