A year or two ago on Akaku TV, I participated in a panel discussing the merits of holding another Hawaii State Constitutional Convention. Towards the end of the broadcast, we took a few questions from callers. One was from a younger gentleman in Pukalani, who questioned why we were bothering to argue over a function of – in his view – an illegitimate entity, the State of Hawai’i.

In today’s Maui News Letters, this issue popped back up in a letter from a gentleman in Haiku reporting an attorney’s motion to dismiss a case (probably State v. Akahi), based on the claim that a State court didn’t have jurisdiction to hear it.

I’d ask him on what competent authority he bases his claim that the Court lacks jurisdiction.

A government’s legitimacy flows from the recognition of its standing by enough people within its jurisdiction. As such, its words become more than hot air and ink. Within Hawai’i, this passed from the Kingdom, to the Republic, and hence to the United States. Despite strongly argued opinions to the contrary, the vast majority have lived, learned, worked, fought, and died in a way suggesting their recognition that they live within the “State of Hawai’i”, a constituent part of the “United States”. I’m not claiming everyone is all smiles about the history, but that they recognize what is.

I can’t read the mind of the attorney questioning the Court’s jurisdiction, but if someone were representing me, I’d prefer they stick to the accepted case law, and not waste time on a long shot that the judge is a closet sovereignty advocate. But then, I’m not the pretender to the throne. The day that an entity styled the “Kingdom of Hawai’i” is real in the hearts and minds of enough Hawai’i residents that it can compel action based on its decisions, I’ll revisit my outlook.

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The November Kihei Community Association meeting theme was public education, featuring a presentation by Group 70, which is working on the EIS for the future Kihei High School, and a panel discussion regarding the truncated 2009-2011 school years.

Kihei has long been agitating for a local high school, and most of Group 70ʻs presentation wasnʻt too much different from other high school plans Iʻve seen over the last ten years. The difference was that there are now hard start and completion dates: the summers of 2012 and 2014. My son will be out of college by that point, but itʻll still be a plus for the community.

KCA Education Panel, November 2009 meeting

From the left: KCA moderator A. Beerer, M. Cochran, B. Anderson, B. Wurst, R. Baker, G. Zarro, Y. Biegal, B. Bunting

The panel was a mix of education stakeholders:

  • Mary Cochran – Member, Hawaiʻi Board of Education
  • Bruce Anderson – Maui District Superintendent, Department of Education
  • Barry Wurst – Teacher, King Kamehameha III Elementary School, HSTA negotiator
  • Roz Baker – 5th District, Hawaiʻi State Senate
  • Gene Zarro – President, Kihei Charter School Board
  • Yvonne Biegal – Parent, Kamaliʻi School
  • Bridget Bunting – President, Kihei School PTA

The panelists were each given time for a five minute statement, and then answered written questions from the public. Comments that caught my attention included:

Mary – responding to a question regarding the ratio of teachers to support and admin staff. Her claim is that weʻre low compared to mainland school districts, and that 30% of the budget ainʻt a bad overhead rate. She also presented a laundry list of responsibilities a local school district would need to take over from the state. I think those considering the idea were already aware of this. Whether a local district would lead to lower overhead is an excellent question. However, as my wife the former DoE employee points out, the current system is very Oʻahu centric, and tends to shortchange the staff on the Neighbor Islands.

Bruce – thinking back to his days as a Makawao Elementary School principal, reminded us how many support staff are needed to run a school… which still begs the question whether his stated head count is absolutely critical during a budget crunch.

Barry – described the process that led to the HSTA voting to approve the furlough plan. During Q&A, he declined to guess at whether the membership would vote to approve reassigning professional development days as instruction time. Probably a good decision, since anything he says out of turn as an HSTA official can have a major affect on the membership. He noted that furloughs and layoffs will probably add to the existing high turnover among newer hires.

Roz – pointed out that we received several million in Federal education stimulus dollars, which the Governor used as an opportunity to transfer a similar number of dollars out of the DoE to other portions of the budget. She seemed to anticipate that the Legislature would hold a special session to discuss the Governorʻs latest school budget proposal.

Gene – pointed to the charter school as an example of local school control in action. He also noted one major benefit of the Hawaiʻi statewide school system: funding parity throughout the state. This is a major issue on the mainland.

Yvonne – in so many words, she labeled the thought that county-sized school districts couldnʻt be successful as B.S. Quite true. A very forceful delivery.

Bridget – touted the PTAʻs Furlough Fridays enrichment program, We Can Do It, which would provide a full school day of art, music, and other programs trimmed from the regular curriculum long ago. Some of her comments suggested that there had been some resistance to the program. She provided a URL which I didnʻt correctly record. Iʻll update this note when I get the correct information. Update: Mr. Waldenʻs post on redcounty.com looked to me overly conspiratorial. As the former DoE intelligence agent Iʻm married to suggested, if the Kihei School PTA is getting push back, the reasons are likely more pedestrian. A few years ago, the DoE took a stab at “local control” by shifting much of the budget responsibility down to the individual schools. This left the principals on the hook for balancing everything from teacher salaries to the electric bill. If they go over budget, there are consequences. If  the current 2009-10 budget depends in part on powering down the schools, flipping the switches back on might prove a problem. Also, the principals are on the same furlough schedule as everyone else, and may resist the idea of open classrooms when theyʻre not present to keep an eye on things. Just a thought.

The panel closed with Mary taking issue with some of Yvonneʻs statements regarding a Stateview vs. local school boards. Ms. Cochran has a reputation as a no-nonsense lady, and it certainly came across during the meeting. I havenʻt reviewed the Board minutes to know exactly where she stood while they reacted to this yearʻs budget cuts, other than a newspaper report that she had asked if the DoE administration could be trimmed. However, the decision made, it seems to me sheʻs sticking with it. Frankly, I would appreciate someone – anyone – in the furlough decision-making process conceding that they made the wrong choice.

Alexander & Baldwin is one of the Big 5 companies that traditionally ran the State of Hawaii. A&B’s major lines of business include Matson Shipping, real estate sales and leasing, and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company. Sugar once defined A&B, but since the late ’90s the fields have contributed nothing to the bottom line. From a corporate viewpoint, HC&S is a land bank. One of their recent Annual Reports listed over 11% of their 60,000 ag acreage on Maui as available for near term urban development. (Click to enlarge plots)

A&B Revenue

Whether they farm or develop, A&Bʻs business needs water. Their 100 year old East Maui Irrigation subsidiary supplies most of their needs, the rest purchased from Wailuku Water. In either case, stream water is diverted into ditches, very little being left to support downstream farmers or fresh water fish stocks. The ditch system supply is total dependent on rainfall, which has been on a downward trend for several decades. Although their cultivated acreage has dropped by thousands of acres, and now use drip irrigation, these changes arenʻt reflected in their water draw. There is anecdotal evidence that the company is dumping water to justify a continuing share of water resources for their post-agricultural plans.

A&B Net Revenue

In Hawaii, all fresh water resources are considered a public trust, and the State Water Commission has been slowly moving forward to reallocate water resources to other uses, such as the Maui County Department of Water Supply, taro farmers, and stream maintenance. During October, HC&S mobilized some of its 700 remaining employees to fight to continue the company’s current water draw by appearing at news conferences, Commission meetings, and with letters to the Maui News, casting the issue in terms of well paid jobs that would be lost if existing sugar cane acreage can’t get water.

A&B Margin

Unfortunately, a look at the books tells the tale. It seems clear that A&B is biding its time, keeping its ag operations on life support as they transfer cane fields to their very profitable real estate development and leasing unit. In the meantime, I’d argue, the HC&S field and sugar mill staff are being used in a PR campaign to retain claim to millions of gallons of public water.

Data source: http://www.alexanderbaldwin.com/investor-relations/financial-reports/

2008

Student: 2008

Along with most other states during the ’08/’09 recession, Hawai’i state government is suffering from a tax collection shortfall, compared to their previous forecasts. The Legislature was unwilling to raise taxes enough to cover the looming gap, and the Governor began trimming her departments accordingly.

2009

Student: 2010

The state Department of Education, which runs all public primary and secondary schools, took a 14% ($227 million) haircut. The details aren’t the Governor’s kuleana, that falling to the Board of Education. The Board and the state teacher’s union (HSTA) agreed to 17 to 21 furlough days for each of the ’09 – ’10 and ’10 – ’11 school years, with a targeted savings of $114 million, the rest to come from programs and school-level funding. Rather than take the some of them on the 11 planning and staff professional development days, they took it all out of class days, to the tune of a 9.5% cut in instruction.

My theory is that before the Board and Superintendent Hamamoto sat down with the HSTA negotiators, they decided that their priority was to minimize disruption to the education bureaucracy. So, the kids can take it in the shorts, least the cadre of administrators, whose numbers doubled in ten years, be dissipated? In that time, the number of students shrank by 1.7%. If the DoE had seen fit to cut the administrative head count back to the ’94-’95 level, and allow for the 30% cost of living increase by ’06-’07, they might have had over $328 million of slack to work with. Why not? Dat why hard? Great, just great.

Pursuant to the the Maui County Charter, the General Plan Advisory Committee has spent several years putting together a County zoning plan to take us through 2030. The draft went to the Planning Commission, whose members proceeded to extend the urban growth boundaries to include a number of developments that otherwise would have had to seek a waiver from the County Council to proceed.

The Draft Plan already allowed for considerable growth in population, so I’m not clear as to what’s driving a couple of the Planning Commission’s actions, which included support for:

  • Oluwalu Town: the former sugar growing area is now home to about 20 families, a French restaurant, a general store, and one of the few stretches of undeveloped coastline that’s easily accessible. The development would add 1500 homes and a large retail core.
  • Pulelehua: this mixed use development would grow up the hillsides above the Honokowai area. The developer has put considerable effort into highlighting the parts of the project that include less expensive homes, condos, and rental apartments as an opportunity for local working class families to live and work on the west side. The original plan put homes and businesses right up the Kapalua Airport fence. The draft plan added over a 150 acres of buffer space around the airport, which the Planning Commission removed.

By removing the airport buffer, the County would implicitly be saying they want the airport, which is owned by the State, closed. Once people started moving into Pulehua, it’s inevitable that they’ll complain about the noise. I contend that the Planning Commission should explicitly address the issue.

For Olowalu, Planning Commissioner Hiranaga stated that he was moved by those of the 20 families asking for local job opportunities, and was taking a leap of faith that Olowalu Town LLC wasn’t going to screw up the local environment. I find the idea of driving a major project forward to save a handful of people a morning commute laughable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re more interested in a rapid run up in the value of their lots when next door to a high end development.

Also, it’s not coincidental that the few non-degraded coral reefs lie off undeveloped beach fronts, such as Olowalu. Based on experience with all major development and redevelopment projects in west and south Maui over the last ten years, it is inevitable that Olowalu Town would lead to short term mud runoff into the reefs, and long term yard chemical and asphalt runoff feeding algae blooms, invasive sea weeds, and depleted fish populations.

hello-kitty ar-15

Hello Kitty AR-15,
originally uploaded by D-Brown!.

A gentleman from Lahaina wrote in to castigate columnist Tom Stevens regarding his September 9th “Shave Ice” piece as a “liberal tirade full of inaccurate statements.”

The correspondent’s primary concern was over Mr. Stevens dismay at the open display of firearms at various public events held by the President in Arizona and New Hampshire, while broad-brushing the other issues Mr. Stevens raised regarding “Tea Party” tactics.

Other than that Mr. Stevens mistook an AR-15 for an AK-47, his points seemed to hit the nail on the head. The Tea Party-goers and the like have used lies and outrageous hyperbole to characterize the current Congress and Administration’s health care and tax proposals. The message I’m getting from the national GOP and its “useful idiots” is that truth is secondary when you’re trying to win. It’s useful to know that honesty is liable to be optional if doing business with – for instance – the guy running the Maui Tea Party website.

Yes, Arizona and New Hampshire are open carry states, and while a resident of Tucson, I periodically exercised my rights. However, I recognize that the -only- point of exercising that right at a political event is to intimidate the participants. Over what, universal health care? Really? If the writer and his peers were honest, they’d push their attacks to their logical conclusion, and call for the elimination of Medicare, Medicaid, and – to make a clean sweep of it – Social Security.

But, he won’t, because he knows these are all popular and useful programs, and that his party would get absolutely hammered if it tried.

Last week, we had two correspondents chime in on the subject of climate change, each featuring favored skeptics in academia. A gentleman from Hana references a Dr. Nicholas Drapela, currently an instructor at OSU, and a report from Dr. Alan Carlin from the EPA, while a gentleman from  Wailuku highlights a Dr. Richard Siegmund Lindzen of MIT.

Dr. Drapela’s skepticism rests on two pillars: that he thinks Dr. James Hansen of NASA is over the top regarding his position on climate change, and that research shows CO2 levels rising behind (and presumably in response to) rising temperatures over the last 400,000 years. While there’s no accounting for his feelings regarding Dr. Hansen, his CO2 level analysis is a failure. Previous warming phases preceded the Industrial Revolution, and there was no claim that CO2 caused them. Today, CO2 levels have climbed to levels beyond the recorded natural cycle, and it leads the trend of rising temperatures.

Dr. Lindzen’s climate change skepticism also has a couple of weaknesses. First, his criticisms seem to rest largely on his mistrust of computer climate models, while neglecting the actual data collected in the field. Dr. Lindzen also been on retainer to ExxonMobil. The corporation hired the same firms that organized the tobacco industry’s long battle to unlink tobacco consumption from disease, and redeployed them with millions of dollars to create the appearance of significant debate over the science of climate change.

Dr. Alan Carlin is an economist at the EPA. He gained notice from a climate denial report he prepared on his own time, and submitted to the EPA panel tasked with drafting a new policy on CO2. They reviewed the report, found it to be unsound and told Carlin to get back to doing his real job.

A commenter found my statement that the modern day increase in CO2 levels leads the global temperature increase to be “quite amazing”. I find it quite obvious.

Global Temperature & CO2 Levels (1959 = 100)

Global Temperature & CO2 Levels (1959 = 100)

Chart data sources:
http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/trends/temp/lugina/Nhemsea.dat
ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/trends/co2_gr_mlo.txt