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Tuesday, January 06, 2015
January 6, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:20 PM :: 3937 Views

Special Funds Allow State to Dodge Balanced Budget Requirement

POLITICO: A Bizarre Trip Through the Jones Act Bank

Big Cable is NextEra's 'Biggest Proposal'

Help Repeal Kanaiolowalu and Act 195

Full Text: Health Connector Releases Annual Report

The "Big Eyes" Have It: Hawaii Courts Again In The Hollywood Spotlight

Duke Aiona's 808 State Update Hits Airwaves

Ige Appoints DLIR, Communications

ILWU Agrees to Federal Mediation of West Coast Port Dispute

Six Boats Run Aground Due to Winter Storm, One Sailor Missing

Mufi: HART Crying Wolf When there is no Crisis

MW: It must have come as quite a shock to even the most ardent rail supporters when Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) executive director Dan Grabauskas announced last week that the 20-mile rail transit project is now going to cost $550 million to $700 million more, and therefore will require an extension of the half-percent Oahu tax surcharge beyond 2022.

As the mayor who helped lead the charge in 2005 to revive rail, I don’t understand this SOS call at a time when so much has been accomplished to lay the groundwork for a successful launch.

Are we really running out of money? My administration set aside nearly $900 million for contingencies such as delays. Moreover, the four bids awarded between 2009 and 2011 for half the guideway, a storage facility and rail cars altogether came in at $315 million under budget....

First, now more than ever, HART must place a greater emphasis on cutting costs and being transparent on every aspect of rail construction and operation. Its leaders have to stop looking to the past to rationalize their shortcomings, and be better prepared to justify mistakes that are being made and are bound to happen as the project progresses.

Second, the city should request that the Legislature and new state administration investigate and confirm if the Department of Taxation is collecting and transferring to the city every tax dollar earmarked for rail.

Bear in mind that this state agency still conducts some of its operations manually, and has been known for late billings and collections. It wouldn’t surprise me if an audit revealed that the city hasn’t been given its full share of the surcharge. The original rationale for the state keeping 10 percent of the surcharge was that the tax department needed to invest in a proper mechanism to collect the rail tax. It’s been nearly seven years of the state government skimming about $20 million annually for these administrative expenses, a sum that totals about $140 million.

Third, it seems to me that, if the city is looking for more money, its strongest case would be in lobbying for the termination of this raid on rail funds....

If the city pursues this ill-conceived tactic of crying wolf when there is no crisis, public support for the largest capital improvement project in Hawaii’s history will erode and jeopardize thousands of jobs, taking with them the added benefit of transit-oriented development.

read ... Mufi

$1000/day for 20 Years: State Paying Millions to Lease Empty Lot

HNN: It was supposed a part of the state's plan to revitalize the Maalaea Harbor on Maui.

But for the past 20 years, the 1.1 acre dirt lot has remained undeveloped with Hawaii taxpayers footing the bill.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has paid more than $7 million -- or about $1,000 a day -- to lease the property that's only used to store old boats, buoys and other ocean equipment.

"This is the classic example of the public being fleeced. Whoever entered into this lease did not have the public's best interest at hand," said environmental activist Carroll Cox, a longtime critic of the DLNR.

The lease was first signed in 1994. DLNR initially wanted to build a retail and office center there but that plan fizzled. It also wanted the property for the ill-fated Hawaii Superferry.

Past DLNR chairs have raised questions about the costly deal. But only after 20 years has the state done anything to halt the lease. In July, it began condemnation proceedings and stopped making payments.

A spokesman said the state now hold title to the property but Don Williams, who bought the property in 1994, said there are problems with the way the condemnation is being handled.

According to Williams, the lease is irrevocable, meaning that the state is required to pay $350,000 in annual lease rent until 2024. Breaking the lease, will require the state to pay millions.

read ... State paid millions to lease vacant dirt lot

Ige Renegotiating HGEA-HHSC Contracts

PR: Star-Advertiser: Every year the state hospitals come in and ask for an emergency appropriation and we understand they’re readying that again this year. Is that any way to handle it or can you do something differently?

IGE: I think it’s about trying to figure out what actions we can take to make the current situation better. To that end, we have begun negotiations with (Hawaii Government Employees Association) Unit 9 (nurses) as well as with some of the other units where some of their membership is part of the hospital, so I do know that there needs to be some contract changes that are necessary to make the hospital system function better. I think that that’s kind of the starting point. I think we will be having discussions with the unions and talking about the kinds of things that are essential to allow the hospital system, operating as a government entity, to be successful.

Star-Advertiser: Would that be a modification of benefits?

IGE: I think it’s about just looking at the contract and trying to figure out what makes the most sense within the current collective bargaining law. So it means that maybe we would have provisions that are specific to employees at the hospital. It could be a master contract that applies to everyone and then specific requirements that are special to hospital facilities because there’s (24/7) function. I do know that we need to make the best effort in order for us to get to a point where the hospital system is sustainable.

read ... One-on-one

HGEA Will Stall, Talk, then Block Ige

Borreca: The HGEA knows change to the hospital contract will not help union members, and a damaged membership will not support the existing union leaders. So stall, talk and then block is the course of action for the HGEA....

read ...  Stall, Talk, Block

Health Connector Will Hemorrhage Money for Next Eight Years, Demands $28M

PBN: Its base-case calculation shows the Connector's revenue could exceed its costs in seven years, if (Big 'if') personnel expenses, professional services, and other operating costs remain stable.

The 10-year financial forecast was based on (pie in the sky) calculations by SMS Research that include participant and service fee projections.  (Service fees = Taxes on your insurance premium.)

The Connector, which launched in October 2013, expects to gather about $15 million in revenue (Taxes on your insurance premiums.) in 2022, and incur expenditures of $13 million that year.

That compares to $984,000 in issuer fee revenue (Taxes on your insurance premiums.) projected for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

Its total expenditures as of June 2014 reached $68.8 million, compared to $38 million the previous year.  (Translation: Our expenses doubled this year to a number 5.3 times what we claim our expenses will be in 8 years.  But Gruber says you are stupid, so we are going to try to sell this.)  

read ... Hawaii Health Connector expects to break even by 2022

Bumbling Hawaii Health Connector Can't Handle its own job, Makes HMSA do it 

AP: The staff at Hawaii Medical Services Association has spent 27,940 hours working on technical issues with the Connector, and a fifth of those hours were spent in the last two months, Elisa Yadao, senior vice president of the company, told The Associated Press.  (27,940 x $50/hr = $1.4M)

“There’s a fundamental issue here that really does need to get resolved, and the fact that we’re a year into the Connector and we’re still experiencing these difficulties is troubling,” Yadao said....

The health exchange was scheduled to automatically renew all of its members with HMSA on Nov. 8, but because of technical problems, used the month of November to work on fixing automatic renewal issues, Yadao said. Then on Dec. 1 the Connector asked HMSA to complete the work, leaving the company with an unplanned project to finish in a short period of time, she said....

...the problems processing last year’s renewals bled into the new enrollment period, which began Nov. 15, Yadao said. She claims her insurance company has received few new enrollments through the Connector, and she worries that customers may have signed up for plans that she doesn’t know about, because the information hasn’t made its way from the Connector to her office, she said.

“If we haven’t gotten the files, we don’t know that we’re supposed to be providing them coverage,” Yadao said.

There are, on average, 55 HMSA customers who have unresolved issues with the exchange, Yadao said. Also, the Connector is less than halfway through a project to update “change in circumstance” events, which cover things like adding a spouse or child to coverage, she said....  (Simple solution: Tell the peasants to stop getting married and having children.)

read ... Insurer reports ongoing problems with Hawaii health exchange

Ige's Budget Shortchanges OIP

CB:  Gov. David Ige's proposed budget does little to help OIP reduce its caseload or speed up its opinions. The agency has a history of being shortchanged even as its responsibilities grow.

read ... Hawaii Public Records Agency Continues to Struggle With Slim Budget

Takai Touts Brokerage, Consultancy as 'Small Business'

WaPo: Rep. Mark Takai, Democrat from Hawaii -- Company: Pacific First Enterprises in Aiea, Hawaii

Takai, who previously served in the Hawaii State House of Representatives and is currently a member of the Hawaii National Guard, co-owns with his wife Pacific First Enterprises, an insurance brokerage and consulting firm in Hono­lulu County.

read ... Brokerage, Consulting

Kahuku ‘Is Going To Be Surrounded by Wind Turbines’

CB: Hawaii Consumer Advocate says the PUC should have waited for an environmental review before approving another North Shore wind farm.

read ... Surrounded

PV in Hawaii 2014: The Roller Coaster Ride

GT: A Hawaiian solar state of the union from Marco Mangelsdorf....

read ... Roller Coaster

Anti-Dairy Protesters Are a Bunch of Hypocrites

KGI: ...Once complete, the Kauai facility would more than double statewide local milk production, from 9 to 20 percent, according to HDF’s website....

At some point, however, Ornellas said Hawaii — and Kauai — are going to have to stop talking about becoming food self-sufficient and actually do it.

“Unfortunately, the people advocating for small farms are (also) the ones advocating for rigid environmental controls,” he said. “It’s kind of a catch 22.”

Last month, HDF was awarded building permits for its proposed $17.5 million, 578-acre dairy in the Mahaulepu Valley and agreed to conduct a voluntary Environmental Impact Statement in response to public outcry over potential environmental impacts....

read ... Catch-22

Airport 'Wants to get rid of' Lei Vendors

CB: The lei sellers at the Honolulu International Airport say their daily struggle to stay in business would be eased if they had 15-year leases like they did in the past, and more respect.

They mean respect from their landlord, the State Airports Division, and respect from some of their tightwad customers who continue to haggle with them to sell leis for $2 and $3 apiece, even though the cost to hand string each lei has increased exponentially.

Ever since the state moved the airport lei sellers in the early 1990’s to the concrete structure by the departures ramp, they have been on revocable month-to-month permits. Their location is so difficult to find, lei seller Myrna Milan Chun says, “Some of our friends don’t even know we are here.”

“Basically, we feel the state wants to get rid of us, “ said Mike Onaga Jr., the president of the Airport Lei Sellers Association.

read ... Airport Lei Sellers Grapple With Daily Challenges

ACLU May Use Hawaii Co Case to Overturn Panhandling Ban

WHT: “The parties have reached a tentative settlement agreement,” Deputy Corporation Counsel Jennifer Ng said in a federal court filing Monday.

The Hawaii County Council, in executive session Wednesday, plans to discuss the proposed settlement in the Justin Guy case. A federal judge in September imposed a temporary restraining order preventing Hawaii County from enforcing its panhandling laws when Guy is soliciting money from passers-by.

Charges against Guy were dropped. But his lawyers say the law that remains on the books is unconstitutional.

“I would like to stand on a public sidewalk, or along public roadways, and hold a sign telling the public that I am homeless and that I would like their help. I want people to know that it’s hard being homeless,” Guy said in a Sept. 8 court filing. “I have not held a sign asking for help on any public sidewalk or along any public street since June 3, when I was cited. In fact, I haven’t held any sign in any public place in Hawaii County since that date. I am afraid that if I do I will be cited or arrested by the Hawaii County Police Department. I am afraid that I will go to jail for holding a sign and asking for help.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which along with Honolulu attorney Matthew Winter of Davis Levin Livingston is representing Guy, is asking a U.S. District Court judge in Honolulu to overturn Hawaii County’s ordinance banning aggressive solicitation anywhere and the blanket ban against panhandling in any county park.

read ... Keeping the Homeless, Homeless

Hawaii lawmakers considering more regulation on dentists

HNN: With two weeks until the start of the 2015 legislative session some lawmakers are considering adding more rules for dentists after the death of a young patient.

New sedation rules already went in place last year regulating how many hours of training a doctor must have and have advanced life support documentation. Some lawmakers say are thinking about making the rules even tougher....

The Hawaii Dental Association President Dr. Lynn Fujimoto, who is a pediatric dentist, says some parents can be distracting to the doctor.  Furthermore, telling dentists how to practice, could lead to opposition.  However she says the Association wants to be a resource to lawmakers this legislative session.

"I think the dental community had a big wake up call," said Dr. Green. "I've been pleased there haven't been more cases. I think everyone got much more careful after the tragedies that occurred."

State Representative Angus McKelvey says lawmakers need to be the hammer on enforcement.  Dr. Lilly Geyer's licensing case is still pending something some lawmakers feel is taking far too long to resolve.

Reality: Notorious Hilo Dentist Licensed Thanks to Schatz, Baker, Oakland

read ... Dentists

UPW Suing City over Trash Hauling Privatization

PBN: The UPW is suing the City and County of Honolulu over the city's recent decision to privatize garbage collection services for about 111 condominiums and 70 private schools, churches and other nonprofit organizations across Oahu.

The change is a result of a City Council decision to stop funding for future purchases of front-loading trucks for these trash services, and with no trucks to replace the old ones, the program is shutting down, as first reported by PBN.

A class-action lawsuit recently filed by employees of the city's Department of Environmental Services, Refuse Division, who are represented by the United Public Workers, AFSCME, Local 646, AFL-CIO, claims that the city broke the law by privatizing the collection and disposal services.

It cites a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in 1997 that said that the privatization of services customarily and historically done by civil servants, including garbage collection and disposal services done by landfill worker positions, violates the State Constitution.

read ... UPW Sues

Accreditation at Risk: Honolulu Zoo director quits; 4th in 5 years

HNN: Jeff Wilkinson has stepped down as Honolulu Zoo director after just nine months on the job, Hawaii News Now has confirmed.

Wilkinson was the fourth person in charge of the zoo in four years and the second zoo boss hired with no previous experience working there.

The Punahou graduate was previously the chief operating officer at a shelter for homeless women and children in Sacramento, Calif.

read ... Chaos

Sex Offender Finally Gets Some Real Time

KGI: A Kapaa man who lost his probation on a sex assault conviction was sentenced to five years in prison on Monday in 5th Circuit Court.

Jay-B Dillian Taboniar, 21, was facing a 10-year prison sentence for losing probation on his four violations.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe said that Taboniar was sanctioned to two days in jail for failing to register as a sex offender upon release from nine months of incarceration in August 2013. That was followed by eight hours community service for failing to appear for a mandatory drug test, and then for using cocaine.

She said that drug court would have a problem accepting a defendant with an underlying Class B felony sex-assault conviction. The drug use and lying about it made another term of probation difficult because of the potential to commit new crimes.

SA: Child Molester Gets 15 years in Kiddie Porn Case

read ... Soft on Crime

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