Ige withdraws Ching nomination at the 11th hour

Red-shirted opponents of the Ching confirmation wait to enter the Capitol building

With the Capitol filled with red-shirted opponents of the Carleton Ching nomination to chair DLNR and voters glued to their Akaku and Olelo TV, the senate went into a long recess directly after President Donna Mercado-Kim called the Ching confirmation agenda item.

Speculation grew and an hour after convening, Kim announced that the governor had withdrawn the Ching nomination.

By that time there were 8,545 signatures on a petition asking the senate not to confirm.

Red-shirted opponents of the Ching confirmation wait to enter the Capitol building

Red-shirted opponents of the Ching confirmation wait to enter the Capitol building

We’ve been told that supporters of the Ching nomination may have had the votes to pass it but that there was just too much downside to going on the record with a public vote. Supporters knew this was an issue that would haunt them – especially after Ching messed up which he was sure to do.

Those voting no on the nomination had the possibility of vetos and defunding hanging over their heads.

We’ve heard that after the senators couldn’t figure out how to confirm Ching without going on the record with their votes, the Majority Leader, Sen. Kalani English prevailed upon the governor to withdraw his controversial nomination. This was a wise course of action given that few nominations engender so much controversy and split the senate so evenly.

UPDATE: Hawaii News Now is reporting that two yes votes switched to no at the last moment and the no votes had the majority 13-12 at the very end.

UPDATE 2: Reports from two different sources say that the yes votes switched as early as Tuesday night and that, in fact, the governor did not have the votes needed.  Even more reason to withdraw and save the senators voting yes from voter retribution.

Posted in Governor, Lobbyists Tagged with: , ,

Letter from Sen Russell Rudermann re Ching confirmation

From Sen Russell Rudermann:

Thank you for writing. During the Water and Land (WTL) hearing, I voted against the nomination of Carleton Ching and will do so again when it comes up for a floor vote by the full Senate. Below is the text of my comments I gave at the WTL hearing, which I thought I would share with you now:

In about a hundred votes on appointments, I have only voted “no” once and have never spoken against one. I take the situation seriously and feel the need to carefully explain my vote. It is not easy to oppose a nomination. But when I feel it will harm the future of our state, it is my job to rise above expedience and have the courage to do so. Doing this job and taking seriously our responsibility to be a check and balance against mistakes by another branch of gov’t, can be uncomfortable, but not doing it is inexcusable.

Mr. Ching is a genuinely nice guy. He’s very likable, has a good heart, and is obviously of high integrity. If confirmed I will work with him in good faith and support him in every way. But that is not the point. The question we face, which we are charged by the constitution to answer, is he qualified and capable of doing this important job?

I accept that I might not politically like a nominee, but he or she may still be qualified. This is not the case here. In this case, as an environmentalist, and one of the thousands who care so deeply about not only Hawaii’s short term economy, but about its long-term sustainability and unique natural resources, I must speak out about the great harm that confirming this nominee would bring. Not only potential harm to the environment and Hawaii’s precious shared resources, but also certain harm to the public trust in our government.

The comparison to PLDC is unfair: this is the PLDC times 10. Instead of a branch of DLNR devoted to development instead of preservation, we are now looking at refocusing the entire department through a lens of development instead of stewardship and preservation. Did we learn anything from that episode? How important is stewardship of our public lands to the people of Hawaii? Did we hear the outcry, or must we repeat history because we failed to learn that lesson?

I can find no better words to describe the situation than those of Mr Randy Awo, 27 years serving DLNR, culminating a head of DOCARE: “The nominee’s entire career track has been the polar opposite of DLNR’s mission.” He wisely pointed out that we cannot separate what someone does from who he is.

No one’s preparation for such a job is complete, of course there will be a learning curve for anyone. But, we require subject matter expertise in every other department’s director. Would we hire a Tax director and ask that she learn accounting on the job? An A.G. w/o legal expertise? A Transportation director w/o transportation experience? Of course not. Yet in this case we are asked to approve a nominee with no experience, commitment or aptitude for the job. In such a complex and important department the lack thereof is a huge disqualification. Today we confirmed two Directors, each of whom had decades of specifically relevant experience in the subject matter.

To think that such subject matter experience and knowledge is not needed in this case, is to display a lack of concern for preservation and conservation. It displays a surprising dismissal of the concerns of those who care about our environment and cultural heritage.

It’s been said that no subject matter knowledge is needed; simple management experience is sufficient, then the nominee can learn on the job. But this nominee’s management experience in no way compensates for a complete lack of subject matter knowledge. Most of his experience is lobbying and development, not management.

The nominee has several times referred to land as a “Piece of dirt”. Not Aina, not land, not an important resource, but as a commodity to be used and profited extracted from it. Make use of it or let someone else do so. No concept of preservation, or the importance of maintaining this finite resource for future use. I find this telling. I find it deeply troubling and indicative of the narrow mindset of a developer versus a conservationist, nor even of someone who has a balanced view of such issues.

Endangered species – nominee says we must “evaluate, prioritize, & try to save the most important ones.” And this is true. But to a biologist, or conservationist, or a lover of God’s creation, there are no unimportant species. There is no ‘balance’ or sweet spot to be found in protecting endangered species. The right thing to do is to fight for each and every one. Just like ‘pieces of dirt’, once they are gone, they’re gone forever.

Where is a sense of stewardship, which is at the very heart of DLNR’s mission?

Advocacy for groups opposed to preservation and conservation is what comprises most of the nominee’s life experience – attempts to distance himself from those efforts is curious after longstanding commitment to those efforts. Claiming he was largely unaware of LURF and BIA’s efforts in the exact opposite direction is not acceptable.

Once again, a very nice guy, likable, with a good heart, and I am sincere in this. He’s good at what he does –this is not the point. It’s not sufficient. Sudden awakening to concern about the future is welcome but not sufficient to qualify. Willingness to abide by the law is welcome but not sufficient. Qualifications are required, and profoundly lacking. I’m glad he wants to work for Hawaii’s future, but his qualifications suggest a very different position would be in order.

If there were no better qualified applicants, then the answer is to cast a wider net. The assistance of the environmental and preservation community could have been sought, but was not. Several DLNR division leaders could be promoted, some are in this room, some not, resulting in a boost in morale instead of the demoralization this nomination will cause. We would then have someone with knowledge of the organization, the laws under which it operates, and its core and mission.

I again reference Mr. Awo- he was not only one of the most eloquent testifiers you heard from but by far the most qualified. He describes the level of concern within the department over this nomination is unprecedented. And the inappropriateness of this nomination as being on an entirely different level from any other previous nominee, and any previous director. My own discussions with staff in the Department, who are of course unable to express their views, confirms this.

DLNR’s mission is “Enhance, protect, conserve and manage Hawaii’s unique and limited natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust for current and future generations of the people of Hawaii nei…”

Carefully absent is a mandate to develop, profit from, or treat as a commodity, or as expendable, Hawaii’s shared resources.

Endorsement of this nomination, aside from other appointees, comes almost exclusively from the development community. This glaring fact is really as important as the rejection by the preservation community in arguing for the rejection of the nomination. This is not a development department. This nomination is anathema to a commitment to the department’s mission.

The distrust and disillusionment of those who hope for a more fair, honest and open government is palpable. I need not point out the perception of revolving door among lobbyists and important positions of public trust. We all know how that works, and today we expect better.

What do we do with 90+% opposition from the public? If we remove development interest groups and appointees, the opposition is 98%. How cynical and arrogant would we be to ignore this? Mr Awo described the attempts to marginalize the opposition as irresponsible. I agree. Those who volunteer their time to work for the environment are not special interests! It is disturbing to hear the nominee characterize them as such.

I stand with those who genuinely take the DLNR’s mission statement to heart. Those of us who have demonstrated a commitment to environment and preservation are united that this choice is not only wrong, but disastrously wrong. We are united as no other issues other than the PLDC has united us, and for the exact same reasons.

As Mr. Awo implored us to do, I urge my colleagues: put aside political expedience and do what’s right for Hawaii now.

If we take our duty to advise and consent seriously, if we care about good government and public trust, if we care about the will of people we were elected to represent, or if we take the stewardship of Hawaii’s precious resources seriously, then we must reject this nomination.

Mahalo,
Russell
Senator Russell Ruderman
Hawaii State Senate

Posted in DLNR

Wednesday’s Ching vote still in doubt but could be “no”

PENTAX Image

With senators like Lorraine Inouye and Kalani English hiding out and ducking their constituents’ calls, the epic fight between power and duty will play out at tomorrow’s full senate vote with an edge-of-the-seat denouement.

Ige has pulled out all stops, hinting at withholding funding for big projects like the Kihei High School, and getting Ways & Means chair Jill Tokuda to threaten future appropriations.  Ige built friendships in the senate where he had been known as an amiable figure.  However, he’s quickly using up his accumulated goodwill, trying to push through an appointment that has met with almost universal condemnation from the voters.

This is not the Ige that the senators knew in the senate.

Senators who give in to Ige’s pressure tactics are gambling that the voters will forget their vote before the next election.  But they need only to look at the example of Malama Solomon who was on the wrong side of the PLDC for this head-in-the-sand approach to lose its attraction.  As Sen Russell Rudermann reminded his colleagues:

The comparison to PLDC is unfair: this is the PLDC times 10. Instead of a branch of DLNR devoted to development instead of preservation, we are now looking at refocusing the entire department through a lens of development instead of stewardship and preservation.  Did we learn anything from that episode? How important is stewardship of our public lands to the people of Hawaii? Did we hear the outcry, or must we repeat history because we failed to learn that lesson?

Senators who vote their conscience might see their CIP projects withheld or could find Sen Tokuda following through on Ige’s dirty work, blocking their projects. How likely is it that Sen Tokuda will risk her own career and follow through on this threat for Gov. Ige?  Would she even keep her chair position if she does?

Gov Ige has put his senate friends in a precarious position.  He’s asking them to risk their reputations and reelections to back a candidate that everyone agrees is not qualified.  The eyes of the media and voters are on them and tomorrow there’s will be no hiding any more.

UPDATE: Sen Roz Baker says that Gov Ige and Chair Tokuda are not making threats to withhold funding.

 

Posted in DLNR, Governor

Can Ching’s personal charm overcome his laziness?

The Star Advertiser wrote a hard-hitting editorial challenging the senate to do the right thing by the state and vote down the Carleton Ching nomination for DLNR Chair.  They put the blame for this massive public outcry squarely on Gov. Ige for his poor choice in a nominee.

“Environmental groups came out four-square against Ching’s nomination the moment it was announced. In one voice, they expressed the unassailable position that — while Ching may have skills that befit a manager, garnered throughout his business career — the nominee’s resume showed scant evidence of interest or experience in natural resource management.”

We would take issue with the statement that Ching may have management skills as he so embarrassingly showed while tap-dancing away from WTL Chair Thielen’s astute questioning.  Again and again he professed ignorance of the activities of the two developer/construction industry lobbying groups he oversaw as both a director and VP.

He denied supporting the PLDC and claimed not to know that LURF was advocating to the BLNR and the legislature over an 11 month period for keeping the PLDC.  He denied even knowing why LURF was advocating for the PLDC.  He answered Sen Thielen’s questions with, “I don’t even know.”

So we have an man who for a year was ignorant of what the organization he directed was doing?  Not only is that poor management, it is a breach of fiduciary duty….if true.

This lack of interest and downright laziness has continued during the vetting process.  Two months ago he met with Maui environmental and Hawaiian leaders and was roundly criticized in the media for being completely clueless about the public trust doctrine, water hierarchy and general natural resources law in Hawai’i.

But weeks later he held another talk story and it was clear that he had not studied up on these glaring deficiencies and still didn’t understand the key principles underlying DLNR’s mission.

And now, even later, he still demonstrates this lack of knowledge.  This is a man who is either intellectually unable to learn or is too lazy to put in the effort.

Clearly the senators should vote down this nomination.  Why is there any doubt they will?  Here’s why.

Ige, while promising to listen to the people, has decided to ignore the voters and push through his very bad nominee.  He’s calling in his markers and imposing on decades of friendship with senators.  And he’s holding the purse strings.  He’s able to threaten recalcitrant senators with withholding their CIP and he’s able to reward those senators who put aside their duty to the state and do him a favor with more funds released to their districts.

This is hard ball.  And Ige through Sen Tokuda is bringing the big guns to get the senate to vote his way.

Meanwhile conservation and Hawaiian groups are gearing up for their own form of hardball.  As they did with Pono Chong, Mufi Hannemann and Malama Solomon, they’re promising to work as hard as it takes to defeat any senator who votes yes on this confirmation.

A facebook page and a website (DLNRsellouts.wordpress.com) name those who have voted in favor of Ching’s confirmation, candidates are being recruited based only on rumors that a senator might vote yes and foot troops to canvass voters come election time and remind them of this vote are already signed up.

Senators are caught between a rock and a hard place.  On one side a governor threatening their CIP.  On the other an enraged citizenry determined not to forget.

Will the senators have the guts to do the right thing?

Posted in DLNR, Governor

Ige picks GMO seed grower and cock fighting enthusiast for District 13

Continuing his unbroken streak of absolutely jaw-dropping bad appointments, Governor Ige picked a Monsanto GMO seed corn farmer and illegal cock fighting enthusiast to represent Maui’s District 13 – a district which voted overwhelmingly in favor of the GMO Moratorium.  One assumes she could not have won the seat in an open election.

Ige was given three choices.  Lucienne de Naie had previously run for Maui County Council and won District 13. Lori Buchanan, popular and outstanding Moloka’i activist who works for Maui Invasive Species Committee was also one of the three finalists for the seat.  But like a heat seeking missile, Ige went straight for the most inappropriate candidate, GMO and cock fighting supporter Lynn DeCoite.

Speaking of the euphemistically named “Gamefowl Association” DeCoite defiantly defended her support of illegal cock fighting in the Moloka’i Dispatch

“The Gamefowl Association [is part of] Hawaiian culture, so we incorporated them in Kuhio Day this year, bringing education and awareness to the people and preserving and perpetuating gamefowl on Molokai,” said Lynn Decoite, president of Ahapua`a Molokai and co-organizer of the event.”

The “Gamefowl Association” is the brain child of illegal cock fighting enthusiast Mike Arce and Lynn is a proud member as shown on her Facebook page. Although Lynn has never been charged with cock fighting, various DeCoites have run afoul (afowl?) of the law against cock fighting.  In 2010 the Gamefowl Association attempted to get a resolution passed celebrating cock fighting.

Here is one of the DeCoites seated by a Moloka’i cock fighting pit:

The Humane Society condemns cock fighting as cruel saying:

Even birds who aren’t killed during cockfights suffer terribly. Regardless of how exhausted or injured they become (common injuries include punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes), the birds cannot escape from the fighting pit. The razor-sharp steel blades or “gaffs” (which resemble 3-inch-long, curved ice picks) tied to the birds’ legs are so sharp and dangerous that cockfighters themselves have been killed when accidentally slashed by their own birds.

Cock fighting is usually associated with illegal gambling.

Congratulations Governor Ige.  It wasn’t enough to appoint another lobbyist – you had to appoint someone who advocates cruel and illegal behavior.

UPDATE: Governor Ige shown with Lynn DeCoite at the Moloka’i Gamefowl Association.  Isn’t supporting organized crime an impeachable offense?

Gov David Ige Supporting Illegal Cock Fighting with his pick for District 13 representative.

Gov David Ige Supporting Illegal Cock Fighting with his pick for District 13 representative.

UPDATE #2: Moloka’i Gamefowl Association Facebook.  Here are a few screenshots taken this morning.

Click to enlarge and read Lynn DeCoite's name as a member

Click to enlarge and read Lynn DeCoite’s name as a member

Lynn DeCoite's Facebook page showing her as a proud member of the illegal cockfighting association (prior to being scrubbed) Click to enlarge.

Lynn DeCoite’s Facebook page showing her as a proud member of the illegal cockfighting association  Click to enlarge.

Posted in Governor

Dems send 3 names to Gov to replace Rep Mele Carroll

The District 13 Democratic Party Council met today to choose the three names submitted to Governor Ige to replace Mele Carroll who is retiring for health reasons.

The three names were:

Lori Buchanan of Moloka’i – Coordinator of Molokai/Maui Invasive Species Committee, former Planning Commission member, small business person, advocate for Moloka’i small farmers and a supporter of the ahumoku system.  She has extensive experience with the Legislature in her work on agriculture, natural resource management, planning and cultural protection.  She comes from a distinguished family which includes Walter Ritte.

Lucienne de Naie of Huelo – former member of GPAC, active in numerous community organizations and frequent testifier at the county and state level, known for her encyclopedic knowledge of the state laws, history and issues.  She formerly ran for Maui County Council East Maui seat and won the majority of votes in district 13.

Lynn DeCoite of Moloka’i – member of the famous farming family of Maui County.  Formerly well known for her sweet potato farm and for shepherding visiting dignitaries around Moloka’i, she has lately branched out to grow Monsanto seed corn.  She has worked to offset the negative impacts of the Food Modernization bill on smaller farmers by working to get the state to pay for some of its onerous requirements.

The controversy which is already swirling around DeCoite is reflective of the split between Moloka’i and the rest of District 13.  Moloka’i voters comprise fewer than a quarter of the district’s voters in the last election.

Although District 13 voted yes on the GMO Moratorium 59% to 41%, Moloka’i voted against the Moratorium 65% to 35%.  Both Dow and Monsanto are large employers on tiny Moloka’i and spent $8 million trying unsuccessfully to defeat the initiative. They’re now challenging it in court.

Moloka’i voters comprised 23% of last elections’ District 13 voters which is why the 77% of non-Moloka’i voters in the district were able to decisively pass the GMO Moratorium despite much of Moloka’i opposing it.

All three picks are respected and active in their communities.  However the GMO Moratorium is very popular in the district as a whole.  Will the governor pick controversial pro-GMO Lynn DeCoite or one of the other candidates who kept a more low profile in the GMO controversy?


Democratic Press Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2015
Contact: Troy Hashimoto, (808) 249-0333

BUCHANAN, DECOITE & DE NAIE FORWARDED TO GOVERNOR FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 13

KAUNAKAKAI, Hawai‘i – The House District 13 Council Nominating Committee has completed its selection process and has forwarded three names to the governor.

“I am extremely impressed with the three applicants that we forwarded to the governor for consideration,” said Emillia Noordhoek, District 13 Council Vice-Chair who ran the proceedings.

“All were well-qualified, thoughtful and I know we can be proud to call one of them our representative. I appreciate their willingness to step-up and serve in this important role,” she said.

The top three names that have been transmitted to the governor in alphabetical order include:

Lori Buchanan of Molokai who is a field outreach coordinator for the Molokai/Maui Invasive Species Committee and the co-owner of Molokai Security Service. She serves as a member of the Molokai Planning Commission and a member of the Marine and Coastal Zone Advisory Council. She also serves as a commissioner for the Legacy Lands Conversation Commission.

Lynn DeCoite of Molokai is the owner of L&R Farm Enterprises and R.J. Snacks. She serves as a board member of the State Board of Agriculture and is the president of the Molokai Homestead Farmer’s Alliance. She is a previous member of the Molokai Planning Commission and a graduate of Molokai High School.

Lucienne De Naie of Huelo is self-employed consultant. She serves as the secretary of the Haiku Community Association and is a member of the Maui Cultural Lands Advisory Board. She is a founding board member of the Haiku Living Legacy Project and a co-founder of the Haiku Living Legacy Project. She is a graduate of UC Irvine and UCLA.

“I want to thank the District 13 Council for their hard work and diligence in considering all applicants,” said Troy Hashimoto, Chair of the Maui County Democratic Party.

“The Maui County Democratic Party looks forward to working with the governors selection to help move our Democratic values forward at the state legislature,” he added.

Other applicants that were considered include Shay Chan Hodges of Haiku, Scott Crawford of Hana, Alberta De Jetley of Lanai, David Fry of Haiku, Barbara Haliniak of Molokai, Susan “Netra” Halperin of Haiku, Lance Holter of Paia, Robert Parsons of Haiku, Kay Okamoto of Lanai and Noelani Yamshita of Molokai.

“It is my hope that the governor will make a decision on the replacement sooner than later, so that one of the most unique districts, the 13th District, can once again have representation in the State House. It is an especially important time, as many bills are being actively considered,” said Hashimoto.

For any questions or more information, contact Maui County Party Chair Troy Hashimoto via e-mail at troy@mauidemocrats.org or by phone at (808) 249-0333.

Posted in District 13 Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Ige continues inappropriate lobbyist appointments

As eyes turn to the puzzling appointment of Castle & Cooke lobbyist to head the agency he’s been trying to render impotent, another inappropriate Ige lobbyist nomination is up for confirmation.

Douglas Chin, Carlsmith Ball Attorney & chief lobbyist for the infamous Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has been appointed for Attorney General.  His confirmation comes tomorrow Feb 13th and testimony can be submitted on GM513.

This ties in with Castle & Cooke lobbyist, Carleton Ching to head DLNR, the agency which will approve the massive swap of polluted Castle & Cooke land for land near the East Kapolei rail route.  Part of this land is intended for a new private prison (SB1374)

Private prisons and, in particular, the role of CCA are a subject of much controversy.   CCA maintains a strong lobbying presence at most state legislatures working to influence legislation such as the 2014 state senate  SCR120 urging the governor to build private prison facilities.  In 2014 they spent $1,020,000 on lobbying the states.  CCA denies that they lobby for harsher sentences and against legalization of marijuana but they write in their 2011 SEC report:

“The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”

In 2013, the ACLU wrote:

As detailed in a 2011 ACLU report, massive increases in overall incarceration rates from the 1970s onward created a fertile environment for the growth of for-profit imprisonment. From 1970 to 2005, the U.S. prison population increased by approximately 700% – far outpacing crime rates and the growth of the general population. Today, more Americans are deprived of their liberty than ever before – unfairly and unnecessarily, with little benefit to public safety. Many of them are in private prisons: the latest figures from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics show that for-profit companies presently control about 18% of federal prisoners and 6.7% of all state prisoners, and the most recent federal survey of correctional facilities revealed that private prisons accounted for nearly all of the new prisons built between 2000 and 2005.

The growth of for-profit prisons also coincided with a dramatic increase in immigration detention.

According to Hawaii News Now Kat Brady of Community Alliance on Prisons testified against SCR120 saying,

“Opening the door to them in Hawaii would be really a disastrous and bad move for us. They don’t want to just come in. They want to take over.”

Huffington Post writes that both Illinois and New York have passed laws prohibiting private prisons.

As Attorney General CCA lobbyist Chin will review and authorize the CCA prison contracts (worth $34 million) and defend against several inmate lawsuits against CCA (and Hawaii).

So let’s review Governor Ige’s conflict-of-interest lobbyist appointments so far:

  • Douglas Chin, lobbyist for Corrections Corporation of America will be signing off on their $34,000,000 contract.
  • Carleton Ching, lobbyist for Castle & Cooke will be signing off on the C&C land swap, Koa Ridge, C&C water requests etc.
  • Rachael Wong, lobbyist for Healthcare Assoc of Hawai’i
  • Kekoa Kaluhiwa  lobbyist for Big Wind at Kuano’o Communications and Nevada registered GeoPolicy Group for #2 spot at DLNR.

David Ige as chair of state senate Ways and Means committee built up many friendships in the senate because of his cordial and modest demeanor and the fact he controlled the purse strings.  That good feeling about him personally is potentially bedazzling the senators and leading them into handing over our state to  Castle & Cooke and Corrections Corporation of America.

In Hawai’i it’s all about relationships.  Will relationships cause the senators to abrogate their responsibility for insuring our agencies are in capable hands?

Posted in DLNR, Governor, Private Prisons

Ige doesn’t get that lobbyists make unethical appointments

In 1998, Gov Ige was accused of ethical breaches because he was both a lobbyist for a telecom company and a state legislator in a position to vote on telecom legislation.

Perhaps this explains his recent appointments of developer lobbyists to the #1 and #2 positions at Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).  Either he truly doesn’t “get” that he has created a conflict of interest or perhaps his intention is to thumb his nose at Hawaiians and conservationists and double down on former Gov. Abercrombie’s PLDC.

In 1998 the Star Bulletin wrote an article “Legislator shouldn’t be utility lobbyist”:

“Ige has registered with the city as a lobbyist but not with the state Ethics Commission. And, as co-chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee, Ige has promised to allow co-chairman Wayne Metcalf to assume responsibility for matters relating to the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Hawaiian Tel. Ige pledges not to vote on matters that present a conflict.

However, all the maneuvering in the world by Ige to avoid the appearance of impropriety will not erase the impression that he was assigned to his present job at the phone company because of his position as a state senator. The interweaving of city, state and federal functions makes the confined activities that Ige prescribes for himself impossible to perform.

Senator Ige’s conflict is inescapable and unacceptable. His district would be better served by an engineer rather than a lobbyist.”

Gov Ige promised an “open door” and promised to consult community groups on his appointments.  But since a small cabal of advisors has isolated him from outside influence, these lofty promises seem to have withered and died.

Word is that Ige’s advisors are telling him not to listen to anyone besides themselves because he’ll impair his chance of re-election.

Newsflash Gov. Ige – it is these very advisors who have already set you on the road to be another one term governor.

 

Posted in DLNR, Governor, Lobbyists

Night of the long knives continues: DLNR hit hard

“Instead of handing out candy to developers as Neil Abercrombie did, Ige is giving them the key to the candy store.”

—- David Shapiro

In Ige’s latest move to hand DLNR over to developers, he removed William Tam from his position as DLNR Deputy for Water.  Prior to his tenure at DLNR, Tam was Deputy Attorney General and played a major role in authoring the water code, which makes him pretty much the expert on it.

Coworkers describe Tam as a “strong advocate for the ethical and legal use of water.”

Granted, Ige isn’t the first governor to let Tam go.  In 1997 Ige’s buddy, Gov. Ben Cayatano fired Tam after he prepared a draft decision in the Waiāhole water case restoring water to windward Oahu streams. Both Cayatano and Castle & Cooke were displeased that Tam didn’t side with developers.

Cayatano was accused of firing Tam in retribution for standing up for Public Trust interest in water. While the Supreme Court found there was no definitive proof, they made a point to rule in their historic Waiāhole decision that

“it is safe to say that the conduct of the public officials in this case did nothing to improve public confidence in government and the administration of justice in this state.”

It is also safe to say that Ige’s recent actions in purging successful agency leaders who follow the law instead of bending over for developers and utilities has done nothing to improve public confidence in his government.

The ousters of Gill (DOH), Aila, Souki, Tam (DLNR) and Mina Morita (PUC) are inspiring statements such as:

“It took two years for Gov. Abercrombie to lose my trust.  Ige’s managed to do it in less than two months”

Bad enough Ige is purging all those who believe in the rule of law (and know the law) but within the same short time frame, Ige appointed a developer lobbyist to head DLNR and Chair the Water Commission (Carleton Ching), another developer lobbyist to be the DLNR first deputy,  hired a Pacific Resource Partnership lobbyist (Cindy McMillan) as his Director of Communications, said he is open to the elimination of the LUC.

What is this love affair with developer lobbyists? Surely Ige is not so naive to mistake a glib tongue with actual experience and management ability?

Gov Ige’s current pick for DLNR Chair, Carleton Ching, was on the Cooke & Castle side against Tam/DLNR on the Waiāhole case.  (I’m sensing a trend here in Ige’s hirings and firings.)

But back to Ige’s latest poor decision.

Compounding Tam’s sins in developer eyes, he schooled Alexander & Baldwin’s East Maui Irrigation (EMI) on kuleana water rights in Keanae.  In 1997 about the time Tam was writing the draft Waiāhole decision, the Maui Taro farmers begged DLNR to stop EMI from diverting most of the streamwater saying their crops were dying.  In response to their pleas, one of the EMI executives (possibly water resource manager Garrett Hew) is reputed to have replied, “Not one more drop of water.”

Tam then corrected EMI’s misunderstanding of the water code and the primacy of kuleana water rights.  Apparently neither Cayatano nor Ige tolerate DLNR employees who actually know and follow the laws protecting our natural resources.

Now here’s a coincidence – or not.  East Maui steam flows are back on the Water Commission’s contested case docket.  And the Commission recently handed down an order that EMI let more water back into those very same streams that Tam defended in 1997.  Although Tam is not a voting member of the Water Commission, he does set the priorities and agendas.  And once again, the Hanabusa-Cayatano-Ige hui fires him!

Congratulations Governor Ige.  You’ve successfully taken out the entire executive team at DLNR: chair William Aila, first deputy, Jesse Souki and now deputy for water William Tam.  As one observer asked,

“Gov Ige, why did you even do that?  Nothing was broken!”

DLNR’s mission is far more difficult now than in years past.  In 2008 the enforcement (DOCARE) budget was $1.7 million. The next year it was cut by 2/3rds to $500,000.  Last year it was finally increased to about $1.1 million for the entire state.  In the intervening years coral reefs have been dying, fisheries declining, population and visitors using resources have increased but DOCARE still hasn’t seen its budget restored to 2008 levels.  Yet at a recent meeting with stakeholders, Governor’s nominee Ching suggests he can “move the needle” with “efficiencies”.

They’ve cut and cut until they’ve cut through the bone and severed limbs.  One DLNR employee lamented, “We could have done so much more if we had just been adequately funded.”  At the same time employees point to the incredible strides over the last four years using what they did have and morale was (prior to the purge) at an all time high.

The only “efficiencies” left are those which favor developers – less thorough reviews, skipping reviews, removing knowledgeable staff, etc.

Gov Ige says he wants to run the government like a business.  Every business requires operating capital to stay functional and viable. Ige fancies himself the CEO who runs the state. So where’s DLNR’s operating capital?  The refrain of “efficiency” is empty when an agency has cut everything it can and more.

Or did Ige actually mean he wants to run the government like a business by turning DLNR into a development company?  Because by eliminating the most knowledgeable and dedicated leadership and replacing at least two of the three positions with developer lobbyists, it sure doesn’t look like a resource protection agency any more.

What’s next?  Replacing Bill Tam with a lobbyist from East Maui Irrigation?

 

 

Posted in DLNR

Interview with DLNR Nominee

Ching has been universally acknowledged to be a nice man – a person with whom you’d enjoy chatting during your children’s soccer games.  But putting him in charge of the Department of Land and Natural Resources is like handing him a scalpel and asking him to take out your appendix.  He just doesn’t have the training nor the background to do the job. And it’s going to take more than a crash course to get him up to speed.

It appears that Governor Ige tapped him for the job due to Ige’s profound lack of understanding of DLNR’s role.

Ige, an engineer, has some magical thinking around the subject of business executives. The governor appears to believe they are the hammer that can accomplish every task.

Ching, a well compensated lobbyist for Castle & Cooke, is obviously good at what he does.  As Og Mandino advises in his book, The Greatest Salesman in the World, the secret to selling (or lobbying) is to believe in your product.  Ching believes in Castle & Cooke’s product – so much so that he took on the job of vice president of Land Use Research Foundation (LURF), an organization dedicated to advancing laws favoring developers.

When Gov. Ing asked Ching to take on the task of leading DLNR, Ching acquiesced out of a sense of civic duty although even he realizes he doesn’t have the experience needed.

That became alarmingly clear when Carleton Ching sat down with with Maui Hawaiian and environmental leaders on Saturday in a four hour frank discussion of his nomination to head Department of Land and Natural Resources.

He was unfamiliar with the Public Trust doctrine. It appeared he wasn’t even aware that there is a hierarchy of water users when he answered a question regarding private water companies on Maui.  Not only was he unfamiliar with the subject, the companies, or the controversies, he was unaware that the Public Trust doctrine pretty much puts them last in line for water.  He admitted his lack of knowledge with the subject and fell back on his stock answer which was that he would “balance” the competing needs and follow the law.

How do you “follow the law” when you don’t know it exists let alone understand it?

Why would you “balance” the competing uses of water when the law lays out in detail a hierarchy of users?

The head of DLNR is an advocate for natural resources.  He (or she) is not supposed to “balance” private profit against public welfare!

When we think “lobbyist” we generally think of sleazy, dirty tricks like those of PRP and of PR people who don’t care which side they lobby for as long as they get paid.

Carleton Ching is cut in a different mold.  He truly believes in development and in the goals of LURF.  He talks about “switching jerseys” and going to work for the other team (DLNR) and wants to apply the same techniques of “efficiency” to “move the needle forward” that he applies to his job at Castle & Cooke.  One has to give him credit for leaving his cushy job when tapped for public service and approaching it with sincerity.

But how do you switch your deeply held beliefs and attitudes?

I was left believing that he would do the best job he could.  But that job would be colored by his sincerely held belief that government needs to get out of the way of developers and that development is a priori assumed to be good unless proven otherwise.

The DLNR head is supposed to protect conservation lands.  Not “balance” their uses with private developers!

The “inefficiencies” he’d like to eliminate include more than one layer of development approval. For instance developers have to get permission both from the Land Use Commission and the counties for their projects.  While acknowledging that the LUC considers state land use law while the counties consider their own local plans, he advocated for combining these two reviews into a single review in the interests of saving time and money.

DLNR is woefully underfunded.  In fact we’re 49th in the U.S. as far as funding. In a state where tourism based on its natural resources is the top employer, this seems short-sighted.

All the “efficiencies” in the world won’t help when there just plain isn’t adequate funding.

DLNR employees, on the whole, have a passion for what they do. Their passion is to act as stewards of the land. They’ve lived and breathed the methods and laws involved in protecting Hawaii’s unique resources.

When Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) Maui didn’t have money for offices, the staff came in on their weekends with their own materials and tools and built offices in the abandoned armory which was all DLNR could afford for them.

As newly retired DOCARE head, Randy Awo, pointed out Governor Ige has been “purging”  those with a passion and history of environmental protection from DLNR.  In fact another person extended this to all agencies calling it “The night of the long knives” as effective leaders like William Aila, Mina Morita and Gary Gill were demoted or let go.

For all of Abercrombie’s faults, he appointed experienced experts to the board and agencies.  It is mystifying as to why Ige is systematically replacing  technical experts with lobbyists, businessmen and Oahu political insiders with no real knowledge of the job let alone a passion for it.

Awo took issue with Ching’s statement that he’d “move the needle forward” at DLNR, pointing to the immense strides that were made under William Aila despite the meagre funds allocated.

To his credit, Ching praised Aila. When asked, he couldn’t explain why Aila had been removed as head of DLNR.

Bottom line: Is it enough to be a nice person and sincerely want to answer the call of service? Almost 7,000 people say ‘no’ in an online petition asking the senate not to confirm.

 

 

Posted in Governor

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