2020 State and Local Elections

I’ve been spending so much time consuming national news that I’ve been neglecting informing my self on state and local news–particularly the candidates and important issues. Thanks to Don, I’m going to try and get on the ball. And this thread will be a place where people can post articles and discuss the candidates and major topics.

22 thoughts on “2020 State and Local Elections

  1. Mayoral Race

    Off the top of my head, here are some things I’m looking at:

    1.) A candidate who can effectively manage and complete the rail project;

    2.) Someone with government and/or executive experience. I have a bias for people who have worked in government, and a slight bias against those who have not. For the latter, I would be more open to someone who has

    • good leadership and executive experience;
    • has an ability to work with key stakeholders;
    • has a great, experienced staff;
    • has an awareness of the differences between the public and private sectors;
    • has the curiosity and ability to learn quickly.

    First up, Civilbeat’s profile of Colleen Hanabusa. Here are some quick thoughts:

    She checks off the box for government experience. I like that she was selected as a Senate president, in a relatively short period of time. She strikes me as someone who is intelligent, but I feel like she has a standoffish attitude, and I wonder how effective she would be working with others and leading in an executive, rather than legislative role.

    The article mentions a questionable incident with developer Jeff Stone which is a bit of a red flag, but not necessarily a deal breaker.

  2. City and County Mayoral Candidates’ Plans to Improve the Economy from Civilbeat.

    Two UH economists say the Mayor’s power is limited, but they mention a few areas that the Mayor could impact the economy:

    1. Property taxes–They specifically mentioned raising vacation rental property to generate more revenue and discourage people from not allowing those units to be used.
    2. Building permits–cut red tape. I’m skeptical about the amount of power Mayors have on that, but if a Mayor can do this, that would be great.
    3. Completing the rail project in the most efficient way.
    4. Traffic (although I’m not sure how the Mayors could impact that, unless they–and the Governor–allow for more government employees to work from home).

    Some of the candidates shared their ideas for helping the economy. Honestly, I thought all of their answers were vague and unhelpful–at least in terms of evaluating them. To be fair, I would guess the mayor has little power over this issue. They did comment on whether hotels should get a tax break. Before giving a quick breakdown of each candidate’s position, it’s important to note that many of the hotels will have big tax bills, without bringing in a lot of revenue.

    Amemiya: Break “worth considering”
    Mufi: Yes–property tax breaks for everyone
    Hanabusa: less inclined
    Blangiardi: less inclined

    It would have been great if Civilbeat provided a list of pros and cons for these actions. Beyond the obvious, I don’t really have a good idea of the total ramifications and consequences for these actions.

    Amemiya said he wanted to increase the affordable housing inventory. I liked hearing that, but I’d like to hear more reasons to believe he could get this done, as well as specifics to his plan. Indeed, I’d like to hear all the candidates’ thoughts on housing costs, and specifics on the way they would effectively address this. Off the top of my head, I think a Mayor is going to need to work with the key stakeholders (e.g., developers and unions), know how to navigate the bureaucracy and legislative process, and sell the people on their plans to make changes. If Amemiya and/or Blangiardi have really good relationships with the key stakeholders in the private sector and can negotiate and get them to buy in, that’s a big plus. But do they know enough to navigate the bureaucracy and legislative process. I suspect Hanabusa and Hanneman would be fairly good at this–maybe Hanneman would be significantly better. (I say this because as Mayor, he got the rail project approved, which, to me, seemed like a major political accomplishment.) And then there’s convincing the public. I don’t know if any of them have this skillset. My sense is that NIMBY-ism (Not in My Backyard) is one of the biggest obstacles to making zoning changes that can lead to an increase in housing stock, which can then lead to lower housing costs. It seems like a really difficult challenge to overcome.

  3. Civilbeat has a series called “Job Interview”–where six journalists question a candidate. I really like this format! I’m watching the one with Kym Pine right now

    Some notes.

    Before I jot down some notes, I wanted to say that I think six journalists is a bit much. I’d prefer half the number, and I might be even happy with one good interviewer. The interview is also one hour, and on some level I sympathize if voters don’t want to watch multiple hours (to see on the candidates). At the same time, for the general election, two hours is not much at all. OK some comments.

    On tourism and diversify the economy

    Pine has some interesting things to say–pointing to developing agriculture–specifically a supply chain for demand for a meatless diet; opportunities in cybersecurity; and also allowing local companies to build for military projects. I wish she was more concrete and the panel gave a little more time to keep probing this (but it’s understandable they moved on to other topics).

    On whether there is systemic racism (and I believe this was in the context of the criminal justice system

    Her answer here was not great–she literally said she doesn’t know at one point. Whatever her position is, she can’t say that.

    (Note: I stopped at 17 minute mark, after concluding that Pine might not have a good chance to win. The latter is not really based on anything of substance–just a gut feeling. If this is misplaced, let me know.)

  4. Civilbeat’s Job Interview of RIck Blangiardi

    Notes:

    RB is not very articulate or savvy in giving answers. Here’s one example, a passage on how he’d deal with homelessness:

    So I really think that homelessness is something that, when you consider it from the standpoint of how I would look at it, is a scalable problem. Now that said, that’s dealing with our chronic homeless, and as I said earlier, other people coming in and out of homeless all the time, which is why it stays somewhat costly. Because there’s been a lot of progress made, if you talk to the homeless service providers and what they were able to do. And don’t, even going back to when we broke up the park at Kakaako. But I’m really worried about the amount of homeless people we may see on a going forward basis, and for that, I don’t have an answer right now. And that is something that, look, we’re six months out from getting into the office. There’s so much that can happen. If I stop and think, it’s three months to the day that we had to shut down, on how much has happened in 90 days as I’ve gone on this learning curve to run for office, and how much we’re all witnessing and experiencing all the unknowns in uncertainty. I worry about what’s to come.

    (emphasis added)

    Here’s a good question by Stuart Yerton: “Setting aside what’s coming in the next few months, possibly with a lot of unemployment, a lot of unemployment and people running out of some federal money that’s drying up. Set that aside, eight to 10 years, based on that experience that you’ve had, what would you do?”

    The answer wasn’t that great, in my opinion:

    Compassionate disruption has run its course, so we need to really treat these people. I’ve been a strong believer in it. Sit-lie bans are a catalyst to putting people in, and we need to get the institutions set up. So we’re already seeing some success in Iwilei. It’s only been two months in operation. And we’re getting some success over in Kaneohe, but we need more of those kind of community service places. People need a place to go, okay? And so we’re gonna have to really make sure that we do that and provide the necessary resources. That’s gonna take a re-prioritization, and at a time right now where we’re not even sure where we’ll be budget-wise, that’s one of the first things we’re gonna take a look at. I mean, the first thing will be, I talked to Christina before, a couple of weeks ago, about the budget, which just got approved, the 2.9 and is less money. And you know what’s that gonna look like? I don’t know what it’s gonna look like in six months.

    And he continues on into what’s coming up ahead.

    He’s asked what he would cut. Answer:

    You know, I think Colin, right now it’s really hard to say. But one of the first things I’m gonna look at is the waste, okay? And I haven’t, and I’m not… I haven’t looked at that budget yet, to be honest with you….

    He goes on about the uncertainty of the situation, implying he can’t give any more specifics. But cutting waste is actually a red flag for me. It’s a commendable attitude, but I’m wary when a businessman, with no experience in government, says something like this. It creates the impression that waste and the cutting of it is essentially the same as the private sector. I don’t think that’s the case at all. It is not only hard to cut waste, but it can be really difficult to define what constitutes waste.

    More on waste:

    I don’t have a specific program right now that I would say is wasteful, but I would tell you that if I had … Many times people said to me, ‘you’re gonna be amazed at the amount of waste in there.’ I wanna go back in there and I wanna look at that. So again, I’m not trying to talk about something I don’t know for certain, but I just know that that exists.

    This reinforces my concern I mentioned earlier. If someone has very little or no understanding of the government work, processes, including the political processes, they will have very little understanding of government waste and how to reduce it. Waste in the private sector can be and often is a very different think the public sector.

    RB expresses resistance to the idea of cutting taxes for hotels, and he’s asked how he feels about increasing the costs for tourists. Here’s part of his answer:

    But let’s say we got a million visitors, let’s say we do that. And this year’s number that we’re committed around three million, but do the math on the next five months, okay? You get a million, is like it’s just for simple math purposes, 200,000 people a month. Divide that by 30, you tap in to 6- to 7,000 people a day coming in here, I’m sorry. Think about that compared to the 30,000 we had before, and what’s that gonna look like, you know in our hotels. How many rooms, who’s even open up for hotel. We’ve already lost 25% of our restaurants, with another 25% or so hanging in the balance. That’s 750 or 1500 restaurants. So I’m not interested in, necessarily … There’s a possibility here for a different clientele going forward, ‘cause if you do the projections, you learned over the next couple of years, then I think that it’s gonna require different clientele.

    But I’m on record, I’ve said in (Civil Beat), we’ve been wholesaling to the masses for a long time. It has been the almighty dollar, how many planes can fly here, how many seats are in here, and how many rooms and nights can we fill at the expense, I think quite honestly, of even the visitor experience, but also especially to our residents. We’ve subordinated our residents in pursuit of that money. So I’m not worried about the margins of these big hotels. I am not worried about that.

    How can he’s not worried the margins of these big hotels, especially within the context of the calculations he made on potential number of tourists he made?

    On raising the minimum wage

    RB doesn’t seem keen on that idea, basically because of the negative impact on small businesses. He mentioned affordable housing as an alternative way to address this:

    So to me, the alternative is we need to start creating affordable rental units and build to price, because we’re not gonna be able to bring the salary up to that. We have to really do that. That, along with when I talk about homelessness, all of that stuff works hand in glove on affordable rental units in the urban core. I believe that there’s spaces to do it, I know that developers wanna do that. There’s a lot of smart minds.

    This is gonna be a lot of collaboration. You asked me earlier about what I bring, it’s gonna take that kind of business thinking, in that kind of collaboration and communication. I really think we can do that. We are in a different place here, in a mindset, because of the impact, and we haven’t even begun to feel it yet the way we’re going to feel it, okay? And so I think there’s a chance to do some things that maybe 20, 10 years ago, even 30 years ago, people would have thought, can’t happen. Won’t happen, for all the other reasons. This is what this kind of situation brings about, this is the opportunity, if you will, the silver lining coming out of this crisis, to do the things we need to do. And re-calibrating tourism is one, building affordable rentals, because we absolutely have to, is another.

    Two comments:

    1. I wished they asked him questions to get a sense of his understanding of the barriers to building affordable units. Second, I don’t have a positive sense that building subsidized housing units is a key to solving the housing crisis. My sense is that more housing units need to be built, in order to meet demand.

    2. He alludes to an ability to communicate and collaborate well, with the key stakeholders. If true, I think that’s a big deal. But I also think he’s gotta understand the zone laws, bureaucratic red tape that are a barrier and/or disincentive to building housing units.

    Question: “Rick, you mentioned that you haven’t read the city budget that just was signed by Mayor Caldwell. So why should voters trust you to run the city if you’re not familiar with the city’s finance?” Answer:

    Because it’s a budget. I’ve done budgets … We’ve worked with budgets a long time, and I will tell you honestly, I plan to surround myself with some really good people. I’ll say that over and over again ― budgets are just a matter of zeros. I’ve worked with much bigger budgets than I ever have here.

    But does he realize that the extent to which the budgeting process is different in government? That’s what I want to know.

    Later, he’s asked about who he’d pick for his cabinet, and he says he doesn’t know. The interviewer pushes back a bit, asking shouldn’t he know? His response:

    Well, I’ll be honest with you, I would like to have done that, because my notion of what was gonna happen in a political campaign and what the reality of COVID brought, those two concepts, social distancing and campaigning, could not have been any more antithetical. And I’ve only now just started to get out and meet people. Look at this, I’m actually talking to six people, compared to another Zoom call, okay? So I haven’t gotten there yet. I’ve only had two or three meetings with real people. Everything has been via Zoom.

    I’m reading the interview, and this response doesn’t come across so well. I think he could briefly mentions the challenges caused by the virus, but then maybe talk about the qualities he’s looking. It sounds like he has no idea of whom he might pick–and if he did, couldn’t he say that he has several people who are well-respected and highly regarded that he has in mind, or something to that effect?

    Response to critics who say he’s a not up for the job because government is different from business

    I would respond to that right now, because I’ve heard, I actually heard one of them say the other night in a forum that this isn’t business, it’s government. Okay. And that, to me, just really, like, that’s exactly why I decided to do this, okay? Because somehow that’s some sort of inner, secret world? Look. The mayor is the CEO of the city. It is about managing. Managing people, decision-making. I’m gonna say it again, having the right people, understanding what it takes to get things done. This is not some inner secret club, whatever, because we’re not in that place.

    I’m glad they asked this question, and his answer is another big red flag for me. An answer that would have a chance of winning me over would sound something like this: “I understand their skepticism. Government and business are very different entities, and many business people come in thinking it’s basically the same and realize that it’s really not until it’s too late. I’m coming in aware of these differences–I haven’t assume they’re the same, and I’ve been talking to people with years of government experience, learning about the differences, and processes, and I also have the capacity to learn as well….”

    An interviewer points out some differences–unions going up to supervisory levels, environmental laws–and asks if he’ll have the patience to deal to “butt heads with the bureaucracy.” His answer:

    Well, we’re gonna have to find that out, because I’m gonna tell you, economics are gonna dictate that as well.

    and later,

    Well, we’re gonna have to find that out, because I’m gonna tell you, economics are gonna dictate that as well.

    At this point, my sense is that Blangiardi have very little understanding of how different government is–and that is a really bad sign.

    On what he would do differently to build affordable housing?

    The affordable housing, the notion of affordable housing is kinda lost. The word “affordability” to me has sort of lost its meaning, OK? Because if you look at what the rental incomes are and what people make, and this is why you don’t have one job is enough and whatever. So we, look when I first came back to go to graduate school in ’71, I lived in a little cement building, three steps walk-up kind of a thing, I don’t know when they stopped making those, haven’t seen one of those buildings a long time, we’re gonna just have to take a look at what we can actually build. Not to remove homelessness.

    He’s asked if he has a plan. His response:

    Do I have a specific plan right now on a housing plan? I think we’ll develop that. I think I can tell you right now that I think that, that there are developers who really want to build that way. There are incentives that could be, that could happen that way, and I think we’re gonna design that.

    On the rail project

    His answer is long, and I’m going to try and summarize it. Basically, he claims he supports the completion of the project, but because he has serious questions about the revenue, pointing out that hotel taxes will be low, and expressing skepticism that federal dollars will make up for this, he’s saying he would be willing to raise property taxes, but likely not enough to complete the project. He recognizes that ending the project at Middle Street is not desirable, but he suggests this might be a hard reality. He also intimates that this would be a temporary suspension of the project, with the hopes to completing it at a future point.

    Question: “We wanted to just shift gears a little bit, we wanted you to explain one of the most difficult periods of your life and how have you gotten yourself out of it?”

    (I think this is a great question.)

    I think, Mahea, it was a … from a financial standpoint, I guess or maybe from a career standpoint. I left coaching. I didn’t wanna leave coaching. That was really hard for me. I was doing really well. I was born to be a college football coach. I have every confidence if I had stayed then I would have been a head coach, you know at some point. I just was really comfortable in that, um but I couldn’t afford it to stay in it, and so I took a job, I knew nothing about. You know this is, this is how I got into a broadcast career. Friends of mine who had left coaching, said, “Don’t go sell insurance. You’ll hate it. Don’t sell sporting goods, you’ll hate it.” I literally backed into a media job, I really had no game plan of who, despite the fact I already had a master’s degree. I was so programmed, I was gonna go to that. So I changed my life’s direction and that wasn’t easy. And they didn’t exactly roll over and make room for me at KGMB in those days. That was a dominant television station. So it was out of that. And quite honestly, in the beginning, I even felt sorry for myself for a while, I didn’t walk into it feeling really good about it, I was doing it out of duress, it’s a tough chapter. I had a baby coming. So that was a turning point for me. It was a major turning point. Since then, there’s been, there’s been ups and downs in my life you know um, it’s not been easy.

    One of the reasons I think this is a good question is because I believe an executive has to have the capacity to help the people they lead out of adversity, when things seem hopeless, they have to provide hope. This question can give voters some information about this.

    RB’s answer is OK at best in my opinion.

  5. CivilBeat’s Job Interview of Keith Amemiya

    I’ve started reading this, but I might have to come back to this. A few quick impressions:

    1. After going through Blangiardi’s interview, I was curious to read/watch Amemiya’s, as both don’t have experience in government. About a third of the way through, Amemiya seems way better. He just seems more thoughtful and prepared; I just feel a little more confident about him, versus Blangiardi.

    2. He talked about better communication with the public, in the context of controversies like Sherwoods or the Kahuku windfarms. I’m not entirely finished with this part, but I wished the panels pushed him on this a bit more. KA mentioned that the government has to do more outreach than just going to a neighborhood board meeting, with only three people showing up. OK, but he doesn’t give alternatives that will reach/bring out more people. Relatedly, what should the government or a developer do if a small, but vocal minority oppose a project? Specifically, that group may not represent the larger community. How would KA go about determining whether they do or not? And if they don’t, what happens when they continue to protest or be a thorn in the government’s side?

    3. Some things I saw as a plus for him: endorsements form HGEA and UPW; and the fact that he sat on the police commission at one point.

    4. He had quite a bit to say about the Department of Permit and Planning, including how to make it run more efficiently. I need to go back and evaluate those comments.

    More later.

    1. “Amemiya’s greatest skill, perhaps, is the ability to bring disparate entities together for the common good,” the Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s Paul Honda wrote in 2009. “Hawaii’s children are better for it.”

      This is just one guy’s opinion, but if it’s true, I think this is an important trait. Additionally, Amemiya seems to have a wide network of relationships with key stakeholders, which I guess he built from sitting on commissions (e.g., police, DOE), as well his time running HHSAA. His father was the former AG of the state as well. If you don’t like a guy with connections in the establishment, he might not be a guy for you. I see this more as a positive, though.

      As mayor, Amemiya said he would like to boost citizen participation in government. He envisions an Office of Community Engagement to hear resident feedback and concerns. It would be funded with existing resources in the mayor’s office, he said. He also supports making public meetings in the evenings when people aren’t working and allowing people to sign up to testify at a designated time so they don’t have to wait around.

      I appreciate the desire here, but unless I can evaluate a specific plan, I’m pretty skeptical about this. The idea that he’ll resolve big community controversies with activists via better communication with the larger community seems like a far-fetched and even naive idea.

      Amemiya was asked if he’s the most liberal candidate. His response:

      To be honest, there’s 15 candidates, I know some better than others, but I view myself in terms of the candidates I know, to be the most liberal.

  6. Job Interview with Colleen Hanabusa

    Her experience and credentials are impressive, and I feel confident in her knowledge of state and federal government. I’m less sure how she’d be as an executive though. For one thing, she has to know how to communicate to the larger public. In the interview, I thought she rambled, and gave details that would be hard for the layperson to follow. I’ll post an example below. She was asked about problems with HART when he served on the board.

    No, you know — and I think this is the thing that people did not understand — that when I got on the HART board, first of all, there was a whole issue of how budgets were presented, and it really is transparency. I think the people who watched us would agree to one thing, transparency and understanding how and what HART had not done and what HART needs to do was a major accomplishment during the time that I was there. For example, I was the one who crashed the PMOC meeting … And people didn’t even know… PMOC is the project management oversight consultant or contractor, they were, they’re part of the deal, they report to the federal government and they produced a monthly report. The HART board members didn’t get the monthly report, and then they would come in quarterly, and that’s the meetings that I would crash. For example, when…

    Daryl Huff, Hawaii News Now:
    (Inaudible)

    Colleen Hanabusa, Honolulu Mayoral Candidate:
    ‘Cause he told us we didn’t have a right to know because we were the board, so we didn’t have a right to know, and I remember… Well, he’s with Civil Beat now when Marcel was covering us, I told him, “Marcel, don’t let anybody not give you this 11 x 17” is what I called them, and I was able to get it because I crashed that meeting. It was the best accounting of what was going on contrary to what we were being told as the board, in addition to that, because I knew the structure of the board, and the first thing I did, of course, was to read the charter, I realized that we were told in the charter that, “The HART board shall not in any way interfere with the administrative functions of HART.” I couldn’t believe it, I read it so many times that I have it in my memory.
    So 2016 is when the people agreed to change that and by the next year — as you know, charter takes one cycle, to July 1, 2011, I mean 2018 to take place — the HART was given the authority to do rules, so that they could actually do that part of it. I think the most important part of it was being able to bring to people’s attention. You know I would come in with my little bag of my lunch because I would make HART board members on meeting go so long, and the reason why was because they weren’t being really honest with this, the whole issue of the tendents , you know the fact that you had the rusting and then there’s this whole thing about whether or not they were secure, the structural security of the Rail itself that came up, something called “Plitz”… I know it sounds crazy, but this shows you when I got into it, how much I got into it. “Plitz” were spacers that they put under the Rail to the concrete. What did they do? They took it out and they said, “Oh we saved $5M”, and then when I was there, it was like, “You’ve got problems with plitz because the rail isn’t sitting properly” so they had to put it back in. And these are the issues, and more importantly than that, and one of the things that till today, they have not done anything about, is that the ownership of the “ROC”, which is the Rail Operations Center land. That was a transaction when Mufi Hanneman was mayor. And it really involves Department of Hawaiian Homelands, something else than many of you have covered, and there is no money transfer on that, and they’re supposed to be land transfer. They took too long to do it. So now you’ve got federal regulation that somebody’s gotta go negotiate or in 180 or 120 days, you have to take everything off because I…

    Daryl Huff, Hawaii News Now:
    I gotta just interrupt you because I feel like this is in the weeds discussion that you tend to get into with folks, and it’s really hard for us to take up a “helicopter ride” up and get the bigger picture. Since you left, there’s been a criminal investigation has begun in all this effort to open up the books and look inside of HART. Did you see any evidence of criminality and did you do anything about that, ‘cause there’s now a criminal investigation into that.

    (emphasis added)

    My impression is that she is well-suited to be a legislator, and that makes me wonder why she never stayed in Washington. Maybe she wanted to come home? Maybe she preferred being a big fish in a small, not big, pond?

  7. Quick Summary

    Here’s how I’d rate the mayoral candidates

    1. Hanneman
    2a. Hanabusa
    2b. Amemiya

    3. Pine
    4. Blangiardi

    The last two I would pass on. I think the first three could be competent, although I’m less certain about Amemiya as he has no experience as an elected executive. But I liked a lot about him. One thing I am concerned about is how he’d deal with big challenges like the pandemic and finishing the rail.

    The reason Hanneman is at the top for me is that he’s shown he can deal with big problems as mayor, and, to me, getting the rail passed was like the Honolulu equivalent of getting Obamacare passed. My uncertainty about him is negative comments I’ve heard about him, specifically a person who worked with him.

    I’m uncertain about Hanabusa, but she is knowledgeable and experienced and I guess that would give her a leg up on Amemiya.

    1. Have you voted yet?

      I voted for Pine. I got a really good impression of her when I was working for the council, and her communications director is a friend of mine. I like what I hear from her. I’m super surprised by your 2B ranking. For the head of the city, I prefer someone who’s been on the council or someone who’s worked closely with a mayor, like a city manager or a head of a city department.

    2. No, I’m taking it down to the wire. I going to have to drop off my ballot.

      I got a really good impression of her when I was working for the council, and her communications director is a friend of mine. I like what I hear from her.

      Oh, I wish you said this earlier (although I guess I still have time to change my mind). What gives you a good impression and what specific impression do you have? I didn’t have a good impression from the job interview, particularly her answer on systemic racism.

      I’m super surprised by your 2B ranking.

      Generally, I’d want someone with experience with government experience (elected as a legislator or executive), but he impressed me in his interview. Plus, my impression is that he has a broad experience that would be relevant and, more importantly, created relationships with the key stakeholders. His learning curve might be bigger than Hanabusa’s or Pine’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t by much. Also, if Hanabusa and Pine don’t have the executive skills, their experience and knowledge of the political/bureaucratic processes may not matter as much.

      But, for Amemiya, I’m extrapolating from just one interview. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock on this one assessment.

      1. I took my ballot to Honolulu Hale the other day. This young girl greeted me at the door. She said, “You want to vote?”. I said, “Well I have my ballot, can I stick it in the machine (I’m thinking it could get validated if I runs through the machine and I could just redo my ballot right there if something was wrong.)?” She was sort exuberant in saying, “Oh no…”. “Okay I’ll just drop it in the box.”, I said. I didn’t think it was that bad of a question or thought. Just so you know, don’t get any ideas, just drop it in the box.

    3. Don,

      I don’t think that was a bad question, for what it’s worth. What was the girl’s response–a strong (disapproving?) no? Anyway, I feel like I did slip my ballot in the machine at Kapolei Hale once, but maybe I just dropped off my ballot. (shrugs)

  8. prosecutorial candidates answering questions, run by Think Tech Hawai’i and Hawaii Women Lawyers (HWL).

    Just some quick thoughts:

    Here’s the ones I’m seriously considering:

    Steve Alm
    Meghan Kau
    R.J. Brown

    Fairly strong no on Nadamoto, partly because he seems like he’s old school, tough-on-crime type, and just part of Keith Kaneshiro’s tenure. (I need to re-check if Kau is the tough-on-crime type–but she seems more thoughtful.) I would also note that while Kim seemed intelligent for the most part, he raises doubts for me on his closing remarks, ending with something like “Just give me ahi poke and lau lau, and I’m good.” Whoa, braddah.

    I might be leaning towards Alm, but what gave me pause was the fact that he may have worked under Kaneshiro. He seems thoughtful–not just throw everyone in jail.

    I feel like Kau and Brown would bring a fresh perspective. I liked Brown’s background, and he just seems intelligent, thoughtful, and measured. But he also seems really young, like early 30s, maybe 20s? (I feel like him and Amemiya could be rising stars.)

    1. Ugh. You’re going for the tough-on-crime people. This surprises me. Kau’s TV ads proclaiming that she will prosecute “all” crimes is worrisome to me. And working for Kaneshiro is an instant disqualifier to me if there is no evidence of whistleblowing. Which there isn’t.

      My bias for public defenders made this a pretty easy choice for me.

    2. Ugh. You’re going for the tough-on-crime people.

      No, I said I don’t like Nadamoto because he’s an “old school, tough-on-crime” guy (and I associate him with Kaneshiro). I’m uncertain if Kau is “tough-on-crime”–but if she is, I think he’s more thoughtful about this.

      Kau’s TV ads proclaiming that she will prosecute “all” crimes is worrisome to me.

      It would give me pause, too, but what’s the context of this? All the candidates were asked if they believe systemic racism is a problem. In response, several said that their job is to look at where the facts lead and then prosecute, regardless of race, class, etc. To me, this was at least partly a way to address the systemic racism question–namely, they would pledge to prosecute all crimes if that’s where the facts pointed.

      Was there only one defense attorney? Esser? I thought Kim and Yaqoob were defense attorneys as well. (By the way, in the KITV discussion, Yaqoob kept interrupting the others. It was super, super annoying.)

      Back to the general topic. To me, I think prosecutors should be tough, but they should be thoughtful–meaning, sometimes throwing people in jail is not the smartest or best way to ensure public safety. IF the crimes are related to addiction or anger management, then if treatment can help the person and decrease recidivism, a thoughtful prosecutor would favor that. I think Alm and Brown are for this. I’m not as sure about Kau.

      Lastly, what’s also important to me is the administrative skills and leadership. This issue was hardly touched on. The candidates could have the right mindset, but if they’re not good leaders/managers, that’s not a good thing. I tend to think Alm would be solid in this regard. The biggest question mark is that he worked in Kaneshiro’s office. The biggest hangup for Brown, for me, is that he seems to have no experience in administration/management. Kau runs her own firm, with four or five people, but I think she only started a couple of years ago.

  9. I read the entire transcript of the Kym Pine interview. I’m glad I did. I had a more favorable impression–not so much that she would leapfrog any of the other candidates. Still, I’m a little more confident that the city won’t fall a part if she’s elected.

    Having said that, the rail situation seems like a mess, and to really clean it up, I think we’re going to need a mayor with above-average skills, someone more than just OK. I like Amemiya, but if he showed this kind of ability, it would be a local equivalent of Obama running the show. I don’t know of Hanabusa has the ability to do this, but I wouldn’t be totally surprised if she did. I think one of her biggest weaknesses is her public speaking. She’s way too wonkish.

    Finally, I got to watch the end of Mufi’s interview. Here’s what I’m left asking: What is wrong with him? I really want to know. I say this because, to me, he seems like the most talented political executive that I’ve ever seen. He’s smart and knowledgeable. He might be as wonkish as Hanabusa, but he’s a way better public speaker. Personally, I think he has the chops to fix rail, whether he’d succeed or not, is another question, but in this kind of time–with the rail, COVID-19 and it’s economic impact as well–we’re going to need something who is a talented, political executive.

    1. Hannemann injured himself early with that smear campaign in the 80s. Voters have short memories, but I think the early impression has stuck, for a lot of voters old enough to remember. I don’t have any real problems with him as an official, but I admit some of the slime he picked up is still on him. He kind of drips opportunist, too.

      I’ll be okay if he wins; he might even have been my second choice. But I’ll tell you what’s really going on in me: After these past four years, I mostly want someone who understands the system and knows how to work within it. That’s several of the mayoral candidates. The second thing I want is (relative) youth and fresh air. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose politics I don’t even agree with, reminded me that smart, driven people who seem to crave problem-solving and who present as genuine make me feel better about waking up in the morning, and believe me: that’s not a small accomplishment. I think Barack Obama’s presidency did that to me too.

      This is my main issue with Hanabusa and Hannemann. I’m already anti-establishment as it is. These guys represent to me more establishment. Not only that, but didn’t each of them bail on their city jobs when other things came along? This leaves a bad taste.

      Fresher candidates could be the future Hanabusa and Hannemann, so why not give them their shots now? I didn’t vote for a fly-by-night candidate — I voted for someone with experience working with the council, someone who knows the hard work involved in running a city, but not someone who makes me feel like I’m waking up fifteen years ago. Oh, I guess that’s part of it, too: don’t you feel like these candidates are giving it one last shot to end their political careers? I want someone on her way up, not someone on his or her way out.

      I’m adding this semi-irrelevant PS. I caught Hannemann’s Saturday morning radio program on the local oldies station, and I was impressed with Hannemann’s language and demeanor. Maybe his persona just works better for me when he’s talking about music than when he’s talking about rail.

      Another PS: There’s a local politician (who also ran for mayor four or eight years ago) who also went to Iolani and Harvard. He’s young — not even 40 yet — and although I can’t point to specifics, he just oozes politician, like he was the guy who erased teachers’ boards after school just to look good. Although I don’t feel this way about Hannemann anymore (I voted for him last time), I don’t think I’ll ever get totally over the impression. Unfair, I know, and I’m kind of sorry. But not sorry about that other guy. *shudder*

    2. Hannemann injured himself early with that smear campaign in the 80s. Voters have short memories, but I think the early impression has stuck, for a lot of voters old enough to remember. I don’t have any real problems with him as an official, but I admit some of the slime he picked up is still on him. He kind of drips opportunist, too.

      I agree with this. I feel like all these are manifestations of an intense ambition and ego, and that is just a big turnoff to many Hawai’i people. There’s also a sense of conceit and being full of himself that can leak through, which I could sense in the Job Interview. I’m kinda turned off by this, too—and working with him might be difficult. But I don’t have to work with him, and I think politicians have these attributes—including, and maybe especially, the best of them. This makes sense. If a politician really cares about improving their community, and they are supremely talented and smart, outshining those around them, then I would expect them to be highly ambitious and confident to the point of being arrogant. It would be more surprising if they were not like this.

      I wonder if Hanneman would have been even more successful had he lived on the mainland. I think we talked about this before, but I think being talented and ambitious can be very difficult in Hawai’i. Such a person has to know how to mute their ambition and self-confidence when interacting with others. A part of me feels like Mufi was never totally deft at this. But again, this is just speculation.

      An alternate theory is that he has an unhealthy desire for power. All good politicians want power, but there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed, and maybe Mufi crosses this line?
      I tend not to buy this theory—or at least I think he doesn’t do this repeatedly. Additionally, I think Hanneman has to desire to help our society—making the economy stronger, communities safer, etc. The things that good politicians should care about. Because of that, I can accept some of the flaws I mentioned above. But I can see how many, including those he has to work with, would not.

      I’ll be okay if he wins; he might even have been my second choice. But I’ll tell you what’s really going on in me: After these past four years, I mostly want someone who understands the system and knows how to work within it. That’s several of the mayoral candidates. The second thing I want is (relative) youth and fresh air. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose politics I don’t even agree with, reminded me that smart, driven people who seem to crave problem-solving and who present as genuine make me feel better about waking up in the morning, and believe me: that’s not a small accomplishment. I think Barack Obama’s presidency did that to me too.

      That makes sense, and for what it’s worth, those reasons appeal to me on some level, too. However, effectiveness ultimately trumps youth and freshness for me. I’m not as confident that Pine will be effective—not to the level the city will need.

      This is my main issue with Hanabusa and Hannemann. I’m already anti-establishment as it is. These guys represent to me more establishment. Not only that, but didn’t each of them bail on their city jobs when other things came along? This leaves a bad taste.

      Hanneman definitely did, and I can understand why you’d say this about Hanabusa as well.
      In my twenties, and probably thirties, establishment as expressed by the “old boys network” was more of a turnoff to me. That is, I saw politicians with strong ties to well-established political machinery and key stakeholders in the island as mostly a negative thing. Now, in my fifties, I see a more positive side to this. Specifically, I don’t think you can get anything done without having good relationships with most of the key players. A politician need to part of this machinery, but they have to be able to have their respect and be able to communicate and negotiate with them. The politicians has to get some buy-in from them.
      Maybe Pine and Blangiardi can do this—maybe they already have good relationships with many, if not all, of the key players. With Amemiya, my guess is that he has this, to a significant degree.

      Fresher candidates could be the future Hanabusa and Hannemann, so why not give them their shots now? I didn’t vote for a fly-by-night candidate — I voted for someone with experience working with the council, someone who knows the hard work involved in running a city,…

      Answer: Because the city faces enormous challenges. Even with the pandemic, doing a good job of completely the rail project would be a massive undertaking. I don’t think a merely competent mayor, or one who will be more than this in several years, will be able to do this.

      … but not someone who makes me feel like I’m waking up fifteen years ago. Oh, I guess that’s part of it, too: don’t you feel like these candidates are giving it one last shot to end their political careers? I want someone on her way up, not someone on his or her way out.

      That’s not something that came to mind. I don’t think that really applies to Hanabusa. I don’t think she’s at the end. She seems restless, wanting really to be in charge at the executive level. (She’s ambitious, too, and she can come across as arrogant as well in my opinion.) If she were a better public speaker and if she has the ability to choose good people and manage and lead them, she could be a terrific executive.

      But what you say seems like a fair question for Mufi. I tend to buy his explanation that he’s coming back because of the dire situation we’re in now. He’s suffered some big losses and has been out of the political scene for a seemingly long time. I get the sense he was content, but I have no idea if this is accurate.

      I’m adding this semi-irrelevant PS. I caught Hannemann’s Saturday morning radio program on the local oldies station, and I was impressed with Hannemann’s language and demeanor. Maybe his persona just works better for me when he’s talking about music than when he’s talking about rail.

      As an aside, he addressed a bunch of city employees about the rail project, and I was super impressed. He struck me as someone who really understood the significant and potential (e.g., TODs) for rail. In any event, I tend to think there’s some truth to what you say. I think this kind of show can soften and humanize him, providing a counter-weight to his seriousness and maybe abrasiveness.

      Another PS: There’s a local politician (who also ran for mayor four or eight years ago) who also went to Iolani and Harvard. He’s young — not even 40 yet — and although I can’t point to specifics, he just oozes politician, like he was the guy who erased teachers’ boards after school just to look good. Although I don’t feel this way about Hannemann anymore (I voted for him last time), I don’t think I’ll ever get totally over the impression. Unfair, I know, and I’m kind of sorry. But not sorry about that other guy. *shudder*

      Who are you talking about? I have no idea. At first, I thought you were talking about Djou, but he’s a Punahou boy, and he’s closer to our age.

    3. Dang, I don’t think I’ve heard of him. Wasn’t there a Stanley Chang that was much older, running for Board of Education…or was it OHA?

  10. Hanabusa endorses Blangiardi for Mayor

    …throwing some punches in the process

    “When there was a question asked of Rick that he didn’t know the answer, he would say ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out,’” she said. “You know how honest that is? As opposed to somebody who may appear programmed and like a puppet and anytime you say a keyword, they respond with something. Rick is genuine.”

    Putting aside the venom, I want to respond to the comment about both candidates:

    1. I can actually understand the programmed/puppet comment, along with an expression of mistrust for Amemiya. The Job Interview transcript created a favorable impression of Amemiya for me, but when I watched some of the interview, he kind of gave off an evil bureaucrat or villain who’s an accountant vibe. I should go back and watch the entire interview, but right now I feel like Amemiya is thoughtful and prepared. I suspect there will still be a learning curve, but he seems better prepared than Blangiardi–at least at the time of the interview.

    2. Blandgiardi seems like a sincere, relatable person, but saying “I don’t know,” especially too often, is not good think for a mayoral candidate in my view. It may be honest, but most of the time a politician has to have a better answer than that. I mentioned that Blangiardi didn’t seem to be able to handle the press’s questions very well, an this is an example of that. Additionally, this type of answer created the impression he wasn’t prepared. Now, it’s possible that the pandemic has hindered his ability to meet and talk with people–and maybe that hurt his preparation. Now that he’s actually in the general, that’s not a sufficient excuse in my opinion. I’ll be interested to see if he seems more prepared in any future debates or interviews.

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