Hawaii Polarized by Steamroller Activism
Management: West Coast Port Lockout Begins Saturday
HB536 Imposes Massive New Payroll Reporting Requirements on Businesses
Mementos Reveal Civil Rights Icon's Exposure to Armed Self-Defense
369 Candidates file for Neighborhood Board Elections
Creating "Paradise of the Pacific": How Tourism Began in Hawaii
State to Fire Medicaid Director after $144M Tech Disaster
SA: The state Medicaid director is being ousted amid continuing problems with a new online eligibility system that is estimated to cost taxpayers as much as $144 million.
Kenny Fink, head of the Department of Human Services' Med-Quest Division since 2008, said in an internal memo released Thursday to staff that he has been "asked to resign," but didn't provide further details. He said his last day is Feb. 27.
In his resignation letter to DHS' new director, Rachael Wong, Fink listed 15 accomplishments under his tenure, including overseeing implementation of the Kolea eligibility system since October 2013 to expand Obamacare enrollment.
Kolea has come under fire recently after widespread complaints by community health centers that for more than a year the system has constantly frozen up, frequently lost applicant information, didn't update eligibility in a timely manner and couldn't upload documents required for verification....
The DHS said that as of December it had spent $96 million of the $144 million contract with information technology developer KPMG LLP.
In addition, Med-Quest Division overtime since Kolea was implemented has soared 86 percent to $308,786 between October 2013 and September from $166,017 in the same period a year earlier. However, DHS said as of September there were 233,672 cases managed by the Med-Quest Division and 148 eligibility workers (or 1 worker per 1,579 cases) compared with 75,594 cases in September 2013 (or 1 worker per 511 cases).
Kolea was temporarily suspended for several days last month to complete upgrades intended to provide additional functionality and improve automation of the eligibility determination process.
The reviews have been mixed. Some community health centers that use Kolea to help clients apply for Medicaid say the system is improved; others say it is still "hit or miss."...
KPMG was first contracted in 2012 to build Kolea in concert with the Connector to provide residents access to subsidized health insurance through Obamacare. However, the two systems have not been integrated, which resulted in a backlog of 11,000 Connector applicants last year and low enrollment for the exchange.
(Alternative explanation: The corrupt free clinics wanted to get rid of Fink because he challenged their fraudulent ghost patient billing scam--see link below. Fink will now be replaced by somebody who is in the clinics' pocket.)
Fink vs Comm Health Centers, 2011: DHS: Thousands of ghost names on Hawaii Medicare, Medicaid Rolls
read ... Complaints from Community Health Centers
Somebody Begins to Notice that Hawaii Tech 'Startups' are all Taxpayer-Funded Frauds
CB: Hawaii's technology startups can improve by answering pointed questions about their viability. Besides, they're using public money....
The three main technology-focused startup accelerators in Hawaii — Blue Startups, Energy Excelerator and XLR8UH — have different models, different focuses, and different types of teams entering their programs.
But, startups and their supporters in Hawaii seem to have one thing in common: an unwillingness to accept public criticism....startup entrepreneurs must be able to take feedback. Public criticism. Without crying, or saying it’s unfair, or claiming that it hurts Hawaii’s startups or gives us a bad name in the mainland tech scene. That’s an excuse for mediocrity, and it hurts everyone.
Investors, for sure, but also customers, partners, and even potential employees, are going to look at any budding startup with a critical eye and ask tough questions. Questions like, “Is this a waste of time and money?” “Is the team qualified?” “Is there a market for this?” “What’s your competitive differentiation?” These questions must be asked — and answered — to help the startups improve their pitch and their potential.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the Honolulu startup ecosystem is the inability to publicly provide anything-but-positive feedback on any startup or investment or government entity or related group. If criticism happens, the criticizer is deemed jealous or “a hater” or worse. It has turned everyone into a cheerleader for every idea, good or bad. And, by cheering on and showcasing and telling the founders “great job” for even the ideas with fundamental flaws or half-baked plans, Hawaii will continue to be seen as just a vacation destination to the mainland startup world.
The Mbloom fiasco is a great example. And many, including myself, were deemed “jealous” and of slinging “vitriol” in this case, just for asking questions or drawing logical conclusions. By the way, Mbloom has now ignored repeated requests for an update on its progress, and there’s no new news on its website or social media pages.
2012: Running to Continue Act 221 Tax Credit Scams
read ... Let’s Get Critical
Ige Fires DLNR Water Deputy William Tam
HI: Gov. Ige’s latest move to hand the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) over to developers was to remove William Tam from his position as DLNR Deputy for Water. Prior to his tenure at DLNR, Tam was Deputy Attorney General and played a major role in authoring the water code, which pretty much makes him the expert on it.
Coworkers describe Tam as a strong advocate for the ethical and legal use of water.
Granted, Ige isn’t the first governor to let Tam go. In 1997, Gov. Ben Cayatano fired Tam after he prepared a draft decision in the Waiahole water case restoring water to windward Oahu streams. Both Cayatano and Castle & Cooke were displeased that Tam didn’t side with developers.
Cayatano was accused of firing Tam in retribution for standing up for public trust interests in water. While the State Supreme Court found there was no definitive proof, they made a point to rule in their historic Waiahole decision that:
...it is safe to say that the conduct of the public officials in this case did nothing to improve public confidence in government and the administration of justice in this state.
It is also safe to say that Ige’s purging of successful state agency leaders who follow the law and refuse to bend over for developers and utilities has done nothing to improve public confidence in his government either.
The government that ousted Gary Gill (Department of Health), William Aila, Jesse Souki and Tam (DLNR), and Mina Morita (Public Utilities Commission) is inspiring statements online such as:
It took two years for Gov. Abercrombie to lose my trust. Ige has managed to do it in less than two months.
read ... Two Months
Lawmakers look at a fine for those who don't vote
KITV: Ward says he's introduced a bill requiring Hawaii residents to vote or be charged a $100 fine. That triggered thousands of hits and hundreds of comments on KITV4's Facebook Page. The debate keeps on raging.
"I think it's one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. You have a bunch of people who don't have a clue about what they're voting about and they have no business voting," said Waialua resident Chuck Vowell.
"I would agree -- some fine on their taxes, or on their driver's license. And a small fee or penalty to encourage them to vote, because we should. It's your civic duty," said real estate agent David Bautista.
"I think we've got to open the dialogue. Look at Australia," said Rep. Ward.
Since the early 1900s, Australia has required its citizens to vote. Today, the country enjoys a turnout of about 94 percent.
"I'm concerned because people who vote tend to research the candidates more," said Joli Tokusato of Nuuanu. "I would rather have informed voters rather than have them pick it out of a hat."
read ... Lawmakers look at a fine for those who don't vote
Lockout: Hawaii to Run out of Bottles?
KHON: Matson Navigation, a member of the Pacific Maritime Association and the largest shipping company in the state, told KHON2 a container ship will arrive at Honolulu Harbor on Sunday as scheduled.
Meanwhile, one of the state’s largest bottling companies, Pacific Allied Products, said one of its containers that was supposed to arrive last week has been sitting on the dock in Long Beach for 15 days.
The company turns out six million cases of beverages each year and bottles 15 products, including Dasani water, at its plant in Kapolei.
“We’ve got a container sitting there now, if it sits there for another two to three weeks, we will have an issue in another month,” said Brian Donahue, vice president of Pacific Allied Products....
King Food Service specializes in so-called “center-of-the-plate” items, relying on containers that arrive from the West Coast to bring in beef, lamb, chicken and seafood, among other items.
“We just had our Thursday container arriving a little late on Friday,” said William J. Hughes, King Food Service CEO.
Hughes says the company has been experiencing delays since late last year. “We’ve been receiving our containers between one and two days later than normal,” he said. “If we get further delays, we’re going to start seeing items out on menus and we’re going to see retail grocery shelves missing certain products.”
read ... Bottles
Obama Foundation: Hawaii 'To get some piece' of Obama Library
CS: Marty Nesbitt, the chairman of the Barack Obama Foundation, hit the phones on Friday to assure South Side leaders that no decision had been made on where to locate the Obama library, museum and presidential center and Chicago was still very much in the running.
Nesbitt made the calls in the wake of a column on Thursday by Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, who said the “ad nauseam rhetoric about the proposed Chicago sites” for the project “may be just a smokescreen.”
...the University of Hawaii, is in line to get some piece of the project from the foundation, in partnership with the winning school....
read ... Obama Library
Bill to create low-income mobile home parks advances
KHON: HB1265 would require the Department of Land and Natural Resources to fit the parks fitted with mobile homes or shipping containers converted into homes for low-income families.
DLNR would work with the Department of Human Services and the private sector to develop these parks.
“We would work with not just housing agencies but various agencies. If they need it for a specific purpose, we’d set aside the land, essentially transfer the management of the lands to them,” explained Ian Hirokawa from the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Bob Nakata of Faith Action for Community Equity testified in support of these micro-units....
read ... MHPs Coming?
HB1213/SB1219: Who Qualifies as Independent Contractor
MN: It began when Chamber of Commerce member Envisions Entertainment received a determination from the DLIR that a musician it hired twice in 18 months to perform music for two events was considered by the DLIR to be an employee, not an independent contractor, even though this individual had a registered business in our state, a general excise tax license, and signed an independent contractor agreement....
In its quest, we worked with the company to educate the department, lieutenant governor and lawmakers in the hopes of garnering an administrative fix to avoid a costly legal battle on both sides. However, the former DLIR director stood by the department's misguided ruling, which then required Envisions Entertainment to take its case to court.
It was an expensive battle (over $60,000), but the company won. Not only did it win, but the judge's ruling showcased how inappropriate the department's behavior was and created a new precedent.
While the judge's scolding of the department and ruling in favor of Envisions Entertainment is extremely helpful, there is still too much leeway for "interpretation" in the law, and DLIR has a history of broad and poor interpretations against employers. Therefore, we are working with lawmakers on a legislative fix to make it clear who qualifies as an independent contractor
This session, House Bill 1213 was introduced by Speaker Joe Souki and Senate Bill 1219 was introduced by Sen. Roz Baker to fix this problem, recognizing that more people are electing to be independent contractors in our changing economic climate.
By defining who is an independent contractor, we eliminate the need for discretionary determinations by the DLIR....
read ... DLIR Harassment of Small Businesses
Officers disciplined in 110 misconduct incidents
SA: Honolulu, Maui and Hawaii island police officers were disciplined in a total of 110 misconduct incidents and eight officers were discharged in 2014, according to annual reports submitted to the Legislature by the four county police departments.
In Honolulu, 39 officers were disciplined in 47 incidents, while on Hawaii island, 18 officers were disciplined in 35 cases. Some officers were named in multiple cases.
The Maui Police Department did not specify how many officers were disciplined, but reported 28 cases for the year. The Kauai Police Department reported no cases of police misconduct last year.
About 2 percent of Honolulu's police officers and 4 percent of Hawaii island's officers were disciplined in connection with misconduct incidents.
The Honolulu Police Department employs about 2,000 officers, while Hawaii island, Maui and Kauai have 430, 350 and 150 officers, respectively.
read ... 110 Incidents
Maui Police Fire More Stun Guns Than Honolulu
KHON: The Honolulu Police Department has released its report on electric gun usage for last year.
According to the report, from Dec.1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2014 HPD had 1,094 electric guns in its inventory.
During that period, officers used electric guns on 25 occasions to overcome those resisting arrest.
In the year prior, HPD had 646 electric guns and used them 46 times.
HPD is required by law to report its electric gun usage to the legislature every year.
On the Big Island last year, the police department had 617 electric guns in its inventory and used them 18 times.
The Maui County Police Department had 472 electric guns and used them 42 times.
Kauai’s Police Department had 111 electric guns and used them 15 times.
read ... County police departments release report on electric gun usage
SB1345 Would end multi-track schedules in public schools
KHON: It’s been more than 10 years since Hawaii’s Department of Education adopted the multi-track system for some of its schools. Now, there’s a proposal to switch them back.
Holomua Elementary, Kapolei Elementary, Kapolei Middle and Mililani Middle are all on the system, in which groups of students begin the school year at different periods of the calendar.
The idea is to help alleviate overcrowding, but SB1345 is asking the DOE to switch those schools back.
A lot of it has to do with instruction time. Some say multi-track school kids don’t get as much as single track students.
But the big obstacle, as always, is money, because more classrooms will be needed.
read ... Lawmakers consider bill to end multi-track schedules in public schools
Maybe Hawaii Hospitals Will One Day Rise to the Level of Thailand
SA: ...En route recently to Nepal for a medical mission, I stopped in Bangkok and had an opportunity to view Bumrungrad International Hospital, long known as a first mover and market leader in medical tourism. Strengths and weaknesses surrounding Bumrungrad's proven model highlight changing sands and fresh opportunities for health and wellness tourism in Hawaii.
Bumrungrad, a 580-bed hospital founded in 1980, is a state-of-the-art facility by any modern standard. It is conveniently located in the middle of Thailand's largest city with ready access by a quality mass transit system....
The hospital, broadly known to Western expats, is well built and attractively designed. The lobby has the appearance of a quality hotel, and concierge care is the standard. It is a full-service facility with an emergency department, inpatient services and outpatient offices. It offers comprehensive diagnostic equipment and a broad range of specialist and subspecialist services. There is one floor entirely dedicated to executive-type comprehensive physical exams. The physicians, many of whom have trained at Western institutions, have excellent training. Services are extremely well coordinated, and the English-speaking staff has a compassionate sense of service for which the Thais are so well known.
Every year my health care group, Manakai, sees two or three patients who have had emergency services or elective surgery at Bumrungrad. Feedback has been uniformly complimentary, and copies of electronic medical records reflect excellent clinical judgment and comprehensive care....
How to get there? Abolish the CON. Duh!
read ... Model
Looted by Profitable non-profit, Honolulu Zoo is a Mess
HNN: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Council member Kymberly Pine, who chairs the committee that oversees the zoo, toured the property Friday, escorted by Acting Zoo Director Baird Fleming.
Pine said the tour was set up in the middle of last month, after she expressed concern when the fifth zoo director in four years resigned.
"It sounds like there are problems somewhere. And having numerous directors either leave or resign in such a short period of time. It does raise concerns that something's wrong," said Pine.
After the city hired its last two zoo directors from the mainland, and neither of them had any previous zoo experience, the mayor now wants to hire from within and has limited the applicants to current city employees....
Two former zoo directors have complained the nonprofit Honolulu Zoo Society has neglected to raise badly-needed funds for the zoo, giving just 10 percent of its $1.5 million annual budget to the zoo in direct support....
Fleming showed Caldwell and Pine the slimy, green pond in the primate exhibit where the city has asked the Zoo Society to pay to fix the broken filtration system....
Confidentially, many zoo employees said they are concerned the zoo will lose its accreditation when an inspection team comes here next January. So the city has very little time to turn things around.
Numerous zoo exhibits are empty, have broken fixtures and are in need of various repairs.
read ... It's a Zoo
State-Owned Bank Would Direct SubPrime Lending to Deadbeats
PBN: "Why do you make a bank?" he asked. "It's real simple — to lend money to areas of the economy ... that have a hard time getting commercial loans."
While the bank was becoming established, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. would create an interim program to purchase properties and titles with mortgage problems.
Under the proposed legislation, owner-occupants who have lived on a property for at least 200 days and who have received a letter of default on the mortgage could apply to the program. The bank could resell the mortgage back to the occupant if that person met certain requirements, including taking home ownership counseling.
read ... Recipe for Bankruptcy
Controversial Hawaii caregiver training bill deferred indefinitely
PBN: A state Senate bill that sought to require hospitals to provide lay caregiver training — and that had Hawaii hospitals and theAARP pitted on opposite sides of the issue —was deferred indefinitely on Friday.
Senate Bill 296 would also require patients to designate a caregiver upon hospital entry, and hospital-discharge plan discharge plan for patients.
Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona-Kau, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, who is also a physician, announced the decision in a joint health and human services committee hearing Friday,
"If there's not a total buy-in, we're not doing justice to the process," Green told the crowded room. "I don't want to rush this process without a consensus."
Co-chair Sen. Suzanne Chun-Oakland, D-Liliha-Downtown who introduced the bill, said that she and Green will work to reconfigure the task force so it is not two-thirds represented by hospital representatives....
According to the Hawaii Health Information Corp., there were about 5,500 30-day hospital re-admissions in 2013, with associated charges at about $239 million....
SA: Kupuna Council Agenda
read ... Deferred
Task force prescribes cures for University of Hawaii Cancer Center
PBN: The task force's recommendations include:
Restructure its "ill-defined, top-heavy" administration to include faculty governance and increase transparency;
Consider a new budget model and contingency plans;
Utilize competitive bridge funding;
Streamline finances by teaming up with the adjacent UH John A. Burns School of Medicine to eliminate duplicate services or positions;
Introduce new faculty from the medical school, UH life sciences departments, and the community;
Seek legislative approval to fund debt service with perpetual endowment funds from the 1998 class-action settlement with the tobacco industry;
Explore ways to become self-sustainable through grants, clinical trials, or corporate/philanthropic support.
read ... Cures?
Hawaii leads in sports tourism
PBN: When looking at the entire landscape of sports and economic impact in Hawaii, it is my estimation that Hawaii probably exceeds all or most other destinations in this consideration. For a small island state of approximately 1.4 million residents, it is fair to estimate that Hawaii has more events and more sports event-related media per capita than any other state.
DN: UH sports: spending unlimited sums of money is a rich man’s game
read ... An article which doesn't mention UH