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Thursday, December 08, 2016
December 8, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:31 PM :: 1646 Views

Akina OHA: “Crucial Recommendations for Achieving Fiscal Sustainability”

OHA: Akina Sworn in, Akana Ousts Lindsey as Chair

Akina to OHA: E Hana Kakou

Secede, With a Little Help From Putin

Pew: National Parks in Hawaii Need $133 Million in Maintenance

Trump’s Pick for EPA Has a History of Fighting the Agency

KIUC Electric Rates Down 18%

Rail: Latest FTA Letter designed to Cement False Dichotomy

SA: …The new April 30 deadline, issued this week in a letter from the Federal Transit Administration to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, casts more uncertainty over rail’s future. Caldwell and other project leaders had asked the FTA to give them until the end of July to submit the plan.

That proposed summer deadline would have allowed time for state lawmakers to potentially authorize another rail-tax extension and secure more funding to finish the full 20-mile, 21-station system at Ala Moana Center.

Instead, the FTA’s new April 30 deadline will fall toward the end of the annual legislative session — just as it’s becoming clear which bills will pass and which will fail — and it would likely fall several days before the Legislature takes its final votes.

It also falls well ahead of the governor’s actions to either sign bills into law, let them pass into law without his signature, or veto them.

It remains unclear whether the FTA would accept a rail recovery plan that includes revenues that haven’t been signed into law. The federal agency could revoke its $1.55 billion for the project if it’s not satisfied with the city’s plans, now that Honolulu is technically in breach of its rail funding deal.

Currently, the elevated rail system — Hawaii’s largest-ever public works project — faces a budget gap of about $2 billion due to construction cost hikes, schedule delays, unforeseen utility relocation work and other woes. Rail leaders acknowledged last week that their latest $8.6 billion estimate could further climb by almost a billion dollars depending on how rail’s debt service and interest are financed….

The federal agency’s Tuesday letter, signed by FTA Region IX Deputy Administrator Edward Carranza Jr., stated that while the city should continue with its “Plan A” to build the entire East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center line, it should also simultaneously work on its “Plan B” based on a “build to budget” scenario using an anticipated $6.8 billion in revenues as its price ceiling.  (And that is a false dichotomy.  There are other choices which allow for rail to be complete without a tax hike.)

Plan B could drastically cut rail’s length — perhaps ending the line downtown near Aloha Tower…

Ignore This: Privatize: Honolulu Can See Its Rail Line Finished Without Raising Taxes

Ignore This, too: Savio: Rail Can be Built Without Any Taxpayer Dollars

read … False Dichotomy

Council to become Rubber Stamp for Caldwell

SA: …Some of the friction can be tied to years of political rivalry between Caldwell, who was up for re-election this year, and Martin. In June, Martin put to rest two years of speculation that he would enter the 2016 mayor’s race by announcing that he would instead stay put to focus on high-priority matters related to rail and homelessness.

Three months earlier, however, Martin was acting like a mayoral candidate. One display of political theatrics was touched off when the mayor and City Council took up fiscal 2017 funding for efforts tackling chronic homelessness.

Caldwell held a news conference at which he urged the Council to support his plan to create an eight-person Asset Development and Management Division to oversee affordable housing/homeless programs and to manage existing city-owned affordable housing. In response, Martin sarcastically quipped that all he had to offer Caldwell following his “emotional plea” was a box of Kleenex tissues. Martin later followed up with a more serious response, but much tension lingered.

The mayor himself is not shy about grandstanding, alerting the media to more low-priority news conferences than just about any other elected official here. That caused some Council members to grumble about learning of the administration’s ideas on the news — and while the validity of such frustration is debatable, what’s not is the underlying need for better communication between the two branches.

Menor said this week that the coalition aims to maintain a healthy tension between the branches.

“While we intend to be collaborative, the Council will not be a ‘rubber stamp’ for the mayor.  (KNOW THEM BY WHAT THEY DENY!)

read … Rubber Stamp

Activists Working for Immediate Shut off of Water to Maui Farmers

KE: In their latest strike against Hawaii agriculture, activists are mounting an attack on Alexander & Baldwin's request for a one-year holdover water permit on Maui.

Though the activists are trying to make it all about A&B, the water system also serves Kula farmers and some 36,000 Upcountry Maui residential users, as well as 30,000 acres of A&B ag land in Central Maui.

At issue is whether A&B will be able to keep using water under a year-by-year holdover permit as it seeks a longer-term water license and transitions HC&S out of sugar and into diversified ag.

The BLNR action is in line with Act 126, a hotly contested law the state Legislature passed in response to a Circuit Court ruling that found the state's revocable water permit system was illegal. Act 126 allows revocable permit holders to keep using water under no more than three one-year holdover permits while the state processes their water license applications.

So though the BLNR action is essentially a housekeeping measure that continues the status quo while A&B goes through the water license process, activists are now trying to fight the Act 126 battle all over again. They are even using the exact same messaging in their call to action for the BLNR hearing as they employed in rallying folks to testify at the Lege….

PDF: BLNR Agenda

CB: Environmentalists Urge Land Board To Deny A&B Water Use Permits

read … Musings: Water Wars

Unsung Hero Saved Maui Farmers from Massive Property Tax Hike

PBN: …Last week was especially event-full. On Saturday, I attended the 15th anniversary celebration of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a government watchdog group and Hawaii’s only free-market think tank. Grassroot’s president, Kelii Akina — Ph.D. in philosophy — is an adjunct humanities professor at Hawaii Pacific University and, as of the general election, a new trustee-at-large for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. (Yes, Grassroot, no “s,” because the group emphasizes individual freedom.)

PBN readers who feel like nothing ever changes in Hawaii, that it’s a relentlessly anti-business state managed by a hopelessly inefficient government, would’ve been cheered up by the event. Akina, along with Grassroot founder Dick Rowland and keynote speaker Rick Blangiardi, general manager of Hawaii News Now, all talked about progress made, a little bit at a time, when citizens and groups speak up. “Progress is hard by the yard, but a cinch by the inch,” said Rowland.

Grassroot presented its “Unsung Hero” to just such person, Sydney Smith, president of the Maui Coffee Association, who drove an effort to stop a potentially ruinous increase in the property taxes levied on farmers and ranches in that county. For one ranch alone, Smith told the audience, “a tax of $27,000 would’ve increased to $300,000.” But, as she says, they got 400 angry farmers and ranchers to fill the council chamber and explain why this proposal would be a disaster for them. And they won.

It is possible to change things, but you have to show up and fight for it….

read … Charity, bravery, and a grumble

TMT Foes Admit they are Filibustering

CB: Telescope supporters recently told the Star Advertiser that the opposition’s slowpoke tactics keep them waitin’ till it’s getting aggravatin’. The hearing, they say, has turned into a “filibuster.”

The opponents strongly deny this, but come on. Of course you are filibustering. And that’s OK.

Delay is a common legal strategy, but typically its use is one-sided. It’s a tactic that the rich, powerful,and legally experienced use against poorer litigants….

Comments from Anti-Telescope Protesters: “Mahalo Neal Milner!”  “Ooo-ooo-ooo, I have so been waiting for someone in the credible media to write this article! Thank you, thank you! I daily watch the videos of each full hearing day, hours of video.” 

CB: The TMT Is Nothing Like The Dakota Access Pipeline

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

read … If TMT Foes Are Filibustering, Good For Them

Phony Baloney: Hawaii Renewable Energy Definitions

IM: What do the following have in common: (1) biofuel made from razing tropical rainforests, killing endangered species, expelling native people and monocropping bioenergy crops; (2) coal-based hydrogen burned in a garbage-to-energy generator; (3) ethanol; and (4) undefined “Quantifiable Energy Conservation Measures”?

The State requires that 100 percent of electricity come from renewable energy resources by 2045. All of these technologies, at one time or another since 2001, have counted as renewable energy. Today, only three of the four count as renewable energy….

These are the definitions used, in requiring that the utility generates 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy resources by 2045. The definitions allow the utility to exceed 100 percent while still relying heavily on fossil fuel.

HECO recently acknowledge the definitional problem, and pledge to produce only renewable electricity by 2045, but has also asked that the convoluted definitions not be revised so people can understand them.

read … Hawai`i has a Problem Using Common Sense Definitions

Critics Tired of Caldwell’s Sewage Lies

KHON: …KHON2 spoke with a Honolulu City Council member for that district and the Sierra Club. They are bothered by how often these spills are happening, and how little information is being released to the public.

We tried to get Lori Kahikina, director of the city’s Department of Environmental Services, or anybody from the city to respond to these concerns, but no one wanted to talk to us on camera.

“It’s clear that this is just unacceptable,” said councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who represents the district. “We’ve had breaks in this region multiple times already and we have to do something to improve maintenance in this area.”

Pine points out residents have been forced to pay higher water and sewage fees to help prevent these problems.

“The city should know by now where all of our aging systems are, and if they’re going to be taxing residents more through sewage fees, then we should have the results that we’re being taxed for,” she said.

The Sierra Club adds that the city should be more upfront when these spills occur.

“There’s a big difference between a thousand gallons and 200,000 gallons, so I think that discrepancy needs to be explained, and it needs to be made aware more frequently and of course more freely,” said Jodi Malinoski, Oahu group coordinator for The Sierra Club of Hawaii.

After yet another request to the city, we received an email from a spokesman saying no one was available Wednesday. We got another email that gave a timeline of the spill — a trouble call was received at 9:30 a.m., crews arrived at 10 a.m., the contractor arrived late afternoon and work was done the next day.

But we wanted to know more. When did the spill start? When was it stopped? How was it detected? As to the 200,000 gallons, is that how much actually spilled or just the amount collected?

We also wanted to know when the city knew that it was 200,000 and when they were planning to tell the public. Late Wednesday afternoon, still no interview, but yet another email. The city says the 200,000 amount was known on Dec. 1, the day after the spill. But since it did not reach the waterways and was confined to an unimproved area, the public was in no danger.

So in other words, if we don’t ask, the public will never know….

read … Critics call city’s response to Ko Olina sewage spill unacceptable

Tourism Lobbyist To Head Police Commission

CB: Max Sword will take the helm of the embattled agency, which has been undergoing a shake-up in recent months by the influx of new blood….

Sword, who works for Outrigger Enterprises Group, will replace Ron Taketa, a long-time police commissioner whose term expired at the end of 2015. Taketa is head of the Hawaii Carpenter’s Union….

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell re-appointed Sword to a five-year term in June, saying at the time that he valued his insight into how the police interact with tourists and the businesses that cater to them.

But Caldwell has also added new voices to the commission, including former Assistant U.S. Attorney Loretta Sheehan, who has been an outspoken critic of the how the commission has responded to various allegations of misconduct.

Caldwell also recently appointed former Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Steven Levinson to the commission….

SA: Sword again said he will emphasize consensus-building, just as Taketa had.

read … Police Commission

State Hides Work History Of Former Cop Charged With Sex Assault

CB: One of the only items that wasn’t redacted was Ferguson’s handwritten explanation for his termination from HPD: “Dismissed for false accusations of a female complaint. Case dropped. No further investigation.”

That’s a much different story than the one provided by HPD, although the police department says it already destroyed Ferguson’s disciplinary file.

All that’s publicly known about Ferguson’s discharge comes from two sentences in an annual police misconduct report submitted to the Legislature in 2013:

The officer transported a juvenile female runaway without a supervisor’s authorization and was untruthful during the investigation. It was also determined that the officer altered another officer’s name and badge number in a police log book and submitted a falsified mileage report.

Ferguson, who faces five counts of sexual assault in connection with the Big Island case after he was hired by the DLNR, is scheduled to stand trial in February.

read … State Hides Work History Of Former Cop Charged With Sex Assault

HGEA Member Injured Playing Volleyball on the Job—Demands Workers Comp

CB: Bonnie Chan’s struggles with Hawaii’s workers’ compensation program began in 2012 when she was a recreational therapist at Hawaii State Hospital.

Chan was in the gym helping to set up a volleyball game when a spiked ball smacked her on the right side of the face, injuring her neck and jaw and giving her a concussion.

For a few months, her workers’ comp carrier — in her case the state of Hawaii, which self-insures — approved treatments. Then it started delaying decisions on her requests for treatment, Chan said, leaving her in a limbo that prevented her from using private insurance, which only kicks in when a workers’ comp claim is denied.

Concerned that the delays would hamper her recovery and return to work, she paid $16,000 out of her own pocket for assessment and treatment….

“Every time I get mail from workers’ comp,” she said, “I get more stressed.”….

Each year, more than 20,000 people who work in Hawaii make claims for injuries suffered on the job. For some with severe injuries, the state’s workers’ compensation system is the only thing that stands between them and a downward spiral of unemployment, debt and even homelessness.

Now a group convened by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, which oversees the workers’ comp program, is considering ways to streamline the system and modernize the paper-based processing of claims….

Among the problems, they say, is the tiny percentage of Hawaii doctors willing to see workers’ comp patients because of the hassles. They also point to routine denials by workers’ comp insurance carriers that leave patients in the limbo described by Chan without income or treatment, and the “independent medical examiners” they say almost always side with the insurers.

The working group convened by the labor department “might help with the computers and paperwork, but it’s failed to address the root causes of what is a broken system that’s getting worse,” said Dr. Scott Miscovich, a member of the group and president of a private association of workers’ comp doctors. “It’s not addressing any of those issues.”

CJ: Subrogating Hawaii: Navigating the Subrogation Trade Winds In ‘The Middle of Nowhere’

read … On the Job

DHHL mulls changes to homelands rules

MN: Native Hawaiian beneficiaries on Maui are supporting a rule change that would prevent the sale of empty and undeveloped homestead lots, saying that selling lots allows wealthier families to jump past those who’ve sat on the waiting list for years.

At a public hearing Monday night, residents expressed their thoughts on rule changes proposed by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. But they also urged the department to consider lowering the blood quantum requirements for transferring homestead leases.

Families whose grandchildren are now less than 25 percent Hawaiian fear their descendants will lose their land and homes….

read … Changes

Obama Legacy: U.S. life expectancy falls as many kinds of death increase

AP: A decades-long trend of rising life expectancy in the U.S. could be ending: It declined last year and it is no better than it was four years ago.  (Clue: Obamacare)

In most of the years since World War II, life expectancy in the U.S. has inched up, thanks to medical advances, public health campaigns and better nutrition and education.

But last year it slipped, an exceedingly rare event in a year that did not include a major disease outbreak. Other one-year declines occurred in 1993, when the nation was in the throes of the AIDS epidemic, and 1980, the result of an especially nasty flu season.

In 2015, rates for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death rose. Even more troubling to health experts: the U.S. seems to be settling into a trend of no improvement at all.

“With four years, you’re starting to see some indication of something a little more ominous,” said S. Jay Olshansky, a University of Illinois-Chicago public health researcher.

read … Thank You President Obama

QUICK HITS:

Hawaii, black residents are still more than twice as likely to be imprisoned.

When Congress last used its powers to declare war

Hawaii colonists braved enemy fire to hold islands for U.S.

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PC People Want Jennifer Lawrence To Apologize Over This Story About Sacred Rocks

Another Fluff-Piece on Yet Another Phony High-Tech Startup Confab

Bestiality Still Legal in Hawaii

Panel postpones tower decision amid opposition


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