Hawaii: Highest Government Surplus--Lowest Median Household Income
Hint for Hawaii in Gay Cakes Decision: Supremes Rip ‘Civil Rights’ Commission
AP: …Justice Kennedy said, the Colorado civil rights commission displayed “hostility” to Jack Phillips, the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop. Kennedy cited comments by a member of the state commission who had said that religion was often used a basis for bigotry.
Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen G. Breyer joined with their more conservative colleagues to form the majority….
the court said Phillips was treated unfairly by the civil rights commission, and for this reason alone, he should win his case.
“The commission’s hostility (to Phillips and his religious beliefs) was inconsistent with the 1st Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion,” Kennedy wrote. “Phillips was entitled to a neutral decision-maker who would give full and fair consideration to his religious objection.”…
read … Supreme Court rules for baker who refused to make cake for same-sex couple
HART Audit: ‘Big Brother is Watching’
CB: …Last fall, when the cash-strapped system was in need of a rescue from cost overruns, state lawmakers put together a bailout package that also stipulated additional financial oversight. A key component of that recently got underway in the form of the first annual state audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), the semi-autonomous agency responsible for shepherding the 20-mile rail project from Kapolei to Ala Moana.
The audit, which will be submitted to the 2019 Legislature, is expected to continue for much of the remaining calendar year. But state Auditor Les Kondo has already raised a valid red flag, alleging that HART management is interfering with the audit process.
In public testimony during a HART board meeting Thursday, Kondo said that HART staff members were being required to audio record their interviews with auditor staffers, then deliver those recordings to HART management to be transcribed. Such a requirement holds potential to weaken the candor needed to produce a constructive report.
Kondo put it like this:“That’s akin to management sitting in the interview itself. Big Brother is there. Big Brother is listening. And whether intended or not, the implication … to the employees is that they better toe the company line.” Agreed. If management of any sort can have a look at interview transcripts, plain-spokenness could blur for the sake of job security….
Related: Auditor: HART Management Listening in on My Interviews with Employees
read … HART doesn’t need auditor transcripts
Councilman Catches Caldwell appointee using City Resources to Campaign for Tommy Waters
SA: Honolulu City Councilman Trevor Ozawa has filed an ethics complaint alleging that one of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s appointees used city resources to give Ozawa’s political rival a boost in the upcoming election.
Ozawa said Misty Kela‘i, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts, used that agency’s Instagram account to “like” Instagram posts made by Tommy Waters, who is challenging Ozawa’s re-election bid this fall.
MOCA’s Instagram account features the city seal, and Kela‘i and the agency abused its authority and appeared to support Waters, Ozawa said. In addition to the “likes,” the MOCA account commented, “UDABESS! IMUA Hawaiian” on one of Waters’ photos….
Waters, in a written statement, thanked Kela‘i “for her heartfelt aloha.” He said his campaign has not coordinated with any city official on social media…. (Notably he did say this without even smirking.)
Waters and Caldwell both served in the state House of Representatives in the early 2000s and have been allies in the past, while Ozawa has been among the mayor’s harshest critics since arriving at the Council….
read … Councilman files ethics complaint against Caldwell appointee
Audit: Honolulu Parks Could Save Millions By Reducing Potable Water Use
CB: Honolulu could save millions of dollars by reducing potable water usage in its parks, according to an audit of the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation.
The audit, conducted by the Office of the City Auditor, found that instead of the department meeting its goal to reduce potable water usage by 5 percent annually, usage increased by 13 percent from fiscal year 2015 to 2017.
Instead of saving $833,907, water costs increased by more than $2 million during this time, the audit found….
Background: Auditor: City Parks and Recreation Fails Again and Again
read … Audit: Honolulu Parks Could Save Millions By Reducing Potable Water Use
How ‘Innovation Grants’ are Spent at DoE Schools
CB: …Truancy, workplace training for adult special education students and urban irrigation models are just some of the topics students at 13 schools statewide plan to tackle through new “innovation grants” distributed by the Hawaii Department of Education….
The innovation grants are supported by $650,000 in federal Title I funding and $350,000 in state general funds….
The winning proposals reflect a broad range of ideas that incorporates STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning, arts education, and student-led workspaces, One school was awarded a grant to hold an annual career fair that could develop more engaged kids….
Not all the winning proposals shared by the DOE with Civil Beat expressly state how the projects might translate into academic improvement….
read … Innovation Pays Off For These Hawaii Schools
Sierra Club criticizes state Health Department proposal for Red Hill fuel tanks
SA: …The new proposed regulations would give the Navy 20 years to upgrade the tanks, an allowance Townsend argued is dangerously long….
read … Sierra Club criticizes state Health Department proposal for Red Hill fuel tanks