Latest Articles

  • 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,

  • Denby Fawcett: 5 Ways Politicians Can Reboot Trust in Government

    · By Denby Fawcett

    People’s lack of trust in government in Hawaii is as high as I can ever remember.

    The reason can be stated in a sentence: The public doesn’t think politicians have the people’s interest at heart.

    When Gov. David Ige met with Civil Beat’s editorial board last week he talked repeatedly about developing the people’s trust. He was talking about his goals as governor.

    Ige said, “People don’t feel like they are getting a good value for their tax dollar from the state. It is about the public and restoring the public’s trust in government.”

    In the past, I don’t remember any politician using the word “trust” as freely or frequently.

    Gov. David Ige meets with the Civil Beat editorial board and reporters Thursday.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Distrust abounds because some of our key politicians fail to do what they promise and, worse, they hide important information from the public.

    Take the massive traffic jam on the H-1 last Tuesday. Drivers are still ruminating about why they were not informed sooner when the zipper lane broke, leaving some westbound drivers stuck in traffic as long as five hours.

    And what about the buffoonish cops who issued 65 tickets in the vicinity of Waimano Home Road to the frustrated drivers talking on their cellphones while they were stalled in the traffic nightmare; people who were only calling home to warn their families they would be late. Tell me, how was slapping citations on the stalled drivers in the public’s interest?

    Public distrust is generated not just by a

  • Is Ige On Board With Extending Honolulu Rail Tax?

    · By Nick Grube

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige isn’t saying whether he will approve or veto any extension of a General Excise Tax surcharge that is being earmarked for Honolulu’s $6 billion rail project.

    But he does acknowledge that he’s worried an estimated $910 million shortfall in construction costs will continue to balloon. And he’s not sure taxpayers should be penalized for potential mismanagement.

    At an editorial board meeting with Civil Beat editors and reporters last week, Ige noted that until very recently rail project officials had assured the public that the project was on time and within budget. But a few months ago, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officials said the project was coming up significantly short of money.

    “There’s a big difference between on budget and on schedule and a $1 billion shortfall,” Ige said. “That’s a concern. An extension would essentially embrace the notion that if in fact the project was mismanaged from a financial perspective, that we are authorizing or condoning that activity.”

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige says he has many concerns about Honolulu’s rail project including the cost and how it will be paid for.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Although Ige supports rail, he’s skeptical about extending the 0.5 percent GET surcharge this legislative session.  The Legislature is considering two proposals that would keep the tax going beyond its Dec. 31, 2022 sunset date to pay for the growing deficit.

    Some lawmakers have expressed similar concerns over extending the GET surcharge and Sen. Jill Tokuda, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee,

  • David Ige: ‘The Engineer’ Promises To Be a Better Communicator

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    A little more than 100 days into his four-year term, Gov. David Ige is in a novel place for a new  governor.

    The former longtime legislator has logged way too many hours at the Capitol to be considered a true rookie, and whatever honeymoon he might have enjoyed was cut sharply short by the slow-motion train wreck that was his nomination of Castle & Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

    While that was certainly the most high-profile challenge in his brief tenure as Hawaii’s CEO, it’s hardly the only one.  The new perspective with which he’s seeing state government was apparent in an editorial board discussion last Friday with Civil Beat.

    Ige was equal parts incredulous at the inefficient and sometimes remarkably dated nature of administrative operations, and eager to get at myriad challenges where he thinks significant change is needed.

    And make no mistake, he does see a big need for change.

    Gov. David Ige discusses his priorities and challenges in leading the Aloha State during a Civil Beat editorial board meeting last week.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    “I believe there are many opportunities,” said Ige.

    For instance, each month, the state uses 1 million pieces of paper in the payroll process for state employees — 12 million a year and it can’t even do an electronic fund transfer for employee paychecks, he said.

    Ige described the Department of Accounting and General Services as “deathly afraid” of converting to an electronic format, but said he’s nevertheless committed to making

  • Deadline Looms for Ige to Pick New DLNR Chair

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Two weeks have passed since Gov. David Ige, lacking the votes in the Senate, reluctantly withdrew his nomination of Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

    The controversy over his appointment of a lobbyist for Castle & Cooke, a major land developer, has subsided as the public’s attention has turned to other issues. 

    But the governor has remained focused on finding a new nominee, he told Civil Beat during an editorial board meeting Thursday. The application process was reopened after the Ching appointment fell through and interviews have begun.

    Time is rapidly running out though, if Ige hopes to have the Senate confirm someone this legislative session. He has until Monday to submit a nominee for lawmakers to consider before they adjourn May 7.

    Gov. David Ige answers a question during an interview Thursday at Civil Beat’s office in Kaimuki.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    If Ige doesn’t pick someone else to lead DLNR by then, Carty Ching, the interim chair, will steer the department until a nominee can be confirmed during next year’s legislative session.

    “We’re very much aware of the Monday deadline,” Ige told Civil Beat Thursday.

    He wouldn’t say who, if anyone, is being seriously considered or if he has a new name to submit to lawmakers on Monday.

    “I would prefer to take the time to find a quality candidate,” he said. “It has been one of my priorities to really transform the culture in government, in all

  • Governor Nominates Six to Serve on UH Board of Regents

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige has announced six nominees to serve on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, subject to Senate confirmation.

    “Our UH system comprises 10 campuses that provide educational and research opportunities for many Hawai‘i students and faculty throughout our state,” he said in a news release Thursday. “As such, we chose candidates with a breadth of experience who will represent my desire for the Regents to focus on ensuring long-term sustainability of our sole public institution of higher education.”

    Gov. David Ige, pictured here during a press conference in February, has picked six people he wants to serve on the UH Board of Regents.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    From the release, here are his nominees:

    Wayne Higaki, Hawaii County, will serve through June 30, 2016 upon confirmation. Higaki is the chief development officer at North Hawaii Community Hospital, an affiliate of The Queen’s Health Systems. He is chair of Hawaii County’s Workforce Investment Board and a member of the Workforce Development Council for the State of Hawaii. He graduated from Honokaa High School and earned an associate of science degree at Kapiolani Community College.

    Simeon Acoba, Jr., Honolulu County, is currently serving on an interim basis and upon confirmation will serve through June 30, 2017. Acoba served on the Hawai‘i Supreme Court for 14 years. Previously, he served as a judge at various levels for 20 years. He continues to be active in judicial organizations and has received many awards for his work. He received a bachelor of arts degree from

  • Ige Appoints Bassett to Fill Cultural Specialist Seat on HCDA

    · By Nathan Eagle

    After being vacant for more than a year and a half, Gov. David Ige has found someone to fill the “cultural specialist” seat on the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

    Ige appointed Beau Bassett, a lawyer and filmmaker who is part Native Hawaiian, to serve on the board for a term that would end June 30, 2019.

    The governor has also appointed Mary Pat Waterhouse, who was budget director under former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, to serve as an at-large member on HCDA. Her term would end in 2019 as well.

    Gov. David Ige, pictured here in December, appointed two people Friday to fill vacancies on the HCDA.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Both appointments are subject to Senate confirmation. The Human Services and Housing Committee, chaired by Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, has scheduled a public hearing on both appointments for April 16.

    The two appointments, if confirmed, would fill the remaining vacancies on the board. In February, the Senate confirmed 11 nominations.

    The Legislature voted last year to shake up HCDA after Kakaako residents opposed decisions to approve several luxury high-rise towers.

  • Hawaii Senate to Post Résumés of Nominees on Website

    · By Chad Blair

    The president of the Hawaii Senate has instructed all senators and staff that the chamber has revised its policy regarding the confidentially of the résumés of gubernatorial nominees.

    In a letter dated Wednesday, Donna Mercado Kim said the policy was being changed “to provide important information to the public about nominees to state boards and commissions.”

    The résumés from the governor’s office had been kept confidential for internal use.

    Senate President Donna Mercado Kim checking her phone on the Senate floor.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Kim said that, after conferring with Gov. David Ige, the Senate Clerk’s office will post the information on the Legislature’s website “as soon as possible” after appointment letters to the Senate are received from the governor’s office.

    Any questionnaire by Senate committees, which offer advise and consent, to nominees “and any other documents” submitted by the governor’s office along with the nomination letter will remain confidential unless the nominee submits them as testimony.

    Hawaii’s governor appoints and nominates to more than 170 boards and commissions, including the Campaign Spending Commission, the Hawaiian Homes Commission and the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

    The new policy applies to all appointments received as of Tuesday. Kim’s letter says Ige’s office has begun advising nominees of the new policy so that “personal information not intended to be shared publicly” remains that way.

  • Neal Milner: Ige’s Old Senate Faction Gets Checked

    · By Neal Milner

    When it finally came down to it, the Chess Club, a faction of senators loyal to Gov. David Ige, decided not to support Carleton Ching, the governor’s choice to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

    There has been so much sympathy for all the agony that the Chess Club members had to go through, so much discussion of the anguish and emotional turmoil the faction members felt.

    Club members themselves were not shy about describing their agony. Sen. Les Ihara compared it to the decision he made to become a conscientious objector against his father’s wishes.

    In fact, it’s all misplaced pity on the Chess Club’s part as well on as ours. Those senators don’t deserve sympathy for having to make an agonizing choice. That’s their job. What they deserve is criticism for doing that job so badly.

    Members of the Hawaii Senate’s Chess Club faction are topflight, respected legislators, which is exactly what makes their handling of the Ige nomination so surprising.

    MichaelMaggs via Wikimedia Commons

    This is particularly sad because the Chess Club senators are topflight, highly respected legislators. It’s like a group of AP students blowing their SATs.

    How did they blow it? The Chess Club exaggerated the importance of loyalty and showed a lack of understanding of the Senate’s role in the nomination process.

    To understand why this is so, we need to take a closer look at factions generally and in that light consider how ineffectively the Chess Club behaved.

    Let’s begin with the Founding Fathers.