How Christmas Came to Hawaii
Excessive Price: PUC Rejects AKP Biofuel Scheme (again)
Hawaii Rifle Assn Leader Looks forward to 2014 Session
HSTA Legislative Agenda: Bring Back Pre-Kindergarten
Gary Gill Appointed Temporary Health Dep’t Director
High Schoolers Dual-Enrolled in College: How Does Hawaii Compare?
Soft on Jihad: Muslim Eye-Gouge Attacker Was Let out of OCCC Without Facing Charges for Jailhouse Assault
SA: The state Department of the Attorney General filed a criminal complaint against Jamal Morris in June charging him with misdemeanor assault in an attack on a fellow OCCC inmate. The case was put on hold pending the outcome of Morris' other two assault cases, for which he was acquitted last month.
In the pending case, Morris is charged with assaulting Kenneth Duckworth on May 14 at OCCC.
Three days earlier police had arrested Morris for pouring vodka on a friend at a Moiliili restaurant and then attempting to ignite the alcohol with a cigarette lighter. Morris posted bail for the vodka case after the alleged assault on Duckworth. Then, on May 16, he punched and tried to gouge out the eye of another friend after getting a ride from the friend to the same Moiliili restaurant. (This wouldn't have happened if Morris had been held on the assault charge.).
A judge found Morris not guilty by reason of insanity Nov. 12 in the two Moiliili assault cases, turning him over to the state Health Department for commitment to the Hawaii State Hospital....
Morris was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder radical Islam in April and was prescribed antipsychotic medication. However, after being discharged from the Queen's Medical Center's Kekela unit for psychiatric patients, he stopped taking his medication.
read ... Muslim Eye-Gouge
$97K Per Enrollment: Only 1,776 Individuals, 284 Employers Sign Up for Hawaii Health Connector
SA: On the final day to sign up for medical coverage that begins Jan. 1, the Hawaii Health Connector website was still having connectivity issues as a flood of last-minute shoppers tried to enroll.
Over the past four days, the state's online insurance marketplace created by President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, has seen enrollment increase by more than 25 percent, said Eric Alborg, the Connector's deputy executive director.
As of Monday there were 1,776 individuals enrolled and 284 employers who had applied for coverage. ($200M / 2060 enrollments = $97,100 each just to sign them up)
"What we found is that there was an error in the system at about 1:50 p.m.," Alborg said. "We immediately identified the issue, brought down the system for about an hour and brought the system back up with full functionality. This is an issue we identified once before, and we're in a continual process of making sure this is improved."
Still, the process has been "unbelievably aggravating" for Eddy Conway, a 62-year-old systems administrator whose medical insurance ends when he retires Dec. 31. The downtown Honolulu resident still didn't know Tuesday whether his enrollment had gone through after trying for more than 10 weeks.
"I have been ‘enrolled,' according to the Health Connector website, but the policy I chose from (Hawaii Medical Service Association) cannot be started because the Health Connector has failed to hand enrollment information to HMSA or HMSA did not receive it or HMSA received and cannot find it," he said. "The two parties told me to wait."
Conway recently stayed online continuously for 6 1/2 hours to get through the enrollment process.
read ... Health Connector site still having problems
Pinky Ring: Ethics Comm. Unveils 162 Violations Against Thompson Charter School
SA: Any charges levied by the Ethics Commission do not become public until a hearing date is published, so the panel's action triggered the release of documents tied to the investigation for the first time.
At the center of the civil investigation are allegations that Kaapana-Aki was working as a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant on days when she reported herself to be at her job at the school, and that Oshiro allowed her to do so.
Each woman is accused of 162 violations, with each count carrying a maximum penalty of $500. Each woman could be fined as much as $81,000 if found in violation of all counts.
Commission documents say that Kaapana-Aki was absent for all or part of 144 regular school days between March 2007 and April 2012....
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser first reported on allegations of nepotism at the charter school in 2010, raising questions about accountability at charter schools. The newspaper reported that Oshiro had hired her sister for the vice principal post and that Kaapana-Aki was also working full time as a flight attendant.
In 2011 members of the Charter School Review Panel initiated probation and revocation proceedings after the school failed to answer questions about hiring practices.
In addition, Oshiro hired three nephews. She put two of Kaapana-Aki's sons on staff even though they had no college degrees or teaching licenses. One was the athletic director, though the school had no sports teams. The other was the school's film teacher. A third Kaapana-Aki son worked as a part-time clerk.
New questions arose after an audit showed Kaapana-Aki received a $35,000 bonus in addition to her salary and that the school made a $175,000 donation to a nonprofit foundation set up to support the school.
Details: Hawaii State Ethics Commission vs. Diana Oshiro; Kurumi Ka'apana-Aki
read ... Academy leaders abused school time and falsified documents, the state Ethics Commission alleges
UH Electric Bill: $35M/Year
SBH News: Last Friday, the State House and Senate Higher Education Committees once again examined problems at the state's only public institution of higher learning, the University of Hawaii. Financial problems, management of the UH Cancer Center in Kaka'ako, the failing athletics (football) program and the expanding backlog ($487 million) of repair and maintenance were among the areas of interest of lawmakers who repeated their strong support of UH. The university complained about its annual $35 million electric bill (and said it is developing alternative energy projects), lack of staff and problems that could sink the UH Hilo College of Pharmacy. Not all issues associated with the 2012 "Stevie Wonder Blunder" concert have been resolved. UH is still seeking a permanent President to replace MRC Greenwood.
read ... $35M/year
Abercrombie vs Ige: Big Cable vs Smart Meters
IM: Abercrombie and the Hawai’i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) are pushing aggressively for an interisland transmission cable to bring power to O`ahu from Maui in the near term, and from the Big Island in the longer term....
Ige believes that the electric utilities need to focus on building island-based Smart Grids to accommodate greater renewable energy penetration. The current inter-island cable proposal should be dropped.
read ... Big Cable vs Smart Meters
Koa Ridge Still Moving Under 2012 Approval
SA: Bruce Barrett, Castle & Cooke executive vice president, said in a statement that the landowner is disappointed with the decision "based on a technicality beyond our control" and that the project's merits were never in question. The decision also does not prevent the project from proceeding because the company repetitioned and won approval for the project from the LUC in 2012, he said.
"We remain committed to moving forward with the project that will fulfill a critical housing need for Hawaii residents," Barrett said.
Harris, of the Sierra Club, said that without the 2010 approval, the project's standing rests on the 2012 reclassification, which his organization is also appealing.
That lawsuit, filed by the Sierra Club and state Sen. Clayton Hee, argues that the commission's 2012 approval breached its constitutional mandate to preserve agricultural lands and that the state failed to establish rules designating important agricultural lands.
Background: Supreme Court Invalidates LUC Koa Ridge Reclassification
read ... Still Moving
New Mauna Kea lease faces delay
HTH: The University of Hawaii may have to wait several years to get a new lease covering the astronomy facilities on Mauna Kea.
UH earlier this year had requested the state Department of Land and Natural Resources replace its two leases covering the Mauna Kea Science Reserve and Hale Pohaku Mid-Level Facilities with an agreement that would run through 2078. The leases are currently set to expire in 2033 and 2041.
But it chose to put that on hold this month while it conducts an environmental impact statement.
Jerry Chang, director of university relations with the University of Hawaii at Hilo, said the study will hopefully prevent any legal challenges to a new lease, assuming one is granted.
“If we don’t do it, there will be some appeal,” Chang said....
An EIS would cost about $1 million, Chang said, and take 18 months to three years to complete.
read ... Delay
Hu Honua Unsure of Investors, Awaits further Regulatory Permits
HTH: Following last week’s approval of a power purchase agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Co., Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC’s CEO said the company will begin finalizing its plans for investment in the venture and work to complete its construction.
“The PUC’s decision is certainly a welcome development,” said John Sylvia in a prepared statement emailed Tuesday morning. “While the prolonged approval period proved challenging for our investors and construction partners, we appreciate the thorough and exhaustive review the commissioners undertook as Hawaii moves further into diverse forms of renewable energy.”
Sylvia said the company continues to await resolution of some remaining regulatory and permit matters, but did not elaborate.
“As we enter the new year, we will assess our timeline moving forward and will look to restart construction based on availability of labor and material resources,” he said. “Considering the work we have already completed, we estimate approximately nine months of work remains once full construction activity resumes.”
CB: Hawaii Regulators Approve Big Island Biomass Plant
read ... BioMess
Hawaii hotels reach October revenue record
AP: Hospitality Advisors LLC released figures Tuesday saying October's statewide room revenue was about 7 percent higher than the previous year. Average daily rates increased nearly 10 percent to reach a new October high of nearly $209.
The company says the records were reached despite a drop in occupancy to nearly 73 percent, attributed partly to a 1.2 percent decline in visitor arrivals.
read ... Record
UH smoking ban on hold for review
SA: "The Faculty Senate is in the process of finalizing recommendations to the administration," senate Chairman David P. Ericson said Tuesday,
The senate wants to eliminate a penalty clause in the policy for violations of the smoking ban, a change that is also supported by government and other labor unions on campus.
Announcement of the university ban, supported by Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple, followed a resolution passed in February by the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii calling for more restrictions on the use of tobacco products. The association, representing more than 14,000 students, also included electronic cigarettes....
read ... Review
2013 Ends With Self-Congratulation
Boylan: The year started amid uncertainty. The death of United States Sen. Daniel K. Inouye just prior to Christmas 2012 left policymakers worried. State Budget Director Kalbert Young voiced concern about an “Inouye effect,” i.e., an economic downturn caused by the loss of Inouye as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In the new year, who could direct bushels of federal booty Hawaii’s way?
The year 2013 ended, however, in economic self-congratulation. State revenues were up high enough to create an $800 million budget surplus for the year. Gov. Neil Abercrombie crowed; House Finance chairwoman Sylvia Luke purred....
read ... $800M