Political Tittle-tattle: News and Entertainment from Hawaii's Political Arena

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”Lingle Administration Celebrates 100 Days in Office”


Gov. Linda Lingle, the first woman ever to be elected as governor in Hawaii, and the first Republican to be elected in Hawaii in 40 years, celebrates her 100th day in office today, March 12. Her 100th day in office coincides with the halfway mark of the 2003 State Legislature — or the 30th day of the 60-day legislative session.

She already has kept several of her campaign promises, including those she made to the Hawaiian people. Lingle, as pledged, resumed the regular payments to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs derived from the use of ceded lands — payments former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano suspended two years ago. She also continues her fight to gain federal recognition for the Hawaiian people, even traveling to Washington D.C. to lobby the U.S. Congress and the administration of President George W. Bush.

Lingle is making good on her promise to market Hawaii overseas and help improve the unfriendly business climate. While on her whirlwind tour two weeks ago in Washington D.C. and New York City, Lingle met with Bush administrators, taking along with her coffee from Hawaii. In an ingenious move, she asked Bush to serve Hawaiian-grown coffee in the White House from now on, rather than Brazilian coffee. Hawaiian coffee is the only commercial coffee grown in the United States. She also met with national media to promote Hawaii’s new business-friendly attitude, U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft about homeland security, and with former New York Mayor Rudy Gulliuani.

The U.S. Congress was not the only place Lingle testified in support of legislation she endorses. She already personally testified before the Hawaii state Legislature on numerous occasions, unlike Cayetano who rarely even lobbied, much less testified, before legislators in support of his administrative bills. Lingle continues to push her agenda for “A New Beginning” by lobbying legislators to pass her bills that address her main platform: to restore the faith of Hawaii’s people in government; to spur economic revitalization through the creation of a good business climate and economic diversification; and to reform the public education system through decentralization.

She also assembled a good team of administrators — people she recruited from the community, not selected by their party affiliation, but rather by their qualifications. Most of the new Lingle administrators were unknown in the political arena until Lingle made her appointments, leading some Democrat legislators, who are used to many of the same people being appointed and re-appointed to the prior Democrat administrations, to grumble about the fact that they’d never heard of these people. All of her administrators have a background in business, and an understanding of the needs of the business community, which is a drastic change from the Cayetano appointees, who not only had no knowledge of how business operates, they were also downright hostile to business, taking a small business vs. government/labor attitude.

Lingle kept another promise she made during her campaign — last week
she renamed the H-3 tunnel after Tetsuo Harano. The tunnel was originally named after Harano, but Cayetano, in a highly controversial move, changed the name of the tunnel to honor former Gov. John Burns. In a ceremony at Washington Place last week, Burn’s daughter came forward to thank Lingle for her action, saying her father, now deceased, would have been ashamed to have a landmark named after him in such a manner.

As she did with the H-3 ceremony, and many other events to date, Lingle makes Washington Place and her new residence accessible to the people of Hawaii by holding numerous functions and hosting many community volunteers.

As she proposed during her first few days in office, Lingle also organized a transportation summit, bringing together federal, state and county leaders in an effort to find workable transportation solutions. She has also continued to visit schools, government sites, elderly care facilities and environmental areas, proposing new solutions and alternatives to old problems.

Her two biggest challenges so far, besides selecting her cabinet members from thousands of applicants, are dealing with a tremendous budget shortfall of at least $180 million and learning to handle the partisan bickering and political games being played by the Democrats at the Legislature.

For example, House majority Democrats last week refused to approve the governor’s emergency appropriation of $1 million, which would have fully restored her $3.4 million budget to operate her office. The $3.4 million was cut by $993,000 by the Legislature in 2002 to balance the budget in FY 2003. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Lingle’s Chief of Staff Bob Awana learned just three days before the transition from Cayetano to Lingle, that not only had the $993,000 been cut, but the Cayetano administration had spent all but $400,000 of the remaining monies. Lingle, at this time, has just enough money appropriated to fund her office until the end of March, but she needs the emergency appropriation to make it until the end of June 2003, when the fiscal year is completed.

The Senate has agreed to restore the nearly $500,000 in cuts to the governor’s emergency request, but the appropriation still has to go into final negotiations between the House and Senate because both Houses do not agree on the amount in the bill, meaning the governor will likely have to go without the funds she needs for two months, until the end of the session in early May. Awana said in an earlier interview with HawaiiReporter.com that he is unsure where the money will come from to pay the staff in the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s office from now until June.

Holding the governor’s budget hostage is not the only political game being played by the House majority. The House Democrats also killed many of the governor’s bills relating to reforming the education system as well as campaign and election reform. The governor, however, is maintaining a good attitude and says she will not to give up on her agenda, but will remain committed to pushing the bills through in the 2003 and 2004 Legislative sessions.

Though the House Democrats continue to undermine the governor’s progress, Lingle demonstrated she is above petty partisanship and politicking by immediate action with the signing of her first bill, which authorized $20.8 million to fund the operations of the state Legislature and attached agencies. Those wise to the political deals cut at the Legislature told Lingle she should hold the legislative budget hostage until both Houses approved her budget, but still naive in many ways to the extent her enemies will go to stop her progress, she refused to do so and is now suffering the consequences.

Lingle is fortunate to have boundless energy, a pleasant demeanor, a good attitude, determination and professionalism, which has helped her overcome barriers put before her in her first 100 days by those, for political reasons, who do not want her to succeed. In her next three and a half years in office, Lingle will inevitably continue to be attacked and undermined by those who want to ensure she does not get a second 4-year term and that more Republicans do not gain seats in the House and Senate in the 2004 election. The question will be whether the public will stand for that kind of bickering and partisanship, or if they will be displeased enough with the Democrats, particularly those in the House who blocked Lingle’s agenda for “A New Beginning,” to vote them out of office.

”Governor’s Home Still Bare”

Former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano and his wife Vicky, to their credit, raised private funds to build a new governor’s residence, so that Washington Place, the former home of Queen Liliuokalani, could be open and more accessible to the people of Hawaii.

Gov. Linda Lingle, who at first wanted to remain in her own small apartment, finally agreed to move into the governor’s home, but was then faced with the reality that it was left completely unfurnished, and no money was allocated to furnish the home for her or future governors.

The first action Lingle took was to purchase a bed for herself and three additional beds for the guestrooms, all which were without beds or any furniture. She also bought three folding tables that she uses in the dining area to eat on. She also adopted a badly stained couch from the governor’s office for her livingroom.

The money she requested from the Legislature to buy curtains for the uncovered windows, rugs for the wooden floors, and some modest furnishings for the rest of the home, was denied by the House last week in a strictly partisan vote.

House Democrats told Lingle through their floor debates that she should go back and live in Washington Place, raise the money privately to furnish the home, or go without furniture.

Lingle has been looking at the possibility of raising the money privately, which may prove difficult in tough economic times when Hawaii and the rest of the nation are facing the possibility of war in Iraq and even more tenuous financial times ahead.

”Democrats Still Shunning Governor’s Education Plan, Will Hear Democrat Education Bill Today that Education Activists Call ‘Abominable’ and ‘Bureaucratic’ ”

Today at 1:15 p.m. in Room 212 at the state Capitol, the Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 289, HD2, which requires the Superintendent to organize the centralized Department of Education into complex areas and establish complex area schools councils requiring them to act on various duties.

This plan, advocated by the Democrats, only will create more bureaucracy in Hawaii’s poorly managed, top-down public education system. Gov. Linda Lingle is opposed to this plan, and instead is pushing her original plan to decentralize the school system through the creation of locally elected school boards.

Those opposing the Democrats’ education plan should telephone Sen. Norman Sakamoto, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, at 586-8585, or email him at mailto:sensakamoto@capitol.hawaii.gov to tell him not to support the establishment of complex advisory councils. Those opposed also can submit testimony to the Senate Education Committee to oppose this measure, and instead to support HB 1082, legislation that proposed a constitutional amendment to eliminate the state board of education and create local school boards

Persons wishing to testify should submit 30 copies of their testimony to the committee clerk, Room 213, State Capitol during regular business hours, or outside the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office, Room 015, State Capitol for all other times. Testimony may also be faxed if less than 5 pages in length, to the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms Office at 586-6659 or 1-800-586-6659 (toll free for neighbor islands). When faxing, please indicate to whom the testimony is being submitted, the date and time of the hearing, and the required number of copies needed for submittal.

”Democrats in the House Make ‘Get Out the Vote’ Strategy a Criminal Offense, Change Electioneering, Campaign Fundraising Rules to Their Benefit”

Nationally, Democrats push their get out the vote platform, which includes everything from getting homeless to vote by promising them food or cigarettes (documented in the Wall Street Journal) to picking up the elderly and disabled to take them to the polls, to aggressively signing people up to vote by absentee ballot. And their strategy, in many cases in the mainland and Hawaii, has worked extremely well and has helped the Democrats bring in more victories.

Going into the 2002 election, Bob Awana, the campaign manager for then Republican candidate for governor Linda Lingle and a self-declared Democrat, decided to learn from the Democrats’ success and