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Wednesday, June 08, 2011
June 8, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:46 PM :: 7250 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

WSJ: Health Care Initiative Draws Fire, 93% of MD refuse ACO/Medical Home program

VIDEO: Former Sen. Rick Santorum announces GOP Presidential Bid

Hawaii DoH Scientist: Shame on the EWG for panic about Hexavalent Chromium in Honolulu Tapwater

Ed Case: Our Challenges, My Beliefs, Your Support

Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia named Chief Information Officer of Hawaii

Historic Kaumakapili Church Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Emotional reunions for Schofield soldiers returning from Iraq

More than 350 Schofield Barracks soldiers returned to Hawaii on Tuesday after a year-long deployment in Iraq. The families of the men and women from the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team anxiously waited for a glimpse of their loved ones at Wheeler Army Airfield….

During their tour of duty, the soldiers spent time in three northern provinces: Diyala, Salah ad Din and Kirkuk. They helped to train Iraqi security forces as part of Operation New Dawn. Five soldiers in the brigade were killed in action….

The brigade is not the last unit from Schofield Barracks in Iraq. The 25th Infantry Division Headquarters is deployed to Baghdad, and is expected to return in November.

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Abercrombie: Wizard will save Hawaii from Hurricane, but he is Preparing Disaster Kit Just in Case 

Asked by a television reporter whether he has any plans to issue revenue bonds to cover hurricane reinsurance given that his administration plans to drain the hurricane relief fund to get through the fiscal year that ends in June, the governor said he would rely on other sources.

I plan to work with the wizard …that is a bill that you don’t know about yet. I’m going to sign a wizard bill, and the wizard is going to prevent the hurricane from coming.  (laughter)

That’s strictly secret. I’m sorry you brought it up. I thought we agreed ahead of time …

Getting serious, Abercrombie urged residents not to worry about an empty hurricane relief fund or reinsurance but to instead focus on personally preparing for a hurricane.

Abercrombie said he is getting a disaster supplies kit for Hale Kiaaina, the governor’s residence.  “Do it,” he said. “Don’t wait `til the end.”

KHON: Hurricane fund to be drained

HTH:  $165 million in discretionary capital improvement projects heading to the Big Island

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Hawaii's economic growth ranked among lowest in nation

Hawaii had one of the nation's poorest-performing economies last year, registering growth of just 1.2 percent, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Hawaii's growth rate was the 44th lowest out of the 50 states and was well below the national average of 2.6 percent when adjusted for inflation, according to the report.

The biggest contributors to Hawaii's economic growth were accommodations and food service, the real estate sector and retail trade. The largest drags were construction, nondurable goods manufacturing and agriculture, the Commerce Department reported.

The growth in Hawaii's economy last year followed a 2.6 percent contraction in 2009 that reflected the impact of the economic recession.

The report said Hawaii's inflation-adjusted GDP totaled $59.3 billion, up from $58.6 billion in 2009. On a per-capita basis, Hawaii's GDP was $43,615, the 19th highest in the nation. Alaska topped the list at $63,424….

SA: Tourism looks for return of business travel market

LINK to Report: http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_state/gsp_newsrelease.htm

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PBN: Hawaii tax department seeks independent auditor

The request is in response to various organizational problems identified by the state auditor in a 2010 report, as well as Tax Director Fred Pablo finding “unusual reporting” in the monthly tax revenue reports, according to a statement from the department.

Letters of interest from professional auditing firms must be submitted by June 13.

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Panos Prevedouros Raising Money for 2012 Mayor's Race

University of Hawaii professor Panos Prevedouros is raising money for a 2012 run for Honolulu mayor.

After two losses in his bids for mayor in 2008 and 2010, Prevedouros told Civil Beat at a rail groundbreaking ceremony in February that he might stay on the sidelines in 2012. But now, Prevedouros says he's in it to win it:

"My team and I have a solid, workable plan to repair and maintain the roads, sewers and trash facilities to make Honolulu a better place to live," Prevedouros wrote on his website. "Our goal is to win the 2012 election."

Prevedouros also took shots at Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle:  "We have seen already that Peter Carlisle has become a ONE ISSUE mayor," Prevedouros wrote."His sole purpose seems to be to build rail at any cost. While he is making multiple trips to Washington DC to schmooze for rail we continue to have daily water main breaks, trash flowing to the ocean from an overused landfill and sewers that do not meet EPA standards. He has proposed tax and fee hikes that would even make Mufi Hannemann blush."

In the 2010 mayor's race, Carlisle earned 38.7 of the votes. Former Honolulu Managing Director Kirk Caldwell trailed him with 34.6 of the vote. Prevedouros came in third, earning 18.9 percent of the votes.

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Augean Stables: Bhagowalia to face piles of paper, magnetic tapes, Wang Computers other artifacts of forgotten past

Bhagowalia starts his job in June, which pays a $179,700 salary. He will prepare a plan for improving the state's information technology by the time the state Legislature convenes next January, Abercrombie said.

Potential changes he could enact include enabling more electronic transactions with the government, digitizing unemployment check printouts, improving computer communications between state departments and creating a government data center.

Currently, backup tapes of government data are carried by cart to the state archives every day, which isn't a secure way to protect the state's information, said Comptroller Bruce Coppa.

"IT was malfunctioning in the state," Coppa said. (WAS?)

(Poor Bhago has no idea what he is in for… wait ‘til he sees the file cabinets.  Wait ‘til he sees the files piled on top of the file cabinets….)

CB: And the Wang Computers….

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DoE Cutting $32M without adding a Single Furlough Day 

…thus proving that the furloughs were just a scam designed to influence the 2010 election results.  But duh!  Who doesn’t know that already?

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Horner Chokes on $1000 psf Construction Costs

Among the agenda items for the board finance committee -- capital improvement projects and priorities, including a new 10,000 square foot classroom building addition at Ewa Elementary.

"How does it cost us $9.6 million construction cost?" BOE chairman Don Horner asked. "That I can't understand."

That comes out to about $1,000 a square foot. The board chairman -- a 35-year banker in Hawaii -- says a host of other private schools are building for about a third of that cost.

"There's no way the state should be paying that kind of cost per square foot, because that money is coming out of someplace else, either student achievement or the taxpayer's money," said Horner.

He suggested the department's 62 capital project focused staff -- engineers, architects and the like -- figure out a better way.

"You ought to sit down with those folks and understand how that can possible happen, because that number is not acceptable," Horner said.

(That’s not the only $1000/psf. construction project.  Check out the Bond Library in Kohala.)

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Old BoE member complains that New BoE doesn’t allow random ranting and raving at Meetings

Maralyn Kurshals, the Leeward representative on the former elected board, told Gov. Neil Abercrombie's appointees at a Tuesday board meeting that she believes the board's policies have made it harder for people to be involved in the policymaking process….

When Chairman Don Horner asked Kurshals to connect her public testimony to an agenda item, Kurshals retorted that such a policy is "extremely restrictive."

As boring as it may be to listen to people rant and drone by turns, she said, it's an important component to the public process.

Earlier in the meeting, Horner reprimanded other testifiers for speaking on non-agenda topics.

"This is my first time sitting on this side of this table," Kurshals said. "I'm not saying this because of any sour grapes….”  (yeah)

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Tsutsui Let Lawmaker Vote To Confirm His Own Son

Senate President Shan Tsutsui told Civil Beat in an email that conflicts of interest are narrowly construed by Senate Rule 85 [pdf], which applies to legislation in which a member "has a direct financial interest." Even when a senator may directly benefit financially, there's an exception permitting the vote if he or she is part of a larger group affected by the official action.

A "snapshot" of verbatim floor dialog [pdf] on Days 26, 41, 47 and 59 of the 2011 session reveals the five measures in which a senator requested a ruling on a potential conflict of interest.1 The Senate's full verbatim journal is not available online for the public to review, but a Senate spokeswoman provided Civil Beat with the snapshot after reviewing the record for the 60-day session.

Among the five disclosures was Sen. Will Espero's request for a ruling on whether he could vote to confirm his son, Jason Espero, to a position on the Hawaii Public Housing Authority Board of Directors. Espero was told there was no conflict and that he should vote.

The only reasons that a lawmaker can be excused from voting, aside from a possible financial conflict, are when a senator's right to a seat in the Senate will be affected by the question, or when their official conduct is involved, according to Senate Rule 71 [pdf].

In another instance, Sen. Sam Slom disclosed that his son was a senior at St. Louis School as the Senate debated a bill that would allow the issuance of special-purpose revenue bonds for the school.

After he was told there was no conflict and that he could vote, Slom was a little more clear in his request.

"Thank you for the ruling, Mr. President, but because of the appearance of self-aggrandizement, I still would like to recuse myself from this vote," he said. The measure passed with 24 ayes and Slom excused.

KITV: State Paying $35K To Rid Capitol Of Bird Droppings

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Berg 'Concerned' About Aide Tampering with Hawaii Rep's Email

City Council member Tom Berg says he is "saddened" and "concerned" about reports that his chief of staff, Eric Ryan, hacked Hawaii Rep. Kymberly Pine's website and government email account.

"The whole staff is saddened about this," Berg told Civil Beat Tuesday. "We don't want anything to interfere with our workload. These kind of distractions are very much frowned upon and discouraged. We all want people to handle their affairs in a professional manner."

After Civil Beat reported Pine's email and website had been hacked, Ryan sent an email explaining that he tampered with Pine's accounts because she owed him money.

Technically, the action against Pine appears to have involved swapping the header image that normally appears on her website and in the body of her emails with an image that said "Kym Pine is a CROOK."

Berg says the incident is a reminder that people should "take heed" about who they put in control of the servers connected to their websites, but he also says he doesn't know or want to know exactly what happened.

"I don't want to know," Berg said. "I don't want to be involved. It bothers me, it rubs me the wrong way. If there is a bill owed or monies owed for work, that's not of party to our City Council. That's external, and so whatever's going on between parties regarding a dispute on a billing statement is not of fodder for me or the office. We want to keep that, whatever it is, separate."

Ryan's job as Berg's chief of staff is not in jeopardy as a result of the stunt, Berg said.

(Hey Tom.  What part of “FIRE ERIC RYAN” do you not understand?  How difficult is this to figure out?)

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Eric Ryan, Will Hack For Food

According to CivilBeat: “The chief of staff to Honolulu City Council member Tom Berg hacked Rep. Kymberly Pine’s website and government email account and is responsible for putting up postings and sending out an email calling her ‘a crook’.”

When finally cornered, Ryan seemed to rely on a food deprivation defense and accused Pine of stealing food right from the mouths of Ewa Beach residents.”

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“Austerity” Maui Council hikes budget 9% -- spares nonprofits

The Maui County Council on Tuesday gave final approval to a $564.73 million budget for 2012, with funds for road resurfacing, a new Kihei police station and the replacement of the county's aging emergency responder radio system.

Council members struggled for hours to find a way to restore funding to nonprofits without raising the county's minimum property tax. They finally narrowly approved a plan to take the funds from money that had been earmarked to replace an aging firetruck and for watershed protection programs.

The final budget, which takes effect July 1, includes $463 million for county operations and $101.7 million for capital improvement projects. It represents a 9 percent overall increase in county spending over the prior fiscal year.

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Rohlfing: Reapportionment should adopt multimember districts

On May 10, the commission's chairwoman directed a letter to the attorney general inquiring whether legislative MMDs are allowable under our state and federal constitutions, and (assuming that question is answered affirmatively) whether we can have both multimember districts and single-member districts….

This representation structure, however, came tumbling down in 1981 when Hawaii's federal trial court ruled in favor of a plan that featured solely single-member districts (SMDs) in Travis v. King. Court masters fashioned a temporary reapportionment plan that used total population less certain transient populations and used only SMDs. Conservative Republicans at the time argued — mistakenly, I believe — that the Legislature needed to be divided into SMDs in order to comply with the earlier decisive U.S. case of Reynolds v. Sims in 1964. No appeal was filed, hence, the appellate federal courts have not been heard from on the appropriateness of MMDs in Hawaii.

(There is no evidence that MMDs are legal in Hawaii after Travis v King.)

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HUD Threatens to Recoup $7.9M From Honolulu

The federal government has notified Honolulu officials that they may have to return $7.9 million if the city fails to act on possible misuse of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant monies….They found ORI, a Central Oahu day-center that serves elderly and disabled people, was not in compliance with several of the rules associated with accepting the grant money.

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SA: Council errs on rail, recycling

On the one hand, we see some feeble votes in areas where they really should have stood firm. Just for starters, there's been the waffling on whether the city should continue subsidizing recycling firms such as Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corp., which it shouldn't.

On the other, they're now adopting the pose of micromanagers where they should not, if effective development of the rail system is a goal. Last week, the Council voted to authorize $104 million in bond financing as part of the rail budget for the coming 2011-2012 fiscal year. But in doing so they attached strings — chains, really — that will only serve to bog down the project and add costs to the taxpayers' tab.

In Bills 33 and 34, which set out the first-year operating and capital improvement budgets for rail, the Council inserted language to keep all spending under its control: "No monies shall be expended by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation for any purpose from the Transit Fund or Transit Improvement Bond Fund, unless such monies are first appropriated by the City Council."

LINK: Ansaldo Launches New Honolulu Rail Website

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RAIL SUIT: City Lawyers could represent Council against Mayor AND Mayor against Council

Two Wolves And A Lamb Decide On Dinner….how can city lawyers represent both sides in a lawsuit between the Mayor and the Council? Are government lawyers not subject to the usual conflict-of-interest and ethical rules that prohibit lawyers from the same office from representing both parties in a lawsuit, especially when both parties are existing clients?

Nope, not in Hawaii. In County of Kauai ex rel. Nakazawa v. Baptiste, 115 Haw. 15, 165 P.3d 916 (2007), a three-Justice majority of the Hawaii Supreme Court held that there is "a well-established distinction between private attorneys representing private parties and government attorneys representing government entities," and concluded that in a lawsuit between the County Council as plaintiff, and the Mayor as the defendant, the County Attorney could represent both sides.

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Tesoro reviewing its isle refinery

Tesoro Corp. is "looking at alternatives" for its Hawaii refinery, Chief Financial Officer Scott Spendlove said at an RBC conference in New York Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News.

Spendlove jokingly asked Holly Corp. Chief Executive Officer Matt Clifton, who was also at the conference, if he'd be interested in owning a refinery in Hawaii, Bloomberg reported. Holly Corp. is an independent refiner based in Dallas.

San Antonio-based Tesoro said last year it hoped to dramatically improve the profitability of its underperforming Hawaii refinery….

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Everything you've heard about fossil fuels may be wrong: The future of energy is not what you think it is

Are we living at the beginning of the Age of Fossil Fuels, not its final decades? The very thought goes against everything that politicians and the educated public have been taught to believe in the past generation. According to the conventional wisdom, the U.S. and other industrial nations must undertake a rapid and expensive transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy for three reasons: The imminent depletion of fossil fuels, national security and the danger of global warming.

What if the conventional wisdom about the energy future of America and the world has been completely wrong?

As everyone who follows news about energy knows by now, in the last decade the technique of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," long used in the oil industry, has evolved to permit energy companies to access reserves of previously-unrecoverable “shale gas” or unconventional natural gas.

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NJ court: No shield law for message boards posters

The New Jersey Supreme Court says people posting in online message boards don't have the same protections for sources as mainstream journalists.

The court ruled Tuesday that New Jersey's shield law for journalists does not apply to such message boards.

The case involved a New Jersey-based software company named Too Much Media. It sued a Washington state blogger for defamation and wanted her to reveal sources she cited on message board posts.

RELATED: Association of Alternative Newsweeklies protests subpoena of Maui Time online Commenters’ IDs

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