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Thursday, July 18, 2013
July 18, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:09 PM :: 2995 Views

Tax Watch: Honolulu Property Taxes

Godzilla invades Waikiki, devours tax credits

How to end the Jones Act’s protectionism

Honolulu 1990 to 2010 Trends: What Do They Mean for the Next 20 Years?

Governor Releases $3.09 Million in Capital Improvement Grants

Alm to Retire from HECO

Phony Checks: Hawaii Better Business Bureau Warns About Green Energy Scam

Wounded Warrior Canoe Regatta

CDC: Hawaii Seniors Have Longest Health Life Expectancy

Korean Americans Oppose Gay Marriage More Than Any Asian Group, Survey Says

IAK: A new national survey of Asian Americans revealed that Korean Americans were the most strongly opposed to same-sex marriage of all Asian ethnic groups.

Seventy-three percent of Korean Americans were opposed to LGBT marriage rights, compared with 53 percent opposed for all Asian Americans. In addition, 51 percent of Korean Americans were “strongly opposed” to same-sex marriages.


read ... Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos Not Fooled

Council passes 9 Tax Increases

SA: Nine bills designed to curb property tax exemptions and create new tax categories that would make it easier for the City Council to raise rates on some targeted groups of owners were passed by the Council Budget Committee on Wednesday.

But a 10th bill, which would have lumped bed-and-breakfast establishments and transient vacation units into the hotel and resort tax classification, was shelved after strong opposition was given by B&B owners and others.

Nearly all of a series of bills designed to either reduce or eliminate existing exemptions for certain groups were met with at least some opposition from organizations representing those who receive the breaks....

At the end of an all-morning session, the Budget Committee voted to advance nine property tax reform bills, including Bill 42, which creates a new tax class for so-called "Residential A" properties, defined as a single-family home or condominium with an assessed value of more than $1 million. The properties do not qualify for a homeowner's exemption.

Several committee members said they may want to look at making the amount of the assessed value that triggers moving a property into the category higher than $1 million.

Budget Director: City must strike the right balance of revenue and services

read ... Tax Hikes

DoE: Abercrombie Stole our Kakaako School Site

HNN: A high-rise with roughly 425 units is being planned for 404 Ward Avenue across from Sports Authority. Most of the residences will be workforce housing units which are affordably priced. This project is the first of 22 towers slated to be built on land owned by the company.

"Unfortunately, the DOE has never been contacted by the developers to discuss the school capacity needs of this specific residential tower or for the rest of their 60 acre proposed development," said Heidi Meeker of the Department of Education.

With the recent approval of other condos in Kakaako, Meeker said that there wouldn't be enough classroom space at Queen Kaahumanu Elementary and Royal Elementary School. The Hawaii Community Development Authority believes there is time to find a solution since construction on the first tower won't be complete until early 2016.

"Some of the suggestions are that you create a smaller footprint for the school or you incorporate or redevelop some of the existing school sites," said Anthony Ching, executive director of the HCDA.

"For many years with development in Kakaako, we believed we had a school site at Pohukaina, and then very quickly we lost that site so that put us in a different situation," explained Meeker.

read ... Stolen by Abercrombie

Eight Dead at Kaloko, Smiling Pflueger gets Probation

SA: Retired car dealer James Pflueger pleaded no contest this morning to a charge of reckless endangering related to the 2006 Ka Loko dam breach that sent hundreds of millions of gallons of water downstream and swept seven people to their deaths.

Based on the plea, Circuit Judge Randal Valenciano found Pflueger guilty of the charge.

In exchange for the plea, state prosecutors say they will be dropping seven manslaughter counts against the 87-year-old landowner.  (Should've been 8 counting unborn child.)

Pflueger now faces up to five years in prison, but the state agreed to recommend probation. The state can argue, however, that Pflueger should serve up to a year in prison as a condition of probation.

(He had a big smile in court: I killed 8 people and all I got was 5 years probation.)  

CB: Hawaii AG ‘Satisfied’ with Ka Loko Dam Plea Agreement

read ... Insider Deal

Consumer Advocate: Lets Make a Deal

CB: Ono, a lawyer, has been at the helm for more than two years. He manages a budget of about $2 million, prioritizing its caseload to target projects and consumer issues that have the greatest impact on the ratepayers of utility and transportation services.

“People ask what my philosophy is, and I say I’m a dealmaker,” Ono said. “The job is adversarial by nature, so I’m trying to be more collaborative. We try to find compromise.”

Recent deals may be too friendly to Hawaiian Electric Co. and its neighbor-island subsidiaries.

The Public Utilities Commission presides over the rate cases. Its job is to review the project, consider the Consumer Advocate’s recommendations and make a decision.

In the past, the PUC’s decisions would fall somewhere in between what HECO wanted and what the Consumer Advocate recommended. Lately though, the PUC has gone even further than what the Consumer Advocate suggested.

A recent case involved Maui Electric Co.'s rate request. In July 2011, MECO asked the PUC to let it boost revenues by $23.5 million. The Consumer Advocate said that was way too much and the PUC agreed, signing off on an interim increase of $13.1 million as recommended.

But when it came time for final approval, the PUC dug deeper into MECO's economics. In May, the commission cut MECO’s return on investment from 10 percent to 9 percent and ordered the utility to return more than $8 million to its customers.

read ... Dealmaker

John Morton Leading Candidate for UH Interim President

HNN: Other interim president candidates with university ties include:

  • David Lassner, UH's vice president for information technology.
  • Former UH Vice President for Student Affairs Doris Ching
  • Former Interim Dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture Sylvia Yuen, who's a special assistant to UH President MRC Greenwood.

read ... UH Regents expected to vote on interim president

Tulsi Gabbard Teams up with No Labels

SA: U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will have a leading role in a bipartisan coalition to reduce government waste and inefficiency as the freshman Hawaii Democrat positions herself as a problem solver in Congress.

No Labels is expected to announce a package of reform legislation this morning backed by more than 70 House and Senate Demo­crats and Republicans. The theme is "Make Government Work!" and organizers hope it will set an example for how lawmakers can build trust and work together....

While the concept of bipartisanship is popular among many voters, some Democrats in Hawaii are suspicious because of the Republicans and moderate Democrats who have campaigned on bipartisan themes to help obscure conservative positions that are out of step with the electorate. Former Gov. Linda Lingle, former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou — both Republicans — and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case — a Democrat — ran as bipartisan problem solvers in unsuccessful campaigns last year.

In her primary campaign, Gabbard won over many progressives who thought Hannemann was too conservative to represent a traditionally Democratic 2nd Congressional District once held by the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, a liberal icon. U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, who vacated the district when she ran for Senate, was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

For some progressives, Gabbard still carries the burden of her family's political history. Her father, state Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kapolei-Makakilo), and her mother, Carol, a former member of the state Board of Education, have been among the leading opponents of gay marriage. Gabbard shared her parents' views until her military tours with the Hawaii Army National Guard in the Middle East caused her to re-evaluate her position on gay marriage and abortion rights.

Josh Frost, a progressive activist, said Gabbard has done a good job during her first six months in Congress but cautioned that the "jury is still out."

Bipartisanship, Frost said, can be overrated. "We need more Democrats who are willing to hold the line on progressive issues," he said. "We need more left-leaning Democrats to make a strong case for progressive values."

Other Democrats, speaking privately, marvel at the national attention Gabbard has received given her inexperience and thin policy resume.

POLITICO: Tulsi Gabbard ‘frustrated’ over Congress

read ... No Labels

State Department Murder Suspect Chris Deedy Was a Benghazi Security Agent

DB:  The Daily Beast plays catch-up ... June: Before Waikiki Shooting, Chris Deedy in Benghazi

read ... DB on Assignment from HFP

Dinnan Case: Police custody death ruled homicide

KHON: Honolulu Medical Examiner had ruled his death a homicide, paving the way for potential criminal charges and a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

The ruling comes less than two months after the M.E. said Dinnan did not look like he had been assaulted.

"Stephen Dinnan died as a result of a homicide, not an accident, not suicide but homicide," said Myles Breiner, attorney for Dinnan's girlfriend.

According to the medical examiner, Dinnan suffered chest injuries after he was being pressed against the ground. The M.E. also said Dinnan suffered a severe injury to his neck.

read ... Homicide

Union president defends increase in police officers' differential pay

SA: The allowance raised concerns among county mayors and others last week when it was announced that a binding arbitration agreement issued this month gave officers not just a 16.8 percent salary increase over four years, but also a raise in the differential pay from about $1 an hour to $4 an hour over the same period. (And Caldwell though it was going to help him get taxes hiked.)

Tenari Ma'afala, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, told Council Budget Committee members that officers are "compelled, while we're off duty, to act and not sit still because we could get terminated for cowardice and inaction." He added, "We have to be prepared."

Ma'afala recounted how he shot and killed an 18-year-old suspect on New Year's Eve in 1998 while visiting his parents' Mayor Wright Homes apartment. The man had been firing a gun, then turned the weapon on Ma'afala.

read ... Differential

HPD To Join in License Plate Reading

SA:  The Honolulu Police Department plans to acquire license plate cameras and readers, department spokesman Michelle Yu said Wednesday, but she didn’t know when such tools will be put to use on Oahu. The department is putting together a policy to govern local use of the technology because “it’s a new area,” Yu said. That policy will cover how long license plate information can be stored after it’s captured, and there’s no plan to share the data with other agencies, she said.

The cameras will be mounted on patrol cars, Yu said.

read ... Big Brother

Sheriffs Cruise Around in Hummer 'Just Burning Off Gas'

KHON: The past director said the pressure was on after a complaint came to the governor’s office that the vehicle was seen off-roading at Sandy Beach in the afternoon.

“Were we doing some kind of exercise or anything for that purpose?” Frank recalls asking his department. “I found out, no. The response I received was they were burning off the gas in the vehicle.”

Sound familiar?

Here’s the current administration’s answer to KHON2 last month when KHON2 asked why the Hummer had recently been seen as far west as a lieutenant’s home in Ewa Beach, as far east as the Koko Head firing range.

“We had to burn off gas because we didn’t have the resources to pump the gas out of the tank, so we just did it the most regular anybody else would do, just drive it around,” Deputy Director Shawn Tsuha previously told KHON2.

Turns out that’s not the only really big tank in the sheriff’s fleet.

Tipsters also asked, what about the Lincoln Navigator they always see sheriffs using near District Court? KHON2 saw it on the first drive up Alakea Street to check it out.

read ... investigation into a state Hummer leads to other fancy vehicles

13 Years of Tips May be Owed by Hotels, Restaurants

SA: Some Hawaii hotels and restaurants have placed themselves at financial risk by ignoring a 13-year-old state law requiring that service charges be passed on to their employees as tips. The state Supreme Court this week upheld the applicability of that law for pending lawsuits, paving the way for employees to pursue and collect past gratuities. The hold-out hotels should prepare to pay workers their rightful share to end the legal battle.

Numerous hotels appear to have ignored a 2000 Hawaii law that hotels and restaurants must distribute “service charge” proceeds directly to their employees as “tip income” on top of food or beverage prices. They have rebuffed employees’ lawsuits to recover income by maintaining that since the statute was established under consumer protection instead of labor law, the workers could not sue. They maintained tips are not recognized as salary by some unions because they are not included in determining union dues. Those are weak arguments.

Now that the lawsuits can proceed, the result could amount to millions of dollars in compensation to employees, including through their labor unions. In cases in Massachusetts, which has a similar law, dozens of establishments have been sued for violation, including a resort that reached a $7 million settlement with about 700 current and former workers. In New York, nearly all restaurateurs have settled similar cases while denying wrongdoing rather than going to trial.

read ... Employees should get income from service charges

State and city officials sweeping Kakaako homeless camp sites

SA:  Also on hand, officials from the Office of Hawaii Affairs, which owns land in the Kakaako where homeless campers moved to when city refuse crews began picking up their items on Ilao and Ahui streets. As in past operations, private and government homeless service providers are present to offer their services.

Officials are using two city ordinances in their attempts to keep the homeless out of parks and out of island parks.

Besides Kakaako, crews plan to return to the Ala Wai promenade later today where nearly a ton of refuse left behind by homeless campers was hauled to a landfill dump on July 1.

Left untouched by the city's actions thus far were the (de)Occupy Hono­lulu protesters who have been camping on the sidewalks at Thomas Square since November 2011 and who have been the target of various sweeps.

read ... Sweeps

Military families fear cuts to Autism therapy

HNN: She fears changes by Tricare, the military's health care program, will threaten his progress. Change always poses challenges for treatment, especially for military families dealing with deployments....

Gabe starts a new school next week, the same time changes kick in for Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA therapy.

Starting July 25th, there will be standardized testing every six months. If benchmarks aren't met, services can be cut.

Another change? Waivers are needed every year to get ABA treatment longer than 2 years or past age 16.

Autism Speaks has expressed concerns because the testing that will be used was intended for diagnosis and there's a shortage of people qualified to administer these tests. That could make qualifying for ABA treatment tougher for families.

read ... Autism

Hanabusa adds voice to call for POW/MIA Command briefing

SA: U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa has joined 11 other members of the U.S. House in requesting a briefing by the head of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii about an internal report containing allegations of waste and mismanagement at the Hickam operations.

The bipartisan letter requesting a briefing before the House Armed Services Committee within 60 days was sent to Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague on Wednesday, asking him about the allegations and what’s being done to address them.

Background: Senator Probes 'Corrupt' POW/MIA Program

Report: Joint POW/MIA Command on Oahu “corrupt, inept, mismanaged and wasteful”

read ... POW/MIA



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