10 TO WATCH IN 2004:
He has also been vocal as an interim UH regent
State negotiator’s job
likely to pick up
State Chief Negotiator Ted Hong was in the news a lot last year, but mostly as an interim University of Hawaii regent and not for his main job of negotiating contracts for 58,000 unionized state and county employees.
Sunday, Jan. 11, 2004
>> The public employee unions are still negotiating pay raises with the state after deferring the wage issue last year and extending their current contracts. A Page A3 article Thursday reported that last year they had agreed to accept no pay raises.
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Last year, the public employee unions agreed to accept no pay raises in exchange for the state and counties picking up a larger share of health costs. But the economy has been steadily improving, and the unions are pushing to get their fair share of increased tax revenues.
Next week, the state, counties and the Hawaii Government Employees Association will go into arbitration to resolve their differences.
The other unions -- the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and the United Public Workers -- are also in various stages of negotiation.
Hong has been relatively low key in his role as a labor negotiator.
"I realize every day that I'm here, every minute that I'm chief negotiator, that I don't represent Ted Hong, I represent the governor and her positions," Hong said.
As an interim UH regent, however, Hong said he feels free to speak his mind. He has been one of the most outspoken members of the 12-member board that governs the state's public university system.
Hong questioned whether then-Regent C. Everett Dowling had a conflict of interest because he was developing a new UH Institute for Astronomy building on land that Dowling owns on Maui. Dowling denied any conflict and later resigned from the board.
Hong also questioned whether the university administration should go ahead with plans to build a $350 million UH-West Oahu campus in Kapolei.
Hong, a former city prosecutor under Charles Marsland, has clashed with UH President Evan Dobelle over the direction of the university and over the president's annual evaluation.
Dobelle has criticized Hong's tone at meetings, calling him "hostile."
Hong makes no apologies for his style as a regent.
"I don't shy away from conflict," Hong said. "I think it's important to be discussing issues out in the open."
Should Gov. Linda Lingle nominate Hong for a full term on the regents, expect lots of discussion at his confirmation hearing in the state Senate.
Sen. Cal Kawamoto (D, Waipahu), a strong supporter of UH-West Oahu and a member of the Education Committee, said he will oppose Hong if he is nominated because of his statements on UH-West Oahu.
Lingle said she will "certainly" consider nominating Hong, but no decision has been reached.