So Jeffrey Portnoy–a longtime friend of us reporters in Hawaii–just got himself appointed to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. The appointment, while not nearly as shocking as, say, Family Guy’s killing off Brian the dog, was also certainly more substantial as, say, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa’s recent Memorandum of Understanding with Monsanto over their disclosing restricted-use pesticides (which are already regulated by the State of Hawaii).
“Jeff is a champion of the University of Hawaii and a respected leader in our community,” Governor Neil Abercrombie said in a Nov. 22 press release sent out by his office. “He has always been a great friend to the university community, and his leadership, insight and expertise within and beyond his field will prove a valuable asset to the UH system.”
For journalists statewide, Portnoy’s greatest accomplishment was the part he played in helping draft Hawaii’s old media shield law (which the state Legislature very nicely let expire this summer). But Portnoy also played a key role in the old SHOPO case from the early 1990s, in which a bunch of UH journalism students–assisted by their instructor, Gerald Kato–sued the Honolulu Police Department to get them to release the identities of cops who’d been sanctioned by Internal Affairs. The students made it all the way to the state Supreme Court, where they prevailed in a hollow victory–the state Legislature had already caved to State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) lobbying and passed a law specifically protecting IA-sanctioned cops statewide from having their names released to the public.
The SHOPO Case was actually on my mind recently, in regards to the heat Abercrombie recently took from former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano, who recently announced his opposition to Abercrombie’s reelection, even though the two have reportedly been bros for about 40 years.
“Since he’s become he’s reversed himself on principles he used to fight for,” Cayetano said in this Nov. 18 Hawaii News Now story. “[In the past] We would take on the big guys, the unions, big business. He used to be a strong voice for the little guy. He’s not now.”
Ouch! But Cayetano is being a tad bit selective in his memory of taking on all those “big guys” back when he was governing. See, the Legislature passed that little SHOPO-inspired exemption for cops while Cayetano was in office. And since Ben Cayetano was such a thorn in the side of unions, he did the only thing he could: let it pass without his signature.
There’s not a word about Cayetano’s decision to cave to SHOPO in Ben, his supposedly truth-talking memoir that came out in 2009 (though it does contain an embarrassingly fawning introduction from Abercrombie). Now to be fair, when Honolulu Civil Beat asked Cayetano earlier this year about the vote, he did say that he should have vetoed the exemption.
So the lesson here is that Cayetano can make mistakes as governor, but Abercombie can’t. Seems fair, right?
Photo of Jeff Portnoy courtesy Hawaii Governor’s Office