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Thursday, February 13, 2014
February 13, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:06 PM :: 2591 Views

Bhagowalia Quits Abercrombie Administration, Flees State

Caylee’s Bill Up For Public Hearing Today

VIDEO: Pono Choices Forum at State Capitol

SB2999 SD1: Dissolve Failed Hawaiian Roll Commission

Xtreme Bankruptcy: Burned out Wind Farm Battery Maker to be Auctioned off

Study: Wind Farms Die After 10-15 years

Hawaii legislators reject Azerbaijani Resolutions

Hawaii Boasts Most Expensive U.S. Destination for Presidents' Day Weekend

Hawaii pesticide data: Homes not fields found to be source of most problems

Today's Legislative Agenda

HUD: $4,200 Contribution to Ernie Martin Buys $1.2M Loan Forgiveness?

CB: Federal records released Tuesday show Honolulu City Council chair Ernie Martin received more than $4,000 in campaign contributions from the president of an organization that had been given millions of dollars in grant money by the city department he ran.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says those campaign contributions may have influenced a decision to forgive a $1.2 million loan to ORI Anuenue Hale. Other organizations seeking loan forgiveness at the same time were not given the same break, the records show.

The documents confirm that Martin is the politician referenced in a section of a June 3 report that raises concerns about the loan being forgiven while city officials were receiving campaign donations....

HUD initially withheld the names of officials it said were involved in possible political favoritism involving ORI. The documents were released late Tuesday as part of a Civil Beat Freedom of Information Act request....

The documents show that the loans for ORI were written off without telling HUD or getting the agency's approval despite the fact that the loan money had come from the federal agency....

HUD has asked the city to repay the nearly $8 million it has given to ORI in federal grants or risk losing future funding through the agency’s Community Development Block Grant program. HUD has also asked the city to reinstate the $1.2 million loan until a public hearing can be held on the matter.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell has hired a private firm to investigate the assertions in HUD’s June 3 report. Among the allegations are that ORI requested a $90,000 donation from a contractor in exchange for a $5.3 million construction contract....

read ... Ernie Marin

Star-Adv: Use LNG to ease ratepayer costs

SA: Ongoing talks about a shared military-civilian operation to import liquefied natural gas sound promising, as long as the anticipated economic benefits are broadly shared.

The most encouraging development in Hawaii's LNG exploration is the partnership that is forming between Hawaiian Electric Co. and the Navy. Preliminary plans call for a near-shore floating terminal at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. From here, according to officials of the Navy and the utility, LNG would be offloaded from ships, converted back to a gas and piped to HECO plants, where it could replace oil as the fuel firing electric generators.

The Navy stands to benefit from cheaper electricity generation, and has supported further study of the plan, including an environmental impact statement. The advantage of this partnership is that the site of the unloading-processing facility would be more secure than alternative locations and that some of the infrastructure costs would be borne by more than one entity.

That's why the state administration has rightly urged discussions, underway now, among all interested parties. These involve HECO, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and Hawaii Gas, a utility with a statewide customer base that has its own plans for LNG imports.

These talks, as well as the movement on the Navy project, also should prompt the state Public Utilities Commission to accelerate consideration of the Hawaii Gas proposal for small-scale LNG imports serving its existing customers.

read ... Use LNG

Caldwell's Latest Trick: $120 Garbage Tax

HNN: Mayor Kirk Caldwell's administration is proposing a $10 a month fee to pick up refuse, recyclables, green waste and bulky items.

The city says the fee would only apply to those who currently take advantage of the city's refuse service, and not for those who use a private service....

City Council Budget Committee Chair Ann Kobayashi said she'll study the proposal closely to see if it is actually equitable, and if it will make the city's garbage collection more efficient.

read ... City proposes fee for trash pickup service

Senate panels OK OHA plan to develop Kakaako parcels

SA: The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs won support from two Senate committees Wednesday to develop condominiums on land in Kakaako makai of Ala Moana Boulevard despite deeply divided testimony on a bill that would reverse a 2006 law prohibiting residential use in the area.

The bill that passed, however, would restrict condo development to three inland parcels out of nine mostly waterfront parcels that the state gave to OHA two years ago to settle disputed claims over unpaid ceded-land revenue.

Committees on Hawaiian Affairs and Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing voted unanimously to pass the amended version of Senate Bill 3122.

read ... Senate panels OK OHA plan to develop Kakaako parcels

PHOCUSED, Hee Demand Legislators Use Minimum Wage to Screw Restaurant Industry

PR: Dozens of activists with the “Hawaii Needs A Raise” coalition held a rally at the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon where they called for a $10.10 minimum wage, a tie to the Consumer Price Index and the end of the tip credit.

The activists marched to state Sen. David Ige’s and state Rep. Sylvia Luke’s offices and delivered oversized letters urging them to hear the new Senate and House drafts of the minimum wage and not the bill left over from conference last session.

“There’s research that shows if you increase the minimum wage to $10.10, that’s enough to lift a household of three out of poverty,” said Scott Morishige, the executive director of PHOCUSED, a social-service advocacy group.

read ... PHOCUSED

Thanks to Supreme Court ruling, VOG is now Basis for Lucrative Workers Comp Suits

SA: The Hawaii Supreme Court case of my client, Lynedon Van Ness, involving workers' compensation and the exacerbation of his asthma because of vog, has been misinterpreted by many.

Not everyone breathing vog will have a workers' compensation case. There must be a connection between the job and the injury or disease for workers' compensation to be applicable.

Van Ness' situation on Maui was unique. He had high-efficiency particulate absorption (HEPA) air filters in his car and at home. He was largely a homebody. Vog particulates were removed from the air by his HEPA filters. Unless Van Ness was at work, he was largely in an air-conditioned environment, and, therefore, his exposure to vog was at work.

Van Ness worked as a technology coordinator for the state Department of Education at Lahainaluna High School, which is located high on a steep hillside. He was required to walk up and down the hillside carrying computer equipment, and this caused him to breathe the voggy air in deeply, and resulted in the exacerbation of his asthma.

read ... Ca-Ching

Fraud: Hawaii Pays $400K Disability to Daughter of Dead Man for 2 Decades

SA: Court documents say her father Edwin Callison qualified for Hawaii disability benefits when he was injured in 1976 at his job at the Kauai Humane Society.

He died in California in 1990 but Williams continued collecting his benefits.

According to a plea agreement, Williams deposited nearly $400,000 in a joint account and forged documents when Hawaii officials wanted to verify her father was still alive.

read ... Another One

U6: Hawaii's Real Unemployment Rate 11.5%

CB: One of the alternative measures of unemployment used by the labor statistics bureau includes all people who are seeking employment plus anyone who isn't actively looking for a job but would accept one if the opportunity came up, as well as those who are forced to work part-time even though they'd rather work full-time. Some economists refer to this measure, which the bureau calls "U-6," as the "real unemployment rate," because it offers a clearer indication of unemployment and underemployment.

In Hawaii, the "real unemployment rate" was 11.5 percent in 2013 compared with 13.8 percent nationally.

Civil Beat analyzed 10 years of unemployment data and found Hawaii's "real unemployment rate" fluctuated between 6.2 percent and 7.5 percent between 2004 and 2008 before nearly doubling to 15.5 percent in the year after the recession hit. The rate has been creeping down since it hit a high of 16.9 percent in 2010.

Even with its ups and downs, Hawaii's main unemployment indicators — both the standard rate and the broader U6 measure — are consistently lower than their national counterparts.

read ... About Reality

Pine, Arakawa Top GOP Fundraisers

CB: Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine is the top Republican fundraiser since the last general election even though she holds a nonpartisan office....

Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine is the top Republican fundraiser since the last general election even though she holds a nonpartisan office.

read ... Fundrace

Atheist Trash Score $200K from New Hope Settlement

HNN: New Hope Church is paying $775,000 to settle a lawsuit by local activist Mitch Kahle, Hawaii News Now has learned.

The payments were disclosed in filings in state Circuit Court by New Hope's parent organization, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

Most of the money will go to the state's school system but a big chunk -- about $200,000 -- will go to Kahle for pursuing the lawsuit, which accuses New Hope and several other churches of underpaying the state to rent school facilities.

read ... New Hope paying $775K to settle suit

$100K Raise for DoE Sup't?

CB: ...the proposal is making its way through the Legislature. House Bill 2257 got the green light from the education and labor committees, while its companion, Senate Bill 2806, moved out of the Education Committee earlier this month.

But those skeptical of the increase wonder whether conversations about how much Hawaii should pay its DOE superintendent — who oversees the state’s largest employer and the nation's ninth largest K-12 student population — have focused too much on stand-alone salary figures rather than what it takes to lead. The contract of the current superintendent, Kathryn Matayoshi, expires this June.

“(The proposal) deserves further scrutiny,” said Rep. Gene Ward, who voted in favor of HB 2257 in its second reading despite his reservations. “Money is not the key issue, but (HB 2257) makes it like it’s a key issue.”

read ... What Does it Take to Run a School District?

Homeless program coming to Hawaii

HNN: "Housing First is a program that provides people who are homeless and have complex problems like mental health problems or addiction problems a place to live right away, and then provides a lot of support services to them after they're housed" Dr. Tsemberis described....

"The state has received a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, that grant is for 2.1 million dollars" said Colin Kippen, Chair of the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The grant will cover the cost of a pilot program, in which 100 homeless people in the state will enter into the Housing First program.  Services and housing will be furnished by existing providers working in partnership with the state. ($2.1M / 100 = $21,000 per Homeless)

The program is underway with provider training now; however, there is no timetable for when the first homeless will enter into the program.

read ... Homeless program coming to Hawaii

Open-government advocates are alarmed at advancing legislation

MN: While opposed by open-government advocates, a Senate bill advanced in the state Legislature this week - with amendments - to allow county council members to jointly attend any meetings or presentations without violating the state's Sunshine Law, as long as the gathering is open to the public.

An amended Senate Bill 2962 passed out of the Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Among those on the committee, which voted unanimously in favor, was panel Vice Chairwoman and South and West Maui Sen. Roz Baker.

A companion measure, House Bill 2139, is set to be heard at 2 p.m. today by the House Judiciary Committee....

read ... Open Government?

Ethics: Hawaii County takes a Page from Caldwell's Playbook

HTH: “Don’t keep a dog and bark yourself,” seemed the adage of the day Wednesday as the county Board of Ethics considered a complaint that Finance Department officials punished an employee for violating the ethics code without first getting an opinion from the board charged with making those determinations.

At issue was a complaint by former West Hawaii real property appraiser Michael Drutar, who said he was suspended two weeks without pay for allegedly violating the ethics code after he told his supervisor he wanted to disqualify himself from assessing a parcel because he had conversations with the owner in the past in his other job of private-sector real estate agent.

Drutar, who resigned from the department Jan. 31, made several complaints in recent months about what he saw as conflicts of interest by other employees. The Board of Ethics last month unanimously found an employee of the department violated the ethics code when she, following supervisors’ instructions, set tax values on a neighborhood of properties that included her own.

Drutar thought he should not have been punished for violating the ethics code without a hearing before the Board of Ethics.

read ... Retaliation and Counter-Retaliation, Yes, its Hawaii County

Under Senate Proposal, Parents Could be Prosecuted for Unreported Missing Children

HR: In one of Hawaii's most notorious missing person cases, Peter "Peter Boy" Kema Jr. vanished on September 11, 1997, on Hawaii Island at the age of 6, but his mother, Jaylin Kema, didn’t report him missing until January 1998.

Under a proposal pending in the Senate, Jaylin and Peter Boy's father, Peter Kema Sr., could be charged with felony for not reporting the death or disappearance of their child within 48 hours....

In 2005, the state released 2,000 documents on his case that revealed the terrifying life this child endured, because of an abusive father. (See highlights in the Honolulu Advertiser archives)....

On Thursday, the state Senate will hear Senate Bill 2160, named Caylee’s Law after Caylee Anthony, which would make it a felony if a parent or guardian does not report the death or disappearance for more than 48 hours of a child.

Background: Caylee’s Bill Up For Public Hearing Tomorrow

read ... Caylee's Law

Moving in the Legislature:

Did the Legislature Learn anything from 'Islam Day' Fiasco?

KITV: Unlike bills, resolutions don't carry the weight of law if adopted. Sen. Sam Slom, a Republican who has served 19 years, says some resolutions have unintended consequences, like the one passed by lawmakers in 2003 before the outbreak of war between the U.S. and Iraq.

"It was urging the president of the United States not to take any harsh action against Saddam Hussein and the regime over there," said Slom. "I think the invasion took place two weeks later."

Yet another resolution passed in 2009 and proclaimed Sept. 24 as Islam Day. Some lawmakers and members of the public felt it was inappropriate to commemorate a religion connected to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Sometimes I think that people should read some of these things better and think about them more," said Slom.

So far in the current legislative session, lawmakers have introduced 76 resolutions or concurrent resolutions, which signify a measure is up for adoption in both chambers.

However, two resolutions heard Wednesday drew the ire of ethnic Armenians like Ani Martirosian Menon, a professor at Hawaii Pacific University. One resolution urges President Barack Obama's administration to facilitate a political settlement to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while the other recognizes the anniversary of the Khojaly Tragedy. Both resolutions were deferred after overwhelming negative testimony.

"I was dumbfounded," said Menon. "I didn't understand why this piece of legislation would be even heard by our state House (of) Representatives. It's always a head scratcher; I never really understand quite where these resolutions are founded." 

Related: Hawaii legislators reject Azerbaijani Resolutions

read ... Not all resolutions hit the mark

Fire: After 18 Months, Kahuku Wind Farm Finally Repaired

SA: (Mafia-connected) First Wind has restored the output of its Kahuku wind energy project to full capacity after a fire shut down the facility nearly 1 1/2 years ago. (No word on cleaning up all the lead which was sewed across the site.)

The company said Wednesday it finished testing a voltage regulation device that was installed to replace the battery system that caught fire and knocked the plant out of service on Aug. 2, 2012.

After working for months with Hawaiian Electric Co. to make sure that the new technology performed to specifications, First Wind was cleared on Jan. 29 to increase the output of Kahuku Wind....

Meanwhile: Xtreme Bankruptcy: Burned out Wind Farm Battery Maker to be Auctioned off

read ... Until the next disaster

Attorney Gen. to investigate palace break-in

KITV: Hawaii Attorney General David Louie will investigate the destruction of the original glass on a door at the 'Iolani Palace.

Police arrested two people in the case.  Koa Alii Keaulana and Drew Pa'ahao were charged with outstanding warrants in connection with other cases and (drumroll, please) released while police continue the investigation (clash cymbals).

read ... Attorney Gen. to investigate palace break-in

Niu Valley SPED Teacher's aide investigated for stabbing student with pencil

HNN: "Apparently, one of the children wanted a drink of water. He got up without asking permission, she told him to sit back down. He didn't sit back down and then I guess they say the teacher was chasing him around the room. There may have been some things said by the student to the teacher's assistant that she didn't like. By the time they got back to his seat, she ripped all his books and threw them on the floor, grabbed a mechanical pencil and stabbed him in the back," described Kennedy.

read ... Another Day in the DoE

Internet Access to Patient Records Now Available

BIN: Patients who have been treated at a variety of state medical facilities in recent years can now access their medical records via the internet.

The East Hawaii Patient Portal is available to patients who have been seen at Hilo Medical Center, its outpatient clinics, Ka`u Hospital and Hale Ho`ola Hamakua in Honoka`a.

The service is free and offers patients secure access to their health summary, including information on their hospital stay, current medications, laboratory and imaging reports and educational materials reviewed upon their discharge.

“The East Hawaii Patient Portal is a pivotal milestone in the history of our HealthConnect electronic medical records system that was first launched in 2010,” said Howard Ainsley, CEO of the East Hawaii Region of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp.

Because of the need to verify identities, registration must be done in person at any of the facilities’ medical record departments. A valid form of government-issued identification and a personal e-mail address are required.

read ... Internet Access to Patient Records Now Available

Hawaii Among Most Satisfied with Standard of Living

Gallup: Among residents of the 50 states, Alaskans were the most satisfied with and optimistic about their standard of living in 2013, according to Gallup's Standard of Living Index. Alaska's average index score of 53 was similar to the scores in North Dakota and Hawaii, but far outpaced West Virginia's bottom-ranking score of 22. The national index improved to 38 in 2013, up from 34 in 2012, with marginal improvements in nearly all states.

read ... Gallup Poll

Gingriches to sign books in Lahaina

MN: Former Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, will be doing book signings at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble in Lahaina.

read ... Newt Gingrich

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