COUNCIL MEMBER MIKE WHITE PROPOSES NEPOTISM BILL
We’ve been kicking around Maui County Council member Mike White a lot lately for the attention he tends to lavish on organizations he’s cozy with (like the Maui Visitors Bureau and SPCA Maui) as well as the sudden righteousness he’s shown in his desire to “investigate” Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration over the old Wailuku Post Office demolition. But these last few weeks, White’s actually been trying to do something genuinely progressive in the county, and we’d like to salute him for it.
On Monday, July 15, near the end of its 9am meeting, the Maui County Council’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee took up White’s County Communication 13-127, which was simply titled “NEPOTISM POLICY.” That’s right, kids: White is asking the County of Maui to stop the practice of allowing some family members to work for other family members.
Given that Maui is a small island, it’s only natural that nepotism sprouts here and there in official offices. The Maui County Department of Liquor Control is probably the most famous example of this–you might even call the place a family business. In fact, you could turn the department’s familial relations into a pretty decent drinking game: just take a shot every time you see the name “Silva” on their official phone directory.
There are other noteworthy examples. Maui County Council member Riki Hokama recently employed his nephew Jordan Helle as a part-time aide. In May 2012, that hire made statewide news when Keoki Kerr at Hawaii News Now reported that Hokama paid Helle $25 an hour and gave him a $3,000 bonus (though Kerr did not reveal that Helle and Hokama were related).
Then there was the fact that for 15 years, Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA) Executive Director Jocelyn Perreira had employed her own daughter as an office manager. In fact, WMSA–which took nearly all of its revenue from County of Maui grants–had an anti-nepotism rule in place when Perreira made the hire, but the board then retroactively changed it not longer after Perreira’s daughter started work.
In any case, the bill White put forward on July 15 came down on nepotism hard. It banned the hiring of relatives throughout the county–including the County Council. It was a tough, but necessary reform.
I say “was,” because that bill disappeared at the July 15 PIA hearing. In it’s place White put forth a revised bill (White didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment). That bill banned nepotism in county offices “except” in the case of the Maui County Council, which can still hire relatives for its executive assistant posts. Curiously, that bill also included a new proviso that it applies “retroactively to all officers and employees of the county,” which would normally get hearts racing over at the LC, except that the Maui County Corporation Counsel’s office objected to making it retroactive.
“Corporation Counsel raised questions about the retroactive part,” said Kirstin Hammond, a staffer on the PIA Committee. “The bill was deferred.”
Hammond couldn’t say for certain if or when the bill will return in some form, and there’s no mention of it on the PIA Committee’s July 29 meeting agenda.
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SCHATZ GETS MODERATELY HUGE ENDORSEMENT
Even though his election is more than a year away, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, is in a tough spot. Though he’s Hawaii’s senior senator, he came to office by appointment from Governor Neil Abercrombie earlier this year following the death of the very senior U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, and thus lacks any sort of popular mandate. It doesn’t help matters that Inouye’s deathbed wish was for Abercrombie to appoint U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, to the seat and now Schatz has Hanabusa already working on how to pry him out of the seat she clearly feels was hers.
That’s why it’s not surprising that my email inbox is full of messages from the Schatz campaign touting this and that endorsement–again, more than a year away from the election. Most of these endorsements don’t exactly scream big news (the National Association of Letter Carriers is an actual thing?) but every now and then a big name comes into play, which is what happened this weekend.
“Thanks to Brian’s visionary leadership, Hawaii implemented its own groundbreaking Clean Energy Initiative,” said former Vice President Al Gore in a July 21 email. “As a result, Hawaii has tripled its renewable energy production from 6% to 18%. And we’re going to need Brian’s strong, outspoken leadership in Congress for many more years to get the job done.”
While undoubtedly big news, I’m not sure Gore’s endorsement translates into anything huge. Granted, if this was the year 2001, I’d say it was a huge boost for Schatz. Though Gore had just lost the presidential election to George W. Bush (who pretty clearly won it by a single vote–in the U.S. Supreme Court), Gore was for a time the Democratic Party’s Big Man.
But we’re a dozen years removed from that. For a time, Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth was considered the definitive statement on the perils we all face from climate change, but concerted attacks against science and denials of impending troubles from both big business and the Republican Party have made getting real environmental legislation all but impossible to pass.
That being said, now isn’t the time for Schatz to get picky. “I am tremendously thankful for the support of Vice President Gore,” he said in the same July 21 email that contained the Gore endorsement. “He has long been a leader on creating a renewable energy economy. I look forward to working with him to expand our clean energy production, and bring good new jobs to Hawaii.”