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Sunday, March 06, 2011
March 6, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:35 PM :: 5229 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Gulen Cult: Legislators to welcome “Ugly Unionbusting” to Hawaii schools?

VIDEO: New Volcanic Fissure erupts in Hawaii

Panos on Geothermal: Can Hawaii catch up with Philippines and Iceland?

Report: 92% of Nursing Homes Employ Convicts, Hawaii has not implemented background checks

Pine: HECO replacement workers put in 17-hour days

With Power Restored, Rep Pine drops State of Emergency request

Gay marriage activists plan strategy to put Civil Unions in Court

State Rep. Blake Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa) — the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 232, the measure that brought this all about — is more hopeful that, with the help of a working group he plans to set up, the preparations will be complete in time.

"We have the time to decide things," Oshiro said, "and all these little issues can get ironed out."

Jo-Ann Adams, attorney and gay-rights advocate…will be carefully watching for an evenhanded implementation of Senate Bill 232 (since Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed it into law, it's also known as Act 1).

Civil unions are open to heterosexual as well as same-sex couples, but the gay and lesbian pairs in particular remember the sting of disappointment when the state started handing out the limited legal protections of the reciprocal beneficiaries status. Applications were accepted only by mail; unlike opposite-sex couples seeking marriage who could walk into the Department of Health, those wanting reciprocal beneficiaries were turned away.

"They're going to have to make it as close to marriage as they can," Adams said. "Otherwise, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is going to take them to court."

Ironing out (Maximizing the litigation potential of) the remaining procedural wrinkles in setting up the civil unions process will be the focus of the next 8 1/2 months before the law takes effect Jan. 1.  Adams and other activists are geared up for that work, (and so are their lawyers) but most feel cautiously optimistic about what's ahead.

Recipe: First create a cause for action, then sue.

AP: Gay legislators having impact in marriage debates

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RETALIATION:  Did Gov. Abercrombie exceed his legal authority in making OIP staff appointment, blocking Takase from returning to Civil Service?

Gov. Lingle was apparently unable to recruit a new director for what would have been a short, lame-duck appointment, and the office could continue to function only because staff attorney Cathy Takase agreed to serve as acting director.

Typically, someone like Takase could step back into their former staff job once a new director was appointed.

But Gov. Abercrombie’s office just appointed another person to that vacant OIP staff attorney job, apparently without legal authority, since the statute gives all authority for hiring to the director.

And it was that appointment, which filled a vacant staff attorney position, that prevented the option of letting the acting director return to her former staff job once a new director is appointed.

And it’s disturbing that this is playing about against the backdrop of the governor’s continued insistence that he will not follow OIP’s legal advice that names of potential nominees on the “short list” for judicial appointments must be made public.

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Carlisle budget boosts Taxes, Fees

Increasing monthly sewer fees by $2.74, 4 percent more than today's rate of $68.39….

Increasing the city gasoline tax, now 16.5 cents a gallon, by six cents over the next three years, which may be hardly noticeable if oil prices continue to rise because of Mideast instability. Making the increase more palatable is that the revenue is to be entirely directed at road maintenance….

Carlisle is not calling for a significant increase in property taxes, the city's principal source of revenue, except to return to a uniform rate for both resident and non-occupant homeowners. At $3.50 per $1,000 of property value, the rate would be 8 cents higher for owner occupants; for nonoccupant homeowners, the rate would be 8 cents lower.

Major variables in Carlisle's budgetary wish list are that public employee salaries can be decreased by 5 percent in union contracts, and that the ailing state won't raid the city's portion of the hotel room tax.

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Boylan: "What if the hope and change isn't realized?"

Lingle, who supports abortion rights, is an advocate for alternative energy and significantly expanded health care coverage under the state's version of Medicaid, governed mostly as a moderate. Her decision to veto a civil-unions bill may not track well with some independents, but she is likely more vulnerable over her handling of teacher furloughs and the decision to exempt the Hawaii Superferry from environmental review than any conservative ideological stance.

Lingle had the lowest job approval ratings of her two terms before she left office last year at the tail of a recession, but most local political analysts believed then, and still do now, that her ratings would likely improve over time and would not be a barrier if she seeks the Senate seat. The public's perception of Lingle may also be influenced by how well people view Gov. Neil Abercrombie's performance over the next two years.

"I think she listens to people," said John Allan Peschong, a California-based GOP consultant who has worked on Lingle's successful gubernatorial campaigns. "She understands where they're coming from, not just on Oahu but on the neighbor islands as well. It gives her tremendous insights into what people go through on a daily basis and what their families go through."

A local Republican strategist, who declined to be identified for publication, said national Republican donors have already promised fundraising help well into the seven figures for a Lingle Senate campaign. If Lingle were to have a financial advantage over the Democratic nominee, it would feed into her other core political strength, which is her ability to craft and articulate a consistent message….

Senate Democrats have to defend more seats than Republicans next year, so unless Lingle — or another prominent Republican such as former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou — enters the race and puts up significant early fundraising numbers, Hawaii will likely not be in the top tier of priorities.

Dan Boylan, a retired University of Hawaii-West Oahu history professor, said it would be a mistake for Democrats to presume the seat is safe. Democrats have shown they can survive bloody primaries, national money may pour in to help keep the seat blue, but voters have heard a message of hope and change from Democrats in the past few elections.

"What if the hope and change isn't realized?" he asked. "So, no, I don't think it's an easy win at all."

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Senate race: Mufi is “Gleefully Opportunistic”, Case “Impudent”

Mufi Hannemann may actually be feeling pretty good about losing the governor's race.

Hannemann has enough self-awareness to keep from looking too gleefully opportunistic at this turn of events. But still, if he had won the governorship, he would not be in the position to turn around and start campaigning for Congress — a position he's had in sight since his college days at Harvard. If Hannemann were governor right now, he'd be too busy doing icky, unpleasant stuff like cutting social programs, proposing tax increases and having lunch meetings with Calvin Say.

These are strange days, indeed, when some of the things Ed Case said in his impudent 2006 campaign against Akaka are now being said by Akaka himself.

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How Akaka built up the Old Boy System

Charles Freedman, the former communications director for Gov. John Waihee, who went on to be a Hawaiian Electric Co. vice president, says he was working in an antipoverty program in Hilo when he met Akaka.

Akaka in the 1970s was head of the state's anti-poverty program in Honolulu and was looking to get more grants for day care programs and other services.

"He said, 'Go get that kid from the Big Island,'" Freedman says, adding that Akaka has the talent to "put teams together and make them feel good about doing extra work."

Akaka's brother, the Rev. Abraham Akaka, would discuss the spiritual connection between people, but Freedman says the senator had an equal "emotional intelligence."

"Dan is a very self-aware person, he has a way of understanding where people are at and he would then understand what motivates them. He could get them all pulling on the same rope at the same time," Freedman says.

It was a building of relationships that people may not really know exists.

"It is a great emotional intelligence he has. I don't know if it is part of the aloha spirit, but if people don't give it, it isn't there," Freedman says.

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AARP: Retroactive pension tax would be unfair and legally flawed

Although legislative leaders gave assurances only the wealthy would be targeted, and the governor stated that the most vulnerable would be spared, many seniors still fear this is only the first step down a slippery slope that could lead to taxing pensioners with moderate or lower income.

The House Finance Committee recently advanced House Bill 1092, HD1, raising income thresholds considerably above those proposed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The bill taxes pension income on singles and married taxpayers filing separately with federal adjusted gross income (FAGI) of $100,000 a year or more, heads of households and surviving spouses who earn $150,000, and couples who make $200,000. The bill will generate $17.2 million a year. Other bills propose lower income threshold levels.

Regardless of the threshold levels, the inescapable fact is that this and other tax pension bills is still a new tax that is being sprung on retirees retroactively to Jan. 1 of this year. Affected retirees will not have enough time to plan before they have to make an unexpected tax payment in the next year.

If pensioners are taxed, it should be fair and allow for a phase-in period allowing for adequate planning time.

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Hawaii may raid savings for budget

House and Senate money committees have passed measures allowing them to take $42 million from the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund and undefined millions from the state's rainy day fund, which is meant to support social services.

There's about $117 million left in the hurricane fund and $46 million in the rainy day fund that could be targeted to pay a $700 million projected deficit over the next two fiscal years.

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Hawaiian Electric & IBEW Union Leaders Meeting With Federal Mediator

Negotiations between Hawaiian Electric executives and International Board of Electric Workers Union leaders began at 10am Sunday.

Held at the union headquarters on Beretania Street, the talks are being supervised by a federal mediator.

"You need an unbiased third party to help negotiations," said HECO President & CEO Dick Rosenblum as he entered the negotiations.

SA: State to help Oahu residents without power

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Pot, Kettle, Black: Abercrombie speaks out against Grandstanding

He then released the following statement: "State Civil Defense and my office are closely monitoring the power outages and all efforts to restore power and repair fallen utility poles. I appreciate the hard work of those who are lending a hand, helping their neighbors and putting people's safety and comfort first.

"Yesterday I made it clear to both sides of this private labor dispute, and it bears repeating, that the electric company is a public utility. Their first obligation is to take care of the public. Once that is accomplished, the parties can address their labor situation, which needs to be dealt with right away. This is not a time for grandstanding by anyone."  (And if anyone knows about grandstanding, it is Neil Abercrombie.)

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GOP: IBEW WALK OUT ILLUSTRATES NEED FOR POLITICAL REFORM

The Hawaii Republican Party reacted to the decision by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to walk out on strike on the same day a major storm hit Hawaii causing power outages across our state.

"Hawaii residents already pay the highest utility rates in the nation and now to have to tolerate a greedy walk out by the IBEW shows the clear need for political reform in our state," stated Party Chair Jonah Kaauwai.  "For too long we have had an old-boy network that coddles big unions and big business to the detriment of Hawaii."

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Hawaii Homeless Caucus Held to push Tent City, develop revenue stream for Homelessness Industry

Some suggested turning a state park into a tent city where homeless could camp without being cited. (because that will create a rolling shake down agit prop show)

But those who work with the homeless said they want the focus to be on long-term housing solutions, instead of just quick fixes.  (because there is a lot more money in that.)

"It comes down to finding permanent housing, the idea of a tent city or a safe zone has to be carefully thought about, so that it would not encourage people to be homeless or stay homeless," said Darlene Hein, with the Waikiki Health Center…. (Uh huh)

"There will always be homeless people, it's not so bad, right? There will always be all different kinds of people. You can't just eliminate everything," said homeless resident "John"  (But if you play it like this, you can turn it into a real money spinner!)

PRECISELY AS PREDICTED: Defeating the "homelessness industry" before it gets a grip on Hawaii,  (And yes, we have failed to defeat them, so here is your official look at what is coming.)

What victory looks like: Gotham Wins One Against the Homeless Industry (2003)

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Earmarks ban won't halt Saddle roadwork

With the earmark option unavailable, Inouye has instead shifted his funding strategy to putting money in the Army's defense access road program, which also comes before Inouye's committee for approval, she said.
The westernmost segment of Saddle Road has been designated as a military defense access road, in part because soldiers will use it to reach Pohakuloa Training Area, she said.
So, $1.2 million, or 10 percent of the estimated construction cost, for design work is included in the Army's portion of the federal budget proposal President Barack Obama recently gave to Congress, Sabas said.
"Sen. Inouye's staff had worked with the Army to get the west side portion of Saddle Road included as a part of the (proposed) budget so as not to require an earmark," she said in an e-mail of the budget that will take effect Oct. 1.
The following year's budget will propose $12.2 million for construction, she said.

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Commentary: Free trade pacts will benefit Hawaii

It is clear that the U.S.-South Korea deal is a good deal for Hawaii. South Korea was our state's third-largest foreign market in 2009. Hawaii sold $67 million in hard goods to Korea in what was a down year due to the recession. Those sales helped keep men and women employed in our state during tough times.

In the same year, South Korea was Hawaii's No. 10 source of imports, supplying vehicles and consumer goods worth $123 million to our stores. This is stuff we use every day that helps keep our consumer prices down and provides retail employment in our islands. It's not just kim chee.

The free trade agreement with South Korea will lower prices still further by getting rid of customs duties on most products. Perhaps more important, the FTA will hugely ease the burden of non-tariff irritations to trade in both directions, making it easier to move goods and also making Korea a far more attractive market for Hawaii's services companies, such as those in financial services, telecommunications, or architecture and engineering. The U.S.-Singapore free trade agreement went into place seven years ago and Hawaii's business with Singapore has boomed since then. No coincidence. And the same will happen with South Korea.

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21 airlines fined for fixing passenger, cargo fees

The court cases reveal a complex web of schemes between mostly international carriers willing to fix fees in lockstep with competitors for flights to and from the United States.

Convicted airlines include British Airways, Korean Air, and Air France-KLM. No major U.S. carriers have been charged.

The price-fixing unraveled largely because two airlines decided to come clean and turn in their co-conspirators.

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Feds restrict total Bottomfish take to about 5,000 fish per year statewide

HONOLULU - The state will prohibit fishing for opakapaka, onaga and other bottomfish in state waters starting Saturday because the fishery is on course to soon catch the maximum amount allowable this season.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources said Thursday that the closure would remain in effect through the end of August.

The closure coincides with a federal bottomfishing ban in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Federal regulators say no more than 254,050 pounds of seven bottomfish species may be caught in both federal and state waters off Hawaii this season.  (At an average 50lbs per fish, this equals 5,081 fish total per year.)

(By the way, were are the activists screaming about violation of traditional native Hawaiian fishing rights here?  Oh that’s right PASH only applies when there is a developer to shake down.) 

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Anti-Plastic Brainwashing film to be shown at UH Manoa

"Bag It," an award-winning documentary about the widespread use of plastics in consumer products — and what happens when we're done with them — will be shown in a free public screening Thursday at 5 p.m. at the University of Hawaii law school, Classroom 1. A discussion will follow. Visit www.bagitmovie.com and www.surfrider.org/oahu.

(Go to the film dressed as Paul Bunyan.  Shout “timber” at inappropriate moments.)


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