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Sunday, January 30, 2011
January 30, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:15 PM :: 5968 Views :: Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Rep Michele Bachmann to speak on Oahu, Maui

Borreca: Abercrombie has gone back to the dark days

(Coming from Borreca, this column can only mean that Inouye is on the warpath against Abercrombie.)

If you watch what politicians do, rather than what they promise, there is reason to be concerned about how open an administration Gov. Neil Abercrombie will run….

Lingle would make the entire list public and invite people to comment before making her selection.

Now Abercrombie has gone back to the dark days when Hawaii's governors would keep the list of names secret. This is a bad policy that stains Abercrombie's claims of running an open and transparent government.

Abercrombie's press secretary, Donalyn Dela Cruz, was first asked about this last week by Star-Advertiser reporter Ken Kobayashi. She said Abercrombie thinks that his secrecy will help the process.

Abercrombie's reasoning is hogwash.

…this newspaper is asking that the state Office of Information Practices make the list public

Despite Abercrombie's early fascination with social media, his communication with the public since his election has been mostly absent. When he was in Congress, there was little need to communicate except at election time, but now he has a job with bigger responsibilities.

Abercrombie now is not a representative from Hawaii — he is the leader of the state and his obligation to open government has grown.

(Inouye forcing Palafox out is only the beginning of this war.)

TOTALLY RELATED:

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Pension-tax plan pilloried: Elders are reportedly "adamant" about opposing the proposal

Many seniors spent years planning for their retirement and see their pensions as a contract.

"I think there is really deep concern, right across the board. I haven't gotten one call from anyone that is in favor of it," said Barbara Kim Stanton, state director of AARP Hawaii. "And it's not that they're just saying, 'I don't think this is a good idea.' They are saying, 'I think this is a terrible idea.'

"I mean, they're adamant. It's a very, very strong opinion."

Rep. Karl Rhoads (D, Chinatown-Downtown), chairman of the House Labor and Public Employment Committee, called Abercrombie's proposal "wildly unpopular politically"

Sen. David Ige (D, Aiea-Pearl City), chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the proposal to tax pensions will definitely engage the public.  "There are lots of retirees on fixed incomes, which any kind of tax would create an issue for," he said.

(This is all part of a maneuver to bring the Leg around and raise the GE Tax—to save the Kupuna!)

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SA: Cayetano-era legislators cut pension contributions to give State employees  a pay hike

How did things come to this? In the late 1990s, Hawaii legislators reduced contributions to the retirement fund for more than 90,000 current and future retirees so they could provide public employees with pay raises and still comply with the constitutional requirement of a balanced budget. State Auditor Marion Higa chastised the lawmakers in 2000, warning that relying on returns of at least 10 percent was "detrimental to the system's unfunded actuarial liability."

union negotiators must be brought to the table soon, to make concessions and undertake meaningful reform such as raising minimum retirement ages.

The reality is that Hawaii and other states have been too generous to state and county employees with taxpayers' money, providing government-paid pension and health care benefits that private sector workers cannot imagine. Hawaii's current financial struggle should prompt a scaling down of those benefits to a prudent level resembling those of a company wage earner.

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Next Stop: Rail transit authority: A powerful new 10-member panel to oversee and operate rail will be determined by July

City ordinance sets July 1 as the date when the city's new transit authority, the semi-autonomous agency authorized by Honolulu voters in November, will be born.

This will be an auspicious occasion: This authority will have substantial powers for an unelected board, an entity created to oversee the construction and eventual operation of the city's planned 20-mile elevated rail system.

A panel of 10, including one nonvoting member, will manage the budget of the transit project, pursue the purchase or condemnation of land along the route, set fares, draw up contracts, deal with labor issues.

This bothers some people, including former mayoral candidate Panos Prevedouros, the University of Hawaii engineering professor and longstanding opponent of the whole project.

Prevedouros is a … skeptic of the transit authority's ability to govern a system operating within a single county.  "For example, Portland (authority) is tri-metro, involving other counties," he said. "Here, there's no integration involved, no integration of government entities."

Carlisle acknowledges that the idea of the authority is to pull the project free of most political pressures, but that's where he and Prevedouros, who ran against him in the mayoral special election, part company. In addition to technical expertise and experience with transit systems and their accompanying development plans, Carlisle said, the mix of talent on the authority has to include political acumen.

"You're still going to have to deal with political entities," he said. "I'm an elected politician; the City Council is an elected legislative branch. You want to make sure that you're taking that type of control out of our hands and put it with somebody who can work with the politicians but will not ultimately have to kow-tow.

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Self Dealing Board members under fire at financial institution that serves county and state workers

Federal regulators have raised serious questions about the actions of the volunteer board overseeing the state's second-largest credit union while the directors are facing increasing internal criticism about the level of benefits they are giving themselves.

A small group of dissident members of the nonprofit Hawaii State Federal Credit Union has taken aim at what it considers excessive benefits for the board, including up to seven off-island trips annually for each member, paid travel expenses for spouses and reimbursements for health insurance costs.

The criticism comes in the wake of confidential federal regulatory reports in 2008 and 2009 that detail multiple examples in which the board's actions raised ethical or governance questions.

The use of a travel agency owned by the board chairwoman to book official trips, frequently at higher prices than what the airlines offered directly, and accepting free rooms at a Waikiki hotel where the annual membership meetings were held were among the practices regulators flagged, according to the federal documents the Star-Advertiser obtained.

The dissident members, including some HSFCU employees, … say the situation shares some similarities, though on a smaller scale, to the board scandal that rocked Bishop Estate more than a decade ago and led to major reforms at the wealthy trust, now called Kamehameha Schools.

The dissidents are pushing for change by supporting two new board candidates: Tax Foundation of Hawaii President Lowell Kalapa and attorney Bill Milks.

Terms for three of the seven current directors — Beverly Ing Lee, the board's chairwoman; David Shimabukuro, a retired state Employees' Retirement System administrator; and Peter Leong, former HSFCU president — expire in April. Lee and Shimabukuro are seeking re-election….

Kaulana Park, former Department of Hawaiian Home Lands director and an HSFCU member, originally was part of the candidates' slate supported by the dissidents, but he withdrew from the race last week because of an employment conflict….

The examiners, in their 2009 report, also noted that the institution lacked a board-approved long-term strategic plan and appears to have not had one for several years. The board was ordered to approve a plan.

Many governance experts consider the setting of a long-term plan the most important task for a board.

The fact that the credit union did not have one, combined with the other questionable practices, indicates that the board was "terribly dysfunctional," said the Tax Foundation's Kalapa, who has conducted governance training for nonprofits.

The examiners in the 2009 report also detailed an ethics investigation in which an internal auditor determined that a board member apparently violated the organization's code of conduct. The apparent violation related to the director's ownership of a housing development that ran out of funding and became a dump site, generating neighborhood complaints about trash, drug use, drinking and fighting.

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DoE ignores BoE, raises lunch  prices

The Hawaii Department of Education announced on Friday that it would be raising school meal prices to comply with a state law.

It's noteworthy because in November the board of education — which employs the 21,000 or so department workers — voted 8-2 not to raise school meal prices.

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Drawing the line: Ford proposes law to make redistricting more fair opportune

Get involved Applicants sought for redistricting commission:
- Mayor Billy Kenoi is seeking applicants for a Redistricting Commission charged with drawing County Council districts to accommodate population changes revealed by the 2010 census.
- The nine-member commission includes one member from each council district. Members must be nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the County Council by March 1. It must complete its work by Dec. 31.
- For more information and applications, call Kaycie Carter in the Office of the Mayor, 961-8316.

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Army responding to public concerns agitators whining about training on Big Island

The Army posted the plans for public comment this week. Residents The usual gaggle of professional activists are pretending to be worried about too much helicopter noise and training disrupting the community.

The Army plans to review public feedback and make changes as necessary.

Just two weeks ago, the Army decided to stop live-fire training at Makua Valley in Waianae because of community concern constant harassment by professional activists who now smell blood in the water.

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Goat eradication postponed after Abercrombie’s Out of Control DoFAW becomes argumentative

A goat-eradication effort had been scheduled for Friday.

It was postponed because of a dispute between state Division of Forestry and Wildlife administrators and the new training area commander, Lt. Col. Rolland Niles.

Army Garrison-Hawaii spokesman Mike Egami said that state officials expressed their concerns in an argumentative way with Niles.

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Kenoi's State of the County address praised, even if light on budget details

Among those who attended Kenoi's Hilo speech was newly elected Puna Councilman Fred Blas, who called it informative.
"I think it was a good speech," Blas said. "I really enjoyed listening to it and his accomplishments in the past."
It's nice to see a mayor making a county address, he added. "It was nothing but positive is what I see."
Blas said the county should start charging to ride the bus only after the island's economy improves.

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New Moody's Rules Make Hawaii The Worst State In The Nation

…when combined with unfunded pensions, Hawaii's total obligations equal 16 percent of state GDP, the largest indebtedness of any state.

Until now, Hawaii has benefited from "excellent" credit ratings and ratings agencies have routinely praised the "money management policies of state and local governments,"

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Timeshare taxes: Hawaii tourism “on the brink of chaos”

Tourism in the state of Hawaii is on the brink of chaos. With $800 million worth of deficit in the state's budget, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie deemed it best to tap into tourism revenues to deal with the problem.
The democrat governor announced this during his first ever State of the State speech, explaining that his government will be taking a portion of Aloha Stadium's renovation allowance, divert funds from the state's tourism marketing arm, and raise taxes on timeshare properties. His words sent waves of worry across the state's tourism officials who were left in an air of uncertainty.

Only one key stakeholder was bold enough to stand up against the governor's orders—the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which enjoys semi-autonomous governance. HTAA President and CEO Mike McCartney argues that development and strengthening of the state's brand marketing must not be halted to ensure economic recovery for Hawaii. Meanwhile, Abercrombie says that the tourism industry's budget has grown disproportionately, and plans to take at least $10 million from the industry's coffers to help with the deficit.

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New attendance boundaries may keep small schools open

After months of discussion on school closures, the state Department of Education is considering changing school attendance areas. They say the measure will increase enrollment at smaller schools.

The Star Advertiser reports that this proposal is specifically geared toward two small schools in Hawaii Kai. It would basically change school boundaries, and reassign students to schools based on their location. This would in turn, increase enrollment at Koko Head and Kamiloiki elementary schools, and take the load off of Aina Haina Elementary, which currently has more students.

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Bills seek to destroy Hawaii aquarium industry

Collecting reef fish for sale in the aquarium trade would be banned or restricted statewide under bills introduced by Maui legislators.

The proposals come after the Maui County Council passed stricter regulations on the local aquarium trade in 2010 and earlier this year.

Senate Bill 580, introduced by Senate President Shan Tsutsui, D-Central Maui; Sen. J. Kalani English, D-Upcountry, East Maui, Molokai, Lanai; and Baker, would prohibit the sale of any aquatic life taken from waters within the state for aquarium purposes, with fines or possible jail time for violators.

Other proposals introduced by Maui lawmakers include House Bill 459, introduced by Kahului Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran and Waimanalo, Oahu, Rep. Chris Lee, which would require the state to develop a list of aquatic species that may be collected or sold. A similar bill introduced by Tsutsui, SB 1098, would prohibit the collection or sale of any animals that don't appear on a "white list" of allowable species.

ALSO: Bills would set limits on uhu and goatfish

REALITY: Hawaii Tropical Fish Association

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Under new direction: New Honolulu Academy of Arts Director Stephan Jost knows how to guide museums toward success

This is not an era for anyone faint of heart, but those invested in the arts must navigate our current times with an added ounce of fortitude. Symphonies are shutting down, nonprofit arts programs are imperiled, museums are merging.

Perhaps fortitude was one of the criteria for the Honolulu Academy of Arts as it combed the country for its new director, because in Stephan Jost it has found someone who actually embraces the kind of challenge that has many organizations buckling.

Jost joins the museum at a time of unprecedented transition, with the academy and The Contemporary Museum slated to merge this year. (He will take the helm May 2.) Jost has a reputation for taking troubled institutions and turning them around, and his governing anchor through good times and bad is based in connection with the community.

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SB13: Hawaii Bill Would Make Humanely Trapping Cats a Crime

some proposed laws are nuts. Hawaii SB 13 is right up there for a myriad of reasons.

It creates "the offense of trapping feral cats by use of a trap if the person uses a trap to catch a feral cat." SB 13 provides that engagement in a humane endeavor is not a defense to prosecution. So, feral cat caretakers can be charged with a crime, as can animal control wardens (if you consider trapping and destroying cats a humane endeavour). You couldn't even pay someone to trap and remove cats.

If cats can't be trapped to be sterilized, or even humanely euthanized, the number of cats will grow exponentially on the islands.

The only defense to prosecution is proof of ownership of the feral cat.

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Food Security, Sustainable Energy, Native Hawaiian Culture: top priorities of the 2011 Environmental Legislative Network

As the longstanding roundtable of Hawai‘i-based organizations involved in environmental policy, ELN convened this forum at the State Capitol to hear the priorities of more than 20 groups, citizens, and agencies tracking legislation this session. The Sierra Club and the Environmental Caucus of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party highlighted the need for a system to promote and encourage local agriculture.

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Bungled Food Recall Hurting Local Businesses: One Company Losing 'Thousands' Since Being Placed On Recall List by incompetent DoH

The fallout from the massive statewide recall of products made by First Commercial Kitchen is now totaling into the thousands of dollars for some local businesses, four days after the recall was issued.

Arturo's is known for its specialty sauces and salsas.

But sales have come to a screeching halt and the owner said he's unsure how he's going to recover and fears the "Made in Hawaii" label will crumble.

Normally, Steve Geimer would be selling his gourmet sauces and salsas at the Hawaii Kai Farmer's Market, but on Saturday, he can only spread the word on why his products are on hold.

Arturo's entire line of sauces and salsas were placed on the recall list.

Geimer is paying $1,500 to get his products tested at a private lab.

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