The Sunshine Blog: News Schmooze And From Worst To First For Honolulu Council Pay - Honolulu Civil Beat

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The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair and Richard Wiens.

Short takes, outtakes, observations and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

Press availability: Now that the Legislature has gone home, “Let The Sunshine In,” our deep dive into accountability, transparency and ethics finally has time to cast an eye toward other civic institutions in Hawaii.

So under the heading of ethics, The Sunshine Blog was perhaps not surprised to see HART executive director Lori Kahikina shamelessly sucking up to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this week on the newspaper’s online streaming show, “Spotlight,” while basically dissing the other news media.

“We’re just very very humbled by the positive feedback that we’ve gotten from the public and you folks are a key part of that,” she gushed on Wednesday as hosts Yunji De Nies and Ryan Kalei Tsuji beamed back. “And this is why I wanted to do the interview with you folks today. We moved it up because tomorrow morning we’re going to do the morning shows and you folks have always been so so supportive of me and of HART so we wanted to give you the first crack at an interview with me before we do the morning shows tomorrow.”

Translation: Thanks for letting me spin this thing. Other reporters actually ask us tough questions.

Never mind that “Spotlight” has a teeny tiny fraction of the viewership of Hawaii News Now’s “Sunrise” program or KITV’s “Good Morning Hawaii” or KHON’s “Wake Up 2Day.”

Because the newspaper also gave HART and Kahikina a front-page ride the next day, Thursday:

The Honolulu rail project’s PR team scored big last week in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser with an online show, and two front page stories. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)

And again on Saturday:

And if that wasn’t enough, the happily accommodating reporter was so thrilled to be given a special ride he tweeted out a cozy picture with Kahikina:

Your Sunshine Bloggers got a good eye-roll out of that journalistically cringe-worthy photo.

But the S-A’s coverage does give new meaning to the phrase: “All Aboard!”

New shooter: Speaking of the news business, Civil Beat is beefing up its visual storytelling with the addition of veteran photojournalist Kevin Fujii.

He comes to Civil Beat after stints at The Seattle Times, Houston Chronicle and Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram newspapers. In 2010 Kevin led The Seattle Times photography staff to win the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. 

Kevin has covered the Olympic Games four times and photographed other high-profile sporting events including the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, Final Four and NCAA Bowl Championship Games.

Kevin joins our visuals editor, David Croxford, to round out Civil Beat’s photography team.

County comps: With all the hubbub about the looming pay raises for Honolulu City Council members, The Blog was curious about what other county councils pay in Hawaii. Turns out, Oahu is kind of a cheapskate compared to the other three counties. Despite their much smaller populations, the other three counties pay their elected representatives more.

  • A Special Commentary Project

Honolulu City Council members currently make $68,904, and the chair earns $76,968. That’s slightly below the council pay on the Big Island, about $6,000 less than Kauai County and about $11,000 less than Maui County.

The neighbor islands have had their own big pay raises in the past, although nothing like what’s now proposed for Honolulu.

The Maui County Council’s big payday came 10 years ago, when it shot ahead of the other counties. Hawaii County played catch-up five years ago, when it increased council pay by more than 30%. Kauai County got into the act just last year by approving a three-stage pay raise for its council that will total up to 15% when it’s fully implemented in July 2024.

Don’t forget to tune in to the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday at 10 a.m. when the council has a jam-packed agenda that includes the first reading of the proposals to ban outside employment for council members and action on the city budget. The council needs to work pay raises for various city officials, including itself, into the budget and this seems to be the only opportunity for discussion and public input on the salary increases. The budget is expected to take effect at the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.

Read this next:

The Legislature Is Addicted To Dysfunction. It’s Time For An Intervention

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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

This article laments HART CEO Lori Kahikina for not being open to all. It also highlights competitor Star Advertiser for so-called "Press-Release" reporting. These are all needed discussions.However, we can't dilute the seriousness of this 64% pay raise issue at the Honolulu City Council. At the core of this controversy is the fact the Chair Tommy Waters has unilaterally decided NOT to put Resolution 23-81 and Resolution 23-82 for this coming June 7 Council Hearing. These two resolutions, introduced by Council member Augie Tulba and Andria Tupola, allow public participation. This is democracy in action.I think I understand where the Chair is coming from. But, any Council Chair cannot behave like an autocrat by abusing the powers and privileges of his or her position. This culture of cherry-picking which bills or resolutions can be heard or not and marginalizing public participation is alarming. It's a slippery slope when we do not always insist on an open and transparent government in major public policy-making. The public deserves to know how their elected council member will vote on this pay raise.

ChoonJamesHI · 3 months ago

"We’re just very very humbled by the positive feedback that we’ve gotten from the public…" Hmmm. I guess she has never read the comment sections for rail articles on CB or the SA.

FesterBestertester · 3 months ago

Mufi's Rail would't have been built if the S-A, and formerly S-B and Advertiser, had not been the chief spreaders of propaganda, never challenging the city on all the lies and misinformation. Now the SB is dialing their pr campaign up to max with this loving coverage. They even let Kahikina make the boastful false claim HART is starting ahead of schedule!Notice how the opening free ride schedule was truncated from four days to four hours...I wonder why? Maybe to create a false sense of excitement and public support by funnel the curious into a photogenic mini-mob, instead of strung out over a few days. The media let that one slide also, just as they have missed so much over the years.The unfortunate result of this disgraceful SA advocacy journalism is that the public is stuck paying billions for a useless system, while Leeward commuters continue suffering hours every day.What happens when ridership is laughably low and O&M costs go up? How soon will we reach the point of abandoning the system and selling off the trains to a city where they are more appropriate?Honolulu was never a good urban setting for rail, as we will soon find out.

denniscallan · 3 months ago

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