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Thursday, June 23, 2011
June 23, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:21 PM :: 11659 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development

Broadband to be Trojan Horse for Big Wind Cable?

Life Without Subsidies: Vanpool Hawaii Announces New Group Rate

Stone: Abercrombie’s DHHL blows Makaha Learning Center Deal

A much hailed vision to develop affordable homes and a learning center in Makaha Valley has come to dead end.

Last April Developer Jeff Stone announced he was donating 300 acres of land to Kamehameha Schools and Hawaiian Homelands.

The plan was hailed as a public private partnership to help empower a community, allowing Kamehameha schools to use its resources to help Native Hawaiians.

In a letter to Kamehameha Schools, Stone wrote that he no longer felt the donation of 300 acres of prime land is justified.

He indicated that DHHL was not able to complete its due diligence to take title to the lands by June 30. Stone wrote that none of the numerous alternatives explored with Kamehameha schools to enable the vision to go forward, proved viable.

Kamehameha Schools issued a statement saying while it was prepared to close on the deal on June 30, Stone terminated the deal on June 13.

SA: Land grant taken back

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More Appointees Snub Hawaii Governor

Seven more appointees have said they're going to resist Gov. Neil Abercrombie's request that they step down, bringing the total ready to oppose him to 11.

Last week, Abercrombie wrote courtesy resignation requests to 28 members of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, the Public Utilities Commission, the Land Use Commission, the Public Housing Authority and the Stadium Authority.

Each had been appointed by the Democrat's Republican predecessor, Linda Lingle, and approved unanimously by state Senate Democrats.

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Travis Thompson: “I will not be resigning”

Your letter of June 15, requesting my resignation as a member of the Board of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, has been carefully considered.

As a member of the Board, I have been reviewed and subsequently confirmed three times by the Senate of the Hawaii State Legislature, for a specific term of office. In the most recent confirmation hearing, my appointment was approved to serve a term ending June 30, 2012. I feel honor bound to fulfill the commitment I made to the Legislature, and the previous Governor. Therefore, I will not be resigning.

The public members of the Board of Hawaii Public Housing Authority were appointed to serve staggered terms of office. It was the intent of the Legislature to ensure that there would be continuity in the policy direction and leadership of the State’s public housing. I personally experienced the challenge of having an entirely new Board of Directors, when the Board of the former Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii resigned en masse in late 2002. It took months for the new Board to form together in an effective leadership role.

As of July 1, 2011, you will have appointed at least seven of the eleven Board positions. With a quorum requirement of six, the new directors can potentially vote in the majority to implement the new directions that you seek. It is my belief that your recent appointees will benefit from the knowledge and experience of the carry-over directors. I personally will continue to support any and all improvements in providing safe, sanitary housing for the current and future clients of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.

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Stadium authority chief says he, others won't quit

"I'm staying (and) I think the majority of the board is staying," Kevin Chong Kee said in an interview Wednesday.

Chong Kee said that by his count, "it could be seven of the nine" choosing to stay on….

Authority member Marcia Klompus said she has chosen to remain and that if six or seven more plan to stay on, she would not be surprised.

"This is a very committed group," she said.

Chong Kee, whose term will expire in December, said, "I have some things to finish off before it is time to leave."

Among them, Chong Kee said, is awarding a new food and beverage contract, which expires Jan. 4. The contract has been worth an average of nearly $1.5 million per year over the past three years. A new contract needs to be in place before the Jan. 29 Pro Bowl, he said.

Klompus, whose term expires June 2013, said she sent the governor a letter Monday. "I committed to four years and I'm very proud of what this board has done," she said. "There are still many things we want to accomplish."

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Aloha Stadium not mentioned in New Day Plan

Land, natural resources, energy, housing and the environment are discussed extensively, if sometimes vaguely, in Abercrombie's New Day plan.

As Civil Beat has reported, the 43-page plan and subsequent 12-page Recovery and Reinvestment plan offer few concrete details and little explanation on how to pay for it all.

As Stadium Authority member Kenneth Marcus told Civil Beat this week after receiving his letter from the governor, "I read the New Day over, and there is nothing in there about the Stadium. So, I can't tell you what it is I am not doing."

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Council to Override, Reorganize for control of Rail Pork

At his press conference announcing the City Council shake-up, Chair Nestor Garcia said the resolution formalizing the new leadership could be heard in July.

But the special meeting called for Monday to override Mayor Peter Carlisle's vetoes will allow the council to take the matter up sooner.

Resolution 11-178 [pdf], which was introduced by Garcia and would make Ernie Martin chair, Ikaika Anderson vice chair and Romy Cachola floor leader, is on the full council agenda for 10 a.m. Monday. It could be adopted at that time.

The City Council is wasting no time in responding Mayor Peter Carlisle's vetoes. Council members will gather for a special meeting on Monday to discuss overriding them.

SA: Don't dilute HART's authority

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State departments told to select programs for elimination

In a June 16 memo, Abercrombie said he wants to avoid across-the-board cuts and instead eliminate entire programs, with additional savings to come from benefit cuts or more restrictive eligibility requirements in state services.

Departments are being asked to present proposals for cuts equal to 5% of their general fund appropriations. The University of Hawaii and the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation are being asked for contingency plans for cuts of $10 million to $20 million.

Departments are directed to submit their proposed budget cuts to the Department of Budget and Finance by July 8….

Abercrombie’s memo includes 14 criteria to be used in determining whether programs can be eliminated. At the top of the list of criteria:

  • A. Program is not a required government function.
  • B. Program is not a New Day Plan priority.
  • C. Program may be privatized or accomplished by the private sector.
  • D. Another level of government (federal or county) has primary authority and/or responsibility for the program.
  • E. Requirements and/or objectives behind original establishment of program have been eliminated or significantly reduced but program and/or service continues.
  • F. Program serves more as another layer of oversight than direct service delivery or critical service support.
  • G. Program has limited impact and/or serves a largely advisory function.

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State Signs New Three-Year Arizona Prison Deal

The state has signed a new, three-year contract with Corrections Corporation of America to house up to 1,900 prison inmates at private prisons in Arizona.

The price carries a one per cent increase over the current contract with CCA, which expires at the end of the month. The Department of Public Safety will pay CCA $63.85 per inmate per day. The old rate was $63.22….

The new deal, which carries two possible one-year contract extensions, was signed as Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration is making plans to end the longstanding policy of imprisoning Hawaii inmates in out-of-state facilities….

The Hawaii State Auditor said in a report issued late last year the total cost of the private prison program more than tripled since 2001, from just under $20 million to more than $60 million.

The per-day charges under the new contract would total some $44.3 million, although there are millions the state must pay in associated costs which the contract with CCA doesn’t cover.

The actual number of Hawaii inmates now held at CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona is now believed to have dropped under 1,800

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To count or not to count military as Hawaii residents

Shapiro continue to push to exclude military personnel from reapportionment and to claim that the don’t vote.  But nobody wants to exclude students, prisoners, or lunatics.

CB: Counting Residents Begs the Question: Who's Local?  (Simple solution.  Count them all.)

Next meeting Tuesday 6-28-11 [pdf].


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Hawaii County Attorney: Count Pot heads, don’t count military, students

Military personnel and visiting students shouldn't be counted in establishing new County Council districts because they aren't permanent Big Island residents. (But 4000 medicated marijuana patients will count.)

That's the determination of the county attorney advising the all-volunteer Redistricting Commission responsible for dividing the island's population evenly into nine council districts.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Udovic filed his opinion Wednesday afternoon with the commission, which is scheduled to consider his definition of "resident population" during its 1:30 p.m. meeting today in Hilo.

(This helps Kona at the expense of Hilo and Puna.)

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Hirono, Hanabusa back Afghan Withdrawal timed for 2012 Elections

"I strongly support President Obama’s decision to bring 10,000 of our brave men and women in uniform home from Afghanistan and 33,000 by the end of 2012. The president has successfully dealt with Osama bin Laden, and this is the right time to focus on responsibly winding down our mission in Afghanistan," U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono said.

"I have always supported a safe and well-planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, so I am pleased that President Obama will begin bringing home a substantial number of our brave men and women in uniform. It has been almost 10 years since Operation Enduring Freedom began, and with the death of Osama bin Laden, we must now reevaluate our military strategy while remaining a ready and vigilant force. The security and safety of our nation and citizens have always been our top priority and at this time, we cannot continue to risk more American lives and resources in Afghanistan," U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said.

SA: Isle residents split over strategy to pull soldiers from Afghanistan

HNN: Top US military officer says Obama plan risky

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Impasse: HGEA Unit 9 Nurses Go to Arbitration

The Hawaii Government Employees Association, which represents state employees, settled its contract negotiations with the state earlier this year with all but one of its units – public nurses. Wednesday night, the HGEA told its members that it will proceed to arbitration:

“On June 20, the Unit 9 negotiating team met to discuss the status of negotiations with the state. Because Governor Abercrombie has not moved from his position of a 5 percent wage cut and six hours of supplemental time off per month, and because they wanted to address concerns of fellow Unit 9 members, the team decided to proceed to arbitration.”

An email to members also said: “HGEA notified the Hawaii Labor Relations Board that an impasse in negotiations exists, which begins the timetable to arbitration. A hearing will be convened upon the selection and availability of an arbitration panel, possibly in September or October. HGEA is open to continue negotiations with the employer until the end of the arbitration hearing.”

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UH coaches not obligated, but will consider pay cuts

The reductions would begin July 1, 2011, and run through June 30, 2013, Donovan said.

Approximately 40 percent of coaches participated in one of the voluntary reduction plans that began Sept. 1, 2009, and will run through June 30, 2011, saving the department approximately $250,000. The athletic department has finished in the black just once in the previous nine years.

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Honolulu Most Expensive Homes in Nation

The capital of Hawaii boasts the nation's most expensive median home price. MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $579,300.

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Feds fork out $1B to Jobless Homeowners

For those who qualify and act quickly, the state's new law ensuring more fairness in foreclosure isn't the only hope. They could get federal dollars to ward off the crisis altogether.

Congress put $1 billion in an Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program providing interest-free loans to those whose unemployment or underemployment may push them into foreclosure.

Deadline to apply is July 22. Since navigating Uncle Sam's maze can be confusing, better start now: www.FindEHLP.org, or toll free, 855-346-3345.

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Molokai Anti-Wind group launches Website

Let our voices be heard. Go to www.IAlohaMolokai.com for more information about the undersea cable bill, SB367, the industrial windmill factory, and the contact information for our senator and representative.

Also: Mafia First Wind celebrates Five Years on Maui

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HELCO seeks developer, landowner input on geothermal

Executives at Hawaii Electric Light Co., the utility on the Big Island, have issued a request for information, or RFI, seeking input from potential geothermal developers and landowners on development strategies.

The RFI could attract a lot of attention, with two new local companies — Innovations Development Group and Moku Power — expressing interest in developing the resource, as are Mainland geothermal companies

In addition to the Big Island, companies including Ormat Technologies are exploring the development of geothermal energy on Maui.

Representatives from Ormat have been holding meetings with the community on Maui and are working on permits for exploratory drilling on the Ulupalakua Ranch

News Release: LINK

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Honolulu Weekly backs Luddites vs Kauai Hydro

Hindu Monks Oppose: Not everyone is convinced. “All we have to go on is what’s in their applications,” said Rev. Easan Katir, a monk at Kauai’s Hindu monastery. The monks, who normally eschew political activism, are vigorously opposing the utility’s proposed hydro projects on the Wailua River, which runs through the monastery’s grounds and feeds the East Kauai Water Users Cooperative they helped to form.

(by anti-Superferry protester Joan Conrow, natch….)

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Don’t count on feds as fund source — Ariyoshi

Local governments should be wary of depending too much on federal dollars to pay for community services, former Gov. George Ariyoshi warned Wednesday….  "Federal funds are nice to look at, but remember, they don't last forever," he told about 120 people gathered for the morning session of the two-day annual meeting of the Hawaii State Association of Counties at the Grand Wailea.

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Young Bros. seeks 24% rate increase

The average 24 percent rate increase request came as a result of continued declining cargo volumes, compounded by the economy and a Public Utilities Commission decision to allow competitor Pasha Hawaii to start some intraisland shipping, Young Bros. officials said.

The PUC Tuesday announced it was finally ready for public meetings and its consideration of the Young Bros. request.

Young Bros. Vice President for Strategic Planning and Government Affairs Roy Catalani said the company had to file a rate increase application three times, in December, February and May, before the PUC would begin its investigation.

The company's last general rate increase approval was in August 2009, when the PUC granted permission for a 13.46 percent hike. Young Bros. had requested a 17.91 percent increase.

Dates for the public meetings have not been set.

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Vanpoolers staying with service after losing federal funds

The program is losing $3.7 million in federal funds beginning July 1, but higher rates for participants do not take effect until Aug. 1.

Officials with VSPI Inc., which owns Vanpool Hawaii, will meet with state transportation officials July 6 to discuss plans to once again secure federal subsidies.

The monthly flat Vanpool rate will jump to $985 for a vanload, more than double the current $455. This means individuals paying the lowest fee of $65 a month could face increases of $141 or $164 a month, depending on the size of the passenger load.

Vanpoolers are mixed in their reactions on whether to stick with the program.

Charlotte Lenseigne, 62, of Aiea, who works at Tripler Army Medical Center, said she is sticking with the program. "Where can you go for that price, drive all month and have all your maintenance, safety sticker, registration, insurance and not have to pay for it? We looked at the big picture of it. Everybody says we're going to stick with it."

RELATED: Life Without Subsidies: Vanpool Hawaii Announces New Group Rate

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Rural MD Residency program at risk

The program's current woes, at least in part, come as a result of the state Legislature's failure to allocate funds for it by the end of the session on May 5, hospital administrators say. In the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, HMC anticipates the program's expenses will top $1.2 million, leaving it with a shortfall of more than half a million dollars.

In the following year, administrators expect an even larger deficit of almost $870,000. They had requested $200,000 from the state for the coming fiscal year, and $600,000 for fiscal year 2012-13.

Calling the program "critical to East Hawaii," Hilo Medical Center CEO Howard Ainsley said recently that HMC is exploring finding funds through private grants, grants from the Department of Health and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, as well as grants through the hospital's own Hilo Medical Center Foundation. Additionally, administrators are investigating the possibility of obtaining Federally Qualified Health Center or Rural Health Care Clinic status as a way of increasing reimbursements.

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Governor signs bill making dog fighting a felony

Gov. Neil Abercrombie is taking a bite out of the crime of dog fighting.

He signed a bill Tuesday making it a crime to attend or bet on a dog fight and raised penalty for anyone who owns, trains, equips, arranges, and sponsors dog fights.

The Hawaiian Humane Society says it has three open investigations of potential dog fighting in Waianae, Honolulu and North Shore.

In approving the anti-dog fighting legislation the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee reported that Hawaii had "the weakest" dogfighting laws in the country because there is no penalty "for attending or waging on an organized dogfight."

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SCOTUS class action ruling makes Trial Lawyers Sad

Attorney Eric Seitz, who has filed many class action lawsuits here, said the Walmart ruling created a much stricter standard for who can file a class action lawsuit.

"Every single case where people are seeking back pay or something by way of monetary relief where there may be differences in the amount that people are entitled to is now going to be precluded," Seitz said.

Several of the lawsuits that had a profound impact on Hawaii's history were on behalf of disabled children, prisoners and mental patients. But Seitz said because those lawsuits basically ordered the state to follow the law, and didn’t involve monetary damages, they would not be affected by the Walmart ruling.

In Hawaii, class-actions have been used against hotels over billing practices, against a rock group for a canceled concert, by substitute teachers over back pay and by Native Hawaiians denied access to homeland leases. Seitz said in cases like, over various amounts of money damages, courts may begin forcing more people to sue as individuals, which may discourage people from going to court at all.

"They are going to have to pay the expenses, their attorneys are going to have to stick their necks out and bear the costs, bear those fees, and take on enormous risk," Seitz said.

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University of Hawaii Cancer Center receives $3.6M donation to study mesothelioma  (Trial Lawyers Rejoice!)

The funds will help the center's director, Dr. Michele Carbone, research whether there are locations in the United States exposed to a fiber called erionite that is more potent than asbestos in causing mesothelioma, a cancer of the cells that line the chest and abdominal cavities.  (Who says UH Cancer research isn’t creating spinoffs.  This info could be VERY valuable to trial lawyers!)

According to the American Cancer Society, mesothelioma is fairly rare. There are about 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year in the United States. The average five-year survival rate is 5 to 10 percent.

For the past 15 years, Carbone has been studying a region of Turkey where nearly 50 percent of its residents die of mesothelioma. His team's findings determined the epidemic is caused by exposure to erionite, a naturally occurring mineral in rocks used to build homes there.   The area accounts for about a quarter of the 40 to 60 new cases of mesothelioma in Turkey every year. (But tort laws in Turkey just aren’t as lucrative….)

The gift will help study other parts of the United States such as North Dakota, where the erionite is in rocks used to pave roads in the rural, western part of the state.  (Mmmmmm…money!)

He hinted at scientific breakthroughs the center is capable of: The center is on the verge of announcing a discovery of how to identify those exposed to carcinogenic fibers who are at higher risks for developing the cancer, Carbone said. Only a tiny fraction of those exposed get cancer.  (This could dramatically expand the poll of potential litigants!)

The Problem: North Dakota's erionite is much like the erionite found in the Turkish villages, and "environmental exposures" likely are occurring, but tragically no one has found clusters of disease….

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Hilo Dopers make deals with Feds, Christie digs in 

With a new attorney and a delayed trial date, Hilo’s marijuana minister plans to challenge the basis of the government’s case by calling into question the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) current, allegedly disingenuous, classification of marijuana. Facing anywhere from five to 40 years in federal prison for crimes relating to the distribution of marijuana, Rev. Roger Christie, founder of The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry, appears to be digging in his heels, even as his co-defendants (“the Green 13”) are making deals with the government….

Henry told a judge before he was sentenced Wednesday that he is being persecuted for his religious beliefs. He told jurors at his trial that he is an ordained minister and member of the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry, which says it celebrates the use of cannabis as a religious sacrament.

AFP: Congressmen to introduce bill to legalize marijuana  (The only true legalization—federal.)

AP: PA Marijuana Minister gets 6 years

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