John Fund
John Fund

Akaka Bill is Dead, Honolulu Rail Could Be Too

John Fund, Fox News contributor and award winning writer for the Wall Street Journal, has been in Hawaii this week. In his interview on Hawaii Reporter Television, he offers an interesting analysis about Hawaii politics including the chances of survival for both the Akaka Bill and the Honolulu rail project.

Fund, who has written extensively on the Akaka Bill for the Wall Street Journal, said the federal legislation to recognize native Hawaiians as an Indian Tribe is “dead” because the current U.S. Senate has no plans to pass the legislation as it stands.

Killing the Akaka Bill is a good example of what a handful of citizens can do if they never give up and work together, Fund said, noting every politician in Hawaii except one (Sen. Sam Slom) supported the Akaka Bill, but citizens who were concerned about the intent of the legislation educated the U.S. Senate about the divisiveness it would cause among Hawaii’s melting pot of ethnicities.

While in Hawaii, Fund took a tour of what the city hopes will be the route for the $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel rail project from Kapolei to Honolulu.

There is very little federal money for such a ridiculously expensive project, he said, and the “horrendous” project will not improve traffic but it will destroy the environment. Fund said the only reason the project is still alive is “public apathy” – too few citizens are participating in the process.

Remember when then Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann promised the rail project is ”not going to be another H-3 Freeway,” meaning it was not going to be the most expensive project per mile in the country and take decades to complete? But the rail is just like the H-3 Freeway, Fund noted.

The rail cost rose 40 percent, it is the most expensive rail project per mile in the country, and it is nearly four years late.

As Professor Panos Prevedouros notes in an editorial this week, the rail has already faced one lawsuit in state court on Hawaiian issues and is facing a major one in federal court for environmental violations.

And this is only the beginning, Prevedouros said, promising will be lawsuits for illegal agricultural land conversions and usage, noise impacts and eminent domain lawsuits.

Painters Union Advocates for Legalized Gaming

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District 50, is getting involved in Hawaii politics again. This time, Union Business Manager Lynn Kinney in a series of radio advertisements is pushing for the construction of a freestanding casino in Waikiki so he can get his painters back to work. “Our workers need these jobs,” he said.

Hawaii is only one of two states in the nation with no legalized gambling of any kind including lotteries and casinos. Kinney and other gambling advocates hope to change that this legislative session, which begins January 18.

Gambling advocates, who have been pushing for this casino in Waikiki since last legislative session, are organized and vocal, while opponents have been relatively quiet.

Part of the problem is many of the opponents are aging and less involved while the gambling advocates have a new much younger and energetic group of spokespeople.

Elevator Safety or Battle of the Unions?

Some 4,000 elevators around the state are overdue for safety inspections and to address the so called “crisis”, the state plans to increase inspection fees, state Labor Department Director Dwight Takamine told lawmakers this week.

Inspection fees have not been raised for 13 years. But is there a problem?

As Jim Dooley notes in his story this week, there hasn’t been an elevator-related fatality here since 1992 and maintenance companies already service all public and private elevator systems.

Some lawmakers said the controversy is really over union turf wars and has little to do with safety.

University, Chow, Agree to Be Transparent on Contract Details

The University of Hawaii and its new head football coach, Norm Chow, finally agreed to make the details of his new contract public.

The University initially refused, but after Hawaii Reporter’s Jim Dooley pressed the issue and sought help from the Office of Information Practices, Chow disclosed he is making $550,000 a year during his 5 year contract, and he can add bonuses if he meets certain benchmarks.

Chow is paid less than the former coach, but he is still the highest paid state employee.

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