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Wednesday, June 9, 2010
June 9, 2010 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:07 PM :: 9782 Views

Nanakuli Park: Hannemann pounds Hanabusa in proxy fight between Waimanalo Gulch and PVT landfill

Shanghai: Governor Lingle opens “Hawaii Week” at 2010 World Expo

Acting Governor Duke Aiona signs Monk Seal Protection bill

The Hill: New members Critz, Djou start off in campaign mode

It's lobbying, not charity: (Star-Advertiser joins gay-atheist lobby in attack on Hawaii Family Forum)

Former state legislator Dennis Arakaki, the group's executive director who registered with the state as its lobbyist last year, told the Star-Advertiser's Susan Essoyan that lobbying sometimes is "a matter of interpretation." He says the group engages in education, not just lobbying. Indeed, that line can be blurred.

The organization's avoidance of taxes contrasts with other groups involved in the issue, including Focus on the Family Action, which registered as a social welfare organization and did not accept tax-deductible donations. Nor did the pro-civil union Equality Hawaii and the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.

(Convicted thief and atheist) Michael Golojuch Jr. of the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, which neither raises nor spends money, has complained as an individual to the state Ethics Commission that Hawaii Family Forum has understated its lobbying expenses, including Arakaki's salary.

The Legislature narrowly approved the civil unions bill on the last day of this year's session in April, and Gov. Linda Lingle has yet to decide whether to veto it or let it become law, with or without her signature. The lobbying on that or related issues could extend to future sessions.

The IRS should resolve the dispute before the next round of the battle over government recognition of same-sex couples. Lobbies cannot be allowed to operate fast and loose -- especially under the cover of charity advantage -- without the consequence of losing their tax-exempt status.

RELATED: Star-Bulletin comes out against voter registration drive

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Civil union pairs might face taxes (HB444 creates new basis for litigation to re-invent Gay marriage)

Debbie Padello, director of human resources and client services at Altres, said if a company offers medical insurance to families or a worker's spouse, they would be required to offer medical insurance to a civil union partner….

Lowell Kalapa, president of the private Hawaii Tax Foundation, says the bill adds an additional complexity because it was first written in 2009 and says it "takes effect Jan. 1, 2010."

Senate supporters, fearing the bill would not survive another challenge, didn't want to vote on amending it a second time so they left in the retroactive date. The state House this year also kept the same date.

"So if a couple is denied benefits now, they might be able to sue the employer," Kalapa warned. Supporters, however, argue (hope you will believe) that it is unlikely anyone would fit those circumstances.

Because no civil unions would have been enacted until the law takes effect, only civil unions in other jurisdictions or other countries would be recognized immediately. (So there ARE people who will fit those circumstances.)

(And of course, once ANY civil union related issue is before the courts, the Hawaii judiciary can be counted on to once again invent gay marriage.)

TOTALLY RELATED: Hooser, Hanabusa predict HB444 will bring gay marriage back before courts

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Star-Advertiser: Making sense of island politics (look good) is still our goal

Star-Advertiser recommits itself to the job of making Hawaii Democrat politicians look like they are trying to help the people: 

This is the biggest year of political change Hawaii will see in a decade, because by December voters will have selected a new governor and new mayors for Honolulu, Maui and Kauai. There's even a heated race for Congress.

Local politics are in transition, Republicans are questioning whether the Obama tidal wave will come ashore again this fall. Even the issue of school governance is up for a decision….

For those of us covering Hawaii's politics and government, our job is to remember that government should reflect our Hawaii, with voters worried about sending kids to college and buying a house, who can't understand their insurance forms, who fret over high taxes and gas bills.  (In other words, a weak and dependent populace, who don’t know they are desirous of government services.)

It is our job to calmly and dispassionately say how those political leaders answer the questions, tell what happened, help explain why and point out what is likely to happen in the future.

No.  It is the reporter’s job to report the news—not to make politicians look good. 

Here are just a few recent stories which don’t fit the Democrat Star Advertiser’s agenda-driven coverage:

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Council ready to fill empty slot and send budget to the mayor

"I don't get a sense there's five votes for anybody right now," Garcia said.

If the Council cannot decide on a replacement, the duty to appoint a successor would fall to the mayor.

"I'm going to remain—I don't know whether the proper term is hopeful or confident—that the Council will come up with a selection," Apo said.

Council Agenda:

RELATED: Nanakuli Park: Hannemann pounds Hanabusa in proxy fight between Waimanalo Gulch and PVT landfill

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Not enough tax hikes: Maui Budget will take effect without mayor's signature

The Maui County Council last month approved a $524.2 million budget for the county that will go into effect July 1.

Tavares had proposed a budget that would cut spending by $15.2 million, and the council cut an additional $12.2 million from her plan.

She was also angry that the council's budget would eliminate more than 100 vacant positions from the county's work force, saying it could take years to re-establish and fill the positions after the economy turns around.

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DoE admits it has no curriculum (Civil Beat misses story) 

"The standards are not a curriculum," said Catherine Payne, principal of Farrington High School. "The standards say that students should be able to do X, Y and Z in these subjects in these grades. The curriculum is how you get the student to do that."…

Hamada said it is unlikely the state will recommend instructional materials, because the school district already functions on standards instead of a standardized curriculum….

(Thus admitting that the DoE DOES NOT HAVE A CURRICULUM.)

"My guess is there will not be too much of a difference," Mew said about the transition from Hawaii's Content and Performance Standards to the nation's Common Core State Standards. "The standards Hawaii had written before were aligned with what nation was doing anyway."  (And the results???)

Hamada pointed out a study by Harvard researchers that supports Mew's statement. Hawaii received an 'A' in the study for its high academic standards, (DoE receives an ‘F’ in actual results) which the researchers said placed the state on a path to coincide with academic standards in other states and ultimately a set of national standards.

"Right now, we don't see this as a big, huge leap, because we're already aligned," Hamada said. "There may be some minor tweaks, but I don't anticipate many changes."…

At the Hawaii State Board of Education meeting May 20, a chorus of other voices rose in support of the standards, including that of Donald Young, director of the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Curriculum Research and Development Group. Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Reed Dasenbrock and Interim State Director of Career and Technical Education Angela Meixell also expressed their approval of the new national standards.  (The emperor is naked but they fawn over his new clothes.)

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CB: Department of Education Says It Doesn't Have Contract With Teachers

What is in the contract between 13,000 teachers and the Hawaii Department of Education?

Finding the answer has definitely not been so simple.

I first requested a copy of the contract orally from Sandy Goya, the Department of Education's communications director. She said she didn't have a hard copy.

On May 3, Goya told me that the teachers union contract, under which the department operates its schools, is not finalized and signed.

Two days later, on May 5, I wrote a note to Goya, and attached a Freedom of Information Request with it. I wanted whatever contract the state was operating under….

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State prisons warn of possible unrest due to food shortage

"Tension among the inmate population because of inadequate meals is rising to levels that may result in serious inmate disturbances, if not immediately addressed," the Department of Public Safety wrote in a May filing with the state Procurement Office.

The problem arose when some of the state's solicitations for groceries and meat failed to draw enough bidders.

"The problem is we didn't get bidders on a number of items," said Tommy Johnson, deputy director for corrections. "Being a 24/7 operation, we face a big challenge because we have to provide three meals a day."

The situation, which has been partially resolved, raises questions about a new law aimed at increasing state purchases of local agricultural products. The law may have been a factor when correctional facilities, which house 6,000 prisoners, ran dangerously low of food last month.

Act 175, which took effect last year, requires state agencies to gather competitive bids before buying food and other fresh agricultural products. The intent of the law, which also created a 15 percent preference to locally grown products in the bidding process, was to support local growers.

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UPW tops list of high-spending lobbyists during second half of the legislative session

Lobbyists spent a lot of money during the latter half of this year’s legislative session, according to a preliminary review of expenditures reports filed with the State Ethics Commission.

The five highest-spending groups, including two public employee unions, reported spending a total of nearly $250,000 during the March-April 2010 period.

United Public Workers, the state’s second-largest public employee union, was the top spender ($54,582), followed closely by the Consumer Fireworks Safety Association, which lobbies for the fireworks industry ($53,132).

They were followed by the Hawaii State Teachers Association ($49,653), cigarette manufacturer Altria/Philip Morris ($58,358) and the nonprofit Blue Planet Foundation ($39,308).

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Ethics Director could face termination at Wednesday morning meeting

The State Ethics Commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning to determine whether its longtime executive director will retain his position.

The agenda for the 9:30 a.m. meeting indicates the commission will consider public testimony before going behind closed doors to consider Mollway’s future.

A 4-page sanitized version of the findings of a commission investigation was made public late last month.

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CB: Day 1 Of The New Star-Advertiser

The lead story Monday began: "The merger of century-old rivals into today's new Honolulu Star-Advertiser should bring readers a stronger newspaper, with more muscle for investigative reporting and a deep perspective on the state that both papers helped shape. By joining forces, the 128-year-old Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the 154-year-old Honolulu Advertiser finally have a chance to grow after having had to shrink their staffs and cut wages to stay afloat."

That was written by Craig Gima, an experienced journalist whom I respect. But if that isn't editorializing, I don't know what is. Those are the kind of sentences that should have been written by the editor of the paper, not by a reporter. From the editor, I could have accepted them. From a reporter, I've got to ask a simple question: How could he know?

Will that same kind of reporting be applied to other topics? (Yes.)

The new paper is definitely going to be stronger than the Star-Bulletin was. But the Advertiser had more people in its newsroom than the new Star-Advertiser has and its website was clearly more lively than what the Star-Advertiser offered on its first day. If the newsroom is smaller than the old Advertiser's newsroom, why would it have more "muscle" for investigative reporting and "a deep perspective" on the state?

Day 2: A bigger paper with less advertising 

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Contracts for 6,000 statewide hotel workers expire June 30

Union contracts for nearly 6,000 hotel workers statewide expire at the end of the month and negotiations have yet to begin on a new contract.

Unite Here Local 5 spokesman Cade Watanabe said no date has been set for talks with Hawaii hotels, including major properties in Waikiki.

The hotels include Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, the Kahala Hotel & Resort, the Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel and Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, as well as the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa and Sheraton Kauai Resort.

RELATED: Neil Abercrombies struts his Gay Pride in Waikiki Parade (complete list of politicians and Union Officials in attendance)

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Hawaii census effort totaling big numbers

Hawaii ranked third-worst in the nation in census participation, at 64 percent, during the 2000 decennial count. And while the state still fell behind the national average in mail participation this year, Honolulu Census Office manager Winnie Wilson said the success of the door-to-door campaign could push overall response to more than 80 percent.

The improvement would probably mean a significant increase in federal funds designated for the state. Census officials estimated that Hawaii lost out on $310 million over the last 10 years due to undercounting in the 2000 census.

And while the end of the count signals the premature unemployment of some 3,000 temporary census workers, taxpayers will save on the $17 per hour cost of employing each enumerator for 20 to 40 hours per week.

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UPDATE: New Auditor's Report Finds Inefficiencies (but no fraud) in State's pCard Program 

"We're very pleased that the report found no fraudulent or abusive practices and that all the charges on the pCards were on legitimate state businesses," Fujioka told Civil Beat this morning.

You download the report from the auditor's website [PDF] or see it here: State Auditor's Report on pCards

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Survey finds graphic ads reducing first-time meth use among young people

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One year after launching its graphic anti-ice education campaign, the Hawaii Meth Project is back with a new wave of TV spots. While a national study a few years back found Hawaii ranked fifth in the country for meth use by people 12 years of age and older, a recent survey indicates the project's ads may be turning the tide.

You've probably seen the first set of TV spots involving a bleeding girl in the shower and a violent guy at a laundromat. The second wave of ads unveiled Monday is just as powerful.

RELATED: Hawaii Meth Project

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Ka Iwi: You Take It, You Bought It

But we're not quite sure what we're missing here, since it seems the fact the state owns the land -- having acquired it by condemnation a few years ago -- is the much more determinative fact insulating it from private development. Put another way, the State "rezoning" its own land should not have been the critical missing piece in preserving it unless the State were planning to develop it (very unlikely politically), or sell it (also unlikely, given the State condemned to prevent its development). Thus, the story leaves us wondering whether something else is afoot.,,,

…because the right to make reasonable use of property is a constitutional right, zoning regulations must leave an owner with some reasonable use, and cannot be imposed as a substitute for condemnation or to flatly prohibit development.

The city understands this only too well. When it repeatedly attempted to prohibit the development of two nearby parcels by downzoning them -- rather than condemn them for a public park -- it ended up costing the city $85 million….

This legal reality hasn't stopped calls for the city or the State to try and leverage their regulatory powers to prohibit development of the private property within "Ka Iwi" instead of using their eminent domain powers to take and pay for it.

RELATED: Lingle, Ward: Ka Iwi saved from Development

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Kauai: Judge: Highway widening project may proceed

(Enviros fail in last-ditch effort to keep Kauai jammed.  They need traffic jams in order to manufacture a sense of crisis which they can then exploit.)

Palmeira asked for a continuance of the Tuesday hearing, citing her own health issues, but Watanabe denied that last-minute motion, Wynhoff objecting to the motion saying even another one-month delay would likely kill the project.

At the April hearing on the matter Palmeira fired her NHLC attorneys, and on Tuesday struggled to make her case without legal representation.

(Key point: OHA’s NHLC has a de-facto monopoly on attorneys willing and able to pursue this type of case.  Thus negotiations with OHA can buy an end to such litigation.  Or more correctly, OHA can use such litigation to extract payoffs a settlement from developers.)

RELATED: Hokuli`a Settlement Exposed

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Even For Deaths Of Rare Birds, Criminal Charges Extraordinary

Civil lawsuits may be a dime a dozen, but with criminal indictments — especially of corporations — it's another story.

The recent decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to file criminal charges against the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a step rarely taken in enforcing those laws.

The 22-page indictment [pdf] handed down May 19 includes 19 different counts for knowingly taking — a term that includes harassing, harming, wounding and killing — dozens of Newell's shearwaters, an endangered seabird found only in Hawaii, as well as Laysan albatrosses, between 2005 and 2009.

RELATED: Acting Governor Duke Aiona signs Monk Seal Protection bill

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Hawaii Kai’s Controversial Lighting Project Detailed

Last summer, Paul’s Electrical Contracting, LLC, started replacing the underground wiring system for city streetlights on Lunalilo Home Road from Kalanianaole Hwy. to just beyond Koamano Street in Hawaii Kai.  After residents noticed three times as many poles being put up, they began asking questions.  One year later, some questions remain unanswered, and the project remains unfinished.

No one disagrees that our underground wiring systems need replacement.  At the heart of the issue, however, is the amount of light that the city is installing.  The city’s plans included installing three times as many poles with three times as much light.  Three times the amount of light was “required” to meet city standards, according to Gerald Hamada of the City Department of Design and Construction.

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Investigation of Big Island Department of Water Supply to Begin

Apparently, Bolton's design for the project differs from the SSFM design, which is the design that was provided to and generally accepted by the community. The change has resulted in several problems. Members of the community are not happy with the new design; in particular, one couple protested that the change allows water uses with a direct view into their bedroom. In addition, bids on the changed design are much higher than what was expected when the $6 million was appropriated, leading to further delays.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has been following the issue. Click here.

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Venue Shopping: Lawyers come to Hawaii, claim pesticide injury

Scott Hendler, the Texas-based attorney representing the plaintiffs, said DBCP was developed in Hawaii by Dole and the Pineapple Growers Association. He said the case was filed in Circuit Court because of the state's "reputation of having a fair ... judiciary, and people who will weigh the facts fairly." …

In a related case, the Los Angeles Superior Court is considering dismissal of a 2007 jury verdict that awarded $2.3 million to six banana workers. Dole is alleging the plaintiffs' lawyers recruited men to falsely claim they were employed at Dole and rendered sterile.

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