Monthly Archives: January 2008

Thursday…Reporting on the ferry, Turtle Bay debated, etc.

Larry Geller ( makes a good point. Although our news media interviewed lots of Superferry passengers when the service started up, there has been little probing into the problems faced by passengers now stranded by the ferry’s inability to operate in rough weather.

Real, individual lives are negatively impacted by cancellations and no doubt some businesses too.

The best summary I’ve seen appeared in this insightful observation by Maui resident Karen Anderson:

I really want to hear the passenger stories on this one. Sail over for the weekend and get stranded for five days! What to do? Spend big bucks on accommodations and just wait it out? Or book a last-minute flight for big bucks and leave your car behind, then rent a car when you get home so you can get around? Then wait for your car to arrive on the next non-canceled voyage, but be sure to bring someone with you because you’ll have to drop off your rental car on the way. Jeeze… thank god Superferry really goes out of its way to help, what with the 5% rental car discount!!

Many of us have experienced airplane flight cancellations. But at least your car isn’t in limbo also. After reading Karen’s email, I had a greater appreciation for the major hassle faced by anyone taking their vehicle on the ferry and not being able to get it back. And what if it’s a business truck loaded with tools?

The newspapers wrote about all the happy passengers, but who is checking into the inconvenience caused by the numerous cancellations? :) —> :(

And the news yesterday that the Coast Guard grounded the ferry until repairs are made on the rudder system is certainly another setback. It isn’t clear that it will actually add to the weather delays, but it certainly further deflates the “Super” part of the image the company has tried to project.

Dave Shapiro and I both offered opinions on Gov. Lingle’s Turtle Bay preservation proposal. Dave column in yesterday’s Advertiser was kindler and gentler than my piece in the current Honolulu Weekly. To be clear, though, I would favor Lingle’s idea. I think everyone who lives between Kaaawa and Haleiwa realizes how much the projected resort development out there would impact our own communities, and not for the better. But the problem I have is that the governor and her political team have specialized in trying to box in legislative Democrats by creating unrealistic and contradictory public expectations. Now, when she floats an idea I could support, it becomes impossible to tell whether its just another cynical political trap or a real proposal we can rally behind.

Here’s an excerpt from my longer Weekly column:

Early in her speech, Lingle called attention to falling tax revenue estimates that have dropped by $353 million, while proposing a supplemental budget that boosts planned spending another another $307 million. Given that $660 million swing, she properly warned that government simple doesn’t have the resources to do everything or respond to every community problem. So far, so good.

But just minutes later she let loose with her breathtaking Turtle Bay idea that some say could cost another $500 million, without commenting on the obvious clash of perspectives.

Which is the “real” Lingle, the one who suggested lowered public expectations about the ability of a cash-strapped government to solve problems, or the lady bountiful calling for tax cuts and environmental first strikes?

Will the real Lingle stand up? Is she the one using the state of the state to urge personal responsibility, saying the idea also means “government agencies admitting mistakes and working to fix the system”?

Or is it the other Lingle, the one who staunchly backed her Department of Transportation after it managed to turn the Superferry launch in a complete debacle, all the while saying the department had done everything exactly right?

Is the real Lingle the one who advises admitting mistakes or the one who stonewalled the public and the press after Bob Awana, her top appointee and chief of staff, resigned under a cloud as the result of a sexual blackmail episode which, at least by some accounts, involved extracurricular activity during official state travel?

It was just a coincidence that my Weekly column appeared the same day that the Star-Bulletin reported on the failure of a move to disclose documents from the extortion case involving former Lingle chief of staff Bob Awana.


This was the view from the beach in Kaaawa yesterday morning, between blasts of wind and rain that sent us scurrying to the back roads for a while before venturing back out to the water.

Wednesday…Opposition to development, pawning the stadium off on the university, and a UH procurement challenge

Last week it was Turtle Bay drawing attention because of strong opposition to development. Last night it was people in Hawaii Kai standing up to keep hotel-cabins from being built under the guise of “vacation cabins”, a category certainly never intended to include hotel use. Then there are neighbor island residents saying that if the state’s going to protect areas from development, they should be in line for protection as well. The reaction to the Superferry. All pointing to a widespread and visceral public demand to look beyond the latest speculative schemes to how we can protect natural areas from simply going to the highest bidder for the most lucrative use. This is probably something that isn’t going to be successfully done county by county, but I’m not aware of a vehicle being talked about during the current legislative session. Anybody have a more informed sense of this?

Saddle the UH with the stadium? Are people demented? UH has a top tier baseball stadium, and the campus arena is nothing to sneeze at. Do they automatically translate into more income and better team performances? Obviously not. The danger, it seems to me, is that the well know problems of the stadium will become another huge money pit that devours resources without doing a thing for the University’s primary product, its academic offerings. West Oahu is already killing the system. Then there’s the maintenance backlog. The medical school. Throwing the stadium into the mix would undoubtedly end up dragging the whole system into permanent financial crisis. If it would be such a great business, let’s sell the thing, or at least the right to operate it, and let private investors take the risks.

Speaking of UH, Honolulu attorney David B. Rosen delivered a 22 page broadside to the House and Senate higher education committees on Monday spelling out a legal argument that the current solicitation for a general contractor to begin Phase I of the West Oahu campus on a design-build contract is illegal because it sidesteps competitive bidding.

Rosen represents Nan, Inc., a contractor that has done a number of large projects. Rosen says UH has routed the West Oahu procurement through the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii (RCUH) which is exempted from most of the state’s procurement requirements.

But Rosen argues that state law:

…expressly limits the “management and other services” that the University may contract out to the RCUH to those relating to “research and training activities.” It expressly states: “Contracts by the university with the research corporation pursuant to this section shall be limited to sponsored research and training projects.”

Nowhere, Rosen says, is there a mention of construction contracting.

“At the same time,” Rosen writes, “nothing in the RCUH’s authorizing legislation designated that entiy as the procurement officer for the University of Hawaii or allowed the University to dispense with the requirements of the (procurement) Code by simply having RCUH contract to perform construction contracting services, which have nothing to do with the RCUH’s underlying mission.”

The problem with the process, according to Rosen, is that RCUH intends to first choose a contractor for a small segment of the job, and then negotiate the much larger future phases with that single contractor. This approach provides little, if any, opportunity for the kind of competition that could control costs. Rosen says a similar appraoch for the new medical school “appears to have resulted in significant cost overruns related to that project.”

In a cover memo, Rosen noted: “Prior to involving you, I have already attempted to discuss this matter with the attorneys for the two state agencies involved in this procurement. Unfortunately, I have received no response from them.”

A reader who went to the Ethics Commission web site to look at financial disclosures asks what the letters used to indicate value mean. My advice: Return to the Ethics Commission site, click on the link for forms and instructions, and then look at the instructions for the financial disclosures. This lists out the value ranges associated with each of the letters.

Tuesday…two high profile departures, Congressional hearing on PEG access, sunshine bill up for hearing, etc.

Coming and going…well, mostly going. Yesterday word was spreading that the Department of Education and longtime spokesman Greg Knudsen have parted ways. No clue about the circumstances. Then news came that former newsman Ron Mizutani has resigned from Hawaiian Telcom just after he had to announce the company’s layoffs of dozens of managers.

Later this morning, FreePress Action Network will be blogging live from Congressional hearings on public, educational, and governmental programming (PEG). The hearing is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST. Former Akaku executive director and Honolulu Community Media Council member Sean McLaughlin is expected to be part of the festivities.

A few days before Christmas, the Washington Times reported that China’s intelligence services had set up a company in Hawaii to offer translation services and ended up landing a contract that gave them inside access to secret U.S. facility here on Oahu. I mentioned it here on December 29. And the Advertiser got around to mentioning the Washington Times report as a brief item way down at the bottom following a story by William Cole. There was no indication in the ‘Tizer’s telling that the news item was a little stale.

House Bill 2583, scheduled to be heard by the House Higher Education Committee this afternoon at 2:40 p.m., would prevent a repeat of the UH Board of Regents move last summer in which they held a meeting and discussed budget issues in code, referring to documents that were not available to the public.

The Office of Information Practices advised back in 1991 that documents which might otherwise be privileged must be made public if cited and used in a public meeting. The proposed bill tries to write that into law, although only as it applies to the Board of Regents.

Here’s the description of the bill:

Denies the University of Hawaii the use of the deliberative process privilege in closing an agency meeting to the public. Specifies that the deliberative process privilege does not cover meetings related to the budget of the University of Hawaii. Requires the University of Hawaii to disclose beforehand the range of proposed compensation to executives, including head athletic coaches. Extends annual salary reporting requirement to include salaries of head athletic coaches.

No one asks me about these things, but in my view an easier way to accomplish the same thing, and to make it apply more generally to all agencies and not simply limited to the Board of Regents, would be to amend
Section 92F-12, to add documents used by a board in a public meeting to the list of documents required to be disclosed. This could include all documents submitted to the board on any agenda item, including recommendations, reports, etc. This approach would be much cleaner and more straight forward than the current approach of HB2583.

Meanwhile, I’m back in computer hell after discovering that the solution to one problem–removing many gigabytes of photos that Adobe Lightroom had mistakenly written into a hidden directory on my MacBook Pro laptop–apparently created a bigger problem by causing Lightroom to cease functioning. I have a love-hate relationship with this program, which I’ve come to rely on for handling digital photos. I love the way it works, but this is the second time that it’s complex internal indexing has failed.

Monday…homeless evictions, a shield for reporters, and two Sunday views

I had trouble reading the Advertiser’s story on the upcoming beach evictions in Nanakuli. I agree with the sentiment that the beaches should be available to all, and know that we bristle when temporary encampments appear on the beach in Kaaawa.

But the story makes clear that there are no alternatives available to be offered to those now facing eviction or arrest.

The cleanup will be the first along the coastline since a similar, successful operation at the homeless encampment at Ma’ili Beach Park in March 2007.

But at that time there were two recently opened area emergency shelters where the homeless families could go. This time, service providers say those shelters are full and the best they can do is put the homeless on waiting lists and advise them of their options.

That looks like a huge hole in our public policy. Criminalizing people who can’t find a spot in the overheated housing market seems to be a form of unnecessary cruelty.

Leslie Wilcox’s recent interview with local musician and songwriter Paula Fuga touched on her experience living in a homeless village at Waimanalo Beach. The interview is a reminder that stereotypes of the homeless may not convey the whole story.

When you were living on Waimanalo Beach, what was it like? Did you feel deprived? Did you think, you know, ‘How come I can’t live in a house like the other kids?’ or ‘How come I don’t have the newest things?’ Anything like that?

No, not really, because before I lived on the beach, I was living with aunts and my grandparents. But we just missed — my sister and I, we just missed my mom so much that we didn’t care about living in a house. It didn’t seem like, you know, a burden or anything to live on the beach because you come home, and it’s like, there’s the ocean, you know. You get to go swimming and play with all these kids. Like I didn’t think there was anything wrong. Only when we were teased about it; that’s about it.

Let’s see. House Bill 2557 would establish a reporters’ shield law in Hawaii. As written, it would protect certain journalists against having to disclose confidential sources or produce notes or unpublished materials in most, but not all, legal proceedings.

Those eligible for this protection would include “A journalist or newscaster presently or previously employed or otherwise associated with any newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association, wire service, or radio or television transmission station or network….”

The same protections would be available to “any individual who can properly establish that the individuals has complied with and met applicable standards of journalism ethics.”

Those not eligible for protection under this bill, including most bloggers, would have to shield themselves the old fashioned way in the unlikely event of getting into this kind of legal mess. That means hiring a lawyer and using other legal arguments to fight off subpoenas, something that apparently has been happening every year, although typically behind the scenes.

Introducers of this HB2557 are a bipartisan lineup of Blake Oshiro, Kirk Caldwell, Glenn Wakai, Gene Ward, and Tommy Waters. Waters and Oshiro are chair and vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee, the sole referral for the bill, virtually guaranteeing a hearing, at which time it could face substantial amendments. However, because it only requires a single committee review, don’t expect it to come up for a hearing until bills the committee has dealt with multiple referral bills that have a tighter timetable.

There is a similar bill in the Senate, but the House bill with its weighty sponsors appears to be the most likely vehicle.

If you’ve got a fast Internet connection and a few minutes to spare, you can check out my 2007-The Movie. It’s just a rapid fire slide show of photos that appeared on this page during the past year. But take note–it’s a large Quicktiime movie file so you probably don’t want to try this on a dial-up connection.

Finally, here are a couple of photos taken yesterday morning on two ends of our morning walk at dawn. The fisherman was on the far end of the beach, while the very rural looking scene with the chickens was just around the corner from home. As usual, you can click for a larger version.

fishing chickens

Sunday…The limits of leadership by press conference, more from the ‘Tiser on Superferry decision, Dems on capital punishment, and a Black Press cat story

I was thinking yesterday about how different Gov. Lingle’s State of the State speech would have been if, instead of announcing the idea of buying the 850 acres at Turtle Bay, she had said something like this.

The financial problems experienced by the Turtle Bay Resort offer the public a unique opportunity–to bring more than 800 acres, including the majestic shoreline, into the public domain.

As soon as the foreclosure action was filed last month, I called my cabinet together to discuss the possibility of buying this very special area. Following several fruitful internal discussions, I began a series of confidential meetings with the relevant parties, including the owners and lenders, key legislative leaders, environmental organizations, North Shore and Kahuku community leaders, and directors of several large foundations who have funded similar preservation purchases in the past. Using the influence of my office, we have achieved a preliminary consensus on the feasibility of this effort and would like to make the outline of our idea public at this time.”

That would have been a display of leadership. Instead, we had another episode in which an unformed idea is dumped raw and undeveloped onto a public stage as sort of a challenge to others to step up and make it into something. I don’t think this kind of leadership by press conference can be effective in getting things done, although perhaps its an effective political tool for establishing one’s own brand and keeping it in the public eye. But those are two very different kinds of approaches. In this case, the public would have been better served by a display of real leadership in action rather than words.

Speaking of leadership, the Advertiser’s Derrick DePledge has another good story today mining state internal documents and emails for details of the decision to not demand an environmental assessment before giving the Superferry the go-ahead. Current state officials seem to be going out of their way to say that Gov. Lingle was never involved in the decision making. I suppose they think this keeps her out of the political muck. But it also presents the image of an uninvolved figurehead.

DePledge quotes a written response from Barry Fukunaga, former DOT administrator who is now Lingle’s Chief of Staff:

“No meetings regarding this or any matter relating to specific issues surrounding the development of the operating agreement, facility and systems improvements and other technical details were held with the governor.”

In any case, the Advertiser story is accompanied by scans of more of the documents which it has received, a good use of the web edition.

For those obsessively tracking developments in the presidential campaign, an Alternet story by Liliana Segura describes the pro-capital punishment positions of the leading Democrats, a very depressing read.

And here’s a cat story from a Black Press web site in BC: “Why Canada Post fears this cat“.