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Sunday, August 23, 2015
August 23, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:41 PM :: 4183 Views

IRS, Could You Please Answer the Phone?

Will PUC Finally Shut Down Al Hee's Scam Company? -- Bishop Estate Trustee Implicated

SA: The Federal Communications Commission has launched an investigation into the finances of Sandwich Isles Communications and its parent company, Waimana Enterprises, in the wake of the tax fraud conviction of founder Albert Hee, according to government documents made public last week.

Meanwhile, Hawaii's consumer advocate, Jeff Ono, recommended that the state Public Utilities Commission delay ruling on whether to recertify Sandwich Isles and Pa Makani, an affiliate. Recertification will allow them to continue receiving FCC subsidies. Ono has asked Sandwich Isles to provide documentation that it hasn't misused ratepayer funds.

Both the federal and state probes raise questions about whether Sandwich Isles, which has relied heavily on ratepayer subsidies for more than a decade, will be able to continue its operations, which include providing telecommunications services to about 3,000 customers living on Hawaiian homelands....

FCC officials suspended payments to the company in June...

...documents filed by Sandwich Isles with the Public Utilities Commission last week show that the FCC has begun picking apart the company's finances to see if any ratepayer funds were misused or if the company misrepresented its operations to regulators in the past. The documents include correspondence between the FCC and Sandwich Isles, as well as responses to inquiries from Ono.

Hee's "conviction and the facts surrounding the case have brought into sharper focus questions about the nature of many of Sandwich Isles' expenses as well as whether Sandwich Isles' affiliate transactions are consistent with FCC rules and policies that govern the Universal Service Fund and High Cost Program," Karen Majcher, vice president of the Universal Service Administrative Co.'s High Cost Program, wrote in a letter to Abby Tawarahara, Sandwich Isles' controller, earlier this month. The USAC administers the FCC's universal service funds.

This isn't the first time that the FCC has scoured the finances of Sandwich Isles and its affiliated companies, all of which have been owned or operated by Hee or his family members.

In 2013, the agency slashed Sandwich Isles' subsidy after officials concluded that some of the company's expenses were "grossly excessive and unreasonable." The FCC found that the company's corporate expenses — which included salaries, legal expenses, consulting fees, audit expenses, insurance and management fees — were seven times higher than companies of similar size.

This latest probe into the expenses of Sandwich Isles spans the years 2002 to present and is expected to conclude in December, according to FCC documents....

Sandwich Isles has long attracted interest from Hawaii's political circles because of its ties to former lawmakers, business executives and officials connected with the heavily endowed Kamehameha Schools.

Albert Hee is the brother of former Sen. Clayton Hee.

However, it's been unclear who has stuck with the company over the years — Sandwich Isles has closely guarded company information in filings with the PUC and other regulatory bodies.

In responses to questions from Ono this month, the company cites only Hee, Olds and Robert Kihune as officers of Sandwich Isles and its affiliates.

In addition to serving as president of Sandwich Isles, Olds is an attorney and Kamehameha trustee.

read ... FCC delves into telcom service provider’s finances

Housing adviser’s strength should be policy, not politics

Shapiro: City Council Chairman Ernie Martin's appointment of Peter Boylan as the Council's housing coordinator is a worrisome sign that Council members intend to continue playing politics with Hawaii's homelessness crisis.

Boylan, who will be paid $84,000, is smart and capable, but his specialty is political public relations, not policy; he's worked since 2009 as a spokesman for politicians such as the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi.

A former reporter for The Honolulu Advertiser, he has no significant background in housing, homelessness issues or social services.

The unavoidable appearance is that Martin has parked Boylan in the Council offices for involvement in his anticipated run against Mayor Kirk Caldwell in next year's election.

As Explained: Profiting from Homelessness: Publicist, Lobbyist Take Control

read ... Politics

Too much time has been wasted while homeless children live on the street

SA: Why can’t our elected officials treat the homeless crisis as the emergency it is? (Because there is a chance to score federal money and that is more important.) The homeless seem to be on every part of Oahu and the neighbor islands. They live along Lake Wilson. They are embedded into Diamond Head. They float along Keehi Lagoon and live deep beneath the Nimitz Viaduct. They have called the Honolulu International Airport, the state Capitol and Waikiki Beach their home. From the Waianae Boat Harbor to the Hawaii Kai park and ride, human beings are living in squalor.

We should be ashamed but we’re not....

The best idea the task force could muster seemed to be an unused maintenance shed in the Kakaako encampment that could maybe house 40 people after it is refurbished. That logic seems to suggest that we need permanent housing for the homeless. We don’t. We need temporary housing and we need it quickly without all the bureaucratic handwringing that is taking place.

More than half of those in Kakaako are single individuals. They can go immediately into shelters. Families need a vacant piece of state property with clean water and security and room for their tents. Or instead of their tents, a large temporary tented area with toilets, clean water and shower facilities. There they can be fed and care for themselves, and those who can’t will be provided the social services and health care they need.

Homeless children, the most vulnerable of all, should never be allowed to wander the squalid encampment without access to proper nutrition, sanitation or education. One national homeless expert said he has never seen anything like it in any city he’s visited.

Simply shameful.

Even those with the greatest compassion for the homeless cannot seriously believe that the Kakaako situation is humane or safe. Yet it has been allowed to continue for the past four years as leaders past and present pass the buck while this Third-World slum continues to grow in the heart of the most beautiful place on Earth.  (Because the politicians are only interested in using this to score points against each other.)

read ... Shame

Profitable: OHA Demands 'Fair Market Rent' to Allow Massive Oceanfront Homeless Shelter

SA: ...in one scenario, OHA could move the estimated 250 homeless people out of the Next Step Shelter, a warehouse that sits on OHA's 5.2-acre "Lot L" property by the entrance to Pier 1.

Next Step currently uses only about 30,000 square feet of the 70,000 square feet in the warehouse, according to OHA spokesman Garett Kamemoto.

The remaining space could then be refurbished to create room for 500 people.

"You're looking at big numbers," Crabbe said.

The Next Step renovations could also include partitioned spaces for all of the families currently living in the Kakaako encampment, Crabbe said.

The relocated Next Step occupants would then move to a temporary, pop-up "sprung shelter" on OHA's "Lot I" property just mauka of Next Step on Forrest Avenue "to separate the chronic homeless from children," Crabbe said.

The city currently leases approximately 70,000 square feet of the 3.3-acre Lot I as a staging area.

In a second scenario, Next Step would remain as is, and a new shelter could go up on Lot I to house up to 250 people from the Kakaako encampment.

"The discussions have been more on the mechanics side," Crabbe said. "How would we execute moving 250, 500 people into a warehouse and by when? What's the time frame? We would need to improve the infrastructure and carve out space for families."

But if the talks get closer to reality, Crabbe said OHA "would like fair market rent value, of course. It's valuable property. We're very open to options negotiating either rent. If it's short-term we can reach a very fair business arrangement. If it's long-term, it would necessitate long-term discussions about the ground lease."

Meanwhile: Hundreds participate in 5K to help end family homelessness

read ... OHA Rent

Maui Solar Telescope Benefits 350 Students at UH Maui Campus

MN: ...Hokoana said that the science of looking at the sun, understanding how it works and how it can affect anything, including cellular phones and television, is valuable.

This is the fifth year the National Science Foundation is distributing $2 million per year to the college, for a total of $20 million over 10 years, for Native Hawaiians studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics or Hawaiian Studies. The grant is part of a mitigation plan offered by developers of what was formerly known as the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope. It aims to further the education of Native Hawaiians, especially in the scientific fields.

Around 350 students benefit from the fund's programs each year, with 100 students on scholarships....

Reality: Telescope: For OHA, it’s all About the Rent Money

read ... And the protesters benefit ... OHA

NextEra Beat Down Continues

SA: None of the 28 parties, known as intervenors, involved in the PUC review came out in full support of the sale.

But many critics, including Ige, left the door to approval open by saying they oppose the sale “in its current form.”

The changes they would like to see NextEra adopt include providing more detail about promised customers savings, protecting Hawaii consumers from problems within NextEra’s mainland businesses and abiding by Hawaii (one party State) values....

NextEra hired Jennifer Sabas, former chief of staff to the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, in June to help the company win state approval (show proper obsequience).

IM: Subpoenas and Depositions in HECO-NextEra Merger Proceeding

read ... NextEra must address a long list of concerns

Appeals court upholds authority of State Ethics Commission to enforce ethics laws

ILind: ...Boyd challenged the decision in court. The original Circuit Court decision threw out half of the charges, but upheld the rest. Both the commission and Boyd then appealed.

Boyd argued that he was not a state employee because he worked for the local charter school board rather than the state’s Board of Education. And, among other things, he argued that he never intended to violate the ethics law, and intent is a necessary part of the charges.

The appeals court blew out Boyd’s arguments. It reviewed several laws and court cases that previously had determined that charter school employees are state employees. The evidence they reviewed included Boyd’s applications for state benefits, including health insurance coverage, where he identified himself as a state employee.

And the court further ruled that it isn’t necessary to have evidence of “intent” in order to find someone in violation of the conflict of interest provisions....

Background: Court Upholds Self-Dealing Ruling Against School Employee

read ... Appeals court upholds authority of State Ethics Commission to enforce ethics laws

Chatter About Gabbard Running for VP Continues into Fourth Day

Borreca: Candidates for president pick their vice presidential running mates — you can’t run for vice president, you have to be asked. (Wrong: You  run for VP by planting questions with friendly reporters and then letting on that you would be interested.  Duh.)

In Hawaii this week, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was asked about running for vice president next year.  (Because her people asked the reporter to ask the question.)

The question was asked, not by Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton or U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, but by Kauai’s The Garden Island newspaper.  (No kidding.)

Would you be willing to run for vice president next year? the paper asked.

“I would because the question that I’ve always asked myself is where can I be in a position to make the most positive impact? That is what motivated me to run for office at 21,” Gabbard told the paper last week....

(Visualize Chris Butler, a heartbeat away from the Presidency.)

read ... Gabbard keeps ambition from getting too far ahead

Kauai: UK Guardian Sprays Island With Anti-GMO Ignorance

UKG: After four separate attempts to rein in the companies over the past two years all failed, an estimated 10,000 people marched on 9 August through Honolulu’s Waikiki tourist district. Some signs like, “We Deserve the Right to Know: Stop Poisoning Paradise” and “Save Hawaii – Stop GMOs” (Genetically Modified Organisms), while others protested different issues (like the telescope, maybe?).

(Translation: Us anti-GMO activists can't turn out the crowds so we pretend OHA's anti-Telescope protest was really our anti-GMO protest.)

One of many good Comments: "Linking GMO crops with birth defects makes a sensational headline reminiscent of the days of yellow journalism but I'm sorry, your article really fails to explain why a GMO plant, in and of itself, has anything to do with pesticide-induced birth defects."

KE: Musings: Christopher Pala's Hit Piece

read ... The Comments

Eco-Morons Want to Construct 60-mile Lay net in Mid Pacific

HNN: Scientists and volunteers who have spent the last month gathering data on how much plastic garbage is floating in the Pacific Ocean returned to San Francisco on Sunday and said most of the trash they found is medium to large-sized pieces, as opposed to tiny ones.  (Hint: Japanese Tsunami, remember?)

The expedition was sponsored by The Ocean Cleanup, an organization founded by Slat, a 21-year-old innovator (kid) from the Netherlands.

Slat said the group will publish a report of its findings by mid-2016 and after that they hope to test out a 1-mile barrier to collect garbage near Japan. The ultimate goal is construction of a 60-mile barrier in the middle of the Pacific....

IE: Meet the 21-year-old who thinks he can clean up the world's oceans

read ... Eco-Morons Want to Construct 60-mile Lay net in Mid Pacific

Activists Push for Family Leave Law--Unfunded Employer Mandate

SA: "Our own Hawaii Family Leave Law protects very few workers, and only applies to individuals employed at businesses of 100 employees or more, offering much less: Four weeks of unpaid leave (even for childbirth)."

Nearly 1 in 4 women in the United States go back to work within two weeks of childbirth, to devastating results, according to new data released in Sharon Lerner's article (on socialist website) "In These Times."

read ... Inadequate paid maternity leave has devastating effect on families

BoE Begins Lobbying Legislature for More Money

SA: ...The Committee on Weights, which meets every other year to determine how the funds should be allocated to schools, is not recommending any categories be added to the weighted student formula this year, the committee's chairwoman told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

But the committee recommended the base funding provided to the state's five K-12 combination schools be increased, said Suzanne Mulcahy, who served a third time as chairwoman of the committee. The change would provide an extra $148,024 for each of the schools.

Mulcahy said while the formula is intended to address equity, school leaders told the committee the funds are not adequate. In response, the committee recommended the Board of Education seek a 2 percent increase to the existing per-pupil funds legislators have appropriated for the 2016-17 school year, or $16.5 million more, "to address inflationary pressures on schools." The committee also recommended the board seek an additional $10 million to further support schools with English Language Learner programs....

read ... Weighted

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