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Thursday, September 1, 2016
September 1, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:01 PM :: 3482 Views

Thanks to Union Stalling Tactics, Maui Hospital to Cut Beds, Services 

Hawaii First State in the Nation to mandate Sexuality Education for Kindergarten

EpiPen: A Case Study of Government Harm

Permanent rail tax to Pay for Caldwell’s Mismanagement, Incompetence?

KHON: Councilmember Brandon Elefante submitted a resolution Wednesday to keep the half-percent surcharge going indefinitely to help pay for rail operations and maintenance and to extend rail to West Kapolei and Manoa.

“I think a funding source that helps (the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation) continue to build, otherwise HART stops the first 20 miles, they go away. They’re no longer a construction (entity). There’s an operations and maintenance aspect, then you’d have to recreate this again,” Caldwell said, “so I think it’s better to continue to march forward, and it’s something that should be discussed with the Legislature and community.”

“The problem with this project isn’t whether or not the people have given enough money to the city,” said Honolulu mayoral candidate Charles Djou. “The problem is clear, simple mismanagement. Before we talk about raising taxes, we need to take first steps first.”…

Caldwell (now suddenly once again says) said he wouldn’t support stopping short of Ala Moana Center. (Flip-flop-flip….)

read … Tax Hike, Precisely as Explained

Open Up Rail Project Books Before Asking For More Money

CB: …Just a day after breaking the news to the public that ideas like ending the line at Middle Street are off the table, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and City Council members were setting aside their political differences and saying the same thing: go to the Legislature and get a long-term extension of the general excise tax surcharge funding the project.

It’s a reprise of the legislative pitch made in 2015 that resulted in lawmakers agreeing to extend the GET surcharge another five years, through 2027.

But lots of promises were made in 2015 that seem to have drifted off into the ether — promises of greater transparency, stronger efforts to get costs under control and to be more publicly accountable.

The promises were convincing enough that the Honolulu City Council, despite lots of grumbling from Chair Ernie Martin, gave final approval for the GET surcharge extension earlier this year.

And then the wheels really started to come off.

In April, a withering report from City Auditor Edwin Young was released. Among its findings: the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation knew for two years that increasing costs were pointing to a looming budget shortfall but didn’t let the City Council know. The audit alleged financial mismanagement, sloppy record keeping and cost estimates based on “professional judgments” that seemed more like educated guesses. And it called into question whether HART leadership had the acumen to rein in the project’s finances….

The next month, new HART Board Chair Colleen Hanabusa released cost estimates showing the project’s price tag had bloated to $6.9 billion from its expected cost of $5.2 billion. Hanabusa didn’t reveal, however, that she had already received a new estimate from the Federal Transit Administration showing that the cost might actually be closer to $8.1 billion and that the project would likely come in two years late — facts she was forced to acknowledge at a hastily arranged press conference days later.….

read … Open the Books

Tokuda: Rail Liars Should Wait Til 2018 Before Trying for another GE Tax Hike

SA: …Rail leaders have said they hope to make a case to the Legislature next year before having to deliver a recovery plan to the FTA. Caldwell has said that’s a key reason the city is asking for more time to submit the plan.

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Jill Tokuda and House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said Tuesday it may be wise for city officials to wait a year to get its rail funding plan in order before asking for a surcharge extension….

read … Tokuda

Rail system must reach Ala Moana, Djou acknowledges

SA:  Former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, who is challenging Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s re-election bid, said Wednesday that the message federal transit officials gave to the city this week requires him to back off his position to seek alternatives to heavy rail to get from Middle Street to Ala Moana.

“We have to do rail, we have to take it to Ala Moana,” Djou said. “It has to be elevated, and it has to be heavy rail, period.” …

on Wednesday, Djou said he is now willing to consider asking the state Legislature for an extension of Oahu’s 0.5 percent surcharge on the general excise tax — but only if, as mayor, he determines the city has no other alternative.

“So the question is not about what alternatives there are to rail. The question here is: Who do you trust to fix this bad system — the guy who created the mess, or do you think we need new management after the current management screwed it all up?” …

Djou, a former councilman, said that even if others go to the Legislature in January to lobby for more dollars, it’s very likely he would not join them — but he did not rule it out….

CB: Nationwide Construction Worker Shortage Is Even Worse In Hawaii

read … Rail system must reach Ala Moana, Djou acknowledges

Djou: No Tax Increase For Honolulu Rail — Yet

CB: Djou said Wednesday the federal government’s position on the long-delayed and over-budget project gives Honolulu no choice: It must be built as originally planned, meaning all 20 miles from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, with all 21 stations and steel-on-steel technology for the rail cars.

Djou also said he does not at this point support extending Oahu’s surcharge on the general excise tax beyond the 2027 sunset date. Instead, he wants to look at other options first.

The candidate said a GET extension is “a last resort.” As a Republican running in a nonpartisan race, any tax increases have long been anathema to him.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story quoted Djou — accurately — as saying a tax extension should be considered. However, he later clarified his position and said he doesn’t believe it is yet time and may never be time to consider extending the tax. Instead, he wants to see where the project’s finances are if the skim of the GET surcharge by the state is ended and after an audit is done.

read … Djou: No Tax Increase For Honolulu Rail — Yet

Let’s Stop Worrying About Hawaii’s Low Voter Turnout

CB: The fundamental problem is that the theory of raising voter turnout is wishful thinking and contrary to what we know about the realities of voting and elections….

…for a busy person in Hawaii, the choice not to vote, well, it makes a lot of sense. Most races at all levels are noncompetitive. The presidency is often decided before Hawaii’s polls close. Why bother going to the polls? What’s the big deal using your time doing other things on Election Day? ….

read … Worry

Efforts to Grab for GEMS Loan Money Shot Down by Consumer Advocate, PUC

EH: …Although the law setting up this program was intended to help low-income utility customers and other economically disadvantaged sectors share in the benefits of renewable energy technology, the Hawai`i Green Infrastructure Authority (HGIA), which manages GEMS, attempted in July to expand the pool of potential beneficiaries with a proposal to fund energy-saving initiatives of large corporations, with a minimum loan amount of $1 million. Among the possible recipients are the very utilities whose customers are paying interest and principal on the GEMS bonds in the first place.

The authority also proposed including energy storage systems (batteries, mostly) as a technology eligible for GEMS financing.

In addition, the HGIA launched in July an “open solicitation for financing arrangements.” This invites “clean energy industry participants to propose transactions involving partnership” (sic) with the HGIA, particularly “transactions that utilize funds to further [HGIA’s] high-impact, market-based strategy to deploy clean energy infrastructure financing that will expand access and affordability of clean energy.”

All this activity came just days in advance of the HGIA lodging with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) its report for the calendar quarter ending June 30, 2016. As of that date, just 12 loans, having a face value of $385,453, had been issued, leaving a balance of $144,661,025.67 in the GEMS fund….

read … Shot Down

Consumer Advocate Resigns

SA: …Ono said he told Gov. David Ige he planned to step down in August.  “He knew that my intention was to leave after the NextEra merger was completed,” Ono said. “I talked to him sometime in mid-August and let him know formally.”

Dean Nishina, Ono’s predecessor, will take over as acting consumer advocate today. Nishina served as consumer advocate from December 2009 to January 2011.

Catherine Awakuni Colon, director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and Ige will decide who will fill Ono’s shoes.

By statute, the DCCA director appoints the consumer advocate, but traditionally it has been an appointment made by the governor.

read … Advocate ends stint on NextEra decision

Honolulu Eco-Conference ‘Deep in the Carbon Emissions Hole’

KE: It's a word that's often bandied about, and nearly always with a favorable connotation. But what does sustainability really mean?

And if we accept this defintion — the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance — can modern human activity ever be truly sustainable?

I ask because the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — comprising folks who sincerely care about environmental issues — is convening in Hawaii now. And it's done a very good of patting itself on the back for creating a “sustainable” 10-day conference — with media like Hawaii Business unquestioningly playing along.

Indeed, the IUCN has an eight-page PDF outlining all of its conference-specific green goals.

But what does that really mean? Especially when you consider that nearly all of the estimated 6,000 participants will have flown to Hawaii — the most isolated inhabited landmass in the world. So it would seem that they're starting in a pretty deep carbon emissions hole.

Yes, they're seeking to neutralize the footprint by purchasing carbon mitigation from the Cordillera Azul National Park Project in Peru. But that only applies to IUCN staff and delegates. Otherwise, it's a voluntary contribution.

On-site, they're touting things like “use of Speedi Shuttles for airport transfers, free bus passes, free bike use, electric cars/buses, biodiesel.” True, any one of those choices produces fewer emissions than a rental car. But not one of them is truly sustainable, especially in Hawaii, where all fossil fuels are imported. Even the bikes are made someplace else and shipped in.

At the venue itself — the Convention Center — they are counting things like “automatic dispensers for sink faucets, hand towels, hand soap and hand sanitizer,” while never considering that these dispensers and their contents are also imported.

The green guide goes on to note: "Assure that the waste water is treated in the best way." Except, there's only one option for such treatment in Honolulu….”

read … Musings: In Search of Sustainability

After 5 months in Jail, Homeless Felon Finally Accepts Shelter

KGI: …Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe noted the progress Talshir had made since he had been released on supervised release earlier this year.

Talshir has sought treatment for his mental health problems and found a place to call home, Calma told the court. He had already served five months in jail on the alleged firearms charge before accepting a plea from the state, Calma said.

On Wednesday, the state recommended Talshir be sentenced to one-year probation.

While addressing counsels, Watanabe noted that there would be no need to have Talshir start all over again.

“I don’t see the purpose of pulling you out of where you are,” Watanabe told him. “You are receiving counseling. You have a roof over your head.” ….

Z: Honolulu median 1 br Rent $1760/mo

read … Finally Accepts Shelter

Soft on Crime: Alleged Pimp Free Because Prosecutor said Prostitute is ‘A Person’

SA: …A state appeals court has overturned the conviction of an alleged pimp because the prosecutor made improper comments during the trial’s closing arguments.

Justin McKinley was found guilty in January 2015 of first-degree promoting prostitution and was sentenced four months later to 20 years in prison.

During the trial, the prosecutor showed the jury video of McKinley beating a prostitute in a hotel room. The prostitute was the state’s key witness against McKinley. The cellphone video was recorded by McKinley’s co-defendant, Lawrence Bruce, who was found guilty of second-degree promoting prostitution and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The woman testified that she didn’t want to be a prostitute anymore and that she did not know why McKinley beat her. The prosecutor suggested in her questions that McKinley beat the prostitute for refusing to answer telephone calls from prospective clients.

Bruce and another prostitute, who identified herself as McKinley’s girlfriend, testified that McKinley beat the woman for stealing money from the other prostitute. McKinley did not testify in his own defense.

In her closing arguments, the prosecutor told the jurors that McKinley treated the prostitute as though she were property when, in fact, “she’s somebody’s daughter, she’s somebody’s friend, she’s a mother, she’s a woman, she is a person.”

McKinley’s lawyer objected to the prosecutor’s comment but the trial judge overruled the objection.

The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the prosecutor’s comment was not a legitimate area of inquiry and thus constituted an improper plea that could have inflamed the jury….

read … Soft on Crime



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