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Sunday, November 29, 2015
November 29, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:34 PM :: 2859 Views

Clinton Democrats to Boot Gabbard from Vice Chairmanship?

Rail: Thumbing Our Nose at the Feds

$28 million awarded to Department of Hawaiian Homelands after state illegally denies funding

HNN: After an eight day trial which concluded in July, First Circuit Court Judge Jeannette Castagnetti has ruled that the State violated its constitutional duty by its continuing failure to provide adequate funding to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).

For the last three years, the legislature has provided $9.6 million to the department. Friday’s court’s ruling will require that the legislature appropriate at least $28 million to the department for this coming fiscal year.

In fiscal year 2009, the legislature provided DHHL with less than $900,000 in general funds for its administrative and operating budget. For the next four fiscal years, the legislature appropriated no general funds to DHHL. Funding was only restored after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that “the State has failed, by any reasonable measure to provide sufficient funds to DHHL.”

In a 40-page decision issued late Friday afternoon, the court concluded, “the legislature has failed to appropriate sufficient sums to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for its administrative and operating budget in violation of its constitutional duty to do so. This failure includes every fiscal year since at least 1992.” In her ruling Judge Castagnetti noted that the “DHHL suffers from a lack of funding and staffing, which adversely affects beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust.” ….

read … state illegally denies funding

Officials heap their plates with buffet of messy ideas

Shapiro: The City Council voted 8-1 to help fix the finances of Oahu's $6.57 billion rail project by issuing $350 million in commercial paper. Rail finances are such a mess that it's more of a job for toilet paper.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said critics of his five-year extension of the rail excise tax are "lolo" for jeopardizing federal funds. This from the guy whose rail plan is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

Caldwell jetted to Washington, D.C., for a campaign fundraiser at a luxury Georgetown hotel, with suggested donations from $500 to $4,000. The price depended on whether you got a rail contract or only a subcontract.

read … Messy

UH: We Should Maintain Control of Mauna Kea 

SA: Current controversies unfortunately overshadow the remarkable advances made in the stewardship of Mauna Kea.

Critics often cite the 1998 state auditor’s report on University of Hawaii management. The university never disputed these findings, but viewed the report as a wakeup call to drive the creation of a completely new approach to stewardship.

The most recent follow-up by the state auditor in 2014 observed: “We found that UH has developed several management plans that provide a comprehensive framework for managing and protecting Mauna Kea while balancing the competing interests of culture, conservation, scientific research, and recreation.”

This dramatic turnaround occurred with UH’s shift of stewardship responsibility to Hawaii island and the creation of the Office of Maunakea Management (OMKM) in 2000 under the UH-Hilo chancellor….

The 2014 state auditor’s report did note one shortcoming in UH stewardship: the need to develop administrative rules to guide public access. (Translation: They are going to keep the public out.)

UH accepts this responsibility and work is now underway, beginning with the public open houses conducted by OMKM this summer at multiple locations on Hawaii island. The drafting and approval processes are expected to be completed in 2017….

read ... Lassner and Straney

NextEra Hearings to be Live-Streamed

IM: Na Leo ‘O Hawaii on the Big Island,  Akaku Maui Community Media and O`ahu’s Olelo Community Media will air all 84 estimated hours of the PUC hearing for its viewers. The live coverage will continue on one of the channels should the hearing last beyond December 16.

Live coverage on Channel 49 from 9:30am to 5pm:

Monday, Nov. 30 through Thursday, Dec. 3

Monday, Dec. 7 through Friday, Dec. 11

Monday, Dec. 14 through Wednesday, Dec. 16

read … Live Streaming of PUC’s Hawaiian Electric-NextEra Evidentiary Hearing

PUC Quietly Limits New Solar Systems—Star Adv Editors Jump on Battery bandwagon 

SA: …Star-Advertiser writer Kathryn Mykleseth reported last week about the Public Utilities Commission’s quiet decision to cap the number of new rooftop solar installations connected to the Hawaiian Electric Industries grid. That call was made to spur better diversification of the state’s renewable-energy portfolio, officials said.

The commission announced it will cap new residential and commercial solar projects at 25 megawatts, which will be met when about 4,500 new systems are installed on Oahu.

Projections vary widely on when that cap will be reached.

The solar industry projects that its 115 companies will hit that ceiling as early as March 2016, given that there is now a firm limit set by the commission.

PUC Chairman Randy Iwase said that what he described as an “initial” cap will be revisited 18 months from now.

The commission has yet to make a broadly persuasive case that its analysis of solar-energy risks to the grid — based on assessments from HEI and its own staff — is correct.

Paired with the shrinking state incentives and the looming expiration of the federal tax credit at the end of 2016, the cap is likely to cause business to dry up for even the more successful companies — a distressing development for the industry’s 2,200 employees.

Richard Wallsgrove, program director at the nonprofit advocacy group Blue Planet Foundation, has said there is room on the grid well beyond the cap. Everyone (LOL!) seems to agree that the solution lies in faster deployment of energy storage capacity for the grid. (Translation: We’re trying to take taxpayer money for ourselves--if you disagree we won’t even acknowledge your existence.)

Battery storage, long described as a kind of “holy grail” for those favoring solar energy expansion, is the technical limitation here.  (Translation: Batteries don’t work so we want you to give us money while we pretend to make them work.) Solving that, Wallsgrove correctly (self-interestedly) urged, should be the focus of state policy….

read … Battery Schemers Next

Solar Schemers to Push for Battery Tax Credits next Session

SA: …In October the PUC ended the net energy metering (NEM) program that credits solar panel owners for the excess energy their photovoltaic systems send to the grid. The PUC is replacing NEM with a program that gives new solar panel owners a slower return on their investments. New solar panel owners who choose to send their excess energy to the grid will be credited 15.07 cents per kilowatt-hour. This new program has a limit of approximately 4,000 homes.

After that limit is reached, customers still will be able to add solar panels to their houses but will not be able to send power to the grid.

The current program that credits solar owners for the excess energy they send to the grid will enable them to recoup their investment in six to eight years. A solar panel system connected to a battery has an eight- to 12-year payback period. A customer using a battery is eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit if it is used with PV panels. There is no state tax credit for batteries.

“It’s not quite ready for prime time, essentially,” said Colin Yost, principal at RevoluSun….

Remember: No Blackout: RevoluSun Exposed

read … More Taxpayer-Subsidized Scams

Counties (Again) to Push for More TAT Next Session

MN: During the economic downturn, the state took the counties' share of the transient accommodations tax, also known as hotel tax or TAT, to balance the state budget.

But when the economy improved and the state's revenues rebounded, they did not return a fair share to the counties. Tax collections by the state went up 34 percent, or $1.8 billion, compared to the counties' real property tax collections increasing by 8.8 percent, or $122 million.

Similarly, since 2007, the TAT distribution to the state increased by $198 million while counties have collectively received an additional $2.2 million. Because of this unfair distribution, counties have annually lost $85 million….

With the TAT shortfall, counties have been forced to raise property tax rates. Maui County removed and reduced numerous property tax exemptions out of necessity.

The Legislature earlier this year passed a law allowing the counties to impose a general excise tax surcharge. But this isn't a generous or effective gesture.

Expenditures from the GET surcharge would be limited to transportation capital and operating costs and ADA compliance. Moreover, the GET is a regressive tax, applying to local residents' purchases of basic necessities such as food and medical services….

read … Counties united, determined to fight for fair share of TAT

Convention Center Loses ‘Only’ $1.5M This Year

SA: …Teri Orton, who was named general manager of the convention center in December 2013, said the 1.1 million-square-foot facility expects to take in nearly $13.4 million in gross revenue by year's end. It also is forecast to cut its net loss to just under $1.5 million from the $3.5 million deficit that it has averaged for the last five years. At the same time, the center is expected to see its 2015 gross expenses fall to $14.8 million.

read … Losers

Part of old Ewa Field nears historic list

SA: The Hawaii Historic Places Review Board has unanimously recommended the placement of about 180 acres of Ewa Field on the National Register of Historic Places — over the objection of the Hunt Development Group, which leases a lot of the land.

The National Park Service, which oversees the register, and the Navy, as the property owner, previously deemed remnants of the old Marine Corps Air Station Ewa eligible for the historic recognition.

The state review board's Nov. 13 recommendation puts Ewa Field one step closer to that listing — and conflicts with Hunt's development plans. The issue also calls into question what is and isn't officially declared to be historic in a state with a lot of unique history.

Historian Ross Stephenson wrote a letter of support for the Ewa Field nomination, pointing out that while some claim there is "nothing there," foundations, runways and artifacts do in fact exist. Buildings have been torn down.

"Note that recently the Honouliuli Internment Camp, just a few miles mauka of Ewa Field, was placed on the National Register," he said. "Honouliuli also consists mostly of foundations. I can see no difference between these two sites in eligibility." ….

Ewa Beach historian John Bond, who discovered what was left of the airfield around 2007, mounted a relentless campaign to bring attention to the Marine Corps history that lay hidden in the weeds.

William Chapman, chairman of the Hawaii Historic Places Review Board, called the site "extraordinary."

"To realize what's there is just breathtaking, really," said Chapman, who walked the site on Veterans Day. He noted strafing marks and an original runway that are "very clearly" visible.

"It's a powerful evocation of the site," he said….

read … Historic

Walter Dods Writes Book: ‘How to Succeed in Cronyism Without Really Trying’

Borreca: In the 260-page book, (“Yes! A Memoir of Modern Hawaii”) co-written by veteran Honolulu journalists Gerry Keir and Jerry Burris, Dods advises local kids to “don’t be afraid to express your thoughts and opinions … once employers know your work ethic and how solid you are, you will do fine.”

The saga of how Dods did it is the sort of rags-to-riches-with-a-Hawaii-flavor story readers will find fascinating. The insider’s perspective on local politics alone makes an absorbing read.

Dods was chairman or co-chairman of all of George Ariyoshi’s campaigns for lieutenant governor and governor, two of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye senatorial campaigns and former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s U.S. Senate campaign.

“I’ve always felt my political involvement was good for both the community and the bank,” Dods writes, although he admits his first work with Ariyoshi was only after he was drafted.

“I turned George down when he first asked me … (but) my boss, Johnny Bellinger, pointed out to me — quite forcefully — that Ariyoshi was on our board of directors, and it would make good sense to help out,” wrote Dods, who in 1970 was in charge of First Hawaiian’s marketing and public relations.

By the end of the campaign, Dods said, he was a strong Ariyoshi supporter and had learned how to run a statewide campaign.

“They didn’t have the expertise on strategy and media that I had from the nonpolitical things I’d done, so I just converted my business skills into running a campaign,” Dods wrote….

In December of 2012, hours before Hawaii’s powerful Dan Inouye died in Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dods and Watanabe had delivered a letter to then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie, asking that Hanabusa be named as his successor.

Dods said that he and Watanabe met with Abercrombie, who also had then-Attorney General David Louie, political adviser Marvin Wong and chief of staff Bruce Coppa in the room.

Abercrombie’s hands trembled as he read the letter, Dods said, because Inouye had boxed in the former congressman. Following Inouye’s wishes would make Abercrombie seem not to be his own man, while ignoring them would force him to ignore the dying wish of Hawaii’s most popular politician.

Abercrombie chose to ignore Inouye, an action that Dods said doomed Abercrombie.

“In the end, I believe that community turned against Abercrombie over the whole sequence of events … the entire Japanese community turned on Neil.”

read … Crony Lessons



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