WEDNESDAY, Mar. 26
Looks like we might have some much needed federal tax dollars flowing our way. According to a brief story posted on the Honolulu Advertiser website early this evening, U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar of Minnesota will fly over Maui tomorrow to look at “critical infrastructure needs.” Oberstar will look at the Pali (Hell yeah, he’s going to look at the Pali!), that backside portion of Pi‘ilani Highway that’s been closed since the October 2006 Big Island quake, some Upcountry water reservoir sites and, of course, Kahului Harbor, according to the paper. Of course, it would be far better if Oberstar actually had to drive the Pali at, say, 5 p.m. on a Friday or out to Kaupo like the rest of us slobs (well, few of us actually have to drive to Kaupo, but still), then he might get a better idea as to what “critical” actually means. In any case, here’s hoping he has a pleasant flight—and that he turns on the big federal tax dollar spigot. Oh, just to be clear: federally funded projects like this are commonly called “earmarks”—the same earmarks that President George W. Bush has (after Republicans lost control of Congress in late 2006) called “wasteful” spending.
THURSDAY, Mar. 27
Ever heard of the Native Hawaiian Education Act (NHEA)? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t—the federal government passed it back in 1988, and they’ve all but ignored it and the $30 million in tax dollars it receives ever since, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report written about in today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Designed to provide specialized education assistance to Native Hawaiians, the act has had virtually no oversight from the U.S. Department of Education—no way to track the act’s effectiveness or even where the $30 million goes—according to the GAO report. “[W]e found that little is known about the act’s impact on Native Hawaiian education,” GAO official Cornelia M. Ashby wrote to U.S. Senators Byron L. Dorgan (D, North Dakota), Daniel Akaka (D, Hawai‘i) and Daniel Inouye (D, Hawai‘i) on Mar. 25. “We did not find any impact evaluations, studies, or other types of research linking activities under NHEA to changes in Native Hawaiian educational outcomes.” Of course, the Department of Education told the GAO that “they plan to address these weaknesses,” but gave no timeframe for when that might occur. This is all actually quite understandable: See, the NHEA is part of the Department of Education, which is part of the federal government, which is run by the Bush Administration, which has as its head one George W. Bush who, as must be plain to everyone by now, hates people—black people, Native Hawaiian people, poor people. Basically, people.
FRIDAY, Mar. 28
Somehow, HB 661—which sets up a system for providing public money to local political candidates (check out Greg Mebel’s Mar. 13, 2008 story “Sunshine Laws” for more) somehow passed out of the state Senate Ways and Means Committee. That’s right, good government people: the bill is still alive, despite having been killed for each of the last nine years. I know—I’m surprised, too.
SATURDAY, Mar. 29
Nice to see the state Legislature fighting to keep Aloha Airlines alive. I think it’s totally forlorn, but still, the effort can be good. According to today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin, our own state Senator Roz Baker (D, 5th District) is pushing for a bill that would “allow the state to guarantee up to 90 percent of the principal balance of a private loan to a Hawaii inter-island air carrier.” Though the bill is explicitly for any “inter-island air carrier,” there’s no question the proposal represents a potential state bailout of Aloha. Though Aloha execs wouldn’t comment for the Star-Bulletin story, they have to be pleased—especially considering the financial help they’ve given the Democrats. It’s probably in bad taste to bring this up, but Aloha executives like President/CEO David Banmiller and Vice President Stephanie Ackerman have donated thousands of dollars to local Democrats’ political coffers. For instance, last year Banmiller gave $2,000 to the Hawai`i Democratic Party and $2,000 to U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D, Hawai‘i), and Ackerman gave Inouye another grand, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out.
SUNDAY, Mar. 30
Well, that was quick. Today Aloha Airlines threw in the towel, announcing on its website that tomorrow it will shut down all inter-island and trans-Pacific passenger flights, even though the company is still in bankruptcy court and the state Legislature has yet to pass any bailout bill. Just like that, a 61-year-old company is finished, and 1,900 people across the state are out of work. Oh, and now there’s even less competition in the inter-island airfare market, which means higher prices and less flights for all concerned. “This is an incredibly dark day for Hawaii,” Banmiller said in the statement. You think?
MONDAY, Mar. 31
And now things get interesting. State Senator Baker is insisting that there’s still time to save Aloha, but given the fact Aloha passenger planes won’t be flying tomorrow, that’s doubtful. But even more fascinating is today’s Pacific Business News online story that contrasts Governor Linda Lingle’s and Senator Inouye’s responses to the Aloha Airlines shutdown. Seems that Lingle–who has taken $10,040 from Aloha execs and PACs since 2002, according to state campaign spending records–is a lot more skeptical of Aloha’s actions than Inouye. Shocking, I know: according to PBN, Lingle said she’s going to ask bankruptcy Judge Lloyd King, who’s handling the matter, to force the airline to “provide sufficient time and proper notification to employees of the shutdown and that all additional steps be taken to protect the interests and rights of Aloha employees.” Not a bad move, though King rejected doing any such thing. Lingle is also saying she’ll set up a “special labor department team” to assist those 1,900 Aloha employees in finding new work. As for Inouye—the recipient of $13,250 in campaign contributions from Aloha Airlines execs since 1997, according to the Center for Responsive Politics—PBN says he’s far more forgiving of Aloha, especially Banmiller. “He did everything he could,” Inouye told the paper, adding that we should commend the CEO for “working round the clock and pursuing every angle.”
TUESDAY, Apr. 1
You know what I love? Getting completely unsolicited and unsuitable submissions from companies/organizations/hate groups located thousands of miles away, then receiving bitchy emails not long after I’ve deleted said submissions. “I wanted to follow up on the piece I sent your way a couple of days ago,” one recently jilted PR flack wrote me. “If it’s not too much trouble, I’d really appreciate it if you could send me a quick note to let me know if you’ll be able to use it.” Seriously—I can’t get enough of that. Please people, send more.
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