Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted January 9, 2017
UH Med School Resources Used to Organize Anti-Trump Protest
Video GMO story: The near death and rescue of the Hawaiian papaya
Embattled HPD chief to get Golden Parachute plus $150K/yr pension
HNN: Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha isn't just retiring under pressure. He's getting a hefty payout to walk away.
The Honolulu Police Commission and Kealoha have agreed to a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, sources say. That's in addition to the retirement benefits Kealoha is already entitled to receive.
"It's just a slap in the face to the community," said attorney Victor Bakke….
Federal Public Defender Ali Silvert called on the police commission release the terms of Kealoha's settlement agreement….
Without the payoff, Kealoha, who has 33 years with HPD, will already earn at least $150,000 a year as part of his retirement package.
That amount equals 80 percent of the highest three years of earnings.
He also gets credit for accrued sick time, so that could bump up the annual pay even more. Plus, he gets taxpayer-paid family medical care for life.
"That just is ridiculous," Bakke said. "He should have either been terminated or placed on restriction and not allowed to retire. And he should definitely not get the so-called 'golden parachute.'"
Bakke said the police commission's lack of transparency on the settlement deal proves nothing has changed with the oversight committee, despite recent additions and a change at the top.
"They're ineffective," he said. "They're toothless. Why even be there if they're not going to do anything?" ….
read … Big Payoff
Hawaii public employee pension fund shortfall tops $12 billion
SA: The shortfall in Hawaii’s public employees pension fund mushroomed to $12.44 billion in fiscal 2016, setting the stage for more finger-pointing in the Legislature and dealing a financial blow to taxpayers who will have to dig deep to pay for it.
A report released Monday by an independent actuary showed the deficit in the state Employees’ Retirement System pension fund widened substantially from last year’s $8.77 billion, and the pension plan is only 54.7 percent funded compared with 62.2 percent funded a year ago.
The pension plan now needs an additional $385 million a year from taxpayers to make up for the shortfall, according to ERS Executive Director Thom Williams, who took over his position in November 2015. With that additional revenue, taxpayers would be paying $1.14 billion a year to help fund the pension plan, which provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to more than 120,000 active, retired and inactive state and county employees….
Without the increases, it would take the fund 66 years, or until 2082, to become whole, according to projections from Dallas-based actuary Gabriel Roeder Smith & Co. With the added $385 million from taxpayers, the pension plan would be fully funded in 25 years, or 2042.
Williams said the increased shortfall is a result of the ERS lowering its investment target, ERS members living longer and higher-than-expected salary increases across the board.
He said $2 billion of the increased shortfall results from the ERS board lowering its assumed rate of investment return to 7 percent from 7.5 percent to reflect actual market conditions….
read … Money for Kealoha
Insiders Speak up for Ige Judicial Nomination of Campaign Chair
SA: “Caring enough to become involved in political campaigns should never be a disqualifying factor for any position.”
“I disagree with David Frankel’s opinion that Keith Hiraoka should withdraw his name as a judicial nominee while David Ige is governor simply because he is a close friend of Ige and served as his campaign manager (“Cronyism no way to select judges,” Star-Advertiser, Letters, Jan. 8).”
read … Insiders
Hawaii sees potential in internet sales tax
PBN: …an internet sales tax on purchases from online retailers such as Amazon.com.
The issue came up at a recent briefing by the Hawaii State Council on Revenues before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Finance….
When asked about whether the Council on Revenues would support a tax for online retailers like Amazon.com, Council on Revenues Chairman Kurt Kawafuchi told the committee that “there’s a lot of potential there.”
At the briefing, the Legislature questioned the Council on Revenues on reasons why it had readjusted its original 5.5 percent tax revenue growth estimate to 3 percent for the year.
The Council on Revenues made the adjustment after it said it only saw an increase of 0.7 percent in the five-month period from July to November, which was below their expectations. The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism cited an increase in online shopping in the state as one of the potential reasons for the decline….
read … Hawaii sees potential in internet sales tax
Search afoot for last-minute fix to state rules poised to slash number of homeless beds
HNN: …there's a last-minute push afoot -- spearheaded by Mililani Mauka Neighborhood Board member Steven Malendrez -- that's aimed at postponing implementation of the rules. A meeting at the state Capitol building scheduled for Thursday is aimed at persuading the state to give shelters more time.
Malendrez has invited lawmakers and members of the state Department of Health Services to attend.
He said the shelter contracts should be amended to give them time to meet the requirements of the new rules. He said the state Legislature should also discuss funding the needed changes in its upcoming session.
The way it stands now many service providers will have to cut beds at the end of the month.
At Waikiki Health's Next Step Shelter, sources say, capacity will drop from 230 to 125. And the facility will no longer be able to help families….
A spokesperson for the Governor's Office said it would not provide any detailed comments on homeless services contracts while the procurement process is ongoing. The governor and his coordinator on homelessness will make announcement Thursday afternoon on new shelter contract awards….
read … Last Minute Fix
State to appeal TMT sublease ruling
HTH: The state will appeal a Hilo Circuit Court ruling that vacated its consent to the Thirty Meter Telescope’s sublease with the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Judge Greg Nakamura ruled orally last month that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources also should have held a contested case hearing for that agreement, in addition to the $1.4 billion project’s land use permit.
He issued a written order Friday vacating the Land Board’s consent to the sublease, issued in 2014, for 6 acres on Mauna Kea and sending the issue back to the Land Board.
“This judgment may have broad ramifications for future cases before the Land Board,” said state Attorney General Doug Chin in a statement. “Therefore, while we respect the court’s decision, we do plan to appeal it within 30 days, as the law requires.”….
SA: State to appeal telescope ruling
read … Appeal
Anti-Telescope Testimony Expected to Burn Time Thru End of January
HTH: A Native Hawaiian educator said Mauna Kea is the realm of akua, or gods, while testifying against the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope on Monday.
Ku Kahakalau presented her testimony as the first witness for opponents of the $1.4 billion project.
The quasi-judicial hearing, a redo of a previous contested case, started taking witness testimony in October. So far, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the applicant for the project’s conservation district use permit, and TMT International Observatory have completed their witness testimony.
About 20 witnesses have been called in the lengthy hearing, scheduled through the rest of the month….
WHT: Harry Kim Priorities for 2017
read … Running Down the Clock
Hawaiian Electric Targets Maui, Lanai, Molokai for Wind Projects in Effort to Justify Big Cable
PBN: Hawaiian Electric Co.’s subsidiaries based in Maui and Hawaii counties are asking state regulators to begin the process of seeking new renewable energy projects on the islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai and the Big Island, the state’s largest utility said Monday.
The Honolulu-based utility said that, to ensure customers benefit from these projects as soon as possible, this effort is targeting projects that can be in service by the end of 2020.
The effort is part of Hawaiian Electric’s recently submitted energy plan to state regulators, which calls for Molokai reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2020, with Lanai reaching that mark by 2030 as well as Maui and the Big Island reaching that goal by 2040.
Maui Electric Co. and Hawaii Electric Light Co. are asking the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to open a docket that will lead to the issuance of formal requests for proposals….
Background: Hawaiian Electric seeks onshore wind farm developers on Oahu
read … Scam to Justify Big Cable Project
Forty-Eight States Have An Airport Authority — Why Not Hawaii?
CB: Everyday operations are hampered by our archaic management of 15 airports that are the lifeblood of the tourism industry….
A proposal to establish an airport authority in Hawaii failed last year (Senate Bill 3072), but Senate Transportation and Energy Committee Chairwoman Lorraine Inouye told Fawcett that she plans to introduce a new version of the bill this legislative session…. Some expressed concerns over the airport authority board’s land disposition process while others were unclear over whether the airport authority would have the ability to issue bonds.
read … Forty-Eight States Have An Airport Authority — Why Not Hawaii?
Save the Zoo? Caldwell has only one Idea—Raise Admission Fees
SA: Nonresidents 13 and older who visit the Honolulu Zoo will need to pay $2 more starting next year under a proposal by Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration.
The proposed fee hike, which would raise the nonkamaaina adult fee to $16, comes on the heels of a report issued by the Honolulu Zoo Working Group last month. The group of key zoo stakeholders convened shortly after the facility lost accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums last spring.
The working group’s findings will be on the agenda of Wednesday’s City Council Budget Committee meeting at 9 a.m. The report found that the zoo’s operating expenses have increased four straight years while zoo attendance has declined noticeably.
“The zoo presently relies on zoo admissions fees for 83 percent of its total operating revenue,” the report said. Declining attendance has placed a burden on the zoo’s operating budget, and, as a result, “the working group finds that the zoo’s present business model must be changed to reflect a much more diversified selection of revenue generating programs and activities.”
read … Broken Record
Anti-GMO Circus Returns to Maui Council Monday
MN: …Maui County Council Members Riki Hokama and (crony capitalist) Kelly King have submitted different resolutions regarding the council’s standing committees and its members in a prelude to a public hearing Monday afternoon.
In a 13 1/2-hour meeting that began Jan. 2 and continued into Jan. 3, the council selected its leaders, with Mike White retaining his post as chairman, but was unable to choose its chairpersons and members for its standing committees.
Some council members complained about the size of the committees being proposed, that they were skewed in favor of the majority and about the duties of the committees. King and Council Members (convicted felon) Elle Cochran and Alika Atay called for a public hearing on the committees.
The council has set a public hearing (clowns, jugglers) for 1:30 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers in Wailuku on the standing committees, defining their duties and appointing their members….
read … Circus Again
Hawaii’s hot construction market rife with illegal practices
PBN: The activity in Hawaii’s red-hot construction industry is leading to a trend of misuse in the sector, including the use of illegal workers and unlicensed activity.
The latest offender is the Korean owner of the shuttered Polynesian Plaza hotel in Waikiki, which was cited by state officials for allowing unsafe conditions to persist at the 56-unit boutique hotel next to Hard Rock Cafe, as first reported by Pacific Business News. Last week, L.A. Koreana, the owner of the hotel, corrected its violation from city regulators and got a building permit to continue on with planned renovations at the hotel….
Last year, another Waikiki hotel renovation resulted in the state DLIR fining a Texas-based construction company $767,095 for the misclassification of its workers as independent contractors. The work is being done at the 596-unit Maile Sky Court condominium-hotel, which is being transformed into a Holiday Inn Express….
read … Rife
UH Whistleblower Hotline
From UH: University of Hawaii students, faculty and staff have an important resource to confidentially report violations of laws, rules, regulations and UH policies. A whistleblower hotline launched in June 2016 further advances the university's commitment to encourage and enable any member of UH or the general public to make good faith reports of misconduct.
University of Hawaii Whistleblower website: LINK
UH Whistleblower Hotline: 1-855-874-2849
read … UH launches whistleblower hotline