Mayors Are Still After GE Tax Surcharge Authority
HD5 Democrats’ Insidious Secrecy, Rigged Election Earns Lava Tube Award
Wilson Shows Up Late, Makes Clerks Run Personal Errands, Doesn't Read Pre-Sentence Reports, Refuses to Release Performance Reviews
HNN: ...One former law clerk submitted written testimony that while not opposed to Wilson's nomination, raised questions about his work style. Stewart Yerton, a former Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter, clerked for Wilson in 2011 and is now an analyst at the State Auditor's office.
Yerton said Wilson "delegated considerable work to staff" and was the only Circuit Court judge to rely heavily on his clerks to write summaries of defendants' pre-sentence reports.
Other attorneys familiar with schedules and workloads at Honolulu Circuit Court said no other circuit judges have their clerks write summaries of the pre-sentence reports, which are, at most, 30-page summaries of summaries. Those attorneys, who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation, said Wilson often gets to work just before 8:30 a.m. court time, unlike other judges who arrive at 6 or 7 a.m. to read over reports and prepare for 15 to 20 court sentencings and other appearances they may deal with when they are not in trial.
"It's like getting someone to write a summary of a Cliff's Notes version of a book," said one attorney, who said the other judges read the entire pre-sentence reports.
"I don't think it's a commentary that the way he chose to use us, means that he's a bad judge, or because some other judge does something differently. It's just his individual way of running his court room," said former Wilson clerk Okie Amadi, who is now a deputy public defender and appears before Wilson several times a week. Amadi, who clerked for the judge from 2005 to 2006, testified in favor of Wilson's confirmation. Amadi said when Wilson has clerks summarize pre-sentence reports, it's not a "short cut" but a "teaching tool." (Quick IQ Test: Do you believe this?)
Nam Phan, another former clerk who worked for Wilson from 2007 to 2008, said, "From my personal experience, having worked there for a year, Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, (Note the hours? She just confirmed the testimony from Yerton.) I do not believe that he's lazy."
In written testimony, Yerton said Wilson used a tone with staff that was "not always conducive to a harmonious and productive working environment."
Lawyers at Circuit Court have told senators that Wilson had his law clerks run personal errands such as picking up lunch and laundry.
Yerton said that is true, describing it as "just part of the job. Given the tone I witnessed Judge Wilson use with staff, I chose not to see what would have happened if I had declined to pick up his lunch." ...
...retired Supreme Court Justice Jim Duffy, said releasing even a summary of Wilson's job performance reviews would break Supreme Court rules....
Wilson released routine personnel information to the State Senate such as his vacation and trip records, Hee said, but not his job performance reviews that the Senate Women's Caucus requested....
State Sen. Laura Thielen began asking one controversial question and was shouted down by the audience at the hearing, most of whom were Wilson supporters....
A number of long-time Wilson friends testified about his character, including Nancie Caraway, Gov. Neil Abercrombie's wife, who campaigned for Wilson in his unsuccessful run for Honolulu mayor in 1992....
Former Gov. Ben Cayetano and his wife Vicky also testified in favor of Wilson....
(Abercrombie, Hee, Cayetano team up to put eco-activist on court.)
read ... Cliff Notes Version
Obamacare Takes Focus Away from 'Transformation'
KGI: While much attention is focused on the politicization of the federal Affordable Care Act and the struggles faced by the local nonprofit Hawaii Health Connector, great advances are being made to transform health care in Hawaii. (Translation: We can get away with a lot while you are not looking.)
HHP has identified six essential catalysts for transformation:
- Patient-centered primary care, which puts patients and their families in a “medical home” where they are the focus of the system and can always get the care they need when they need it.
- Care coordination, to help every patient navigate our health care system plus an extra assist to high-risk, high-need individuals to link them with all the services they need.
- Payment reform, aligning all insurers in paying for quality rather than quantity of care.
- Health information technology, to increase connectivity and quality across the health care system.
- Workforce development, to match workers with our changing needs.
- Policy strategies and levers that use state policy and programs to move transformation forward.
read ... Transformation
Obamacare Penalty Much More than $95
SA: The penalty can be substantially higher than $95. There is a penalty for each person who does not have the required coverage, with the amount determined by a formula. Basically, for 2014, it's the greater of $95 or 1 percent of your modified adjusted gross income above the filing threshold for your filing status.
Regardless of your income, the penalty cannot exceed a maximum amount equal to the national average premium for a bronze level plan purchased through an exchange -- a number the IRS will eventually tell us, but it will certainly be a lot more than $95.
read ... Paying for Failure
Kona Hospital supportive of public-private partnership bill
WHT: Senate Bill 3064, which made crossover this month, has progressed the farthest of any bill allowing public-private partnerships for Hawaii Health Systems Corp. facilities.
“We’re seeking a partner who will help us up our game,” said Dr. Alistair Bairos, chairman of the West Hawaii Regional board.
Such a partnership, Bairos and hospital CEO Jay Kreuzer said, is not a takeover of the hospital.
“The state can’t continue to increase subsidies (to the HHSC facilities),” Kreuzer said. “We’ve got to come up with another solution.”
SB 3064 requires any potential partner for HHSC facilities to be already operating in Hawaii. The bill’s introducer, Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, Ka‘u, said that really leaves a handful of likely partners, including The Queen’s Medical Center, Hawaii Pacific Health and Kaiser Permanente. The bill also limits the potential private partner’s ability to make changes to staffing, requiring existing agreements to be honored.
Even with those concessions, meant to appease labor unions with workers in the hospital, as well as hospital users worried that a private partner would cut unprofitable services from hospitals that function as the state’s health care safety net, the bill’s progress nearly derailed last week, Green said. Bairos submitted last minute testimony asking for an amendment to allow mainland health care groups to be considered as partners and that request didn’t go over well with other legislators, Green said.
read ... KCH supportive of public-private partnership bill
Housing First is a key start to tackling homelessness
Shapiro: ...it's refreshing to see Mayor Kirk Caldwell take ownership of Oahu's homelessness problem in a way no previous mayor has.
Caldwell caught flak during his first year for using a new sidewalk nuisance ordinance to scuttle encampments where homeless had pitched tents and stored other property on stretches of city sidewalks.
The in-your-face encampments obstructed the use of public spaces by other citizens and needed to be disrupted.
Caldwell has now come forth with the more compassionate side of his homelessness plan: a Housing First initiative that would spend $18.9 million in the coming year to provide as many as 350 housing units for Oahu's most chronic homeless if properly leveraged.
The mayor hit a snag when a deal to sell city rental properties fell through, drying up the funds he had earmarked for Housing First, but he is pushing ahead with money from the city's Affordable Housing Fund.
Housing First, which focuses on getting the most chronically homeless off the streets and then following up with health care and social services, has proved effective elsewhere, and it's a concern that the plan has received a lukewarm reception from the City Council....
The only real competing idea is an ill-conceived bill in the Legislature to enact a Homeless Bill of Rights, which would effectively make chronic homelessness an entitlement — the last thing we should do....
read ... Housing First
Check Your Name: Hawaiian Roll to be Published
SA: The Native Hawaiian Roll Commission will reopen registration on Monday to allow more people to sign up by May 1 so they can take part in forming a Native Hawaiian government. The move came in response to a request from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs....
People can register online or check their status at kanaiolowalu.org, also reachable at hawaiianroll. org.
A preliminary list of registrants will be made available for review from March 24 to April 4, on paper at public libraries and Office of Hawaiian Affairs offices across the state, as well as other Hawaiian organizations, Namuo said.
"We wanted to make sure that for those who may not be able to go online to check the list, they will be able to go to those locations," he said.
The list will include the person's full name, city of residence and day of the month the person was born, but not the month or year. A previous plan to publish just the year of birth has been dropped in response to privacy concerns, he said.
"The lawyers are suggesting that rather than using the year of birth, which would tell people how old you are, we are using the day of the month that you are born in," Namuo said. "We felt that was sufficient to verify that it is you."
Once registration closes on May 1, the commission will continue verifying ancestry and issue a certified roll by the end of June, Namuo said.
The Kanaiolowalu registry initiative was launched July 20, 2012, after passage of a state law recognizing Native Hawaiians as the only indigenous people of the islands and creating the commission to identify them.
It has collected about 30,000 new registrants, Namuo said. The rest of the names on the list came from the incorporation of previous registries, such as Kau Inoa, Operation Ohana and the Hawaiian Registry....
People on earlier registries had to contact the commission if they did not want their names transferred. But few people exercised that option, according to Namuo. "I would say it's less than 100," he said....
According to the 2010 census, more than 527,000 people in the United States reported Native Hawaiian ancestry, including 290,000 living in Hawaii.
read ... Native Hawaiian registry to reopen to allow more sign-ups
'Smart grid' payoff should be lower rates
SA: Once HECO returns to the PUC with a final plan, officials should have the data to show how much savings could accrue from the ability to automate the currently manual meter-reading process. They also anticipate reduced repair costs because instant system feedback and some remote functions will enable speedier corrections of problems on the grid.
Some of these savings should be passed on to the customers. If HECO wants any rate increase to pay for the smart-grid upgrade, it will have to demonstrate to the commission why that would be necessary.
The consumer will have the means to track energy use in real time and see how changes in their habits could reduce their consumption and the bill they pay at the end of the month. There should be an incentive provided, what in the industry is called "time-of-use" rates, which vary to direct energy use to times of high power generation.
Smart-grid technology has the potential to serve consumers, as well as save the utility money. The goal for Hawaii ratepayers, and the government regulators looking out for their interests, is to make sure the benefits are widely shared.
read ... 'Smart grid' payoff should be lower rates
More liens filed against Failing 'Green' Energy Scheme, Hu Honua
HTH: The former general contractor for a bioenergy plant under construction in Pepeekeo expanded its $35 million lien request against the power plant’s developer to include several surrounding property owners.
Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company’s lien application against Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC and Maukaloa Farms LLC, owner of the 25-acre property on the former Hilo Coast Processing Co. site, was amended March 3 to include Minh Q. Voss-Leonetti, Nicola S. Leonetti, James M. Sullivan, Yun Suk Chang, He Suk Lee, Kim C.S. Chang, Miran Kim, Continental Pacific LLC, Island Bioenergy LLC and Pepeekeo Banana LLC.
Hilo attorney Al Konishi, who represents Kim C.S. Chang, said prior to a Thursday hearing Hu Honua had easement rights to the properties added to the lien filing and Hawaiian Dredging modified a well on his client’s property.
Hawaiian Dredging is claiming it did more than $35 million in unpaid construction work on the power plant which, if completed, would burn wood chips to generate 21.5 megawatts of electricity....
In the meantime, two more lien applications were filed Tuesday in Hilo Circuit Court naming Hu Honua as a defendant, bringing the number of active lien applications to nine.
One of the additional lien applications is by Unitek Insulation LLC of Honolulu, claiming almost $104,800 in unpaid bills by Hu Honua.
The other is by Smith-Koch Inc. of Pennsylvania, a subcontractor of ESI, claiming an outstanding debt of $49,522.
read ... Another 'Green' Energy Failure
Tax Credits are Only Reason for Tech Companies to be in Hawaii
SA: One of the best things that the state Legislature did last year was to resurrect the research and development tax credit. What it does is allow tech companies that do research and development in Hawaii to claim a 20 percent state income tax credit on certain R&D expenditures. This encourages companies to spend money locally instead of leaving the state where it's less expensive to do business. When R&D tax credits dried up back in 2010, companies stopped growing and hiring, or simply moved offshore.
The credit also provides a meaningful answer to the question, "Why are you in Hawaii?" asked by the investment bankers, investors and analysts who together provide the funding mechanisms for this capital-intensive industry.
In short, the tax credit is crucial, if we want to keep local life-science and other new economy technology companies here in Hawaii.
Reality: Audit: State Gave Away $1B Act 221 Tax Credits Without Verification of Eligibility
read ... Tax Credits
HSTA Contract, Funding Squeeze Schools Scheduling longer days
HTH: Hawaii Island public schools are changing class schedules for the next academic year to comply with state laws requiring more instructional time for students.
But without further funding from the state, Department of Education officials say doing so will require cutting time from other activities, such as lunch, recess and periods between classes. And some schools said even with cuts in other areas, they don’t know how they’ll meet the requirements.
The increases in instructional time were signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2011 following a series of furloughs that resulted in Hawaii students having the fewest number of instruction days in the country. Public outcry led legislators to design a plan to incrementally increase the amount of instructional time provided to students at each school.
Schools are now well into that process, and had some trouble altering their schedules while not running afoul of limitations on teacher instructional time as negotiated in the most recent collective bargaining agreement with the Hawaii State Teachers Association. That agreement is in force through 2017.
read ... Obeying the Law
Facilities expenses eat up charter schools' budgets
SA: When the state rewarded Hawaii island charter school Na Wai Ola with a $95,000 check last fall for ranking as one of the state's top-performing public schools, Principal Daniel Caluya's first thoughts gravitated toward desperately needed improvements in the aging buildings the school leases.
The Mountain View elementary school rents a former tuberculosis treatment center built in the 1920s from the Roman Catholic Church — an expense that consumes as much as 30 percent of its nearly $1 million operating budget, leaving little left for core expenditures like salaries and instructional materials.
read ... Charter School
Raising the minimum wage will simply increase costs for employer and employee
SA: We also find it very difficult to compare our employees' pay rates with employees from other states. Employers in other states don't yet have all the costs of a health care act to deal with, like the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act, a cost that can add another $300 to $1,200 cost factor to each employee, per month.
Most also do not have temporary disability insurance costs for off-the-job injuries to deal with, as Hawaii is one of a few states that extends that employee benefit to all employees. Factor in those costs alone and our full-time employees are getting around another $2, plus per hour on top of the minimum wage.
Takamine: A raise would generate more economic activity, reduce public assistance
read ... Raising the minimum wage will simply increase costs for employer and employee
Kauai Tax Hikes Proposed to Pay for $4M in Raises
KGI: The raises make up a majority of the $4.6 million in spending increases proposed for the $180.6 million 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
To help generate revenue for the county, Carvalho’s proposal calls for raising the hotel and resort class real property tax rate from $9 to $11 per $1,000 of valuation, a move expected to bring the island’s tax rates closer to the state average and generate about $4.3 million during the 2015 fiscal year.
read ... Tax n Spend
Anti-GMO Activists Grab for Gay and Robinson
KGI: A federal judge has refused to dismiss Kauai landowner Gay & Robinson, Inc. as a defendant in a pair of civil cases against biotech giant Pioneer Hi-Bred.
The Feb. 27 ruling by U.S District Judge Leslie Kobayashi means the landowner could potentially be held liable for the conduct of its tenant — specifically plaintiffs’ claims about the drift of fugitive dust and pesticides into Waimea, on Kauai’s Westside.
It could also have implications for other large landowners in Hawaii, including the State of Hawaii and Kamehameha Schools, which also lease land to genetically modified seed companies. (Translation: The court is letting the luddites blackmail land owners into refusing further leases.)
Prior to the recent ruling, Kobayashi dismissed claims against Gay & Robinson, as well as the Robinson Family Partners, ruling that the claims did not contain sufficient factual allegations to support arguments of negligence, failure to warn, trespass and nuisance.
However, the judge allowed the Waimea plaintiffs to amend their complaint.
The amended complaint, filed in September, “added factual allegations regarding the history of the Robinson Defendants’ lease with Pioneer,” according to the ruling. It also expanded allegations about the Robinson defendants’ historical sugar farming on the property later leased to Pioneer; how the location of the fields should make the risk of drift and runoff readily apparent; and the defendants’ failure to implement best management practices.
read ... GMO Activists Strategy
Punatic Testifies as Expert at Green and Ruderman's Roundup Hearing
WHT: Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, called the informational briefing, along with Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, based on concerns being raised across the state about the possible health impacts of glyphosate. Green said a West Hawaii resident sent him pictures of maintenance crews spraying herbicides alongside a highway in South Kona, with a long line of vehicles waiting behind them.
Ruderman cited some recent studies, including some by an MIT professor, that finds a possible link between the increase in autism rates with the increasing use of glyphosate.
“It’s been largely used because of its reputation for safety,” Ruderman said, adding science is now showing it may not be that safe.
Nutrition researcher and Puna Democrat activist Andrea Rosanoff, director of research and science information officer with the Center for Magnesium Education and Research (HQ: Her house), said a number of the assumptions long held about glyphosate are now being questioned. Two countries, El Salvador and Sri Lanka, where glyphosate has been heavily used, have recently banned it, Rosanoff said, because of concerns about negative health impacts.
read ... Punatics' Dog n Pony Show
Matson to Undercut Young Brothers Barge
KGI: Matson is spending $418 million on construction of two new container ships that will come into service in late 2018. They will have fuel efficient hulls, double full fuel tanks, state-of-the-art ballast water systems, reduced emissions and double fuel engines. One will be named in honor of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye.
“These will be the largest ships we ever built,” he said, capable of holding 3,600 20-foot containers.
“They’ll be neighbor island accessible,” he said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean Kauai.” (No need barge for Maui, Kona, Hilo.)
read ... Pacific based, Pacific focused