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Sunday, May 08, 2011
May 8, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:27 PM :: 8093 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Honolulu GOP Releases List of Republican Neighborhood Board candidates

UHERO: Hawaii’s Government Pork feeding frenzy coming to an end

Abercrombie to Democrats: We are to blame for all of Hawaii’s Problems

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said yesterday that Demo­crats hold overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate and should stop making excuses for a lack of progress on renewable energy, work force housing and public education. (This sounds like truth, but he’s angry at Democrats for not taxing the poor more than they did.)

The Democratic governor, back in voluble, lectern-rattling stump mode for a luncheon speech to Oahu Democrats at their convention at Honolulu Country Club, said many decisions at the state Legislature do not reflect the party's core values. (And the media is busy sanitizing his remarks.)

"I think you need to say to members of the Legislature, ‘Stop the internal fighting. Stop the excuses. Stop walking around as if you're not listening to anybody else except yourselves,'" Abercrombie told party activists. "And start moving on what is going to move this state forward." (More taxes so I can hire more HGEA.)

Abercrombie said that as the majority party, "we can't look to somebody else to extend blame. If we've got a problem here in this state in housing, in education, in economic recovery, in energy independence and food security, we have to look in the mirror. That's where we have to look." (And this is the sanitized version.)….

Abercrombie said he might support placing a ballot question in 2012 asking voters whether they want to return to multimember legislative districts.

Hawaii had multimember districts — where more than one representative serves a district — until 1982. Republicans successfully challenged the practice in court as a violation of the principle of "one man, one vote."

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Abercrombie Declares War on AARP, promises to bring back Pension tax

 

Gov. Neil Abercrombie loves to invoke a lesson on negotiating he learned from former state Senate President Richard "Dickie" Wong: No one leaves the room; and no one punches anybody.

But Wong, Capitol observers remember, was also known to deploy one of the dark arts: bundle things together as leverage to move the other side closer to what you want.

Abercrombie sided with House Speaker Calvin Say when the speaker used that strategy this session in negotiations on a pension tax — bundling it with several other tax adjustments to help balance the budget after the state Senate balked.

When the Senate refused to budge on a pension tax under any circumstances — and then enforced a procedural deadline on dozens of other unrelated bills that had been held up during the impasse — the result was that many bills that would have likely advanced were instead left on the negotiating table…. (Boo hoo.)

Abercrombie said a pension tax is possible next session once more people understand that other retirement income is already taxed. The governor believes that income from traditional defined-benefit pension plans should be treated the same.

The governor had particular scorn for the AARP, whose activists led the fight against a pension tax in any form.

"People are going to catch on to what the AARP is pretty soon, and I'm going to help them do that," Abercrombie said. "I mean, the AARP is a business. It's essentially a front for insurance companies."

Republicans have praised Abercrombie and House leaders for resisting a GET increase, and the Senate for rejecting a pension tax, but still believe Democrats relied too much on new revenue and not enough on spending cuts to balance the budget….

The Rev. Bob Nakata, a former state senator, (and leader of FACE) said lawmakers should have approved a GET increase to help adequately finance state programs decimated by budget cuts during the recession. Nakata described the budget and financial plan lawmakers sent to Abercrombie as a "bloody mess" that may fall short.

Nakata, Abercrombie, and Dickie Wong: Slumping in the polls, Abercrombie now says Nazis are after him

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Abercrombie may call Special Session to balance Budget on Backs of Seniors, Employees

The legislative session came to an end with a number of financial issues left hanging, which should prompt Abercrombie to call for a special session this summer. If he does so, the governor should make a priority of ending Medicare Part B reimbursements for retired Hawaii government employees at taxpayers' expense, a proposal that appeared to be advancing until it quietly died at session's end. Both the House and Senate approved a halt to reimbursements estimated at $41.7 million in fiscal year 2012 and $46.8 million the following year. (But Abercrombie is apparently going to go all out for the Pension Tax.)

In addition, legislators shamefully failed to approve measures to pay legal claims against the state and to pay for security costs for November's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Honolulu. Abercrombie recognizes that the death of the APEC bill is unacceptable because of the importance of the conference. Any year lawmakers are unable to finish the people's business in the allotted 60-day session is discouraging, given the internal deadlines and public notice safe guards that aim to keep the process transparent. If one is needed, a special session should not engage in controversial arguments about issues such as tax credits for digital media and film productions and authorizing a Waikiki casino or any other form of legalizing gambling. (But they will. Taxing the poor to feed the rich is an irresistible draw in Hawaii Democrat politics.)

The governor and legislators will have a better idea of budgetary needs when the Council on Revenues issues its next report later this month. The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization reported on Thursday that the state's economy could gradually strengthen this year…. (Will the CoR AGAIN jimmy the numbers to help Abercrombie get his way?)

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Pension tax idea galvanized potent voting bloc

As the first session of the 26th Hawaii Legislature clunked to a close Thursday afternoon, Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village) tweeted: "We dodged a bunch of bullets — NO increase in the general excise tax (a lie), pension tax, soda tax or alcohol tax."

True enough, but it may not be time to pack away the bulletproof vests: The pension tax could come back.

Equally important, the pension tax appears to have inspired a potent political force to block it: seniors who vote….

Tax opponents wanted to battle back, but didn't know what to do. Enter AARP.

"They have been trying to be active on a grassroots level, so the groundwork had already been laid," veteran Manoa Democrat, Sen. Brian Taniguchi, noted of AARP's advocacy.

"The pension tax galvanized the base and currently they have the momentum," Taniguchi added.

The question still before the lawmakers is how much they want to antagonize the 150,000 voting AARP members in order to balance the budget.

It is likely to remain a hot topic, Taniguchi predicted, especially if the state House and Abercrombie insist on making a state tax on pensions a large part of their financial plan.

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Huge Success: Duke Aiona’s Drug Courts 1/3 of National Recidivism Rate

"Success with the drug court program is not only about keeping clients clean and sober, but also about changing behavior, because if you just pass a drug test, you still think like a criminal and may be out there doing criminal things," Ibarra said. "Our main concern is not only staying off drugs but also to get rid of their criminal thinking while having these folks pay taxes and fines, work and contribute to the economy and not commit new crimes."

With a recidivism rate -- the percentage of graduates convicted of a subsequent crime -- of 7.87 percent, the drug court is much better than the federal government's National Institute of Justice's rate of 17 to 26 percent for drug court graduates. Without treatment, the institute says, half of those sentenced to traditional jail or prison followed by probation will be convicted of a subsequent crime.

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Nonaka: New Taxes cost $2400 for family of four

The removal of general excise tax exemptions on many businesses will increase the costs for families to fly to the neighbor islands, fill up their gas tanks, ship goods, and build or renovate their homes. Adding insult to injury, we will also have to pay an average of $55 more in vehicle registration taxes.

In all, the Legislature is increasing the tax burden on Hawaii families by $600 million. This translates to about $600 per person, $1,200 per married couple or $2,400 per family of four. When most families and businesses are cutting costs and reducing their spending, our state government increased its spending by $800 million. This 7 percent increase in spending sends a clear message that our government believes that it does not need to function like a household or business.

It is my hope that next year, the leaders of our state government can look past protecting the special interests that feed off our bloated state bureaucracy and focus on creating jobs, growing the economy and making it easier to survive in Hawaii. Families trying to make ends meet cannot afford another session that fails them like this one did.

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HB865: Abercrombie doubles Freight Tax to hire more HGEA

The tax on the net weight of imported freight will increase 50 percent, with the money going to hire 15 of 22 agriculture inspectors the Legislature helped restore last year, said Rep. Clift Tsuji, chairman of the state House Agriculture Committee.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie Wednesday signed into law House Bill 865, which taxes freight to fund the state's defense against invasive species by improving inspections at airports and harbors.

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Maui Budget: Spending, Taxes Both Hiked

The council's Budget and Finance Committee said it had reached a consensus on a $570.8 million budget for the year - less than Arakawa's proposal but still an increase of about 9 percent over this year's spending. The committee is scheduled to reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday in eighth-floor Council Chambers of the Kalana O Maui building to finalize its budget recommendation with a vote.

The budget includes almost $468 million for county operations and $102.8 million in capital improvement projects.

It also includes a property tax rate increase for a number of categories

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Oily Characters: Robin Danner studies North Dakota Indian Reservation to learn how to set up government

"We are learning from the Alaskans since they are ahead of us in certain areas of oil development and pipelines, and how they have set up marketing, and how they help their people through the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation," said Glenda Baker Embry, public information officer for the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Oil development in the Bakken is under way on the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota.

"The Hawaiians would like to learn how we handle other issues because a proposal to grant Hawaiians federal recognition similar to that of American Indians advanced out of committee on April 8 and is now awaiting consideration by the full Senate," Embry said. "The bill would create a process for Hawaiians to form their own governing entity and negotiate with federal and state governments on land use and cultural issues. (There would be ) no gambling or no creation of a reservation for them though."

She said Danner was "the big push" behind that bill "so she is looking at us and how to set up a government."

RELATED: Reservation for a Broken Trust?

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New Hawaii law signed last week makes it harder for lenders to confiscate people's homes

The bill was one of roughly 30 related to foreclosures introduced at the Legislature this year and was shepherded by Rep. Bob Herkes, chairman of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee, and Sen. Rosalyn Baker, chairwoman of the corresponding committee in the Senate.

Community-support group Faith Action for Community Equity pushed hard for the legislation. Some elements in the law also were recommended by a legislative task force representing lender and borrower interests, though lenders strongly opposed other parts including what is regarded as the most important piece of the new law.

That piece gives many homeowners a new option to conduct foreclosure mitigation efforts directly with a lender representative in front of a neutral dispute-resolution professional.

The law also ensures that homeowners receive enhanced notice of foreclosure actions and allows borrowers who contend a lender is improperly foreclosing to bring the case before a state judge….

Mortgage industry representatives opposing the bill claimed that all the new requirements will make loans harder to obtain and more expensive, thereby hurting home buyers and sellers, and stifling Hawaii's housing market in the midst of a fragile recovery.

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Abercrombie-Schatz Initiative to help homeless fails to get even one person off streets

A 2-week-old statewide effort to identify the homeless and give residents the opportunity to direct medical, mental and housing services their way has not led to getting a single person off the streets or beaches.

Bob Marchant, executive director of Chinatown’s River of Life Mission, called police about a woman in her 70s who has been lying “completely across the sidewalk in her own urine and feces” on Pauahi Street at Maunakea Street since December or January.

“She seems lucid, but refuses help and just lays in the sidewalk in her own filth, forcing you to walk in the street to get around her,” Marchant said.

Police had taken the woman to the Queen’s Medical Center, “but she was right back on the sidewalk.”

Marchant called Honolulu police again last week, “but if she can move, they won’t do anything,” he said. “She refuses help. If she was a dog, we’d pick her up and clean her up and take her to a shelter. I understand individual rights. But when the person is urinating and defecating on the sidewalk, isn’t that harmful to herself or to other people? It seems like something should be done.”

Alexander, Hawaii’s homeless coordinator, sympathizes with such frustrations from island residents.

“All we can do is educate the public that, yes, we do reach out to the homeless,” Alexander said. “But we can’t make people act against their will.” (This is the core idea which dooms Alexander and Abercrombie to abject miserable failure.)

RELATED: Complacent Honolulu out of its league, not ready for APEC

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Environmentalists rally against proposed beach hotel tower

As a zoning board prepares to hear their appeal, a group of environmentalists and others rallied at Waikiki Beach against Kyo-ya Hotels' plan to redevelop the Diamond Head Tower at the Moana Surfrider Resort.

The protesters who gathered Saturday said the planned building is too tall and too close to the beach.

"They're taking an eight-story building that was grandfathered into the existing zoning code," said Stuart Coleman of the Surfrider Foundation. "And they want to replace it with a 26-story tower that's even closer to the beach."

The city's Department of Planning and Permitting has already given the project partial approval, which is being appealed by the Hawaii Environmental Alliance. The appeal is scheduled to have a hearing next month.

(Key question: Can the activists begin shaking down Waikiki?)

ANSWER: Of course they can, Enviros Win 90% before Hawaii Supreme Court

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Invasive Species Control Threatens Endangered Native Birds

It’s not easy being a native bird in Hawaii. And now, as a result of invasive species control, native bird survival is getting even tougher.

The problem is that certain plant weeds are serving as an important food source for some native birds, which have come to rely on the introduced plants for survival. Kill the weeds, and you starve the birds.

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Kauai County’s energy savings flicker

The audit found that the county used 20.02 million kWh of electricity in 2010, a 4 percent increase from 2009, when the county used 19.30 million kWh of electricity.

The increase in usage ended up causing a 22 percent increase in the actual dollar amount.

The audit stated that the county paid $1.3 million more for electricity in 2010 than it did in 2009. The county’s electric bill in 2010 was $7.36 million, while in 2009 it was $6.05 million.

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Taiwan sponsoring exhibit on Hawaii-educated Sun Yat-sen at Honolulu's city hall

The founding father of modern China learned about democracy in Hawaii, and used the islands to raise money and support for political efforts that would lead to the overthrow of the Qing imperial government.

Now, Taiwan is using the centennial anniversary of the Republic of China's founding to celebrate Sun Yat-sen's connection to Hawaii. The Taiwanese government is sponsoring a photo exhibit at Honolulu's city hall this month that underscores the pivotal role the islands played in shaping Sun….

He first came to Hawaii in 1879 when he was 13 to join his brother, who was a successful businessman. He spent four years studying at Iolani School, and then enrolled at Oahu College. His studies in Hawaii were suspended, however, when his brother sent him back to China because Sun said he wanted to convert to Christianity.

Sun returned to Hawaii multiple times, using it as a base to gather support and funds for his efforts to overthrow the Manchu government. In 1894, he gathered about 20 people at a house off Queen Emma Street … to found the Revive China Society. Over the next year, the group grew to about 120 to 130 people.

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