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Thursday, August 08, 2013
August 8, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:32 PM :: 3243 Views

Hawaiian Homelands Commissioner Resigns After Mortgage Fraud Conviction Exposed

Obamacare Menu Labeling Law: The Food Police Are Coming

"Hawaii's Fittest CEO" at Center of Alleged Ponzi Scheme

PUC Chief Counsel Quits

Ninth Circuit Rail Appeal Preview

UHERO: Coastal Zone Management in Hawaii

UHERO: School's Out, Unemployment Up?

Lawsuit: Mentally Handicapped Girl Raped at Three DoE Schools

HNN: There's more fallout from the sex assault scandal at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind.

A lawsuit filed by a Honolulu woman says that students were allowed to sexually abuse her daughter repeatedly not just at the Kapahulu school, but also at McKinley High School.

The suit also alleges that a state employee sexually assaulted her daughter at the state-run vocational center at the Lanakila Center in Liliha.

"The schools were not doing their job. They allowed the abuse and they themselves were the abuser and they take no responsibility for it," said the woman, who was identified in the lawsuit by her initials R.H.

The girl was among dozens assaulted and beaten by fellow students at the Deaf and Blind school for years. A class action lawsuit over the school was recently settled, with the state agreeing to pay the victims $5 million.

Attorney Paul Alston -- who along with Maui lawyer Eric Ferrer and Honolulu attorney Susan Dorsey are representing the girl -- say they opted out of that class action settlement....

The girl, known as A.H., is now 19 and was a high school student when the alleged abuse occurred. The lawsuit says the girl is mentally disabled and has the intellectual capacity of less than a fourth grader.

The girl is neither deaf nor blind but was sent to the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind by the DOE, while she attended McKinley....

In one instance, the lawsuit alleges that a boy at McKinley High School entered A.H.'s classroom in 2011 and demanded in full view of a teacher that she meet him in the bathroom to perform oral sex on him.

When administrators learned of this incident, they suspended the girl and didn't take further steps to protect her, the suit said.

In another instance, an adult male employee at a state-run vocational program at the Lanakila Center in Liliha allegedly sexually molested her several times in 2011 and went so far as to give her a calendar that would "indicate when he wanted to sexually abuse her," the suit said.

Attorneys for the girl say the DOE was aware of the alleged sex assault by the adult but did not report the incident to police or other authorities.

CN: Lawsuit: Adult counselor engaged in questionable activities with students at Blind, Deaf School

CN: No Gag Order in Hawaii Blind-Deaf School Homosexual Rape Gang Case 

read ... DOE sued over sex assaults

HHSC: HGEA/UPW Employees Earn Less but Cost More

MN: Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, said he agreed that state lawmakers had not appropriated enough money to cover hospital workers' negotiated pay raises, but he took strong exception to a number of comments from Chumbley, especially those tying the need for more money to higher labor costs.

Perreira said Chumbley's comments in a Maui News story Wednesday were "dead wrong" in reporting that public hospital employees earn more than those in the private sector.

Actually, the story published Wednesday on Page A1 and continued on Page A4 incorrectly stated Chumbley's position on HHSC salaries. He did not say that HHSC pays higher salaries to its employees than those earned at private hospitals. In fact, HHSC employees have lower base wages than their counterparts in private hospitals, he said. Chumbley's aim was to point out that when HHSC employee pay is combined with the overall costs of worker benefits and work rule restrictions, total labor costs are higher at HHSC than private institutions. The Maui News apologizes for the error.

Also, it was "misleading," according to Perreira, for Chumbley to (accurately) report that public hospitals in Hawaii have labor costs of 76 to 77 percent of overall expenses while the national median is 51 percent for labor costs and 48 percent for private hospitals in Hawaii.

While Perreira acknowledged labor costs at public hospitals are higher as a percentage of the operating budget than other hospitals, the figures reported by Chumbley are exaggerated, he said, because private hospitals have higher overhead and depreciation costs that skew figures and make it appear that labor costs are much higher at public hospitals than they actually are.

(LOL!  In other words, HHSC can only afford payroll, while private hospitals can pay for thingys like medical tests, and equipment.  No wonder Hawaii hospitals are falling behind those in Africa.) 

Perreira agreed that public hospital employees have more vacation and sick time than their private hospital counterparts. (Public hospital workers receive 21 vacation days, 21 sick days and 14 paid holidays off.) He said that does mean that public hospitals need to hire more staff to cover for employees absent from work because of vacation, sick leave or holidays.

However, he said, the union has "long expressed a willingness to address the issue" with management, possibly by making base pay commensurate with private hospital workers. ...

Of HHSC's more than 4,000 employees statewide, 89 percent are either represented by HGEA or the United Public Workers union, Chumbley said.

Totally Related: VIDEO: Abercrombie squares off with Maui Nurses

read ... Maui News

No new insurers? State needs to Revisit Health Exchange

MN: Robust competition between insurance companies to gain those who are uninsured as customers is supposed to keep policies affordable. But, right now, the only participants signed up for the exchange are already Hawaii's two largest insurers.

Where is Aetna, Unitedhealth Group, Wellpoint, Humana or Cigna? Are the barriers to getting into the health insurance business in Hawaii so great that we have scared off even the biggest companies?

With only a couple of months left to go before the exchanges are supposed to work their magic, the state needs to revisit the connector and see what can be done to attract more participation by insurers....

The Health Connector's website spells out its mission right on its home page...it is hard to see how that mission is going to be accomplished if the choices of insurers remain as limited as they are now.

read ... Where are the insurers?

40% of State Prison Guards Allowed Unlimited Sick Leave

HNN: In recent years, prisons officials tried to crack down on sick leave abuse.  The administration of former Gov. Linda Lingle developed a program in conjunction with their union -- United Public Workers -- that Sakai said worked "fairly well."  

It targeted prisons officers who used all 21 days of their sick leave in a year.

"Once they reached the zero sick leave, we put them on the program.  They would be required to come to work.  Otherwise, they would face progressively more serious consequences until after a while they would lose their jobs," Sakai said.

But since then, corrections officers started to assert their rights under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows employees who either are facing a serious health condition themselves or caring for an immediate family member with such an illness to take leave.

"The family leave act says if you're out because of this, we can't hold that against you so once they did that, we can't use that in our attendance program," Sakai said.

Sakai said about 40 percent of the corrections officers in the state -- 474 of them as of late June -- qualified for what's known as FMLA.

"Once they do that, they can take a lot of leave and we can't touch them," Sakai added.

It looks like lots of corrections officers have some serious medical problems while others appear to be gaming the system....

Sakai said high absenteeism at OCCC is one reason why the facility spends $2.6 million a year on overtime, an amount that actually decreased by more than $600,000 this year compared to the year before.

He attributed the drop in OT at the prison to "better management" and requiring managers to justify overtime.

"They can't just fill a post just because there's a body waiting or a post waiting to be filled or someone wants to work overtime, there has to be a good reason for it.  It has to be a safety reason or a strong program reason," Sakai said.

read ... 40 percent of state prison guards have medical leave protection

New DoE Testing System Designed to Hide System Failure

MN: we don't understand how the Hawaii Growth Model for evaluating public school students' progress can possibly work...

...each student will be evaluated individually to see if he or she is making progress. This individual measurement will replace the "adequate yearly progress" requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

...there will no longer be a set score on a standardized test to measure if students are making adequate progress.

Our problem with Hawaii's model is that our students will be competing with their peers from all across the country for the best jobs. How can we tell if they are making progress to being able to compete for those jobs if the only measurement is "Are they doing better this year than last year"?

...the basic problem is that the new system will not give us even a glimmer of how good an education Hawaii students are receiving compared to students in other states.

Just because Junior has learned to spell a word or do a math problem he couldn't do last year doesn't mean he is making progress toward finding a great career in life. It may seem unfair at times, but the only way to see if Junior is making adequate progress is to test him against other students.

And that means standardized tests.

read ... Unsure how model can work

Accused Wait 1 year Due to DoE misconduct probe backlog

KHON: KHON2 had to turn to the open-records law to get anything, and over the four months since KHON2 filed, the cases have been disclosed in a trickle of one-page summaries, a handful of incidents at a time. They’re shocking, from sexual comments to children as young as middle-schoolers, to physical abuse, to financial shenanigans, even support staff sleeping on the job....

A handful of the records show the offenders are fired; more are suspended, most for one day. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“What happens is teachers are out forever and unfortunately the investigative process takes much too long,” Hawaii State Teachers Association Executive Director Alvin Nagasako said. “I’ve seen between three weeks and year, because there is a huge, huge backlog.”

“Unfortunately,” State Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said. ”The number of trained personnel who can handle a high level investigation is fairly limited in the DOE.”

Limited as in one; one permanent person in the department-level Investigations Unit.

“It’s an area that until recently had no one,” Matayoshi said. “The last three to five years is when we start to say, hey wait a minute, these are important matters to the personnel involved, we need to make sure there are professionals who are investigating this.”....

In the time since KHON2 started our investigation, the DOE has put some temporary positions in place in the Investigations Unit for this school year, using left over federal money — in this case impact aid to pay for it.

read ... KHON

State Rep. Mark Takai launches congressional bid

KHON: Hawaii State Rep. Mark Takai (D-Aiea) has filed paperwork to run for Congress in Hawaii's First Congressional District.Takai has served nearly two decades as a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives.

"Throughout my career, I've never had a lot of patience for partisanship and gridlock and

I've always looked for ways to work across the aisle to find the tough answers to our most difficult, shared challenges. Congress is in desperate need of people who are willing to work together for the country's good."

Takai, recently promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard, also served overseas as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009.

CB: Takai Bid Puts Hawaii's Military Role at Campaign Center

KITV: Rep. Mark Takai enters race for Congress

read ... Takai for Congress

Hanabusa Deputy Chief of Staff Resigns

SA: Christopher Raymond, the deputy chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa who offered to act as a go-between between Hanabusa's U.S. Senate campaign and the drug industry, has resigned.

Raymond sent an email to Hanabusa's advisers in June stating that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America intended to sponsor an independent expenditure on Hanabusa's behalf. Federal law bars political campaigns and interest groups from coordinating independent political spending....

The Hanabusa campaign said Raymond was inflating his influence and that the campaign was not coordinating with drug industry advocates. A PhRMA spokesman also told the Washington Post that no independent expenditure was planned, but that there were discussions about a drug industry fundraiser for the congresswoman.

A Kauai attorney has filed a complaint against the Hanabusa campaign with the Federal Election Commission.

WaPo: Claims Pelt

TH: Hanabusa staffer resigns after drug lobbying controversy

CB: Amid FEC Complaint, Hanabusa Aide Raymond Resigns

Related: Complaint Alleges Wrongdoing by Hanabusa Campaign

read ... One Picked Off

Schatz Proposes Massive Tax Hikes

CB: Sen. Brian Schatz is expected to announce at a press conference Thursday that he’s backing a bill that would strengthen Social Security by boosting taxes on rich people.

The legislation faces an uphill battle and seems like a long shot to pass in the Republican House.

But it will be popular among many progressives, and the event underscores how reaching out to the left could be critical in the run-up to Schatz' showdown in next year’s Democratic primary against Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Indeed, as University of Hawaii at Manoa political science professor Neal Milner said, the staunchest and most “extreme” candidates, regardless of party, tend to win their primaries these days. To win the Democratic primary, you need to win progressives.

read ... Schatz Wants to Tax the Rich for Social Security

DHHL: "Half of these guys don't even know what the hell they're there for"

SA: Nearly two-thirds of the DHHL's 193 full-time positions are filled by appointments or so-called exempt positions — outside the merit-based civil service system and subject to political patronage. It's a larger percentage than any other state agency. Critics of the department say this situation is among several factors, including a shortage of money, why DHHL has been ineffective in responding to long-standing inefficiencies. The state auditor reported in April that the agency "fails to meet its fiduciary obligations."

DHHL Commissioner Renwick "Uncle Joe" Tassill told the Star-Advertiser's Rob Perez: "Half of these guys don't even know what the hell they're there for."

Indeed, accounts have surfaced about pressure from the governor's office to fill DHHL jobs with political supporters, leading to turnover and less continuity under four different directors in the past five years.

SA: HHC Lacks Quorum, Cancels meeting--Abercrombie Blamed

read ... Reform process for DHHL hiring

Fired UH offensive coordinator earns more than governor

SA: Last Friday, UH dismissed Price months into his position.

Athletics Director Ben Jay says this firing, weeks before the start of the football season, is unfortunate.

“Sometimes it’s better to settle and get it over with it, and move on.” Jay said.

The $125,000-a-year offensive coordinator was let go from the university less than six months on the job.

“We’re paying an offensive coordinator more than we pay the governor,” said Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D) Manoa, Makiki, Punchbowl.

If you were curious, Governor Abercrombie’s annual salary is $117,312.

Sen. Taniguchi serves as chair of the Senate committee on higher education. He says this latest firing adds to the public’s mistrust.

KHON2 has learned that Price will be employed by the school until the end of October. Then he will receive a lump sum of what’s left of his contract that ends in February — about $40,000.

“It’s not a loss, it’s already built into the budget. They are just going to go without the position for the rest of the year,” Jay said.

read ... Fired UH offensive coordinator earns more than governor

Kona Residents Resist Federal Takeover of 19,000 ac Hawaii Land

WHT: A proposal to list nearly 19,000 acres between Palani Road and Waikoloa as critical habitat for three plant species could hardly have come at a worse time, said some residents who attended a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service meeting Wednesday.

Their worries included that such a designation could hinder long-planned development, slow the state’s sustainability efforts, affect land values or stifle what’s done on private land. For others, the proposal came at an opportune time to protect fragile species and perpetuate the landscape before there are too many obstacles and no flexibility to find other alternative areas.

At the West Hawaii Civic Center, the proposal left several meeting attendees in the midst of a classic struggle between development and environmental interests. However, Loyal Mehrhoff, field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Service Office, said it’s not necessarily about choosing one over the other. Mehrhoff thinks people, plants, animals, the ecosystem, development, the economy and culture can all coexist, but with good planning and vision. He challenged everyone to think about what they want the affected areas to look like in the long term and to consider conservation in their plan....

Mehrhoff said the designation would not mean private land would be taken away or that anyone who owns property within the critical habitat area couldn’t do anything. However, they might have to get the approval of the Fish and Wildlife Service. He explained certain actions may apply when there’s a federal connection involved in a project, such as if a federal permit is required, federal funding is involved or the land belongs to the federal government.

Mehrhoff said the federal connection is basically “a caution flag” for Fish and Wildlife Service or other federal agencies to evaluate the project and make sure the actions do not destroy or modify the habitat or the species without consultation. If any federal agency has any part in licensing, funding or permitting any activity on the critical habitat, then that agency must ensure the activity does not jeopardize the survival, management or reproduction of the species on that land. This doesn’t mean the project is an instant no, but it may mean for it to move forward mitigation measures would be required, he added.

Bo Kahui, executive director at Laiopua 2020 and president of West Hawaii Parks and Athletic Corporation, said the needs of the community for proposed programs, services, housing, commercial opportunities, a regional park, community centers and medical facilities are paramount. He believes these needs far outweigh that for critical habitat. He would like the planned urban land within the ahupuaa of Kealakehe, Keahuolu, Kohanaiki and Ooma to be excluded from the designation. He thinks there are other areas better suited for critical habitat....

read ... Feds Taking Over

Expert: We Have Room To Develop

MW: “Pre-1977, developers could build anywhere on Oahu,” said Ralph, as his French toast cooled and I shoveled omelet. “The general plan revision that year down-planned to agriculture or preservation thousands of acres, and it set as policy the development of Ewa.

“The 1983 development plans were more specific, establishing land use patterns to which zoning that established heights and setbacks had to conform. Those plans designated Kahala to Pearl City as the primary urban core. That designation slowly morphed up to Central Oahu where Mililani Mauka was developed and Koa Ridge has been proposed.”

The 1983 development plans also called for creation of a second city in Kapolei.

Portmore insists that “planners are not in control,” that a certain amount of development on Oahu “is a given.”

Thus, he has little sympathy for folks who oppose a development like that at Hoopili, an area zoned for just that:

“If you squeeze at Hoopili, where will the development go? It has to go somewhere. Hoopili’s opponents cite its need as prime agricultural land. We have plenty of prime agricultural land. Studies show that 5,000 to 6,000 acres in agriculture would sustain Hawaii. We’ve got that.”

SA: A&B, KSBE Kakaako Projects get HCDA approval

Oi: Under the Sun: Let’s focus on renewing Oahu’s older neighborhoods

read ... Room?

Council Rushed to Spend $48M on Housing  

SA: The nine members of the City Council criticized Mayor Kirk Caldwell and his administration on Wednesday for asking the Council to approve two last-minute measures that would spend $48.1 million on housing projects.

In a rare move, the nine members of the Council voted to approve — but all "with reservations" — resolutions 13-172 and 13-176, both of which are tied to the city's sale last year of 12 affordable housing complexes to a private developer for $142 million.

City Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi and Community Services Director Pam Witty-Oakland told Council members that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development required the city to include the sale's proceeds in its Community Development Block Grant "action plan," or a priority list of housing projects, and that the list needed to be submitted by Aug. 15.

An original action plan, submitted by former Mayor Peter Carlisle's administration, was rejected by HUD in June because it did not include the $37.6 million from the sale, Koyanagi said.

Witty-Oakland said failure to meet the deadline would jeopardize the city's annual share of the Community Development Block Grant and other federal funds of about $10.5 million this year.

Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said the late action on the two measures curtailed opportunities for public comment and for the Council to carefully weigh its options.

read ... Rush job

Deferred: Ballot Proposal to Reform Water Board 

SA: Council members also voted to defer a vote on Resolution 13-177, which would put on the 2014 ballot a proposal to amend the City Charter to strip the Honolulu Board of Water Supply of much of its authority, including its ability to approve its own budgets. Several people raised objections that the resolution was scheduled to be heard despite it not being on Wednesday's agenda.

Board of Water Supply Manager-Chief Engineer Ernest Lau submitted written testimony arguing that the resolution is unnecessary.

read ... Deferred

After Saving 50 Lives, Rescue Tubes Finally Legalized by State 

KGI:   You know those rescue tube stations, more than 200 of them, you see around the beaches of Kauai? The ones credited with saving more than 50 lives in the last five years?

They were illegal.

Not anymore.

The state of Hawaii and the Kauai Lifeguard Association signed documents Wednesday legitimizing rescue tube stations on Kauai beaches.

“I was extraordinarily pleased,” said Branch Lotspeich, president of the Rescue Tube Foundation. “I believe the state has now recognized the incredible value of the rescue tube program and making our waters safer on Kauai.”

read ... State approves rescue tube stations

New Parking Meters Already Broken

HR: For the second time in a week, I stuffed three quarters into one of Honolulu's fancy new electric running, wireless communicating, bank card accepting parking meters with the same result: nothing....

I learned that the battery providing power is supposed to last two years. In reality some last for as little as a month. And they cost $30.

But, fear not. Anyone caught with an "expired" meter gets fined $35.

read ... Parking Meters: Revenue, Robbery or Lottery?

Akaka tribe jurisdictional conflicts shown by mainland examples

HR: Congress is on vacation for the month of August. Thus one-third of the 113th Congress (8 of its 24 months) has expired, and the perennial Akaka bill has still not been introduced. What's going on? If a state-recognized Akaka tribe gets federal recognition, what kinds of jurisdictional conflicts would we see in Hawaii as shown by real conflicts now happening with Indian tribes on the mainland?

read ... Akaka tribe jurisdictional conflicts shown by mainland examples

Pflueger Insurers on Hook for Ka Loko

KGI: The state Intermediate Court of Appeals on Wednesday vacated a judgment that let 17 insurance companies out of a Ka Loko Dam disaster civil suit and remanded the case to the 5th Circuit.

read ... Ka Loko Dam case remanded to 5th Circuit

Hawaii Pacific University tops list of most diverse colleges

PBN: Hawaii Pacific University is the most diverse university in the nation, according to a recent ranking by the online review site College Factual.

Two other Hawaii Universities aren’t far behind. Chaminade University of Honoluluis No. 2 and the University of Hawaii Manoa is No. 4 on College Factual’s most diverse U.S. colleges list.

LINK: Hawaii Colleges Tops for Diversity

read ... Diversity without Affirmative Action.  Amazing

A Scientific Study Of ... Restaurant Menus?

S20: Innovative ecologists have found useful data in a variety of interesting and sometimes unusual places--newspapers, photographs, art, and even the memories of people who were around when things were different than they are today.

In the most recent issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a group of marine biologists adds one more unexpected source to the list: restaurant menus.

read ... A Scientific Study Of ... Restaurant Menus?

Australian Dollar's tumble fails to dent Hawaiian demand yet

TA: HAWAIIAN Airlines has yet to see a fall in passenger demand from Australia due to the sinking dollar but is watching keenly to see what the next 12 months hold.

The airline last year began Boeing 767 services to Brisbane and is redeploying some of its Airbus A330-200s for a seasonable boost in Sydney that will see it increase to 10 services a week in September-October.

Most of its traffic on the routes is outbound from Australia and chief commercial officer Peter Ingram said it was seeing an impact on yield because it sold in Australian dollars and then converted to the US currency.

"On the other hand, we haven't seen any reduction in demand to come to Hawaii or to come to the US," he said in Sydney this week. "We still see a fairly strong level in demand."

Mr Ingram said it was early days in terms of the currency movement and that the situation had been volatile.

read ... Give it time

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