Why am I smiling in this photo from August 1985?
The headline tells the story.
Just the month before, Common Cause/Hawaii had released my report alleging corruption and extensive violations of the state’s ethics laws by a lobbying group associated with the state judiciary.
At the time, I was executive director of Common Cause here in Hawaii, and our report of the judiciary’s lobbying activities had launched a series of investigations.
News had been building. The judiciary had announced appointment of a special blue ribbon committee to investigate. Then, on August 14, 1985, just one day later, the State Ethics Commission followed by publicly confirming an investigation of its own.
The combined investigations eventually led to major reforms in the courts, and also created a political rift between the courts and the legislature, as many legislators were personally indebted to Tom “Fat Boy” Okuda, the court administrator at the heart of the scandal. That political divide lasted for many years.
You can follow the development of the scandal in my collection of news article about Common Cause during this period. The front page article shown in the photo can be seen on pages 15 & 16.
My Civil Beat column today is a response to House Speaker Joe Souki’s letter to the State Ethics Commission complaining about its opinions over the past several years that have tightened ethics restrictions relating to gifts and other matters (“Ian Lind: Dear Joe, If You’re Concerned About Ethics Problems Look in the Mirror“).
Souki’s letter can be read here.
Souki’s blast was delivered amid rumored turmoil within the ethics commission, where one faction of commissioners is believed to be trying to garner the votes necessary to terminate the agency’s director, Les Kondo.
The commission meets later this morning, and the agenda includes a discussion of Kondo’s job evaluation, which has been ongoing for several months.
My take on it is that Souki’s complaints are misdirected. For example, he complains that the commission has issued guidance on gifts based on a liberal construction of the ethics law, meaning that objectives and intent of the law is considered along with the actual wording.
Well, the speaker can complain, but that’s exactly what the statute requires. Here’s how I put it in the column:
But take a look at the ethics code, which is found in Chapter 84, Hawaii Revised Statutes. And right there at the top, in the very first section:
“§84-1 Construction. This chapter shall be liberally construed to promote high standards of ethical conduct in state government.”
The Ethics Commission didn’t write that. It was made part of the ethics law from the start by the Legislature. And when the commission applies the law liberally “to promote high standards of ethical conduct,” it’s doing its job as the law requires.
Souki also expresses some gift anxiety, saying that he should be free to accept any gift from any source as long as it doesn’t cost more than $200.
Well, that’s not what the law currently provides.
My suggestion to old Joe: If you don’t want to have to worry about whether a gift is proper and legal or not, just ban all gifts from lobbyists. Period. That’s about as bright a line as one can get, and should allow Souki and other legislators to sleep well at night. But I doubt whether the legislature is prepared to take that simple step.
In any case, my overall sense is that the commission has raised the ethics bar in recent years, boosting the standards that employees and public officials must meet. I would think that’s a welcome trend, despite some rough edges.
So, do read my column if you have access to Civil Beat.
Tags: Ethics · Politics
There seems to be a bumper crop of lychee this year, and bags of the fruit are being sold in supermarkets, along highways, and given away by friends lucky enough to have trees loaded with the tasty treats.
So did anyone else note the news reports earlier this year that fingered a lychee toxin for an illness hitting children in India “that kills many victims and leaves others brain damaged.”
The magazine, Science, reported:
Now, scientists believe they have unmasked the mystery culprit: a toxin in the lychee fruit. After a 2-year investigation, researchers suggest in the 30 January issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that the illness results from crashing blood sugar levels likely due to a lychee toxin known to cause hypoglycemia in rats.
Even the New York Times reported on it back in January, “Litchi Toxin May Have Caused Mysterious Epidemic in India, Inquiry Finds“).
Apparently there’s still not all that much known about the lychee toxin or how it works.
Hopefully this toxin isn’t found in the fruit here in Hawaii! At least, as far as I’ve been able to see, there haven’t been any reports of lychee illnesses here.
Any UH folks want to chime in here?
Just another thing to worry about!
It’s a Tuesday that feels like Monday because of yesterday’s holiday.
And it was a beautiful morning.
The sun had just come up when we got down to Swanzy Beach Park. That seems to be our current schedule. It’s hard to get out of the house early enough to see the sun make its first appearance. Too many cat chores first thing in the morning. Washing the cat dishes from last night, measuring out dry food for the Kaaawa Six, checking water dishes, cleaning out the litter boxes, remembering to do the insulin shots, check the food again, find something special to tempt Ms. Wally, and it seems to go on and on.
It’s a relief to get done and get out of the house. And the morning views, like this one, are the reward.
And just click the photo to see a larger version.
Tags: Kaaawa · Photographs
A friend coming to Honolulu in June asked for suggestions of lotus ponds or fish ponds on Oahu, and I draw a big blank, but said I would seek your advice.
She’s a photographer, and her website mentions her lotus project.
I love to photograph people; it’s inspiring and a privilege to get close.
My lotus project of the last twenty years is my focus now.
A book is coming soon, the first of several, I hope!
And in a recent email, she wrote:
For 20 years I photographed on my parents big pond in the Sierra Foothills.; it was full of lotus.
Mom remembered one in Waialua when she was a girl going to visit her grandmother’s brother, Uncle Manini. That area is probably very developed now. It would be great to see some ponds on Oahu.
So, ideas? Please leave a comment with any suggestions you may have.
Tags: Art · Photographs · Travel