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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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A quick look at ethics in the news

October 21st, 2014 · 1 Comment

Time for a quick survey of ethics news from elsewhere. There’s a lot of activity out there!

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard Arrested in Ethics Case,” Wall Street Journal.

According to the indictment, Mr. Hubbard used his position as chairman of the state Republican Party to secure business for his companies, including Craftmaster Printers, a printing company, and Auburn Network, a multimedia production company.

It accuses him of using his position as a member of the Alabama House to land business for the Auburn Network from entities such as the Southeast Alabama Gas District, a public utility. And it charges him with soliciting things of value from various lobbyists.

Panel punts on ethics changes,” JournalGazette.com (Fort Wayne, IN).

The meeting was the result of an ethics investigation earlier this year into Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, who tried to sway his colleagues in a private House Republican caucus against a moratorium on new nursing homes. The bill died in the waning hours of the legislature.

He acknowledged in a statement that he has an ownership stake in Mainstreet Capital Partners, which has an interest in Mainstreet Property Group. His son, Zeke Turner, is CEO of Mainstreet Property, and his daughter, Jessaca Turner Stults, is Mainstreet’s registered lobbyist.

The business builds nursing homes. Turner claimed the construction ban would have had “no significant effect” on Mainstreet’s business model, but a report by The Associated Press said he stood to lose millions in future profits.

A House Ethics Committee review found Turner did not break the rules, which say a member with a conflict of interest cannot vote on or sponsor legislation affecting him or her personally. He did neither.

Since then, the AP reported that a company that was part of the ethics investigation was sold to an Ohio company as part of a $2.3 billion deal.

R.I. Ethics Commission takes up allegations of nepotism, improper hiring, failure to disclose,” Providence Journal.

Hodgson is the the Republican Party’s candidate for attorney general.

In September, Hodgson alleged an impropriety in the hiring by current Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, a Democrat, for awarding more than $47,000 in legal work to a sitting state legislator, Sen. William J. Conley Jr., D-East Providence.

More specifically, Hodgson, R-North Kingstown, alleged a potential violation of the provision in the state ethics code that prohibits an elected official from accepting state employment, in this case, as a lawyer representing the state against a civil lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

When asked about the allegations, Kilmartin denied any conflict or potential violation of the ethics code, based on “the very specific and specialized nature of the case” and noted that the Justice Department in April reached a “landmark” settlement with the state “that will resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act” for 3,250 Rhode Islanders.

A week ago, the state Democratic Party turned the tables on Hodgson.

On Oct. 9, the Democratic Party’s Executive Director Jonathan Boucher filed a complaint alleging that Hodgson initially failed to disclose his one-third ownership in his family’s Slocum turf farm in 2012 and 2013. The Democrats’ complaint also alleges he failed to disclose his “executive position as director and secretary of Sodco,” until he was questioned about it. He has acknowledged — and said he immediately corrected — “the minor clerical error.”

“This makes you wonder what other information he’s buried on his turf farm,” said state Rep. Joseph M. McNamara, the new chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Hodgson’s response: “This is a disgusting personal smear by a sad old politician.”

The House’s Ethics Lesson for the Senate,” New York Times editorial.

The public’s low opinion of Congress has had one good effect: It has helped to insulate the Office of Congressional Ethics from members of Congress who might privately pray for the office’s demise.

The semi-independent ethics office was created six years ago, after the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal, and has since become a credible watchdog of misbehavior by House members, who dare not abolish it, much as many of them resent its oversight. The office has built such a strong reputation of nonpartisanship and professionalism in conducting discreet preliminary investigations of accusations against House members that it stands as a powerful argument for creating a parallel office in the Senate, which has no such ethics monitor.

CalPERS board strips Priya Mathur of posts after ethics law violations,” Los Angeles Times.

The country’s richest public pension fund has stripped one of its 13 members of her posts on its board of administration after she repeatedly violated California’s political ethics laws.

Rob Feckner, board president of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, announced at a Wednesday meeting that colleague Priya Mathur no longer serves as his vice president. Mathur also lost her chairmanship of the CalPERS Pension and Health Benefit Committee and vice chairmanships of two other committees.

Feckner, however, did not remove Mathur as the fund’s representative to an international panel, Principles for Responsible Investment.

It was the second time that Mathur has been publicly disciplined by the board since first being elected as a representative of employees of public agencies that participate in the CalPERS system.

→ 1 CommentTags: General

A reader comments on today’s Star-Advertiser

October 20th, 2014 · 17 Comments

This comment in from a reader:

Front page of today’s paper is a full two page wrap around of local weather art. Photo by AP. Nothing special about the photo. When I was in college I had one professor who used to say “if you can’t make it good make it big”

Another example of a one-paper town.

The front page photo shows a woman in a yellow raincoat. As the reader comments, there is nothing at all special about the photo. And I hadn’t even noticed the fine print attribution to Associated Press.

→ 17 CommentsTags: Media

Can urban density done right work for Honolulu?

October 20th, 2014 · 10 Comments

A Seattle Times columnist reviewed a book on urban design over the weekend, and it adds a useful perspective to our noticeable popular aversion to urban density, illustrated by the opposition to dense development in Kakaako (“Ingredients that make a happy city/Urban density done right makes for happy cities, advocate says“).

The columnist, Jerry Large, spoke to Charles Montgomery, author of “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design.”

Studies show that social connection is at the heart of human happiness and well being, he said, and it’s hard to find that in a sprawling city or suburb, or sitting alone on a long commute by car, or walking beside the unbroken walls of large buildings.

Montgomery said that because his neighborhood in Vancouver, B.C., is densely populated, he can easily walk to all kinds of shops and amenities and doesn’t have to look at a schedule when he wants to take transit because a bus will always be along in a few minutes….

In a happy city, government isn’t spending lots of money on new roads or extending utilities to far reaches. Mass transit can be efficient because people are clustered together, people can drive less, which reduces pollution and the tension of long commutes and saves them money. Cities take in more money than spread-out suburbs. He said studies of productivity found that a high-density, multiuse acre in a city can bring in 100 times more sales and property taxes than an acre in a spread-out suburb. And that city acre can produce 20 times the number of jobs.

I recommend the column, and although I haven’t read the book, it looks like a perspective worth considering.

Of course, Montgomery’s romantic urbanism is not without serious critics. I’m just reading through a two-part assessment by John Muscat which appeared in New Geography (“The Illusions of Charles Montgomery’s Happy City“).

In any case, Montgomery does present a good case for urban density when done right.

We have lots of experience with density that doesn’t offer much of what Montgomery finds most appealing. Makiki is a good example, I would think. Plenty of density, not much in apparent in the the way of amenities, social resources, and good planning.

Could you retrofit Makiki with the things that Montgomery finds important? That would be an interesting experiment.

→ 10 CommentsTags: environment · Health · Planning · Politics

Comment problems prompt changes

October 20th, 2014 · 1 Comment

It should be easier to post comments here beginning this morning. After receiving several complaints from people who said they had been unable to successfully post their comments in the past few days, I deactivated the CAPTCHA anti-spam software plug-in. This had been added sometime ago in order to combat automated comment spam that was bogging down the entire site. If the comment spam issue recurs, I’ll try a different CAPTCHA solution.

In the meantime, though, you’ll find commenting somewhat streamlined. Hopefully it will all work.

If you continue to experience problems leaving comments, please email me and describe the problem. Thanks!

→ 1 CommentTags: Blogs · Computers

Wondering why the UPW endorsement was made so late

October 19th, 2014 · 3 Comments

Did you catch Friday’s announcement of UPW’s endorsement in the governor’s race?

Democratic candidate for governor Senator David Ige received an endorsement from the United Public Workers, AFSCME Local 646, which represents nearly 14,000 of Hawaii’s blue-collar workers in both the public and private sectors. UPW members are employees from local schools and hospitals to airports and correctional facilities, including EMTs, nurses, technical staff, maintenance staff, custodians, janitors, refuse collectors, heavy equipment operators and many other hardworking citizens.

“Democrat Senator David Ige has a proven track record of fighting for workers and the everyday person trying to make an honest living to support themselves and their families,” said UPW State Director Dayton Nakanelua. “Growing up in a working class family, raising a family of three plus his work in the private sector and the Legislature, make him the best candidate to improve education, expand job creation and grow Hawaii’s economy.”

The immediate question is why this endorsement is so late, with the election now just two weeks away.

I would love to know what happened in the union discussion that led to this late endorsement.

For the record, UPW endorsed Mufi Hannemann in both 2010 (for governor) and 2012 (for Congress).

Perhaps Hannemann was the union’s first choice, but they finally came to grips with polls that show he has no chance this time around.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Campaigns · Elections · Labor · Politics