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Friday, January 21, 2011
January 21, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:58 PM :: 9016 Views

Analysis: Hanabusa’s glorious DC MetroRail would leave Rida Cabanilla stuck in traffic

DoE now complaining about Lack of Audits—wants more money

Yup.  After electing Neil “Don’t audit the DOE” Abercrombie Governor, the DoE is suddenly complaining about (drumroll please) lack of audits (cymbals clash).  But it is in reality just the latest scheme to scam more money out of the Leg.  The pitch: “Our employees are stealing us blind, so give us more money to catch them.”

Matayoshi admitted staffers at some schools do not follow "checks and balances" procedures.

"In some of the smaller schools, where the staffing has been cut dramatically, it gets hard to find two different people counting the cash and doing that kind of thing and we're reinforcing that, yeah, you've got to make time to do that," she said.

Matayoshi said the state Department of Accounting and General Services used to audit school accounts, but those services were eliminated because of budget cuts in recent years.

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Bankruptcy?  Path Is Sought for States to Escape Pension Burdens

Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

Unlike cities, the states are barred from seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Any effort to change that status would have to clear high constitutional hurdles because the states are considered sovereign.

But proponents say some states are so burdened that the only feasible way out may be bankruptcy, giving Illinois, for example, the opportunity to do what General Motors did with the federal government’s aid.

Beyond their short-term budget gaps, some states have deep structural problems, like insolvent pension funds, that are diverting money from essential public services like education and health care. Some members of Congress fear that it is just a matter of time before a state seeks a bailout, say bankruptcy lawyers who have been consulted by Congressional aides.

Bankruptcy could permit a state to alter its contractual promises to retirees, which are often protected by state constitutions, and it could provide an alternative to a no-strings bailout. Along with retirees, however, investors in a state’s bonds could suffer, possibly ending up at the back of the line as unsecured creditors.

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Rep Mica Commits to Rail Project

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle reported the city’s $5.5 billion rail transit project has a key supporter in Congress — by Rep. John Mica, head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Carlisle, along with Hawaii U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, met with Carlisle Thursday to discuss the 20-mile rail project that’s designed to alleviate projected traffic congestion.

AP: Key US House Republican backs Honolulu rail system

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Godless Hawaii Senate, bows to ACLU, Mitch Kahle, ends daily chamber prayers

The Senate considered allowing nonsectarian, nonpolitical invocations that avoided references to deities, but the legislative body decided to do away with prayers altogether rather than constrain them.

The action came as the result of a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii that the invocations often included "decidedly Christian prayers — with reference to Jesus Christ."

"They continue to threaten governments with lawsuits to try to force them into capitulating to their view of society," said Brett Harvey, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, made up of Christian lawyers to defend free faith speech. "Governments should take a stand for this cherished historical practice."

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that government funding for chaplains is constitutional, but Hawaii's Legislature doesn't use a chaplain….

Sen. Sam Slom, the only Republican in the 25-member Senate, pleaded for making prayers voluntary rather than eliminating them altogether.

"The Senate must stand for something and not back away when there are challenges by individuals or organizations who make it their point nationally to have this as an objective," said Slom, R-Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai. "As intelligent as we may be, we can still call on someone higher to help us and guide us."

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Catholic second in command quits Priesthood for Abercrombie administration post (atheists claim pelt, atheist activists howl)

Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced Thursday that Alexander is the new Coordinator On Homelessness in his administration.

Silva has relieved Alexander of his duties as Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Diocese of Honolulu and all positions related to these appointments.

In December, Alexander was given a six month sabbatical he had requested for rest, study, and spiritual renewal.

"I was shocked and extremely disappointed by his recent decision to withdraw from priestly ministry, and I am sure that many will be as shocked and surprised as I was," said Silva.

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Legalized Gambling Under Consideration

Legalized gambling is back on the legislature's agenda as one way to attack the state budget deficit.

So many Hawaii residents enjoy gambling in Las Vegas some call it the “Ninth Island.” But former Gov. Linda Lingle’s opposition to legalized gambling in Hawaii kept it off the table at the legislature. But now she's gone and that's changed, said House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro.

“This might be the right opportunity,” Oshiro said. “We haven't had a real serious discussion for several years, so I think we will have the discussion.”

Sen. Malama Solomon introduced the first gaming proposal of the year on the first day of session. Senate Bill 3 would have the state Department of Business and Economic Development study the whether Hawaii should join an existing multi-state lottery….

Oshiro said casinos will also be considered. One proposal is for the state to allow a single casino in Waikiki for which the developer would have to pay a large up-front fee to the state. Lobbyists for the idea have said developers would pay up to $100 million for exclusive rights to offer casino gambling in the premier tourist destination. Proposals for offshore gambling are also expected….

Maui lawmaker Rep. George Fontaine, a Republican, is a former police captain. He said limits won't keep desperate people from wasting their money.

"When they are faced with the frustration of having to pay that mortgage, feed their family and all of those things they are going to take that chance,” Fontaine said. “They are going to be playing that dollar everyday, hoping for that one-in-a-million chance they are going to win $100 million.”

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SA: Ruling on DHHL misses mark

The appeals court overturned a circuit judge's decisions that the funding was a "political question" that should not be decided by the courts. Arguing that the amendment is not a political question to be answered by a flexible state Legislature, the plaintiffs cited the 1962 Baker v. Carr landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that invalidated a Tennessee legislative reapportionment because it didn't consider losses of population in some counties and increases in others.

The comparison is twisted: Providing proper legislative representation to heads counted in Tennessee is different than doling out money in Hawaii without legislative approval. Yes, the appalling decades of delay by DHHL hurt native Hawaiian homesteaders, and the state should continue the home lands pace set by the Lingle administration. But the obligation shall rightly be funded by legislative allocation within the context of the state budget, not via judicial order based on a flawed premise.

(The purpose of this Lawsuit is to shut down the DHHL’s building program by shutting down the DHHL’s ability to let commercial leases.)

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New OHA chairwoman’s top priority is ceded-lands resolution

HONOLULU - As the 26th state Legislature opened Wednesday to the specter of a budget shortfall, a state agency to benefit Native Hawaiians was prepared to accept lands in lieu of cash to settle the long-festering ceded-lands issue.

So said new Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Colette Machado, of Molokai, about a proposed $200 million settlement involving 1.8 million acres of former crown lands.

"There's no dispute that they owe us the $200 million because this is for past-due revenues," Machado told The Maui News by phone from Oahu last week.

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Oshiro: We can get anything past Abercrombie--We will defend the whole building

Recalling that when the Democrats wanted to run a bill or an idea past the Republican administration, "it had to be vetted through many, many channels during the prior administration so it would take weeks."

Today, Oshiro reports "direct access," noting that Abercrombie's administration is not as worried "about whether it impacts the message from upstairs."…

Oshiro acknowledged that in the past, when legislation came from the Lingle administration, "the dynamics were different."

Now, he says, Abercrombie bills and Democratic legislation are likely to be thought of as "defending the whole building upstairs and downstairs ... this time differences will probably be worked out and a united front hopefully will be at hand."

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Three more years for UH President Greenwood

HONOLULU HawaiiNewsNow) – The University of Hawaii Board of Regents Thursday extended UH President M.R.C. Greenwood's appointment for an additional three years, to run through July 31, 2015.

Board of Regents chairman Howard Karr said that Greenwood has steered the UH System during a time of drastic budget cuts, while moving forward on critical projects, ranging from major research initiatives such as the UH Cancer Center and the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope to securing a bright future for the University's athletic teams in the Mountain West and Big West Conferences.

The regents praised Greenwood's proactive role convening of the first Hawaii Higher Education Summit last fall, and this month's highly successful symposium on innovation

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Geothermal Renewable Energy Talks on the Big Island

The Geothermal Working Group Interim Report has been distributed to lawmakers, and provides them with an evaluation of using the existing resources on the Big Island to provide local and renewable energy for electricity and transportation.

The report was compiled by an 11-member Geothermal Working Group, seen here convening for the first time last year, under a resolution by the legislature.

The working group – made up of a diverse group of Hawaii Island residents, co-chaired by farmer Richard Ha and business agent for ILWU Local 142, Wallace A. Ishibashi, Jr….

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CB/FACE: Heroic Communists maintained a muscular progressive vision, pulling all of Hawaii's body politic in their direction

This was the Heroic age of Hawaii politics – John Burns was our George Washington, and around him were young men like Dan Inouye, George Arioyshi, and Frank Fasi all freshly back from the war – the veterans every Hawaii kid admired and idolized. Back in the state they set about creating a banking system that would serve all of Hawaii’s people. Meanwhile fiery Tom Gill, and later Patsy Mink were in Congress challenging JFK and Johnson to do more on civil rights. And old man Art Rutledge was reinventing labor unions, developing a model blending social services and union power. Behind them all (Communist Party members) Jack Hall, Robert and Ah Quon McElrath and the grassroots leaders of the ILWU maintained a muscular progressive vision, pulling all of Hawaii's body politic in their direction.

CB/FACE: We Need to Sacrifice for the Collective (Translation: You need to sacrifice for us)

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Developer dumping $47M of Hawaii real estate: “We should have done this a while ago”

"We just waited a little too long. We should have done this a while ago," he added.

Because of the soft economy, companies like Betsill are stuck paying mortgages and taxes for properties that are just sitting, said Yap.

He said the appraised value of the more than 700 acres for sale on Maui and the Big Island is about $47 million, but the properties are being listed at reduced prices.

For example, a 2.4-acre vacant lot on Heona Place in Kihei, appraised at $970,000, is being listed for $500,000, according to data from Clearly Maui. A 6.6-acre property in Kona, which includes entitlements for a 149-unit multifamily project, is valued at $6.4 million but is on the market for $2.9 million.

"Cash and short escrows will produce investment-grade prices," Yap said.

HTH: LUC tackles Aina Lea project again

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Your Tax Dollars at work: Tennessee Banker moving to Hawaii to cash in on Hi Tech

Tennessee Commerce Bancorp said this morning that Martin Zorn, its chief administrative officer since November 2009, has stepped down from his position and is preparing to move to Hawaii.

Zorn, who joined Franklin-based Tennessee Commerce after holding senior roles at Integra Bank in Indiana, will "become an executive with a closely-held technology company," the company said. It did not specify if it will look for a direct replacement for Zorn – and a spokeswoman did not immediately return an e-mail asking about that scenario – but did say the 30-year banking veteran will consult on a number of projects "for the foreseeable future."

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David Henkin: The lawyer for Earthjustice won a long campaign to stop the Army's live-fire training in Makua Valley

Since arriving in Hawaii in 1995 to work for Earthjustice, Henkin has filed numerous cases on issues ranging from protection of the endangered Hawaiian crow to the upgrading of Honolulu's wastewater treatment facilities.

He is best known for representing the community group Malama Makua, which has pressed the U.S. Army since 1998 to prepare environmental impact statements on its training in Makua Valley, home to more than 100 archaeological sites and 50 endangered plant and animal species.

Two weeks ago, the Army's commander in the Pacific, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, announced that "in an effort to balance our relations with the community and the requirements that we have for training," the Army had abandoned plans to resume live-fire training in Makua Valley and would conduct future exercises at Schofield Barracks and the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.

Henkin is pleased with the Army's decision, which he says was too long in coming. But he says the ultimate goal remains the return of the valley to the state — and it may be a while before that issue is resolved.

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Judge tosses shark-feeding suspects' cases

A state judge threw out charges yesterday against five men accused of feeding sharks after federal officials refused to submit a user's manual and related materials for a top-secret tracking device also used in terror and drug-trafficking cases.

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Malaria returns to Hawaii?

HONOLULU -- State health officials are awaiting confirmation on a new type of human malaria carrying mosquito that was found above Tripler Hospital.

The U.S. Army flagged the find of the suspect mosquitoes found in traps they set out around the military installation back in October.

Entomologists worry that the bugs are anopheles mosquitoes, which can transmit malaria.

“It is a vector for malaria, and eventually even though when it hatches it doesn't have the malaria parasite in it, there are many people living in Hawaii who have had malaria and have the parasite in them, so if the mosquito bites them it can transmit it eventually,” said Neil Evanhuis of the Bishop Museum.

(DDT is the most effective means to eradicate malarial mosquitoes.)

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