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Sunday, March 17, 2019
March 17, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:06 PM :: 2128 Views

Blank the Amount, Defect the Date

Hawaii Family Forum Legislative Week in Review

Will Federal Investigation Wreck HART’s P3 Plan for Rail Past Middle Street?

SA: … At a minimum, the uncertainty surrounding the federal investigation and the long delay in release of federal funding for the Honolulu rail project will cause companies to reassess the risk involved in joining the project, and that could prompt them to submit higher bids for the estimated $1.4 billion in construction work needed to complete the rail line.

Kalbert Young, a former member of the Honolulu rail board who has studied public-private partnerships, said the private sector regards so-called P3 projects as investment opportunities, and savvy investors carefully study the risks of any investment.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has been served with three federal grand jury subpoenas in recent weeks, and uncertainty about how the Federal Transit Administration will respond to that federal investigation represents “another risk factor that the private entity would weigh when deciding whether or not to participate,” Young said.

Above all, the P3 bidders will want to know how the city intends to repay the construction costs and finance the maintenance and operations of rail in the decades ahead. Any uncertainty surrounding those aspects will add to the risk, and given recent events, “I think there is a fair amount more uncertainty,” Young said.

“The way these things work is, if I’m going to get paid more, I’m willing to assume more risk,” said Young, who is the chief financial officer of the University of Hawaii system. “But if there’s too much risk and I don’t think I’m getting my money’s worth, I’m not going to participate.”…

Oct, 2018: ‘P3′ for rail a budgetary ruse

read … Federal investigation, funding issues increase risk for rail bidders

Senator Donna Kim pushes to fire 121 Underperforming UH Manoa faculty

ILind: … Senator Donna Kim, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, attacked the University of Hawaii at Manoa and its faculty this week by unilaterally proposing to cut 121 positions from the Manoa budget.

And Kim made it personal. Apparently the senator, using her own highly questionable methodology, identified 121 specific people who she apparently thinks don’t produce enough to continue as UH faculty members.

Kim’s proposal would cut their jobs and the $13 million currently used to fund them.

The Kim proposal is buried on page 842 of the current budget worksheets. It is not mentioned in the committee report that accompanied the HB2 SD1, the Senate version of the budget bill. The measure was passed by the full Senate on Friday, March 15. It now will head to a budget conference committee, where just about anything can happen….

A memo sent out to UH Manoa deans and directors on Thursday from the office of Michael Bruno, interim vice-chancellor for academic affairs and vice-chancellor for research, expressed alarm at Kim’s attempt to evaluate the performance of individual faculty members.

“Most of this evaluation was incorrect,” the memo said.

Individuals who have retired were included, as were individuals who have been terminated. Likewise individuals who are funded by extramural grants were included. Nevertheless, G funds in the exact amount of each of these individuals’ salaries was removed from Manoa’s budget….

Kim’s proposals to target specific faculty positions “have been made without understanding the full context of a faculty member’s job duties and responsibilities,” the UHPA email said.

As all faculty know, the number of credit hours is not limited to classroom teaching nor are all faculty members employed to teach. Sen. Mercado Kim has established artificial factors and applied them as a measure of faculty work performance.

Sen. Mercado Kim does not show any appreciation of the research work now underway. UH faculty researchers annually bring in a total of $400 million in grant funds. Many of the faculty members, including principal investigators and their faculty teams are targeted for elimination.

ILind: More thoughts on Sen. Kim’s proposed UH budget cut   

ILind: “The Senate budget appears contrary to the authority of the UH Board of Regents as provided for in the Hawaii constitution.”

HNN: “We noticed that a number of positions actually had ‘zero’ for number of courses taught, and ‘zero’ for number of awards of grants brought in.” said Sen. Kim.

SA: Proposed cuts could ‘devastate’ University of Hawaii, officials say  

SA Editorial: Proposal to slash UH staff unwise

News Release: UH leadership details impacts of proposed Senate budget

HB2: Text, Status

(Editor's Note: This is probably a scam to pressure the House to raise the GE Tax.)

read … Senator Donna Kim pushes to slash UH Manoa faculty jobs

Lawmakers Looking Closely At Public Safety Director’s Performance

CB: … Legislators will hold a public hearing March 28 regarding growing concerns about the state Department of Public Safety under the leadership of Nolan Espinda.

Sen. Clarence Nishihara, chair of the Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental & Military Affairs Committee, told Civil Beat on Friday that his committee will hold the hearing after receiving conflicting information from the department over concerns he raised in a letter to the department in February.

Nishihara did not say whether or not he would support Espinda’s reconfirmation. Civil Beat previously reported that Espinda, director of the department, may lack the votes to retain his position.

Senate Democrats are also expected to meet with Espinda on Monday to address some of Nishihara’s concerns….

read … Lawmakers Looking Closely At Public Safety Director’s Performance

Police chief owes answers on expensive lawsuit deal

Shapiro:  … Police Chief Susan Ballard promised new transparency on questions of wrongdoing involving the department and its officers. She’s mostly kept the promise, frequently appearing at news conferences to take questions about police-involved shootings and other controversies that have come up.

But there’s been one glaring exception: Ballard’s relative silence about allegations of her own wrongdoing in a whistleblower lawsuit the city recently settled for $550,000.

The City Council approved paying that amount to former Lt. Deeann Koanui, a 32-year police veteran who was charged in the 2009 lawsuit that Ballard — then a major — tampered with test scores of police recruits and ordered incriminating documents destroyed….

A perfect time to clear the air on what happened is Wednesday’s commission meeting, when Ballard’s first annual performance evaluation will be reviewed. To her credit, the chief has agreed in the name of transparency to waive her privacy rights and allow most details of her evaluation to be made public…. 

Pritchett: Police Test Scores Doctored?

read … Police chief owes answers on expensive lawsuit deal

Pension ‘spiking’ costing Kauai county

KGI: … Thomas Williams, executive director of the state Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), started the County Council’s March 13 meeting by giving an extensive presentation on ERS and the financial implications to the County of Kauai. Williams presents once a year on the subject of ERS.

Williams outlined the impact of “spiking,” which is an employee’s increasing his or her retirement pay by working lots of overtime in the few years leading to his or her retirement.

In 2018, the County of Kauai spent $2.4 million on pension spiking. This number is up from 2017, when spiking cost the county $854,398.

“It’s the egregious spiking that produces the numbers you are looking at,” Williams told the council….

Williams stated that in fiscal year 2018 Kauai County contributions to ERS stood at $18.1 million. He estimated that, by July 2020, some 41 percent of county contributions will be for fire and police employees….

read … Pension ‘spiking’ costing county

SB33: Millions More for Hollywood Movie Moguls

SA: … “Mo’ Money” is a movie from 1992 and also what Hawaii has been paying to film and TV productions in tax credits over two decades.

Estimated claims for these state rebates last year jumped to $90 million from $55 million the year before.

Now, a restraint on the subsidy is facing heavy pushback at the Legislature….

Limiting total film tax credit payments to $35 million annually starting this year was agreed upon by state lawmakers in 2017 along with a 2026 expiration for the program….

Recently, more than 200 industry supporters, from media giants to set decorators, urged lawmakers to approve a bill that would abolish the cap and extend spending rebates.

“Placing a limit on the tax credit basically kills our industry,” Ron Evans, a local film set worker, said in written testimony on Senate Bill 33. “Please see the bigger picture and keep film production jobs coming to Hawaii.”

The bill would eliminate the $35 million annual cap and extend the program sunset from 2026 to 2033.

No one submitted written testimony opposing SB 33, which so far has been passed by two Senate and two House committees. Yet the cap was put in place because of concerns that credits had grown too generous, and those concerns remain….

A hearing on the bill by the House Finance committee could be the final opportunity for public testimony on the measure. This hearing has yet to be scheduled….

SB33: Text, Status

read … Mo Money for Moguls

Hana: ‘Electric Airplane’ Exposed as a Hybrid

MN: …Brice Nzeukou, Ampaire product manager, said the company would be bringing a retrofitted Cessna 337 Skymaster to Maui.

 “It’s a really unique aircraft because it has one combustion engine in the front and an electrical motor in the back,” Nzeukou said. “We’re bringing that aircraft to Maui and working with Mokulele to figure out how to operationally include a hybrid electric aircraft into a fleet.”

Nzeukou said the advantages of an electric aircraft come down to maintenance and fuel costs. Maintenance on a traditional combustion engine can be costly. For the kind of aircraft that Mokulele flies, it costs about $300,000 to $400,000 to overhaul the engine every 5,000 to 6,000 hours of operation.

“For an electric motor, it’s much less complicated,” Nzeukou said. “It really only has one moving part, so the time between major overhauls is much longer.”

Fuel is another huge cost. Switching to electric generation is much cheaper, even in a place like Hawaii where electricity is generally more expensive than other places, Nzeukou said. He estimated that an electric aircraft could reduce fuel costs for Mokulele by 50 to 70 percent….

read … Hybrid to Hana

Star-Adv Genius Plan: Let Lots of Criminals out on Streets so they Won’t Riot in our Jails

SA: … In the aftermath of the incident at Maui Community Correctional Center, 21 inmates tagged as having “aggressively participated” were transferred to the Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu on Thursday; and DPS Director Nolan Espinda is blaming “extreme overcrowded conditions” at MCCC, which was designed to hold 209 inmates but was housing 410 when the trouble erupted on Monday….

Of more immediate promise is a push to address much-needed reforms in the pretrial system. Pretrial incarceration is one of the major drivers of overcrowding in Hawaii’s jails.

Currently, about half of men and women in Hawaii’s jails have not been convicted of the crime they’re accused of committing. Often, the accused are behind bars while awaiting trial because they cannot afford the amount of set bail. All of the inmates rounded up in the Maui disturbance were pretrial detainees….

State lawmakers are now weighing Senate Bill 192, which would authorize a defendant in custody to petition a court for unsecured bail….

(Yeah.  That’ll work.  Just let these rioters out so they can riot at the Star-Advertiser offices.  Genius at work here….)

SB192: Text, Status

read … Editorial: Bail reform can ease overcrowding

Hawaii Needs Municipal Governments Below County Level

SA: … The City and County of Honolulu encompasses all of Oahu, making the mayor and the nine members of the City Council the sole arbitrators for municipalities as diverse as Downtown Honolulu and rural Kahuku.

The City and County of Honolulu structure was established by Charter in 1907, when Oahu had a much smaller population and a predominantly agricultural economic base….

This combined city and county structure concentrates power, which means decisions are made with less public input, accountability and consideration than what might be achieved with other governing formulas….

This opens the question of whether Oahu would be better served by a real Oahu county government servicing all of Oahu, with municipalities such as the City of Honolulu and the City of Kapolei or even the City of Kailua or Haleiwa dealing with issues and services that impact them locally.

Separate municipal and county governments are the norm across the United States, with the combined city and county structure being rarely used or wanted….

read … Honolulu could use more democracy

Politicians See Homeless Issue as Way to Pander to Voters, Nothing More

SA: … OZAWA STATED the obvious: What’s being done isn’t helping.

“The mayor has been pushing ‘Housing First’ his entire time in office and it’s not working. It’s time to start turning to the professionals,” Ozawa said. “Continuing to give the mayor more money in his budget is not a solution. “

Ozawa’s solution would be to “give more money to the professionals, the experts; they’ve been doing this for decades.” He cited social workers in New York City who were given a roster of 10 homeless people a year to get into stable housing, which, according to Ozawa, has worked.

If you’ve visited New York recently, you know that homelessness is far, far, far from solved. And if you know of any experts here who are getting it done but only need more city money, let’s see some statistics, because nonprofits have been getting money for decades but we all know what we see on the streets.

WATERS SIMILARLY offered no fresh ideas for getting people out of parks and off sidewalks. Instead, he shared anecdotes about the lady who lives at the bus stop in Kahala and screams to the sky all day and night, about people living in the bushes at the top of Wilhelmina Rise and about the Waikiki panhandler holding a sign that reads, “Let’s be real. I want money for beer.”

Waters pointed out that many of the hardcore homeless have mental health issues and substance abuse issues, and the state Department of Health Adult Mental Health Division has had budget cuts over the years. More money for those experts. The more these two opponents talked, the more they sounded alike….

read … Pander

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