Welcome to Capitol Watch. There’s a new governor, new leadership at the Legislature and other government branches, and Civil Beat is reporting on all of it.

4:21 p.m. Save Our Schools Too

Gene Ward has asked the governor and BOE to postpone any decision on the future of Koko Head and Kamiloiki Elementary Schools until a permanent board is appointed.

“It would be entirely unfair, unorthodox, and borderline unethical for the Board of Education to ramrod a school closure as one of its last acts of business before they are overshadowed by the appointed board,” Ward said.

Ward will hold a hearing on the proposed school closures at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Kaiser High School in Hawaii Kai.

2:33 p.m. DADT Repeal Moves Through House

Mazie Hirono and Charles Djou, who don’t often see eye to eye, were in the majority when the U.S. House today voted 250-175 on a stand-alone bill that would end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The measure now goes to the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to repeal the Pentagon’s 17-year ban on openly gay men and women in uniform.

Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka support the repeal, but nothing is assured in the intense lame-duck session.

2:12 p.m. Big News from the Big Island

Big Island Councilwoman Emily Naeole, who was defeated for re-election, is seeking to collect unemployment from the county. Defeated Councilman Kelly Greenwell is thinking about it, too.

No word on whether defeated Councilman Guy Enriques will apply as well, but he’s also eligible, reports the Hilo Herald-Tribune. The lawmakers were among the handful of elected officials across the state who were not returned to office this year.

Speaking of the Big Island, Josh Green says he’s happy to remain chairman of the Senate Health Committee, according to The Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s political blog, effectively putting to rest talk that he would be the third Big Island senator to go to work in the Abercrombie administration.

11:37 a.m. Words from the Kiaaina

Kiaaina means “governor” in Hawaiian, and Hawaii’s new governor referred to the title several times during his press availability this morning.

Among the nuggets of news that came from Neil Abercrombie were the following:

  • He says he’s not having any trouble finding an Attorney General and Health Director — “the choices are numerous” — but that who he is looking for has changed based on closer examination of the state’s budget and other factors. Announcements could come as early as this week.

  • The governor wants to bring back all Hawaii prisoners currently on the mainland. “It’s dysfunctional to send them out of state — it costs money, communities, destroys families.” He seeks more focus on intervention programs.

  • Abercrombie said he is going to cut the state’s unemployment rate by “putting everyone back to work — this state is going to move.” No details, though.

  • He’s still not sure when he will move into the governor’s residence on the grounds of Washington Place, but he says he will hold bill signings at Washington Place rather than at the Capitol’s executive chambers. The idea is to honor the legacy of the historic building. Press conferences will continue at the Capitol.

  • To that end, the governor is talking with the Legislature, the Washington Place Foundation and historic preservationist to “see what needs to be done” to improve the facility.

  • Abercrombie plans a little downtime in Hana, Maui, over the holidays, though he did not say when. He has no plans to meet with President Obama during his expected visit to the islands (“unless it works out”), saying the president deserves his family time.

  • He will act on the EIS for Honolulu rail “as soon as ready.”

10:38 a.m. Defense, D.O.T. Directors Named

Neil Abercrombie named 11 more people to his administration, but two highly anticipated ones — Attorney General and Health Director — were not among them.

The governor said he’s working on it, though.

Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong was appointed director of the state Department of Defense, while Glenn Okimoto was named director of the Department of Transportation. Wong, 60, is chief of staff of the Hawaii Air National Guard; Okimoto, 57, is budget director for the UH System and a former administrator of state harbors and airports.

Attorney Jeff Ono will be the consumer advocate, Gordon Ito will continue as insurance commissioner and social worker Mila Kaahanui will lead the Office of Community Service.

Abercrombie also named six deputy directors: Ryan Okahara at DAGS, Brig. Gen. Joe Kim at Defense, Pankaj Bhanot at Human Services, Randy Grune at D.O.T. harbors, Ford Fuchigami at D.O.T. airports and Jadine Urasaki at D.O.T. capital improvement projects.

9:13 a.m. Kondo Named Ethics Director

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission announced today that Les Kondo will be executive director effective Jan. 11.

Kondo, an attorney, has served as a commissioner with the Public Utilities Commission since 2007. Prior to that he was director of the state’s Office of Information Practices, where he was responsible for administering Hawaii’s sunshine laws on open records.

Kondo replaces Daniel Mollway, who was fired by the ethics commission in June over concerns about sick leave and work habits.

Filling Out the Cabinet

Neil Abercrombie will announce more Cabinet positions at a 10 a.m. press conference in the Capitol’s executive chambers.

He’s named 12 of his 16 department heads and a number of deputy directors thus far, but directors of Health, Transportation, Defense and Attorney General are yet to be named.

Kalua Pork

The federal spending bill proposed this week by Daniel K. Inouye would not only fund government operations for the current fiscal year, it also would send not a little federal largess Hawaii’s way.

Earmarks in the bill include:

  • $68.5 million for an Aegis Ashore Test Facility at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai;
  • $3.2 million in competitive grants for educational programs serving Native Hawaiians and Native Alaskans;
  • $2.6 million to build an agricultural pest facility;
  • $70 million in loans and grants for water and waste disposal systems that would in part help the Department of Hawaiian Homelands;
  • $12 million for financial assistance, technical assistance, training and outreach programs to benefit Native American, Native Hawaiian and Alaskan Native communities;
  • $2.4 million to allow institutions to set up bank accounts for individuals with low or moderate income levels;
  • $5 million for the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at UH Manoa;
  • $1.5 million for a grant to the UH School of Law for a Center of Excellence in Native Hawaiian law;
  • $4 million for a Honolulu ferry boat demonstration project.
  • $1.5 million to the state DOE to serve schools with a predominantly Native Hawaiian student body; and
  • up to $41.5 million in Native Hawaiian housing loan guarantees.

The $1.1 trillion dollar omnibus bill has already been criticized by Senate Republicans for what they argue are excessive earmarks — about $8 billion total.

Tam, Tam, Tam

The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission will hear a complaint against Rod Tam at 10 a.m. today in the State Office Tower on Beretania Street.

The complaint, filed by the commission, alleges the term-limited Honolulu City Councilman failed to “maintain legible receipts for verification, improper use of campaign funds, false reporting of expenditure, and two unreported contributions.”

The complaint should not be confused with Tam’s recent guilty plea on 24 counts including theft of taxpayer money. Tam, who previously served in the state House and Senate, will be sentenced in January.

Territorial Jewels

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has produced a 2011 Historic Sites calendar titled “Federal Works Projects in Hawaii.” The calendar is a project of the DLNR and the Hawaii Heritage Center with funding support provided by a dozen local businesses.

The calendar ($10 for the first 10 purchased, $5 after that) features color and sepia photographs of projects built with funds from the Civil Works Administration in the 1930s. The photos include Wallace Rider Farrington High School (1939), the Territorial Circuit Court building (1938) in Lihue and the lava rock Andrews Amphitheatre (1935).

Proceeds from sales go to support current or future calendar costs. Pick them up at 1040 Smith Street in Chinatown, or call (808) 521-2749.


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