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Tuesday, April 23, 2019
April 23, 2019 News Read
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Full Text: Espinda Promises No Retaliation Against PSD Dissidents

Hawaii's Best & Worst Small Cities to Start a Business

Lavish salaries, perks focus of federal theft investigation into union boss

HNN: … Federal prosecutors are wrapping up a three-year investigation into IBEW Local 1260′s former business manager Brian Ahakuelo, Hawaii News Now has learned.

Investigators recently served Ahakuelo’s relatives with target letters, a source familiar with the investigation said. And several sources said federal authorites have asked him to come and answer the allegations….

Sources said the theft investigation centers on salaries and perks, such as free airfare and hotel expenses paid from union funds to Ahakuelo and relatives who worked for the IBEW.

The union’s public filings show that in 2015, it paid Ahakuelo $201,000 while his son Brandon was paid $143,000. His wife, Marilyn, was also on the payroll ― earning $105,000 that year.

The salaries and perks placed the union in financial trouble, prompting a takeover over by its international parent. The union is no longer operating under trusteeship.

Hawaii News Now has learned that several former union workers have reached tentative plea deals with federal investigators in exchange for their cooperation….

Investigators are also looking into voter fraud allegations connected to a union dues increase in 2015.

A large number of votes to increase dues came from the union’s Guam unit, even though the increase didn’t apply to them….

KHON: Indictments near in federal probe of IBEW Local 1260

read … Lavish salaries, perks focus of federal theft investigation into union boss

Pattern for Unions? Hawaii firefighters get 4% plus bonuses

SA: … The government employers and the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association began negotiations in February 2018. When the two sides reached an impasse in June, they agreed to a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator made a final decision on the new contract April 8.

Because it was decided by arbitration, union members will not vote on the contract. …

The union represents roughly 2,000 firefighters from each of the four counties and the state Airport Division’s Crash and Rescue unit. The largest of the employers is the City and County of Honolulu with 1,002 union firefighters.

All four counties and the state must approve the additional funding for the contract.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, in a letter to the Honolulu City Council last week, said the contract will cost city taxpayers $5.6 million more annually in the first year and $10.2 million in the second year.

In addition to the 2% raises, the contract includes bonuses of between $1,800 and $2,000 each year per employee, as well as an increase in raises given for reaching a certain number of years of service, known as “step movement” raises.

The new contract runs from July 1 to June 30, 2021.

The firefighters’ contract is closely watched because HFFA is the first of several government bargaining units that have contracts expiring June 30.

On Oahu, funding of the new contract is expected to be taken up by the City Council Budget Committee at its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday….

Jan 16, 2019: Contract Reopeners: More Raises on Tap for Public Employee Unions

read … Hawaii firefighters to receive 2% bump in pay in each of the next two years, plus bonuses

Anti-Trust Violation? Capacity Payments’ Designed to Hide Real Cost of Solar, Biomass

IM: … HELCO proposed a huge yearly capacity payment to Hu Honua combined with a low price for each unit of electricity sold in order for the biomass company to compete with the price of solar….

The Yamamoto Caliboso law firm assigned lead attorney Jennifer Lootens with assistance by attorneys Wil Yamamoto, David Morris, and Dean Yamamoto.

Lootens received her undergraduate degree at Cornell and her Doctor of Law from Tulane University Law School. She went on to serve as First Wind`s Associate General Counsel and SunEdison`s Associate General Counsel.

Lootens became familiar with the Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission through her representation of SunEdison in several proceedings: Kawailoa Solar, Lanikuhana Solar, Waiawa PV, and Waipio PV. Lootens joined Yamamoto Caliboso in November 2016…

Yamamoto Caliboso proposed a “Lump Sum Payment” for making the sale of electricity available to the utility and a low cost for the actual sale of electricity.

This guaranteed that the solar company would receive financial compensation while giving the utility greater flexibility to choose when to acquire the power. The risk would be that ratepayers pay for electricity not used. It also made it much harder to determine what the actual wholesale cost of the electricity per kilowatt-hour of sales.

The concessions obtained for each developer were “identical or substantially similar” across the resulting PPAs, including Lump Sum Payment for Dispatchability, wholesale prices, performance ratios, liquidated damages provisions, security funds, among others.

Sellers were able to “exchange price data” through their common relationships with Caliboso Law, which resulted in near uniform negotiated terms on the PPA. This resulting uniformity is within the scope of actions addressed by the Sherman Act.

“The exchange of price data tends toward price uniformity. For a lower price does not mean a larger share of the available business but a sharing of the existing business at a lower return. Stabilizing prices as well as raising them is within the ban of § 1 of the Sherman Act.”

Identical or substantially identical negotiated PPA terms controlled the price of the power purchased (and therefore the rate passed onto consumers) and was a "naked restraint" of trade that is explicitly anti-competitive.

Caliboso Law’s common, coordinated knowledge of each sellers’ position enabled an illegal sharing of information and horizontal price fixing.

The Consumer Advocate`s Information Requests raised concerns about potential inappropriate collaborations between entities responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) through their common legal counsel, Yamamoto Caliboso, a limited liability law company….

One issued raised was whether the utilities followed the Competitive Bidding Framework….

In response to Consumer Advocate Information Requests. For the Maui PPAs, MECO admitted it had “several concerns” when, after the final award group was named, it learned that all developers were represented by the same attorneys….

read … Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission, Solar Contracts & Sherman Antitrust Act

Hawaiʻi's Small Independent Doctors May Be Struggling Under New Payment System

HPR: … Two years ago, HMSA altered the way it compensates physicians, all in a bid to control rising costs and improve care. But the transition has been tough on some independent primary care doctors.

When Dr. Melanie Payanal opened her practice in Aiea four years ago, she knew it would be a challenge but she didn’t realize she’d need multiple jobs to keep her doors open.

“I’m realizing that I’m not making it,” says Payanal. “And I’m realizing that in Payment Transformation, it doesn’t work across the board for all primary care providers.”

Payment Transformation is HMSA’s effort to reduce medical expenses by capping the amount it gives primary care doctors for each patient. The program is part of a national movement to align health care costs with value instead of volume.

Doctors get an average payment of $24 per patient each month. The more patients a doctor has, the more money he or she gets.

Payanal said it’s good for medical practices with 1,500 or 2,000 patients. “But if you’re starting out with 639 patients, it’s really difficult for you to make ends meet,” she said….

Fewer visits mean lower costs, and if doctors cut costs, they can keep more of the HMSA payments. But doctors must also prove they’ve used the dollars to meet quality care goals, which can be time-consuming.

“There’s too much [of an] administrative burden, and the pay that we’re getting is too low for what’s being expected,” said Hilo primary care doctor Michelle Mitchell.

She left the Payment Transformation program after participating in a nine-month pilot project. She says she's worried the new system is driving doctors away.

“Some physicians went to a direct primary care practice instead of closing, some physicians closed, some moved to the Mainland and some like me went back to fee-for-service,” said Mitchell….

Hawaiʻi’s doctor shortage is approaching 800 – with a third of that for primary care physicians -- and the scarcity is growing….

Mugiishi said nearly all of HMSA’s primary care doctors are on Payment Transformation. They care for around 450,000 patients.

“Change is always hard and much of the change in this particular program is put on the shoulders of the physicians and their staff,” said Mugiishi.

He said HMSA is working to alleviate the administrative burden. The good news, he said, is data from the program’s first year shows improved access, quality of care, and patient satisfaction. But as far as reduced costs, he said it’s too early to tell….

read … Hawaiʻi's Small Independent Doctors May Be Struggling Under New Payment System

Charter Schools: Where the Anti-Vaxxers Are

CB: … At Kanuikapono Public Charter School & Learning Center in Anahola on Kauai’s east side, 32.9% of the 207 students are unvaccinated. And on the Big Island, 37.4% of the 222 students at Kona Pacific Public Charter School have not had their shots….

The statewide percentage of students exempted by their parents from being immunized is 8.1% at charter schools, 2.7% at private schools and 1.4% at traditional public schools…. 

HNN LIST: What percentage of kids aren’t vaccinated at your child’s school?

read … Charter Schools Have By Far The Highest Rates Of Unvaccinated Kids

Trapped on the streets: Law stymies efforts to help homeless with severe mental illness

HNN: … For homeless people incapacitated by mental illness in Hawaii, years go by and ― for many ― nothing changes.

They’re trapped.

And their families struggle to get them help, despite a law passed five years ago that was supposed to offer a way out….

Sasaki said the whole family went to see the state psychiatrist for help. That was in the 1970s.

And he had a discouraging message: “He couldn’t do anything because she was not hurting herself and she’s not hurting anybody,” Sasaki said….

“She’s probably the only person I can think of in my 20-plus year career that hasn’t improved,” said Koyanagi, earlier this year. “Other people who have been untreated and homeless that long usually have ended up passing away.”

So for years, without ever knowing the other existed, a sister and a psychiatrist spent decades attempting to rescue Serikaku from the symptoms of her mental illness.

Both were rendered powerless by the law….

Mental health advocates say despite changes in the law since then, that same explanation has kept Serikaku ― and others like her ― trapped on the streets….

It used to be the only way a person could be forced to take psychiatric medication in Hawaii is if they committed a crime or had a legal guardian.

But in 2014, the state Legislature passed a law called Assisted Community Treatment….

It’s estimated there are up to 600 homeless people who suffer from severe mental illness statewide….

“Right now, our laws focus more on civil rights than protecting their access to treatment,” Phillips said.

On average, it takes a year’s worth of these weekly visits to convince someone suffering from mental illness to start taking medication.

In order to the speed up the process and make any kind of noticeable difference on the streets, mental health advocates say the law needs to change.

Specifically, they say, the definition of what it means to be an imminent danger to self or others needs to be expanded.

That’s why IHS is now backing a proposal at the state Legislature that would make it legal to force treatment not just on people who pose a harm to themselves or others, but on those whose health status is so compromised that if nothing is done they are at risk of serious medical illness or death.

Phillips said the change just makes sense.

Homeless people with severe mental illness are showing up at ERs with serious wounds and rampant infections.

“We end up having to have them hospitalized or amputations because of the degree they’re decompensating in the community. This could all be avoided,” he said.

Since the Assisted Community Treatment law went into effect in 2014, it’s helped just two people a year. Green said that’s two more people a year getting key services.

But, he added, “if we don’t improve this program, we won’t be able to get to the tough cases.”

Advocates also point out that the medication that’s used to treat the severely mentally ill has greatly improved from what it used to be.

A few decades ago, psychiatric medicine left many patients feeling drugged and not like themselves.

“The medication comes in a shot now. It’s called Invega Sustena,” said Koyanagi. “It’s one of the newer generation, anti-psychotic medications used for conditions like schizophrenia.”…

The injection is administered just once a month.

And Koyanagi said, it’s a game changer.

Ben Taparra knows that all too well. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and lived on the streets of Kapahulu for 10 years. Two and a half months after his first injection, he moved into a shelter.

He’s been living in his own apartment going on two years and has been reunited with his family.

"I want to thank the people for helping me," said Taparra.

He’s not alone. Since IHS launched it’s psychiatric street medicine program in 2017, it’s been able to treat 60 people.

So far, 40 of those have gotten into housing and the others are expected to be off the streets in the next few months.

read … Trapped on the streets: Law stymies efforts to help homeless with severe mental illness

Good News! Climate Activists whine Hawaii Legislature ‘Wasted An Entire Year’

CB: … Measures big and small died this session with little fanfare as time runs out to combat the (nonexistent) disastrous effects of a (not really) warming planet. ….

“Hawaii turned down the opportunity to take even small steps,” said Maggie Odom, a 16-year-old climate activist…. (At age 16, she can’t remember all the other times the enviros said the same thing….)

By their count, at least 74 measures died this session, which opened in January. They would have addressed everything, from sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions to single-use plastics, solar power and electric vehicles (tax hikes, electric rate hikes, and tax credit giveaways to green billionaires….)

The organizers laid out tombstones on the lawn outside the Capitol representing some of the dead bills, including: SB571, HB855, SB690, HB1090, SB1338, SB700, HB1370, SB259and SB1289….

(Bring a shovel, lets dig!)

“Our bills are dying without being heard,” said Dave Raney of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter. “It’s a dagger without fingerprints.”….

read … Climate Activists: Hawaii Legislature ‘Wasted An Entire Year’

Petition to impeach city prosecutor prompts legal debate: Are e-signatures legal?

HNN: …Yoshimura collected more than twice the required 500 signatures using the online site Change.org.

But the city came back on April 5, saying those signatures would not be accepted because there wasn’t enough information to verify with voter registration lists.

Yoshimura then started another petition using the widely accepted, DocuSign and impeachkaneshiro.com. DocuSign collects more information to help with verification.

As of Monday, nearly 500 people had signed.

But now a new issue. The city says electronic signatures are not accepted for petitions after all, even though voters register online and the city admits many legal transactions use e-signatures.

“Part of the problem is there’s not a whole lot of precedent for this,” said Keith Kiuchi, attorney for Yoshimura and other organizers.

Kiuchi believes the city must accept the DocuSign list, citing the ESIGN Act of 2000.

″There’s federal law and state law which requires the acceptance of electronic signatures," he said….

Sign Here >>> New Petition Launched to Impeach Kaneshiro

read … Petition to impeach city prosecutor prompts legal debate: Are e-signatures legal?

Ethics: Councilmember was PR Agent for Water Bottler

HTH: … Community members who filed an ethics complaint against Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz told the Board of Ethics on Monday they want to pursue the complaint against her, even though she has since publicly disclosed a possible conflict of interest and resigned her position at a public relations company that represents officers of the landowner in a zoning application before the County Council.

During a March 28 County Council meeting on Bill 16, Kierkiewicz announced her resignation from Hastings &Pleadwell and disclosed her connections to Steve Ueda, president and CEO of Matsuno Enterprises, which owns the property where another company, Piilani Partners, seeks to install a potable water well and build a bottling plant….

read … Petitioners want to pursue ethics complaint against Puna council member

Memorial honoring law enforcement officers vandalized

KHON: … Hurtful and shameful. That's what some are saying about a case of vandalism here on Oahu. The Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial was tagged over the weekend. 65 officers are remembered here.

Kurt Kendro is the president of the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation. He tells us this is the second time this memorial has been vandalized. The first was back in 2016….

With cleaning supplies at hand, Kendro was able to wipe some of the paint off but says the emblems have permanent damage. Not too far from the memorial is the Gannenmono Commemorative Monument. It's right in front of Honolulu Hale and it was also tagged. …

April 18, 2019: Dedication ceremony held for Gannenmono Stone and Japanese garden at Honolulu Hale

read … Memorial honoring law enforcement officers vandalized

Historic Maui church hit by vandals for second time in a month

KITV: … For the second time in three weeks, Saint Anthony's Church in Wailuku on Maui was vandalized. 
It happened overnight and Sunday was Easter Sunday, one of the most important holidays in the catholic culture.

Some of the damage included writing on the walls and scattered debris….

The church is fundraising to help with damages and getting the security system. Anyone on Maui is welcome to donate through the Sunday collection or at the parish office and rectory at 1627 Mill St. in Wailuku.

Maui police opened a burglary investigation and volunteers started to clean-up Monday morning….

read … Maui church hit by vandals for second time in a month

Leeward Coast Parks: Human waste, buckets of needles

HNN: … Human waste, buckets of needles, crime, drugs and graffiti — that’s just some of the damage that residents are reporting at parks on Oahu’s Leeward Coast.

Now, City Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine is calling for an audit of Honolulu’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

She says Oneula, Nanakuli and Geiger Parks are among the list of damaged and rundown parks in her district — a sign that her district’s facilities are being neglected….

read … Councilwoman calls for ‘fair’ treatment of Leeward Oahu parks

Homeless Criminal Charged in Iwilei Rape

SA: … Isa Lucky appeared before Judge Melanie May at Honolulu District Court on charges of kidnapping and two counts of third-degree sex assault.

Lucky, who is homeless, kept his head down and arms folded during the hearing. His bail was set at $75,000.

Police said Lucky approached the woman who was at a bus stop in the area of 866 Iwilei Road at about 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Lucky and the victim are not known to one another.

He allegedly grabbed her arm and pulled her toward the stairwell of a building on Sumner Street and sexually assaulted her, according to court documents released today. He fled in an unknown direction.

At about 1:30 p.m. the next day, police located Lucky near the intersection of Kuwili Street and Iwilei Road and arrested him on suspicion of kidnapping and sex assault.

He has a criminal record of liquor in public places, criminal property damage, harassment, unauthorized entry into a vehicle and theft….

read … The Homeless are Predators, not Victims

‘Strong Evidence of Guilt’ – But State’s highest court reverses murder conviction in 2009 Chinatown shooting

HNN: … A man who has been in prison since 2009 for a gang-related murder had his conviction overturned by the state Supreme Court Monday because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Iosefa Pasene was convicted after three trials of killing rival gang member Joseph Peneueta in Chinatown in March 2009. Witnesses said Pasene and another man pulled up in an SUV and shot Peneueta multiple times.

The second suspect was acquitted in the second trial….

During the last trial, the judge warned prosecutor Rodney Veary several times about making statements that didn’t match the evidence.

For example, Veary made reference to a surveillance video detectives had watched that Veary said ruled out the man Pasene blamed for the killing but was never entered into evidence.

The state Supreme Court Monday ruled that even though there was strong evidence of guilt, the prosecutor’s multiple improper statements could have swayed the jury’s decision….

read … State’s highest court reverses murder conviction in 2009 Chinatown shooting

HPD officer arrested at Honolulu airport on suspicion of domestic abuse

HNN: … A Honolulu police officer was arrested Sunday on suspicion of domestic abuse.

State sheriffs took Troy Stewart into custody at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport near the Hawaiian Airlines baggage claim at around 3:30 p.m., the Department of Public Safety said.

Sources say Stewart allegedly shoved a woman at the airport in front of witnesses….

read … HPD officer arrested at Honolulu airport on suspicion of domestic abuse

Hawaii hotels report lackluster first quarter

SA: … State occupancy in March fell nearly 3 percentage points to 79.6%, while the average daily room rate fell 1.1% to $285, according to a report released by hotel analytic company STR. ….

read … Hawaii hotels report lackluster first quarter

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