Paychecks Hawaii General Election Endorsements – 2014
McDermott Responds to “Revised” Pono Choices Program
How Things Are: Kalaeloa Partners Reminds HECO (again)
Hawaii’s ‘most unusual political candidate’ vying to be next congressman
UH Board of Regents Nominees Announced
Strive HI appeals lead to slight changes in school, state results
Hawaii.gov -- 'Best Government Website'
Your Tax Dollars at Work: Energy Excelerator Funds 17 Startups
Hawaii's out-of-control living costs can be beat
Happy Constitution(s) Day
Abercrombie Secretly Rewrites Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative
IM: In the past few months there has been governmental discussions on the need to replace the outdated HCEI 1.0 with a newer version dubbed HCEI 2.0.
This week the Hawai`i Convention Center is playing host to the Asia Pacific Resilience Innovation Summit and Expo.
Governor Neil Abercrombie was to be the keynote speaker. He was a no-show.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that “Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz signed a memorandum of understanding for the HCEI on Monday. …Moniz announced his signing of the MOU during a prerecorded address to the opening session … Abercrombie was a keynote speaker.”
Neither Abercrombie nor Moniz attended the conference. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), if it exists, is being kept under wraps.
Tidbits of information about what might be in the agreement are gradually surfacing.
On September 16, 2014 Pacific Business News quoted Public Utilities Commission Chair Hermina Morita.
“In 2.0, we need to develop a diverse portfolio …It can’t be said in just a sound bite, it’s complex.”
The PBN story also quoted Hawaii Energy Office administrator Mark Glick.
“We will bring in resources from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and working closely with such entities as Ulupono Initiative and Blue Planet Foundation, looking at the biggest challenges with short term plans.”
HCEI 1.0 and 2.0 have a lot in common. Both documents were written in the back rooms and involved secret negotiations between power brokers each seeking to get something out of the agreement.
read ... Abercrombie-Moniz intrigue at the Asia Pacific Resilience Innovation Summit and Expo
Hawaiian Electric expects 'significantly higher prices'
PBN: Hawaiian Electric Co. expects to save about $22.2 million next year as a result of its fuel supply contract changes, which amounts to about $2.15 monthly savings for a typical residential customer, the state’s largest electric utility said in its application to Hawaii regulators late last week....
Hawaiian Electric said that due to increasing use of renewable energy resources and energy efficiencies, Oahu has seen a steady decline in system generation fuel demand for “low sulfur fuel oil” since the last time it issued a request for proposals to supply this fuel.
Given the declining demand of this fuel, if the two supply contracts were to continue as is, the reality of the decreasing fuel supply volumes would force Hawaiian Electric to a point that would result in significantly higher prices.
Additionally, the new Chevron contract calls for the California-based oil giant to supply a blend of fuel that includes ultra-low sulfur diesel possibly starting in January 2016 to help the utility meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements. (And that is going to cost even more.)
WHT: Public utilities commission seeks comment
read ... $22M
GEMS: PUC Slaps Ratepayers With New 'Green Energy Market' Fee
CB: ...no one noticed the power grab by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) called “Green Energy Market Securitization” (GEMS) and the Financing Order that the PUC approved on Sept. 4.
This allows DBEDT to float $150,000,000 worth of bonds to offer low-interest loans to people who don’t already have PV systems. DBEDT wants us all to foot the bill for the bonds by adding a new fixed fee “from all existing and future electric utility customers to secure repayment of the bonds” for up to 20 years.
This is not what I remembered when the Legislature passed the GEMS statute in 2013, so I checked and sure enough, various testifiers assured the Legislature that there would be no new fee. GEMS will simply credit a customer’s Public Benefits Fee, known as a PBF, which we already pay based on how much energy we use each month. You can read this for yourself here and here and here.
So I got out my MECO bill to see how this GEMS fee, which starts at $1.29 per month, might be calculated. I discovered that I don’t pay a Public Benefits Fee in a sunny month because I already have a PV system on my roof (for which I took out two loans without any of you, fellow ratepayers, underwriting the costs). I pay a flat grid fee of $17 instead.
I compared this to the bill of a friend who doesn’t have PV and used 237 kWh a month. She paid a PBF surcharge of $1.97. I could see that her PBF fee was enough to cover the GEMS fee of $1.29, and leave a little behind. She would owe nothing more, just as our elected officials had been told.
But it was different for me and the almost 50,000 customers who are already self-generating power. We’re on the hook for the full amount.
read ... On the Hook
EPA extends comment period for power plant rule
PBN: The Environmental Protection Agency extended the comment period until Dec. 1 for its proposed rule requiring existing power plants to reduce carbon emissions.
The 45-day extension will give the public more time to submit comments on this controversial rule, which critics contend will raise the cost of electricity and force coal-fired power plants to shut down. Supporters, however, contend the rule is necessary to combat climate change, since power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. Plus, they argue it will spur innovation and the use of cleaner sources of energy.
The proposed regulation requires electric utilities to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It gives states flexibility on how to meet this requirement.
read ... reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent
DoE Claims $250K Cost per Classroom for AC--State Pushes for 'Solar Air Conditioning'
HNN: The state's now putting heat on the DOE to make sure it has a solid strategy in place. In turn the DOE says it's planning for an energy efficiency pilot project at Campbell High School. Students here might not be sweating for long. The DOE says the project will start sometime this year and will explore going solar rather than just plugging in AC units which can get costly.
"Reducing those temperatures in the classrooms, looking at cooling strategies, keeping those temperatures down, this is a long term commitment that we have to make to our schools, to our students, this is not something that will happen overnight," says Sen. Jill Tokuda, education committee chair.
One industry expert we spoke with said in some cases the plan to use solar AC's in certain classrooms could cut costs depending on the structure of any particular school.
"Certain scenarios a solar air conditioner might be economically or technically a better option, in some situations it may not," says Steven Mazur, of Distributed Energy Partners." (Ca-ching!)
That's what the DOE plans on finding out and teachers hope it'll be before their students melt.
"Currently the estimates are anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000 per classroom for air conditioning. If we don't bring that cost down, then hundreds of thousands of kids will be in these classrooms without any sign of relief," said Rosenlee. (Handy tip. Buy large window unit from Sears. Cost $1000. Save $249,000. Maybe buy two, save $248,000.)
There's still currently eight schools on the departments air conditioning priority list. The DOE knows that putting in AC's isn't feasible at every school. The cost to do that would be $1.7 billion.
read ... 100 Degrees
Abercrombie's Education Cuts 'Everyone Will feel the Pain'
SA: After struggling at multiple meetings over how to reduce the Department of Education's operating budget by $25 million, the state school board Tuesday approved wide-ranging spending restrictions that will touch everything from special-education positions and athletics programs to per-pupil spending and bus transportation.
The reductions are needed because the Abercrombie administration, in response to lower state revenue projections, has restricted by 10 percent the so-called discretionary portion of the department's $1.4 billion general fund budget.
Debates by the Board of Education over where to trim spanned three separate meetings over the past month before Tuesday's 5-2 vote in favor of restrictions totaling $18.6 million. An additional $6 million in carry-over funds from last fiscal year will be used to offset the rest of the imposed 10 percent cut.
read ... Feet the Pain
Senator accuses State Hospital manager of lying under oath
HNN: State Sen. Clayton Hee Tuesday accused a Hawaii State Hospital nurse manager of lying under oath during a hearing investigating a whistle blower's claims that she threatened to have him fired after he did an interview with Hawaii News Now about assaults by violent mental patients.
State Hospital Psychiatric Technician Ryan Oyama and several co-workers spoke to Hawaii News Now in on-camera interviews late last October about mismanagement and assaults on staff at the facility.
Tuesday, he told a special State Senate committee that the day after doing the TV interview, when he told his supervisor, nurse manager Candace Sullivan, that he had spoken to Hawaii News Now on camera, she threatened to fabricate charges against him.
"Candy then told me 'You know I could make up some sexual harassment case against you, and I could have you out of here in just one day.' She then went on to say that you would be fired or lose your job," Oyama told senators in a midday hearing....
Another psychiatric technician, Kalford Keanu, said earlier this year he, too was targeted with false charges by Sullivan for complaining about staffing and other problems at the hospital.
Keanu said Sullivan faked charges that he neglected one patient and assaulted another, falsely claiming she witnessed the incident. But surveillance video showed the supervisor wasn't present on the ward to see anything that happened, Keanu said.
Even after he was exonerated by an Attorney General's investigation of the incident, Keanu said, he was disciplined with a written letter of reprimand, transferred off the ward he'd worked on for seven years and sent to anger management training....
read ... Hawaii State Hospital
Defiant Homeless Spout Political Rhetoric: Say new laws won't force them from Waikiki
HNN: "This is the golden goose for them," says Fabio Osorio, who has called the streets of Waikiki home for five years.
Osorio says three bills, signed into law Tuesday, won't change the homeless situation in Hawaii's tourist mecca.
"Where are we going to go?" He asks, "This is like sweeping poverty under the rug, you know. To make everything nice and presentable for people with money." ... (And I like being un-presentable here because you idiots hand me money all day.)
"They're picking on us, and it's short term fixes," says Rochelle Baltazar, (Fixing what? Me.) who was homeless for two years before getting into a shelter. She says the shelter kicks her out during the day and she chooses to spend that time in Waikiki.
"You can add all the bills you want, its still not going (to) solve the problem," says (the problem) another homeless man known as 'Uncle' Kapua.
"I prefer to sleep under the stars. I'm a human being, since when is being poor and sleeping under the stars criminal?" says Osorio. (Answer: When it's someone else's property you're sleeping on.)
SA: Law Prof Wants to Make Homeless a 'Protected Class'
CCH: New Ordinances
PBN: “The bills are important first steps of a larger initiative to help Hawaii’s homeless get the assistance they need."
read ... Defiant
Lava: Election Office Prepares for Next Puna Election Fiasco
HTH: Hawaii County and state election workers are preparing for the possibility that voting could again be disrupted in lower Puna as a lava flow continues to advance toward populated areas.
Election officials say they identified 7,542 voters in three precincts from Ainaloa to Kalapana who could have difficulty voting during the Nov. 4 General Election should the June 27 lava flow continue its long march to the sea.
They are essentially the same voters, minus the precinct covering Hawaiian Paradise Park, who had voting disrupted during the Aug. 9 primary because of damage from Tropical Storm Iselle.
During that disaster, voting in two Puna precincts was delayed, and the state Office of Elections received its own storm of criticism for its response. Elections Chief Scott Nago said his office is using the time it has to prepare and make accommodations for voters, even if they have to relocate.
“This is a little different” than the primary, he said. “We have a lot of lead time.”
read ... Different Fiasco
HART Will Hire Drivers After Ansaldo's Automated Rail System Breaks Down
CL: One might expect transit worker unions to be the primary obstacle—after all, a driverless system puts drivers out of work. But while unions have balked at taking drivers off automated trains in London and New York, Sanders says it isn't labor that's holding back automation. Nor is it safety questions, despite the 2009 crash of an automated (though staffed) Metro train in Washington, D.C., which killed nine people and forced the transit agency to run trains manually until the aging automatic system can be updated.... (CLUE: DC Metro fired Ansaldo.)
The big issue, he says, is that despite the potential savings down the line, it's expensive to convert existing systems into driverless ones. The technology in place for semi-autonomous transit in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco was put in place years ago and would take loads of money—and political will—to overhaul completely. "To take advantage of driverless, you have to change everything you do," Sanders says....
Background: After Deadly Train Wreck, DC Metro Dumps Honolulu Rail Contractor Ansaldo
read ... Look into the future
Della Au Belatti Helps Gary Rodrigues Take Another $850K from UPW Members
ILind: The case now pending before the Hawaii Supreme Court is the culmination of a set of parallel civil lawsuits involving Rodrigues and the union.
Following his criminal conviction, UPW filed a federal lawsuit seeking to hold Rodrigues responsible for losses stemming from a series of investments made by a union trust fund in a Florida start-up company, Best Rescue.
According to the Supreme Court summary: “Following a bench trial in March 2008, the U.S. District Court determined that Rodrigues was liable to the Trust in the amount of $850,000.00 plus costs and fees for negligent breach of fiduciary duties.”
In December 2008, Rodrigues’ lawyers filed a lawsuit in state court asking that UPW be required to indemnify the former union leader and cover the $850,000 in losses, as well as attorneys fees and costs....
Both the trial court and the Intermediate Court of Appeals rejected Rodrigues’ claim. The appeal of that ruling is awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court.
You can find a concise description of the case and the issues being argued, and a link to a recording of last month’s oral arguments, on the Judiciary website. The ICA decision, issued earlier this year, can be found here.
Rodrigues is represented attorneys Eric Seitz and Della Au Belatti, a state representative and chair of the House Health Committee. Belatti’s latest financial disclosure reports she earned income of between $50,000 and $100,000 as an attorney for Seitz’ law firm during the past year.
read ... Gary Rodrigues
Pflueger's sentencing for dam breach deaths postponed for a fourth time
HR: Retired auto dealer James Pflueger was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, Sept. 17 for recklessly causing the deaths of 7 people when his Ka Loko dam breached on March 14, 2006.
However, the sentencing will be delayed and is now scheduled for Oct. 15 at 8:30 a.m. in Kauai’s Fifth Circuit Court.
Pflueger’s attorneys successfully negotiated three delays in the sentencing over the last year, claiming Pflueger has various health issues that prevent him from traveling....
read ... Running Down the Clock
Soft on Crime: Watson Gets off Easy, Was Part of Ring With Kauai Police Commissioner
SA: A former University of Hawaii Foundation employee is not going to prison for using scholarship money to pay off a gambling debt.
A federal judge sentenced Dodge Watson, 34, (brother of OHA crony Trisha Watson) to three years' probation Monday for forging the signatures of other foundation employees to get approval for a $2,000 scholarship check made payable to his bookie.
Watson pleaded guilty to identity theft in June....
Prosecutor Larry Butrick identified Watson's bookie as former Kauai police commissioner Bradley Chiba.
Chiba, 37, pleaded guilty in June to federal charges of owning and running an illegal gambling business and failing to report and pay taxes on $39,779 that he earned in 2012 from the business. He faces sentencing next month.
Background: Brother of OHA Crony Trisha Watson Diverts UH Scholarship to Bookie
June 17, 2014: Kauai Prison Administrator admits running illegal gambling ring--Still Employed
Feb 19, 2014: FBI Investigates Kauai Police Commissioner for Bookmaking
read ... Soft on Crime
Kauai: 21 Firefighters Make Over $114K, More Raises Demanded
KGI: Top County of Kauai officials say something must be done to correct current policies that allow some lower ranking employees, particularly those within the Kauai police and fire departments, to earn more than department heads.
It’s a longstanding issue that, some officials say, has become more pronounced during this fiscal year after all seven of the county’s collective bargaining units negotiated pay raises for most unionized employees late last year.
“I don’t want this to seem like we (the deputy fire chief and I) are beating to get a pay raise for ourselves because that isn’t the case and I don’t want the public to misunderstand that,” Kauai Fire Department Chief Robert Westerman told county Salary Commissioners on Monday.... In all, 21 firefighters earn wages that are higher than Westerman’s annual $114,490 salary, while 32 firefighters earn more than Deputy Fire Chief John Blalock.
read ... One Hand Washes the Other
Opinions differ on handling of Police Domestic Abuse case
HNN: "I'm not a fan of perception. I'm a fan of reality," SHOPO president Tenari Maafala said
He understands public perception may be that cops are dragging their feet on the case to protect a fellow officer. He said HPD's investigation needs to be thorough.
"We don't want the chief to terminate Sgt. Cachola prematurely, and then be faced with a liability suit for not affording him his due process and wrongful termination. There's a whole gamut to be done to protect everybody involved." ...
It has been eight days since the incident happened in the Waipahu restaurant where the woman works. Lawson said the perceived delay in police action is hurting the department's image.
"It allows the public to look back at the police department and say, 'You know what's really going on here? You guys are trying to cover up for one of your own?'" he said.
"There's no cover up," Maafala said. "As a union official and a police officer, let alone a father and a husband, I would never ever condone something like that."
read ... Cover up?