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Sunday, May 15, 2011
May 15, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:00 AM :: 4900 Views :: Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

VIDEO: Huckabee announces he is not running for President 

Republicans Set Presidential Caucuses For March 13

Delegates, hoping Hawaii will have more relevance in presidential politics and looking for an opportunity to build the party, voted for a proportional presidential caucus system next year. Republicans will hold statewide caucuses on March 13. GOP presidential candidates who pay the party a $5,000 filing fee will be on the ballot and will be awarded delegates in proportion to their vote totals.

The state GOP has until now selected state convention delegates in January and February and national convention delegates at the state convention in May, usually after the party's presidential nominee has already been chosen.

Andrew Walden, editor of the Hawai`i Free Press, a conservative website, told delegates that the change could persuade presidential candidates to compete in Hawaii. He said the interest in the caucuses, even if only a few thousand voters participate, could help the minority party recruit new members.

"The question here is very simple: Do you want to grow the party?" he asked delegates.

Jonah Kaauwai, the state GOP chairman, and Linda Smith, a former senior policy adviser to Lingle who now works with state House Republicans, were among party leaders who supported the change….

"How relevant do we want Hawaii to be in the presidential selection process?" she asked delegates.

But other Republican leaders, such as former party chairmen Willes Lee and Brennon Morioka, said the party cannot afford the cost of the caucuses in an election year when the GOP is supposed to be helping local candidates….

Republicans also voted for resolutions to oppose a native Hawaiian federal recognition bill, to repeal the federal Jones Act that protects the domestic shipping industry from foreign competition, and to reject new taxes and fee increases.

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Lingle: “Seriously considering” Senate Run

In his remarks, Aiona also brought up the session and the man to whom he lost the governorship, as well as his view that there is media bias against Republicans.

"If that doesn't bring you fire in the belly, I don't know what else will," he said.

Aiona indicated he would seek a rematch in 2014 against Abercrombie but did not declare it. Charles Djou, however, said he "looked forward" to changing Hawaii's lack of bipartisan representation in the U.S. House.

"They have been ineffective," he said of U.S. Reps. Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa.

Balanced representation, locally and in Washington, is the top goal of Hawaii's Republican Party.

In spite of their thumping in 2010, Chair Kaauwai said the party fielded 97 candidates in the primary and 61 out of 63 races in the general. He said the party had strengthened its grassroots, grew the volunteer base and focused candidates on platform issues like fiscal accountability and limited government.

Lingle, still her party's head and star, told the party she was doing her "due diligence" and was "seriously considering" a run for Daniel Akaka's Senate seat next year.

"He did something interesting — he gave us a heads up and told us long in advance so someone would have an even shot at running and winning," Lingle said of Akaka. "He could have resigned with six months or a year left, and a Democratic governor would make an appointment. But Sen Akaka did not do that. And because of that, the seat is wide open."

Can a Republican win in a Democratic state in a year that a native son is on the presidential ballot? Lingle believes so, noting that Republicans actually picked up seven seats in the state House in 2000 — the year George W. Bush only won 37 percent of the presidential vote.

"It means that Hawaii people may vote one way nationally and one way locally, so when you say President Obama is on the ticker, a favorite son, sure, but history shows people voted for candidates that where good for their districts, their families, their businesses."

SA: Lingle weighs Senate run

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Poll Heavy with Democrats but Abercrombie Approval still Drops to 50%

Gov. Neil Abercrombie's job approval rating is at 50 percent, a new Hawaii Poll has found, a precarious review that suggests the state's budget crisis has taken a toll on the governor's image six months after he was elected.

Just 39 percent of independents approve of the governor's performance — a warning from the middle. The governor's approval rating is also soft — 51 percent — among union households, a core constituency given his strong support for labor.

The poll was taken by telephone among 614 registered voters statewide from May 4 to Tuesday. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

Voters gave Abercrombie a better review than state House and Senate lawmakers. Just 38 percent approved of the job lawmakers did during the session. Lawmakers' job approval was 50 percent among Democrats, 20 percent among Republicans and 21 percent among independents.

The Legislature — like Congress at the federal level — typically receives lower performance ratings than governors and presidents in public-opinion polls, even though voters tend to give their own representatives and senators higher marks.

Voters continue to give Hawaii-born President Barack Obama a much higher job approval rating — 74 percent — than he receives on the mainland. Gallup put the president's job approval nationally at 50 percent last week.

The poll found that 55 percent have a favorable opinion of Abercrombie, down from 61 percent in October, a few weeks before the November election. The governor has lost ground among critical demographics for the Democratic Party — traditional Democrats, Japanese-Americans, union households and women.

(This poll was over-weighted to Democrats as indicated by the 74% Obama approval rating.  Union households’ 51% approval rating should have produced an overall rating below 50%.)

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Bombastic, In your face Abercrombie is Out of Control

Becki Ward, president of Ward Research, who conducted the poll, noted that "during the campaign, there were handlers who had him under control," but now Abercrombie is essentially flying solo in his decision making.

Asked what this means, House Speaker Calvin Say, a strong Abercrombie ally in the Legislature, said the freshman governor didn't know what he was in for when he ran.

"I truly believe he didn't realize what he was getting himself into," Say said last week.

Abercrombie, Say speculated, didn't understand the depth of Hawaii's economic problems, and the public's desperate desire for more jobs "really put him at a disadvantage."

For Abercrombie, the mission ahead is much more difficult. It is not likely that island mothers are saying, "Why can't you be more quiet and well spoken, like Gov. Abercrombie?"

His bombastic, in-your-face style leads him to say things like "I'm the governor, I'm not your pal," and to tell North Shore residents that "nothing is going to happen here absent the approval of the governor."

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Pension: Reigning in Hawaii's labor costs

While other states have clashed loudly over public employee benefits and pension plans that have gone underfunded because of the economy, Hawaii's Legislature has quietly approved a long-range plan aimed at fixing the system.

The legislation that awaits Gov. Neil Abercrombie's signature would raise the retirement age, lower retirement benefits and make employees contribute more to the pension system. The most radical changes would affect new hires. The changes are expected to save the state $440 million over the next five years.

Most public employee unions stepped aside on the issue of changes to the Employees' Retirement System (ERS), which includes state and county employees — and unlike other venues, Hawaii legislators heard little public anger about the state of the system.

RELATED: Act 100: How Hanabusa and Cayetano launched Hawaii Pension crisis

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Lawmakers Should Have Taken Own Pension Medicine

Why is it that Hawaii lawmakers want new state and county employees to earn pensions at a lower rate but didn't require new lawmakers to take the same medicine?

I'm not sure anything could be more complicated than the Hawaii Public Employees' Retirement System.

And lawmakers made it even more complicated in the 2011 legislative session, when they added a new tier of benefits for employees who start work on or after July 1, 2012. Instead of earning their pensions at a rate of years of service times 2 percent, they'll be earning at years of service times 1.75 percent.

Today's workers can earn 50 percent of their salary after 25 years. It'll take the new employees 29 years to do the same thing.

Lawmakers can earn 50 percent of their salary in barely more than 14 years.

They didn't change that.

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SA: Address costs of elder care before coping turns to crisis

It was sobering news, but not unexpected. Last week an annual survey on long-term care costs showed that the rate in Hawaii is far outpacing the national average. This observation was expected because it simply continues an ongoing trend, but Hawaii families are no better prepared to cope with the reality than they've ever been.

Placing an adequate focus on the problem has been difficult in recent years, when state lawmakers struggled to find money to cover even the most immediate needs, let alone an elder-care crisis that looms for the years ahead.

Lawmakers should feel more compelled to confront the issue next session, however, because of work done by the state Long Term Care Commission and its consultant in the past year. The commission will in the next several months review some proposed policy shifts and develop a five-year plan to address the state's lack of elder-care capacity. The Legislature will consider the first set of initiatives when it reconvenes in January….

During the interim, guided by the testimony provided in March, the commission will review several policy options that are still seen as viable. They include:

  • » Create a public-awareness campaign. Many of the stakeholders believe that the public and even the policymakers are unaware of the problem's scope.
  • » Expand Kupuna Care, the program for elders who need home- and community-based services but don't qualify for Medicaid.
  • » Reconsider CarePlus — a state-run long-term care insurance program that passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle — and consider private insurance partnerships and income-tax incentives.

RELATED: Hawaii Nursing Home Care costs 58% more than National Average

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SA: Placing needy in housing costs millions

The state has spent about $1 million this year to place Island welfare recipients in substandard housing — and they're lucky to get that, officials say.

"It's a deplorable situation," said William G. Among, director of the State Department of Social Services and chairman of the Hawaii Housing Authority Commission.

"With people in the middle-income group having a hard time getting housing, you can imagine how hard a time we're having to get housing for people on welfare."

They have to battle the critical housing shortage with less than $100 a month in State assistance to pay the rent, he pointed out.

The welfare agency asked the Legislature this year to raise the rental allowance 10 per cent.

But Among said, "Although we increase our rent, the housing market is so critical, it still won't solve our problems.

The department has about 6,000 families and 5,000 individuals to accommodate.

Among said 30 per cent of the families "are very fortunate" to be in low-income housing projects operated by the Hawaii Housing Authority.

The other 70 per cent are on their own.

Sales Pitch For:  Rail has role in housing: The city's transit line has potential for triggering a rise in affordable units

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Does OIP have the legal authority to “punt”?

…this is essentially a governor’s office thumbing its nose at the law. Neil, you were elected governor. Not King.

In Section 92F-42, which sets out the powers and responsibilities of OIP, this is right there at the top of the list. Responsibility #1. Top of the list.

The director of the office of information practices:

(1) Shall, upon request, review and rule on an agency denial of access to information or records, or an agency’s granting of access;

I added the bold type on the word “shall.” OIP shall rule on an agency’s denial of access. It doesn’t use the word “may,” which would have given OIP discretion on whether to issue a ruling. It doesn’t say that OIP shall rule except when it looks futile because an agency stubbornly insists that it has the right to do whatever it wants. It says, simply, OIP shall do this job. It’s #1 responsibility. Top of the list, top line priority.

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Who is making these judgment calls in the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office?

This week, investigators for the prosecutor reportedly arrested the victim in a domestic violence case scheduled for trial next week, and making the arrest at her graduation from Chaminade, in front of friends and family….

And it’s apparently not a situation where the defendant is so dangerously violent that it calls for unusual measures to assure the victim’s testimony. According to the Star-Advertiser, he has been free without having to post bail.

Contrast that with the victim, who had to post $5,000 bail to be released following her arrest at graduation….

Then there’s the string of cases related to alleged overtime abuse by two Honolulu police sergeants accused of earning overtime pay for work at DUI checkpoints when they weren’t actually present.

Instead of making cases and bringing charges against the two who banked the undeserved overtime pay, the prosecutor also filed criminal charges against patrolmen who signed off on overtime paperwork.

It took a jury only 15 minutes to find the first officer innocent.

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Telescope opponent says Hawaiian goddess will testify

In granting a permit to build the TMT on conservation land, the Board of Land and Natural Resources ordered that no construction occur until a contested-case hearing is held to determine if it made the correct decision….

That process started Friday in Hilo with appointed hearings officer Paul Aoki, a Honolulu attorney, listening to arguments why two of seven petitioners should be allowed to participate in the hearing.

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After decades of paying $1 a year, Bowfin girds for big rent increase

For the past 30 years, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park has paid $1 a year for its waterfront spot next to the Arizona Memorial visitor center, officials said.

That's about to change in a big way.

Since the current 25-year lease was signed, a change in federal law now requires the government to charge fair market rent for leased-out taxpayer land.

The nonprofit submarine museum's lease expires July 14. After that the Bowfin will have to fork over rent many thousands of times higher than it pays now.

(And Hawaii’s all-Dem Congressional Delegation is doing…nothing.)

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Maui Lawmakers sorry film tax credit on cutting room floor

While supporters of the bill said it would create new jobs and spur Hawaii's economy, legislators were wary of any proposals that would cost the state government money when it was struggling with a $1.3 billion budget shortfall.

Freshman South Maui Rep. George Fontaine, the Maui delegation's only Republican, said he hoped the film studio could be developed in Kihei on land near the Maui High Technology and Research Park.

"Unfortunately, it just never made it out of committee," he said.

West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey said the failure of the tax credit measure for the film ventures was "one of the biggest disappointments in the session."

"To say I'm very disappointed would be putting it mildly," he said.

Early in the session, the proposal to develop film studios had the enthusiastic support of Mayor Alan Arakawa's administration. Relativity Media reported plans to develop a 31-acre film production complex on Maui later this year and an Oahu facility of the same size in 2012.

County Communications Director Rod Antone said the county had "high hopes" the tax credit could still move forward in the future.

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TheBus No. 1 in rides to work

When it comes to getting on public transportation, Honolulu is tops.

The 40-year-old island wide bus system — TheBus — had the best coverage and proximity to workplaces out of 100 cities surveyed in a two-year study conducted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

About 97 percent of Honolulu's working-age residents are near a transit stop, much higher than the 100-city average of 69 percent, according to the report, released Thursday. The report analyzed 371 transit providers and used a three-fourths-mile radius to measure whether a resident was near a transit stop.

The report attributed Honolulu's "long-standing urban containment policies, highly constrained geography and a relatively centralized employment base" as the reasons that 60 percent of jobs on the island are reachable within 90 minutes via public transit.

Brookings: Honolulu The Bus is #1 Transit System in Nation

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Officers' memorial to break ground

This year's Police Week will be especially sweet for the board members of the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and other leaders will help the foundation break ground tomorrow on the long-awaited memorial dedicated to Hawaii law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. The ceremony takes place at 2 p.m. at the site, on the Diamond Head side of the Kalanimoku Building, 1151 Punchbowl St.

Abercrombie last month signed House Bill 1622, which directs that the memorial be build on Capitol District grounds. Hawaii is one of the few states without a statewide law enforcement memorial.

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