Island Gossip Girl: Reporting Hawaii News from Usually Reliable Sources

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Capitol Rats Meet for Lunch:  The old rat pack is back together again – at least for lunch. That’s the word from Congresswoman-elect Colleen Hanabusa who says she will meet with her “Rat Pack” former Senate colleagues for lunch Wednesday.

Hanabusa, elected in 1998, had five other senators in her freshman class from various islands including Jonathan Chun (Kauai), David Matsuura (Big Island), Bob Nakata (Oahu), Jan Yagi Buen (Maui) and Lorraine Inouye (Big Island). Confident from the start, they challenged Senate leadership just after being sworn in earning them the nickname “Rat Pack.”  Hanabusa maintains the nickname is derived from “Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin buddy group famous for their camaraderie and banter, as well as the original ‘Ocean’s Eleven.'” Hanabusa is the only one still in elective office.


Ambitious Democrat Alert I – Attention Democrats in “good standing”: Want to be in the Hawaii State Senate? Bring 30 copies of your resume to the Oahu County General Membership meeting this Saturday, November 13, at Leihoku Elementary School in Waianae. Resumes of one to three candidates will be submitted to the governor. Hanabusa is on her way to Congress after defeating GOP’s Congressman Charles Djou.

Ambitious Democrat Alert II – Newly-elected Gov. Neil Abercrombie has launched where those wanting to work for his administration can apply before November 15, 2010. Abercrombie will be sworn in at noon on December 6, 2010.

After Big Battle, Slom Unanimously Elected Minority Leader, Minority Floor Leader and well, Superman

“After a long series of weekend State Capitol deliberations—sometimes contentious— behind open doors in the Republican Caucus, Sam Slom emerged as the new Senate Minority Leader. Slom, (R-8 – Hawaii Kai-Diamond Head), also was named the Minority Floor Leader, the Minority Policy Leader and more.”

That’s the word from that Senate resident comedian, Sam Slom, who joked in a press release issued yesterday about his new “powerful” positions in the Senate. Of course, there is only one Republican State Senator left of 25 after the November 2 election – and yes – it is Slom. Sen. Fred Hemmings of Kailua opted not to run again and a Democrat won his seat.

Traditionally, Republicans, in the minority for decades, have scrambled to make sure there is GOP representation on every Democrat-led committee. Last year, Slom and Hemmings split the 14 committees in half, each trying their best to run between 7 committee hearings, some simultaneous, to keep an eye on their majority colleagues.

The Senate Democrats added one committee this year, Investigations, for a total of 15, which means Slom will need that Superman cape (and possibly the blue tights) he claims to have in his Senate office. (Note: The announced Senate Investigations Committee will be renamed to the Committee on Accountability. Probably most of the hearings will take place in off session periods.)

The good news is there is already bi-partisan cooperation. New Senate President, Shan Tsutsui, D-Maui, met with Slom today to see how they can work together.

Though far out-numbered, Slom, one of the great orators of the legislative body, says he will “energetically and honorably represent the more than 45% of voters supporting Republican candidates and traditional values.” His major priorities will be “Strenuously opposing new and increased taxes, government spending and debt for all voters, while focusing on job creation, improving Hawaii’s distressed economy and meaningful educational reforms. He will continue to advocate term limits.”

Planning to get the word out with or without the media, Slom says he will give weekly briefings on major legislation for the 2011 Session, which will be broadcast live. In addition, there will be a new and improved Senate Minority website, live streaming of key committee hearings and more use of social media to explain pending bills. So while not a “twitterer” himself, Slom will rely on faster fingers in his minority research and office staff to help the messages go viral.

Not wanting to be a one-man band, Slom is recruiting community leaders and volunteers to report on each of the 15 Senate committees.  Want to volunteer? Call him at 349-5438 or email

Apo Out, Mickey Mouse In

Honolulu City Council Chair Todd Apo resigned yesterday from his position to accept a new job with the coming Disney Resorts in Ko Olina on Oahu. There will be a special election to fill his seat.  Apo did not depart in time to have his seat included in recent election, or he could have saved the taxpayers an estimated $179,000.

On to his replacement. The widespread rumor is former Honolulu council member and mayor Mufi Hannemann will be resurrected from his failed bid for Governor and run for that seat. At least one elected official has asked Hannemann directly about his reported run and he has denied interest. However, there are murmurs about a “recruit Hannemann to the council campaign.” Hannemann would have to move to the district first.

Candidates either running or reportedly considering a run: Former GOP Rep. Bob McDermott, Union leader Mel Kahele, Cynthia Rezentes and Patty Teruya.

More Senate and House Gossip

As if the public hasn’t had enough of elections and special elections, there may be yet another special election after the council special election to fill Todd Apo’s council seat. Usually reliable sources say Sen. Clayton Hee, D-Kahaluu, wants an appointed position in the Abercrombie administration, and Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, a medical doctor, would consider heading the Department of Health. Both would have to resign to accept these positions if they are selected.

Sen. Michele Kidani, D-Miliani, and newly elected Sen. Pohai Ryan, D-Kailua, are scoping out capitol offices that will be vacated because of organizational moves. Two considerations: Space and “bird poo” factor.

House Majority members – Democrats of course – are still meeting behind closed doors to determine their leadership. Senate majority and minority leadership as well as the House minority already has this decided and announced. House Minority Leader Gene Ward, R-Hawaii Kai, heads up the 8-member minority caucus. The drama centers around veteran House Speaker Calvin Say and the issue is will he garner the 26 votes necessary to retain his speakership or will he return to selling chopsticks full time (yes he has a successful chopsticks importer/exporter business).

Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim, D-Kalihi, had pledged to investigate through her new capacity as “investigations chair”, the new Democrat administration just a vigorously as she took on the Lingle/Aiona GOP administration during the past 8 years.

Hawaii’s Newly Powerful Couples

Two of Hawaii’s newest power couples to watch: Former newsman Jim McCoy, who worked on Abercrombie’s successful gubernatorial campaign, and his wife, former newswoman, Louise Kim McCoy, who is now the primary media spokesperson for newly elected Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle. Between the two of them, they have a handle on all of the state and city politics and government actions and contracts.

Then there is Sen. Clayton Hee, D-Kahaluu, and his wife Lynne Waters, who is now a spokesperson for the newly elected Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro. Waters is a former television news reporter as well as a former spokesperson for Pacific Partnership (unionized contractors).

Political Insiders at Prosecutors’ Office

The newly appointed community relations person for the newly elected prosecutor Keith M. Kaneshiro is Jon Riki Karamatsu, previously served 4 terms – 8 years – as a State Representative in the Hawaii State Legislature and chaired the House Judiciary Committee since 2008. He took some political “heat” when he took charge of this Judiciary committee since it was after his October 2007 DUI arrest that he brought on himself by calling the police after his single car drunk driving accident. Karamatsu, who some law enforcement personnel considered the least friendly Judiciary chair to ever serve, is now speaking for the law enforcement. Karamatsu was a recent candidate for lieutenant governor but lost out to Brian Schatz.

Also on staff besides Lynn Waters, wife of Sen. Clayton Hee, is Katherine Kealoha, wife of police Chief Louis Kealoha, and former deputy attorney general Dean Young, who represented the City Liquor Commission.

Kaneshiro worked for Hee at the state Senate for several sessions.

Kaneshiro says in a statement about his hires: ““These two extremely experienced former Deputy Prosecutors will bring a wealth of knowledge, discipline and institutional memory to the office of Prosecuting Attorney. I hired Kathy Kealoha in 1995 and I saw Dean Young in action as both a Deputy Prosecutor and an attorney in private practice. They are lawyers of superior talent and ability and will make strong additions to our prosecuting team. Jon Karamatsu’s experience at the Legislature and as chair of the Judiciary Committee will make him an invaluable member of our team as we advocate for tougher laws and key public safety initiatives in the coming session.”

Missing in Action: Investigative reporter from the Star-Advertiser

Sean Hao, a bright investigative reporter once employed at the now closed major daily newspaper, The Honolulu Advertiser, is working for the state auditor’s office. Hao focused on exposes involving government waste, fraud and abuse – and revealed numerous problems with the proposed $5.5 billion rail project. Apparently he was former Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s least favorite reporter, and the target of complaints by the former city administration, which means Hao was good at his job. Hao was picked up by the new Star-Advertiser (product of the merged Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin), but he left in a matter of weeks to accept the position with the state.

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