A Word with Ward Host Rep. Ward – Shield Law Dec 2015

Representative Gene Ward addresses the Shield Law with Dr. Gerald Kato, UH Associate Professor, Journalism and Jeffrey S. Portnoy, Partner,  Cades Schutte LLP

Portnoy Gato and WardContact: repward@capitol.hawaii.gov

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HOUSE REPS CALL FOR SPEAKER SOUKI TO WITHDRAW COMPLAINT TO ETHICS COMMISSION

The following embedded letter was sent to Speaker Souki in response to his complaint to the State Ethics Commission on April 27, 2015.

The letter supports the enforcement efforts of the Commission and points out that Representative Souki as Speaker of the House has over-stepped his authority by requesting that the Commission throw aside its last 5 years of rulings.

Representatives Ward and McDermott conclude their letter by requesting that Speaker Souki disavow and withdraw his letter to the Ethics Commission in the same spirit and manner he requested the Commission to disavow their ethics enforcement rulings since 2010.

June 15, 2015

Representative Joseph M. Souki,

Speaker of the House

Hawaii State Capitol

415 South Beretania St

Honolulu, HI

96813

REGARDING YOUR COMPLAINT TO THE HAWAII STATE ETHICS COMMISSION AND OVER-STEPPING AUTHORITY

 

Dear Speaker Souki:

This letter is in response to your April 27, 2015 letter to the Ethics Commission Chairman, Mr. Edward L. Broglio, in which you appear to chastise the Commission and its new Executive Director, Les Kondo, for too aggressively implementing the Ethics Law in its recent rulings and regulations.

 

When you signed your complaint as Speaker of the House, it gave the impression that you spoke for the entire House of Representatives. In this matter, you do not, and we believe that such a letter should not have been written by you, but perhaps by a lesser member of your leadership team who would not be speaking for the entire House and painting us all with the same broad brush strokes of anger with the Ethics Commission.

While we support the option of teachers and parents to serve as chaperones for student field trips and obtain free travel tickets, (which a DOE policy statement to the Ethics Commission could easily resolve) we are not in support of your complaints to the Ethics Commission in the manner and context in which you have described them.

In particular we see the role of the Ethics Commission as one of aggressive enforcement to uphold the law as described in the Standards of Conduct (“Conduct Code”) that was passed by the State Legislature in 1967 and the State Ethics Commission that was created by the Constitutional Convention of 1978.

Recently increased enforcement by the Commission has made the ethics code come to life and reach beyond the mere platitudes it was in the past when enforcement of the code was a rare exception. The ethics code has helped preserve what public confidence remains in government and elected officials. Without strict enforcement, the Code has no meaning or merit and merely creates cynicism on the part of the public and hypocrites on the part of public servants. The way we handle “conflicts of interest” on the Floor of the House is a good example of this where the appearance of a conflict is obvious, yet your consistent rulings of “no conflict” are based on a technicality in the law. As legislators, a proactive Ethics Commission should be welcomed and respected by all of us, however inconvenient for some in the legislature that may be.

 

Criticizing the Commission for carrying out its duty is in essence, criticizing the Legislature for failing to properly write the law as it was intended. The Commission is thus doing the job the Legislature has directed it to do; that is “to liberally construe [the Ethics Code] to promote high standards of ethical conduct in state government” and to “render advisory opinions” to determine whether “a particular case constitutes or will constitute a violation of the code of ethics.”

Furthermore, “high standards of ethical conduct” should not be interpreted to mean what was considered appropriate fifty years ago, but should be interpreted and applied within today’s context, which the Commission is doing. As a society, we must grow, change, adapt, and progress or face living in an antiquated island state. To do otherwise is a disservice to our residents and our legacy of public service. Some will still remember when it was considered “ethical” for legislators to fly first class on taxpayer funds up until the mid-1990’s.

It is also notable that our own Legislature time and again chooses to exempt itself from the higher ethical standards that we require of other public servants, thus missing opportunities for us to lead by example. Such is the case with your present letter that will further serve to thwart public confidence in elected officials. In view of the recent scandal with Honolulu City Council Members regarding perks and conflicts of interest and their votes on the rail project, all elected officials are again a suspect class in the public’s eye. National media attention attracted by your letter has also been cause for embarrassment of policy-makers in Hawaii.

Lastly, it is one thing to complain that Commissioners have over-stepped their authority, but it is entirely another thing for you to formally ask the Commission to disavow its rulings from 2010 to the present. This flamboyant request clearly indicates that you are overstepping your authority as a Representative and especially as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

For the above reasons, we respectfully disagree with your letter and stance on the Ethics Commission and its Executive Director’s interpretation of the Code and applaud the Commission and its staff for vigilantly upholding the Standards of Ethical Conduct in our state. We also believe there is still time to raise the bar of ethics in government, and we suggest and humbly request that this start with your disavowing and withdrawal of your letter of April 27, 2015 to the Ethics Commission.

With Sincerely Aloha,

Rep. Gene Ward                                             Rep. Bob McDermott

Rep. Gene Ward discusses Koko Crater Stables

Representatives Gene Ward discusses Koko Crater Stables with Dr. Emogene Yoshimura.
Hawaii New Now on Feb. 04, 2014 story – By Ben Gutierrez

State lawmaker contends Koko Crater horse stables may be threatened
“HAWAII KAI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Koko Head is known for the grueling hike to the top. But there’s an attraction inside the crater that’s been around a lot longer, and a state lawmaker believes its days could be numbered.

State Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai) pointed to new rules in the city’s latest contract to operate the Koko Crater Stables, which has been operating for decades, offering trail rides and lessons and hosting equestrian events.

“The horses that are there — there’s 30 now — cannot use, in this new contract, any of the trails,” said Ward. “It’s like you get a car but you can’t drive it outside the driveway.”

The city said riding horses around the botanical garden next door has been off limits since 2008 after alleged complaints of horse droppings not being picked up and plants being trampled, but now it’s putting that ban in the new contract.

Whoever gets the contract also won’t be allowed to sleep in the caretakers cottage that’s now on the property. Instead, a security guard would be allowed to watch the horses during overnight hours.

“A security guard knows nothing about animal husbandry, especially about equestrian husbandry, to do that,” he said.

Ward worries all the new rules will deter potential operators, and that the city may be trying to end the operation for good.”

Dr. Emogene Yoshimura and Rep WardContact: repward@capitol.hawaii.gov

State lawmaker contends Koko Crater horse stables may be threatened

Hawaii News Now LogoFebruary 05, 2015  Video link: Hawaii Kai 

By Ben Gutierrez

Koko Head is known for the grueling hike to the top. But there’s an attraction inside the crater that’s been around a lot longer, and a state lawmaker believes its days could be numbered.

State Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai) pointed to new rules in the city’s latest contract to operate the Koko Crater Stables, which has been operating for decades, offering trail rides and lessons and hosting equestrian events.

Horse“The horses that are there — there’s 30 now — cannot use, in this new contract, any of the trails,” said Ward. “It’s like you get a car but you can’t drive it outside the driveway.”

The city said riding horses around the botanical garden next door has been off limits since 2008 after alleged complaints of horse droppings not being picked up and plants being trampled, but now it’s putting that ban in the new contract.

Whoever gets the contract also won’t be allowed to sleep in the caretakers cottage that’s now on the property. Instead, a security guard would be allowed to watch the horses during overnight hours.

“A security guard knows nothing about animal husbandry, especially about equestrian husbandry, to do that,” he said.

Ward worries all the new rules will deter potential operators, and that the city may be trying to end the operation for good.

Lynn Heirakuji, who learned to ride at the stables, said it would be a shame if it ended.

“My interest is that this continue to be a place where people can come and enjoy horses and be out in nature,” said Heirakuji. “I think that’s the most important thing.”

The city said it is looking to sign another five-year contract, but the solicitation for vendors explicitly says the parks director has the right to turn down any and all bids.

The city will be accepting bids until next week Friday.

HECO endangering itself by foot-dragging on solar power By Rep. Gene Ward

Star AdvertiserISLAND VOICES – Honolulu Advertiser

Nov 27, 2014

“Solar on every roof” has been my message to the people of Hawaii for the past eight years.

Going forward, it may be “solar on every roof — and storage batteries under every house.”

Earlier this year, I compared Hawaii’s electrical grid to an old-fashioned mainframe computer system — a system that has not kept up with the development of stand-alone personal computers and devices. Our state continues to rely on a centralized power plant to distribute power across the electrical grid. In the meantime, we continue to waste the sun for the sake of an outdated paradigm focusing on the producer rather than the end-user.

This “micro-grid” paradigm is evolving as the new reality even as Hawaiian Electric Co. continues to drag its feet for advancement of larger quantities of renewable energy from rooftop solar that has been vastly improved and more cost-effective.

Dramatic advances in battery storage technology, which allows consumers to store the energy they’ve generated for later use, will make going off the grid possible sooner than we think. I suspect there are a growing number of homes already planning to do this, and this should be a wake-up call for HECO to keep them in the family.

But for HECO’s solar policies to remain credible, it needs to rely less on its mantra of “stability and reliability” and turn to one that allows hook-ups more quickly, and incentives and assurances to put as much solar on our roofs as possible, especially while the federal 30 percent tax credit remains alive. That expires Dec. 31, 2016. Right now, there are enough financial incentives for most homeowners with rooftop PV systems to enter into net energy metering (NEM) agreements with HECO, whereby they sell the excess electricity their systems produce back to the utility.

But this incentive could become outdated at the present pace and by disincentives planned by HECO. Even though the company recently announced it will address its backlog of 4,800 applications for PV interconnection from customers seeking to supply electricity to the grid by April 2015, those customers hoping to purchase and install a PV system with a NEM agreement will be at the proverbial “back of the line.”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThis delay in the approval process, combined with HECO wanting to start paying its NEM customers a less favorable rate for the electricity they feed into the grid (part of a proposal yet to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission), may make this arrangement less attractive. And again, this would force people to consider getting off the grid as a viable option.

For all these reasons, more and more people will be compelled to move over to the “non-export model” — that is, not feeding power back into the grid under a net energy metering agreement, but feeding it into their own homes through their own batteries into their own independently generating micro-grid. What could be more American than this?

 Link to Star Advertiser