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Friday, July 08, 2011
July 8, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:05 PM :: 8575 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Immigration Records: Obama was to have been put up for Adoption at Honolulu Salvation Army Home

Council Reorganization makes Kobayashi guardian of Ernie Martin’s Secrets

Abercrombie appoints officials to DoH, DoT

Listeria: Calvin Say’s Bentos Being Recalled from 7-11 Stores Statewide

Hawaii Spending Growing at Nearly Four Times National Average

Even as the nation struggles to bounce back from the recession, most state governments — including Hawaii's — are increasing their spending.

General fund spending is higher in all but 10 states this year. The general fund portion of Hawaii's operating budget is up by 10 percent — nearly four times the national average.

Only four states projected larger percentage budget growths than Hawaii for 2012.

In all, 40 states including Hawaii increased spending, according to a survey [pdf] by the National Association of State Budget Officers and the National Governors Association.

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Hawaiian “Haves” vs “Have-nots” take opposite sides on so-called Hawaiian Recognition Bill

The gathering for Abercrombie’s bill signing at Washington Place was telling. The celebrants inside were the “haves” among Hawaiians — legislators, OHA trustees, civic clubs, ali‘i trusts — who enjoy considerable power in the broad community and aren’t inclined to greatly rock the boat.

The Hawaiian “have nots” who have little power and want to get it by restoring a truly independent Hawaiian government were out on the sidewalk protesting the bill as a sellout of Hawaiian rights.

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Labor's ally becomes its potent adversary

Rank-and-file teachers fumed that they were not allowed to vote on what Abercrombie termed the state's "last, best and final offer." Such a strategy usually doesn't work in state collective bargaining.

State law (HRS 89-10) requires that "Any collective bargaining agreement reached between the employer and the exclusive representative shall be subject to ratification by the employees concerned …The agreement shall be reduced to writing and executed by both parties."

Today the HSTA says it didn't sign anything, while the state says, "Sorry, your options are take it, or leave it."

Hawaii is one of only a handful of states, according to Hawaii constitutional scholar Anne Feder Lee, that has put the right of workers to collectively bargain in the state Constitution. So it is a guaranteed right, not a law that can be changed, amended or dropped.

Public workers, however, have a special section saying that public workers have the right to organize for collective bargaining "as provided by law." The follow-up state law allowed for public worker unions to legally strike.

Now the state and the HSTA have gone where no union or governor has gone before. As labor lawyer Tony Gill told the Star-Advertiser's Derrick DePledge, "This is the largest and most important doctrinal innovation in Hawaii labor relations law in a generation."

If — after all the HSTA legal challenges and court cases are finished — it winds up that once a contract expires, management can dictate the terms of a new labor agreement with or without member approval, then Hawaii's biggest labor friend will have rendered public unions impotent.

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Cayetano on 2001 HSTA Strike

…It will be a long time before the striking teachers earn back what they lost during the strike. Looking back, the strikers and the public should ask themselves "was the 2001 strike worth it?"

Al Shanker, the late, revered leader of the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) once famously said "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start looking after the interests of school children." As Governor Abercrombie is now learning — this mindset too often is the biggest obstacle to the much needed reform of public education.

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Accountability: Only 6 DoE Teachers fired in 2 years

Only six teachers in the entire Hawaii Department of Education have been fired for misconduct in the last two years. That's six out of about 12,000 teachers, about one-twentieth of 1 percent. And it's four fewer than the department originally reported in March.

The department also suspended 35 teachers for misconduct over the same period — one fewer than originally reported.

Civil Beat requested in November 2010 a list of all teachers fired or suspended for misconduct during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. We asked because we knew that teacher performance and accountability are central to most education reform discussions, and both would play a key role in negotiations with the teachers union this year.

In March 2011, the Department of Education complied with our open records request and supplied a list of the teachers who had been suspended in the department over the previous two years. Out of respect for the sensitive nature of the information, we published the list of teachers' names only in a .jpg file format so they would not be picked up by Internet search engines, in the event that a later ruling cleared them from the accusation of "misconduct."

We're glad we did. This Wednesday — three months later — the department voluntarily sent us a revised list that indicates four of the terminations and one of the suspensions listed in the earlier document were later overturned.

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DoE Cronies are using Social Studies cuts to attack STEM Education

Regent Richard Gee said that he hopes that UH's focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses doesn't detract from traditional education for Hawaii's high schoolers as they prepare for college. He said he is particularly worried about the possibility that social studies requirements may be reduced.

"I hope we don't neglect the liberal arts side of education," he told Vice President of Community Colleges John Morton. "We don't want to graduate students who are technically adept and functionally illiterate."

Morton responded that the proposed graduation requirements are designed to give students more opportunity.

The proposal, he said, gives students an additional credit so those interested in STEM careers can take additional STEM courses, those interested in liberal arts can take more social studies courses, and those planning to go straight into technical careers can take more career/technical education courses.

(I was wondering how long it would take for the Democrats to find an angle to undo Gov Lingle’s STEM reforms.  Robotics will be the next target.)

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SA: Elder care needs better oversight

When it comes to sanctions, a low number of them usually means a good thing. But when transgressions are unreported or under-reported, or there's a lack of urgency in investigating questionable situations, a low sanctions rate signals that the system needs tightening.

Numerous warning bells are being sounded about the weakness of oversight of Hawaii's nursing homes. In four of the past five years, the state Department of Health has failed to meet federal standards for properly evaluating the severity of complaints, reports the Star-Advertiser's Rob Perez. The state also shows a laxness when it comes to assessing and penalizing serious deficiencies, and the regulatory gaps are worrisome given the expected demand for nursing homes in the near future.

There are 48 federally certified nursing homes in Hawaii, and presently, just 10 state inspectors to oversee them. Complaints ranging from elderly physical and sex abuse to subpar medical care have been filed, but deficient care has rarely resulted in any penalties in Hawaii, whereas they would have in other states.

The state health director, acknowledging there are problems, says hiring freezes, retirements and furloughs have stymied better inspection of nursing homes in recent years. But she sees improvements coming, including a boost in staffing. Indeed, they are sorely needed.  (It is always about the money, never about the priorities or competence of the Department.)

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Legalistic homeless move back to Ala Wai Canal

Frustrated and fed up, Ryan Castro wants to see the Ala Wai Promenade near his home cleared-out and cleaned-up.

"There's more than a number of them that you'll see with my dog walking in the morning, urinating right where kids will walk through and families walk through," he says.

…Jensen is homeless and spends his days in the Promenade. He doesn't argue he may be an eyesore, but says he's within the confines of the law to be there.

"I have the right to set up as any picnicker or any family would it's a park," says Jensen.  (Thank an ACLU lawyer.)

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Buddhist front group for Watabe Wedding Corp Exposed

But that all changed at last night’s July 7 meeting. At the standing room only event, several angry members from the Aina Haina Community Association, led by Wayson Chow, president of the association, spoke out against the project.

Chow, who said his organization voted unanimously against the project in June, disclosed the real mission they supposedly uncovered. He came loaded with documentation, transcripts and tape recordings. He said a paper trail showed that this was not a project by the Buddhists but rather by the Watabe Wedding Corporation.

Anson Rego, Art Mori and Greg Kashiwa each presented a new piece of a puzzle that revealed that in fact the actual motive for the development was for the Watabe Group to add another wedding chapel to its commercial business and conduct a direct commercial facility in a quiet residential area. Another twist – the Hongpa Hongwanji Buddhist Association was not even a signatory to the lease.

They finally did admit that Watable holds a 10-year lease with Outrigger and that the the Hongpa Hongwanji Buddhist Association has no property interest. Instead the the Hongpa Hongwanji Buddhist Resources Inc. organization was created in May of this year and would serve as co-manager. It also was disclosed that it would get an award from Watabe to advance the permitting process.

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City Starts Work on Revised General Plan

How do you see the future of Honolulu?

That was the question citizens were asked Thursday night, and their answers could well shape the island — everything from agriculture to housing to energy — over the next 25 years.

The City and County of Honolulu kicked off the process to update the Oahu General Plan with a meeting at the Mission Memorial Auditorium that was sparsely attended by a few dozen active citizens and the planners who love them.

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Excellent News: Bag ban bill trashed again

Kona Version: Accusations of improper legislation on both sides of a proposed plastic bag ban stymied the Hawaii County Council on Thursday and delayed a proposal to cut public hearings short.

The haggling forced the withdrawal, at least temporarily, of the bag issue before it could even be discussed. South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford tried to make a motion to rescind a requirement imposed earlier this year that six public hearings be held between June 2 and Nov. 15.

The county charter says public hearings "may" be scheduled by a vote of one-third the council membership. The council's rules of procedures require the hearings be held if approved by the three votes.

Hilo Version: Ford riled by council response

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OHA operatives who once fought it are now pushing Geothermal

Two decades ago, Mililani Trask aggressively fought geothermal development in the Big Island's vast Puna district.

(Baaa, Baaa. “Four legs good, two legs better!”  Baaa, Baaa.)

As part of the Pele Defense Fund, the attorney and sovereignty activist helped change the state's environmental impact statement law to be sensitive to the host culture.

Today, the Pele Defense Fund is defunct, but Trask is once again heavily involved with geothermal.

Now, though, she wants to develop geothermal — on the Big Island as well as Maui.

The difference between 20 years ago and today — a big difference — is that Trask recognizes the potential for geothermal energy to not only ween Hawaii off its near absolute dependence on imported fossil fuels, but also to be sensitive to Hawaiian culture (OHA now owns Wao Kele O Puna, site of the Big Island’s greatest Geothermal potential, and OHA is able to lay false claim to ownership of revenues from ceded lands where surprise, surprise some of Maui’s best Geo sites are.)

Henry Curtis: Energy and Power in Hawai`i (1850-93), The Death of the Pele Defense Fund

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Guam projects put in doubt

The cost estimate to move 8,600 Marines and 9,000 dependents from Okinawa in Japan to Guam, and to relocate other Marines already on Okinawa, has ballooned to $29.1 billion from $10.3 billion, according to a May U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

The Senate Armed Services Committee recently froze funding for the move and wants the Marines and Pentagon to study it further — this after three powerful senators proposed that the Guam plan be significantly scaled back, saying it was "unrealistic, unworkable and unaffordable."

The United States and Japan, meanwhile, acknowledged on June 21 that a 2014 deadline for the move is not feasible amid Japan's inability to move forward on Okinawa regarding a replacement for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is part of the deal to move Marines to Guam.

Then there was Abercrombie’s Plan: Follow the money: $10B Guam pork project benefits Abercrombie contributor

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More Federal Funds? Hawaii will feel the sting if federal government defaults

“It would be disastrous,” Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz told PBN. “But we’re still hopeful talks will have cooler heads prevail.”

If the government fails to raise the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2, the country could default on its debt obligations, causing major financial consequences.

Locally, it could mean federal dollars would be put on hold.

Sen Sam Slom: Just Say ‘No’ to Raising the Debt Ceiling

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Teachers Union To File Legal Challenge This Week

HSTA President Wil Okabe said last Friday that the union plans to challenge Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi's decision to impose a new contract on teachers without union ratification. The new contract reduces base salaries by 1.5 percent and grants teachers leave without pay on certain non-instructional days. It also increases teachers' share in the cost of health insurance premiums, from 40 percent to 50 percent.

"Given the unprecedented action, we are in the process of preparing our legal challenge," Okabe wrote in the email to Civil Beat. "We anticipate filing our action this week. In the meantime, we remain ready and committed to return to negotiations."

CB: Details Of Hawaii Teachers Contract Imposed by State

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Democrat Caucus Meets decides not to call Special Session

Majority House Democrats met in private caucus on Wednesday to discuss whether any of the bills on Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s potential veto list rise to the level of importance that they have to be addressed immediately or can wait until next session.

House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) and Senate President Shan Tsustui (D, Wailuki-Kahului) also met privately Wednesday.

HR: DEMOCRAT GOVERNOR GETS A FREE RIDE

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Cab heist suspect violated probation multiple times, was still out on street

Information provided by the city prosecutor's office showed Medeiros, who is enrolled in the Judiciary's HOPE Probation program for high-risk offenders, violated the terms of his probation several times. Prosecutors said that although he was given additional jail time for the violations, he was allowed to serve it on weekends.

Medeiros was sentenced Jan. 24 to five years' probation and 77 days in jail, with credit for time served, in connection with a pair of burglaries at Nanakuli High School in May 2009. At the time, Medeiros had already been in jail since November, and he was given credit for time served. He was also ordered to pay $13,500 in restitution.

Since Jan. 31, Medeiros was found to have violated probation three times, adding 66 days of jail time to his sentence — at least some of which he was allowed to serve on weekends. On June 13 a motion was made to again modify the terms of his probation, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest, prosecutors said.

This, too: Mental prisoner to face trial in assault of staff  (raped and murdered 6 yr old girl)

(Just wait ‘til Abercrombie lets even more of these guys out.)

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Hawaii's crystal meth use lowest since 2004

Crystal methamphetamine use fell from 1.1 percent of those tested in the first quarter to 0.4 percent in the second quarter, which is the lowest level since the company began recording work force drug testing data in 2004. The use of opiates was unchanged between the quarters at 0.2 percent, while the use of other drugs increased slightly during the second quarter:

  • THC (marijuana) edged up from 3 percent to 3.2 percent;
  • Cocaine use is up from 0.3 percent to 0.4 percent;
  • Synthetic urine use went up from 1.5 percent to 1.6 percent.

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UH Manoa Earns Maximum Reaccreditation

A decade after teetering on the edge of losing its accreditation, the University of Hawaii Manoa has received the maximum reaccreditation term possible from its accrediting organization.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges granted UH Manoa a 10-year reaccreditation period, Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw announced Thursday at a UH Board of Regents meeting

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Kauai man waited 10 years for boating permit—still waiting

Several others were concerned about the permit application process.

“I have been number one on the wait list at ‘Anini (Beach) for 10 years,” Captain Rick Prowse said. “I am still waiting for this permit to be issued.”

And there were those whose concerns simply did not favor the amendments.

Liz Homeweaver said she was against the rules because of the“recession of young people” who are leaving because of no jobs, jobs created by boating.

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Honolulu among most expensive parking spots

The median monthly parking rate of $217 a month ranks downtown Honolulu as the ninth most expensive place to park, just ahead of Los Angeles, where it costs $210 a month for parking.

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Allegiant plans to fly to Hawaii by summer 2012

An airline that connects small cities with leisure destinations has received federal certification to fly a bigger plane, a step toward providing future service to Hawaii.

Allegiant Air is aiming to add Hawaii as a destination by summer of next year, company spokeswoman Kristine Shattuck-Cooper said Thursday.

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Debris from Japanese tsunami drifting east toward Hawaii

Millions of tons of debris that washed into the ocean during Japan's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in March — everything from furniture to roofs to pieces of cars — are moving steadily toward the West Coast and raising concerns about a potential environmental headache.

Scientists using computer models say the wreckage, scattered across hundreds of miles of the Pacific Ocean, is expected to reach Midway and the northwestern Hawaiian Islands by spring and beaches in Washington, Oregon and California in 2013 or early 2014.

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