Labor Dept asked to investigate longline fishers for violations

On September 19th, Trinette Furtado requested that the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations look into what she described as “the widespread Violations of the Hawai’i labor laws by the longline fishing industry.” Furtado alleges that, “Unlike reputable native Hawaiian and other local fishing outfits, these labor violations oppress workers, deceive consumers and undercut competition within the market.”

The longline fishing industry is composed of fishing vessels which engage in fishing and fishing related activities including transportation of products and housing of foreign fish workers within the territorial waters of the State of Hawai’i. They use state resources managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resource and Harbors Division of the Department of Transportation’s controlled and operated state harbors. They unload their products in Honolulu where they are sold and enter into the Hawai’i market and beyond.

As has been reported previously and recently in the press, many longline fishing boat owners use labor recruiters to recruit fish workers from Third World countries. These workers come from subsistence or other impoverished backgrounds and have no familiarity with Hawai’i wage and labor laws.

They are generally ineligible to admission into the United States. Instead, using an obscure practice of the Department of Homeland Security, employers obtain standard deportation forms from Homeland Security which require that these workers be “detained-on-board” by the boat owner and/or captain.

According to Furtado, “Individuals employed in these enterprises generally are told they will be paid $300/month for a twenty-four month term. However, often, $100/month is deducted to give the labor recruiter and the remainder is kept by the boat owner until the end of the term, many deducting meal and other expenses from the amounts.”

“We have come across no evidence that these workers are paid weekly or bi-weekly or that they are given a regular accounting of their wages and deductions,” continued Furtado.

Furtado attached the names of numerous individuals being “detained on board” and examples of worker contracts backing up her allegations.

This practice of allowing fishing workers working in Hawai’i waters and using Hawai’i docks to be “detained on board” violates both Hawaiian values and the Hawai’i constitution, according to Furtado.

Letter to Labor Department (names redacted):

Ige once again picks the worst candidate for the Water Commission

How is it that given 3 terrific candidates, Governor Ige goes unerringly for the very worst one – the one that represents developer/plantation/Monsanto interests?  Who is giving the governor this bad advice?

Right now, those who believe in following the water law and following the state constitution’s mandated water hierarchy and public trust doctrine hold a slim majority.

Instead of confirming Denise Antolini’s interim appointment, Governor Ige has picked Bill Balfour, who has spent 39 years as a sugar plantation executive.  He spent 19 years as president and manager of Pioneer Mill Company, Oahu Sugar Company, Lihue Plantation Company and McBryde Sugar Company. He also served as an Amfac executive.  A major portion of his life has been spent diverting streams to sugar plantation uses.

Considering the East Maui Streams case which seeks to return the water that HC&S is diverting from streams to their central Maui sugar plantation is currently before the Water Commission, one has to wonder why the governor would pick yet another nominee with a clear conflict of interest.

Worse yet, Balfour has worked as a consultant for Monsanto.  In 2013 the Water Commission turned Monsanto down for a larger water allotments on Maui and Oahu.  Since then tMonsanto has worked hard to insert themselves into Water Commission business.  In 2013 they managed to get their lobbyist appointed to the water commission nominating committee.

What a coup for the Monsanto lobbyist on the Water Commission Nominating Committee!  It may have taken two years but now they have a seat on the Water Commission.

Antolini is an associate dean and law professor at UH’s Richardson School of Law.  She heads up the environmental law program.  As such she is eminently qualified to sit on the Water Commission whose decisions are based on environmental law.

Here’s the question to Governor Ige:  Do you want the Water Commission to follow (and know!) the law or do you want to turn the majority of commissioners into a rubber stamp for the plantations and their successor development/water operations?

Update: Monsanto lobbyist Alan Takemoto is no longer on the Water Commission Nominating Committee.  Monsanto Attorney Yvonne Izu is.

Gov Ige nominates Suzanne Case to chair DLNR

Jittery voters waited to see if derailing the Carleton Ching nomination would be a good move or an “out of the frying pan into the fire” thing.  The wait is over.  And everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.

Gov Ige appointed Suzanne Case, the executive director of the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, to chair DLNR.  This is an experienced administrator who knows environmental law and whose heart is in the right place.

Well done, Gov Ige!

Here’s the Nature Conservancy’s mission:

From mauka to makai, The Nature Conservancy works with local communities, businesses and people like you to protect Hawaii’s best natural lands and waters. Since 1980, we have established a statewide system of Conservancy preserves, helped create new wildlife refuges and expand national parks, forged partnerships to protect our most important watershed forests and coral reefs, and led efforts to stem the tide of invasive species entering the state.  All total, we have helped protect more than 200,000 acres in the Islands.

Sounds like a good fit.

Case grew up in Hawaii, went to Stanford and has a law degree from the prestigious Hastings Law School. According to Gov Ige’s press release:

She is a 28-year veteran of The Nature Conservancy and has served as its executive director since 2001. She oversees all operations of the Hawai‘i program including 16 preserves totaling 53,000 acres, working in native forest, coastal and marine conservation, directly and through partnerships on six main Hawaiian Islands. She also oversees the Palmyra Atoll nature preserve and research station in the Pacific.

Hard to find fault with these kind of qualifications!

 

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

Wednesday's Ching vote still in doubt but could be "no"

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.

 

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?

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?

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.

 

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?