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  • Governor’s Idea for New Halawa Prison Deserves Exploration

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    Woodrow Wilson was in the midst of securing his second term as president, the Chicago Cubs played their first game on what would become Wrigley Field and Hawaii was still 53 years away from statehood when the Oahu Prison was built in Kalihi in 1916.

    The facility was expanded several decades ago into its current state, the Oahu Community Correctional Center, but some facilities at the site have been in use for more than 80 years. To say the overcrowded prison, which holds about twice as many inmates as it was designed to house, is outdated may stretch that adjective to its limit. Hawaii governors have been struggling for years to replace or move the facility, to no avail.

    But the idea outlined by Gov. David Ige on Monday in Civil Beat is perhaps the most intriguing and cost-effective to date — one that could resolve an expensive longstanding dilemma. As  Rui Kaneya reported, Ige and state Director of Public Safety Nolan Espinda are exploring a potential partnership in which a private prison company would build a new prison next to the Halawa Correctional Facility, shoulder its upfront costs, and then lease it back to the state. Because the proposed facility would be built with ostensibly a more modern design, it would require significantly less staff than the 19 outdated modules that comprise the OCCC, saving money that could help to cover the facility’s lease.

    A prison guard at the edge of the overcrowded and outdated Oahu Community Correctional Center in

  • Ige: Number of Hawaii Inmates Imprisoned in Arizona Will Go Up Before it Goes Down

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Gov. David Ige won’t be bringing back Hawaii prisoners from the mainland anytime soon.

    In fact, the Hawaii Department of Public Safety is planning to send hundreds of more inmates to a private facility in Arizona starting next year — albeit on a temporary basis — to make room for facility upgrades at a prison in Halawa.

    More than 1,300 Hawaii prisoners are now serving their sentences at the Saguaro Correctional Center, a facility in Eloy, Arizona, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America. They make up nearly a quarter of the state’s 5,669 total inmates housed in 11 prisons and jails, as of June 29.

    In an interview with Civil Beat, Gov. David Ige said Hawaii’s crumbling prisons and jails need to be fixed before bringing back inmates housed in a private facility on the mainland.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    In an interview with Civil Beat last week, Ige said Hawaii’s prisons and jails are in bad shape.

    “I do believe that it’s better for our community to return the prisoners,” Ige said. “But I’m pretty pragmatic at the same time. Quite frankly, we don’t have any place to put them. Until we can move forward with (building a new) facility, any discussion of bringing them home is premature.”

    Ige said the price tag for wholesale replacement or refurbishment of all of the state’s prisons and jails would be prohibitive: $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

    “Quite frankly, we don’t have any place to put them.” — Gov. David Ige, referring to Hawaii

  • Sign the Tobacco and E-Cigarette Ban

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    Legislation now awaiting the governor’s signature advances the front in the war on tobacco in new and historic ways. Senate Bill 1030 would ban the purchase, possession and public use of all tobacco products and e-cigarettes by those under 21, making Hawaii the first state to outlaw tobacco for the 18- to 20-year-old set.

    Such products are already outlawed for minors. This bill wades into more difficult waters, so far only attempted by New York City and a handful of other metro areas, in making tobacco products illegal for young adults, but maintaining their legality for those 21 and older. (Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah, it should be noted, restrict tobacco sales to those under 19.)

    There is precedent for such regulation. Hawaii’s legal drinking age has been fixed at 21 for nearly three decades. Though 18-year-olds can join the military, vote, marry and otherwise be treated as adults in the eyes of the law in a range of other circumstances, society nationwide has long been perfectly comfortable with restricting their access to alcohol, under the guise that younger adults are more prone to alcohol abuse and attendant problems than those 21 and older.

    Hawaii is poised to ban purchase and public use of tobacco products and e-cigarettes for those under 21.

    Challiyil EswarChalakudy via Wikimedia Commons

    There is compelling reasoning and evidence that acting similarly on tobacco products and e-cigarettes would have tremendously positive public health benefits. As the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids points out,

  • Read Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s First State of the State Address

    · By The Civil Beat Staff

    Mister Speaker, Madame President, former governors, distinguished justices of the courts, representatives of our congressional delegation, members of the Hawaii State Legislature, other elected officials, honored guests, family and friends,


    I am honored to be here today to deliver my first State of the State address. It is, of course, a homecoming of sorts with so many familiar faces and friends. Yet there is one major difference since I last sat among you:

    I am a year older with a few more grey hairs.

    To say that the last month has been an eye opener would be an understatement, as all the former governors here will understand. But it’s not so much about being overwhelmed as it is about being invigorated and challenged. And we have a mountain of challenges to climb.

    And so I hope we can climb it together—because as I said at my inauguration: Alone, it is a daunting and overwhelming task.

    But I have always been an optimist and a believer in people and the power they hold within them. That’s why I’ve always looked to others for help with answers; why I’ve always sought to harness the power of collaboration.

    When I met with my cabinet during a retreat recently I asked them, what does Hawaii mean to them? What drove them? What directed their actions? While there were many different answers and perspectives, one word kept coming up over and over again:


    It’s a sentiment I intimately understand.

    After I graduated from the University of Hawaii, I was fortunate enough to be

  • Health Department Flouts Law Calling for Online Access to Care Home Reports

    · By Nathan Eagle


    That was Wendy Silverthorne’s first reaction when she learned this week that the Hawaii Department of Health has blown its deadline to start posting online the inspection reports of more than 1,600 long-term care facilities.

    The Kailua native inadvertently became the poster child for the issue two years ago when a handful of state lawmakers, government officials and advocates for the elderly began their uphill battle to force the department to change its longstanding policy of requiring the public to file a formal written request to view the violation histories of the care homes.

    Elderly residents receive help at a long-term care facility. Hawaii passed a law in 2013 requiring the Health Department to start posting the inspection reports for care homes online beginning Jan. 1, but officials are not ready to do so yet.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The process can take up to 15 days and the department charges for the time it takes to gather the records, redact names and make copies. That’s too long and costly for people in situations like Silverthorne’s. She only had a few hours to find a place for her mother who was getting discharged from a hospital but wasn’t well enough to return home.

    “We’ve been waiting for this a long time. We’ve got a law. It was signed. Don’t you have to follow the law?” — John McDermott, the state’s long-term care ombudsman

    “It’s just so scary to think about putting someone you love

  • 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

  • David Ige Inauguration: Introducing Hawaii’s Eighth Governor

    · By Nathan Eagle

    David Ige was sworn in as Hawaii’s eighth governor on Monday following a patriotic ceremony that culminated in a 19-cannon salute reverberating through the Capitol halls.

    Standing on a stage with Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, Ige introduced himself to the hundreds of people seated in the open-air rotunda.

    “My name is David Ige,” he said.

    “You laugh at that introduction and smile. I think because some of you may find the gesture unnecessary. But I find it quite appropriate. After all an inauguration is really an introduction of a new governor, a new administration, a new beginning.”

    Gov. David Ige spoke after being sworn in at the Capitol on Monday.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    He went on to underscore the opportunity that lies ahead.

    “Contrary to what some may believe, we do not stand at a turning point just because we have a new governor or a new administration,” he said. “We stand at this point in history, with an opportunity to transform it into a turning point.”

    Ige said “passing issues” like gay marriage and GMOs do not define the people of Hawaii.

    “Outside money that seeks to divide us on passing issues; hurtful and personal attacks that have nothing to do with the issues themselves; emotional appeals that feed on prejudices and stereotypes… they all have nothing to do with who we are,” he said.

    “What has always defined us is our aloha — for each other and for others. That’s truly who we are.

  • Final Preparations Underway Before Ige’s Inauguration

    · By Nathan Eagle

    The normally empty open-air rotunda at the Capitol was quickly filling up with people Monday morning for David Ige’s swearing-in ceremony.

    The longtime state lawmaker is set to become Hawaii’s eighth elected governor at noon. 

    An estimated 2,000 chairs have been set up along with a stage where Ige and his lieutenant governor, Shan Tsutsui, will take their oaths of office.

    Chairs in the Hawaii Capitol rotunda are starting to fill up as people rehearse before the crowds arrive for David Ige’s inauguration ceremony Monday.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The morning ceremony is expected to involve students from Ige’s alma mater, Pearl City High School; a procession of veterans, including the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team who will be carrying a flag from the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye; Raiatea Helm singing the national anthem; Pomaikai Lyman and the Kahaluu Elementary School Ukulele Choir singing Hawaii Ponoi; and an invocation by the Rev. Danny Akaka Jr.

    After Ige and Tsutsui are sworn in, the afternoon’s festivities are slated to include dancing that happens to represent a wide range of constituents. There will be taiko drums and shishimai lion dogs; Miss Oahu Filipina doing a bamboo dance and some flamenco; a Japanese minyo classical dance; Scottish pipes and drums (and dancing); Korean classical dancing; and of course hula.

    Civil Beat will be following the action throughout the day.

  • 10 Things Hawaii’s Next Governor Has Said He’ll Do

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Monday marks the beginning of David Ige’s first four-year term as governor of Hawaii.

    The long road to his inauguration at the State Capitol was historic, particularly his surprising win in the Aug. 9 primary over Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

    It was also grueling. There were almost too many candidate forums to count, not to mention all of that sign-waving and fundraising en route to Ige’s Nov. 4 victory over Republican Duke Aiona.

    David Ige, seen here at a gubernatorial candidates forum in June, promised to do a lot of things as governor.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    But now it’s time to get to work. And there’s much to be done.

    Ige’s six-month campaign was filled with statements about what his priorities and goals would be if he were elected. He spoke often of his record as a state lawmaker for the past 29 years and the direction he wants to steer Hawaii as governor.

    Here are 10 of the things the public should expect to see from its new top executive, as compiled from interviews, news releases and Ige’s campaign website, which has shifted into a post-election mode.

    Triple the supply of affordable housing in Kakaako.
    Develop a plan to double local food production.
    Alleviate the Department of Education’s top-down bureaucracy by empowering principals, specifically increasing the weighted-student formula spending to 75 percent from 58 percent.
    Boost government transparency by holding weekly press conferences and limiting charges for public records to basic copying costs.
    Introduce legislation to ensure Medicaid recipients receive services

  • Abercrombie’s Official Portrait Expected to Cost Taxpayers $45,000

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. Neil Abercrombie wasn’t the only one who didn’t expect to lose his bid for re-election.

    His Aug. 9 loss in the Democratic primary to Sen. David Ige also seems to have caught the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts off guard.

    The foundation is responsible for the official portrait that Hawaii governors have had done for the past century when their term comes to an end. But the board, apparently expecting Abercrombie to be in office another four years, did not approve the $45,000 budget and nine-month timeline for his portrait until Wednesday. 

    Gov. Neil Abercrombie speaks at a news conference, April 17, 2014, in the ceremonial room at the Capitol. Portraits, from left, of former Govs. John Waihee, Ben Cayetano and Linda Lingle hang on the wall.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    The portraits are normally unveiled in November or December before the next governor takes office. If Abercrombie’s portrait goes according to plan, the painting won’t be completed until May and the unveiling won’t take place until late June.

    The foundation has yet to solicit potential artists. That’s expected to start Oct. 1 with a post on Abercrombie and First Lady Nancie Caraway will then choose an artist Dec. 31, according to the timeline the board approved.

    The budget for the portrait is $40,000, which includes $35,000 for the artist’s fees, airfare, hotel, car and per diem; $2,500 for the photographer’s expenses; $2,000 for the frame and plaque; and $500 for crating, shipping

  • Denby Fawcett: Who the Heck Is David Ige?

    · By Denby Fawcett

    Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Ige was barely known to Hawaii voters when he trounced Gov. Neil Abercrombie last month in the biggest upset of an incumbent governor in a primary election in U.S. history.

    Today, the 57 year-old Ige’s name is widely recognized here but most residents still don’t know much about him as a person or as a candidate.

    They probably are unaware that he kept his parents in the dark after prestigious colleges such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology accepted him, and to this day he irons his own clothes and cooks his family’s everyday meals, and that he once liked to “toilet paper” his friends’ cars.

    To find these things about Ige and more, I asked to meet with him outside of the workplace; to spend time with him doing something he enjoys.  I also requested interviews with the friends he has known since his intermediate school days in Pearl City, and his teachers.

    Campaign spokeswoman Lynn Kenton arranged for me to meet Ige at 7 a.m. last Thursday on the Pearl Harbor bike path where he likes to run.

    State Sen. David Ige jogs near Pearl Harbor.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Ige told me he used to jog about five miles three times a week but now with the campaign in full swing, he says, he hadn’t run in five weeks.

    I was thinking it might be fun to do the interview while jogging. But I realized it would be difficult to keep up with him while trying

  • Chad Blair: Republicans on Parade

    · By Chad Blair

    I’ve seen this parade before.

    Dozens of hopeful candidates from diverse walks of life, hopeful, excited, sporting banners and signs and buttons and T-shirts and stickers and websites, all believing this will be the election year that Hawaii elects more than a token representation of Republicans.

    I saw this parade just two years ago, when Linda Lingle and Charles Djou went down to defeat in runs for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

    I saw it as well in 2010, when Djou lost his re-election bid for the 1st Congressional District, Cam Cavasso was beat by the unbeatable U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye and Duke Aiona was felled in a gubernatorial landslide caused by Democrat Neil Abercrombie.

    Future governor, congressman and lieutenant governor? From left, Duke Aiona, Charles Djou and Elwin Ahu.

    Chad Blair/Civil Beat

    Some of the very same Republican candidates crowded the Kapiolani Park Bandstand on Saturday afternoon at a party unity rally, including Aiona, Djou and Cavasso again running for the same top seats.

    Same goes for state House of Representatives candidates Julia Allen and Carole Kauhiwai Kaapu, who failed to depose Democrats Calvin Say and John Mizuno in 2010 and 2012 but are back at it again.

    “A couple of weeks ago, friends, we had a hurricane here, and I’m not talking about the rain.” — Charles Djou

    Indeed, Allen, who can be seen sign-waving most election-season mornings at the corner of Waialae Avenue and St. Louis Drive, also ran against Say in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Say is no longer House speaker, but he

  • David Ige Becomes the First Challenger in Hawaii Gubernatorial Race

    · By Nathan Eagle

    The man who wants to replace Abercrombie has a long track record, yet is little known outside of his constituency.