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Friday, May 6, 2016
May 6, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:05 PM :: 3414 Views

Did Caldwell Illegally Launch Reelection Campaign On County Time?

Rep Beth Fukumoto Chang: “Aggressively Redefine What it Means to be a Minority Member”

Health: Hawaii Lawmakers Struggle to Define Direct Primary Care

Judge Awards EEOC $7.6M in Case Against Farm Labor Contractor Global Horizons

Ige Signs ‘Cool Schools’ Bill

Feds: After Losing Millions, Hawaii Medicaid Fraud Control Finally Improving

Matson Stock Drops 12.5% due to Faltering China Trade

Did Jones Act contribute to EL FARO loss?

Jones Act: The Plot Against Puerto Rico

Three Anti-Gun Bills on Ige’s Desk

New FDA Regs May Shut Down 95% of E-Cig Industry

Moody’s: Hawaii #3 in State Debt

Government Contracting Explained: How Air Conditioning Costs $100K Per Classroom

SA: Question: I support the plan for classroom air conditioning, but $100 million for 1,000 classrooms suggests it will cost $100,000 for each classroom. That sounds a bit excessive. Why does it cost so much?

Answer: Besides the cost of air-conditioning units, ceiling fans, roof coatings or whatever other methods are deemed best for a particular school, the estimated bill includes the cost of major structural upgrades necessary at some aging campuses before heat-abatement systems can be installed.

At some schools this includes rewiring electrical systems and installing new doors and windows so that the school can carry an increased energy load and air-conditioned classrooms will be airtight, said a Department of Education spokeswoman.

The estimated price is based in part on the actual cost of recent air-conditioning projects and includes both design and construction costs. For example, bids in 2010 to retrofit Pohakea Elementary School in Ewa Beach with air conditioning ran up to $4.3 million, or about $110,000 a classroom, according to the DOE. (Ca-ching!  Attention school kids—you really really want to grow up to be a crony.  It may be the only way to afford a house in Honolulu.)

However, the department is piloting newer technology, such as photovoltaic air conditioning….  (Green energy scammers will laugh all the way to the bank)

read … Government Contracting

Government Contracting HART vs HECO:  Don’t-rock-the-boat concealment and avoidance of the hard facts

SA: …there is a huge disconnect between the plans by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and the safety protocols of the Hawaiian Electric Co. crews working on them.

That’s a disconnect that must be bridged, lest it produce more harrowing cost increases for the project already topping the $6 billion mark.

The problems actually began some seven years ago — before HART was created — in discussions involving city officials and the consultants hired to do the early planning work. A review of the documents presented in the Sunday Honolulu Star-Advertiser by writer Marcel Honore traced the history of the information exchange.

It’s been wholly unacceptable, another example of don’t-rock-the-boat concealment and avoidance of the hard facts. Unfortunately, that kind of bureaucratic tap-dance is all too commonly seen in Hawaii governance.

What were those hard facts? At the core, they were that HECO advocated for greater clearance from power lines than are stipulated in federal safety regulations.

On one end there was an apparent decision by the consultants to tamp down concerns. One, according to the HART records, was Hank Wei, who worked with the firm Parsons Brinckerhoff on the project.

“Please do not share this email with HECO,” Wei wrote in 2009, and then added that he thought 20-foot clearances between power lines and the rail guideway’s edge would work. He was addressing his remarks to rail engineers after the utility informed them its crews should have clearances of 50 feet for working on high-voltage power lines.

As appalling as such a statement is, it would appear from the public record that HECO also sidestepped the specifics for too long….

HECO spokespersons insist that there have been repeated and specific communications to HART — “multiple emails” — on all of this. The taxpayers should see these emails. And the HART board owes it to them to demand that HART management and the utility put everything in the public record.

The rail project construction is advancing, ever so slowly toward town, where the conflicts with existing infrastructure and communities will intensify, even under the best of circumstances.

Instead, the halting, vague and scant communications about core issues offer up the worst of circumstances. There needs to be an all-hands-on-deck moment to straighten this out, minimizing the pain for the taxpayers.…

read … Government Contracting Again

TMT: What Are They Doing?

WHT: I am a supporter of the TMT and urge anyone with an interest and an opinion to ask for answers on the status of the project from the officials in charge. The public deserves an explanation from DLNR/BLNR for the delays as it takes months to reach a consensus for any decision and then witness those decisions immediately contested as not following procedures.

Meanwhile, opponents are grasping at straws in what appears to be an effort to stall a final outcome. Objections are being filed by groups associated with the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement, an odd mix considering the laws they are forcibly defending pertain to governance they do not want a part of. I am confused on both pro and con sides as to what they are doing or who they are representing….

read … Government Contracting Part 3 

Legislators Budget $2M for an Imu

Borreca: …Imagine a $13.7 billion allowance and 76 parents each with their own agenda and you have an idea of the proviso machinations ticking away inside the state budget.

All 76 lawmakers are not writing the budget, but all are free to lobby the House and Senate budget committees to have their own special goody included.

For instance, when Gov. David Ige sent his version of the budget down to the Legislature, it said not one word about building an imu, or underground oven, but when it was passed by the House and Senate, the bill includes a proviso for “Design construction and equipment for improvements for Kauai Community College’s culinary arts program to include ground and site improvements, development of an underground oven.”

The state budget for that imu? Two million dollars.

In state government if you want to look like you are doing something without really doing something and therefore upsetting folks, what you do is call for a study. The proviso section is where you tuck the studies.

For instance, two years ago the Legislature created a special commission to examine why the counties are always complaining about not getting enough tourist tax money from the state.

The commission came back and said, “Yup, the state should give the counties more,” which was the wrong answer.

So this year’s budget has a proviso that directs the state to use $100,000 “to conduct a study on the effects of county real property tax rates on the distribution of revenues and expenses between state and county.” ….

read … Proviso sections are where a bill’s rubber hits the road

OHA Grabs for Control of NW Hawaiian Isles Monument

KGI: …The proposal calls for expanding Papahanaumokuakea from 50 nautical miles to the 200 nautical mile limit of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ), with exception for the waters surrounding the islands of Niihau and Kauai.

Those areas would remain outside of the monument boundaries, as well as two important fishing buoys for local Kauai fishermen.

The Cultural Working Group, made up of local fisherman and scientists, as well as local and national environmentalists, and concerned residents, is also calling for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to be co-trustee on the management committee….

Meanwhile: Homeless Dude on Trial for Stealing Kamehameha’s Spear

read … Power Grab

China Still Invited to RIMPAC

WSJ: …A top U.S. naval official said China’s navy is expected to join military exercises near Hawaii, playing down Beijing’s refusal last month to let a U.S. aircraft carrier dock in Hong Kong….

read … RIMPAC

UH Tuition Hikes Used to Fund Capital Improvements for Crony Contractors

MN: …Cynthia Reeves, the only parent at the meeting Thursday, spoke out against the tuition increase. She said that tuition is meant to pay for instruction costs, not maintenance.

"Neither the students nor the parents should be held essentially solely responsible for paying what I believe is a targeted tax to pay for the UH system's deferred maintenance backlog," she said. "Indeed, I believe it should be funded by the state, which represents the tax dollars of all the citizens of Hawaii."

read … Tuition Hikes

Priced out of Paradise: Covering costs of college takes planning, flexibility

HNN: According to an annual survey conducted by the College Board, the nonprofit behind the SAT, average in-state tuition at four-year public universities was $9,410 this year.

The average out-of-state tuition was $23,893, and tuition at a private, non-profit university sets students back $35,405.

read … Priced Out

Money approved for Super ferry study

HTH: …Transportation officials are expected to find out after lawmakers approved funding a study on establishing a publicly owned fleet similar to Washington State Ferries, the largest ferry system in the United States.

The bill, which provides $50,000, passed both chambers Tuesday. It still requires Gov. David Ige’s signature.

The measure comes after the Senate passed a resolution last year requesting the same study.

The Department of Transportation, which says it strongly supports the bill, said it needed additional funding to carry out the request.

According to the bill, the study will include: comparison of successful ferry systems, including those in Washington state and Alaska; compliance with state environmental laws; appropriate routes and harbors; costs and revenue potential; financing options, including rates and fees; type and design, including capacity for passengers, vehicles and cargo; impacts on traffic congestion; and spread of invasive species.

A publicly owned ferry system would be different from the Superferry, a private venture that sailed from 2007-09. It shut down after a judge ruled it unconstitutional sacrilegious to continue without a full environmental review (by the ‘high’ priests of the eco-religion).

read … Superferry

Greenmailers, Punatics Maintain Control of Geothermal Resources

HTH: …Inouye, who said she thinks the state is best able to regulate geothermal facilities, said she introduced the bill at the request of Puna Geothermal Venture, which is facing a lawsuit for drilling at night in violation of a county ordinance adopted in 2012. Plant officials say they need to be able to drill around the clock for safety reasons.

If passed, the measure was expected to resolve the issue in favor of the 38-megawatt power plant.

Bob Petricci, of litigant Puna(tic) Pono Alliance, said they plan to move for summary judgment now that the bill died (unless they receive a sufficient cash offer)….

read … Bill giving state authority over plants dies

Vermont Copies Hawaii Land Use Laws—Exempts Wind Farms

BFP: …It was almost 50 years ago when the alarm was sounded and a bipartisan effort was undertaken to rein in the land developers. I was employed on the office of Attorney General Jim Jeffords and remember well the sense of crisis because mostly out of state corporations were buying large tracts of pristine land and subdividing them without any consideration even for septic disposal (“Killington where the affluent meet the effluent”).

Emergency regulations were issued and then Act 250 was crafted, modeled on Hawaii’s statewide land use law, and passed with bipartisan legislative support.

We have a similar situation today. Large scale industrial, solar and wind developments are being built with virtually no control over siting. The Public Service Board’s “build everywhere” policy is wrecking the iconic landscape that makes our state a special place underlies our tourist and second home economy.

An approach more respectful of Vermont’s fragile environment and viewscapes would be to remove siting control from our utility regulatory board and to allow local zoning and planning and Act 250 to control siting of these obtrusive developments. Act 250 is not perfect but it has played an important part over the years in protecting Vermont from some of the environmental messes in other states….

read … Vermont Copies Hawaii Land Use Laws

A&B after sugar: Lots and Lots of Condos, Subdivisions

MN: …HC&S General Manager Rick Volner confirmed that the cattle grazing trial is the ongoing effort between the plantation and Maui Cattle Co. to explore grass-fed beef production on 29 acres near Old Maui High School in Hamakuapoko….  (Translation: 1/1000th of HC&S land)

Anaergia, a California renewable energy company, is among a number of entities working with A&B on energy crop trials, Volner said. Anaergia is specifically involved with crops that would be grown for anaerobic digestion, he said.

Anaergia has been involved in a dispute with Maui Electric Co. over its proposals to provide electricity or biogas to the utility. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission is reviewing a request for a declaratory ruling from Anaergia that it submitted a "bona fide request" to MECO for higher-than-market rates for supplying power resources to the utility.

A hearings officer recently issued recommendations to the commission that none of Anaergia's proposals to provide electricity or biogas to MECO would qualify for preferential rates….  (Translation: This is already doomed.)

There's also the possibility of the sale of some parcels for ventures, he said.

On the Maui development front, Benjamin said 60 units had been released for sale at the 70-unit, low-rise, multifamily Keala O Wailea project. Thirty-eight units were under binding contracts, with the average unit size at 1,400 square feet and the average unit price of $1.2 million, he said.

Construction began in December, and the first units should be ready for buyers in mid 2017, he said.

Meanwhile, site work has begun on A&B's master-planned, 95-acre Kamalani project in north Kihei, he said. The overall 630-unit project is a mix of market-priced and affordable homes. The affordable homes start in the high $200,000s for a two-bedroom home and rise to the mid $300,000s for a three-bedroom unit, he said.

Maui County income restrictions apply to affordable units, and a lottery process to select buyers is planned in July, he said.

"As you can imagine, economic margins on affordable homes are minimal," Benjamin told investors. "But they do generate housing credits and will pave the way for later market-priced homes."

(Translation: Central Maui will become a giant subdivision, thanks to the environmentalists who shut it down.)

read … No New Ideas

Prosecuting Peter Boy Parents a Gutsy Move

HNN: …Big Island Prosecutor Mitch Roth made a gutsy move.  Charging a murder case with no body, no physical evidence and no witnesses.  He used the unusual legal theory – that because his parents knew Peter Boy was injured and they neglected him, his death was murder.

Many people will say it is better to prosecute with a weak case than not to prosecute at all.  But there is a risk. If they are acquitted, and new evidence emerges later, they cannot be prosecuted a second time….

read … Guts

Hawaii 3rd Highest Homeownership Rate in USA

DJ: …The 2015 First American Homeownership Progress Index (HPRI) declined 1.8 percent year-over-year, and is down 7.6 percent from the peak in 2005. The Homeownership Progress Index is currently just 0.4 percent above the 25-year low point that was set in 1995.

“While the HPRI declined nationally, the state of homeownership can vary dramatically by state and by market. In 2015, New Hampshire and Vermont claimed the highest overall rates of homeownership among all states, followed by Hawaii, Washington and Delaware. These five states are the only states with homeownership rates that exceed their homeownership rates from the year 2000,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “All other states are worse off from a homeownership perspective than in 2000. In fact, Nevada fares the worst at 18 percent below its 2000 level of homeownership. The collapse of the American Dream continues to linger in this particularly hard hit market….

read … Homeownership Progress Index

Housing First $2.2M to Get 100 Chronics Permanently off Streets

SA: …U.S.VETS this fall will take over the city’s efforts to find 100 permanent homes for some of Honolulu’s chronically homeless households through a model known as Housing First.

The nonprofit usually helps homeless military veterans. But in a contract that’s still being negotiated with the city, the organization will partner with Kalihi-Palama Health Center, Legal Aid Services of Hawaii, the University of Hawaii’s Center on the Family and Helping Hands Hawaii to find 100 fair-market rental units for the homeless population stretching from West Oahu to Waikiki.

Under the Housing First program, the units would be open to people struggling with mental health, drug or alcohol problems while being helped by social service case managers.

The Institute for Human Services is on the second year of its Housing First contract with the city after finding housing for 115 households by its first deadline, which was in October. In all, IHS provided so-called permanent supportive housing for 176 people and 20 families which included 35 children who were all considered “chronically homeless.”

Starting in November, U.S.VETS will have a one-year, $2.2 million contract with the option to renew for a second year, said Jay Parasco, the city’s homeless initiatives coordinator.

Unlike the IHS contract, only $1 million of the U.S.VETS contract will come from the city’s general fund. The other $1.2 million for rent, utilities and deposits will come from the federal government, Parasco said.….

read … Housing First

Hawaii: Anti-Vaxxers Multiply 13-Fold Since 2011

HNN: More Hawaii parents are seeking religious exemptions to required kindergarten vaccinations, in a situation that’s causing growing concern for Hawaii health officials.

In the 2014-15 school year, some 754 Hawaii kindergartners got religious exemptions to required vaccinations, according to a sample analysis reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s up from 634 the year before, and just 58 in the 2011-12 school year.

“Just like every state, we’re seeing a rise in exemptions,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist and chief of the Department of Health's Disease Outbreak Control Division. “They are growing in number and that is a concern.”

The total number of exemptions still represent a small minority of the roughly 20,000 kindergarten public and private students in Hawaii each year.

But the figures also aren’t trivial.

Hawaii’s non-medical exemption rate – about 3.3 percent in the 2014-15 school year – was the 13th-highest in the nation, according to the CDC.

read … Morons and Idiots

Map: 40,000 Auto Accidents in Hawaii, 2015

HNN: Davis Levin Livingston released its 2015 Honolulu accident map, which plots all 40,000-plus crashes and accidents that occurred last year.

The firm used that data to pinpoint the county’s most dangerous roadways and intersections: “By far, the worst area in 2015 was around 1450 block of Ala Moana Blvd with 312 accidents. This area includes the whole Ala Moana Center and surrounding parking lots.”

Other areas include Waialae Avenue, N. School Street, and, not surprisingly, several locations along the H-1 Freeway….

LINK: View the map and list online here.

read … Accidents

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