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State Of Hawaii: A House Still Divided

It's safer to be feared than loved

Kimo Kapa`a  Jan 14, 2011

With less than a week remaining until the opening of the 2011 Hawai`i State Legislature (January 19th), from all outward appearances, everything is proceeding as normal in the Big Square Building. The University of Hawai`i has distributed their thick, expensive, 4-color process budget presentation, lobbyist-cum-intimate friend of the new Governor, John Radcliffe is holding court on one of the Capitol's fabled $10,000.00 koa benches, and the senate is already conducting informational briefings on Castle & Cook's proposed inter-island wind project which would "transmit up to 400 MW" of DC power to Oahu through an undersea cable from wind farms thereby obliterating a full third of tiny, picturesque Lana'i in order to feed The Gathering Place's insatiable energy habits which the Blue Planet Foundation's energy-efficient light bulb giveaway and expensive network TV show have somehow failed to much quell.

But somewhere from deep within the bowels of the Hawai`i State House of Representatives, comes the unmistakable sounds of severe gas pain. The latest reports indicate that the once-and-possibly-future Speaker Calvin Say will be meeting with dissident faction leader Representative Sylvia Luke to try and come up with a compromise that does not involve Republicans. Period! 10 days ago, the tiny voting block of eight House Republicans led by Rep. Gene Ward offered to support Say on opening day without asking for any special favors -- beyond a seeming promise to not raise the State's General Excise Tax (GET) in order to help backfill the estimated $3/4 Billion+ budget hole. The Republican offer has apparently caused many Democrats to gag and they want the Republican's involvement in selecting the next speaker avoided at all possible cost. The delay caused by all of this Machiavellian intrigue has prevented the 2011 House Legislative Calendar from being set, no committee assignments have been made, no committee chairs named, no permanent offices assigned, and no phone lines for session staff installed. Alas, this all has turned into a real cliff-hanger and with $5-a gallon predicted within the next 90 days by some (note December's reported 8.5%-a gallon national increase) and the continuing terrible news about the state's budget, the people's business is not being conducted. It's anybody's guess how it will all turn out. I do wonder if there is anything to the rumor that we will see either black or white smoke when the speaker is finally selected?

More sour notes from the Honolulu Symphony…
On Tuesday, January 11th at 2:30 PM, a handful of diehard creditors gathered at the US Bankruptcy court in downtown Honolulu for a long-awaited meeting where their questions were to be answered concerning our gone-but-not-forgotten Symphony's remains. This includes an exceptional collection of unusual and rare musical instruments, the irreplaceable music library, and over a century of historic archives. But the meeting was not to be because the former, vastly over-paid Honolulu Symphony Manager/Executive Director, Majken Mechling was a no-show at the first meeting of creditors since the December 13th, 2010, meeting when the Honolulu Symphony Society Board of Directors requested the court to place our 110-year-old orchestra into Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation).

To refresh your memory, Federal Judge Robert Faris confirmed this expected request saying "this entity has to stop" but in a surprise move, he made the order effective as of that moment. It is assumed that Mechling's $175,000 annual salary also ended as of that moment and that could be the reason she stoodup the hapless creditors. While the Honolulu Symphony Foundation President, Mark Wong was there, absolutely no one showed up from the Society. Another court date was set for later in January where, hopefully, Ms. Mechling will make an appearance.

Led by Mark Wong, the Honolulu Symphony Foundation (which manages the Symphony endowment) had been advancing the $40,000 (in cold cash) a month that the Society had been burning through accomplishing absolutely nothing much tangible after the first creditors meeting on January 29, 2010. To get a better idea of the situation, one must add that $480,000 to the $2 million advanced by the Foundation less than two months before the original Chapter 11 filling. Granted that the struggling musicians were then paid a sizable portion of the monies owed them and no one is complaining about that -- but the fact remains that the Honolulu Symphony Foundation's endowment fund is at least $2,480,000.00 lighter today than exactly one year ago -- and there have been no musicians to pay, only Ms. Mechling and her staff of one -- and no concerts!

To date, no one has mentioned the $6,000,000.00 matching grant that the State Legislature "gave" to the Foundation in 2006 -- which was never matched. "$8,000,000.00" is the number being bandied around in some circles as the amount actually left in the endowment fund but there's no way to confirm that number because the Foundation is not in bankruptcy and liquidation, as is the Society. "Does that $8,000,000.00 include the taxpayers money or not?" is the unanswered question. One must wonder where the State Legislature, desperate for cash from any source, is on this unfinished business. Time will tell one might suppose.

It's safer to be feared than loved
Source: Akamai Hawai`i

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