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Friday, August 19, 2011
August 19, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:32 PM :: 7359 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Thousands line Highway for funeral of Big Island Marine Killed in Afghanistan

HSTA Leaders see Conspiracy by Other Unions?

SA: Abercrombie bringing back Pension Tax

the governor noted the need to fix the state's "structural" debt at the start of his administration, but he quickly seized on a menu of financing options that largely stalled in the state Capitol.

There were adjustments to retirement benefits for public workers hired after July 2012 that will accrue some savings, but several other needed proposals didn't fare as well. These included bills to:

  • » Eliminate state Medicare Part B reimbursements for new state hires and their spouses;
  • » Require the EUTF to provide group life insurance coverage only to public workers who retired before July 2011;
  • » Tax pensions as a means of raising more state revenue.

Granted, they were a tough sell, but the administration lacked a sufficiently focused messaging campaign.

If the governor wants a better outcome in the next go-around, a more detailed and coherent road map for achieving the various goals needs to emerge.

read … Governor needs to be specific 

HSTA innuendos, attacks on Character similar to Nazis Big Lie

At times becoming choked up during her announcement, before proceedings began, Moepono said she is "concerned with the accusations, innuendos and scurrilous remarks made about my integrity."

She added she has repeatedly made her husband's HSTA membership known publicly. Moepono's husband, a student services coordinator with the Department of Education, attended the hearing Thursday.

"Our careers have strictly been our own achievements," Moepono said, adding she has been disheartened to see the "attacks that have been hurled against me by his own union, his colleagues." She did not make clear where the statements were made, but such comments have appeared online….

"In a very, very important case, the employer is now left without its employer representative," Halvorson told the board after Moepono left the hearing room. Halverson added that he would research state law to determine whether someone else could be appointed to fill the vacancy.

But he added that he knew of no provision to fill a recusal vacancy….

Halvorson scoffed at HSTA's arguments, comparing them to the Nazi Germany "concept of the big lie, that if you say it often enough, the people will start to buy into it." He added that the letter asks for a settlement conference in response to calls from the union to enter mediation.

Must Read: HSTA Leaders see Conspiracy by Other Unions?

read … Moepono leaves labor-dispute case after verbal attacks

Hawaii Labor Board Says Gov's Letter Not a Problem

The Hawaii Labor Relations Board ruled Thursday that a controversial letter from Gov. Neil Abercrombie to the board was not an unlawful attempt to influence the board's decisions in a dispute between the teachers union and the state. 

read … Hawaii Labor Board Says Gov's Letter Not a Problem

Boylan: Dazed Hirono no match for TEA Party, Rail Could Be Cut

After the long and embarrassing debate over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, the members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation came home last week looking dazed. In a press availability, U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye put the best face he could on a bad, one-sided deal: “It’s a first step, not a final solution.”

It certainly isn’t. When Congress reconvenes, a commission of 12 six Democrats, six Republicans will begin work on cutting $1.2 trillion more by Dec. 26….

So here we are, staring at the abyss once again come December. What’s a Democratic congresswoman from faraway Hawaii to do at such a daunting prospect? Said Mazie Hirono last week: “I’m going to continue to focus on jobs, the middle class, seniors and kids.”

I wish Hirono luck, but fear she will meet with frustration. The current national unemployment rate hovers above 9 percent. Hawaii stands at an enviable 6 percent, but looks far worse to anyone whose unemployment contributes to that 6 percent.

Hirono spoke of a program to repair the nation’s infrastructure as a means of creating jobs. Obama has been talking about some such program for the past three years.

Once off the ground, Honolulu’s rail project will create jobs. But nationally it’s difficult to imagine Tea Partyers slashing with one hand and agreeing to a significant jobs program with the other.

read … A Problem With Political Disciples

Hanabusa Supporters ‘Split’ On Future

Hanabusa says that among the supporters who have suggested a path for her, it’s an even split between those who want her to stay in the House or move to the Senate. But it’s clear that she has thought about establishing seniority in the U.S. Senate by going after the seat the Sen. Daniel Akaka will vacate in 2012.

“It really is very ironic,” Hanabusa said. “For some reason, people feel that we are succeeding to a person’s position. So I’ve had many comments that I should succeed Sen. Inouye. People don’t understand that you don’t succeed a person, it’s a position itself, and there are issues of seniority. It’s really fascinating.”

Hanabusa says she’ll still make an announcement in August, but wouldn’t say exactly when.

read … Hanabusa Supporters ‘Split’ On Future

Statehood Day Today

Slow-Moving Bureaucracy, 1968 Technology, costs Abercrombie’s DoT $19.2M

Drivers registering vehicles before mid-September for stickers that expire before Oct. 31 can celebrate the break they were given from the higher fees. But their lucky timing means the state Department of Transportation's annual goal of an $86 million budget to repair and maintain state roads across the state will fall short this year.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill on June 8 that implements a costlier weight tax formula for every car, truck and SUV registered each year in Hawaii. Then on June 23, Abercrombie signed a separate bill to increase the annual registration fee for every vehicle to $45 from $25.

The Legislature passed the bills to go into effect on July 1 to help generate nearly $56 million per year to repair potholes and crumbling bridges and maintain lighting, landscaping and road signs on state highways across the islands, said Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

But employees with the city Department of Information Technology who maintain the antiquated, 1960s-era vehicle registration computer system for every island did not begin recalibrating the system until Abercrombie signed the bills, said Dennis Kamimura, Honolulu's licensing administrator.

read … Fee delay costs state $19.2M

Bhagowalia: Hawaii IT is Worse than Expected

There are some challenges: Some of the business processes involve a lot of paper, a lot of extra steps. ... There's just a lot of paper that's pushed and then re-entered into systems. It's very, it's behind the times. ... They do it in a manual and paper-intensive way….

Q: Are we more behind than you thought we were?

A: Yes. On the one hand I prepared for the worst, but it was a little worse than I expected. ... The amount of paper that we (in the state) process is unbelievable. It's quite amazing. The vintage of some of the technology, I didn't think I saw that for 10, 15 years, and I saw it. ... I saw some software. I'm sure they were good companies back then, but I didn't realize they were still providing service, or we had tapes, or things like that.

So we have some of that. ... On the one hand one can smirk -- I can look at it and it's like, "Wow! What's this?" -- and one does that.

Related: Wang Computers

read … Sanjeev Bhagowalia

Green Energy Spending Boosts Inflation in Hawaii

Higher gasoline and electricity prices pushed Honolulu's Consumer Price Index up 3.5 percent in the first half of the year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday.

Gasoline rose by 17.8 percent and electricity was up 19.5 percent. Excluding energy prices, the overall increase in the CPI was just 2.3 percent.

read … Inflation hits 3.5% on higher electric, gas prices

Will Ansaldo Be Able to Obtain Bonding?

The discussion of the so-called core systems contract, led by HART Audit/Legal Matters Committee Chair Ivan Lui-Kwan, glossed over the stickier parts of the weekend ruling that rejected Sumitomo's appeal. And the financial woes of Finmeccanica, the parent company of winning bidder Ansaldo Honolulu, were hardly mentioned at all.

Finmeccanica's troubles have been well-documented. Last month, the company's chairman was probed over alleged use of slush funds. The chief executive talked about restructuring that could include a sale of the unprofitable transportation division.

Sumitomo Vice President Gino Antoniello raised those points in testimony Thursday morning.

"The parent company said, 'You're no longer a core business.' The parent said, 'We don't want you, we'll sell you,'" Antoniello said. "The parent chose that route because they're not making money. The parent chose that route because they haven't performed well in the past."

When board members gently asked Interim Executive Director Toru Hamayasu about Ansaldo's finances, he pointed to the letter he sent to the company this week seeking some final paperwork and requesting information on "any material changes in the financial capacity" since the city first evaluated prospective bidders. Hamayasu said the "acid test" will be if the company can secure the bonding that will show a financial institution believes the company is a good bet to make good on its promises.

read … HART Uses Kid Gloves on Controversial Rail Contract

Enviros working to Impose Carbon Tax On Hawaii Without Legislative Approval

The possibility of a Hawaii carbon tax has cropped up as the state debates greenhouse gas rules that are supposed to go into effect on January 1, 2012.

The recommendation of the tax was supported by four out of 10 members of a task force that was set up to advise the state Department of Health. Members supporting the measure included: Robbie Alm, executive vice president of Hawaiian Electric Co.; Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation; Maxine Burkett, a professor at UH Manoa’s Richardson School of Law; and Makena Coffman, a professor in UH Manoa’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

The carbon tax was also one of three main proposals submitted to the DOH by an independent consultant paid to evaluate Hawaii's options for reducing greenhouse gases….

But whether the state has the authority to implement the tax without approval by the Legislature has come under debate.

“It’s an item we are wrestling with,” said Priscilla Ligh, a DOH environmental engineer writing the rules. “According to lawyers, we might not have authority because some sort of constitutional law that only allows the legislature to [approve] taxes.”

The state is facing a looming end of the year deadline to come up with the rules, which are required under Act 234, passed by the legislature in 2007. If it doesn't meet the deadline, the department could be exposed to potential litigation for failure to comply with state law.

In part, the possibility of a carbon tax comes down to whether it’s structured as a fee or a tax, according to Ligh, who said she had been consulting with outside attorneys on the matter. She also said that it was unlikely to be part of any initial rules, as it would probably face challenges. DOH has the power to revise the rules later.

But others, including Mikulina, believe that the legislation does afford DOH these powers.

“In the Act, it contemplates them establishing some sort of carbon fee,” said Mikulina. “It may be semantics in terms of whether it’s a carbon tax or fee. The question may be what the money can be used for.”

It also could be a matter of how the department structured it, according to Doug Codiga, an environmental lawyer who represents Blue Planet Foundation.

“The taxing authority is reserved for the Legislature, so it would depend on how the carbon tax is structured and how broadly it was applied,” he said.

What rules, if any, will be enacted by the end of the year is also up in the air. Ligh said it was unlikely that the department would meet the deadline.

CB: Hawaii Greenhouse Gas Rules Missing In Action

Reality: "95% water vapour" Global warming debunked by New Zealand Meteorologist

read … A Hawaii Carbon Tax?

NASA: Space Aliens May Exterminate Humans to Stop Global Warming

It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.

Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain.

(Your tax dollars at work)

read … Aliens may destroy humanity

No way to extract Military, Students from Redistricting

That ZIP code data doesn't jibe with the more-detailed Census data used for redistricting, which uses Census blocks.

For example, reapportionment staff compared military population data versus Census data for the three largest bases on Oahu.

  • Kaneohe Marine Corps Base: the Department of Defense says there is a total of 7,646 military residents, including dependents, living in the 96863 ZIP code. The U.S. Census data shows a total population of 52 for that ZIP.

  • Schofield Barracks: the military says there are 18,012 military residents living in the 96857 ZIP code. Census says: 2,522 total population for that ZIP.

  • Pearl Harbor: the military says there are 3,536 military residents living in the 96860 ZIP code. Census says: 1,124 total population.

In all three cases, the military-provided population counts are much larger than the Census population reported, making it impossible to extract non-resident military from the area…. 

The commission has a similar conflict for trying to extract non-resident college students. The University of Hawaii provided only ZIP codes for its more than 10,000 non-resident students. Chaminade University did not provide any data. Hawaii Pacific University and Bringham Young University, however, did provide exact addresses for its mainland and international students living in Hawaii.

Related: Military to be Disenfranchised so Meth dealer’s friend can keep Senate Seat?

read … Hawaii Redistricting Panel Faces 'Terrible Dilemma'

Money Grubbing Anti-Telescope Activists Demand Cut of Ticket Sales

Under questioning, Nagata said that since 2007 OMKM has received $6 per visitor from permitted commercial tour operators, or about $280,000 per year. Twenty percent of these tour receipts are "sitting in an account" intended to be transferred to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, but no mechanism exists to do that yet….

Chad Kalepa Baybayan, the master navigator and interim associate director of the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, described how Hawaii is located with the help of Mauna Kea. He noted how, while some may see the TMT as a desecration, there's "another level of desecration" when Hawaii's children are denied opportunity to learn….

The petitioners, who prefer that they be called "protectors," presented their first witness, Kawika Liu, an expert in public Hawaiian health. Liu testified that the development of Mauna Kea for astronomy is harmful to the health of native Hawaiians. He traced the poor health of many modern Hawaiians to inter-generational stress and depression caused by the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, and said the construction of the TMT would continue to harm the Hawaiian people who opposed it.

Handlin, upon cross examination, picked away at the witness, leading Liu to admit that his conclusions may be wrong and that he did not do research on the health of Hawaiians who supported telescopes on Mauna Kea versus those who opposed them.

read … UH-Hilo rests case in TMT hearing

Addressing the state’s doctor shortage

…politicians and policy makers need to stop looking the other way and engage themselves in helping Hawaii find a solution to its doctor shortage. One of the primary reasons we can’t attract doctors from the Mainland is because their pay here is lower, in most cases. And those noncompetitive wages are tied directly to Hawaii’s low reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare, which are what help set private insurance rates.

read … Addressing the state’s doctor shortage

It Gets Worse At Kaua‘i Food Bank

Last week I wrote about serious problems inside the old Kaua’i Food Bank (KFB), which was dumped-for-cause by the statewide Hawaii Foodbank but continues to operate at Nawiliwili as the “Kaua’i Independent Food Bank.”

The volumes of documents I’ve reviewed for that piece and for this follow-up story make me wonder how KIFB continues to exist, especially under its same leadership that mismanaged grants, charged agencies up to $1.65 per pound of food (the Hawaii Foodbank doesn’t charge anything) and funneled grant money to its for-profit Kaua’i Fresh subsidiary at up to a 40 percent markup (Weinberg Grant Audit.)….

Keeping KIFB open should invite audits from the IRS, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the state Consumer Protection office.

read … It Gets Worse

Disease Spreads: 2 Hawaii lawmakers elected to national positions

Rep. Pono Chong was chosen by lawmakers from across the country to serve on the 2011-2012 NCSL Executive Committee, and Rep. Marilyn Lee was picked as president of the executive board of the NCSL's Women's Legislative Network. Both Chong and Lee are Democrats representing Oahu.

The NCSL Executive Committee is the organization's 63-member governing body, which supervises and controls its affairs, committees, finances and policies.

Read … Disease Spreads

Newt Gingrich pitches Asian appeal in California, Hawaii

He’ll host a series of meetings with Thai, Korean and Chinese community leaders in the Los Angeles area on Thursday, put together with the help of Michelle Steel, a Korean-American who’s vice chair of the California State Board of Equalization….

This new appeal to Asian voters arrives in the middle of a West Coast campaign swing that will take him to Hollywood and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library for screenings of his documentaries, then to Hawaii.

read … Newt Gingrich pitches Asian appeal


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