Measures would enable MMMC to call the shots
HONOLULU - The Legislature is on the verge of carving Maui Memorial Medical Center out of the state Hawaii Health Systems Corp. (And the same legislators--backed by MMMC's bondholders--who blocked Malulani are leading the charge to privatize MMMC. Conflict of interest anyone?)
Maui lawmakers introduced the carve-out legislation, led by Sens. Roz Baker, D-West Maui-South Maui, and Shan Tsutsui, D-Kahakuloa-Wailuku-Waikapu-Kahului-lower Paia, and Rep. Joe Souki, D-Kahakuloa-Wailuku-Waikapu. Senate Bill 44 would pull the cash-strapped Maui hospital out of the public Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which oversees 13 hospitals across the state and has its own set of financial woes.
A second measure, Senate Bill 1673, would place Maui Memorial Medical Center administration under the watch of the state Department of Health, which it left in 1996 for HHSC, said Rep. Angus McKelvey, D-West Maui-north Kihei. That latter bill would dissolve Hawaii Health Systems and cause more trouble than good, several lawmakers said.
SB: Tax bills, layoffs near face-off
Legislators have approved a range of tax increases aimed at achieving a balanced budget to avoid wage cuts or layoffs of state employees. Gov. Linda Lingle's possible vetoes of tax measures and the question of whether her vetoes will be overridden will prolong the uncertainty. Increasingly, layoffs and furloughs seem probable if the economy continues to deteriorate.
The refusal of Hawaii's public-employee unions to consider wage cuts or furloughs could backfire. New York Gov. David A. Patterson has threatened to lay off 9,000 of that state's 200,000 workers if they refuse to agree on concessions, and that scenario may be repeated in Hawaii if conditions worsen.
Lawmakers have approved increasing the hotel room tax from the present 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent in July and to 9.25 percent in July 2010; the income tax rate for singles making at least $150,000 a year and couples making more than $300,000; the tax on real-estate sales above $2 million, and the tax on tobacco products. Revenue expected from the tax hikes is aimed at keeping wages for the 49,000 state employees at their present levels.
Hawaii County workers "Thriving in Tough Times"
Despite a budget crisis that has forced a hiring freeze, Hawaii County will give more than 100 employees a "special day" at a Hilo botanical gardens.
Taxpayers will pay an estimated $8,000 plus the combined one-day salaries of 110 to 150 employees for the May 14 "Thriving in Tough Times" conference at Nani Mau Gardens, Personnel Director Mike Ben said.
He was unable to estimate the day's labor costs. Assuming each employee earns $15 an hour and just 100 attend, that would come out to $12,000 in labor costs for the eight-hour conference.
Honolulu attorney Makana Risser Chai, the CEO of a California-based training company, will be the keynote speaker, Ben said. Her fee will be $500, plus round-trip airfare from Honolulu and meals, he said.
The county also will pay $100 each for Allan Okuda, Hawaii Community College professor of food services, and an assistant to do a cooking demonstration of "quick, easy and cheap meals," Ben said.
"It's not for a party; it's a training class," Ikeda said.
Ford calling for county furloughs
Even South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford, who just last month said she'd like to avoid employee furloughs at any cost, is now giving the unpaid days off a serious look.
Ford said she's sponsoring two resolutions asking for furloughs of nonunion employees of one day a month in both the executive and legislative branches of county government. Her proposals exempt employees in five critical departments: public safety, police, fire, civil defense and mass transit.
"These are 'just in case bills,'" Ford emphasized. "They are just in case the floor falls out from under us. We want to be prepared to do what we have to do."
Developer lowers affordable housing units, fails to produce
The commission in January brought the development's chief executive officer to a hearing asking him to explain why commissioners shouldn't revert the land classification for 3,000 acres mauka of the Mauna Lani Resort from urban to agricultural.
The project's rezoning was initially approved in 1991 for the previous property owner. When Aina Lea purchased the land in foreclosure in 1998, it also received a reduction in the affordable housing requirement. The commission, in decreasing the affordable housing requirement from 60 percent to 20 percent, included language in the amendment that Aina Lea should provide certificates of occupancy within five years of Nov. 17, 2005.
That has yet to happen, prompting concern from members of the commission, which then issued an order to show cause for January's hearing.
Kalapa: Opportunity missed if downsizing ignored
Hawai‘i has always been known as a capital short state and in order to attract capital, Hawai‘i has to demonstrate that there is opportunity to make a profit, but with such a burdensome, overly large state bureaucracy, that prospect grows dimmer by the day. Thus, it is time to seize the opportunity to downsize state government.
OHA gets zip from Senate (no funding for the next Hokulia)
As legislators slice the state budget to cope with revenue shortfalls, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, sitting atop its $300 million trust fund, has become a target. The Senate's version of the budget for the next two years cuts to zero the Hawaiian agency's general fund allocation, which totaled $3 million last year.
"If they eliminate the general fund match, then our services would be restricted to Hawaiians of 50 percent or more blood," said Mahealani Wendt, executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which focuses on native land and traditional rights. "That's very worrisome. Our clients are at risk." (But without NHLC who will strangle the economy?)
Kim said the 5 percent spending policy could be adjusted upward. She also pointed to an unexpected windfall of $2 million that OHA received last year. The Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. was awarded the money as attorneys' fees from developer 1250 Oceanside Partners in settling the Hokulia case, in which it sued alleging damage to burials, historic sites and coastal waters. The federal government required the law firm to turn the money over to OHA last year, and it is now in OHA's trust account.
Hawaii plans 16 new schools while others are consolidated, shut
The DOE is planning for new schools while it is simultaneously knee-deep in an arduous process to close or consolidate schools in underpopulated areas. Citing the shift of the population from urban areas to rural and suburban neighborhoods, education officials say that their plans are an attempt to serve the areas of the state where the children are.
(Charter conversion should be pursued by the schools considered for closure.)
Cataluna: Voters sent a message to Felix
The winning factors in local politics were always thought to be name recognition and the amount of money spent. Mix in a couple of union endorsements and a thumbs-up from a newspaper editorial and you're golden. That meant John Henry Felix was the top dog going in to the special election for the Honolulu City Council seat representing Kailua, Kane'ohe and Waimanalo. Yet he ended up in fifth place, with 7 percent of the votes cast.
Meetings outline strawberry guava 'danger'
The meetings will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.:
» Tomorrow, Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului
» Wednesday, Chiefess Kamakahelei School, Lihue
» Thursday, McCoy Pavilion, Ala Moana Park
» May 14, University of Hawaii-Hilo, Room UCB 127
» May 18, NELHA Gateway Center, Kailua-Kona