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  • Ige Rebuffs Merger Deal Between NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige and two key state agencies are not convinced that it would be in the public’s best interest for Hawaiian Electric Industries to sell itself to Florida-based NextEra Energy.

    The Office of Planning and Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism came out in opposition to the planned $4.3 billion deal in their voluminous comments Monday to the Public Utilities Commission.

    Ige called a press conference Tuesday to address the state’s position.

    Gov. David Ige answers questions during a press conference Tuesday regarding the state’s opposition to the planned NextEra Energy purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    “Although I welcome capital investment in Hawaii with respect to energy, any merger or investment must align with the state’s 100 percent renewable energy goal,” he said.

    “We are taking the position that the merger as proposed at this point is unacceptable.”

    Ige described NextEra’s responses to questions about the state’s 100 percent goal as “vague and noncommital, to say the least.”

    The governor said the state is also concerned about losing local control of a company based some 5,000 miles away.

    “We are looking for a partner that shares our hopes and dreams,” Ige said. 

    NextEra remains committed to the deal.

    “NextEra Energy and the Hawaiian Electric Companies believe that this merger truly is in the best interest of the state of Hawaii, and in particular, Hawaiian Electric’s customers,” NextEra spokesman Rob Gould said in a statement Tuesday.

    “That said, we know

  • David Ige’s Quiet, Deliberative Leadership Style Is Not Such a Bad Thing

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    Nearly eight months into Gov. David Ige’s tenure, it’s clear that the low-key technocrat’s deliberative, slow-to-judgment approach is serving Hawaii well in most cases.

    Ige has faced down multiple issues that might have tempted a leader with a different personal style to pander to passionate advocates or wade unadvisedly into murky waters. Instead, he has resisted the sort of reactionary, polarizing grandstanding for which too many other governor’s offices are known elsewhere.

    On balance thus far, we like what we see.

    Gov. David Ige discussed his priorities and challenges in leading the Aloha State at a Civil Beat Editorial Board meeting earlier this year.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Perhaps the best example of the Ige approach is his leadership on the Thirty Meter Telescope controversy, which has inflamed much of the Native Hawaiian community and drawn international media attention and scrutiny since March. As the situation threatened to boil over on the summit of Mauna Kea in early April, he called for a work stoppage to allow for dialogue with stakeholders on all sides of the issue.

    It was initially thought that the “timeout” would only last a few days. But weeks passed, and observers grew antsy — including the New York Times, which in early May blasted him in a Sunday editorial as “far too withdrawn” on the matter.

    But when Ige finally announced his position 50 days into the stoppage, it was well informed, nuanced and surprisingly personal, including both important changes in how Mauna Kea will be managed in

  • Ige Vetoes Sex-Trafficking Bill, Seven Others

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Updated 5:35 p.m., 7/14/15

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige has followed through on his previously announced plans to veto eight bills.

    That includes measures to combat sex trafficking, allow University of Hawaii graduate students to unionize and clarify the order of succession for lieutenant governor.

    Tuesday marked the deadline for the governor to veto any of the eight bills he put on his intent-to-veto list last month. All eight were officially vetoed Monday and then transmitted to the Legislature.

    Gov. David Ige has vetoed a sex-trafficking bill that was described as convoluted and potentially detrimental to prosecuting pimps. He vetoed eight bills in all.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    House Democrats met in caucus two weeks ago to review the list of bills Ige said he planned on vetoing. House Speaker Joe Souki and Senate President Ron Kouchi also met to discuss the issue last week.

    “There was no sentiment to come back to override,” House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said Tuesday.

    Saiki said the concerns the governor had with the bills can be dealt with next session, which starts in January.

    Ige vetoed a bill that would have extended the authority of UH to maintain a separate accounting and financial management system; a bill that would have required estimated future debt service for proposed Capital Improvement Projects to be included in the budget documents submitted to the Legislature; and a bill that would have repealed the ethanol facility tax credit and established a five-year renewable fuels production tax credit.

    Another bill he vetoed would have increased the dollar threshold with

  • Seven Months Later, Hawaii Fishing Rules Still Not Signed

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige has yet to sign rules intended to create Hawaii’s first Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area for Haena on the north shore of Kauai.

    The seven-month delay has irked those who fought for the past several years to convince the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to take action to ensure the sustainability of the near-shore ocean resources there by implementing a program based on culturally rooted practices.

    Now it looks like the wait will continue through the summer.

    DLNR rules to create a Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area off the coast of Haena still await the governor’s signature.

    Cyril Fluck/Flickr

    “The Haena fishing rules are still under review,” Cindy McMillan, Ige’s communications director, said Wednesday. “We expect that the review process will be completed by the end of the summer.”

    The land board approved the rules in October following a passionate series of meetings attended by hundreds of supporters, as well as some commercial fishermen opposed to the restrictions.

    “When a community goes through the process that the state provides — goes through it correctly and completes it correctly — then it behooves the governor to sign the rules.” — Makaala Kaaumoana

    Under the rules, commercial fishing would be banned in the subsistence fishing area, which spans a few miles along the northwestern coast and stretches one mile seaward. Additionally, fishermen could only use two hook-and-line poles at any given time; spear guns and night fishing would be prohibited; and there would be bag

  • Ige Signs Law Creating Farm-to-School Program in Hawaii

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige signed a bill Tuesday that is intended to increase the amount of local food students eat in Hawaii’s public school system and boost their understanding of its importance.

    Senate Bill 376 initially called for creating two farm-to-school coordinator positions but state lawmakers scaled it down to one before passing it in May. The funding is only for one year too.

    Still, supporters applauded the new law.

    “It’s a really great start but there’s a lot more work to do,” said Lydi Morgan Bernal, coordinator of the Hawaii Farm to School and School Garden Hui.

    Gov. David Ige holds Senate Bill 376 after signing it into law as Act 218, Tuesday, as supporters stand around him.

    Governor’s Office

    Ige has tapped Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui to spearhead the initiative.

    “This program will ensure that our kids have nutritious meals as they learn about locally grown produce and cattle,” Tsutsui said in a statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity, and I look forward to working with the program coordinator, various state departments and agencies and the community to make sure we continue to move forward.”

    Across the nation, farm-to-school programs are reconnecting students to a better understanding of the food system and where their food comes from, the governor’s office said in a release.

    The programs introduce students to healthier eating habits and help them become familiar with new vegetables and fruits that they and their families will then be more willing to incorporate into their own diets, the release says. The farm to school coordinator will

  • 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 — 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