Update: Low Income Legislative Agenda
Making the World Better Doesn’t Come Just By What You Eat
Star-Adv: Waste no time in voting down DLNR nominee
SA: ...It was a rare chance to see the Democratic leadership of the Senate in a position to turn thumbs- down on a key appointment by a new governor of their own party — one who only last fall moved up from their own ranks to the executive office, no less. The long speeches delivered along with the vote proved that the senators felt compelled to justify their verdicts.
Gov. David Ige surely knew, or should have expected, that a grueling test of endurance was coming. Environmental groups came out four-square against Ching's nomination the moment it was announced. In one voice, they expressed the unassailable position that — while Ching may have skills that befit a manager, garnered throughout his business career — the nominee's resume showed scant evidence of interest or experience in natural resource management.
Rather than address this beforehand, the governor insisted that Ching would make the case for himself in the hearing process.
He did not. And it didn't help him that state Sen. Laura Thielen, who chaired the committee, had once held the DLNR job Ching now seeks. She pressed him on hypotheticals he well could face, and in many instances his answer was that he'd seek some kind of balance, that he would ensure compliance with the law and that he'd be informed by the recommendation of staff.
As Thielen rightly pointed out, DLNR actions are driven by compliance but also by policy and administrative interpretation — all of which Ching would have influence in shaping. Staff would be waiting for direction from him, too.
The governor, who sat nearby, at one point rose while Thielen was asking about what message Ching might bring to a coming conservation conference. Ige said he didn't find such hypotheticals relevant. But absent such questions, Ching was not illuminating his own philosophy about the underlying mission of the DLNR.
The point is that, while DLNR should be charged with managing resources efficiently to best serve the public, a businesslike approach is helpful but insufficient. What seemed lacking here was the grasp of the primacy of some Native Hawaiian and other public claims to resources, rights that have been upheld in court....
As Predicted: Sometimes you just have to appreciate the symmetry.
read ... Waste no time in voting down DLNR nominee
HB1075: House moves partnership bill in right direction
PBN: Business executives, especially those who work in the nonprofit sector, will tell you that public-private partnerships are part of the answer to many of Hawaii's financial and social problems.
That's why House Bill 1075 is so important to watch in this year's legislative session. Its outcome will determine just how serious government is in finding new and creative solutions to old problems. The House passed the bill this week and sent it over to the Senate.
Government has the clout but often not the expertise to address issues in search of solutions. The private sector often has that expertise but faces barriers erected by the public sector.
H.B. 1075 could remove one roadblock in the field of health care. It would, for the first time, allow three of Hawaii's 13 state-owned hospitals to form a business partnership with a local nonprofit, most likely Hawaii Pacific Health, which operates four hospitals.
Change is urgently needed. HHSC is swimming in red ink. Combined, the three Maui region hospitals lost $43.4 million in the past fiscal year and are predicting a $46.3 million loss in fiscal year 2015. This leaves legislators with three options: Do nothing and allow the state's hospital system to deteriorate, find about $50 million to bail out HHSC, or give public-private partnership a chance.
VIDEO: Rep Gene Ward on HB1075
read ... House moves partnership bill in right direction
In good economic sign, GET tax receipts up 5.2%
AP: With the state fiscal year now two-thirds over, excise tax collections are running substantially ahead of last year, a significant indicator of economic recovery in Hawaii.
In February, the data for which were released Friday by the Hawaii Department of Taxation, general excise and use tax receipts came to nearly $254 million, and the cumulative take since the fiscal year began last July 1 is more than $2 billion.
The year-to-year increase is technically 6.1%, but state officials said after dialing out revenues that come from improvements in tax collection procedures, 5.2% is more like it.
That is close to, and appears to provide confirmation for, this week's revised Council on Revenues economic growth forecast for 2015 of 5.5%, which in very rough terms translates to $200 million in potential additional revenues for the state government.
Also: Council on Revenues Increases Growth Forecast by 1% for Fiscal Year 2015
read ... No Need Tax Increase
Panel votes not to renew judge that Dismissed Giant Gambling Case
HNN: After ten years on the bench, Circuit Judge Randal Lee has told staffers that he won't be renewed for another term.
A clerk with the Judicial Selection Commission said no final decision has been made on Lee's retention but sources said the judge has already told court employees that his last day will be April 17. Lawyers said his future court dates are being rescheduled.
Some defense attorneys believe it's in retaliation for his criticisms of the Honolulu prosecutor's office and others....
Sources said the move came several weeks after a deputy with the city prosecutor's office filed a formal complaint against Lee with the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane filed the complaint after Lee dismissed all 414-counts in a gambling case he was in charge of. Lee also took him off the case against the operators of the sweepstakes gaming arcades, citing misconduct....
Attorneys said the misconduct ruling was justified.
"(Delaplane) testified under oath that he didn't even read the discovery in a 414-count indictment. He didn't even read his own reports," Breiner said.
Added Bakke: "For the commission to give any weight to Mr. Delaplane's complaint seems to me ridiculous because he obviously has a grudge against Judge Lee."
Prior to joining the Honolulu prosecutor's office, Delaplane previously served as deputy prosecutor for then-Kauai County Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.
Delaplane was Iseri-Carvalho's First Deputy when the office was sued in 2012 by former Councilman Tim Bynum for malicious prosecution. Bynum was prosecuted for criminal zoning violations but he said the charges were in retaliation for his criticisms of the prosecutor's office.
Bynum's suit was eventually settled out of court, with the county agreeing to pay him more than $250,000.
Also in 2012, Delaplane was part of the prosecution team that obtained a theft indictment against a Kauai county human resources manager, even though the grand jury was one vote short for an indictment. A Kauai Circuit judge threw out the case....
Lee has been a Circuit Court judge since 2005. Prior to that, he worked in the city Prosecutor's office under Peter Carlisle where he headed the office's white-collar crime unit.
As a prosecutor, he helped convict former city housing official Michael Kahapea, who headed a scheme to steal $5.8 million from the city.
During the early 2000s, Lee also investigated illegal campaign donations to former Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign. About 30 contractors pleaded no contest to criminal violations of the state campaign laws.
Lee is the second Oahu Circuit judge in a year not to be retained. The commission rejected Patrick Border's application for a second-ten year term last year over allegations of erratic behavior.
Both Lee and Border were nominated by former Gov. Linda Lingle....
ILind: Decision on judicial retention raises questions
read ... Dumped Judge
UHPA $32M Contract Kicks in July 1
SA: Before leaving office last year, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed off on a new two-year labor contract with UHPA that includes 4 percent across-the-board raises in each of the next two years as well as increases to the minimum salaries members are paid by rank.
The $32 million contract takes effect July 1.
read ... New leader of UH faculty union advocates 'positive change'
Honolulu Second Lowest Buying Power of Average Hourly Wage in USA
CB: Our average private sector wage in 2014 was an entirely respectable $25.10 per hour, at least until the cost of living was factored in.
Then the real buying power of that wage shriveled to just $14.66 per hour when compared to 191 metro areas surveyed around the country.
That places Honolulu second to last among metro areas when it comes to the spending power of an average hour of work....
You can check out the interactive map for all 191 metro areas here....
read ... Second Lowest
Christians Help 22 Escape Drugs, Homelessness
SA: Estranged from most of his family at that time, Nahoi and his wife, Katherine, knew they had to make a change in their lives when their granddaughter was born.
Katherine recalled, "I was physically sick, needing to get high every day."
Choking back tears, she added, "And I promised myself that she (her granddaughter) would never know me that way."
The Nahois then turned to New Hope Leeward church, which welcomed them with open arms and told them about Pastor Curtis Tsuzaki's ambitious plan to open a transitional home in Makaha for homeless couples wanting to get back on their feet....
Tsuzaki opened Zion Ipuka's six-bedroom transitional home for couples in 2010. In addition to providing shelter, the program offers help with case management matters and finding treatment centers for drugs and mental illnesses.
"Zion Ipuka provides these things so it's easier to transition to a better life out from homelessness," Tsuzaki said. Originally from Kailua, Tsuzaki now lives in Nanakuli to be near to the Zion Ipuka ministry, which he translates as meaning "gateway to a better life."
Of 58 individuals who have resided at the home, 22 successfully recovered from drug and alcohol addictions, landed secure jobs and moved into their own homes, Tsuzaki said.
Despite the program's successes, its future is uncertain due to dwindling funds. The lease for the transitional home expires in May, and Dress for Success aims to raise awareness and funding for the ministry.
SA: Muslims Blow More People Up, Also Chop off Heads
read ... Christians
Kaniela Ing Pricetag $1000
CB: ...It turns out that there was one more lawmaker at the Wednesday night event — Kaniela Ing, who was asking for contributions of up to $1,000 a pop. Sorry I overlooked you, Kaniela!
Meantime, on Thursday night, Reps. Gregg Takayama and Linda Ichiyama were at Mandalay Restaurant asking for $50 in contributions.
read ... Buy Influence
After Defeat at Polls, Early Learning Crowd Attempts to Regroup
CB: Educators and several legislators discussed the future of preschool in Hawaii during a meeting at the Capitol on Friday afternoon. About two dozen audience members, almost all female, were given the opportunity to question the lawmakers and education officials about the programs....
Kathryn Matayoshi, superintendent of the State of Hawaii Department of Education; Tom Hutton, executive director of the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission; and GG Weisenfeld, former director of the Executive Office on Early Learning, discussed the implementation of a federal early education grant and the future of the Executive Office on Early Learning.
“I think it’s really important that early learning is on the table and still being discussed,” Weisenfeld said....
Currently, most positions within the Executive Office on Early Learning are vacant, including the director’s post, Weisenfeld said. The program will become an attached agency of the Department of Education starting July 1. Once the program becomes part of the DOE, it will need many more positions, like data analysts, Weisenfeld said.
“The DOE has been taking on the lead right now,” she said.
The DOE will oversee the Executive Office on Early Learning’ prekindergarten program, which was started in 18 public schools in the 2014-2015 school year, and served more than 400 children....
read ... Regroup
HPD Leery of Police Body Cams
KHON: A state lawmaker is calling for Honolulu Police Department (HPD) to use the technology, but told KHON2 he is disappointed with the department’s response.
State Rep. Gregg Takayama, D-Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades, chairman of the House Committee on Public Safety, told KHON2, “Frankly, I’ve been disappointed that there’s not been much interest or initiative either by the city administration or the Honolulu Police Department actually starting a pilot project to test this out.”
That is not the case on Kauai, where the chief says he is ready to buy cameras for permanent use on the island.
KHON2 also heard from the Big Island police chief, who says he also believes in cameras.
Takayama’s proposal, HB365, passed the the state House and has moved over to the state Senate for further consideration.
read ... Body Cams
Anti-GMO Litigants Afraid they will Lose Opportunity to Cause 'Irreparable Harm' to Agriculture in Maui County
MN: ...A Maui citizens group opposed to genetically modified organisms told a federal judge Friday that a court hearing should be held before a decision is made that would further hold up the implementation of a voter-approved moratorium on GMO crops.
Attorneys for the Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina Movement, or SHAKA Movement, said that any more delays in implementing the GMO moratorium passed in the November election would cause "irreparable harms" to the environment, public health and safety, Native Hawaiian interests and the integrity of the political process.
SHAKA's filing was in response to comments Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, who asked whether the case might be rendered moot if farm and agriculture bills currently before the state Legislature were passed....
read ... Irreparable Harm Caused by Anti-GMO Protests
Monk Seal Obsessives Fight, Argue at Kaena Point
HNN: A shared passion over the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal may have sparked a confrontation with a monk seal volunteer that was caught on video. Zeeny Mian recorded a video on her smartphone Friday morning at Kaena Point. It shows a woman wearing a green jacket approaching Mian.
Mian can be heard saying, "Madam, what makes you think you can break the law, and you can do whatever you want? Next to..."
At that point, it appears that the woman hits the smartphone, sending it flying.
Mian claims she had gone to talk to the volunteer because she was not keeping the recommended distance away from four monk seals resting on the beach.
"She represents NOAA and the Monk Seal Foundation, who says 150 feet," said Mian. "So I told her please stay 150 (feet away), and if you don't I'm going to record you and report you."
The phone lands in some Naupaka bushes. It continues to record video for the next five minutes, until Mian is able to find it.
Mian called police and filed a report....
read ... Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
UH Manoa Rape Trial
KL: The accuser of a former UH Mānoa student charged with rape will not testify in court, according to a stipulation presented in Circuit Court Friday.
The defendant Tyler Strong, 19, agreed on a stipulation that his accuser, a student of UH Mānoa at the time of the incident, will not appear in court to testify or be cross-examined by Strong's lawyer....
In court Thursday, Strong's lawyer Jeff Hawk said the sex was consensual, the accuser was drinking alcohol the night before and the victim reported the incident upon request from the her friend.
"[She] went to Tyler's room knowing full well what was going to happen. He had sent her a text saying, 'Come over baby, I want to give it to you', and she came. She came over in her underwear and a tiny little top at 5 a.m.," Hawk said according to a Hawaii News Nowreport.
However, prosecutor Kristen Yamamoto said the 18-year-old accuser "expected some kissing and cuddling" and did not expect Strong to pin her.
"Even when [she] was telling him, 'Please, just stop. No, I don't want this.' Crying. Trying to struggle and squirm away from him – she still can't move," Yamamoto said.
read ... Rape Trial