Another View
Marcus Oshiro

Process to replace Maui
representative is unfair

Governor Lingle's selection process to replace state Rep. Sol Kaho'ohalahala, who resigned his post representing Hana, Lanai and Molokai to become executive director of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, amounts to nothing more than shibai ("Lingle builds list for Legislature vacancy," Star-Bulletin, Jan. 7). Here's why:

The governor cleverly concocted a multi-step selection process in the name of "inclusive and transparent" government. First, Lingle asked that interested applicants send her a resume and cover letter by Jan. 19 explaining why they want to represent the 13th House District. Resumes were to be reviewed by a bipartisan screening panel, which was to submit six finalists to Lingle by this week. A three-member panel will interview those six applicants and narrow the list to three, from whom Lingle will choose the new representative by Feb. 7.

Upon inspection, the deck is stacked, and the timing delays only serve to weaken representation for the people of the 13th District. First, you can discount the touted impartiality of the six-member "preliminary" screening panel. Nelson Befitel, Georgina Kawamura and George Kaya are all long-time Lingle supporters and Republican political appointees who owe their jobs to the governor. On the other hand, James "Kimo" Apana, Shay Chan Hodges and Rosalyn Baker are all solid Maui Democrats beholden to the local Democratic rank and file. In other words, the governor has three votes and the Democrats have three votes.

But what happens if there is a tie? In a tie, the process defaults automatically to the governor. Surely the governor will let her three supporters know who she wants and who she does not want in the position, easily influencing the creation of a "tie" situation. Let's be honest. The panel makeup is bogus, and this is not the "inclusive and transparent" process that the governor would have you believe.

The next step of the process is even worse. The interview process will be controlled by three people: Bob Awana, the governor's chief of staff, Linda Smith, the governor's policy adviser, and state Sen. Les Ihara from Oahu. With all due respect to Ihara, we question his knowledge of the people's needs on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. The governor could and should have chosen Sen. Kalani English, who represents East Maui, Molokai and Lanai. The governor and her team can spin this all they want, but it doesn't amount to what's best for the representation of the 13th District.

Under the governor's self-serving selection scheme and timeline, the voters of East Maui, Lanai and Molokai will not have a state representative until Feb. 7. This means that when the Legislature opened last week, there was no one to represent the people of those three communities in the state House. The governor's appointment process means that the people of East Maui, Molokai and Lanai had to find other legislators to propose legislation on their behalf. The newly named representative has missed the bill introduction deadline today. Likewise, the Jan. 31 grant-in-aid deadline will have passed, and the people of District 13 will have limited opportunity to seek public aid for health care, housing, economic development, youth services and other local needs.

Finally, the governor knows as well as we do that naming a replacement for Kaho'ohalahala should not be a bipartisan choice. The Constitution states that the successor must be from the same party as the vacating legislator, so it is neither necessary nor meaningful to include Republican input on the selection of a Democratic replacement. Instead, the governor should consult with Kaho'ohalahala, Maui senators and Maui Democratic party officials, then make a timely and meaningful decision.

Marcus R. Oshiro is majority leader of the state House of Representatives.

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