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Sunday, June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:04 AM :: 7805 Views

Neighbor island campaigns can decide candidates' fate

(Typical Borreca article handicapping the Dem primary race as if it were the REAL race for governor and Republicans do not exist--but a must-read explanation of how the old boys manipulate election outcomes.)

George Yokoyama -- slight, gray-haired and usually dressed in a worn aloha shirt and nervously smoking a cigarette -- doesn't fit the stereotype of a political power broker.

But if you're a politician from Honolulu, he's the man who can help you.

Yokoyama, director of the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council, is the go-to guy in Hilo.  (YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK.)  Don't bet on winning Hilo without Yokoyama on your side.

(That's funny, Lingle did it in 2006)

Asked about the coming race, Yokoyama chuckled.

"Hey, they are coming out like flies, man," Yokoyama said. "Abercrombie come see me, Hanabusa come see me, Mufi Hannemann wants to see me."

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa has not decided if she will run for governor....

Winer noted that neighbor island Democratic politics takes a special finesse. "There is a friction that exists between groups that would be traditional Democratic voters," he said.

"It boils down to growth versus no growth, especially on Maui and Kauai. You have traditional Democratic labor and public employee groups and progressives who are also Democrats and they have a different view of how things should be.

"If you gravitate to one group and do it too much, you can alienate yourself with other groups," Winer warned.

George Yokoyama, Hilo community organizer: "You need someone for each House district on the Big Island, someone who can get 20 people together. You don't need money -- maybe just coffee and doughnut money, but you need seven good people."

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"Clean Electricity" Projects on a hiatus due to scarce funds

After large real estate projects, electricity generation is the biggest consumer of capital among private businesses in Maui County.

There are several costly projects pending, and while some developers say even today money will be available, the closer the project, the further off the lenders seem to be.

Money problems have stalled two projects being pursued by Kent Smith and his partner, Hilton Unemori - a biomass generator at Hamakua on the Big Island that was to have been fueled by eucalyptus wood and an expansion of Kaheawa wind farm on Maui.

"About the time we went to the markets, credit started to freeze up," Smith said of the $200 million Big Island project.

Pacific Biodiesel was planning a 5-million-gallon per year refinery on the Big Island, and even though owners Bob and Kelly King were bringing in their own money for half of it, the relatively small amount of additional money needed is not yet there.

Kelly King said: "Our Big Island Biodiesel plant has taken longer than expected to get fully funded. We are currently seeking the final 10 to 15 percent of funding before we can announce a groundbreaking."

Smith and Unemori's expansion of Kaheawa is being held up more by slowness in reaching a power purchase agreement with Maui Electric Co., but Smith said financing is an issue, even with the financial clout of his much larger partner, First Wind.

Even if the money can be found, the terms and collateral demands are no longer workable. "If the risk-to-return expectations are higher, (the offers) reduce the return to the developer," said Smith, sometimes to the point where it is not worth the effort to go ahead.

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Decline in tourism jolt to sales of electricity

KAHULUI - Maui Electric Co.'s sales, measured in kilowatt-hours, are down nearly 10 percent this year, a drop that tracks closely with declining visitor arrivals, said company President Ed Reinhardt.

Before the island's economic downturn and fewer visitors coming to the island, MECO had been forecasting that it would need its next increment of firm power generation in 2011. Earlier this year, because of declining demand, it revised that forecast to 2014.

The utility will revisit the question this summer, and Reinhardt said he won't be surprised if the estimate is pushed even further out.

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Impact of upcoming furloughs has Hawaii state workers anxious

Nancy Sakamoto, 57, was comfortable with the idea that her family might have to lean on her financially — welcomed it, even — but that was before Gov. Linda Lingle's announcement two weeks ago that the state will seek to erase a budget shortfall of approximately $730 million largely at the expense of state workers.

"I was going to be the sugar mama," said Sakamoto, a special-education teacher at Solomon Elementary at Schofield Barracks. "But no more."

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$1.7 million Capitol makeover necessary, Hawaii official says

The pair of 15-foot-tall, 7,500-pound bronze medallions should be looking buff when they're rehung above the Capitol's mauka and makai entrances this summer.  That new look will come at a cost of $341,590 and is part of a more than $1.7 million makeover at the Capitol, expected to be completed before the state marks the 50th anniversary of statehood on Aug. 21.

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Restore home tax credit Mufia's phony election-year cash giveaway

Hannemann proposed raising the tax rate for single-family homes and condominiums from the current $3.29 to $3.59 per $1,000 of property value, and reducing the tax credit for owner-occupants from the current fiscal year's $100 to $75. That would be a progressive move, providing the same credit regardless of the home's worth.

Instead, the Council approved Councilman J. Ikaika Anderson's proposal that the rate be raised to only $3.42, with no relief through tax credits. Hannemann correctly regards that as detrimental to (his ability to buy votes from) the most vulnerable homeowners — low-income families and the elderly.

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Honolulu vehicle weight tax to increase 66% over next 2 years

The City Council last week approved raising the vehicle weight tax for passenger vehicles from 3 cents per pound to 4 cents a pound effective Jan. 1, 2010. It will go to 5 cents per pound on Jan 1, 2011. Many truck owners pay an additional 0.5 cents per pound.

The weight tax is part of a $1.8 billion operating budget adopted by the City Council last week that includes an increase in property taxes and several fees. Mayor Mufi Hannemann, whose administration proposed the weight tax hike, is expected to sign the measure into law in the coming weeks.

That means by 2011, the city weight tax will have gone up roughly four times in 16 years.

SB: Under the Sun: A penny a pound more adds up to a weighty fee

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As rail gets real, more concerns emerge

In the short term, what will happen if the city releases the initial $1.07 billion in funds and the federal government doesn't contribute the share the mayor has promised in 2011? Do we go for broke and just do it?  (Problem is this "we".  False concept.  There is no "we" here.  Only Mufia and his contractors.)

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Lingle weighs liquor liability bill

Under Hawaii's liquor liability laws, someone injured by a person who had been drinking at a liquor establishment can sue all the places at which the person had been drinking before the accident.

Young Kam, an insurance broker on Oahu, said the bill burdens small retail stores.

"For liquor stores, it's not an easy business," he said. "With the economy down, this is really an added burden for a small mom-and-pop store."

Many of his clients, who are bar operators, are required by their landlords to purchase liquor liability insurance in addition to the common general liability insurance. But some retailers might have not been required to purchase that until now.

The Liquor Collection pays about $5,000 a year for liquor liability insurance. The cost of the extra coverage depends on several factors, such as how much alcohol the establishment sells.

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Big Isle building put on tax rolls

Because construction of the $2.1 million apartment wasn't completed until late last year, the building couldn't be taxed until Aug. 20, he said. That's when the first biannual payment of the fiscal year is due.
"This would have been the year it should have gone on," Sitko said. "They're actually going to get their bill ... with everyone else."

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