Senate panel turns down Young for DLNR director
Gov. Lingle's pick is criticized for performance as head of DLNR
Peter Young appears unlikely to continue as director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The Senate committee handling Young's nomination for a second four-year term yesterday said Young had not done a good job and should not be reconfirmed.
As of yesterday he had won the support of only the five Republicans and two Democrats in the 25-member Senate.
The final vote on Young is expected today.
Peter Young lost a key round yesterday in his confirmation battle to remain director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and he appears headed to defeat today before the Senate.
Yesterday, the Senate's Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs Committee voted 4-1 against recommending Young for another four-year term.
While Young's support was slipping yesterday, Attorney General Mark Bennett was recommended by the Senate's Judiciary Committee for a second term.
Young's reconfirmation vote will not be as easy. As of yesterday only the five Republicans and Democratic Sens. Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa-Pupukea) and Lorraine Inouye (D, Hilo-Honokaa) said they would support him.
At yesterday's hearing the committee's lone Republican, Sen. Sam Slom (R, Kahala-Hawaii Kai) complained, "I don't think King Kamehameha could ever be confirmed by this committee."
Sen. Russell Kokubun, committee chairman, who held an unprecedented five-day hearing into Young's performance, said the former deputy Big Island managing director was unfit for the job. Kokubun (D, Hilo-Naalehu) said Young's four-year term was marked by a lack of accountability, mismanagement and "the lack of self-initiative to address problems and prevent future problems."
In an afternoon news conference yesterday, Gov. Linda Lingle said she thought Young would be confirmed.
Lingle said Young's Democratic Senate opponents are ignoring the support he has from more than 500 officials, employees and community interests and instead are listening to "a few people with issues."
The Senate committee report on Young notes that as DLNR director, Young helped prevent overfishing and protected native fish populations by imposing rules restricting the use of gill nets, but that upset some fishermen.
"These rules are still a source of controversy and are not widely accepted among fishers due to its infringement on their lifestyle, livelihood and cultural practices," the report said.
The committee also said Young tried to privatize the state's run-down, crowded small-boat harbors. Its report said the possible privatization of the harbors "was a source of great concern for the boaters."
Kokubun also said he was concerned that the Hawaii Government Employees Association opposed Young.
"The personnel issues that we brought forward by the HGEA were troubling," he said.
Lingle and Slom both criticized the committee for siding with the politically powerful HGEA.
"It is a dangerous precedent you set when you focus in on just disgruntled employees," Lingle said. "It would cause directors not to do anything that would upset all of your workers."
Slom said the committee was turning over the operation of state government to the HGEA. "Is this state going to be run by the government unions, or is it to be the executives who are in charge and responsible?" he asked.