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Sunday, August 28, 2016
August 28, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:14 PM :: 3197 Views

Slom: $1B Surplus is an Illusion

Rail Ridership Wildly Over Estimated

$4M for DoT to Study Ways to Raise Highway Taxes

Carroll for Senate—Reform the Jones Act

Why Don’t We Even Look at the Regulation?

Crave Oxycontin? Hawaii is the Place to Be

Na Pali Coast: DLNR Issues 13 More Tickets Just in Time for Waikiki Eco-Conference

Photos: 24 Hours With Charles Djou

Formby: I’m Still Trying to Figure out what a Rail Recovery Plan is—But Tax Increase is Mandatory

SA: …I am convinced this project will benefit from a construction-experienced CEO (ie: Somebody besides me) who has successfully worked through similar engineering, budget and schedule challenges on other rail projects. This individual will possess the skill sets necessary to quickly earn credibility with our city and state leaders and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). To that end, I am working very closely with city, City Council and HART board leadership to bring such an experienced CEO to this project as soon as is reasonably possible.

Our federal partner in this project, the FTA, is requiring the submission of a recovery plan by the end of the year. Precisely what that means will be the subject of discussions with the agency that begins this week in San Francisco.  (Translation: I dunno.)

Although the FTA has been through the recovery plan process on other projects, this is a first for the city. As such, we expect this meeting will be an opportunity for the city to get clarification as to the process and the FTA’s expectations….

The information we have received from the FTA to date indicates that we have three basic recovery plan options:

1) A financial recovery plan that specifies the means by which the city will secure revenue/funding (raise GE Tax again) for the full build-out consistent with the existing Full Funding Grant Agreement (i.e., the minimum operating segment, or MOS, from West Oahu to Ala Moana), currently estimated at around $8 billion; 

2) A descoping of the project so that the city can build to budget, of which there are options but all of which require deferring stations (some options more than others), a guideway that does not reach Ala Moana and other changes;  (Shorten route or eliminate stations)

3) A combination of Nos. 1 and 2.  (Raise taxes and shorten route)

Those meetings will be followed by a HART board recommendation and a City Council deliberation that will provide several opportunities to gather substantive public input. All of this requires a focused determination on completing a rail system that best serves the public (campaign contributors).

I am focused on reestablishing credibility between the authority and mayor, City Council, the city auditor, the state Legislature, governor and the FTA — via better communication, transparency, public engagement and honesty. Part of that necessarily includes bringing in (somebody besides me) an interim and/or permanent CEO with mega-project construction experience, as mentioned above….

read … Formby

Star-Adv: Buy Work-Rule Reform with Pay Raises

SA: …With $1 billion in its back pocket, the state can’t claim destitution as it goes to the bargaining table to negotiate pay raises for public worker unions, whose contracts expire June 30.

But bargaining units need to recognize there are pressing needs beyond lining their members’ pockets.

What the state can — and must — do is fund reasonable pay raises and use that as leverage toward creating efficiencies in the public workforce via changes in obsolete work rules or other contract provisions.

For instance, the state is in a prime position to tackle the ongoing abuse of sick leave, especially prevalent among corrections officers at prisons and jails. Tightening union-contract requirements — a doctor’s note when returning from a sick day, for example — makes sense, especially when an alarming number of sick days — namely on Super Bowl Sundays — results in overtime paid to employees covering for “sick” coworkers.

The leverage enabled by extra funds also could encourage greater cooperation from the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) as it battles the state over privatization of the Maui hospitals.

HGEA successfully pushed for a new law that would provide severance pay or retirement bonuses to state workers whose jobs are being privatized — but a judge imposed a temporary restraining order that bars state officials from implementing the law.

The extra cash could be incentive for HGEA to forge a workable agreement with the state that might eliminate the need to evoke the new law, which the Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System says could threaten its federal tax-exempt status.

Despite the $1 billion surplus on paper, Wes Machida, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, cautioned that some of the largesse is already committed elsewhere: $200 million to be tucked away as cash reserves in the state’s “rainy day” or emergency budget reserve fund, and $81 million to prepay future retirement health benefits for public workers….

Hampered by a severe teacher shortage, the state Department of Education needs to make inroads in filling hundreds of vacant teaching positions. The shortage is due partly to lagging teacher salaries not in line with the high cost of living in Hawaii. If higher teacher salary increases are provided, the Hawaii State Teachers Association will have to be more agreeable when it comes to comprehensive annual teacher evaluations, among other contractual issues.

read … Budget surplus is rare chance to accomplish needed goals

Chang Knocks 10,000 Doors in Drive to Eliminate Last Surviving Republican from Senate

SA: Stanley Chang, candidate for state Senate, has developed a reputation as a marathon canvasser, having knocked on approximately 10,000 doors so far this campaign cycle….

Most people weren’t home. Those who did answer were polite, though sometimes guarded….

People try to place him by asking who he’s running against. Chang always answers the same way: “A gentleman named Sam Slom.”

Several want to know how old he is. Chang, who is 33 but still could pass for a member of the high school debate team, makes light of the question. “How old do I look?” ….

One house has a sign taped to the front door: “Don’t forget the snake is out!”…

The app on his phone offers all sorts of analytics: How many people were home, how many said they would vote for him, who said maybe. Of course, people can say anything just to make someone leave their doorstep. The real test seems to be whether they’ll allow him to put a campaign sign in their yard….

Shut this down: Slom: $1B Surplus is an Illusion

read … One Party State

Voter turnout still shameful with isles hitting record low

Shapiro: >> Hawaii had record low turnout in the primary election when only 34.7 percent of registered voters cast ballots. If it goes any lower, we can vote by a show of hands.

>> Some 1,600 absentee ballots weren’t counted because they were mailed too late. At least some people put effort into not voting.

>> Gov. David Ige said the Democratic political machine is a myth, and that the party wins elections because of the quality of its candidates. The man has an uncanny ability to keep a straight face….

>> In high-priced Hawaii, $100 is really worth only $85.62, according to the Tax Foundation. Except in politics, where every $100 in campaign donations is worth thousands in government contracts….

read … Voter turnout still shameful with isles hitting record low

Short-term rentals law may not be enforceable, officials say

SA: …Act 204 requires that owners and operators of short-term rentals register their properties with the state and post their tax identification numbers on their advertisements. Otherwise, they, as well as the advertising platforms, can face fines of up to $5,000 a day.

But the tax department now says the law could violate the federal Communications Decency Act, preventing it from issuing citations, which it intended to begin doing in November. The department says it’s unclear whether the state can hold the online companies legally accountable for what their users post.

Act 204 is currently being reviewed by the attorney general and tax department, said Mallory Fujitani, a spokeswoman for the latter. If legal research indicates that the department isn’t able to fine operators and online advertising platforms, she said the department will instead ask them to voluntarily comply with the law’s intent….

San Francisco, like Honolulu and other parts of the state, is grappling with a housing crisis. It passed a law similar to Hawaii’s Act 204 in June, which requires that Airbnb ensure that its hosts are complying with the city’s registration process for offering up short-term rentals.

Airbnb subsequently sued the city of San Francisco over its ordinance, a lawsuit that the Hawaii tax department says it’s monitoring as it debates whether to move forward on enforcing Act 204….

read … Short-term rentals law may not be enforceable, officials say

Caldwell’s Smart Meters Building on Dumb Failures?

ILind: …There was one news report indicating that problems had come up with the first several hundred meters installed as a pilot project.

Almost a year ago, KHON reported:

The city says they have had problems with the solar panels on the meters, batteries draining too quickly and in some cases people would put in coins and the machine would not show credit.

“They didn’t do everything they were represented to do,” said Formby. “So it is whether or not you are getting the value for your money. There are several features that we had not engaged or that we engaged once and then we turned it off and it should not be that way if you pay for the full complement of features you should get them and we did not.”

But how that turned out, whether and how problems were resolved, and what features will be available in the latest batch of meters, is unknown. At least to the public….

read … What about the city’s new “smart” parking meters?

‘Unbiased’ Journalism: Gabbard is Pure--Her Only Enemies are a Thief and a Clinton

WHT: …Rep. Tulsi Gabbard stood before the nation on a stage in Philadelphia as a woman of the people, starkly juxtaposed to the corruption that left the Democratic Party reeling.

Leaked emails indicated several of the party committee’s major players — namely its chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — had intentionally subverted the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders in favor of the establishment candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Gabbard, a two-term representative of Hawaii’s 2nd District, bid adieu to the Democratic National Committee five months previous, relinquishing her position as vice chair to publicly support Sanders in his run for president.

The circumstances surrounding the convention rendered her a symbol of democratic purity (Wow.  Just wow.) among the party’s growing progressive movement as she formally nominated Sanders for the presidency and spoke of a movement of love, of aloha, that could never be defeated….  (Laying it on a little thick, eh?)

(Convicted thief,) Michael (‘Bitchbear’) Golojuch Jr. — chair of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, which offered sponsorship to Gabbard’s opponent, Shay Chan Hodges, in this year’s primary — said the congresswoman’s relationship with the state’s LGBT Caucus is steeped in distrust….

read … Some Unbiased Journalism

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