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Thursday, December 22, 2011
December 22, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:13 PM :: 11083 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Big Victory for HSTA: Obama Admin Seizes Control of Hawaii RTTT Funds

Hawaiian Telcom to Impose Contract on IBEW; Legal Challenge Anticipated

End of Year Tax Reminders

NYT: Lingle is Change Candidate

Leukemia: Bone Marrow Patients Must Go To Mainland Now

KITV: Patients are reeling with the news that they may have to travel to the mainland now that their transplant surgeries have been called off.

35-year-old Esther Aiolupotea was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in November. She had been cancer free for five years and was prepared to battle again.

She was set to begin a 7-day regimen of high dose chemotherapy and then a bone marrow transplant Monday. Her doctor broke the bad news two days ago: the transplant can't happen in Hawaii now that the Hawaii Medical Center has decided to shut its doors….

Background: Abercrombie Doubles Down on Policies Which Killed HMC Hospitals

read … Leukemia? Gotta go to Mainland

14 State Tax Employees Under Investigation

KITV: Sources said so far, all the employees under investigation work at the Oahu District Tax Office of the tax department on Punchbowl Street in downtown Honolulu. The employees are on leave without pay while the probe is under way.

A large number of investigators from the state Attorney General's Office questioned those state tax employees simultaneously last week, trying to make collusion difficult so the employees wouldn't have time to change their stories before being asked what happened, people familiar with the investigation said….

A source said the investigation centers on some people in the state tax department who got improper access to state tax records they were not authorized to see, but it's unclear if the conduct was criminal….

While a source said 14 of the tax department's 300 employees are under investigation, the source added that the number of those under scrutiny could rise or fall as the probe progresses.

The state has refused to disclose the job titles of those under investigation, so it's unclear whether there are any supervisors or managers under suspicion of wrongdoing.

Related: Mysterious DoTax Internal Security Breach Referred for Investigation

read … 14 State Tax Employees Under Investigation

Star-Adv: $75M grant at risk

SA: In addition to what state education officials have termed a "slow start," an ongoing labor dispute with teachers is causing concern since it has stalled progress on a number of key initiatives, including reaching an agreement on revamped teacher evaluations.

Other initiatives in which progress has been slow include devising performance-based compensation, creating new tenure rules for teachers, and making sure the lowest-performing schools receive some of the best teachers….

It's unclear, though, how long it could take to reach supplemental union agreements on a host of key initiatives, including revamped teacher evaluations in certain regions, teacher tenure rules and a performance-based compensation system.

It's also unknown whether such an agreement can be reached while HSTA's labor dispute is ongoing. HSTA sought relief through the Hawaii Labor Relations Board during the summer, after the state imposed its "last, best and final" contract offer, which included pay cuts, furloughs and higher health care costs.

Horner, of the BOE, said he is "optimistic that we will be able to reach a supplemental agreement in regards to teacher evaluations" in the short-term. (And if you believe this, you are an idiot.)

Related:

read … Vorsino has to tell it straight just for one brief moment

Timber! Hawaii County Bag Ban Will Lead to Increased Paper bag Use

 

"There are many, many conflicting stories about how much plastic can be reduced," Hoffmann said. "But we'll probably see a lot more paper bags — and that's fine."

WHT: Plastic bag ban passes Council

read … Tree Huggers Become Tree Choppers

Multi-Kilo Dope Minister to be Charged With Money Laundering

SA: Jury selection and trial are scheduled for Feb. 28 before Judge Leslie Kobayashi.

Christie will likely be additionally charged in January with counts of money laundering, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Alexander Silvert.

At that time, the trial will be rescheduled, probably between March and May, Silvert said.

read … Laundering into … Downtown Hilo Office Buildings, Hamakua Ag land???

PUC Allows Green Energy Scammers to Save $40K By Making their Electricity Even Less Reliable

SA: "The PUC's ruling helps clear the path for households and businesses that want to invest in Hawaii's clean energy future," said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, a Honolulu-based nonprofit committed to ending the use of fossil fuels. "By rejecting unnecessary new costs and hassles for clean power, this decision moves Hawaii a step closer to energy independence," he said.

One of the more contentious issues argued by HECO and its opponents before the PUC was a proposal by the utility that would have allowed it to require customers installing alternative energy systems with generating capacities of 20 kilowatts to 250 kilowatts to install expensive monitoring equipment. HECO maintained that such monitoring equipment might be necessary in some cases to better manage the variable nature of electricity generated by renewable sources.

But the PUC ruled that HECO did not show that the proposal was "just and reasonable." The monitoring systems, dubbed SCADA for "supervisory control and data acquisition," cost an average of $40,000 per system, according to Blue Planet. (Too bad the PUC is not so considerate to consumers, eh?)

Earthjustice, the nation's leading nonprofit environmental law firm, represented the Hawaii Solar Energy Association in the case.

read … PUC

Solar Contractor Tries to get Legislators Drunk

CB: Jon Yoshimura, the company's government affairs director, was clearly embarrassed by the incident.

"It was clearly a mistake on my part," he said when reached by phone in Washington D.C.

SolarCity, a San Mateo, Calif.-based firm that entered the Hawaii market earlier this year, sent lawmakers two bottles of wine, valued at $55.

An accompanying holiday card obtained by Civil Beat reads: "Thank you for your partnership with SolarCity in 2011. In appreciation, we've enclosed two bottles of wine from King Estate Winery."

Yoshimura, a registered lobbyist for the company, said approximately 50 to 60 lawmakers received the gifts.

"I thought that it would be OK because my company's new to the state. I just wanted to deliver a gift of goodwill and appreciation. But after talking to Les (Kondo), I see the interpretation of the law, and I agree and that's why were trying to take remedial action as soon as possible," he said.

To that end, Yoshimura sent the gift recipients an email on Wednesday:

"I have been informed by Mr. Les Kondo, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, that the gift of wine given to you by SolarCity is inappropriate and must be returned," he wrote. "I am so sorry to have put you in this position and sincerely apologize for our mistake. I will have our employees retrieve the wine from you at the earliest possible convenience, before the start of the 2012 legislative session."

CNET: Hawaii wind farm leans on giant battery bank (The batteries will wear out about the time the accelerated depreciation is exhausted.)

read … Drunken Bribes

Hawaii Veterans Have Lower Unemployment

CB: Bureau of Labor and Statistics data show that in August, the jobless rate for new veterans was 9.8 percent. By October, it was 12.1 percent. Last month it dipped back to 11.1 percent, still higher than November's national unemployment rate of 8.6 percent.

A June 2011 Senate report found that the unemployment rate among new veterans in Hawaii was 6.0 percent in 2010, slightly lower than the statewide unemployment rate. Overall, Hawaii unemployment averaged 6.6 percent last year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics1.

Such numbers are positive compared with unemployment statistics in places like Michigan, where the jobless rate for new veterans was 29.4 percent and the statewide unemployment rate was 10.3 percent last year.

read … Hire a vet

Sovereignty Scammer Lighter Convicted in Tax Evasion Case

Eric Aaron Lighter, 61, was found guilty of 17 total counts, including conspiracies to defraud the United States, commit wire fraud and blackmail, plus witness tampering.

Lighter's National Trust Services in Volcano, Hawaii, marketed and sold "abusive trust packages" and understated his clients' federal income tax liabilities starting in the 1990s before he was indicted in March 2009, federal prosecutors said.

His co-conspirator, Samuel Fung, was a return preparer who maintained an office in San Jose and referred clients, including some in the Bay Area, to Lighter.

ILind: Hawaii man convicted in federal fraud case

read … Two More Hawaii Sovereignty Scammers

Hawaiian Increasing Seoul-Honolulu Service to Daily

On the eve of its first anniversary of service to South Korea, Hawaiian Airlines today announced that it will increase the frequency of its nonstop service between Seoul and Honolulu from four flights a week to daily, starting July 16, 2012.

read … Seoul

Inouye Slips CoFA Fix into Appropriations Bill

SA: President Barack Obama will have to come up with an action plan to address the economic impact of Pacific migration in Hawaii and other states and U.S. territories.

The requirement is part of an appropriations bill approved by Congress. Within 45 days, the president must convene a committee to develop the action plan.

read … CoFA

Kauai County Sits on $57M

The County of Kaua‘i had more than $68 million left in the bank on July 1, 2010, the first day of fiscal year 2011. A year later, the surplus was a little smaller, but the county still had more than $57 million left, according to official reports. (That is about $1000 for every person on the island.)

However, if Kaua‘i County Council Chair Jay Furfaro is right, the administration could be facing a budgetary shortfall of $2.64 million.

Read … County releases annual financial report

Kauai Councilman Could Face Jail over Home Improvements

KGI: Bynum was arraigned on two misdemeanor charges of creating a division in a family or ranch-style dwelling, and for using a structure in a manner not permitted on agricultural land.

It is reportedly a sweeping effort to address ongoing agricultural-land dwelling violations that were not enforced in the past. Bynum’s charges were filed on Nov. 9 and stem from complaints filed in April 2010.

Bynum contends that construction on his home was done by a contractor and in accordance to the County Planning Department. He said that problems during inspections were minor, corrected and resolved. Nothing had changed structurally at the time of the November complaint, Bynum said.

He would not speak to whether he felt the charges were politically motivated.

The real question, Bynum said, was whether the Planning Department requires the assistance of the prosecutor’s office with violations that do not meet the threshold of an egregious offense.

In 2010, the violations against Bynum presented no more than a $500 fine. The county has since upgraded them to a misdemeanor with a $2,000 fine.

Read … Judge denies motion in Bynum case

Pacific Wings contests Kalaupapa subsidies award

Pacific Wings has petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to reconsider its award of nearly $2 million in subsidies to Makani Kai Charters to fly into Kalaupapa.

The letter, submitted Wednesday by Pacific Wings' attorney Gregory Walden, claims that the calculations used to establish the subsidy amounts were both wrong in their arithmetic and far above the allowable profit margin, which is 5 percent.

Walden calculates the margin being offered to Makani Kai as 31 percent.

The error arose, he wrote, because Schuman Aviation, owner of Makani Kai, forgot to deduct the anticipated revenue from ticket sales of $355,000 or so per year.

read … Pacific Wings contests subsidies award

Honolulu's Response to Too-Popular Service: Stop Offering It

CB: Just how popular is the camping permit window at the Wahiawa Satellite City Hall?

So popular that the city is going to shutter it.

The Customer Services Department on Wednesday announced that starting in 2012, camping permits will only be available at Kapolei Hale and the Fasi Municipal Building downtown "due to access and public safety concerns."…

The city's press release notes that the intent is to "automate the camping permit process and will offer online camping permits later in the new year."

read … Just Stop

Al-Qaeda Bombs Shia to Stoke Sectarian Tensions in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) - A wave of at least 14 bombings ripped across Baghdad Thursday morning, killing at least 60 people in the worst violence in Iraq for months. The apparently coordinated attacks struck days after the last American forces left the country and in the midst of a major government crisis between Shiite and Sunni politicians that has sent sectarian tensions soaring.

The bombings may be linked more to the U.S. withdrawal than the political crisis, but all together, the developments heighten fears of a new round of Shiite-Sunni sectarian bloodshed like the one a few years back that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the bombings bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaida's Sunni insurgents. Most appeared to hit Shiite neighborhoods, although some Sunni areas were also targeted. In all, 11 neighborhoods were hit by either car bombs, roadside blasts or sticky bombs attached to cars. There was at least one suicide bombing and the blasts went off over several hours.

read … All about the Price Iraq Pays for Obama’s Premature Withdrawal


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