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Tuesday, May 17, 2011
May 17, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:29 PM :: 9722 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development

Moody’s Cuts Hawaii’s Bond Rating

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted May 16

Study: Hawaiian Islands Feudal system in 1400 AD

Lingle Pushes Senate Decision to Summer

“I just want to talk though the ability to make an impact in my state if I did go through it,” Lingle told the newspaper. “Can I make a difference, a positive difference, for Hawaii? And, again, because the Senate is so close, if the Republicans gain control in the Senate, and I was able to win an election, it would be better for our state than to have only Democrats in our delegation.”

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SHOCK POLL: Labor unions ranked high in influence

Most voters believe labor unions have the strongest influence on the state's elected officials, a new Hawaii Poll shows, although Democrats are less likely to have that opinion than Republicans and independents.

Nearly half of voters interviewed — 48 percent — believe labor unions have a very strong influence, and 35 percent think they have a somewhat strong influence.

Just 25 percent believe business interests have a very strong influence, but nearly half — 47 percent — think business interests have a somewhat strong interest.

Voters gave lower marks for the influence of environmental groups and social-service advocates.

The Hawaii Poll was taken by telephone among 614 registered voters statewide from May 4 to 10. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.

The poll shows that labor's political power is viewed differently by Demo­crats than by Republicans and independents.

Just 38 percent of Democrats said labor unions had a very strong influence, while 64 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents did. Forty-five percent of union households believe labor has a very strong influence.

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VIDEO: Abercrombie Bickers with Maui Nurses

While all other Hawaii Government Employee Association (HGEA) members have agreed to cuts to pay and benefits, HGEA nurses have not. When Abercrombie approached the audience, Maui nurses came forward to put questions to the governor. The exchange appeared heated at times. This video, shot by Elaine Bridge, captured the exchange.

Barbara Larrabee Duarte, a part-time ER nurse from Maui Memorial Medical Center, cites several problems with the pay cut.

“We have a revolving door issue with staffing [at MMMC],” Duarte told Maui Now via phone. “We’re losing nurses who can get better pay elsewhere, and are left with inexperienced nurses.”

Currently, the starting pay for an entry-level nurse at MMMC is $30/hour, which rises to $35/hour after two years, according to Duarte. However, Duarte herself, who claims to have 24 years of experience, and a Masters in Nursing, makes only $37/hour.

Gov. Abercrombie responds to the nurses' pay issue at the MACC, May 15 2011. Image courtesy of Elaine Bridge.

“Nurses at private hospitals on Oahu make around $55/hour.”

As a result, MMMC hires “traveler” nurses to fill staffing gaps, which costs the system $100/hour after pay and expenses. Duarte cites this as government waste, when the money could be better spent on keeping resident nurses. There are around 55 such traveler nurses at any one time.

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Nurses group questions MMMC rent payments for empty structure

For more than two years, Maui Memorial Medical Center has been paying $600,000 per year to rent a 20,000-square-foot empty building next to the Kaiser Maui Lani Clinic on Maui Lani Parkway.

The rental payments were an irritant in the recent vote by Hawaii Government Employees Association nurses on a new contract - a contract they rejected.

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HPD's 2 deputy chiefs intend to give up posts

Both deputy chiefs in the Honolulu Police Department will step down from their posts at the end of the month, the two men said last night.

Deputy Chief Delbert Tatsuyama will retire, while Deputy Chief Randy Macadangdang will return to being one of several assistant chiefs.

Several sources said Assistant Chief Dave Kajihiro and Maj. Marie McCauley will replace them, making McCauley HPD's first female deputy chief.

Tatsuyama has been in the news following his son's arrest last week for an alleged theft at the Nordstrom Ala Moana store, but sources said the 31-year HPD veteran had been planning to retire for a while. "I've had a good career," he said after last night's Police Week ceremony for fallen officers.

Macadangdang, who will make 28 years on the force in August, would make more pay as an assistant, (getting top three) whose salaries are tied to collectively bargained pay of lower-ranking officers. Various factors went into his decision to return to the rank of assistant chief, he said last night. Both Macadangdang and Tatsuyama were assistant chiefs at the end of 2009 when then newly appointed Police Chief Louis Kealoha tapped them to be his top deputies.

HNN: Chief of police responds to controversy surrounding deputy chief's son

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Honolulu inflation ranked No. 4 in nation in 2010

Honolulu had one of the highest inflation rates in the nation last year, but economists say rising costs won't threaten the state's economic recovery.
The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization said in a recent report that Honolulu's 2.1 percent inflation rate is expected to ease slightly this year, but the state will continue to be vulnerable to oil price swings.

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SA: OIP has public duty to issue opinion

The unique integrity of the state agency charged with protecting public disclosure of government records has taken a blow by punting in face of opposition from the governor over disclosing the names of judicial nominees. The Office of Information Practices should honor its obligation to decide whether a request that records be open has merit, and say why or why not.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has indicated that he will refuse to divulge the names of prospective judicial nominees regardless of any opinion of OIP. Cheryl Kakazu Park, OIP's director, explained in a letter to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Civil Beat that preparing an advisory opinion would be "futile." If extended across the breadth of state government, such a policy would put Hawaii's Sunshine Law under a deep cloud….

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Fact Check: Abercrombie wrong about Medicaid Enrollment Growth 

Abercrombie said: "Since I started running for governor, 18,000 children have been added to the Medicaid lists in the state of Hawaii. 18,000."

He used the example to underscore some of the financial challenges facing the state.

But is his figure accurate?

Not according to numbers compiled by the Hawaii Department of Human Services, which tracks state Medicaid programs.

From April 2010 to April 2011, there were 6,789 more children — those defined as 19-years-old or younger — enrolled in Medicaid….

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Beacon Communities' birthday emphasizes 'journey' ahead

CMS is also launching some new programs though its Innovation Center. The first, the Pioneer ONC Model, "invites experienced ACOs to join together and work at a rapid pace for higher level of share savings and higher level of risks," said Joseph McCannon, senior advisor to the administrator at CMS. If this is successful in the third year it would go to a population-based model, he said.

The second program, the Advanced Payment Program, is a "proposal to explore an advance on shared savings that would be expected as a function as part of the Medicaid Shared Savings Program," he said. Comments on the proposal are being accepted through June 17, McCannon added.

The third program, the Advanced Development Learning Sessions, will include four sessions that will begin on June 20 that will focus on preparing people for the accountable care experience."

"There is no longer any question that we will be moving to healthcare financing that rewards value over volume,"said ONC head Farzad Mostashari, MD.

But he stressed that, "it is not about the technology. It's about what we are going to do with the technology."

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HMSA, Kaiser in the black so far this year

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, the HMO, reported $2.8 million net income from the first quarter. Revenue was $261 million, up from $238 million a year ago when Kaiser ended the first quarter in the red.

Hawaii Medical Services Association, the Blue Cross provider for Hawaii and by far the state's largest health insurer, reported $8 million in net income. Revenue was $519 million, up from $434 million a year earlier.

Both Kaiser and HMSA got almost half of their net from financial portfolios they maintain as a hedge against operating losses in case of epidemic or miscalculation. In each case the net was only about 1 percent of money taken in through premiums.

The key reality driving health care organizations is that rates and premiums only go up at set times - some premiums rise on Jan. 1 and some on July 1 - while costs rise gradually throughout the year. Often, losses in later quarters will offset extra cash in earlier ones.

KITV: Insurer Reports 20,000 Joined Program

SA: Insurance companies report healthy profits

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Unity House tries to sell Lotus hotel

An investor has offered to buy the Lotus at Diamond Head hotel in an $18.5 million deal that would help the hotel's financially struggling owner, Unity House Inc., emerge from bankruptcy.

Unity House, a local nonprofit social welfare organization benefiting organized labor, is seeking U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval to sell the 51-room boutique hotel to Nobuka USA Inc., a company led by Katsuhiro Kinoshita.

However, documents filed in the bankruptcy case show that the deal includes hitches that could get in the way of completing a sale.

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Wind Farms get a pass while Enviros hammer KIUC over dead birds

Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm, filed a lawsuit against the co-op in March 2010 on behalf of Hui Ho‘omalu I Ka‘Aina, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, Center for Biological Diversity and American Bird Conservancy.

After being indicted for criminal violations of the Endangered Species Act, KIUC settled the case with the U.S. Justice Department in May 2010.

“It’s unfortunate that two lawsuits were needed to get KIUC to take responsibility for its actions,” said Marjorie Ziegler of Conservation Council for Hawai‘i. “Corporations operating in Hawai‘i should understand their kuleana (responsibility) to protect our precious natural heritage.”

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Property taxes 180% higher after Supreme Court rejects Kauai Ohana Amendment 

In 2004, a time when property values were escalating, Kaua‘i was debating a proposed charter amendment related to property tax rates called the ‘Ohana Amendment. That year, the Homestead Class (owner-occupied homes) contributed $4.5 million in revenue. The‘Ohana Amendment passed, but in 2007 was subsequently overturned by the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court. By 2010, when home values were falling after several years of escalation, the homestead class contributed $8.1 million in revenue.

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Crisis? Council: $200K trash haul study waste of money

The Hawaii County Council majority made clear Monday its displeasure with a $199,950 consultant contract comparing Hilo landfill expansion costs to trucking garbage to Puuanahulu….

The county in 2009 paid consultant CH2MHill $525,000 to create the Integrated Resources and Solid Waste Management Plan, a 10-year plan required by state law. A report within the plan put the per-ton cost of trucking Hilo's garbage to the West Hawaii landfill in Puuanahulu at $82, compared to $69 to $73 a ton to expand the Hilo landfill into adjacent quarries.

WHT: W. Hawaii paying 77% of isle property taxes

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Kauai Councilman Votes Money for his own Non-profit

Kaua‘i County Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i responded Monday to some community concerns over a possible conflict of interest stemming from his participation in a certain departmental budget review meeting last month.

The first-term councilman, who was appointed April 12, participated in a discussion involving funding for the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney on April 19. OPA distributes federal monies — in the form of Victim of Crime Act assistance grants — to the YWCA, where Kuali‘i serves as the director of operations.

According to County Charter Section 20.04B, any elected official, appointed officer, employee, or any member of a board or commission who possesses or acquires such interest as might reasonably tend to create a conflict with his duties or authority, or who is an owner, officer, executive director or director of an organization in any matter pending before him shall make full disclosure of the conflict of interest and shall not participate in said matter.

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FACE Rallies for illegal migrants

Approximately 200 people rallied for U.S. immigration reform Sunday at Ala Lani United Methodist Church, sharing stories of families torn apart, of people trying for decades to get family visas and of indiscriminate enforcement of illegal immigrant laws.

Terri Erwin, lead organizer of Faith Action for Community Equity, or FACE, said that while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are supposed to prioritize enforcement against dangerous criminals, targets on Maui include single mothers, parents and "people who are going about their business."

RELATED: Illegal aliens get past TSA, jet off to Hawaii with forged ID

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Star-Advertiser makes room for Democrat Campaign Commercial

by Rep Chris Lee (D-Waimanalo) Yet, for all our progress, working women still face frustrating obstacles and impossible choices. In March, after months of searching, my friend Stacie finally found a good job. She is now pregnant, but scared she cannot afford enough time off and will be forced to choose between her family and her career. It would help if her husband could stay home with their child, but his job does not offer paid paternity leave.

For women like Stacie, making ends meet can be even more difficult because, on average, a woman in Hawaii still makes $9,934 less each year than a man. This inequity hurts women and hurts our families. It especially hurts single mothers, and two out of three cannot afford basic necessities like food, rent and health care.

Women still face an uphill battle to improve Hawaii's labor laws. Despite strong advocates, bills to address equal pay in the workplace and help women balance dueling career and family expectations routinely take a back seat to other issues….

Someday I hope to be a father, and I want a better life for my future wife and family. If we make these issues priorities today, it can happen.

Stacie is not sure how she will make ends meet if she leaves her job to care for her new baby. However, the next election is just around the corner and she plans to vote for a candidate who will help end discrimination against women in the workplace and put families first. So, too, do I.

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Obama’s sister: Private schools should share resources with Public Schools

You know we have here in Hawaii private schools for public purpose.  Punahou and some others are involved.  And I think that private schools are part of the community and I think also should share resources and ideas with public schools.

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Court rejects appeal of Kamehameha case

The students' lawyers, Eric Grant of Sacramento, Calif., and David Rosen of Honolulu, issued a statement saying they were disappointed because the refusal "means the illegality of Kamehameha's policy will continue to evade scrutiny."

The high court's action "is in no way an endorsement of that policy," they said.

"We have always believed, and continue to believe, that disclosing the names of minor children in face of the documented threats would be reckless," the lawyers said. "Our clients' parents agree and have made the responsible decision not to risk the safety of their children.

"Accordingly, the present case is finished."

The lawyers did not say whether they would represent others willing to disclose their names and challenge the admissions policy.

But in their statement, they said, "Regrettably, we believe that this precedent will make it extremely difficult for the illegality of Kamehameha Schools' racially exclusionary admissions policy to be resolved in the courts."

The suit was filed after an unnamed student and his mother settled their lawsuit challenging the admissions policy for $7 million in 2007.

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VIDEO: Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial ground breaking

It was a ground-breaking ceremony many believed was long overdue. A memorial honoring Hawaii's law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Sixty-one have made the ultimate sacrifice; their names are part of what's known as the "end of watch roll call."

"Too many of our colleagues, friends and loved ones are no longer here but in both spirit and memory, they are with us, their examples guide and inspire us in our efforts to strengthen the cause they so faithfully and well served -- the cause of justice," said United States Attorney Florence Nakakuni.

Soon those men and women will be a part of a memorial on the Honolulu Hale Civic Grounds.

HNN: Groundbreaking held for police memorial

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Dopers fire back at Green, Shapiro

David Shapiro’s column on tightening up on Hawai`i’s medical marijuana rules was mean-spirited and ill-informed (“Green on right track to make medicinal pot rules more rigid,” Volcanic Ash, Star-Advertiser, May 4).

Rather than our state law being “loosey goosey,” we are the only place, besides Vermont, where the program is housed in a law enforcement agency.

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Akaka introduces foreclosure overhaul in Senate

The legislation would end the process of foreclosures proceeding at the same time as homeowners are being considered for non-foreclosure alternatives.

The measure also requires banks and mortgage servicers to create a single point of contact for homeowners to work with.

Progressives: New Source of Mortgage Mediation Funds

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Hawaiian Crab Extinction Linked To Ancient Human Presence

But they were ono good!

Also: Strange mountain-climbing crabs ruled Hawaii over 1000 years ago

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