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Wednesday, April 19, 2017
April 19, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:50 PM :: 3075 Views

‘30-35’ Applications for Honolulu Police Chief—Will Outsiders be Allowed to Compete?

Rich States-Poor States: Hawaii Ranks 43rd

FBI Investigating Muslim Terrorists in Hawaii

What will happen to Food for Peace cargo preference?

Schatz Gins up Phony Investigation to Help Hotel Industry Beat Airbnb

Accountability? DoE Releases ESSA Plan

New Hawaii Veterans Affairs Chief Tied to Falsified Medical Wait Times, 13 Deaths in Arizona

WHT: Hawaii veterans aren’t worried about new Director of the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System Jennifer Gutowski’s ability to fix whatever problems may already exist inside the system.

They’re fearful she’s going to make those problems worse.

“When it was announced she was coming over here to head the Hawaiian VA, none of us were happy about that because she’s got such a bad record,” said Bill Flynn, chaplain at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12122 in Kona and also the post’s unofficial service officer for the past two years. “We do not want her here at all.”

Gutowski, who will assume the position on May 15, was appointed by the VA Secretary to direct a health system that administers services to almost 130,000 veterans across Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Prior to her appointment in Hawaii, Gutowski spent 18 years with the VA in a variety of capacities and locations. She served most of the last five years as associate director with the Southern Arizona VA, including a stint as acting director from January 2016-March 2017.

Based on misconduct prior to and during her time in Arizona, the branch of the VA she helped oversee became mired in controversy because of long wait times for patient appointments and a variety of allegations brought by whistleblowers as to why access was limited.

The allegations spurred a subsequent investigation by the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG fully substantiated one of four claims it investigated — that managers at the branch violated the VA’s scheduling directive in early 2014, a year and a half after Gutowski was hired, when they “improperly directed scheduling staff to zero out patient wait times.”

Patient wait times are calculated by comparing a patient’s desired date for an appointment against the actual date on which the patient was seen. When calling for an appointment patients are asked to supply schedulers with a desired appointment date, despite being unaware as to “scheduling capacity” and the feasibility of being seen on the date requested.

Schedulers are directed to log the desired date along with the date a patient is actually seen. According to the OIG report, dated Nov. 2016, schedulers were instructed by managers to zero out the two dates — or falsify scheduling records by altering the dates to reflect that the desired appointment date was the same as the scheduled appointment date.

The report found that 76 percent of 5,802 routine appointments it reviewed between December 2013-August 2014 showed the same desired and scheduled dates.

Upon a review of 4,855 routine appointments at the clinic between October 2015-March 2016, the number of coinciding desired and scheduled dates dropped to a rate of 46 percent.

OIG also investigated claims by a former employee that these inappropriate scheduling practices led to the endangerment of some veterans’ health. OIG concluded that was incorrect after reviewing the cases of 13 veterans who waited more than 30 days for each of a combined 15 appointments and died before the appointment dates….

That is when the misconduct was confirmed by investigators, but a former VA administrator named Pat McCoy told KGUN9-TV in Tuscon, Arizona, last November that she brought the issue to Gutowski and the rest of the Southern Arizona VA’s top staff long before then.

“(Gutowski) is the associate director,” McCoy said to KGUN9-TV. “She’s as responsible as (former Director Jonathan Gardner). This whole pentad is responsible for what went on with this data. They’re all responsible. They all knew about it. The chiefs of staff knew about it. I know they did. I told them.”

read … Veterans troubled over newly tapped director of Hawaii VA health system

72% Support Telescope

HNN: …The survey looked at public opinions on short-term vacation rentals, the Thirty-Meter Telescope, and death with dignity.

When it comes to the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea, 72 percent of likely voters said they supported it.

On the Big Island, 68 percent of residents said they favored it, 15 percent more than two years ago….

PRP's poll found 49 percent support online vacation rental services, like Airbnb. Some 46 percent said they don't and 75 percent said the state should only collect taxes from online rental sites once officials can ensure all listings are legal….

Some 67 percent of voters would allow a terminally ill patient to end their own life—(if the suicide can be used to change the practice of medicine). A proposal that the House leadership killed off this year….

The survey was commissioned by Pacific Resource Partnership…

read … On key controversial issues, Hawaii not as divided as it appears

Tax Hikes: Legislators Begin Secret Negotiations

CB: The Legislature’s critical conference committee period kicked off Tuesday at the Capitol with Hawaii lawmakers making earnest statements about how they have found a lot to agree on when it comes to the state’s $28 billion budget….

Luke and Tokuda said the House and Senate shared many funding priorities in common.

They include $48 million for Medicaid payment increases, $300,000 for a statewide tele-health pilot project and $600,000 for clean and sober housing for chronically homeless people….

Legislators also increased by half a million dollars money going to a rapid re-housing program. Gov. David Ige had asked for $2.5 million, but it is now slated to receive $3 million because the program has been effective….

n the meantime, House and Senate conferees must hammer out their disagreements on dozens of other bills.

They include measures helping to fund Honolulu’s rail project, to set up a mail-in voting system by 2020, to better regulate child-care facilities, to decide what legal protections to provide to lifeguards, to tax Airbnb rental units and to use cameras to catch drivers running red lights.

Several measures regarding housing and homelessness are also still alive.

First up on the docket Wednesday afternoon is a measure pushed by the teachers’ union that would generate more tax money for schools.

Senate Bill 683 requires asking voters to amend the Hawaii Constitution to levy a surcharge on residential investment properties and visitors accommodations….

And this week concludes with what could be a contentious confirmation hearing on Friday for Gov. David Ige’s appointment of Tom Gorak to the Public Utilities Commission…

The 2017 Legislature concludes May 4.

Reality: Tracking Eleven Tax Hike Bills into Secretive Conference Committees

read … One Party State

TVR Tax Bills Head to Conference Committee

SA: …On Oahu, the issuance of permits for vacation rentals within a residential zone has been on moratorium since 1989. Only those in continuous operation since 1986 were allowed to keep their permits. Ever since, though, the number of illegal operations has skyrocketed, enabled in particular by the establishment of online advertising platforms such as Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner.

The two surviving measures are Senate Bill 704 and House Bill 1471, both of which have reached the stage of conference committee review and will undergo negotiations in the next week or so.

HB 1471 appears to be the better vehicle, because it would require some due diligence to improve enforcement of county regulations intended to manage the impact of these rentals on local communities.

If something similar to the most current Senate draft of the bill is enacted, it should be swiftly paired with regulatory legislation at the city level, expected to be introduced later this month.

First, the state action: HB 1471 and SB 704 are measures that arose from a push by Airbnb and other rental online marketplaces to perform a tax-collection function for the state. Under either bill, the web companies could collect the state general excise and transient accommodations taxes while placing online ads for the operators of the rentals….

Reality: Schatz Gins up Phony Investigation to Help Hotel Industry Beat Airbnb

read … TVRs

Union Says Suspensions Shouldn’t Stop Prison Guard Promotions

ILind: …the United Public Workers, the union which represents some 13,000 state and county blue collar workers, including about 1,200 prison guards, believes the Department of Public Safety is violating the state constitution and state law by refusing to promote prison guards into supervisory positions if they have been suspended from their jobs within the previous two years.

Of all things, the union says refusing to promote prison guards with recent suspensions violates the “merit principle.”….

the union cites the merit principle in its appeal on behalf of five adult correctional officers who were denied promotion in 2010 and 2011 because each had been suspended for a rules infraction within two years. The UPW unsuccessfully argued the cases, which have now been consolidated, before the Merit Appeals Board, and then in the Circuit Court and Intermediate Court of Appeals. All three ruled against the union’s position. It is now taking the matter to the Hawaii Supreme Court, which has scheduled oral arguments on Thursday.

The union says a strict policy against promoting anyone who has been suspended within two years actually prevents the best candidates from being considered, and therefore violates the merit principle…..

read … UPW at Work

Hawaii Medicaid Shortchanges Nursing Homes

SA: To care for Medicaid patients, each of the state’s 49 nursing facilities loses around $20 per patient, per day, because state payments don’t fully cover the cost of care. With an average 70 percent of nursing home patients on Medicaid, this compounds into a huge cost burden for facilities. In 2015, nursing facilities collectively lost $16.5 million treating Medicaid patients.

read … Nursing Homes

Critics: Safeguards added in wake of 'Peter Boy' case aren't enough

HNN: …The state says current policies now give abusive parents less time and fewer chances on the road to recovery, especially if a child is thriving in a foster home. 

"If the child is in placement for 15 of the last 22 months, we move towards termination of parental rights," said Kayle Perez, state Child Welfare Services Branch Administrator.

If that term limit had been in place at the time of Peter Boy's disappearance, the Kema children may have been able to stay with their grandparents in Kona….

Perez said the agency has made other changes as well, including monthly, face-to-face meetings with children, parents and foster parents….

The practice of home visits were done with the Kemas -- case workers reported making numerous visits -- but the visits "failed to turn up any evidence of Peter Boy," and were apparently never followed up.

The court-appointed investigator into the case, special master Stephen Lane, said the monthly meetings were useless without someone following up on the findings.

"I can't say that I've seen any dramatic changes," Lane said. "This continues to happen with a degree of frequency that's very disheartening."

The position of special master was started in 2014 by a family court judge. The position is appointed to help investigate and represent children in the protective services system….

The new attorney for Peter Boy's siblings, Randall Rosenberg, said that even though the agency has added new layers of protection, they're still short-staffed and case workers are often overwhelmed by the workload.

"We continue to see cases like this," said Rosenberg, who has a reputation for representing young victims. He said abused kids continue to get lost in the system….

read … Critics: Safeguards added in wake of 'Peter Boy' case aren't enough

Recently Released from Lunatic Asylum, Homeless Male Accused in Assault of 80-yr-old Woman has long rap sheet

SA: A 51-year-old man, charged Tuesday with the assault of a woman in her 80s, critically injuring her, had been released from the State Hospital, where he was committed in 2016 for an assault….

Court records show Ho had been committed to the State Hospital on Aug. 1 for third-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

At some point within the past seven months, Ho was released from the State Hospital, and committed another crime as recently as Feb. 22.

Police arrested Ho on Feb. 22 at an Oahu school for first-degree criminal trespassing between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. He pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to two days in jail….

Okubo could not confirm whether Ho was court-­committed. That appears likely since he was committed for a crime.

Ho’s conviction record includes parole violation in 2008; third-degree assault in 2006; two first-degree robberies, kidnapping and two first-degree burglaries in 1986; and a second-degree robbery in 1984.

The assault has drawn the ire of the community.

“It’s disgusting. I’m so angry,” said Chu Lan Shubert-­Kwock, president of the Chinatown Business and Community Association and Chinatown Neighborhood Board member. “They pick on the weak and elderly. Most older people hang onto their purses. They can’t defend themselves.”

Six elderly women were robbed and assaulted in Chinatown in March, including a shopkeeper who was clubbed with a steel pipe, she said.

Shubert-Kwock said she blames the mayor for not having a plan for Chinatown, and police for failing to regularly patrol the area…..

read … Soft on Crime

Sit-Lie Expansion Forces Five Homeless Meth Addicts to Accept Shelter

HNN: …Since January, outreach workers say there's been a deadly stabbing and a meth lab explosion linked to the homeless camp that lines Iwilei Road.

"A lot of drug trafficking usually happens right there in the lane behind Salvation Army," says Kimo Carvalho, a spokesperson for the Institute for Human Services.

It's estimated close to 100 people live in the encampment, but they may soon be forced to move. That's because the city is on the verge of passing a sit-lie ban expansion into parts of Iwilei and Kapalama.  …

"They're literally using the bathroom on my property everyday. I have to clean it up," he said….

Carvalho says with sit-lie expansion looming, they've begun to make progress. In the past two weeks, five people have accessed shelter.  That's the most intakes they've had  from this service-resistant encampment in two years, he says.

Now, outreach workers are in the process of making a plan for each person in the camp.

"There is a by-name list. We know structurally who gets what services and how we're going to navigate them either into shelter, housing or substance abuse treatment," said Carvalho.

But even with all the help being offered, many of the people we spoke with just aren't interested.

"I'm going to another district.  Another place that I can build another shelter," said Steve.

read … Where will volatile camp go next?

Homelessness Bills in Conference Committee

CB: Senate Bill 895, which is part of Gov. David Ige’s slew of homelessness proposals, is being discussed in conference committee. It would establish criminal penalties for trespassing on state land.

Scott Morishige, who serves as Ige’s coordinator of homelessness initiatives, says the bill is aimed at preventing theft and vandalism, but the Office of Hawaiian Affairs testified it would hurt Native Hawaiians who are homeless.   (Which is funny because OHA recently forced all the homeless of of its land near Wahiawa.)

House Bill 554 would make it easier slightly less difficult to force mentally ill people to undergo psychiatric treatments….

Kimo Carvalho, director of community relations for Hawaii’s biggest homeless shelter organization, the Institute for Human Services, said the bills are necessary to discourage people from camping in parks and to help mentally ill people get health care more quickly.

“It’s looking at the causes of homelessness and looking at solutions that could be established there before (homeless people) even come to IHS,” he said….

Senate Bill 964, another bill backed by Ige and Morishige, would give shelters more flexibility in terms of their layout, instead of mandating partitions between beds…..

The Legislature is also considering creating a community court outreach project through Senate Bill 718.

read … Homelessness: A Lot Of Talk But No ‘Game-Changer’ At The Legislature

Another HSTA Member Convicted: Pleads guilty for soliciting minor for prostitution

KHON: …DOE later clarified that he was terminated on Feb. 3, 2017.

The Kapolei High School counselor indicted for soliciting a child for prostitution pled guilty today.

According to the prosecutor’s office, as part of the plea deal, 40-year-old Kendrick Padilla will be sentenced to 3 months in jail with credit for time served and five years probation.

Padilla was arrested and later indicted by a grand jury in May 2016….

read … On Payroll for Nine Months

Latest Details on Misconduct by HSTA Members

SA: The Department of Education closed out 19 employee misconduct investigations during the first three months of the year, resulting in six terminations and five resignations or retirements in lieu of termination, according to data shared Tuesday with the state school board.

Among those 19 completed cases, investigators determined three reports were unsubstantiated and those employees were returned to work…

As of March 31 there were 34 DOE employees on paid leave pending the results of investigations. Most of the cases involve teachers accused of “inappropriate conduct toward students.”

That’s down from 63 investigations that were pending at the end of 2014, when the Board of Education began probing the department’s handling of cases. The board, citing concerns over the cost of paid leave and the stigma for employees who might eventually be exonerated, called for quarterly progress updates at the time.

The 34 current investigations include 18 cases against teachers. The teacher investigations involve allegations of inappropriate conduct toward students (11 cases), workplace violence (two cases) and one case each of inappropriate sexual relations with a student, hostile work environment, inappropriate conduct toward staff and sexual harassment. One teacher is also under a “suitability analysis” investigation to determine whether he or she is still fit for public employment and to work in close proximity with children…..

read … DOE closes 19 misconduct inquiries

Prosecutor Defends Domestic Abuse Safe House

SA: The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Safe House is a product of many years of experience in the prosecution of domestic violence cases.

The biggest obstacle in holding abusers accountable for their violence against victims is the threat to safety imposed upon the victim/witnesses. Victims, after reporting the abuse, may recant and not cooperate in the prosecution because they may still be living with their abuser and are threatened to not testify, or they may have nowhere else to go because they may not have the economic resources to escape the violent environment.

Victims’ lack of cooperation would usually result in the abuser not being held accountable for his actions. Justice requires that anyone harming another person must be held accountable for that harm.

The prosecutor’s Safe House offers the victims an opportunity to escape the environment of violence and danger. Until the victims feel safe, all the services that are offered will be meaningless to them. It is in the best interest of victims that the abusers are dealt with.

The criticisms of the rules of the Safe House come from people who have no understanding of safety and security. Their focus is only on the rehabilitation of victims. However, rehabilitation cannot be achieved when the source of danger is not addressed…..

read … Safe House protects abuse victims

Deal Reached In Dispute Over Waimea River Ag Water Diversion

CB: A 4-year-old case ends in an agreement to restore water for Hawaiians, renewable energy, agriculture and the environment and lots of money for lawyers….

Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law group, filed the initial complaint in 2013 on behalf of a community group called Poai Wai Ola. Its petition against the state Agribusiness Development Corporation and its tenant, Kekaha Agriculture Association, said the diversions via the Kekaha and Kokee ditches were degrading the environment and limiting traditional uses of the resource….

“This is an historic agreement,” Case said in a statement. “During this process, the commission sought not only to resolve the claims brought by the Poai Wai Ola hui, but to provide a mechanism for dealing with complex water issues holistically.”

She said the settlement also includes provisions for real-time monitoring of water flows, which will be public information….

“For too long, private interests have been allowed to take the public’s water and use it to reap private profits,” Earthjustice attorney David Henkin said in a statement.  (Now we will profit!  Yipeeee!)

A provision in the agreement states that “all streams will be allowed to run from the mountain to the sea and no diversion will ever be a total diversion again,” and that any diversion must be justified with no more water taken than is needed.

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, which provides power for the island, is proposing a project that provides renewable energy and water delivery. KIUC Chief Executive Officer David Bissell said he is pleased with the settlement.

PDF: Waimea River Mediation Agreement

read … Deal Reached In Dispute Over Waimea River Water Diversion

Manoa Residents Willing to Fix the Roads in Caldwell’s Holes

KHON: Manoa residents want their rough roads fixed, and some would rather not wait for the city to get around to fixing them. They’re offering to do the work themselves.

It’s an issue that came up recently at the Manoa Neighborhood Board meeting.

State Representative Isaac Choy has been working with the city to make it happen.

“In Manoa some of the potholes that we have, they (the city) fix it and it comes back maybe because of the rain because Manoa rains a lot; so what we really want to do if the City just gives us material, we’ll go ahead and fill those potholes,” said Rep. Choy.

Choy says that volunteers are willing to do the work and he believes that they are capable.

“Oh yeah sure, we are all homeowners we know how to do little fixes,” Choy said. “Manoa is a very very special place we have a lot of community groups that want to volunteer our neighborhood security watch, we have a disaster preparedness group, we have great cooperation from the community policing team.”

But Neighborhood Board Chair Dale Kobayashi said that there may be problems with the proposal….

read … Manoa community offers to fill potholes for the city

Waimanalo: Caldwell’s Decaying Rec Facilities Closed Due to Rusting, Collapsing Ceiling Panels 

CB: …When city officials inspected the facility last June, they found metal screens on the gym’s ceiling so corroded they were in danger of collapsing. So the facility, once a gathering place for young people in Waimanalo, was closed immediately for safety reasons.

The facility is scheduled to reopen in April 2018 after undergoing $3.12 million in repairs, said Nathan Serota, a spokesman for the city Department of Parks and Recreation. The city awarded the contract for the work in late March and, according to Serota, construction will begin this summer.

Still, the long closure has left many in the community frustrated by what they believe was a city’s slow response to problems at the gym and lack of information about the repair project….

Dylan Spencer lives with his family in a van in the parking lot of Waimanalo District Park. On an average weekday afternoon, Spencer said about 150 kids would come to the gym to play sports or just hang out.

“It’s a ghost town now,” he said.

In the 11 months since the gym closed, Spencer said he’s watched a teenage girl once involved in sports fall in with the wrong crowd. Now, he said, she started using drugs.

read … Waimanalo Gym Closure Leaves A Town Feeling Sidelined

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