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Thursday, June 16, 2011
June 16, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:57 PM :: 7994 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Honolulu Alliance forms to block Federal Control of Hawaii Capitol Area

Are Electric Cars Really Green?

A Showdown over the War in Libya

Despite mileage, SUV will be leased for Abercrombie—perfect for tailgate parties at Probowl

Compare the absence of media coverage on Abercrombie’s 15mpg guzzler with the hatchet-job they did on Lingle when she leased an Infiniti…SB 2008: Despite mileage, SUV will be leased to Lingle

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Abercrombie’s GE Tax hike causes first of many price hikes

A measure just signed into law suspends general excise tax exemptions for certain companies. Matson is adding a new shipping fee to offset the cost, and other businesses are eyeing price hikes.

Pallets of fruits and vegetables are on the move at Armstrong Produce. Most of the items are shipped in from the mainland. The cost for each container will soon be going up….

Hawaiian Airlines will also have to pay taxes to the state. The company estimates the impact will be roughly $20 million dollars a year. A spokesman said the airline has no plans right now to raise prices, but officials are looking at all options to manage the added cost.

 

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EUTF Audit “raises red flags” about “completeness and accuracy”

A valuation report (which looks at assets and liabilities) of the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund is required every two years, and one is due for the current budget year ending June 30. But the firm only released its latest report — covering 2009 — last month.

Now, as its contract comes up for renewal, the company says it can turn around a new report by December, one-fourth the time it took to produce the 2009 report.

At a monthly trustee meeting Wednesday, EUTF Administrator Barbara Coriell recommended the board again use consulting firm Aon Hewitt for its fiscal 2011 report. She cited "an advantage to staying with the same company."…

The 2009 report has also raised red flags with the Hawaii State Auditor which would like to "test the completeness and accuracy of the underlying data that was provided from EUTF to Aon," according to an EUTF accounting operations report. (Quick Guess: That lack of “completeness and accuracy” is what caused the 2 yr. audit delay.)

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Hawaii Public Employee Health Fund Audit M.I.A.?

A financial audit of Hawaii's health insurance fund for public workers and retirees is months overdue — and the state has been unable to reach the California firm paid more than $100,000 for the work.

Donna Tonaki, the trust fund's financial management officer, told trustees of the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund at a monthly meeting Wednesday that she expected the draft audit two weeks ago. But accounting firm Macias Gini & O'Connell has not returned phone calls or emails for the past two weeks.

The hold up could trigger a delay of the Hawaii's statewide audit, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report — aka the CAFR — which is already past due. (The most recent CAFR available is for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009.)

(The accountants took one look at EUTF finances and lapsed into a catatonic state. Nobody has been able to reach them since.)

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Panel recommends including military families when redrawing district lines

members of the Oahu advisory council said they were not motivated by politics. Republicans and Democrats on the council supported counting nonresident military and their dependents.

"I believe we have risen above petty politics in this," said Mike Palcic, who serves on the Oahu advisory council and is a Republican activist….

the Reapportionment Commission has heard from several people over the past few weeks that nonresident military and their dependents should be counted as a matter of fairness.

Thomas Smyth, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who works with the Military Officers Association of America's Hawaii chapter, said he would not want to see a bumper sticker that said: "Crooks count, but heroes don't count."

The Reapportionment Commission deferred a decision on the issue until it formally receives a report from the Big Island advisory council, which recommended last week to exclude nonresident military and their dependents from the state count.

Victoria Marks, the commission's chairwoman, said Wednesday that the commission has declined to release legal advice from the state Attorney General's office on the population base at this time. She said the commission has additional questions for the attorney general on the issue.

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Kids with parents in the military join Operation Purple on Oahu

They cheered as two large helicopters circled overhead on a sunny Wednesday at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia.

The choppers were being flown by Marines from Kaneohe Bay and pilots with the U.S. Coast Guard, adding significance to the cool factor for camp participants who had parents in those branches of the military.

About 160 children are participating in the weeklong "Operation Purple" camp, which ends Saturday. They have participated in traditional camp activities like archery and swimming, but also talked about what it is like to have one or both parents in the military.

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More Charges in Hawaii Human Trafficking Case

Two new allegations include “harboring for financial gain” or harboring an “alien” from March 1, 2005, to October 27, 2010, “for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain.” Though no details are offered on the names of the individuals, sources say these could be two of the 44 workers who remained loyal to the Sous after the others were told to leave when their visas expired.

Another new charge relates to a fraud allegedly perpetrated in court through a unique video presentation that the Sous’ attorneys presented in court during their sentencing negotiations (sentencing that never occurred since their plea was thrown out).

According to Thai workers interviewed at that court hearing, the man in the video presenting himself as their cook was not actually their cook and the driver claiming to be their driver really had only escorted the workers on very rare occasion. Both witnesses in the video could not be cross-examined that day because they were not in court, but they claimed the workers were not mistreated. The federal government says the Sous “corruptly obstructed, influenced, and impeded an official proceeding” with a video “that contained false and misleading representations.

Several workers, still living in the islands, are on the verge of leaving their families homeless and destitute in Thailand because the banks they were directed to borrow money from by the Thai recruiters are about to foreclose on their loans.

HR: Global Horizons ‘Bad Sam’ Pleads Guilty to Role in Alleged Thai Trafficking Case

Look at who supports the traffickers:

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Ernie Martin meets with Cronies to get HUD story straight before becoming Council Chair

We'd like to be a fly on the wall in the meeting between Community Services Director Sam Moku, Deputy Director Bridget Holthus and City Council member Ernie Martin this morning.

We just spotted Moku and Holthus in the City Council waiting room, and Moku confirmed he was there to see Martin, who preceded Moku as director of Community Services. Moku was reluctant to say what the meeting would be about, but said it was not about the recent HUD investigation into the city's handling of federal grants.

The details surrounding HUD's investigation are dense but there's some juicy stuff in there. Catch up on our earlier coverage, including the piece Civil Beat published this morning:

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Rail Supporters angered by inability to control public meeting

"We need to get on board with the rail. Do rail right. And I believe that rail has gotten off the track. And that's what this meeting is about," Berg said before the meeting got underway.

Inside the school’s cafetorium, more than 250 people packed the meeting, which Berg claimed was supposed to help reach a "consensus on rail."

"This is a both pro and con meeting tonight, to just allow for open forum discussion,” Berg said.

Asked by a reporter if it wasn’t an anti-rail meeting put on by the anti-rail council member, he responded by saying, “Absolutely not.”

Asked if there were any rail supporters who are scheduled to address the crowd, he said, “We have an open forum, open mike throughout the meeting tonight." (Turnabout IS fair play!)

The meeting started with a half-hour presentation on rail transit by Panos Prevedouros, the University of Hawaii engineering professor and rail critic who ran unsuccessfully for Honolulu mayor last year.

(The rail supporters are sooo pissed that Berg has used their own tactics against them.  Hilarious.  How this works: The Delphi Technique)

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Kenoi vetoes Hawaii Co budget

The council move to create a council-adjusted expense account is the most serious of Kenoi's concerns, the mayor wrote. The council has the power to reduce specific appropriations, but decided not to do so, instead opting to create the account and asking the administration to find $5.8 million to cut from the other accounts. Ashida wrote that doing so violated the county charter's separation of powers provision….

"The only thing that will satisfy Billy Kenoi is if we leave the budget as proposed by Billy Kenoi," Yagong said. "The budget isn't Billy Kenoi's budget. It isn't the County Council's budget. The budget belongs to the people."

The council has until June 30 to override Kenoi's veto. Yagong said he will lobby the council to do so.

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Two measures regarding government housing agencies signed into law

Senate Bill 1394 authorizes the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to enter into contracts with developers to develop public housing projects in exchange for commercial space in the project.

Legislators said the bill would give the authority the ability to develop new housing for the state's lowest income populations "by enabling the agency to incentivize partnerships with market-rate housing developers."

Senate Bill 1241 repeals the conveyance tax exemption for low-income housing projects certified by the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

Legislators said said the tax "has not been a significant barrier" to affordable housing development because the tax is paid by the seller and not the purchaser who develops the project.

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Enviros: Bag Tax to come back again next year 

With surf sessions, beach clean ups and movie nights, the event will be a multinational blast. “There’s that stereotype of environmentalists being gloomy and judgmental,” says Stuart Coleman, the Surfrider Foundationʻs regional coordinator for Hawaii, and freelance writer for the Honolulu Weekly….

The group’s campaigns, however, are all about business. The Oahu Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation participated in 2010’s global “Rise Above Plastics” campaign by introducing and merging two bills in the State Legislature to place a small fee on the use of plastic bags. This was its first step on a long journey towards the group’s ultimate goal to ban both plastic and paper bags.The move was strongly backed by the community; local industries, organizations and individuals submitted 210 testimonies supporting the bill.

Ironically, the bill failed to pass. “A few powerful legislative leaders in the House chose not to vote on the bill due to the fact that the [state] budget was taking up all the time on the last day of the committee,” explains Tim Tybuszewski, co-chair of the Oahu Chapter, “Although the Bag Bill had plenty of popular support and enough votes to pass, many other good bills were stalled on the last day of session and not given a floor vote.”

Despite the disappointment, the O’ahu Chapter–in typical Surfrider fashion–has not given up. They plan on re-introducing the bill in the 2012 legislative session, hoping for more time to campaign and get the necessary votes. With the amount of support the bill received this year, it would not be surprising if they succeeded.

REALITY: SB1363 10-cents-per-bag Tax: Greens, Big Business, Big Government team up to Rip Off Consumers

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NYT: As Number of Medicaid Patients Goes Up, Their Benefits Are About to Drop

To hold down costs, states are cutting Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals, limiting benefits for Medicaid recipients, reducing the scope of covered services, requiring beneficiaries to pay larger co-payments and expanding the use of managed care.

As a result, costs can be expected to rise in other parts of the health care system. Cuts in Medicaid payments to doctors, for example, make it less likely that they will accept Medicaid patients and more likely that people will turn to hospital emergency rooms for care. Hospitals and other health care providers often try to make up for the loss of Medicaid revenue by increasing charges to other patients, including those with private insurance, experts say.

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Honolulu program exchanges 563,000 dirty needles in year 

Last year over 563,000 used syringes were exchanged, and other items were given out to drug users who shoot up. (1540/day, 10,780/week)

"Here's the alcohol pads, the cooker, the tourniquet," said Barrineau.

The needle exchange is a 22-year-old effort in Hawaii to cut down on the spread of HIV and Hepatitis.

"We're successful in preventing the spread of infection," said Dr. Michael Johnson, the executive director of CHOW.

Even as the number of needles exchanged has grown, Hawaii's rate of HIV infection for injection drug users has stayed at 15 percent.

But those who work on the streets are seeing a troubling trend. Older addicts still use heroin and methamphetamines but more people under 30 are injecting prescription drugs.

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Pointy-headed UN Bureaucrat sez Homelessness is a US Human Rights Abuse

Confucius, in his Commentary to Hexagram 21 in the 3,000-year-old Chinese oracle “I Ching” wrote “Innocence and guilt are clearly distinguishable in the eyes of a just judge.” (This quote is designed to make you think the author is intelligent.  He now uses that illusion to pawn off some stupidity.)  In the case of American homelessness, that just judge was a United Nations investigator, Raquel Rolnik, who sent a report to the UN in February 2010 stating, “The US is guilty of human rights abuses and shameful neglect of 2.5 to 3.5 million homeless people.”  (“The US” is “guilty” because a tweeker spends his rent money and steals from his mother to feed his addiction?  Blithering idiocy.)

Here are some abusers of the homeless: Kapiolani Park: Homelessness industry takes Hawaii tourism hostage, Defeating the "homelessness industry" before it gets a grip on Hawaii, Homeless tent cities: Seattle’s decade-long nightmare coming to Honolulu?

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Kalihi Homosexual sent back to prison on Kiddie Porn Charges again

A Kalihi man who has done three prison terms for child pornography and violations of his supervised release is once again headed back to prison, after photos of young boys in sexual poses were found in his home, prosecutors said.

Jed Abregana, 41, is not the only member of his family accused of being a chronic sex offender. His twin brother, Jay, is in state custody accused of the videotaped molestation of a 12-year-old boy. Three years ago, federal prosecutors sought to have Jay Abregana placed in a secure mental institution as a sexually dangerous person, but a judge found there was not enough evidence of dangerousness.

Just ignore this:   Changes to Hawaii Kiddie Porn Laws Proposed

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Another teen arrested in connection with Highlands Intermediate shooting

Police say a 14-year-old Pearl City High School student was booked on suspicion of first-degree theft and a firearms offense at HPD headquarters at around noon. Investigators believe he stole a 45-caliber, semi-automatic pistol from his father and sold it to a 16-year-old boy, who then turned around and sold it to the 14-year-old boy who's accused of firing it at Highlands Intermediate May 23rd.

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Clashing visions over Turtle Bay’s expansion meet rural resistance

Three years ago, Hawaii’s then-Gov. Linda Lingle proclaimed her vision of a “fundamental transformation of our economy,” which would move away from the current one based, as she claimed, “too narrowly on land development.” The first Republican governor since Bill Quinn, Lingle uttered the heresy in her 2008 State of the State address. “It is as certain as night follows day that we cannot speculate or sell ourselves into prosperity,” she told lawmakers.

Lingle repeated the formulation later in the speech when she rocked everyone by proposing that the state buy the 850-acre Turtle Bay Resort property near Kahuku. Zoned since 1986 for maximum resort development, the gorgeous but troubled five-mile stretch of coastal land had nevertheless languished, with only the single Turtle Bay hotel on it for the past 37 years. Land prices, in the wake of the popped real estate bubble, were low. It was “an opportunity,” Lingle said, “for the community to shape a vision for this part of the North Shore.”

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US imposes catch limits on Pacific waters

Annual catch limits will be imposed on all fish within American territorial waters in the Pacific by the end of the year.
The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is meeting in Honolulu.
It is discussing recommendations for the management of fisheries surrounding Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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Venture Capitalists splash out for 2 ac garden, call it farm

In February 2007 David Leaf launched LEAF Hawaii. He then converted it to a 501(c) (3) nonprofit corporation in April of that same year. The next month, LEAF participated in the Compassion Capital–Hawaii Moving Forward Fellows Program at UH-Manoa. The Fellows program’s mission to build organizational capacity helped LEAF move ahead very quickly in developing its organizational stages. The grant from Compassion Capital enabled LEAF to create a sustainable strategic plan, which has helped carry LEAF toward its long-range goals and objectives.

LEAF has partnered with the Honolulu Community Action Program (HCAP) to begin developing a healthy food system model at its 2-acre Waimanalo farm project. Phase one involved clearing the land of overgrown elephant grass and preparing the soil for growing. The cleared area will be used to create vegetable and herb gardens, as well as some long-term fruit and flower-bearing tree planting areas.

(There’s still time to get in on the second tranche!  This puppy is going to be an IPO in early 2013.)

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Sierra Club to Honolulu Mayor: Don’t Waste Taxpayer Money on Subsidizing Metal Recycler

The Executive Committee of the O‘ahu Group of the Sierra Club wishes to express our strong opposition to Bill 36 and we respectfully urge you to veto this proposed piece of legislation, which is so clearly detrimental to the health and financial wellbeing of the citizens of the City and County of Honolulu.

We reject the proposition that taxpayer money should be used in this time of economic distress -when urgent spending is being cut and taxes are being raised- in order to subsidize a single highly profitable company to continue to dump Automobile Shredder Residue (ASR) into the Waimanalo Gulch landfill.

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SA Oi: Just stop Growing the Economy

As far as continued economic expansion, maybe the time has come to pull back and to live within the means of our resources.

Maybe more and bigger isn't better or even necessary. Providing the best we can for ourselves with what we have seems a stronger strategy for the future.

At the same time, it is the sensible means by which to preserve the islands for the enjoyment of residents and visitors without having to detach the umbilical cord of tourism.

(And the young people can just keep leaving until there is nothing left.)

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A fifth of Big Island homes are vacant as youth flee Socialist Hawaii

Almost one in five Hawaii County homes were vacant when census workers made their rounds last year.

The 57.7 percent increase in vacancies over the past decade, coupled with a 6.6 percent increase in the median age, may point to an economy where home ownership is out of reach and younger workers flee in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

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Waianae homes ‘affordable’ at $319K

The company's 2011 Home Listing Report compares its average home listing prices for four-bedroom, two-bathroom properties from September 2010 to March 2011. An average listing in Waianae was $319,633, versus the $797,675 price for a Honolulu home.

Compared to the national average of $293,251, the average four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Hawaii overall was $558,654.

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