Showing posts with label waste. Show all posts
Showing posts with label waste. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Hawaii throws away $22.5M in COVID test kits, $1B earmarked for housing programs, almost half of private-sector workers work remotely, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2022 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Nearly $1 billion in funding is pending approval to help struggling Hawaii families with housing. Nearly $1 billion in state housing funding — aimed to help the homeless, low-­income to working families, and Native Hawaiians — is ready to be approved this week in the final days of the legislative session, state House leaders announced Monday. Star-Advertiser. Tribune-Herald. Maui Now. KITV4.

Hawaii Plans To Destroy Expired Covid Tests That Cost $22.5M. The state said the kits were bought for nursing homes and prisons in 2020 but were put in storage after the feds provided an easier-to-use version. Hawaii News Now.

Drinking Water At 72 Hawaii Schools To Be Tested For Lead. The water sampling will complete a process that began with more than 100 schools last year. Civil Beat.

Hawaiʻi is a leader in early education investment but not access or enrollment, report says. While the state is a leader in spending per child, it isn't in access or enrollment. The state ranked 44 out of 45 states surveyed in the U.S. because it only reached 2% of 4-year-olds across the Islands. Hawaii Public Radio.

State study shows nearly 50% of Hawaiʻi employees working remotely.
An estimated 42% of private-sector employees were working remotely as of August 2021, according to a report released by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Hawaii Public Radio. Maui Now.

Hawaii Homeowners Must Tell Prospective Buyers If Sea Level Rise Threatens Their Property
. This week Hawaii became the first state to require real estate sellers to disclose to potential buyers if their property is threatened by sea level rise. Civil Beat.

Hannemann: Tourism won’t recover until next year. Hawaii is still a year away from a full return to prepandemic levels of tourism, according to Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging &Tourism Association. Tribune-Herald.


Honolulu City Council considering tax incentives for businesses along rail line.
In an effort to encourage private-sector development in neighborhoods along the rail line, the Honolulu City Council in considering a measure that would give tax credits for up to three decades to businesses that invest substantially in facility improvements and create scores of new jobs. Star-Advertiser.

No decision on criminal charges in alleged Honolulu police chase that injured 6. The trio of District 8 patrol officers accused in the case, Jake Bartolome, Erik Smith and Joshua Nahulu, remain on restricted duty and have had their police powers suspended, according to HPD, while the criminal and administrative investigations continue. Star-Advertiser.

Self-service DMV kiosks added to Salt Lake and Hawai‘i Kai. There are a total of eight of these self-service kiosks for renewing motor vehicle registrations at Safeway and Foodland stores on Oahu. KHON2. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

Ex-employee charges discrimination in Building Division. A former building inspector trainee is suing the county Department of Public Works, saying she was discriminated against and unlawfully terminated in retaliation after she reported what she saw as wrongdoing in the department. West Hawaii Today.

Hilo surgery center is in jeopardy of closing: Owners allege hospital is discouraging doctors from using the facility. Those connected to the Hilo Community Surgery Center point to a number of factors — including what they allege is pressure by Hilo Medical Center on its surgeons to not use the center for smaller procedures. Tribune-Herald.

Snowy conditions atop Mauna Kea force closure of road, visitor station. Located at an elevation of 9,200 feet, the station is reporting downright wintry conditions with ice and snow on the road, freezing temperatures and thunderstorms. Hawaii News Now. Big Island Video News.


As arrivals continue to rise, visitors spend more per trip. Lanai, Maui see highest spending totals per visitor in the state. Though Maui’s visitor numbers in March still trail pre-pandemic levels, people are spending more money per trip on the Valley Isle, according to a recent report. Maui News.

Landslides, road damage leaves portions of Piʻilani Hwy in East Maui impassable. Heavy rainfall in East Maui over night triggered landslides and roadway damage that have closed multiple sections of Piʻilani Highway between mile markers 19 in Kahikinui and mile marker 39 in Kīpahulu. Maui Now.


Hawaiian Home Lands offers 51 vacant lots to Kauaʻi families.
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has offered 51 residential vacant lots to Kauaʻi families. The lots are within the Pi‘ilani Mai Ke Kai Subdivision in Anahola. Hawaii Public Radio.

Legislators call on state to look into emergency road, second bridge for Hanalei. Kuhio Highway, the only roadway in and out of Hanalei Town on Kaua'i, has been blocked off twice over the past four years, due to flooding and landslides. KITV4.

‘Anini Beach Park improvements meeting is Wednesday.
The county Department of Parks &Recreation and its consultant, Community Planning &Engineering Inc., will conduct a virtual public information meeting for proposed improvements to ‘Anini Beach Park on Wednesday, May 4, at 6 p.m. The proposed improvements will evaluate the comfort stations, paths of travel, security gates, pavilions, camping sites, picnic tables, boat washdown area, and all parking areas. Garden Island.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hawaii national parks bring in the green, Ige to attend White House dinner for Japanese prime minister, less instruction, more pay for teachers, $14M wasted on computer system, three telescopes to be idled, $50M bond float likely, Oahu pig farm could close, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Halemaʻumaʻu caldera © 2015 All Hawaii News
National park service visitation rebounded in 2014 in Hawaii, generating an estimated $417.3 million in economic benefits. Some 5.2 million people, or just over 6 percent more than in 2013, visited Hawaii's seven national parks last year, according to a visitor spending report Thursday by the National Park Service. Star-Advertiser.

More than 5.2 million visitors dished out an estimated $340.5 million around Hawaii’s national parks in 2014, according to a new report by the National Park Service. More than half that money, $175.6 million, was spent on the Big Isle, home to three parks and a historic site. West Hawaii Today.

Gov. David Ige's office says he will represent Hawaii at a White House state dinner honoring Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week. President Barack Obama will host the dinner for Abe on Tuesday. Associated Press.

Public schools will no longer be required to tally the number of "instructional" minutes students receive throughout the school year under revisions made to a 2010 law that mandates minimum learning time. Under Senate Bill 822, which Gov. David Ige signed into law Thursday, the term "instructional hours" in Act 167 has been replaced with "student hours," meaning learning time will now apply to any time that students are in school. Star-Advertiser.

A new law gives Hawaii public schools flexibility to create schedules based on the amount of days and hours required for a school year. The union representing Hawaii's public school teachers says Gov. David Ige signed the bill Thursday. Associated Press.

The price tag for the contract covering Hawaii's 13,500 public school teachers has climbed to more than $388 million now that the teachers union has negotiated additional compensation for the remaining two years of the deal. Under the settlement, which the Legislature is expected to approve, teachers will receive a one-time bonus in the fall; a boost to their base salary in two years; more paid professional development training; and a decrease in health insurance costs. Star-Advertiser.

Contract ratification meetings for members of two units of the Hawaii Government Employees Association were suspended by the union Thursday, a development that will delay indefinitely any agreement or raises for about 14,400 state, city and county workers. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers are looking for ways to prop up the state’s financially struggling health exchange, and they’re considering cash from the general fund. All state-run insurance exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act must be financially sustainable this year. But the Hawaii Health Connector doesn’t have enough money for its operations. Associated Press.

The state spent $13.88 million on what was dubbed the "FAST" project to replace an out-of-date computer system in the state Highways Division, but the new system still doesn't work, and Gov. David Ige finally stepped in last month to cancel the project. Star-Advertiser.

The state spent $13.88 million on a failed effort to improve the Department of Transportation's financial accounting system, so the state terminated the contract last month, Gov. David Ige said Thursday. Hawaii News Now.


A special Senate committee has adopted rules to govern its investigation into whether Sen. Brickwood Galuteria is qualified to serve in the Senate. The committee met briefly Thursday morning and plans to hold another hearing on Monday at 10 a.m. in response to a complaint alleging that Galuteria doesn’t actually live in Kakaako, the district he represents. Civil Beat.

Key state lawmakers in the House still want Oahu's rail tax cut in half if it is to be extended — and they also aim to put an end to any talk of neighbor islands enacting a surcharge to help fund transportation-related projects in their respective counties. Star-Advertiser.

State lawmakers are divided on how best to bail out Honolulu’s over-budget and underfunded commuter rail project that, when completed, will be the nation’s first fully driverless transit system. Civil Beat.

A long-awaited sludge-receiving station at the HPOWER waste-to-energy incineration facility opens next month at Campbell Industrial Park to try to reduce the need for landfill space on Oahu. Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other officials dedicated the $10.6 million injection station Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

The pit at the H-POWER plant has a sliding door that opens and a truck backs in, dumping a mixture of human waste and regular garbage down to the bottom. That nasty mixture is turned into sludge and burned. KITV4.

Shinsato Farm could close if a buyer for its Windward Oahu property can't be found, co-owner Amy Shinsato told Pacific Business News this week. The farm, which has been in business for about 75 years, produces pork that can be found on the menu in many Hawaii restaurants.

A Department of Land and Natural Resources crew on Thursday retrieved a 20-foot skiff from an Oahu shoreline area that may be debris from the March 2011 Japan tsunami. West Hawaii Today.

Some Leeward Oahu residents say a half-million dollar beautification project is compromising the safety of drivers. Concrete barriers are all along the median on Farrington Highway, but there’s about a mile stretch that’s strictly lined with plants. KHON2.


The Hawaii County Council will soon be asked to authorize borrowing as much as $50 million to $60 million in general obligation bonds, as Mayor Billy Kenoi works to finish a list of projects before his term ends late next year. West Hawaii Today.

Decommissioning of as many as three telescopes could be expedited as the University of Hawaii responds to protests from Native Hawaiians over the construction of the largest observatory yet on Mauna Kea. Tribune-Herald.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees decided Thursday to formally reconsider its endorsement of the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope planned for the summit of Mauna Kea. The board, which voted to support the $1.4 billion telescope in 2009, scheduled a special meeting for Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

Battle Over Geothermal Contract Plays Out in Court and at PUC. Critics say they will contest a new geothermal energy deal between Hawaii Electric Light Co. and Ormat, its longtime partner. Civil Beat.

New kayak tour could make Kohala Ditch self-sustaining. West Hawaii Today.

Kona Brewing Co. announced Thursday that it will be expanding and moving its current brewery in Kona to a new, undisclosed location. West Hawaii Today.

The lava lake in Halemaumau at Kilauea’s summit could be visible from the edge of the caldera as early as today if it continues to rise, geologists say. The lake, which rises and falls during periods of inflationary or deflationary tilt, reached new heights Thursday afternoon when it was less than 70 feet from the crater floor, surpassing the last record from October 2012 by more than 2 feet. Tribune-Herald.


Tourism to Haleakalā National Park in 2014 generated more than $70.3 million in visitor spending and supported 837 jobs in the area, according to new data released by the National Park Service. Maui Now.


A Hawaii family donated two perpetual conservation easements on Thursday to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust. The donation comprises about 40 acres of wetland taro located in Waioli Valley and was given to ensure it remained in its natural state forever. Garden Island.

Hundreds of high school students had their day in court on Thursday, but it wasn’t for anything bad. Instead, the hour-long court proceeding allowed them to see the legal system in action as five state Supreme Court justices took on a longstanding dispute between the County of Kauai and State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, which represents unionized Kauai Police Department employees. Garden Island.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Waikiki sand project bogs down, Akaka treated for dehydration, PGA announces Hawaii tourney, Maui sued for wastewater discharge, Big Island garbage fight intensifies, Honolulu business group backs rail, Oahu homeless evicted, Dalai Lama ends visit, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Waikiki Beach (c) 2012 All Hawaii News
The state's $2.2 million project to replenish sand on Waikiki beach is running behind schedule and crews are racing to finish it before the summer, according to state officials. KITV4.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka was treated for dehydration on Saturday, but “is fine and headed back to work tonight,” a spokesman for the senator said today. Star-Advertiser.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, 87, is “feeling good” after his family sought medical attention for him “out of an abundance of caution” over the weekend, a spokesman said. Civil Beat.

Former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann continues to be the leading fundraiser in the primary campaign for the open 2nd congressional district seat, although Honolulu City Council member Tulsi Gabbard is holding her own in the race for campaign cash. Civil Beat.

Members of the Native Hawaiian community, legal experts and environmentalists gathered at Iolani Palace Monday to protest a Commission on Water Resources Management appointment. Associated Press.

More than 100 organizations and individuals came together today to oppose Governor Abercrombie’s nomination of Ted Yamamura to the state Commission on Water and Resource Management. Hawaii Independent.

A bill that would have required new performance evaluations for Hawaii teachers has died a few weeks before the end of the state's legislative session. Associated Press.

Wrapping up a whirlwind four-day visit to the islands, the Dalai Lama visited with high-schoolers Monday and urged them to work to make a "happier future" through compassion and nonviolence, before heading to Kua­loa Regional Park to bless the voyaging canoe Hoku­le‘a in preparation for a round-the-world sail. Star-Advertiser.

The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said Monday he didn’t know until his latest trip to Hawaii what exactly the word “aloha” meant. Associated Press.

In an extraordinary ceremony at Kualoa Beach Park in Windward Oahu, the 14th Dalai Lama blessed and consecrated the double-hull wayfaring canoe Hokulea. Civil Beat.

The Dalai Lama is visiting Hawai`i to discuss similarities between the Hawaiian spirit of Aloha and the Buddhist spirit of compassion towards others. Hawaii Public Radio.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division is discussing "concurrent jurisdiction” with the state this year, which means the federal agency may take over many of the state functions. However, both the state and federal government officials involved are refusing to release details about the plan. Hawaii Reporter.

Hawaii Marines are fighting the drug trade in Afghanistan by using helicopters to conduct raids. Hawaii News Now.

The PGA Champions Tour’s Pacific Links Hawaii Championship was officially announced during a press conference at the Plaza Club in downtown Monday with Hall of Fame golfer Greg Norman, who is playing in the event, singing Hawaii’s praises as a great location to tee off. Pacific Business News.

State roundup for April 17. Associated Press.

Hawaii Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz wants the city's rail system to make money, or at least break even, and is pushing for a bill that would encourage urban development and redevelopment on land around planned transit stations. Star-Advertiser.

About 30 powerful big business leaders formed a group, Move Oahu Forward, in February, with the backing of Hawaii’s Senior Senator Daniel Inouye, and announced their organization members today. They hope to convince the public the rail will improve Oahu. Hawaii Reporter.

City work crews backed by Honolulu police officers are scheduled this morning to clear out the last of up to 200 people who have been living on a 1-mile stretch of vegetated beachfront just northeast of the public portion of Keaau Beach Park. It is the last large homeless encampment on the Wai­anae Coast. Star-Advertiser.

With at least one loose boulder still perched above his Kalihi neighborhood, Keola Cachola made his first foray to the state Capitol on Monday in search of a sympathetic ear — and $250,000 to clear a hillside after two large boulders rumbled down and damaged homes Thursday night. Star-Advertiser.

State officials said Monday they plan to do emergency work on the hillside above homes in Kalihi Valley that were damaged when several large boulders fell late last week. Hawaii News Now.

An erosion problem at Ala Moana Beach is exposing a rocky coastline. Now the city is working on a plan to replenish the sand. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaiian Airlines became the only carrier to offer year-round daily service between Hono­lulu and Fuku­oka. Star-Advertiser.

Work is under way to fix street lights along the H1 and H2 Freeways that have been out for years, after they were hit by copper thieves. KHON2.


A Hawaii County official on Monday acknowledged the county has already started sending most of East Hawaii’s garbage to the West Hawaii landfill, even as debate rages over the best solution to the island’s growing trash problem. West Hawaii Today.

Hunters hired by the Big Island Invasive Species Committee bagged their first axis deer last Wednesday on the southern end of the island, signaling the start of an effort to eliminate their small but potentially destructive population. Tribune-Herald.

Three Kailua-Kona public schools are getting nearly $7.8 million of overdue improvements. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii County elections officials are proceeding with elections preparations, including mailing updated voter registration cards, as though the state’s district maps are finalized. West Hawaii Today.

Big Island woman accused of more than $2 million in false claims. Associated Press.


Four community groups filed a federal lawsuit today against the Maui County for alleged violations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. Maui Now.

Four environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking more than $60 million in civil penalties to stop Maui County from continuing to discharge partially treated sewage into injection wells at the Lahaina Wastewater Treatment Plant. Star-Advertiser.

A Maui artist will soon see Pope Benedict XVI as the pontiff blesses one of the Kihei man's bronze Saint Damien sculptures in Rome on Wednesday. Maui News.


The North Shore Lion’s Club served more than 700 pancake breakfasts Sunday at a fundraiser for scholarships, scouting, youth basketball and other programs supported by the nonprofit organization. Garden Island.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hawaii on Obama watch, feds pan early education plan, Young Bros. granted 16.6% rate hike, UH to pay student for peeping tom, Maui to ban booze at park, Hawaii County studies property taxes, Kauai seeks landfill space and more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Mother Marianne Cope at Father Damien's funeral historical photo
Pope Benedict XVI has approved seven new saints for the Catholic Church, including Hawaii’s Mother Marianne and a 17th-century Native American, Caterina Tekakwitha. Associated Press.

First lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha seem to have been enjoying a respite from the television cameras since arriving at their Kailua vacation home on Saturday, according to area residents. Star-Advertiser.

First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters, Sasha and Malia, spent the night in Kailua, Oahu, on Saturday. Hawaii Reporter.

First lady Michelle Obama and first daughters Malia and Sasha are on day two of their Hawaiian holiday vacation. KHON2.

Federal reviewers ranked Hawaii's application for a competitive, $49 million federal grant to improve the state's early-learning network last among 35 states vying for the money, calling elements of the plan "minimally implemented" and "low quality," documents show. Star-Advertiser.

Recently ratings by the federal government show how Hawaii hospitals compare with ones across the country and the grades could also lead to better quality care. KITV4.

Hawaii's big bond sale this month was great news for the state because of how much it will save in lower interest rates. But for the Hawaii State Department of Education, it was a routine event. Civil Beat.

It's been a month since the head of Hawaii's largest union demanded to reopen labor talks with Gov. Neil Abercrombie's chief negotiator, claiming another union got a better deal. Civil Beat.

The University of Hawaii must pay about $31,000 to a former student who was showering at a UH dormitory four years ago when an intruder tried to take photos or a video of her with his cellphone, a state judge has ruled. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission on Friday approved a 16.58 percent rate increase for interisland shipping company Young Brothers Ltd. Pacific Business News.

State Roundup for Dec. 18. Associated Press.

Hawaii Soldiers Last Division To Exit Iraq. KITV4.

There were many hugs and kisses at Wheeler Army Airfield Sunday night, as the families of about 50 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division welcomed them home from their deployment to Iraq. Hawaii News Now.


Residential electric bills on Oahu hit a record high in December for the third consecutive month, continuing a trend that has prompted a growing number of homeowners to install rooftop photovoltaic systems to cut their soaring power bills. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii state Department of Agriculture will inspect a Kahuku farm where undocumented workers from Laos said they were sickened by exposure to toxic pesticides. Hawaii Reporter.

The Council had approved to hear a bill in 2012 that would require grocers or wholesale food clubs to post signs or labels signifying that a food product included genetically engineered material. Hawaii Independent.


Hawaii County has begun an outside review of its property tax structure, the first step in ensuring fairness and perhaps bringing additional money to county coffers. West Hawaii Today.

The Transportation Security Administration is hoping to prevent concerns that new body scanning machines it began using at Hilo International Airport are an invasion of privacy. Tribune-Herald.

Organizers of the Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School have been notified that they will not be allowed to launch next year. Tribune-Herald.


Maui County Council members voted 8-0 Friday to give initial approval for a ban on the consumption of alcohol at the new South Maui Community Park. Maui News.

Xorin Balbes maintains that he renovated a historic landmark and created a self-awareness retreat, Lumeria Maui, while at least one opponent to reopening the Fred Baldwin Memorial Home said it looks more "like the Ritz." Maui News.

28 families were selected to receive homestead leases in the Kula, Waiohuli Hikina and the Waiehu Kou communities. KHON2.


The island’s only landfill may operate another 10 years before closing down for good. With the clock ticking — and after a few extensions and expansions — the county has yet to find a site for the next landfill. Garden Island.

The Kaua‘i Police Department has a new deputy chief. Garden Island.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hawaii isn't all about sunshine

Hawaii isn’t the best or the worst, but is smack in the middle of a recent report rating states on the openness of government documents.

The Sunshine Week 2009 Survey of State Government Information ranked Hawaii 26th in the list of 50 states, based on online access to a range of government reports. Hawaii provided 11 of the 20 reports studied. Texas ranked first, providing all 20 of the reports. Mississippi ranked last, providing only four.

The state was ranked high for posting details such as statewide school test data, political campaign contributions and expenses, disciplinary actions against physicians, audit reports, teacher certifications, fictitious business name registrations, database of expenditures, consumer complaints, personal financial disclosure reports and school inspection and safety records.

But Hawaii lost points for not providing disciplinary actions against attorneys, environmental citations and violations, nursing home inspection reports, bridge inspection and safety reports, child care center inspection reports, hospital inspection reports, school bus inspections, gas pump overcharge records and death certificates.

Researchers noted that The state Ethics Commission Web site posts multiyear disclosure PDF files for state representatives, senators, the governor and lieutenant governor, members of the Board of Education, trustees and administrators of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, department heads and their deputies, and judiciary administrators, but the courts do not post disclosures for judges.

"Digital technologies can be a great catalyst for democracy, but the state of access today is quite uneven," Charles N. Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, said in a statement. "The future of Freedom of Information is online access, and states have a long way to go to fulfill the promise of electronic self-governance."

Among the major findings:
The information least likely to be found online were death certificates, found on the Web sites of only five states, and gas pump overcharge records, available online in eight. Also infrequently posted online were schools' building inspections and/or safety ratings, which are posted by only nine states, and school bus inspection reports, which only 13 states posted online.

Information most frequently found online were statewide school test scores and DOT projects/contracts, online in 50 and 48 states, respectively. Close behind was campaign data, reported in 47 of the 50 states; disciplinary actions against medical physicians, 47 states; and financial audits, 44 states.

Death certificates are apparently a revenue source for many states, as they charge relatives and "legitimately" interested parties for copies of the records, or farm out the work to a third-party service such as VitalChek. Some states provide historical access online to older death certificates, mostly prior to 1960, although there generally is a fee for hard copies.

The results were released Sunday at the start of Sunshine Week 2009, which runs March 15-21. The study was developed by Sunshine Week, the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Freedom of Information Committee, the National Freedom of Information Coalition, and the Society of Professional Journalists' FOI Committee.

"This study shows that, while a lot of government information is available online, many states lag in providing important information that people care about," David Cuillier, Freedom of Information Committee chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists, said in a statement. "People should be able to find inspection records for their schools online. And the government shouldn't be charging people for death certificates and other records."

The state government surveys were conducted by newspaper and broadcast journalists, journalism students, state press associations, and reporters and editors from The Associated Press. Several participants went the extra cyber-mile and helped complete surveys outside their own states.

"This is the first comprehensive survey of its kind," said ASNE FOI Committee Co-chair Andrew Alexander. "It tells us that many states understand that digitizing public records is key to open government in the 21st century. But it also tells us that, with a few exceptions, states have a long way to go before they become truly transparent.

"We know that providing public records in digital form is the right thing to do for citizens. But it's also the smart thing to do," added Alexander, who is ombudsman for The Washington Post. "With state budgets under considerable stress, providing public records in digitized form is less costly because it doesn't require a human to process each request for information."

Another crumbling infrastructure

By Edwin Bender

Our democracy's infrastructure is crumbling, just as our roads, water systems and sewers are deteriorating across the country — and we have a unique opportunity now to fix them all properly.

I'll leave the roads and such to the engineers. The infrastructure of our democracy, though, is something I know a thing or two about. You see, more than 16 years ago, I and a few other hearty souls across the country began compiling state-level campaign-finance data and making it available to the public.

We created databases by performing thousands of search-and-replace functions on 700-page Word documents that had been input at state agencies. And, even more time-consuming, we input donor information from innumerable paper reports that candidates had filed at their state disclosure agencies. And we made all this available to reporters via floppy disc and fax.

Then along came the Internet, and we happily upgraded our delivery system. But to this day, we still have to type in data by hand, because many candidates still file paper forms with state disclosure agencies. Can you believe it? In this day and age! What a waste of time.

The lack of uniform disclosure for the 50 states is a failure by design. Fragmented campaign-finance reporting means it's more difficult for people to follow the actions of their elected representatives — otherwise known as holding them accountable. Many candidates don't want you getting too familiar with their donor base. And lobbyists certainly don’t want you looking over their shoulders, especially when their actions might cost you money as a taxpayer.

We disagree with that. We think democracy works best when all aspects of campaigns are held up to the light of day. At the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics, we’ve compiled campaign-finance data from all 50 states dating back to the 2000 elections, as well as donor information for state party committees and ballot measures.

And we’ve compiled a list of lobbyists registered in the states for 2006 and 2007. We update all our data continuously. In fact, we’re on a first-name basis with staff in all 50 state disclosure offices, who for the most part are public servants eager to do good work. They love seeing their work contributed to the data tools and analyses we offer at To them, we tip our hats.

To the candidates who seem to think that funding public disclosure and ethics agencies is optional, we offer a Bronx salute. You don't have to look far to find examples of a disclosure agency fining a state political party or candidate for bundling or other breach of the public's trust, and you'll likely see the agency's budget on the cutting block next legislative session (Washington state and Alaska offer some sad examples.)

Since lawmakers themselves aren't eager to move disclosure into the 21st century, a host of nonprofit organizations are doing the work for citizens and displaying the results for free access. For our part, we built a tool called Lobbyist Link that lets you see which companies hired lobbyists and in which states, and where those companies also made political donations. (For instance, type "Merck" into our search window and you’ll see plenty of coordinated lobbying and donations in the states that considered the HPV vaccine for schools.)

Our L-CAT feature reveals who gave to specific state legislative committee members, and how much. For example, (big surprise) it turns out that insurance companies are major donors to members of the 2008 Illinois Senate Insurance Committee.

There is tremendous work being done by nonprofit organizations for Sunshine Week to create an index of all public information held by government agencies, at all levels. Project Vote Smart compiles biographical information about lawmakers, their speeches and voting records for the public, and makes it all available at their site, The Center for Responsive Politics tracks donations to presidential and congressional candidates as well as national party committees at Many others are looking at government subsidies and contracts, earmarks and corporate influence.

Unfortunately, we nonprofits are doing what we as taxpayers are already paying government agencies to do. (And we do realize those agencies often are between a rock and a hard place because of their budgets.)

So, now, when this country is set to invest billions of dollars on infrastructure projects meant to stimulate a horribly mismanaged economy, isn't it time we also invest in bringing the infrastructure of our democracy up to the 21st century? We aren’t talking rocket science. We’re talking standards that are common in the business world, where accurate, lightning-fast transactions are the norm.

President Obama has committed himself to transparency and accountability: He was co-sponsor of a 2006 federal law that created, which provides detailed federal spending lists, and the Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008 that addressed problems at

That's a start. And it only makes sense. If we’re going to promote democracy around the world, shouldn’t we also promote its health at home?

Bender is executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Helena, MT

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Big pig in the Capitol

Some folks think there are a lot of big pigs in the state Capitol. This morning, there was at least one.

The plump pink porker was brought on scene to bring attention to the latest study by the Grassroot Institute. The porcine pal wasn’t an actual oinker, but an anonymous person in a pink pig suit.

The 2009 Hawaii Pork Report is the conservative Hawaii-based advocacy group’s first attempt to put a dollar sign on what it sees as wasteful government spending.

The group worked with the Washington D.C.-based Citizens Against Government Waste, which has produced “piglet books” on about a dozen states in addition to its Congressional Pig Book.

“The 2009 Hawaii Pork Report is the first step in bringing fiscal sanity to the Aloha State," David Williams, Citizens Against Government Waste vice president for policy, said in a statement. “With an economic downturn it's important for government to get rid of unnecessary and ridiculous programs and evaluate those essential programs making government more efficient. Before taxpayers are asked for one more dime of their hard earned money, state and local governments need to rebuild the trust they've lost.”

Spending by state and local governments is under the microscope in Hawaii because of a projected $1.8 billion revenue shortfall over the current two-year budget cycle. Government officials will probably have plenty to say about this study, but hadn’t commented by press time.

“The only thing more shocking than the sheer amount of waste is the degree to which government officials will go to hide that waste,” Pearl Hahn, Grassroot Institute policy analyst and lead author of the study said in a statement. “This report gives dozens of examples of abuse of taxpayer dollars—but there are hundreds, if not thousands, more examples waiting to be found.”

Some examples from the report:

  • Between August 2005 and June 2008, the City and County of Honolulu spent $2.6 million in advertising to promote the 20-mile elevated rail transit project.
  • The City and County of Honolulu’s Handi-Van cost taxpayers $23.2 million in FY2007. Fares covered only 22 percent of the total operating costs of $24.8 million. In 2007, the average 5.7 mile one-way trip cost approximately $16.47 per passenger and required 24-hour notice. By comparison, a one-way passenger cab ride costs $13.68 and requires a mere five to 10 minutes notice.
  • The state Department of Agriculture spent $15,954.55 per Varroa mite on bees so far. Through 2007, more than $4 million in federal, state and county funds have been allocated to fight coqui frog infestation, but the population continues to grow.
  • The Child Support Enforcement Agency with the Office of the Attorney General has spent more than $3.5 million in state and federal but Hawaii ranks last in the
  • nation in collecting delinquent child support, with more than $500 million in payments outstanding.
  • The Department of Education spends $3.2 million per year to fund Hawaiian education programs where most of the employed kupuna cannot speak Hawaiian.48
  • The DOE budget grew from $972 million in FY 99-00 to $2.4 billion in FY 08-09, a 147-percent increase. Yet over this time period, Hawaii public school enrollment and test scores have decreased. Taxpayers are currently spending $14,000 per student in government schools—exceeding the tuition at elite private institutions such as Island Pacific Academy and Saint Louis School.
  • In all, the state is spending more than $1.5 million to restore the glass mosaic in the Capitol rotunda.
  • In June 2008, more than 600 state educators went on a taxpayer-funded trip to Orlando, Fla., at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort for the Model Schools Conference held by the International Center for Leadership in Education. The schools paid for airfare costs and provided the teachers with a $145 per diem stipend. In all, they spent $1.6 million.
  • The purpose of one state employee’s trip in October 2007 was for a “Hollywood Reporter/Hawaii TV Production Event” in Los Angeles. On top of a $600 airfare, the hotel stay was $385, car and taxi costs were $138 (not including $15 in gas and $84 in parking) and the per diem was $398.75 for a trip was for only one night.
  • Another employee, traveling to Los Angeles to attend the Grammy Awards in February 2008, racked up a hotel bill of $1,716. She also spent $382 on ground transportation and $150 for the Grammy ticket.