HGEA Powers Young’s Rejection

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - May 02, 2007
| Del.icio.us

So it’s the weekend before the Senate vote on Peter Young’s confirmation for another term as director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. I’m sitting on an Aiea lanai, beer in one hand, pupu in another.

My brilliant calabash nephew approaches - brilliant because he is just about the only adult in the state who gives my views any credence (I love the kid.)

Says he: “Uncle Dan, what’s going to happen on the Peter Young confirmation?”

Says I, after first rubbing my chin thoughtfully and swallowing my pupu: “Kokubun’s committee may vote against him, but that’s just to satisfy the whining HGEA members in DLNR. I’m sure the full Senate will confirm him.”

I speak, of course, with authority - as a columnizer and political pundit must. Never mind that my perspective on the Legislature is no closer than the Diamond Head parking lot of Leeward Community College, and that I sport a long and distinguished record for false predictions.

So last Tuesday I wander into the Senate gallery to watch the floor vote on Young. It isn’t even close; 15-8 against confirmation. Wrong again.

How can? The Hawaiian community and practically every environmental organization in the state testified in support of Young.

Members of those organizations plus Young, Gov. Lingle, a couple of her aides and some Republican stalwarts file out of the Senate chamber. They’re mad. They’re sad. They’re unbelieving.

A couple of the disenchanted speak to me, as deluded about my prescience as my calabash nephew. “What happened?” they ask. “Can you believe that?”

I believe, but there has to be more. I go upstairs, visit a few senators who cast “no” votes, and hear stories of a weakly led department with several dys-functional units - possibly even criminality in one of them.

But, of course, I also hear mention of Young’s failure to show the HGEA contract due respect. Barring criminality, therein undoubtedly rests the reason for rejecting Young.

Democrats must respect labor unions. They must. Just as Republicans must respect the wishes of right-to-lifers and gun enthusiasts, Democrats must genuflect when union leaders come around.

A lot of Democrats respect Hawaiians and environmental organizations as well, but weigh their wishes against those of the state employees union - whose members will vote for you, canvas for you, go to door-to-door for you, sign-wave for you, and give money to your campaign fund - and the HGEA will always get the nod.

Unions made the modern Democratic Party in Hawaii, and a higher percentage of Hawaii’s population belong to unions than any other state in the country.

And they will for the foreseeable future. So when a labor union speaks, elected Democrats will listen.

Will that ever change? Sure - when voters punish elected Democrats for hewing too closely to the union line, as on the Young confirmation vote.

Will any of those 15 Democrats who voted to reject Young’s reappointment fail to be elected? Don’t count on it. The Democrats certainly acted badly: closed hearings, possible conflict on the Senate president’s part, not allowing the governor to testify in support of her appointee. A lot of pilau there.

The Senate Democratic leadership talks of investigating irregularities at DLNR. Perhaps their findings will justify for the public the irregularities of the Young confirmation process.

Perhaps not. It probably does-n’t matter. The variety of odor engendered by the rejection of Peter Young is best smelled by noses in East Honolulu, Windward Oahu, maybe Manoa Valley. Few of the naysaying Dems come from those areas.

No, the 15 Democratic senators who voted “nay” look safe to me.

The only thing they have to worry about is my long record of bad predictions.

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