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Sunday, December 18, 2011
December 18, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:35 PM :: 9588 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Kalapa: Legislature Will Turn its Attention to Gaming

Rep Pine Renews Push for Cybercrime Legislation

Last American Troops Leave Iraq Marking End of War

KHABARI CROSSING, Kuwait – The last U.S. soldiers rolled out of Iraq across the border into neighboring Kuwait at daybreak Sunday, whooping, fist bumping and hugging each other in a burst of joy and relief. Their convoy's exit marked the end of a bitterly divisive war that raged for nearly nine years and left Iraq shattered, with troubling questions lingering over whether the Arab nation will remain a steadfast U.S. ally….

The last convoy of MRAPs, heavily armored personnel carriers, made a largely uneventful journey out except for a few equipment malfunctions along the way. It was dark and little was visible through the MRAP windows as they cruised through the southern Iraqi desert.

When the convoy crossed the border into Kuwait around 7:45 a.m. local time, the atmosphere was subdued inside one of the vehicles, with no shouting or yelling. Along the road, a small group of Iraqi soldiers waved to the departing American troops.  

read … Out of Iraq

As environmental lawsuit looms, city has contracted out nearly $3 billion for Rail

SA: The city and the newly created Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation have already signed nearly $3 billion in contracts with companies to construct the $5.17 billion project, and await a go-ahead by acting U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima of California in an environmental lawsuit brought by rail opponents including former Gov. Ben Cayetano. Tashima, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge, was named to hear the case because all nine Honolulu-based federal judges are conflicted by the nearness of the rail plan to their chambers.

The work on the elevated rail project so far has been preliminary, and actual construction activity is not scheduled to begin until February….

In the event of such a court order, Hamayasu said, there may be disagreement about what constitutes an "adverse impact" on the environment.

"Building the columns in the green field out in the Ho'opili area, where we have no known archeological findings or anything, we would argue that doesn't cause any adverse impact," he said.

Kiewit's Wilhelm said he can envision a possibility where "work in certain areas might be affected versus all the areas that could be OK to continue on with design work ... We would take direction from HART."

In the event of a brief court-ordered work stoppage, Hamayasu said, HART would ask contractors to "hold their resource while they stop working."

While the contracts would be active, he said, "Each delay like that is adding cost, both in installation and delay claims."

The Model: Robert Moses

read … $3B Obligated while Still Trying to Set that First Spike

New study offers ways to streamline the justice system to ease overcrowding

Among their key findings:

» Compared with places on the mainland, people arrested for felonies on Oahu spent much longer periods in jail before being released on bail or so-called nonfinancial terms or before going to trial.Nonfinancial terms include such things as enrolling in a residential treatment program or reporting regularly to authorities. The local arrestees were held as much as five times longer than the average in 39 U.S. counties. In one example cited by the analysts, Honolulu arrestees who were released on nonfinancial terms took an average of 71 days to get out, compared with four days in Maricopa, Ariz., home of the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-described "toughest sheriff in America." Streamlining just the pretrial process has the potential to free up more than 650 beds.

» Nearly two-thirds of parole denials over the past five fiscal years were due to programming delays within the prisons. Inmates who had completed their minimum terms were denied release because they hadn't finished programs such as substance abuse treatment, according to their analysis. Some programs had long wait lists. Many of those inmates were considered low risk for re-offending and not likely to benefit from the services.

» Parolees who committed technical, noncriminal violations, such as failing a urine test, were sent back to prison for significantly longer periods than in many other jurisdictions. Increasingly, those Hawaii parolees were held until their maximum sentences were up, adding years to their time behind bars. Yet in a growing number of other states, including some considered tough on crime, parolees who commit technical violations are sent back to prison for no more than one to three months. Such caps for low-risk inmates are considered more effective, according to Robert Coombs, the center's senior policy analyst, who is working on the Hawaii project.

The center has helped more than a dozen states evaluate their prison systems, and some have realized substantial savings as a result. Texas, for instance, closed a prison this year for the first time in its history.

Unlike some of the other states, though, Hawaii doesn't have to adopt controversial policies, such as decriminalizing offenses, or spend prohibitively large sums of money to address the system inefficiencies, Coombs said.

read … New study offers ways to streamline the justice system to ease overcrowding

SA: Tread lightly in reforming property tax

SA: The Center for Housing Policy released a report Thursday showing that Honolulu is the fourth most expensive market for homeownership in the nation; for renters, it is the third most expensive. It came less than a week after the City Council's Real Property Tax Advisory Commission released a preliminary report calling for an overhaul of the city's property tax system.

The first report might make the second one hard to swallow. But consider two things: First, the commission makes a reasonable argument that the present system is archaic, with room for improvement. Second, the Council raising taxes in this tough economy -- and in an election year, no less -- would be a spectacular miscalculation and, therefore, a remote possibility at best.

The commission does not mince words about its target: a property tax system "riddled with numerous exemptions, exclusions, and dedications that have eroded the tax base and shifted the burden of taxation to categories of properties that have not been so favored." ….

Related: Kalapa vs Property Tax Exemptions: Vitality of County Depends on Everyone Paying Their Share

The report can be found at http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/View/Collection-1656.

read … Tread lightly in reforming property tax

Machida: Public employee pension spiking is expensive flaw that needs fixing

SA: There is a serious flaw in the design of the public employee pension system. Currently the system allows a retiring employee's pension benefit to "spike" if the employee received much higher than normal compensation during short periods of employment tenure. If pension spiking is not fixed, it will worsen the unfunded liability of the state Employees' Retirement System (ERS) and further jeopardize its financial stability.

This design flaw has been a material factor in the rise of the unfunded pension liability of the ERS which stood at $7.1 billion as of 2010.

The problem can be understood from the following example based upon an actual case. An employee works for 30 years and retires at age 55. The employee's base salary steadily rises during the first 27 years of employment and reaches approximately $50,000. But in the final three years of service, the employee's compensation spikes to an average of $200,000 per year because of overtime pay. Based upon the current pension benefit formula, that employee becomes entitled to receive an annual pension benefit of $120,000 for life. That amount is 355 percent more than the normal pension without spiking.

Related: Act 100: How Hanabusa and Cayetano launched Hawaii Pension crisis

read … Top Three Years

Bidding irregularity and delays imperil rail insurance program

SA: A program that was supposed to reduce insurance costs for the Honolulu rail transit project by $20 million has been indefinitely delayed after irregularities in the city purchasing process forced the city to cancel a key contract award.

Now the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is re-evaluating whether the city should even implement the Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP), which was supposed to manage more than $110 million in insurance costs related to the rail project.

An internal investigation by the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services discovered "irregularities in the evaluation process" that selected Marsh USA Inc. for a $1.68 million contract to serve as broker for the OCIP program.

Those irregularities prompted the city to terminate the contract award to Marsh in November 2009. Two years later, the city and HART have yet to re-bid that contract or launch the OCIP effort.

read … Bidding Irregularities

Wahiawa, Pali Momi already Filled Up with Waianae Coast Emergency Patients

EMS received more than 40 calls for emergencies from the Leeward Coast from midnight to noon today, the city said. The additional units, the city said, “have ensured an adequate emergency medical response.”

EMS ambulance units from Leeward and Central Oahu had been using Wahiawa General Hospital and Pali Momi Medical Center in Aiea since Friday afternoon. However, those hospitals have maximized their capacity and are now on ambulance reroute or divert status.

EMS ambulances on the Leeward Coast are utilizing Kaiser Medical Center, Tripler Army Medical Center and the downtown hospitals until the others are no longer on divert status.

HNN: How HMC's impending closure will affect hundreds who need a kidney

Of course low Medicaid reimbursements are a key reason for the demise of HMC and with it Hawaii’s only organ transplant facility. But that doesn’t mean Medicaid is broke. Here’s what they DO have money for: DHS: Thousands of ghost names on Hawaii Medicare, Medicaid Rolls

read … City beefs up Leeward ambulance service to prepare for closures

With More Vacation Days and Separate Travel, Price of Obama’s Annual Hawaiian Holiday Rises to $4M

HR: The U.S. Secret Service has arrived, street barricades are in place, and the U.S. Coast Guard has stationed itself in the waters surrounding Kailua, Oahu. That is a sure sign President Barack Obama’s security team is preparing for the first family to arrive in the small beachside community as early as Friday night for what is expected to be a 17-day vacation.

The President and his family are traveling separately to Hawaii because he wants resolve the payroll tax cut issue before leaving Washington – and his wife does not want to wait.

But the advanced trip and the cost that comes with it – as much as $100,000 (flight and security) – adds to an already expensive vacation for the taxpayers….

read … Price of Obama’s Annual Hawaiian Holiday Rises

Financial Exploitation of Senior Draws Prison Term

HR: Joel Tacras, 55, of Waipahu, and his partner, Nora Bell, 46, of Ewa Beach, ran the “Classic Residential Care Home” on Hookele Street in Waianae. The victim, who suffers from sustained age related dementia, entered the care home in 2004. In April 2007, Bell and Tacras began to systematically withdraw cash from the victim's bank accounts, and redeem his treasury bonds, all without his knowledge. By July 2008, Bell and Tacras had taken nearly all of the victim's savings and treasury bonds.

read … Elder Abuse

Snob Power: HPD to arrest any Juveniles Caught Setting off Fireworks

Police Chief Louis Kealoha warned Friday that juveniles will be arrested without exception if they are caught setting off firecrackers this holiday season.

read … How Dare You Celebrate

Developer: Haseko has gone the extra mile to be a good neighbor in Ewa Beach

Haseko's decision to pursue a recreational waterfront/lagoon rather than a marina was not an easy one. While we understand that boaters are disappointed that they will not have public boat launching ramps or boat slips, the decision to move forward with a lagoon was based on time. We can develop a vibrant waterfront community within the next several years.

read … Haseko

Kauai Water Rates to Jump 11% per Year every year til 2014

The first increase will take effect Jan. 1. Subsequent 11 percent increases will take effect on July 1 each year through 2014. The first year’s monthly increase in the average household bill will be $4.97, bringing that bill to $49.37.

DOW Manager David Craddick said the hikes are needed to repair the island’s aging water system, parts of which are as much as 80 years old.

read … Water Hike

Hawaii County property tax system being audited

WHT: Hoffmann said the study is needed because of that lingering public perception that there are inequities in the county tax code. Although the county didn't raise property taxes this year, it did raise them last year and may have to again next year, and making sure the system is fair would restore confidence -- even if the structure isn't changed, he said.

South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford said the inequities are more serious than merely perceptions. She said a constituent brought her comparisons of similar properties in East Hawaii and West Hawaii. West Hawaii property owners are paying six, seven and eight times the taxes on almost identical properties, she said.

"When I looked at this, I almost fell out of my seat," Ford said. "It's not just a perception. It's not something nebulous. It's something quite real."

read … County property tax system being audited

The Betrayal of Liliuokalani an Embarrassment to Researchers

SA: THAT A TAPE was ever made is its own little miracle. (Lilioukalani's hanai daughter Lydia) Aholo had outlived most of her generation by the time she met Southern California author Helena G. Allen in 1969 at Maunalani Hospital above Kaimuki. Over the course of two years, Aholo allowed Allen to record 30 hours of interviews, which became the basis of a biography, "The Betrayal of Liliuokalani." ….

Ever since it was published, Allen's work drew questions. Historians wanted to hear or read an unfiltered version of Allen's interviews with Aholo but had no access to the material, said Barbara Dunn, administrative director of the Hawaiian Historical Society. They complained about the lack of documentation.

"They were serious researchers who didn't want to cite information from her book because it wasn't clear where she got it from," Dunn said. "There was information in that book that people had not seen before. How did she know this?" …

…Not long after Bonura found Livoni, she also found Allen's hanai son, a 53-year-old part-Hawaiian college instructor who teaches business law and history at Bay de Noc Community College in Iron Mountain, Mich. Randall Allen had been in the room when some of the conversations were recorded.

On the phone with Bonura, he shared a bitter tale.

While elated at the discovery of the tape, which he long thought was lost, Randall Allen had long ago severed his relationship with his hanai mother. He still won't say why, but he's highly critical of the book.

"I always knew growing up that what Helena said tends to be more fiction than fact," he said. "Helena is an embarrassment to researchers."

The tape and its raw transcript are the real story, he said.

"What I hope happens is that a true, qualified researcher puts the true story of our queen to the public," he said. "This is a treasure and it belongs to everyone."

read … An Embarrassment to Researchers


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