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Sunday, June 05, 2011
June 5, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:20 PM :: 8037 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

$134 Million Mystery: DoTax suddenly admits “unusual reporting, systemic problems, inconsistencies”

Djou: City has squandered any goodwill resulting from 2008 Rail vote

Big Isle Plastic Bag Ban Hearings to begin June 7

307th Signal Battalion returning from Afghanistan

Raid on Hurricane Fund tied to DoTax Reporting

Immediately upon taking office, Abercrombie popped $67 million of the hurricane fund into restoring some of last year's furlough school days.

This wasn't much of a surprise except for the alacrity of the new governor's actions. The 2010 Legislature had already authorized the administration to dip into the fund and Abercrombie has promised during the campaign that he would take them up on the offer.

Then this year, a poor winter and anemic spring pointed to a tax collection shortage this year. To prevent that, Abercrombie asked lawmakers to again raid the hurricane fund. Just last week, he signed legislation allowing him to pull out another $42 million, or as much as was needed.

RELATED: $134 Million Mystery: DoTax suddenly admits “unusual reporting, systemic problems, inconsistencies”

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Star-Advertiser: City Parking Meters could Point to Solution to all of State’s Economic Problems

His other major point — that businesses need to partner with government more strongly — also resonated, although that theme needs more detailed development. Coming off a legislative session when tax breaks were rescinded to balance the budget, it's hard to picture now how these partnerships, including his plea for private-sector help with parks improvement, would benefit business. Government can reasonably hope that recovering tax revenues could allow for new, or resuscitated, tax incentives in coming years.

Recent events do suggest some other openings. For example, the city government plans to partner with a private contractor in the updating of its parking-meter system. The contractor would assume the front-end costs for a city beset with cash-flow problems, and would reap part of the proceeds from parking fees and fines. Perhaps that approach — having businesses share revenues as well as costs — could apply elsewhere.  (This is old hat in other states, but the SA goes on tippy-toes to even broach the possibility for Hawaii.)

Further, some of the looming fiscal problems Lim describes — the costs of caring for an aging population, just to name one — could become the necessity that is the mother of invention. If the private sector can find ways of meeting needs more effectively, such new strategies and services would be in great demand and profitable, helping a budding innovations economy reach critical mass.  (If???  The private sector has worked in other jurisdictions to solve these problems for years--but the SA editors act as if they were writing about putting a man on Mars.)

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BoE Recognition Diplomas drop 42%, fewer go on to College: SA Trumpets “Improvements” 

The state's education reforms are being driven by a $75 million Race to the Top grant, which the U.S. Department of Education awarded Hawaii in August.

In its application, Hawaii pledged that by 2018, all students will meet or exceed math and reading standards; every high school graduate will be ready for college or a competitive career; and Hawaii's college-going rate will increase to the national median (62 percent).  (Hahahahahahahaha!   They must have had fun writing that one!)

The college-going rate for public high school graduates remained at 50 percent in 2010 for the second consecutive year (Not mentioned, it was 51% in 2008 so it has dropped by 1%.)

P-20, led by the Good Beginnings Alliance, the state Department of Education and the University of Hawaii, puts together the "indicators" report to gauge how academically ready Hawaii's grads are for life after high school. The figures were first compiled for the class of 2008, and also include school-by-school statistics.

The report, for example, shows that Kalani High once again topped the state for the percentage of students who went on to higher education, with 77 percent of 2010 graduates enrolling in a two- or four-year college. Nanakuli High had the lowest rate among noncharter schools, with 27 percent.

The new report also shows less than one-fifth of last year's graduates were awarded the state's recognition diploma, which requires a minimum 3.0 grade point average, more rigorous math and science courses, and the completion of a senior project.

In 2009, 31 percent of public high school graduates attained the diploma…  (but the DoE has some excuses, so don’t worry.)

REALITY: Coverup: DoE changes tests, surveys to create illusion of progress

P-20 New Exec Director Karen C Lee: Battling back from Sex Harassment charges, Stacy Higa gets a nod from leading Feminists

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Hawaii taxpayers could pay $5 billion more than expected for state retiree health benefits, a study finds

The price future generations of taxpayers will pay for retiree health benefits for an aging public work force has grown by more than $5 billion to an estimated $14.5 billion in a matter of two years, according to a consultant's study of the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund.

An Aon Hewitt report released in May by the EUTF with a July 2009 valuation date showed a much higher so-called unfunded actuarial accrued liability — or the cost taxpayers will eventually pay for state and county retiree health benefits. A previous report valuated two years earlier pegged that number at $9.2 billion. The annual cost of the long-term liability is estimated at $1.1 billion compared with $684 million in the 2007 report….

…The estimated taxpayer cost for retired public workers, including teachers, whose benefits were merged this year under the EUTF, is $17 billion. The future unfunded liability is an actuarial projection based on medical inflation, life expectancies and discount rates….

Currently, the EUTF, which covers about 200,000 active and retired public workers and their dependents, is on a pay-as-you-go system, with annual benefit payments estimated at $390.2 million this fiscal year, up from $336.8 million in fiscal 2010, according to the latest report.

"The state is supposed to be making annual contributions … knowing there is a future liability," said Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii. "They haven't been willing to put aside enough to make the system stand on its own — to be self-sufficient — because they always figure it's subject to the market. I don't care if the market goes up; if you don't tithe regularly you're not going to amass the capital you need to cover future benefits."

But EUTF Administrator Barbara Coriell questions whether pre-funding the future obligation would be the best use of state money.  

(But, but, but if they don’t pre-fund it, how will they ever be able to raid the funds?)

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Hawaii missing its chance to promote long-term care insurance

Forty-three states have already implemented the federally-supported Partnership Program to limit the high and growing costs of long-term care to their expanding senior populations.

These states recognized the immediate need for long-term care services for their seniors and passed proactive legislation to financially incentivize citizens to own long-tem care coverage.

This protection pays for care in a policy owners' home or community, limits likelihood of nursing home stays and reduces the family burden of long-term care giving. It also saves money for policy owners and state and federal governments.

While Hawaii's Legislature attempts to reinvent the wheel with committees, consultants and studies, these 43 states have already adopted the Partnership Program, a collaboration of insurance companies and state governments that allows long-term care insurance owners to retain assets equal to the amount of long-term care coverage used, if later qualifying for Medicaid or health welfare.

(But, but ,but…if more people have LTC Insurance, then HHSC will have fewer LTC patients backing up into its Acute Care beds and keeping the system afloat.  And if HHSC goes private, then 4500 workers ared no longer paying dues and taking political marching orders from HGEA and UPW.)

State by State:

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Marks: Redistricting Commission still has to decide whether to Count Military Personnel

The state commission is holding its meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday in the state Capitol.

Chairwoman Victoria Marks said a number of factors have yet to be decided before the commission begins the serious work of dividing the state. One is which components of the population will be taken into consideration, such as whether students and military are considered part of the base of permanent residents.

Whether to allow so-called "canoe districts," where a House or Senate district is split across islands, will also be a factor. The Big Island formerly shared a canoe district of North Hawaii and East Maui….

The commission is also considering the possibility of allowing multi-representative districts, where a group of representatives represent a single area, in the same manner as districts for the former elected Board of Education.

"No decision has been made," Marks said. "The advisory councils are meeting on their islands and will get back to us with their recommendations. We're awaiting their input before making any decisions."

REALITY: Reapportionment: Democrats don’t want to count Military Personnel, do want to count Felons

RELATED: 38.9%: Hawaii has most deviant Legislative Districts in Nation

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Will Luddites Kill Hydro on Kauai?  KIUC Members to Vote June 13

At the door of the Veterans Center, KIUC employees, such as Anne Barnes of public relations and marketing, handed out fans that said“hydro” on one side and “yes” on the other. They also passed out KIUC literature that encouraged members to vote yes on their ballots and share their reasons for voting “yes” with other members.

“This is not the venue to discuss or decide these issues,” Asquith said of the three-minute time limit. “How did we end up here, with signs that say ‘hydro, yes’? The signs should say ‘FERC, no.’”

Proudfoot warned that if members vote no, “contracts will have to be terminated and payments will have to be made to contractors and it will be a possible end to hydroelectric projects on Kaua‘i, at least for the foreseeable future.”

Ballots will be mailed to members on June 13.

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UH Manoa Political Correctness Leaves Police Unarmed at Haleakala

In May, two officers from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations arrived at Maui News offices, requesting that they be allowed to see the leaked records. The newspaper refused to give them access to the documents.

The first official complaint detailing the officers' concerns, dated Sept. 24, was signed by U.S. Air Force police officers William Fobbs, Richard Cherry, Waldo Fujie, Frank Pittman, Terence Alling and Christopher Dixon.

The letter was addressed to Maj. Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Lt. Col. Mike Harvey and Capt. James Mikes. Officers said they were taking their concerns up the chain of command because their numerous efforts to resolve issues with supervisors Larry Wallman and Matthew Mitchell had been ignored.

A follow-up complaint filed in November was signed by officers Shad Smith, Steve Lucas, Cherry, John Martin, Fujie, Fobbs, Millard Pantorilla, Dixon and Pittman.

Several officers have apparently since resigned.

…They said they had been told that they didn't need guns; that Air Force command would not allow guns; that an agreement with the University of Hawaii, which leases the site to the Air Force, prohibited guns; that officials feared an officer might shoot an unarmed protester; or that the administration feared a gun might be discharged and injure someone.

(This no guns agreement is a result of the compromise agreement spawned by the anti-UARC protests at UH Manoa.)

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Public Housing Authority to no longer be Flop House for Homeless?

Hawaii Public Housing Authority officials say the proposals, which still must be discussed in public hearings and voted on by the agency's board, are about fairness and making sure there is a mix of incomes and family types in public housing. They also said it doesn't make sense to continue adding to the waiting list, giving families false hope about their chances of getting into housing.

The number of families on the waiting list for public housing has increased by 22 percent — or nearly 2,000 families — since January 2010….

Denise Wise, HPHA executive director, said getting rid of preferences — and moving to a "date and time" placement system — would be a more equitable and efficient way of choosing who gets into public housing: first come, first served….

For families with preference, the wait to get into one of the state's 6,121 public housing units is now about two years. Those without preference may have to wait seven years or longer. (One person without preference who was recently placed had been on the waiting list since 1997, and finally secured a unit because he had "aged into" elderly housing).

Currently, the housing authority has preferences that guarantee quicker placement for the homeless, victims of domestic violence or people who have been involuntarily displaced.

Of the 10,456 families on the waiting list in May, about 7,000 claimed preference, the HPHA said. Of those, about two-thirds — or nearly 4,700 families — were homeless.

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Volunteers Clean up Warehouse Ruined by Homeless Camp

About 25 volunteers, representing various organizations, were participating in Saturday's clean-up of this site.

Over the last four years since the laboratory moved out, the large warehouse owned by the state has become a haven for the homeless….

"It's part of revitalizing Kakaako and making it the Silicon Valley of electric cars, we also want to give back with some community service," said volunteer Mark Piscioneri, who works with electric car company, Wheego Hawaii.  (huh?)

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Plans to build electric cars in Hawaii stalls

Korean electric car company CT&T made a splash in three states when it rolled shiny, tiny vehicles off big rigs and announced with smiling governors that it would hire hundreds of Americans to build them in new factories.

But those plans have stalled in Hawaii, Pennsylvania and South Carolina without anyone hired, any plants constructed or any electric cars assembled.

The South Korean electric car and golf cart manufacturer has apparently abandoned its pledge to the three states - without notice - and deserted its new U.S. markets amid financial difficulties, The Associated Press has learned….

Since the governors of all three states attracted publicity and news coverage for CT&T, the company has gone silent. Its phone lines in Atlanta and Los Angeles have been disconnected, and the website for CT&T United remains under construction.

CT&T had said in May of last year it intended to build an assembly facility in Hawaii that would employ up to 400 people and produce up to 10,000 vehicles a year. Hawaii hailed the automaker as it has struggled for years to diversify its tourism-dependent economy and shed its image as a difficult place to do business because of high costs, taxes and red tape.

But, said Maria Tome, renewable energy program manager for the Hawaii Energy Office, "They did their thing and they left, and I haven't heard anything since."

RELATED: GM site tries to keep U.S. in fuel cell race

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Battle of the sex trade: Concerns over prostitution and the welfare of victims are slowly prodding a toughening of Hawaii laws

The 2011 bill takes a different approach from legislation that passed last year, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle. At that time lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2045, which created a new section criminalizing "sexual human trafficking."

The veto dismayed its advocates, but upon taking office, Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro examined the issue and ultimately agreed with Lingle's reasoning.

"Using the word trafficking, we never had trafficking defined," Kaneshiro said. "And there's going to be all kinds of interpretation, so of course it's going to delay. It's going to go to the Supreme Court for a firm definition.

"It's in vogue to use the term, it's politically correct. That's the term that's going around, and everybody's using now," he added. "For us in the legal system, it may be in vogue but now it has to be tested. It's going to cause more problems for us."

Instead, Kaneshiro's staff worked with the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman — Sen. Clayton Hee — and other lawmakers to toughen up existing statutes that target the demand side of the prostitution problem, adding penalties for the "johns," as well as for those making the biggest profits.

Groups worried about the state's approach to human trafficking were uneasy that there was no terminology in law distinguishing the pimps for willing prostitutes from those engaging in what they view as a modern-day form of slavery. But Kaneshiro is resolute on that point.

"One of the things the human trafficking people wanted: ‘Can't you use, instead of calling it "promoting prostitution," can you call it "sex trafficking?"' And I said no. It's going to deflect from what we're trying to accomplish."

"One of the lawyers for the Thai laborers said one of the victims of trafficking at the farms went to an official at the labor department to complain, but (the official) didn't look into it any further," Keith-Agaran said.

SA: Hawaii attempts to toughen prostitution laws

TOTALLY RELATED: Board of Education: the Transsexual-Libertarian Connection

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The monopoly newspaper ignores yesterday’s North Shore storm, flooding

I’m trying to understand why today’s Star-Advertiser has virtually no news of yesterday’s storm in either the print edition or online edition….

Forgive me for thinking that having a part of the island cut off for hours might be news. Could emergency vehicles get through? Fire? Ambulance? Any photos? Any reporters on the scene, or as close as could be gotten to the scene of the flooding?

From online comments, it wasn’t much better in Kailua and Kaneohe.

It seems that Sunday’s Star-Advertiser had gone to press and any news from Saturday would just have to wait. But that doesn’t explain the absence of online reporting on the mess. Would the old Advertiser and Star-Bulletin both have failed to get anything substantive for Sunday editions? I doubt it.

HNN: Torrential rain floods Windward Oahu

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Abercrombie signs law protecting military children when they switch schools

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed legislation Friday that continues Hawaii's membership in 39-state Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.

The law, first enacted in 2009, had been scheduled to expire June 30.

The law says military children should be quickly enrolled in their new schools, placed in appropriate classes regardless of attendance requirements and be made eligible for extracurricular activities.

It also allows the child of a deployed service member to finish the school year at the school currently enrolled while in the custody of a guardian.

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Hilo begins Direct Flights from LA, SF 

In December, Continental Airlines announced that as a result of its merger with United, the two carriers would have more planes at their disposal, and would therefore begin offering daily nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Hilo, and a weekly nonstop flight between Hilo and San Francisco.

Direct flights between Hilo and the mainland have not been provided by a major carrier since United canceled that service in 1983. More recently, ATA Airlines flew between Oakland and Hilo for less than two years before it went out of business in April 2008.

The first daily flight will arrive at Hilo International Airport from Los Angeles at 7:40 p.m. Thursday.

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Dopers to rally for Legal Dope at Capitol

…if they remember to get off the couch….

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