Sunday, April 20, 2014         

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The last time U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa saw the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, it was when Hawaii's senior senator seriously started to plan the nuts and bolts of his succession.

Something of a political fight is being waged over the state's $12 billion operating budget. This is not unusual — there never is enough money to close the state's open palms, and this is certainly the time of the year when state budget decisions are made.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Abercrombie's recollections of the death of Hawaii's senior Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, and the passing of a letter from Inouye to Abercrombie asking that U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa be appointed to replace him in the Senate.

The Big Island of Hawaii is where you go for earthquakes. With dozens of seismic events registering every week, the island is always shaking. In local politics, the seismic-rich environment is the state Senate.

Hawaii is again showing up as the most mediocre voting state in the country. The latest national report coming this week from the Pew Charitable Trust's Voter Performance Index shows that in 2012 not only were we the least inclined to vote, we were the worst in just registering to vote.

If the news of the day isn't worrisome enough to wipe that grin off your face, how about a poll? Actually, a new set of polls from Gallup show that Hawaii is moving from sunshine and smiles to being slightly disgruntled.

A lesson learned about Hawaii politics was taught one night back in the 1980s, while I was waiting outside a closed-door legislative meeting. The meeting was supposed to be open, but it wasn't, and as the lawmakers darted out the door I said to one, "Aren't you guys breaking the law?"

As anyone knows who pays the monthly rent, fills up the car or hopes that the leaky roof can be just patched and not replaced, times of no money are different from times of plenty of money.

The Monday endorsement of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the coming Democratic primary shows that Obama is not afraid of picking one Democrat over another.

Hawaii may be getting more sophisticated, but we are not so blas that we shrug it off when the big dogs come to town. This week we are getting more than enough sniffs from our federal friends from Washington, D.C.

Somewhere in a Honolulu park there is a swimming pool pump rusting away, awaiting parts that aren't coming because the city doesn't have the money.

This spring, Hawaii's Democrats will do what they do best: evolve. The party meets in convention May 24 and 25 at the Sheraton Waikiki. There it is expected the Democrats will pick a new party chairman.

One of the last undeveloped parcels of land downtown could be the trigger for the urban renewal that the Chinatown and Aala Park areas so need. The project is the Liliha Community Center.

In the 1970s Kakaako was taken away from city governance by the state after a series of tiffs with former Mayor Frank Fasi. The decades of talk are now matched by what appear to be a solid decade of high-rise construction that will be capped with Honolulu's $5.5 billion heavy-rail system roaring through it.

Of all the illogical and bizarre modes for the state Legislature, the confirmation process for a member of the state Supreme Court is perhaps the closest one gets to recreating Alice in Wonderland.

Pat Saiki is settling in at the Hawaii Republican Party's Kapiolani Boulevard offices hoping for just a little magic. If her first time as party chairwoman did not lead to GOP victories, perhaps there is lightning the second time around.

If you are dealing with more than $12 billion, what happens with $33.5 million may not make much difference unless you are the one presented with the multimillion-dollar tab.

The elections are coming and that is a good thing. Yes, elections divide the community, force you to make decisions and almost always disappoint. But, who cares? What elections do is give us a great and booming economy.

The cries of a politician in trouble are unmistakable, and today, they are coming from Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie. On Thursday, in an interview with Star-Advertiser reporter Derrick DePledge, Abercrombie blasted his primary opponent, state Sen. David Ige, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for not approving Abercrombie's package of tax breaks for seniors.

For a few weeks in 2004, Hawaii was that rarest of presidential territories: a "battleground state." Back then, we had two separate statewide daily papers, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and The Honolulu Advertiser. They did polls and called the race for president a dead heat.

Perhaps the least noticed big change in local elections this year is happening with the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

On CNN last week, Wolf Blitzer was speculating about who is the one person most politicians want hustling votes for them. While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is quickly fading as a GOP luminary, the star power of former President Bill Clinton is growing brighter.

The state Senate's new 23rd District is one long postcard of Hawaii. Stretching from Haleiwa to Waiahole-Waikane, the district with its gorgeous beaches and picturesque towns and villages was redrawn by the 2010 Reapportionment Commission.

Just because Gov. Neil Abercrombie's state budget was delivered back in December does not mean that the final bill has been submitted.

After two decades of running and losing in primary elections, it is easy to see why former Mayor Mufi Hannemann wants to stay clear of those early races. By forming an independent political party, Hannemann takes himself out of the Democratic primary.

When he was running for governor, Neil Abercrombie promised major new state energy programs. His 2010 vision of a separate energy agency helped woo environmental activists to the outspoken Democrat's side.

Roll call: Gov. Gill? Gov. Fasi? Gov. Anderson? Gov. Heftel? Gov. Saiki? Not there, are they, although the early statewide polls all had Tom Gill, Frank Fasi, D.G. "Andy" Anderson, Cec Heftel and Pat Saiki beating the incumbent governor or heir-apparent lieutenant governor.

The new statewide Hawaii Poll is out and it answers a lot of questions about the state of local political races. The poll was taken between Feb. 1-11 by Ward Research for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now.

What Kakaako needs is Wally Fujiyama. If somehow the ghost of the legendary, local attorney and political power broker could visit the dreams of the developers now insistent on transforming Kakaako into the Great Wall of Kowloon, the state would be in a better place.

If the political truism is that "all politics is local," then in Hawaii the corollary is that all local politicians are liberal.

In times of rain, besides an umbrella, what is a good thing to have? The answer is a big reservoir, holding all that extra water to use during the long, hot, dry summer. The suggestion to build a big dam is important because for once, Hawaii is not the weird state, out of step with the other 49.

If U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday had developed his thinking on the internment of Japanese-American citizens just a tad more, we might have a whole new view on civil rights in America.

If you live on Oahu, eight years from now you are likely to get a small raise. You will have slightly more money to spend after Dec. 31, 2022.

In Hawaii, it always is all about the land. The dilemma is that the land is so valuable it must be used; not to do so would be a waste. And the land has such grace and encapsulates so much potential that it must be preserved.

Every year, the state Legislature changes hundreds of laws. That comes after poking around in some 3,000 or so separate proposals. Everything is fair game; the Legislature has dozens of ways to allow it to pry into any subject and fiddle with the gears and levers of government.

Welcome to Sisyphean University, the Manoa branch. As you know, King Sisyphus was punished by the Greek gods because he was too clever. Gods condemned him to an eternity of pushing a rock up a hill, only to have the boulder escape and roll back down.

"I am able to report to you, our state government's financial house now stands on solid ground," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Although that was the sound-bite line from Abercrombie's 2014 State of the State speech, it also was the opening trumpet call for the 2014 governor's race.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie's first State of the State speech in 2011 was his boldest and he is still digging himself out from the resulting fallout.

Speculation regarding former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann's political future is adding extra spice to the 2014 political year.

Those born in the mid-1980s and later, the fabled millennials, don't care much for political labels. A series of polls taken late last year show that about 45 percent consider themselves to be independents. Another 33 percent say they are Democrats and 23 percent say Republican.

Somewhere, politicians must have a scale to weigh the risk of raising taxes in an election year. There will be elections this year. Half of the state Senate, all of the state House and the governor all will be running.

If the Hawaii Legislature had an official sport, it would have to be jujitsu. The Legislature convenes for the 2014 session Wednesday, and for those wanting to understand the beast, it is best to understand the ancient Japanese self-defense tactics.

A new poll taken to judge voters' thinking about the local economy holds little good news for the reelection campaign of Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

The oddest ducks in the Hawaii Legislature are those who relish diving into the state budget. You can appreciate the power and control earned from mastering the budget process, but understanding the difference in "Part D funds" as compared to interdepartmental transfer funds is akin to developing a knack for six-place long division.

When everyone from Uncle Charlie to the mailman runs in an election, what happens? The answer is important for the six announced candidates in the Democratic primary for Hawaii's 1st Congressional District.

Sixty-four-year-old Lowell Kalapa died the day before the end of 2013. The new year starts with a remembrance. When he was being candid, Lowell Kalapa, president and executive director of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, was unquotable.

When you ask for solutions, sometimes the answer is more than you asked for. For the past half decade, for instance, no one wanted to know how to pay the billions needed to ensure medical payments for retired public employees.

Part of the shock of all the new Kakaako construction is that Honolulu's climbing cranes have been silent for years. Still, this week's action is more than just "thumbs up" for development. It marks an open declaration by the Hawaii Community Development Authority that it need not be accountable.

For state Rep. Isaac Choy, the last straw came last week while reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Two stories in one day by sports reporter Ferd Lewis sent Choy, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, over the top.

If land in Hawaii is power, some land is also a dilemma. Kakaako Makai, for instance. The 30 acres on the makai side of Ala Moana Boulevard from Kewalo Basin to Honolulu Harbor are probably the state's most valuable headache.

If tradition holds, sometime next month Air Force One will glide into Hickam Air Force Base carrying President Barack Obama and family home for the holidays.

Jean Sadako King died Sunday, 12 days before her 88th birthday. She was a former lieutenant governor and a member of the state House and Senate.

If officials from the World Health Organization parachuted into Hawaii to survey our feelings about food, they would be stunned at our ability to march through our contradictions. Who gives an annual parade for SPAM?

The state is replacing Simeon Acoba, associate state Supreme Court justice, because he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. This is a big loss to Hawaii. Acoba's bright mind contributes much to the balance and thoughtfulness of the court, but our state Constitution says when you hit 70 on the Supreme Court, you are pau.

There was hugging and cheering in Lihue this weekend, as the Kauai County Council pushed forward a new Kauai law that will increase regulation of pesticides and genetically modified crops.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, one of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's closest political allies, says he will not support the veteran Democrat's re-election. In an interview last week, Cayetano said he feels Abercrombie has changed his positions on key issues, and therefore, will back Abercrombie's primary opponent, state Sen. David Ige, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Current events quiz: Besides legalizing gay marriage during the recent special session, what else did the state Legislature do? Quick answer: They spent a lot of money. Not because they wanted to, but because the Abercrombie administration signed two new public worker pay raise contracts after the regular legislative session concluded.

When the 55 hours of testimony ended, when more than a thousand people had spoken, when Hawaii's Legislature was acting to make gay marriage legal, the most powerful words were spoken by a 13-year-old girl, Shylar Young.

On Tuesday, Hawaii will be the state that bends the arc of moral justice a few more degrees toward justice and confirms the rights enjoyed by the many on the few.

Renwick "Uncle Joe" Tassill sat outside state Sen. David Ige's fundraiser this week, greeting all of the more than 200 supporters and telling them he wants voters to replace Gov. Neil Abercrombie with Ige.

If you have already made up your mind on same-sex marriage or want no more information about the politics of gay marriage, step right in: This column is about other matters.

Gay marriage is still the subject of interest for the state Legislature's special session, but what of the long-lasting political impact? Elections have consequences, but do political actions shape elections?

Calling in an airstrike on your position may be a desperate military tactic, but Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott has successfully devolved the strategy by essentially calling in a M1 Abrams tank brigade to repeatedly crush his own position.

Mostly unnoticed this week at the state Capitol is another fight that clearly shows the changing political forces in Hawaii.

With due respect to both Bruce Springsteen and Gov. Chris Christie, where would you rather get married, New Jersey or Hawaii?

If you call freshman Democratic Rep. Gregg Takayama's state Capitol office, the first thing you hear is a word of caution: "Due to overwhelming call volume regarding the special session and same-sex marriage, we may be on the phone assisting other callers."

While the state Legislature is moving toward a historic special session to consider legalizing gay marriage, early this year legislative leaders and Gov.

The trash-talking has started in Hawaii's U.S. Senate campaign as U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz came out with a campaign memo last week sneering at his opponent's efforts.

On the surface, Hawaii this week skipped much of the trauma of the federal shutdown — but below decks, the state's budget, just climbing to a recovery, was about to split open.

Hawaii's military importance may be what is saving the state from the potentially disastrous effects of the federal shutdown.

Calendar time. Barring the entry of a significant Republican candidate in either race, we are nine months away from selecting the next U.S. senator and governor for Hawaii.

One of the clearest bells on the perils of global warming is being sounded from Honolulu.

There is a "Wake me when it is over" sense to the national political impasse and federal government shutdown.

Talking is good, action is better. After decades of denials, bureaucratic passive-aggressiveness and just neglect, Makiki may finally join the Hawaii communities enjoying a real state library.

Fueled by constituents worried about Kakaako's development, legislators are starting to take a serious look at the powers of the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

The race for Hawaii's only open congressional seat will change, if Senate President Donna Mercado Kim makes good on her intentions to run.

There is a passion building on Kauai that neither the imprecision of science nor the promises of politicians will cool.

It was baseball great Yogi Berra who said, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded." He was talking about a restaurant, although he could have been talking about one of Hawaii's problems.

The reality of the gay marriage issue in Hawaii is this: Neil Abercrombie had 142,304 votes and Mufi Hannemann had 90,590.

UH buildings, especially at the Manoa campus, are in terrible shape. Estimates now put the cost for fixing two decades of neglect at nearly half a billion dollars, $487 million.

Dubbed "Generation Next," the nation's millennial generation, all 45.8 million strong, is rapping on the doors of power.

Ben Jay, University of Hawaii athletic director, thinks UH sports can be great with just $8 million more. Last week, Jay announced plans for a new fund drive that would increase the annual budget by $8 million.

As soon as votes were cast during the 1998 election, there was confusion on precisely what happened. No, voters gave the state Legislature the power to make the rules.

As his 2014 re-election campaign nears, some order is being brought by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to his sometimes-chaotic plans for the state's over-the-top energy bills.

There are four announced candidates for Hawaii's urban Oahu congressional district, and there are four no votes for American military action in Syria.

The Okinawan Festival just before Labor Day is more than just a great place for food. It is also the "go to" place to spot politicians.

One union does not a landslide make, so this week's United Public Workers' endorsement of Democratic U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa for the U.S. Senate shows how closely fought next year's primary will be.

If Hawaii is ever to free itself from the polluting and ruinously expensive process of burning oil and coal to make electricity, the first shots in the revolution will have to be fired by the state's own Public Utilities Commission.

With the American military now aiming its weapons at a new target in the Middle East, there are differences in the carefully phrased statements reflecting the thinking of U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

For someone who once held a one-woman sit-in in then-Gov. George Ariyoshi's office to protest the lack of women state appointees, speaking her mind is something that comes easily to Rep. Cynthia Thielen.

Last week's announcement that the Hawaii Community Development Authority is mulling over leasing almost one-third of Kakaako Waterfront Park to a private corporation confirms the worst fears of public-private development.

Among Asians in Hawaii, the topic of homosexuality was an absolute taboo," former Gov. Ben Cayetano wrote in his 2009 autobiography, "Ben: A Memoir."

There they sit, in Honolulu Harbor, in downtown's Capitol Historic District and even out in Wahiawa: millions of dollars worth of empty unused state and county buildings representing ideas either forgotten, not acted upon or just victims of legions of paper shufflers.

Figuring out Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Legislature's stand on gay marriage is more of a Zen koan than a political platform.

Nearly every year, the state Legislature starts off with a doctor's bill. No matter who is governor, one of the Legislature's first duties is to deal with an administration bill for emergency funds to pay for the increased costs of the state's hospital system.

It is still too early to set the field for the Democratic primary race for next year's Hawaii's Congressional District 1, but some things are becoming clear.

First there was the naming phase, in which the state rushed to attach Daniel K. Inouye's name to structures across the Islands. That was succeeded by the creating stage, calling for a $250,000 statue of Hawaii's former senior senator.

At least twice a week, sometimes more, the state Capitol basement is filled with punches. Right cross, left jab, upper cut, left hook.

On the way to his first inaugural ball decades ago as mayor of Honolulu, Frank Fasi stopped by the makeshift office of the University of Hawaii at Manoa student radio station, KTUH, and gave student reporters there his first interview.

News item: "WESTFIELD, Mass. » Team 5 Investigates has learned the state inspector general has begun an investigation into questionable spending by Dr. Evan Dobelle, the president of Westfield State University.

Should Honolulu’s top city officials get pay raises?
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UH Senior Fashion Show
The 48th annual University of Hawaii Senior Fashion Show is set for April 27 at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, featuring the designs of seven senior and seven junior designers. Read More »
BRUNO MARS AND traveling party are in town, here after their final night in Japan and ready for three nights in Hawaii at the Blaisdell beginning Friday. Welcome home, Bruno! Read More »