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  • Carleton Ching: It’s Time to Start Over

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    In a Hawaii Legislature dominated by Democrats, a Democratic governor can typically expect a supportive reception for nominees to key administrative posts. Not only is that considered courteous from an intra-party perspective, lawmakers typically hew to the idea that they ought to be deferential to the governor’s wishes to choose appointees for his/her administration.

    That this standard approach to gubernatorial business is running off the rails for Gov. David Ige is notable not only for the speed with which it has taken place — only two months into his tenure, when the word “honeymoon” is still commonly heard — but for the particular nominee whose selection has created a rift among legislators, environmentalists and the governor: Carleton Ching, Ige’s pick to serve as chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

    Vice president of community and government relations and lobbyist for leading developer/landowner Castle & Cooke, Ching has been assailed for weeks as a controversial choice to lead a department charged with protecting the state’s natural resources.  Twenty leading environmental groups, including the influential Outdoor Circle and the Sierra Club (which endorsed Ige’s gubernatorial bid), have come out in public opposition to Ching’s nomination. A petition against Ching’s nomination started by a Maui environmental activist has generated nearly 7,500 signatures — and counting.

    Gov. David Ige is the target of growing criticism for his nomination of a developer lobbyist to head the state agency charged with managing natural resources for the state of Hawaii.

    Cory Lum/Civil

  • Ige: Feds Are ‘Very Helpful’ When It Comes to Hawaii

    · By Chad Blair

    Editor’s note: Chad Blair and Cory Lum are in Washington, D.C., this week, reporting for Civil Beat.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — David Ige says he was caught by surprise when President Barack Obama singled him out early during remarks Saturday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

    But he had a pretty good reaction nonetheless.

    The exchange, in case you missed it, went like this:

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to welcome the Democratic governors to this meeting and thank them for all the outstanding work that they are doing. I am a little concerned that David Ige, of Hawaii, does not know what to do with this weather. (Laughter.) I don’t even know if he owns a winter coat.  

    GOVERNOR IGE: I bought one in Colorado. (Laughter.)

    “That was definitely something that I didn’t expect,” Ige told Civil Beat Monday. “So it is very inspiring to know that you can come here and have a conversation with the president.”

    Hawaii’s governor is in the nation’s capital to attend the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association and to meet with important administration officials.

    Ige called the trip to D.C., which ends Wednesday, “very helpful.”

    Elizabeth Kim, the governor’s special advisor, walks with Gov. David Ige on their way to their next appointment.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    He continued: “It’s an opportunity to really meet and talk with other governors. I have found that many of the issues that we are dealing with are very similar

  • Pension Promises Are Getting Harder for Hawaii Lawmakers To Keep

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Billions of dollars in the hole, Hawaii lawmakers are searching for ways to afford the health and retirement benefits promised to thousands of public employees.

    The unfunded liabilities problem — as unsexy as it might seem — has far-reaching implications.

    As an ever-increasing percentage of the state’s overall $12 billion budget goes toward paying public workers’ health and retirement benefits, fewer resources are left to maintain current government services, not to mention start new programs like universal preschool.

    Gov. David Ige’s finance director, Wes Machida, is hoping to convince lawmakers that more reforms are necessary to bring down the state’s unfunded liabilities.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    While recent reforms have helped Hawaii find better footing, the shortfalls are so severe that significant cuts, tax increases or a combination thereof may soon be necessary to make ends meet, especially as Hawaii’s sizable surplus dries up over the next few years.

    Wide-ranging proposals have swirled through the Legislature this session — some extreme, some bite-sized.

    Democratic leaders in the House pitched a plan to end health care benefits for retirees. Other lawmakers want to triple the use tax paid by wholesalers. Drastic measures like those are so politically unpalatable that the bills haven’t received so much as a hearing.

    Other legislative tweaks are moving forward though. The measures stand to save state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by making small changes, like adjusting how much retirement credit employees can get for accumulated sick leave.

    But even those more narrowly targeted efforts are having a

  • Ige Picks DeCoite to Replace Carroll in State House

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige has chosen Lynn DeCoite to represent Molokai, Lanai and parts of Maui in the state House.

    She will fill the seat vacated earlier this month by the late Mele Carroll.

    “I’m confident Ms. DeCoite knows the issues facing the district and will listen to her constituents to address their concerns,” Ige said in a release announcing his decision Thursday. “She has deep roots in the community and is committed to overcoming the challenges by forming partnerships and working collaboratively.”

    Gov. David Ige, speaking to media during a press availability last week, announced Thursday that Lynn DeCoite will serve as House District 13 representative.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    He chose DeCoite from a list of three names submitted last week by Democratic Party officials. The other two were Lucienne de Naie and Lori Buchanan.

    “I’m deeply honored to serve the community in this capacity,” DeCoite said in the release. “This is an opportunity for me to help address issues like drought, food gathering and security, emergency response programs, and the promotion of economic development for small and large businesses.”

    Lynn DeCoite was appointed Thursday to serve as state House District 13 representative.

    Office of the Governor

    DeCoite lives in Hoolehua on Molokai where she is an owner of L&R Farm Enterprises and R.J.’s Snacks and co-owner of V-8 Ranch, according to the governor’s office.

    She has been an active member of the community as chair of the Farm Service Agency and president of the Molokai Homestead Farmer’s Alliance,

  • Governor Stands Behind Decision to Nominate Ching for DLNR Director

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige vowed to do many things on the campaign trail last fall, including holding weekly press availabilities for the media to ask him questions about any topic.

    It’s been a busy first couple of months getting his new administration up and running since taking office Dec. 1, but on Thursday he made time to hold his first such event at the Capitol.

    Reporters in print, TV, radio and online publications peppered him with questions for nearly an hour. The topics were diverse, but one of the biggest issues was his decision to appoint Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

    Gov. David Ige fields questions during his first media availability Thursday at the Capitol.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The nomination has drawn criticism because Ching was a longtime lobbyist for Castle & Cooke, a major land developer in Hawaii.

    Ige defended his decision when pressed by reporters, saying he has faith in the Senate confirmation process to thoroughly vet Ching and give the public an opportunity to comment.

    “I selected Carleton Ching because I was looking for quality executives,” Ige said, noting Ching’s management experience.

    The governor added that he believes Ching will be dedicated to protecting, preserving and managing the state’s most important natural resources.

    Asked why William Aila, the former head of DLNR, was demoted to deputy director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Ige said he was looking to bring change to the department.

    The same rationale was provided when he was questioned about

  • Ige Appointments Sail Through Senate Committees

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Four more of Gov. David Ige’s appointments sailed through Senate committees with unanimous support Wednesday.

    Assuming the full Senate follows suit, Ige will be 5 for 5 in securing approvals for nominations of key people to serve in his burgeoning administration.

    The latest round includes his picks for budget director, Wes Machida; deputy budget director, Roderick Becker; tax director, Maria Zielinski; and human resources director, James Nishimoto. Each nominee was backed by reams of glowing testimony.

    Catherine Awakuni Colón, Ige’s appointment to head the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, cleared her Senate committee hurdle Monday.

    Gov. David Ige’s appointee to be his budget chief, Wes Machida, pictured here at a legislative briefing last month, easily cleared his first hurdle to confirmation Wednesday along with several others.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    On deck Friday is a Senate committee’s determination of whether to sign off on Ige’s nomination of Doug Chin to be attorney general.

    A dozen more are up Tuesday for their first test before Senate committees. They include Randy Iwase, the governor’s choice to head the Public Utilities Commission, and his slate of nominees to serve on the Hawaii Community Development Authority: John Whalen, Tom McLaughlin, Amy Luersen, Donna Camvel, Brett Prejean, Michael Golojuch, Shirley Swinney, Dean Capelouto, Jason Okuhama, William Oh and Steven Scott.

    On March 5, Ige’s appointee to be director of the Department of Human Services, Rachael Wong, is set to go before the Senate Human Services Committee.

    There still hasn’t been a hearing set for the governor’s most controversial appointment, Carleton Ching, a lobbyist for Castle & Cooke

  • Governor Taps Hoshijo as Deputy Director of Labor Department

    · By Nathan Eagle

    It’s only Thursday, but Gov. David Ige has announced the latest appointment to his Cabinet.

    He had made a habit of announcing nominations on Fridays, but his spokeswoman said that practice was unlikely to continue after a Civil Beat story raised concerns about the decisions being buried over the weekend when fewer people were paying attention to the news.

    Ige announced Thursday afternoon that he wants Leonard Hoshijo to be the deputy director in the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

    Gov. David Ige, pictured here in December, announced Thursday that he wants Leonard Hoshijo to be the deputy director of DLIR.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    It’s unknown who Hoshijo will work for though. Ige announced last month that he wanted Elizabeth Kim to head the DLIR but had to withdraw her name. She didn’t meet residency requirements after living and working the past year in Washington, D.C., as an appointee of President Barack Obama.

    “Leonard Hoshijo understands the history of labor in Hawaii and the current needs of working people and employers,” Ige said in a statement released Thursday. “He is well respected by both those within labor and the businesses that grow our economy, create jobs and hire local employees.”

    The governor’s office said in the release that Hoshijo’s professional experience spans decades in which he has worked on behalf of those who labor in Hawaii and gained valuable insights about the role employers play in solving workplace issues.

    To take on this responsibility, the statement said, he will be leaving his position as the Education and Political Director for the

  • Ige Backpedals On Posting Care-Home Inspection Reports Online

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Updated 10:55 a.m., 2/5/2015

    State health officials want the Legislature to bail them out for not meeting a statutorily required deadline to start posting inspection reports for adult care homes online beginning Jan. 1.

    And Gov. David Ige is looking to help accommodate them, despite saying on the campaign trail last year that he would ensure the deadline was met.

    The Department of Health was given all of the resources it sought and 18 months to figure out how it would implement the new requirement from the time the law took effect in 2013.

    Apparently that wasn’t enough. The department is asking lawmakers to pass a bill this session that would retroactively change the deadline to July 1, delaying implementation for at least another six months.

    Inspection reports for care homes in Hawaii were supposed to be posted online starting Jan. 1, but the Department of Health is asking to push the deadline back six months.

    Pallspera .com/Flickr

    Senate Bill 1114 and its companion legislation, House Bill 945, were introduced last week as part of Ige’s package of bills sent to the Legislature.

    It was somewhat surprising to see the bills included in the governor’s package because the legislation runs contrary to Ige’s position on the matter when he was asked about it last fall on the campaign trail.

    In the days leading up to the Nov. 4 election, Ige told Civil Beat that if he won he would “ensure the law is

  • Hawaii Public Records Agency Continues to Struggle With Slim Budget

    · By Nathan Eagle

    The state agency responsible for helping the public access government-controlled information and ensure public meetings remain as open as possible has been mired in a backlog so big its rulings are often irrelevant by the time they’re issued.

    Yet relief appears nowhere in sight for the Hawaii Office of Information Practices as Gov. David Ige’s term begins and the Legislature gets set to work on his proposed biennium budget, which despite a modest increase only gives the agency half the resources it had 20 years ago.

    Meanwhile, the public, nonprofits, government agencies, lawyers and media outlets who regularly turn to OIP for assistance must still wait as long as four years for an OIP opinion or go through a complicated, costly and congested court system for help.

    The Hawaii Office of Information Practices is forced to do a lot with a little as state leaders add responsibilities while cutting resources. Gov. David Ige is expected to decide later this month what he thinks the Legislature should do next session with the office’s budget.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    OIP started off strong in the early 1990s under Gov. John Waihee’s administration. Its timely opinions shaped policy debates and strove to improve the public’s overall access to government, whether it was the release of employee misconduct files or the disclosure of police records.

    But the ensuing combination of legislative actions and leadership decisions — beginning with Gov. Ben Cayetano and continuing with Govs. Linda Lingle and Neil Abercrombie — have rendered the agency almost impotent.

    OIP’s responsibilities

  • Ige Picks New State Labor, Communications Directors

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige has chosen Elizabeth Kim to head the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and Cindy McMillan to be his communications director.

    Elizabeth Kim, Gov. David Ige’s newly appointed head of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

    Shawn T Moore

    The two picks, which he announced in a news release Monday, are the latest to round out his Cabinet. The governor has yet to appoint an Attorney General and a handful of others, but has said he plans to by the end of January.

    Kim currently serves in President Obama’s administration as the director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat at the U.S. Department of Labor, advising the secretary and deputy secretary, according to the release.

    Gov. David Ige’s new communications director, Cindy McMillan.

    Office of the Governor

    “Elizabeth brings executive management experience in federal, state, and local level policy formation,” Ige said.

    “She is a proven leader that has demonstrated success in managing a large staff as well as implementing major programs and initiatives at a high level. Elizabeth’s wealth of knowledge, national experience, and leadership equips her to lead the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.”

    McMillan most recently led advocacy and communication efforts for Pacific Resource Partnership, the release says. She’s also served as executive vice president at Communications Pacific and a legislative aide to members of the Honolulu City Council.

    “I’m enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with Governor Ige to ensure that his priorities are communicated accurately and the

  • Hawaii Media Outlets, Nonprofits Ask Ige to Improve Government Transparency

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Nearly two dozen Hawaii media outlets and nonprofit organizations have come together to start a dialogue with Gov. David Ige’s administration about government transparency and accountability issues.

    Brian Black, the executive director of The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest and the organizer of the effort, delivered a jointly signed letter to Ige’s chief of staff, Mike McCartney, on Friday.

    The letter asks Ige to speak out strongly in favor of government transparency in light of a rising public demand for openness and “increasing public suspicion of institutions that respond to scrutiny without comment or full disclosure.”

    Nearly two dozen Hawaii media outlets and nonprofits have come together to ask Gov. David Ige to improve government transparency.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The groups — which include Civil Beat, TV stations, Hawaii Public Radio, online news outlets and good-government groups like Common Cause and League of Women Voters — are asking the governor to issue an executive memorandum or order to do three things:

    State agencies should presume that government documents are public and invoke exceptions to disclosure only if they must, not simply because they can.
    Each state agency should post contact information for the public to easily ascertain how to submit requests for records.
    Requests made in the public interest should be charged, at most, only copying costs.

    “The letter lays out ideas for reform for the administration to consider, but the most important thing really is having that back and forth and looking for

  • Governor Announces Six More Cabinet Members

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige on Wednesday named six more people to his Cabinet and two deputy directors, all of whom are subject to Senate confirmation.

    Ige, who was sworn in Monday, tapped Wes Machida to serve as his budget and finance director, replacing Kalbert Young, who is expected to become the chief financial officer of the University of Hawaii system.

    Machida had served under Gov. Neil Abercrombie as the head of the Employees’ Retirement System, the state’s $14 billion pension fund.

    Wes Machida, executive director of the Employees’ Retirement System, speaks during an interview at the ERS’ Honolulu office, May 23, 2014.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Ige chose Luis Salaveria, who worked closely on the state’s $12 billion operating budget as deputy finance director under Young, to head the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

    Luis Salaveria was chosen to head the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

    Office of the Governor

    “We are committed to finding the best and brightest in our community to serve as effective leaders in state government,” Ige said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “These appointments show a variety of talented and dedicated individuals from both the public and private sectors, who have decided to work together to create a better Hawaii for future generations.”

    Ige has chosen Douglas Murdock to serve as comptroller, heading the Department of Accounting and General Services beginning Jan. 1. He is currently the vice president for Administrative and Fiscal Affairs of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

    James Nishimoto