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Wednesday, January 28, 2015
January 28, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:24 PM :: 2841 Views

LNG for Hawaii? Russian Oil Money Funds Sierra Club anti-Fracking Campaign

Thanks to Obamacare, ILWU Contract Maybe Short-Lived

300 Candidates file for Neighborhood Board Elections

City to hold second Airport Area TOD community meeting

Inequality State: Top 1% Grab 71% of Income Growth

Tax Foundation: Hawaii Failing Small Businesses on Depreciation

Schofield, Shafter, Wheeler?  State Has Not Made Good Use of Barbers Point

MW: ...I’m sympathetic with those who envision the good use we might make of the surplus land and all that military housing.

But I say “might” because I’ve not seen full-fledged use by the state of the old Barbers Point Naval Air Station. Could we afford to inherit Schofield, Shafter and Wheeler?

read ... Bob Jones

'Red Hot Construction Market' is Old Excuse Mufi Used

KITV: Under the $1.55 billion full funding grant agreement signed between the city, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration on Dec. 19, 2012, Honolulu must build an elevated rail line that’s 20 miles long, features 21 stations and has 80 rail cars. In addition, the rail line must open to the public by the revenue service date of Jan. 31, 2020....

Former anti-rail mayoral candidate and University of Hawaii professor of civil engineering Panos Prevedouros tells KITV4 the city and HART have very little wiggle room under the FFGA contract. If the city doesn’t build the rail line to specifications agreed to by the FTA, or fails to meet the revenue service date, Honolulu could be forced to forfeit the entire federal grant, or some portion thereof.  

"There is a number of things that they can do and at some point they might say the deal is completely off, you can go ahead and do the system that you wish to do, but federal funding is off the table," said Prevedouros. "So for example, a system from Kapolei to Pearl City is not going to cut it. It's a complete waste of time because nobody is really commuting that distance."

To date, HART has not proposed scaling back the number of stations or the length of the route, and continues to say the rail line will open on time....

"We were pushed from a very soft no construction market, into an extremely red hot construction market," the mayor said during his appearance at the state Capitol.

Ironically, Caldwell’s argument about the rising cost of construction is nearly identical to the argument used by former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in October 2006 when the cost of the 20-mile-long rail line jumped from $3 billion to $3.6 billion.

"It's just the fact of the cost of doing business, the engineering, the construction work and all that has to occur," Hannemann said at the time.

Meanwhile, City Council Chairman Ernie Martin introduced a resolution Tuesday that would force HART to remove the $210 million in federal bus funds from the official financial plan agreed to by the FTA.

“The Council has never favored use of Federal 5307 funds to pay for the rail project,” Martin said in a statement to KITV4. “The record will show that we were reluctant to include it as part of the Rail Financial Plan, but allowed it based on assurances that it would not be used for rail. Now is the time to reassure the public that continued construction of the rail project will not jeopardize the existing level of bus and Handi-Van service.”

Still, as Prevedouros points out, the FTA will insist the city come up with a replacement if the council is successful in removing the $210 million in bus funds from the rail project’s financial plan.

read ... Punishment

Bleak Prospects for HHSC With Ige's Disappointing, Wishy-Washy Leadership

MN: We were a little bit disappointed in Gov. David Ige's seeming reluctance to lead the charge to public-private partnerships for hospitals in the Hawaii Health Systems Corp.

Ige's reference to the idea in his State of the State speech Monday came across as a bit wishy-washy.

"Public-private partnerships offer great potential, but only if they are shaped in the right way."

What does that mean?

the Legislature doesn't bargain with the unions - the Governor's Office does.

That is why Ige must take the lead in this effort. He must help shape the proposal if he is going to sell it.

On the current path, financial prospects for HHSC's hospitals are bleak....

Meanwhile: Hospital Reform? Randy Perreira Says "F*** You"

read ... Bleak Prospects With Ige

Star-Adv: Support DoE Laptops for Students

SA: Hawaii lawmakers and Gov. David Ige must support expanding access to educational technology, even in this constrained fiscal climate. Elected officials perennially claim to be all for public education, then fall short on the funding needed to attain and sustain excellence. The DOE's $30.8 million budget request to help schools purchase a total of 60,000 laptops or tablets over the next two years works out to about $500 per device — a worthy investment in the future of our state.

Already, the DOE's prudent foray into this realm has been a success, based on a pilot project that supplied a digital learning device for every student and teacher at eight public schools on Oahu and Hawaii island, starting in the 2013-14 school year.

A survey of teachers at the schools found that the vast majority lauded the devices for helping them create assignments, plan for instruction, present lessons and create integrated lessons; approval rates ranged from 82 to 94 percent, depending on the question. Similarly high percentages of students, in a separate survey, reported that the devices make schoolwork more interesting and have improved the quality of their schoolwork. The DOE is analyzing academic data now to confirm whether the students' perceptions are reflected in their grades and test scores....

This is how it has been for years at independent schools such as Punahou School, a pioneer in implementing instructional technology in Hawaii. Of course, students at Punahou and other private schools with 1:1 computer programs pay for the privilege, in annual tuition and in additional technology fees. The burden on taxpayers of providing this same level of technological access to public-school students "for free" has long been an obstacle, and continues to pose challenges.

But as the schools involved in the DOE's pilot project make clear: There is no putting this genie back in the bottle. The benefits to students are so obvious that the only appropriate response is to expand the 1:1 program to more public schools, once teachers are trained to properly implement the technology.

Background: Fired chief procurement officer blows whistle on Hawaii DOE procurement troubles

read ... Technology

Sierra Club: Land Use Commission an agency that has worked

SA: The State Land Use Law offers protections that no city or county process provides.

For example, it is illegal to give money to members of the Land Use Commission. In contrast, mayors' and councilmembers' campaigns are funded primarily from development interests. Furthermore, developers frequently meet behind closed doors with county officials. Such conduct before the state Land Use Commission is forbidden.

In addition, the State Land Use Law allows members of the public to cross-examine developers and present their own evidence. County agencies generally limit public testimony to three minutes, without any opportunity to ask the tough questions of developers.

It is no surprise, then, that developers routinely call for abolishing or amending the State Land Use Law.

read ... Sierra Club

Rep Lee: NextEra Must Limit Political Contributions (LOL!)

HNN: "We want to put conditions in place so that when the PUC approves this deal, we know there are benchmarks that will have to be hit for cost reductions and renewable energy goals," said state Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

Along with benchmarks, Lee wants the state do a study on operating HECO as a publicly-owned utility, such as Kauai's electric company and others on the mainland.

He also wants to limit corporate influence by HECO's buyer.

"We know that companies like NextEra and others coming into Hawaii give out tremendous political contributions (to my opponents) to gain political influence in other states and we want to prevent that from happening here," Lee said.  (But when HECO gives us contributions, its just fine.)

Some of these proposals will be aired out tomorrow during a House-Senate briefing on NextEra's buyout -- a topic that will likely dominate discussion during this year's legislative session.

read ... Hypocrisy

Iwase: NextEra Must Follow State Policy

PBN: ...In terms of NextEra's acquisition of HECO, he noted that the major case, has to be in the best interest of not just the parties and the people of the state, but also by the policy set by the legislature.

"We are going to do our best to get there," Iwase, a lawyer by trade, said. "I'm sure there will be a few who will disagree but we will do our best."

He pointed out that the strategy in the NextEra-HECO case is to give parties the opportunity to intervene and present different perspectives, as well as raise questions about the case.

"We will be quite open to allowing a variety of people and points of views to come in and intervene, whatever that may be," Iwase said. "As long as they understand the law, we're going to allow public comments to come in in writing. We want to hear all points of views, so once all of that comes in and all the questions are answered, we will make a decision."

When it comes to the LNG case, he plans to share the same view as Hawaii Gov. David Ige, who has said he would support it as a bridge fuel as the state moves closer and closer to integrating more renewables....

read ... Iwase Interview

Test: HECO Can Boost Rooftop Solar 1000%

SA: Hawaiian Electric Co. can safely connect almost 10 times the amount of solar generation the electric utility currently allows, according to a recent test sponsored in part by HECO.

The test — conducted by HECO, San Mateo, Calif.-based Solar City and the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute — showed the grid can handle up to 1,000 percent of the so-called "daytime minimum load."

The daytime minimum load is the lowest amount of energy a certain circuit, or neighborhood, typically uses during the day. HECO currently approves rooftop solar systems for homes only if all the solar systems in the surrounding neighborhood can produce no more than 120 percent of the daytime minimum load.

read ... 1000%

Kealoha Reverse Mortgage was Just a Ripoff

ILind: Most people would probably think of a reverse mortgage as a deal in which you get regular payments each month, a mortgage in reverse, and those payments don’t have to be repaid until the mortgage has run its course. It’s a kind of deal typically used by older homeowners as a source of regular income during their latter years, with the mortgage being repaid only after their deaths.

In the case of Katherine Kealoha’s grandmother, Florence Puana, the “reverse mortgage” for $938,250 on Puana’s Maunalani Heights home, was apparently paid out at one time, or over a short period, and at least some of the proceeds used to purchase a condominium for Kealoha’s uncle. That’s been reported.

But what I haven’t seen reported is that the reverse mortgage on Florence Puana’s home was foreclosed on by the lender, and Puana was ordered out of the house by the bank. The house was sold in September 2013.

This information is buried in the transcript of a videotaped deposition of Puana taken for the criminal trial of her son (and Katherine Kealoha’s uncle), Gerald Puana....

AP: Police chief's uncle-in-law testifies in family dispute case

read ... Star-Advertiser failing in coverage of trial involving police chief’s wife

Lawsuits: Prison Guards Sex Assault, Medical Failure Costs taxpayers $1.4M

SA: In the sex assault case, Stacey Costa­les filed a lawsuit in state court in 2007 against youth correctional officer Scott Rosete; his supervisors; the state Department of Human Services; the department's Office of Youth Services, which operates HYCF; and the state.

During the 2009 trial, witnesses testified that Rosete and another youth correctional officer sexually assaulted female wards.

The other guard, Lia Oli­one, pleaded guilty in 2004 to three counts of sexual assault and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The state later agreed to pay $350,000 to the parents of Oli­one's victim.

Costales' jury awarded her $1.5 million, but because the percentages of fault jurors assigned to each defendant did not match the dollar amounts for the damages awarded, the judge ordered a new trial for the allocation of fault and damages.

The state Intermediate Court of Appeals and Hawaii Supreme Court upheld the judge's decision.

In October the state agreed to pay Costa­les $462,594 to settle her claims against the state and Rosete's supervisors.

HJ: Legislative Ambulance Chasers Dig In To Taxpayers' Deep Pockets

read ... Attorney general seeks $1.4M to settle 2 suits against state

OIP Under DAGS Control?

CB: At least two bills authorizing OIP’s move to DAGS have been introduced in the current session. Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran introduced SB472, which has a double referral to the Committee on Judiciary and Labor, which he chairs, and Ways and Means. In the House, Rep. Calvin Say introduced HB986. It has not yet received a referral.

read ... OIP

Hawaii Rents Up More Than 10 Percent Since 2012

CB: The cost of renting a home in Hawaii has jumped at least 10 percent over the past two years, according to a new study. And given the lack of construction of affordable units, the state’s housing crisis is projected to get worse.

Hawaii real estate analyst Ricky Cassiday presented the results of his study on Hawaii’s rental market Tuesday to state lawmakers during an informational briefing at the Capitol.

Cassiday’s presentation — which you can read in full here — emphasized the need for the state to leverage its land to provide affordable housing for local residents. But while highlighting private-public partnerships as a potential solution, the study painted a depressing picture of the state’s housing crisis and cautioned it won’t ease any time soon.

read ... 10% Up...

Bills Seek to Ban Ivory

SA: The question is whether the proposed ban under House Bill 837 and Senate Bill 674 will withstand challenges from local tourist markets, antiques dealers and other shops that sell items containing ivory. A similar measure introduced last year, which would have made Hawaii among the first states to ban commercial ivory sales, died in committee.

read ... Ban Ivory

Bills could impact PGV drilling

HTH: Does Hawaii County’s nighttime drilling ban apply to Puna Geothermal Venture?

That’s a question the County Council will grapple with again next week as the geothermal power plant in Pohoiki starts another around-the-clock drilling project to build a new well.

Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan introduced two resolutions on the issue he said will be considered Feb. 4.

One requests the 38-megawatt plant to comply with the ban, adopted in 2012 following its last drilling project, and drill only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The other asks the county’s attorneys to take the issue to court so a judge can decide if, in fact, the law applies to the county’s only geothermal power plant.

read ... Geothermal

Obamacare Funds Behind Push for Pono Choices

DP: The Obama administration ushered in a new era of sex education in the U.S., eliminating two-thirds of federal funding for abstinence-only programs, and providing up to $190 million for initiatives that support evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention and more comprehensive approaches to sex education under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the ACA incentivizes states to provide comprehensive sex education, yet grants flexibility in terms of implementing programs appropriate to different needs. As of 2014, state legislatures in Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington have followed suit in support of inclusive and comprehensive sex education.

read ... Gay Agenda Imposed by Federal Government

Who Can Afford to Retire in the Islands?

CB: Their rent at Schofield is $2,300 for a four-bedroom house with yard maintenance and all utilities included. The house is typical military housing, she says, with walls so thin “you can hear what goes on next door.” Subtract the cost of maintenance and utilities and they pay a little more than the median rent on Oahu.

Ahead of the coming reduction in Richard’s income — Lois stopped working at Border’s Books in 2003 — they decided to seize the moment and buy a home. If they bought on a mortgage in Hawaii, it would likely have kept them paying thousands per month deep into their 80s or 90s.

“I’m reading that houses nowhere near the beach are $600,000,” Lois said. “Who can afford that? … We want to buy a house, but refuse to pay $500,000 for a three-bedroom place.” If they could find something at half a million bucks, it would be far below market values on Oahu, where the median price is well over $700,000.

Last March, with Richard’s retirement looming, they looked at their nest egg and pension earnings in contrast to the cost of life on Oahu. The decision was easy: They had to leave.

During my first communications with Lois, Richard was doing a final walk-through on a house in North August, South Carolina. They put in a bid — and got — a two-story four-bedroom home with two and a half bathrooms, a porch, a sun-room and a deck. The house is 2,240 square feet. The total price is just $180,000, less than what many people fork out as a down payment on Oahu. That leaves a lot more money for retirement.

For most people in the islands, retiring to the mainland makes financial sense. The Keeners’ pension and savings will stretch nearly twice as far in North Augusta given that Honolulu is 96 percent more expensive. That means they would need to spend $97,966 on Oahu for a standard of living that costs just $50,000 in their future hometown, according to the Area Vibes cost-of-living calculator.

read ... Leaving Hawaii

Surgeon general: ‘Desperate need of clarity’ on e-cigarettes

AP: “There’ve been theories and ideas around the fact that e-cigarettes may be helpful from a harm reduction perspective in helping people who are already on cigarettes (that) have had trouble quitting actually get off cigarettes,” Murthy said. “If the data indeed bears that out, then I think we should absolutely embrace that and use e-cigarettes in targeted ways.”

However, Murthy expressed worry regarding e-cigarettes because he said there are many unanswered questions about their health impacts, specifically their contents, and if they are ultimately a gateway to traditional smoking. He also noted the rapid growth in use of e-cigarettes among both adults and children.

“I’m concerned about e-cigarettes, and I think this is an area where we are in desperate need of clarity,” Murthy said. “I think it’s important for us to understand the impact, particularly on youth, before we allow the full-fledged spread of these e-cigarettes and then later have problems that we have to deal with.”

Last April, the Food and Drug Administration for the first time proposed a set of regulations for e-cigarettes, including banning sales to minors and requiring health warning labels, as well as approving new products. The agency has said its proposal sets a foundation for regulating the products, but the rules wouldn’t immediately ban the wide array of flavors or styles of e-cigarettes or curb marketing on places like TV.

read ... Clarity?

Gays: Hawaii GOP Must Bow to Gay Agenda

CB: Todd Simmons is executive director of Equality Hawaii, the state's largest organization working to secure equality dominance for Hawaii's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

read ... A bunch of self-serving rhetoric

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