Senate to vote tomorrow on Carleton Ching nomination

The full Hawaii Senate will vote on Carleton Ching's nomination to DLNR tomorrow.

Last week, during a pair of lengthy committee sessions on March 11 and 12, Senator Laura Thielen’s Committee on Water and Land voted to recommend that the full Senate reject the governor’s nomination of Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The vote was 4-1-2, with Senators Thielen, Russell Ruderman, Gil Riviere and Maile Shimabukuro voting yes on the recommendation to reject, Sen. Les Ihara voting yes with reservations and Senators Sam Slom and committee vice-chair Brickwood Galuteria voting against the chair’s recommendation to reject.

The full Senate will vote on whether to adopt the committee’s recommendation or to overturn it (meaning Ching’s nomination would be accepted) at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow during the floor session. It’s expected to be a very close vote.

Public opposition to Carelton Ching’s nomination is widespread and outpaces support for the nomination by at least 9-1, but the developer community has come out in strong support of the nomination. Ching has spent most of his career as a prominent lobbyist for developer Castle & Cooke, has spent the last decade sitting on the board for pro-development lobbying organization the Land Use Research Foundation and has the support of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii. Ching’s lack of qualifications and history of pro-development lobbying is discussed in detail on episode three of Archipelago Media’s The Backchannel podcast, found here.

Will Caron
The Backchannel 3: Carleton Ching, the DLNR, and Sweet Spots

Marti Townsend, Bianca Isaki and The Hawaii Independent's Will Caron dissect the ‪Carleton Ching‬ ‪‎DLNR‬ nomination committee hearing from last week.

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Mānoa Residents call on their senator to oppose the confirmation of Carleton Ching

Commercial take-over of conservation districts is wrong in Mānoa and throughout the state, residents say.

At a town hall meeting in early March, Mānoa Senator Brian Taniguchi told residents he was “inclined to oppose” the confirmation of Carleton Ching because the nominee did not appear to have the necessary qualifications to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Now, days before the senate is to vote on the nomination, Sen. Taniguchi is telling residents he is undecided.

“We are here today to let Senator Taniguchi know that his constituents care deeply about this vote and that he has our support in voting down an unqualified candidate,” said Dale Kobayashi, a member of the informal Save Mānoa Valley movement, at a press conference held at the Capitol. “We don’t know what kind of deal the Senate is brokering on Mr. Ching’s behalf, but we do know how politics works in Hawaii. This confirmation definitely feels like business-as-usual.”

“Save Mānoa Valley” was formed in response to DLNR’s decision to significantly expand commercial activity in the conservation district at the back of Mānoa Valley. The new commercial venture seeks to rival the Polynesian Culture Center with nightly luau events targeting 430,000 tourists a year. 

“This is our home, not some kind of vaudeville act,” said Jeremy Lam of Save Mānoa Valley and President of the Mānoa branch of The Outdoor Circle.  “As taxpaying residents, we expect the DLNR to protect our conservation districts from exactly this kind of excessive commercial use.”

“Unfortunately, this is the type of profit-over-environment decision-making Carleton Ching seems inclined to make if confirmed to head DLNR,” Kobayashi added. “That is why Save Mānoa Valley is asking the Senate to oppose the confirmation of Carleton Ching.”

“We are a quiet residential community, blessed with an amazing natural area nearby.  This area is most certainly not a piece of dirt!” said Hector Vanegas, an active Mānoa resident. “We do not want to see this public resource exploited for someone’s private gain, especially when it is us who will suffer the debilitating increase in tourists, big bus traffic and waste water pollution.” 

“We want to DLNR to reconsider the permit given to Paradise Park and want to protect other communities in Hawaii from suffering this same burden,” he added.  “Our natural beauty is not a brand to be exploited.”

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Koolau Loa Neighborhood Board split over vacant Hauula seat

At the Feb. 12 meeting, the board failed twice to appoint a new member to a vacant Hauula seat; both candidates were rejected by an even split.

Members of the Koolau Loa Neighborhood Board could not reach an agreement over who should fill a vacancy for Hauula District at last month’s meeting. Board member Creighton Mattoon nominated Barbara Kahana, a business owner, former director of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) and, currently, the president of the board of directors for the Kahuku Medical Center to fill the vacancy.

The board minutes show no discussion over her nomination. Chair Verla Moore called for a vote but the nomination for Kahana failed to pass. The vote was split evenly 5-5-0. Members Kent Fonoimoana, Burton Greene, Dee Dee Letts, Mattoon and Kerry Moea’i voted yes, while Michael Foley, Gaylene Lolofie, Kela Miller, Norman Thompson and the chair, Moore, voted no.

Thompson then nominated Louis Prescott, another business owner, to fill the vacancy. Again, the minutes show no discussion. Chair Moore called for the vote and, once again, the nomination failed to pass. The vote was once again split, 5-5-0, with Foley, Lolofie, Miller, Moore and Thompson voting yes and Fonoimoana, Greene, Letts, Mattoon and Moea’i voting no.

The fifth vote for Prescott and against Kahana came from Michael Foley, who had, himself, just been appointed to the board to fill another vacancy (this one from Laie) mere minutes before the Hauula seat votes. Granted, he was appointed with a vote of 6-3-0 (AYE: Lolofie, Mattoon, Miller, Moea’i, Moore and Thompson. NAY: Fonoimoana, Greene and Letts), but the minutes show that, before the board members voted on Foley’s appointment, members Lolofie and Thompson moved to close the nominations for the Laie district. Once again, the minutes show no discussion.

If the Laie seat had been second on the agenda (and the Hauula vote had split the same way), Kahana would have been appointed to the Hauula seat by a 5-4-0 vote. Instead, the board has deferred the Hauula seat vacancy until the March meeting.

Live Blog: Carleton Ching confirmation hearing

Carleton Ching, Castle & Cooke lobbyist and Governor Ige's nominee for head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, comes before a Senate panel this morning at 10am in Capitol Room 229.

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