Category Archives: Education

Former Gov. Lingle in the middle of Illinois budget standoff

Hmmm. Remember Linda Lingle? Yes, Hawaii’s Linda Lingle.

Back at the beginning of 2015, she signed on as a consultant, and chief operating officer, for newly elected Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rainer, with Lingle in tow, lost little time in that he would be tying a number of non-money items into his proposed state budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

According to a New York Times summary:

Mr. Rauner has tied passage of the budget to changes in workers’ compensation and collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees, measures that he says will help revive the Illinois economy and bring in much-needed revenue. Democratic Party leaders in the state reject those suggestions, saying that the governor is making demands that are unrelated to the budget.

And this in a state where Democrats hold super-majorities in both houses of the State Legislature.

According to Politico:

…Rauner’s agenda was nearly dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled legislature—it includes such nonstarters for Democrats as tort reform, workers compensation reform, term limits, redistricting reform, and, first and foremost, collective bargaining curbs on public employee unions. The curbs would give local governments, including school boards, the right to decide if they want to collectively bargain with workers and which benefits should be on the table.

The budget should have gone into effect on July 1, but the governor and legislature didn’t reach a deal. And the state is still operating without a budget as we hit the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, after several courts ordered that public employees continue to be paid despite the budget impasse, the administration has been borrowing to pay its bills.

The Huffington Post reported on a recent speech by House Speaker Michael Madigan, where he spoke about the state’s budget crisis.

Here’s an excerpt of Madigan’s speech, as reported by the Huffington Post:

This goes right to the heart of the difference of opinion between myself and the governor. .. The history of the American government prior to 1933 was pretty much to remain out of the business of managing the economy. The beginning of 1933 with the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, there was a dedicated effort by the federal government to in effect manage the economy and to work always to create jobs, to raise wages, to raise the standard of living. That has obtained through both Democrat and Republican administrations. … That’s been the policy of this country for all of these years and that’s where I say I don’t think any government should be in the business of lowering wages and the standard of living. The responsibility upon the government is to move in the opposite direction. To do what the government can do and do well – raise wages on a continuing basis and maintain a good standard of living for everybody in the country.

Among those hardest hit by the budget stalemate have been social service agencies, who are not being paid and are having to suspend staff and programs as reserves are depleted, and the clients they work with across the state of Illinois.

Steve Brown, spokesman for the House Speaker, had a bit to say about Lingle, according to Politico.

— Brown suggested — and we’ve heard whispers of this in the past — that Lingle’s hiring had something to do with ties to a close Rauner adviser and strategist Nick Ayers and “dark money” that flowed from groups tied to him and attacked Lingle opponents. Background on that here: http://bit.ly/1RSlisr. Ayers is a Georgia-based political operative and past head of the Republican Governors Association.

— Ayers’ Target Enterprises, which handles campaign ads, was one of the biggest payees during Rauner’s record-breaking, $65 million campaign for governor.

— An audience member asked Brown what evidence he’s seen of her work in the Legislature: Brown said so far she organized a parade for the state fair.

Well, perhaps the least fortunate are taking the brunt of cutbacks, but Lingle was in line to be paid nearly $200,000 annually. However, it isn’t clear whether the lack of a new state budget has delayed implementing her new position and salary.

Here’s what an Illinois newspaper reported back in May 2015:

The former governor of Hawaii is making more money as an aide to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner than she did when she oversaw the Aloha State.

Rauner’s office, along with payroll records filed this week by the Illinois comptroller, show Linda Lingle will receive $60,000 for a state contract running from April to June. After that, she will go on the state payroll as an employee with an annual salary of $198,000.

In 2010, during her final of eight years as governor in Hawaii, Lingle was paid $117,306.

And so it goes for our former governor.

Another visit to Kaaawa (photo)

Kaaawa, HawaiiWe spent the night with friends in Kaaawa again, and started today with a walk on our former beach out in Kaaawa. We did manage to visit with a number of our former daily dogs, as well as some of their people. We was a pleasure, as always.

There is still something very special about Kaaawa, that’s for sure.

And we did walk past our former house. Renovations are still underway there, it seems. We’re looking forward to seeing what the new owners are doing.

But the upshot is that I won’t have much of a blog post for today, since I’m getting such a late start at the computer. But I did want to share this photo, taken just as the sun rose.

Another gorgeous day.

And if you have access to Civil Beat, do check out my column about the UH Cancer Center and its former director. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback already. See “Ian Lind: Has UH Adequately Addressed Cancer Center’s Sticky Issues? Former director Michele Carbone was often an expert defense witness in asbestos cases and sought UH grants from a frequently sued company. Conflict of interest?

I’ll have more on this issue over the next couple of days.

Gov. Ige offers no aid for dealing with UH athletics deficit

Did you catch Star-Advertiser sports writer Ferd Lewis’ article which got Governor David Ige on record about funding for UH athletics? See “Gov. Ige will let UH athletics figure out its financial future.”

That’s a pretty slick, giving the governor’s position sort of a pro-autonomy spin.

I might have written the headline in less favorable and perhaps more accurate terms: “Governor turns his back on Hawaii football fans.”

Here’s sort of the guts of the story:

“It is a matter of setting priorities,” Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Editorial Board Friday.

As a legislator, Ige said, “We granted the university the flexibility to decide what their priorities are within the funds that we give to them and I expect that they do that. If they decide that athletics should be a priority, I think they should decide that.”

And the unstated follow-up? The governor seems to be saying that if it UH officials decide that athletics is a priority, “I think they should fund that.”

The problem with that perspective is that university officials from the president on down have been signaling their clear position on priorities. Few universities, including UH, have self-sustaining athletic programs. They require broader public support if they are going to compete with even modest success in sports like football.

And, as so many have noted, UH athletics plays a more prominent role in the state because there’s no local pro or semi-pro team for the public to follow.

So there’s likely a disconnect between the university’s priorities and the state’s priorities. No mystery there. And it’s increasingly obvious that the university can’t justify giving athletics the necessary financial priority to allow its football team to compete without beggaring the educational mission, at least not without substantial additional outside assistance.

Ige apparently wants to wash his hands of UH athletics without appearing to do so by just tossing the decision to the university leadership. But that leadership has already spelled out in pretty clear terms what the consequences of the lack of state support will mean. Maybe dropping out of Division 1 football into a lower tier, perhaps ending football altogether.

Neither would be the end of the world, but in the world of Hawaii politics, it’s disingenuous to say this would or should be purely an internal UH decision.

Ige went on to say that he stopped going to UH football games when the prices were raised in a search for increased revenues. That seems like a pretty clear statement of the governor’s own priorities.

I frankly don’t know what the right decision is. But don’t let the governor get away with saying it’s all someone else’s decision, and by implication someone else’s fault.

Plan to address UH athletic deficit draws quick pushback

The University of Hawaii at Manoa athletic program aired a plan last week for dealing with its chronic deficit, but the plan is already getting push back from at least one key constituency, the students.

Last Friday, the newspaper reported athletic director David Matlin’s budget presentation to the Board of Regents (“How the University of Hawai’i at M?noa Athletic Department wants to balance its budget“).

Matlin laid out a plan to raise over $14 million in new annual revenues over the next four years. He identified several potential sources.

UH Athletics’ Initiatives: $4.7 million

Student Fees’ Increase: $1.7 million

Direct Legislative Support: $5.5 million

Increased UH Institutional Support: $2.3 million

The proposal would double the current student athletic fee from $50 to 100 per semester. And the additional “institutional support” would also come from tuition dollars.

The story on Matlin’s proposal was posted at Kaleo.org last Friday. And on Monday, a Ka Leo editor penned this far less than enthusiastic reply with a clear message: “Dear UH Athletics, stay away from our wallets.”

Irene Fang, Ka Leo’s associate opinions editor, raised several key points, including one that nobody seems to want to talk about, “the student body’s apathy towards athletics.”

In a nutshell, Fang says, students are at UH to get an education and a college degree, and most aren’t affected by athletics.

At the same time, she argues, the financial reality is that Hawaii isn’t in a position to raise the kind of money needed to field a competitive football team. And schools that do don’t accomplish it with student money.

Mid-ranked University of Washington (UW) spent almost $30 million, as reported by PointAfter.com, which is roughly how much a university should spend on a competitive football team. However, there are no UW athletic fees. Reported by Husky Athletics, 97 percent of the athletic program is self-sustained, with the remaining three percent coming from the state. In fact, four of the top five NCAA ranked schools in Texas, Michigan, Alabama and Ohio State charge no student athletic fees, as reported by USA Today.

And given the stagnant or declining share of state revenues that have been allocated to the university system, and especially the flagship Manoa campus, in recent years, seeking additional ongoing revenues dedicated to support of the athletic program seems like a long shot, at best.

And that’s the biggest problem.

The earlier Ka Leo story quoted Matlin.

“We have no professional teams, so UH athletics is our NFL, NBA, and MLB,” he said. “When our teams are doing well and competing for national championships, the morale of the state is uplifted.”

You can’t continue to squeeze the university’s primary mission, education, in order to fund a competitive athletic program that is of primary interest to those outside the university.

So while the numbers in Matlin’s plan may add up, the politics of it don’t.

Opponents charge TMT with disrespect of the legal process

Earlier this week, the Hawaii Supreme Court issued an order effectively blocking the resumption of construction a the Thirty Meter Telescope site on Mauna Kea by temporarily lifting the permit issued by DLNR for the TMT project.

The order was in response to an emergency motion filed on Monday by the attorney for plaintiffs seeking to block the TMT project from proceeding. You can read the emergency motion and supporting documents here.

The motion seems relatively thin on substance. It consists of a repetitious review of the legal history of the case, and accuses the TMT of a “blatant disregard and disrespect of the legal process” by attempting to take any steps prior to the court’s pending decision on the lawsuit challenging the original decision by DLNR to issue a permit for the TMT.

The matter was a little complicated, because the project is actually being built by the TMT Observatory International Corporation, made up of a consortium of institutions sponsoring the telescope. The corporation was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, so the court couldn’t simply order the corporation to stop any work. The workaround taken in the motion was to ask for the permit to be temporarily stayed, which the court agreed to do.

I have to agree that the attempt to start any work related to the project prior to the court’s ruling on the case was a mistake. It’s hard to see that several weeks would make any difference in the long run.

But one has to wonder whether “respect for the legal process” will still be the order of the day for the Mauna Kea “protectors” if the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision falls short of fully blocking the TMT from moving forward. That’s obviously going to be the next political test.