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Tuesday, May 5, 2015
May 5, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:04 PM :: 4227 Views

Thanks to HGEA, Hawaii 2nd Worst State for Nurses

Slom: Hawaii Will Deplete Cash Reserves by 2021

With Josh Green out of the Way, Lawmakers Advance Marijuana Bill for Final Reading

Securities Fraud: Former Maui Mayoral Candidate Sentenced to 20 Years

Former Oahu Probation Officer Charged with Theft, Forgery

Public Comment Period Open on OHA Budget

Senators Conspire to Oust Kim: Kouchi to be New Senate President?

CB:  The current president, Donna Mercado Kim, has held the post since 2013 thanks to support from the Chess Club and Tokuda factions of the Senate. Kim took the reins from Shan Tsutsui, who left after being appointed lieutenant governor....

Green refused to compromise with the House on a final bone of contention in a bill to establish medical marijuana dispensaries, derailing it until Senate leadership got involved. Exceptions were made to the rules, Espero was made chair of the conference committee instead of Green, and the bill was approved Monday.

In the background was a petition circulated by Dela Cruz that got 16 signatures from senators who wanted the bill to pass, even if it meant accepting the House version. However, the dustup over the medi-pot bill isn’t seen as the impetus to change leadership.

Kim said she called Kouchi, who she’s worked with for the past 30 years, to ask about the move to reorganize that she was hearing about.

She said Kouchi told her he wasn’t leading the charge but that it was expected to happen during Thursday’s floor session.

Kim said she asked Kouchi for a reason but he told her she’d have to ask the Tokuda faction.

Kouchi and Tokuda did not return messages left Monday.

“I don’t know if people want the power or didn’t appreciate me asking questions,” Kim said.

Kim said she feels a lot was accomplished this session, including bills related to medical marijuana dispensaries and protecting conservation land at Turtle Bay.

“We’ve accomplished quite a bit in a very civil, very respectful manner,” she said.

Kouchi, who served 22 years on the Kauai County Council before being elected to the Senate in 2012, was the chamber’s vice president last year and shepherded the overall state capital improvement projects budget this session....

James Aki was the last Senate president to be ousted, back in 1994. Ethics questions over his ties to a developer were at the root of it. He later got in trouble for gambling....

The reorganization is also expected to shake up several committees while keeping Tokuda as chair of Ways and Means and Keith-Agaran as head of Judiciary and Labor.

Among the biggest changes would be removing Green as chair of the Health Committee, replacing him with Chun Oakland, and making Nishihara chair of Agriculture, replacing Ruderman.

read ... Kim Out, Kouchi In as Senate President

Council upset at having to approve tax increase for Rail

CB: Don’t be fooled by Tuesday’s vote at the State Capitol on an extension of Honolulu’s rail tax. The issue is a long way from being settled. 

Before the tax can be implemented it must get past Gov. David Ige’s veto pen and then be approved by the Honolulu City Council.

It’s the latter that might prove most difficult.

City Council Chairman Ernie Martin says he and his colleagues still have a lot of concerns about the lack of accountability and financial transparency surrounding the $6 billion project. Mayor Kirk Caldwell should not expect a rubber stamp of legislative approval....

Many legislators were upset at being thrust into the position of approving a tax increase for a city project that had long been touted as being “on time and on budget.”

Under House Bill 134, the City Council must adopt an ordinance by July 1, 2016, to extend the rail surcharge another five years beyond its Dec. 31, 2022 sunset.

Given the mayor’s frosty relationship with the council — and Martin in particular — it’s doubtful he has the political capital to pass such an ordinance unscathed.

Caldwell even admitted as much during a press conference last week, in which he acknowledged that the tax extension is “not out of the woods.”

But Martin made clear that he wants to leverage the council’s position to extract more information from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

Martin said many council members were surprised when HART Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas announced in December that the rail project was facing a nearly $1 billion shortfall.

Grabauskas had told them just a few months earlier that the project had a healthy cash balance to pay for possible construction snafus and cost overruns.

Council members, including Budget Committee Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi, have complained for years that they haven’t been getting the whole truth about rail.

SA: 'Air rights' aside, extend rail tax

read ... Posturing

Why So Little Information About City Council Meeting With Feds About Rail?

CB: Who knows what happened when Honolulu City Council members met with Federal Transit Administration officials? Not the taxpayers.

On Feb. 24, Council Chair Martin and council members Brandon Elefante, Joey Manahan and Trevor Ozawa met with the FTA. On March 24, they released their three-page report on their one-hour meeting. It leaves much to be desired.

read ... Information Councilmembers Could Release, but Don't

Handi-Van chief replaced in shakeup of troubled service

HNN:  John Black has been the vice president of paratransit services and in charge of the Handi-Van for four years, until last month, when he was reassigned to become its fleet safety coordinator.

Because it's a personnel matter, Roger Morton, the president of Oahu Transit Services, the company that runs The Bus and Handi-Van, wouldn't explain why Black has been demoted, but Morton did say this: "It's a tough job. I think it was unfortunate. No one likes to do those things. But it was just time to move on and we're really looking forward to making good progress at Handi-Van."

The service, which provides more than one million rides a year to Oahu's disabled population, has been plagued with problems. Last fall, complaints about busy reservation lines and late van pick-ups spiked when a new reservation system began operation. Unionized drivers got upset with management in the spring after managers barred them from handing out complaint cards to Handi-Van riders....

Next week, the Handi-Van will graduate a class of 12 new Handi-Van operators, bringing them to an all-time high of 287 with plans to reach 300 drivers within a few months.

The last of its 99 new vans just arrived last week....

There are now 181 vans on the road, Morton said, an increase from 130 on the road last November to handle about 3,600 trips a day.

Complaints about busy reservation lines peaked at more than 100 last October, but those complaints have fallen into the single digits in recent months, according to figures released by the Handi-Van.

Riders' complaints about late vans also were at their highest at around 90 during October of 2014, falling to a range of between 20 and 55 in the last five months.

read ... Troubled

Perriera: HGEA Expects to be Paid $330M in Hospital partnership Deal

PBN: Hawaii Pacific Health has been in talks with officials from the Maui region for several months, as the region faces a $28 million deficit in the upcoming year.

Hawaii Government Employees Association, a vocal opponent of privatization legislation, said Monday its primary concern is for employee security (finding excuses to derail this) and warns that the acquisition will be costly to the state and taxpayers.

The union represents about 850 employees at the Maui Memorial and Kula hospitals.

Executive Director Randy Perreira told PBN that any implications on job security will depend on a prospective operator’s proposal.

"The implications for this so-called partnership go beyond Maui and are of statewide concern,” he said. “While the Maui region has been at the focal point, there are public policy implications because you still have hospitals operated by the state on Kauai and and Big Island and long term facilities here on Oahu."

Perreira said the state Department of Budget and Finance has reported potential expenses of $114 million to cash out any accumulated leave benefits, overtime, or compensatory time for government employees before they switch to the private sector. With potential carried costs that include retirement and medical plans, it could total $320 million to $330 million dollars.

"Irrespective what happens on Maui, I'd anticipate the next session we’ll talk about what to do with Hilo and Kona,” he said. "I think having the governor running the conversation is right move so we can ensure all parties are included, including the counties, so [negotiations] won’t be dominated by one particular county.

Reality: Hospital Reform? Randy Perreira Says "F*** You"

read ... Path to Privitization

Hawaii GOP Presidential Caucus Set for March 8, 2016

Borreca: ...Next March's GOP presidential caucus will again involve Hawaii. Rohlfing is hoping that the national excitement will translate into some local political activity.

"Last time, the caucuses brought more into the party and we are all hoping it will boost the groundwork needed for a campaign," Rohlfing said.

The thinking is that with nearly two dozen candidates jumping into the GOP presidential sweepstakes, there is bound to be one candidate that excites a new local voter who will then stick around to help the GOP in the 2016 state elections.

"We are getting ready to integrate the new people coming into the party, because of the presidential primary, with some of our old hands — and together this will combine into a serious ground game," Rohlfing said during a Monday interview.

There is evidence of this already working, Rohlfing said, pointing out that the former chairman of the Ron Paul presidential committee, Andres Mukk, is the party's vice chairman for communications.

Noting that four years ago, the presidential primary increased party registration and that 10,000 voted in the caucus, Rohlfing figures next year's caucus is all for the good....

read ... Groundwork

OHA 'Useless Tools'

SA: On OHA's decision to go 'neutral' on TMT: "Even if that's a tepid stance, it's at least defensible."

Lets just skip to the Comments: 

The OHA is vulnerable to becoming useless as a tool in the toolkit of those who "run" Hawaii, including this editorial board. Is there any grace and class on that board is the real question as to how it adjusts its absolute power in the light of further unraveling of its organization. Nothing stays the same, not even in the world of organized crime.

Tepid? No, it's wildly courageous, given that they'd be voted right out office next year, given the lynch mob psychology of all the children in their Patagonia parkas railing against the desecration of their sacred land. Flash to children: it's not just their land.

Flashback: Star-Adv: Telescope Protests Show that Buying Off OHA is a Waste of Money

read ... Useless Tool

Marijuana Bill: Big Increase in Dopers Expected

CB: If House Bill 321 passes the Legislature this week and is signed by Gov. David Ige, there could be as many as 16 dispensaries stores statewide by July 15, 2016. The measure allows up to eight companies to receive licenses to operate two dispensaries stores and two marijuana farms each.

The bill is the culmination of years of advocacy by patients potheads and their families drug dealers who see marijuana as a necessary drug to help cope with disorders ranging from epilepsy to chronic pain want to make it as easy as possible to sell dope without actually making it fully legal and thus subjecting themselves to competition for big tobacco....

Individual applicants must have been legal residents of Hawaii for at least five years, be at least 21 years old and have no felony convictions. Business applicants must have been Hawaii-owned for at least five years and have $1.2 million in the bank, among other requirements....

HB 321 would also make more people eligible to buy the drug by adding post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying sicknesses excuses....

One California-based company, Pacific Eclipse, which describes itself as an “industry leader in producing high quality and safe medical marijuana products,” registered for a business license in Hawaii on Jan. 22 this year, the day after the legislative session began.

Michael Nguyen, vice president of policy and strategy, said that the company is providing policy consulting for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 480, a union that is supporting the dispensary bill.

The company and the union are being represented by Capitol Consultants, one of the top lobbying firms on the island.

SA: New High: Medical marijuana dispensaries bill

read ... Keep the people Doped Up

Panos: Good Riddance to Ethanol Mandate

Fix Oahu: Hawaii is poised to repeal ethanol in gasoline. Better late than never. This was another loser that I advised against back in 2007...

read ... Hawaii rids itself from Ethanol Mandate

HB1007 on Governor's Desk: Drivers Licenses for Illegals

CB: As a result of years of collaborative efforts between grassroots community organizers and elected officials, Hawaii is now one signature away from extending driver’s licenses to its undocumented community members, as well as to those with the least power here: elderly folks, domestic violence survivors, and citizens and legal residents in poverty who lack proper documentation.

Expanded driver’s licenses will ensure that all people can drive legally in order to take care of their families and contribute to the state’s economy. It means safer roads, a stronger economy, and improved law enforcement.

For those arguing that House Bill 1007 is more than just about driving and safety: You are right— it is also about belonging and security....

WHT: New licensing program astounding

read ... Illegals

Care home measure is deferred

SA: Noboru Kawamoto, 94, and his wife of 67 years, Elaine, 88, will continue to live in care homes miles apart in Windward Oahu after the state Legislature was unable to pass legislation to allow them to live in the same home.

Noboru Kawamoto, who must live in a community care foster family home because of his health, pays for his care without using Medicaid. Elaine Kawa­moto also pays for her care without Medicaid. They are called private-pay individuals.

The problem is that state law does not allow two private-pay individuals to live in one community care foster family home.

House Bill 600 would have allowed that to happen for two years until the Health Department came up with rules, but the measure failed to clear conference committee and is dead for this year.

read ... More Money for Home Care Operators

Hawaii to Pilot Juvenile Justice Reform

JJIE: “The Smart on Juvenile Justice Initiative will drive nationwide system reform, guiding states toward a developmentally informed approach that maximizes cost savings and strategically reinvests those savings into efforts that improve outcomes for youth,” said Robert Listenbee, administrator of the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in an emailed statement.

Congress has yet to approve the requested funding, though the Obama administration has funded a pilot of the program, rolled out last year in Georgia, Hawaii and Kentucky, working with private foundations and the Washington-based nonprofit Pew Charitable Trust’s Public Safety Performance Project.

read ... Juvenile Justice

Housing Office: Council Members Play Games, Posture

SA: Honolulu City Council members are lukewarm to the idea of re-establishing a city housing department.

The idea came up last week during a discussion on Resolution 15-43 before the Council Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee meeting.

The resolution, introduced by Councilman Ron Menor, urges the Hono­lulu Charter Commission to put before voters a proposal to change the City Charter to allow for a housing department to be established again. The resolution says the same Charter amendment proposal would abolish an existing housing office.

Menor said the city's housing functions have been scattered among different city agencies since the housing department was abolished in 1998 as part of a sweeping reorganization of city operations under Mayor Jeremy Harris as a result of the Ewa Villages scandal.

Council Chairman Ernie Martin said he's concerned that "responsibilities can get lost in the shuffle" under a consolidated housing department. Martin also reiterated his opposition to the administration's creation of the seven-person Office of Strategic Development, which is designed to help land developers build affordable housing throughout the island. The most recent draft of the Council budget calls for funding of the position to be deleted.

Councilman Joey Mana­han said he's wondering whether all the functions can be pooled together without the need to establish a new department.

Executive Matters Chairman Trevor Ozawa said we wants to know whether a consolidated housing department would focus more on providing housing not just for the homeless, but also for Oahu residents from across the income spectrum who need homes....

Flashback: A housing scandal timeline

read ... Council

Ambulance units close temporarily due to staffing shortage

KHON: EMS director Mark Rigg says this past weekend — four Oahu ambulance units had to temporarily close for 12-hours due to personnel on leave, which could mean that too many people called in sick or took vacation.

On Saturday, the closures impacted the ambulance units on Young Street, Kapahulu, and Waipio. The unit in Wahiawa was closed for 12 hours on Sunday.

Last August, the city changed the schedules of EMS workers due to staff shortages, long shifts and cuts in service.

read ... Again

Homeless Camp Catches Fire Under H-1

HNN:  ...Smoke was seen billowing out from under the bridge where people were believed to be living. Responding officers used their voices and patrol car speakers to urge anyone under the bridge to evacuate, then physically tried to check the area while avoiding dangerous smoke.

Firefighters sprayed their fire hoses underneath the area to put out the source of the smoke. It's unclear if flames were visible.

There were no reports of injuries and no one came forward with information on what caused the fire. However, a Hawaii News Now photographer at the scene did overhear two people who appeared homeless arguing nearby about a fire. Police were unable to locate them.

Honolulu emergency officials appear to respond almost daily now to a variety of homeless-related calls from fires and assaults to requests to move people along and medical assistance calls....

read ... Just Another Day in the Nei

Rich Luddites File Appeal Over Delayed Maui anti-GMO Moratorium

MN:  The so-called SHAKA Movement on Maui filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court, seeking an evidentiary hearing before continuing an injunction that delays the implementation of the Maui GMO moratorium.

The group filed their opening brief with the court on April 30, 2015, in which they argue that the “District Court abused its discretion” when it agreed to continue the injunction that was entered into by an agreement between Monsanto, Dow, and the County of Maui.

The document further claims that the District Court denied SHAKA’s request for an evidentiary hearing and limited SHAKA’s opposition to a 2,500 word brief that was due within three days.

(Luxury Real Estate salesman) Mark Sheehan, one of five Maui County residents who are named in the lawsuit, spoke on behalf of the citizen group saying, “The ordinance we enacted needs to be enforced immediately. We hope the Ninth Circuit will uphold Hawaii voting rights and respect our need for a healthy luxury environment.”

read ... Luddites

Sources: 15 day Extension granted after UH Misses Deadline for response to NCAA allegations

KHON: Sources tell KHON2 that the National Collegiate Athletic Association has granted a two-week extension for the University of Hawaii to respond to its letter of allegations.

In January, the NCAA cited the university’s men’s basketball team for seven violations, which occurred under the tenure of former head coach Gib Arnold — three Level I violations and four Level II violations. Arnold was fired without cause last October.

The original deadline for the university’s response was April 30, however, sources say one of the parties involved requested an extension.

UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl declined to elaborate on the situation when he said, “The university will have a public statement very soon regarding the NCAA briefing and hearing schedule once the deadlines are confirmed.”

Level I violations are regarded as a “severe breach of conduct,” intended to provide a competitive advantage. Level II violations are considered “significant” in nature.

The most flagrant: Assistant coach Brandyn Akana providing former star forward Isaac Fotu with an iPad, and knowingly altering a document of then-prospect Stephan Jankovic.

SA: The university forced an extension by reneging on a deal to pay some of the ex-coach's legal fees

read ... Extension

Big Island mayor’s campaign manager named Department of Aging director

WHT: Mayor Billy Kenoi’s campaign manager has been hired to head the county Office of Aging, a $110,000-plus position that oversees a department of 12 employees.

Kimo Alameda was selected by a panel that did not include the mayor, said county officials. The position was advertised for 10 days and six people applied, said Kenoi spokesman Peter Boylan, (grinning from ear to ear). He started April 1....  (Old people vote and we want to make sure they do.)

...Alameda’s previous experience as an instructor at Argosy University for ethics...classes also doesn’t include supervisory experience....  (Yup.  You heard that right.  He taught ethics.  These people just keep giving each other degrees and awards....) 

The Office of Aging, unlike departments set by the county charter, does not require County Council confirmation of its director. But most council members, being useless Kenoi cronies, when reviewing the program budget on April 23, praised Alameda for the office....

Kenoi’s campaign account remains open, however, and as of Monday, he hadn’t submitted paperwork to close it or change his campaign manager. Under Hawaii campaign finance laws, candidates can use their campaign accounts for other state and local offices.

Questions remain about whether Alameda plans to continue as Kenoi’s campaign manager while holding a position under his authority as mayor. The county code of ethics is silent on the hiring of campaign officials, stating only, “No person in a supervisory capacity shall engage in personal or business relationships with subordinates, which might intimidate said subordinates in the discharge of their official duties.”

Boylan said Kenoi is in the process of closing the campaign account.

“Mayor Kenoi is shutting down his campaign organization and does not plan on running for any other office,” Boylan said.

read ... Get Out the Vote

Caldwell Moots Plan to Make King Street Even More Difficult for Drivers

KHON:  The city says the bike lane is a pilot project and officials have taken complaints into consideration, making improvements with both cyclists and drivers in mind.

That includes possibly installing left turn arrows along King Street for drivers.

“We’ll be monitoring queuing time, capacity on side streets and we’ll make decisions after a sufficient amount of time,” said Mike Formby, director of the city Department of Transportation Services. “We want to make informed decisions and not prejudge the need for protected left turn movements.”

City officials say it’s something that could happen if even more bicyclists start using the lane.

They’re also analyzing areas along the bike lane with poor visibility. The city says it’s gotten complaints from business owners along King Street as well as customers, especially between Punahou and Eisenberg streets.

“There are plans to remove some parking spaces that are line-of-sight issues,” Formby said. “We’ll be doing that in May, around same time we activate the system.”

“It’s an integrated system we’re working towards and yes, it’s different and yes, it means change. We think over the long run, people are getting more and more comfortable to this,” Caldwell said.

Officials say the city’s plan has always been to expand the protected bike lane into other parts of the city, including possibly South and Pensacola streets.

They’re hoping to announce new bike lanes within the next three months with anticipated construction by the end of the year.

read ... City begins to install new lights along King St. bike lane

Family of Wahiawa man who died in police jail cell seeks answers

HNN: Christina Lopez sued the Honolulu Police Department more than a year ago, saying police didn't give her a clear explanation as to how her husband wound up dead in his holding cell after a drunk driving arrest. Luis Lopez, a 27-year-old mechanic and father of two, died in January 2012.

"After three years and still no answers. There's something wrong here," said Lopez.

"Why would somebody who just has a newborn want to commit suicide over a traffic stop. It doesn't add up."

The medical examiner ruled the death a suicide and police did conduct an internal investigation. But family members said there were gaps in those reports and they suspect a cover-up if not worse.

They noted that the cell block at the Wahiawa Police station has video cameras but none were working that day.

Lopez said her husband also had a deep gash on his forehead when he was found. Police said Luis got injured after he banged his head on the plexiglas divider in a police car.

read ... Jail Death

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