Friday, November 30, 2007

Info Briefing - DOE financial system and accountability

What: Joint House and Senate Committees on Education - Update on the Department of Education Financial System and Accountability

When: Monday, December 3 - 2:00 p.m.

Where: State Capitol, Room 309

"Aging in Place" and "Meals on Wheels"

Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Kaneohe resident Sumiko Sakamoto, who is 83 and legally blind, prepares to eat a meal delivered to her through the Lanakila Meals on Wheels program.

Rep. Marilyn Lee always comes up with issues for Kukui Connection that make an impact on people's lives, and sometimes they are issues that we may try to deny. For December, the subject is aging. She'll be talking with former state representative Jim Shon. They'll have a conversation about aging, particularly aging in place. It's a pertinent subject for island families who want to keep their parents in the home for as long as possible. Shon was a legislator for 12 years, and served as Chair of the Health Committee for 6 of those years.

Also, Brandon Mitsuda will appear to talk about the Lanakila Meals on Wheels program. As you may recall, this critical service to homebound seniors faced a serious funding issue this past summer. Find out how they are doing today.

Kukui Connection airs on Sundays at 4:00 p.m., Oceanic Time Warner Cable, Channel 54.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rep. John Mizuno - Running Back!

The House has a former University of Hawaii football team member, now playing as Vice Chair of the Health Committee, Rep. John Mizuno. Back in 1983, Mizuno was a running back for UH and June Jones was Coach that year. Here's the team photo. Can you spot Rep Mizuno? Need a hint? Click on the photo for a larger view.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's not easy being green...

I ran into these three representatives heading out to lunch. That's Rep. Ryan Yamane on the left, Rep. Kirk Caldwell on the right, and Rep. Marcus O'shiro in the middle. Marcus has dyed his hair green, not for an early St. Paddy's Day, not even for the UH game on Saturday, but for the big Leilehua vs. St. Louis rivalry game on Friday. Leilehua is green and gold. When I met with Rep. Oshiro later in the afternoon on another matter, he seemed to be getting greener as the day wore on as his face was paint-dabbed green. Hmmm...I can't wait to see him tomorrow. Click on the photo and it gets really scary.

The Facts about Telepharmacy

Photo: Scott Tague, AutoMed, gives a demo on Telepharmacy
Yesterday, Rep. Bob Herkes sponsored an all day demonstration at the State Capitol on "Remote Dispensing Technology for Medications" or Telepharmacy. The demo was provided by the Hawaii Pharmacists Association in partnership with AmerisourceBergen Technology Group.

The group was unsuccessful during the 2007 legislative session in getting their bills heard in committee. It seems like the bills got lost amidst the thousands that are introduced each year, and, according to Barbara Kashiwabara, Director of Pharmaceutical Services at Kaiser Permanente, there was a lack of information on what telepharmacy is (and is not), and how it would help folks in isolated and rural areas of Hawaii. I stopped by at the end of day, and they were kind enough to stay late and give me a quick review. This is my understanding on how it might work:
Say you are a patient on Lanai and your doctor is in Honolulu. There would be an independent pharmacy operator set up on Lanai, most likely at a clinic or doctor's office. This pharmacy operator would have a fully stocked cabinet filled with medications that are prepared, counted and sealed by a pharmacist. I was told that each cabinet would contain the most commonly prescribed medications, and that there would probably be a 75% chance that the prescription requested is already stocked in the cabinet.

Your doctor would call in your prescription at a main pharmacy. The pharmacist will then hold a teleconference with the technician and you on Lanai. That would include a consultation with you prior to dispensing the medication, and sending an electronic bar coding for the prescription. The barcoding system allows the pharmacy technician to manage the stocking of the cabinets, and tracks lot numbers and expiration dates. After getting authority from the main pharmacist, the pharmacy technician on Lanai would access the dispensing cabinet through a biometric, fingerprint protected access system. The technician would be able to process a pre-packed prescription for you.
This technology has been used since the mid-90's, primarily through the Veterans Administration. To date, over 20 states have developed or are in the process of evaluating and completing the necessary regulations that allow Telepharmacy. In the South Pacific, the Hawaii VA has used this technology for several years, with sites on Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, Guam and soon in American Samoa.

The promise for Hawaii lies in being able to service rural areas that have poor access to healthcare and pharmacies. Good idea? Concerns?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The transformative technology of our generation...

That's what David Lassner, the Chief Information Officer at the University of Hawaii, called broadband service. Lassner chairs The Hawaii Broadband Task Force that has begun work to examine the current state and future potential of high-speed internet access in Hawaii.

Why do we need a task force? The problem is that the speed and affordability of broadband in the U.S., including Hawaii, has not kept pace with other developed countries worldwide.

"Among the top economies worldwide in 2005, the US ranked sixteenth in broadband penetration," said Rep. Kyle Yamashita, who introduced HB310 establishing the task force. "In Hawaii today, the fastest broadband connections available are between eleven and fifteen megabits per second. When you look at the country as a whole, that's great service. But when you compare it to Japan, where one hundred megabits per second is routine, it's not as impressive. And when you consider cost on a per megabit basis, customers in Japan pay far less than customers here."

In addition to Lassner, Yamashita, and Senator Carol Fukunaga, the other members of the task force are: Vice Chair Nam Vu from ShakaNet, Inc.; Gary Caulfield from First Hawaiian Bank; Joel Matsunaga from Hawaiian Telcom; Henk Rogers from BluePlanet Wireless; Nate Smite from Oceanic Time Warner Cable; Gordon Bruce from the City and County of Honolulu; Clyde Sonobe from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs; Jennifer Goto Sabas from the office of Senator Daniel K. Inouye; Senator Will Espero; Senator David Ige; Rep. Marcus Oshiro; and Rep. Gene Ward.

The Office of the Auditor will provide research and organizational support services. The task force will prepare a preliminary report for submission to the 2008 Legislature and a final report for the 2009 Legislature. For more info, check out

Monday, November 26, 2007

Proposed Shield Law - Devil is in the Details

Photo: left to right - Jim Dooley, Ian Lind, Jeff Portnoy, Marie Milks, Gerald Kato and Chris Conybeare at the podium.

The room was packed and the hotel had to bring in an extra table for lunch. If that is any indication of the interest for or against a proposed shield law, the bill should receive a lot of thoughtful and engaging discussion at the 2008 legislature. Thanks to the Honolulu Media Council for putting on a great program. I did not record it, but here are my notes:

The panelists at the main table were Professor Jon Van Dyke from the UH William S. Richardson School of Law; Jim Dooley from The Honolulu Advertiser; Ian Lind, former Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter, currently a free-lance writer and political blogger at; Jeff Portney, attorney; Marie Milks, former state judge, who served as moderator; and Gerald Kato, head of the journalism department at UH.

Jon Van Dyke started off with a powerpoint on the history and background of the shield law issue. He summarized pertinent case law starting with the US Supreme Court case Branzburg v. Hayes (1972) and ending with Jenkins v. Liberty Newspapers (1999). He also provided the status of the federal shield law bill which passed easily in the U.S. House, 398-21. Hawaii Congressman Neil Abercrombie was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, and there was a brief discussion on his stated opposition -- that it was unconstitutional -- and whether the constitution even addresses the protection. Van Dyke believes it does not - that there is no absolute privilege for journalists, and that the press is expected to cooperate in criminal investigations.

Jeff Portnoy believes that a shield law for Hawaii is necessary and required. He described a conversation that he had with City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, who apparently does not believe a shield law is necessary. That's because, Portnoy claims, he and Carlisle have always been able to negotiate a reasonable solution whenever there have been subpoenas of reporters. Portnoy argues, however, that there will come a day when Carlisle will not be prosecutor and he will not be doing the same thing he's doing, so why leave it up to chance that others will be able to work so collaboratively. Besides, it has not always been the case - remember the time Matt Levi was put in jail for refusing to identify a source?

Portnoy said that the legislature will have the hardest time defining what is a journalist and what is a blogger. Also, how extensive should the law be? Should it extend to Grand Juries? He believes the shield law should be as absolute as possible with some minor exceptions.

Jim Dooley pointed out that he was the only working journalist at the table, and his comments were based on whether such a law would impact on his daily work. I'm not clear on whether he favors a law or not. I got the sense that there are certain situations in which the protection would help to get sources to talk more freely and to not fear that a reporter would "rat him out" when push came to shove. On the other hand, he does not feel comfortable with government licensing or even defining journalists.

Portnoy added that it would be a mistake to frame the issue around the protection of confidential sources, because the real need is to protect the reporter's day to day work product - the notes, the computer files, the photographs, the footage, etc.

Ian provided a different perspective. I'm sure that he will go into greater detail of his position on his own blog. He offered the perspective that if the shield law did not include bloggers, that it would mainly be a protection for corporate media, and a step toward the government licensing of media. And in that sense, it would be unconstitutional.

Dave Briscoe from the AP offered an opinion that he did not want government to define what a journalist is or is not and asked whether it was possible to shield the product rather than who produces it.

If there are others who attended today, please feel free to add to this.

Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii names Rep. John Mizuno as Legislator of the Year

The Coalition For a Tobacco Free Hawaii named freshman legislator, Rep. John Mizuno, as the 2007 Legislator of the Year. Mizuno represents District 30 - Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter. He serves as the Vice-Chair on the Committee on Health. Prior to his election to office in 2006, Mizuno served as the office manager to former Rep. Dennis Arakaki, a long-time health advocate and Health Committee chair.

Rep. Mizuno has worked all year to improve the health of children in Hawaii. In addition to sponsoring legislation that will help keep kids away from tobacco and cigarettes, he authored and introduced HB 1008, the Keiki Care bill, that provides basic healthcare to all children in Hawaii. Mizuno also authored bills that will help the mental health of children by providing Statewide Youth Suicide Prevention, and a bill that will encourage families to lead a healthy lifestyle by reimbursing middle-to-low income families with a Food/Exercise Tax Credit. He was the legislative champion to secure support from both the Senate and House in a successful override of Gov. Lingle's veto of his Baby Safe Haven bill, to save the lives of abandoned babies.

The Coalition's award has been given to a top lawmaker since 1993. Rep. Mizuno is the first freshman legislator to win the award. In addition to his Health Committee vice chairmanship, he serves as a member on the Committee on Finance, Human Services and Housing, and International Affairs. He is also the Assistant Majority Floor Leader, Co-Chair of the Legislature's Keiki and Kupuna Caucuses, and a Majority Policy Advisory Member.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Proclamation

The Thanksgiving Proclamation was offered by Samuel Adams on behalf of the Continental Congress on November 3, 1778. It calls for a day of Thanksgiving during the Revolutionary War.

"That all the People may with united Hearts on that Day express a just Sense of His unmerited Favors:

...Particularly in that it hath pleased Him, by His overruling Providence to support us in a just and necessary War for the Defense of our Rights and Liberties; defeating the Councils and evil Designs of our Enemies, and giving us Victory over their Troops ...and by the Continuance of that Union among these States, which by his Blessing, will be their future Strength & Glory."

Most Americans, however, learned the story of Thanksgiving from this wise man:

Linus Van Pelt: "In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: 'We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice."

Peppermint Patty: "Amen."


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Enough is enough. This isn't Singapore.

Here's another viewpoint on the one-year anniversary of the smoking ban. Have you heard the Hawaii Public Radio commentaries by Tony Oliver, a Kailua resident, playwright, former librarian at DBEDT, and a proud smoker (unfiltered camels no less)? He also happens to be a golf buddy, and while we don't have the time to play frequently, over the past year, boy have I gotten an earful about that smoking ban bill passed by the legislature! Probably a shameless ploy to ruin one's putt, but entertaining none the less. One of his first commentaries for KHPR was on this issue; what follows is an edited version:

(I stand corrected. The author informs me that the following was not from the radio commentary, but as an opinion piece, written in response to a 2/2/05 Honolulu Advertiser editorial, "Get cigarette butts out of our beaches." It was published in an edited version as a letter to the editor. That's what happens when you fret about blogging and pie crust at the same time.)

Will the legislators adjourn this year and congratulate themselves on passing a bill that further criminalizes a minor offense? Will they? One can hope not.

One can hope that, instead, they will address real issues, suburban sprawl, Byzantine traffic, and outdated sewage systems. One can hope.

Of all the sources of pollution in our state, smoking is certainly the most easily identifiable, but clearly it is a minor one. The perpetrators are visible and might even be a minority. In the contemporary climate of Puritanical repression, they are also cowed by do-gooder vigilantism, excessively taxed, socially marginalized, and publicly ostracized. Why not go after them? They are easy targets.

Much easier than going after real polluters.

The shameless use of an image of toddlers munching on cigarette butts may move the holier than thou to rally around this ersatz issue, but it was intellectually dishonest.

When you say, "Let's reclaim the beaches and parks for healthy living. Isn't that what Hawaii is all about?"; shouldn't we ask, is that all Hawaii is about?

If this idea is a slavish copy of the ludicrous repression one now finds in newly-Calvinist San Francisco, shouldn't we ask the question - are we in California? Thankfully, no, we are not.

We followed their lead and covered our land with tract homes that no one can afford, and highways that slash through the land, now this?

The police might soon be empowered to cite and maybe even arrest and jail these tobacco miscreants. By criminalizing smoking in parks, we can also make arrest statistics much better. What next? Reinstating stocks in the public square? Flogging? Stoning? Might the police not be better employed in fighting real crime?

One is reminded of former Mayor Anderson's ill-fated rounding up of innocent beer-drinkers on the beaches. That went well, didn't it? For those who have forgotten, she was not re-elected.

Pass a bill like this and then what? A return to Prohibition? Banning hibachis?

Enough is enough. This isn't Singapore.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Peace Tree

On Tuesday, November 20th, at 2:00 p.m., Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu and Senator Carol Fukunaga will lead a group of peace supporters in planting a kukui tree near the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol. The kukui (Aleurites Moluccana), our official Hawaii State Tree, was donated by the UH College of Tropical Agriculture to become Hawaii's first Peace Tree. In a traditional ceremony coordinated by Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee and Hawaii Peace Day committee member John Waihee IV, the ground will first be prepared and nourished by a placement of a fish. A special o'o stick was carved to be used to turn the soil.

The kukui became the official state tree on May 1, 1959. The 30th Territorial Legislature adopted Joint Resolution #3 that read in part:

WHEREAS, the kukui tree is a native tree to all the islands of Hawai'i and,

WHEREAS, the multiplicity of its uses to the ancient Hawai'ians for light, fuel, medicine, dye, and ornament and to the continued value to the people of modern Hawai'i, as well as the distinctive beauty of its light green foliage which embellishes many of the slopes of our beloved mountains, causes the kukui tree to be especially treasured by the people of the Fiftieth State of the United States as an arboreal symbol of Hawai'i...

Hawaii became the first state in the country to establish an official state Peace Day, to be celebrated each year on September 21st, in coordination with the United Nations International Day of Peace.

Smoking Ban - One Year Anniversary

As a former pack-a-day smoker, I always used to dread the coming of the Great American Smokeout day - the Thursday before Thanksgiving. (You know, that day when you symbolically and heroically throw your cigarettes into the trash, and then sneak back out to retrieve them at midnight when you think no one else is watching?) Now that I've quit for the past several years, I didn't even realize that the day had come and gone, until the media pointed out that it was one year ago on November 16th that the new Hawaii anti-smoking law went into effect. The law prohibits smoking in places of employment and all eating and drinking establishments.

Here's some interesting items on the matter from Linda Chiem's PBN story, 11/16 issue:
  • The Department of Health spent $340,000 on its public awareness campaign.
  • Littering has become a problem because smokers who are standing 20 ft. away from a building don't have ashtrays to use.
  • Compliance has been good, and in most cases, the law did not significantly change the way a business was doing business.
  • The hardest hit businesses, of course, are the bars. The Hawaii Bar Association filed a lawsuit earlier this year, but the lawsuit was dismissed in Circuit Court.
  • The Department of Health has still not approved rules giving it the authority to cite and fine violators. The DOH received 523 complaints and issued 396 notices of violation and letters of warning.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Aloha Friday

Here is a wonderful thing about living in Hawaii and working at the Capitol.

As usual, I walked out to lunch and passed through the Iolani Palace grounds. Every Friday, the Royal Hawaiian Band plays a concert for the residents and visitors at the Palace.

But today, a young hula halau gathered on the side of the palace, twittering like yellow canaries, excited about their performance. They were enthusiastic, full of energy and promise for Hawaii's future.

I approached the girls to ask if I could take a picture, and the boys proudly stepped into the shot too. They exuded not only pride, but confidence, in their Hawaiian culture. You can just see it in their faces, can't you?

As recommended by a thoughtful reader, click on the photos to see the kids really beam.

Why the non-releasing of funds is such a sore point...

Here's a recent dialog (11/7/07) between Think Tech host Jay Fidell and Representatives Tommy Waters, Marcus Oshiro and Kirk Caldwell on their frustration with the administration regarding releasing of funds.

There was a fair amount of tension between the legislature and the governor this session.... The interface between the legislative and executive process, it's (the admin.) refusing to release substantial appropriations made by the 2007 legislature. So what's going on and can you help us to understand this kind of tension and why, and will it continue in the 2008 session?

My constituents don't really care if we're Democrat or Republican, they just want us to do a good job. As far as releasing the money is concerned, I think there is a problem. Our schools are dilapidated, our schools are falling apart. In Waimanalo, it's so sad, I helped paint the classrooms through the 3R's project. We had to move the furniture out of the way.

You personally helped?

Yeah, it was such a great experience and I encourage anyone who can help, through 3R's, to do it. But when we were moving furniture, the carpet fell apart in our hands, if you can imagine, and the kids have to sit on that. And, it's shameful. It's shameful. And people in Waimanalo, they don't know what other schools have...and they think they are the stepchild and only the kids in Waimanalo have schools this bad. And the legislature appropriated, what was it Marcus, $75 million?

$75 million and $25 million for schools.

$100 million altogether?

Yes, and the money isn't being released. And what do I tell my constituents when their kids are sitting on chairs that are broken, sitting on carpets that are so bad...

What is the reason?

I don't know. I don't know.

Is there anything you can do about it? Is there anything the legislature can do when the executive declines to implement an appropriation that all you hundreds of people decided to do?

It's a legal question but it's also a checks and balances, three branches of government question. It's not only a problem in our state but even at the federal level. I think the drafters of the constitution intended it that way. It's kind of like give and take. You can appropriate the money, but you can't force the executive to actually spend it....

...Think about this, and this is where we're troubled. We have a governor who is saying I don't want to release $100 million for our schools, for our children, but during the session and at the end of session she came on strong against the majority of the House and Senate for not supporting a $300 million tax break. So, she wanted to say we have enough money to return $300 million to the taxpayers, which we didn't agree with...but now there's not any money to repair our schools? Something doesn't add up.

Tommy: I beg. I've done that. When I needed money for the Waimanalo Health Center, I've begged! Please release the money. I get my constituents to write letters to the governor.

Marcus: It's 110 million dollars out there. We made it a priority. We said that we're going to put our money where our mouth is, in education, and in basic repair and maintenance in all schools statewide. And the Governor refuses to release the money.

Jay: If you made a bill that was vetoed, you could override it, and then resurrect it that way. But when you make a bill to give 110 million dollars, and it doesn't get spent, I don't understand, you can't do anything?

Marcus: That's the power of the executive branch to make the allocation and the allotment and to release the money, and execute on the legislator's public policy decision on the appropriation.

Jay: I got a question from a listener, Steve, from Punahou. It says, "DOE can't spend the money it already has, why would you appropriate more?

Marcus: Well, the 110 million dollars is cash, it's not bond financing, and cash can be easily spent, broken down by various schools and various needs to the classrooms. So the money can be spent immediately and for meaningful purposes in the classroom.

Pedestrian safety update

We were sad to hear that the 85-yr-old man struck yesterday has died according to this breaking news story. Several hours later today, The Advertiser reports that a 60-yr-old woman was hit by a car on S. King near Ward St. and remains in critical condition. Again, we ask why the pedestrian safety funds have not been released.

Arizona House Majority Starts New Blog

The Arizona House Republicans are off to a good start with a new blog. In the spirit of bi-partisanship, we wish them well. Check it out here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pedestrian Safety Funds Still Not Released

Today, an 85-year-old man was struck in a crosswalk while crossing Kalanianaole Highway in East Honolulu. At this hour, he remains in critical condition. The tragic accident serves as a reminder that there was much controversy earlier this year involving SB1191, Relating to Pedestrian Safety. The legislature passed the bill which appropriated $3 million over two years for pedestrian safety improvements, but because the funds are to be taken from the State Highway Fund, Governor Lingle vetoed the bill. The legislature came back in special session this past summer to override a number of bills, including this one. As of this date, the funds have yet to be released. Why?

Tracking "The People's Pulse"

If you've been around the capitol for awhile, you start to wait for certain cyclical events, and one of them is receiving the latest edition of "The People's Pulse", a must-read newsletter put out by Hawaii Business Roundtable and Pacific Resource Partnership. The research is conducted by OmniTrak Group Inc., and copies of past newsletters going back to 2001 can be found on Omnitrak's website. The research is based on information gleaned from a statewide telephone survey of 700 adults, randomly selected, with 400 from Oahu, and 100 each from Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. From these newsletters, lawmakers can get a sense of the priority issues for Hawaii's people.

The Fall 2007 issue is out, based on a survey conducted between September 10-23, 2007. Here are just a few of the interesting trends cited:

Question: In terms of (name the issue), do you think that the State of Hawaii is going in the right direction or do your think things have gotten off on the wrong track?

Result: On the issue of "Traffic" a whopping 74% said the state was on the wrong track, and 18% said that the state was going in the right direction. On "Housing", 70% said wrong track and 23% said right direction. On "Public Education", 52% said wrong track and 39% said right direction. On "Economic Development", 46% said wrong track and 43% said right direction. On the "Environment", 45% said wrong track and 48% said right direction. And on "Quality of Life", 40% said wrong track and 51% said right direction.

There were a couple of follow up questions to "Quality of Life". What is most important to people in terms of their own quality of life? What aspect of their lifestyle is most at risk?

Top three results: By far, the answer most cited, at 42%, was that a "feeling of community or 'ohana" was most important to people and 32% said that the 'ohana (family) being eroded by in-migration is at risk. This was followed by 35% saying that a "good environment" was most important, with 20% saying that the environment was at risk, and 34% citing "affordability, affording the cost of living" was most important, with 29% saying that affordability as a quality of life is at risk.

Other topics covered in the Fall 07 People's Pulse include whether residents favor or oppose a tax hike to resolve problematic issues; what does environmental protection mean to people and what most needs protection; what actions (recycling? tax incentives to use mass transit? higher vehicle taxes for cars that use more mileage?) would people support in order to protect the environment; and if there was a Constitutional Convention in 2008, what issues would people want the delegates to address. (Sadly, more than one third had no suggestions!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Volcanic Ash

Dave Shapiro writes about our blog in today's Volcanic Ash posting...whew, didn't get singed too badly!

Public Invited to Forums on Depleted Uranium

By Rep. Cindy Evans
District 7 - North Kona, South Kohala
Chair - House Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs

I will be hosting a series of West Hawaii community forums on depleted uranium discovered at Pohakuloa Training Area. Guest speakers include Col. Killian from the Army Installation Management Command and Mr. Russ Tanaka from the Department of Health - Noise, Radiation and Indoor Air Quality Division. West Hawaii residents are downwind of Pohakuloa. We need to know what is present and what is being done to protect us from harmful effects. The public is invited to take part in the following meetings:

Friday, November 16, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Waikoloa Library Workroom
Saturday, November 17, 9:00 - 11:00 a.m., Hokuloa United Church of Christ (69-1600 Puako Beach Rd.)
Saturday, November 17, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m., Kealakehe High School Cafeteria
Sunday, November 18, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m., Waimea Senior Center (next to Post Office).

If you have any questions, please call my office manager, Tommie Suganuma, at 808-586-8510.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii Honored for 10 Years of Service

Photo: Left to right - Danny Kaleikini, Dell Manini, Mayor Hannemann, Jessica Lani Rich, and Rep. Brower.

Imagine traveling far from home and being struck by vandalism, robbery, illness, or even the death of a loved one. The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH) was formed 10 years ago and helps about 2000 traumatized visitors a year. They help by providing hotel rooms, contacting relatives, guidance with hospital care, government assistance, funeral arrangements, and more. There is even a bereavement team in place. "Aloha" is more than a word or a concept in these situations.

Last Friday, Rep. Tom Brower, who represents Waikiki, presented a certificate of appreciation from the Hawaii State Legislature to VASH and Jessica Lani Rich, President and Executive Director, during a luncheon to honor the organization on its 10th anniversary. Rich empathizes with visitors who suffer a crisis while traveling. Thirty years ago, her father was honeymooning in El Salvador and saw his wife struggling in the water. While assisting her to shore, he suffered a heart attack and died. Today, the organization is run with the help of two full-time and eight part-time staffers, and 90 volunteers. If you'd like to be trained as a volunteer, contact or call 926-8274.

Cautiously considering a Con Con

Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Left to right, Tadao Beppu, convention secretary, at the podium, Hebden Porteus, president of the 1968 Con Con signing the document, and Seichi "Shadow" Hirai.

The question on whether Hawaii needs to hold a Constitutional Convention has been popping up more frequently these days. On the 2008 ballot, Hawaii voters will be asked, "Should there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the Constitution?" Yes or No. If yes, the Con Con would be held in 2010. The legislature must consider finding the significant funds to pay for a Con Con, which Speaker Say estimated in an interview a few weeks ago as being in the $24-32 million range.

Many consider the 1978 Hawaii State Constitional Convention to be the political event that shaped modern day Hawaii and produced future political stars, including Governors Waihee and Cayetano, and Mayor Jeremy Harris. At last week's Think Tech Hawaii public radio show, the question came before three state representatives, Kirk Caldwell, Marcus Oshiro and Tommy Waters, not during the broadcast but during the taping of the podcast, what they call the "Aftershow". Click here for the link. About 16:20 in, host Jay Fidell asks: "So what do you think about ConCon?" Here's what they said:

Waters: I'm open.

Caldwell: When you think about it...let people decide how to change the Constitution, sounds pretty democratic, pretty all American. On the other hand you could argue that the United States Constitution has stayed pretty much the same, there are a number of amendments, but not that many over 230 years. I like the stability that a constitution brings on broad policy levels. A ConCon, it's supposed to be every 10 years, and we haven't had one in 30 years, but I surely would hate to see our constitution turn into what the Texas constitution looks like, which is kind of like Hawaii Revised Statutes, it's 30 volumes of constitutional amendments, and that's why we have an HRS. So, I'm a little bit more troubled. I do think we want citizen participation. I think we need to work on getting people out to vote more, and we have to revisit why people aren't voting as much as they were in the past. But, to amend our constitution, holus-bolus, with all kinds of things that are specific driven gets me worried.

Marcus Oshiro: I have grave concerns, esp. in light of the Superferry debacle. We came into a special session not more than 65 days after the Supreme Court issued a 5-0 opinion, and we made a substantial policy decision in such a short period of time. And the media swayed a lot of hearts and minds and created this illusion of a crisis that we needed to "save" this business that is being run by multi-millionaires and someone like John Lehman who was the Asst. Secretary of the Navy, and that they needed to be saved. So, I have concerns about how any special interest group with money and with a good pr firm can manipulate public opinion, and sway even wise, smart policy makers. So, I have concerns about going back to our organic document like the Constitution and have it influenced by special interests.

Because it's Jan...

What: Lawmakers and others involved in the 2050 Sustainability Task Force might want to read Jan TenBruggencate's thoughtful 11/11/07 post from his Raising Islands blog. It starts: I wonder if I'm the only one deeply disappointed on reading the draft Hawai'i 2050 Sustainability Plan.

Why: Because it's Jan.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Looking for someone who loves to write...

Take the leap into a new adventure at the State Capitol!

Now that uber assistant Kim is off and running, I've been putting the word out that the House Majority is looking for a new assistant communications director. With the 2008 session just around the corner, I'd like to have someone in place before Christmas. Session is exciting, chaotic, intense, condensed, draining, and oddly addictive. Would be nice for the new person to have a few weeks around the Capitol under his/her belt before the gavel is struck.

I'm looking for someone who LOVES to write. Not just the usual press releases, media advisories, opinion pieces, etc. but also as a voice of and contributor to this blog. Once session starts, we'll be using the blog to update the community on what's happening and what's coming up, and we'll be covering the floor session in as much detail as possible. Which leads me to...a keen interest in politics, government and local issues is highly desirable, if not a must. An artistic eye for capturing the sights and personalities of the legislature through digital photography will be appreciated. Knowledge of and experience working with local media is also a plus. This is a full-time, year-round position, not just during session. Excellent state benefits and health insurance package.

So, if you are interested, or know someone who might be, here's the process and an approximate time frame: Please send me your resume and a cover letter, preferably by email. Deadline is next Friday, November 16th. I'll gather all of the resumes and review them while I'm on vacation (yay!) during Thanksgiving week, and I'll start interviews during the week of November 26th. If you have any questions, email or call me. Here's my contact info:

Georgette Deemer
Communications Director - House of Representatives
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 445
Telephone: 808-586-6133 or Cell: 808-341-5043

Photo: Honolulu Advertiser. "I thought you said vote down!" Nah, this is actually a photo of Hawaii stunt man Colin Fong who performed a motion picture stunt jumping off the second floor railing of the State Capitol to promote the local talents of the film industry.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Confirmation hearing on ICA nominee Katherine Leonard

Believe it or not, there will be a third special session of 2007 (the first was the override session in July, the second was this past October). For the third S.S., however, it is just the Senate calling itself back in to take care of one confirmation. The House is not involved. The Senate has posted a Notice of Hearing for the confirmation of Katherine G. Leonard to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, as an associate judge for a term of 10 years. The hearing will take place before the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor, chaired by Senator Brian Taniguchi. During the recent special session, the Senate failed to confirm the governor's former nominee Randal Lee. The hearing is scheduled for Friday, November 16, 2007, starting at 9:00 a.m. in Room 229 of the State Capitol.

Three Governors

Wayne Yoshioka from Hawaii Public Radio filed this story on the appearance last weekend of our three former Democratic Governors. For political history junkies, it was a rare treat to see them at once on the same stage - together these men led our state for nearly 30 years, from 1974 - 2002. Each were the first of their ethnic group to be elected Governor of Hawaii. Each rose in elected office from the State Legislature to Lt. Governor and then Governor. Highly recommend that you listen to the podcast, but here are some highlights:

Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Left to right: Governors Ben Cayetano, John Waihee and George Ariyoshi

On the Democratic majority state legislature:

Ariyoshi: We're a big party. We encourage different thoughts and opinions. And that's what’s got to happen at the state legislature. We should not expect compliance with a particular train of thought.

Waihee: I was with a bunch of young people, and they were talking about how nice they were because they were getting along with the Democratic legislators, and I said, "You know that's wonderful, but when I was your age, I was trying to beat those guys. I wanted to kick them out of office. I was there trying to make revolution." Isn't there any young people in this world who want to overthrow the system anymore?

Cayetano: When I started in 1974, one of the things that I realized was that this is going to end one day, and while I'm in it, I'm going to do everything that I think should be done, and say everything that I think should be said. That's not happening today. The leadership, as far as I'm concerned, in the legislature is weak.

Later, Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell responded: In the end, it's more than party. Today, here, in this convention room, we can be partisan, and we can talk tough, but when we leave the room and go out as elected officials, we have to worry about the broader good.

Critical issues for the future:

Ariyoshi: At one time, the homeless in Hawaii were people who came from California who looked for the opportunity to camp on the beaches for a few days. Today, the homeless people are our own people, people who have jobs, who have families, who have children, and can't pay for a place to rent.

Cayetano: There's such an imbalance in the service type jobs to the rest of the job market here. And my own view is that someone needs to really take a good look at how many hotels we're going to allow to be built here. Ever since sugar and pineapple went out, they've been replaced by a new plantation, and that plantation is the hotel industry.

Waihee: One of the most important issues is how we co-exist with each other. And that issues like native Hawaiian rights, like the homeless, bring with them the potential for divisiveness. And I think that the next ten years we're going to see more stress placed on that ideal more than ever before.

Democratic nominee for President:

Ariyoshi: On this particular issue, I don't want to influence anybody. And I think I prefer to keep my support, at least at this point, very personal, and give the people an opportunity to express themselves and make a selection.

Waihee: Well, everybody is going to assume, and they're right, that I'm supporting Hillary Clinton. That's who I support!

Cayetano: I'm supporting Obama. But you know, whoever the Democratic nominee is, I'm going to strongly support that person too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Aloha ~

The State Capitol is a place that is as unique as the characters that run up and down its halls every day. In what other workplace can you watch an impassioned floor debate in the morning, be invited to a state representative's office for homemade pork guisantes at lunch, and watch the "Lost" crew shoot a scene in your building's basement in the afternoon?

My experience working in the two-person House communications "office" over the last year has been both enjoyable and extremely valuable. If you think about it, this is not an easy job. For one thing, you have several dozen "clients" to represent, and they're a pretty diverse bunch. During the legislative session, a zillion things are happening each day and it's difficult to know what's going to go off next. It's also not rare for us to be in the spotlight over here – which is just as awesome as it is nerve-wracking.

The public perceptions of and misconceptions about this body might be what make this job most difficult. Before I started working at the legislature last December, it was very easy for me to buy into negative images of Hawaii politics and the people who work in state government. Actually being in the midst of it over the last year has taught me a great deal about the legislature and the political system and has deepened my appreciation for the biggest issues facing Hawaii today. I'm by no means an expert, but this experience enabled me to meet people and to be involved in the process instead of simply observing and drawing conclusions while standing on the outside.

The Hawaii House Blog has been one of the most interesting projects I worked on. I'm thrilled at how this blog has taken shape, especially in recent weeks. I envisioned this site to be a place where we could create more interest in the legislature and put forward a different face than we usually do, that is, through traditional news releases or press conferences. The Special Session gave us an opportunity to try blogging from the front lines, and I hope we'll continue to receive encouragement and feedback from visitors throughout the 2008 session.

Blogs and other online media are truly changing the nature of communication, particularly between players in government and politics, and I believe they'll also change the functions of this communications office. From what I've seen in the last year, I am confident that the people in this building will be more than up to the challenge.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Aloha Kim!

At once, I am sad to announce that Wednesday is Kim's last day at the legislature, but I'm also very excited for her as she starts a new professional adventure before going off to graduate school next fall. I'd like to thank Kim for her many contributions as the assistant communications director for the House, including helping to start this blog. Not only is she a fine writer with a good mind, she has restored my faith that there are young people out there who care about where Hawaii is headed, and who advocate for more of her generation to get politically involved. We wish her all the best and have every confidence that she will go out into the world and make it a better place.

Georgette Deemer - House Communications Director

Legislature 2008 Next on "Think Tech"

Reps. Kirk Caldwell, Marcus Oshiro and Tommy Waters will appear tomorrow (Wednesday) on "Think Tech", KIPO, 89.3 FM, 5-6 p.m., to talk about what's coming up in the Legislature for 2008. Caldwell is the House Majority Leader, Marcus Oshiro is the Finance Chair, and Waters is the Chair of Judiciary. All three had an elevated role to play in the recent special session, as Caldwell assumed Vice Speaker duties in addition to Majority Leader, Oshiro chaired the House committee hearings on the Superferry bill (and ultimately voted against the bill), and Waters introduced and chaired the hearing on the Extended Sentencing bill. You can listen to KIPO by streaming audio here, and the show will be available by podcast later.

And, while this probably had nothing to do with Think Tech's invitation for these three to appear on the show, Caldwell, MOshiro and Waters happen to comprise the House Surfing Caucus, so if the high surf continues to pound the south shore....

Photo: Honolulu Advertiser

Monday, November 5, 2007

Renovation of public housing units

Hawaii suffers an affordable housing crisis, aggravated by a backlog of public housing units that need renovation before they can be considered in livable condition. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Human Services and Public Housing and the House Committee on Human Services and Housing will hold a joint informational briefing on the status of public housing renovation. When: November 7th, 10:00 a.m. Where: State Capitol Room 229. The update will be provided by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority. Also, the Public Housing Tenant Association will voice concerns about their own housing project conditions. Rep. Maile Shimabukuro and Sen. Suzanne Chun-Oakland serve as Chairs.

Paid Family Leave Meeting set for Wednesday

Pre-empted by the Special Session, the Joint Legislative Committee on Family Caregiving re-scheduled their meeting for Wednesday, November 7th, 12:00 noon in Room 225 at the State Capitol. They'll be discussing the establishment of a Paid Family Leave Program under the State's Temporary Disability Insurance law. The proposed program would provide wage replacement benefits to employees who must take time off from work to care for a seriously ill family member. Rep. Marilyn Lee and Sen. Les Ihara serve as co-chairs.

Rep. Carroll chosen for Western Legislative Academy

Rep. Mele Carroll is in Colorado Springs this week with 38 other state legislators to take part in the Western Legislative Academy -- a prestigious training institute for newer state legislators.

Rep. Carroll, who represents East Maui, Moloka'i, Lana'i, Kaho'olawe and Molokini, was selected by the Council of State Governments-WEST for this highly competitive program because of her commitment to public service, desire to improve personal legislative effectiveness and interest in improving legislative process.

She'll be there for 3.5 days of intensive training in subjects including the legislative institution, ethics, team building, communications, legislative strategies and working relationships, negotiations and time management.

Participating faculty include the Eagleton Institute's Alan Rosenthal, a nationally recognized authority on state legislatures; Washington, D.C. communications expert Arch Lustberg, and a leading retired U.S. Air Force trainer in team building. Experienced Western Legislative leaders will also discuss legislative strategies and working relationships.

Act 2

The Governor's office just announced that she has signed the SB1, SD1 into law as Act 2, and that today the State and the Hawaii Superferry will file a motion before Judge Cardoza's court to lift the injunction so that the vessel can sail into Kahului Harbor. PDF's of the Executive Order 07-10 which lists the conditions and protocols, and the Letter to the Legislature, are posted on the Governor's website. The SB's Richard Borreca starts off his story on the bill signing with an interesting sentence, "Gov. Linda Lingle signed the Hawaii Superferry bill Friday afternoon, although legislators only found out about it this morning." What's up with that?

One of the weirdest things about working at the Capitol is that it's like a bustling city one day (in session) and a ghost town the next (out of session). Such was the case after the recent special session, but it's worthwhile to see the blog community continuing a lively discussion on what will surely be the #1 news story of 2008. Rep. Kirk Caldwell's op-ed piece in Sunday's Star-Bulletin seemed to touch a nerve in Disappeared News and The Kong Blog. Rep. Tom Brower has a viewpoint on Hawaii Reporter today.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Skeptical about blogging?

This from the article: "How to Bring Blogging to Life" by Karl Kurtz in the latest edition of State Legislatures:

"Courtesy of Technorati: More than 100,000 new blogs are created daily, but only 50 percent of new bloggers are still posting three months later.

Still skeptical about the viability of this new medium? Ponder this New York Times editorial from 1939 (sorry no link), "The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued to the screen; the average American family hasn't got time for it. Therefore, the showmen are convinced that for this reason, if no other, television will never be a serious competitor of (radio) broadcasting."

Rep. Lee's November guests on Kukui Connection

This month on Kukui Connection, Rep. Marilyn Lee covers the issues of domestic violence and the nursing workforce. Guests on the November show include Ana Maring, a Domestic Violence Educator from the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Barbara Matthews, Executive Director from Hawaii State Center for Nursing. Kukui Connection airs each Sunday at 4:00 p.m. on Olelo, Oceanic Cable Channel 54.

Better Education needed on Skin Cancer

An Advertiser editorial yesterday called for greater public awareness about skin cancer -- a health issue of huge importance to both residents and visitors who enjoy sunny Hawaii.

According to the newspaper, data compiled by the National Cancer Institute over the past two decades showed that the melanoma incidence in Hawaii has risen more sharply than the U.S. overall upward trend, suggesting more local awareness is needed:
Clearly, there's a need for better public outreach -- particularly to children, who have a lifetime of preventive care ahead of them. Skin damage is cumulative, so early intervention is critical.
Parents hold a key responsibility here, but the state should help reinforce this. The Health Department has run skin-awareness campaigns with televised spots, but a more sustained program is needed.
Skin cancer is the most preventable form of that deadly disease. A state drenched in sun throughout the year needs to get that message out as loudly and clearly as possible.
Some steps towards better public outreach have already been taken. During the 2007 session, the legislature passed a resolution to encourage the Dept. of Health to develop a skin cancer education and prevention program, to collect data on how widely skin cancer affects Hawaii's residents, and to work with the Dept. of Education to implement the program in all Hawaii public schools.
Further discussion about ways to bring attention to and prevent this deadly disease will undoubtably surface during the 2008 session.

'Aha Kiole Advisory Committee Selected

 By Rep. Mele Carroll

I wanted to let everyone know that the 'aha kiole advisory committee has been selected by Governor Lingle. The are: Timothy Bailey from Maui, Vanda Hanakahi from Moloka‘i, Winifred Basques from Lana‘i, Sharon Pomroy from Kaua‘i, Ilei Beniamina from Ni‘ihau, Hugh Lovell from Hawai‘i, Charlie Kapua from O‘ahu, and Les Kuloloio representing Kaho‘olawe. I'm very pleased with the selection of the first 'aha kiole advisory committee members. They have an important task ahead and will play a critical role in maintaining the state's land and natural resources. I look forward to working with them.

What is the 'aha kiole committee? In the 2007 legislative session, the legislature passed SB 1853, establishing an ‘aha kiole advisory committee to advise the legislature in creating an ‘Aha Moku Council Commission to assist in the formation of regional 'aha moku councils. These councils shall give advisory assistance to the Department of Land and Natural Resources on all matters regarding the management of the State's natural resources. The bill was signed into law as Act 212. The committee is required to submit their first report to the legislature 20 days prior to the 2008 legislative session.

Given that my district covers Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai, Molokai, Keanae, Wailua, Nahiku, and Hana, I was a strong advocate for this bill throughout the 2007 session. I also serve as the Chair of the legislature's Hawaiian Caucus, and as Vice Chair of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

Over the past 200 years, Hawai‘i has seen and experienced severe changes. These include the deterioration of the Hawaiian culture, language, values, and land tenure system, which have in part resulted in the over-development of the coastline, alteration of fresh water streams, destruction of the life-giving watersheds, decimation of the coral reefs, and the decline of endemic marine and terrestrial species.

The purpose of this Act is to create a system of best practices based on the indigenous resource management practices of moku (regional) boundaries, acknowledging the natural contours of land, the specific resources located within those areas, and the methodology necessary to sustain resources and the community.

Kupuna Les Kuloloio, who will represent the island of Kahoolawe, helped us on the creation of the legislation. He told me, "I felt we all had a tremendous opportunity to ensure that our Hawaiian resources would be protected through a system of best practices. It's a responsibility that should be embraced and taken seriously by many generations to come."

The ‘aha moku council system will foster understanding and practical use of knowledge, including native Hawaiian methodology and expertise, to assure responsible stewardship and awareness of the interconnectedness of the clouds, forests, valleys, land, streams, fishponds, and sea. The council system will include the use of community expertise and establish programs and projects to improve communication, education, provide training on stewardship issues throughout the region (moku), and increase education. This measure also appropriates funds for the advisory committee to carry out its duties.

Photo - Front Row, left to right: Auntie Winifred Basques, Vanda Hanakahi, Ilei Beniamina, Sharon Pomroy. Back Row, left to right: Rep. Mele Carroll, Charlie Kapua, Timmy Bailey, Les Kuloloio, and Hugh "Buttons" Lovell.

Native Hawaiian culture has knowledge that has been passed on for generations, and is still living for the purposes of perpetuating traditional protocols, caring for and protecting the environment, and strengthening cultural and spiritual connections. It is through the ‘aha moku council that native Hawaiians protected their environment and sustained the abundance of resources that they depended upon for thousands of years.

The ahupua'a is an ancient Hawaiian land division system which contained strips of land that extended from the mountain to the kupapaku (ocean floor). The ahupua'a supported a self-contained and ola (life giving) community working with a spirit of cooperation of caring and revering the land to meet the needs of all.

Tim Bailey, who will represent Maui, said: "There are many in my generation who want to do the right thing and understand the importance of studying ancient practices. It is a great honor to be selected to serve on the 'aha kiole advisory committee. Working together with the members of the committee, the Legislature, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, we can and will preserve these practices that make Hawaii unique in all creation."

By studying the ancient Hawaiian ahupua'a, the biological and non-biological factors and their interactions, this bill hopes to identify those elements which supported the success of that ecological system. Learning to build on those elements and not rival nature but to cooperate and live in harmony with her to build a sustainable future is the goal of this measure.

Today, many Hawaiian communities are being revitalized by using the knowledge of cultural practitioners passed down through kupuna, experienced farmers (mahi'ai) and fishers (lawai'a) to engage and enhance sustainability, subsistence and self-sufficiency.

Many Hawaiian communities are also interested, concerned, involved, willing, and able to advise the departments, agencies, organizations and other groups in integrating traditional knowledge, and ahupua'a management practices.

The goal of this measure is consistent with the Hawaii State Constitution which reaffirms and protects all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes and possessed by ahupua'a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778, subject to the rights of the State to regulate such rights.

The 2005 Hawaii Ocean Resources Management Plan report to the 2006 legislature identified, under the protection of natural and cultural resources section, the need for a system for assessing management needs and developing management practices which drew collectively on regulatory, science-based, traditional and cultural, community-based and political systems such as the konohiki or ahupua'a concept. The 'aha moku councils provide meaningful feedback.

Above Photo: I'ao Ridgeline - Maui, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

Thursday, November 1, 2007

"America's Most Wanted" lobbies House leadership

John Walsh, the famed crime fighter/host of the FOX television series America's Most Wanted, came to the State Capitol today to meet with House leaders on a proposed identity theft bill for next session. The series is shooting in Hawaii this week, prepping a show that will air November 10th. The show will be all about Hawaii cases, including a case of identity theft and the alleged murder of Walsh's personal friend, former Kauai resident John Elwin. Elwin's body was found in an unmarked grave in the Philippines in 2006. According to Andrew Pereira's KHON news story last night:

This past September Henry Calucag, also known as Hank Jacinto, was sentenced in Honolulu Circuit Court to a mandatory minimum of 80 months in jail for stealing Elwin's land on Kauai and forging a notarized document Elwin had signed. Walsh is highlighting Elwin's case and meeting with local prosecutors to secure a murder indictment against the man he calls a cold blooded, serial killer. Walsh hopes his Hawaii broadcast will also produce leads about two other men who vanished after Calucag befriended them as he did Elwin. Arthur Young disappeared in 1990 while Douglas Ho disappeared in 2004. Like Elwin both men were never heard from again after traveling with the Calucag to the Philippines.

Rep. James Kunane Tokioka has been involved in helping on the case and prepared a draft bill for the 2008 session to strengthen Hawaii's identity theft law. Walsh asked the lawmakers to work together to pass the bill next year.
Photo: John Walsh talks with Reps James Tokioka, Ken Ito, Speaker Calvin Say, Kirk Caldwell and Ryan Yamane