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Sunday, March 27, 2011
March 27, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:57 PM :: 12335 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, World News, Hawaii History


Djou: Presidential Leadership is Missing in Libya

No New Taxes! Rally April 15--Kona, Hilo, Kahului

Case: Poll shows I whip any Democrat in 2012 Senate Primary

VIDEO: FBI investigating Gulen Charter Schools, parents pulling kids out

Hawaii to keep prisoners on Mainland: Lack of space forces state to continue to bid out for incarceration

Robotics: Six Hawaii Teams headed for St Louis Championships

Still No response from Obama as Hirono, Abercrombie beg for Disaster Declaration

During a tour Saturday of Kailua-Kona, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono vowed to help secure federal funds and low-interest loans for those hit by the tsunami.

"This area was the hardest hit of the Hawaiian Islands and suffered the most damage to private property, businesses and public infrastructure," said the Hawaii Democrat. "Along with the Saturday request from Gov. Neil Abercrombie to the president for a declaration of disaster, I will be writing a letter in support of that declaration."

A disaster declaration by President Barack Obama would let all four Hawaii counties damaged by the tsunami recover some of the costs of rebuilding and repairing damaged public infrastructure. Preliminary estimates for damage to government facilities totaled $8.5 million, according to a Friday statement from the governor's office.

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$2900/month from Ewa developer:  Nestor Garcia has ANOTHER side job

Garcia's job for the Kapolei chamber shows up his official financial disclosure, but his other job does not. The company is a client of Garcia’s public relations firm, NRG MediaCom. The client is Dura Constructors, which Garcia said pays him $2,900 per month as a part-time safety officer, visiting the yard to give safety tips.

“They are not a city contractor,” Garcia said. “Most of their business is with Gentry Homes.” Gentry is the largest developer of subdivisions on the Ewa Plain.

Garcia didn't have to tell anyone about the Dura job because the city law doesn't require council members to report income from clients in a consulting company, real estate office or law firm.

A Tradition: Ousted Zoning Chair Rod Tam is secret partner in $1 Billion North Shore development hui

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HECO to select Cable Contractor, Hand Ratepayers the Bill

It is not just Honolulu's electricity customers who will share the as-yet-unannounced costs of this $1 billion cable. As the legislation is currently written, all HECO ratepayers would share in these costs - including those residents of Lanai and Molokai who, while not receiving any of this wind-generated power, will share these costs as they see their home islands become an industrial wind power plant for Oahu.

According to Ted Peck, the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism's recently departed state energy administrator, the 400 megawatts of wind power would provide 10 percent of Oahu's electrical power - not 20 percent, not 25 percent. His numbers can be heard on a recent Hawaii Public Radio interview.

Despite HECO's claims to the contrary, SB367 does not balance risk. It allocates that risk - and all recovered costs - onto ratepayers….

While it is true that Hawaii gets nearly 90 percent of its energy from imported oil, it is helpful to remember that only 30 percent of that is for electricity; the balance mostly for transportation (boats, planes, cars, etc.)

It is not the Public Utilities Commission that will seek proposals from companies to build the cable, it is HECO. The PUC will review the proposal that HECO selects.

There has been much confusion around project dates. It is clear that the programmatic environmental impact statement needs to be completed quickly, as it is funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, which terminates in April 2012.

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Abercrombie uses Kahuku Wind Scam to pressure Lanai, Molokai

The Kahuku project enjoyed widespread community support, but the same is not the case on Lanai and Molokai. Several groups and individuals oppose the wind projects. Objections are varied, ranging from concerns about the impact on the natural beauty of the islands to the potential desecration of cultural sites to the loss of access to fishing and hunting areas from such massive projects. A common criticism among the opponents is that the project is principally for the benefit of Oahu at the expense of Lanai and Molokai.

"We get none of the power," said Robin Kaye, a member of a group called Friends of Lanai that opposes a wind farm plan by Castle & Cooke Inc., which owns most of the island. Kaye also said that there is a possibility that all 400 megawatts of energy production could end up on Lanai — not the 200 currently planned — if developers are not able to secure permission to use Molokai for a wind farm.

The First Wind plan has stalled because of the company's inability to obtain an agreement with land owner Molokai Ranch, said Paul Gaynor, First Wind chief executive officer.

Abercrombie said he hoped communities on various islands would consider the long-term benefits of an interisland wind project. It would be virtually impossible for Hawaii to hit its goal of generating 40 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 without some form of resource sharing, he said.  (Actually the embrace of Wind makes the Clean Energy goal impossible because as soon as the subsidies evaporate, the wind farms will be abandoned as they have been in all of the other subsidy-drive wind boom/bust cycles.)

"If you actually went to a percentage distribution of resources, the Big Island probably has the most of us all and Oahu probably has the least to provide," Abercrombie said in an interview after the Kahuku dedication ceremony.

"So if we all work together and take advantage of what resources exist on each island and see it in an integrated way, then all of us will benefit. I want to get away from the idea that each island is on its own, and that some islands could benefit because they have certain resources they can use and other islands are stuck," he said.

Members of the Kahuku Community Association said they decided to support the First Wind project in part because the company, along with HECO, sought the involvement of the community in the planning process….

"We were prepared for this and other communities need to do as much homework," Makaiau added.

Association board member Kent Fonoimoana said the board worked to educate members of the Kahuku Community about the pros and cons of the wind project.

"We'd like to issue a challenge to other communities — I would personally. I'd like to challenge some of these other communities that they consider this, too."

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Louie’s Record as Chair of Aloha Tower Development Corp should bar confirmation by Senate

Sen. Clayton Hee has scheduled a hearing on David Louie’s AG nomination on Tuesday at 9:30 am. 

Louie chaired the Aloha Tower Development Corp. when the (his) decision was made to go after Irwin Park to develop a parking garage for the Aloha Tower Marketplace.  This led to court action in 2000, where the environmental organizations and Irwin descendants clearly prevailed after great cost to themselves and the State.

Similar aggression on this historic site was revisited by the ATDC in 2009 when they proposed to “move” Irwin Park to build a parking garage and commercial building for the proposed rail station.

ATDC functions are now being transferred by the Legislature to a) the Hawaii Community Development Corp. (HCDA) – House version; or the Department of Transportation (DOT) – Senate version.  (LINK)

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Chang: Poker Casinos don’t go far enough

He added that the current bill is a good start, but it doesn't go far enough. It currently allows for online peer-to-peer poker and face-to-face poker, which wouldn't amount to much in tax revenue. The main benefit of the bill, as it stands now, is to provide the state with a marketing tool, Chang said.

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Tsunami justifies push for State Pension Reforms

The worst news for lawmakers here may be that Hawaii is out of step with most other states, where the focus has been on shrinking budgets, with only modest revenue boosts. Until the Japan tsunami put a dent in Hawaii’s tourism expectations from the Japanese market, the administration of Gov. Neil Abercrombie sought to restore some previous budget cuts, but there may be a course change in the coming weeks.

The state Council on Revenues, which sets the official projections for budget officials, is widely expected to revise its revenue projections further downward in a special meeting Tuesday. Last Thursday, the administration already assumed the worst, revising its own forecast of the biennial budget deficit at $1.3 billion, up by about a third.

Hawaii's actions so far sit on the less aggressive side of the spectrum, he said.

Marcus Oshiro, state House Finance chairman, said there seems to be some broad realization that pension reform here can’t be postponed any further.

“This year may be Hawaii’s year to make these significant changes going forward to our ERS (Employees’ Retirement System),” he said. “So we’re looking at extending the period of years to vest (from five to 10 years), changing the rate of contribution by the employee.

“We’re also looking at changing the period of time for average final compensation,” Oshiro added. “Right now it’s three years — they call it the ‘high three.’ It would go from three years to five years.”

Medicare Part B reimbursement would end for new hires, he said.

Overall, cost reduction for the next biennium is estimated at $75 million, with far greater savings going forward, Oshiro said.

Further, he said, retirement age may be pushed outward for future hires, mirroring what’s happened in many other states. If the changes go through, most of the job categories now allowing retirement at 55 would have to wait another five years, and those with retirement age set at 62 would stay on the job until 65.

“You know what I find encouraging?” he added. “I haven’t received much blowback from public-sector labor. Because, you know why? I think in their heart of hearts they realize we gotta make changes.”

“The tragedy in Japan has changed the financial landscape,” Ige said. “We anticipate that there will be a drop in revenues; we are focused on identifying more cuts.

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Hawaii may drain hurricane funds to pay for Abercrombie give aways

"It's dead. They're going to take as much money from it as possible," predicted Sen. Sam Slom, R-Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai. "We should be worried after the tsunami. We know a hurricane is going to hit us. It's just a question of when, not if."

Abercrombie, a Democrat, has acknowledged that he may have to spend the hurricane money, comparing the state's budget troubles to the kind of devastating storm the fund was created for.

"If this isn't a rainy day, I don't know what is. If this isn't a hurricane in the sense of a natural disaster, I don't know what is. That's what it's for," Abercrombie said March 14, three days after tsunami waves damaged Hawaii's shores.  (Yes, Neil YOU are a disaster.)

House Republicans want faster action, and they sent Abercrombie a letter this week urging him to follow in the steps of former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, when she suspended state travel, stopped nonessential government purchases and froze filling positions in 2009.

Legislative approval would be needed to scoop hurricane and rainy day fund money, but Abercrombie already has the authority to restrict spending and take money from some other special funds.

Last year, the Legislature appropriated and Abercrombie spent $67 million from the hurricane fund to pay for a deal ending 17 days of planned school closures, as well as $24 million in rainy day funds to support services for the needy.


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Cayetano, Dan Case back Abercrombie’s Judicial secrecy

The Star-Advertiser has filed an appeal over Abercrombie’s decision with the Office of Information Practices.

But some support the governor, including Hono­lulu attorney Daniel Case, retired Circuit Judge Eden Elizabeth Hifo and former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who, ironically, was the first to pierce the secrecy by releasing the names after he made his selection….

Cayetano, Abercrombie’s friend and supporter, told the Star-Advertiser in an email that he agrees with Abercrombie that the appointments are the governor’s choice.

The process of selecting judges was “not intended to be subject to popular opinion, which may provoke rumors and unsubstantiated allegations about the nominees,” he said.

He released the names “because although I agree that it may discourage some who were not selected, there were others who felt honored they made the final list,” Cayetano said.

Lingle’s approach “may have been the politically popular thing to do — but that is not the process set forth in the state Constitution,” he said.

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Ed Case to Decide About Hawaii Senate Bid Soon

Former Rep. Ed Case told supporters in an email late Saturday that he will decide by mid-April whether to go “all-in” and run for Hawaii’s open Senate seat.

Case, a Democrat, said he has been speaking with senior political leaders in the state and that he will hold meetings in D.C. in the coming week.

He added that a poll he’d commissioned showed he would prevail among contenders for the seat now held by retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D).

RELATED: Case: Poll shows I whip any Democrat in 2012 Senate Primary

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Only Four Legislators think Abercrombie’s pet Think Tank is worth $200

It started as a question of whether lawmakers could accept a free $200 dinner from the Hawaii Institute of Public Affairs. Star-Advertiser reporter Susan Essoyan reported that in past years, as many as 40 lawmakers attended the dinner, but only four came this year.

The organization, HIPA, is not in the public eye, but it drips with clout and supporters of Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Bill Kaneko, HIPA president, is the longtime chairman of Abercrombie's election committees and also headed up the group that picked Abercrombie's Cabinet….

"That is significant because you know legislators are going to do what they do, but if their staffs know what's the law, it will be different," Ihara said.

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SA: Tsunami justifies push to diversify Tourism Market

Hawaii's tourism industry took hits by the Kobe earthquake in 1995, the swine flu epidemic in 2009 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., but this month's disaster could surpass them after a blow that occurred during what continues to be recovery from a worldwide recession. Japanese visitors to Hawaii numbered 1.2 million last year, down by 1 million from 1996.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority expects April will be the peak of the shortfall. It plans to launch a marketing campaign in Japan after helping in the disaster recovery effort.

David Uchiyama, HTA vice president of brand management, told the Star-Advertiser's Allison Schaefers that it will concentrate on new business from North America, Oceania, Korea and China to offset the shortfall in Japan market.

A special marketing program will be aimed at secondary cities such as Portland, Ore., Dallas, San Diego, Sacramento and Phoenix, according to John Monahan, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau….

Europe could be a possible source of increased travel, to which eTurboNews publisher Jurgen T. Steinmetz of Haleiwa has accused HTA of paying too little attention….  Until direct flights between Europe and Hawaii are established, the disaster in Japan should not divert HTA from continuing to offer visibility, support and relief in those areas that have been the industry's bread and butter for decades.

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Democrat Operative pushes to revive Single Casino proposal

What I favor is a bill the Legislature recently considered that would allow for a single casino in Waikiki with a 10-year license to operate.

If passed, it would allow the opening of just one, stand-alone casino in Waikiki. No one hotel or hotel chain would have an advantage over its competitors.There is no provision for additional gambling facilities or locations for at least the 10-year period.

To assure that future legislatures do not get carried away with gambling and approve multiple casino licenses in Waikiki, I would encourage this year's Legislature to amend the current bill, locking in a higher tax rate for the state, and making it contractual with the single operator during the 10-year period.

The proposal also creates the criteria for the creation and operation of a state gaming commission, sets aside funding for a compulsive gamblers program, bans persons under the age of 21 from entering the casino and assures that the state receives guaranteed monthly income via a tax on gross receipts by the facility.

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Crime in Waikiki: Tourism Industry pushes back against Homelessness Industry

From his perch, Haverly watches the ugly part of Waikiki that the state hopes most residents and tourists will never see. Although cleanup efforts have much improved crime along the 2-mile by half-a-mile wide stretch, the cover of night still brings the prostitutes who sell their bodies and the pimps who force them to walk the track, Haverly said. Drunks stagger out of late-night clubs and druggies make deals behind hotel stairwells. There are bar brawls and street fights. Homeless people, panhandlers and thieves roam the tourist mecca.

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Hawaii medical (sic) marijuana dispensary bill amended—could open up in Waikiki

The only marijuana measure that appears to be still alive in the Hawaii Legislature would create a limited five-year pilot program for medical marijuana dispensaries.

The proposal would start the dispensary program in an unspecified county. A previous version would have put the program on Maui.

The bill is pending before the House Finance Committee.


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Alaska Airlines Begins Service to Lihue from Oakland and San Jose 1,000 new visitors every week

The San Jose flights will operate three times a week and Alaska Airlines’ Oakland-Lihue flights will operate four times weekly. The new services complement the airline’s existing Hawaii flights from San Jose and Oakland to Kahului on Maui and Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii….

Alaska Airlines operates its Hawaii flights with Boeing 737-800s accommodating 16 passengers in first class and 141 in the main cabin.

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AAPCHO Diabetes Program Begins in Vulnerable Marshall Islands

The Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations’ (AAPCHO) diabetes program to address diabetes among vulnerable populations is underway in three Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander (AA&NHOPI) communities. The program, which aims to reduce the secondary complications of diabetes among individuals living with the disease, is being conducted in the Republic of the Marshall Islands by Ebeye Community Health Center

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Gay opposition rises against Israel Apartheid Week

Butler, a fierce critic of Israel’s policies, signed a petition in support of Siege Busters and opposed the center’s cancelation of the IAW event. She noted in The Forward that in Israel, there were “modes of virulent homophobia among right-wing religious people” and “modes of living as queer” that take place “within Palestinian areas.”

What struck many LGBT observers – including Appelbaum – as bizarre was The Forward’s failure to mention that Butler had gone to great lengths to praise Hamas and Hezbollah as “progressive” and “leftist” forces. Butler has come under fire in Germany and in the United States for her defense of the two radical Islamic movements.

Last year, Jan Feddersen, a leading gay journalist with the liberal daily Tageszeitung, wrote in a commentary – with a sub-headline reading that Butler was “In bed with Hezbollah” – that she “favors, in a global perspective, alliances in which homosexuals cannot be interested. Hezbollah and Hamas, she recently decreed in a speech, should be positively rated from the leftist perspective [as] organizations that fight misery and poverty and oppose what she sees as the Zionist impertinence called Israel.”

While in Berlin last year, Butler helped promote an alternative Christopher Street Day gay parade in the Kreuzberg district, at which Israeli flags had previously been removed.

Lucas told the Post that “Butler’s comment is blatantly manipulative. She asserts that there are ‘ways of living as queer within Palestinian areas.’ Well, sure, there were also ‘ways of living as a Jew’ in Nazi-occupied territories.

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