HUD: Ernie Martin Should Have Caught ORI's Problems
City Council Chairman Ernie Martin tried to challenge the characterization of ORI's problems as a possible "misuse of funds" in a City Council hearing this week. But HUD's Gibson told Civil Beat that such a characterization is "fair."
For Martin, more may be at stake in the outcome of the ORI investigation. He served as acting director in the Community Services Department, which is responsible for oversight of CDBG grants, until he was elected to the City Council last November. Martin rose quickly to the council chairmanship, just seven months after winning one of the narrowest races in the 2010 election, and has hinted at higher political ambitions.
In an interview with Civil Beat in June, Martin said his former department "probably did not do the more deeper level of monitoring that HUD did, with regards to viewing participant files, checking programs and services," but said he wasn't certain.
In HUD's opinion, the city should have found and addressed the compliance issues that HUD raised before the federal government found them.
"In this particular project, there are issues that concern us, and part of those concerns need to be, to some degree, placed at the feet of the city," Gibson said. "It's their responsibility to check on these people to whom they assign the CDBG funds. With this project, failure or problems or potential misuse of funds, they should be watching it."
Related: Convicted Cocaine Dealer replaces Advertiser columnist as Ernie Martin’s Campaign Treasurer, Line up for a Mayoral Campaign? Ernie Martin, Ann Kobayashi, Milton Holt, One Ton of Cocaine, and Kamehameha Schools
read … HUD
Expiring government incentive programs have some worried the Solar boom won’t last
Tax advantages and falling prices for solar electric components are leading more and more Maui businesses and homeowners, and the county government, to build clean, electricity-producing photovoltaic systems. More and larger installations are cropping up all over.
Sunlight is reliable almost every day over large parts of the island, so businesses and homeowners have been taking advantage this past year or so of substantial state and federal tax credits or rebates to save money in the long term by establishing their own photovoltaic systems.
But there's a fear that at least one significant incentive, the federal commercial property PV 30 percent cash rebate for costs, will expire at the end of the year, and that may be driving most of this solar energy creation, said Mayor Alan Arakawa.
If Congress and the White House don't extend the program, which has been done in the past, one year at a time, some experts predict that PV's momentum on Maui will slow considerably.
read … Maui sees photovoltaic system surge
Abercrombie’s Medical Homes … or Medical Closets?
SA: What used to be a secondary health provider is quickly becoming the core of Hawaii's medical service to people of modest means. That would be the state's 14 community health centers which, as Star-Advertiser writer Kristen Consillio reported recently, have logged an increase in patients in recent years. Among the primary reasons: low reimbursements for Medicare and especially Medicaid clients, and the burden of complex paperwork involved in the claims process, has pushed more private doctors to curtail their roster of patients with health coverage through those programs…. (this is what Obamacare and the Abercrombie administration are driving you towards...and it is getting worse.)
… there's no escaping the reality that whatever reductions are enacted will affect access to care. Medicaid already has taken cuts to reimbursement rates, and Medicare — which has avoided most of the threatened reductions in the past through "doc-fix" legislation Congress passed — will be vulnerable this time around. Private doctors' reluctance to take patients in these programs will only intensify….
The Affordable Care Act passed last year will rely on community health centers to deal with the expansion of coverage for the lower-income groups through Medicaid. But they lack infrastructure. "Operating from cramped, overcrowded and aging facilities, health centers are bursting at the seams," according to the report. "In some centers staff are operating out of makeshift offices set up in spare closets."
Health centers are expected to be laboratories for the transition away from fee-for-service health-care systems and toward the "medical home" model where providers work as a team centered on the patient, sharing data and finding ways of avoiding duplicative and unnecessary tests and treatment. But they can't meet that challenge working out of closets and on a shoestring.
read … Community centers last line of defense
Now that Abercrombie has lost all his labor constituents, can he get some love from Business?
So it is something of a reversal to see The Maui News editorial page, always one of the state's most conservative, discover a new friend helping Hawaii: Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
"We have not always seen eye to eye with the governor, but the tone of his speech (to the Maui Chamber of Commerce) can be boiled down to one line in it: 'We are going to conduct the business of Hawaii government like a business'," the editorial of last Wednesday read.
When the paper endorsed former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona for governor last year, its editorial said: "We can't afford Neil Abercrombie's vision of government.
"The sheer scope and size of government that Abercrombie's 'A New Day in Hawaii' presents is scary," the paper said.
Abercrombie apparently is now in something of a Maui love fest, as the Valley Island's biggest paper said a capacity crowd "applauded loudly" as the liberal Democrat vowed, "This state is going to be fiscally stable, the state is ready to pay its bills."
If you can't cut taxes, the best way to win over a conservative is to cut government and Abercrombie's forced budget-cutting has made The Maui News his new BFF.
"Sacrifices were going to have to be made by all and state government was going to have to get by with less.
"He told the chamber audience that the traditionally huge largess Hawaii gets from the federal government would be much less in the future, that the 'gravy train is coming to a halt,'" the editorial said of Abercrombie's speech.
(The question is why anybody would be stupid enough to actually believe those words from an Abercrombie?)
read … Gov has chance
Dog Bites Man: Judge again sides with the Sierra Club against Koa Ridge
A state judge has ruled again in favor of the Sierra Club in its attempt to stop the 5,000-home Koa Ridge development.
Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto effectively upheld a ruling he made July 19, reversing the state's approval of the Castle & Cooke project between Mililani and Waipio.
Sakamoto's ruling, issued July 29, killed what appeared as a last-ditch effort by the state Land Use Commission to keep its approval for Koa Ridge in place.
Still, the judge's final decision might not be the last legal maneuver in the high-stakes case….
No surprise: Enviros win 90% in Hawaii Supreme Court
read … Stop on Koa Ridge plans upheld
Kauai seeks place to treat young addicts
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. recently selected a 5.7-acre parcel directly behind the former Immaculate Conception School in Lihue to construct an adolescent residential drug treatment facility.
The parcel, owned by Grove Farm, is on agricultural and open-zoned land. Plans are underway to hire a consultant to conduct an environmental assessment.
Kauai has been without a residential drug treatment facility since 1992, when Serenity House shut down following Hurricane Iniki.
In 2007, plans to construct a 16-bed adolescent drug treatment center in Hanapepe folded after the Office of the Hawaiian Affairs protested against the location, according to the Hawai’i Free Press. (Yes, they did write that in the Advertiser….) OHA said runoff from the facility would potentially harm ancient salt ponds in the area.
Experts say drug abuse is a growing problem, with more addicts turning to prescription drugs, which can be fatal. The number of adolescents entering the Kauai Juvenile Drug Court Program more than tripled within a four-year period ending in 2010.
Related: Office of Hawaiian Affairs Blocks Kauai Drug Treatment Facility, OHA Drug Policy: Treatment no, pushers yes
read ... Kauai seeks place
Only Two Legislators have $100K Campaign Cash
Civil Beat reported last week that several Hawaii lawmakers raised tens of thousands of dollars during the first six months of 2011.
At least two had more than $100,000 in cash on hand.
By contrast, according to new reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission, 10 legislators in the 76-member Hawaii Legislature raised no money during the same period.
They include several influential Democrats and a majority of Republicans in the state House and Senate.
And at least one lawmaker — Rep. Karen Awana — did not file a report on time, something she has been penalized for as recently as June.
… because of reapportionment, all 76 seats in the Hawaii Legislature are up next year.
read … Don't Show Me the Money
Meltdown of Aloun Farms Trial May Help Defendants In Global Horizons Case
Lawyers for the Sou brothers long suspected that prosecutors misstated the law in front of the grand jury. But unlike in state court, defendants in federal court are not guaranteed access to those transcripts.
"We filed a motion to have the grand jury transcripts released due to fact that we believed their may have been something there, but that motion was denied," said Thomas Otake, lawyer for Mike Sou.
The defense is only entitled to see portions of grand jury transcripts as they relate to witnesses called to testify at trial. Otake and his co-counsel finally got their hands on some of the grand jury transcript two weeks ago because the government had called to the stand Matee Chowsanitphon, the Thai recruiter turned government witness.
Otake says he thinks what happened in the Aloun Farms case will certainly help clear the way for Global Horizons' request.
"Based on what happened in court last week, and the fact that it's the same prosecutors from D.C. that initiated the Global Horizons case and did the Global Horizons grand jury, I suspect that the attorneys for Global Horizons may have a better shot at getting access to their grand jury transcripts ahead of trial," he said.
As explained: Human Trafficking: Did the US DoJ Purposefully lose the Aloun Farms Case?
read … Meltdown
Shapiro: New hope in teachers’ labor dispute, or just hype?
It could be naive, but I’m going to take the offer of the Hawaii State Teachers Association to enter into mediation with the state in their continuing contract dispute as a sign of progress and not more posturing.
(Binding arbitration would result in HSTA receiving a better contract than the one Abercrombie has imposed which would then trigger the "most favored nation" clause in the HGEA contract as explained here: Four of a Kind: UPW, UHPA get big Fat Pay Raise—and HSTA suit could give one to HGEA.)
Related: VIDEO: Abercrombie argues with retired teacher in Hilo
read … New hope
Families face bigger tuition hikes as costs for private schools rise
Tuition increases this academic year at Hawaii's largest private schools range from about $400 to upward of $900, which officials attribute to higher costs for everything from health care to utilities.
Schools have pledged to increase financial aid accordingly and are hopeful that families — despite continued economic hardships — will be able to dig deeper to help them out.
Over the past two school years, many larger private schools have tried to limit tuition increases to between $300 and $500. Some have even held tuition steady.
In better times, annual increases ranged from $1,000 to $1,500.
read … Tuition
Hawaii County Council Reapportionment Maps Available
Some of the County Council districts now serving Hilo are migrating southward toward Puna, according to proposed redistricting maps released last week.
The Redistricting Commission on Thursday is set to discuss these maps, which were created by commissioners and the county's Office of Elections.
LINK: Reapportionment Maps
read … Redistricting Commission set to meet
Answer sought on 'Kona' coffee
Hawaii farmer Paul Uster was on vacation in California when he saw a package of Kona coffee blend in a supermarket that he knew would upset fellow growers back home on Hawaii island.
The Safeway brand of Kona blend medium roast coffee didn't specify what percentage was made from the world-famous bean or whether it was grown in Hawaii — information a law in the Aloha State requires for labels on Hawaii-grown coffee. That law is meant to inform consumers but also protect the integrity of Hawaii's premier coffee.
"It degrades the reputation and the quality of Kona coffee. When consumers are not informed, it makes it harder for me to make a living," said Uster, who owns Mokulele Farms and is on the board of directors of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. "Kona and other Hawaiian coffees are a great treasure to the state."
Hawaii is the only place in the United States where coffee is grown. Beans grown in the Kau district of Hawaii County are also gaining popularity among discerning coffee aficionados.
Safeway's blend was priced at $8.99 a pound, Uster said, while eight ounces of pure Kona coffee can sell for $25.
read … 'Kona' coffee
Honolulu Police Declines to Name Promoted Officers — Then Names Them
It started with a "breaking news" item about Honolulu Police Department promotions on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's website.
What caught our attention was the final line: "HPD declined to release their names."
Link: Names of promoted HPD officers - Aug. 2011
read … Honolulu Police
Judiciary to Honor Richardson
A program paying tribute to the many accomplishments of the late Chief Justice William S. Richardson will be held on August 8, 2011, from 5:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., at Ali`iolani Hale, 417 S. King Street.
The program is entitled, “Ho`okupu Makou ia Richardson,” which means “We Pay Tribute to Richardson.” It is co-sponsored by the University of Hawaii (UH) William S. Richardson School of Law and the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center.
The speakers are Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald; Associate Justice Simeon R. Acoba, Jr.; UH Law School Dean Avi Soifer; UH Law School Professors Melody MacKenzie and Mari Matsuda; Ivan Lui-Kwan, a partner with Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher; and UH Law Review Editors Lynda Arakawa and Christopher Leong.
read … Aug. 8 Tribute to Chief Justice Richardson
Hawaii students line up for back to school blessing
With a new school year set to kick into high gear, students are hoping for a little help to get good grades. Children received a special Japanese blessing from a priest at the Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha on Sunday. They also had a chance to hopefully ring in a healthy and happy school year.
"We're opening up our shrine for people to come here and offer a venue for making offerings and praying for success. That's what we're doing," said Shinken Naito of the Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha.
read … back to school blessing
A Lost Child of Kalaupapa
One nonprofit organization, Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, in 2008 and with the help of Kalaupapa expert Skinsnes Law, started compiling a database with the names of all Kalaupapa patients, along with any information gathered from vital records. Known as the Kalaupapa Names Project, it seeks to “help families reconnect with their Kalaupapa roots,” according to the organization’s web site. But as Skinsnes Law notes, only records from before 1931 are in the public domain due to historical records laws.
As of now, the project in effect recognizes the Kalaupapa patients and family members who have already passed away. President Barack Obama in 2009 signed into law the Kalaupapa Memorial Act, which has permitted the organization to establish a memorial listing the names of everyone sent to the peninsula.
“I believe this effort by Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa is the first organized attempt to help individuals connect with family members, past and present,” wrote Skinsnes Law in an email.
Maldonado flips through newspaper clippings, her own hand-written poems, web page print-outs: notes and materials that attest to the hours she has devoted every day to seeking those answers. It’s drizzling, and her Kapolei townhouse is dim.
“There’s nothing that exists for us,” she said, her voice strained. “There’s no talk about the children. I wanted to know why no one found me.”
read … A Lost Child
Friends, family recall ‘fearless young man’ killed in Afghanistan
It came as no surprise to friends and coaches that Maui native Kraig Vickers had taken on a job that was dangerous and deadly.
The 36-year-old, who was a standout in football and wrestling at Maui High School, was among 30 Americans who died after a U.S. military helicopter was shot down Saturday by insurgents during fighting in eastern Afghanistan. Vickers, a 1992 Maui High School graduate, was a Navy explosive ordnance disposal specialist attached to a Navy SEAL team unit, family said.
SA: SEAL who grew up on Maui among those killed in crash
read … Friends, family recall ‘fearless young man’