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Monday, June 29, 2009
June 29, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:41 AM :: 7913 Views

Criminal Investigation: School contracts under scrutiny

The state attorney general's criminal division is investigating procurement practices at the state Department of Education.

The investigation follows a February report by the state auditor that criticized the process of awarding nonbid management contracts to oversee construction projects.

The audit cited a pattern of inappropriate behavior and possible fraud in the department's Office of School Facilities and Support Services....

Auditor Marion Higa urged looking into inappropriate discussions and meetings with contractors before public notices for project bids, giving them unfair advantages.

The audit also urged looking into inappropriate discussions with former department employees hired by contractors and manipulation of the selection committee process.

Higa suggested looking into four contracts, including a $300,000 award for construction management and professional services at Wilson and Anuenue elementary schools awarded April 23, 2006.

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Police block Charter School officials: Judge keeps school open for now

Waters of Life is the first charter school in the state to be ordered closed.

Panelists said the school consistently failed to show financial and administrative responsibility. The school argues that the review panel does not have the necessary rules in place to shut it down.

State charter school officials were turned away by police June 24 after arriving in a van at the Waters of Life's location at St. Theresa's Parish Hall, said Gary Zamber, attorney for the school.

"The police were called, probably by both parties," Zamber said. "We have an interest in preserving our assets. We're trying to run a school."

The officials were also turned away at a bank after trying to seize the school's financial assets, the attorney said.

An initial hearing was held Friday morning in front of Circuit Court Judge Glenn Hara. The court will take up the substance of the injunction request on July 15.
Hara ordered that the school's assets be held in trust until the outcome of the legal challenge is known.

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Hawaii law cited in report questioning health care mandates

A law enacted in Hawaii in 1974 that requires employers to provide health insurance for employees working at least 20 hours a week is being cited by researchers who are skeptical of similar mandates being suggested in the argument for universal health care.

The result of Hawaii's law has been that businesses have relied more on employees who work less than 20 hours per week and aren't covered under the requirement, wrote San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank research adviser Rob Valletta and co- authors, Tom Buchmueller and John DiNardo, both University of Michigan professors.

"The results of our research" into health insurance coverage in Hawaii "imply that an employer mandate is not an effective means for achieving universal coverage," the authors wrote.

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Hawaii's tourism strategy flawed

Instead of a reassuring explanation that a viable plan is in place, we were treated with a series of padded excuses, a bunch of unrealistic pipe dreams and litanies of meaningless statistics. I always take statistics with a pinch of salt because often people use them the same way drunks use street lamp posts; more for support than for illumination. We were told that our tourism leaders have dreams of luring European visitors to Hawaii. Dream on. Europeans have, within two to three hours of flying (or driving) the Cote D'Azur, Monte Carlo, the Italian Riviera, the Amalfi Coast, Sardinia, Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Turkey, Greece and many more fabulous places to choose from. The number of visitors from Europe, if we will ever get some, will be so negligible that probably won't warrant a single dollar spent.

We were also told that people are now "bargain hunting" instead of paying the price that is asked of them. Really? What a revelation! People have been hunting for bargains since time immemorial and they will continue to look for value for money, something that we, here in Hawaii, don't offer anymore.

During this long and disjointed explanation, I suddenly realized how clueless the Hawaii Tourism Authority seems to be and I found myself thinking of that famous country song by Carrie Underwood, "Jesus, take the Wheel"!

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Smokers uniting to fight taxes, bans (New voting bloc?)

More and more lawmakers are realizing that the mantra of "Smoking Bans Are Good For Business" was just that -- a mantra. It is critical to note that after years of steady increases in growth (except for 9/11), the first drop in Japanese tourist numbers occurred in January 2007, just a month after the start of our smoking ban. This was the catalyst that began Hawaii's march off the economic cliff and the resulting bankruptcies and unemployment hikes. By the way, 12 states allow reasonable smoking exemptions for bars. Pennsylvania granted 1,700 exemptions last November. Reasonable exemptions for bars is all we have been asking for.

For the first time in world history the smoker voting bloc unveiled itself right here in Hawaii, critically impacting what turned out to be the third-closest race in last year's primaries (Alex Sonson vs. Clarence Nishihara in Senate District 18). We campaigned for Sonson, who was a big supporter of small business and exemptions. Smokers and bar owners are angry. We have had enough and we will vote in unity.

The Tea Party movement began in February when Congress enacted the SCHIP bill, grotesquely raising tobacco taxes to help pay for health care. As a protest, tens of thousands of smokers sent real or virtual tea bags to those on Capitol Hill just to let them know that we have had it.

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Abercrombie, Hirono back massive carbon tax scam

If ultimately enacted, the bill would touch virtually all consumers one way or another, if only through the price of energy.

The House legislation would limit the pollution blamed for global warming with, among other measures, a market-based system for trading pollution allowances, called cap and trade.

The bill, a top priority for President Obama, passed 219-212.

RELATED: "95% water vapour" Global warming debunked by New Zealand Meteorologist , Carbon Tax: House to vote Friday on another $2 trillion in waste

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Advertiser: Governor should veto election finance bill 

This is what makes a veto of HB 128 all the more critical. Among its flaws:

  • It liberalizes donations allowed by state contractors, currently barred as corporate contributors. The influence of those with an interest in tax-funded contracts should be reduced, not expanded.
  • It widens the allowed proportion Mainland contributions can represent in campaign coffers, from the current 20 percent to 30 percent. This runs counter to the principle of elections owned by the voters who are served.
  • Excess campaign funds can be donated to a range of nonprofits, as well as schools and libraries. Although this sounds charitable, there wouldn't be enough scrutiny over recipients and the potential for dealmaking. Some nonprofit organizations also are state contractors.

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    Karamatsu considers joining lieutenant governor's race

    Karamatsu, a Democrat who represents Waipahu and Waikele, announced yesterday that he has authorized his campaign team to form an exploratory committee. Karamatsu says the economy and education are his top two priorities.

    In October 2007, Karamatsu was the second-highest ranking Democrat in the state House when he was charged with drunken driving. Police said his blood alcohol content was more than twice Hawai'i's legal limit.

    He stepped down from the leadership post and pleaded no contest to the charge.

    Karamatsu was sentenced to 72 hours of community service and a $750 fine. He was also subject to a six-month suspension of his driver's license.

    (A lot of alkies have this kind of brittle arrogance.) 

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    (Shot alleged Burglar) Metcalfe to be tried for murder

    (You can't tell it from the story, but he shot an alleged burglar in Ocean View.  Read the comments.  As is often the case with crime stories, the comments are much more enlightening than the reportage.)

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    Kauai bridge will gain extra lane

    Almost half of Kaua'i residents and visitor accommodations are north of the Wailua River, making improved traffic flow in the area a concern for both locals and tourists.

    A second project in the corridor — widening Kuhio Highway immediately north of the Wailua River to the Kapa'a Bypass Road — will go out for bid this fall and should begin in early 2010, state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said. The $27 million project is expected to take 18 months, he said.

    A third major highway project on Kaua'i also will start early next year — widening the Kaumuali'i Highway (Highway 50) from just west of its intersection with Rice Street (Highway 58) in Lihu'e to Kaua'i Community College in Puhi. That $70 million project could take two years, Morioka said.

    (This news is very disturbing to the environmentalists who have worked so hard to keep Kauai traffic congested in order to convince residents that their island is overcrowded.)

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    Hawaii's DLNR shifts its enforcement focus

    As part of a newly released five-year strategic plan, the department's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement is seeking national accreditation and looking at ways to shed some tasks that are keeping officers from spending more time on patrol and responding to complaints.

    DOCARE officers also are expected to get more time in the field when a new "conservation court" is phased in over the next two years to handle minor civil violations of resource laws.

    Constantly evolving responsibilities and organizational upheaval, such as the 1996 transfer of the now-defunct Marine Patrol from the Department of Public Safety to DOCARE, have made it difficult for the agency to distinguish its priorities, according to DLNR Chairwoman Laura H. Thielen, who took over the department in 2007.

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    N. Korea criticizes U.S. missile defense for Hawaii

    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea criticized the U.S. on Monday for positioning missile defense systems around Hawai'i, calling the deployment part of a plot to attack the regime and saying it would bolster its nuclear arsenal in retaliation.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he ordered the deployment of a ground-based, mobile missile intercept system and radar system to Hawai'i amid concerns the North may fire a long-range missile toward the islands, about 4,500 miles away.

    "Through the U.S. forces' clamorous movements, it has been brought to light that the U.S. attempt to launch a pre-emptive strike on our republic has become a brutal fact," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary.

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