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Tuesday, November 1, 2011
November 1, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:37 PM :: 4198 Views

442nd legacy takes Soldiers from 'enemy aliens' to heroes

Akaka Introduces Bill to Give Tribal Authorities Legal Jurisdiction over Non-Tribal Members

NAEP: Hawaii DoE Still Below Average but leads in Growth

Hawaii Congressional Delegation: How They Voted October 31

Kawamura Earns Top Award from National Association of Budget Officers

Borreca: One Paragraph Akaka Bill a ‘Hail Mary’ with More History than Support

SA: The bill has more history than support and there have been fears that it will pass through the back room without a vote.

In 2009, Native Hawaiians who opposed the Akaka Bill claimed that Inouye was readying a plan to insert the bill into a defense spending bill. At that time, Inouye denied that, calling it "nonsensical."

In Inouye's mind, however, the idea of federal recognition of a sovereign entity for Native Hawaiians, whose ancestors saw their nation disappear with the help of the U.S., has had enough discussion.

Inouye said the bill had hours of hearings, multiple revisions and amendments.

"We have had hearings in Washington and Hawaii. It is not a measure that has been shepherded in the dark of night," Inouye said in 2009.

Today, Inouye insists this new effort is "not a new concept."….

Back in 2005, during another more straightforward attempt to push the bill, conservative commentator Michelle Malkin called the Akaka Bill "the worst bill you've never heard of."

Then, the Akaka Bill had the strong support of the state Legislature and Republican Gov. Linda Lingle. Even with special visits by Lingle, the bill failed to move in the Senate, as one Republican senator after another put a choke hold on the bill.

Second-guessing Inouye's strategic thinking is probably a losing proposition, but this attempt appears to be more a Hail Mary pass than a methodical strategy.

It speaks to the issue that Sen. Daniel K. Akaka retires in 2013 and there is neither time nor support for a controversial bill, mostly important just to Hawaii.

Related: Sneak Attack: Inouye hides Akaka Bill in Policy Rider -- just after “Grazing Permits”

read … Hail Mary

Hawaii State Liabilities Climb by $5.2B in Two Years

HR: The Hawaii state legislative auditor has released the 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which is a series of audited government statements that detail the financial condition of the state government.

Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of the Institute for Truth in Accounting, called the state’s liability in the report “shocking", particularly when it comes to the increase in costs for medical services for state employees.

For example, the 2009 CAFR shows an unfunded liability for the Employees Union Trust Fund of $7.2 billion and for the Hawaii State Teachers Association's Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association (VEBA) of $1.6 billion for a total of $8.8 billion (for July 1, 2007, even though the CAFR is for June 30, 2009).

Whereas the 2010 CAFR details unfunded liability for the EUTF of $11.5 billion and for the Hawaii State Teachers Association's VEBA of $2.5 billion for a total of $14.0 billion. (These numbers are for July 1, 2009.).

Weinberg points out that this is an increase of $5.2 billion in just two years - or almost 60 percent….

Part of the reason for the spike in costs is because the state has among the most generous health benefits in the nation. The EUTF web site said that the state offers eligible employees a choice of health insurance plans, which includes medical, drug, chiropractic, dental, and vision, and employees, their spouses or equivalent and children up to 24 are eligible for these benefits.

Budget & Finance Director Kalbert Young, who manages the state budget, shares the concerns outlined by Weinberg and the two state credit agencies, Moodys and Standard & Poors. Both agencies recently downgraded Hawaii citing the large unfunded liability in the EUTF as one of the four top reasons for the downgrade and they also cited that the liability is growing.

"I believe given the statistics on Hawaii's liability relative to other states, Hawaii could be faced with future credit action if we do not pro-actively begin to address this matter," Young said ….

Related: Act 100: How Hanabusa and Cayetano launched Hawaii Pension crisis

read … Hawaii State Liabilities Climb by 60 Percent in Two Years

Taken for a Ride: State Did Little to Stop Runaway School Bus Costs

Hawaii Department of Education didn't use its right to reject or negotiate high bids.

read … DoE in All its Glory  

Hirono Misses 3% of Roll Call Votes 

As of August, Civil Beat found that — since the beginning of 2011 — Hirono opted out of 3 percent of votes; Rep. Colleen Hanabusa opted out of 1 percent of votes. On the Senate side, Sen. Daniel Inouye opted out of 7 percent of votes; Sen. Daniel Akaka opted out of 5 percent of votes between January and August.

Check out this graphic showing the most missed votes, and lawmakers’ reasons for being absent.

read … No Perfect Attendance for Hawaii

Rail Lawsuit Ruling, Oral Arguments Soon

Lawyers for all parties were instructed to contact a court clerk to schedule the next court appearance. The options are Tuesday, Nov. 15, Wednesday Nov. 30 or Thursday, Dec. 1, according to court filings. The oral arguments and status/scheduling conference will be held at the U.S. Courthouse building here in Honolulu.

Here's U.S. Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima's Monday ruling: Rail Lawsuit Ruling Oct. 31

read … Oral Arguments Soon

Deadline Day for Honolulu HUD Response

“I just heard from our Honolulu folks and they said they don’t expect to get the City’s response until close of business today,” HUD spokeswoman Gene Gibson said in an email. ”Our folks said that they know that the City is working hard on the response, and reports from the City were positive. Our folks hope that their written response is also positive.”

As of mid-October, the city still had several areas that HUD considered to be out of compliance. Read the full story.

read … Deadline Day for Honolulu HUD Response

Sentencing for former councilmember Rod Tam set for Today

Former Honolulu city councilmember Rod Tam is supposed to learn his punishment Tuesday for stealing taxpayer money. Earlier this year, Tam pleaded no contest...

RELATED: Ousted Zoning Chair Rod Tam is secret partner in $1 Billion North Shore hui, Djou: Tam should resign and be prosecuted

read … Zippy’s

Hawaiian Electric to Keep Importing Biofuel

CB: Hawaiian Electric declined to disclose the price of the fuel from Renewable Energy Group, though a representative of REG said that its biodiesel was priced competitively with petroleum-based diesel.

Imported biofuel is part of Hawaiian Electric's effort to meet state clean energy mandates, which include 40 percent renewable energy by 2030. But however critics say it's still subject to the same disruptions in fuel supply as is petroleum and can be subject to price volatility.

PBN: Hawaiian Electric Co. chooses Renewable Energy Group as biodiesel supplier

read … Biofool

Hawaiian Telcom union OKs strike to Defend 26-weeks Paid Sick Leave

The union members voted 513 to 85 to authorize the strike and turn down the latest contract offer from the company.

Officials from IBEW Local 1357 said workers could strike at any time but have been told to report for work on Tuesday.

The vote comes just a week before Hawaii hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting of world leaders. The APEC summit begins on Nov. 7. …

Union leaders had urged members to vote against the contract because of its numerous "take-aways," including reductions in overtime and (26 weeks of paid annual) sick leave, freezing of the traditional pension plan and increases in medical costs, said Scot Long, business manager for IBEW local 1357.

The unionized workers include field technicians, line workers and call center representatives. Their original contract expired Aug. 12, but the two sides agreed to a series of one-week extensions as contract talks continued.

Related: Full Text: IBEW, Hawaiian Tel on Strike Vote

read … APEC Ready!

Two Workers don’t Show Up and East Oahu Traffic Jams

"Stuck about 45 minutes going two and a half miles. That's how far I have to drive to work. So it was a long, long drive,” Whitaker said.

"I had a lot of friends who were stuck in that traffic too,” said east Oahu resident Travis Kikuchi.

"I saw that the HOV lane was closed,” said east Oahu resident, Steve Wilcox.

The city said the HOV lane was not set up Monday morning because the primary driver on the contra-flow set-up crew was on approved leave and the back-up driver did not report to work because of a personal emergency.

"And it was because of that he wasn't able to also phone in in a timely fashion so we could get a back-up driver to cover his route,” said Westley Chun, director of the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance.

Most commuters had no idea what caused the traffic jam until KITV4 told them.

"All that was caused by one person? Wow. That's crazy. It’s outrageous,” Whitaker said.

"I don't even know how to respond to that,” Kikuchi said.

Read … Lack Of Manpower Results In Nightmare Morning Commute

Honolulu metro ranks 55th for number of businesses

PBN: The Honolulu metropolitan area has a total of 21,748 businesses, and each of those businesses has an average of more than 15 employees, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Honolulu ranked No. 270 among 938 metropolitan and micropolitan areas for the average number of employees — 15.57 — per private sector business.

But Hawaii’s largest metro area ranked 55th for number of businesses, and also for total number of employees, according to the analysis by On Numbers, an affiliate of Pacific Business News.

read … Business

Vice Principal Put Fake Bomb on Desk for Hours

A West Hawaii school's vice principal did not follow Department of Education protocol during a fake bomb incident last week, a department official said.

That left the school's approximately 540 students, plus faculty, exposed to a potential bomb for hours.

Konawaena Middle School Principal Teddy Burgess said he was not at the school Wednesday when a school employee saw a student with a suspicious looking item outside of a classroom. That employee approached the student and Vice Principal Tammy Yoshimura Furrer confiscated the item, which Burgess described as an energy drink can with some wires coming out of it, and took it to her office.

Yoshimura Furrer didn't call Burgess, who was at a meeting in Naalehu, on Wednesday to inform him of the incident. He didn't learn about it until about 10 a.m. Thursday, he said.

He was surprised, he added, that he wasn't notified immediately.

Police said they were called at about 12:15 p.m. Thursday. The first officer arrived at the school at about 1 p.m. Officers looked at the item and recommended calling the Army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from Oahu.

read … Emergency protocol not followed

Strong Failures fight to Protect their Jobs in DoE Windward Castle Complex

Only the strong survive and the Windward Castle Complex schools won’t surrender to a takeover without a fight. A new force of community members, lawmakers, students and educators has begun training to create an alternative to possible reconstitution. A takeover, or reconstitution, could mean the firing of principals and teachers, starting at Castle High School, which has historically struggled with poor academic achievement.

Recent legislation authorizes state Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi to reconstitute a failing school.

The 60-strong Redesign team has seven months left to generate a plan for implementation in July 2012. The meeting in Kaneohe was the first official gathering for those who committed to join the Redesign Initiative. The concept of reinventing the antiquated 150-year-old education system was introduced to 70 diverse, handpicked community members last September.

read … DoE Propaganda

After Vandalizing Sign, Anti-Capitalists Force UH Manoa to Remove Welcome APEC

Hawaii has one of the toughest anti-billboard laws in the country.

So a question posed about the legality of the sign on the lawn of Bachman Hall at the University of Hawaii at Manoa wasn’t unreasonable. (Yes it is.  Billboard regs apply only to commercial speech, not political speech.)

A protest over the politics of APEC and a small welcome sign that was erected drew enough interest to spur phone calls between various entities to clarify the issue.

A small band of protestors expressed their displeasure about the APEC sign on the lawn in front of Bachman Hall by marching across campus last week.

They collected about 200 signatures on a petition demanding its removal.

They disagree with the politics of APEC. They said it is bad for the world, while organizers said it is good for the economy.

But UH officials weren't about to take the sign down because of that. (So they got an excuse to cave in anyway.)

UH spokeswoman Diane Chang told KITV Monday that the city considers the sign permissible as a special events sign, but under the law it has to be down in seven days.

Those who took part in the protest were elated at the news.

read … No Free Speech for Pro-APEC

Lawsuit Attempt to Silence KCC Student

That's what happened to Dylan Hunt. The 25-year-old student at Kapiolani Community College blogged on Facebook in July about cockroaches, mold, deceptive billing and other problems he said he'd seen at the student housing complex where he lived.

A few weeks later, the company that manages the apartments sued Hunt for defamation. Hawaii Student Housing said Hunt's words falsely damaged its reputation and business prospects.

"It's amazing that all this can happen," Hunt said. "That someone would go so far to sue a student, when a lawsuit would arguably hurt their reputation more."

Lawsuits over online postings are an emerging phenomenon, said Jeff Portnoy, a Honolulu attorney and First Amendment expert. In 2009, administrators at an Illinois beauty school sued students for creating a Facebook page insulting teachers.

Portnoy said technology is changing so fast that the courts will have to catch up setting ground rules on defamation and free speech.

The lawsuit against Hunt could discourage others from publicly criticizing Hawaii Student Housing properties — called the "chilling effect," said James Bickerton, a Honolulu attorney with expertise in defamation law. That’s what often happens when people launch defamation suits against those with little means to defend themselves, he said.

“Legally it shouldn’t chill the speech, but the practical effect is that it does,” Bickerton told Civil Beat.

Hunt is representing himself — and he has fired back with a counterclaim saying the lawsuit is an attempt to intimidate him into silence

read … Free Speech

Big Island Farm Owner Speaks Out About EEOC Investigation

The owner of the Big Island farm, which operates Captain Cook Coffee Company, is speaking out about civil charges filed against his farm and five other Hawaii farms last April by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission calling the accusations "false."

U.S. District Judge David Ezra dismissed the complaint last week, saying the government agency that is charged with prohibiting employment discrimination has not been specific enough in its allegations. He gave the agency's Los Angeles-based attorneys 45 days to refile its lawsuit.

The Hawaii farms named in the complaint, including Captain Cook Coffee Company, Del Monte Fresh Produce, Kauai Coffee Company, Kelena Farms, MacFarms of Hawaii, and Maui Pineapple Farms, all contracted with the Los Angeles-based Global Horizons Manpower Company between 2003 and 2007, to bring in workers from Thailand to work on their farms.

Related: Human Trafficking: Did the US DoJ Purposefully lose the Aloun Farms Case?

read … EEOC

Hawaii County Paying $175/ton for Recycling

A committee looking into the proposed recycling contract concluded Hawaii County pays "a premium to recycle."

The ad hoc committee, led by Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann, submitted its report last month. The three-year recyclable hauling contract returns to the council for a final vote Wednesday at the Hawaii County Building in Hilo.

According to the report, the average rate for the current two-bin recycling hauling contract is $137 per ton. Add in the landfill diversion payment for recycled materials and the total estimated cost is $175 per ton. The landfill's operating costs are about $130 per ton, excluding equipment, facility or other costs, the report said.

read … Ca-Ching

Kauai Council Imposes Solar over Gas

Three weeks after a 5-2 vote defeated her request to address a loophole in a 2008 state mandate on solar water heating, Kaua‘i County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura recharged her proposal and is asking her colleagues to consider her request from a different angle.

Although the matter was deferred Wednesday until Nov. 16, it was apparent that other council members may be inclined to support the new proposal.

The problem, brought to light by Councilman Tim Bynum, was that the legislative intent of Act 204 — requiring new homes to be equipped with solar water heating — does not seem to align with the language in the legislation.

At the heart of the controversy is a variance in the law which is allowing half of new homes to be equipped with tankless gas water heaters — slightly cheaper than solar water heater to install but costlier to run.

Read … Solar

Coral Pietsch, Nominated for Judge, United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

From 2005 to 2011, she was the Chair of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission….

CB: Obama Nominates Former Inouye Staffer to FCC

read … Nominee

Michelle Obama Schedule in Hawaii for APEC Meeting

Michelle Obama will join President Obama to help host the annual APEC meeting of Asia-Pacific nations. Mrs. Obama will oversee a spouses programs and make a stop at an organic farm….

read … Ma’o


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