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Sunday, July 10, 2011
July 10, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:19 PM :: 11211 Views

Featured on Glen Beck: Wallbuilders’ David Barton to speak at Hilo, Maui, Oahu events

Update: Elwin Ahu decides not to run for US Senate

Fear of Lingle: Inouye’s Borreca demands Akaka Quit Senate Now

(Column by Richard Borreca, who writes stuff like this only when approved by the office of Dan Inouye.)

It was Hawaii's akamai and powerful senior U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye who first publicly questioned whether U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka was raising enough money to fund a realistic re-election campaign….

from Washington there are new concerns about Akaka's performance and even his ability to function at the age of 86….

the Inouye concern about successfully filling the Hawaii Senate seat with a Democrat is taking on national political importance.

At this time, there are 33 Senate seats up next year. Analysts say if Democrats lose just four of those races, they will lose control of the Senate….

Political prognosticators say Hawaii will remain Democratic, but right now there is a whispered uncertainty about Hawaii Democrats being able to deliver the goods.

"With the president coming from Hawaii and the third most powerful person in Washington being Sen. Inouye, we don't want to screw this up," said a Democratic strategist.

So the speculation continues that Akaka might be convinced to retire now, allowing Gov. Neil Abercrombie to appoint a strong, viable Democratic successor able to beat the presumable GOP opponent, former Gov. Linda Lingle….

…under discussion is Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, who on the record won't comment on the Senate race.

TOTALLY RELATED: After being outed by Hawai’i Free Press, Elwin Ahu decides not to run for US Senate

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Cataluna: Abercrombie's attitude goes from mellow to mean

There was a time not long ago when the idea of ruthless, spiteful Mufi Hannemann running the state seemed scary and Neil Abercrombie, neatly combed and acting avuncular, appeared the more reasonable choice.

Whoa, what happened? Neil Abercrombie has become the Bad Mufi folks were worried about, while Real Mufi has found himself a high-profile executive job and is, almost as if by fate or divine intervention, in position for a serious shot at Congress. Hannemann is the one smiling like the happy uncle, sitting back and offering sage and measured observations while Abercrombie is making lists of enemies, and lots of voters are feeling like they're on that list.

We all knew that Neil Abercrombie was a hothead, the kind of guy whose usual shtick is rich with bombast, hyperbole and overheated indignation. When he was 5,000 miles away it wasn't so loud. Somehow, during his campaign for governor, he managed to convince an overwhelming number of Hawaii Democratic voters that he had somehow mellowed.  (SOMEHOW???  YOU MEDIA TYPES ARE THE ONES WHO SOLD ABERCROMBIE’S FAKE NEW IMAGE.) In comparison with the Hannemann "If-you-aren't-with-me-you-are-against-me-and-you-must-be-punished" campaign, Abercrombie almost seemed like a sweet grandpa. We forgot that sometimes this grandpa can go off, and unlike Hannemann, he does his own dirty work. Bad Mufi had his XXL red-shirted supporters shouting down the opposition at debates. Bad Neil shouted down a nurse on Maui. Bad Mufi had his minions write angry response letters to every word of public criticism. Bad Neil barks, "I'm not your friend!"

…Abercrombie has shed the "good listener uncle" he was portraying during the campaign and has become the "because I said so" angry czar who people are beginning to resent….a leader needs to lift up people during the hard times, not just scream at them to suck it up and not talk back.

Jones: Abercrombie’s Arrogant Attitude

Boylan: Neil’s been ranting for more than 40 years

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HSTA Contract Conflict could Cost State $75M Race To The Top money

Continuing turmoil surrounding a new contract for public school teachers could delay key Race to the Top education reforms that require union approval, including several the state pledged to launch in the approaching school year, observers say.

Lawmakers, education analysts and others said strained relations between the state and Hawaii State Teachers Association will almost certainly make for harder discussions about such issues as revamped teacher evaluations, the tenure system and incentive pay.

They also point out those matters, in the short term, are unlikely to be tackled until the overall teachers contract is resolved.

Whether the wrangling could jeopardize the state's $75 million federal Race to the Top grant Hawaii received last August after pledging to make ambitious improvements of its public education system isn't clear.

But several onlookers agreed the contract dispute -- and the absence of negotiations for now -- highlight just how tough making important portions of the state's Race reforms will be.

"The reality is it takes a lot of agreement among a lot of people to actually make reforms happen," said Christine Sorenson, dean of the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Education. "It's a shared responsibility and there are implications if you don't. You could lose the money."  ….

(Meanwhile Abercrombie seems to be hallucinating, burbling campaign platitudes…)

"Everything is going now. That's the most important thing. We're on our way to Race to the Top. (As shown by what part of your imposed contract, Neil???) We've ended the furlough.” (A bald-faced lie.  Abercrombie’s imposed contract has 7.5 furlough days for 10 month teachers and 9 furlough days for year-round teachers.)

As explained: Abercrombie’s HSTA contract says nothing about 180-day law, RTTT

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HSTA Contract: Legislators consider Special Session while Abercrombie paddles away in Canoe

"We're with the teachers we're with the students, with the families, implementing the contract to get the school year underway," said Governor Abercrombie….

"We feel this is a violation of our constitutional rights as teachers," said Wil Okabe, HSTA president. Terms of the contract amount to a 5-percent overall paycut, furloughs on non-instructional days and increased health insurance costs.

The governor had this to say in response. "Everybody has to share, everybody has to put their paddle in the water and pull, that's what every body's doing," said Abercrombie….

Education leaders hope the conflict gets resolved between all parties, and doesn't require action from the legislature.

"If it does require additional funding, potentially the governor could call us back into session or somehow we'd have to act on it very quickly the next session starting in January," said Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, an education committee member.

An HSTA spokesperson said today that the union hopes this won't come down to a strike vote and is hoping instead that the governor will come to the bargaining table.

But the governor says negotiations are over.

"All the negotiations were completed, we're moving on with the school year now, I’m sure both the teachers, parents and everyone would like to see us get on with it," said Abercrombie.

(Abercrombie is paddling on the Niagara River and that roar is not the sound of his cheering fans.)

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HSTA demands HLRB invalidate State Budget, Claims budget must be negotiated with Unions

In a complaint filed Friday with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, the teachers union alleges that Abercrombie proposed and state lawmakers accepted a statewide governmental policy that reduced the salaries of all public workers by 5 percent and established the equal split on health-care premiums.

"We're bargaining, but now you set an amount, so you're already saying that's the offer," Wil Okabe, the president of the teachers union, said of the state budget.

The state Supreme Court has ruled that lawmakers have broad discretion to set the parameters of collective bargaining, but cannot intrude on the right of public workers to negotiate core subjects such as wages protected by the state Constitution.

The teachers union has asked the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to invalidate any statute or legislation that undermines collective bargaining rights, which, if the board agrees, could have ramifications for the budget.

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UPW strike could ruin APEC 

A much bigger problem is negotiating with United Pubic Workers, which provides staff in school kitchens, maintenance and custodial services. Bluffing the UPW will be much tougher, because when the UPW goes out, it affects the airport, office buildings and can turn Oahu into one big rubbish dump in a week.

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Hawaii Bottle Tax may increase

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii's recycling incentive program that pays consumers a nickel for each drink container redeemed has begun losing millions of dollars every year, likely leading to an increase in government-imposed costs of every can, plastic drink container and beer bottle sold in the state, The Associated Press has learned.

The program's expenses surpassed its revenues in both the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, according to government documents obtained by AP through an open records request.

As a result, the state may raise the fee it charges to run the program from 1 cent to 1.5 cents for each of the 900 million recyclable drink containers sold each year. That means every can or bottle of beer, cola, juice or water would carry a 6.5 cent total fee, which includes the 5 cents that can be refunded for recycled containers.

So recycling fees on a 24-can case of Pepsi or Coke, for example, would add up to $1.56 instead of the $1.44 currently charged. The few extra cents would result in millions for the state.

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PUC grants request in review of HECO plan to charge customers for study

Peter Rosegg, spokesman for HECO, said that the order was "very narrowly drawn" to deal only with the issue of who pays for the preliminary Big Wind study.

He said this PUC docket will not result in any determination about going ahead with Big Wind's future. That decision is probably two years away, following further studies and an environmental impact statement, those involved said.  (In two years, the subsidies will be pau and so will the developers.)

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Number of Native Hawaiian UH Students Doubles in 4 years 

In 2007, with the support of Kamehameha Schools and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in the amount of $500,000 each pledged over five years, the University of Hawaii Community Colleges joined the national community college program "Achieving the Dream," focusing on student success for those populations that have been underserved in higher education. Our targeted population was, of course, Native Hawaiian students.

Four years later, the number of Native Hawaiian students in the UH system has doubled, from 4,600 to 9,200, now more than 27 percent of the student body of Hawaii's community colleges.

This past year the number of Native Hawaiian students graduating from a community college jumped 35 percent and the number of students transferring on to baccalaureate programs within the University increased 32 percent.

What did we do to achieve these results? Funding from OHA and Kamehameha enabled us to, among other activities, increase financial assistance to students so that cost would not be a barrier to higher education. Through concerted efforts to reach out, contact and assist students and their families in applying for scholarships and other forms of financial support, we have significantly increased the awarding of federal financial aid to students. In addition, the community colleges quadrupled their own tuition assistance.

The net result is that financial aid to Native Hawaiian students increased from $4.5 million to $15.4 million in just three years.

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Abercrombie grows Herb at Governor’s Mansion

Abercrombie does not have a home office; his Capitol office is a short walk away. First lady Nancie Caraway, a political scientist, women's activist and authority on human trafficking, has a small home office with a desk, computer and printer….

"They've also set up an herb garden on the property grounds," Dela Cruz said.

Abercrombie, seated in his state Capitol office cheerfully decorated with books, jazz music and artworks (he's particularly proud of a Jean Charlot print discovered in an abandoned airport cubicle [stolen from the Federal Government]).

Here’s what Nancie works on in her office:  The Segregated Sisterhood of Neil Abercrombie and Nancie Caraway

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Will Abercrombie Cronies cost the State its Federal Historic Preservation Money? 

THE DIVISION has fallen behind and now it has run up against a hard deadline to get its work backlog under control. The National Park Service, a federal office that oversees historic-preservation grants in 50 states and eight U.S. territories, has threatened to yank up to $550,000 in federal funds that Hawaii currently receives unless the state division meets certain benchmarks.

The fear of losing a larger sum partially explains why DLNR gave a grant topping $186,000 to Solutions Pacific LLC, a private consulting firm tasked to help fulfill a two-year schedule of corrective actions it was first issued in March 2010….

Critics charged that it was unnecessary: The feds had already spelled out what needed to happen. But DLNR Deputy Director Guy Kaulukukui defended the move. Even with the funds to hire in hand, he said, meeting the federal deadline looked increasingly unlikely, and meeting it was what counts.

RAY SOON, the Solutions Pacific head, is a former state official and a supporter of Gov. Neil Abercrombie; he's listed as an officer in the administration's transition nonprofit, New Day Hawaii. Some eyebrows were raised over that, and over his addition of a subcontractor, former SHPD chief Don Hibbard, who left the division in 2002 under the critical glare of a state audit.

SA: State preservation office under gun to get these done

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Maui Bus Shelters $150K each

One local example is the proposal to build five sheltered bus stops at a cost of $150,000 each. In other jurisdictions, the cost of an ADA-compliant bus stop with concrete pad, curb, shelter, trash receptacle, bike rack and benches is about 10 percent of the proposed cost, or $15,000.

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Molokai veterans center suit may proceed

At the same time, Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans Commander Larry Helm, a plaintiff in the case, said his group finally received its building permit for the planned veterans center, after nearly six years of wrangling with county officials.

Halevi said the ruling showed that the judges understand what's really at stake in the lawsuit, allowing the veterans to move forward and make changes to the details and heart of the case, because they see its merits. She said the suit was not only about violations of the Molokai residents' constitutional rights but also about actions taken by government officials that hurt veterans who had already sacrificed so much for their community.

The case started over a struggle between the veterans group and county officials over their plan to build a veterans center in Kaunakakai. At the time, the county would not issue the building permit, because the water and fire departments did not agree on whether there was enough water capacity to meet fire-safety requirements.

The lawsuit alleges that former Mayor Charmaine Tavares threatened Helm during at least one late-night phone call, allegedly telling him to back off or he'd never get the permit.

The plaintiffs also claim that other members of the administration tried to mislead the media into thinking that the building permit issue had been resolved so reporters wouldn't cover a protest by the veterans at the county building last year.

The lawsuit originally sought an injunction ordering the county to issue the building permit. But now that the veterans have their permit, the case has essentially changed into a personal-injury lawsuit, Lovell said.

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Plan to transport raw sewage draws criticism

Windward lawmakers say they are dismayed by the city's plans to truck raw sewage sludge from the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant to other facilities, including a waste-water treatment plant in Kailua that is next to an elementary school, as early as the end of the month.

State Sen. Pohai Ryan and Rep. Chris Lee joined City Council Vice Chairman Ikaika Anderson at Aikahi Elementary School Saturday to voice their displeasure on a decision about which they and their constituents were not adequately informed.

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$5,000 cap should boost small claims court's load

QUESTION: The governor recently signed a bill into law that increases the maximum monetary claim that may be filed in small claims court to $5,000 from $3,500. What impact will this have on small claims filings?

ANSWER: Now that cases with a monetary amount up to $5,000 can be filed in small claims court (rather than in regular District Court), we should see an increase of cases in small claims court and an equivalent decrease in regular claims court.

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Hui revives plan to get electricity from water

The main attraction of OTEC, which stands for "ocean thermal energy conversion," is that the process can provide firm power using an inexhaustible resource: ocean water. The biggest downside is its high capital cost. OTEC becomes economically viable, its proponents say, only when done on a large scale on a floating platform anchored offshore.

Rising energy prices have spurred interest in a variety of alternative energy sources in recent years. Solar and wind power have grabbed the lion's share of attention, with OTEC being viewed as more of a novelty.

Several of the players involved in the 1979 OTEC project, bolstered by new federal funding, have refined the original technology and are pushing ahead with plans to build what would be the world's first commercial-scale OTEC plant off the coast of Oahu.

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Memorial service honors veteran and Navy League organizer Harold Estes

Harold Estes died on May 17th at the age of 96.

"Millions of people visit Pearl Harbor every year .. thanks to Harold Estes," said Sandy Gaston, a good friend of Estes.

"The U.S.S Bowfin which celebrated her 30th birthday as a museum last April rests proudly at her berth today because of the vision, inspiration, leadership and dogged determination of Harold Estes and the many donors and volunteers he charmed into offering their help. Likewise the U.S.S. Missouri. If it weren't for Harold reaching out to Ed Carter and Admiral Ron Hayes, Mighty Mo very likely wouldn't be here today," said Gaston.

And it is on the Mighty Mo where those closest to him bid a final farewell.

RELATED: Hawaii WW2 vet to Obama: “Shape up and start acting like an American”

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