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Thursday, February 06, 2014
February 6, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:41 PM :: 2651 Views

Schofield Engineers Return from Afghanistan

KOS: Abercrombie Terrible, Vulnerable, Deeply Unpopular–And Headed for Landslide Reelection

Lawsuit Alleges Abuse at Kauai Prison

Bills on their way to becoming laws that promote fiscal transparency

Faleomavaega still missing; American Samoa in legislative Danger

Full Text: Maui Mayor Arakawa State of the County Address

SB2728: Sen English Behind Unconstitutional Grab for title to Hawaii Roads, Trails

MN: A bill that aims to clarify that the state Legislature has the authority to determine public trails is drawing fire from Public Access Trails Hawai'i.

The trails advocacy group has been in a long-running dispute with the state and Haleakala Ranch over public access to the 3.3-mile Haleakala Trail, also known as the Haleakala Bridle Trail.

Senate Bill 2728, introduced by convicted cocaine dealer, Maui Sen. J. Kalani 'Powdernose' English, would add language to state law that currently declares that "all trails and other nonvehicular rights-of-way in the state declared to be public rights-of-way by the Highways Act of 1892 . . . are declared to be public trails." The additional language, tacked on to the end of the statement, would say "as determined by the Legislature."

A hearing on the measure is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. today before the Senate Transportation and International Affairs Committee, chaired by English....

Makawao attorney Tom Pierce submitted testimony Wednesday on behalf of his client PATH opposed to the measure.

"The proposed amendment is unconstitutional, ambiguous and essentially throws into question 122 years of law and settled jurisprudence that protects Hawaii's unique and culturally important historic trails and roads," Pierce said.

In his testimony, Pierce questioned the wisdom of changing a law that "has been virtually unchallenged for over 122 years."

The Highways Act of 1892 was one of the last acts of Queen Lili'uokalani before the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893, he said.

"Since that time, the Highways Act has created a legal framework for public roadways and has become a bedrock principle of Hawaii law," Pierce said.

He said the law provides that ownership of roads and trails remain with the state until it legally disposes of them in accordance with public law.

read ... Unconstitutional

Hanohano Committee Votes to Exempt DHHL from Open Records Laws

SA: A House committee (Headed by Rep Faye Hanohaho) advanced a bill that opponents say would cloak much of the homestead files for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in secrecy, but a Senate panel shelved the companion measure.

By a 5-0 vote on Wednesday, the House Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs panel passed an amended HB 2287, which now goes to the House Judiciary Committee. On the Senate side, the Hawaiian Affairs committee killed SB 2837, citing concerns raised by DHHL homestead lessees and others.

The bill would create a special exemption in Hawaii's open-records law, making government documents related to homestead lessees and applicants confidential if the records include personal data.

That would be a significant deviation from current state law, which generally requires state and county agencies to redact confidential information from a public document -- but the redacted record remains public.

Opponents, including the state Office of Information Practices which administers Hawaii's open-records law, say the proposed measure is so broad that it would provide blanket confidentiality to many DHHL documents, including some currently considered public.

read ... More Secrecy

Honolulu Risks Losing Millions on Affordable Housing Projects

CB: On Wednesday, officials from Mayor Kirk Caldwell's administration told the Honolulu City Council Budget Committee that they would seek new proposals from interested buyers of the affordable housing complexes and that they would set a minimum asking price of $130 million.

But that dollar amount is much higher than any of the three top bids that developers first offered to take over the city’s 12 affordable housing complexes.

Even the development group that ultimately won the bid — Honolulu Affordable Housing Partners LLC — offered $111 million before upping its proposal by $31 million as part of its best and final offer, which was accepted in 2012.

Managing Director Ember Shinn said the city needs about $130 million to make sure it brings in enough money to pay off $70 million in debt related to the properties, which have an appraised value of about $57 million.

She told council members there’s no guarantee the city will reach the $130 million threshold as it pursues a new deal, but that early indications are giving her hope.

“I misjudged the marketplace and what’s going on in the industry right now because my phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” Shinn said. “There are people who have come out of the woodwork from across the country, not just locally, that have expressed interest.”

Shinn admitted that many of these calls could be from developers and interested parties looking for a fire sale.

Honolulu has been trying to unload its 12 affordable housing complexes for several years now. Not only are many of the apartments in a state of disrepair, but operating the facilities costs the city $7 million each year.

SA: 3-year wait estimated for sale of city rentals

read ... Honolulu Risks Losing Millions on Affordable Housing Projects

Will Hawaii Go To Pot – Or What?

MW: ...the law enforcement community surely would be against any attempt to allow the cultivation of marijuana. It has said on many occasions that it is against legalizing any product that might endanger public safety. The Legislature already is dealing with the explosive issue of GMOs in locally owned agriculture.

A good question for the study to ponder is, “What will be the toxic level permitted on locally grown marijuana?” We worry a lot about spraying papayas, and you have to wonder the effect pesticides would have on marijuana.

Last year a lot of people didn’t believe the same-sex marriage legislation would become law, but it did. Legalizing marijuana is not impossible, and if there is anyone against the idea, they would be well-advised to get a early start on their opposition because this group has more support than most are willing to acknowledge.

Related: Open Letter Challenges Rep. Creagan on 'Medical' Marijuana

read ... Opponents Asleep at the Switch 

Estimated Water billing Down to 3,000 per Month

KITV: "We are currently generating on a monthly basis less than 2 percent of our bills going out as estimated bills," said Ernest Lau, BWS manager and chief engineer.

Lau says at the height of billing problems in March of last year, more than 90,000 of its 166,000 customers on Oahu were recipients of estimated billing. Last month, that number was reduced to about 3,000 customers. Lau attributes the improvement to better management of the agency's automated meter reading system, fixing a data upload issue and an increase in staff....

The improvement in paring down the number of estimated bills has also resulted in fewer calls to the BWS call center on S. Beretania Street. At the height of billing problems, the agency was receiving 1,400 to 1,600 calls per day. In January, the average number of calls has dropped to 400 to 600 per day.

"We are answering 96 percent of those calls, and the phone is answered within five or six minutes at the maximum," Lau told committee members.

SA: Water board policy prevents 3 estimated bills in a row 

read ... BWS reports progress on estimated billing

Lawmakers to debate bills aimed at Hawaii Community Development Authority

PBN: The Hawaii agency overseeing the redevelopment of Honolulu’s Kakaako neighborhood — known by some as the “Third City” — will be in the spotlight on Saturday as state lawmakers take a look at several bills aimed at the Hawaii Community Development Authority, including one that would repeal the agency altogether.

The House Committee on Water & Land is chaired by state Rep. Cindy Evans, D-North Kona-North Kohala, the same lawmaker who sponsored a bill that eventually led to the demise of the Public Land Development Corp., which was created in 2011 to develop state lands through public-private partnerships.

The hearing, which is scheduled for Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. at the State Capitol’s conference room 325, also will address HCDA’s procedures, to require more public notice and public input for development projects and rule changes.

Additionally, there’s a bill that would impose a one-year moratorium on the state agency’s approval of any development plans or proposals for Kakaako, as well as one that changes the way board members are appointed to the HCDA.

DN: Hawaii’s Thousand Friends urges repeal of HCDA—testimony needed

read ... HCDA Debate

OHA pledges not to build condos on Kewalo Basin waterfront

SA:  Peter Apo, an OHA trustee who chairs a group evaluating development of the agency's land in the area known as Kakaako Makai, said no residential development would occur on the five parcels totaling about 13 acres from the former Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant to the edge of Kakaako Waterfront Park next to the Point Panic bodysurfing site.

On this stretch of land, Apo said OHA supports a community vision for a public waterfront promenade. Some commercial development also would be possible under existing development rules.

OHA is looking at residential development on three other parcels -- two fronting Ala Moana Boulevard and one fronting the ocean just beyond the Ewa edge of the waterfront park, Apo said....

A bill that would allow residential development on OHA's Kakaako land, House Bill 2554, is scheduled for an initial hearing Saturday at 9 a.m. by two House committees. A companion bill, Senate Bill 3122, is scheduled for its first hearing Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. by two Senate committees.

read ... OHA pledges not to build condos on Kewalo Basin waterfront

Tax relief brewing

HTH: The two bills being considered would cut the per-gallon taxes for manufacturers defined as “small” breweries, distilleries or wineries.

For breweries, that would mean they produce no more than 60,000 barrels of beer per year.

The tax rate for liquor, for example, would drop from $5.98 to $2.57 a gallon, while the tax on beer would drop from as much as 93 cents to 23 cents, and the tax on still wine would fall from $1.38 to 59 cents.

The difference in taxes would cover the cost of shipping a container of Marrero’s beer to the mainland, he said.

The bills, House Bill 2483 and Senate Bill 3041, are aimed at supporting a modest but expanding industry in Hawaii.

Ten craft breweries operate in Hawaii and eight more are preparing to open in the coming year or so, Marrero said.

read ... Brewing

HB1999: Pretend to Protect ratepayers

SA: How is this transition to green energy supposed to work, anyway?

That question demands an answer, and the Legislature is reasonably seeking one, through House Bill 1999. The current draft of the measure would establish the Legislative Utility Oversight Task Force, a body to be convened and to focus its attention specifically on investor-owned electric public utilities. The task force would submit a report in a year, and every five years after that.

The measure drew support from Hermina Morita, the former legislator who chairs the Public Utilities Commission. That's significant, because the PUC is the agency that now regulates HECO and other utilities, and critics might charge that this makes a task force duplicative.

read ... Faking it

Victims of Solar Scammers Blame HECO

HNN: About 20 people testified their support, some while fighting back tears, for a bill that could lead Hawaii's electric utilities to better accommodate homeowners who make their own solar energy....Many directed their frustration at Hawaiian Electric, or HECO, which they said has capriciously kept them from connecting their solar installations to the grid....One homeowner said HECO has not allowed him to connect the system he paid for with a $35,000 loan. William Walker of Ewa Beach told lawmakers the utility "can't begin to understand" his frustration.

Reality: No Blackout: RevoluSun Exposed

read ... Victims

Honolulu solar PV industry showing mixed signs so far this year

PBN: Honolulu’s solar photovoltaic industry showed mixed signs last week, at least when it came to the number of residential permits issued, which increased by 15 percent compared the previous week, but declined 25 percent from the same week last year, according to statistics from the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

So far this year, the total number of residential permits issued was 688, a 27 percent decrease from the previous year.

The total value of residential PV permits was $4.4 million, a 15 percent increase from the previous week but a 44 percent drop from the same time period last year.

The total value of residential PV permits, so far this year, was $17.2 million, a 42 percent decrease from last year.

The average value of residential PV permits was about $23,600, the same average value in the previous week, but lower than the average value in the same period last year, which was $31,300.

Meantime on the commercial side last week, Honolulu issued three PV permits, which is about the same number that were issued during the previous week, but fewer than the eight issued during the same period last year.

CB: PV on Oahu: 2013 in Review

read ... Mixed Signs

SB2924: Let Public Utilities Commission Keep More Special Fund Money

CB: Sen. David Ige has introduced a bill that would let the Public Utilities Commission keep up to $10 million in its special fund each year. The commission currently retains just $1 million, with the excess money siphoned off into the general fund....

Senate Bill 2924 has its first hearing set for Thursday morning before the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, chaired by Sen. Roz Baker.

read ... Lawmakers May Let Public Utilities Commission Keep More Special Fund Money

Higher Athletic Fees Coming? $2 million shortfall forecast for sports

SA: University of Hawaii athletic department is staring at the possibility of a $2 million deficit this fiscal year and may have to lay off some part-time and temporary workers, a Board of Regents committee was told Wednesday.

In addition, officials held out the possibility that the student body could be asked to pay a higher athletic fee as early as next year and the cost of individual game football tickets — but not season tickets — could go up.

The news came with five months remaining in a fiscal year in which the athletic department was tasked with reining in its annual deficit to no more than $1 million.

read ... UN Manoa Sports

HB2454: GMO regulation task force bill moving in Senate

BIVN: A bill that would create a task force to “determine whether a state-established regulatory regime should be established to address agricultural use of genetically modified organisms” has been passed by two out of three Senate committees so far this session.

SB2454 has already gotten an OK from the Senate Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Higher Education. On Thursday it will be taken up by the Judiciary and Labor Committee.

According to the bill, the task force shall be composed of four intelligent people, one anti-GMO lunatic from the HFUU, and four wildcards to be selected by The Abercrombie.

Numerous individuals associated with the anti-GMO movement testified in opposition.

PR: Backstory on Defeat of Nishihara's Gut n Replace 

read ... HB2454

SB2433: Anti-GMO Activists Cheer Effort to Harass Farmers Market Vendors

BIVN: The Senate Committee on Agriculture will vote on SB2433, which will require all agricultural products sold at farmers’ markets to be displayed with a label or sign that shows the product’s geographic origin. The bill also makes noncompliance a violation of the law.

“Thank you for introducing this essential protection to promote local agriculture through farmer markets,” wrote anti-GMO activist Simon Russell of the anti-GMO Hawaii Farmers (Gardeners) Union United in support of the bill. “Abuse of the popular venue is rampant, I see produce from out of state all the time at farmer markets.”

Christopher Manfredi of Ka’u, President of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, supported the intent of the bill but brought up a few concerns in his written testimony:

Although we agree with the intent, HFBF is concerned that this may place an unreasonable burden on vendors who sell multiple products and whose produce and other products vary according to crop and season.

Additionally, the requirement that vendors retain and have available on site, two years’ worth of records detailing the volume and origin of each product sold may also be unreasonably burdensome to farmers.

The term “Agricultural product” is very broad and would apparently also apply to value-added products sold at these markets. These goods may contain multiple ingredients, not all of which are locally produced. Would the vendors of these products need to identify the amount of each local ingredient contained in each item?

The proposed law would apply to “Farmers’ markets,” which is defined broadly as any market where farmers sell their products directly to consumers. There are many farmers’ markets on each island but we notice that there is no additional funding offered for HDOA to implement and enforce the requirements of the proposal.

read ... Harassment

HB2022: Enviros Harass Restaurants over Styrofoam Again

CB: House Bill 2022, which is scheduled for a decision making tomorrow, co-sponsored by Reps. Chris Lee and Nicole Lowen: Requires restaurants or food establishments to provide consumers with the option of using compostable or reusable disposable food service containers. Requires signs to be posted informing consumers that such containers are available. Establishes penalties for violations.

read ... Harass Restaurants

HPD sergeant facing demotion for confrontation with Occupiers caught on video

HNN: A veteran Honolulu police officer whose loud confrontation with a man in front of police headquarters was caught on video last year is being disciplined, but won't lose his job, sources told Hawaii News Now.

Chris Smith posted a video posted on YouTube back in March that he called "Making a complaint on a berserk police officer."  On the video, Smith said he was being harassed by HPD Sergeant Larry Oliva outside the main police station on Beretania Street as he tried to file a complaint against him.

read ... Occupy Bags a Pelt

Automatic jail time proposed for repeat car break-in thieves

KHON:  In 2012, there were 6,000 cases of vehicle break-ins and 2013 saw even more.

“So this measure is designed to address those concerns of the community to try to get a little stronger on these individuals, in particular the repeat offenders,” said Sen. Will Espero (D) Ewa Beach.

Under the proposal, there’d be no second chance for someone convicted of breaking into a car a second time — mandatory jail.

Sen. Espero says the punishment should be more severe with each offense.

“There has been an increase. Usually during the holiday season, there’s more of an increase in these break-ins. But now, it’s a lot of random stuff now. People just breaking in,” Dias said.

In Hawaii, insurance agents get calls from locals and visitors alike.

“It seems like the other areas are the tourist areas. They rent a car and they go to a state park beach and they leave the car there,” Welsch said.

The bill would have its first hearing on Friday at 10 a.m.

KGI: 22 years old, 39 arrests car burglar gets 5 years

read ... Tough on Crime?

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