UPDATE: Trump Picks Montana Rep Zinke for Interior Secretary
Only 3% of Hawaii Tobacco Taxes Used for Anti-Tobacco Programs
Ethics: Three Prison Guards Conspire to Take $10,000 from Inmate
Report: Hawaii charter school academic performance ‘mixed’
Best States for Drivers? Hawaii Ranks 41st
Ige Names Deputy Directors for Budget, Human Resources
Ethics Fine: WCC Professor turns Clay into Gold
Hu Honua: Green Power Plant Hits HELCO With $450M Antitrust Suit
Census Bureau Releases Hawaii ACS Report
Fund created to bring in TMT protesters from mainland
HNN: Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope have raised $250,000 to pay for the travel costs for Native American and other protesters (quasi-homeless haole hippies) from the mainland (too cold in ND) to come to the islands, Hawaii News Now has learned.
The so-called "protectors fund" would pay for the travel and lodging of up to 150 people, many of whom took part in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests (and have been repeatedly asked to leave by the Indians).
"We have had support from the mainland in the past. We've had lots and lots of people give that kind of support for Mauna Kea," said Kealoha Pisciotta, of the Mauna Kea Hui….
Organizers of the fund believe that bringing pipeline protesters to Hawaii will increase global attention of the TMT protests and could help avoid amp up future confrontations with police (who will still be crying).
But newly-elected Big Island Mayor Harry Kim worries that more protesters, especially those who experienced success by blocking the Dakota pipeline, could escalate matters.
"I don't care to see people not from here involved in this. This is a very important issue that people here are concerned about," he said. "There is no way that I would be in any kind of approval of a confrontational mode and I feel that that may just add to that."…
LINK: Mauna Kea Protection Fund “Purpose: To raise funds for general organizing, web presence, travel and other expenses relating to the protection of Mauna Kea….”
read … Too Cold in North Dakota
Telescope Hearings: Cross-Examination Begins
HTH: The University of Hawaii called its last witness Tuesday, but the Thirty Meter Telescope’s contested case still has a long way to go.
The quasi-judicial hearing regarding the $1.4 billion project’s land use permit has completed 16 days of hearings since starting in October and now is scheduled to run through January.
UH was the first party to call witnesses for cross-examination, with its 12th and last being Tom Nance, who owns a water resource engineering firm. More than 80 witnesses are scheduled to testify, though not all are being called.
Nance said the next-generation telescope wouldn’t have a significant impact on groundwater and that it would be impossible for it to pollute Lake Waiau on the other side of Mauna Kea. The observatory’s waste would be stored and later trucked off the mountain….
Best Comment: “Some of these litigants are basically narcissistic counter-culture hippies obsessed with using the courts to acquire their street cred as 'Hawaiians' and dress up in Hawaiian costumes, etc. They have latched onto a political issue that permits them to drag the state into what is largely individual personality and mental health issues.”
Meanwhile: Announcement: When Thirty Meter Telescope Gives up on Hawaii, it will go to Canary Islands
read … Clock Running Down
Billy Kenoi: One Last Illegal Act before Leaving Office
HTH: …Former Mayor Billy Kenoi was no longer the mayor when the Clerk’s Office received his veto of a bill giving the County Council more say over the hiring and firing of the county’s civil attorneys.
The fact that the veto was time-stamped 2:05 p.m. Dec. 5, when Kenoi left office at noon that day, nullifies the action, according to Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung, an attorney and the author of the bill.
“It could be argued that Billy signed the veto message before he left office. But we don’t know that,” Chung said Tuesday in a statement. “All we know for sure is that the bill was returned two hours after his term expired — while we were all getting inaugurated. Billy Kenoi was no longer the mayor and therefore had no authority to return the bill under the title of that office.”
The county charter states, “If the mayor disapproves a bill, the mayor shall return the bill together with any objections in writing to the clerk within ten days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) after receipt.”
An employee from Kenoi’s office hand-carried the document into the clerk’s office and it was time-stamped immediately upon receipt, said Deputy Clerk Jon Henricks. Employees in the Mayor’s Office serve coterminous with the mayor….
read … Illegal
Civil lawsuit to allege police chief, wife guilty of racketeering
HNN: A federal civil lawsuit to be filed Wednesday alleges the police chief, his deputy prosecutor wife and several police officers are guilty of racketeering and conspiring with others at the Honolulu Police Department….
The federal civil case is being filed by Gerard Puana, Katherine Kealoha's uncle, who claims he was framed and that the Kealohas staged the theft of their mail box to have him arrested in 2013. The two sides were fighting over finances at the time….
After the mailbox theft, which Puana alleges was staged, Puana was arrested. But the case was thrown out by a federal judge almost two years ago.
That two-year timeline is significant because it’s the reason the lawsuit will be filed even though the Kealohas haven't been charged: The statute of limitations for filing a civil suit is running out.
FBI: Multiple Arrests Follow From Indictment Of 37 On Drug Charges
read … Lawsuit
ESSA: BoE Plan Doesn’t Give HSTA Total Control
SA: …the updated Strategic Plan just approved by the BOE does not go far enough to align with the (HSTA) Blueprint to clearly indicate that the DOE has embraced the vision and is seeking to incrementally implement its long-range vision. The indicators used in the Strategic Plan to measure student success are still based primarily on the collection of student performance data (we want no tests at all), reflective of the rejected reforms of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. There is no mention of incorporating alternate or authentic (ie easily faked) assessments to determine student learning (so we at HSTA can be as lazy as we wanna be).
The Strategic Plan is also silent on building a collaborative, trust-based HSTA controlled organization from the school level up. Trust (ie HSTA control) is a crucial element to empowering schools. The ESSA Blueprint calls for decision-making on teaching and learning to be placed at the school union level as early as 2017-18. The Strategic Plan does not mention decision-making at the school level, and still reflects a top-down management style (we don’t wanna have any bosses) with its list of success indicators based on data collection that will encourage schools to address the improvement of scores rather than addressing the needs of the children union.
If the vision laid out in the Blueprint is where we want our schools to be, the Strategic Plan for the BOE/DOE for the next three to five years must make a more significant first step to turn Hawaii’s education system “right union side up.” ….
read … HSTA Control
ERS: Hawaii Pension Liability Just Got a Lot Larger
SA: State and county employers likely will have to contribute more money into the Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System as early as July 1.
The ERS board of trustees voted Monday to lower the pension plan’s assumed rate of investment return to 7 percent from 7.5 percent because of a less optimistic investment outlook over the next five to 10 years.
That means employers would need to pay more to make up the difference if the state Legislature approves the board’s recommended employer contribution increase. The ERS’ investment target in the current fiscal year is 7.55 percent and was scheduled to drop to 7.5 percent July 1.
State Finance Director Wes Machida, the predecessor to Williams at the ERS and a current member of the board, said during the phone call that the unfunded liability, or shortfall, likely will increase from the $8.77 billion as of the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016. At that time the fund had just 62.2 percent of the amount it needed to pay all the pensions promised.
read … Unfunded
President Donald J Trump will Liberate Hawaii from Obamacare, Then What?
CB: There is a lot of mystery regarding what’s next for health care in America. Republicans have long desired to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and although President-elect Donald Trump has stated he wants to keep certain provisions, nothing is set in stone.
Several components of prominent Republican plans may be the wave of the future when it comes to changing our current health insurance system — from Obamacare to Medicare.
Obamacare helped to provide coverage for millions of Americans that were formerly without medical insurance. Its dismantling would leave a void that must be filled by an alternative. The proposals put forth by Republican leaders have some major flaws but also major potential.
For better or worse, they could have a direct effect on Hawaii residents….
read … Direct Effect
Green Energy Drives HELCO Rate Increase
BIVN: …13 testifiers spoke at the hearing held at the Hilo High School cafeteria. 12 of them said they are against HELCO’s request for a 6.5 percent raise in revenues, which would increase a typical Hawaii Island residential bill (500 kilowatt hours) by $9.31 a month to $171.16.
The proposed rate change is under review by the PUC, and chair Randy Iwase said a contested case hearing is on the horizon for 2017. Henry Curtis of Life of the Land / Puna Pono Alliance was on hand to tell the PUC he will be filing a request to intervene.
HELCO says this is the first proposed increase of base rates in nearly six years “to help pay for operating costs, including expanded vegetation management focusing on albizia tree removal, as well as system upgrades to increase reliability, improve customer service and integrate more renewable energy.”
read … HELCO Rate Increase
Maui Loses 6% of electricity with HC&S Closure
HNN: …The Puunene factory will stop producing electricity by the end of the week. The shutdown pulls the plug on a partnership between Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company and Maui Electric Company.
HC&S officials said up until a few years ago, the mill provided up to 6 percent of the annual electricity needed by Maui homes and businesses.
Most of the power produced this year has come from burning bagasse, the cane fibers left behind once the juice has been squeezed from stalks.
read … Biomass Loss
Scheme to Get 6,000 more NEM Solar Systems on Grid
SA: The PUC said in an order issued Friday that new solar customers could enroll in the grid-supply program that maxed out earlier this year by taking the spots of those who withdraw from the net energy metering waiting list. The loophole came after the state agency, which canceled the NEM program last year, declined the industry’s request to increase the number of grid-supply systems that could be added.
There are some 6,000 solar customers still waiting for net energy metering, which credits customers the full retail rate when they return excess energy to the grid. The grid-supply program credits customers roughly 8 cents less than NEM at 15 cents a kilowatt-hour.
“Some of those late (grid-supply) applicants who were left outside the party once the caps were reached will have a chance to get in once the NEM deadwood is cleared,” said Marco Mangelsdorf, president at solar company ProVision Technologies.
In October 2015 the state ended NEM and replaced it with grid-supply and self-supply. Self-supply doesn’t allow customers to export energy to the grid for a credit. The PUC also put a 35-megawatt limit on the total amount of energy generated from the grid-supply program statewide, which the Hawaiian Electric Co. territories reached within a year.
Hajime Alabanza, spokesman for the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, said the PUC decision is helpful as the solar association calculated that there are still 6,000 customers — roughly 70 megawatts — still waiting.
read … Scheme
Medicated Marijuana to Begin Growing in February
SA: The state Department of Health is expecting Hawaii’s eight medical marijuana dispensary contractors to begin cultivation in February and start sales a few months later — after an online tracking system is installed.
Keith Ridley, the DOH’s chief of the Office of Health Care Assurance, which is overseeing the dispensary program, said he met with information technology contractor BioTech Medical Software Inc., dba BioTrackTHC, last week and agreed on a timeline for the web-based system to provide 24-hour access to real-time data of cannabis inventory, sales and other information required of dispensaries.
“The system is expected to be ready so that licensees can begin cultivation within the next couple of months. We still have a lot of work to do,” Ridley said. “We have to make sure the system can deliver what our law requires of it. It’s not the kind of product that you buy and open the box and plug in and it’s ready to go. It’s a product that does take configuration to make sure it delivers on the requirements of our statutes and regulations.”
The DOH is spending $239,000 for the first year and $160,000 for each year thereafter over the five-year agreement for the so-called seed-to-sale tracking system, which must interface with the department’s existing marijuana patient registry system.
read … Feel Medicated
For Oahu's unaccompanied homeless youth, help is hard to find
HNN: …According to the latest point-in-time count, there are 168 unaccompanied homeless youth statewide.
Experts believe the number is actually closer to 1,000. And for many of them, help is hard to find.
The state's only shelter for minors living on their own is in Ewa Beach, while the majority of unaccompanied youth stay in Waikiki and Kakaako.
"For them to stay in a shelter that's a regular shelter, their parents would have to give approval," said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services.
But soon there could be more options.
"What we would do is expand island-wide," said Jennifer Stasch, Director of Partners in Care, a consortium of homeless providers.
In January, Stasch will find out if Oahu will get $3 million in federal money to fund more youth drop-in centers, shelters, even permanent housing.
"And also create transportation for youth. We found that was a barrier to them accessing services. They just have issues getting to and from where some of these different services are located," she said.
Stasch says a portion of the money would also go toward hiring more outreach workers. Right now, there are only two on Oahu who work specifically with homeless youth….
read … Homeless
Mainland Homosexuals Think Hawaii is Kinda So-So for Trannies
HRC: Six states are in the category “Building Equality” -- Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah and Wisconsin
Hawaii passed a law to make it easier for transgender residents to update their name and gender marker on a birth certificate or driver's license. Five states, including Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan and Pennsylvania banned transgender exclusions in health care insurance, a sizable increase from 2015….
read … Meh
Honolulu Zoo Society lays out suggestions to improve business
KHON: …here are some of the suggestions:
- enhanced food and catering facilities
- behind-the-scenes experiences
- evening luaus on zoo grounds
The Zoo Society says $1.6 million dollars in revenue could be generated from the changes….
read … Business
Dozens of Taxpayer-Subsidized Housing Residents Rally for Meth Defendants
SA: The 18 who appeared in court were among 22 arrested Thursday in raids in Hawaii and California.
Among those in court, 43-year-old Laauli Amani is charged with 61 counts, including conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and the distribution or dispensing of crystal methamphetamine, according to an unsealed indictment.
The indictments cited 105 drug trafficking offenses from July 2014 to November, and five firearm offenses.
The federal courtroom was bursting at its seams Tuesday as relatives and supporters of the 18 defendants tried to find seats, and more than 60 were turned away because of the lack of space.
“I feel really disappointed,” said Lillian Jones, a family friend of one of the defendants, Robert Paga. Jones said she felt she and others who had taken the time to attend a hearing were being kept away from witnessing the judicial proceeding.
Many of those outside the courtroom were from Kuhio Park housing.
The 18 defendants range in age from 22 to 65 and include residents of Honolulu, Ewa Beach, Kaneohe, Aiea and Mililani….
(18 more units available to house the homeless.)
read … Your Welfare Tax Dollars at Work
Soft on Crime: Embezzler gets Probation, Does it Again
KHON: …Prosecutors also claim she sold off stock through the owner’s online investment account, forged company checks, and applied for about a dozen fraudulent loans.
In all, Alcoran allegedly stole $1.3 million from 2008-2014.
As a result, prosecutors say, the company went bankrupt, the owner’s credit was ruined, and the owner was sued by lenders when the fraudulent loans weren’t repaid.
“Today’s indictment represents one of the worst cases of embezzlement against a small business that’s been prosecuted in recent memory,” said prosecuting attorney Keith Kaneshiro.
If convicted, Alcoran faces 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Alcoran also stole $40,000 from the youth soccer organization AYSO, when she became the treasurer for the Kaneohe region in 2003.
She forged seven checks over an 18-month period. She repaid the money and expressed remorse in the courtroom.
“When my father got sick, I panicked and I did the wrong thing, and I wish I could take it back,” Alcoran said during her sentencing in 2006.
In that case, a judge sentenced her to five years of probation and 300 hours of community service. She also had to pay nearly $6,000 in fines.
read … Soft on Crime
Judge violated constitutions, court finds
SA: …Ethan Ferguson, a state Department of Land and Natural Resources law enforcement officer, in January was accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at Lalakea Beach Park on the Big Island while on the job.
The probable-cause documents, which included confidential information such as the girl’s name and address, and Social Security numbers of people in photo lineups, mistakenly were filed as part of the public record with nothing redacted, which is the standard way to shield information that is protected from public disclosure.
Upon discovery of the mistake, county prosecutors filed a motion to seal the documents, which the court approved without any advance notice to the public or a hearing. But a redacted public version of the documents, which omitted the confidential information, was not filed until seven days later.
The order by Judge Barbara Takase, who has since retired, sealing the original documents did not direct the state to expeditiously file a redacted version or provide notice that any person who objected to the sealing could request a hearing.
The newspaper said in its petition to the high court that the sealing process used in the Ferguson case violated court rules and the state and U.S. constitutions….
read … Judge violated constitutions, court finds