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Wednesday, May 13, 2015
May 13, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:10 PM :: 3161 Views

Hawaii’s $205 Million Obamacare Exchange Implodes

Hawaii Bans Smoking For Young Adults, Lets Kids Continue to Have Sex

Council Refuses to Back Down After Caldwell Threatens to Make Kakaako a Homeless Tent City

Study: Honolulu not Nearly as Diverse as You Thought

70% Tuition Hike: UH System Ranks #2 in USA

Hawaii County Ethics: Kenoi Cronies Vote Unanimously to do Nothing

SA: One of Kenoi’s three Honolulu criminal defense attorneys, Howard Luke, told the three-member commission “I will call it misuse of the pCard.”

The ethics commission members — who were appointed by Kenoi — nevertheless voted to let the A.G.’s investigation run its course before considering the complaint filed by Kapaau resident Lanric Hyland, 76, a retired California jail administrator.

Hyland wants to see Kenoi put in jail for $129,580.73 in charges on his county-issued pCard that included a $1,200 surfboard and $400 spent at the Camelot Restaurant and Lounge hostess bar and $892 at the Club Evergreen hostess bar, which are both located in Honolulu....

Hyland was furious following the commission’s decision, particularly because he was not allowed to read four pages of testimony via video conference from Kapaau.

“It’s just ludicrous,” Hyland said. “It’s disgusting. They just said, ‘Hell with you, Lanric. We don’t listen to citizens.’ That’s what the board said today: ‘We let the lawyers talk to us and tell us what to do.’”

KHON: Full Length Video of Hawaii Co Ethics Comm Meeting

read ... Precisely as Predicted

Attorney General Slams Hawaii County Ethics for Letting Kenoi Off Hook

SA: The state attorney general said it was unusual — and unnecessary — for the three-member Hawaii County Board of Ethics appointed by Mayor Billy Kenoi to postpone hearing a complaint about Kenoi's $129,000 in county purchase-card spending until the AG's office finishes a separate criminal investigation.

"I don't think it's necessary for the county ethics board to wait for a criminal investigation to finish up before they make a decision," Attorney General Doug Chin told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser following Wednesday's unanimous decision by the Board of Ethics.

"Typically, it's the reverse," Chin said. "Normally you do an administrative action first and then you'd refer it out to check something further. It's atypical for an administrative panel to wait until a criminal investigation is finished up."

Chin said he cannot comment on the status of the investigation on Kenoi's "pCard" spending, "but we are continuing to make efforts to investigate this. It's going to take months to finish up our review of the circumstances that occurred."

SA: Ethics committee fails to do its duty

read ... Unusual

Rail Checkbook: $3M to Washington Lobbyist Denis Dwyer

CB: Civil Beat obtained a copy of the city’s checkbook for rail expenditures through a public records request. It shows that from July 5, 2007, to March 13, 2015, more than 4,800 checks totaling $1.389 billion had been cut by the city to pay rail bills. That amount has increased since the latest spending figure of $1.44 billion was reported in HART’s most recent monthly progress report covering the period through March 31 and does not reflect additional spending in April....

HART also pays handsomely for influence in the nation’s capital, although the full magnitude of what it paid for twisting arms in Washington has largely been concealed in contract payments to Infraconsult, its program management consultant.

Since 2008, Infraconsult paid $2.1 million to two lobbying firms for what has euphemistically been called “government liaison” on HART’s behalf. All but $30,000 of this went to Williams & Jensen, (Denis Dwyer) a Washington law firm that besides HART, numbers among its clients Bombardier Transit — the unsuccessful bidder for HART’s core systems contract. The firm also lobbies for the County of Maui and several pharmaceutical, energy, and financial companies. At one time the firm represented SSFM International, which holds a $12 million HART contract to consult the Hawaii Department of Transportation on airport rail section design matters, and Parsons Brinckerhoff.

According to congressional lobbying reports, from April 2008 to July 2013 Infraconsult paid Williams & Jensen $1.5 million to lobby lawmakers on funding for rail projects.

In July 2013 HART awarded a $900,000 contract to Williams & Jensen and three months later the firm substituted HART on its congressional lobbying reports, identifying its new client as “previously known as Infraconsult LLC.” Since then, according to the firm’s quarterly reports, HART has paid Williams & Jensen $530,000 for its services. However, city records show eight checks totaling only $425,000 have been issued to the firm since February 2014.

Lawyers, too, are getting their share, with $4 million paid to nine law firms so far. That doesn’t include several million dollars estimated to have been paid to the Honolulu Corporation Counsel for salaries, employee benefits and expenses related to the HART project — or amounts that may have been paid to law firms retained by prime contractors. The bulk of payments to law firms reflected in the check register — $2 million — were made to Nossaman LLP, primarily for work on lawsuits that stalled construction for more than a year....

The ultimate tab for lawyers can’t be predicted. According to the most recent HART reports to the Federal Transit Administration, the project budget includes an estimated $67.4 million for “Legal, Permits, Review, Fees, etc.” but how much of that is earmarked for lawyers is not detailed. Through February, HART had spent $21.6 million in that category.

2014: Sai: Wong, Dwyer, Namuo Rake in Millions from Kanaiolowalu

read ... $1B

HART Refuses to Cover $3M Cost of Blood Bank Move

SA: In a dispute with the agency in charge of the city's $6 billion rail project, the Blood Bank of Hawaii is telling city officials that it should be paid $3 million to relocate its Kalihi primary donor center.

The City Council Budget Committee sided with the Blood Bank on Tuesday, inserting language in the Hono­lulu Authority for Rapid Transportation's operating budget requiring that $3 million of its $222 million property acquisition fund go toward purchase of the Blood Bank of Hawaii site on Dillingham Boulevard, along the path of the 20-mile rail project.

But HART officials are objecting....

read ... Vampires

Ige administration plans to use federal exchange for Obamacare

SA: Gov. David Ige's administration is set to approve a plan to spend $30 million for one year to temporarily use the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, to enroll residents in insurance under Obamacare.

The "corrective action plan" being discussed between the administration and the federal government to prevent closure of the Hawaii's exchange would require the state Department of Human Services spend $20 million to link its Medicaid eligibility system to healthcare.gov. The Hawaii Health Connector estimates it would have to spend another $10 million to $11 million to connect to the federal exchange, state officials disclosed at a Connector board meeting Friday.

That amounts to $810 per person for one year to enroll in coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare....

The Connector, a nonprofit created by the Legislature in 2011, has prepared a contingency plan to shut down operations by Sept. 30 after lawmakers failed to pass legislation to keep the state's troubled insurance exchange afloat. The Legislature recently granted the Connector just $2 million in state funding, less than half the $5.4 million Connector officials said they needed to continue operations this year.

The contingency plan, obtained by the Hono­­lulu Star-Advertiser, states the Connector will cease new enrollments Friday, discontinue outreach services May 31 and transfer its technology to the state by Sept. 30. The Connector's workforce will be completely eliminated by Feb. 28. The exchange has 32 employees, 29 temporary staff and 12 full-time contractors....

The state was notified in March that Hawaii was out of compliance with the Affordable Care Act because the Connector wasn't financially sustainable at the start of this year and wasn't integrated with the Medicaid system, which determines eligibility for subsidies and tax credits obtained through the exchange.

The federal government subsequently restricted grant money to support the Connector and moved to take over its IT functions to allow residents to enroll in coverage through the federal marketplace, healthcare.gov....

Under the contingency plan, Connector functions would be transferred to the state so that the roughly 37,000 enrolled on the exchange would not lose their coverage. However, residents would have to re-enroll in healthcare.gov to ensure coverage for 2016.

read ... Final Collapse of Exchange

Health Connector Boss Learned of Exchange Shutdown Plan from Media

PBN: Details of the possible shutdown were reported by a Honolulu newspaper over the weekend, citing a draft corrective action plan submitted by Gov. David Ige’s administration to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which officials from his office say were apparently leaked.

“The state submitted a draft corrective action plan to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on May 11, 2015,” Ige spokeswoman Jodi Leong wrote in an email to PBN. “The CMS will review the draft and provide feedback to assist the state in finalizing the plan. No dates have been set for further action. As we discussed, the plan is in draft form and therefore will not be released at this time.”

Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director Jeff Kissel said he did not know what the report contained until details outlining the gradual closing of operations by the end of the third quarter were reported on Saturday....

In Hawaii’s case, Ige has intervened personally and is “actively working with the federal government to find a solution now that the Legislature has determined how much to give us,” Kissel told PBN on Tuesday....

Of the estimated $204 million in federal grants that the Hawaii Health Connector received to establish the online health care exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act, all but about $70 million of it has been spent so far. Kissel said about $14 million of the remaining amount is restricted to fund the final build-out of the Connector.

When asked if there is any cause for alarm at this time, Kissel said, “Absolutely not.”

“No matter what happens, there’s going to be coverage available for everyone, but we’re working with the federal government to ensure that any transition that may need to occur is seamless,” he said.

Related: Hawaii’s $205 Million Obamacare Exchange Implodes

read ... Out of the Loop

'Policy Progress' -- Legalize Marijuana, Criminalize Tobacco

Star-Adv: Ige should sign into law:

Senate Bill 1030, SD1, HD2, which raises the minimum age to purchase any tobacco product or electronic smoking device from 18 to 21....

House Bill 321, HD1, SD2, CD1, which establishes a long overdue regulated system of up to 16 medical-marijuana dispensaries for patients certified to use the drug as a medical treatment....

HB 1075, HD2, SD2, CD1, which clears the way to begin negotiating the privatization of three state hospitals on Maui....

HB 134, HD1, SD2, CD1, which allows Oahu's county government to extend the half-percent general excise tax surcharge funding rail construction for five years past its original 2022 expiration date. It also allows neighbor island counties to impose a similar surcharge if they act by July 2016....

HB 500, HD1, SD1, CD1, which provides $500,000 to explore a land swap that would free up the Kalihi site of the aging, overcrowded Oahu Community Correctional Center for development of affordable housing along the rail route in urban Honolulu....

SB519, SD2, HD3, CD1, which requires that online advertisements for vacation rentals include each unit's address and transient accommodation tax license number.

The governor should veto:

HB 287, HD1, SD1, CD1 and SB 1208, SD1, HD1, both of which impede government transparency in an era when openness and accountability should be increasing, not decreasing....

HB 1366, SD2, CD1, which provides $500,000 to assess whether the state should purchase the downtown building, Alii Place, as office space for state workers....

read ... Real policy progress now up to Ige

Doomed: Half-Built Haleakala Telescope Before State Supreme Court

HNN: The $300 million Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on the summit of Haleakala is halfway completed. It could become Hawaii's third largest telescope, unless (except) the state's high court (will soon) decides to halt construction.

Legal experts said that could (will) happen if (when) the Supreme Court (inevitably) sides with Hawaiian activists, who claimed the project's supporters rammed it through the permitting process (insert excuse here)....

The UH is asking the justices not to stop construction.

"The remedy has to be to ask the Chair Aila to recuse himself for failure to make a disclosure," said Lisa Munger, an attorney for UH.

"But the remedy can't be, you can't have the project."

If (When) the court finds those contacts were improper, attorney Eric Seitz said it could (will) order UH to restart the entire permit process.

"If they made errors procedurally, which would have affected the outcome, then without question the whole process and conclusions are tainted," he said. 

read ... Doomed Telescope

UH Regents Consider 4%-5% Tuition Hike--Call it a Cut!

SA: The University of Hawaii Board of Regents is considering lowering tuition by 2 to 3 percentage points across the 10-campus system and forgoing as much as $16 million in additional revenue next year in an effort to keep tuition affordable.

The university is completing the third year of a five-year tuition schedule, approved in 2011, that is set to ultimately raise tuition by more than 30 percent. But the board had pledged to revisit the annual 7 percent tuition hikes built into the final two years of the schedule.

UH President David Lassner recommended Tuesday that the regents approve lowering tuition to a 5 percent increase from the scheduled 7 percent at UH-Manoa, and put in place 4 percent increases at UH-Hilo and UH-West Oahu and 5 percent increases at the seven community college campuses.

The original rate, which campuses have already begun collecting for the upcoming semester, was expected to generate an extra $30 million in new tuition revenue for the 2015-16 academic year. At the lowered rates, UH would bring in closer to $14 million.

read ... Doublespeak

State officials: Majority of Kaka'ako homeless are COFA migrants

HNN: Approximately 500 people are now living along the sidewalks in Kaka'ako and officials say the vast majority are migrants from Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

Officials say it's difficult to determine exactly how many COFA migrants live in Hawai'i, because they can travel back and forth without a visa or green card -- but current estimates are more than 12,000.

According to the state Department of Human Services Deputy Director Pankaj Bhanot, 1,150 COFA migrants are homeless statewide. The majority, 933, are on O'ahu -- and many are believed to be in Kaka'ako.

"When you drive through Kaka'ako currently, you'll actually see there's furniture out there, there's TVs -- people are normalizing that lifestyle and that should not be a normal situation," said Kimo Carvalho, Director of Community Relations for the Institute for Human Services, the largest shelter on O'ahu.

The homeless encampment in Kaka'ako has grown so large, folks who live there are now calling it "The Village."

"This huge increase in Kaka'ako is mainly due to a lot of COFA migrants coming here to Hawaii without a plan or without an understanding of our policies and so they're getting kicked out of public housing and they're ending up on the streets," said Carvalho.

In September, they recorded 85 tents -- mostly by the John A. Burns School of Medicine.  At it's peak in March, there were 131 -- the majority near the Children's Discovery Center.

As of their assessment last week, 116 tents were counted as far mauka as the Ward Center intersection....

read ... Thanks to State Housing Department

HCDA: Obama Center Land is a Pinata

KHON: As for the empty state land previously set aside for the library, state officials say they’re plowing through with the goal of turning Kakaako Makai into a family-friendly park.

The land, nestled between Children’s Discovery Center and the restaurant 53 by the Sea, has been empty for years now....

Through community feedback, officials are looking into many options for the space, namely a volleyball center, dog park, playground, art incubator, farmers market, and a music and entertainment space.

“There’s all sorts of suggestions. There’s literally dozens,” said Doi.

While plans are up in the air right now, Doi says HCDA should have the details fleshed out by July....

HCDA says public feedback is welcome. It will meet Thursday, June 4, at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 13, at HCDA’s Kakaako office, 547 Queen Street, Honolulu, HI 96813.

read ... Pinata

60 Arrests, 15 Convictions: Naturally, Dead Criminal Was Represented by Politician

KHON: The U.S. Marshals office identified the man as Bruce Zalonka, 46, who was featured on KHON2 as one of “Hawaii’s Most Wanted” suspects in 2013.

Zalonka has 60 prior arrests and received 15 convictions in the past five years, including theft, drugs and driving a stolen car. Authorities said a warrant was issued for violations of supervised release for possession of firearms and ammunition, place to keep of a pistol and resisting arrest.

KHON2 spoke with attorney (politician, former State Rep, wanna-be councilman) Tommy Waters, who represented Zalonka on a number of cases in the past five years.

Waters said Zalonka was facing a possible 10-year prison term and had a history of resisting arrest.

“He initially had drug charges. He received probation and then he re-offended,” said Waters. “There were other charges including firearms, unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle and resisting arrest.

Waters said he got Zalonka into a drug treatment program, but Zalonka left two weeks later. That was five months ago....

read ... Who Keeps these Criminals on the Street

Now That Rail Tax is Past Lege, New Lane for H-1 Westbound

KHON: ...Hundreds packed a public meeting Tuesday night to discuss traffic-related issues due to construction projects in Pearl City and Aiea.

Kamehameha Highway is considered the worst hit by the rail project, with lane closures up and down the heavily used roadway. We’re told many area residents don’t even use the highway anymore, because traffic has gotten so bad.

While officials said they plan to make changes to help ease congestion, they also warned that there’s no magic wand to make it go away altogether.

“The community has let us know that the current conditions are unacceptable and we understand that and it’s only going to get worse with time, so the goal is to be out in front,” said Mike Formby, director of the city’s Department of Transportation Services....

State Rep. Gregg Takayama, D, Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades, is one of many who want to see changes.

He wants the state to open up the westbound shoulder lane on the freeway in the afternoon and evening, and explore the possibility of cutting back on lane closures that prevent left turns into businesses. He also wants the city’s Traffic Management Center to monitor the traffic lights to allow more cars to move along Moanalua Road as an alternative to Kamehameha Highway.

“What we would like to see and what would be really helpful is for the traffic lights to be adjusted to allow more through traffic on Moanalua Road and shorter times on the intersections,” Takayama said. “If they do (this already), we haven’t seen it. We’d like to see it done more effectively.”

read ... Unacceptable

The case for an energy co-op on the Big Island

HTH: Imagine an electric utility company that’s not beholden to far-flung shareholders and instead is directly responsible to its local customers.

Imagine that utility company being owned and controlled by the ratepayers, with its board of directors democratically elected from the community. Think one electric meter, one vote.

Finally, imagine an electric company that actually sends its customers a check from time to time once certain financial objectives are reached.

Hard to imagine? It shouldn’t be because this has been the experience of residents of Kauai for more than 10 years since Kauai Island Utility Cooperative came into existence and purchased that island’s electric utility from Connecticut-based Citizens Communications Company in 2002.

IM: Big Island Energy Cooperative on the move

read ... Co-op

Honolulu to Pay $17 Million to Resolve Air Violations at Landfill

CB: The settlement with the EPA includes an $875,000 fine and requirement to install a $16.1 million solar power system.

read ... $17M

Questions surface about judges’ gift disclosures

WHT: Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, at Masunaga’s Dec. 2 swearing-in, told Masunaga the Kate Spade satchel would be handy to ferry briefs to and from work, according to a Dec. 6 report on the Hawaii 24/7 news blog.

read ... Questions

Pandering to Pandemonium: A Quack Moves to Maui

CJAD: It was in the early 1990s that I first tuned in to the antics of one Dr. Carolyn Dean. She was a guest on a television talk show and got my attention with her declaration that “if you can’t pronounce the words it’s a chemical and I don’t know how many people want to be eating chemicals.” Of course the statement was laughable....

read ... Duckburg

Study: Honolulu a top city for young college grads

PBN: The American Institute for Economic Research, a nonprofit economic research organization, ranked American cities where young college graduates want to live and work, based on eight economic and quality-of-life factors. The three most important factors were a high density of people with a college degree, a low unemployment rate and the ability to get around without a car.

read ... Bizarre News

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