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Wednesday, March 16, 2011
March 16, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:24 PM :: 7107 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Abercrombie: 100 Days, 10 Broken Promises

Ward: Budget does not account for COFA, CoR Revision, Japan tourism dropoff

Ewa Community to discuss Emergency Preparedness after blackout, Tsunami

Abercrombie Administration advises Public to Avoid Ingesting Potassium Iodide

Shapiro: Schatz, Hirono, Hanabusa may push Case, Hannemann out of Senate race

(Ed Case’s) main hope going forward is that Democrats who once resented him for not waiting his turn will now consider him to have paid his dues after being slapped around for six years.  (That sounds promising, not!)

After Case self-destructed, the mantle of Democratic golden boy passed to Hannemann. He seemed on a path to finish his two terms as Honolulu mayor and then run to succeed Akaka, who would be 88 at the end of his term and was presumed to be planning retirement….

But Akaka started making noises about not retiring, and the opening for governor became irresistible to Hannemann's political ego, which was being stoked by Inouye's encouragement.

As with Case in 2006, it was a gross miscalculation. Despite a big lead over Abercrombie in campaign funds and endorsements, Hannemann ran a poor campaign that left voters thinking he needed to be taken down a notch. His 22-point loss was the kind of repudiation few politicians recover from.  (Hint, hint)

With other prominent Democrats such as Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and Congresswomen Hanabusa and Hirono also considered Senate contenders against the likely Republican candidate, former Gov. Linda Lingle, it remains to be seen whether the two former golden boys will even be in the conversation by election time.

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Abercrombie’s Mitsunaga: We occasionally got contracts honestly

Mitsunaga, in a letter sent (not yet published) to the Star-Advertiser, disputes the connection between campaign contributions and non-bid contracts, referring to a 2003 amendment to the state’s procurement law (SB 1262), which he says removed department directors, who are politically appointed, from the review and selection process.

It was because of this amendment to the procurement law requiring an impartial evaluation and selection process that we were able to secure over $22 million in non-bid contracts from the Lingle administration, far more than we ever received from the Cayetano and Harris administration combined, although we made no (zero) contributions to Linda Lingle.

Mitsunaga’s letter also refers to work done in South Korea by company subsidiary MM International, LLC, one of three companies selected through a national competition “to do the design work to relocate and consolidate the U.S. bases there.”

His underlying point, if I read the letter correctly, is that the company does just fine competing for contracts on the basis of its experience and performance, as the record clearly demonstrates. The political activities of its officers or employees are a separate matter.

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Abercrombie’s first 100 days reveal worrisome inconsistencies

Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s first 100 days in office show the remarkable productivity that comes from having the Legislature and the governor reading from the same playbook.

Those first days also show the perils of having the playbook in the hands of one party with little public inspection, question or review.

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SA: Release judicial nominee names

Abercrombie does not need to follow Lingle’s example. The OIP, citing a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling, issued an opinion in 2003 that the governor could withhold the names of the judicial hopefuls prior to the Senate confirmation of the governor's choice to fill a vacancy. Otherwise, the court said, the Senate "could simply 'hold out’ until the governor had no choice but to appoint its preferred candidate."

This makes sense. But Abercrombie's rationale for withholding the names after confirmation is less defensible.

His office maintained that he would not disclose the names even after the Senate confirmation of his nominee because his "obligation to appoint judges to the Supreme Court … could be frustrated by the chilling effect of potential nominees knowing that his or her application may be disclosed."

That’s debatable. The OIP’s 2003 opinion found otherwise, stating that "any argument that disclosure … would frustrate a legitimate government function by reducing or weakening the pool of qualified judicial candidates is not compelling and is rejected."

And the Supreme Court in its 1993 ruling noted that, "in our view, no stigma should attach to any judicial nominee not eventually appointed to office, inasmuch as all nominees are by definition deemed by the JSC to be qualified for appointment."

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Furlough Fridays Forgotten by Abercrombie?

Yesterday before signing the appointed Board of Education bill into law, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said something that surprised a lot of people who follow education in Hawaii:

"The movement toward an appointed (Board of Education) is not a comment on the work output that has come from the elected BOE over the years….”

The primary organization that funded the effort to put in an appointed Board of Education, Hawaii's Children First, stated on its Facebook page that "Furlough Friday is the latest and most obvious indication that something is badly wrong" with the public education system — especially its leadership.

The governor was either being nice or he's forgotten how angry Hawaii was about the furloughs.  (Now that they are no longer needed as an election issue, they are ‘forgotten’.)

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Abercrombie finds “More Federal Funds” in Tsunami

Abercrombie's office has roughly calculated the statewide tsunami damage at tens of millions of dollars. Abercrombie said a more specific calculation will take days.

Whatever the price tag ends up being, "it's sufficient to trigger federal support, sufficient to trigger other grants and loans that are necessary for us to get back on track in terms of construction and repairs," Abercrombie said. (Maybe we could have a hurricane -- that would make us really rich!)

He told neighbor island businesses, "We're doing all the steps necessary, legally, through the proclamations to be prepared to get loans, to get grants. But that's not going to stop us from getting started right away. Both county workers and state workers are already working with local businesses to see that we're back on track."  (Without me.)

Perhaps the best example of how businesses continue to operate was seen at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel, where water surged through the ground floor and left sand, debris and water damage, Abercrombie said.

"As people were sweeping up they were checking people in," Abercrombie said. "Everybody was really working very, very hard to get everything on track. The biggest impression on me is how fast we're coming back from the damage that was done." (Unwittingly underlining his uselessness.)

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Budget Outburst: Calvin Say scared, full of fear, Storms out of hearing

Say expressed frustration over Hawaii's budget deficit, which ballooned to nearly $1 billion for the rest of this year, 2012 and 2013, following last week's lowered revenue forecast by the Council on Revenues.

He said he's "tired" of having to pass tough finance measures. Say also said he's afraid of the impacts the Japanese disaster and rising oil prices will have on the state's economy.

"The two economic pillars that we depend on are just crashing around this state: tourism and defense spending," Say said. "What is going to make it up for the next decade? Because I'm tired of addressing the type of proposals that the members of this House went through this past week ... The structural changes, that's what I'd like to see where we can lead the nation, Hawaii.

"Because for me right now, it is very scary — very, very scary — knowing that that nuclear reactor in Fukushima will probably have to shut down and the Japanese visitors are not going to be visiting the state, which is 20 percent of our visitor count. And then the fossil fuels side — increase in jet fuel, increase in utility costs, increase in ocean freight transportation ... All of this, I don't know where to begin. That's where my fears are coming from, honestly and sincerely."

After Say's outburst, he left the committee room, saying he had to meet with the Senate president. Then Finance Committee Chair Marcus Oshiro apologized to Corina Eckl, director of NCSL's state services division, and Ron Snell, a senior fellow for the organization, for Say's remarks.

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Pension Tax: “A lower threshold is the ultimate goal”

Abercrombie wants to tax pensions starting with anyone with an adjusted gross income of $37,500 or higher. According to his projections, his plan will raise $112.3 million per year. This is a 40 percent share of his $279 million annual tax hike, taken from the pensions of the 43,520 seniors who are retired in Hawaii. That is an astounding average of $2,580 per retiree!

Despite the governor's proposal, the House recently passed House Bill 1092 over to the Senate with thresholds that start at $100,000. The House’s thresholds are substantially higher than the governor’s. But be forewarned, the thresholds can still be lowered as the bill moves through session. As the proposal stands now, there would be only a $17.1 million gain to the general fund.

AARP fears that the $100,000 threshold can easily move down, if not this year, then in future years. One representative even said it on the floor of the House, and it’s been in the testimony from the Department of Taxation and the Department of Budget and Finance — a lower threshold is the ultimate goal.

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Carlisle proposes 36% Gas Tax Hike

Carlisle has proposed a 6-cent hike phased in over three years.

Hawaii already ranks third highest among states in the amount of taxes collected on gasoline, at 64.2 cents per gallon as of this year, according to the American Petroleum Institute. California is highest at 66.1 cents, and New York second at 65.6 cents. The national average is 48.1 cents.  (Carlisle wants us to be number one?)

This week the state earned the dubious distinction of being the first since 2008 to reach $4 a gallon, as the statewide average for regular gas hit the mark Monday and climbed yesterday to $4.02 a gallon. Honolulu's average for regular, self-serve unleaded was $3.92 a gallon, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Foes of a fuel tax hike argue that it disproportionately affects poorer residents who live in outlying areas.

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Furfaro not seeking vacant HD 14 Seat

With the council chair out of the potential list of appointees, the few names left increase their chances.

Councilman Derek Kawakami said Furfaro is doing an outstanding job as council chair. “He’s definitely the right guy to be steering this council.”

Kawakami on Tuesday reiterated his interest in Morita’s now vacant seat and plans to apply for the job. “I’m going through the process to formalize that.”…

North Shore resident Joel Guy may also be interested in the appointment. He has been actively involved in the community as a Charter Review Commissioner and has worked with Morita’s office when she was a state representative….

“I feel confident the district leaders will do a great job presenting the governor with three names from the district, who are most aligned with Rep. Morita’s policies and her tremendous accomplishments,” Guy said in a statement Tuesday.

Attorney Harold Bronstein’s name has also been mentioned as a possible appointee. Bronstein did not respond by press time to a message left at his Lihu‘e law office….

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Two-Thirds vote needed for Bond Issue: Turn one vote and Kill Rail

Rail opponents are asking likeminded skeptics to turn out in force for a district meeting that City Council member Ikaika Anderson is hosting tonight in Kaneohe. Pearl Johnson of the League of Women Voters says rail critics will use the meeting to try to convince Anderson not to support the rail project.

"We got this idea from Ann Kobayashi," Johnson told Civil Beat. "She said in order to pass a bond (sale to pay for the rail project), you have to have a two-thirds majority. If we could get just one more person to vote against it, we could kill the bonds."

Kobayashi told Civil Beat the bond appropriations passed in previous budgets, but the City Council would still have to approve the sale of bonds to be used for rail while the city waits for more federal money.

"It was about $2 billion of bonds," Kobayashi said. "In order to actually go to the market and sell those bonds, the administration needs council approval. And for council approval, they need six votes on a bond vote. I'm not sure about Tom Berg, but it seems like he would be (against selling bonds for rail), and Romy Cachola has been saying that he's against the sale of the bonds, and I've been saying that, but we would need four members to stop it."

Rail critic Cliff Slater said in an e-mail to other opponents that the bond issue could be a "sleeper moment" for those who are trying to halt the rail project.

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Rail hearing to be continued

The city's authority to conduct archaeological surveys in phases for the $5.5 billion rail project was at issue during two days of Circuit Court hearings this week.

Circuit Judge Gary Won Bae Chang heard arguments from both sides on the city's motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the project.

The lawsuit, filed by Paulette Kaleikini, seeks to stop the project due to possible endangerment of ancient Hawaiian burials in the Kakaako area, the fourth and final phase of the project's construction. It seeks to void all county and state permits until the city completes an archaeological inventory survey of the Kakaako area.

David Kimo Frankel, of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and Kaleikini's attorney, said the survey should have been done prior to approval of the project, in accordance with the law. He argued that the entire 20-mile route of the rail transit system constitutes a single project.

"By their own definition, the project is the whole thing," Frankel said. "By statutory analysis and by the rules, it's the whole thing."

City attorney Pete Manant of Carlsmith Ball LLP said all the protection as required by law is afforded in the city's approach to phased archaeological surveys.

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Maui: Committee holds off on putting end to furloughs

Council Member Mike White expressed hesitation with approving the budget amendment prior to looking at the 2012 fiscal year budget, which is expected to be presented to the County Council later this month….

Council Member Mike Victorino said he supported giving money back to the furloughed workers, but he also was concerned about the impact of rising gas prices and the anticipated dramatic drop in visitors from Japan because of last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

"It's very difficult to make a decision that we have confidence in," Victorino said.

In the end, Pontanilla said that he wanted wait to get more answers to questions on the county's budget status, including anticipated revenues and losses.

"Before we move forward, I want to make sure," Pontanilla said. "We all need to make sure we're all moving in the right direction."

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WSJ looks at Japanese travel after Kobe, SARS outbreak

Following the deadly temblor, he elaborated, “we took a look historically at the last couple of crises that have taken place out of the Japanese market.”

The 1995 Kobe earthquake brought a 12.4% drop in that month, but it was “pretty much isolated [and] at the end of the year, overall for the Japanese market, we were up,” according to Uchiyama.

In comparison, he noted, SARS extended over several months in 2003 and while May fell 36.6% and June dropped 29.4%, by the end of the year, the numbers were only down 9.6%.

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Obama: Japan Radiation Won't Reach Hawaii (VIDEO)

KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano asked: "Are you at all worried about radiation from Japan reaching American shores?"

Obama replied: "No. I've been assured that it...any nuclear release dissipates by the time it gets even to Hawaii, much less to the mainland of the United States."

AP: Obama defends nuclear power, says Hawaii, West Coast safe

KITV: State Monitoring Hawaii's Air Quality

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Fukushima: Mark 1 Nuclear Reactor Design Caused GE Scientist To Quit In Protest

Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing -- the Mark 1 -- was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.

NYT: Reactor Design in Japan Has Long Been Questioned

KITV: Rep. Hirono Concerned For Family In Fukushima, Japan

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Kauai Dam Breach Killed 7 Five Years Ago, But Criminal Charges Against Dam Owner are Still Pending

March 14 shouldn’t pass without the people of Hawaii acknowledging the significance of this day in Hawaii’s history.

Five years ago, Kauai North Shore residents Alan Gareth Dingwall, Daniel Jay Arroyo, Rowan Grey Makana Fehring-Dingwall, Aurora Solveig Fehring, Christina Michelle McNees and her unborn child, Timothy Wendell Noonan, Jr. and Carl Wayne Rotstein, lost their lives in a terrible tragedy.

After more than 40 days of rain, the privately owned Ka Loko dam breached in the early hours that Tuesday morning, unleashing an estimated 400 million gallons on the peaceful country community below.

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UH Richardson School of Law drops 23 spots

University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law dropped 23 spots, from No. 72 last year to No. 95 this year.

Complete Rankings: US News and World Report

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House Committee: Potheads to get marijuana ‘dispensary’ on Maui

The state Senate proposed three marijuana bills -- one would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, another expanded the amount of marijuana patients and caregivers could grow for themselves and others, and a third proposed a system of 10 highly regulated and taxed "compassion centers," where certified medical marijuana patients could buy what they need.

The two House committees approved a pilot project in which a single compassion center would be allowed to operate on Maui. It would pay 30 percent tax on all sales and pay licensing fees to Maui County and also pay for the costs of the county to keep video surveillance of the center at all hours.

House Health Committee Chairman Rep. Ryan Yamane said the first two Senate proposals still haven't garnered much support in the House, and the idea for a single test case on Maui would give advocates a chance to prove a marijuana dispensary could operate without the problems associated with such businesses on the Mainland.

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Hawaii’s Physician Discipline is Poor

An analysis done by a consumer advocacy group shows Hawaii failed to discipline 77 percent of doctors who either lost their clinical privileges or had them restricted by hospitals.

Public Citizen looked at the National Practitioner Data Bank to determine how many doctors nationwide had “license actions” taken against them by state medical boards after having revocations or restrictions placed on their clinical privileges.

Nationally, 55 percent of physicians escaped licensing action by the state. The group looked at data from 1990 to 2009 for its analysis.

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Hawaiian Schools Threaten To Boycott State Test

Some Hawaiian language immersion schools are threatening to boycott a federally mandated state assessment this year, saying that its Hawaiian translation is inaccurate and unfair.

The threats come after early results indicate that immersion students are getting significantly lower scores, educators say, now that they take the same assessment as their peers — only translated into Hawaiian.

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Hawaii Legislature Should Honor Ronald Reagan

Honoring Ronald Reagan, as Hawaii voters did in 1984 by concurring on his reelection to the Presidency, helps keep this flame alive and reminds each of us of our duty to preserve human freedom in our community, state, nation and around the globe.

Please support  Senate Concurrent Resolution 21.

CB: Senate Public Safety, Gov't Operations and Military Affairs is scheduled to hear a resolution declaring Feb. 6, 2011, as Ronald Reagan Day. (That was the centennial anniversary of the former president's birth.)

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After being rousted from Kakaako Park, homeless man threatens to leave Hawaii

Danny Ye was one of the last hold-outs. He's lived on these streets for 16 months, and although he was given several weeks' notice to leave just like everyone else, he didn't want to go.

We watched as Ye begged workers to let him stay. "Can you give me couple days?" Ye asks. State workers could only refer him to a list of social service providers. As he collected his belongings, the 52 year old grew angry and called the crews "cruel". "Very upset. Very upset. Being humiliated, abusive," Ye said with a thick Chinese accent and broken English. He says, with nowhere else to go, he'll likely move back to China.  (Excellent idea!)

Governor Neil Abercrombie's Coordinator on Homelessness, Marc Alexander, says this isn't about enforcing laws or pushing people out. Shelters and emergency services are available. The challenge is to help the homeless help themselves - and to hold them accountable, as well.

"People have a right to access their parks and their facilities in a way that is appropriate," says Alexander. "I think we have to say to people sometimes, ‘Look, we have these services available to you. If you don't want to take advantage of these services, we cannot, though, let you take this resource away from the rest of the community'."

But many homeless prefer to be out on the streets, and outreach workers say they're under no illusion that the homeless will go right into shelters. In fact, we checked, and many up and moved just a few blocks away – to Keawe street in Kakaako.

SA: Many homeless move elsewhere in the area, not into nearby shelters

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HECO sends thousands of outage customers apology, $50

Hawaiian Electric Co. says it has sent $50 gift cards and letters of apology to “a few thousand” customers who went without power following the March 4 winter storm complicated by an electrical workers strike.

More than 8,000 HECO customers, the majority of them in the Ewa plain, lost electricity for several days when utility poles and lines were downed by gusty winds and rain during a March 4 storm.

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Free Two-Part Program for Non-Lawyers on “Online Legal Resources”

A free, two-part “brown bag” program designed to help non-lawyers find legal resources on the Internet will be held on Wednesday, March 23 and Wednesday, April 20. Both presentations will begin at 12 noon in the Hawaii Supreme Court conference room at 417 South King Street, second floor.

The program is being presented by the Hawaii Supreme Court Law Library as a public service. The guest speakers, who are law librarians with the Supreme Court Law Library, cannot provide legal advice or respond to specific questions relating to a particular court case.

During the presentation on March 23, online legal references from Hawaii and other sources that self-represented litigants have found helpful will be identified. The primary focus of the April 20 presentation will be online legal resources specific to Hawaii.

Members of the public are welcome to attend one or both presentations. Each session is expected to last an hour. For more information, contact 539-4964 or lawlibrary@courts.state.hi.us.

RSVPs are NOT being taken as attendance is on a “first come, first served” basis.

Puppy mill bill advancing

A bill to regulate large-scale dog breeders in hawaii took another step closer to becoming law today.

Senate Bill 1522 would require dog breeders to apply for a license and would allow for unannounced inspections at their facilities.

Today the committees on Economic Revitalization and Business recommended that the measure be passed. It now heads to its second reading.

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Former SDS Leader Todd Gitlin to speak at UH Manoa

This is a religious ceremony for the faculty.  They will bow and genuflect before their god.

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Don Ho's children evicted by Trustees

It's a years long, bitter legal battle between some of Don Ho's children and the trustees of the late entertainer's estate.

Yesterday, it came to a head with the eviction of some of his children from a home now owned by the trust on Diamond Head.

Emotional family members kicked in doors and said the only way they would leave was if police arrested them….

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Tsunami killed thousands of seabirds at Midway

Many drowned or were buried under debris as waves reaching 5 feet high rolled over the low-lying atoll about four hours after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck Friday.

The waves hit each of the three islands inside the atoll.

Spit Island, about 15 acres, was completely overrun. The tsunami washed over 60 percent of Eastern Island, an islet of nearly 370 acres. Waves also covered 20 percent of Sand Island, the largest of the three at almost 1,200 acres.

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