Governor Lingles Video Web Message: Parts 1 and 2

Part I:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zALNOFHZA1g&hl=en&fs=1]

Part II:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEd3xSkbWCQ&hl=en&fs=1]

Alaska Airlines to Start Flights From Oakland to the Big Island

SeaTac-based Alaska Airlines announced major changes to its route structure Wednesday…

…Alaska also announced it will begin service from Oakland to Maui and the island of Hawaii beginning in November.

The airline also advanced the startup of its Portland-Maui service from a previously planned Aug. 7 to July 3…

More Here

Hawaii Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida “The County Is Not Traditional Business”

The following is from the Hawaii Corporation Counsel “Blog“:

In challenging economic times, a recurring question asked by many is, “Why isn’t the County run like a business?” There is some validity to this sentiment, although the County by virtue of the nature of services it provides does not fit within a traditional business model.

A positive work ethic is something valuable in both the private and public employment sectors, as is a desire to provide excellent customer service. In private business, poor customer service results in the customer not coming back and going elsewhere. For government services, the public does not have this choice, but government workers must nonetheless commit to providing the very best possible service. Here the golden rule should guide County employees: Do unto others as you have others do unto you.

In recent years, through the committed effort of the County’s Department of Human Resources, County employees have been afforded training in customer service. Department heads in the County have also taken the challenge and have committed to ensuring their employees demonstrate the highest level of courtesy and service to the public we serve. We recognize this is a work in progress, and the end result will not appear overnight. But through continued and vigilant emphasis, the County is working to provide customer service that will become the standard by which all other businesses may be measured. Is this an unrealistic ambition? For County employees, we are calling upon them to take on this challenge.

Unlike private business however, the County does not provide services based on a supply/demand model, or based on an individual’s ability to pay. When a member of our community is in distress and calls for an ambulance, they are served, no matter what their financial ability. The County paramedic doesn’t ask for a credit card or “cash only” before deciding whether to offer emergency medical services. The same goes for firefighters responding to a house fire, police responding to victims who need assistance, and the many other County services we all sometimes take for granted. If a true supply/demand model was part of government service, only the wealthy could afford those services related to life and health. This is why it is important for the County not to be run like a traditional business. This ensures the vast majority of our population who may not have the most financial wealth are guaranteed needed services.

Our Fire Department’s present practice in not seeking reimbursement for rescue expenses is an excellent example of this. Although the County has an ordinance in place that allows the County to seek reimbursement for expenses incurred by the County in performing search and rescue missions, the County rarely (if at all) seeks this reimbursement. The Fire Department believes seeking reimbursement would serve as a disincentive for persons and family members to call for assistance if someone is lost or in need of emergency assistance. Here the present Fire Department administration has made a commitment that the value of a human life should not be an economic decision.

When a private business faces an increase in operating costs, they can look to either reduce the size of their expenses or increase the cost of their product. The County also goes through this analysis when there is an increase in operating costs (many of which are outside the control of the County). After looking to reduce expenses, the only option left for the County is to (1) increase property taxes (the main source of revenue for the County), or (2) charge for services. As evidenced above, charging for basic services tends to prejudice and discriminate against those persons with limited financial means. Raising taxes is never politically popular, although necessary at times.

The present balanced budget submitted by Mayor Billy Kenoi to the Hawai‘i County Council takes all of the above into account. It reduced the size of government, maintained the present level of services being delivered to our citizens, does not include any provision for charging for individual services, and does not raise taxes. This budget has been described by many as “balanced and fair.” Looking at the alternatives discussed above, the fairness is enjoyed by everyone in our County, irrespective of financial means.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions on the above or any matter, please feel free to email our office at Lashida@co.hawaii.hi.us, or call me at (808) 961-8304, extension 118. This message was posted on May 3, 2009, at 4:50 p.m.

Hawaii Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida on “What is a Furlough?”

The following is from Lincoln Ashida’s “Blog“:

Recent discussion in our media have included the possibility of furloughs for County of Hawai‘i employees. What is a furlough? The term “furlough” does not appear in the collective bargaining agreements (union contracts) for the employees of the major unions our County employs. Merriam-Webster defines “furlough” as “a leave of absence from duty granted especially to a soldier.”

Suffice it to say what proponents of employee furloughs for the County envision are days County employees don’t have to come to work, and consequently the County will not have to pay them, leading to a cost savings. However it is not as simple as that.

First of all, it’s important to distinguish between County officers and County employees. Officers are either elected or appointed and serve at will. For example, the Mayor, Prosecutor, Council members, and department heads are County officers. “Employees” as that term is used when referring to proposed furloughs covers those persons whose wages are bargained for and who have rights under their respective collective bargaining agreement. The appointing authority of the officers may order furloughs at any time. For example, Mayor Billy Kenoi has already directed each officer in the Mayor’s Office to be furloughed one day a month for an entire year. Although the cost savings will be far from enough to make up for any budget shortfall caused by the Legislature’s proposed reduction in the TAT contribution to our County, every little bit helps, and it is leadership by example.

For union employees, furloughs are much more problematic.

While litigating a recent labor case on behalf of our County, I had the opportunity to research and learn about the civil service system and merit principle that is at the heart of government employment in Hawai‘i. In a recent decision, our Hawai‘i Supreme Court recognized the merit principle as being fundamental to the recruitment and hiring of qualified individuals to serve in the public sector. The vast majority of positions in our County require the applicants to meet certain minimum qualifications, and to pass a written test to determine whether they are able to perform the job, and to gauge their qualifications vis-à-vis other applicants. This merit principle effectively ensures only qualified individuals are hired in the government service. In turn, they are afforded a number of rights found in their collective bargaining agreements as authorized by our State Legislature.

The collective bargaining agreements (contracts) between the County and the worker unions are something that are negotiated and agreed upon on a statewide level. If the County is to “furlough” its employees for any period of time, the contract requires the parties to follow a very specific process.

Whether you support furloughs for our County employees or not is a personal decision. There are legitimate arguments on both sides and ultimately it will be the State Legislature’s decision regarding our TAT contribution that will for all practical purposes dictate whether employee furloughs must be pursued.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions on the above or any matter, please feel free to email our office at Lashida@co.hawaii.hi.us, or call me at (808) 961-8304, extension 118. This message was posted on May 1, 2009, at 1:30 p.m.

Rupert Murdoch Wants to Start Charging for Newspaper Website Access

Hat tip to Larry Geller:

“Well, he must not think that ads will do the job. I don’t either, but who am I. He wants to charge for access to the newspaper websites in his vast newspaper empire….”

Taking questions on a conference call with reporters and analysts, he said that moves could begin “within the next 12 months‚” adding: “The current days of the internet will soon be over.” [Guardian,UK, News Corp will charge for newspaper websites, says Rupert Murdoch, 5/7/2009]…”

More Here

Only in Puna: Hopper’s Hippie Art Mobile

I’m going to start up a little photo gallery that I’m going to call “Only in Puna”.

This is going to be a gallery of pictures that I have taken that you will find no where else… except for in Puna.

So for starters this week, I’ll bring a picture of a VW Van that is often seen cruising the streets of Pahoa Village:

vwbus-001

I first saw this  van about a year ago, and if I remember correctly it was at the Pahoa Spring Jam.

vwbus-002

There are a few cars in Puna that have this same kind of art work on the car.  I myself won’t even put a bumper sticker on my car.  Different strokes for differnt folks is what they always say.

vwbus-003

You certainly can’t miss this driving down the highway.  I’m sure the owner knows that it’s nearly impossible to get a speeding ticket in a VW van anyways.

This person is obviously an artist as they advertise their service right on the front of the van.

vwbus-004

This one says “Hopper’s Hippie Art” and the number follows it.  I have no idea what they sell or what kind of services they offer.  If anyone knows, I ‘d love to hear about it.

KHON Features Big Islands Tetris Man Henk Rogers

In August, I blogged about the Henk Rogers, the Big Island man that was behind Tetris.

Henk Rogers

Henk Rogers, one of the guys behind Tetris

KHON News finally featured the guy the other night… But of course didn’t mention anything about him being from the Big Island.

It’s called the “greatest game of all time” by Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine. Tetris was born in Russia, but a local man gave life to it, making it an international phenomenon…

More Here

Here is the video of Henk first meeting Alexy Pazhitnov the real creator of Tetris:

This is first ever video of Алексей Пажитнов (Alexey Pazhitnov), creator of Tetris meeting with Henk Rogers, in USSR. A really nice guy ! :) Thanks a lot for Tetris ! %)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWltrZKHCCk&hl=en&fs=1]

National Geographic – On Kilauea’s Violent Side

Hawaii’s tourist-friendly Kilauea volcano is famous for its lazy rivers of lava (Kilauea volcano lava pictures).

But a new report says the volcano, known as the world’s most active, has a violent alter ego.

The coastal volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is capable of much stronger eruptions than previously thought, according to the study.

“It turns out that the volcano—known for being this nice, gentle volcano [where] you can walk up to lava flows just wearing flip-flops—has a very dangerous side,” said study co-author Tim Rose, a volcanologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Kilauea’s violent side was revealed by a layer of tephra—volcanic ash and rocks—extending many miles from the volcano.

The tephra, the scientists determined, erupted some time between 1,000 and 1,600 years ago, when it apparently was blasted high enough into the air that today it would be a hazard to passenger jets.

“It threw golf ball-size rocks out to a distance of about 16 or 17 kilometers [10 to 11 miles],” said Donald Swanson, a volcanologist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, who was also involved in the study, published in the May/June issue of the Geological Society of America Bulletin.