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Sunday, April 30, 2017
April 30, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:10 PM :: 1110 Views

Rail 'Solution': Hammer Waikiki Hotels

SB501: Mandatory Abortion Promotion -- Final Reading House and Senate

Hawaii Family Forum Legislative Week in Review

Making Money at the County Level

State’s labor costs must be controlled

SA: …there’s reason to worry about whether the state still has the resolve it needs to keep its unfunded liabilities under control.

Gov. David Ige, sitting at the head of the negotiating table and up for re-election next year, agreed to generous terms for the HSTA, reflecting the premium he’s placed on funding education needs. And in other labor pacts there remains a conciliatory tone from the state, even in discussions aimed at reducing the liability.

For example, the road toward privatization of the public hospital system on Maui has included a few bumps, including an excessively costly severance deal with the unions. Considering that the aim of the initiative was to end the system’s deficit drain on the state, this was a curious course to take.

As the state confronts the reality of an increasingly expensive workforce, there are strategies that should come into play:

>> Privatization: As seen in the hospital initiative on Maui, this is not a simple solution but a route marked by legal disputes and other complications. Still, the state must look for ways to transition to a smaller labor pool. If pay and benefits keep going up, the number of employees must go down. Attrition would be one device; elimination of unfilled positions would be another.

>> Increasing revenue: Lawmakers must continue to seek new funding sources to cover labor costs. The push to consider tax collection from vacation rentals shows that elected leaders are clear on this concept already.

>> Civil service reform: The state must renew its pledge to manage its long-term labor responsibilities wisely. And this means finding new ways to rein in long-term costs.

Hawaii is not alone in this concern. Keli‘i Akina, executive director of the free-market think tank Grassroot Institute, wrote in a commentary that unfunded liabilities for pensions and benefits of retired state workers comes to about $23 billion.

In the past decade, benefits for public employees in the state have risen five times faster than in the private sector, Akina said.

He pointed to one solution chosen by several other states: Change the defined-benefit pension to another kind of retirement account.

Union members surely would fight the switch with their last breath. Political reality may bar such a radical cure, but fiscal reality demands action.

Something has to give, and it’s best if leaders were planning the rescue, rather than looking away….

read … State’s labor costs must be controlled

Rail stress caused legislative leaps

SA: Rail and the political turmoil that surrounds it helped steer the state Legislature into dramatic new positions last week on some longstanding, contentious issues, with results that startled even some of the politicians involved.

Instead of extending the half-percent excise tax surcharge for rail as Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell urgently requested, lawmakers tentatively agreed Friday to raise the state’s hotel room tax for 10 years to bail out the city’s stunningly expensive rail project.

And after rejecting the excise tax surcharge extension, lawmakers gave preliminary approval to another bill to increase income taxes on the state’s wealthiest taxpayers (allegedly) to finance a new state earned income tax credit. That move is (being sold by claiming it is) designed to help some of Hawaii’s poorest residents at the expense of the richest (but the added revenue far outweighs the added expense)….

Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, has doubts about both decisions. The increase in the hotel room tax was a last-minute proposal that was never vetted in a public hearing, and “it’s disconcerting that the stakeholders were really taken by surprise,” he said.

“Usually, you would expect a major tax increase to be fully debated among the stakeholders involved, but nowhere in the process did the tourist industry, especially, have any inkling” that a hotel tax increase from 9.25 percent to 12 percent was in the works, Yamachika said. If approved, industry officials say it would be the largest single increase in the hotel tax.

Big Q: How would you vote on the plan to increase the state’s hotel room tax to 12 percent, to raise $1.3 billion to help fund rail and education?

read … Rail stress caused legislative leaps

Aloha Stadium: On to the Next Boondoggle

Shapiro: >> After the state House voted for a two-year excise tax extension for Honolulu rail cost overruns and the Senate refused any extension, Senate President Ron Kouchi proposed to split the difference at 10 years. Another demonstration of the math skills that got us into this mess.

>> The Legislature studied a proposed public/private partnership to replace Aloha Stadium with a new 35,000-seat facility that would cost $325 million and include a hotel, housing and retail space. It’s never too early to start planning the next boondoggle after rail.

read … Politicians showered us with comedy through April

Ishii: Insider Prepares Ige Reeelection Campaign

Borreca: …Dan Ishii: The University of Hawaii associate vice president for federal research relations, former UH student body president and member of the UH Board of Regents is now back at the state Capitol helping another Democratic governor — David Ige.

Ishii, 66, was a key player in Ige’s campaign in 2014, which makes political sense because both men are Ariyoshi proteges and Ariyoshi’s endorsement served as a political springboard for Ige’s gubernatorial campaign.

As Ige gets ready to launch a reelection campaign, Ishii was asked to start closing the gaps and connecting the dots in the Ige administration.

“In the short period of time, before the turn of the year, he wanted to turn the ship of state and get it a little more on course so the guys inside for at least the next 18 months will be able to make some major policy differences,” said Ishii in an interview.

Ishii’s first charge is working on Ige’s scheduling — getting the governor out in the community more and coordinating meetings with various community groups.

“The governor asked how he can be more effective in talking to communities and hearing what their potential solutions are,” said Ishii, who is taking an unpaid leave of absence from UH.

At the same time, Ishii also is supposed to draw together the administration to measure the work product of the first three years.

In what Ishii said will be a “major policy review,” he plans to go out to state offices to measure Ige’s successes and failures….

Ishii also is supposed to start a process to redefine the Department of Budget and Finance, similar to how Ariyoshi had it set up.

Back then, Ishii said, B&F did a lot of analysis of state programs, “not just bean counting, but analyzing.”

“Hopefully starting next session, we will have a cadre of analysts and not just (doing) accounting.

“We are not optimizing our resources in government,” he said.

read … Ishii ramps up policy effort for Ige’s re-election drive

Hawaii Dems Should be a Private Club—Keep Fukumoto Out

Bob Jones: …Cayetano says, ‘If Fukumoto flunks the test, the Party should kick out Sens Donna Mercado Kim and Mike Gabbard, who share Fukumoto’s views on same-sex marriage.”

…My view is that political parties should be more like private clubs than big tents….

I’d agree that Kim and Gabbard should not be Democratic party members….

A political party is a club.  Clubs don’t admit as members people they don’t like….

read … Bob Jones, Midweek pg 8

Star-Adv: Repair Mental Health safety net to protect public from violence

SA: By themselves, the crimes last week were brutal and horrifyingly random: The assisant manager of a popular Haleiwa market assaulted on the job, his neck violently slashed; and an 80-year-old woman kicked in the face and knocked to the ground while waiting at a downtown bus stop in early morning.

What made the separate attacks especially disturbing were the circumstances of the suspects: two very troubled men with histories of violence, criminal records, mental health issues and homelessness. Both suspects now remain in custody in lieu of bail — but there must be reassessment, and improvement, of a system that allowed these situations….

In court records related to a terroristic threatening case, a mental health court panel indicated Mayhew has schizophrenia. During last week’s attack on Pedro, court documents say, Mayhew repeatedly called him “a vampire.”

Adding to concerns about confinement and oversight of violent, mentally ill offenders is the other attack, just a day before the Haleiwa incident. The brutal beating at a downtown bus stop of the elderly woman, 80, left her in critical condition.

Suspect Steven I. Ho has convictions in the 1980s for felony burglary, robbery and kidnapping and for a 2006 misdemeanor assault. Among his record: After being charged in June 2015 with another misdemeanor assault, two District Court judges had him removed from their courtrooms three separate times for disruptive behavior. In October 2015, Ho was court-committed to the Hawaii State Hospital for treatment after being found not mentally fit to stand trial; a month later the health director’s request to involuntarily medicate him was granted. Without his medication, he was aggressive and threatening, the director said, and had punched a hospital staffer in the face and had assaulted other inmates and staff while in jail.

It’s unclear how long Ho had been out in the community, other than correspondence in early October suggesting that he could be released sometime after Oct. 28. Asked this week why and when Ho was released from the State Hospital, given his history of violence and mental issues, a Department of Health spokeswoman said privacy laws prevent disclosure of details….

There is some hope on the horizon with a revamped State Hospital finally in the works to ease overcrowding and better meet growing community needs….

That would be the core of an improved system that also builds up community-based services including transitional housing, job training and treatment facilities.

Clearly, though, there’s a breakdown of the public safety net when innocent people are so viciously harmed, allegedly by suspects with histories of criminality and mental instability. For all the important focus on maintaining a social safety net for society’s less fortunate, there also must be better tracking and oversight of troubled people, particularly those with records of violence.

Related: Mental Health: Can Reform Solve Hawaii’s Homeless, Prison and Unfunded Liability Problems?

read … Repair safety net to protect public from violence

Hawaii County Transit: Junkyard of Dead and Dying Buses

WHT: At the Mass Transit baseyard, there’s a virtual junkyard of dead and dying buses awaiting work. Some have become places to lean dozens of tires, others are draped with trash, hoses and mops.

Behind the shed where mechanics work, weeds thread their way through discarded engines and other vehicle parts. Rusting 50-gallon drums, broken glass and plastic containers litter the ground and stacks of window frames are leaned against the shed.

Inside, it’s even worse. Empty cardboard boxes are scattered hither and yon, vehicle parts are lying haphazardly on the floor and desks are covered with papers and rags. There’s barely room to walk….

The county’s 55-bus fleet is down to just 25 working buses because of engine problems and other malfunctions. That’s making it difficult to cover 23 routes…..

Among the broken buses at the current lot is a double-decker bus, added to the fleet with great fanfare in 2011.

It showed itself to be a maintenance problem just six months after being put on the road, with 8,432 miles on the odometer. Service has been spotty since then.

Since last May, the $900,000 vehicle has sat in the maintenance yard, awaiting parts that probably won’t be purchased until July.

“There is a transmission problem with the vehicle. Part of the electrical harness was damaged from an exhaust leak,” Kai said in an email Tuesday. “We had a transmission tech come to take a quick look, but once the fiscal 2018 funds kick in (July 1), we will be able to bring the trans tech over here to find the short and to replace the harness.”….

The agency’s $13.8 million budget is projected to rise 6 percent next year…..

read … The wheels come off: Chaos at Mass Transit baseyard reflects turmoil in agency

Kauai Ag Loses Water--Eco-Lawyers Celebrate

SA: The history of water rights in Hawaii goes back hundreds of years, but on April 18, new history was made with the state Water Commission’s approval of a settlement that restores flows to Kauai’s Waimea River. For the first time in over 100 years, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” will flow from mauka to makai, instead of being drained dry by diversions dating from Hawaii’s sugar plantation era.

Equally historic is how this flow restoration came about. For the first time, water is being returned through mediation and voluntary agreement — not litigation.

This agreement not only opens a new era for the long-deprived Waimea River and the communities it supports. It also offers a new path for resolution and reconciliation in water disputes in Hawaii….

These water cases have been marked by years of litigation, during which diverters fight tooth-and-nail against giving up any water. The cases have also gone repeated rounds because the Water Commission has fallen short in protecting public and Native Hawaiian water rights and has been continually reversed on appeal by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

The Waiahole case took 15 years and three appeals to resolve. The Na Wai ‘Eha case is entering its 13th year, has gone to the Supreme Court once, and is still ongoing — although a settlement in 2014 achieved initial restoration of all four streams.

The experience of previous litigation, and the repeated court rulings, seemed to motivate a different course for Waimea. The Waimea agreement provides for immediate return of stream flows and follow-up actions to return more water and modify the diversions for the passage of native stream life. The agreement recognizes as its first principle: “All streams will be allowed to run from the mountain to the sea and no diversion will ever be a total diversion again.”

Background: Enviros win 90% in Hawaii Supreme Court

read … Waimea water accord is ‘win-win-win’

New Stalling Tactics from Anti-Telescope Protesters

SA: A May 30 deadline has been set for submitting final arguments in the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing, but project foes contend it’s not enough time considering the volume of documents, exhibits and transcripts generated by the proceeding.

They claim their due process rights are being violated by the deadline and other requirements imposed by hearings officer Riki May Amano.

The Temple of Lono, one of the petitioners opposed to the $1.4 billion project, filed an emergency motion with the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Thursday seeking to halt the proceeding until it can be determined whether it is in compliance with applicable rules and does not unconstitutionally deny due process….

Many of the project foes have filed formal objections and are requesting anywhere from 75 days to 90 days of additional time to submit their findings, conclusions and arguments. They say it’s especially important for the parties who are participating in the hearing without the benefit of legal representation.

As of Friday, Amano, a former Hawaii island circuit court judge, had not ruled on the objections….

Big Q: Is the May 30 deadline reasonable for final arguments in the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing?

Related: TMT Contested Case Deadline Set

read … Deadline too short, TMT foes contend

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