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Thursday, July 24, 2014
July 24, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:36 PM :: 5105 Views

The Jones Act and the Energy Price Hawaii Pays for Protectionism

Malfunctioning websites still delaying Hawaii Obamacare signups

Study: Hawaii’s Patient Waitlist Trend Increased

MoveOn Push Poll Puts Schatz Up 40% - 33%

More On That Pesky Banner-Towing Airplane

Abercrombie 'Desperate and Worried Sick'

SA: For many, the starkest difference between Ige and Abercrombie is not on public policy, but personality. While Abercrombie has tethered some of the blistering rhetoric that made him a warrior of the left since his days as a Vietnam War protester, the governor is still prone to bombast and confrontation.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, an old friend and political ally of Abercrombie who is now backing Ige, said the governor is "desperate and worried sick at the thought of losing to a guy like David Ige."

Former Gov. George Ariyoshi, at 88, has also been out campaigning for Ige. "He doesn't understand financing," he said of the governor. "A leader is not only one who proposes, but how to go about making it happen. And that's what he doesn't have. He's not a very good steward."

...Abercrombie's job approval ratings in the Hawaii Poll have been under 50 percent since his first six months in office, and the governor — once considered among the most reliably liberal politicians in the state — has let down many liberals on environmental and development issues.

Public and private polls have shown that not only Ige, but also former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, a Republican, and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, of the newly formed Hawaii Independent Party, might have a chance against Abercrombie....

No governor has lost re-election since William Quinn, a Republican, in 1962, so an Ige triumph in the primary would be one of the biggest political upsets in Hawaii history.

read ... Bombast faces Confrontation

Weasels: Hawaii Ethics Commission Seals Financial Disclosures for Current Board Members

CB: The public won’t see the financial disclosure statements filed by most of the current members of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, Public Utilities Commission, Hawaii Community Development Authority or 12 other powerful state boards until next summer at the earliest.

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to keep the reports confidential for the members who filed before July 8 of this year, the day a new law took effect adding 15 boards to the list of those that must publicly disclose their financial interests.

The much-anticipated decision ended two weeks of speculation over how the law should apply to current board members. But not everyone left happy.

Ethics Executive Director Les Kondo said he supports the five-member commission’s decision, but had interpreted the law to require the release of the disclosure statements for all current members of the affected boards regardless of when they filed them.

Twenty-six members across 10 state boards have quit since the Legislature unanimously passed the bill in April. In their resignation letters, they cited privacy concerns, personal reasons and fears over how people might use the information if it is posted online.  (Oh well.  Now it looks like they could have stayed on for another year.)

The same financial reports have for years been publicly available for roughly 180 other state employees, including legislators, department heads, the governor and other major boards.

The commission based its decision on the advice of the state Attorney General’s office, which has refused to release its legal opinions on the matter.

read ... Weasels

Legislators hammered for Lack of Support for Homeless Programs

CB: ...the so-called debate, which lacked a single exchange between the candidates, was predominantly a poorly rehearsed delivery of what they think about immigration reform, Native Hawaiian governance, (starts at 9:30) cost of living, homelessness and national security threats....

Anderson was the only candidate to take a shot at any of his competition. He tried to put Kim, Takai and Espero on the spot for the lack of funding they’ve provided to help the homeless at the state level compared to the city’s efforts.

Kim 11:00: "Should not be up to Department of Interior"

Manahan 12:00: "Should not be considered by DoI as a tribe."

Takai 13:00: "Based on discussions, there is no clear path to what they want...."

KITV: VIDEO

read ... Flat Debate

$800M: Hawaii Highway Funds at Risk?

CB: Whether the state is at risk of losing $800 million in federal funds for highways. Ige says it is, Abercrombie says it isn’t. As in previous debates, Abercrombie was on the attack, essentially suggesting that the senator had 29 years in the Legislature to do something about various issues but has only now got around to speaking out about them. Ige, as in previous debates, did not take the bait and provided his perspective.

HTH: Ige had his own criticism of the administration, noting the federal Highway Administration has placed the state “on alert” regarding $800 million in transportation funding. He said that amount may be reduced because of project backlogs. 

“It’s about organization and management and leadership,” he said.

Abercrombie said projects get backlogged due to legal challenges.

read ... 800M?

House: Courts Cannot Decide Whether Calvin Say Lives in District

SA: The state House has sought to intervene in the legal dispute over Rep. Calvin Say's residency, arguing that the House, and not the courts, has exclusive jurisdiction over the qualifications of its members.

Circuit Judge Karen Nakasone has ordered Say to prove that he lives in his Palolo House district after six voters in the district alleged that the Democrat actually lives in Pauoa Valley. The state Constitution requires that lawmakers be qualified voters of the districts they represent.

In a legal filing, the state Attorney General's Office, representing the House, contends that the state Constitution also provides a clear mandate for the House to act as the "judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members."

The legal twist sets up a potential separation of powers clash between the Legislature and the courts.

read ... House Judges Itself

Victory: Kauai Council rejects anti-GMO charter amendment proposal

SA: The Council voted 4-3 against a motion to receive a revised petition to put the issue on the November ballot.

Council Chairman Jay Furfaro and Council members Mel Rapozo, JoAnn Yukimura and Ross Kagawa voted against the motion on behalf of Kauai Rising. Councilman Mason Chock voted silent, which is considered an affirmative vote. Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser voted in support of the motion.

The Council then voted 5-0 to reject the petition. Bynum and Hooser were excused to attend a federal court hearing concerning a lawsuit filed against the county by four seed companies that claim the new pesticides-GMO law is invalid.

KE: Musings: On Pre-Emption

KGI:  Kauai Rising petition falls

CB: Who Has the Authority To Regulate GMOs and Pesticide Use?

read ... Victory

50,000 housing unit shortage projected in 2016

KITV: It is full speed ahead for high-end towers in Kakakao that are being developed by the Howard Hughes Corporation....

But in contrast, there's been no visible movement on the more affordable reserve  housing project at 401 Ward Avenue.

There has been no word on the fate of 690 Pokukaina, what was to have been the tallest high-rise in the state, offering hundreds of affordable rentals....

And as the city’s rail project takes shape, some lawmakers expressed frustration that the state isn't doing more to coordinate with the city on its transit development since the state owns most of the land around the rail stations.

"My concern is the tail is wagging the dog. You are having the agencies have their own plan, rather than you folks saying we are going to approach this from a statewide perspective," said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz....

But when some 6,000 homeless are on the streets or in emergency shelters on any given night, lawmakers say we need to do a lot more, a lot faster.

There is also a wait lit of 11,000 for the state's affordable housing projects....

CB: Maui Desperately Needs Workforce Housing

read ... 50,000 housing unit shortage projected in 2016

Oahu Homeowners Angered by 71% Property Tax Hike

SA: Oahu property owners unhappy over significantly higher tax bills based on a tax rate 71 percent above last year are demanding relief from the Honolulu City Council.

The Council Budget Committee on Wednesday deferred two measures that would have allowed owners of the roughly 7,400 properties in the newly created Residential A tax class a one-time break to pay at last year's rate if they receive a homeowner's exemption this year.

Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi, however, promised that she and her committee will look into ways to ease the burden for those affected, especially those who have lived in the same house for years.

Council members received oral and written testimony from more than a dozen affected property owners. Many property owners this week are recognizing the ramifications of being placed in the Residential A tax class because tax bills were sent out by the city last weekend.

On Sept. 11, the Council voted to create the Residential A tax class, made up of those residential properties with assessed values of $1 million or more.

read ... 71% Tax Hike

Surprise! Kauai Homeowners Hit With 200% Property Tax Hike

KGI: When Lindsey opened up his property tax bill on Friday, he noticed that his annual balance for his 9,600-square-foot property increased from $2,442 to $7,590, a 211 percent increase, between the last year and this year.

“It’ll change my lifestyle completely,” Lindsey said. “Am I going to starve? No. Will I be forced out if the council doesn’t do something? I’ll be forced out of living on Kauai.”

Randall Haraguchi said his 85-year-old grandfather, Tomio, a longtime Hanalei resident, received a similar surprise when he opened up his tax bill and saw a $20,966.29 balance on it — a nearly $15,000 increase from last year. 

Although his family’s property taxes have always been high because of its location along the Hanalei beachfront, Haraguchi said they have never been this high.

“I mean, we don’t make millions of dollars like some of the other people who live in the same area,” Haraguchi said....

One of the more common reasons cited by those who have called the county’s Real Property Assessment division, Motta said, was the Kauai County Council’s decision to repeal the county’s annual Permanent Home Use tax credit last year.

The program capped future tax increases for owner-occupied homes at 2 percent, beginning in 2006.

In exchange for removing the tax credit, County Tax Manager Kim Hester said the County Council also approved higher home use exemptions.

Under the revised tax laws approved by the County Council last year, basic home use exemptions increased from $48,000 to $160,000, while those for homeowners between 60 to 69 years old rose from $96,000 to $180,000.

Rises in tax exemptions for homeowners who are 70 years old and older, meanwhile, saw the highest increase from $120,000 to $200,000.

When the cap was removed by the County Council in September, county finance officials said the change was needed to ensure equity and fairness among property owners in similar tax classes and provide more tax relief options.  (But, surprise, surprise its actually a massive tax hike.)

Another possible factor for the tax increases, Motta said, is a provision in the County Council-approved law that allows tax officials to place properties in certain tax classes based on use rather than zoning.

read ... Massive Tax Hike

Mental Health Cuts Protested on Maui

MN:  To cope with a projected $13 million budget shortfall this year, Maui Memorial Medical Center officials are considering closing Molokini II, the hospital's adolescent behavioral health unit, but parents pleaded with administrators Wednesday to keep the facility open.

"My daughter was a patient at least half a dozen times between 2004 and 2010," Jeff Dack said at a public meeting in the hospital's auditorium. "Frankly, if Molokini II had not been available . . . (it's very likely) she would've been part of the adult penal system and a long-term burden on society without the proper mental health care."

Closing the ward would be "an extremely serious detriment" to the community, Dack said.

Other parents and nonprofit leaders echoed similar sentiments at the meeting, which drew about 100 attendees. Maui Memorial is the only Neighbor Island hospital that has an adolescent behavioral health unit, administrators said. If the facility were closed, adolescents needing inpatient care would be flown to Oahu for treatment at The Queen's Medical Center or at Kahi Mohala.

At least a dozen testifiers said that sending young patients to another island would add stress to what is often already a volatile situation....

A private-public partnership would alleviate the need for these cuts and keep Maui Memorial a leader in health care, doctors and other medical personnel said.

"Affiliating with a larger health care system would provide much-needed investment and clinical and administrative assistance to reduce overhead and costs," said Tony Krieg, chief executive officer of Hale Makua Health Services.

Price of UPW/HGEA:  Legislative Report: Convert HHSC to non-profit, dump civil service (full text)

read ... MMMC officials asked to keep open its adolescent health unit

HMSA Defends Pay for Quality Programs

SA:  One of our most successful initiatives is based on rethinking how we pay health care providers — in particular physicians and hospitals — for the services they provide our members. We call it "pay for quality," and we were among the first health insurers in the United States to move from the traditional fee-for-service model when we launched our pay-for-quality programs in 1997.

What "pay for quality" means is that HMSA pays providers based on how well they care for you, as well as how much care they provide. Pay for quality focuses on outcomes that improve the health and well-being of members, rather than just the number of services provided. The focus on outcomes improves the health of our members, which helps to reduce the increase in health care costs.

A recent commentary in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser questioned the value of pay-for-quality programs in Hawaii ("Health care pay-for-performance folly," July 9). It expressed doubts about the overall need for health care reform, argued that pay-for-performance programs were not effective, and questioned the ability of such programs to measure health care.

That hasn't been our experience. To the contrary, we have found that pay-for-quality programs incentivize providers to focus on maintaining and improving the health and well-being of patients, allowing them to focus on those who need care the most....

Over the past 17 years, we've developed convincing evidence that the pay-for-quality model works in Hawaii. We've found that pay-for-quality programs have resulted in better quality care, better population health, and reduced health care costs, known as the triple aim objectives....

Since introducing our new pay-for-quality programs in Hawaii, and in conjunction with our partnership with Hawaii's hospitals and physicians, we've seen a 10 percent drop in hospital admissions, a 13 percent drop in hospital readmissions, a significant reduction in hospital infections, and improved preventive care and cancer screenings.

read ... Pay-for-quality programs mean better health care, lower costs

Fisheries: Schatz, Hanabusa Question Obama Monument Plan

CB: On June 17, when President Barack Obama announced he wanted to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary in the south-central Pacific Ocean, many in Hawaii had the same question:

What about the ahi?

Obama’s proposal would expand the protections around several nearby islands, meaning certain sects of Hawaii’s fishing fleet might not be able to dip their nets or cast their lines in those waters anymore.

It also meant that Hawaii’s longliners, who pull in tuna, marlin and other species, could feel an unexpected pinch if Obama uses his executive powers to cordone off the area to commercial fishermen.

The gravity of the situation has not been lost on the Democratic candidates running to fill out the final two years of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s six-year term.

Both U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Hanabusa have said they worry about the impacts to one of the state’s most iconic industries.

Background: Obama, Pacific Islands Leave US Tuna Fleet 'without fishing access to the Pacific Ocean'

More background: Rep Hastings: Obama's Ocean Zoning Will Shut Down Tuna Fishery

read ... Questions

Former Honolulu police officer pleads guilty to extortion

KHON: Roddy Tsunezumi now faces 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Tsunezumi and his co-defendant, Jeremy Javillo, conspired on a scheme to extort $15,000 from the owners of a Honolulu hostess bar.

The money was for protection against an alleged attempt to rob the bar.

As part of the plea agreement, the government dropped a separate charge against him for a scheme involving stolen cars.

SA: Former Honolulu officer pleads guilty to extorting hostess bar

June 25, 2014: HPD officer indicted for elaborate scheme

read ... Another Dirty Cop

Hilo Judge Rejects Criminals Demand that Kulani Be More Resort-Like, DPS Pledges to Help Sovereignty Movement

HTH: The group (led by convicted felons Ralph P Dedman and Jim Albertini)  sought to have a pu‘uhonua, or place of refuge or healing, at the site, instead of a prison, and argued the state’s environmental assessment didn’t consider a pu‘uhonua. (Oddly enough they have not supported a return to the death penalty which a pu'uhonua implies.) Other arguments included the state had not implemented Act 117, signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2012, which directed DPS to work with Ohana Ho‘opakele and others to establish a pu‘uhonua at the Kulani site unless a better site can be found, and that a prison is an improper use of crown lands once owned by the Hawaiian monarchy. The group believes crown lands, also called ceded lands, “should be used for the betterment of native Hawaiians  and not for the general public,” according to a written statement.

The group also argues Hawaiians are over-incarcerated and are used as a commodity for the prison industrial complex, the outsourcing of inmates to private for-profit prisons on the mainland (when they should be used for the profit of the UPW and kept close for sovereignty movement recruiters)....

Sakai said he’s “not an expert at pu‘uhonua” and added he’s working with the Kupuna Council and with Hawaii Community College to develop programs.

“I do believe there’s good reason for us to develop a program based on Hawaiian cultural values,” he said. “So, we’ve invited members of the community to work with us to develop a program that can be effective, that can (give) inmate participants a sense of who they are and where they came from (so we can recruit more sovereignty activists) …”

VIDEO: How Stainback Highway would look with Puuhonua at end of road

read ... Criminals Will Appeal

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