A couple weeks ago I told you about HB2902, a bill that Akaku CEO Jay April warned would “effectively destroy” community access television on the neighbor islands. That bullet appears to have been dodged, and this week I spoke with April about another piece of legislation—SB707—that could give Akaku a much-needed dose of security. Testifying on Oahu, April said the bill, which would “designate an access organization to oversee public, educational, and governmental [PEG] channels on cable television,” safeguards against a potentially capricious state procurement process, which he called “contrary to why PEG access was established in the first place.” SB707 passed through the Senate Judiciary and Government Operations (JGO) Committee and now heads to the House. The House buried a similar bill in 2009, but April told me he’s hopeful “for the first time in years.” Meanwhile, Akaku, like many other nonprofits, has endured significant cutbacks; April said they’ve had to lay off about half their staff. “The old paradigm is changing,” he said. “We have to find creative ways to harness new media.” Two ideas he tossed out: buying a bunch of inexpensive flip cameras and letting them loose in the community for a segment tentatively dubbed “Flipping Out” (I suggested “Flipping Off”) and incorporating more Skype video reports (like the one MauiTime contributed to the now-on-hiatus Maui Daily segment) from all parts of Maui Nui. “Let’s get the bureaucratic stuff out of the way,” April said, “and get back to our mission: expanding our ohana and empowering local voices.”… Gov. Lingle graced us with her presence last week, appearing February 11 at an event honoring Ronald Reagan and speaking the following day at the Maui Chamber of Commerce’s annual Governor’s Luncheon. A group of Furlough Friday protestors assembled near the King Kamehameha Golf Club in Waikapu where the Regan event was held, but activist and local Democratic Party Chair Lance Holter wrote in an e-mail that “she must [have] been driven through the cane fields because we didn’t see her come by at the entrance.” Considering the nearly two decades she spent as a Maui public official, it’s always amazing how little fanfare accompanies Lingle’s Valley Isle visits. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she was avoiding us….
Meanwhile, Lingle’s war of words with the teachers union rages on. This week, the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) filed a prohibited practices complaint against the Governor, claiming she didn’t have the authority to kill an HSTA proposal that would have restored some instructional days. In a statement, HSTA President Wil Okabe said Lingle “has never shown the slightest willingness to move off of her position” and instead “clings stubbornly to her mantra.” That’s when Lingle took the gloves off: “HSTA’s latest action proves once again that the union leaders care more about money than educating Hawaii’s children,” she said in a statement of her own, adding that the union “sees their chance to squeeze more money out of taxpayers slipping away.” At this point, we need to throw Lingle and Okabe into a cage and let them have it out, MMA style. Probably could sell a lot of tickets—maybe enough to get the keiki back in the classroom…. Even if you don’t know it by name, you’re probably aware of the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC, in which the court ruled 5-4 to lift restrictions on corporate-backed campaign ads. It’s the one President Obama referenced in his State of the Union address, eliciting a head wag from Chief Justice John Roberts. There’s another case, closer to home, that you may not be aware of: Tavares v. Wong (the “Tavares” in question is our own dear Mayor). That ruling, which came down in favor of Tavares in August 2007 and was upheld on appeal, also eroded limits on corporate campaign contributions. Now, both cases are being cited by state Sen. Les Ihara, who introduced SB2918, which “prohibits persons other than individuals from making contributions directly to candidates or noncandidate committees, except through noncandidate committees”—not a complete roadblock, but a significant obstacle. “Our freedom of democracy is in peril, unless the legislature takes steps to preserve it,” Ihara said in a joint release with Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters. Campaign finance reform always faces an uphill battle—it’s like asking foxes to curtail their own access to the henhouse. That said, as of this writing, SB2918 was still alive….
Imagine if, in the months leading up to September 11, 2001, domestic Muslim groups had held vehement, highly visible protests across the country denouncing the United States’ support of Israel and military presence in the Middle East. What would the reaction have been after the planes hit the buildings, and it was revealed the perpetrators had the same grievances? Impossible to say for sure, but it’s a safe bet the front page of The Maui News wouldn’t have featured a headline that read “Highjackers’ views on U.S. foreign policy shared by many,” accompanied by a story questioning whether the attacks were an act of terrorism. And yet that’s exactly what we got last week, after a disgruntled tax protestor crashed a plane into a Texas IRS building, killing a government employee. “Man’s views on taxation shared by many” declared the AP story printed on page A1, while another AP dispatch titled “Attack on IRS building prompts a debate over ‘terrorism’ label” appeared above the fold on A7 (to be fair, that story did quote Muslim representatives who pointed out the hypocrisy). People are always complaining about the media’s liberal bias. Ironically, those complaints usually come from extreme, anti-government right-wingers, who are now enjoying pretty much a free pass after a deranged member of their ranks committed an act of, yes I’ll say it, terrorism. Of course, just because a murderer believes some of the same things you do doesn’t mean you’re complicit in his crime. But tell that to the innocent Muslim Americans (and non-Muslims who looked like they might be Muslims to ignorant, frightened bigots) who were attacked and, in some cases, killed after 9/11. Something tells me we won’t see a similar backlash against the Tea Partiers.