Archive for November, 2012

‘Desperate’ times

November 23rd, 2012

Rep. Marcus Oshiro, currently the chairman of the House Finance Committee, issued a statement Friday in response to the announcement this week that a faction of Democrats in the House planned to form a coalition with the chamber’s seven Republicans in a challenge to the leadership of Speaker Calvin Say. The new speaker would be Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki.

In his written statement, Oshiro first shot down rumors that he may leave his House seat to join the Cabinet of Mayor-elect Kirk Caldwell at Honolulu Hale.

He then addressed the leadership situation, calling Souki’s coalition a “desperate power grab”:

“It concerns me that Speaker Emeritus Souki has made an agreement with the Minority Leader to offer leadership positions to members of the Minority in exchange for votes to support his quest to be Speaker. As a life-long Democrat, I am troubled that this was not discussed with the members of his own Majority Caucus, nor have the ramifications for this maneuver been fully vetted. If this plan goes through, House Republicans will be able to run in the next election on the accomplishments of the Democrat Majority, and most important, the potential for gridlock at the committee level is heightened. This is not in the spirit of true bi-partisanship; rather, it is a desperate power grab to win the Speakership without consideration for the health and welfare of the body.

“Finally, the public should realize that the House organization is not official until the 51 members vote on an organization resolution at the start of the legislative session. There is still time to consider who is best to lead the House, and I hope Majority and Minority members will think clearly on their options.”

With the seven Republicans, Souki would have 28 votes, two more than the 26 needed to control the 51-member House.

Say says he won’t hand over the gavel until the vote on leadership occurs on Opening Day of the Legislature, Jan. 16, and state Democratic Party Chairman Dante Carpenter says he may make another appeal to members to work out their differences within the caucus and not seek GOP help.*

(*UPDATED at 2:20 p.m. to CORRECT that Carpenter only is asking members to work out leadership within the Democratic caucus, not that he favors one faction over another.)

Eye on Asia

November 23rd, 2012

U.S. Sen.-elect Mazie Hirono, the first female U.S. Senator of Asian descent, says she is looking forward to being able to visit her native Japan in her new elected position.

In an interview with The Japan Times, Hirono, who was born in Fukushima Prefecture, pledged to continue efforts to maintain strong international ties with Japan:

“I will continue to work hard to keep that friendship strong.”

“I hope to be able to visit Japan as a United States senator.”

She said she would continue efforts to promote exchanges between members of Congress and Japan’s bicameral legislature, the National Diet.

Hirono defeated former Gov. Linda Lingle to succeed U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who is retiring after his term ends next month.


November 20th, 2012

State House Republicans have agreed to organize with Rep. Joseph Souki and a dissident faction, sources say, potentially giving Souki and the dissidents the majority necessary to topple House Speaker Calvin Say.

The seven Republicans would join with at least 21 Democrats to form a coalition of 28 — two more than the 26 needed to control the 51-member House. Say’s faction represents 22 Democrats. One newly elected Democrat remains undecided.

Souki, a former speaker, negotiated the deal with House Minority Leader Aaron Johanson, sources say.

Sources say Republicans could receive the vice chairmanships of three committees — including the House Finance Committee, which could have a Republican and a Democratic vice chairman — under the agreement.

Two years ago, Republicans had sided with Say in a leadership battle with Democrats, giving the speaker the leverage to hold off a challenge.

Dante Carpenter, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, had urged House Democrats in a letter last week not organize with Republicans. He said the net result would create a “super-minority” among the seven Republicans while disenfranchising Democrats on the losing end.

Vice chairman

November 20th, 2012

State Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, the only Republican in the Senate, will serve as vice chairman of the newly formed Senate Economic Development and Housing Committee.

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D, Wheeler-Wahiawa-Schofield) is the committee’s chairman.

Slom (R, Diamond Head-Kahala-Hawaii Kai) said the post would not temper his opposition to Dela Cruz initiatives such as the Public Land Development Corp. and transit oriented development. He said he was initially surprised that Senate leadership offered him the position. He said he also spoke with Dela Cruz.

He reminded me that, in fact, we did have a lot of things in common that we had supported or had spoken up for.  And so I said, well, if that’s the situation I’m fine with it and I look forward to working with you.

I respect anybody that has strong views, which he does, and also the right to debate those views in public. So I’m looking forward to that role and being able to do that. And he brought me a pumpkin pie today, so I think that’s a good beginning.

Job openings

November 16th, 2012

Mayor-elect Kirk Caldwell is planning for the transition that will come Jan. 2, when he takes over the top city job from outgoing Mayor Peter Carlisle.

Those preparations include filling out his new Cabinet.

Caldwell on Friday announced he was accepting applications for director and deputy director positions in various city departments.

From his news release:

Interested parties must submit a resume with appropriate references to: Caldwell Headquarters, 1130 N. Nimitz Hwy., #A151, Honolulu, HI 96817, Attn: Transition Committee. All submissions must be received by U.S. Postal mail by December 7, 2012. Hand delivered or electronically submitted resumes will not be accepted. Applicants who are selected for an interview will be notified by mail or phone by December 31, 2012. Due to the large number of anticipated responses, if applicants are not considered for the position, they will not be notified.

A campaign spokeswoman said further details on Caldwell’s transition and inauguration were not yet available

Carlisle last week issued a letter of thanks to city employees for their work during his two years in office.

From the letter:

To the City and County Ohana,

The election is over and it is truly time to come together to ensure we have a smooth transition to the new administration. I ask you to join me in this effort. The citizens of the City and County of Honolulu (the “City”) deserve no less.

I also want to take this opportunity to say “Thank You” for your dedication to the City and the public we serve. When I entered this job, I asked you to join me in working on a City that would be affordable, strong and safe for current and future generations. Goals such as these can only be met through the efforts of each team member working harder, smarter and doing the right thing whether or not it is popular. You did just that. Together, all City employees made strides towards meeting these goals.

I am particularly proud of our efforts toward meeting goals of fiscal responsibility during the great recession, which is critical to the security of future generations, and our steadfast commitment to build rail. It is the catalyst that will transform Honolulu into the lean, clean, smart city of the future it is destined to become.

It has been and still is my honor and privilege to serve with you.

Mahalo and Aloha,

Peter B. Carlisle


Full circle

November 16th, 2012

Dante Carpenter, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, has sent a letter to state House Democrats urging them not to turn to the seven Republicans in the chamber to settle a leadership impasse.

House Speaker Calvin Say and Rep. Joseph Souki and a dissident faction have divided the House’s 44 Democrats over who should control the chamber.

Carpenter argued that the net result of turning to the Republicans would be that half of the Democrats would be empowering a “super-minority” of Republicans at the expense of the other Democrats.

My concern is that the result of many hundreds of campaign volunteers, thousands of volunteer hours, out-of-pocket expenses, etc., will have been ignored. These combined efforts that produced a huge turnout which helped ensure success for nearly every Democratic Party Candidate, clearly affirmed the desire for Democratic leadership in the House. To cater to the Republican super-minority would fly-in-the-face of the wishes of the electorate and could be problematic going forward!

As an equally disastrous outcome, the voting public could become quickly disillusioned and disenchanted with the leadership, or lack thereof, for not finding common ground and pursuing a course of objectivity as a function of the DPH Platform, i.e., action to benefit those voters’ needs versus the individual personalities and vanities of certain elected officials.

Carpenter, of course, was famously part of Senate President Dickie Wong’s Democratic-Republican Coalition in 1981. Former Gov. Ben Cayetano — who was then a senator in Wong’s faction with Carpenter and now-Gov. Neil Abercrombie — described the coalition in his autobiography as a “milestone in Hawaii politics.”

Wong turned to Republicans to obtain the 13 votes necessary to organize the Senate after Democrats were deadlocked at 10 to 7.

Cayetano wrote that establishment Democrats — like Carpenter is doing today — criticized Wong’s move.

I was unmoved by the criticism. There were enough examples to show that, when it suited their purpose, the Democratic establishment was willing to cross party lines to help Republicans defeat Democrats.

`Today guns are cool’

November 15th, 2012

The National Rifle Association has two enemies: politicians such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and video games.

“I’m not sure which is worse,” David Keene, the NRA’s president, told gun enthusiasts at the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ hunter education center on Tuesday. “I know which one I wouldn’t want to spend more time with. But I’m not sure which is worse.”

Bloomberg, the co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, wants stronger restrictions on gun sales to discourage gun violence. The popularity of video games that offer realistic urban gangster and military warfare experiences can keep young people away from shooting ranges and hunting.

Keene’s adversaries reflect the dual purpose of the NRA, which is to protect Second Amendment rights while preserving shooting sports through education and conservation.

Keene said the Virginia-based interest group, which has 4 million members nationwide, spent about $30 million on political advocacy before the elections. The NRA did not achieve its goal of defeating Hawaii-born President Barack Obama or establishing a clear gun-friendly majority in the U.S. Senate, but kept a pro-gun majority in the U.S. House.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in landmark rulings in 2008 and 2010, held that people have a fundamental right under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms for self-defense and that the right extends to states and cities. The court rulings limit the government’s ability to restrict gun ownership.

But Keene said he does not believe that the growth in shooting sports, driven mainly by women drawn to guns for self-defense, is because of legal or political progress.

“It’s that today guns are cool,” he said. “And that wasn’t true fifteen years ago or ten years ago or maybe even five years ago.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducts national surveys every five years, the number of people who hunted in 2011 was up 9 percent from 2006. Both hunting and fishing had previously been in decline since reaching a high point in 1991.

In Hawaii, firearm registration has hit record levels. Gun registration in 2011 was up 17.2 percent over 2010, according to the state Attorney General’s office. From 2000 to 2011, the number of guns registered in Hawaii increased by 170 percent.

Keene, who attended the Friends of NRA banquet in Kaneohe on Sunday and made other appearances in the islands, credited hunters for their role in conservation.

“Great conservation strides in this country haven’t come from tree huggers from Vermont, they resulted from the concerns and desires of hunters, who are the people who are the real conservationists in this country and always have been,” he said.

Keene, who became president of the NRA last year, is a leading conservative who was chairman of the American Conservative Union for more than a quarter century. The American Conservative Union sponsors the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of the nation’s most influential conservatives.

Keene considers Obama “an anti-gun activist” who will likely attempt to revive a federal ban on assault weapons in his second term. A 10-year ban approved under President Bill Clinton expired in 2004.

“He’s not going to win that fight,” Keene predicted. “We don’t think that either the Senate or the House is going to allow a legislative assault on the Second Amendment.”

The NRA will advocate for a federal concealed carry reciprocity law that would allow gun owners with permits in one state to carry their guns in other states with similar laws. Forty-nine states — including Hawaii, where police chiefs have the discretion over concealed carry permits — have concealed carry laws.

A concealed carry reciprocity bill was approved by the House in November 2011, but has not been adopted by the Senate. U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, both Hawaii Democrats, voted against the bill in the House.

“In order to cross the country with a firearm that may be legal when you leave your home, you need a lawyer, because it changes every few miles,” Keene said.


November 14th, 2012

C.J. Leong, the chief clerk of the state House, informed her staff on Wednesday that she has resigned and will leave her post at the end of the month.

Leong replaced longtime clerk Patricia Mau-Shimizu last December.

House Speaker Calvin Say said lawmakers would miss Leong.

C.J. has had a long and distinguished career in the House of Representatives, culminating as the House Chief Clerk.   Her service to the House, the Legislature and to the public has been stellar, and it is always difficult to lose someone of her caliber.  She started as a staff member in the House Finance Committee, served as Assistant Chief Clerk for many years, became Director of the House Majority Staff Office, and was most recently the House Chief Clerk.  Few individuals are as knowledgeable and accomplished as C.J. on the Hawaii Legislature.  It is with great respect and fondness that I thank her for her many years of public service and wish her all the best for the future.   We will miss her.


November 13th, 2012

The Public Land Development Corp. made a deliberate decision on Tuesday to allow only two of its five board members to hear public testimony on the latest draft of administrative rules.

William Aila, the director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, who serves on the board, said the PLDC received a verbal opinion from the state Office of Information Practices that all board members could attend the meeting without violating the state’s open meetings law. The law generally prohibits more than two board members from discussing matters relating to official board business outside of board meetings.

But Aila said a PLDC attorney cautioned against allowing more than two board members to attend the meeting, because someone could later allege that the administrative rules were adopted improperly. Several activists have threatened lawsuits against the PLDC.

The public hearing on Tuesday, which lasted nearly four hours, was to hear testimony on administrative rules. It was not a PLDC board meeting.

“In an abundance of caution, we decided that we would just have no more than two members here,” Aila said.


November 12th, 2012

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent more than $1.2 million in Hawaii on behalf of former Gov. Linda Lingle’s Republican campaign for U.S. Senate, did not fare well in last Tuesday’s elections.

The Washington Post reports that the chamber’s preferred candidates lost in 13 of 15 Senate races, including Virginia and Ohio, where the chamber spent the most money. In Hawaii, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, handed Lingle a 25-point defeat. The chamber spent more than any other interest group in the Hawaii Senate race.

From the Post:

Even the Chamber’s close allies agreed that this year’s record spending yielded disappointment and exposed potential rifts in the business community just as Congress begins to tackle the so-called “fiscal cliff” and related tax and spending issues.

“It is ugly,” said one veteran of Chamber campaigns, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the group.