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Wednesday, March 23, 2011
March 23, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:53 PM :: 8643 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Legislators, DBEDT support two casinos and Internet Gaming—Amendment violates Federal Law

Hawaii Congressional Delegation AWOL on Libya

9-11 truthers claim Shinseki running for Hawaii Senate seat, Inouye’s office forced to deny

US Approaching Insolvency, Fix To Be 'Painful': Dallas Federal Reserve Chair Fisher

"If we continue down on the path on which the fiscal authorities put us, we will become insolvent, the question is when," Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said in a question and answer session after delivering a speech at the University of Frankfurt. "The short-term negotiations are very important, I look at this as a tipping point."

"I think we are at the beginning of the process and it's going to be very painful," he added.

(Just ignore this.)

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Only “modest decline” in Japan travel

Spokeswoman Gina Laughlin of Delta said it was too early to tell whether Hawaii would be affected because fall and winter schedules, which are when specific changes will be announced, haven’t been published yet.)

American Airlines said yesterday that it suffered “a modest decline” in revenue from the disruption of travel to Japan and bad weather at home. Still, American plans to push ahead with its joint venture with Japan Airlines next month.

Abercrombie: “It's going to be terrible. It's going to be rough.” Translation:  RAISE TAXES

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Shapiro: Governor needs to deliver on vow to do more with less

Before the governor slips off the hook on his campaign promises and hits already cash-strapped residents with higher taxes and fees to grow the government in a continuing recession, let’s have a report on what’s been done to reallocate and re-prioritize. Let’s have a report on what new federal funds have been brought in. Let’s get that 5 percent cut from the state payroll. Then we can talk about taxes.

If we aren’t going to hold candidates to their campaign promises after they’re elected, we may as well spare ourselves the long and expensive campaigns and choose leaders based on the ethnic appeal of their spouses.

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Abercrombie on Rail:  “It’s all photos and photo-ops right now. I’ve seen those before.”

Some people say `No, no. We’ve already obligated that money.’ Excuse me, you know, to tell me that, you know, two years from now or three years from now maybe we’re going to send a whole bunch of money out of the state to Italy to buy rail cars is not … obligating the money.

The money is sitting there. This is all abstract right now. It’s all photos and photo-ops right now. I’ve seen those before.

(The governor also repeated his support for Hawaii joining a multi-state lottery to help raise money…)

CB: A Town Hall In Wahiawa

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Honolulu Council plays hardball over Transit Authority

Harimoto told Civil Beat Tuesday. "I think if we're unable to resolve the concerns, and we proceed down the path that we are proceeding, I think it would be extremely difficult to continue the project."

Harimoto attributes his growing concerns about the project to the Carlisle administration's lack of transparency and forthrightness.

Harimoto's comments to Civil Beat came a day after the administration announced $946 million in contracts for the $5.5 billion project, and on the same day U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administration Administrator Peter Rogoff are in Honolulu. A federal, state and city meeting on rail is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Harimoto is airing his concerns at a time when other council members have been expressing more frustration about rail. Council Chairman Nestor Garcia told Civil Beat last week that City Council members returned from a recent trip to Washington D.C. with "a lot of new concerns" about rail.

"A lot, a lot," Garcia told Civil Beat shortly after they returned. "There is a lot below the surface."

Last week, City Council members also complained about a breakdown in communication with the Carlisle administration over who would have the authority to approve a new rail agency's multimillion spending plan for next year.

As Civil Beat revealed after a closed-door executive session on the matter, council members said city lawyers told them they would not have the authority to approve the new agency's budget.

City Council member Ikaika Anderson called that move "darn concerning." Council member Ann Kobayashi called it "out of control" and "scary."

CB: U.S. Transportation Chief: Rail 'Progressing Fine'

HNN: US Transportation Secretary in Hawaii to talk about rail

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State Still Wants to Cap Counties' Share of TAT

While lawmakers deferred House Bill 795 Tuesday, a similar Senate bill is still alive. It would temporarily limit how much the counties would get from the tax.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, who chairs the Tourism Committee, recommended the House version be shelved in favor of Senate Bill 1186, which she introduced. That bill has cleared the Senate and been referred to the House Finance Committee.

The state Department of Taxation previously testified that its cap would generate tens of millions of dollars for the state:

  • $10 million in fiscal 2012
  • $16.5 million in fiscal 2013
  • $23.3 million in fiscal 2014
  • $30.7 million in fiscal 2015

Unlike the House version, SB 1186 does not include a dollar amount at which to cap the counties' shares.

"It was originally based on 2010 levels, but it could be less or it could be more considering what's happening with the economy," Kim told Civil Beat after the hearing.

Under current law, 44.8 percent of TAT collections goes to the counties.

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Public Workers “comfortable with furloughs” -- May Be Offered 'Mini Furlough'

It may be very difficult to get employees to give up five percent of their take-home pay without offering time off. Union leaders said many workers are comfortable with the furlough concept and enjoy the time off they got in return for the lower pay.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and Gov. Neil Abercrombie both strongly oppose furloughs but also have proposed budgets that depend on 5 percent payroll savings to come out of negotiations with every public worker union except that of University of Hawaii faculty. The flexible furlough may work as a compromise because employees would get time off without interrupting services.

With any proposal accepted by a union, the governor and any one mayor could approve an agreement, even if three of the four counties object, because the governor is assigned three votes in the process and each mayor only one.

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Legislators, Big Business push Bag Tax on Hawaii shoppers

Choosing paper or plastic bags may cost you a nickel in the future. Lawmakers are strongly considering a bill aimed at shifting public behavior from single-use plastic and paper bags to re-usable bags.

Paper or plastic? Would you still chose one or the other if you had to pay a 5-cent fee?

"By putting a fee on them will allow consumers to really move to the reusable market," said Susan Houghton, Safeway Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations. "In Washington D.C. a fee discouraged consumer use by over 60 percent and moved really people to the reusable market." (And we make megabux selling those stupid re-usuable bags.)

Senate Bill 1363 would require businesses to collect an "offset fee" of five cents for every plastic or paper bag distributed. The fee would be added to the total price of the customer's purchase. The business would keep a portion of the fee to offset costs, the rest would go to the state's general fund.  (So the state will also make megabux from you peasants.)

Tax Raise Propaganda: Reducing marine debris is worldwide challenge

More Tax Hike Agit-Prop: International Marine Debris Convention In Waikiki This Week

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First Hawaiian: $1.8M raised for Japan relief

(Here are some people who aren’t thinking Japan tragedy = tax hike opportunity.)

First Hawaiian Bank has raised more than $600,000 to help survivors of the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

CEO Don Horner said Tuesday the company raised the funds through a "Japan-Hawaii Relief Fund" that was set up on March 11. All the money will go to the Japanese Red Cross Society's relief efforts.

BNPP, the bank's parent company, recently announced it would donate $1.2 million.

All of the bank's branches are still accepting donations until March 31. First Hawaiian is also participating in "Aloha for Japan," a statewide campaign to raise funds for the Japan America Society of Hawaii. That initiative is also a benefit for the Japanese Red Cross.

AP: Hawaii Lt. Gov. Schatz seeking federal assistance following tsunami damage to isles

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Bill legalizing $200 bribes still alive

After hearing strong opposition, the House Judiciary Committee delayed a decision on a bill to allow state employees, including lawmakers, to accept free tickets to nonprofit fundraisers and even foreign junkets without restrictions.

"I think I need a little more time to work on the language after hearing some of the comments," committee Chairman Gil Keith-Aga­ran said after a hearing yesterday on Senate Bill 671 HD 1. The committee put off decision-making until March 31.

CB: Bill to Ease Gift-Giving to Lawmakers, State Employees Finds New Life

HR: Ethics Bill Changed, Debated Anew

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HCR107 to investigate secession from United States

House Concurrent Resolution 107 (HCR107) in the Hawaii legislature would establish “a joint legislative investigating committee to investigate the status of two executive agreements entered into in 1893 between United States President Grover Cleveland and Queen Liliuokalani of the Hawaiian Kingdom, called the Liliuokalani assignment and the agreement of restoration.”

The investigating committee would be empowered to “Issue subpoenas requiring the attendance and testimony of the witnesses and subpoenas duces tecum requiring the production of books, documents, records, papers, or other evidence in any matter pending before the joint investigating committee; … Administer oaths and affirmations to witnesses at hearings of the joint investigating committee; Report or certify instances of contempt as provided in section 21—14, Hawaii Revised Statutes …”

HCR107 was introduced by Rep. Mele Carroll, and has a hearing in the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs on Wednesday morning, March 23. Testimony can be submitted in person, in print, or by e-mail, and can also be submitted late. Text of the resolution, details about the hearing, and how to submit testimony, are in the hearing notice at http://tinyurl.com/4t2pzo6

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SA: DoE Doesn’t need to test students (SB1282)

Ideally, the DOE wouldn’t be cancelling a national test until the new one is in place. (Duh…and here comes the excuse you must buy….) But these are not ideal times.

On Monday, Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi told the state Board of Education in stark terms what a proposed $110 million cut to the department’s biennial budget will mean. Achieving that reduction will mean painful sacrifices, such as ending school bus service, slashing per-student funding allotments and eliminating $11 million in special programs, including after-school tutoring and help for at-risk students.

(And we want you to believe this gloom and doom scenario cooked up to justify more money for the DoE.)

REALITY: HB1055- Bills would “repeal norm-referenced testing” in the DoE

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Panel tables bill over electing attorney general

"I don't believe that having this as an elected position improves the quality of legal advice. In fact, I'm concerned about politicization," Attorney General David Louie told the committee.  (And he said this with a straight face -- the kind of skill which got Louie his job.)

Committee Chairman Gil Keith-Agaran said he tabled the bill because it didn't draw much public interest, and the Senate didn't appear to have enough votes for a potential veto override. The Senate had passed the bill 16-9, short of a two-thirds majority needed for an override.

"The issue of whether you have an elected or appointed attorney general cuts a lot of ways," said Keith-Agaran, D-Kahului-Paia. "In some ways, he could be viewed as being beholden to the governor."

Rep. Barbara Marumoto, R-Kalani Valley-Diamond Head, also questioned whether an elected attorney general would be more objective than an appointed one.

"You bring up politicization," she told Louie. "The governor could be a political animal as well."

SB1187: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/

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Mysterious Abercrombie OIP pick Rejects Offer, vanishes

Office of Information Practices Acting Director Cathy Takase's job was terminated by the governor earlier this month. Her last day was supposed to be Friday, but the person who was supposed to take her place is no longer interested in the job, according to spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.

"I believe they had a candidate but (he) did not accept the job," Dela Cruz said. "So they're interviewing more people to fill the position."

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Hawaii Legislature Backs Off Punishing Tourism Publications

House Bill 548, aimed at tourism publications and websites, proclaims that publishers "shall have a duty to warn" the public of dangerous conditions. Publishers would also have to indemnify landowners and the state in case of lawsuits resulting from injury or death.

But State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chairwoman of the Senate Tourism Committee, said Tuesday that the bill will instead be changed to include a task force to identify problem areas and recommend remedies.

While Kim did not say who exactly will sit on the task force, the Senate bill she referred to — Senate Bill 1207, which died in Senate committee — specified that the task force would include representatives from the visitor and publishing industry, the Office of Attorney General, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, private landowners and lawmakers.

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Developer: Maui Windfarm to be dead in 25 years

Other areas that commissioners wanted expanded on in the nearly 400-page report included effects on native dryland vegetation and birds, benefits to people living in Kaupo and Kahikinui, demand for water, and who will be responsible for removing the equipment, towers and associated substations at the end of the farm's useful life.

Dmohowski said the equipment is expected to be good for 25 years, but depending on conditions at that time, Sempra might want to rebuild it rather than abandon it.

Copies of the draft EIS can be found on the website of The Environmental Notice of the Hawaii Office of Environmental Quality Control. Visit www.hawaii.gov/health/environmental/oeqc/index.html.

The deadline to comment is April 21.

RELATED: Wind Energy's Ghosts

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Akaka teams up with 47 Senate Dems to protect Green Energy Scammers

Republicans’ spending bill, H.R. 1, would cut billions from development of alternative fuels and clean energy technology, which would set back efforts to stay competitive with growing nations such as China while simultaneously putting America’s independence from oil even further out of reach.   It would also reduce funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) by one-third, forcing layoffs to the watchdog agency that polices market manipulation that drives up oil prices is responsible for facilitating construction of the carbon trading scams.

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Resurrected: Gambling Inserted into Shell Bill

The bill in question is Senate Bill 755, which, in its original form, had to do with GET exemptions for school supplies.

Now there is a proposed amendment that calls for what are known as "peer-to-peer" games of skill like poker "in which each player receives the player's personal winnings from the game but in which no other person or entity derives any proceeds based on the outcome of the game."

The amendment reads in part:

Many poker tournaments and championship series held in other locations have the effect of filling hotel rooms for the duration of the tournaments, which run for several weeks at a time, with participants, their families, and supporters, as well as poker aficionados. Furthermore, these events are televised nationally and internationally to large audiences and include scenic shots and other coverage of local attractions. This coverage provides free advertising and exposes these areas to a worldwide audience. Organizers of these peer-to-peer poker tournaments and championship series are eager to hold such events in Hawaii.

As rationale, the amendment cites the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which "may result in the loss of approximately twenty percent of the visitor market."

The bill's amendment is scheduled Wednesday morning before two House committees.

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County mum on felon fire captain

Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira said the department has completed its investigation into a Pahala station captain convicted of a 2005 hit-and-run traffic fatality.
Asked Tuesday if Konrad Mossman was still with the department, Oliveira replied: "I can't comment on that."
"All I can say was I took the appropriate action that was afforded to me under the rules. The employee has the right to grieve the action I've taken. Only after the grievance process has been exhausted can it be made public what action I've taken."

(Mossman must have completed his top three as Captain.)

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Former Maui officer charged with sex assault, kidnapping

Maui police say 33-year-old Lewis Gamble was arrested Tuesday morning on a bench warrant.

The charges include sexual assault, assault, impersonating a police officer and kidnapping.

Gamble's bail was set at $250,000.

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Despite Furloughs, Overtime Down in Most City Departments (Oops!)

So we decided to look at overall overtime use at the city during the first six months of furloughs, compared to the same period of time in previous years.

Through public records Civil Beat obtained, we found overtime use has actually gone down overall.

The city paid employees $24.5 million in overtime during the first half of this fiscal year, July 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010. Despite 12 mandatory furlough days in that span, that's less than the city paid in overtime during the same period in 2009 and 2008.

Between July 2009 and December 2009, city workers racked up $25.4 million of overtime pay. During the same period during 2008, they tallied $30.4 million….

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Other Cities Report Problems with Honolulu Rail Contractor

After complaints AnsaldoBreda was more than three years late delivering train cars, a $300 million contract between the company and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority fell apart in October 2009. The company had already delivered too-heavy cars, which required the Los Angeles transit agency to reinforce some bridges. Ansaldo blamed the transportation authority for a botched order.

The deal collapse also dissolved a plan to build a factory that would have created hundreds of local jobs, according to the Los Angeles Times' reporting about the saga.

Los Angeles is not the only city that has complained about its business dealings with AnsaldoBreda. In 2004, Boston transit officials ended a $222 million deal with the company, and canceled delivery of train cars after "frequent breakdowns," according to The Boston Globe. Ultimately, the two sides reached a settlement.

Officials in Washington, D.C., have also complained about train cars manufactured by AnsaldoBreda's predecessor, Breda Costruzioni Ferroviarie. In 2005, the Washington Post reported the city's Metro had to spend $382 million to overhaul its fleet of so-called Breda cars, which needed new brakes, propulsion and other improvements.

Earlier this month, the mayor of Hornell, N.Y., reportedly complained about AnsaldoBreda's delays, which resulted in furloughs for workers, according to the Buffalo News. In 2009, the Copenhagen (Denmark) Post reported delays and operational problems with AnsaldoBreda cars.

SA:  Rail car maker's record spotty

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County hearing officer recommends Hu Honua permit approval

The hearing officer, Robert Crudele, said the approval should be based on a set of provisions. Hu Honua management said those requirements will be fully met.

Among the provisions are that the refurbishment of the plant from the existing coal operation to a biomass facility be completed within five years; compliance with all federal, state and county regulations on air, water quality and discharge, and noise; sound levels at the plant boundary at to be kept within residential levels of 55 decibels; biomass truck traffic to and from the plant should be restricted to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and no “jake brakes” be used on Sugar Mill Road.

There are also provisions for construction dust, runoff, drainage, solid waste management and proper handling of archeological or historical artifacts if found.

In all there are 16 provisions. A copy of the full 31-page report is available on the Hu Honua Bioenergy website at www.huhonua.com.

RESPONSE: PFPI groups says Hu Honua will be a major polluter

Boston Globe: Biomass: Fuel or folly? (PFPI background)

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Hawaiian Elec. in Solar Power Pact

Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. (HE) has entered into an agreement with SunPower Corporation (SPWRA) to purchase solar photovoltaic (PV) power. Under the fixed price contract of 20 years, SunPower will generate the power from a five-megawatt (MW) solar farm.

 

SunPower will design, build and operate the farm at Kalaeloa in West Oahu on a 40-acre land leased from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) at Roosevelt Avenue and Boxer Road. Following a nod from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission and other needed approvals, SunPower plans to begin construction in 2011 and complete the solar farm within five months.

Be Green 2: $42 light bulbs

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Developer gets approval for new mall on DHHL land in Kapolei

DeBartolo representatives said construction on the initial phase — a 200,000-square-foot neighborhood retail center — could begin next year if an environmental assessment and state Land Use Commission approval are completed without undue delay.

Under terms of the 65-year lease, DHHL stands to receive more than $140 million over the first 25 years from DeBartolo, providing a big boost to the agency's financial ability to develop homes for Native Hawaiians.

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Tsunami, Power Outages Still On Minds Of Many Ewa Residents

The more than 250 people who attended an emergency preparedness meeting in Ewa Beach Tuesday night were told Hawaii does not face the same kind of tsunami threat as Japan and that people here should have confidence in the state's published tsunami evacuation zones….

The meeting was organized by state Representative Kymberly Pine and held at Ewa Makai Middle School.

SA: Maui mayor says AT&T failed during tsunami prep

KITV: Ewa Residents Prepare For Next Disaster

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Hawaii’s #6 Tax Delinquent ensnared in Calif. building dispute

A developer who once was on Hawaii's tax-delinquent list got a blow Tuesday night when San Juan Capistrano officials said they don't want him to build a two-story house on a prime piece of local land….

Residents also don't like Darmal's past. In 2009, he was No. 6 on a list of the worst tax delinquents in Hawaii, owing $645,000, according to the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Merrell said Darmal's financial past shouldn't be relevant to San Juan's rezoning decision.

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