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Saturday, May 4, 2013
May 4, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:24 PM :: 6660 Views

Inspector General Slaps Down Effort to Create Indian Tribe Without Congressional Approval

Budget: Kenoi Proposes $21M Property Tax Hike

'No Hawaii Beverage Tax' Cheers Third Win in a Row

$9.6M: DHHL Wins First legislative Appropriation Since 2010

Obama: From king of the world to dead in the water in six months

Schatz to Inouye Family: "Uh, uh, uh...."

CB: But can you share with us how you felt that day? With the appointment?

"At the time, I was just focused on getting off of the plane and starting to do my job," he said.

Did Schatz try to reach out to the family — Inouye's family?

"Yes."

What were your conversations?

"Well ... uh, uh uh, you know ... uh," Schatz stammered. "I think the correspondance at that point was mostly around just wishing each other the best and condolences."

"Last question," announced a Schatz aide.

KITV: SHOPO Endorses Schatz

read ... Uh, uh, uh....

Perreira: HGEA Primary Endorsement Coming

SA: Schatz, who was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in December to replace the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Ino­uye, has received labor endorsements from, among others, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, the Hawaii Building and Construction Trades Council, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260 and the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

Schatz and Hana­busa will now vie for the backing of some of the state's most politically influential unions, including the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the United Public Workers, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Hawaii Carpenters Union.

"Colleen has a long, consistent history of standing up for workers, and that was before she was even an elected official," said Richard Rapoza, a Hana­busa campaign spokes­man. "We think that the workers appreciate that."

Labor in Hawaii has traditionally helped political campaigns with boots-on-ground tasks such as sign waving, canvassing and telephone banks, but unions, like corporations, are now also free to spend unlimited amounts of money on independent political advertising as long as it is not coordinated with candidates.

Randy Perreira, president of the Hawaii State AFL-CIO, the umbrella federation of more than 70 of the state's labor unions, said the federation would not endorse in the primary because several affiliates had already taken sides. He said the federation generally does not endorse when there is a significant split within the ranks.

Perreira is also executive director of the HGEA, the state's largest public-sector union, which will likely endorse.

read ... About How Your Leaders are Chosen

Retaliation: Abercrombie Quietly Shortchanges UH by $22M

SA: The University of Hawaii is raising concerns following the state's decision to not fund about $22 million for faculty raises over the next two years.

UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said the negotiated raises will now probably have to be covered by tuition dollars at each campus, which could be a tough task for smaller campuses.

Greenwood said she's not sure why the raises weren't included in the state's budget — approved by legislators earlier this week — like those for other public-sector collective-bargaining units.

"It's a big blow," Greenwood told the Star-Advertiser, adding her greatest concern with the budgeting process "is the state declined to support the core of our faculty contract."

University of Hawaii faculty are set to get 3 percent raises in each of the next two years, as part of a six-year contract that runs through June 2015.

UH had been moving through the legislative session assuming the pay raises would be covered with state general funds. But last week UH officials learned the governor hadn't sent to lawmakers a procedural request for money for the raises.

State Budget Director Kalbert Young said the decision to not request state general funds for the UH raises was intentional....

Headed to the Governor: One measure, House Bill 114, takes away the university president's authority to serve as "chief procurement officer" for new construction projects. The bill transfers that responsibility to the administrator of the state procurement office....

Also headed to the governor is Senate Bill 1388, which would remove the UH president's authority to serve as president of the Research Corp. of UH's board of directors, and modify procurement exemptions for some construction work....

As He Said He Would: Wandering into the Wonder Blunder, Abercrombie Describes Pressure He Put on Greenwood

As He Said He Would: Greenwood Threatened to Expose Abercrombie, Say, Tsutusi: ‘Serious Violation of Multiple Laws’

read ... Retaliation

Tampering? Lawyers Pack Court to Support DesJardins

MN: In court Thursday, DesJardins' attorney, Philip Lowenthal, asked for the one-week delay for DesJardins to enter a plea.

First Circuit District Judge David Lo, who has been assigned to preside over proceedings in DesJardins' case, granted the request. She is scheduled to appear in court again at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

At Lowenthal's request, more than a dozen people who were in the courtroom gallery stood to signify that they were there to support DesJardins.

"There are a number of people, mostly from the Family Court bar on Maui, that have come to court to show their support and aloha for Mimi DesJardins," Lowenthal said.

Background: DesJardins: Accused of Tampering, Judge Resigns, Faces Charges May 2

read ... Any Date is OK, Just Change it Later

Tax Increase, Fee Hikes Still Fall Short of Funding Biggest Budget Ever

HR: ...the Legislature made one major temporary tax increase permanent and raised several other fees on businesses.

The Transient Accommodation Tax paid on hotel rooms was set to roll back to 7.25 percent. But lawmakers, who passed a temporary increase two years ago bringing the rate up 9.25 percent, wanted to keep that revenue stream and had no intention of reducing it. In the end, they officially made the temporary increase permanent. A proposal earlier in the session to increase the tax to 11.25 percent failed.

While the controversial minimum wage increase bills died in the final days of session, there are still several bills that affect regulation, licensing and increased fees for businesses.

Lawmakers also came up with other creative ways to bring in revenue.

Senate Bill 237 will allow the state to sell land under public schools so it can be developed for commercial purposes. The bill, which has angered parents at a number of public schools across the state, would still have to be approved by the electorate in 2014.

read ...  Lawmakers OK record $24 billion biennium budget

Councilmembers mull 10% Property Tax Hike

WHT: Yoshimoto said that members of the public are never happy about tax increases, but he felt that they would understand ...

Puna Councilman Zendo Kern said it was still too early for him to have a position on the proposed tax hikes....

“I’m still in the process of reviewing the newly proposed budget, and making sure I have my mind around the whole thing,” he said. “I have been talking to my constituents, and received both people for and people against the increasing property taxes. At this point, I’m still embracing my constituents and seeing what they want. … For me, it’s about finding that balance, making it work for as many people as possible.”

Kern said he is in the process of doing more community outreach, and possibly setting up some meetings...

Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter said she, too, is working to develop her position on the budget, and requested on Thursday that the mayor make time to address her constituents.

“I’ve asked him to host a meeting in my community, to do a presentation to get feedback from the community on how I should proceed,” she said.

She added that she fully understood why some taxpayers would be upset about the proposed increases. But, Poindexter argued, the county must also take into account the pressure under which public safety workers find themselves....

North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff wrote via an email Friday that county department heads had presented compelling arguments for their needs during Special Finance Committee meetings....

“The proposed 10 percent property tax hike deserves careful scrutiny and the council will have to make some tough decisions,” she concluded. “I’m looking forward to hearing from the community and other councilmembers during the next few weeks during the budget review hearings.”

read ... Time to Call Your Councilmember

Fewer funds force drug treatment centers to close

KHON: They’ve been helping drug addicts in Hawaii for nearly 20 years.

But because of a cut in government funds, the Big Island Substance Abuse Council is closing most of its facilities, including its only on Oahu.

The real story is more people are asking for funds, but there’s just not enough to go around....

This year, there’s $19.9 million in government funds available for this type of help. But the government received more than $32 million in requests.

In a statement, Big Island Substance Abuse Council CEO Dr. Hannah Preston-Pita said: “We’re going to continue to do what we do best — take care of our community and provide mental and substance abuse treatment. It’s just going to be on a smaller scale.”

“It’s taught me that life can go on and it’s possible I can get clean and sober and become a productive member of society,” Makekau said.

The clients we talked to say today was the last official day for employees in Makaha. But counselors agreed to work for free until the end of next month.

read ... Drug Treatment

Exemptions to Speed Restoration of Hawaiian Fishponds

SA: The state Department of Land and Natural Resources proposes to serve as a clearinghouse to help handle processing permits with various state and federal agencies, cutting through some of the red tape that hinders restoration work.

Under the plan, the permit process would take no more than a year. The state Office of Environmental Quality Control has made available a draft environmental assessment related to this plan.

Any change in the rules that encourages more qualified people and organizations to engage in this important work should be implemented.

read ... Exemptions

Maui Budget: Property Tax Hikes are Hot Button Issue

ML&P’s troubled financials raise concern about future

MN: Maui Land & Pineapple Co. logged a $1.8 million loss for the first three months of the year (10 cents a share) compared to a $244,000 loss (1 cent a share) in the first quarter of 2012, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Revenues were $3.4 million for the quarter, down from $5.3 million in the first quarter of 2012. The major difference was the sale of an Upcountry parcel in the first quarter of 2012 for $1.5 million.

Expenses were lower in the current quarter to $4.7 million, down from $4.9 million in 2012. Among the areas of biggest savings was in the general and administrative line, which dropped nearly $350,000 to $704,000.

The company faces a host of financial issues. A $34.5 million revolving line of credit with Wells Fargo is set to mature next May; the company has $7.1 million in available borrowing capacity. A $24.1 million term loan with American Ag Credit also matures in a year. On this loan, the company is required to make a $4.1 million payment at the end of the year.

The loans are secured by company land holdings in Upcountry and West Maui....

read ... ML&P

Six bid for new geothermal plant

HTH: Jay Ignacio, HELCO president, said the utility plans to have a contract awarded by September for another 50 megawatts of geothermal electricity.

Ormat Technologies, which owns Puna Geothermal Venture, the state’s only geothermal plant, submitted a bid, said Mike Kaleikini, Ormat’s senior director for Hawaiian affairs.

Kaleikini said he could not comment on any details of the proposal, including whether Ormat is offering its current site in Pohoiki for an expansion.

PGV has a contract with HELCO for up to 38 mgw of power.

Led by 'Damned Sellout' Mililani Trask, Innovations Development Group of Honolulu has also said it planned to submit a bid.

read ... Six bid for new geothermal plant

DoD Employees Face Furloughs: Pentagon Pays $59/gallon for Biofuel

WE: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently warned that sequestration would cause “suspension of important activities, curtailed training, and could result in furloughs of civilian personnel” but the spending cuts haven’t killed the green fuels program, as the Pentagon has continued purchasing renewable fuel at $59 per gallon.

read ... Biofools

Former county workers charged with stealing fuel

WHT: Two former Department of Environmental Management employees have been charged with felony theft for allegedly stealing diesel fuel from pumps at the Waimea baseyard.

The charges come more than 18 months after county employees working with police began a surveillance investigation after an employee tipped off management that two other employees were filling 55-gallon drums with fuel on weekends using gas keys taken from county vehicles.

Warrants were issued Tuesday for former DEM employees Donald Wilbur, 40, and Billy Colliado, 42, according to Deputy Prosecutor Mark Disher. The pair had been arrested and released Oct. 29, 2011. Wilbur, who was an equipment operator, and Colliado, a Solid Waste Division facility attendant, were fired from the county that December....

Mayor Billy Kenoi said last month that the thefts were a learning experience for the administration. Kenoi said he brought department heads to a meeting where new procedures were put into place so there are now more controls over access to fuel at county baseyards. Gas keys are no longer tied to vehicles, but to individuals, and invoices are scrutinized, he said.

read ... Former county workers charged with stealing fuel

Nonprofit group spearheads Wahiawa transformation

KITV: Where a strip club, brothel and adult video arcade once stood, businesses have now taken root. It's part of an ongoing transformation in Wahiawa, the Central Oahu town that used to be known for its pineapples, but in more recent times, was better known for prostitution, drug dealing and crime.

"You used to drive into Wahiawa, and you would see all of this," said Anita Acohido. "I've been a lifelong resident of Wahiawa, and I like the way it looks today."

Many local residents point to the nonprofit group Surfing the Nations as the trigger that helped kick-start Wahiawa's makeover. The nonprofit group bills itself as an organization dedicated to making positive changes throughout the world.

In December of 2008, Surfing the Nations began purchasing properties along Wahiawa's unofficial red-light district, located on Kamehameha Highway between California and Olive avenues. After investing about $4 million, the change is dramatic....

read ... Nonprofit group spearheads Wahiawa transformation

Felix Gee Wan Tom, supervised 20 bookies, filed a false 2011 tax return and laundered money

SA: Federal prosecutor Larry Butrick said most of the 20 agents Tom supervised have agreed to testify against Tom.

One of the agents, car salesman Terrence Ching, pleaded guilty in February to placing bets online and filing a false income tax return. Another agent is a law enforcement officer who Butrick said worked undercover in Tom's gambling operation for two years.

Tom admitted to U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren on Friday that one of the ways he laundered the proceeds of his gambling operation was to give a friend cash in return for payroll checks from the friend's business. He also received W-2 forms with which he filed income tax returns. He admitted that he never worked at the friend's business.

Another way Tom said he laundered money was to give cash to two friends who own restaurants, who issued checks to a phony cleaning company he set up for work that he or the company didn't perform. Tom said he helped another person do the same.

To pay for his luxury high-rise condominium, Tom said a Realtor friend instructed him to deposit cashier's checks with the escrow company and assured him that escrow companies are not subject to the reporting requirements to which banks are subjected. Tom said he listed his brother as owner of the condo.

He also admitted helping the undercover agent do the same in what he later learned was a sting operation. The undercover agent gave Tom money that he distributed to 26 people who made deposits with an escrow company. Butrick said no property was actually purchased.

Tom said all of the people involved in his money laundering knew that the source of his money was his gambling operation. 

read ... Admitted betting ring leader faces a lengthy prison term

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