Latest Articles

  • Ige: No Plans to Use National Guard to Reopen Mauna Kea Road

    · By Nathan Eagle

    The Hawaii National Guard is not among the options being discussed to reopen the road up Mauna Kea so construction crews can reach the site of the planned $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, Gov. David Ige said Monday.

    Protesters placed boulders and rock walls on the road last week, forcing work vehicles to turn around. It’s the second time an attempt to start construction has been thwarted by people who want to protect the mountain from future development because it’s a sacred place to Native Hawaiians.

    The road has been closed since June 24. Ige said he is working with the University of Hawaii, law enforcement and others to come up with a plan to start construction while ensuring the access route remains safe to workers and visitors to Mauna Kea.

    The governor said an announcement will be made when the plan is ready.

    Gov. David Ige at a Monday press conference: National Guard not envisioned for Mauna Kea.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

     

  • Governor Plans to Veto Eight Bills; Rail Tax Extension Survives

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced Monday that he currently plans to veto eight of the 252 bills the Legislature approved this past session.

    Bills to combat sex trafficking, allow University of Hawaii graduate students to unionize and clarify the order of succession for lieutenant governor were among those he’ll potentially veto.

    Monday was the deadline for the governor to submit his list of bills that he intends to veto. He has until July 14 to actually do so — or change his mind. The 101 other bills Ige has yet to take action on will become law, with or without his signature.

    The most notable bill not on the governor’s intent-to-veto list is legislation that will allow Honolulu, with approval from the City Council, to extend the half-percent General Excise Tax surcharge to fund the $6 billion rail project, now facing a nearly $1 billion shortfall.

    Gov. David Ige answers media questions Monday about his list of eight bills that he currently plans to veto. He has until July 14 to decide for sure.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The surcharge is currently set to expire in 2022. House Bill 134 would extend the sunset date five years, far less than what Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell sought.

    The legislation also lets the neighbor-island counties levy a similar half-percent GET surcharge for public transportation projects and gives them the same sunset date of 2027.

    The bill will become law since it wasn’t on Ige’s intent-to-veto list, but it may do so without his signature in part over information that surfaced Friday suggesting Caldwell misled the Legislature when lobbying for

  • Intent to Veto: What Bills Will Survive Gov. Ige’s Veto Pen?

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Hawaii lawmakers sent more than 200 bills to Gov. David Ige last spring but he still has to decide what he’s going to do with nearly half of them.

    Legislation to establish medical marijuana dispensaries, authorize the counties to levy a surcharge on the General Excise Tax and make it easier for someone to change their birth certificate so it aligns with their gender identity are among the 114 bills pending action by the governor.

    Monday marks the deadline for Ige to submit his list of bills from the 2015 session that he intends to veto. The session ended May 7, and the governor has until July 14 to veto bills, sign them or let them become law without his signature.

    Gov. David Ige has until the end of the day Monday to submit the list of bills he intends to veto. Ige is seen here during a press conference May 26.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Ige’s predecessor, placed 11 bills on his intent-to-veto list last year. He went on to veto seven of them plus a line-item veto in the overall state budget bill, which passed.

    In 2013, Abercrombie had 10 bills on his intent-to-veto list and ended up vetoing three of them, plus a line-item veto of a bill providing pay raises to union workers. None of his actions were overridden by the Legislature.

    Ige’s administration has been reviewing the 252 bills that cleared the Legislature over the past

  • Ige Supports Construction of TMT, Asks UH to Better Manage Mauna Kea

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced his support for building the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea on Tuesday, saying the project has the right to proceed.

    “I do not doubt that they did more than any previous telescope project to be a good neighbor,” he said during a press conference at the State Capitol.

    Protests against the planned observatory on Mauna Kea, which is considered a sacred mountain by many Native Hawaiians, forced construction to come to a standstill last month after dozens of people were arrested blocking construction vehicles.

    Gov. David Ige speaks at a press conference about the TMT on Mauna Kea.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The governor also announced a list of 10 requests for the University of Hawaii that are intended to improve the management of the mountain, such as creating a new Mauna Kea Cultural Council to advise the state. Ige acknowledged that in many ways the state has failed to do a good job as steward of the land.

    Still, Kealoha Pisciotta, who has spent a better part of the last two decades fighting development on Mauna Kea, said she was disappointed by the governor’s support for the TMT.

    “The state of Hawaii is defending astronomers from California’s right to build something here on the land that belongs to Native Hawaiians and the public,” she said. “He’s arresting our people, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian alike, but he’s going to defend the California astronomers’ right to build something here.”

    She called his list of requests for the university “hollow” and

  • Emergency Money Made Easy, If You’re a Democratic Governor

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige was elected Nov. 4, took office Dec. 1 and hit the Legislature up for $670,400 a month later.

    His office needed the emergency money to cover payroll shortfalls, travel expenses and other transitional needs of the new administration.

    It’s a common request for incoming governors to make, but one that often receives little scrutiny, particularly for Democrats in deep blue Hawaii.

    Gov. David Ige attends a legislative meeting April 24 with his deputy chief of staff, Laurel Johnston.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    State lawmakers rushed to pass House Bill 930, unanimously agreeing to provide every cent Ige requested. He signed the legislation into law in late February as Act 2. 

    Few details of how the $670,400 was to be spent or how that amount was arrived at were provided prior to the vote — just a handful of categories and assurances that it was necessary.

    The governor’s office provided a breakdown of the appropriation this week in response to a Civil Beat request.

    Laurel Johnston, Ige’s deputy chief of staff, said the bulk of it, $359,000, went toward paying out unused vacation time to staff in the previous administration.

    The remainder included $12,000 in protocol funds to buy gifts and dinners for visiting dignitaries; over $100,000 in dues to the Western Governors Association and National Governors Association; and $52,000 to buy a 2005 Ford Expedition to chauffeur the governor and his security detail around in. The balance went for new Microsoft tablets for staff,

  • Hawaii Governor’s Public Schedule Now Available Online

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige’s public schedule is now available online, making it easier to keep tabs on where he’s going and who he’s seeing.

    His predecessor, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, had provided a similar service in the form of weekly public calendars. But until now, tracking Ige’s whereabouts over the past six months since he took office had proven a bit challenging.

    Ige’s public schedule is now on the front page of his website — governor.hawaii.gov. His weekly schedule will be updated every Friday, according to the governor’s office.

    His public schedule shows just one event for Wednesday, a speaking engagement before the American Council of Engineering Companies of Hawaii at the Hale Koa Hotel.

    The rest of his week looks light. He has two proclamation signings at his office Friday for Punahou JROTC and Sakada Day, and Saturday evening he is making an appearance at the 38th annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards Show at the Hawaii Convention Center.

    Special Adviser to the Governor Betsy Kim walks with Gov. David Ige on their way to their next appointment, Feb. 23, in Washington, D.C.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

  • Why Are So Many of Hawaii’s Environmental Posts Still Unfilled?

    · By Nathan Eagle

    There’s growing concern over who Gov. David Ige will choose to fill several key positions guiding land and water use policy, environmental protection, longterm planning and development — all of which can help shape Hawaii’s future.

    Questions are also being raised about why the governor has yet to make certain appointments, particularly since the deadline has passed for those that require Senate approval to be confirmed before this legislative session ends May 7. That means the nominees will serve on an interim basis until the Senate meets again, either in special session or when the next regular session starts in January.

    For many in the environmental community, disdain over who Ige has chosen not to keep, coupled with persistent uncertainty over who will take their places, has given way to speculation that these issues are less of a priority for the new administration.

    Gov. David Ige has yet to say who he wants to head the state Office of Planning, Office of Environmental Quality Control and other agencies responsible for land and water use.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Ige maintains that it’s about picking people who share his mission of changing the culture of government.

    “Finding the right people for these public service jobs is difficult during a good economy when higher-paying private sector jobs are more plentiful,” Jodi Leong, the governor’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The governor is carefully considering a wide range of candidates for these jobs, and this process takes time.”

    Office of Planning

    Among the

  • Just Say No to Balfour for Water Commission

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    Were it not for dustups on environmental issues, Gov. David Ige’s fledgling service as Hawaii’s CEO would be cruising smoothly along, with nary a bump in the road. But for the second time in less than four months, he’s staked his political fortunes to an inexplicable nominee for a key position whose candidacy is calling into question the governor’s values on the environment.

    William Balfour would serve a four-year term on the state Commission on Water Resource Management, one of Hawaii’s most powerful and important boards, if senators vote this week to confirm him. The Senate Water and Land Committee voted 5-2 in support of Balfour’s nomination on Friday, though senators were decidedly unenthusiastic.

    Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, who backed the nominee, seemed to sum up the grudging support, saying unless Balfour demonstrated a “lack of moral integrity, (he) should be given the opportunity to serve.” Added Sen. Les Ihara, also a “yes” vote, “ … you would not be my pick, my selection. But I do find that he is qualified.”

    Oh, the damning ring of faint praise.

    Water commission nominee William Balfour before the Senate Land and Water Committee, which voted 5-2 to support his confirmation.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    If this were a nomination to the cosmetology board or boxing commission, the former president of three sugar companies and a banana farm might not be the subject of an online petition that had rapidly surpassed 3,800 signatures (and counting) as of this writing. But a lifetime of representing big

  • Growing Criticism Over Ige’s Water Commission Appointments

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Public opposition to Gov. David Ige’s nominations to the powerful board that administers the state’s water code is mounting ahead of a key legislative hearing Wednesday.

    An online petition against longtime sugar-plantation boss William Balfour’s appointment to another four-year term on the Commission on Water Resource Management has garnered more than 1,200 signatures since the governor quietly sent his name to the Senate for confirmation.

    Emails are flying between environmental groups and others, calling on people to urge the Water and Land Committee, chaired by Sen. Laura Thielen, to reject Balfour because they think he has developers’ interests more at heart than the resources the commission is bound to protect.

    Gov. David Ige has appointed William Balfour, seen here at his home in Aiea last December, to serve on the Commission on Water Resource Management.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    There’s particular concern over Balfour voting in 2013 to deny the National Parks Service’s petition to designate the Keauhou Aquifer on Big Island for protection without giving the NPS the chance to present any evidence to the commission, said Steve Holmes, Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter conservation chair, in his testimony on the nomination.

    There’s also concern over who was not appointed.

    Ige has only asked Denise Antolini, a highly regarded University of Hawaii dean and environmental law expert, to stay on until June 30. She has served on the commission as an interim appointee since Oct. 29.

    “It’s puzzling why the governor would nominate someone that the Supreme

  • In With the New: Time For Millennials To Revolutionize Government IT

    · By Chloe Fox

    A funny thing happened after Barack Obama became President of the United States.

    Working for the government suddenly became “cool again” and young people all across the country flocked to Washington, D.C., hoping to give back to their country.

    Roughly four years later, however, many of them left.

    Last year, the Office of Personnel Management reported that millennials leave their government jobs after just 3.8 years — a significantly shorter service than their older government colleagues and the national average. According to The Hill, millennials “quickly leave when they feel caught in a slog of forms and red tape upon taking up the position.”

    “It’s time,” The Hill went on, “for government agencies to embrace the online world by allowing their employees free rein over the web and invest in government software to improve their agency’s efficiency.”

    This 2010 photo shows the state Tax Department’s receiving and sorting section during tax season. Gov. David Ige wants to improve the state’s IT capabilities in order to do a better job of collecting millions of dollars in unpaid taxes that slip through because of Hawaii’s inability to effectively audit tax returns.

    Civil Beat

    I was reminded of the government’s mass exodus of millennials last week when Gov. David Ige explained the sorry state of Hawaii’s information technology systems to Civil Beat. If you ever saw the state’s IT infrastructure, he said, “you guys would have nightmares and sleepless nights.”

    The room — which was largely comprised of millennials

  • Ige Picks Linda Chu Takayama to Head State Labor Department

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige nominated Linda Chu Takayama to lead the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on Wednesday, the deadline the Senate gave him for the appointment to be confirmed before the legislative session ends May 7.

    He also named Todd Nacapuy as the state’s chief information officer and head of the Office of Information Management and Technology.

    “Linda has a deep understanding of many of the regulatory matters that are routinely handled by the department,” Ige said in a statement. “I am confident that she will support the well-being of our workers and promote good labor-management relations.”

    Gov. David Ige, pictured here Tuesday, has appointed Linda Chu Takayama to head the state labor department.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Takayama, who has spent the past year as executive director of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s Office of Economic Development, is an attorney specializing in regulatory and governmental affairs, health, insurance and corporate business law.

    “This is a great opportunity to continue my interest in serving the community, providing food and jobs and justice in the workplace,” she said. “I’ll be looking for that golden balance of fairness and equity between workers and employers in the department’s programs.”

    Linda Chu Takayama

    Courtesy of the Governor’s Office

    Takayama has chaired the Hawaii Foodbank for 20 years, during which time she’s worked with the DLIR’s Office of Community Services.

    It’s not the first time Takayama has served at the state

  • DLNR Chair: This Time, Ige Nails It With Suzanne Case

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    It would be hard to imagine a nominee better qualified than Suzanne Case for confirmation as Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources chairperson.

    The 59-year-old conservation lawyer, who has served as executive director of the Nature Conservancy in Hawaii for the past 14 years, was put forward for that role on Tuesday by Gov. David Ige. Roundly criticized for his first nominee for the position — developer lobbyist Carleton Ching, whose name was withdrawn when it became clear senators would reject the nomination — Ige clearly learned from that failure, returning with a nominee likely to earn support from both the environmental and development communities, for numerous reasons:

    She oversees a staff of 76 working in the Nature Conservancy’s 16 Hawaii preserves encompassing 53,000 acres and working in 12 communities around the state to protect near-shore waters around Hawaii’s main islands.
    Twelve years ago, Case oversaw the purchase of Kahuku Ranch on Hawaii Island and the transfer of that 117,000-acre site to Volcanoes National Park. That deal has been described as Hawaii’s largest-ever conservation land transaction. She’s also worked with public and private landowners on protection of Hawaii watersheds, and oversees a Nature Conservancy research station on the Palmyra Atoll.
    She previously served 14 years as western regional counsel for the Nature Conservancy, implementing conservation transactions in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Such a depth of experience around conservation and environmental issues both in Hawaii and elsewhere means she should bring a well-rounded, extensively informed perspective to her new role.

  • Ige Names 3 New Members to Hawaii Board of Education

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige named three new members to the state Board of Education on Tuesday, all subject to Senate confirmation.

    The governor turned to former teachers who previously served on the board for two of the appointments and a banker for the other. The three nominees would replace members whose terms are set to expire June 30.

    Lance Mizumoto, president of Central Pacific Bank, would replace at-large member Keith Amemiya.

    Maggie Cox, a retired educator twice elected to the board before it was became gubernatorially appointed, would replace Kauai member Nancy Budd.

    And Hubert Minn, a former teacher and elected board member, would replace Oahu member Cheryl Lupenui.

    Gov. David Ige, pictured here in February, appointed three new members to serve on the state Board of Education on Tuesday, subject to Senate confirmation.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Ige, a product of the public school system and husband of a longtime educator, said his focus is on empowering teachers, principals and staff at the school level.

    “These nominees share my core beliefs and values,” he said. “They will be open, collaborative and represent the best values of Hawaii in their aloha for the students, teachers, principals and staff, and for each other.”

    The Senate has extended until Wednesday the deadline for the governor to make appointments this session to his Cabinet and state boards and commissions.

    Ige said he hopes to fill his remaining Cabinet positions, the head of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, and possibly others by the end of Wednesday. The other outstanding appointments include members of

  • Hawaii Governor Calls ‘Timeout’ on Mauna Kea Telescope Construction

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea is on hold for at least a week as protests over the $1.4 billion project continue to mount.

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige told reporters Tuesday that there will be a “timeout” to facilitate a dialogue.

    “It’s a significant project and this will give us some time to engage in further conversations with the various stakeholders that have an interest in Mauna Kea and its sacredness and its importance in scientific research and discovery going forward,” he said.

    An artist’s depiction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea as seen from above.

    Courtesy TMT International Observatory

    The summit of the dormant Big Island volcano has become the site of protests — and 31 arrests last week — as Native Hawaiian and environmental groups fight to protect the location, already home to 13 telescopes. The 18-story-tall TMT would be the biggest yet and nine times more powerful.

    “I am not quite sure our people have seen a movement like this in their lifetime and I think it’s a testament to the fact that our people have been ignited and are ready to move forward and resolidify ourselves throughout the world as a people and a country,” Kahoʻokahi Kanuha, one of the protesters who was arrested last Thursday, said in a news release Tuesday.

    Peter Apo, a trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, pointed at the history of telescopes atop Mauna Kea in a column Thursday for Civil Beat.

    He explained that in 1968 the Department of Land

  • Ige Taps Nature Conservancy’s Case to Head State Land Department

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige has appointed Suzanne Case to head the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, ending weeks of speculation.

    The governor withdrew his previous nominee, Carleton Ching, three weeks ago amid mounting public opposition over his ties to developers and lack of experience for a job that requires leading a department comprised of 10 divisions and nearly 900 employees.

    The Senate must confirm the appointment. With Ching, it became clear that the support wasn’t there and the appointment was rescinded moments before lawmakers were set to vote March 18.

    Gov. David Ige nominated Suzanne Case, pictured here, to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources on Tuesday. Kekoa Kaluhiwa, the recently confirmed deputy director of DLNR, is pictured in the background.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Case will be, well, a different case entirely.

    Ching was a longtime lobbyist for land development companies, most recently Castle & Cooke, whereas Case has spent the past 14 years as director of The Nature Conservancy Hawaii, a leading environmental nonprofit that has worked to protect more than 200,000 acres statewide.

    “I promise to bring to this opportunity the best of my experience of nearly 30 years in law and management with the Nature Conservancy, working to malama our lands and waters that sustain us all,” Case said.

    “I’ve done this in Hawaii and around the Pacific and the western United States and I want to bring this experience to this job,” she said. “That’s a lot of experience relying on both western science and traditional knowledge,