Ching a DLNR Disaster

SUBHEAD: Carleton Ching, nominee to head DLNR, asserted, “Land development is a part of land stewardship.”

By Henry Curtis on 17 February 2015 for Iliani Media -

Image above: Photograph of Carleton Ching from article below.

We had a sit-down conversation with Carleton Ching and Kekoa Kaluhiwa.

The meeting occurred in a residential house. Perhaps 20-25 people were present. There was food but no traditional introductions.

The people present seemed to represent an extremely diverse mix: environmentalists, hunters, fisher people, political staffers, lawyers, bankers, retired prison guard, business interests, Native Hawaiians and others.

Both Carleton Ching and Kekoa Kaluhiwa appeared to be nice people. They stressed their localness. Both grew up in the local community. Both have local ties. Carleton Ching went to Intermediate School with David Ige.

Ching casually mentioned that he worked for Molokai Ranch and Castle & Cooke but said little about his adult crudentials. Kaluhiwa mentioned that he worked for 12 years for Senator Akaka, a few years for an energy company and a few years as a maritime consultant and lobbyist.

Ching explained that he did not apply for the job, did not initially accept the job, he didn't know what DLNR did, he saw his granddaughter play middle school bball and decided he wanted too leave something good for her and decided to accept the job. The job wasn't explained to him by the Governor, who in his own very quiet way said little at their meeting. Ching said he will work by consensus.

Ching asserted,
“Land development is a part of land stewardship.”

Kaluhiwa explained how he got the job offer. As a maritime lobbyist he wanted to become Deputy Director of the Department of Transportation with a focus on Harbor Development. When offerred the DLNR position he said,
“I wasn’t sure if I had a conflict in myself for the job.”
“Those of you who know Governor, would probably agree, he’s a man of few words. In 45 minutes he probably spoke three or four minutes total. But, he didn’t give me any real mandate on his vision, his mission or means. But if you go to his web site, it’s fair to say, it’s pretty clear.”

“I want to set the record straight. We don’t work for the Governor, in my opinion. We work for the values that he represents, that he brings to the table.”
"The Governor is honest, transparent and responsive to the community. The Governor himself has committed to weekly media opportunities being very transparent in his efforts.”

Over his lifetime Kaluhiwa performed as a musician around the world and held three non-managerial positions. As Deputy DLNR Director he noted,
“A Lot of the day-to-day management of the agency will fall to me.”

Kaluhiwa thinks of himself as a leader not a manager and his role is to inspire the 800 DLNR employees.

Ching described meeting the DLNR Division chiefs, sitting in on a Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) meeting, attending a legislative financial briefing and looking over the DLNR work chart.
“The work chart was like a wild spaghetti of the different connections and you look at that and you go, ‘How does Mr. Aila manage this web of flow charts?’ Because it is kapakahi. It is all over the place. So that means you have to have strong administrators.”

“That probably means that we got to go and change it. For us there’s got to be more efficiency somewhere.”

Ching talked about how different divisions would compete against each other for limited funds.
“Every department is fighting for funds. So if a lot of legislators sitting up there [ask] okay, ‘What is priority, DLNR?’ Maybe that’s what we can do; help them be efficient [and] prioritize the stuff.”

A question was asked by the audience. “How would you create a plan?”

Ching responded,
"What does it cover? What’s the problems? What are the issues inside? So [that’s] what we’re searching for as we go. You can imagine changing jobs or being recruited to take on another company. We’re asking the same things that any manager would. Show me your P&L.”

Ching wants to know what the Profit and Loss (P&L) is for each division and each department.

The next audience question was,
“For both of you, what are your three top issues that you see facing DLNR, besides management and besides financial, in protection in DLNR and the various divisions and SHPD [State Historic Preservation Division]?”

Ching responded;
The question was raised many times be several people in different ways. Ching could not name three issues. His most coherent answers were the following:
(1) “We comply, we know the rules, we know the process, we comply.”

(2) “It’s going to be a general statement, you have to comply with the mission statement and the law.”

(3) “It’s hard cause we know there are more than three. So how do you prioritize? We’re not sure.”

“There all important. So I can’t say which one until we get in there and find out.”
Kaluhiwa asserted,
“For me it all comes back to finances.”

Last spring Kaluhiwa was appointed to another state entity.
“Last April I was appointed by Governor Abercrombie with the Agribusiness Development Corporation and I was technically confirmed for that position and I was on the board for about two months. I actually never attended a board meeting. Never met any other board members for that matter.”
“I didn’t want to disclose my personal finances to the Legislature. I didn’t have a problem with the public. Because I’m a registered lobbyist with the maritime industry I didn’t feel it’s fair to disclose my personal finances to the Legislature.”

Kaluhiwa was concerned that Legislators would ask him for money. Kaluhiwa was one of several Abercrombie people to resign when the law passed last summer to have financial disclosure forms for key agency leaders released to the public.

Ching has met with different community groups for the past two weeks. He has been unable to even fake values and priorities.

Ironically the Honolulu Star Advertiser asked the Castle & Cooke CEO Harry Saunders about the Ching nomination. Saunders came up with three issues.
(1)“To keep water flowing, you need to keep reservoir areas clear. (2) You need to have streams clear.  (3) You need to make sure we don't have invasive species that take over our natural habitat. Those are things that we have done as landowners, and those are the things DLNR is responsible for, so I saw a real mix. So I said, ‘Go for it.’”
Ching could only come up with sound bites: efficiency, finances, find balance and consensus, follow the law and follow the process.

Both Ching and Kaluhiwa are nice guys. There are probably positions they are well-suited for in government and in the public interest sector. There are some agencies where the top priority should be increasing efficiency.

DLNR is responsible for the preserving and protecting the land and water, coastal areas and the mountains, historic and cultural sites, and the ecosystems that together makes Hawaii a unique place to live and bring millions of tourists to Hawaii each year.

DLNR's staff is over-worked and under funded. What the agency does not need is an efficiency expert looking at Profit and Loss statements and searching for places to surgically streamline the agency.

Debate on Ching for DLNR

SUBHEAD: By not being transparent about his pick to head the DLNR, Gov. David Ige is expending precious political capital.

By Ian Lind on 18 February 2015 for Civil Beat -

Image above: Close-up of Hawaii Governor David Ige. From (

Gov. David Ige’s nomination of development lobbyist Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources continues to generate lots of heated reaction.

Virtually all environmental organizations, reflecting a spectrum of styles and interests, have publicly expressed their opposition to the nomination. Online comments are running overwhelmingly negative, and as of Tuesday morning, 7,248 people had signed a petition asking senators to vote against Ching’s confirmation.

The administration’s response has been feeble at best, counterproductive at worst.

The feeble part of the response has been the administration’s decision to stand aside while dispatching Ching on his own to take part in small gatherings, akin to campaign coffee hours, where the nominee introduces himself and tries to answer questions.

The problem has reportedly been that Ching’s answers to the hard questions have largely reinforced concerns that a longtime lobbyist for a major developer is almost by definition not a good choice to lead the agency charged with protecting and preserving our natural and cultural resources from development. He has been an officer and director of groups representing builders and large landowners pushing to reduce and remove impediments to further development.

These are serious and legitimate concerns, but the governor and his people have failed to tackle them head-on, instead staying at arm’s length from the process.

I’m guessing that while Ige and his administration have chosen to stay out of the public fray as much as possible, they are carefully counting votes in the Senate. They likely expect the governor to be able to garner the votes of enough former colleagues to get the controversial nominee confirmed.

That may very well be the case, but bulldozing the nomination through the Senate will leave a residual of resentment and disillusionment among the large community of environmental and conservation voters, and others who just don’t like the way this has played out. With all of that in mind, no one should assume that winning the Senate vote spells victory for the governor.

Critics are no longer only questioning Ching and his qualifications. They are now moving on to ask how the administration’s handling of the nomination reflects on the governor himself.

For Ige, this marks a politically dangerous turn in the debate. Questions about Ching are increasingly overshadowed by questions aimed squarely at the governor.

During the campaign, Ige was largely an unknown entity, favored mainly because he wasn’t the incumbent and didn’t seem to have piles of negative political baggage. Now there are concrete reasons to question his political leanings and possible obligations to special interests.

Since the public hasn’t gotten a coherent explanation of why the administration wants to put a pro-development lobbyist in charge of our natural resources, it’s no wonder that some now believe developers are setting the direction of the fledgling administration. Can Ige control these special interests? Has he already been captured by special interests?

These aren’t necessarily fair questions, but they are natural results of the way the nomination has been pursued.

And then there’s the administration’s quite counterproductive turn to secrecy. As noted in an article last week by Civil Beat reporters Sophie Cocke and Anita Hofschneider, both Ige and Mike McCartney, the governor’s chief of staff, declined requests for interviews to discuss the Ching nomination. The governor’s office also rebuffed questions about the qualifications of other candidates considered for the DLNR slot.

Further, the governor’s office refused to even identify members of Ige’s transition committee, which has been screening candidates for top positions.

By making themselves unavailable for comment, and then retreating into secrecy at this very early stage in the governor’s first term, Ige’s inner circle is feeding the conspiracy theories and, intentionally or unintentionally, eroding his political base.

I doubt they appreciate just how much political capital they are squandering on this particular nomination.

“Political capital refers to the trust, goodwill and influence a politician has with the public and other political figures,” according to an entry in Wikipedia. “This goodwill is a type of invisible currency that politicians can use to mobilize the voting public or spend on policy reform.”

The more pressure that senators are under from their constituents who oppose the nomination, the higher the cost in political capital of a “yes” vote. That can’t be making senators happy, and it weakens Ige’s ability to pursue more important parts of his agenda. Meanwhile, Ige’s reserve of political capital with environmentalists and other progressives is quickly being drawn down to a dangerously low level.

There’s still time for Ige, and the key insiders he relies on, to come out of their bunker and engage critics directly, get a first-hand feel for the depth of the opposition, understand the viewpoints of opponents, and factor into their calculations the political cost that will be paid for pushing Ching’s nomination forward to a full Senate vote.


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