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Wednesday, May 10, 2017
May 10, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:33 PM :: 3655 Views

Governing in the Shadows: OHA Scores ‘F’ on Transparency

UH 2017 legislative recap

How High Are Cigarette Taxes in Your State?–Hawaii Ranks 5th

DOBOR Scandal: Did Suzanne Case Authorize Attack on Hawaii County Prosecutor?

BIVN: …Due to the recusal of one member and the absence of another, the Ethics Board was unable to review a draft order dismissing the petition by Underwood alleging that Prosecutor Mitch Roth was in violation of Hawai`i County Code of Ethics Sections 2-83 (Fair Treatment) and 2-84 (Conflict of Interest) because he allegedly “used his position to influence further private interest regarding a contested case hearing.”

Roth believes he was a target of retaliation for raising concern over possible corruption within the ranks of state government.

“I’m really bothered by this whole thing,” Robinson stated. “Everything all over (Underwood’s) original petition all had his State email address, the state phone number, everything else. Then, in the course of the discussion, (he) tells us that he’s doing it on his own time. Then, further in the course of the discussion when we started asking him questions, (he) says ‘well I’ve been able to work it out with (DLNR chair) Suzanne Case.’ Does that mean… that she is condoning his action? Does it mean that DLNR’s condoning actions of Ed Underwood to what appeared to be (to) intimidate people as well as intimidate Mr. Roth?”

“I think that we, as the Ethics Board of the County of Hawaii, really should ask the Ethics Board of the State of Hawaii to investigate this matter,” Robinson said.

In October 2016, Roth testified at a Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting on Oahu concerning a request for a contested case by William Murtaugh, a disgruntled charter captain who was denied a request to renew his mooring at Keauhou Bay. Roth leveled pointed criticism of DOBOR during the meeting. In response, Underwood filed a complaint at the county Ethics Board, saying Roth improperly used his position as an elected official by giving the testimony. The County Ethics Board is dismissing Underwood’s petition.

read … Ethics Board Member Slams DOBOR Admin

Has the 'swamp' at Veterans Affairs drained out on the Pacific Islands?

TH: …while veterans have heard lots of promises about cleaning up the VA, the appointment of Jennifer Gutowski as the new director for VA Pacific Islands Health Care System has many asking: “Where’s the accountability?”

The Pacific Islands position went unfilled for almost a year, going through a rotation of temporary directors before Jennifer Gutowski was tapped as the permanent director in March. With 18 years in the VA system, Gutowski certainly doesn’t lack experience. But her record suggests that she’s part of the problem within the VA system, not the solution.

Gutowski comes to Hawaii from the troubled Arizona VA system, where she was an associate director, and later acting director, of the Southern Arizona VA. It was during her tenure there that reports of long wait times – and associated patient deaths – at VA hospitals in her district prompted a full-scale investigation of misconduct at VA facilities nationwide.

One whistleblower in the resulting scandal specifically mentioned Gutowski as an example of a supervisor who shouldn’t escape blame for unethical scheduling practices and falsifying wait times. Former VA administrator Pat McCoy told KGUN News that she repeatedly spoke to management about the manipulation of patient data, but her concerns were dismissed or downplayed.

McCoy said of Gutowski, “She is the associate director. She's as responsible as (the director) is. 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.”

When asked by KGUN if she knew about the unethical practices, Gutowski was evasive. She said that she was hopeful the VA would be able to prevent problems in the future.

Gutowski has been positive about the changes in transparency and accountability within the VA since the wait-times scandal erupted, but some Hawaii veterans still aren’t happy with her appointment, suggesting it was a way to move a “problem employee” out of the public eye.

Bill Flynn, chaplain of Kona’s VFW Post 12122, told West Hawaii Today, “They were probably looking for someplace nice and far away to dump her. She was part of the problem (in Arizona). Why is she still working for the VA at all? That’s the main issue. She won’t make it better. All she’ll do is make it worse.” ….

April 13, 2017: New Hawaii Veterans Affairs Chief Tied to Falsified Medical Wait Times, 13 Deaths in Arizona

read … Grassroot Institute

Neighbor island mayors propose property tax hikes

HNN: The mayors of Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii counties are proposing property tax increases on all types of property.  They say they have no choice -- the rising costs of services (vacant positions) and employee benefits, (solitaire on the computer) plus the significant cutback in state money, have put them in a corner….

Kim is proposing a 6.5 percent property tax increase with exemptions for senior homeowners on fixed incomes.

On Maui, the mayor says a 7.5 percent across the board hike is needed to help pay for higher operating costs, like replacing old county vehicles.

And on Kauai, the increase would be around 3 percent for all property classes. That means residential property owners would pay 19 cents more per $1,000 of home value. 

read … Neighbor island mayors propose property tax hikes

Bring The Honolulu Rail Project Back To Planet Earth

HM: No, Mayor Caldwell, raising taxes is not the only way to address the spiraling costs of the biggest public works project in Hawaii history.

read … Bring The Honolulu Rail Project Back To Planet Earth

Bill 15: Ease Zoning Restrictions for 33% Affordable Housing

CB: The Honolulu City Council on Wednesday will consider a measure that aims to increase the number of lower-priced homes built near the rail line.

Honolulu’s land-use ordinance already encourages development along the line. The bill would amend the law to  establish a clear trade-off: developers could get a break on certain zoning restrictions and the benefit of being near a rail stop; in exchange, they must sell about one-third of their units as affordable housing.

Bill 15: Text, Status

read … Affordable

It Looks Like Political Insiders Will Help Pick The Next Honolulu Police Chief

CB: Concerns are being raised about the lack of Native Hawaiians, Micronesians and other groups on a citizen selection committee organized by the Honolulu Police Commission. 

CB: Police Commission Needs To Rethink The Citizen Selection Committee

read … Insiders

HB1410: A Possible Solution For Hawaii’s Overcrowded ERs

CB: A proposal to allow establishment of a community paramedic program to help people avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency room was part of House Bill 1410, which was recently deferred by the Legislature.

Why should we worry about this? Because the overuse of the emergency room affects all of us.

For hospitals, the cost of unreimbursed care is growing, and there is no end in sight. For doctors, having on-site help is ideal to address some of the barriers to care that are not visible in a routine visit. For ambulance providers, this offers the opportunity to focus on true emergencies, while other trained professionals work on taking care of the “common callers” who might otherwise be dialing 911….

read … A Possible Solution For Hawaii’s Overcrowded ERs

Homeless Count to be Released Today

SA: During last year’s Point In Time Count, Oahu’s homeless population grew by only 37 people from the year before — or less than 1 percent — for a total of 4,940 people.

The state’s overall homeless population, at the same time, increased 4 percent for a total of 7,921 people. That represented a statewide increase of 301 more people living homeless.

By county, Hawaii island saw the largest increase of people — 153 — for a 12 percent increase.

Kauai’s homeless population jumped a whopping 30 percent, or 103 people.

Maui County counted only eight more homeless people, for a 1 percent increase….

read … Point in Time

Activist Behind Kenoi Ethics Complaint Targeted by Smoking Ban

HTH: …A county public housing project is about to become the first on the island to ban smoking, and that’s causing problems for one resident, who’s considering a lawsuit if he’s barred from smoking medical marijuana in his home.

Lanric Hyland, 78, who uses a walker, has asked the county for a “reasonable accommodation” to allow him to continue to smoke his medicine in his unit, despite a new policy taking effect June 1 that makes the building and grounds of the Ainakea Senior Residences in Kapaau smoke-free.

“It’s ludicrous,” Hyland said. “I have a constitutional right to privacy in my own home.” ….

read … Retaliation?

Typical and Average Punatic Busted for Mauna Kea Desecration

KHON: The graffiti was discovered on April 28. The words “Stop Bombing” were painted in a place known as the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve.

The state says tips from the public and assistance from the Native Hawaiian community allowed officers from the Hawaii Branch of its Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) to identify and make contact with the suspect, Hope Cermelj.

The Kalapana resident was issued a citation for violating Rule 13-209-4 (3), Prohibited Activities within a Natural Area Reserve, and will be required to appear in Hilo District Court.

Video: Cermelj with The Hanabusa in Puna

read … Woman receives criminal citation for graffiti on Mauna Kea

Plastic bags: Enviros Brainwash Little Kids 

HNN: …At Pearl Harbor Elementary School's Green Club students work to recycle waste and care for the environment. It is also where the plastic bag bill is a hot topic.  "I would like to see plastic bags get banned," said 4th grader Katrina Carter.

"They are killing leatherback sea turtles," added 5th grader Natalie Tulba.

"The leatherback sea turtle population has been declining 90% since plastic bags. Because all they eat is jellyfish, and a plastic bag floating in the ocean looks like a jellyfish and they would likely eat it," said Suzanne Frazer with the nonprofit Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.).

read … More changes could be coming at the checkout

Ostrov can help Hawaii GOP

SA: The Republican Party of Hawaii is fortunate to have a great candidate for party chairwoman in retired U.S. Air Force Col. Shirlene Dela Cruz Ostrov (“With a passion to rebuild, Hawaii’s GOP can be a force again,” Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, May 4).

The recently failed 2017 legislative session, completely controlled by Democrats, is proof that Hawaii has to regain a two-party system to move forward.

We have watched as election after election fewer Republicans have gained or retained seats. We even lost our last Republican senator, Sam Slom, making our Senate the only one in the country with only one party.

By electing Ostrov, we will have two strong women leading the Hawaii Republican Party — Ostrov as chairwoman and Andria Tupola as minority leader.

With these two dynamic women working together we believe 2018 will be a year when Hawaii finally realizes it takes two parties to make legislation work.

Carol Thomas, President, Oahu League of Republican Women

read … Ostrov

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