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Wednesday, September 18, 2013
September 18, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:25 PM :: 3511 Views

Decline in Pacific Currencies: Crisis or More Adjustment to Come?

H-Power Recognized for Excellence in Waste to Energy

UH leads initiative to build state’s multilingual workforce

'Green' Financiers: Hawaii has most 'diverse' tax credit, subsidy opportunities

Abe: Shame on ACLU for Abandoning First Amendment rights

Erik Abe: ...As soon as a priest refuses to solemnize a marriage, a same-sex couple will file a claim of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission. They will look at the governor's bill, which by then will have become law, and see another provision that states "nothing in this section shall be interpreted to exempt the owner or operator of any religious facility from the requirements of [the public accommodations law] if the religious facility is a place of public accommodation … "

The commission has very broad authority in determining the services that are "public accommodations." Arguably, the commission would view this provision as the Legislature's intention that marriage be construed as a public accommodation, since it clearly states that the public accommodations law supersedes any conflict that arises from the immunity protections found in the marriage law.

As such, the commission would have no choice but to allow the suit to proceed.

The only way to protect the freedom of religion and likewise ensure equal protection under the law would be to remove all changes to the marriage law — including the constitutional amendment, and civil union and reciprocal beneficiary laws — enacted after the Baehr decision (a lawsuit in which three same-sex couples argued that Hawaii's ban on same-sex marriage violated the state Constitution).

This would make Baehr the law of Hawaii and prohibit the state from discriminating against same- sex marriage license applicants.

The freedom of religion would be preserved because the Legislature would not be writing into law a regulation of a religious practice.

Such a change in public policy would be dictated by the ruling of the Hawaii Supreme Court and not by legislative decree.

I'm sure the ACLU knows this, but is deathly afraid of leaving it up to voters once again who might let their personal prejudices against homosexuals influence their vote.

So, it is all right to diminish the First Amendment of liberty of religious freedom to protect the Fifth and 14th Amendment rights to equal protection and due process.

But two wrongs don't make a right and shame on the ACLU for saying so.

Related: Gay Marriage Bill Violates First Amendment

read ... Exemption doesn't protect our First Amendment rights

No Complaint About Religious Freedom? Abercrombie Caught in a Lie

SA: The governor claims his bill offers a strong religious exemption clause. He argued that this exemption should be acceptable because it tracks language used in Act 1 of 2011 — the civil unions bill — and went on to say that "there's not been a single lawsuit … or single complaint."

That statement is false.

A lawsuit was filed by Wahiawa Emmanuel and by Waipahu Lighthouse Outreach center.

read ... Cam Cavasso

Gay Democrat Leader Lies About Children (Again)

Lie: To those who try to maintain that marriage is for rearing children: All studies to date over the past 18 years have found that children raised by same-sex parents have as good or better outcomes in life than those in traditional marriages. 

Reality: New Research on Children of Same-Sex Parents Suggests Differences Matter

read ... Homosexual Demands Submission

State Claims Open Primary has Created 'Vibrant Multiparty System' (LOL!)

SA: The state attorney general's office has defended the state's open primary as constitutional, arguing that even if it places a burden on political parties, that burden is justified because of the state's interest in removing barriers to voting, protecting voter privacy and supporting a vibrant multiparty system. (Translation: We like the one-party system.)

The Democratic Party of Hawaii filed a lawsuit in June alleging that the open primary violates the party's free association rights under the First Amendment. In filings in federal court on Monday, the state, which is representing Scott Nago, the chief election officer, counters that the party has failed to demonstrate how the open primary infringes on its rights....

A hearing on the party's motions for a preliminary injunction and partial summary judgment is scheduled for Oct. 7 before Judge J. Michael Seabright in U.S. District Court. The state has filed a countermotion for summary judgment in favor of Nago.

Nago has informed the court that preparing for the August primary begins months in advance, so any court injunction seeking to alter the process could potentially delay the primary election and then possibly the November general election. Nago also warned of the potential for voter confusion if any aspect of the primary election is changed.

Tony Gill, the attorney representing the Demo­cratic Party of Hawaii, said he is preparing a reply to the state's filings for the court next week. "I understand the points they're making. We think we can handle them," he said.

Most voters choose to participate in Demo­cratic primaries because the party has dominated island politics since statehood. Activists are concerned that primaries are diluted by voters — including Republicans and independents — who might not share the party's platform and core values. But many elected officials, including Gov. Neil Abercrombie and several leading state lawmakers, believe restricting the primary could reduce voter participation and conflict with the party's "big tent" message of inclusion weaken the one-party death grip on politics.

read ... A doomed defense

Obamacare: More for Haoles, Japanese, Less for Hawaiians

WHT: One meeting attendee, in a written question, pointed to a recent report that said Hawaii residents live longer than residents of other states. Vitousek said some of the increased longevity in the state is genetic.

Susan Hunt, project director of the Hawaii Island Beach Community, offered another insight on the disparity between a long average longevity, but high incidences of poor health outcomes.

“There are pockets of poor health throughout the state,” Hunt said, noting Native Hawaiians have higher rates of certain diseases, including diabetes, than the broader population.

Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, Ka‘u, said he also sees disparities in health outcomes between whites and Japanese people and Native Hawaiians.

“There are a ton of programs out there (to help people improve their own health), but people don’t avail themselves of them,” he added.

Dr. Jeffrey Tolan, a family practice doctor with Kaiser Permanente in Waimea, noted his medical group makes an effort to offer smoking cessation counseling whenever possible. Kaiser’s new Kona clinic, set to open next summer, also will offer more opportunities, and space, for health education.

“In this country, most of our resources go to sickness, not wellness,” Tolan said. “We’re trying to turn that around.”

read ... Less Resources for Sickness

Obamacare forks out $6.7M to 'Community Groups', They demand More

SA: To help spread the word about the Hawaii Health Connector, 34 community organizations have been awarded $6.7 million in grants to reach out to their clients and others who may need to sign up for health insurance.

The money is earmarked to hire more than 190 so-called marketplace assisters to help consumers and small businesses on each island.

But with two weeks before open enrollment begins, many of the grass-roots community groups named as marketplace assisters haven't been trained on the health law or plan options on the Connector.

"There isn't a product yet. We have not yet seen the details of the plans, so there isn't really anything to begin educating the public with right now," said David De­rauf, executive director of Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services, which won up to $175,000 to educate and enroll people on the exchange....

Faith Action for Community Equity, another group selected for outreach, hasn't signed a contract with the Connector yet because it is negotiating for more startup money.

"We're not going to be out on the streets on Oct. 1. That's not going to happen," said the Rev. Sam Domingo, president of FACE Oahu. "We don't even have staff for that yet. You just can't sign a contract one day and go out on the street the next. For organizations like ours, we don't have a ready staff. We still have to be familiar about the policies that are available and which companies are offering them. We have no clue."

read ... Doomed to Failure

HHSC: Banner Promised Massive Pay Hike to HGEA, UPW Staff 

WHT: Several meeting attendees also submitted questions relating to a possible private-public partnership with Kona Community Hospital, and asked CEO Jay Kreuzer what time frame, if any, existed to build a new hospital in West Hawaii.

Kreuzer said during the recent discussions with Banner Health Corp., a mainland-based not-for-profit health system that expressed interest in Kona Community Hospital and Maui Memorial Medical Center, there were talks of building a new hospital in North Kona. He said the hospital continues to face financial challenges, in part because of the existing contracts with employees that provide benefits the hospital is finding difficult to afford. Banner officials did promise to pay “mainland wages” to hospital staff, Kreuzer said, adding those rates were higher than current pay rates.

But he said Banner officials had not made guarantees about retaining existing staffing levels.

The company may have been able to provide some more efficient practices that may have reduced the number of hospital employees, he said.

“The biggest concern is we can’t grow,” Kreuzer added, answering a question about when the hospital should be replaced. “Is there a drop dead date? Yeah, it was yesterday.”

Related: HHSC: HGEA/UPW Employees Earn Less but Cost More

read ... Mainland Wages

UH Prof Warned of Pension Crisis 40 Years Ago

Price: It amazes me that with all the highly paid scientists we have working at the University of Hawaii, we should be so dependent on criticism from far-off states – the latest being Virginia. A report from the Virginia-based State Budget Solutions, “Promises Made, Promises Broken – The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers,” found that Hawaii Employee Retirement System has nearly $27 million in unfunded liability.

The study’s authors say the report is an evaluation based on fair-market valuations that discount liabilities at a risk-free rate, versus optimistic investment returns used by most plans.

I recall when I was taking classes in Wist Hall at UH, and Dr. Hubert Everly used to complain that our public retirement system was going to be in big trouble if legislators didn’t stop raiding the funds in the pension system simply because there is a clause in our state Constitution that says, in effect, that any shortages in the pension fund had to be covered by the government.

Back then, there were two groups of public employees that reacted to Everly’s warnings.

One included those who were retired and wondered if the source of the retirement funds was going to dry up and leave them hurting financially.

The second group was made up of public employees who were planning for retirement and were worried that there wouldn’t be any revenues in the state Treasury to fund their retirement plans.

Everly is not around anymore, and no one in government seems concerned about the results of the Virginia-based report.

The point is, Everly was right 40 years ago.

read ... Still not Listening

Change 'affordable housing' rules

SA: in many housing complexes, planned for Kakaako and other Oahu growth areas, a unit for sale or rent can meet the developer's requirement for providing affordable housing while being priced for those earning well above the median income. An individual wage-earner bringing in 140 percent of the area median income (AMI) earns about $96,000.

He or she would qualify for a unit that, under current rules, constitutes "affordable" housing, said state Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, who chairs the Senate's Human Services Committee. She said much new devel- opment is targeting precisely that range.

For a family of four, the AMI is $83,000, and current home prices are already beyond what they could afford. The latest home sales data point to new records in condo sales, with single-family houses on Oahu reaching a median of $665,000.

When the mismatch between median income and median home prices is so obvious, something has to give.

At the City Council, there's a push to change Honolulu policy about affordable housing requirements that are imposed on developers. City Councilman Ron Menor has introduced a pair of resolutions pressing the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) to change its affordable housing rules. Resolutions 13-168 and 13-202 deserve careful consideration when they come up before the Council Zoning Committee on Sept. 26. The proposals aim to:

  • Increase the number of affordable units that a developer is required to build in new development projects and lower the prices of those units.
  • Require developers to build affordable rentals as part of meeting the affordable housing requirements.
  • Increase the length of time that affordable for-sale and rental units stay in the affordable category.

read ... Change 'affordable housing' rules

Hawaii Charter Schools in Limbo Over Teacher Evaluations

CB: This year's Hawaii public school teachers are being evaluated under a new, controversial performance evaluation system that takes into account in-classroom observations, student surveys, academic growth and other measures that determine the size of raises that teachers will get during the next school year and beyond.

But the new system is spurring confusion and secondary problems because it is not clear whether charter school teachers’ salaries are being pegged to the same measures.

This uncertainty has left officials at those schools in a quandary. A month into the current school year, charter schools are scrambling to negotiate supplemental agreements — add-on customized contracts between the DOE and each school — with the Hawaii State Teachers Association. The previous supplemental agreements expired two months ago.

Charter school officials say it’s hard to negotiate a new agreement when they don't know whether their teacher evaluation models are in compliance with state and federal policy.

read ... Charter Schools

DOE execs due to get pay raises

SA: The Department of Education's six assistant superintendents will see their six-figure salaries go up an average 3.6 percent while the deputy superintendent will see a 16.6 percent boost under raises approved by the Board of Education on Tuesday.

The salaries of the department's 15 complex-area superintendents will also increase, on average by less than 1 percent.

The raises — the first in seven years for the executive positions — were approved retroactive to July 1.

read ... Pay Hikes

Geothermal? OHA, DLNR to Develop Management plan for Wao Kele O Puna

Crabbe: » Under our leadership, Waimea Valley has gone from losing money to generating income. Visitor counts are up and there is much reason for optimism.

» We are hiring some of the best and brightest land managers to move us forward.

» We have hired leading international real estate companies, Collier's International and CBRE, to help manage day-to-day operations of Gentry Pacific Design Center and OHA's Kakaako Makai properties.

» We have stepped up our oversight of OHA's contract with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to manage Wao Kele o Puna, requiring the DLNR to develop a sound management plan for this valued Hawaii island resource.

read ... OHA doing well but always room for improvement

Hounded by Dive Tour Operators, and Animal Liberation Nuts, Governor considers West Hawaii fishery rules

HTH: The fate of a controversial and long-worked-on fishery rules package now lies in Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s hands.

A state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman said Tuesday the rules package — on which West Hawaii residents, fishermen and state officials labored for the better part of a decade — was hand delivered to Abercrombie on Monday. The package went to the governor just weeks after two San Diego State University researchers submitted a paper for publication in a marine journal (designed to push the gov to sign).

The rules codify prohibitions on scuba spearfishing in certain West Hawaii waters, as well as the “white list” of fish aquarium fish collectors may remove within the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area, which spans 147 miles from Upolu to South Point. The package also introduces size and bag limits for yellow tang, Achilles tang and kole.

DLNR Chairman William Aila attempted to remove the scuba spearfishing ban, after receiving the rules package from the West Hawaii Fisheries Council. The Board of Land and Natural Resources, upon hearing testimony from people who supported the ban, added it back into the package.

At least a segment of the state’s experts on fish populations here told researchers last year they supported some of the measures already in place in West Hawaii to protect reef fish, according to a paper recently published in the journal Marine Policy.  (Translation: This is coming to the rest of the state.)

Related: Anti-Aquarium Nuts Attack Big Isle Fisherman For Catching Delicious Tiger Shark

read ... Fishing Ban

Council Notices Don’t Comply with Sunshine Law

CB: The question of legality turns out to be kind of a trick question. The sunshine law was written before the digital era and the general availability of email, so the law obviously has no references to email. No legal requirements are spelled out for digitally delivered meeting notices because such things simply didn’t exist when the law was written....

According to an OIP summary of meeting notice requirements, if notices aren’t postmarked at least six calendar days before the meeting, “OIP will routinely advise the board to cancel the meeting.”

ILind: City Council runs into Sunshine Law problem

read ... Sunshine?

More Retaliation: Kauai Mayor Puts County auditor on hot seat

KGI: The Kauai County Council met with county and private attorneys behind closed doors Monday  to discuss an investigation of personnel matters and to consider disciplinary measures involving County Auditor Ernesto Pasion.

The executive session was one more in a string of sealed meetings held by the council on the matter. While official details have been shrouded under personnel issues and attorney/client privileges, Pasion has received much support lately from some community members.

“(Pasion) has a very strong moral compass, and he is willing to commit into doing what is right,” Hanapepe resident and retired school teacher Peggy Haras said Monday....

For the current fiscal year, the County Auditor’s Office took a 29 percent cut compared to the previous year. The largest chunk of the cut, 22 percent, reflects the departure of former internal auditor Ron Rawls, who now works for the state and sued the county of Kauai for damages from an alleged constructive discharge.

Rawls vacancy was supposed to be filled last June, but recruitment was terminated after the position was dollar-funded, which means it is secured by a dollar, and could be filled if funding is available.

For some reason, the mayor and you folks saw fit to cut 30 percent from an organization that has gone way beyond in their integrity and accountability to provide this county taxpayers something so very much needed,” Taylor said....

It is disturbing, Taylor said, that the council was meeting on Monday to discuss issues which may result moving toward Pasion’s termination.

He said he hopes the council restores funding to the department so Pasion can continue to carry independent and objective audits.

Rosa said an auditor’s job is fit for someone who has “a lot of guts.”

“Ernest took the job with a lot of courage,” he said. “He has a lot a enthusiasm to do it and do it right, and correct the wrong.”

read ... First the Police Chief, Now the Auditor

Hawaii County Property tax staff under scrutiny for Moonlighting as Realtors

HTH: One employee is under investigation and another has apparently quit his moonlighting real estate practice after a summer of turmoil in the county Real Property Tax Division.

Finance Director Nancy Crawford, who oversees the division, said Monday that procedures have always been in place to ensure there is no conflict of interest between the public duties of the 43 staff members and their professional and personal lives.

But a formal conflict of interest policy was not put into writing until June....

One of the real estate agents, Michael Drutar, told the Board of Ethics last week that he was suspended without pay and is under investigation after he told his supervisor he wanted to disqualify himself from assessing a parcel because he had had conversations with the owner in the past in his role of private-sector real estate agent. Drutar agreed to an open session with the board, waiving his confidentiality privilege....

Another employee, Jaime Ortiz, a Real Property Appraiser V in Hilo, is still shown as a real estate agent with property listings of up to $1.8 million on the Century 21 website. But when Stephens Media Hawaii called the office Monday, the newspaper was told he no longer worked there.

Ortiz did not return a message left on the cellphone number listed on the Century 21 website.

Ortiz’ wife, Jasmin Bloom-Ortiz, is an officer and registered agent for Bloom Appraisers Inc. of Hilo, according to annual reports filed with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. With Bloom-Ortiz as secretary, Robert Bloom as president, Bebi L.K. Bloom as vice president and Aliza Bloom as treasurer, the apparently family-owned company advertises on its website that it is able to “professionally and persuasively” testify at appeal hearings to get assessments lowered.

read ... Profiteering from Inside Knowledge

Pigs Feed at Trough of Hawaii Co Gov't Waste (Literally)

HTH: The council on May 3, 2012, had given the Food Basket $275,000 to spend by the June 30, 2012, end of the fiscal year. The resulting rush to distribute the food, which had extra reporting requirements attached, resulted in the Food Basket having to “salvage,” or write off its books, more than 19,000 pounds of food — almost 10 tons.

“That was $46,916 in public funds that was wasted,” said Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan, who calculated the cost of the lost food. “(The former council) thought it was a crisis. I just wish we’d done it better, and in a future crisis, we will.”

Not all that food was thrown away, said Food Basket Executive Director En Young. Some was given to agencies that would accept the risk of lower quality food, and some was given to area piggeries.

read ... Pigs Feeding at the trough

Homosexuals May not be Removed from Juries

AP: A multibillion dollar case between two giant pharmaceutical companies grappling over arcane antitrust issues has unexpectedly turned into a gay rights legal imbroglio that raises questions over whether lawyers can bounce potential jurors solely based on their sexual orientation.

The case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday centers on whether Abbott Laboratories broke antitrust laws when it increased the price of its popular and vital AIDS drug Norvir by 400 percent in 2007. But broader public attention likely will be given to the three-judge panel's look at whether Abbott wrongfully removed a juror in the case brought by competitor SmithKlineBeecham.

The cost increase angered many in the gay community. SmithKlineBeecham, meanwhile, claims it was meant to harm the launch of its new AIDS treatment, which requires the use of Norvir. And the company contends "Juror B" was removed simply because he was gay.

"It's a big deal," said Vik Amar, University of California, Davis professor. "The headlines from this case are going to be about antitrust law — it will be about sexual orientation in the jury pool."

read ... About those who rule you

Marijuana Concentrate: 100% THC and Legal with a Prescription

KITV: Right now it is perfectly legal for smoke shops to sell BHO extraction kits. But is the BHO concentrate of THC legal for medical marijuana users?

Hawaii's medical marijuana users are allowed to have marijuana concentrate, but Kamita said this is not the same thing, "If it is straight THC, my feeling is no".

Butane Honey Oil is not just being inhaled but also consumed.

"People are extracting BHO and making it into other products. Chocolates, candies, those have already shown up in Hawaii already," said Kamita.

BHO can be colorless and odorless, which means people could also be puffing away right under the noses of law enforcement.

"If they are using it in their e-cigs it is very undetectable. All you see is the vapor, unlike marijuana cigarettes you don't smell BHO," said Kamita.

Kamita added that he will push for clearer laws this legislative session to make sure the THC concentrate is illegal.

Read ... Decadence

Anti-Plastic Nuts to gather on Oahu, Plan next Tax hike

SA:  Terry, the author of "Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too" will be speaking at various venues in Honolulu Sept. 20 to 22.

She'll be offering personal anecdotes and statistics on the environment and health problems related to plastic, as well as personal solutions and tips.

read ... Bag Tax Coming

Senator, Residents voice opposition to non-existent geothermal fracking

HTH: At its first hearing at a meeting of the County Council’s Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability, Bill No. 129 garnered plenty of support from residents. In fact, none of the approximately 35 (brain-dead) testifiers spoke in opposition to the bill.

Introduced by South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford, the bill would effectively ban the practice of injecting fluids deep into the ground to access resources. Most commonly, the process is associated with natural gas extraction on the mainland, where it has been criticized for contaminating water supplies. Fracking fluids have been known to contain water, sand and certain chemicals.  (And if you smoke enough dope, you will believe anything.)

Ford says she introduced the bill because she is concerned about the likelihood that geothermal companies may resort to the process in their efforts to generate energy from the lava flowing beneath Hawaii Island’s surface. It’s a process referred to as “enhanced geothermal.”  (And it isn't being used or planned for Hawaii, but the nuts are jumping up and down about this anyway.)

(These people will believe anything:) Shannon Rudolph pointed to the recent, disastrous flooding in Colorado as an example of a bad situation made worse by fracking....

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, who reported that he was tackling the same issue of geothermal fracking at the state level, told the council members to live up to their responsibility to protect the island..... (Yup: They have a senator.)

VIDEO: Fracking Ban Wins Committee Vote

read ... About what they have time for

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