Fuel for Thought
HART Board Heads for the Exits: Rail guideway cracking, snapping, and crumbling
SA: Revelations of mismanagement surrounding Oahu’s rail transit project have, unfortunately, become routine: the ever-increasing price tag (now at $8.6 billion), the inability to properly address utility clearance issues along the route, delays in construction timetable, and so on.
Now, though, new reports that parts of the rail guideway are cracking and snapping before the first stretch of the guideway is finished further diminishes public confidence in the beleaguered project.
Construction costs are already skyrocketing — but to hear that what’s built is already falling apart should cause even the most ardent rail proponent to shudder.
Cracks are forming in the “shims,” the plastic padding used to give the tracks a level surface, and strands in three of the tendons that help keep the guideway structure in place have snapped apart.
Future riders can take no great comfort in hearing that if one tendon breaks, it would not cause “catastrophic failure,” as a Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) design manager stated.
Already, one dozen defective tendons have been replaced, including the three with snapped strands. But taxpayers footing the bill deserve a full explanation from Kiewit Infrastructure West, the firm building the first half of the guideway — and assurances that what’s being built won’t crumble under the stress of occupied rail cars….
HART officials told the board that water draining out of the rail guideway’s concrete spans apparently seeped into some of the anchors that lock the steel tendons to the structure, causing them to corrode….
…questions emerge on repair costs, as well as about corner-cutting and substandard materials and techniques….
And further tumult is ahead for the agency: Both Hanabusa, who is running for her former congressional seat, and acting Executive Director Mike Formby are expected to exit before the Nov. 8 general election.
What will be left is a gaping leadership void at HART at a time when critical issues need to be addressed….
Firm figures will be needed before HART and city officials lobby state lawmakers to extend the 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge….
read … HART needs tough action plan to keep rail on track
Charter Questions 4 & 15: Voters Asked to Give Caldwell a Third Term and Control of Rail Operations?
Borreca: …the two big sleepers are Charter Amendments 4 and 15, the ones about rail and term limits.
Amendment 4 is tough because it asks you to ponder something that has probably not come up in your dinner conversation: “Should a unified multi-modal transportation system be created … ?”
That question about having a plan to put rail and buses and other city transit services under one roof has two important parts.
First, someday the Honolulu rail line is going to be finished and it is going to charge you to ride it — and the folks in that multi-modal transportation system will decide how much you will pay.
Essentially the city’s Transportation Department would be responsible for operation and maintenance of the bus, paratransit and rail.
Second, the existing Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) would still be running the show with building rail, especially the suggested plans for expansion….
The second big question is: Should the mayor, Council and prosecutor be allowed to have three consecutive terms instead of the current limit of two?
Other elected executives are limited to two terms….
read … Rail operations, city term limits top Charter questions
Honolulu Mayoral Debate: Do you believe the city is better off than it was four years ago?
CB: The concerned call came from a woman in Kailua.
She had heard that Honolulu property taxes could be increased to pay for the over-budget rail project.
In the caller’s view, such a development would drive senior citizens out of their homes and maybe out of Hawaii. Most are living on a fixed income….
read … Honolulu Mayoral Candidates Vie For Coveted Kupuna Vote
No More Mayoral Debates Set
SA: Oahu residents may not see Mayor Kirk Caldwell and election opponent Charles Djou face off in a televised debate or forum before the Nov. 8 general election, and good-government advocates are bemoaning the loss of opportunities to hear the views of both candidates.
Officials with Hawaii News Now and KITV, which both held forums featuring Caldwell, Djou and former Mayor Peter Carlisle before the Aug. 13 primary, said they have no plans to hold another forum before the general election. A representative for KHON said the station had not made a decision on a mayoral forum, and staff from both the Caldwell and Djou camps said they had not been contacted by the station.
PBS Hawai‘i had scheduled a debate on “Insights on PBS Hawai‘i” on Oct. 27, but Djou either declined or withdrew from the appearance this week, spurring a fiery disagreement between the two campaigns and the station….
read … TV stations pass on holding more mayoral debates
Kenoi Criminal Trial Set for Oct 10
HTH: …The continued hearing was scheduled for Friday in Hilo, but a clerk for the judge said lawyers on both sides decided issues contained in pretrial motions were sufficiently settled, and the judge decided the court date wasn’t necessary.
Barring a plea deal or postponement, Kenoi is scheduled for trial Oct. 10 in Hilo before Del Rosario, who is hearing the case because all Big Island judges recused themselves.
Kenoi is charged with two counts each of second- and third-degree theft, three counts of falsifying a government record and a single count of making a false statement under oath….
read … Continuation of pretrial hearing in Kenoi theft case is called off
Hawaii seeks path from Obamacare Disaster back to Prepaid
SA: Hawaii’s health care policymakers are looking at 2017, when a new waiver from federal law could take effect, as the year things might get a bit rosier.
The players here, as in every other state in the Union, have lots to say about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), not all of it a sunny assessment….
Most health officials and industry executives … are eager to largely go back to Prepaid.
In particular, Hawaii will have a chance next year to shake off the part of the ACA that has seemed more trouble than it’s worth: the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). With the exchange troubled by technical glitches and other issues, the Hawaii Medical Service Association, the state’s largest carrier, pulled out of the SHOP marketplace, leaving only Kaiser Permanente offering small-business plans….
the Hawaii Health Connector that proved an expensive enterprise, never truly delivering the service smoothly to potential enrollees.
Finally, many millions of dollars later, the state decided to shut down the Connector and transition the state to the federal exchange. Because Prepaid remains in effect, there were too few customers, individual or business, to make it worth the cost to run….
read … Bye-bye Obama
Maui: A broken, costly school system
MN: We are still amazed after a decade and a half of observation about how dysfunctional Hawaii's statewide school system is.
Last week we watched, astonished, as folks celebrated the completion of an eight-classroom addition at Maui Waena Intermediate School that took a decade to come to fruition. Of course, the classrooms can't be occupied yet because the Wi-Fi isn't ready and furniture is missing. Somebody forgot those minor items.
Also last week there was news that South Maui's ethereal new high school will not be ready for occupancy until 2022. Oh, and the estimated price of the school has jumped $30 million in under two years - from $130 million to $160 million.
Let's compare those two projects to two schools that opened in August on the Mainland. Three years ago, our hometown of Carlsbad, N.M., decided it needed to replace some aging elementary schools. None had been built there in 50 years.
A study was done, an architect was hired, a bond was floated and Ocotillo Elementary School and Desert Willow Elementary School opened in August - on time and on budget. Construction time - under 13 months. They cost $20 million to $21 million each. Each houses up to 650 students.
The difference between there and here: Carlsbad has its own system and school board. The schools were important to the people making the decisions, and they became a priority.
Anyone who thinks Maui's schools are a priority to our Oahu-centric Department of Education hasn't been paying attention. They are not a priority for our statewide school board, either.
Except for our delegation, the Legislature doesn't care about us, either. There have been repeated attempts to steal money tagged for the South Maui high school and divert it to Oahu schools….
read … A broken, costly school system
Big Island Schools: 2,433 Class A and Class B offenses
HTH: …Administrators in the Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area say they’re “not surprised” by data that shows students in the region’s schools committed more misconduct offenses last school year than students in the two other complex areas on the island, combined.
In the 2015-16 school year, schools in that complex area accounted for about 50 percent of the Big Island’s 2,433 Class A and Class B offenses, which are defined in the state’s administrative rules, Chapter 19, and guide student misconduct and discipline. The Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area contained about 26 percent of the island’s public school student population that year.
Class A offenses include violations such as possession or use of a dangerous instrument or substance, possession or use of illicit drugs or drug paraphernalia, fighting, property damage or vandalism, sexual offenses, and terroristic threatening, among other things.
Class B offenses include bullying and cyberbullying, disorderly conduct, harassment, hazing, theft and inappropriate use of the internet, among other offenses.
The Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area — which contained roughly 33 percent of students — accounted for about 24 percent of misconduct cases. The Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex Area — which had about 43 percent of students — accounted for about 26 percent of violations….
HTH: Reporting, tracking offenses is mandatory
read … Schools battle bad behavior
Kaiser: 510% Rate Hike for ‘Basic’ Medicare Advantage
MN: …Approximately 4,000 people who are 65 years old or older are enrolled in one of two Kaiser Senior Advantage programs. There are 2,238 patients in Kaiser's "Maui Enhanced" plan and 1,772 in its "basic" plan. Those plans will be discontinued Dec. 31.
The change will merge both plans into one, called "Kaiser Permanent Senior Advantage Maui." The new plan for Medicare-eligible Maui County residents will cost $194 per month beginning Jan. 1. "Basic" plan members have been paying $38 per month, and "enhanced" plan members $180….
She acknowledged that the increases, especially for seniors on fixed incomes, may be difficult. The monthly cost for basic plan members will rise more than five times.
"We know that these changes may be difficult for some seniors so there are financial-assistance programs available," Lott said.
Details on financial-assistance programs are available at kp.org/medicare/maui. Seniors also may call customer service at (800) 805-2739 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week to see if they qualify for financial help, Lott said.
The more costly plans are driven by rising health care costs, she said.
read … 510% Rate Hike
DHHL Lessee to be Evicted – Not Hawaiian Enough
HNN: …Miguel has been living at Kapolei Ho'olimalima, a first of its kind rent-to-own project for the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
For the last 15 years, tenants' rent has been going toward their future mortgage. DHHL officials began reviewing all applicants now that the transfer to home ownership is set to take place and say that's when the blood quantum dispute came up.
"We turned in documents that we got from the Department of Health that said my grandfather is 100 percent, my grandmother is 100 percent, which makes my mom 100 percent Hawaiian and which automatically makes my siblings and I 50 percent," Miguel said.
Miguel says after investing nearly $50,000 towards home ownership in the rent-to-own development, she received notice in 2014 that there was a problem verifying her blood quantum.
"Regardless if my paperwork was wrong. We turned in what was given us to by the Department of Health. We didn't falsify anything. We were lead to assume we're 50 percent Hawaiian," said Miguel.
But DHHL officials say during their review of all Ho’olimalima tenants to convert them from renters to leasees, they discovered Miguel isn't eligible. They say their research indicates Miguel's great-grandfather is part Chinese….
read … Chinese
Nonprofits learn how to gauge if efforts are paying off
SA: …Four years ago, Child & Family Service adopted a nationally recognized tool to help nonprofits measure the impact of its many programs, known as Results-Based Accountability.
Now, with sponsorship from Aloha United Way, the agency is training staff from 16 other nonprofits to use the approach, which was developed by Mark Friedman, founder of the Fiscal Policy Studies Institute in Santa Fe, N.M.
AUW invited all of its 200 partner agencies to apply, and selected 16 for the program, ranging from Hale Kipa to Hawaii Literacy, and Lanakila Pacific to Waikiki Health.
“It’s not good enough anymore to count the number of meals served or the number of group sessions held,” said Marc Gannon, vice president of community impact at Aloha United Way. “We have to know what the result of that is. Generally health and human services as an industry is far behind our ability to measure our impact than in other industries.”
The beauty of Results- Based Accountability is its simplicity, said Garval, who first used the system at a nonprofit in Connecticut a dozen years ago.
The approach focuses on three questions: “How much did you do?” “How well did you do it?” and “Is anyone better off?”
Garval has added a fourth question: “How can we use the data to get better?”
Nonprofit staff come up with two or three “headline outcome measures” to gauge their effectiveness. For example, in a domestic abuse shelter, the target could be a percentage of women who develop a safety plan before leaving the shelter. In a home visiting program, meanwhile, the target could be reducing reports of child abuse or neglect by a certain percentage.
The goals must be measurable, and they can be adjusted to ensure the agency continues to improve….
read … Nonprofits learn how to gauge if efforts are paying off
Water, funding issues delay Oahu farmland cultivation
SA: …watermelons and bell peppers grown by local farmer Larry Jefts of Sugarland Growers Inc. and Kalena Farms were a far cry from an abundance of cabbage, lettuce, basil, tomato and other crops that were expected to be planted on the 1,200 acres by mid-2013 as touted during a news conference held by then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie with state agriculture officials.
“Within about six months the land should be ready to go, ready to plant,” James Nakatani, executive director of the state Agribusiness Development Corp., said at the December 2012 event celebrating the state’s acquisition of the land.
Added Abercrombie: ”I think we’re going to take major strides toward agricultural sustainability that simply hasn’t been possible.”
Nearly four years later, Jefts produced his crop on a relatively small portion of the site, and he plans to plant another mix of crops next spring. Yet it could be another year, or maybe more, before farming reappears on most of the old Del Monte site.
The problem has been water and money.
The state spent $13 million in 2012 to buy the 1,200 acres as part of a $25 million deal for 1,700 acres purchased from the Galbraith Estate. The city, U.S. Army, developer D.R. Horton and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs chipped in the $12 million balance that gave the Army a buffer from urban development and provided OHA with 500 acres surrounding the historic Kukaniloko Birthstone site where famous Hawaiian chiefs were born….
As Explained: State-Owned Agriculture: 1,200 Acres of Failure in Central Oahu
read … Water, funding issues delay Oahu farmland cultivation
Hawaii Organic Farms Rely on Slave Labor
SA: …“woofers,” which is the nickname for the 80,000 volunteer farm laborers who have participated in World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an international nonprofit group operating in 60 countries. They pay $30 a year for the opportunity to work without pay in exchange for a hands-on education in organic farming as well as room and board. The organization’s website says the individuals are responsible for their own health insurance.
For many, “woofing” offers a cheap way to experience different places and cultures. Hawaii ranks as one of the top 25 destinations for woofers, but outside organic farming circles, the practice doesn’t enjoy much name recognition, not even among folks who shop at farmers markets.
“It’s a great way to travel because you can live for months in a place like Hawaii, which wouldn’t otherwise be affordable unless you’re wealthy,” said Patrick Rowland, 31, who hails from Arizona. Well-tanned, he had been at Honest Green Farms, his first woofing experience, for four and a half months and wants to try Europe next.
“Being part of food production is something I want to do,” Rowland added.
WWOOF Hawaii, founded in 1995, maintains a state directory of more than 200 participating farms that range in size from backyard gardens to 20-acre operations, said administrator Jonathan Ziegler, 36, who lives on Kauai. Noting that “some farms haven’t updated their profile in a few years,” he estimated that about 20 to 26 farms may be currently using woofers on Oahu, 23 on Kauai, “a little more than 50” on Maui and between 160 and 170 on the Big Island.
In the last five years, Ziegler said, the number of woofers registered in Hawaii has grown from 1,800 to nearly 2,500. They typically work 10 to 35 hours a week and live in tents, cabins or in a room in a house, he said.
Woofers tend to be footloose: He hadn’t heard of many who’d stayed here longer than a year….
Asked whether they’d met many local people, the longer-tenured woofers of Honest Greens looked a touch wistful as they replied that their social interactions were mostly with their neighbors….
Woofers are not subject to minimum wage and overtime provisions in state labor laws if the farms they work on have 20 or fewer employees….
some woofers have expressed frustration that farmers weren’t teaching them anything, just running a bed-and- breakfast, while others have complained they weren’t being fed, Ziegler said….
read … Ohana of ‘woofers’ finds cheap way to travel
Flood coverage rates expected to keep rising
SA: Hawaii residential property owners who carry flood insurance saw their premiums rise an average of 10 percent this year and likely will face an average increase next year of 6 percent to 7 percent.
But the premiums could have been a lot higher were it not for a law passed in 2014, according to Wes Brum, a senior flood underwriter for Honolulu-based First Insurance Co. of Hawaii.
Premiums on flood insurance, unlike other homeowner and auto insurance policies, are set by the federal government with the total premiums determined by a home’s location, the type of foundation the home has, and the year it was built. On average, the cost of an annual flood insurance policy ranges from around $450 to $4,000 for $250,000 in structure coverage. Adding $100,000 in contents coverage could bring the top of that range up to $8,000….
The 2014 law implemented a cap on flood rate increases at 18 percent versus there being no cap on rates under the Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. That 2012 law led to premiums on flood insurance policies that, in some extreme cases, increased about 400 percent, Brum said. (Thanks, Obama)
read … Flood coverage rates expected to keep rising
Federal OK paves way for redevelopment of Aloha Stadium site
SA: Don’t cue the wrecking ball and bulldozers quite yet, but the big thorny obstacle blocking mixed-use redevelopment of Aloha Stadium is gone.
A federal agency that holds a deed restriction for much of the stadium’s Halawa site has given final approval to transferring the restriction to a state-owned park complex on Maui, resolving a problem that has long clouded visions for a new stadium integrated with housing, commercial attractions and a rail transit station.
The restriction prohibited anything but recreational use of the stadium property, which wouldn’t allow the state to partner with a private developer to add residential or commercial uses on part of the 100-acre site in return for financial help to rebuild the rusting and antiquated stadium.
“It’s an exciting time for the state of Hawaii,” said stadium manager Scott Chan. “It’s been a long journey. This gives us an opportunity to maximize the use of the property and hopefully redevelop it.”
read … OK
Bail Bondsmen Welch on Debts When Suspects Escape
SA: Bail bond companies that pledged bail money as guarantees that their clients would appear for criminal court proceedings now owe the state more than $2.4 million in forfeited bail bonds after the offenders failed to show up for their court dates, according to data provided by the Hawaii State Judiciary.
Data provided in response to a public records request by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser show the Judiciary is owed money by companies doing business under three dozen names for bond forfeitures that in some cases date back to 2001 and 2002.
The list of unpaid bail forfeitures in Family, District and Circuit courts was compiled as of June 30 and includes amounts ranging from as little as $100 to as much as $250,000 in one case.
A spokeswoman for the Judiciary said the courts system is collaborating with other agencies to collect what is owed, and “we intend to continue improving our practices to collect outstanding debts.”
read … Bonds, delinquent bonds