Category Archives: Business

Candidate disclosures offer rare glimpse at finances

Here’s a pot of data that often gets overlooked.

I’m talking about the financial disclosures filed by candidates for state offices, including House, Senate, and Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

These aren’t as useful for those incumbents running for reelection, since their regular annual disclosures include more information.

However, the candidate disclosures are very useful for learning more about the challengers, a list which usually includes at least a few people of interest because of their roles in community groups, business, or public affairs.

In many cases, the candidate disclosure provide the only public accounting of their financial interests and business ties.

Okay, that may sound a lot like snooping. But to a reporter, or a citizen activist, information can be powerful, whether immediately or sometime in the future.

The disclosure process is administered by the State Ethics Commission, which recently published a list of candidates who have filed this year. It’s a good place to start.

Browse the list, and if you see a name of interest to you, then check the candidate disclosure database, click on the link for the person’s form, and check it out. You can save the form as a pdf for future reference.

This week in journalism news

The week started with John Oliver’s riff on the status of newspapers and journalism, which became an instant favorite among those with experience in the industry.

It is definitely worth watching, all the way through the whole 20 minutes. If you haven’t seen this yet, trust me. You won’t be sorry.

About the same time, we heard about layoffs at Oahu Publications, which owns the Star-Advertiser and MidWeek (as well as newspapers on Kauai and the Big Island). The reason given–the major cuts in print inserts by major retail chains like Macy’s.

And we probably haven’t seen the last of those advertising cuts, with this week’s announcement that Macy’s will be closing 100 of its stores, about 15% of the total.

And how about the longer term prospects? A recent NY Times story about Amazon’s future suggests a possible fundamental challenge to retail stores and, in turn, the newspapers that still rely on their advertising dollars.

Amazon, according to the NYT story, is farther along in its planning for use of delivery drones that has been previously assumed.

If Amazon’s drone program succeeds (and Amazon says it is well on track), it could fundamentally alter the company’s cost structure. A decade from now, drones would reduce the unit cost of each Amazon delivery by about half, analysts at Deutsche Bank projected in a recent research report. If that happens, the economic threat to competitors would be punishing — “retail stores would cease to exist,” Deutsche’s analysts suggested, and we would live in a world more like that of “The Jetsons” than our own.

Will retail stores drag the remnants of the newspaper industry down with them?

Perhaps they’ll also have to resort to Feline Friday’s to attract new readers!

Layoffs, “voluntary” buyouts hit Honolulu’s daily newspaper

Civil Beat reported this past week that the Star-Advertiser is cutting its staff, beginning with non-union employees.

According to CB, eight people not covered by the union contract had already been laid off.

The article doesn’t identify the fired workers, but news veteran Bob Jones used Facebook to discuss this first round of cuts.

Very strange that not a peep in the local news media about Don Chapman being out as MidWeek editor as part of that paper’s cost-containment layoffs. Longtime chief photographer Natalie Walker gone as well.

Senior editor Terri Hefner currently handling the editor-in-chief duties.
Nothing in the Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat is still running a badly dated piece about potential layoffs.

My Facebook posts seem to be the sole source of that news. Odd, yes?

The newspaper has offered a buyout package in an attempt to entice those covered by the NewsGuild/CWA contract to leave voluntarily. Terms of the buyout weren’t disclosed, but it presumably offers at least a modest premium over the contract’s basic terms, which provide for one week of severance pay for each year worked.

To further confuse the situation, the current contract covering about 100 Star-Advertiser employees is due to expire on August 31.

I would expect that there will be several longtime journalists who will take this opportunity to retire.

Oahu Publications, which owns the Star-Advertiser, also owns Midweek, as well as newspapers on Kauai and the Big Island.

Oahu Publications, in turn, is part of the network of newspapers in Canada and the U.S. owned by Black Press, mostly privately controlled by Victoria-based David Black.

Dennis Francis, publisher of Oahu Publications, blamed the job cuts on reductions in advertising by large national chains like Sears and Macy’s.

It isn’t clear whether similar cuts are going to be seen at other newspapers owned by Black Press.

Company proposes reef burials off Hawaii Kai

A company is proposing to build artificial reefs in two locations on Oahu using human remains encased in balls of concrete.

Hawaii Memorial Reefs is scheduled to present its proposal to the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board at its regular meeting tonight, Tuesday evening, July 26.

According to the meeting agenda:

A proposed seven-acre artificial reef in Maunalua Bay (“Paradise Reef”) would provide an alternative to traditional burial by incorporating cremated remains into concrete “reef balls” to serve as memorials and reef-building materials – Richard Financ,

The company is targeting Maunaloa Bay off Hawaii Kai, and another reef at Ko ‘Olina, according to its website.

There is no indication whether the company has obtained or applied for state permission to utilize these reef areas for commercial purposes.

Already, the proposal has drawn opposition from two organizations.

In written testimony, Livable Hawai‘i Kai Hui said the burial reefs are inappropriate in the heavily-used waters of Maunaloa Bay.

Traditional Hawaiian practices of canoe paddling, fishing and surfing take place in Maunalua Bay. To add an underwater cemetery to these waters is not appropriate and will interfere with these practices. Who wants to canoe paddle over an underwater cemetery?

A second organization, Aha Wahine, which describes itself as a Native Hawaiian organization registered with the Department of the Interior, cited conflicts with traditional practices and “potential harm to the bay” in opposing the proposal.

Hawaii Memorial Reefs LLC was registered to do business in Hawaii in July 2012, according to state business registration records. It was register by Richard Filanc III, who is listed a manager of the limited liability corporation.

The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board meets tonight at 7 p.m. in the Hahaione Elementary School Cafeteria.

Tough talk from a PR pro

Longtime public relations pro Kitty Lagareta posted some cogent thoughts about the PR industry and Honolulu’s current rail crisis.

She began with a link to an article from Pacific Business News published four years ago (“Honolulu rail project cutting PR budget by 70%”).

Then she continued.

Four years later, things have, unfortunately gotten much worse. I’m in the public relations business, but increasingly I prefer to call it the communications business because so many people seem to think that if you are in “PR” your job is to “spin” information to make it appear better than things really are…even some in the profession believe this is their job. Early in the rail debacle Mayor Hannemann hired a lot of “PR” people to do exactly that–spin his concept that had no valid data to support it–although, I do believe he actually did convince many of them that this project would not only be his great legacy, it would also be theirs. Many good and ethical PR people have come and gone from this project because they eventually refused to “spin” information that wasn’t true. Some, just gave up when they realized the public could no longer be fooled by pretty pictures, promises, and nice words that didn’t match the facts. In reality, the real public relations professionals are about facts and truth, they believe the public has a right to information that affects their lives whether in the public or private sectors, and they know that “spinning” is for liars and the truth always rises to the surface. Forever grateful that I’ve never been involved in this mess, although I do believe that honest, factual and transparent communications…something Mufi Hannnemann knows nothing about…would have been at least one ingredient that might have shifted the current path this train is on. If Mayor Caldwell hadn’t been mentored so thoroughly by Mufi on communications, perhaps his path would be different now, too.

[reprinted with permission]