Krishna Cult Rumors Still Dog Tulsi Gabbard

· By Rui Kaneya
Comments

The Hawaii congresswoman’s national rise invites closer scrutiny of her family ties to an offbeat religious community. Her fiancé and chief of staff also grew up in families affiliated with the sect.

The Beat

  • Why Can’t We Watch HART Meetings on TV?

    ·By Nick Grube
    Officials at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation like to tout transparency, but City Councilman Trevor Ozawa thinks they can do more. This week Ozawa introduced a resolution to encourage HART to televise its public meetings through Olelo Community Media or other public access channels. The meetings could also be streamed online. Honolulu City Council Trevor Ozawa wants HART to be more transparent. Cory Lum/Civil Beat He wants those meetings on air so that citizens can track decisions being made on the city’s $6 billion rail project, which is underfunded and over-budget. As Resolution 15-80 states: “… the City Council finds that the size, expense and importance of the Honolulu Rail Transit project merits the televising of HART Board and committee meetings so that government transparency can be achieved and public trust in the project can be gained by informing Honolulu residents of the issues, discussions and plans surrounding the project …” Adding to the significance is the fact that Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and HART officials, including Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas, are doing their best to lobby state lawmakers to extend a half-percent surcharge on the general excise tax to pay for rail. Right now the tax is expected to expire in 2022. But Caldwell and Grabauskas are pushing for an extension of at least 25 years.
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  • US Senate Passes GOP Budget Along Party Lines

    ·By Chad Blair
    The U.S. Senate approved a Republican budget resolution just after 3 a.m. Friday morning in a 52-46 vote, “capping a grueling day of floor work that required lawmakers to take sides on dozens of amendments,” as The Hill reports. “Only two Republicans voted against the budget: Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.). Cruz announced this week he is running for president in 2016, and Paul is expected to do the same shortly.” Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz along with all Democrats and the two independents voted against the GOP budget. The Mall in Washington, D.C. Cory Lum/Civil Beat Hirono took to the Senate floor Thursday to argue about how the Senate budget “favors special interests and the wealthy and would hurt our middle class and economy,” according to her office. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its own budget resolution Wednesday, so the two chambers will have to resolve their differences after the Easter recess. Both budgets are heavy on increasing defense spending while cutting money for other programs.
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  • Hawaii Senators Praise Reid As ‘Fighter, Friend, Mentor, Steady Hand’

    ·By Chad Blair
    Harry Reid, the leader of U.S. Senate Democrats, is retiring, and Hawaii’s two senators are offering their praise for his service. Brian Schatz released this statement following the announcement of the news: “Democratic Leader Harry Reid is one of the smartest and toughest people I know.  As our Democratic Leader, Harry never backed down from a challenge—working to protect Social Security and Medicare, pushing for immigration reform, passing the landmark Affordable Care Act, and fighting for his home state of Nevada.  Harry has always been willing to stand up for what’s right, and our country is a better place because of him. “Harry has been a wonderful friend and a mentor, and he will leave behind a remarkable legacy.  But this Congress has just begun and I look forward to continuing our work together as he finishes out his term.”  Mazie Hirono issued this comment via Twitter: Senator Reid is a fighter for the middle-class and a champion for immigrant families and the AAPI community. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/hCPAYHM5oM — Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) March 27, 2015 “AAPI” stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Hirono added, “He’s been a steady hand for our caucus, and his leadership and resolve will be missed next Congress. I wish him and Landra all the best.” Landra is Reid’s wide, of course. Meanwhile, Reid has said he’d like to see Chuck Schumer of New York take his place.
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  • US Senate Endorses Same-Sex Marriage Benefits

    ·By Chad Blair
    Roll Call has this item regarding same-sex rights and the U.S. Senate. Excerpt: The Senate endorsed Social Security and veterans benefits for married gay couples Thursday night in a 57-43 vote, with 11 Republicans joining every Democrat. The amendment slowed down the vote-a-rama, with a group of Republicans huddled in the well and at times talking to sponsor Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. The nonbinding amendment to the budget resolution still falls short of the 60 votes needed to beat back filibusters in the chamber. … After the vote, Schatz released the following statement about the legislation, which also credits Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington state and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire: “Gay couples legally married in any state should be entitled to veterans and Social Security benefits identical to any other married couples. Tonight, eleven Republicans joined Democrats in recognizing that gay couples deserve equal treatment, regardless of where they live. We still have work to do to, but this is progress and a win for equal rights. I thank Senator Murray and Senator Shaheen for their leadership on this important issue.”   Democrat Mazie Hirono of Hawaii was among those voting in the majority. The Senate Thursday night was enduring a lengthy round of votes on multiple bills. Visitors on the top floor of the Newseum enjoy views of the west side of the Capitol building. Cory Lum/Civil Beat
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  • Schatz Pushes for Federal Financing of Transit-Oriented Development

    ·By Nick Grube
    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has teamed up with two of his colleagues to help cities, such as Honolulu, spur development around public transit stations, particularly those associated with rail. In a joint press release, Schatz and U.S. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced legislation that would make available money for loans and lines of credits that could be used on transit-oriented development projects. Funds would come through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program. U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is a sponsor on legislation that could help encourage development around Honolulu’s future rail line. Cory Lum/Civil Beat Transit-oriented development, or TOD, is a buzz phrase commonly associated with Honolulu’s $6 billion rail project. The idea behind TOD is to redevelop communities around transit stations to make them more pedestrian friendly. It can also be used as an economic driver to encourages redevelopment. “This bill would provide another tool for cities to facilitate smart, long-term planning and investment in neighborhoods near public transit, giving working families more convenient transportation options,” Schatz said in a statement. “By making projects financially feasible in neighborhoods around transit, we can build safer communities, improve our infrastructure, and create jobs while preserving water and undeveloped land.”
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  • Lockheed Martin, Kampachi Farms Team Up on Ocean Aquaculture

    ·By Chad Blair
    West Hawaii Today has this item on a new venture regarding harvesting the seas. Excerpt: The world’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, is teaming up with NELHA-based Kampachi Farms on a venture to make open-ocean aquaculture commercially viable. Forever Oceans, as the venture’s termed, will take to the next level Kampachi Farms’ mobile fish pen system, known as Vellela, which recently wrapped up research and development, by enhancing the means for monitoring and controlling the at-sea apparatus and creating a commercial demonstration project, Kampachi Farms co-CEO Neil Sims tells West Hawaii Today. “We’ve gone and done the research. We’ve proven there is tremendous and phenomenal potential, and now it’s time to move forward,” Sims said. Kampachi Farms is a six-man outfit that uses open-ocean fish cages to raise fish reared at the company’s headquarters at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kona. … The newspaper adds that Lockheed Martin Chief Technology Officer Keoki Jackson says the venture can take advantage of  technology robotics, satellite communications and command and control — “things that are right in Lockheed Martin’s wheelhouse.” Screen shot. Kampachi Farms
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  • US House Agrees on Boehner-Pelosi Medicare Bill

    ·By Chad Blair
    Who says the U.S. Congress can’t get anything done? “The House on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to repeal automatic payment cuts to doctors under Medicare, endorsing a rare bipartisan deal that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) negotiated with Democrats,” says The Hill. “The bill, which passed by a vote of 392-37, puts Congress on the precipice of ending a fight nearly two decades old over a formula known as the sustainable growth rate.” The Washington Monument. Cory Lum/Civil Beat Boehner crafted the deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The “doc fix” legislation now heads to the Senate, where its fate is less certain. President Obama has expressed support, h0wever. Rep. Mark Takai of Hawaii, a Democrat who voted for the Medicare bill along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, said this in a statement: “With today’s permanent (Sustainable Growth Rate) fix, we remove the uncertainty that has plagued our kupuna and their doctors, and seniors across the nation will now have access to the healthcare security they deserve. …  “In addition to the SGR fix this bill would also reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Just as healthcare security is important for our elders, it is equally important for our keiki, and reauthorization of CHIP will ensure that the children of our most vulnerable families have continued access to quality care.”
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  • House to HART: Open Up Your Books

    ·By Nick Grube
    Hawaii lawmakers, who are considering the extension of a tax hike to pay for Honolulu’s $6 billion rail project, want more assurances before they sign off. On Wednesday, the House Transportation Committee passed two resolutions to audit the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which is overseeing construction of the elevated railroad system. Construction has barely begun on Honolulu’s rail project, yet it’s already in need of more money. Cory Lum/CIvil Beat According to KITV, Committee Vice Chair Matt LoPresti said the audit is response to cost overruns and other issues that have left the project with a nearly $1 billion shortfall. “I think it’s necessary that everybody in the state have faith and confidence in the process, that they know where the money’s going,” said Lopresti. “I think we need to dig in and make sure we understand even where the contractors and subcontractors are spending (money); make sure we’re doing all the cost savings and responsible spending that people expect from us.” But HART Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas has said the project is already under a lot of oversight, including from the federal government and its own financial auditor, and that additional oversight would be unnecessary. The Legislature is considering two bills that would extend Oahu’s half-percent general excise tax for rail beyond its 2022 sunset. City and HART officials say that money is needed to complete the project and comply with federal grant guidelines. For more on the project and the financial challenges it’s facing read Civil Beat’s
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  • US House Passes GOP Budget, Splitting Parties

    ·By Chad Blair
    Republicans in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a 2016 budget in a 228-199 vote “that represents a major victory for GOP leaders after a rocky start to their year,” according to The Hill. “The budget would increase defense spending next year by boosting the Pentagon’s war fund to $96 billion, well above President Obama’s $58 billion request,” the report explains. The U.S. Capitol with its dome under remodeling, February 2015. Chad Blair/Civil Beat Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai of Hawaii voted against the measure, as did all other House Democrats and even 17 Republicans. In a statement after the vote, Takai said he preferred a Democratic alternative budget “because it seeks to invest in the future of our country and to ensure the preservation of the American Dream.” Takai continued: “The Democrat’s budget lifts the sequester caps for both defense and non-defense spending, reversing some of the harmful cuts that have hurt this nation deeply and will continue to limit future growth. Included within the Democrat’s budget are our clearly stated priorities to support working class families, provide a quality education at a reasonable cost, and to support America’s crumbling infrastructure system.” The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the GOP budget by the end of this week.
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  • DOE to Pet Owners: Schools Are Not Dog Parks

    ·By Chad Blair
    The state Department of Education says it has received “a number of complaints” about pet owners bringing their dogs onto school property after school hours. “Schools, particularly in the Castle-Kahuku and Kailua-Kalaheo complex areas (in Windward Oahu), have seen an increase in dog waste on schoolyards,” Lea Albert, the complex area superintendent for Castle-Kahuku, said in a press release Wednesday. “Some of our schools are being used as a dog park.” Yikes! Sounds like a mess. In fact, Albert says, schoolyards are “actively used” by students and adults for educational, recreational and athletic purposes. “It’s important that our community help us ensure that our campuses are a healthy and safe environment,” she adds. All DOE schools have signs posted that indicate pets are prohibited on the campuses, and the DOE “kindly asks” pet owners who have been walking their dogs on campuses to obey the signs.
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  • Hawaii State Courts Resolve Language Access Issues

    ·By Chad Blair
    The U.S. Department of Justices says that it has closed its review of the Hawaii Judiciary’s Language Access Program “following the department’s successful provision of technical assistance to the Hawaii Judiciary.” That’s according to a press release issued Tuesday. The DOJ had received complaints about the court system’s provision of language services to what are known as “limited English proficient” or LEP individuals in state court proceedings and operations. Allegations were made regarding violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires recipients of federal financial assistance such as courts “to provide competent language services free of charge to LEP individuals in court proceedings and operations.” A Hilo courtroom. PF Bentley/Civil Beat It’s estimated that almost 13 percent of Hawaii’s population have limited English proficiency. “I commend the Hawaii Judiciary for its proactive efforts to provide all communities with equal access to justice regardless of the language they speak,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “The results we are seeing in Hawaii are a testament to what collaboration and cooperation can achieve. Hawaii knows its work is not done, and we welcome the opportunity to continue to provide assistance whenever needed.” The judiciary’s accomplishments include: Issuing policy stating that all LEP individuals are to be provided “competent court interpretation free of charge in court proceedings, and that language services would also be provided for other court operations.” Implementing an awareness campaign “to increase the public’s knowledge on how to access the court’s language services, including the creation of
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  • Fight Against Albizias Stalls in Hawaii Legislature

    ·By Chad Blair
    The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has this item regarding legislation and trees. Excerpt: A Senate bill seeking funding to control albizia trees on Hawaii Island has stalled after failing to cross over to the state House of Representatives. Proponents of the bill say they were surprised by the failure of the measure, in light of the devastation wrought by the invasive trees following Tropical Storm Iselle. “I was shocked,” said Springer Kaye, manager of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee. “The Big Island has been trying to get some relief on this issue from the Legislature for years, and if being hit by a hurricane and having people without power up to three weeks — and possibly altering an election — doesn’t get enough attention on the issue to get it separate funding, I don’t know what will.” Senate Bill 591 was sponsored by state Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, and sought an appropriation of about $2 million to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council to fund a coordinated management effort of albizia trees on the Big Island and across the state. It was one of a raft of legislation introduced this session to address the rapidly growing trees, which are susceptible to snapping and collapsing in high winds, playing havoc with power lines and anything else unlucky enough to be below them. … The Tribune-Heralds says Ruderman “has been in talks with other legislators about the possibility of including a line item in the
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  • Maui County Is the Healthiest in Hawaii

    ·By Chad Blair
    Maui County — Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe — ranks healthiest in Hawaii while Hawaii County — the Big Island — is the least healthy county in the state. Honolulu came in second, followed by Kauai. That’s according to the sixth annual County Health Rankings, released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The rankings also compare the health of most counties across the country using local-level data. The factors that influence health include education, housing, violent crime, jobs, diet and exercise. Here are some study takeaways that apply nationally: The healthiest counties in each state have higher college attendance, fewer preventable hospital stays and better access to parks and gyms. The least healthy counties in each state have more smokers, more teen births and more alcohol related car crash deaths. Violent crime rates are highest in the South. One out of four children in the U.S. lives in poverty. Unemployment rates are 1.5 times higher in the least healthy counties in each state as they are in the healthiest counties.
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  • Geothermal Study Planned for Hualalai Volcano

    ·By Chad Blair
    The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has this item on big geothermal plans on the Big Island. Excerpt: The search for geothermal energy under the dormant Hualalai volcano is moving forward. A University of Hawaii researcher has asked the state Board of Land and Natural Resources for a geothermal exploration permit to conduct a noninvasive geophysical study of the west rift zone of Hualalai, just north of Kailua-Kona. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, researcher Nicole Lautze, with the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, said in her application. She did not return a phone message left at her office by press time Monday. The Land board is scheduled to consider the application Friday. The meeting is held in Honolulu and begins at 9 a.m. … Hawaii, as you may be aware, is overly dependent on imported fossil fuels for its energy needs.   Volcanic emissions on the Big Island. Flickr
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  • President, GOP Spar Over Budget as ACA Hits 5 Years

    ·By Chad Blair
    The office of Mark Takai passed along a photo (below) of the U.S. representative with fellow Democrats Tuesday celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA and as Obamacare. “Republicans continue to call for the complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Instead, we should all be working together to make changes that will successfully implement the law,” Takai said in a press release. “Millions of Americans have gained new access to quality, affordable health care coverage and also have such critical protections as no discrimination for having a pre-existing condition.” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, meanwhile, tweeted out his thoughts on ACA:  Thanks to the #ACA, in the last 5 years, seniors have saved over $15 billion on prescription drugs. #ACAworks pic.twitter.com/PqZUkT6udL — Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) March 23, 2015 The praise for Obamacare comes as the White House is going on the offensive as Republicans in the House and Senate are moving forward on budget proposals that call for big cuts in spending — although perhaps not on defense. Speaking about two competing proposals in the U.S. House, GOP Rep. Bill Flores (Texas) said, “I think that all of them are good budgets, and I think that they all address the defense issues. They all address the fiscal challenges that we have.” The administration, which says the Republicans are still trying to kill the ACA, has issued talking points for the states regarding the GOP budget. Here are the ones for Hawaii: 120 fewer children in Hawaii would have access to Head Start services. Hawaii would receive $4.2 million less funding for
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  • Lawsuit Filed Over ‘Hawaii Five-O’ Theme

    ·By Chad Blair
    Here’s a little item about a lawsuit last week regarding the theme song to “Hawaii Five-0.” Excerpt: CBS was hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit from the children of the late Morton Stevens, a prolific, Emmy-award winning film and television score composer whose work includes the trumpet-and-drums opening to the CBS crime procedural. Stevens died in 1991, which, according to a complaint filed in California federal court, was about six years before the renewal copyright term for the Hawaii Five-0 theme commenced. That’s important because under copyright law, for works created before 1978, when an author dies before the original term of a copyright grant expires, rights revert to the heirs. Notwithstanding this quirk of copyright law, CBS is said to have filed a renewal registration for the theme in 1997. The lawsuit says that CBS didn’t have the right to do this. … The original series ran on CBS from 1968 to 1980. The reboot began in 2010 and is still running. Book ’em, bradduh. www.cbs.com  
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  • Care to Weigh in on the Deal Between NextEra and Hawaiian Electric?

    ·By Chad Blair
    NextEra Energy and the three utilities that fall under Hawaiian Electric — Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaii Electric Light Company and Maui Electric Company  — have announced a series of 13 open house informational meetings across the state next month. Why? “To introduce residents to NextEra Energy and the benefits of the companies’ pending merger as well as to provide members of the public with the opportunity to provide input directly to company officials,” according to a press release. The NextEra-HEI deal is a big deal, one that is pending before the Public Utilities Commission and one that has attracted lots of concerns. The companies are spinning the positive. (Indeed, their website is www.forhawaiisfuture.com.) The Hawaiian Electric building in downtown Honolulu. Cory Lum/Civil Beat “NextEra Energy shares Hawaiian Electric’s vision of increasing renewable energy, modernizing its grid, reducing Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil, integrating more rooftop solar energy and, importantly, lowering customer bills,” Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Hawaii, said in a press release. “We recognize that addressing Hawaii’s energy challenges requires Hawaii-specific energy solutions, and that is why we look forward to meeting with and listening to residents across Hawaii.” Each meeting will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., where representatives from NextEra Energy and HEI will share their thoughts and listen to yours. The dates and locations are as follows: April 7 Central Maui: Maui Electric Auditorium South Maui: Kihei Community Center April 8 West Maui: Lahaina Civic Center Lanai: Lanai Community Center April 9 Molokai: Kaunakakai Elementary School
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  • Mazie, Brian, Mark, Colleen and Kirk Raising Money for Hillary

    ·By Chad Blair
    Some of the state’s top elected officials will hold a reception March 31 in Honolulu to support the Ready for Hillary PAC — even though Hillary Clinton hasn’t formally declared her intent to run for president in 2016. Probably just a matter of time, however. Texas Tea Partier Ted Cruz was the first to jump in early Monday and other Republicans are expected to follow shortly. U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Mark Takai are hosting the PAC reception at the Pegge Hopper Gallery downtown. UPDATE: An earlier version of this post wondered why Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was not also hosting the event. Jadine Nielsen, the Hawaii Democratic National Committeewoman, tells me that as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, Gabbard “needs to stay neutral in the primary election” and so “is not able to participate in any Ready for Hillary activities, or activities for other potential candidates for President.” Ready for Hillary PAC The host committee includes Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and other notable local Democrats. Suggested contributions range from $20.16 (get it?) to $1,000. Thus far, as many as 20 Republicans are expected to vie for their party’s nomination, and Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio are in the top tier. But no other Democrat comes close to Clinton’s popularity, though Joe Biden and a few others are said to be thinking about challenging her in the primaries.    
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  • Is the NFL Pro Bowl Moving to Brazil?

    ·By Chad Blair
    The Associated Press is reporting that the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl might be played in Brazil. That’s right, Brazil. As in South America. Turns out that folks down south are just as interested in football as futbol. While next year’s Pro Bowl will be played at the rusty, inadequate, crumbling Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, the NFL is looking elsewhere for future games, in no small part because of declining interest in the game. Aloha Stadium. Cory Lum / Civil Beat As Fox Sports says, “Once the highest-rated all-star game held by the four major U.S. sports leagues, the Pro Bowl has seen its viewership decline for four consecutive years.” The state of Hawaii actually pays the NFL several million dollars a year to host the Pro Bowl, arguing that it’s a boon to the local visitor industry. But the NFL has not been crazy about continuing the game in Honolulu. This year, for example, the Pro Bowl was held in in Glendale, Ariz., the site for Super Bowl XLIX.    
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  • Selection Panel Formed to Fill Judge Mollway’s Seat

    ·By Chad Blair
    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono have announced the formation of a federal judicial selection commission to help to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. The seat will become vacant following the retirement from active service of Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway on Nov. 6. Candidates interested in applying for the pending vacancy are asked to submit applications to the commission by April 3, which is just a week from Friday. Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway. Ed Gross/The Image Group The Commission has seven members, with three appointed by each senator and a chair jointly agreed upon. Schatz appointed Nadine Ando (a partner at Sullivan Meheula Lee), Keith W. Hunter (founder, CEO and president of Dispute Prevention & Resolution) and Emily Kawashima Waters (a Honolulu attorney and former deputy prosecuting attorney for the city). Hirono appointed Grant Chun (an attorney and VP with A&B Properties), Patsy Saiki (an executive and attorney with First American Title) and Alan Van Etten (a past president of the Hawaii State Bar Association. Louise Ing, founder of Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, will serve as chair of the commission. Email usjsc@ahfi.com or us.judicial.selection@ahfi.com for more information, or call (808) 441-6225.
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