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Thursday, June 11, 2009
June 11, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:22 AM :: 8844 Views

HMSA increasing rates 12.1% for small businesses

Hawaii Medical Service Association will be boosting rates for small businesses by the greatest amount in 20 years after getting approval from the state Insurance Division to raise premiums by an average of 12.1 percent for the insurer's most popular Preferred Provider Plan.

The state's largest health insurer, which lost $13.9 million last quarter and $35.8 million in 2008, had requested a 12.7 increase to keep up with soaring medical costs.

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Hawaii governor's race may focus more on style than issues

(Another cookie-cutter article portraying the Democrat Primary fight as being of greater significance than the general election campaign.  This article has been written so many times I've lost count)

Best line ... "Hopefully, it doesn't get bloody and expensive during the primary, so that the Democrats spend all their money and the Republicans just prance along with their campaign money without really a race," said (Anti-Superferry protester) Lance Holter, who leads Maui Democrats.


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City Council to hold special election within 60 days

(There are 14 days left to file)

Council Chairman Todd Apo said this morning that by law, the council must hold a special election within 60 days to fill the vacancy created by the sudden death of Councilman Duke Bainum.

The council went through the process earlier this year in filling the vacancy created by the death of Councilwoman Barbara Marshall in February.

“Unfortunately, we have a model that we’ve gone to relatively recently to fill a vacancy,” Apo said. “We will follow that model.”

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Mayor Hannemann Now in Race for Governor

Hannemann is in the midst of his second year of his second-four year term as mayor. He would not commit during the 2008 mayor’s race to stay as mayor through his second term, instead making it clear he would likely run for higher office.

The plan was for Kirk Caldwell, his managing director, to take over as mayor when Hannemann left, thereby getting a political boost when running his own campaign for mayor.

Caldwell, an attorney, former House majority leader and major proponent of the Honolulu rail project, had planned to run for Kobayashi’s council seat, but removed himself from the race after he could not get the proper number of required signatures to qualify by the filing deadline.

But Caldwell, a prominent Democrat, will undoubtedly have competition during the mayor’s non-partisan election in 2010.

Three-time Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle unofficially told supporters and friends recently that he plans to run for mayor. He is out of town and could not be reached for comment. Carlisle, who in the past has considered a run for congress, joined the Republican party, and has hosted its conventions. He’s been a popular prosecutor and easily re-elected.

Former Mayoral Candidate Panos Prevedouros, a professor of traffic engineering at the University of Hawaii, is also reportedly running for mayor. His professional background, knowledge of why Oahu’s infrastructure continues to fail, and fun, outgoing personality, helped him garner nearly 30 percent of the vote during the 2008 primary election with very little funding.

Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman, the A&E reality show star who shows off his crime fighting skills on his bounty hunter show, is also considering a run for mayor.

SB: Hannemann's actions point to race for governor   

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Council raises residential property, vehicle weight taxes, bus fares

The Honolulu City Council voted 7-1 this morning to approve raising the residential tax rate for property taxes to $3.42 per $1,000 of valuation and no tax credit.

The amount is less than the $3.59 proposed by Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Council Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia, but does not include a tax credit that they had proposed.

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Budget bill has mayor thinking veto:  $150 Voter payoff demanded

But a vote on the $3.59 rate, tied to a $150 one-time tax credit aimed at off-setting the bulk of the increase to taxpayers, (and making it appear as if the Mufia was giving away free money to voters) fell a vote short of the five needed for passage.

The Council then unanimously approved a proposal by member J. Ikaika Anderson for the $3.42 rate, but with no tax credit.

Hannemann called the move shortsighted, saying it will have a detrimental impact on (voting by) the most vulnerable taxpayers, low-income homeowners and the elderly.  The mayor has 10 working days to decide whether to approve the budget, and says he will use the time to gauge community opinion.

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Enviro Democrats denounce rail vote

HONOLULU, HAWAII – The O`ahu Coalition for Affordable & Flexible Transit (OCFAFT) has come together, with the goal of educating the Honolulu City Council and the general public about the gigantic problems the county could be facing should it begin to fund the first phase of the currently proposed all-elevated rail system without first receiving a federally approved environmental impact statement.

With the unexpected death of Councilmember Duke Bainum, on Wednesday, June 10, 2009, the Honolulu City Council will likely vote to fund the first phase -- without either the necessary federal environmental approvals or a written federal funding commitment.

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With Greenwood picked as new leader, spending must now be cut by $100 million

Star-Bulletin finally investigates, discovers the truth: "M.R.C. GREENWOOD. PRONOUNCED 'MARCI,' M.R.C. STANDS FOR MARY RITA COOKE"

Related: McClain looks for union cue on UH cuts

Now that the decision is made to hire M.R.C. "Marci" Greenwood as the 14th president of the University of Hawaii, regents, administrators and even some critics of the selection process say it's time to move forward and deal with the financial crisis facing the university.

In a videoconference yesterday with reporters, Greenwood said among her first priorities will be the university's need to cut its budget by more than $100 million over the next two years and looking at what the university can do to preserve the culture and language of native Hawaiians.

"I know this is going to be a painful time for the university, and we will work together to find out what the deepest priorities of the university are and how to save that," Greenwood said.

Greenwood praised the current UH leadership team and said at this point she has no plans to bring in new executives.

Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, a professor of Hawaiian studies at UH-Manoa, said native Hawaiian groups will support Greenwood despite her testimony earlier in the day urging the regents to appoint an interim president from among the current UH administration.

"There's no use fighting over it," she said.

Kame'eleihiwa said she has faith that Landon and the regents have the university's best interests at heart.

"Part of our mission is to educate people about the Hawaiian language and culture," Kame'eleihiwa said, adding that they will help Greenwood learn about native Hawaiian issues.


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Low-bid protest prompts contract review

A new greenwaste company protesting a county decision to extend a contract with the county's current vendor may have prompted government officials to rethink the renewal.
Jonathan Spies, a landscaper who recently started Hamakua Renewable Enterprises, said he filed a protest with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs after Hawaii County canceled a request for proposals for which his company was the lowest bidder.
"They could save $250,000 minimum," Spies said. "That's a no-brainer."

(But for Hawaii County bureaucrats, keeping their old-boy crony in the existing greenwaste contract is a 'no-brainer'.)

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Anybody but me: Pflueger tries to make insurer foot the bill for Ka Loko

“On or about May 22, 2008, the same day it was served with the Grand Jury Subpoena, Pflueger’s Chief Financial Officer, Randall Kurata, personally met with a representative of Noguchi to identify the existence of the Grand Jury proceeding and to tender the matter under the aforesaid insurance policies.

“At that time, Noguchi’s representative informed Mr. Kurata that the Grand Jury proceeding investigating Pflueger was not a covered claim under the aforesaid insurance policies.

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Council aide Offenbaker resigns over Internet use

One of county government's most prolific Web surfers worked for the councilman who requested an investigation into employees' Internet abuse.

Offenbaker's Internet use while at work was second highest among dozens of legislative branch employees, Clerk Kenneth Goodenow said.

The biggest user was Kareen Forissier, a legislative assistant to council Vice-Chairman Pete Hoffmann, of Kohala, Goodenow said.

"I made that very clear with all my staff, and at that point in time, Steve completely stopped," Yagong said. "Right then and there, we put an absolute stop to it."
Last year, Offenbaker ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for the open 1st District House seat representing Hilo, Hamakua and Kohala. He's also one of three owners hoping to open a controversial Honokaa sports bar.
Offenbaker said his decision to resign had nothing to do with being exposed for questionable Internet use or his pursuit of a liquor license that has generated some community opposition.
Offenbaker said his resignation is effective June 15, following his current vacation. He plans to pursue a career cleaning up unexploded ordnance, which requires him to complete a five-week certification course.
Yagong confirmed that.

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Haina Mill sued by lenders

The suit seeks foreclosure of the property so it can be sold, plus all costs incurred by Haina Mill Mortgage Lender, including attorney fees.
A search of the Delaware state Web site did not reveal the lender's owners. Shikuma refused comment when contacted Wednesday by the Tribune-Herald, as did Barbara Bass, Marr's Haina Hawaiian Hardwood Products Mill office manager. Bass said the office had not been served with the suit.
Kamehameha Schools and Hamakua Land Partnership are named in the lawsuit as owner and lessee, respectively, of -Standard Oil Road, the access road to the mill. The county is named in case delinquent property taxes are owed.

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