Lingle Budgets and Tiger Escapes

Leftover Budget, Anyone?

With all the enthusiasm of a cat eyeing a pile of wilted arugula, Gov. Abercrombie submitted an initial budget—drafted by the Lingle Administration—to the state legislature this week.

“The budget I am submitting today is not an indication of agreement with the policies of the previous administration,” Abercrombie said in a prepared statement. “To the contrary, there is a broad call from all people of Hawaii for a change in direction.” At the same time, he added, “such dramatic changes…cannot be completed in the two-week period between the inauguration of our new administration and the submittal of the budget.”

The budget, which covers fiscal years 2012 and ’13, features a rather gaping $772 million shortfall. Abercrombie didn’t discuss how he plans to close that gap—other than dipping into emergency funds—but did say he’s confident “that we can and will do better, stimulating our economy and creating the breathing space we need to reinvest in our core priorities.”

New Rules

In addition to the countywide plastic bag ban, a number of new state rules are set to take effect in January.

Political contributions will no longer be tax deductible. Corporations that give more than $1,000 to a politician will have to file paperwork with the state Campaign Spending Commission. Hawaii’s primary election will be moved up a month, from September to August. State health care providers will be required to cover colon cancer screenings. And drivers arrested for DUI will have to blow into a breathalyzer device to start their cars.

And yes, starting January 11, stores in Maui County will no longer be allowed to offer plastic bags at the point of sale—with a few exceptions.

For more on the state rules, visit the Hawaii House Blog (hawaiihouseblog.blogspot.com). For info about the plastic bag ban, go to the County Web site (co.maui.hi.us) or check out the “Maui County BYOBag” Facebook page.

Zoo Over

Some jobs come with unforgivable offenses: pilots can’t fall asleep at the controls, brain surgeons can’t hit the operating table drunk and zoo directors can’t allow the animals—especially ones with big claws and sharp teeth—to get out. Or, apparently, they can.

Three years ago, Manuel Mollinedo was in charge of the San Francisco Zoo when a Siberian tiger escaped, killing one person and mauling two others. Amid the ensuing controversy—and a damning investigation that revealed the wall surrounding the tiger’s enclosure was several feet shorter than it should have been—Mollinedo resigned. Now, he’s taking the reins at the Honolulu Zoo.

In a statement, Mayor Peter Carlisle promised the zoo is “in good hands” with Mollinedo, while city director Sidney Quintal—who was responsible for the hire—defended Mollinedo’s record in the Honolulu Star Advertiser: “[I’m] convinced that he did everything that was right with regard to managing that zoo and what happened was just very unfortunate.” That’s one way of putting it.

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