The Sunshine Blog: Zoomed Out, Wahiawa Moolah, And Someone Doesn't Like Us - Honolulu Civil Beat

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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, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

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

Musical chairs: Well, it’s official. Dennis Jung is no longer leading the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

Sixty-two members of the majority party’s State Central Committee voted in favor of ousting him in a vote held over Zoom on Saturday.

Only 56 votes were needed to meet the two-thirds threshold. Fourteen SCC members voted “no” and three abstained.

Why was Jung booted?

For cause: concerns about his fundraising abilities, lack of professionalism and decorum, and administrative mismanagement.

Donna Domingo will at least temporarily lead the Democratic Party of Hawaii. (Civil Beat file photo)

Donna Domingo, the Dems vice chair and the first female president of the Hawaii ILWU Local 142, will serve as acting chair. The donkeys will gather in late May to pick a new chair for a two-year term.

Whether someone actually wants the gig is an open question, though. The Sunshine Blog hears there are some pretty bruised egos among the party faithful.

Nice try: A couple weeks ago the Sunshine Editorial Board published a commentary in which we promised to keep the heat on Hawaii lawmakers in the coming legislative session and 2024 elections when it comes to ethics, accountability and transparency.

The editorial laid out a few specific ideas we have for coverage, including deeper looks at how the House and Senate’s own rules could be improved, close scrutiny of the reform bills that died last session (and should be up again this year), and letting voters know what candidates think should be done to make the Legislature more accountable to the public.

That didn’t go over so well with someone. And that someone filed a complaint against Civil Beat with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, citing the editorial. Their gripe? That we are lobbying and should be made to register as lobbyists and disclose who is paying us to try to sway legislation.

  • A Special Commentary Project

The commission won’t say who filed the complaint but we did learn that it was rejected, and for good reason — Hawaii’s lobbying laws specifically exempt “any person in the business of publishing or broadcasting news or comment on the news, while engaged in the gathering or dissemination of news and comment on the news and in the ordinary course of business.”

News organizations’ editorial boards have been in the business of opining on how public officials should do the public’s business for centuries. Our opinion sections regularly weigh in on public policy and proposed legislation. We love to tell people what we think and we only wish they would listen to us more often.

Our “Let The Sunshine In” special commentary project was launched in January, at the beginning of the legislative session, expressly to make sure lawmakers didn’t drop the ball on the dozens of reform measures proposed by the House Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct as well as other good-government ideas. The Sunshine Project has included some deeper looks at specific lawmakers and all sorts of political shenanigans happening at the Legislature, examined issues before the Honolulu City Council, and since August we’ve been paying a lot of attention to Maui County and its terrible lack of transparency over the deadly wildfires.

So The Blog can only scratch its collective head at who might be upset over the thought that we would be continuing to watchdog lawmakers, elected officials and political candidates. Not to mention issues that are important in Hawaii.

But we’re glad to see we’ve gotten someone’s attention.

The measures proposed by the House standards commission gave rise to The Sunshine Project. We’ve expanded as needed. (Patti Epler/Civil Beat/2023)

Meanwhile, just for the record, Civil Beat journalists including Your Sunshine Bloggers are prohibited from any kind of political activism. We don’t allow our news staff to donate to candidates or work on campaigns. No yard signs, no bumper stickers. No marching in rallies, no matter the issue, and no involvement in any kind of special interest group.

You can read much more about our nonprofit news operation on our About Us page. There’s a link to our ethics guidelines and, if you want to know who’s paying us, links to our federal tax reports and to a list of thousands of donors.

The bacon has been brought home: Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz got some good news last week when Gov. Josh Green decided he’d release $42.5 million for what’s called the Wahiawa Center for Workforce Excellence, one of the Senate Ways and Means chair’s pet projects.

Dela Cruz, who The Blog has come to think of as the de facto mayor of his home town of Wahiawa (and that’s not a bad thing), has steered at least $400 million in capital improvement projects to his district over the past six years. And that’s despite a somewhat rocky relationship with former Gov. David Ige who, as Dela Cruz liked to point out, vetoed many of the senator’s projects and funding allocations.

Not to mention that state and county officials are increasingly reluctant to green-light some major projects that have already been approved until they see what’s going to be needed for recovery and re-building in Lahaina which was pretty nearly wiped out by the wildfires in August.

So Dela Cruz was understandably nervous when the deadline for Green to release the cash for the new project was fast approaching and crickets from the gov’s office.

But nothing that a little stink-raising couldn’t fix. In the last few days before the money needed to be released, Dela Cruz rallied the troops with TV news reports, social media pressure and even a few letters between government offices. He blasted his email list with copies of a letter to the state budget director wanting to know if the funds were being withheld due to Maui fire concerns.

Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald; Representative Amy Perruso; Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke; Senator Donovan Dela Cruz;  Honorable Robert Mark Browning,  First Circuit Chief Judge; Honorable Melanie M. May, First Circuit Deputy Chief Judge; State Comptroller Keith A. Regan;  DAGS Public Works Administrator Chris Kinimaka; Lance Inoyue, Ralph S. Inouye Co., Ltd Chairman;  Noelani DeVincent, Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawa President; Kahu Peter Lonoae’a,  Thomas Joseph Lenchanko (Ke Kuka’awe o Kukaniloko) attend the ceremonial ground breaking for the Wahiawa Civic Center Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Wahiawa. The almost three-acre site will include two buildings for a courthouse, state offices and City and County of Honolulu satellite city hall. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Many distinguished officials attended the groundbreaking for the new Wahiawa Civic Center a few weeks ago. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)

Even Rep. Amy Perruso, the House member for Wahiawa, got into the act, asking Green for “immediate release” of the construction funds.

“Our community needs this facility as an additional place of learning and congregation,” she wrote. “The existing library is currently in a state of disrepair, maintaining its unfortunate status as the oldest library on Oahu.”

But all’s well that ends well, as The Blog likes to say. Green came through and it seems the $42 million project will soon be going up — right next to the $48 million civic center in Wahiawa which broke ground last month.

Take your pick: Nikki Haley will be on the Hawaii Republican Party presidential caucus ballot, which is set for March 14.

It’s an open question whether the former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor will still be in the running, however.

Donald Trump, who is also on the Hawaii GOP ballot, is leading his opponents by wide double-digits nationally, although Haley has picked up her mojo. She now leads Florida’s Ron DeSantis in New Hampshire.

But other GOP candidates are dropping like flies, including former Vice President Mike Pence, who bailed on Saturday.

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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, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

Someone needs to invoke article 14, section 3 of The Constitution prohibiting insurrectionist's from running for any office. That includes former President Trump. It is occurring in other states at this time, we just need someone or a group with the gumption to make it happen here so that he cannot be on the ballot. And I'm quite tired of Governor Green cow-towing to the powerful senators. Put your foot down Governor! De La Cruz has taken advantage of his position so many times over the years, it's disgraceful.

Scotty_Poppins · 4 weeks ago

I can understand the anonymity requirement for the Ethics Commission to encourage whistleblowers to expose unethical events…but…to use the Commission as a weapon to silence any entity protected by the First Amendment brings up the thought of who is conspiring to silence Civil Beat and maintain the veil of secrecy of our Hall’s of government.

Rampnt_1 · 4 weeks ago

The Irony. Filing an ethics complaint under a veil of secrecy against journalists attempting to shine a little light on those, who to a person, promised to serve the public. The people of Hawaii wonder why the cost of living and taxes are so high. The secrecy surrounding events like the Lahaina fires, missile scare, rail fiasco, and the pandemic economic shutdown will continue to occur until people get out from under the people hiding in the shadows.

Arewethereyet · 4 weeks ago

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