A Peek Inside The Capitol

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 25, 2012
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The square building on South Beretania is the most interesting structure on Oahu. Its open-air design is appropriately shaped like twin volcanoes surrounded by a reflective pool filled with tilapia frolicking in and out of a few wellplaced foundations.

That’s what meets the eye.

The real action is hidden underground, like the parking lot. Getting in and out of the state Capitol is a trick. More than a few reporters stake out the parking oval to see who is checking into the Capitol.

There is one private elevator for the governor on the diamondhead side of the basement lobby, and another on the ewa side as you pass by a legislative bulletin board that has all of the 24hour notices and Capitol agenda for the week.

It is also where the entrances to the House and Senate chambers are. If you have eyes in the back of your head, you can hang around the Capitol auditorium and figure out what’s going to be happening in the building.

Also tucked away from the public is Room 005. It is primarily designed to serve legislators and staff, but many services are available to the public, especially if you need to do some research to prepare testimony. The telephone number to this sacred place is 587-0009.

That’s were the “squareness” of the building ends.

There was a time when being “square” was a compliment, such as a square shooter. At least 75 percent of what happens at the state Capitol on a daily basis is hyperbole, almost mystical, cloaked in a protocol known only to the insiders.

Who should care?

Well, if you have a business organization, need commercial contracts, any kind of professional/vocational licensing, labor issues, property ownership or transfer questions and pay taxes, it’s worth your while to know how this building works.

It was former Maui Mayor and longtime Speaker of the House Elmer Cravalho who warned, “When the Legislature is in session, nobody’s life, welfare, property or money is safe.”

The Legislature has two bodies. The Senate has 25 members: 24 Democrats and one lonely Republican.

The House has 51 members, 43 Democrats and eight kind-of-lonely Republicans.

Together they have 60 days to enact any new laws. They dig through about 4,000 bills a year, which must pass three readings in each house on separate days to become law. Each one of the bills is limited to a single subject, so the titles are very broad.

All of the hocus-pocus happens in the committees. The sessions in the chambers are, generally speaking, ceremonial.

Don’t be frustrated, because most bills die in committee. Therefore, if you are going to make something happen at the square building, your biggest challenge is to get a chairperson to hear your bill. If the bill doesn’t have some supportive testimony, it’s dead.

Probably the most interesting action occurs in conference committee hearings, where all the deals are usually made.

This is where the square building loses it transparency.

Still, the Legislature is a very human institution, run by some very interesting individuals.

When inside the state Capitol, it’s a good idea to stop talking and listen, carefully, to everyone.

Government And The Work Force

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 18, 2012
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Workers in America are fortunate compared to many others around the world. That’s a wellknown fact. One of the reasons is our government, management and labor leaders are constantly trying to improve workers’ environment.

As we get ready to launch a new legislative session, there is much concern that management will intensify its desire to avoid any further unionization, to remove unions and limit their benefits, and try to minimize their effectiveness in the work force. Conversely, unions rarely try to eliminate a unionized employer, because before that happens they will just close their doors. Look what happened with two fine hospitals, Hawaii Medical Center East and West, which put 900 employees on the street.

Just last week a longtime strong corporate citizen, Tesoro, announced it would be getting out of Hawaii. The San Antoniobased company told its 550 local employees it was selling its Hawaii operations lock, stock and barrel. Tesoro Corporation owns the largest oil refinery in the Islands, a chain of 32 gas stations and as many as 20 attached convenience stores.

What’s going on? On one hand, we are talking about creating more jobs, and on the other, we’re not trying to save two hospitals or keep a highly respectable energy corporation in Hawaii.

As the Hawaii State Teachers Association went into a ratification vote last week, where the outcome was not certain, the state was explaining how to apply for “Directed Leave Without Pay Days” for union members. It seems furloughs have a new name.

In Japan a few years ago, a Toyota engineer who died from working too many hours was awarded compensation. The man was 45 years old. He worked on the Toyota Camry line.

In the two months up to his death, the engineer averaged more than 80 hours of overtime per month! Now, the Health Ministry, which has recognized this phenomenon called karoshi that has been going since 1987, is allowing the man’s family to collect his work insurance benefits.

Most recently, a huge company in China, Foxconn, with more than 800,000 employees, has been forced to take measures to improve workers’ lives in the wake of a mass suicide threat over working conditions and wages. Foxconn manufactures electronic products for companies such as Dell, Hewlett Packard and Sony. It has set up a 24-hour help line and brought in Buddhist monks to offer spiritual consolation.

When you look at our place in the global work force, you can see we are pretty lucky. But the desire to increase sales and limit costs to increase profits is still alive in Hawaii.

Outsourcing and cutting workers’ benefits are likely to be hot topics in the Legislature.

Paying For A Lost-prone Sailor

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 11, 2012
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Lt. Leigh Cotterell, spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard, had the quote of 2012. He was speaking about a 66-year-old Seattle sailor who was reported missing in the Pacific Ocean while attempting to sail from Kauai to Oahu.

The Coast Guard searched more than 200,000 square miles for the man. After a week, the Coast Guard suspended its search. The drama escalated as the family remained hopeful that he would be found.

Well, he was found. Winds apparently pushed his boat outside the Coast Guard search zone. He was in good shape and was surprised to hear about the massive effort to find him.

This prompted Cotterell to issue this memorable quote: “It’s pretty unusual. We don’t normally suspend searches and then have someone show up the next day.”

The Coast Guard is reviewing the search to see whether any lessons can be learned. One lesson is pretty simple for taxpayers: “How much did the massive four-day, around-the-clock search cost?” Right now, nobody knows or, probably more accurate, nobody wants to say. Air and sea emergency services are expensive.

The sailor is on the Big Island now preparing his boat for the trip back to Seattle.

I don’t know anything about sailing, but I do know about paying taxes, and I have a few suggestions for the government to consider.

Because we are a resort destination, it makes sense that visitors who are not familiar with Hawaii’s waters should not be allowed to just take off for a destination without special equipment on board. Nothing really expensive, maybe something simple, like a compass. After all, when you are on Kauai and headed for Oahu and end up off the Big Island, you need direction, especially with high winds and huge waves on the horizon. Why not invest in a GPS cell phone?

Even more frustrating is the testimony from his mother, who said 30 years ago he was lost trying to get from Fiji to Hawaii.

I asked a few seasoned skippers about the 66-year-old sailor’s challenge, because he’s preparing to sail back to Seattle. I learned that in Hawaii you don’t have to submit a plan of your trip in advance so that everyone who may have to search for you knows where you were attempting to go.

Airplanes have flight plans and so do cargo vessels, so why not recreational craft?

But then, it is a free country and our sailor has a right to sail off into the wild blue yonder. That said, if you wander off your compass heading for whatever reason, the taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for your hobby gone terribly wrong.

I hope they send this adventurous sailor a bill from the U.S. Coast Guard.

I personally will track his voyage back to Seattle, and I’m not taking any bets that he’ll make it back in one piece without assistance.

Mr. Kawamoto, Kokua Hawaii

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 04, 2012
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I was amused by the state’s announcement that it is cracking down on property owners whose landscapes encroach on public rights of way. The opposite is usually the case, isn’t it? The public encroaches on the property owners.

Nine Kahala beachfront property owners got notices asking them to cut their vegetation within a week or face a fine of $1,000. These are very expensive homes between Kahala Beach Park and the Hunakai Street public beach access. The homeowners could have to pay $2,000 if they receive a second notice.

What makes this even more comical is that, of the nine properties issued notices in Kahala, six are owned by billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto! I can’t remember how many times over the past years he has been warned by the state of Hawaii to landscape or repair his properties in the Kahala area, but to date I have not heard that he complied with any of the warnings.

I just happened to be driving down Iwilei Road on Christmas day and noticed all the homeless camps along the fence separating an industrial parking lot from the street. There is no sidewalk, no lights, no sprinklers an absolute “no-man’s land.” They did have something eye-catching: two Christmas trees. No lights, but they were decorated quite nicely.

I thought, how neat. As down and out as some of them are, they put up a Christmas tree. That’s more than you can say about billionaire Kawamoto, who is not willing to have someone mow his grass so the public can find the beachfront.

People have a tendency to expect homeowners in the Kahala area to endure all kinds of hardships because they live in an upscale district. The obvious question is, how much in taxes does a homeowner in Kahala have to pay to get a little respect? They have to endure Honolulu Marathons, the Sony Open and a number of bike races during the year with a smile, and then put up with Kawamoto’s immunity to the laws everyone else obeys in the neighborhood.

If we can Kokua Japan, he can Kokua Hawaii.

Don’t Be Driven By Fear Of Failure

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 28, 2011
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Failure is probably one of the most-feared words in Hawaii’s fragile economic environment. Too many people seem to be afraid to try new ideas or dump the old ones that haven’t worked.

I’m sure everyone has known managers who are so worried about failing they don’t want to take a risk on a new idea. These managers identify their presence with the repeated words, “Yes, but ...” No matter what kind of idea comes up in a meeting or is suggested by a rival department, the reply is, “Yes, but that won’t work.”

This kind of closed environment discourages innovation, and any inspiration to explore new ideas is dead on arrival. Say “yes, but” to every new idea and before you know it no employee will try to offer an inspirational thought, innovation will come to a standstill and diversity in the company will dwindle.

There are numerous managers who are afraid of losing out on opportunities. Graduate schools of business are full of them. They are all looking for that “aha!” moment of insight that will guide them to their next great innovation.

The really big question is how to change that way of thinking. One of the most popular techniques taught in business schools is rapid brainstorming. No concern for wild new ideas, allowing employees to go from abstract thoughts to something more concrete so they can visualize the outcomes of their ideas. The idea is to train your brain to associate failure with pleasure.

This actually happens all the time in business, because when management cuts resources, the brain becomes desperate to find a solution. Necessity then becomes the mother of invention.

The point is, don’t be afraid to fail. It’s all about managing scarcity that is part of just about every business these days.

So don’t worry about two of our hospitals closing, the amazing rise in the cost of health care and pay cuts for public employees. We still managed to build two not one, two 55,000gallon pools for our two Indian elephants to frolic in at the Honolulu Zoo. Our public schools may be collapsing, the potholes are taking over roadways and every week another water main explodes.

Not to worry, an important election is almost here and that’s an opportunity for change.

Marathon Lessons

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 21, 2011
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Hawaii has a lot to offer the world of business, although there are many people, including those in office in Washington, D.C., who insinuate that Hawaii is not a place to engage in serious business. For that reason I believe people who work in Hawaii’s resort community have developed a unique pitch for doing business here. There are many examples, but a couple have achieved top ratings over the years.

A classic model is the growth and well-being of the Honolulu Marathon. Every year the marketing is escalated to the breaking point, and many companies would be smart to take a page out of the Honolulu Marathon marketing plan. It deserves a name, and I like the term “bundling.”

On the surface, the Honolulu Marathon is a foot race, but it is a dream for tourism. The marathon’s target market the Japanese come in droves to pay to run 26 miles and be awarded a T-shirt! Talk about a low overhead.

This year, 23,000 runners registered for the race, and with all the action leading up to the actual run, it’s expected to bring $110 million to the state’s economy. The top runners take just more than two hours to complete the race, and some runner/walkers take more than nine hours, but it feels good because it is a tangible accomplishment.

The race starts in the dark at Aloha Tower and ends with a beautiful shot of Waikiki Beach in the background. With the exception of the accompanying traffic congestion, there is very little downside to the race, even though the winners are usually from Kenya, Ethiopia or some other faraway land. It all adds to the mystique of running in a marathon, which by the way is usually the last contest at the Olympics. This is not a contest, it’s a dream come true for anyone who has participated and rightfully so, because it takes a lot of preparation to complete the challenge.

What’s interesting is that others in the tourism industry have not followed the example set by Honolulu Marathon’s organizers, who have managed to bundle a foot race with a tourism package that everyone accepts with open arms to make a lot of money for our economy. If people don’t believe that sports tourism is a good deal for Hawaii, then they’d better wake up and smell the facts: Sports in Hawaii is good business for the state’s tourism industry. Maybe they should appoint Honolulu Marathon president and CEO Jim Barahal to the Tourism Authority and use the same bundling to bring other tourism-related events to Hawaii.

Don’t Believe Everything

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 14, 2011
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There are a lot of things to believe in this time of year, but there are a lot of things not to believe in as well.

Everyone appears to be in the holiday spirit, smiling and shopping for things to put under the Christmas tree. Of course, you can’t leave the Christmas tree lights on too long these days because the cost of electricity is unreasonably high.

There is a belief that the Honolulu Police Department doesn’t have a quota for its officers during the holidays so the population can relax and feel the joy. That’s just not true. In fact, they are more strict on lawbreakers at this time of year.

Nonprofit groups are trying to raise money to alleviate the suffering of residents with youngsters and seniors going to sleep hungry because they don’t have any income. The homeless don’t have a marketing department, but they seem to find ways to get their message out. For example, HPD was called Dec. 7 to investigate an alleged attack on the homeless occupying the sidewalks along North King Street. A complaint was filed by a 52-year-old homeless man, who claims he heard a noise at 3 a.m. and, when he got out of his tent, he saw a sedan speeding away and a bottle with a odor on the ground. HPD arrived immediately and the area was blocked off by the fire department’s Hazardous Material Unit. HPD blocked off side streets. It took all morning for the “acidic fluid” to be analyzed, traffic was snarled and residents in the area were unhappy. HPD initiated a “reckless endangering” and “manufacture of a prohibitive device” investigation.

The news was released: HPD closed King Street after “acidic fluid” had been thrown at homeless campers.

Meanwhile, back at City Hall, the City Council was in the process of voting on Bill 54, which would ban furniture, clothing and other personal property on sidewalks and in parks.

What a coincidence. Almost instantly, city administration says the bill is necessary to deal with items left in public places. All swear that it’s not the intent of the bill. The major concern of some City Council members was where the money to implement it will come from. Whose budget would take the financial hit, HPD, HFD or the Department of Parks and Recreation?

By noon, the word was split. Half of taxpayers wanted the homeless moved to shelters while the other half wanted more compassion shown for the homeless. It’s not the kind of story you want dominating the minds of hardworking taxpayers in the holiday season. Capturing headlines at this time of year has become an art form.

One thing you should know is that it is almost impossible to throw an open bottle of anything with any accuracy from a speeding car, let alone a 52-year-old waking up at 3 a.m., leaping from his tent and observing a speeding car fleeing the scene.

The point is, don’t be too gullible during the holiday season because there are those out there trying to take advantage of innocent citizens’ goodwill.

The Season Of Beautiful Lights

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 07, 2011
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Hawaii produces a lot of great spectacles during the holidays.

Many of them are thanks to the unselfish efforts of residents who go through hours of tedious decorating so their homes will send the message of Christmas cheer.

These islanders decorate their homes and yards with an array of lights that can be seen for miles.

They are, to say the least, heartwarming.

It makes you wonder what their motivation is and why it’s important to them year after year. I guess it could be a family tradition.

One thing is for sure, it’s a nice gesture, especially since there is no snow to signal that the Christmas season is upon us.

It must make political sense, since the officials at Honolulu Hale put up a giant tree donated by a Honolulu resident and cover it with lights and other ornaments, and wrap it all in a Honolulu festival with music and tours of the grounds.

Residents and visitors alike come from far and wide to take pictures and get in the mood. One of the reasons the city does it is because it improves its public image.

It’s nice to see how the private businesses decorate their office buildings all along King Street, past Iolani Palace to the Fasi Municipal Building. The crowds that show up are proof positive it has the desired effect on the public.

Probably the least appreciated display during the Christmas season is the illuminated Christmas tree that goes up every year on the face of Tripler Army Medical Center. It is massive and can be seen for miles in every direction.

Tripler is the headquarters of the Pacific Regional Medical Command of the armed forces administered by the U.S. Army. It is the largest military hospital in the Asian and Pacific Rim region, serving a military sphere of jurisdiction that spans more than half of the Earth’s surface.

It’s located on the slopes of Moanalua Ridge above Salt Lake. You can’t miss it because it is coral pink.

There is little question it is a very special place in Hawaii.

A local landscape architect designed the grounds to work in concert with the medical center to create a “place of solace” for U.S. soldiers to recuperate both emotionally and physically.

Tripler was officially dedicated Sept. 10, 1948, and has more than 1,000 hospital beds. It is a huge, important facility right here in Hawaii and pretty much goes unnoticed. Yet it is a city unto itself, performing lifesaving procedures every day. The Christmas tree is a symbol of Tripler’s aloha for our servicemen and women and the community.

When APEC was in town, I was disappointed that the president didn’t take a moment to stop by Tripler to say hello to some of the patients. It would have been a proud moment for staff and management. Hopefully he can squeeze it in on his next visit.

So as you enjoy the season and are driving on the freeway past Tripler, blow them a kiss for taking such good care of our military.

And by all means enjoy the Christmas tree. It really is beautiful.

Drowning In Water Main Breaks

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 30, 2011
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I’m sure nobody is counting, but water main breaks are becoming a daily routine.

Residents and motorists in East Honolulu woke up last week to not one, but two separate water main breaks. Honolulu Board of Water Supply crews were repairing a 24-inch main on Kalanianaole Highway, east of Keahole Street in Hawaii Kai. The ruptured main left Koko Headbound lanes on Kalanianaole Highway closed for hours. Maunalua Bay Beach Park was left without water.

If that wasn’t enough, Kuliouou Road also was closed between Wakine Place and Keoki Place, where a crew worked on a 12-inch water main break. Traffic had to be rerouted onto Elelupe Road. Residents were left without water and had to seek out a water wagon in an area near the break site.

And if that wasn’t enough, a Board of Water Supply crew in Mililani worked around the clock to repair a broken 16-inch water main on Meheula Parkway at the busy Kuahelani Avenue intersection near the H-2 freeway interchange.

Southbound lanes on Meheula Parkway and both westbound lanes on Kuiahelani Avenue were closed all day and finally reopened the next morning. It was chaos, and water was all over the streets.

The obvious question is, what’s going on with our water main system? Or could this be the “lifetime employment plan” for the C&C in Honolulu?

It seems like we are averaging a water main break a week all over Oahu. Could our system be that old and unmaintained?

If any of these breaks had occurred with the APEC summit was in town, it would have been disastrous. Imagine if the water mains in Waikiki had chosen to rupture when all those world leaders were here.

One has to wonder where the money for all the overtime is coming from. The poor Board of Water Supply maintenance crews must be exhausted from all the overtime work. For the public, it’s the uncertainty about which water main is going to explode next. It’s so unpredictable.

Maybe what we need is a schedule to update water mains on Oahu before they rupture. I mean, if we can spend millions on APEC, why can’t we spend some major bucks on maintaining our water mains?

It seems like the smart thing to do: Maintain them before they break, not afterward.

APEC Winners And Losers

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 23, 2011
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To the amazement of many residents, the APEC summit went off without a hitch. And while the organizers are still talking about what a great deal it was for Hawaii, a lot of residents disagree.

In this type of situation, there are winners and losers. The political contention that Hawaii is ready for the “Big Time” is kind of comical. The truth is that Hawaii has always been ready for the big time, but some of its people have not.

Just a few observations:

First and foremost, padlocking the gates to Iolani Palace was a mistake. With the Akaka Bill floundering in Congress and OHA racking up millions in grants from the federal government while the Fed is locked in battle over military training rights at Pohakuloa and Makua Valley and building another world-class telescope atop Mauna Kea, we were, in the words of our leaders, showing the world we are ready for serious business. When all is said and done, as long as Diamond Head remains standing, Hawaii will be a world-class resort destination. It’s pretty obvious that a portion of the Hawaiian community doesn’t want anything to do with tourism, their special visas, or increased air travel. They want retribution, back rent and their own judicial system.

Second is the state of the homeless population. A new report shows that after five years of increases, the number of people who used homeless shelters or were helped by outreach services leveled off and may have even dropped slightly last year. The UH Center on the Family released the shocking numbers, declaring that of the 3,000 or so homeless people who used an emergency homeless shelter last year, 446 people went on to rent or own homes. That’s not bad for a group treated like a political football. Let’s face it, there is a big difference between a new home and a new location. Some residents work all their lives and can’t afford to own a home.

Third, law enforcement personnel and other first responders who worked APEC must be smiling broadly with all the overtime they racked up. Those in government who count how many stories were reported around the world also are smiling, although the television people have been doing the same thing to impress us with how many people see Hawaii because of the popular crime series Hawaii Five-0.

Lastly, it should be abundantly clear by now that Hawaii’s commuting population does not care what caused the traffic congestion, they don’t care who was in the limos or where they were going, traffic is not to be tolerated. It should be a good warning for builders of our state-of-the-art mass rail system: Traffic congestion for any reason on the Ewa plains is bad news.

Still, APEC was handled well by government officials, and we can all rest assured they will keep reminding us, at least until the next election, how well they performed. We also can rest assured that the people who lost money because of APEC will want to be reimbursed. Yes, the state will be counting the added revenue and figuring out where to spend it, but you can bet it won’t be on reimbursing any small businesses.

All in all, the aloha spirit survived APEC, even if the aloha shirts didn’t.

Protesters Didn’t Stand A Chance

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 16, 2011
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It is really quite impressive that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference went off without many hitches. When you have 50 percent of the world’s economies in one place, obviously anything can happen.

But, at least by press time, it didn’t.

One observation: Delegations had so much security at their command, not just in the number of security personnel but also concrete barricades and restricted pedestrian and vehicle traffic that protesters were outgunned from the beginning.

Other things being equal, when power is unequal the most powerful party can achieve his or her goals more readily.

Power imbalance in negotiations can represent clear dangers to the satisfaction of the needs of both parties and to the collaborative process. Taking that into consideration, the protesters trying to impress or disrupt the conference should not be upset. This was a mismatch.

A couple of concerns for the protesters to consider.

First, high-powered parties tend to pay little heed to the needs of low-powered parties, who either don’t get their needs met or use disruptive, attention-getting tactics that make collaboration very difficult.

Second, and probably more importantly, low-powered groups are not usually in a position to trigger and advance an integrative process. A problem-solving approach requires a tolerance of change and flexibility, which often requires negotiators to give up some control over outcomes.

It’s going to take a while for all the factions to divide up the credit for such a momentous, historic conference, but it will all end up with a scorecard of who won and who lost.

It seemed clear from the beginning that Hawaii was going to be the clear winner in this showdown between organizers an protesters. Both state and city did their homework and were ready for just about any contingency. They deserve kudos.

The APEC conference had not even opened for business, and many detractors dug deep down and came up with an elderly gripe. The convention center was built in the wrong place.

Old-timers will remember the lengthy discussion about whether it should be in Waikiki at the International Market Place or on Kapiolani and Kalakaua.

Well, they can put that argument to rest. The convention center proved it was built in the right place.

Probably unwittingly, the APEC organizers used a very successful tactic in dealing with ultimatums. It is called the “farpoint gambit” after the name of a Star Trek episode.

The success of the gambit hangs on the ability to say, “Yes, but ...” to an ultimatum. The “Yes, but” part of responding to numerous ultimatums was, “Yes, but it’s a great showcase for Hawaii and everything it has to offer, and we generated a lot of revenue in the process.”

And that is what happened. Yes, the traffic was horrific, but it was worth it.

Opening Our Doors To APEC

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 09, 2011
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By now, I guess everyone in Hawaii has heard that the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is coming to Hawaii for a globally significant meeting hosted by the President Barrack Obama.

I’m not sure what’s on the agenda, but the impression is that everyone is supposed to be on their best behavior. Parks have been groomed, the homeless population has been relocated, potential protesters have been advised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on how to legally protest, coconut trees have been planted on medial strips, and the airport has never looked so good. All we need now is the leaders and their people to arrive, and little Hawaii will be all over the global media 24 hours a day.

The word is this group of APEC leaders and their entourages will leave a considerable amount of their money in Hawaii, and if treated correctly may send many more of their countrymen to Hawaii.

This is going to be quite a challenge because there are a couple of possible thorns in the plan.

There are a couple of groups who think prostitution will increase dramatically once the delegates arrive. Problem is, some of the countries attending the conference allow prostitution. So do we arrest them or deport them? I’m sure we’ll have more undercover sting operations than necessary to quell any uprising.

There is also the question of an influx of illegal immigrant labor arising by people from less developed countries entering a more affluent country to seek employment. These illegal immigrants are likely to work for wages lower than those paid to citizens with in a country.

Additionally, these illegals are paid in cash, and therefore avoid paying taxes on their earned income. This raises the question of unfairness by those who play by the rules and pay taxes or who wait around for their turn to enter the country legally.

Problems occur when illegal immigrants are exploited by unscrupulous employers who may not provide safe working conditions or force them to work excessive hours beyond what is permitted in a host country.

Simply put, these people are easily taken advantage of.

It’s going to be interesting watching all the delegations arrive. It’s also going to be interesting watching them leave and what kind of problems they leave in their wake.

We shouldn’t have too many problems, afterall, we are a resort town that specializing in spreading our aloha spirit to tourists.

We’ve done it before, and every one should expect us to do it again.

A Bumpy Ride For Neil’s Canoe

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 02, 2011
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The latest political show has been in the governor’s court.

Earlier this year Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced he wanted all members of the Stadium Authority to resign. Some did, and some did not, and regardless the University of Hawaii football season commenced and things settled down.

Then state Civil Defense vicedirector Ed Teixeira resigned over a power play involving “a change of direction” that he did not feel comfortable with. That shocker was followed by the resignation of four important, high-ranking members of the governor’s team, including his longtime chief of staff, who said they resigned to “spend more time with their families.” His Human Resources director, Sunshine Topping, has since joined Hawaiian Airlines as director of recruiting.

There are still a number of judicial battles going on with the HSTA and other unions fighting the governor’s “last, best offer.” The good news there is he doesn’t have to testify in the trial, which is sure to drag on for awhile.

While the governor was fielding questions about resignations in his cabinet, in a push to impress members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the homeless population that would be visible to the visiting delegates was being rousted. The governor’s office says his latest action against the homeless was not a “sweep,” but the culmination of months of planning with homeless and their advocates to improve their circumstances. Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation, with help from the Honolulu Police Department, said it was relocating the homeless camps as they reappear every six months. Each sweep excuse me, relocation will cost the city about $200,000!

With all this momentum building, the governor decided it was a good time to go to the Conference of Governors in China to make friends and tout the blessings more visitors from China would mean in dollars to Hawaii, with members of the Hawaii Tourism Authority in full support.

While he was in China, protesters were preparing their assault on the APEC conference, and security measures are being planned every day. They even got a warning from Mayor Peter Carlisle about obeying the law.

Meanwhile, a Public Policy Polling survey this month mysteriously fell from out of nowhere, timed perfectly to appear on Abercrombie’s return from China, and he immediately scheduled a news conference to talk about his victorious China vacation. To no one’s surprise, the poll put the governor’s job approval rating at 30 percent, the lowest approval rating of any governor in the nation. When you consider what the poll was measuring, who asked the questions and the reliability of the poll, it’s clear it was all part of the plan. The governor humbly accepted the blame for his administration’s missteps, and said he would like to be judged on how he delivers on his policy approach to the homeless situation and work force housing in the “fourth quarter” of his service.

So, all of those resignations came at a good time, China’s in the bag, the homeless policy is working, and maybe the governor will lead the protesters to the Convention Center to mingle with the leaders and his friend President Obama. Nothing to worry about, it’s all part of the plan: a little guy fighting for the masses.

And remember, he’s not your friend, he’s the governor. And don’t worry about the canoe that went huli. A kayak will do for now.

Stopping Bullying At The Source

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 26, 2011
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Bullying has garnered national coverage after recent suicides by young people who suffered torment at the hands of bullies. The state Department of Education has always been concerned about bullying and has formulated plans to deal with the issue and with the bullies themselves.

Actually, it’s a popular educational research topic.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), bullying is one of the criteria of a conduct disorder. It stipulates that a person with a conduct disorder demonstrates “aggression to people or animals” which includes “engaging in frequent bullying and threatening.”

Generally, these behaviors are displayed at home, in school, in the workplace and in neighborhoods.

People learn bullying behaviors from various sources. A dysfunctional home setting where abuse occurs might contribute to a child being subjected to bullying and then becoming one. Bullying also can be learned from peers or associates. Even cartoons sometimes characterize bullying, such as in the Popeye cartoons where Pluto exhibited aggression toward Popeye.

These are just a few examples of how people, especially impressionable children, are exposed to bullying.

What can be done to stop bullying and promote better forms of behaviors and problem-solving?

First, the home situation must be analyzed. That is the primary venue in which children can be taught appropriate methods of dealing with others.

Yes, bullying is learned behavior. Parents must exhibit appropriate social behavior within the home environment. Parents need to notice if their children are aggressive toward them or other family members, abusive toward peers or animals, have difficulty maintaining relationships or display other forms of antisocial behaviors.

These are only a few of the “red flags” of bullying behavior.

You can rest assured that schoolteachers, counselors and staff are aware of bullying behaviors in children and, in some cases, even staff members, who revert to earlier bullying behavior to get their way in the office environment. It is a responsibility that all members of the teaching profession must deal with because the “bully” causes unnecessary harm and damage to schoolmates or other staff members. Sometimes, treatment plans involve outside agencies that can provide services beyond those the schools can offer.

Bullying should not be tolerated, and more people need to spread the word.

The Unwinnable ‘War On Drugs’

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 19, 2011
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Hard to believe but true, a summit is scheduled for Oct. 27 and 28 in Honolulu that will bring top drug prosecutors from around the world and across the nation to the shores of Waikiki. It’s called the Hawaii International Drug Trafficking Summit, and the agenda is to discuss the global impact of drug trafficking.

Prosecutors from Guatemala, India and the Philippines will be here along with district attorneys from California to New York. It’s being sponsored by the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney and the National District Attorneys Association. A report from the summit is expected to be presented at next year’s meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

I remember when President Richard Nixon coined the term “War on Drugs” in 1971.

In June 2011, The Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report on the War on Drugs, declaring, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

Don’t expect any great revelations from the summit meeting. The Obama administration won’t even use the term “War on Drugs” because the president claims it is “counter-productive,” although the Office of National Drug Control Policy believes that “drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated, and the idea of making drugs more available will only make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe (2011).”

It’s enough to make a struggling taxpayer wonder where the money will come from for a public program that is not a “war” anymore. The record shows that this “war” has been going on in the United States since 1860!

In 1920, the United States passed the National Prohibition Act along with the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol for consumption on a national level. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was created, and it operated out of the Department of the Treasury by an act of Congress in 1930.

In 1933, the federal prohibition of alcohol was repealed. It didn’t take long for government leaders to start asking for financial aid to fight narcotic trafficking, and it hasn’t stopped since.

The laws passed by Congress have not worked. The record shows that in 2008, 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug offenses and 500,000 were imprisoned. Marijuana constitutes almost half of all drug arrests. A 2008 study by Harvard economist Jeffery A. Miron estimates that legalizing drugs would inject $76.8 billion a year into the U.S. economy $44.1 billion would come from law enforcement savings!

So what’s the point? There seem to be rumblings at the Capitol that maybe it’s time to consider legalizing marijuana since the “war” is not succeeding and it’s costing a small fortune in the process. Why else would you have such a magnificent conference of experts in paradise when they already know what the general findings will be?

Time will tell if this is merely a continuation of an old debate.

Cops, Protests And The ACLU

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 12, 2011
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In a strange twist of reality, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that it wanted better training for Honolulu police on how to handle protesters before next month’s AsiaPacific Economic

for protesters. We’ve already spent a lot of money sprucing up our roads, median strips and homeless depots, but spending a lot more money to teach our law enforcement personnel how to handle protesters is going a little bit too far.

During recent protests around town it seems obvious that groups know how to protest and others don’t.

The “information picket line” in Waikiki protesting inadequate wages, outsourcing and an unsympathetic management team seemed to be well-educated, and though the protest was in busy Waikiki, the police had no trouble keeping order.

On the other hand, a Waikiki protest over gender discrimination was poorly organized with a few students getting arrested.

What did they do wrong? First and foremost, they didn’t seem to know what they were there for. If they did, they would have been at a different location. They obviously staged their pseudo protest in Waikiki hoping to drum up a lot of attention and people. In wellorganized projects, the protesters bring their own people. A few people running around Waikiki topless is not that outrageous.

If a protest is well-organized, it demonstrates a visible profile for spectators to observe. It’s a form of education, like the women’s right to vote protests, gay rights and union workers.

Protest are not always negative. They can help build networks, are not always an example of extreme activity, and are not necessarily against the law.

Laws governing protesting are quite clear. Since HPD has a head start on how to handle protesters, it might be a good idea for the ACLU to give some seminars to groups planning to protest and disrupt the next month’s APEC conference.

We’ve seen how new technology has made protesting an art form with the rallying of large groups using the “flash mob” technique on Facebook and Twitter.

It will be interesting, because the ACLU knows right now how many groups are going to be protesting at the conference and won’t say.

But it would be foolhardy for them to believe HPD isn’t prepared to respond to any contingency that attempts to harass, intimidate or disrupt the conference.

One quick free tip for the would-be protestors: If the police on duty and not all of them will have on uniforms tells you to stop and desist, please do.

You will save us all a lot of tax dollars.

Why Training Is Vital To Businesses

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 05, 2011
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Just about everything has a flow pattern. Disturb the pattern, and daily living can become frustrating. Most of this depends on maintaining the flow it’s the hallmark of good management. It is a task that managers ignore at their peril. Having high-potential employees doesn’t guarantee they’ll succeed. Somehow they must know what management wants them to do and how it wants them to do it. If they don’t, new employees will improvise or worse yet, do nothing useful at all.

The whole flow idea begins with the orientation program. Training comes directly after the orientation, and if it’s not done adequately, it will expose employers to serious liability. It’s clear from case law that where an employer fails to adequately train and the employee does harm to third parties, the court will find the employer liable.

Training programs are supposed to support their firms’ strategic goals. Establishing a link between the learning objectives and the organization’s goals and objectives has always been a pressing issue facing people charged with training employees.

If you want to do something interesting, observe a new employee being trained. I had occasion to ride in an ambulance the other day, and was impressed with how the drivers were able to convince casual motorists to get out of the way and allow the ambulance to deposit its fare to the appropriate place. And while the driver was professionally tooting his horn and trying to avoid disinterested motorists, one of the attendants was apologizing for his difficulty in inserting the all-important IV device. He kept saying, “I’m not very good at this, people at the hospital are a lot better at it than I am.” I told him to relax and go with the flow, just act like you know how, no one will know the difference.

About a week later I almost got run off the road by a misguided motorist who had a big sign on the automobile: “STUDENT DRIVER.” I automatically said a quick prayer for the instructor who was hanging onto the dashboard. I gave him a mini shaka sign to let him know there was no foul, there was no harm.

My next adventure was at the bank. With a long line of depositors in front of me I noticed there was one teller who had a sign that declared that he was a TRAINEE. He was doing a good job, especially at making everyone feel welcome. It is quite amazing how out of the 15 people in line and only six tellers working the floor, the customers who are in a rush with a difficult transaction will draw the trainee. Customers have to go with the flow too.

Leaving the bank, I encountered an extended bus with a big sign on its side, DRIVER TRAINEE. I thought to myself: Good, everyone is training their employees today. The bus driver was being trained by another driver riding in the seat behind the driver, pointing out all the do’s and don’ts of the route.

It’s kind of strange, but it appears that motorists tend to make quicker room for a bus to enter a crowded lane than an ambulance with a siren and blinking red lights. Guess the bus is bigger.

It seems everyone is training someone. Even the state Supreme Court took a long time to reject a request by the Hawaii State Teachers Association saying it couldn’t compel the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to rule quickly on whether teachers deserve immediate relief from a new two-year contract imposed by the state. It did rule that the teachers may exercise their right to strike once the prohibited practices complaint is resolved. Makes you wonder who’s responsible for training all these bureaucrats to comprehend the state Constitution and collective bargaining laws that have been around since 1969.

Obviously, being elected or appointed doesn’t mean trained.

Those Vanishing Pension Plans

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 28, 2011
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No one wants to wake up and discover that his or her pension has vanished.

For that reason there are federal laws to regulate pension planning and administration. The problem is that it’s next to impossible to formulate a plan without expert help.

Anyone with a pension should be aware of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1975 (ERISA).

It is the basic law and requires that employers have written pension plan documents and adhere to certain guidelines regarding who is eligible for the employer’s plan and at what point the employer’s contribution becomes the employee’s.

This law is very tricky.

It says specifically that those in charge of the plan must control it in a responsible manner.

The Department of Labor says that the primary responsibility of fiduciaries is to run the plan solely in the interest of participants and beneficiaries.

Employers want their pension contributions be qualified or tax deductible, suggesting they adhere to the pertinent income tax codes.

Furthermore, under labor relations laws, the employer must let its union participate in the administration of the pension plans.

ERISA established the Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation (PBCG) to oversee and insure a pension if a plan terminates without sufficient funds up to $54,000 per year for someone 65 years of age with a plan that terminated in 2009.

What this means is highincome workers could still see most of their expected pensions evaporate if their employers go bankrupt.

With all of the government laws and good intentions to protect employees’ pensions, there is a lot going on these days that challenge those good intentions.

A good example is union leaders in Detroit, who are recommending that General Motors’ 48,500 factory workers approve a new four-year contract.

Problem is the agreement includes a $5,000 signing bonus and improved profit-sharing instead of hourly pay raises for most workers.

It comes up for a vote next week.

Mind you, General Motors received a $15 billion bailout to keep it out of bankruptcy. The union leadership might want to take a quick public relationship course and not use our well-intended labor laws, and consider the employees who don’t have a lot of discretionary money to pay for another bailout for companies that are “too big to fail.”

The major concern here is that not everyone belongs to a powerful union like the United Auto Workers.

And if other smaller unions follow suit and start asking for not only protection for their pensions, but a bonus for going along with the government’s concessions and re-election rhetoric, it’s pretty obvious that the law needs to be updated.

A Few Tips On The Use Of Horns

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 21, 2011
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For responding police officers, this 911 call must have been like a scene from a television cartoon. A man honked his horn impatiently at a car ahead of him at a drive-thru restaurant in Kahala last week. The driver of the car who got “honked” got out of his vehicle and physically assaulted the ‘honker.” The police were called and they arrested the “honkee” for unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, and released him pending further investigation.

This incident is worthy of note by motorists in Hawaii, because it doesn’t happen very often and there is a lot to be learned from what happened, especially if you have driven in places like Japan, New York, Paris and Rome, to name a few. In these places, the motorist’s horn is a weapon and they blow it for every little thing. If you’ve lived in Europe or Asia for a time, one of the first things you will notice when you come back to Hawaii is that very seldom is a honking horn heard. People appear to drive with Aloha.

OK, there’s a difference between the highways and byways and a drive-thru at a fast food restaurant in Kahala. It’s not the kind of place you’d hear screeching brakes or see flashing blue police vehicles. A drive-thru at a restaurant is not like the zip lane on a freeway. There are no stop signs or speed limits to worry about. It’s strictly stop-and-go traffic. No motorist ever gets a ticket for driving too slow or speeding through a drive-thru. No one gets cited for following too close or changing lanes illegally or crossing a double line. So what happened?

Obviously, the case will work its way to the Supreme Court in a couple of years and the Legislature will consider passing a bill making it unlawful to honk your horn at any and all drive-thru restaurants. Motorists charged under this new ordinance could be required to take the same roadside tests used on suspected drunken drivers. If found guilty by the test, the motorist would be fined 1,000 Big Macs and one-year probation, where the motorist would have to do 500 hours of community service at a Ronald McDonald House.

In fact, honking your horn is discouraged in all driver education programs unless a honking horn will warn a fellow motorist of impending danger. There’s a lot more to the psychology behind this incident that deserves observation.

The cause for this behavior probably has more to do with an impatient motorist having a bad day. It was not over slow service or rude behavior by other passengers. Simply put, we don’t need legislation to protect motorists navigating a drive-thru lane at any restaurant. This is just a case of someone in a hurry.

On a bigger stage, knowing when to blow your own horn is a more formidable behavior to analyze, because it can invoke many strange behaviors. So consider this.

Don’t blow your own horn, let some else do it for you. It’s safer. And if you must blow your horn at someone, do it gently and with aloha.

A little honk goes a long way.

The Future Challenge For Unions

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 14, 2011
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All of the evidence on unions indicates that job dissatisfaction leads to an interest in organizing. All of the polls suggest that the general public sees unions and their leaders as beneficial to the public interest, but can also lead to tension in the work place.

A significant minority of unorganized employees say they would vote for union representation if an election were held at their workplace. Cohesiveness appears to be the necessary ingredient for successful organizing effort.

Also well-documented, it’s a fact that similarities among group members and external threats from management have a positive influence on cohesiveness.

Union members have had a rough year, both nationally and locally.

As we have seen in Hawaii, our labor unions have always been politically active, casting their lot with the Democratic Party. But since the passage of the Wagner Act in 1936, no major law and regulations have been enacted that enhance union power. Simply put, unions have not benefited much from a Democratic president and U.S. Congress.

Moreover, they have been at risk from Republican presidents, governors and majorities in Congress.

None of these circumstances gave the unions anything to celebrate on Labor Day, with buses running on a holiday schedule and picnics for retired workers. The outlook is dismal, because many unions, both private and public, are in dire straits with more retired members collecting benefits than there are dues-paying members. It’s happening right before our very eyes: the U.S. Postal Service.

If the evidence is true and it indicates that dissatisfaction leads to interest in organizing, how come nobody is organizing dissatisfied workers? They are everywhere, not only in Hawaii, but all over the world. Where’s the leadership?

The $64,000 question is, what should unions do?

Should they continue to cooperate with management and government leaders in the workplace and political arena, or maybe just maintain the status quo or become more militant and adversarial?

It seems clear a new kind of unionism is on the horizon for the Hawaii work force.

No one in power seems to know what the collective bargaining law says.

Even the state Constitution is ignored and challenged in court.

In fact, everything to do with labor relations is being challenged in court whenever there is a disagreement.

We are close to some kind of social unionism in which industrial and social justice becomes the touchstone to catalyze reorganization. Management would be more interested in a unionism that would enhance productivity.

Running For The Job Of A Lifetime

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 07, 2011
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Hawaii is in the midst of a political upheaval so many politicians coming and going with some going in different directions, former governors standing on the sideline eyeing the competition while others look for causes to take up their spare time and keep their name recognition alive.

In all the action, some good and some bad, the hot ticket seems to be running for the U.S. House of Representatives. There are so many candidates, it has to be an easy job.

Ever since U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka announced his plans to retire, just about every ambitious politician has thrown their coconut hat or maile lei into the ring.

For the Democrats, this is an easy decision because if they don’t get elected they will be awarded a high-paying job in state government.

Don’t believe that, eh?

Ask yourself this question: Where’s the herd of people who ran and lost the race for lieutenant governor last time around? All are doing well and many of them trying for higher office again.

This makes some sense, since the campaign laws in Hawaii are written so that defeated candidates can keep their campaign funds as long as they keep running for elected office. If not, they are supposed to give it back to contributors or to charity.

It’s not difficult bookkeeping to keep up the appearance that you are running for another office. A couple thousand dollars in an interest-bearing account is nice to have lying around. Take a business trip, some timely donations and well-placed marketing efforts and they can be the funds that keep on giving.

If well-heeled donors have money to bet on a candidate’s success at the polls and the candidate is elected, the donors have gambled their money well. If candidates aren’t elected, then donors are best served hiring them.

For the candidates who win on luck, connection or an intelligent campaign strategy, the prize is spectacular.

The requirements for the job of senator are simple. One has to be 25 years old and an American citizen. Pay is great: $174,000 a year with all kinds of benefits including free travel between Washington, D.C., and their home state on business trips.

They can retire at 50 with 20 years’ service. They also receive business allowances for staff as well as free office rent, telephone and franking privileges, to name just a few perks, not to mention a gold-plated medical insurance plan.

Makes you feel like running, doesn’t it?

Statehood Something To Celebrate

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 31, 2011
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Citizens of the new 50th State gather to celebrate in 1959. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo

Aug. 2l, 1959, was a great day in Hawaii. It was on that day President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Admission Act into law, making Hawaii the 50th state in the union.

After being dominated by the Republicans and their control of Hawaii’s plantation economy (remember the Big 5?), the Democrats came to power. It was a time of great jubilation. I was living in Europe at the time, and everyone was congratulating me on becoming an American citizen. It was a strange feeling after all, I was in the U.S. Army at the time and never thought of citizenship as an issue.

Getting newspapers from back home was painful because I wanted to be there. Everyone was so happy, and there were parties and political speeches. I distinctly remember Dan Inouye saying, “We are now full-time Americans. Someday someone from Hawaii will even run for president of the United States.”

Well, most predictions have come true. We are the one of the most famous tourist destinations, international and national investments continue to flood into Hawaii. The second world war began in Hawaii with residents of Hawaii serving with great distinction in all branches of the military. And, of course, someone born and raised in Hawaii did run for president and got elected.

So there is reason to be a proud citizen of the 50th State. But there was no celebration on Statehood Day this year. With the exception of a couple of Honolulu Star-Advertiser articles and one or two stories on the evening news, there was no jubilation.

Yes, the state and county offices were closed, along with the satellite city halls and public schools. TheBus ran on a holiday schedule, on-street parking was free, except for municipal lots and metered stalls along Kalakaua Avenue fronting Kapiolani Park. Mail was delivered and the trash was collected as if it was a regular day. But there was no pride on display.

I was surprised. I expected the Democratic Party loyalists would try to remind the 1 million residents of Hawaii how grateful we should all be for fighting so hard in Washington to get President Eisenhower to sign the Admission Act into law. It’s as if we are no longer proud to be the 50th state in the union, that we are no longer willing to remember those who made it all happen. It was a titanic political struggle of biblical proportions.

Yes, it is a state and City & County holiday, but it doesn’t seem adequate. It could be the hint of resentment in the air about the whole process. It makes you wonder if the long road to achieving statehood is even taught in our public schools anymore.

In a state where the politicians are willing to close down Kalakaua Avenue for a parade honoring just about any cause from anywhere in the world, maybe we should do a better job of remembering some of the many people, benefits and entitlements that go along with being part of the United States of America.


A Primer On Local Pols Behind Bars

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 24, 2011
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My initial reaction when I saw former City Councilman Rod Tam’s picture in the StarAdvertiser last week was one of disbelief. Tam has been in public service more than 30 years, and will be sentenced in November for his campaign spending violations, which include overcharging the City Council for personal meals and misuse of campaign funds.

I don’t know him, but he is obviously an intelligent man who is well-liked by voters in his district. He faces sentencing on 13 petty misdemeanor charges and 21 misdemeanor charges. He pleaded guilty to all the charges and could spend a lot of time in jail.

Will he go to jail? There’s a hint in our political history.

While I feel sorry for Tam, I remember feeling sorry for former City Councilwoman Rene Mansho, who was convicted of misusing campaign funds. She believed her “no” vote on a tax increase to finance a rail transit system formed the hard core of her detractors who petitioned for her recall and later sought her impeachment. For some reason, promoting events like Boat Days and using campaign funds rubbed people the wrong way. She was sentenced to one year in jail and five years’ probation. Even more serious, former Honolulu City Councilman Andy Mirikitani was given a four-year, threemonth prison sentence for receiving $6,884 in kickbacks from city employees.

In each of these cases a central theme surfaced. A lot of people feel that jail time is too serious for these kinds of crimes because these disgraced politicians are only doing what all politicians do. But councilmembers in office at the time generally agreed that justice had been done and that public servants must be above reproach. It’s interesting to note that in all of these cases, the judges were swamped with letters of a history of good works in the community, and none of the judges in these cases seemed moved by the stories.

It’s also interesting that these cases involved elected members of the Honolulu City Council. Is it because there is more opportunity to identify potential donors who ask for contracts with the city and reward councilmembers with campaign contributions?

We are now in a time warp, with bidders suing each other and the City and County over the awarding of lucrative rail contracts. It could be this system of ours is not working that well.

So will Tam be sentenced to a jail term after the judge disregards all the letters of support from his former constituents? If history is any kind of teacher, the answer if yes, jail time with restitution.

The Princeton Review: Who Cares?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 17, 2011
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I was shocked to hear that the University of Hawaii system was worried that UH-Manoa was not on The Princeton Review’s list of top party schools or among the review’s best 376 colleges, best Western schools or best values.

The review says UHManoa students haven’t completed enough surveys to provide a representative campus sample since 2008.

That’s when campus administrators stopped helping distribute the surveys.

The Princeton Review is a company that surveys students in order to compile list of rankings that cover student college life, academics and general demographic information.

It is a sorry little company that is not in any way affiliated with Princeton University or the Educational Testing Service. It is in mediocre financial condition. As of March 2011, its stock was worth 39 cents a share.

Simply put, UH administrators were absolutely correct in not distributing the mediocre surveys to the students. The company doesn’t rank best anything accurately about colleges.

Being rated as a “top party school” is nothing to brag about.

The truth be known, UH-Manoa has a long history of fighting the image of a being a “party” university.

There was an era when the university had the largest summer session in the nation. Popular courses were surfing, hula and basket weaving, to name a few.

Dr. Shunzo Sakamaki was dean of the summer school, and it used to close all the dorms to local students and fill them with tourist students looking for some summer fun.

To his credit, Sakamaki realized the idea to turn the UH-Manoa into a party summer school to generate revenue worked, but it got out of hand and he toned it down dramatically.

UH-Manoa changed direction and began pursuing an academic image fit for a research university they called it “Selective Excellence” especially in tropical agriculture and astronomy, and topped it off with the building of world class medical and law schools.

The fact is, UH-Manoa is nationally ranked and has a lot to be proud of, and does not need the likes of The Princeton Review to tell it where it ranks among other universities and colleges in the world.

Hopefully, the day is not too far away when the University of Hawaii system will see the merit of telling everyone what it is and what it stands for, and not the other way around.

Cursive Loses Out To Typing

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 10, 2011
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With all the challenges facing our public school system, I was interested in the new national education standards that will roll out this year.

In this new school year, students won’t be required to learn something called “cursive.”

Interestingly, many parents weren’t even sure what cursive is.

Hawaii public school standards, which are being replaced by new national ones, did spell out that students should be able to write legibly and fluently in cursive by the fourth grade. Now, in these new national common core standards, keyboarding instruction will take the place of cursive.

There are a few hard-core principals who say cursive will continue to be taught at their discretion.

I’m reasonably sure that some in the public school system will address the issue of handwriting while others will praise the new concentration on the art of keyboarding. So there’s a good chance that many of our youngsters will have to be fluent in both.

The bottom line is there is no sense in fighting this kind of change. Every year the body of knowledge increases and the powers that be will expect the teachers and students to learn it or else.

Let’s face it, we’ve created a new kind of student who commands much more nimble motor skills. How they use those skills is another story.

An example is a former public school educational assistant who made the news last week. Cody M. Onizuka, 25, was indicted by an Oahu grand jury on “sexting” charges. Like parents and teachers who had never heard of cursive, few had ever heard of sexting. Well, that’s another motor skill that the kids are learning. It’s the first time anyone in Hawaii has been charged with “sexting” someone. This young man, who was working with our youngsters, was charged with third-degree promotion of child abuse after he allegedly convinced a 12-year-old girl to take nude photos of herself and send them to him. It was shocking to learn that police had recovered thousands of text messages between the two.

Onizuka was fired by the Department of Education last year.

Why do I mention it here? Well, if we were only teaching kids to communicate using cursive, something like this wouldn’t have happened. Imagine using cursive to send more than 1,000 text messages with videos. Not possible! This is truly a new era of communication.

It would seem that the motor skills of keyboarding and texting will require more guidance in the classroom. Hopefully, it gets the attention it deserves, and educators will at least make students learn how to sign their name in cursive and not just with an X.

Obama Sticking With Bad Ideas

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 03, 2011
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It’s always a good idea to temper your opening remarks when talking to a mixed audience, because you never really know how something you say may come back to haunt you. Or worse yet, arouse an adversary’s competitive spirit. You don’t have to go any farther than our President in his State of the Union message earlier this year.

He laid out his vision for public investment in education, innovation, technology and the Internet. It sounded good on the surface but the whole idea got gumbled up in an out-of-control national debt problem. As if that wasn’t enough he decided to announced he was going to run for re-election and it would require him to raise a billion dollars to finance a successful campaign.

Leaders sometimes maintain commitment to a course of action even when that commitment constitutes irrational behavior on their part.

It makes the ordinary taxpayer wonder why someone would maintain commitment to a course of action when that behavior constitutes irrational behavior on his/her part.

Experts all say this is an example of a broader psychological phenomenon known as “escalation of commitment,” an individual’s decisions to stick with a failing course of action. A classic example is a country that continues to pour military resources into an unwinnable armed conflict or someone who keeps putting money into a declining stock in hopes its fortunes will turn. Said another way, throwing good money after bad.

It’s pretty obvious, even to a country-jack like me, that we won’t “win” our future with televisions built in China, software written in India, or using oil from the Middle East. One of the ways to combat this tendency is to have a good advisor, someone who is very rarely consumed by the “heat of the moment.”

Have you ever asked yourself, “Who are these guys listening too?” Everyone knows they are smart. What makes them hang on to a perception that’s not working?

Simply put, emotions are critical features of negotiations encounters that supplement the classical view that negotiations are primarily a rationale process of decision making under risk and uncertainty. Well if that is true, I hope someone notices that the public workforce is operating under great risk and uncertainty.

Standards In Public Schools

Larry Price
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Wednesday - July 27, 2011
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Before 1924, comparatively speaking, the record shows that few Caucasian children attended public schools in Hawaii.

Many parents felt that better English speech training as well as a more desirable social standard could be found only at a private school and often made financial sacrifices to send their children there.

Parents began demanding that a standardized English-speaking high school be added to the already existing English standard Lincoln elementary.

When the bill for the establishment of this school was before the Legislature, many parents showed up day after day to support its passage.

Despite controversy over the discriminatory aspects of the bill, it was passed, and in 1930 President Theodore Roosevelt High School was established.

After World War I I, people began speaking out against the principle of English standard schools. They argued that there are students from a multitude of backgrounds, since the real world is not filled with people with people who speak only grammatical English.

This sentiment grew until the 1945 Legislature passed Act 126. It directed the Department of Public Instruction “to maintain the standards of English standard schools already in existence and to establish, as rapidly as possible, standard sections in all public schools.”

The idea aroused a good deal of opposition.

The 1949 Legislature then passed Act 227. It directed the department “to raise all public schools to the level of the English standard schools and to provide for the transition from the dual to the single standard system started in September 1949 and continue adjustments annually until all schools of the Territory of Hawaii have been raised to the level of a single standard system.”

The politicians kept fiddling with the questions of English standard education until 1960, when Roosevelt High School lost its distinction of being the only English standard public high school in Hawaii.

The focus has shifted from English standard schools to early childhood education. Hawaii is now seeking up to $50 million in federal funding for early childhood education.

The governor has notified the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services that Hawaii will participate in a program called “Race to the Top.”

The program is a competition meant to support the states’ efforts to increase the number of low-income children enrolled in early learning programs, design an integrated system of programs and address demands of high-need children.

Meanwhile, parents are still making financial sacrifices to send their children to private schools for pretty much the same reasons they did in 1924, but now it’s not just Caucasians.

Teachers Union Gaining Strength

Larry Price
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Wednesday - July 20, 2011
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Regardless of how the Hawaii Labor Relations Board rules on the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s complaint that the state interfered with its right to bargain collectively, it appears the damage has already been done.

There’s a big shadow on the future of collective bargaining with the public unions.

There are a couple of things to be aware of to appreciate what’s happening in the world of public sector negotiations.

For starters, collective bargaining agreements, when ratified by the union and management, have the power of law.

They just can’t be ignored by a governor or anyone else. There’s a big difference between negotiating with a colleague and an intimate acquaintance.

From a relationship point of view, it can change how negotiations will be handled in the future.

There is a potential for increasing knowledge of others’ preferences, and opportunities for enlarging the negotiations.

To some degree, after a year of haggling with management, the union now has a more realistic understanding of how drug testing will be conducted in the future. It’s been more than a year since the topic of drug testing came up, and if not for the present situation, it wouldn’t have reached this level of understanding between management and HSTA.

Another significant, if unintended, consequence is that the governor’s unilateral derailment of the collective bargaining law has substantially influenced the likelihood of new, more powerful coalitions being formed. Some of them may not be favorable to those in power.

There also is concern that these unilateral agreements can become barriers because of assumptions parties make about the other side and their preferences, and the dominance of goals unrelated to the quality of the negotiated outcome.

So when the smoke clears, there could be an expensive consequence for the governor’s slap in the face of HSTA. The teachers have always been in the Democrats’ protective custody, and it has always been a good coalition that has made each side stronger.

The public must understand that the status quo or past precedent enjoyed by the public school system is valued because predictability is what parents and the public want.

Also, there is an assumption that exists, or used to exist, that previous behavior was acceptable or became the expectation for future behavior.

As of right now, all bets are canceled.

The years of favorable past precedent are gone, hopefully not forever.

Illegal Snakes, Irresponsible Owners

Larry Price
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Wednesday - July 13, 2011
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We have so many laws in Hawaii, it’s hard to keep track of them.

Some make a lot of sense and some don’t.

Many of our more highprofile laws deal with owners who are guilty of animal cruelty. It will be interesting to observe how diligent our investigators are in locating the person or people who brought a snake into Hawaii and then set it loose to fend for itself in Oahu’s rain forest.

The latest reptile to be discovered was a 9-foot-3-inch boa constrictor.

This particular breed of snake is very popular with collectors because of its variegated skin colors.

It was only luck that the giant snake was found by pig hunters in Waiawa Gulch and taken into state custody.

Officials were worried because they believe the female reptile may have given birth in the wild. Boas breed once a year and can have litters of 10-65 live babies at a time.

Because the weather in tropical Hawaii is to their liking, it wouldn’t take long for the islands to be populated with boas.

The captured snake has already been shipped out of Hawaii because it poses a significant health risk.

Even more scary, it is the third live snake captured on Oahu this year!

It’s obvious that some residents think Hawaii would be a better place with a population of illegal animals.

Naturally, residents who bring snakes into Hawaii do so because they are pets, and the thought of being separated from their beloved pet is unbearable. They are easy to get hold of on the Web, and so buying and selling them must be a booming business.

You have to admit that having a big multicolored boa in an aquarium in your living room would make interesting conversation for awe-struck guests.

Our aloha spirit should only go so far. Agriculture officials have always urged people to take advantage of the state’s amnesty program, in which they can turn in an illegal animal without a penalty.

All you have to do is call 643-PEST and they will take care of the rest.

What would be more fitting, since it appears to be easier to just release the animal into the wilderness and let it survive on its own, is to ship not only the illegal pet out of the state, but the owner and person who brokered the purchase at the same time.

With amnesty, of course.

Take-it-or-leave-it Negotiations

Larry Price
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Wednesday - July 06, 2011
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The state Department of Education has imposed a contract proposal with a 5-percent wage reduction for teachers.

The teachers don’t like it, but federal law allows that action when a private employer believes contract talks are at an impasse.

But there is some question about applying the procedure to public-sector negotiations in Hawaii because it is uncharted territory.

How uncharted?

Hawaii State Teacher’s Association officials said last week it was exploring options on how to respond, and expressed interest in returning to the negotiating table.

The two-year contract for teachers expired last Thursday, with the state’s contract to kick in the next day.

On the surface, this looked like the governor’s office was bluffing. It’s not.

This was a well-thoughtout, calculated strategy by management. If you look at this as a game, bluffing is valuable because if one party states its final position first, there can be no exploration of ways to reach an agreement.

If the union were to use the same bargaining behavior, it would issue its own bluff as a way to gain information and make more extreme demands.

What we have here is the role of actors in negotiations.

Much of what we are witnessing is activities directed at different audiences.

The lead negotiator is performing for the management team, and team members are performing for each other and their constituencies.

The aim is to show adherence and effort toward bargaining goals and, of course, the governor seems intent on portraying himself as a “tough guy.” After all, if he can tell the all-powerful National Football League to “take it or leave it,” HSTA is small time.

Another interesting point about these types of negotiations is that they affect negotiators’ reputations after the agreement is reached.

A settlement or lack of a settlement may have greater unintended consequences on the negotiators’ future ambitions.

Said another way, how will the government’s negotiating behavior affect contract negotiations with the other public unions?

It’s legally possible for HSTA to call for a strike. It’s gone on strike before. And while that would be a great inconvenience for parents, they could extend the school year as other school districts have done.

A much bigger problem is negotiating with United Pubic Workers, which provides staff in school kitchens, maintenance and custodial services. Bluffing the UPW will be much tougher, because when the UPW goes out, it affects the airport, office buildings and can turn Oahu into one big rubbish dump in a week.

Believe it or not, there are rules on the collective bargaining process. And, yes, they vary from state to state and can change at the drop of a hat.

But there are rules that both sides usually adhere to. One of them requires parties to negotiate in good faith.

To do that, the parties must respond to each other’s demands and take no unilateral action or change the existing condition before the end of negotiations.

Rail Looks Like Another Fiasco

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 29, 2011
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Hawaii’s taxpayers are probably getting a little punch-drunk by now trying to understand our transportation problems. We have enough potholes to name one for each political leader in Hawaii, more and more reasons why the proposed rail transit system won’t fly, and a couple of Superferrys to prove that if all else fails to stop a project, take the political question to the courts and let the judiciary decide.

To no one’s surprise, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle vetoed the operating and construction budgets for Honolulu’s rail transit authority, just when it looked like all conditions were go. He objected to language in the budget bills that would give the Honolulu City Council final authority over the spending decisions of the semiautonomous rail transit agency, known as HART. The City Council was unimpressed and says it will override the veto during a special session. The mayor, a former prosecutor, was equally unimpressed and promised to sue the council and have a court render a legal decision.

The court wiped out a dream for Neighbor Island residents in one ruling. Superferrys were capable of carrying 836 passengers with up to 282 cars and approaching speeds of 40 knots. The Superferry was shut down on March 16, 2009, after the Hawaii Supreme Court struck down a law ruling it was intended to benefit a specific party in violation of the state Constitution. Throughout foreclosure, the U.S. Maritime Administration bought both vessels for $25 million each, but ended up being owed more than $135.7 million because of two loan guarantees.

Fast forward to Honolulu’s rail system. With numerous power brokers guaranteeing that there are sufficient monies available, including numerous guarantees by the U.S. Department of Transportation that federal dollars are forthcoming, others are saying that Congress can derail the funding with a single vote. What this means is we just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, back at the C&C of Honolulu, there remains a bigger question. Unlike the Superferry, the rail project has the benefit of an authority made up of knowledgeable experts armed with semiautonomous powers confirmed by the Honolulu City Council, but it has been rendered useless. The question is: Why go through the trouble of naming and confirming a panel of experts to guide the rail transit system though the maze of problems it will surely face and then not listen to their recommendation? Why should they have to wait for a judge to make a ruling? If you are not going to listen to an appointed board, then don’t appoint them! It’s a waste of time, money and effort, and gives the wrong impression.

Sorry to say, this transportation project is beginning to look like it could go down the same stream the Superferry sailed. Maybe the county councils of Hawaii could band together and make a bid for the Superferrys. The taxpayers might get the interlsland transportation dirt cheap.

But then, that’s not how Hawaii’s political leaders do business.

Is Abercrombie Anti-sports?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 22, 2011
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It seems we have a conflict between our new governor and the National Football League’s Pro Bowl, which has been held in Hawaii every year except one since 1980.

Why a conflict? It appears that Gov. Neil Abercrombie got carried away while speaking to a group of early-childhood educators, and when the question of setting priorities came up, he said, “In austere times the state has to set priorities on spending,” citing the $4 million the Hawaii Tourism Authority gave NFL to bring the Pro Bowl to Aloha Stadium in February.

He went on to point out that the Pro Bowl is an easy target because it is stupid to give $4 million to a $9 billion football industry and not give money to children in Hawaii. To throw more salt into the wound he had inflicted on the NFL, Abercrombie told reporters that he discounted the importance of the Pro Bowl in comparison to other economic stimuli, such as civil union ceremonies being performed here. “Please, we will get more out of civil unions in a weekend than we will get out of those guys in the NFL.”

Of course, the governor is obviously misinformed about how much revenue is generated by the Pro Bowl and civil union ceremonies, but that doesn’t matter. The question is, why would he throw away more than 30 years of goodwill with the NFL, which, make no mistake, has done a lot for Hawaii? If you don’t believe that, ask Dr. Edison Miyawaki, one of the owners of the NFL Cincinnati Bengals.

The possible truth is that the new governor didn’t look for any information about the Pro Bowl, the NFL and the conditions under which the Hawaii Tourism Authority negotiated its return to Hawaii in 2009. He obviously doesn’t care.

In another opportunity to confront the athletic community, Abercrombie suggested that he would try to take all the money for maintaining Aloha Stadium and use it for education, teachers’ pay and special education programs around the state.

His Pro Bowl comments reignited the vitriol of the Democratic gubernatorial primary because Mufi Hannemann is the current president of the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association (and a fellow MidWeek contributor who also is addressing this topic this week). Mufi was involved in negotiations with the NFL and is convinced of the Pro Bowl’s importance to Hawaii. His response: “He doesn’t have a history of dealing with the NFL, so it’s going to take some education.”

In short, this means the Pro Bowl, Aloha Stadium and anything to do with athletics, including UH teams, are going to be more political from now on.

Actually, this love affair with the NFL began with Herman Clarke, one of the state’s greatest players, an All-Pro offensive line-man with the Chicago Bears. He was well-respected and sold his legendary coach George Halas on the idea with the help of Mackey Yanagisawa.

There may be a bright side to this conflict, because Hawaii should spend more time negotiating with the NFL Players Association than the NFL owners, who could probably buy Hawaii if they wanted to. It’s the pressure from the players that keeps bringing the game back to Hawaii. It’s a time when they can relax with their families in paradise.

One of the first rules in negotiating is to not talk to the monkeys, talk with the organ grinder! Our governor is talking to the wrong people. Trying to negotiate with the NFL is almost impossible because it is so powerful.

So, in the final analysis, what we have here is an intergroup conflict. This was probably the only way the new governor could get the NFL owners’ attention. Do you remember him saying, “I’m not your friend, I’m your governor”? It is the final level of conflict between organizations, ethnic groups, feuding families or within splintered fragmented communities. It is the most intricate of negotiations because of the number of people involved and how they interact with each other. It’s very complex.

Hopefully, the governor will not chase away an important part of Hawaii’s history just to remind everyone that there’s a new power at the helm and he favors civil unions and early childhood education. Now that would be really short-sighted.

A Bad Economy By The Numbers

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 15, 2011
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Spring is a tough time of year - not because of the weather, but filing personal income tax returns. It’s not the money involved, it’s the principal and interest that hurt.

There are so many forms to fill out, so many W-2 forms to collect and those difficult 1099s to retrieve. It seems like someone in Washington, D.C., is staying awake at night rewriting tax codes to generate more revenue for the federal government to spend on bailouts or ammunition to hunt down more terrorists. None of that bothers me very much, although spending our hard-earned tax money investigating political corruption is a little difficult to appreciate.

It always seems that around this time of the year, when every taxpayer is dedicated to meeting their tax obligations, that a bunch of depressing news is being published by some obscure Internet site.

One website announced that Hawaii was the toughest place to make a living because of an extremely high cost of living coupled with a fairly high tax rate, and the added news that Hawaii had the lowest adjusted average income at $22,107.96 (Moneyrates.com).

To make the tax-preparation period more disturbing, the National Low Income Housing Coalition announced that its figures showed that Hawaii, once again, had the most expensive rental housing in the nation. According to this cheerful group, the average wage for a renter in Hawaii is $13.65 an hour.

That works out to about $28,000 a year. That’s a little better than Moneyrates.com reported earlier.

Who are the taxpayers supposed to believe?

Our governor adds to the anguish by announcing that he had decided to raid the Hurricane Relief Fund on the first day of hurricane season.

A couple of days later, another national weather agency said that Hawaii was “most overdue” for a violent hurricane.

I was doing OK with all the negative news about Hawaii because we live in paradise, and there is a price to pay for living in a resort state.

So why complain?

I don’t know if anyone keeps track of tricky government accounting techniques, but our state Department of Taxation is pretty cool. It tells the government officials how much money it collects, the Council on Revenues has another meeting and tells the Legislature so it can decide how much money it has to spend.

If it’s not enough, legislators go looking for new tax revenue, as they did with the parking meter proposal. It would be neat if they altered the process so that we only spent what we collected.

Well, I was doing pretty good until I read about the state tax department’s plan to hire an independent auditor to review the revenue reporting and accounting policies and procedures after systemic problems were found in its reports by tax director Fred Pablo himself.

Worst yet, he’s only been in office six months. You have to wonder what he’s going to discover in another six months ... one year?

Those in charge are always telling us not to spend all we make, and then they do. They tell us what can’t be done and why, then they do it.

Now that’s scary.

Paying To Park At City Parks?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 08, 2011
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Oahu has always had a problem with parking, especially in Waikiki, including Kapiolani Park and nearby Ala Moana Beach Park.

So the recent motion by the City Council is basic politics at its best. Nothing fancy. First, they flatter the public by announcing the council is stalling the bill on meters at parks because of public opposition to the idea. Flattery is the first step in political manipulation. The idea is to give the impression that the council really cares what you think about a 100 percent increase in parking rates at all parks. More accurately, they are interested in knowing 1) Who’s for or against raising the parking rates, 2) How interested are they, 3) How many people will it make happy, 4) How happy or 5) How unhappy will they be?

The biggest losers in this scheme are the people who live near parks or shopping centers. If all be known, most of the families living in dwellings around parks have more than one car. Finding a parking place in Chinatown, McCully, Ala Moana or Ala Wai can be a very frustrating search.

The suffering surfing public is going to need a new kind of surfboard: one that has a water-tight compartment that will hold $20 in quarters to feed the meters. If the bill was to become law, they might as well pass another one to allow parking meters that accept credit or debit cards.

There is a good possibility that Oahu has seen the last days of free on-street parking.

It could be that our new City Council can call on new technology, already in use around the nation, where machines can collect money from the public. Probably the only members of our public who don’t mind the potential increase in parking fees is the homeless population. More room for them, better selection of locations to choose from and more privacy.

Here’s the reality of the situation: The city needs money. It is going to get it from somewhere.

Yes, there will be some moaning from the public, but in the long run it will get the money to maintain all of our beautiful parks.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about how early you have to leave home to find a parking space near a public park.

A Mysterious Glock

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 01, 2011
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One of the most interesting news stories in the past year reared its ugly head when police were called to Highlands Intermediate School in Pearl City. They ended up arresting a student for attempted murder after a gun he found on campus (according to initial reports) was fired before school started, narrowly missing one student and leaving another with minor injuries.

There was justified panic by many parents whose children were at school and, via cell phone, told them there was a gun on campus and it had been discharged. The principal and staff followed existing policy, which calls for school staff first and foremost to tend to safety and health concerns of the school community.

That part of the story sounds pretty accurate. But from that point on things get a little hard to swallow.

First, a .45-caliber Glock is a big and very dangerous weapon. Accounts of the incident make it sound like the pistol was found by the student on the campus. The student swears he didn’t bring the weapon to school. The police were able to ascertain that the gun belongs to someone, no relation to the student, who claimed that he lost the gun several months ago, didn’t know where it was and didn’t report it to the police.

For those who haven’t handled a firearm, a .45-caliber handgun is a big weapon. If you’ve never handled one, then it would be understandable that you wouldn’t know how to get the loaded clip out of the weapon, disengage the safety and pull the trigger. Furthermore, if you hold the Glock incorrectly, the recoil mechanism can rip off all the skin between your thumb and index finger before you know what happened. So it would be logical to assume that the youngster didn’t fire the pistol on purpose and it fired itself when it was knocked to the ground.

The only thing guaranteed in this debacle is that you haven’t heard the last of the mysterious Glock. I’m confident that by the time HPD and DOE officials get through with their investigation, everyone involved or interested in this case will realize how lucky they are no one was killed or seriously injured.

This incident also should remind gun owners that they have a common-sense responsibility to report the loss of their weapons. Our legislators might want to consider passing a law making it a felony for a gun owner to not report the loss or theft of a weapon.

No matter how you look at this story, a fully .45-caliber Glock found on a school campus is just wrong, nearly dead wrong. Hopefully, it is a lesson for all involved. It is frightening to think that a loaded weapon could mysteriously appear on a school campus.

We Can’t Help Rubbernecking

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 25, 2011
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Complaining is probably one of our favorite pastimes. It doesn’t matter if someone has a legitimate reason for complaining, it just comes naturally when things don’t go the way you would like.

There are a lot of people who are experts at complaining.

They can find something wrong with a proposal or even an innocent suggestion. Its almost an automatic reflex.

It’s not against the law and doesn’t inconvenience anyone.

Sometimes it’s even funny.

Take the road crew that was touching up Komo Mai Drive last week. In their haste, they misspelled a word on the newly paved road - “SHCOOL” - bringing to mind the crew that placed a sign on the H-3 freeway facing the wrong direction.

Many people didn’t notice the misspelling, but for the few that did, it opened a floodgate of complaints. The calls ranged from blaming the public education system to lazy public unions members. Some thought the guilty workers should be suspended, transferred to hard labor or fired.

Just about anyone who deals with the public will understand that there is a lot of frustration driving around on any given day. It’s so rampant that the City & County has an Office of Complaint.

Something I’ve heard people complaining about lately is “rubbernecking.”

Rubbernecking has probably been going on since Henry Ford mass produceded the automobile - and probably before that in horse-and-buggy days.

Our wonderment for accidents and incidents leads to unsophisticated gawking. We can’t help looking at another person’s misfortune, even if it can be hazardous to your own health and to others’.

It’s curiosity gone wild.

It would seem that every time a motorist sees a flashing blue light their instinctive behavior is to slow down to see what’s going on.

Of course, that usually causes the traffic to back up and tempers to flare. Most people don’t know why they are slowing down, it’s an involuntary response to the flashing blue light. The same thing happens when motorists see a flashing red light. So it might be safe to say, any flashing light regardless of color will cause folks to start rubbernecking.

Sadly, any bad accident, especially one where there is a serious injury or a fatality, will slow the traffic to a standstill.

Is there a possibility that motorists enjoy bad accidents? No, that’s illogical. We can’t do away with the flashing blue lights because it means slow down. It doesn’t mean stop. Red lights mean stop, look and listen. Yellow light means caution, you are approaching a hazardous situation. Some people think it would help if the higher partitions between the lanes on the freeways would discourage rubber-necking. Could be, however, others think it would raise the curiosity level even higher.

Rubbernecking is a serious complaint and worthy of investigation, because a flashing blue light means slow and doesn’t mean keep going the same speed.

Long-term Outlook Is Expensive

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 18, 2011
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Great article in the Star-Advertiser last Wednesday. It’s a very important article for middle-aged people in Hawaii coasting alone, having a good time in paradise, to digest. It’s a topic no one really wants to talk about, and that’s understandable because it’s about how much long-term care costs in Hawaii.

I’ve always thought “long term care” was a personal, family issue, moderated by the oldest sibling over coffee after dinner. The well-written article by Kristen Consillio is something every family should read very carefully. Here’s what it says in a nutshell.

The cost of long-term care in Hawaii is higher than the national rate, sometimes by more than 50 percent! This information was honed from a survey by Genworth Financial Inc., a Virginia-based insurance company that sells long-term care insurance. The AARP’s state director Barbara Kim Stanton contributed to the article and localizes it quite nicely.

The report says the price for a year of private-room nursing home care in Hawaii is $122,640. The national median is $77,000. In 10 years, the projected cost will be nearly $200,000 a year. Combine that with Hawaii’s growing senior population and increased longevity, and you have a very scary picture of life in Hawaii.

The reason I think this article is very important is because many people believe they can handle the question of long-term with insurance. Long-term care insurance can help, but the people who think that are in for a big shock, because navigating through reams of insurance forms, medical prescriptions and doctor’s appointments is daunting. Many of these medical services are done through websites, email or some long distance phone number that begins with 1-888.

Asking a question could take a week to answer. Press 2 for assistance, 9 for medical prescriptions, 8 for menus, 7 for movie and other recreational opportunities, 6 for Handi-Van service, or press 0 and stay on the line for an assistant. The No. 1 response is usually, “What, say that again,” or “Is that covered by the policy?”

The way to prepare for this eventuality is not just planning for the situation - it’s family planning, including everyone in the family doing a little. One senior citizen in a care home can drive a family member into a nervous breakdown. You just cannot keep up with all of their demands and needs. It’s a 24/7 chore. Just getting them to take the right pills on the right day at the right time is a major accomplishment. Been there, done that, it’s almost impossible to do alone.

The people who run the nursing homes have seen it all. They can tell you which families have their act together and which families are dysfunctional. They are just too nice to make it public.

When you look at paying $200,000 a year in 2030 to care for a loved one, you have just about enough time to prepare.

An insurance policy by itself without a sound family plan is probably not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Birthers: The Politics Of Suspicion

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 04, 2011
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President Barack Obama speaks at a recent Democratic Party fundraiser April 27. AP photo

The words are flying all over the place, but not about our budget shortfall or beleaguered public education system.

It appears everyone has a take on President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Donald Trump has been the most prominent supporter of the “Birther” movement.

What’s going on?

It’s simple politics and one of the arts of creating a mass movement.

Former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can probably take credit for casting the first stone a few years back while exploring the political waters and her possible entry in the political race for the presidency. She asked the provocative question, “Was Obama really born to an American mother and Kenyan father in Hawaii, which makes him eligible to hold the office of president?”

Trump, a potential GOP presidential candidate, is taking the credit for forcing Obama to release the certificate of live birth and said, “Obama should have done so a long time ago.” He went on the say he’d want to make sure the birth certificate was real.

One would think that the frenzy over the birth certificate would end when President Barack Obama went public and released his long-form birth certificate, adding that the country doesn’t have time for the distraction and silliness of questions being persistently raised about where he was born.

The president, not mentioning Donald Trump by name, said, “The distractions were being staged by sideshows and carnival barkers.”

Trump quickly shifted his attack to the president’s academic qualifications, in particular, his acceptance to Columbia and Harvard universities, stating he was not a good student, so “How did he get in?”

There’s a lesson here for would-be politicians. What Obama is being subjected to is the unifying power of suspicion. Thus, when the Birthers congregate the frustration is heavy-laden with suspicion. There is much prying, spying and tense watching. Surprisingly, this pathological mistrust within the ranks of the movement does not lead to dissension, but to strict conformity. The faithful Birthers strive to escape suspicion by adhering zealously to the prescribed behavior and opinion of the movement.

Suspicion, for a very long time, has been the machinery of political domination.

What Donald Trump is trying to do is create a strong political party based deliberately on suspicion. In this scenario, the ranks of the movement associate the opposition as the enemy threatening their movement from without. Alas, it only makes them stronger.

What does this all mean?

It means you are going to hear a lot more from the Birther movement and Mr. Trump.

And while you may not like it one bit, realize they will do just about anything to keep suspicion alive.

Shutting Down Slavery In Hawaii

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 27, 2011
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Management experts will long remember last week.

About a 150 years ago in Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi hailed President Abraham Lincoln, saying, “Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure.” Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in Government in 1863 made indirect reference to the proclamation and the ending of slavery as a war goal with the phrase, “new birth of freedom.” In the years after Lincoln’s death, his action in the proclamation was lauded. In was a turning point in America’s history.

So it was with some interest that the idea of slavery, indentured servitude and discrimination based on national origin and race would surface in Hawaii. That’s what happened when a federal agency sued a California labor contractor and six Hawaii farms, alleging discrimination against more than 200 Thai workers in what the EEOC calls its largest human trafficking case in agriculture to date. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused a company of luring workers with promises of steady jobs on agricultural visas, but later confiscated their passports and threatened to deport them if they complained.

The suit says that, at some farms, the Thai workers were forced to live in dilapidated housing infested with rats and insects, with dozens sleeping in the same room, many with no beds. Additionally, they were forbidden to leave the premises. Bound by their debts, stripped of their identification and silenced by the perpetrators, the Thai workers had little recourse until they were able to contact the EEOC office in Los Angeles, which investigated the allegations and filed charges of discrimination.

The EEOC’s top gun and regional attorney Anna Y. Park is handling the case, and is asking for back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the victims, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further abuse.

There is little question that the results of his case will serve as a wake-up call for other management types who rule their roost by the seat of their pants and gut reactions. There are laws and rules about how you can treat workers and they have to be followed.

The entire handling of workers is presented in a legal framework because, in some cases, even though management know the rules governing employee discrimination and servitude, they choose to disregard them. Said another way, many corporate leaders don’t believe that management is a science and prefer to use their intuition.

One of Stanford’s leading authorities on organization behavior, Jeffrey Pfeffer, said, “I would certainly like to have our corporate leaders make decisions based on facts as opposed to ideology.”

He has also said, “If doctors practiced medicine like managers practice management, most of them would be in jail.”

And while the Gettysburg Address delivered in 1863 by President Lincoln had an immediate impact around the world, it seems that not everyone in Hawaii got the message.

Simply put, you can’t treat workers like slaves anymore.

A Few Favors For Neil’s Favorites?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 20, 2011
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If you’ve followed the collective bargaining history in Hawaii over the past 40 years or so, you were probably dazzled by the newly introduced term “favored nation.”

It came out of closed-door meetings between the HGEA and Gov. Abercromie’s negotiators trying to come up with a few favors from the state’s biggest public union. No one is sure what the term means exactly. Some are guessing that means that if any other union negotiates higher pay rates or additional benefits, then HGEA members would automatically get the same increases.

It’s kind of hard to imagine how former union leaders like David Trask would handle such clumsy terminology. There’s a good possibility that none of today’s deal makers would have dared present the idea. HGEA members are being offered nine days of paid leave, not furloughs, in gratitude for accepting a 5-10 percent pay cut and an increase in their medical insurance premium. One of the critics of the idea referred to it as fuzzy math. It’s more than fuzzy, it is a form of informal collusion.

It may be that the union leaders don’t realize that the word “favored” doesn’t sit well with taxpayers who already fear that unions have a favored status with the legislature and other powerful politicians. Being treated fairly is all anyone can wish for in these tough economic times. Favored is way too close to favorite and favors to help the public union’s image with taxpayers. Neither taxpayers nor union members need any new tricky language added to the process. If the word furloughs bother the members of the legislature, then so should favored nation.

In the United States, labor unions work to ensure workers’ collective bargaining rights over wages, benefits and working conditions are upheld for their members. When employers’ attempt to violate the contract provisions of their employees, favored union representatives are supposed to do everything they can to resolve the disputed issues.

In today’s economy, labor unions have been faced with mounting pressures to reduce their collective bargaining rights and in some cases eliminate benefits portioned for their retirees. Despite having adequate resources and a functional structure, union leaders are finding it an uphill battle to maintain the power and structure of the unions of the past.

Faced with a legacy of withering legislative support, regulatory, political and media attacks, labor unions members are being forced to embrace the transformation of the Hawaii’s labor industry, like the rest of the nation. The Taft-Hartley Act enacted in June 1947 is a federal law that tried to limit the power of labor unions and monitor their activities. The amendments contained in Taft-Hartley added a list of unfair labor practices and a list of prohibited actions. Maybe these new semantics that are confusing at best would qualify as unfair labor language. Favorite or favored nation. Does that mean favors for public unions or favorite political power source.

The members and taxpayers deserve better terminology.

Crunch Time At The Capitol

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 13, 2011
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Not a whole lot of surprises going on at the state Legislature with less than a month to go, although there are a few bills alive that are still raising eyebrows.

The biggest surprise was intense opposition to a bill that would allow increased privatization of Hawaii’s harbors. There is strong opposition from boat owners because they’re worried about a separate plan to develop Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor. Honey Bee USA Inc. wants to build a training center for the U.S. National Kayak Team and construct shops, restaurants and two wedding chapels to draw Japanese tourists.

The wedding chapels would offset the costs of running the fuel dock and boat-repair businesses.

It was refreshing to hear the word “privatization” surface after being absent from any discussions about improvements for so long.

But the action was in the many suggestions on how to balance the budget. The very powerful Ways and Means Committee voted 13-1 last week on its version of the state’s $11 billion annual budget, which is asking for labor savings equivalent to the continuation of two monthly furlough days. Most government employees took two monthly furlough days over the last two years amounting to about a 10 percent pay cut.

As the search for revenue saving reached a peak last week, state senators were not talking about cutting instructional school days, but school transportation. Senators allocated $60 million from the general fund to keep kids in the classroom. At the same time they took $22 million from school transportation.

State Sen. Jill Tokuda of Kaneohe dropped the biggest bomb on the hearing by pointing out that school bus costs go up 15 percent every year. Special needs student would still be picked up, but other students would need to find another way to and from school.

A lot of concern was expressed about how students would make it to school. The simplest solution and most talked about means to do that would be an increase to the state’s biggest tax generator - the general excise tax.

The Senate Ways and Means asked for input from the public on what they would prefer.

And apparently they got an earful. If you recall, this same question led to furloughs instead of layoffs. This was pretty much the same kind of offer, because raising the general excise tax 1 percentage point could raise up to $500 million a year.

The legislation that was being considered also proposed eliminating exemptions to the GET enjoyed by a wide variety of businesses, including airlines, subcontractors, nonprofit organizations and interisland shippers. That small change could generate another $162 million next fiscal year.

At the end of last week’s fiery debates, although a handful of powerful senators favored the increase in the GET, it was killed by the Senate with a 9-5 vote.

The Walmart Suit And What It Means

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 06, 2011
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The big story in the business sector is about a bias discrimination lawsuit brought against retail giant Walmart.

And while the suit involves one plaintiff, her lawyers want the Supreme Court to decide if the legal action can proceed as a class-action that could conceivably involve 500,000 to 1 million employees.

It could cost the world’s largest retailer a fortune in court costs.

The lawsuit has given birth to a flurry of briefs filed by business interests on Walmart’s side, and on the other civil rights, consumer and union groups. This case will likely have tremendous impact not just because of the money involved, but it could increase the viability of discrimination claims as a change agent in the workplace. When presented individually, discrimination claims are difficult to prove, but when combined in a class action it does something very scary to business owners: It increases the cost of settling the suit out of court because the potential of a huge judgement is not out of the question.

This is good news for budding labor attorneys, who can make lots of money teaching employers how to defend themselves against employment discrimination claims, especially in an environment where many companies have outsourced their human resources department.

What you can watch for in the coming weeks are the lawyers on both sides trying to distinguish between disparate treatment and disparate impact.

Disparate treatment simply means intentional discrimination. It requires no more than a finding that women (or a protected minority group member) were intentionally treated differently because of their gender (or minority status). If you are thinking about filing a similar suit, be advised that disparate impact claims do not require proof of discriminatory intent.

Instead, the plaintiff must show that the apparently neutral employment practice caused an adverse impact - for example, a rule that requires employees to have college degrees to do a particular job. If there is such an employ-ment rule, then the employer will have to defend himself by arguing that there is a business necessity for the practice.

None of this is an open-and-shut case for the employee. Under the law Title V11 (CRA 1991), a person who believes that he or she was a victim of unintentional discrimination because of an employ-er’s practices needs only establish a prima facie case of discrimination, like the college degree for employment.

For the employee, there are several methods to show that one or any of the employer’s procedures has an adverse impact on a protected group.

The favorite for federal agencies is the “4/5 rule.” It says: “A selection rate for any racial, ethnic or sex group which is less than four-fifths or 80 percent of the group with the highest rate will generally be regarded as evidence of adverse impact.”

Labor lawyers know all of these tactics for showing adverse impact. It is not easy and not cheap.

And when you get a class-action suit by more than 500,000 plaintiffs, the chances are pretty good that justice will be served if the employer is found guilty.

It at least should be interesting to follow.

Sly Legislators And The GET

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 30, 2011
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Last week state Senate leaders privately polled their members and found support for an increase in the general excise tax, if necessary to balance the budget. It is interesting that they waited this long to discuss a budget deficit approaching $1 billion.

This strategic delay was a brilliant move for a couple reasons.

First, the financial environment has changed dramatically because of the disaster in Japan and its obvious impact on Hawaii’s economy.

Second, the timing of the Council on Revenues report earlier this month and another meeting called by the governor to include the impact of the disaster in Japan is expected to add to our budget deficit and the need for additional revenue.

Also not surprising is that House leaders didn’t jump on the bandwagon immediately, which gives the impression that they are really studying the matter.

That left a perfect opening for the governor’s office to announce that Gov. Abercrombie had asked the Council on Revenues to return and update its forecast in light of the potential impact of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake, and the unrest in Africa and the Middle East, which the council will do sometime in mid-April. It promises to be a spectacular, significant increase.

Again, almost perfect timing with respect to the budget-balancing act.

Why? Because there is little time for long, drawn-out debate on the best way to close the deficit.

What I’m suggesting here is to consider how slick our government leaders are at their craft. What they are about to pull off will make the passage of the Civil Unions Bill look like child’s play.

The plan is simple. Whenever establishing a commitment, a skilled politician will simultaneously plan a private way out, like not raising taxes, raising taxes or raiding any special funds such as the Transit Accommodation Tax. The politician will predictably reword the commitment to indicate that the conditions under which it was applied have changed. This will be attributed to information provided by another party (Council on Revenues-2011). He or she†will say something like, “Given what I have learned from the Council on Revenues, I see I am going to have to rethink my earlier position.” After a few days, “Given what I’ve told you about the budget situation and given this new information, I believe you will see that my earlier position no longer holds.”

In bureaucratic institutions, changes can be introduced as innovative experiments to see if they work before they are formally adopted. Additionally, anytime someone in power backs off a committed position, it’s important to help him or her to “save face” to avoid any possible damage to the other party’s self-esteem or to constituent relationships.

Something to watch for if you are violently opposed to a raise in the GET tax: If the budget-balance act is presented in conference committee, there is no opportunity for the public hearing process to happen, so those in opposition will not have the opportunity to state their opposition.

Of course, none of this is against the law. In fact, it will be considered a very sophisticated form of governing, and quite clever.

Unions: Times Are Changing

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 23, 2011
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The composition of employees in the workplace is changing. There is a new generation of workers in or waiting to join the work force - the Millennials, who were born after 1976 and until recently were called Generation Y.

The PEW Research Center found that Millennials are the most highly educated of all generations in the workplace to date. Its research found that 54 percent had college degrees. Other characteristics of the Millennial generation are their tendency to embrace technology and change, higher degrees of trust in unknown situations, higher degrees of optimism in future wage earning, higher tendency for multiple job changes throughout their career, and a more-favorable opinion of business than previous generations.

What does all this mean to union leaders, and are they listening?

The reason it’s significant is because the values of the Millennial generation put them in a less-likely position to embrace union membership. This all comes at a time when union membership is declining and public tolerance of union activities is dwindling.

According to a 2009 Gallup poll on unions and public opinion, approval ratings for public unions have seen a steep decline in recent years. In 2009, union approval ratings reached an all-time low of 48 percent, compared to 75 percent in 1957. The same survey showed an increase in the number of respondents who felt unions generally hurt their employers and the economy.

Union leaders should be impressed with any numbers the Gallup poll produces. In an environment where unions are less effective and losing public support, union recruitment and retention may be a harder sell.

And technological advances have changed the face of the modern work-place. Understanding what will happen to the work force of the future is key. Advances in technology have changed labor’s demand, because the skill sets required to do the same job have changed.

Simply put, advances in technology create an unstable platform for unions to contend with, and they’re probably not in a position to dictate many of the management decision within the organizations of tomorrow.

So why write about the Millennial generation?

I read a March 13 Honolulu Star-Advertiser story about five Hawaii robotics teams on the Mainland that was billed as Science and Technologies’ March Madness. One of the five teams from Hawaii was from Waialua High School, who beat out all comers in the New York City Regional competition! In doing so, the Waialua team earned the competition’s top honors by being named the Chairman’s Award winner in addition to winning the field competition, beating out an impressive field of 65 competitors and earning a position at the World Championships (waialuarobotics.com).

Unions must combat their declining numbers by adapting their recruitment and communication strategies to engage the changing work force.

The new “Millennials” in Waialua are the face of that force.

Negotiating With Difficult People

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 16, 2011
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There have been a lot of comments recently - here and on the Mainland - about negotiating with difficult people. With so many problems between management and labor, you’d think there would be some scientific way to deal with difficult people.

Well, surprise, there is a lot of research on how to deal with difficult people.

It’s a kind of a process for developing a counterintuitive pattern of responding to these kinds of people. In Hawaii, the natural reaction to aggressive tactics is to strike back, give in or go silent. The problem is, these behaviors do not serve anyone’s cause.

Experts say the solution is to psychologically remove yourself from the interaction and become an observer. I know, easier said than done. But this does create breathing space and gives you time to give a more-reasoned response. Sounds a little thin? Maybe so, but it works. I must admit that, in Hawaii, this is almost an anticipated response, not only at the bargaining table, but at a fender-bender on the highway.

There is no question that negative and attacking behaviors tend to breed more of the same from the other party. Something else happens as tensions heighten - the exchanges tend to escalate. The challenge is to act counterintuitively, which means to deflect or sidestep the other person’s negative behavior through positive, constructive communication.

I can’t tell you how to do it, but I guarantee you it starts with active listening. People born and raised in Hawaii, those who have never left the Islands, will very seldom acknowledge the other party’s points, without necessarily conceding their truth for subsequent agreement. Have you ever heard the saying, “Give a devil authority and you’ll have a saint”? It works, especially if you ask open-ended questions like “No kidding, really?”

Another thing is to make it hard to say no. The trick here is to help the other party think about the consequences of not reaching an agreement with you. Some of this is simplistic, but it works.

As you watch all the conversations going on about budget deficits and who should shoulder the blame, it’s better to approach the conversation with an active strategy for dealing with difficult people.

Public Union Bargaining Premises

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 09, 2011
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Two premises are central to arguments here and on the Mainland regarding public union bargaining rights.

The first is that unionization and collective bargaining in the public sector represent one of the most important developments in labor relations since the post-Wagner Act period of the 1930s and 1940. The significance of this development is derived both from the magnitude and success of organizing efforts in the public sector, and from the major impact of these efforts on the management of governmental affairs and on public employee at all levels of government - federal, state and local. The second premise is that three types of rights exist in the collective bargaining process.

The first right is that participants be allowed to engage in free collective negotiations without external exposure of, or interference with, what might be considered sensitive interpersonal communications in the bargaining process.

The second right involves situations in which the executive function is administered from the perspective of narrow self-interest rather than from that of general public interest.

The third right is that of the media to present, as an exercise of their constitutional privileges, those aspects of the collective bargaining story that they deem to be newsworthy. Clearly, citizens have a basic right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. Moreover, the wide dissemination of information about all public expenditures has a deterrent effect on possible misappropriation of public funds or conflicts of interest.

The success of collective bargaining depends largely on the privacy and insulation of labor and management, whereas the social effectiveness of political democracy exists only when citizens know the issues and have substantial means to influence decisions that are related to their needs.

In exercising their right to inform the citizenry about collective bargaining in the public sector of employment, the media has contributed to the incompatibility of pragmatic benefits associated with the right of privacy in collective bargaining and the right of the public to know the facts about what is concurring in the decision-making process of collective bargaining.

So what? Many services of government are deemed monopolistic, are mandated by law and are supported by revenue derived from taxation. Consumers cannot refuse to buy these services or lawfully cannot refuse to pay taxes. It is apparent that the legal and political pressures present in collective bargaining in public employment are such that the opportunity for resolution of conflict between labor and management may be greater than it is in the private sector. And because of so many laws governing public-sector collective bargaining, all we can hope for is a speedy resolution in the legal system.

Unions And Collective Bargaining

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 02, 2011
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Lots of misinformation about public unions is being spread locally because of the political battle going on between Republicans and Democrats in Wisconsin.

The law is clear on what unions, public or private, can do regarding collective bargaining.

To begin with, until about 1930, there were no special labor laws. Employers were not required to engage in collective bargaining with employees, and were virtually unrestrained in their behavior toward unions. If you want to read about how bad it was back then, check the records of the historically significant Homestead Strike in 1892. Andrew Carnegie was the head of Carnegie Steel Co. based in Homestead, Penn., which, at the time, produced a quarter of the world’s steel and was one of the most powerful and influential company’s in the world.

In July 1892, the contract between Carnegie Steel Co. and the steel union expired and, poised to rebel against the labor union, Carnegie hired a union buster, Henry Clay Frick, as manager to operate the steel mill in Homestead with non-union workers at lower wages. The union planned to strike, and Frick had the steel mill surrounded with barbed wire, preventing entrance into the town and factory. He then contracted the Pinkerton Detective Agency to hire a private army of 300 men to seize the factory. A battle ensued, and people from both sides were killed. At that point, the government went in - 4,000 Pennsylvania militia troops - allowing Carnegie to hire non-union workers at lower wages. In four months the steel mill at Homestead was up and running. It effectively shifted the power to management and corporations and crippled labor unions for the next 40 years (Relin, D. the strike of the century. pp.129 (6))

During the early days of union organizing, there was little talk about public unions. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was unyielding in his opposition to public employee unions, especially the efforts to unionize postal workers. The new era union activity was the passage of the Norris-La Guardia Act of 1932. This act encouraged union activity. It guaranteed the right of each employee to bargain collectively, “free from interference, restraint or coercion.” In 1935, the Wagner Act was passed to add teeth to the Norris-La Guardia legislation. The swing back toward management happened with passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. It brought in a period of modified encouragement coupled with regulation. It was President John F. Kennedy who put the power back in the workers’ corner when he issued the first in a line of executive orders that allowed collective bargaining for federal employees (Ex. Order 10988, 1962).

Public-sector labor relations differ widely among the 50 states. Several don’t even have bargaining laws, and few prohibit at least some occupations from bargaining. Most prohibit strikes, especially in the police and fire sectors where arbitration is prescribed. And while police and firefighters cannot strike, teachers can, with proper notification, fact-finding and voluntary arbitration.

And while the public-sector unions are regulated, they have their greatest bargaining success in achieving their goals by linking bargaining issues with public outcomes. They actively support candidates who favor increasing publicly provided programs because it is consistent with achieving union goals, and also with having elected officials sympathetic to public-sector union interests, which also proves helpful during negotiations.

The pubic and private unions have paid a heavy price for the laws that govern their activities. No one should expect them to give up any of them without a fight.

Rocket Dreams, Flaming Garbage

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 23, 2011
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Sometimes trying to keep track of how our legislators think is a major challenge. In one way it makes sense, because they are coming from so many unknown sources. It was once suggested that it would be easier for taxpayers if all legislators were forced to wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers who have all of their sponsors decals sewn on their jumpsuits, so you can tell whom they are representing.

But they don’t, of course, so sometimes you just have to guess where their ideas come from. In the federal legislative system, with all the bills that are introduced you know who’s managing the bill. Bills such as Taft-Hartley are known worldwide just by their name - and then there is Hawaii, where transparency is limited.

Example: It seems we have been listening to the debate of a proposed rail transit system for years. It’s been introduced, killed and revived so many times, it’s difficult to put your finger on its origin. The latest news on the elevated high-speed rail system was that ground was going to be broken somewhere on the Leeward Coast. This was a relief after months of political debate about the federal EIS and financial plan. The former governor was blamed for delaying it, saying she would not sign off on the financial plan until a group of experts declared it sound.

That seems like lightyears ago.

A new governor was elected and signed off on the EIS without a twitch of concern. U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye said he would keep the pressure on Congress for funds. Oahu elected a new mayor and he immediately endorsed the rail system. It looked like Mufi Hannemann’s train was finally going to start construction.

A wrench was thrown into the works because the latest word is the city must now produce a new financial plan for the $5.5 billion system. The Federal Transit Administration is demanding to see a financial plan that demonstrates Honolulu can meet its financial obligations, and that its existing bus service continues to operate and be maintained properly. Mayor Peter Carlisle said, “The updated plan will be completed by late spring or early summer.”

The first plan and this new updated plan were both prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the world’s leading planning, engineering and program and construction management organizations.

Meanwhile, the rubbish we were trying to ship to Seattle to burn caught fire in Honolulu after the state of Washington said it didn’t want our garbage after all. Right after that, a rain storm in Ko Olina flooded Waimanalo Gulch Landfill and showered the Leeward Coast with garbage, including medical waste.

Back at the Big Square Building on South Beretania Street, a senate bill was crafted that would appropriate between $250,000 and $350,000 from our strapped general fund for an environmental assessment and the application of a space-port license from the Federal Aviation Administration. The license is intended to be a catalyst to launch commercial space travel in Hawaii.

Maybe rockets could take our garbage somewhere, anywhere.

Maybe we might consider yet another agency in state government: The Department of Space, Rail Travel and Garbagology.

The Legislature’s Flood Of Bills

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 16, 2011
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This legislative session hasn’t wasted any time in baffling taxpayers. Just about everyone is waiting for the battle to begin over a balanced budget and accounting for a $866 million shortfall.

More than 3,200 bills are being proposed at the Big Square Building on South Beretania Street. About 300 or so will become law, leaving a lot of special-interest groups either happy or disgruntled. The new administration wasted no time raiding the Hurricane Fund for money to end the furlough program. Not much reaction by the taxpayers.

Some wondered what happens if a hurricane hits the state, although that’s not a concern now, since hurricane season ends in November.

What has not gone away is our huge budget deficit. In true negotiating theory, you almost always talk money last, and that seems to be what’s going on. The promise to create civil unions for same-sex partners heads the list. A couple of the bills granting some sort of rights to same-sex couples glided through both houses without authorizing marriage itself.

There were four hours of emotional testimony in the Senate Health Committee on a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Hawaii. It was killed there.

Other eye-catching bills involved a concern with loud boom boxes. Don’t have to worry about that one too much, mainly because it’s unenforceable. The problem is irritating, but one person’s loud is another person’s groove.

Ideas about gambling in Hawaii’s resorts always surfaces whenever revenues are in question. Many taxpayers believe that gambling might help the economy, but there is little chance of that bill prevailing.

Another interesting bill to surface has to do with banning the sale of toy guns. The DOE believes that they are disruptive to classroom management. These toy guns are not “squirt” guns. They come with ammo clips, laser aiming technology and look very real. The vendors who sell them are naturally against the bill because it will put a dent in their sales. There is no real telling how far this bill will go, and it’s not impossible that if the Legislature allows it to become law, it may demand the toy pistols be registered with all law enforcement agencies.

There are two popular thoughts about our current Legislature. One is that it has lost its way, and the other is that this is a “dry run” for the newly crowned administration.

Let’s face it, there is a steep learning curve for any incoming administration. For that reason I think the public should hang on to their wallets and savings and wait for the real show to begin.

There was a little light shed on the matter last week when the governor finally appointed labor leader Neil Dietz as the state’s chief negotiator.

This is good news for the unions, because Mr. Dietz will have to leave his post as a port agent for the Seafarers International Union in Honolulu, where he was responsible for the union’s daily operations.

It’s good news for the unionized work force because they have someone who understands their plight.

The real question is, will he represent union members or management?

Relax, people ask stupid questions for a reason.

A Bad Idea To Cut Stadium Funds

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 09, 2011
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It was interesting observing the NFL Pro Bowl. By any standard of measurement, it was a huge success — no matter what the uninformed believe — not only for the NFL, but for the people of Hawaii and our struggling economy.

Several weeks before the Pro Bowl hit town, our governor, following his State of the State message, said that he was going to redirect most all of the funds that had been assigned to maintenance of Aloha Stadium. Not one word of defense or praise was heard for those who keep the stadium functioning so well.

It was shameful, because our political leaders don’t seem to understand what’s going on. What they are witnessing is a very successful industry in one its finest moments. Aloha Stadium is a dream palace — a place where young and old alike go to dream about all sorts of wonderful things.

Sports in Hawaii has grown into a very powerful industry. Every major industry in Hawaii was once a growth industry. The problem is there are some people riding the wave of growth enthusiasm.

The University of Hawaii has showed Hawaii’s fierce pride to the world many times over the years at Aloha Stadium. Still, there are the critics who want to either tear it down, let some else manage it or both.

They are wrong.

The biggest problem faced by those who manage Aloha Stadium is ignorance about how a state facility is run for the benefit of the taxpayers. If the stadium is run correctly, it will generate enough revenue to keep the facility in good shape without requesting additional funds from the Legislature.

The reason growth is threatened, slowed or stopped is not because the market is saturated. It is because of management. The failure is at the top — the executives responsible for it, in the last analysis, are those who deal with self-serving political aims and policies.

The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passengers and freight transportation declined. Simply put, they believed they were in the railroad business, when in fact they were in the transportation business. They were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented. Another good example is Hollywood barely escaping being totally ravished by television. The large movie studios, because of their own self-inflicted myopia, defined their business incorrectly. They weren’t in the movie business, they were in the entertainment business. Today TV is bigger than the narrowly defined movie business. What our sports industry could really use is a shot of managerial inventiveness and skill, topped off with some imagination and audacity.

This is not the time to stop improving Aloha Stadium. Our sports industry is riding a wave of excellence. Now is not the time to withdraw support or revenues.

Aloha Stadium is a gold mine for Hawaii in more ways than one. If you want to think out of the box for a minute, try this: The state of Hawaii locks the stadium down, constructs several condominium high rises on the diamondhead side of the stadium, with the penthouse floors serving as sky boxes. The lower floors would be managed by the UH Tourism and Hospitality Department. Visiting teams could be booked right at the stadium. When WAC teams come to town, they wouldn’t need to be housed in Waikiki.

And while they’re at it, they could give the stadium manager and his staff a warm mahalo for a marvelous job of getting the stadium ready for the Pro Bowl after a very successful UH season, the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl — none of which would have been possible without Aloha Stadium.

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Time For Some Serious Trash Talk

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 02, 2011
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The Honolulu City Council has been holding hearings about the spill of medical waste during recent heavy rains on Oahu. They want to prevent similar disasters in the future.

The medical waste spilled from the Waimanalo Gulch landfill and made its way onto Leeward Coast beaches, contaminating the water and littering the beaches.

Then something terrible happened. The Waimanalo Gulch landfill was closed. This is like a four-story dormitory with only one toilet that gets disabled. The longer it’s disabled, the more important the disposal of waste becomes.

It’s really quite remarkable that all our leaders are not authorities on trash disposal.

We worry a lot about recycling and green energy, but we’re unable to handle our waste management. We tried to ship it to the West Coast, but it didn’t work out.

Some of the opala caught fire just sitting around waiting to be shipped out.

On an island, there appear to be only four practical ways to get rid of trash: Legally dump it somewhere, burn it, recycle it or waste minimization.

I’m sure the ancient Hawaiians had a plan for disposing of trash and it didn’t include throwing it in an active volcano or a nearby swamp. Someone in the University of Hawaii Hawaiian Studies Program might look into how Hawaii matches up with other civilizations of yesteryear to see how we fared with handling the problem of trash.

How did the waste Hawaiians threw away compare to other civilizations? It has to have been a big problem because it involves the health and safety of the population.

The thought of garbage piling up is scary for a single reason:

Trash has played an important role in history - the bubonic plague, cholera and typhoid fever wiped out almost half of Europe and even threatened royal families.

Until recently, trash was calculated by volume and not weight. Trash volume is dependent upon how much the trash is compacted.

The weight of trash is dependent on moisture content, which varies greatly, depending on climate.

In Honolulu, the rough guess is that each resident generates about 2.5 pounds a day.

Multiply that by the number of residents and visitors on Oahu on any given day, and you are talking about a big problem that’s not going away.

Next time you drive down the Leeward Coast, look up on the side of the mountain to see the size of Waimanalo Gulch Landfill. The city has been trying for years to either move it, renovate it or expand it, and while recycling is a moderate solution, minimization of trash seems like the inevitable one.

Think for a minute about a similar Oahu problem: water!

One of these days we will run out of fresh water. One of the solutions would be to build a desalination plant, which was actually in the planning nearly a decade ago but then was postponed.

Why wait?

Taking a great interest in trash and waste management is not an exciting topic for our local politicians seeking recognition, but it’s encouraging that at least a couple of City Council members are interested in discussing the problem.

This is something that can’t be continually swept under the rug. It will come back to haunt us all.

Legislature’s Opening Drama

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 26, 2011
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I’ve experienced many opening days at the Legislature over the years, and this one was nothing special, except that the House of Representatives started the day without its speaker. That doesn’t happen often, so there was a little drama to contend with.

A Democratic power struggle had left Democrat Rep. Calvin Say lacking enough support to continue as Speaker of the House after 11 years in the job. To his credit, he didn’t accept an offer from House Republicans to back his leadership and held out for a consensus among the House’s 43 Democrats. The problem was the opposition included 17 Democrats who are generally younger and more liberal than Say’s more conservative faction of 25 Democrats. But, in the end, he prevailed and held onto his leadership position.

After all of the efforts to knock the opening invocation off the agenda, they had a traditional Hawaiian pule and everyone seemed pleased, although some of the suggestions for a collaborative effort this session seemed to fall on deaf ears. On the Senate side, there was an impressive collection of former governors and judiciary big wigs - even former Gov. Linda Lingle was in attendance.

All of the day’s speakers were optimistic about the future and pledged they would be more transparent to the voters who put them in office. At this point, the Legislature is in a developmental stage, which will be followed by a structural period, followed by a recognizable process. A majority of the pundits would lead you to believe that the public unions will have to do a lot of lobbying to hang onto their hard-fought benefits. Two popular themes floating around the Big Square Building on Beretania Street have to do with raising the General Excise Tax (GET) and limiting retirement benefits to public union employees.

It’s interesting to note that the people who call many of the shots at the Legislature were not easily picked out of the crowd of well-wishers. It might be safe to say that there were more people with “wish lists” at the legislative opening than speakers making wishes.

It’s a good bet that the unions will be fighting for their lives this session. The reason is employers and labor unions are governed differently, unbeknownst to most. Employees are hired to perform tasks to accomplish employer-defined objectives and have very little to do in defining objectives. High-level managers are present and are monitored by a board of directors, elected by shareholders, or in the case of public agencies, by their elected or appointed boards. Managers are responsible to the constituencies or shareholders or voters. Union goals reflect member interest, but they were not in attendance at this function. It’s just as well, for they would have nothing to applaud. The union leaders must be responsive to members’ interests in order to remain in office.

If you want to observe a functional democracy at work, it’s at one of these legislative openings. It’s a good bet that, by the time the clock struck midnight, the game was in full swing on all five floors.

In the nation’s most lopsided Legislature, the gloves came off. And after the last cheek was kissed and aloha hug was administered, the problem of how to reduce a nearly $800 million deficit was the main topic of conversation on both sides.

One last thing. This is a struggle between new Democrats and seasoned Democrats. The Republicans will have very little to offer besides a few choice one-liners.

New Cabinet Will Make Mistakes

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 19, 2011
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As most politicians, individuals and leaders of organizations rely extensively on experience, it sometimes leads to misguided conclusions. From an academic point of view, experience may possibly be the best teacher, but it is not a particularly good teacher. Why? When you learn from “trial and error,” you get the test first and the lesson later.

This fact causes leaders, especially political leaders, to lament, “How could we have been so stupid?”

It’s not an explanation, but it happens when experience is lacking in the decision-making process. Remember the Bay of Pigs decision-makers? There also are those who led the United States into other major fiascos, such as the failure to be prepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Korean War stalemate and the escalation of the Vietnam War. I was present for three of the aforementioned historical events and can guarantee you no one appeared to know what was going on.

Stupidity certainly is not an explanation. Those who participated in the Bay of Pigs decision were some of the greatest intellectual talents in the history of American government: Rusk, McNamara, Dillon, Kennedy, Bundy, Schlesinger, Dulles and more.

I was fortunate to be employed at UH when Harlan Cleveland became president. He was a very smart man who also was involved in the Bay of Pigs fiasco as one of the deputy secretaries in the Kennedy administration. The experience partially inspired him to write a great book on leadership, The Future Executive.

I used to drive Cleveland down to the Legislature when he had to testify, and was amazed at how he reacted to “stupid” questions from some of the lawmakers. I used to joke with him about why they would invite him to testify, but then disregard what he had to say. Of course, he was not the only important person to whom that has happened at our Legislature.

The reason I’m discussing this process now is because it’s happening all over again with the newly appointed Abercrombie cabinet. Each new cabinet member has a combination of temporary emotional states of elation, fear or even some anger that can reduce mental efficiency. Some of those blind spots have already been exposed - arising from an individual’s social prejudices or idiosyncratic biases.

When new cabinet members make stupid decisions, the voters should not be distressed, because they are victims of something called “group dynamics.” It is, in fact, common for new groups to become victims of what is known has “group-think.” It is a typical phenomenon of social conformity. In these situations, group norms bolster morale at the expense of critical thinking.

My point is to just enjoy the show. It’s going to be something.

The Legislature’s Ball Game Begins

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 12, 2011
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Speaker of the House (for now) Calvin Say

On Jan. 19, the state Legislature will gather to take care of the state’s business. It has all the tell-tale earmarks of a great session: new faces, promises to keep, new leadership in the Senate, a dissident faction fighting for power in the House.

But there’s not much money in the coffers of either chamber.

It’s good that the political season begins with individuals and power groups gunning for control over the process. The Senate seems set, although who will be Speaker of the House is still up in the air as longtime Speaker Calvin Say is still searching for one more vote to stay in power. Dissidents in the House of Representatives have been busy trying to force a compromise candidate into the spotlight.

Many people are hoping they are not successful, because it could mean the passage of a general-excise tax increase, which is the quick fix for the state’s budget shortfall.

This kind of talk always gets the Republican minority excited because, if the session begins without a leader, they could possibly break the deadlock if they vote as a block. Not likely, but a cute thought.

Last time it happened was way back in 1971. Seems like nothing really changes.

When there are too many powerful Democrats in elective positions, they always end up with two factions, one in command and the other searching for chairmanship of important committees.

This session will have a new twist: a new, fast-talking, liberal governor and a big budget shortfall. There are already indications that the public unions will be called on for concessions. That’s not a surprise, but having it happen before the House finishes its leadership struggle is.

There is something missing this year in both houses of the Legislature. There has been no call for a limit to the opening-day festivities, a trademark of Hawaii politics - flowers, entertainment, lavish food and one big party with a big-time meet-and-greet session all day long. Because of calls for fiscal austerity, the legislators had been asked to scale down or abandon the festivities, but there has been no call for that so far.

What does this mean? Has the Council on Revenues given an indication behind closed doors that the state budget woes are ending?

We have to wait and see who authors a bill or bills to generate funds to benefit which segment of the state’s population. It should be interesting. But first, the legislators should commit to playing ball with each other. That would be a really good start.

Potholes Define Governments

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 05, 2011
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A portion of the archipelago of potholes on Ahua Street, just off Nimitz Highway

When looking back over a year of astonishing events, it’s not prudent to claim that one stands out over the rest. It’s always a matter of opinion. But, having said that, if one astonishing event repeats itself I think that makes the event remarkable.

For some time in our fair city there has been a perceived link between the maintenance of potholes and city government efficiency. The discovery of potholes and their repair have been the subject of many a political campaign speech over the years. We even have a Pothole Hotline: 527-6006.

For that reason, my most memorable event of last year is the survival of one particular pothole in Honolulu with a longevity that is remarkable.

I know everyone has a favorite pothole they dodge every day getting to work. It’s a game a driver plays with the pothole that can leave the driver feeling either elated or furious. If you hit a “world-class” pothole, it will rattle your shock absorbers and separate your thoughts from your ideas. The instant reaction is to rationalize hitting the pothole because it was raining and was filled with water, thereby making it invisible, or you were in heavy traffic and couldn’t dodge the pothole without hitting another car. You will probably keep telling yourself that you are going to take an alternate route from now on, but drivers are creatures of habit, and before long you’re back on the same track and amazingly on the same road with the same world-class pothole. If you forget where it is and hit it, you will most always curse whoever the current mayor is - not that the curse will repair the pothole, it just makes you feel better.

I did a little non-scientific research to pinpoint the City and County of Honolulu’s most notable potholes. To my surprise, no one agreed where our most spectacular potholes are. Not only did everyone have a “favorite” pothole, they each had a reason why their favorite pothole was able to escape detection and repair.

Surprisingly, most people I questioned thought it depended on who your City Council member is. The perception is that Republican councilmembers’ districts come in on the bottom of the list. That doesn’t make sense, since city elections are non-partisan and there just aren’t that many politicians in the state who are not Democrats.

My favorite pothole has been in existence for more than three years. It is right off Nimitz Highway.

If you are coming off the freeway and don’t slow down when you turn right on Ahua Street, you are in for the shock of your life.

To begin with, you can’t miss this pothole because it goes right across Ahua Street. There is a series of potholes with various depths, some of them are at least 6-10 inches deep.

To make them more dangerous, they are usually filled with water so you can only see them during low tide.

That’s not a misprint.

Ahua Street is below sea level, and even if it’s not raining, during high tide the entrance of Ahua is underwater.

How deep is it?

On some occasions, there are little fish swimming in the deeper spots, proof that there’s a storm drain from one pothole that reaches the ocean.

Ahua Street is one of two main connections to Mapunapuna, a key industrial center. It’s amazing that after all these years the submerged potholes have not been repaired. I called a few people familiar with the area, and they have given up on getting the potholes fixed. One of the reason is jurisdiction - the old city versus state argument.

That doesn’t sound right. After all, everyone in the Mapunapuna district pays high taxes to both the city and the state of Hawaii.

They obviously deserve relief.

Editor’s note: Have a “favorite” pothole? Please tell us about it, with the location. E-mail entries with the subject line “pothole of the year” to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


How Will Neil ‘Reconfigure’?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 29, 2010
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The state of Hawaii is faced with a big problem, not unlike other states in the Union. Ours is how the new administration will balance a $844 million shortfall over the next two years. Gov. Neil Abercrombie says he will find money by reconfiguring government, pursuing federal funding and putting people to work on public-works projects.

The problem is it’s going to take a little patience on the part of the public, like understanding new concepts such as “reconfiguring government.”

What does that mean? In the past, much of the problem with balancing the budget was that a large part of it is mandated by law. The law is clear on what is funded and what is not. It doesn’t say how, it just says that it will. It’s pretty obvious at this point that the public unions are going to be asked to be helpful - which means, in straight talk, make concessions.

I don’t believe anyone in the private sector thinks for a minute that the governor will rein in the public unions’ demands. Unions tend to be very resistant to candidates who go back on their campaign promises. From the private sector’s point of view, they would probably say, “Think before you act; it’s not your money.” The union reminder would be, “Whose bread you eat, his song you shall sing.”

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not speaking to the governor here. He’s a smart guy and knows how the union leaders think and behave. I worry about the reaction from the private sector because it’s unpredictable at this point. The governor does-n’t need any advice, because if you can tell the difference between good and bad advice, you don’t need advice. But his new cabinet members are going to be whispering in his ear every time they meet. Some of these people would be well-advised to ask for advice, but I doubt if they will. They should realize early on that if you are doing something wrong, you will do it badly. I can’t wait to see how reconfiguring government will generate the needed $844 million.

I’m worried about how the local unions will respond to reconfiguring government. Until about 1930 there were no labor laws. Employers didn’t have to engage in collective bargaining with employees, and their response to unions was very limited.

The point is, times have changed, and here we are wrestling with the mandates in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

Imagine, Gov. Abercrombie says he is going to bring back thousand of prisoners currently serving their terms on the Mainland - who will be housed in which correctional facility and guarded by whom? Where’s the new prison going to be built to house them? None of the past governors has been able to build a prison anywhere.

It looks like there is a possibility that the public’s less-than-enthusiastic attitude toward unions is about to hear a new song they may not like. Under the current circumstances, there will probably be little they can do but sing along.

Unemployment Benefits For Losers

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 22, 2010
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“There ought to be a law” is a phrase often heard from disgruntled voters. In this case, I’m sure there is already a law, but it’s one of those most people are unaware of, especially people who run for public office. The question is, if an incumbent is running for re-election and is defeated, is he or she eligible for unemployment insurance and other benefits?

I’m pretty sure it’s not a question that sits on the front burners for most politicians running for reelection. Adecade ago, unemployment insurance benefits were very much on the minds of elected members in both chambers of our Legislature. The concern was the difficulty in finding qualified individuals. The way the law was written back then, it didn’t run enough days to warrant unemployment benefits at the end of the legislative session. Most qualified legislative workers were not willing to quit their jobs and, after four months, be unemployed.

In the good old days, there was a time limit for workers to be on the job before they qualified for unemployment benefits. The solution was simple: The Legislature passed a law that technically extended the session legally. All they had to do was pass a law that extended the halfway recess by a couple of weeks. The reason given was it allowed more time for legislative lobbyists and media to go over the hundred of bills sitting in neat piles in the basement of the Capitol. When there are several hundred bills to be visited, the extra time was a blessing for the public and special-interest groups.

It was one of those “there ought to be a law” moments that actually produced the intended consequences and seasoned legislative helpers have been happy with the law ever since.

This year, an unusual number of candidates ran for re-election but didn’t make it. Is it possible that another law will be passed to accommodate incumbents who are defeated at the polls?

The law is pretty vague, but, for civilians, if you are fired, you’re eligible for unemployment compensation and, in certain circumstances, for many months. Of course, this is probably poor timing, because the state had to borrow $17 million from the federal government so it can continue to pay unemployment benefits. We are not alone. Thirty-two other states have received similar loans. Like most of Hawaii’s labor laws, they are not the same across the nation, and unemployment insurance is a good example.

Many incumbents who were defeated have already applied for unemployment insurance benefits. Whether they receive them and when is the question. There is an additional question. If a candidate who is running for re-election is defeated in the election, has he or she technically been fired by their employers (voters) and automatically qualified for unemployment benefits? Like workers’ compensation, it is a benefit paid for by the employers.

It could probably be argued quite convincingly that the voters are employers of elected officials. But I’m not sure everyone in government will agree.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. If it’s denied, there’s a good possibility it could be challenged in court. In either case, it’s an interesting political scenario to contemplate for future elections.

Honeymoon Time For Our New Guv

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 15, 2010
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie got right down to business following his inauguration ceremony. It was a work of art in the world of politics, much like he is. With the lights and cameras flashing and clicking, Native Hawaiians dressed in black and carrying signs of protest, the new governor wearing a pink shirt and necktie, humbly thanked the crowd and everyone in his immediate family and campaign headquarters.

He promised he would hit the ground running and he wasn’t kidding. He held his first news conference after being sworn in and announced he was releasing money for public education and social service programs. He released $67 million from the Hurricane Relief Fund to restore 17 instructional days for public schools. In addition, he released nearly $24 million from the Rainy Day Fund to help 15 social services programs.

Everyone at the inauguration ceremony was happy - there were hugs, handshakes and kisses for everyone in attendance. It was a heartwarming sight no matter what your political point of view. Maybe it was just because everyone was on the same page for a change.

Just keeping a couple of campaign promises to the teachers and social service providers was good holiday politics. This moment is often referred to as the “honeymoon” period. In gubernatorial politics, the honeymoon period usually lasts until midway through the first legislative session. It will be interesting to see if Abercrombie will continue to pull millions of dollars out of the state coffers to satisfy his vast political machine’s enormous appetite. There is hope that the media and his opponents will extend the honeymoon a couple of months for a couple of reasons.

First, there is the challenge facing House Speaker Calvin Say, who for 14 years has held the Democratic majority together with a cool head and Zen-like attitude toward solving intra-party divisiveness. It’s one of the festering problems in our Legislature that is overwhelmed with one-party politics, especially in the Senate with only one Republican present.

In the House, the overwhelming majority has split into what appears to be two Democratic parties. In the past, the Neighbor Island representatives molded the leadership. That hasn’t happened yet. And don’t count on the Republican minority to help them solve their leadership challenges.

Hopefully, Abercrombie will make his presence felt in the House chambers before it’s too late. He’s served in the House and knows how they organized themselves in a time of crisis.

Another problem facing the Abercrombie administration is a shortage of money and, to a lesser degree, forming a newly appointed Board of Education.

Here’s wishing the new administration a merry, merry holiday season and a happy honeymoon.

Public Workers Take The Blame Again

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 08, 2010
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There is a federal commission looking into possible ways to cut the federal deficit. To no one’s surprise, one of its first recommendations was to freeze the pay of federal workers. Also to no one’s surprise, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, while supporting President Barack Obama’s call for a federal wage freeze, pointed out that the freeze, if adopted, would affect tens of thousands of workers in Hawaii.

To get an idea of its impact, there were more than 33,000 federal civilian workers in Hawaii in 2009. That represents 5.6 percent of the labor force in the state. It’s interesting to note that the average pay for a federal worker in Hawaii is about $81,258 in wages and another $41,791 in benefits.

In the same week, newly elected Mayor Peter Carlisle announced that he intended to eliminate public worker furloughs in Honolulu. He said his “financial plan will not include furloughs, and the existing budget has city workers staying home two Fridays each month through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.” He went on to say, “It’s not healthy for government to have furloughs,” noting that work backs up when city workers aren’t in, and that city employees enjoy incredibly generous sick time, scheduled holidays and regular vacation days.

A while back, when Mayor Mufi Hannemann faced a similar financial shortfall, he ordered 10,000 city employees to begin furloughs, closing most city offices for two days a month. Employees dealing with public safety and other core city services such as TheBus and refuse collection were instead faced with 5 percent pay cuts, the equivalent amount of salary being lost by those put on furlough.

The general public believes that government workers are paid too much and have benefits that are too generous. Well, there is no abundance of evidence that is true. What is readily apparent is that when the government needs more money, more often than not it raises taxes. When governments are hit with a recession, they freeze salaries and benefits or cut the workweek with some kind of a furlough plan. The excuse is the same: The government cannot afford the compensation.

There are some things that workers, at any level, should keep in mind. There are four basic factors that determine what people are paid: legal, union, policy and equity. Legally, there are numerous laws that stipulate what employers can or must pay in terms of minimum wages, overtime rates and benefits. There is nothing whimsical about compensation laws.

Read the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. It specifically contains minimum wage laws, minimum hours, overtime pay, equal pay, record-keeping and child-labor provisions covering most U.S. workers, but not all. The 1963 and 1964 Civil Rights Act talks about discrimination and the privileges of employment. Then there are laws for unionized companies, union-related issues that influence pay plan design. Workers were granted these rights in the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

Historically, the wage rate has been the main issue in collective bargaining, and it’s all packaged with various benefits such as health care. What many people forget is that a collective bargaining settlement has the force of law in a courtroom. You can’t just take away something that has been negotiated at the bargaining table with management.

The important point is that the compensation plan negotiated by government should support the employer’s strategic aims. Said another way, management should produce an aligned reward strategy that supports and achieves its strategic aims and competitive strategy.

Penalizing government workers every time there is an economic downturn or recession is not a fair plan, and can only lead to poor employee morale and low productivity.

Not All Grads Ready For UH

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 01, 2010
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More than a third of Hawaii public school graduates who enrolled in the University of Hawaii system last year needed remedial instruction in math or English.

That’s according to the nonprofit advocate group Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education. Its report, called the “College and Career Readiness Indicators,” is an effort to better understand where students are going once they leave Hawaii high schools and how prepared they are for college or a career.

Garrett Toguchi, chairman of the Board of Education, says that we’re not really providing the kinds of resources that we need to help students entering college.

It’s pretty obvious now that the body of knowledge being taught to high school students is growing at a mercurial rate, and it’s getting harder and harder for teachers to stuff more knowledge into the students in such a short time.

The cost of adding more days to the school year is necessary, but the question is where’s the money?

Mr. Toguchi said something else that was worthy of note: “College-going alone is not the best indicator of student success.” Darrel Galera, well-respected principal of Moanalua High School, said, “Our concern is it’s being taken like this is the real data. We feel like we get bashed around enough.” He’s right.

I’m not suggesting that there is no room for improvement in the DOE. But this report does little to provide helpful data. Without meaningful structure, it’s nothing but numbers randomly thrown together.

I’m one of those students who had remedial instruction in math and English. As I look back on my educational trek through the system, I think, first, I was not ready for college. If you came from Kaaawa by bus and end up on University Avenue looking for the Atherton House, the campus was a scary place. Lucky for me, I was assigned a dorm mate named Eduardo Malapit from Kauai. He was kind of lost, too, but a senior, much smarter and a good pool player. We ate every night at Kuhio Grill and evaluated our trials and tribulations. I got drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War and Malapit went on to graduate, entered the Notre Dame Law School and became mayor of Kauai. Counting my Army time, it took me nine years to graduate from UH, but I did it. I passed English 100 in my senior year, thanks to the extra attention from Dr. Eleanor Billsburough.

You see, it wasn’t that I lacked the high school preparation. I just wasn’t ready for college when college was ready for me. That’s what’s missing in this report. It doesn’t point out that students in rural public schools need more attention to get ready for the experience.

These kind of reports do nothing to motivate students. If anything, it makes the whole process more frightening.

Now that I’ve been a teacher for the past 25 years, I can safely say I have never met a college professor (or editor) who does not bemoan the performance of their remedial students. These college professors are a tough lot. When you are in an English class and the professor asks you something like “Aren’t you a graduate of Roosevelt High School? Isn’t that an English Standard school?” you know you are in trouble.

Let’s face it, not all students are alike and it’s not a good idea to suggest they are. Some students are late bloomers. If your kid is not mature enough to go to college, don’t force him. Never mind what the report says. Be patient.

Power Struggle At The Hilton

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 24, 2010
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Hundreds of Local 5 members who work at Hilton Hawaiian Village and other Waikiki hotels marched through the Hilton’s main lobby last week. The 1,500 union hotel workers’ contract expired five months ago, and union leaders said they wanted to get the attention of Hilton management.

They were joined by members of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, which just happened to be holding its annual convention at the hotel. After the march through the lobby, the protesters paced the sidewalk on Kalia Road fronting the resort chanting union slogans and carrying signs.

There has been no settlement, so it’s obvious union members’ marching and shouting didn’t get the attention they wanted from management.

Maybe we can help with a little clarification for the public.

To begin with, negotiations are not supposed to be a search-and-destroy mission. One thing is for sure, neither side wants to treat any one negotiation as the last opportunity to get a fair deal.

The reason is you have to look at the whole picture and at the whole relationship, especially at the long-term interests, rather than obsessing over a current situation.

That’s most important, because the hotel industry has been struggling with the economic downturn, although there are signs of a creeping recovery.

For the public, especially the unemployed segment, anyone with a job in these troubled economic times should be grateful and hope for the best.

Some may want to know which side is right. Most of the rights being disputed in this case are covered by law. They are formalized in contracts signed between the parties involved. Other rights they are concerned with are socially acceptable standards of behavior, such as reciprocity, precedent, equality and seniority.

The bottom line here is that rights are rarely clear because they often differ and are sometimes contradictory. The problem is reaching agreement on rights, where the outcome will determine who gets what, is exceedingly difficult and is frequently settled by a third party.

Another way to settle a dispute is to determine who is more powerful. The definition of power in negotiating is the ability to coerce someone to do something he or she would not otherwise do. Exercising power typically means imposing costs on the other side or threatening to do so. This exercise of power takes two basic forms: acts of aggression, such as sabotage, or withholding benefits that derive from the relationship.

Let’s face it, management can handle the housekeeping chores, but it’s not a pretty sight.

It’s interesting to note that determining who has the most power is, more often than not, a matter of perception. What we have here is nothing new, it is as old as science of labor relations. Each side’s perception of the other’s power may fail to take into account the other side’s perception of itself.

Sadly, both sides are appear to be willing to invest greater resources in the contest than expected out of fear that a change in the perceived distribution of power will somehow affect the outcome of future disputes.

Don’t be surprised if the governor-elect is summoned as a third party to generate a settlement. He might as well start working on his “halo” as soon as possible.

In negotiations, timing is everything.

Exciting Times At The Capitol

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 17, 2010
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Gov. Linda Lingle

Things are really getting exciting in the square building on South Beretania Street. A change of administration is on the horizon. It’s always exciting to see who ends up where when a change like this occurs, especially on the fifth floor. Gov. Linda Lingle has been in office for eight years. That’s a long time.

In those eight years, five of her cabinet members have gone on to become judges. One even made his way to a trusteeship for Bishop Estate.

Former City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz is now a senator for the North Shore, and former City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle is mayor of the City and County of Honolulu. And let’s not forget Mufi Hannemann, who had gone from city councilman to mayor.

Brian Schatz went from chairman of the Democratic Party to lieutenant governor on the undercard as former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie became Gov. Abercrombie.

It’s worth noting that Lingle went from mayor of Maui County to chairwoman of the Republican Party on her way to being first governor-elect from a Neighbor Island.

It seems these highly qualified individuals also are looked on as exceptional recruits by those calling the shots in the private sector. It didn’t take long for the Disney venture on the Leeward Coast to tap City Councilman Todd Apo as its public relations manager.

It seems that everyone is in the process of coming or going in the world of politics. Knowing which direction a politician is going can be very helpful in securing a happy retirement option.

There is a warning that goes with all this: Change is not always good. Sometimes change is nothing more than something done differently. Change does-n’t mean better; it means different.

Put yourself in Lingle’s position for just a moment. She has not driven her own automobile in eight years. She has been riding in the back of a chauffeured SUV all that time. How will she perform in today’s complex traffic delays? Will she be able to park her car? What kind of a car will she purchase? (As a member of the Cutter family, her options are nearly endless.) The pressure is immense, because after her years of preaching “green” this and “green” that, won’t she have to drive an electric vehicle? What happens if her new residence does not have a plug-in battery charger for electric vehicles? Imagine the need to go shopping for groceries. I’m sure she knows how, but after eight years, will she get lost in Costco looking for something to cook? And what about the need to actually cook something after eight years’ absence from the kitchen?

I’m sure Lingle will do just fine. I’m more worried about all the people who have benefited from her friendship over the years. It appears all of the appointments have proven to be beneficial to a lot of people. Now that will change, as a new governor takes over and starts appointing his own cabinet, his own Board of Education and his own UH regents. Those appointees also will have some appointing to do, so we’re in for an exciting season downtown.


The Mysteries Of Voter Turnout

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 10, 2010
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One of the most-researched topics in the political industry is voter turnout.

The questions are tantalizing. Why do people register to vote, but then don’t vote? Who are these people? Are they young, middle-aged or old?

It all depends - whether the voter is in the East, West, North or South, is male or female, and if the voter is a Democrat, Republican, independent or other.

Even the arithmetic does-n’t always make sense.

Hawaii has a population of about 1.2 million, of whom about 690,000 are registered voters. On midterm election day 2010, 385,000 of them showed up to vote. That’s roughly a turnout of 55 percent. Believe it or not, that is a very good turnout, anywhere, anytime.

This election proved that Hawaii doesn’t fit the national norm for projecting outcomes using voter turnout as a positive indication. From the looks of the results, the citizens of voting age across the U.S. were, with the exception of four or five states, upset with the incumbents and voted them out of office. It was a remarkable gain for the Republican Party - but not in Hawaii.

For some reason, and I don’t think anyone is really sure why, Hawaii voters have a different mentality when they enter the voting booth.

They don’t seem to enjoy voting, because we have such a large absentee voting population. They simply vote early. That creates a lot of concern that once they do that, the voter can’t change their vote if they change their mind a week before the election. Also, this creates a real challenge for those who figure out a candidate’s campaign strategy.

In this election, TV and radio were saturated with campaign advertising. It was interesting to note that the ability to buy time on a television station became a real marketable art form. If you don’t believe that, figure out why U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and Sen. Dan Inouye were able to get so many slots in prime time when they were virtually uncontested. It’s because they have money, and also know-how.

Another mystery surfaced, if you look between the lines and lines of numbers and statistics. There were more blank votes in certain contests than ever before. In the race for the 1st Congressional District between Colleen Hanabusa and Charles Djou, with the differences between them as clear as can be, there were about 13,000 blank votes. The margin of victory was about 11,000.

What’s with that? In this race, non-votes counted as much as votes.

You could argue that the blank votes cast in the Board of Education race were way past the usual 3 percent margin because so many of the candidates were unknown to the voting public.

OK, but in a congressional race with only two candidates, both of whom saturated the airwaves with ads, what does a blank vote suggest?

It’s already a difficult task to educate voters that, on amendments for state propositions, a blank vote is a “no” vote, but on City Charter amendments a “no” vote means just plain no. But during the next election, the experts are going to have to come up with a campaign strategy to influence the voters to not leave their ballots with blank votes, even if it’s their prerogative to do so.

The Mystery Of Voter Turnout

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 03, 2010
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Now that all the campaigning is over and the votes have been tabulated, the most popular analyses are centered on voter turnout. Traditionally, voter turnout rates are much lamented, specifically low-voter participation. A lot of this discussion is about why the turnout is high, average or low, and its impact on victory or defeat.

In the beginning, turnout rates were calculated by dividing the number of votes cast by eligible population, meaning everyone age 18 and over in the United States - this includes those ineligible to vote, namely non-citizens. The truth of the matter is this rate has not declined since 1992 and appears to have been restored to the high levels of 2008.

Voter turnout is a popular topic in Hawaii, because we are a noncontiguous state and voter turnout on the Neighbor Islands is significant to winning or losing state races, especially the governor’s seat. It’s probably why the Aiona gubernatorial campaign chose to tour the islands by bus during the last week before election day.

No one is really sure why some eligible voters decide not to cast a vote. Theories abound as to why someone would give up their right to vote voluntarily, especially when so many individuals have fought and died for the right to vote around the world.

Some of the popular excuses have to do with time. It takes a lot of time to get to your voting place. In fact, however, once you are there voting only takes a couple of minutes, if you are prepared.

Those who blame time as a reason for not voting are just lazy citizens. And the law gives citizens two hours away from work to vote. You’d think more people would vote just because of that.

Another popular excuse is that they don’t know any of the candidates. That may be true with the school board, but how could anyone not know the names of the candidates vying for an office at the Square Building on South Beretania Street or a free trip to Washington?

Absentee voting has become a blessing for handicapped voters. You can sit at home and ponder how to vote on propositions.

Which brings up the question about the confusing language used for the City Charter Amendments. And what’s up with a blank vote means a no vote on some of the state amendments, and means nothing on City Charter proposals? What ever happened to “no” meaning “no”?

At least one thing is sure now that the votes are all accounted for. Negative campaigning got just plain nasty the last couple of days of the campaign. I suppose that means negative advertising is here to stay, and that there is more recognition in criticizing than understanding.

Another thing for sure, it wasn’t as boring as it could have been.

A Record Campaign Spending Year

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 27, 2010
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It’s going to take a couple of months to sort out all the lessons learned from next Tuesday’s mid-term elections. It appeared from the beginning that the main attraction would be the battle between two very strong Democrat contenders for the office of governor, Mufi Hannemann and Neil Abercrombie - just two candidates pumped more than $5 million into the economy.

It was a spirited campaign, expensive and with a surprise outcome. In this race, the polls were incorrect. It appears no one had a real feel for the landslide that what was going to happen.

When all the numbers are in, the gubernatorial candidates, Abercrombie and Duke Aiona, will have spent another $5 million.

Who would have imagined a gubernatorial election in a small state like Hawaii would cost more than $10 million? Even the president got involved with his “Robo-calling” support for Abercrombie.

Probably more surprising was the amount candidates Charles Djou and Colleen Hanabusa spent on the congressional race in the 1st District. The word is it, too, will be more than $5 million! This race has consequences because it could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Congress, but that’s still a lot of money.

There are many things going on in the election that have consequences. The vote for an appointed school board, and a host of city charter amendments that have received, or deserved, little public awareness.

As far as elections go, we are pretty fortunate, because there are clear-cut differences between the candidates in both elections. One side is sold on protecting President Obama’s policies, the other side is opposed to increased taxes. The only issue they all seem to agree on is an appointed school board.

How contested are the issues? Well, when was the last time an actor from Los Angeles was recruited to endorse a political party in a general election in Hawaii?

I guess we should all be grateful that just four candidates poured more than $10 million into our economy. Probably the most obvious message in all of this is that, after all is said and done, it proved the issues were worth the record expenditure of campaign money, never mind where or who it came from.

The battle lines were drawn early on, and there was a predictable escalation of the political rhetoric to the very end. Even though the negative campaign advertisements got boring, it is our good fortune to take part in a most important election. The moral of why the campaign was so expensive can be attributed to an old saying: “Every innovative idea requires a finite number of dollars to convert it from concept to reality.”

Now that we’ve all seen how much the concepts cost, we have to wait for the reality to set in.

Unusual Patterns in Primary

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 20, 2010
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It’s amazing how much money is being spent on running for public office. That should make it exciting, but it doesn’t, for at least a couple of reasons.

First, the negative advertising employed by most candidates in “tight races” taints the political industry and casts a shadow on the process. In the past, when one candidate outspent his opponent, he or she won the election. Electability was directly related to the ability to raise money.

Secondly, when the Super Senator, Medal of Honor winner and chairman of the all powerful House Appropriations Committee (Dan Inouye) endorsed a candidate, that candidate could rest pretty sure they would get elected, no matter what. That didn’t happen this time.

Directly related to electability was union endorsements. In the past, receiving the endorsement from several powerful public and private unions meant clear sailing into office. Most candidates could take a vacation and let the other wannabe candidates fight it out for position on busy street corners. It was like watching a ritual dance with a highly predictable ending.

Something happened along the way. Candidates who out-spent their opponents lost. More shocking, candidates who had virtually early endorsements from every influential public and private union were defeated. What’s going on?

It’s easy to see where the negative political attacks are coming from. It’s the old focus group tactic used by advertising agencies for years. An ad agency can get a focus group together and in a couple of hours can figure out which ad, angle or attack will produce the most desired result: Buy, sell or change your vote. Is it possible times are changing?

The polling/focus group advocates insist negative ads actually change voters’ minds. Maybe they should try to discover how many negative ads a potential voter can read, hear or view before they decide their reason to vote, because no matter who gets in office, the negative message will continue. If negative advertising does anything, it heightens the victim’s competitive juices and promotes hatred, grudges and a strong desire for vengeance.

I think some of the negative ads are so silly they are entertaining. It will truly be interesting to see if the voter turnout will once again show that most voters are not taking orders from the old guard and voting with their instincts.

Will the UHPA come out strongly for former faculty member Neil Abercrombie? Will Saint Louis and its legions rally to the defense of Duke Aiona? Is it possible for a candidate with the backing of U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye and powerful union leaders to lose out to a candidate with a strange last name and no union support?

Only time will tell, but everyone’s expertise seems to be leaning on the “margin of error,” to make it sound like they know what’s going on as every race goes down to the wire.

Because of the margin of error, many races are being characterized as “dead even.” These are the same people who predicted that the primary gubernatorial race was dead even. “Dead even” obviously means don’t know.

School Board: Elect Or Appoint?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 13, 2010
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The voters of Hawaii have an important election coming up, probably the most important one we’ve faced in years. Not only are some key positions up for grabs, there are some earthshaking races for the Board of Education and the constitutional question of whether we should have an appointed or elected school board.

This has been a hot topic since statehood. In the good old days, the BOE was appointed. A lot of important people didn’t like that, because the question of equal representation haunted the politicians. There are few school boards in the United States that have not wrestled with the question of accountability as related to an elected vs. appointed school board. Simply put, there is no conclusive evidence that one is better than the other.

Another hot topic is the benefit of a centralized vs. a decentralized public education system. In Hawaii, we are truly unique because we are a noncontiguous state separated by water and wildly different economic environments. If the school districts were left to fend for themselves financially, obviously several on smaller islands with fewer taxpayers would not be able to fund a viable public school system. Somewhere, somehow, there must be guaranteed equity in the system to ensure all the youngsters in the state of Hawaii get a fair portion of the budget for public education. That’s what we are supposed to have with an elected board.

Alas, something went wrong with the system. Members of the Board of Education are elected by a small portion, mostly unionized, and naturally vote accordingly. They do not feel obligated to the people in their district although they probably should. It is interesting to note that all of Hawaii’s governors past and present have come out publicly in support of an appointed school board. The idea is there will be more accountability guaranteed. If what these experts say is true, why didn’t it happen the last time we had an appointed school board? What went wrong?

Keep in mind that the governor vetoed a bill asking for an appointed board because it was too similar to the way members of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents are selected - a small group of individuals chosen by the Legislature sends an even shorter list of possible appointees to the governor, who then selects those who serve.

If you have followed this process over the years, in the appointment of judges and other important cabinet positions, the legislators are the ultimate decision-makers on who will serve the public’s best interest. Anyone who is elected to the school board in this election will be out of a job if the appointed school board amendment is passed. What happens then? Well, the bill goes back to the legislators to come up with something that will satisfy all of the desires of the next governor. It’s not impossible that the proposal will get vetoed again.

By the way, if you hear someone say the school board represents the teachers, remind them that the school board members represent their districts. Hawaii State Teachers Association, Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers represent the teachers.

Treating Workers Badly Hurts Business

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 06, 2010
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Some workplace unfairness is blatant. Supervisors can be bullies and intimidating, some yelling constantly at subordinates. The record shows that employees of abusive supervisors are more likely to quit their jobs, to report lower job and life satisfaction and higher stress. This is true in both the private and public sectors. The abusive practices seem to increase in the private sector whenever a new CEO is hired. In the public sector, it happens when there is an election or some high-ranking official retires to take on a new job.

The City and County of Honolulu is going through that process right now, and in several months the state of Hawaii will have a new governor, which will trigger a ripple effect around the state. It’s one of the unintended consequences of having so many elections in a democratic government. It’s no fun for the rank and file.

The big question is: Why treat employee fairly? There are many reasons that managers and new supervisors should be fair, some more obvious than others. The old standby excuse justifying or rationalizing abusive behavior, “What’s fairness got to do with it?” is at best lame. As management guru Peter Drunker once said, “They are not employees, they’re people.”

What’s not so obvious is that employees’ perceptions of fairness also have important organizational ramifications. Simply put, when employees, public or private, are treated fairly, it has a direct relation to enhanced employee commitment and satisfaction with the organization, job and leaders. How they are treated will dictate how they treat customers and the public.

Another reason it’s a good idea to treat employees fairly during these tumultuous times is we have an increasingly litigious work force. Realistically, few societies rely solely on a manager’s sense of ethics or sense of fairness to do what’s right by employees. That’s why employees have rights according to the law. Specifically, laws like Title VIKI give employees numerous rights. I won’t list them here, but be warned there are 19 on the books right now and more on the way.

And while this will grate on the nerves of a lot of managers, Hawaii has witnessed cases where workers are brought to Hawaii under false pretenses, fish canneries in the South Pacific run like slave labor camps and, most recently, the U.S. Department of Labor threatening to take over Hawaii’s enforcement of workplace safety because of staffing concerns and other issues. Federal officials complain that Hawaii’s Occupational Safety and Health Division has only 12 compliance officers, well below the court mandated staffing requirement of 18! The state told federal officials that while that was true, the budget had to be balanced and there has not been an increase in work-place injuries. You would think the federal government would commend Hawaii’s Occupational Safety and Health Division for doing more with less. If anything, fewer visits from inspectors looking for violations of the law is a blessing, because visits from the Occupational Safety and Health Division affect productivity.

The law is not a foolproof guide to what’s fair and ethical. Hopefully during this “transition” political period, incoming management will remember Drucker’s words.

The Showdown At Honolulu Hale

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 29, 2010
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Now that the primary election is over, there appears to be a teachable moment at hand. Both parties went through the victory dance well and staged the usual huggykissy get-togethers. But it’s possible they were talking unity and forgiveness to the wrong people.

Consider, for a moment, not the candidates who lost the primary election but the individuals who work for them. You really don’t have to worry too much about the candidates who lost. Most successful politicians know exactly what they are going to do and where their next paycheck is coming from. Very few enter a political race without a plan for their next appointment or position.

The big question is what about all the people who worked for them over the years with no protection from the incoming “boss”?

A good example of that was interaction between Mayor-elect Peter Carlisle and ousted acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell. The topic at the press conference was touching, as Mr. Caldwell promised a smooth transition. He said, “So I stand before all of you along with all of my cabinet to pledge 100 percent support to the Mayor-elect Peter Carlisle to make sure it’s a smooth transition.”

That’s when the smooth transition got rough. Caldwell offered the historic Mission Memorial as transition offices, saying, “It’s a beautiful building and it’s been fully renovated and is occupied by the people of the City and County of Honolulu.” Carlisle shot back, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not going to go over there, period.”

It all played out on television, and anyone who saw Carlisle’s facial expressions during Caldwell’s offer now understand how almost all emotion in communication is transmitted. As mayor-elect, he should remember how revealing a captured expression can be.

Little attention was paid by media when Carlisle asked for cooperation from city employees during the upcoming probation-ary period, when their positions will be up for review. Also very revealing was when the mayor-elect told the audience: “If you are planning on going out to that vast forest of wealth, the private sector, then please let me know.” For all of the hardworking public employees at Honolulu Hale, that remark probably caused the most anxiety.

Are these unprotected employees smart enough to keep their jobs? Carlisle asked the employees to tell him what they would like to do. Would anyone accept this as a sincere invitation to talk things over with the mayor-elect? I don’t think so. One of the most insidious psychological traps is when a new CEO tells his or her employees, “My door is always open.” Research shows that employees who accept that invitation very seldom reach retirement age with the company.

Consider this. Don’t be too smart for your own good. In this situation, playing dumb may work better. Dumbness is forever amiable if delivered correctly, and may even transmit a mystic wisdom. After all, when the picture of your new boss shows up on the front page of the daily paper showing everyone the bottom of his shoes propped up on his desk, it’s a clear message who’s in charge, isn’t it?

What’s Labor Got To Do With It?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 22, 2010
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Local pundits will probably argue for years that this election season belonged to the unions, both private and public. In the same breath, these pundits will suggest, as they do every election year, that candidates with the most money to spend on advertising ruled the day.

These are ways to rationalize defeat. For those who lost, it was not about qualifications of the candidate, it was a matter of his or her ability to raise more money than the opposition. It suggests that in local politics, you can buy an election. It’s the “sour grapes” defense.

But let’s take a look at unions and politics in the Islands.

During this election year the unions, both public and private, haven’t been unanimous in selecting which candidate to support. Traditionally, the statewide races have been decided by the number of votes collected on the Big Island, especially in the 1st House District (North Hilo, Hamakua, North Kohala). Many campaigns begin on the Big Island and end there with a unity rally. It is no secret that support was generated by former state Rep. Yoshito Takamine, who also was a top official in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

There is no conclusive evidence that support from a union translates into every member of the union voting for a particular candidate. In order for the members to associate the two actions, the employees have to believe the unions can improve their wages, benefits and treatment. Workers won’t unionize unless they believe that they, through unity, can protect themselves from unilateral management whims.

In practice, low morale, fear of job loss and arbitrary management actions help foster unionization. In some respects, these factors have not changed in years, especially on the Neighbor Islands.

So what do unionized workers want? Basically, two aims stick out: union security and improved benefits for their members. A genuine fear locally is that Hawaii may someday become a “Right to Work” state. Right to Work is a term used to describe state statutory provisions banning the requirement of union membership as a condition of employment (Section 14(b) of the Taft Hartley Act. The law doesn’t ban unions, but inhibits union formation. Twenty-two states have Right to Work legislation. Many of our union leaders feel Hawaii could join the fold.

In Hawaii, once companies are unionized, the labor agreement that follows also gives unions a role in other human resource activities including recruiting, compensation, training and discharging of employees. Also, high-tech entrepreneurs are getting an unexpected lesson in labor relations. Many assumed that jobs like Web designer were immune from union efforts and were startled to find several e-commerce firms, including Amazon.com, were facing vigorous organizing efforts. E-commerce companies like Amazon have to load, unload and store goods to meet customer demand. Even Walmart recently had to agree to let the workers in its stores in China unionize. Any company that thinks it can avoid unionization by shipping jobs overseas may be in for a big surprise.

Will the unions influence the outcome of the general election? Since statehood they always have, and this time will be no exception.

Where Do The Campaign Signs Go?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 15, 2010
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After all these years, there is one thing I have never gotten used to: political signs lining fences on just about every street on Oahu.

I’ve never asked a homeowner if they were really supporting a particular candidate or they just couldn’t say no when asked to borrow their fence for a couple of months.

It’s really interesting to see residences that display campaign signs for both parties in a particular race. I suspect that those homeowners just can’t say no to either one.

Of course, declaring that you support an unpopular candidate could cause a lot of retribution down the road, so to speak.

Besides waiting for the results of the primary and the conclusion of the general election, seeing the campaign signs come down is a most welcome sight. Many experienced campaigners have generic signs so they can be used again and again.

Probably my biggest curiosity about campaign signs is that they are sometimes stolen by the opposition. What do you do with a stolen campaign sign?

What has really perplexed me over the years is that graffiti artists around town haven’t put their marks on the campaign signs. Graffiti is international when it comes to assaulting signs. There are very few places in the world where graffiti is totally absent from public view. They will tag everything that is stationary; they will climb mountains, scale tall structures and slide down barriers to place their mark on an object to mark their territory.

I can’t figure out why political signs are spared.

Do teenagers have some kind of reverence for campaign signs? I don’t think so. Are they afraid of the candidates? Not likely. Changing letters on a campaign poster could be highly entertaining for the voting public. The teenagers could market their creativity and become legends in their communities. So much so, that political candidates might boycott certain communities for fear of graffiti attacks on their campaign signs.

I’m not suggesting that graffiti vandalism is a good thing and I’m not condoning defacing personal or public property. But the graffiti artists have discriminated against politicians. Why should their signs not be like any other piece of property in the community?

Come November, the annoying signs will come down and be stored somewhere for the next contest.

It makes me wonder if half of the public storage space on Oahu is rented out to political candidates waiting for the next race.

In the meantime, maybe the candidates who get elected can consider a law that warrants homeowners being reimbursed for allowing advertisements to hang from their fences. It would give the residents a way to make a few bucks to pay their property taxes.

Why Isle Kids Should Learn Chinese

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 08, 2010
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As the biggest Hawaii primary election in recent memory nears, something just as big is occurring: The Chinese are coming. They want to join in on the Westernization of the world. It’s a global thing and Hawaii should prepare for the influx.

The governor has been spending a lot of time in China and also has spent a lot of time entertaining officials from the People’s Republic of China. There are many indications that China is reaching out to Hawaii to improve its use of leisure time and business contacts. Many have already set up shop in Hawaii in various businesses and with little fanfare.

Direct flights from China to Hawaii complete with a streamlined visa and passport process have been in the works for a long time. It’s something everyone in Hawaii can or might consider banking on.

What should our elected leaders be doing? Our outgoing governor is learning to speak Chinese. After all, eating chop suey in Chinatown or watching a Shaolin dance troupe perform isn’t going to be enough to help anyone understand the modern Chinese culture, although both experiences would probably be very entertaining. We’ve got to put China in our public school system and encourage university students to study and understand the amazing history of China. Areal good idea is for elementary school children to learn the Chinese language - whether or not they’re of Chinese heritage.

One big difference between the Chinese and us is that they have an agrarian society. Despite massive growths of cities and manufacturing in recent years, two-thirds of all Chinese people still live in rural communities while we are urban dwellers. We are very individualistic, they are not.

Their survival depends on cooperation and harmony. They have agrarian values and live close to the soil. Americans are still influenced by our cowboy roots.

Another deep belief is morality. After all these years, the writings of Confucius still serve as the foundation of Chinese education. This is why reverence for scholarship abounds in China. A contemporary of Confucius was Lao Tsu, who gave inspiration for Taoism, in which fundamental notions invoke the relationship of yin and yang, the two forces that complement one another. They can’t be separated and must be considered as a whole. To the Chinese, the secret to life was to find the tao - “the way” - between the two forces, finding a middle ground, a compromise.

So what’s a good way to prepare for the Chinese invasion of Hawaii? Well, the Chinese people have a wariness of foreigners, which they learned the hard way, from all points on the compass. They have endured years of internal squabbling, civil wars and the ebb and flow of empires. But today they are concerned about their families and their bank accounts.

Local businesspeople who want to work with the Chinese might want to start learning the rules of the game the way they play it.

Oh, and don’t expect immediate results.

A Bit Of Political Hocus-Pocus

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 01, 2010
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There are many myths and misconceptions involving elections. Media pundits are predicting that no matter who wins the primary in our gubernatorial election, the results will be very favorable for the working class and labor union members, both public and private. A popular notion is that the majority of the working class, aka blue-collar workers, votes for the Democratic Party.

It’s an interesting bit of hocus-pocus, since there is no way for anyone to stand inside the voting booths to watch how citizens cast their ballot. The probable truth is that there are wide variations from election to election in how voters are influenced by their perceptions of their class interests. There is no correct data, anywhere, that can predict voting behavior by one segment of the voting public. It’s an urban myth.

Research by Angus Campbell in his book The American Voter shows that one-third of Americans are unaware of their class position. This suggests that if they don’t know their class position, how can they vote for a particular class of candidate? The lack of knowledge explains why class and status are not an issue with them.

Only a small and sophisticated portion of our population - those who follow candidates around from their high school days and hang onto every word of a potential candidate - can tell you the class difference between one candidate and another. It’s probably a waste of money to try to educate the potential voter on what class their candidate represents.

Another popular misconception about the voting public is how to get people to switch their allegiance from one party to another.

Let’s face it, Gov. Linda Lingle did not get elected and re-elected to the office by Democrat voters. There is a lot of talk that this year will be the year for the independent voter to prevail. Incumbents are supposedly shaking in their boots, but anyone who believes that locally must also believe in the comeback of the dodo bird.

The prevailing political theory is that political parties and their candidates will have to gear their policies to involve and satisfy as many groups as they can in the state of Hawaii. It’s probably more true here than in other states that the reins of political power are clearly in the hands of a few individuals. This does not necessarily move democracy forward, and in some cases pushes it backward.

Also, budget cuts and staffing shortages have reduced the number of polling places in Hawaii from 339 to 242. Officials fear that the reduction could hurt turnout for the Sept. 18 primary.

It makes you wonder why there isn’t a push by our elected officials to allow people to vote online. The response has been that there is too much of an opportunity for fraud. The question is, if everything else in the world these days can be accomplished online, why can’t we vote online?

The times are changing, and the younger class of the voting public would have no problem casting a ballot online. I’m equally certain that some of the older folks might need a little education to participate, which leads to the discussion of class distinction and discriminating against those without knowledge.

NYC Mosque Will Aid Terrorists

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 25, 2010
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I don’t really know why I’m so upset about the residents of New York City allowing a Islamic center to be built near the former site of the World Trade Center.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi muddied up the waters a little, saying, “Muslim leaders have the right to build the Islamic centers, including a mosque.” As if it matters, she also said she wants to know who is paying for the $100 million project.

Republican leaders haven’t helped much. Seizing the moment, they are trying to force Democrats to either stand with the president and Speaker Pelosi or buck them.

It’s a scary thought that most of the discussion about this sensitive matter has been about whether Muslim leaders have the right to build an Islamic center, including a mosque, or not. Obviously they have the legal right, but the unintended consequences of allowing such a structure to be built so near Ground Zero of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York could be President Barack Obama’s lowest moment in office.

It will be proof positive that democracy is a wonderful form of government, but at the same time great for terrorist organizations to flourish in its heartland.

The president is boasting that he has “no regrets” over the comments he has made about the right of Muslims to build an Islamic center near the site of the World Trade Center. It might have been wiser for Obama to say, “At the present time, I have no regrets.” Polls indicate that the majority American people don’t want it.

Second, it will serve as a much-needed motivation to Muslim extremists to set up shop in America. If you can get the American people to go along with such a blatant insult, it will be an invitation to other extremists to use the same tactic.

Can you imagine the outrage there would have been in Hawaii if a couple of years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor our government encouraged the Japanese government to build a Shinto shrine on Ford Island to honor the Japanese servicemen who lost their lives bombing our Pacific fleet? Back in 1942, the people of Hawaii were so sensitive to the sneak attack that they sent many Japanese families living in Hawaii to internment camps all over the United States. Many stayed there until the war was over.

It makes you wonder if any of these politicians who support building the N.Y. mosque ever visit military graveyards and see the survivors placing flowers and other mementos to their love ones? Haven’t they ever gone to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl or visited the Arizona Memorial?

This is not a human rights issue. It’s more about political expediency. It may be popular with left-wing radicals during a tough election year, but that doesn’t make it right for those who lost love ones on Sept. 11 at the WTC.

I believe every American knows what the president is trying to do to foster world peace, but this will not help. The reason is probably too simple for those who make a living manipulating others in a complicated world, but there is no right way to do the wrong thing. And building an Islamic center with a mosque two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center at this time is just plain wrong.

Good Luck, Congress, Taxing Multinationals

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 18, 2010
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Summoned back from summer break, the House pushed through an emergency $26 billion jobs bill last week that President Barack Obama immediately signed into law.

I chatted with U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono last week. She wanted the residents of Hawaii to know she was voting on the bill that would send many millions of dollars to Hawaii to be used for Medicaid and schoolteachers.

In the process of hailing the feat of helping get the bill through Congress, she stressed that it would be paid for by plugging a loophole in our tax laws that allows, even encourages, multinational corporations to enjoy special tax breaks for outsourcing manufacturing jobs overseas. When asked what corporations were benefiting from the loophole in the U.S. law, Hirono referred me to the Internal Revenue Service.

Hirono’s counterpart, Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, specifically opposes financing the measure by eliminating tax credits for overseas income of multinational corporations and by cutting almost $12 billion for nutrition assistance to the poor beginning in 2014. The bill they are arguing over will spend $15 billion on Medicaid and another $10 billion nationwide to support teacher salaries.

At this moment, Hawaii is in line for $86 million in Medicaid funding and $39 million for education.

How do politicians go about plugging a loophole in a tax law? By passing another law designated to fix a flaw in existing legislation.

Make no mistake, this is a big problem for multinational corporations, but it’s a game they know how to play. One example: Nike.

Studying the manufacturing history of multinational corporations is very interesting. In 1990, Nike became the biggest sports and fitness company in the world, displacing its longtime German rival Adidas. From 1964 until 1973, Nike manufactured shoes exclusively in Japan. In 1973, costs in Japan rose sharply as a result of the oil-price shock the year before and the resulting yen revaluation. Both the Nippon Rubber company, Nike’s Japanese sub-contractor, and Nike started looking outside Japan for new manufacturing sites. Every link in Nike’s supply chain was being challenged constantly to deliver higher product volumes and more product introduction. Nike’s distribution system brought shoes to retailers and was centralized around a small number of regional distribution centers. The search for newer and more cost-effective vendors was on. Nike courted South Korea and Taiwan, which were developing rapidly with the help of Nippon Rubber.

While this was going on, production in the U.S. remained small, concentrating on prototype shoe development. The moment a new shoe was developed and tested, it was transferred overseas to a more cost-efficient production environment. In 1981, Nike again surveyed possible new sources of shoe production and lower cost, and China came out on top. Nike struck a deal with the government to source from seven state-owned factories in Tianjin, Guangzhou, Fujian and Shanghai. By 1985, it appeared that Nike was making shoes everywhere. At that point the company had 60 individual factory relationships, but then, as multinational corporations are designed to do, it decided to concentrate on five Asian countries: Korea, Taiwan, China, Indonesia and Thailand. Nike is really an efficiently run multinational corporation.

If Congress thinks it can close a tax loophole for multinational corporations without a serious floor fight, it should think again. Multinationals rule the global marketplace and are willing and able to accept any governmental challenge to rescinding tax credits.

I wouldn’t start spending the money generated from closing those loopholes too quickly.

The Strategy Against Judge Leonard

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 11, 2010
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Here in Hawaii, judges are nominated by the governor from a list of no fewer than four and not more than six names submitted by the Judicial Selection Commission.

A judge’s nomination is subject to confirmation by the state Senate. Each judge is initially appointed to a 10-year term. After initial appointment, the Judicial Selection Commission determines whether a judge will be retained in office (Article VI , 3 and 4 of the Hawaii Constitution).

Knowing this, taxpayers should wonder why members of the Hawaii Bar Association are so interested in whom the governor appointed to the fill a vacancy. It’s all pretty clear cut, and on the surface there doesn’t seem to be any room for political maneuvering. The Judicial Selection Commission submits names it considers qualified and the governor picks a name and sends it to the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation.

The governor doesn’t pick a name out of thin air. That’s what made the Hawaii State Bar Association’s “unqualified” rating for Chief Justice nominee Katherine Leonard so strange. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced, even before his committee quizzed the nominee, that he doubted the candidate had the ability to lead the judiciary.

It was heartwarming to learn that more than 100 people, including lawyers and retired judges, submitted testimony in support of the governor’s nomination of Judge Leonard. This is classic party politics. I know a lot of people will disagree, but let me explain how this choreographed attack is linked to the gubernatorial election.

First, local lawyers wanted someone they know more about. Specifically, most of them were counting on Lingle to appoint Mark E. Recktenwald, currently an associate justice on the Supreme Court. He has a long history of favorable encounters with the state Legislature. He is well-known and well-liked. The only thing local lawyers know about Leonard is that she is very intelligent, a “straight arrow,” and as a member of the Intermediate Court of Appeals has never had any of her 155 rulings overturned.

Second, there are no women on the Judicial Selection Committee. Some lawyers are not comfortable with the idea of a female chief justice.

Well, they’d better get used to the idea, because she will most certainly be confirmed by the Senate in due time.

Why? She’s a graduate of William Richardson Law School, just like Senate president Colleen Hanabusa. Is there anyone who thinks Hanabusa would turn her thumbs down on a female nominee while she is in a battle for a seat in Congress? That would send the wrong message to all the voters out there who are interested in gender equality.

Lastly, if the lawyers can kill Leonard’s nomination, they seem to think it will force the governor to appoint Recktenwald in her place. What this would do is create a vacancy on the Supreme Court that would have to be filled by the newly elected governor. Of course, the lawyers believe that it will be a Democrat, and his first chore would be to nominate a Supreme Court justice like a prize for winning the election.

OK, I can envision the skepticism on your faces. Relax, time will tell.

Now, if you come from that group of naive voters who think members of the judicial fraternity are not political, think again.

And don’t believe that once they don their black robes they drop their political affiliations and become pure legal scholars. There is no evidence that is true, although, in the case of Leonard, it may be the case.

Which is what probably worries our secretive local lawyers most of all, even if they won’t say it out loud.

Closing Down Kalakaua Avenue

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 04, 2010
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A really strange thing happened on the way to Waikiki last week: Kalakaua Avenue was closed down. Not by a ruptured water main, severe traffic accident or pedestrian injury, but by Honolulu Police Department officers arresting about 84 Local 5 hotel workers and supporters who had gathered to protest against Hyatt Regency Waikiki.

Wait a minute.

Contract negotiations are supposed to be in progress. There wasn’t any talk of an impasse or impending strike. For all intents and purposes, Oahu’s tourism industry is on the mend with things looking better every month - it was almost impossible to get a room this past weekend.


So what’s with the protest against one hotel and creating a deliberate traffic nightmare? Our taxpayers and tourists don’t understand the purpose of that kind of action.

Union leaders said Hyatt’s owners were taking unfair advantage of tough times in their current contract negotiations. As the fearless leader of Local 5, Eric Gill, was arrested and carted away by the HPD, Hyatt’s manager said the workers got contracted raises during the recession and nothing further could be negotiated until both sides sit down at the bargaining table.

OK, that sounds like the socially intelligent thing to do. So how come the union protesters locked hands and sat down, blocking Kalakaua, instead of at the bargaining table?

Negotiations between management and union workers and their representatives are supposed to be conducted privately, not in public. At first glance it looks like these were adults acting badly on the outside and thinking like kids on the inside. Whenever you have to deal with people like this, you’ve got big problems.

Honolulu residents might as well face the facts head on and either demand their elected leaders quell the fears of union workers or advise people - tourists included - to stay out of Waikiki until both sides come to their senses. If they keep this up, Waikiki’s streets and parks will be only inhabited by the homeless population.

Most taxpayers probably blame the union for the problem. On closer examination, the record will show that hotel management also must take its share of the blame.

I’m not suggesting that what the union leaders did, both nationally and locally, is acceptable, but it’s very understandable and predictable. In this scenario, union leaders believe they are being bullied by hotel management. The acceptable way locally to deal with bullies is to get their attention. If you can’t do that, they won’t come to the table and talk. You need to shock their self-centeredness and make them feel your presence.

Said another way, they want to create a negative consequence that will outweigh any benefit they are deriving from their current behavior. The union has to play the game; it has to know how to get the management’s attention by figuring out what’s important to them. This can be done firmly and quietly to let them know what it will and won’t go along with.

What happens now? Some of our elected leaders need to mediate between both parties, because our tourism market cannot afford to allow Local 5 and Hyatt’s management to ignore the boundary that has been set by the union and its supporters. They have to do something constructive and not take sides in the process. Our community leaders have to make investors feel safe about investing in Hawaii and demand more cooperation by both sides.

Waikiki is the heart of our tourism industry. It should not be used as a battleground for negotiating wars or as a playground for bullies.

Congratulations to HPD for its textbook-perfect response to the protest. It’s hard to imagine how close we came to having a bloody altercation in Waikiki featuring Waikiki Beach, with Diamond Head in the background, all front and center on national and international news programs.

Is Moral Outrage Enough For GOP?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - July 28, 2010
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A lot of optimism is out there on the political battlefield. Hawaii’s outnumbered Republicans are looking to make a comeback this election year, with GOP fielding candidates in all but three of 64 legislative seats up for grabs in November, and they hope to draw on voter discontent to make their first gains at the states Capitol since Gov. Linda Lingle was elected eight years ago.

It is not going to be easy. Democrats have run both the House and Senate since 1965, and they currently control nearly 90 percent of the legislature. It is true that Charles Djou’s victory for a Congressional seat was inspirational to other would-be candidates, but he faces another tough test against the state Senate president Colleen Hanabusa in November to hang on to his place in Washington.

If there is a bright spot in the recent candidate filings, it’s that three Republican office holders will be going unchallenged in the upcoming primary and general election. Reps. Gene Ward, Barbara Marumoto and Cynthia Thielan have a free ride. I can’t remember when the Democrats have let a Republican incumbent go unchallenged in an important election.

I personally think it’s a little comical that Republicans are counting on something so dubious as “voter discontent” to make a comeback. Yes, it’s true that the spend-crazy Democrats in Congress have run up a huge budget deficit. It’s also true that the City & County of Honolulu has run up a couple of huge legal bills fighting the EPA over how our sewage is treated. And, yes, the cost of the rail transit project is going to take a lot of tax dollars - federal, state and local - to become reality. Also true: No matter where the tax dollars come from, its taxpayer money. It doesn’t matter which government agency is taking the money, it comes from our pockets.

A good question is, “What is the unifying agent that holds the Republican Party together?” If the answer is fiscal irresponsibility in D.C., they need something a little more concrete to pull off any upsets.

One other thing they will need is a sense of humor. Some of the hocus-pocus the Democrats got away with in the last legislative session was remarkable. Still, it’s not enough to produce any moral outrage.

Perceptions Of Fairness

Larry Price
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Wednesday - July 21, 2010
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There’s a lot of conflict in the world today because of perceived divergences of interest, or a belief the parties’ current aspirations cannot be achieved simultaneously. These people perceive incompatible goals and interference from each other in achieving their goals. Look around, such conflicts are everywhere.

In Europe there are conflicts between public unions and management, nations in conflict and communities challenging government agencies. The conflict is either interpersonal (between individuals people), intra group (families) or inter group (unions/management). It’s interesting to note that there is one word that almost always surfaces in the arguments and confrontations: fairness. Management is accused of not bargaining in “good faith,” or management is accused of not being fair to its employees.


You hear the response all the time: “What’s fair got to do with it?” Simply put, an awful lot, because there is more than one principle for distributing resources fairly. In Hawaii, generosity is important. It means that fairness is shown by one who makes the decision and usually “gives more than he/she takes.”

Equality is another important word, because fairness to a lot of local folks means splitting the gain “down the middle.”

Generosity is most important when building a relationship, while equality is important in long-term relationships. In a recent discussion with management and union officials over the important labor negotiations going on between Local 5 and the Sheraton Corporation, both parties were calling for “what was fair.” Appropriately, both parties interviewed had slight smiles on their faces, because they realize only a mutually beneficial settlement will probably be unequal or inequitable, especially if different standards of fairness are applied by the two sides. There is a self-serving bias that says, “The equity norm more often than not, looks right to the side who has contributed relatively more to the organization. In the hotel negotiations, seniority seems like a relevant input because of so many high-tenured employees, as do cultural differences between management and labor.

A couple of signals have already reared their ugly heads early on. Employees have shown a tendency to overestimate the likelihood that other people, such as arbitrators, will see fairness their way. Studies find that almost all parties entering arbitration are confident an arbitrator will share their view. An analogy to driving is helpful - studies find that most people think their driving is considerably above average.

A word of caution when using the “fairness” argument: “Don’t stake your strategy on the belief that your view of fairness will be shared by everyone.”

Lingle’s True Legacy Is In The Judiciary

Larry Price
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Wednesday - July 14, 2010
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Now that the controversial storm surrounding the handling of the Civil Unions Bill HB444 has somewhat abated, it’s time to sort out some of the speculation about the decision-making that went on behind the scenes.

There are many people who believe HB444 was about human rights. It may be. But there is a lot more to it, because with Gov. Linda Lingle’s veto, the civil union issue will be one of the hot topics in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

The state Legislature now finds itself with a “hot potato” in its lap. After sneaking the bill through the House in the middle of the night, the Legislature must now pass another bill and possibly face the task of a constitutional amendment and a two-thirds vote to put it on the ballot.

In any scenario it could be a daunting task, especially with all the candidates running for election and reelection. It’s going to be interesting to watch.

One thing is pretty sure right now: HB444 most likely will not be a “legacy-making” piece of legislation for the governor. Almost unnoticed by the voting public is that while politicians were vying for position, the governor was about to seal her definite legacy right before their very eyes.

You see, Lingle is about to appoint the next chief justice of the state Supreme Court. It is easily one of the most prestigious positions in the state of Hawaii and that chief justice will serve for 10 years.

It will be her third Supreme Court appointment.

Furthermore, the chief justice appoints, at his or her discretion, all the District Court judges, Family Court judges and other administrative officials. Additionally, the governor has already appointed more than half of the state’s 33 Circuit Court judges and also has appointed five of the six Intermediate Court of Appeals judges.

When the impact of all her judicial appointments over the years is tallied, the governor’s legacy will live on forever in the Judiciary. She doesn’t have to run for another office; she’s already made her mark. The idea that one piece of legislation might some way tarnish her legacy is kind of comical. All one has to do is trace her trek up the political ladder in Hawaii from her humble beginning on Molokai, then as mayor of Maui. She’s the only female governor in Hawaii’s history, not to mention that no other Neighbor Island mayor has ever been able to succeed in that effort.

And about one bill making or tarnishing a governor’s legacy: Put on your thinking cap and try to remember the governor who signed into law Hawaii’s controversial abortion bill.

I’ll give you two clues. First, he was a Democrat. Second, they built a statue to honor him, adorned many a buildings with his name, and after all these years he is still revered by those who benefited from his greatness.

Most people won’t remember the ruckus created by protesters of the abortion bill. They were even more vocal and demanding. Still, John A. Burns’legacy and statue still stand proudly. That’s a good indication that a decision on one controversial bill does not make a legacy.

It might put some excitement into a gubernatorial election and give pundits something to write about, but make a legacy it does-n’t.

Her mark on the Judiciary does.

Marketing In Modern Times

Larry Price
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Wednesday - July 07, 2010
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The centennial issue of the American Petroleum Institute Quarterly, published in 1959 to celebrate the discovery of oil in a place called Titusville, Pa., contained 21 feature articles proclaiming the industry’s greatness. I liked a couple of the articles about how service station architecture had changed. Other articles were special sections about “New Horizons,” which was devoted to showing the magnificent role oil would play in America’s future.

The articles were ebulliently optimistic, never once implying that oil might have some hard competition. They even referred to how oil would help atomic energy achieve a cheerful success. There wasn’t one apprehension expressed that the oil industry’s affluence might be threatened or a small suggestion that the industry might include new and better ways of serving oil’s present customers.

Like those in the Gulf of Mexico.

I know reading old trade magazines is not fertile ground for investigation of the role marketing and research play in business today. But in light of today’s world and the troubles facing the oil industry, it is quite interesting. There are several lessons for those who tout the importance of marketing in today’s businesses without a real grip on what marketing in the 21st century means.

Marketing obviously was a stepchild in management back in the ‘50s. There is some evidence, unfortunately, that history may be repeating itself. In a world of iPhones and iPads, cell phones that text messages and send faxes effortlessly, marketing is often left to occupy a stepchild status in the hierarchies of management’s things to consider.

You can sit back and watch the frenzy. Top management of electronics companies are transfixed by the profit possibilities of technical research and development. The greatest danger that faces these glamorous new companies is not that they don’t pay enough attention to research and development, but that they pay too much attention to it.

Most of these companies probably owe their eminence to their heavy emphasis on technical research. But that’s not the point. They have vaulted to affluence on a sudden crest of unusually strong general receptiveness to new technical ideas. Example: I was interviewing Gov. Linda Lingle last week and she had to excuse herself to whip off a text message to her director of communications. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Everyone must be doing it.

The popularity of the electronic industry has been almost totally devoid of a serious marketing effort. You may argue that’s not true, but these conditions come dangerously close to creating the illusion that a superior product will sell itself. It’s no wonder that management continues to be oriented toward products rather than the people who consume them. It develops the philosophy that continued growth is a matter of continued innovation and improvement.

Engineers and scientists are at home in the world of concrete things like machines, test tubes, production lines and even balance sheets. What is getting shortchanged in today’s business world is the realities of the market.

Reading old magazines is a boring hobby, but it has its moments. It reminds one that consumers are unpredictable, varied, fickle, shortsighted, stubborn and, generally speaking, bothersome. This is not what most engineers would admit publicly. These companies are in the felicitous position of having to fill, not find markets. They don’t have to discover the customers’ needs and wants because the customer voluntarily comes forward with specific new products and demands.

Marketing is a philosophy that cannot be ignored.

Predicting A Lingle Civil Union Veto

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 30, 2010
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Gov. Linda Lingle

After what seemed like a very long time, Gov. Linda Lingle placed the controversial civil unions bill on a potential veto list right on deadline.

Was she stalling, and if she was, why?

Now she has until July 6 to decide whether to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without her signature. The bill would grant same-sex couples and heterosexual couples the same legal rights as married couples.

It doesn’t really matter how she sends the bill forward to an uncertain future or untimely death, both sides of the debate will rage on. It’s interesting to hear the arguments for and against the proposition, especially when many voters don’t really know the contents of the bill and the consequences should it become law.

In just the last two weeks, many members of the vaunted Hawaii Business Roundtable bolted from the position its executive committee expressed opposing wording of the bill, saying they did not want to the governor to veto the legislation. Their contention was they supported equality among their workers and customers and did not want to be considered anti-gay companies - a very surprising move when you consider the nature of business. One of the major rules of serving on a board of directors is to not appoint a committee to look into an issue, make recommendations to the general board and not honor their suggestions.


Why have a committee? It seems clear that at least part of the business community believes that the civil unions bill can have an unintended economic consequence.

It appears the governor had a lot of people looking into the question of civil unions. It was socially intelligent of her to listen to all of the recommendations, unlike the Business Roundtable, and she is poised to make a decision. The decision will be to either veto the bill without mercy, sign it into law or let it become law without her signature.

I personally don’t think any good governor relishes the thought of vetoing a bill passed by the Legislature. Anyone who has spent any time covering the Legislature knows the enormous amount of time and effort it takes to pass a bill like the one in question. Vetoes are more often than not done with some remorse. Every bill up for passage must pass a rigorous judicial examination to assure the bill is constitutional and legal. If it passes, it then goes to another committee, which has to decide if the bill has merit, and if it is fair to all parties. This is mainly a question of whether or not it’s good policy: Does it raise taxes, does it discriminate against a protected class of citizens and can it be enforced?

Over the years, bills that have become law without the governor’s signature typically are those that have not had major impact on the state. The bill in question does not fall in that category. It will impact a lot of citizens and will take special consideration to assure it is good policy. It will require additional revenue to enact and additional work for the bureaucracy, mostly the state Department of Health.

Make no mistake, this is not about sex, it’s about recognition and expanded benefits. Most of the language in the bill mirrors the state’s marriage laws and divorce proceedings. This means the bill will not become law without the governor’s signature. All of the rhetoric predicting that her decision will be based on her plans for a political future are nonsensical. She’s paid her dues and is concerned about her political legacy. There is no strong evidence that she will seek a higher office.

It doesn’t appear that Lingle will sign the bill into law because there is no clear indication that the bill, in its present form, answers the plight of those pushing for passage. This leads me to speculate that, if veto history of our past governors is any indication, Lingle will veto the legislation with a request that the Legislature rework the bill, clarify some of the language and resubmit it next session.

Only time will tell, but that appears to be the socially intelligent thing to do at this point.

Putting Polls, Pols Into Perspective

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 23, 2010
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Lt. Gov. ‘Duke’ Aiona

The civil rights group Equality Hawaii was exploring the possibility of an economic boycott against Hawaii Business Roundtable members who supported a letter from its executive committee urging a governor’s veto of the civil union measure. Mind you, the letter doesn’t take a position on civil unions, but takes issue with the language in the bill, and suggests the formation of a commission to study the matter and make recommendations for the next legislative session.

The roundtable is a public policy group of senior executives from about 50 top companies that are based in Hawaii or do a lot of business here. I hope Equality Hawaii will reconsider after “exploring” the possibility of an economic boycott against the very noble group of community-minded business leaders. At a more basic level, the belief that threatening an economic boycott against any group of business leaders is a very doubtful way to influence people.

It is the governor’s responsibility to either veto the measure, let it become law without her signature or sign it into law. Gov. Lingle has been soliciting input from everyone imaginable, so it is her call. Granted, at least half of the people interested in this legislation will be happy and the other half will be upset when she makes her decision, although it’s safe to say there’s a large segment that doesn’t really care one way or another.


There are, more often than not, ulterior motives to employing any kind of influence strategies. One is the curiosity of wanting to know how people are going to vote on an important issue. They just can’t wait, they want to know now.Another is many of these threats have economic consequences.

The most classic example is upon us now: the gubernatorial campaign. Everyone wants to know who’s ahead. They can’t wait for the primary or general election, because they have a stake in the outcome.

There is no question that candidates conduct ongoing polls to keep their finger on the pulse of the voting public, and they seldom agree with the media pollsters.

One of the more prolific media pollsters is the Rasmussen Reports. Its latest headline says, “Election 2010: Hawaii Governor. Two Top Democrats Well Ahead of GOP’s Aiona.” The obvious question from the average voter is: “So what? It’s only June.”

In this case, polling is a form of media advertising. When candidates read these kinds of polls they feel the need to advertise more to enhance their name recognition. There is big money in political advertising, and in many cases it works. It also inflames or dampens political contributions. Hawaii is notorious for supporting the front-runner. Anyone who takes polls - call them instantaneous snapshots - seriously will more often than not be disappointed in the final analysis. The size of the sample, the way the sample is collected and the wording of the question all make for inaccuracies and media bias in polls.

Having said all that, I conducted my own “unofficial” poll on one of the Republican gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona. In a state controlled by the Democratic Party, the Republicans always poll poorly, even though they win a few elections now and then.

My poll was to determine if Aiona would go into the gubernatorial campaign with his mustache or without it. Does he feel he looks more gubernatorial with it or without it? Two simple questions. My sampling size was one.

His response was yes, he would campaign without his mustache. The second answer was yes, because his wife and children thought he looked more gubernatorial without it.

Of course, the voters will have the ultimate say, but my unscientific poll predicts he will go into the election season without his trademark mustache. The margin of error is zero because his family has already made the important decision for him. This is a poll you can trust, while others may or may not be correct.

Just ask Ed Case.

Predictable Path For Isle Elections

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 16, 2010
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I’ve been observing Hawaii gubernatorial campaigns since 1959, and they have a consistent and predictable cycle and trajectory.

In the beginning, potential candidates form a circle of friends and call it an “exploratory committee” to discern if there is support for the candidate to make a run for the top elective office in the state. Of course, the main reason for the committee is to collect campaign funds or promises of support - the unions are consistently bombarded with requests for support and an eventual endorsement.

The potential candidates must fill out questionnaires and write short essays about their beliefs on “key issues.” Once the candidate is convinced by his constituency that he or she must seek the governor’s seat, then a crisis must be claimed to exist -one that can be related to the larger social system like a war or global recession - whether there is one or not. In almost every election in the past 40 years, education has been the most consistent crisis demanding attention, suggesting that past operating assumptions may no long apply.


The candidates will propose the adoption of a new set of management techniques that are guaranteed to solve our major problem. It is supported by advocates, often paid consultants whose livelihood depends on creating and disseminating new management techniques. This rhetoric is accompanied by dramatic, universal, anecdotal evidence that the new technique is widely successful, bolstered by the idea that it is a proven concept and anyone with any brains would agree. The technique is initially presented in simplified terms that appear to be so consistent with common sense and other myths related to organizational efficiency, it is designed to make counter arguments difficult. Simply put, the campaign rhetoric is presented as a winning strategy that is the answer to all our managerial and governmental problems. This part of the rhetoric is referred to as a “breakthrough” that will significantly improve our core organizational processes and governmental functions among all stages of government - federal, state and local.

After the election, there’s a time lag between what was promised and what has happened. The media likes the headline, “The First Hundred Days.” Actually, it takes about two years for the “honeymoon” period to vanish.

As champions and adopters see the demise of the innovation that they had recently vigorously advocated, there comes a need to account for the new management technique’s failure in ways that protect both their status and their credibility. They usually do this by blaming their failures on the last person or party to hold the office.

The probable truth is that initial decisions to adopt a new, brilliant management technique appear to be based on subjective judgment disseminated by peers within a social system rather than empirical data and the momentum of the innovations. Then, the new management techniques are in the hands of a group of early adopters, or as they are commonly called, the “early majority.” In local politics, the party in charge may have claimed to adopt the new management techniques without truly doing so. This happens regularly over the years, because public education, for one, is buffered from administrative procedures and permits subgroups in education to operate with significant autonomy. This makes it easier for education to adopt but not implement new techniques in a way that will affect core institutional processes. The result is you end up with the same system, usually with a new management name.

Even when these new techniques fail election after election, that is not to say they are not important. It is when you understand what is going on in a campaign that one can recognize their potential for institutional improvements and decrease their potential for institutional disruption.

Does Money Motivate Workers?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 09, 2010
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Compensation experts have an ongoing debate whether managers should or should not understand the motivational basis of incentive plans.

In these tough economic times, any kind of incentive pay is at best psychologically based. That means not everyone reacts to a reward in the same way and not all rewards are suited to all situations.

Go ahead, think of an incentive reward for our public school teachers to get them happy enough to make up for all the instructional days they’ve lost over the past year. If employees have high morale, the people they serve should benefit.

The man who started all this talk about money and motivation was Frederick Taylor (1856-1915). As a supervisor in a steel plant, Taylor noticed a tendency of employees to work at the slowest pace possible and to produce at the minimum acceptable level. His contribution was that he saw a need for formulating what he called a “fair day’s work,” so he set standards of output for each job based on scientific analysis. It was the beginning of the Scientific Management Movement, an approach emphasizing work methods and job analysis.

And he didn’t stop there. He was the first one to popularize the use of incentive pay as a way to reward employees who produced over standard. So incentive pay was born and became widely popular.

But the problem is most employees don’t see a link between pay and performance. The Rand Corporation did extensive research on the correlation between teachers’ pay and student achievement, and found that while pay was appreciated by teachers, it did not improve the quality of their work. All it did was increase their morale, which makes them happier on the job, not better teachers.

As the economy recovers, it would be a good idea for leaders to brush up on some of the more popular motivational theories with particular relevance to designing incentive compensation plans.

Most of them are well-known but forgotten in today’s computerized cybernation, but many of the relevant theories are associated with psychologists such as Maslow, Herzberg, Vroom and Skinner.

There are several key features to a successful incentive pay. One way is for managers to make jobs more challenging, so the job they ask you to do is intrinsically motivating. Another thing to consider is that employees won’t pursue what they find unattractive or where the odds of success are very low. This is especially true when managers place unrealistic quotas on employees. This is the idea of expectancy at work. Just how probable is it that his or her efforts will lead to higher performance?

There is one thing managers can do: Make sure their employees have the skills to do the job and believe they can do the job. But beware: There may be a legal component to incentive pay that must be investigated. It all comes under the Fair Labor Standards Act. As we recover from our painful encounter with a severe economic downturn, many managers are going to be looking seriously at some kind of incentive pay system to increase the productivity of their work force.

Most managers want a fair day’s work and a worthwhile profit on their investment.

A Simple Handshake Ends Furloughs

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 02, 2010
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Gov. Linda Lingle

The word from the governor’s office is that Furlough Fridays are over. Gov. Linda Lingle announced that a deal had been reached to end 17 furlough days scheduled for the upcoming school year.

The deal that was struck between the governor, Board of Education and Department of Education calls for the use of about $57 million from the state’s Hurricane Relief Fund, about $2 million in federal funds and six planning days that teachers agreed to give back to the state. A $10 million line of credit from local banks also is available, if needed.

The most amazing thing about the suddenness of the negotiated agreement is that it was all finalized in less than 48 hours and sealed - after a year of contentious negotiations - with a mere handshake!


If you remember, the negotiations began with a contract the Hawaii State Teachers Association ratified and signed a deal with the state that contained a provision to initiate random drug testing for the teachers, following some high-profile arrests of teachers who got caught with drugs. HSTA decided afterward that it would not honor the provision for the drug testing because it was unconstitutional and unfair to teachers. The whole issue ended up in court, has never been cleared and still needs clarification. In fact, it was the beginning of a question of trust between the negotiators for the state and HSTA.

The problem from the beginning was there were too many parties at the table. There were the state negotiators, BOE, DOE, the teachers’union (HSTA) and at least three major unions as well as a group of ambitions elected officials involved in the negotiations, all fueled by the state’s huge $1.2 billion budget shortfall. HSTA eventually voted to accept furloughs instead of layoffs and pay cuts. A lot of the negotiations were done in public in an attempt to put pressure on the administration.

It didn’t work, and the hate and distrust deepened. Remember the old saying, “trust begets trust, hate begets hate.” It will be interesting to watch how long this “handshake” agreement lasts.

It was a unique negotiation because of the number of people involved and the unbalanced rhetoric. It was six against one from the beginning. Suddenly, the issue was not the budget deficit, it was the parents of elementary and middle-school children who became a force, staging media-driven “sit-ins” at the Capitol.

In stunning fashion, after listening to arguments for a year, an agreement was made possible in two days, thanks to a unique three-way public-private partnership among the state, teachers and the major banks in Hawaii. In the end, teachers, through a supplemental agreement signed by HSTA and the BOE, agreed to give up six paid teacher planning days.

In the meantime, the Hawaii Government Employees Association sent out a memo on its Web site that DOE employees would still have furlough days, but they would be reduced by 11 days - 10-month employees would have six days of furloughs and 12-month employees would have 13 days.

Generally speaking, this deal happened because of the obvious impasse at $10 million. With the bargaining zone between the parties clearly defined, the answer was: Find $10 million. Without hesitation, First Hawaiian Bank leadership stepped forward and financed the $10 million, two-year no-interest loan to bridge the gap between the
two warring factions, if needed.

It’s true that this deal was the idea of a member of the governor’s cabinet, Ted Lui.

But make no mistake, what forced the eventual showdown was the governor’s willingness to stick by her fiduciary duties in the face of overwhelming, unholy coalitions.

The Big Impact Of Independents

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 26, 2010
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Voters cast ballots in the 1st Congressional District race last Thursday at City Hall

A lot of taxpayers are probably wondering why there is so much intensity in the race for the 1st Congressional District seat.

As of this writing, Hawaii election officials have been reporting that almost 45 percent of the ballots mailed to registered voters in the contest had been returned. It’s estimated at least 137,000 ballots had been returned out of the 317, 337 sent to voters in the all-mail special election. Ballots had to be returned by this past Saturday.

The campaign has been high-spirited, but we have not seen the real fury of this election unfold. That will occur after a winner has been announced and the three top candidates - Republican Charles Djou and Democrats Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa - resume the battle in the upcoming primary election. The all-mail special election went better than expected, leading to a bigger stage for the next go around among the three candidates. You could almost feel the Democrats hold back resources just in case the race for the permanent position gets tighter.

To dispel myths about how unions can sway elections when the time is right, I’m sure the unions, both private and public, have a vested interest in who represents their members in the 1st District. But be advised there is not one legitimate piece of research that shows strong and convincing evidence that union votes have won an election. The reason is simple: No one has been in the secret ballot box when votes are cast. It’s an old wives’ tale. In point of fact, most people won’t tell you whom they voted for, and if they do, many times they give an “appropriate” reply, not wishing to disturb a friend.


There are a couple of things that bear watching.

Of the 691,000 registered voters in the state of Hawaii, 29,000 are card-carrying Republicans and 30,000 are card-carrying Democrats. The rest are independents, and more often than not elections are decided by them. Simply put, if Republicans win an election in Hawaii, they have to do it with help from Democrats. This is where the drama comes from. Democrats are urging Democrats to vote for a Democrat. The Republicans are speaking to independents for victory.

Make no mistake, even a short stint in the 1st Congressional District seat is valuable for whoever wins. Overnight, the ballot box becomes a cash register. Members of either chamber of Congress earn $165,000 per year. They enjoy living expenses, health and life insurance coverage, and $1.6 million in allowances for personnel, office and franking privileges, just for starters. And there are many more financial advantages the longer you stay elected.

Public service has a rosy side. All in all it’s a good deal: You run with other people’s money and, if elected, have a free, staffed, furnished office in one of the most famous buildings in the world. And you don’t even have to pay for electricity.

When the smoke clears, I would be totally surprised if independents didn’t carry the day and the 1st Congressional District.

The Stresses Of Career Mobility

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 19, 2010
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You can just feel the stress in the voices and facial expressions of some candidates running for public office. It’s not easy trying to convince the public that they should give you their vote. It’s also time-consuming and costly to pursue elective office. And it is probably even more stressful to seek a higher political office.

The stress here is called “promotion stress.” It is the experience of feeling anxiety or tension in one’s career in terms of the level one has reached in the system. Inadequate mobility in leadership-oriented careers is a chronic stressor, and if not managed can produce long-term and continuing negative effects on individuals and the organization for which they work. The stress experienced over time can be traced to inadequate development.

Promotion stress experienced by candidates running for higher office has not received much attention in the media. This may be because it doesn’t seem like an area for anyone of importance to focus their attention. While most employees may think about focusing on moving up in the organization, they may be just dreaming of more responsibility and additional recognition. But there is a lot of stress associated with advancing one’s career in a political party. Even the president of the United States is sending e-mails to voters.

It may be one of the best reasons to have term limits for elected officials. Once they reach their term limit, they must run for a higher office or drop out of the picture. Most sensible candidates for higher office realize this, and more often than not take on the challenge to run for a higher office. As in the jungle, the weak ones are eliminated and fall out of the picture. The strong move on. It all runs in cycles, with the initial stress of being elected to represent a district or a special-interest group.

It is after this initial stress has worn off that the stress of attempting to move up the succession ladder kicks in. Vying for a promotion is stressful.

In our political environment, some have been in office for a long time, and there is the stress of trying for a higher office against those who are much younger and fresh out of college. The opposite is also true for younger candidates running against more-seasoned public servants.

No one talks about promotion stress and career stages as viewed from internal and external perspectives, but it is there. In the Hawaii 1st Congressional District campaign, two of the candidates, Colleen Hanabusa and Charles Djou, will accept the challenge with smiles on their face simply because they have jobs to return to regardless of the outcome of the special election. If Ed Case loses, he’ll be left alone and licking his wounds.

In a broad sense, any aspect of career mobility could be a stressor, whether it is from too many movements in an organization or too few. For most elected politicians, the most stress comes from a lack of promotion and mobility. Listen to their political ads and you can detect it. In some cases, it comes from their handlers, but promotion stress has been found to be higher in persons who see themselves as plateauing, and is associated with lower satisfaction and commitment among their supporters.

Anyone thinking about seeking elective office should be aware that promotion stress can appear quickly when a person first enters the political arena with hopes of moving upward. They may immediately see the large amount of competition and the few upper-level positions and be intimidated and discouraged, and those feelings can lead to stress. It is common in mid-career-level individuals who seem to be stuck in their current position and are not able to advance.

The promotion stress may be inevitable, but at least some will find ways to cope with it and hopefully beat it. You’ll be able to tell who they are on election night; they are the ones who have tears in their eyes and can’t stop smiling.

Give them a hand; they’ve experienced a lot of stress.

The Lone Ranger Rides Again

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 12, 2010
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Channel surfing can be interesting when three of the television stations are running a public service forum on the upcoming 1st Congressional District election.

Don’t misunderstand, the presentation of the three candidates and the format were very well done. The problem is once you’ve seen one of these election forums, you have just about seen them all.

There are at least a dozen candidates vying for the job but only three were selected for the forum. That wasn’t a problem, as federal courts ruled that not including all the candidates in the forum is not against the law.

There are some interesting aspects to the three candidates that weren’t readily apparent.

It was interesting to watch, for a while, because all three are lawyers. Colleen Hanabusa is a famous labor attorney locally and president of the state Senate. Charles Djou is a City Councilman in Honolulu, and a Republican, the other two are Democrats. Hanabusa, Ed Case and Djou are all married.

If you watched the excellent political presentation, a couple of less-than-obvious things were apparent.

First, the questions were all managed and therefore polite. After all, the three candidates had spent considerable money advertising on the sponsoring channels. That was probably the price of admission. The forum was sort of a reward for them. If you watched for a while, you probably got a little bored - not because the candidates weren’t professional in their presentations, but probably because, since they are all lawyers, they all spoke the same language and consequently sounded alike. Maybe it would be wise in the future for legislators to try to not sound like lawyers, because it’s language to impress a judge and jury, not potential voters.

I got tired of listening to all the jargon and rambling about case studies and the human rights of sovereignty and started channel surfing, when I ran across the old series The Legend of the Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian companion, Tonto. The dialogue, written back in 1949-1957, was similar to what the three lawyers were talking about: indigenous rights, reservations, a lack of benefit delivery systems and the government not living up to its treaties. As it turned out, the Native American Indians had a friend in the Masked Man and his Indian companion. He was a lawyer whose brother, a Texas Ranger, got killed fighting crime and corruption in the government of Texas. Oh yes, the Lone Ranger’s real name was John Reed and his broth-er’s name was Dan. Tonto called everyone Kimosabe, which is supposed to mean brother.

There was even a plot by the outsiders from the North, who were taking advantage of the Southerners after the Civil War, to kidnap President Ulysses S. Grant, a former Civil War general from Ohio. The plot was designed to get the new U.S. government to give the Southerners the state of Texas for the safe return of their heroic president. Well, in the final analysis, it didn’t work, and the Lone Ranger and Tonto saved Grant and then rode off into the sunset with the president’s blessing.

Meanwhile, back at the debate, Djou was making like the Lone Ranger battling everyone on the stage. He did such a good job, even current President Barack Obama is encouraging the public to vote Democrat. It’s all scripted and obvious. I would bet that the Democrats are already making plans for a battle between Hanabusa and Case in the upcoming primary election to challenge the “Lone Ranger” in the general election.

It is kind of interesting that a western series written for audiences in 1949 would have so many similarities to modern-day politics. It appears politics have not changed that much in the U.S. since the Civil War.

Legislators Need Some Training

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 05, 2010
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Something must have gone wrong during the training and development of our current group of legislators. They don’t seem to be able to agree on anything and contest every proposal from each other, no matter the content.


Every organization trains its employees in order to utilize the utmost potential of the individual. Training can be costly, but the overall investment provides not only a monetary value, but an emotional one. Maybe the next election should be followed by a training session. The objective would be to have them work together for the people instead of working against the people for their special interest groups.

If we started doing that, we would be putting taxpayer cash in an emotional bank with happy employees and equal profit for everyone. There would be lower turnover, lower absenteeism and a surge in self-motivation. Training all of the would-be elected officials and their staffs would allow them to acquire and develop new skills in addition to enhancing their current skills. It would give them a valued emotional disposition.


The millennium era has literally transformed training for all occupations, organizations and institutions. Traditionally, training consisted of a simple process that included “personal contact,” information and books.

Today, this kind of training seems to promote and arouse a competitive spirit that doesn’t produce the kind of leaders and followers the state needs. Training is more technical. The training process consists of utilizing technology with no “personal contact,” no remote area and time, and new technical jargon.

No matter which way you slice it, training new personnel, a very critical aspect in the strategic planning of any organization, is sometimes forgotten. What we see is the mere presence of someone from the “other” group arousing the competitive juices to the boiling point.

The “traditional training” we are all used to is a good technique with many advantages. The new millennium is dominated by distant/e-training. It’s obvious that there is nothing wrong with blended learning; however, the overall importance of employee training is critical in achieving the most simple objective.

The one type of training everyone is familiar with is classroom learning. You have an instructor, a student and a significant amount of interaction and feedback. It is the dominant form of training used by the leading firms in town. What’s very critical during traditional training sessions is who is delivering the message. It is how a company or organization projects a governed behavior.

In a political environment, a great deal of emphasis is given to the qualities the trainer brings to the classroom setting. Involving individuals within the organization projects self-worth and creates a personal and fulfilling atmosphere.

The problem here is evident. No matter how effective and respected the trainer is, each individual learns differently, and it is important to consider the diverse learning methods to enhance learning. Imagine what the result would be if they used case studies of past legislative efforts, guided learning or even the Internet. Case studies allow for team building. Individuals learn from each other. The Internet allows employees to utilize the overwhelming volume of current information.

The overall advantage of classroom learning is the “person-to-person” interaction. What has happened with the vast and growing world of technology is we are losing human interaction. Yes, traditional training can become monotonous. Students grow bored and lose motivation, and that is detrimental to an organization. Time constraints and busy lives do not allow for learning. However, e-learning can be described as a dramatic culture shift, especially if users are not familiar with computers. It’s significance is that it delivers “just-in-time training.” Courses via the Internet save money because they limit the time that people are away from their jobs. There is no question the training and learning is flexible. In point of fact, the only real disadvantage to e-learning is the lack of interaction.

There is strong and convincing evidence that our legislative leaders at all levels need a form of blended learning. The balance is achieved by capturing the best of both worlds and allowing employees to pick and choose how they want to learn. IBM did it and it works just fine.

The bottom line here is the employees who understand the business they are in will complain less, will be more satisfied and motivated to serve the public. Proper training improves the entire working atmosphere.

Let’s face it, the legislative effort at all levels of government, federal, state and county, did not work for the taxpaying public. All they did well was argue, complain, disagree and publicly attack each other. At times it was embarrassing to watch. It’s got to improve the next time around.

The Political Game Of ‘Tit For TAT’

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 28, 2010
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The condition is “red” as Hawaii’s legislators are still searching for revenue. They have apparently made up their minds to swipe a few million dollars from the Transient Accommodation Tax, or TAT fund. As expected, the Honolulu City Council fired back at the suggestion and threatened harsh action.

Knowing the game, Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia, a former legislator, announced that the city’s $21 million parks program could be eliminated if the Legislature takes some of the hotel room tax revenues meant for the counties. It was a stern warning from the council and budget chairman, who scheduled a hearing on the issue at Honolulu Hale immediately.

Like football coaches in a tight game, they go into a two-minute drill and have more than 75 people sign up to testify about budget bills on the agenda. The media, which love to play the “he said, you said” game, reported that, “Someone close to the action who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation” said that “a total 58,000 people, seniors and youths register for recreational park programs every year.”


Of course, 58,000 is a “scare” number, because no one knows exactly how many people will be angry at legislators for eliminating their park activities.

The possible truth is that the C&C has been coasting along during the state’s budget crisis. It has not laid off any workers or scheduled any cost saving from furloughed employees in the Parks and Recreation Department because it has its own budget crisis to deal with and doesn’t want to contend with additional revenue shortfalls from dedicated funds from the Legislature.

The unintended consequences of taking any portion of the City and County of Honolulu’s TAT would be devastating to the public’s parks and recreation program. Not only that, it was predicted that their unhappiness would be felt for years to come.

In fact, there is documented research about individual behavior being altered by management’s attention to a problem. You can read all about it in a story about the Western Electric Company in Cicero, Ill., way back in 1927. Research conducted by a Harvard Business School professor named Elton Mayo started out by examining the environmental influences of the work-place (e.g. brightness of lights and humidity). The findings were staggering for management, so they moved into the psychological aspects (e.g. breaks, groups pressure, managerial leadership). The major finding of the study was that almost regardless of the experimental manipulation employed, worker production improved. It seemed that the workers were pleased to receive attention, any kind of attention. Productivity was then and still is, even today, influenced by social factors.

The bottom line is that the workplace - and playgrounds - are social systems, and tampering with the attitudes of 58,000 citizens prior to an important upcoming election does not make good sense for either side.

Public Worker Health Care At Risk

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 21, 2010
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A hot letter has been bouncing around the Big Square Building among the legislative hierarchy like a hot potato for a couple of weeks now. It is a warning from the governor that urges the legislative leaders to take action on a couple of key bills before this year’s session ends in three weeks.

The subject: Hawaii’s government employee health coverage will run out of money unless premiums are increased or benefits reduced.

The letter is about the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF) that covers about 161,000 employees, retirees and dependents. The problem is, this most important fund is losing more than $1 million a month, and won’t be able to pay doctors for medical bills if it runs out of money. A hired consultant to the fund has recommended a 26.2 percent increase in premiums beginning July 1.

It’s all a pretty straightforward problem, not much hocus pocus involved by either side; however, the EUTF trustees must agree to the increase. That’s where the political arithmetic gets a little blurred.

EUTA’s consultant, Aon Consulting, informed the trustees at the March 31 board meeting that, under generally accepted accounting principles, the EUTF was insolvent as of Dec. 31, 2009, and ran out of funds to cover expenses later this year. With the political clock running, Aon recommended a 26.2 percent premium rate increase effective July 1, 2010 for the self-funded plans.

Most members of the EUTA, including me, I should add, had to absorb an average 24 percent premium increase for the self-funded prevalent plans effective July 1, 2009. Trustees voted to institute an average 24 percent increase after the EUTF suffered a $69.7 million loss over the past year. In the six months after the July 2009 premium increase, EUTF’s self-funded plans lost an additional $7.7 million for an average monthly loss of $1.3 million. The EUTF has been paying its bills by using part of its $42 million in restricted reserves.

This is where the political arithmetic gets complicated. There are only two ways to stop the default of the EUTF: Raise premiums or change benefits to lower costs. The union members on the EUTF already have stated that they will not support either option, which is what you would expect from them, especially after they suffered a 24 percent premium increase last year.

The EUTF Board makeup makes a resolution even more difficult. It has five members from the unions and five from management. In order for the board to take action, it needs three votes from each side. There is proposed legislation that would add an 11th member be chosen by the 10 current members. If they fail to agree on a chair, then the governor would make the selection.

The facts and the arithmetic are indisputable that the cost of the EUTF has become a burden for both the employers and the employees. If they do nothing and no corrective legislation is enacted in the next week, the EUTF is destined to collapse.

It will be interesting to see how the Legislature responds to this problem. Granted, it is not as flashy as “Furlough Fridays,” but it is a problem where the political arithmetic (HB2461) cannot be denied.

In Politics, Power Is Always No. 1

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 14, 2010
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It is interesting that when we see people using power, especially ourselves, we see it as a good force and wish we had more. When others use it against us, particularly when it is used to thwart our goals or ambitions, we see it as evil.

Do you get that feeling these days when legislators use their power to take something from one group (the haves)and give it to another more friendly group (the have-nots)?

What is political power realistically?

It is an important social process that is often required to get things done or accomplished by interdependent systems. As the legislature grinds to a halt, there are lessons to be learned in observing the political process this time around.

There are two lessons to be learned. First, life is a matter of individual efforts, ability and achievement. Second, there were right answers and wrongs answers every day of the session. There are decisions made that were painfully received by the groups they affected. About decisions, and I have said it before in these columns, a decision by itself changes nothing. It all depends on implementation science. After the moment the decision is made, we cannot possibly know if it is a good or bad decision. That happens only as the consequences of the decision become known to all sides.

We invariably spend more time living with the consequences of our decisions than we do in making them. Let’s face it, taxpayers are not necessarily rationalizing individuals. As I said in last week’s column, the match between our attitudes and our behaviors often derives from the adjusting of our attitudes and our behaviors that are often derived from our the adjusting our attitudes, after the fact, to conform to our past actions and their consequences.

In most political organizations, once a decision is made, more effort is usually expended in securing credit or assigning blame rather than in working to improve the decision.

When you come right down to it, the furlough idea was an easy decision for most to ratify. The important actions may not be the original choices, but rather what subsequent actions were taken to make things work out is what really matters in the long run.

What this suggests is that we have to be less concerned about the quality of the decision at the time we make it and concern ourselves more with adapting the new decisions and actions to the information we learned as events unfolded. Seriously, who knew the parents of elementary students would be most upset about furlough Fridays?

It might be a little late for some of our legislators to learn a very important skill - learning how to manage the consequences of their decisions.

After all, power is not employed when there are no differences in perspectives or when no conflicts exists.

Local Politics Is All About Attitude

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 07, 2010
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Unfortunately, the legislative session is nearing completion and the politicians’ comical antics will be gone from the news.

If aliens came from another world and tried to figure out what was going on in our political climate, they would find convincing evidence that our political leaders don’t care for each other and that our culture is too confusing to control.

The very powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee approved a draft of the state budget that doesn’t raise the general excise tax as many feared. However, it did propose taking about $45 million in hotel tax money from the counties to help close the state’s projected $1.3 billion budget deficit. The Senate version also cut funding from 26 special funds, totaling $45 million, from next year’s budget.

The very next day, as expected, Honolulu City Council Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia announced that the city’s cultural programs, including the Royal Hawaiian Band and the Office of Culture and the Arts, may be eliminated if state lawmakers slash hotel room tax revenues. The only thing spared would be programs providing for public safety.

So if state legislators do capture the city’s share of hotel room tax money, the city would have to cut at least $20 million from the nearly $3 billion operating budget proposed by the city’s executive branch.

While this was going on, the House Tourism, Culture and International Affairs Committee advanced a resolution recognizing cockfighting as a cultural activity! Of course, the resolution died in the House Judiciary Committee by week’s end.

Not to be outdone, legislators tried to pass a bill that would prohibit harvesting, possession, distribution and sale of shark fins. Of course, this measure insulted the longstanding Chinese tradition or serving shark-fin soup at formal Chinese events.

Equally insulted were Native Hawaiians who consider sharks to be deity.

Mixing culture and politics is a difficult proposition, but it’s nothing compared to the partisan politics going on behind the scenes in what’s sure to be a hotly contested gubernatorial election.

As if to issue a blunt warning, HB 1868 HD1 would prohibit a civil servant who accepts an appointed position from returning to his former job if he has served in that position for one year or longer.

SB 2626 SD1 is a bill that would prohibit the permanent filling of any and all civil service positions between Dec. 15, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2011, by a non-civil service exempt (i.e., governor’s appointee) employee. This bill would create a subclass of civil servants whose probation period would be “not less than one year” and could be indefinite.

And while these are stern warnings for any employees considering appointments from a Republican governor or agency, SB 2007 SD1 is an even more direct assault on the governor’s powers.

Under law, this bill would curtail the budgetary powers of the executive branch by preventing the governor and budget director from restricting appropriated funds regardless of the state’s financial situation. It’s copied from a similar law in California, and it doesn’t seem to be working too well for them. It is paying its bills with vouchers because the state has no money.

One would suspect that state Attorney General Mark Bennett would object to these bills as unconstitutional. Only time will tell, but it serves as a reminder that when it comes to positioning one’s party for an upcoming election, the stakes are high and getting in the way could be hazardous to your occupational future.

Guess it’s all a matter of attitude and winning a gubernatorial election.

Looking For Global Leaders Locally

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 31, 2010
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It seems like every time there is an opportunity to fill a top job in Hawaii, our organizational leaders set out to conduct a national search to find a “world-class” replacement. But we should develop our own global leaders right here.

Culture has an impact on the success of a business, and the power of a well-trained global leader outweighs that of any other. For that reason, being educated here shouldn’t be a handicap. It should be an advantage. But it’s not.


The first barrier to working globally is ignorance and the challenge to develop competencies for global leaders.


Organizations all over the world have made global leadership development a priority in strategic planning. The World Economic Forum is known as the foremost global community of business, community, political, intellectual and other leaders of society. A portion of its mission statement taken from its Web site (www. weforum.org) tells of the significance leadership holds in the business world of today: “Globalization has both made the world a much simpler and yet, at the same time, a much more complex place to live. In today’s interconnected and interdependent society, the ripples of significant global events reach us all. Today no one government or company or group, working alone, can solve a major issue. They all have to work together.”

Our world is at a point in which organizations no longer follow the traditional transactional leadership style of command and control approaches to leadership. The approaches are no longer effective; the authoritarian leadership and highly structured organizational hierarchies of the past are too restrictive. Global thinkers are now the key to accelerating an organization’s progress both globally and domestically. Reliable research shows at least eight attributes of global leaders: the ability to develop and convey a shared vision, competence in system thinking, a global mindset, confidence in technology, recognition of the importance of ethics and spirituality in the workplace and a model for lifelong learning (executive education programs).

From factory workers to Fortune 500 executives, more of us today are attempting to meet deadlines with people across the globe. So what has happened? Global business and communication skills are no longer essential only for company leaders, but also are required throughout many functional areas of the organization.

Interculturalists are now dealing with increased opportunities to assist globalizing firms, and consequently this field of study is ever increasing. This is especially true in Hawaii, because global leadership means not only global business, it means global labor resources, global markets and global unions.

Don’t look now, but global unions are right around the corner. Ask yourself this question: “How many unions will it take to plan, construct, operate and maintain a $5.4 million rail system?”

I hope to someday hear a local leader say something like, “We want to find the best person for the job and we are going to start looking right here.”

Wouldn’t that be a shock?

Politicians Will Pay On Election Day

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 24, 2010
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The state lawmakers are on the verge of trying to craft legislation that will generate a large sum of revenue. It’s the perfect revenue missile for the Democratic Party - the General Excise Tax.

The GET increase could raise an estimated $458 million a year. This would be on top of a Senate bill last year that passed a 1 percentage-point tax increase that raised only $220 million because it was coupled with a series of exemptions and tax breaks.

It’s not often you find two legislative leaders arguing in public about such a crucial issue. State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chairwoman of the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee, is on record saying that the governor was certain to veto a tax hike and a legislative override was doubtful. Another Democratic leader, Sen. Rosalyn Baker, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, responded that people are not sent to the Legislature to get re-elected, that they are not sent to find an easy way out - they are sent to deal with tough issues.

How interesting for the taxpayers to see these two political titans in disagreement on such a sensitive legislative package.

Of course, Kim is 100 percent correct. The governor will veto the measure and the Legislature would have to come back in special session to override her veto. Time has basically run out on the options to pass such legislation into law. But maybe this pause would be a good time to talk about something that may have slipped many a keen mind - a very basic question: Why do people work?

This may come as a shock to some legislators, but we don’t work to pay taxes or participate in hocus-pocus deals with union leaders and re-election campaigns. Most people will quickly answer, “For the money.” They will then look at you with a strange expression, as if to say, “What a dumb question.” Money is a major reason most people work, but it’s not the only reason. Most people who work understand the myriad forces that make up the working environment.

It’s obvious that Kim and Baker don’t. One is realistic about the process of passing such important legislation and the other is pontificating.

In my humble opinion, being a legislative leader is more fun than work, but it doesn’t answer the question of why people work. It may be simplistic, but people work because they want the things money can buy. Working just to be able to pay taxes does nothing to motivate individuals.

The same question can be applied to employers. Some employers believe that people live in order to work, and therefore the person’s main responsibility in life is to fulfill the needs of the company. If you take it to the extreme, employing people is like owning them.

Legislators who don’t take into consideration non-work factors risk losing some of their dedicated voters. There’s a good possibility that this lack of sensitivity toward the common employee may rear its ugly head at the ballot box.

Working hard to buy necessities is one thing; working hard to pay more taxes and take home less pay is another.

Blaming Principals For Bad Grades

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 17, 2010
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The state Department of Education is in the news again. Not only is the furlough issue still looming as a major concern, but now there is renewed interest in tying a principal’s pay to the performance of students in his/her school.

This means that a principal could be evaluated - and paid - on how well students perform.

What we’re talking about here is “incentive pay” or “pay for performance.” And while accountability for students’ test scores has long been the cornerstone of education policy in the United States, Hawaii may be the first state that wants to tie a principal’s pay to performance of students according to the latest results standards related to No Child Left Behind.

State policy that rewarded or punished schools and their staffs for test scores reared its ugly head in the 1990s. The No Child Left Behind act federalized this approach and made it more draconian. The latest interest in pay-for-performance plans would reward or punish individual teachers rather than entire schools. If this happens, not only a school’s teachers but its principal could be evaluated.

Is this an appropriate measure to use to rate a principal’s performance? In the business of managing public schools K-12, this is a dangerous and unfair approach to educational policy. The reason is simple. There are so many variables that cannot be controlled when assessing student performance on standardized tests or attaining NCLB standards.

Fist, some students don’t have the desire to perform well in classes, let alone tests. After all, what’s in it for them? Taking the test is a simple “fill in the bubble” exercise. Their motivation factor is only one variable to consider.

Second, there is a range of learning potential that is pervasive within public schools. Realistically, a student whose learning potential falls within the borderline range of cognitive functioning is probably not going to perform similarly to a peer whose learning potential falls within the average to high range.

The general public should be aware that public schools are charged with providing “Free Appropriate Public Education” to students with various levels of learning potential. The ability to perform adequately to these standards is another variable.

Still another variable is how much assistance the student receives at home to reinforce the concepts taught in the classroom. Let’s face it: Parents and guardians also are part of the learning equation.

One more thing to consider is social-economic status. Imagine this: We take the principals and teachers from a high-performing school and place them in a low-performing school.

What would happen? Would the levels of student performance jump significantly or stay about the same? There is no strong and convincing evidence the scores would change significantly. It is just not that simple.

In Hawaii, proponents of higher standards for public education have believed that teachers are supposed to increase students’ knowledge and skills. They also argue that if we manage schools as if they were private firms, and reward and punish teachers on the basis of how much students learn, then teachers will do better, and if scores on standardized tests of a few of the subjects dominate accountability systems, they will do so at the exclusion of all other evidence of performance. It may be a strong argument for enhancing teacher accountability, but as for performance pay for principals, they’d better rethink the issue.

Why? In most cases, because available numerical measures are necessarily incomplete, holding principals accountable for them without countervailing measures of other kinds most often will lead to serious distortions.

The principals need and deserve a strong staff and support from outside the school campus to perform, and that includes parents and guardians. Any model that does not do that is overly simplistic and will do more harm that good.

Why Pols Don’t Care About Homeless

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 10, 2010
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I can’t help feeling sorry for the homeless residents of Honolulu. I guess it’s not correct to call them residents, but they are here and someone has to figure out a way to help them recover from their homelessness. What’s especially difficult for me is seeing them lying on the cold ground or even concrete sidewalks in inclement weather. It’s difficult to imagine how miserable they must be with people walking by and ignoring them.

I am equally sure that some of them don’t know what’s going on and are mentally incapacitated. After all, there are shelters all over the place in which they can move or stay overnight, if they would only agree to abide by the rules. Oddly enough, this is one thing many homeless people have in common: They don’t want anyone to restrict their movement or give them orders. They dislike rules and would rather sleep on a cold sidewalk under a tree than follow house rules at a shelter with restroom facilities, a comfortable bed, clean sheets, a blanket and food.


I’ve heard many people say that there are all kinds of homeless individuals and they must be understood in different classifications. Some are victims of dys-functional families, others are mentally incompetent, drug addiction leaves some unable to cope with reality, and some are chronically unemployed for a variety of reasons. One would think that in an election year at least a few of the candidates would offer a solution or remedy for homelessness in a resort town dependent on tourists for economic survival.

Not a word. Not even a peep. The message is clear: You can’t get elected to public office trying to assist the homeless community.

Only one other issue is more neglected: the extraordinary number of indigenous people in our jails and prisons. Doesn’t anyone running for elective office wonder how the population of correctional facilities got so out of line?

Observing homeless individuals is sad. I thought I would do a little unscientific investigation of some of the hardcore homeless community to see if I could find a similarity, some commonality among them that might give a clue to their behavior.

Most often they are territorial. They seem to favor the same location until some form of “urban renewal” forces them to move. Many are loners, but there are those who travel with one or two steady partners at similar times of the day and night. This could probably be attributed to the old adage “misery loves company.”

There is something else that stands out: They carry all their earthly belongings with them as they move from one location to another. It is an amazing trait of the homeless. They cherish what little they have.

Often they have a shopping cart. It is more than a means of transporting their belongings - in many cases, it is used as a crutch or walker. If there is one thing the homeless all have in common is a shopping cart. They depend on it to get from one place to another.

The shopping cart is important to shoppers in malls and supermarkets. Not only does it allow the shopper to buy more groceries, it helps shoppers get their goods to their cars. Once in the parking lot and the shopping cart is unloaded, it is abandoned. Most people don’t bother to return their shopping carts to the racks on the side of the parking lots. The stores have employees rounding them up every so often, but they are easily picked up by a homeless person in need.

Interesting that discarded individuals become attached to discarded shopping carts, because their contents have been unloaded and they are no longer needed. I admit it sounds like nonsense: Control the shopping carts and you begin to control the homeless. It’s not the end, but it may be a beginning.

A Legislative Flagpole War

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 03, 2010
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At first it sounded like a bad joke, but as it turns out the legislators were serious. I’m talking about the deferral of state Rep. Kymberly Pine’s (R) proposed House Bill 2311 to allow flagpoles to display the American or state flag in residents’ homes in a planned community.

There is really nothing comical about a Republican-proposed bill being unceremoniously deferred, because it happens every session. It’s the reason given for the deferral, which angered many taxpayers and veterans, that makes it comical. The legislators, obviously fearing an election year backlash, said the deferral was “because of a lack of public support, as no one showed up in person during the original hearing to testify.”



There is strong and convincing evidence that they were being duplicitous from the beginning of the poorly conceived comedy. They scheduled another hasty committee meeting at the state Capitol. Because of the state’s Sunshine Laws, they have to post the meeting times and agenda on the Capitol bulletin board for all to see 48 hours prior to the meeting. Of course, if you don’t frequent the state Capitol, you would not be aware that the Capitol bulletin board is in the basement (parking lot) past the security office. I’m sure they must have the agendas and decision-making announcements at many other locations, including their self-serving Web sites.

So what time do they schedule the new hearing time to ensure maximum attendance? The next day after the original hearing, starting a 9:10 a.m. in the House Conference Room 325! How many taxpayers and veterans do you know who are available to show up at the Capitol at 9:10 in the morning with 20 copies of their testimony? Probably not many. This is not new for “hot button” bills that could damage the electability of sitting representatives of the Democratic persuasion.

Don’t get the wrong idea - there is nothing illegal about this political tactic. It’s actually the smart thing to do. The problem is that military veterans are not aware of the game. They are used to facing the enemy and being prepared to lay their lives on the line to defend their country. Sneaking around conference rooms early in the morning, after finding parking within a death march of the Capitol is not what they are trained for.

If this bill comes up for final passage, the best way to get their point across would be to show up with a company of battle-tested veterans in America’s last four wars, in full battle regalia, to scare the legislators out of their anti-patriotic funk. It might be a good idea to have more elected officials who have served the military and understand things like accomplishing the mission and protecting the American flag.

The shabby excuse they used for deferring HB 2311 was insulting because, more often than not, legislators don’t care what the voters think or want. If they did, then these kinds of insults would not occur.

The Stress Of Trying To Move Up

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 24, 2010
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With all of the headlines bemoaning our spectacular budget deficits, it’s no wonder a lot of younger workers are experiencing feelings of anxiety about their careers in terms of the level they have reached. Believe it or not, a lack of career mobility in leadership-oriented careers is a chronic stressor and, if not managed, can produce long-term negative effects on individuals and organizations. It even has a name - promotion stress.

As you would expect in these tough economic times, employment stress is probably more important to most than promotion stress. For that reason, promotion stress hasn’t received much attention in corporate training. This may be because it doesn’t seem like an important area where a manager or subordinate should focus attention. While employees may focus on moving up in the organization, managers may instead focus their attention on production and/or sales.

But let’s face it, there is a lot of stress associated with advancing your career. Ask yourself these questions: Can I see my next job in this organization? Am I studying for it? Have I received any training to prepare me for that next step?

All these questions create stress for young employees. There’s the initial stress of being hired, then can come the stress of attempting to move up the corporate ladder. There can be additional stress in vying for a promotion and not getting it.

For employees who have been with a company a long time, there is the stress of trying for a higher position against employees who are much younger and fresh out of college. What this means is there is a relationship between promotion stress and career stages, as viewed from the internal and external perspectives.

So what? Promotion stress can be derived from career development, which was traditionally viewed as an activity that belonged to the organizational hierarchy. But with recent downsizing and economic changes in organizational structures around the business world, this view has changed - the responsibility for career development is now considered the employee’s responsibility. It suggests that employees’ ability to push themselves to become successful is critical to their career success, as is the ability to adjust to changes as they rise in the work environment.

The reason for considering these ramifications is that employee stress has been linked to countless negative and costly organizational outcomes, including workplace violence.

Career development is focused on how one’s career evolves over time. The evolution does not necessarily mean hierarchical movement through promotion. For most employees, there is the need to learn new skills and be given new opportunities and challenges, and these have been inherent in promotions.

A career is a work-related competency growth that prepares one for mobility. So in these tough economic times, use the time to improve your skills, and you will see new opportunities more clearly.

Remember, it’s the employee’s responsibility in today’s marketplace.

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