The Week in Review
March 06, 2008
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 27
Just got a press release from a coalition of organizations—League of Women Voters Hawai`i, Common Cause Hawai`i, Voter Owned Hawai`i, Sierra Club Hawai`i Chapter, Hawaii's Thousand Friends, Kokua Council, Advocates for Consumer Rights, Hawai`i Pro-Democracy Initiative, Citizen Voice, Progressive Democrats of Hawai`i and Americans for Democratic Action/Hawai`i—urging everyone not already in one or more of the above named groups to call/write/poke our state representatives into voting down House Bill 2455 tomorrow. This bill, which hasn't gotten a lot of publicity, would kill the current state law banning corporations from contributing more than $1,000 to a candidate during an election and allow these same corporations to contribute the same as the rest of us: $2,000 to a candidate for a two-year office, $6,000 to someone wanting a four-year statewide office. Except, of course, corporations aren't like you and me: they have vastly greater cash reserves from which to draw. What's more, according to state Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Barbara Wong, this bill would actually make it very difficult for us private citizens to track corporate contributions. "The federal government banned corporate donations in 1907," Common Cause Hawai'i spokesperson Nikki Love told the House Judiciary Committee during a Feb. 5 hearing on the bill. "Twenty-two states also prohibit corporate donations to candidates. If we are going to chance Hawai'i's campaign finance law, it should be to reduce the amount of corporate money in the political process, not increase it." Eighteen individuals and organizations submitted testimony on HB 2455 to the Judiciary Committee—16 of which were in opposition—and the committee's Feb. 5 vote went 12 to one for approval (Maui's own Angus McKelvey didn't end up voting, but Joe Souki and Kyle Yamashita voted aye). With that kind of spread, anyone want to guess how tomorrow's House floor vote will go?
THURSDAY, Feb. 28
Surprise! The state House "recommitted" HB 2455 back to the Judiciary Committee. That means it's dead. Guess there might be some hope for us after all.
FRIDAY, Feb. 29
Unlike many of my friends and colleagues, I don't believe in karma. I mean, karma would certainly go a long way to explaining why everything associated with the name Hawai`i Superferry, Inc. has become an absolute dud, but as I said, I don't believe the universe works that way. See, if I believed in karma, then I wouldn't particularly care that today a bunch of environmental activist groups got together and appealed Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza's lifting of the injunction against the Superferry back in November 2007, which in itself was a product of our brilliant state Legislature passing—and Governor Linda Lingle signing!—Special Session Act 2, which exempted the Superferry from Hawai'i's environmental laws. "The Superferry is already wrecked," I'd say to my karma-believing self, "wasting away in some Honolulu drydock with busted up rudders (at least), waiting for her corporate overlords to figure out that their arrogant, taxpayer-subsidized defiance of local environmental concerns has swamped them forever." But alas, I do not believe in karma, which means I'm left putting my faith in residents fighting in our courts to uphold the very laws our lawmakers don't seem interested in upholding. It's not as elegant a solution as karma, but in my opinion it's a lot more heartening.
SATURDAY, Mar. 1
I don't think F. Scott Fitzgerald had Nu`uanu on Oahu in mind when he wrote that "the rich, they're different from you and me," but he might as well have.
SUNDAY, Mar. 2
The last time I checked, the island of Maui was still very much addicted to tourism. Catering to the needs of tourists—be it housing, feeding or entertaining them—is big business out here. So it seems odd that Mayor Charmaine Tavares and her administration are putting the hammer down on small companies that do business with tourists without offering some kind of cushion. Last year we had the big crackdown on transient vacation rentals. That seemed to go so well—Tavares wanted island-wide outrage, right?—that the county has decided to put the screws on surfing, kayaking and diving companies that operate out of our beach parks. If the county Parks Department gets its way, the number of beach parks accessible to commercial operators would drop from 28 to 20 in an effort to "find a balance" in beach access between tourists and residents, Parks Director Tamara Horcajo said in The Maui News today. And hey—don't get me wrong: there's nothing worse than heading to the beach or that secret kayaking spot and finding a bunch of trucks and visitors from Middle America standing around like it's all some kind of private amusement park. But I'm also worried that we're going to create two beach worlds here. One will have beaches dominated by the big hotels and resorts, with the packs of commercial operators growing ever denser, while the other will have beaches dominated by locals. And this would be okay, except the nicest, whitest sand beaches on the island will fall in the first category and be pretty much impossible for locals to enjoy.
MONDAY, Mar. 3
It's that time again! Time for Congress.org's annual "Power Rankings!" This is always fun, because our own Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye aren't the most powerful people in the U.S. Senate. The Honolulu Advertiser published a brief piece on the rankings today on their website, pointing out that Akaka is ranked 39th most powerful senator and Inouye 35th, which aren't really bad numbers in the 100-member Senate but are significantly worse than last year, when both senators were tied for 21st most powerful senator. Going deeper into the Congress.org rankings, I found that Inouye—something of a pork barrel fan—is still only ranked as 20th most powerful senator in terms of earmarks (Akaka's a miserable 71st in terms of bringing home federal dollars). But Akaka outranks Inouye in terms of getting legislation passed—a very respectable 16th compared to Inouye's 26th ranking. But most importantly, neither Akaka nor Inouye qualifies as the biggest loser in the Senate. That distinction belongs to Senator John Barrasso (R, Wyoming). The honorable rookie Senator Barrasso came in dead last, somehow falling behind even Senator Larry Craig (R, Idaho), a right-winger who last year pled guilty to soliciting a male undercover cop in an airport restroom, then attempted to withdraw his guilty plea after journalists published the story.
TUESDAY, Mar. 4
I'll just quit while I'm ahead.
Anthony Pignataro is a twit. See how bad he is at http://twitter.com/apignataro. MTW
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