by Andrew Walden
Just two months into his term, Neil Abercrombie has led Hawaii politics into chaos. From the White House to Honolulu Hale, progressive Democrats are duking it out with the old boys.
Pushing his pension tax scheme, last week Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie argued that some retirees do not “make positive contributions in our community”. This week the retirees—many from unions which backed old-boy Democrat Mufi Hannemann in the Primary—had their chance to return the favor.
At a raucous hearing before the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee Committee January 11, Abercrombie pitched his plan to eliminate State subsidies for Medicare Part B for government retirees and stop using overtime to calculate pension amounts. Abercrombie told the Committee that the State has a choice between "Looking for villains, or looking for solutions." But the standing room only crowd didn’t hold back. One pointed out that Abercrombie is “an idiot.” As audience members from SHOPO, HGEA, UHPA, HFFA, UPW, and HSTA jeered, snickered and hissed, Abercrombie tried to make the case that the State Employees Retirement System and Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund are both on the verge of bankruptcy, but when he finished he was greeted with stony silence punctuated by two disgruntled audience members who read out the verdict: “What a jerk. He’s full of shit.”
Shaken by his reception, Abercrombie told reporters outside the hearing, “I am the governor. I’m not your pal. I’m not your counselor. I am the governor. And I am determined to be truthful with everybody about what we have to do together to survive.”
The outrage is not limited to old-boy unions in the hearing rooms, as one letter-writer explained Feb 4: “With Linda Lingle, I thought things couldn't get any worse. With Neil Abercrombie, the worst is yet to come. His proposals have insulted me. If one more politician tells me I have to share the sacrifice for their incompetence mismanaging government, I will vomit.”
After pulling a fast one on all those voters, Abercrombie is not the only hypersensitive progressive Democrat having difficulty being himself. After DLNR Director William Aila faced opposition from the old-boy Hawaiian Civic Clubs at his January 12 confirmation hearing, he told Civil Beat:
"You see how fickle the Native Hawaiian community can be. I'm held to a higher standard because I'm Native Hawaiian. I can agree with these folks on a personal level ... but I'm not William Aila now, I'm the chair. ... That office has a different set of responsibilities."
Asked if juggling personal and professional responsibilities was difficult, Aila said: "At its simplest level, it's tricky. At its deepest level, it causes me a great deal of internal conflict."
While Abercrombie and Aila suffer from multiple personality disorder, Senator Dan Inouye has Progressive pains of his own. After Progressive Democrat President Barack Obama teamed up with Congressional Republicans in a squeeze play against the old boys and the earmarks which sustain them, Star-Advertiser columnist Richard Borreca—in a February 6 column obviously dictated from Inouye's office—pointed out that the attack on earmarks by the Manoa-Liberal-in-Chief was “politically opportunistic.” Borreca correctly portrayed the moratorium on earmarks as an Obama power-play against Inouye:
“…while Hawaii's senior Sen. Daniel K. Inouye battled to preserve earmarks, President Barack Obama announced he would veto any bill with earmarks. Inouye was forced to fold.
“Across the country the GOP gloated: "It's getting lonely at the pork trough." It is also getting a lot stupider.
“The federal money not spent on earmarks is not saved, the money is already appropriated -- if Inouye and crew don't spend it, then Obama will. That is why Obama was so willing to side with the symbols.”
The $321M per year in lost Inouye pork is nothing compared to the other old-boy pork project suddenly being attacked by Abercrombie’s progressive Democrats—Honolulu’s $5B Mufi Rail project.
First, Abercrombie and progressive Democrat Senate President Shan Tsutsui teamed up behind Senate Bill 1426 — which would raid…errr ‘borrow’ $200M from the rail fund to patch up Abercrombie’s budget. Abercrombie called the proposal a “win-win.” Tsutsui, fresh off his big victory over the Christians, told Civil Beat Feb 4, "We know (former Honolulu Mayor) Mufi Hannemann didn't like the idea, but we thought a different administration may have a different view. From what I've heard, they're not too excited about this.…"
Then progressive Democrat Ben Cayetano—seen by Mufi supporters as the grey eminence behind Abercrombie’s gubernatorial campaign—held a January 31 news conference launching a new anti-rail lawsuit challenging the City’s procurement practices.
And finally the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp and progressive Democrat lawyer David Frankel—who as Sierra Club Chair hired Jack Kelly to assault Hokulia—filed a lawsuit challenging the handling of native Hawaiian burials and cultural sites. The NHLC suit led Borreca to compare rail to the decades-long battle over the H-3 and write “Don't count on riding Honolulu rail any time soon.”
Don’t count on seeing peace any time soon either.