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Friday, February 13, 2015
February 13, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:37 PM :: 6820 Views

Rail: Engineer Exposes The Hows and Whys of Cost Overruns

406 Candidates file for Neighborhood Board Elections

DCCA Nails Solar Contractor: Unlicensed Work on DoE Schools

Caldwell signs law prohibiting sitting or lying on pedestrian malls

Cancer Center to Merge With UH Medical School

The Worst Gun Bill of the Decade Died Yesterday

HB558: Curbing Overtime Abuse

Senate Transport Committee Votes for Rail Tax Extension, Admits it's to Build More Rail into Kapolei, Manoa

KITV: Senate Transportation Committee voted 8-0 to extend the rail tax, but not permanently. They settled on a 25 year extension, which the transit authority believes will generate enough money to fund the current $910 million dollar shortfall as well as extensions to UH Manoa and Kapolei that will cost another $4 billion.  (See how the story changes?  Suddenly its not about paying the ever-shifting HART deficit.  Its about building even more Rail.)

read ... Massive Tax Hike

Ige Opposes Maui Memorial Partnership Deal

MN: While state lawmakers worked on bills to clear the way for public hospitals in Hawaii Health Systems Corp.'s Maui region to be operated by a private nonprofit corporation, Gov. David Ige said Thursday that the state's problems with public hospitals do not affect Maui in isolation.

"You can't just focus on the needs of Maui," he said during a news conference on Oahu.  (Translation: "I oppose the only partnership that is available, but I am trying to make it look like I support partnerships."  Question: Who could be fooled by this?)

The governor was responding to a Maui News question stemming from his Jan. 26 State of the State address. In it, he said public-private partnerships "offer great potential" for public hospitals but "only if they are shaped the right way."

His explanation about "the right way" was that Maui region facilities should not be dealt with outside of the larger HHSC system....  (This is exactly the same strategy Abercrombie used to derail MMMC partnership talks.)

Senate Bill 795 and House Bill 1075...would authorize HHSC's Maui regional system to work with a private entity to take one or more of its facilities into a "new private Hawaii nonprofit corporation, to be operated and managed by the private entity as its sole member and operator."

Regarding public employee contracts, the House bill provides that a personnel system would be established at the new facility, and it would be governed by laws and regulations that apply to private-sector employees.

"The personnel system of the transitioned facility shall not be governed by state laws that apply to public officers and employees of the state, including but not limited to, the civil service laws, state collective-bargaining laws and any other laws and regulations that govern public or government employment in the state," the bill says.

The Senate bill exempts the newly formed facility from Hawaii Revised Statutes Title 7, which covers public officers and employees and its chapters dealing with civil service and collective-bargaining laws. The measure says public hospital employees would be transitioned to the private entity's standard wage and benefit structure and provide continued employment for those who satisfy the operator's job requirements for at least six months. Employees who might lose their jobs would not suffer the loss of earned retirement or vacation benefits.

Both House and Senate bills provide that the state "shall subsidize" the operations of the new hospital, although the maximum amount would not exceed the state's 2014 fiscal year subsidy and may be lowered based on operating performance. The bills also mandate state funding of capital improvements at the hospital facility for its first 10 years.

This week, Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira submitted written testimony strongly opposed

read ... HHSC Doomed

HEI's Plan to Gut Existing Solar Contracts

IM: HECO stated at the meeting that if someone has 20 panels that are net metered, and if they added a panel, then their entire panel system would be converted to the new Feed-in Tariff rate, that is, they would be compensated not at the retail rate but at the wholesale rate for everything thus undermining any reason to add more panels....  (Translation: Any maintenance work on your system will cost you your 'grandfather' status.)

One of the 40-50 attendees asked what would happen for renters. If one renter has net energy metering and the unit is rented out to another leasee, would the new renter continue to receive payment at the retail rate under net metering or be converted to the wholesale rate under Feed-in Tariffs?

Alberts said he didn't know, that that was one of the wrinkles that had to be worked out.  (Translation: Cutting them off NEM is a great idea!  Thanks for suggesting it!)

Alberts continued a HECO tradition. He said that part of what he was saying was on behalf of HECO while some of it was his own views. Thus nothing can be cited as actual HECO policy.  (Translation: Its all HEI Gospel.)

SA: Getting prepared for sale costs HEI millions

read ... Plan to Gut

Ige Finally Gets Around to Holding First 'Weekly' News Conference

CB: Hawaii Gov. David Ige vowed to do many things on the campaign trail last fall, including holding weekly press availabilities for the media to ask him questions about any topic.

It’s been a busy first couple of months getting his new administration up and running since taking office Dec. 1, but on Thursday he made time to hold his first such event at the Capitol....

“I selected Carleton Ching because I was looking for quality executives,” Ige said....

He was reluctant to name who has been serving on his transition team helping to provide advice. Asked twice, he simply said there were “a number of people,” but he makes the final decisions....

The governor said he wants to make these media availabilities more regular, but declined to speculate when the next one would be. His staff said it might become an every-other-week event....

read ... 2 months late

Castle & Cooke CEO: 'No Conspiracy' in Ching Nomination

SA: Q: Perhaps most newsworthy about the company right now is the fact that one of your executives, Carleton Ching, was nominated by Gov. David Ige to become director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. But because Castle & Cooke is identified with developer interests, some folks are worried about that choice. What is your reaction to that nomination, and did you play any role in promoting his name to the governor?

A: Actually I did not play a role in promoting his name. (Ching) did chat with me and I basically said, "Are you sure you want to do this -- and why?" And I felt that he was sincere in wanting to give back and share his skills and knowledge that he's learned over 30 years working here in Hawaii to give back to the community. ...

Being from the business world, he tends to want to get things to happen. That's not a bad thing. To keep water flowing, you need to keep reservoir areas clear. You need to have streams clear. You need to make sure we don't have invasive species that take over our natural habitat. Those are things that we have done as landowners, and those are the things DLNR is responsible for, so I saw a real mix. So I said, "Go for it." ... I encouraged him, but, no, I did not put forward the name. There was no conspiracy.

read ... Know Them by What They Deny

Hawaii hotel occupancy falls sharply

PBN: Hawaii's hotel occupancy rate last week was 79.1 percent, down 6.7 percentage points from the same week a year ago, while room rates averaged $237.03, a 1.3 percent dip, according to Hospitality Advisors LLC and STR Inc.

Although Oahu had the highest occupancy rate at 80.9 percent, it was down 7.1 percentage points from the same week in 2014. Maui hotels were 79 percent full last week, 5.7 percentage points below a year ago. Kauai's 78.5 percent occupancy was 3.2 percentage points below last year. The Big Island had the lowest occupancy at 73.3 percent, down 8.7 percentage points.

As usual, room rates were highest on Maui, averaging $313.40 last week, 3.3 percent higher than a year ago. Kauai was next highest at $238.51, up 5.4 percent, followed by the Big Island at $228.24, down 1.2 percent, and Oahu at $205.84, down 5.3 percent year over year.

read ... It Begins

Army chief says troop cuts on Oahu could be small

SA: Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Hawaii may lose some soldiers as part of a big downsizing across the service, but it could be a "very small" number on Oahu.

"But I don't know yet," he cautioned Thursday on a swing through the state. "We have to constantly go through that assessment."

"Here's what I would say: Our defense strategy is to rebalance toward the Pacific, so we do take that into consideration as we make our decisions," Odierno said. "So we understand that this (Hawaii) is an important part of our defense strategy."

Odierno said Hawaii is an "incredibly important part of our Army and what we do here in the Pacific," and the soldiers in the region "play a critical role in how we want to move forward and (engage) with our partners out here in the Pacific."

The 22,500 soldiers in Hawaii are important in part because of the vast distances in the Pacific, which are "daunting," he said....

The Army is considering big troop cuts at 30 installations across the country as part of a drawdown to about 450,000 soldiers by 2018, or 420,000 soldiers if sequestration returns in 2016.

Brooks, the U.S. Army Pacific commander, recently said the active duty Army stood at about 495,000 soldiers.

The Army is considering a worst-case scenario in which 19,800 soldiers could be removed from Schofield and Fort Shafter as part of the post-war drawdown.

read ... Small Cuts

Say Makes Excuses, Says Palolo is as Far Away as Sister Isles

AP: Say has represented the district that includes Palolo Valley, Kaimuki and Diamondhead for 38 years; he is currently the longest-serving lawmaker in the Hawaii Legislature.

Aside from serving at the Legislature, Say is president of Kotake Shokai Ltd., a wholesale business that imports goods from various parts of Asia.

While he was speaker and chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, Say often worked until close to midnight, he said. While the Legislature was in session, it was his routine during the week to stay at his in-laws' house, which is closer to the Capitol than his home in Palolo, he said.

"And at some point in time, I can't recall, maybe when I was Finance chair, I just told (my wife), why don't you just stay over?" Say said. "It's easier for you as my wife, rather than having dinner, then going home — and I'm not home until 12, 1:00 — it doesn't make sense, right?"

Say compared the situation to representatives from neighbor islands who live in Honolulu during the week and fly home on weekends.

"It's right up the street, five minutes," Say said of his in-laws' home. "Then I get up at 5, and the routine is that I go to work at Kotake, then come (to the Legislature) by 8:30, 9:00. On the weekends, I do go on home, do my chores, do my work, etcetera, say hi to the neighbors, do my exercise, and you know that's been my routine."

Palolo Valley isn't much farther from the Capitol than Nuuanu; it's about a 15-minute drive from the Capitol without traffic. But morning traffic makes the commute much longer, he said...

read ... Say Admits he Doesn't Live in Palolo

Cancer Center: UH Admin, Regents Still Trying to Figure out What Legislators Want

SA: A University of Hawaii Board of Regents committee, warning UH-Manoa officials not to assume the state will bail out the financially struggling Cancer Center, is requesting a cost-benefit analysis to help gauge whether to keep the center open, scale back operations or shut it down....

Some regents expressed skepticism about any state-funded solutions, such as tapping into the state's tobacco master settlement agreement or seeking an expanded cigarette tax.

"I think we have a serious issue as to whether the state is committed to maintaining that cancer center, and if it's not, I don't see in the plan … where the revenues are going to come from to maintain this first-rate institution that we all want," regent Jeffrey Portnoy said. "If it's going to be based at least in part on a belief that the taxpayers are going to subsidize it, I think we probably ought to rethink whether that is a political reality."

Several regents agreed with Audit Committee Chairman Benjamin Kudo's recommendation that the university seek outside expertise on whether the research center can be turned around.

"I feel like we are running out of time and that we could benefit from independent eyes that would look even at the cost-benefit analysis of whether NCI designation is necessary," regent Cora­lie Mata­yo­shi said. "The chancellor already said that you're fully committed to (keeping the designation), but we don't even know the cost benefit of that."...

Portnoy said the situation reflects what he called a lack of foresight: "It bothers me that we need to come to crises before we address issues like the Cancer Center," he said. "It's not just the Cancer Center. … We have a wish list, and sometimes I think we fail to look beyond the immediate future as to whether we can maintain these things that we all want."  (Yes.  UH admin are a bunch of chickens running around headless.)

At the state Capitol, a Senate bill (wanted by UH admin) that proposes bailing out the center by converting its Kaka­ako mortgage from a revenue bond debt to state-backed general obligation bonds has yet to be scheduled for an initial hearing. On the House side a bill (not wanted by UH admin) that would require UH to study selling off or leasing the center's facility recently passed out of the Higher Education Committee.

Background: Cancer Center to Merge With UH Medical School

read ... Brain Cancer

No Joke: Star-Adv Claims University Administrators are Competent to Investigate Rape

SA: Critics of the "affirmative consent" movement sweeping U.S. colleges, including in Hawaii, claim that what amounts to a redefinition of consensual sex could turn the romantic trysts of even willing, loving couples into grounds for a rape accusation.

That fear is overblown, (Wrong. It is already happening at schools which have adopted this policy.) but the naysayers do rightly highlight the need for precise language in the emerging standards, (No.  We want these bills killed.  Did you notice how they turn the critique into its opposite?  Were you fooled?) which are intended to improve how amorous college students communicate and, more directly, how colleges evaluate sexual-assault complaints within the campus disciplinary system.

The effort is expected to have a notable impact on university investigations (Question: If you were raped, would you call a university administrator for help?  Really?) of cases commonly described as "date rape," where the parties know one another....

The new UH policy and the pending legislative measures, companions House Bill 451 and Senate Bill 387, are laudable attempts to improve the safety of students, and, more broadly, to help young adults develop the healthy sexual attitudes and open, respectful communication necessary to navigate sometimes confusing social terrain.  (So rape prosecutions should be compromised for thought reform?)  But they fall short of the clarity necessary to thwart sexual predators, (Wow.  That's a problem.) who exist on college campuses just as they do in the general population, and others who commit sexual misconduct, without exposing innocent people to baseless allegations (Because the entire exercise is designed to expose innocent people to baseless accusations, while letting actual rapists go free.)

Reality: Rape is a serious crime.  It should be investigated by police and prosecutors, not idiotic university administrators.  Administrators need to focus their energies on what they are best at: firing each other and paying out golden parachutes.

read ... Political Correctness Invades Your Bedroom

Pressure builds on Obama to intervene in West Coast ports slowdown

PBN: On Capitol Hill, 16 members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, held a news conference to urge Obama to step in if the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents terminal operators, and the International Longshore Warehouse Union don't reach a labor agreement soon.

Presidential involvement could start as early as Friday, when Obama travels to San Francisco to talk about cybersecurity. Both the PMA and ILWU are based in San Francisco, so some members of Congress think the president should bring the two sides together while he's there and tell them they need to reach an agreement for the good of the country.

read ... Pressure Builds

Jury awards more than $658K to police chief's wife

SA: A jury is siding with the Honolulu police chief's wife in a financial dispute that pitted her against her 95-year-old grandmother and uncle, awarding Katherine Kealoha $658,787 in damages.

The jury reached its verdict Thursday in a civil lawsuit accusing Chief Louis Kealoha's wife, Katherine Kealoha, of stealing money from her grandmother and uncle....

Allegations of police misconduct were raised in a separate criminal case against Gerard Puana, who was accused of stealing the Kealohas' mailbox. The case was dropped after testimony from the chief about Gerard Puana's criminal past caused a mistrial.

The jury awarded Kealoha $248,787 in attorney fees it cost to defend her against the Puanas' claims and $210,000 in punitive damages against the uncle. Jurors also awarded Kealoha $200,000 for the mental anguish the Puanas put her through....

read ... Award

Waianae: Industrial Solar to be Approved while Rooftop Solar Waits

KITV: It's on close to 200 acres of low quality agriculture land that Euros Energy wants to erect a massive solar farm.140,000 photovoltaic panels will cover the back of Waianae Valley and part of the mountainside.

The company hopes to get the project up and running before the end of next year to take advantage of tax credits.

But that doesn't sit well with one Waianae resident who has been waiting for more than a year to get solar on his family's home.

"The residents want to put it on, but they can’t because of Hawaiian Electric, and yet these guys want to get their tax credits and they rush these projects. And they say it’s going to benefit everyone, but I don't believe that," said Joey Vidal....

Meanwhile: HEI 'Solution'--Remotely Shut off Your Solar Panels

read ... Tax Credits

Hawaii Senate Panel Panders to anti-GMO Mob, advances pesticide regulation bill

AP: The bill would require large-scale commercial agriculture operations to disclose when they use pesticides and to observe buffer zones around sensitive areas like schools and hospital. The proposal — SB 793 — drew about 400 testifiers to submit comments, mostly in support of the measure, said Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health.

Proponents argue that they need to know what's being sprayed in their neighborhoods, particularly around fields used by seed companies, because they fear for their health and safety.  But they don't need to know anything about spraying on golf courses, resort properties highways or anywhere else.  Just seed growing farms.

CB: Ige Supports Buffer Zones for Pesticide Spraying

read ... DOA in the House?

GMO: Demagogue Hooser Refuses to Consider Evidence

KE: How do you pursue a public debate if evidence is considered irrelevant?

It would have been helpful to conduct tests to truly ascertain the industry’s impact on people and the environment BEFORE launching a fear-mongering campaign to pass a bill that has been over-turned by the courts, leaving the community anxious and polarized, with only a bit more information than they had before this started.

So to answer your question, so long as politicians find it politically valuable to spread misinformation and discount evidence when it is produced, we’re not going to have a very meaningful or satisfactory debate.

To which Gary replied:

Ian I am happy to discuss this issue with you or any interested group or thoughtful individual with an open mind. I will not engage in a tit for tat with a blogger....

OC: How to talk to anti-vaxxers

read ... Kauai Eclectic

HB511: Attacks by Anti-Aquarium Obsessives to be Illegal

WHT: The issue of underwater harassment is a contentious one. Jay Lovell, an Ocean View resident and commercial aquarium fish collector, has been charged with misdemeanor terroristic threatening for allegedly ripping the air-supply regulator out of the mouth of scuba diver Rene Umberger, a known opponent of aquarium fish collecting, last May off the Kona coast. Umberger and other divers attempted to record Lovell at work capturing reef fish. Fish collecting is legal in Hawaii, with a permit and subject to some restriction, but some opponents say it’s a cruel practice. The alleged underwater incident involving Lovell was caught on video. Lovell has since pleaded not guilty and his hearing is slated for trial Feb. 17 in Kona Circuit Court before Judge Ronald Ibarra.

Umberger, founder of For the Fishes and Reef Rescue Alliance, testified Thursday in opposition of HB 511 .... (which is in itself sufficient reason to pass the bill)

Scott Mudd wrote in support. “Passing HB 511 will allow honest, hard-working and law-abiding fishermen to conduct their work without being intimidated or harassed.”

read ... Anti-harassment fishing bill OK’d

Ruling overturns Hilo doctor's Medicaid suspension

HNN: For more than five months, the man known as "Hilo's welfare doctor" has been forced to take patients for free after he was accused of defrauding the state's Medicaid program.

But on Wednesday, a state hearings officer overturned Dr. Frederick Nitta suspension from the Medicaid program, saying the fraud allegations were "not credible."

"I feel somewhat vindicated but it's already taken a lot out of me," Nitta said in an interview in his Hilo office.

"But I'm not gonna give up because I know the truth and I know how many girls I've taken off drugs."

The state suspended Nitta from receiving Medicaid reimbursements after accusing him of bilking more than $1 million from the program.

The overbilling was for drug screening tests that he provided to nearly all of his patients over the past several years. Ninety percent of those patients are on Medicaid, Medicare or Med-QUEST. And many are at a high risk for drug addiction....

Eric Seitz, Nitta's attorney, said his client plans to repay the state and will pursue the drug company for the faulty advice.

"I think it's a disgrace that a doctor of Dr. Nitta's stature was suspended without any kind of hearing," said Seitz.

"Fortunately, he's been able to keep his practice afloat without getting paid for the past 5 and-a-half months. But we were getting close to a potentially disastrous situation."....

read ... Overturned

UH Manoa Ranks 203rd in USA

PBN: The University of Hawaii at Manoa is ranked No. 203 among 484 four-year public colleges in the nation, according to a new ranking and statistical analysis compiled by PBN's parent, The Business Journals.

The analysis, which uses recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, was created to identify which public higher education institutions offer the best educational experiences.

The Business Journals used 19 different criteria to determine the relative quality of public universities across the country....

The University of Hawaii Manoa received five stars for diversity, and four for the Honolulu community. In terms of selectivity and advancement, the university was given three stars for each category, due to its 80 percent admission rate, test scores of applicants, retention rates, and more. To see the school's rankings across the board, go here.

UH Hilo, and UH West Oahu were included on the list's lower echelon, but were not ranked.

read ... Not Real Impressive

HB227: Businesses in Chinatown and Waikiki to face a new threat: the sound police

CB: HB 227’s target are dBCs, or high and low frequency sound levels, rather than the middle range frequencies, or dBAs. Most national organizations that study health effects related to noise, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, measure dBA frequencies, because those sounds actually have the potential to damage our ears. High and low sound levels, the dBCs, or bass — are usually filtered and are less likely to hurt us.

Monitoring a club’s dBC level is bad science, said John Hart, a professor of communication at Hawaii Pacific University.

“If you read HB 227, it starts out with this presumption that noise hurts hearing and that bass is harmful. But there’s no evidence that these noise levels they’re establishing are about hearing,” Hart told me. “You’re not talking about a health issue, or a safety issue. No one’s being harmed. It’s a quality of life issue.”

HB 227 wants nothing higher than 50 dBCs after 10 p.m., as if anything higher is potentially damaging.

Adding a tag to this legislative joke, the law would be enforced by night life’s best frenemy, the Liquor Commission, which would monitor it using these simple guidelines: “The maximum dBC sound level shall not be louder than three decibels above the ambient noise level for A) any two minute segment within a measurement taken for a duration of at least ten minutes; or B) any time segment, within a measurement taken for more than ten minutes, that is at least twenty per cent as long as the total duration of the measurement.”

Anytime a complaint is made, a volume cop from the Liquor Commission would be dispatched to measure the levels at the accused club, and if found in violation, the commission could revoke, suspend, or withhold the club’s license.

read ... Businesses in Chinatown and Waikiki to face a new threat: the sound police

Legislature Looks at Non-Compete Agreements

CB: The Legislature has 3 bills pending that seek to curtail the power of such agreements in Hawaii.

SB 355 prohibits forcing employees to sign a non-compete agreement after they are employed.

SB 232 / HB 390 prohibits non-competes for physicians.

SB 1279 /HB 1090 prohibits non-competes in the technology sector....

PBN: Hawaii bills allowing out-of-state CPAs face opposition

read ... Help Me Steal Your Ideas

On The Move in the Legislature

Airport: DoT Fixes Tiles, Decides to Leave Potholes Intact

KHON: A door near Gate 26 was closed off for two weeks after tiles from the walkway in front popped out. The state Department of Transportation told us they should be replaced by Friday.

Meanwhile, the pathway used by the Wiki Wiki shuttle has also drawn complaints because of several potholes.

Part of the path has been repaved but the rest of it, from Gate 26 through Gate 33, remains a bumpy ride for shuttle riders.

“... there’s bound to be some maintenance problems and issues,” said DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara.

DOT says there are plans to repave the rest of the pathway but it wouldn’t be anytime soon.

read ... Airport

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