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Saturday, January 07, 2012
January 7, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:14 PM :: 13320 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

HSTA Contract Too Little Too Late to Save RTTT?

Hawaii Supreme Court: Disenfranchise more of Hawaii's 121,494 Military, Dependents, Students

HELCO announces plans to expand geothermal energy on Hawaii Island  

AFSCME Comes Out Against Pension Spiking 

Political Radar: Some public-worker unions may have concerns about the legislation, but the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has come out against pension spiking. The union believes, however, that the problem may be exaggerated and that such loopholes are not the cause of pension finance difficulties.

In a fact sheet to respond to criticism nationally about the cost of public worker pensions, AFSCME wrote:

To the extent loopholes in plan benefit formulas allow for unjust enrichment such as “spiking” of final salary to gain a higher annuity, those loopholes should be closed.

*AFSCME has worked to end spiking, double-dipping and other unjust gains from the pension system wherever the problems have emerged.

*While stories of abuse make headlines, they are extremely rare, and closing loopholes will not resolve the pension funding challenges.

AFSCME/HGEA Fact Sheet: Hawaii Employees Retirement System

read … Top Three Years

Hawaii Caucus Power: Gasoline from Pineapples?

WAMU: Iowa and New Hampshire are not demographic snapshots of America. They are smaller, less diverse and more rural than California, New York or Illinois, which have a lot more votes.

But Iowa and New Hampshire win a lot of attention early in an election year. As an old political columnist, now departed, once told me over the din of clinking cups in an Iowa diner, "If the first presidential caucuses were in Hawaii, Congress would give federal subsidies to make gasoline out of pineapples."

Related: Hawaii GOP Announces Presidential Caucus Polling Places

read … Primary power

Hawaii Legislative Races Cost Less than 1990s

ILind: The Campaign Spending Commission has also compiled campaign spending data for elections from 1994 through 2010 for the State House and the State Senate.

I’m just starting to take a look at these figures, but one thing jumped out at me. According to these data, the costs of running for elective office and winning have not kept up with inflation. In other words, taking inflation into account, winning candidates spent less in 2010 than in 1994, which is certainly contrary to popular belief.

I averaged the amounts spent by winning candidates in the 1994 and 1996 elections, and did the same with the 2008 and 2010 elections, in order to minimize year-to-year differences caused by a few unusually expensive races or other factors.

Winning House candidates spent an average of $33,976 in the 1994-96 elections. Average spending by winning House candidates rose to $36,443 in 2008-10. But if election costs had kept up with the consumer price index, the cost of winning would have been just over $47,000, some 29% higher.

Senate campaign costs show a similar pattern. Winning Senate candidates spent an average of $84,177 in 1994-96, and that increased to $96,116 during the 2008-2010 elections. But the inflation adjusted amount would have been $116,454, or 21% higher.

read … Hawaii Legislative Races

HNN: Emergency rooms bursting at seams

…we have been at full or near full capacity since HMC closed. And our emergency room typically sees around 160 patients a day. It is currently seeing around 200," said Karen Schultz, Vice President of Patient Care at The Queen's Medical Center.

It is the same story in every emergency room on the island. For example, at Wahiawa General Hospital admissions have more than doubled from an average of 5 new patients a day to 12 a day.

"We haven't in recent years seen emergency departments go on diversion to the extent that they are now. It really is straining the system," said George Greene, President and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

At one point earlier this week every emergency room on the island except the emergency room at Castle Medical Center was on "divert." Soon, eight ambulances showed up there filling its beds. At that point all hospitals were on "divert."

read … Thank the Legislature

Hawaii Ranks Last in Long Term Care Beds

KITV: A report to be released Jan. 19 by the Hawaii Long-Term Care Commission warns of a coming crisis for seniors.

Commissioners gave a briefing at the state Capitol on Friday and warned that Hawaii's population is aging, with the number of seniors who need long-term care is growing dramatically

"Long-term care in Hawaii is broken," said Stuart Ho, head of the Long-Term Care Association.

Barbara Kim Stanton of AARP echoed his dire assessment.

"The long term care services system is broken," Stanton said.

The commission reported that Hawaii ranks last in number of long term care beds available in the U.S.

read … Long Term Care

Outdoor Circle makes bid to join lawsuit against rail

SA: The Outdoor Circle is seeking federal court permission to join in a lawsuit seeking to halt the $5.27 billion Honolulu rail project.

Opponents of the rail project on Dec. 29 asked for permission to amend their federal lawsuit to add The Outdoor Circle, which has repeatedly raised concerns about the planned 20-mile elevated rail line.

read … Outdoor Circle

Council On Revenues Revises Hawaii's Economic Outlook Downward; New Forecast Will Impact State Budget

HR: After a more than hour-long battle yesterday, and nearly a tied vote, the Council on Revenues revised its economic outlook from 14.5 percent downward to 11.5 percent….

Some of the members considered even the 11.5 percent growth outlook too high….

Their decision impacts the taxpayers. Kalbert Young, the governor’s director of Budget and Finance, told the Hawaii State Legislature earlier this week “Anything south of 13 (percent)” would cause serious problems for the state.

The downgraded economic outlook represents a reduction of $130 million in revenues, which lawmakers will have to take into consideration in passing the final supplemental budget this session for FY 2012 and 2013.

read … $130M

Strategy: City Begins Enforcement Of New Sidewalk Law

KITV: City officials warned some Mililani homeowners this past week that basketball hoops that were left on public property would have to be removed.

According to homeless outreach workers, the city will hand out the same warning to homeless campers in Moiliili next week. It is part of the enforcement of bill 54 which was signed into law a month ago. The new law bans the storage of personal property on sidewalks and other public areas.

Wise Strategy: Start with middle class homeowners, then go to the homeless, and save ‘Occupy’ for last so the ACLU will have a harder time arguing that the law targets a specific group.

Homeless outreach workers with the Waikiki Health Center said on Monday they will once again urge the families to get into emergency shelters. A man in a wheelchair said he is already on the list. He hopes to eventually get a space in public housing. Another camper said he plans to be gone before Monday. (Exactly the right policy, exactly the right result. Hopefully this policy will continue even after atheist blackmail pushed Marc Alexander out of his job.)

Totally Related: Atheist Extortion, Blackmail forced Marc Alexander to Resign

read … Sidewalk Law 



Heirakuji: Transition will not slow work on homelessness

PBN: She said her immediate priority will be “supporting the continuing work of the [interagency] council, the purpose of which is to develop and present to the governor a multiyear plan to end homelessness in Hawaii.” She said she does not know how long she will be the vice-chair of the council on homelessness, but the plan is to find a replacement.

Related: Atheist Extortion, Blackmail forced Marc Alexander to Resign

read … Homelessness Industry Chomping At Bit?

SA: Keep close eye on geothermal funds

SA: Many people who are tracking the situation carefully believe that this resource could be tapped further, but that this development will take money -- which seemingly is available, if not managed as well as it could be….

The Geothermal Working Group was created through Senate Concurrent Resolution 99 last legislative session, comprising state and Hawaii County appointees as well as members representing cultural and environmental groups and others. It started the new year with the release of its report to the Legislature and among its recommendations is that royalties paid by Puna Geothermal Venture, which operates the state's only geothermal plant, should be allocated with community benefits explained more fully to the public.

This is no small pot of cash. According to the report, annual amounts since 1996 have ranged from a low of $82,000 to a peak in 2009 of $3.1 million. In the last five years, amounts have ranged between $1 million and $2.7 million.

Under law, half the royalty proceeds go to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, 30 percent to Hawaii County and 20 percent to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

What isn't clear, the group correctly observes, is that the money is used effectively. Among its recommendations is that the state's portion should be directed at least in part "to identify promising geothermal sites and to further develop the resource."

The group suggests that a community advisory board propose (self-dealing) uses for the funds. That could be helpful, but not as much as another recommendation from lawmakers last year: greater oversight of the spending. A state audit of the geothermal leasing and royalty program should be done, as a Senate resolution passed last session directs…. (They’d have to arrest half of Puna’s activists.)

There is a great deal of potential for Hawaii island in the efficient and coordinated development of geothermal energy. The state is pursuing other renewable energy sources, including biofuels, solar and wind, but none produce as much power as cheaply and reliably as geothermal. (Which is why it has been handed over to a bunch of money-grubbing Punatics and OHA Cronies. Geo must be squashed to make wind and solar look reasonable.)

Best Comment: “Why does the state skim off money from the project. Quit stealing the money and give it to the ratepayers in the form of cheaper rates….”

SA: Hawaii island geothermal plan afoot “Hawaii island has the potential to produce up to 1,400 megawatts of geothermal energy, mostly in the rift zones around the Kilauea Caldera, according to a 2005 state estimate. By comparison, Oahu's total electric generating capacity is 1,800 megawatts.”

read … Meanwhile Ratepayers pay through the Nose

Hawaii Top Ten Polluters

HTH: A Hilo power plant and the Army's Pohakuloa Training Area made the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's newly released list of the state's top 10 industrial polluters for 2010.

The 33.7-megawatt "Hill" generating station on Railroad Avenue was the sixth-largest polluter with a reported 140,028 pounds of toxic chemicals, mostly sulfuric acid. Although the plant was seventh on the 2009 list, reported emissions are down about a third from the 210,120 pounds of pollutants reportedly released by the Hilo facility in 2009….

Statewide, the EPA is reporting about 2.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals released into the environment by 37 industrial facilities in Hawaii in 2010, a 15 percent drop from 2009.

Hawaii County accounts for 334,485 pounds of that total, down from 417,418 pounds in 2009.

The Army's training area and range facility on Saddle Road ranked ninth among reported polluters in the state, with 96,397 pounds of chemicals reported. PTA was not on the top 10 list for 2009. According to data on the EPA's website, all of the waste is metals or metal compounds, with 39,725 pounds classified as PBTs, or persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals. Both categories include lead….

Although it's not included in the report, the largest producer of toxic emissions in the state, by far, is Kilauea volcano.

According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory's daily update on its website, the volcano emitted about 450 tons of sulfur dioxide on Wednesday alone. At that rate it pollutes the environment more in three days than industry and the military do in a year.

MN: MECO facilities in top 10 for toxic releases

On the Internet:

read … Pollution

Hawaii hotels 86% full; rates average $309 per room

PBN: The average daily room rate statewide during the week ending Dec. 31 was $308.77. The occupancy rate, 86.4 percent, was six percentage points higher than the same week a year before.

Maui had the highest room rate in the state last week at $453.15, which was 8.3 percent higher than a year ago. Maui’s occupancy rate was 87.7 percent, which was 4.8 percentage points higher than the last week of 2010.

read … Food for the Corporatist State

Hawaii Wind-farms: Banks Laugh All the way to the Bank

First Wind has closed or is close to solidifying $96 million in financing for two wind projects in Hawaii, according to a report Friday.
KeyBank NA and Union Bank NA provided the debt for the wind power projects in Kaheawa and Kawailoa, Project Finance reported. Representatives for First Wind and the banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

read … Your ratepayer dollars at work

Blackwater Fallujah lawsuit settled

AP: Days after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, a federal appeals court ended a lawsuit over an episode that produced one of the most disturbing images of the war: the grisly killings of four Blackwater security contractors and the hanging of a pair of their bodies from a bridge in Fallujah.

Families of the victims reached a confidential settlement with the company's corporate successor, Arlington, Va.-based Academi, and the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit last week. The settlement was first reported Friday by The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va.

Wesley Batalona of Honokaa was one of the four men killed. He served in the Army for 20 years and fought in the 1989 invasion of Panama, the Persian Gulf War and the 1993 humanitarian mission to Somalia….

Survivors of the contractors contend Blackwater failed to prepare the men for their mission into Fallujah in March 2004 and didn't provide them with maps and other appropriate equipment.

Batalona, Helvenston, Jerko "Jerry" Zovko and Michael R. Teague were sent in Mitsubishi SUVs to guard a supply convoy. Their survivors argued they should have been given armored vehicles.

A congressional investigation concurred with that view, calling Blackwater an "unprepared and disorderly" organization on the day of the ambush.

Blackwater, formerly based in North Carolina, countered that the men were betrayed by the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and targeted in a well-planned ambush. The company said the ambush likely would have had the same result even if they had stronger weapons, armored vehicles, maps or even more men.

Related: Political Correctness: SEALS who got Bin Laden also captured Jihadi murderer of Big Isle man—and were prosecuted for it

read … Fallujah

Trial Date Set for Pflueger Kaloko Manslaughter Case

HR: It has been more than five years since the Ka Loko Dam breached on March 14, 2006, killing seven Kauai residents and an unborn child and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and environmental wreckage.

Now James Pflueger, 85, the man the state attorney general says is responsible for the breach, may finally have his day in court.

In conference yesterday, attorneys for the state and the influential retired automobile dealer agreed to set an October 1, 2012 start date for what is expected to be a 6 to 8 week manslaughter trial.

KGI: Pflueger trial date set

read … Getting harder to run down the clock, eh Jimmy?

KEO provides 44 with permanent housing during 90-Day Plan

KGI: As state Coordinator on Homelessness Marc Alexander resigned Thursday, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced 44 people on Kaua‘i were placed into permanent housing during the 90-Day Plan on Homelessness earlier this year.

The plan ran from May 17 through Aug. 14.

Kaua‘i’s homeless population is estimated at 500 to 600 people

Read … Not Homeless Any More

GGP Seeks to Refinance $1.3 Billion Loan on Ala Moana Mall

General Growth has hired Eastdil Secured to market the assignment. That’s a break from the Chicago REIT’s customary tactic of approaching lenders directly.

The company frequently tapped the CMBS market for financing during the sector’s go-go years. It lined up 99 CMBS mortgages totaling $9 billion from 2004 to 2007 — including Ala Moana Center’s existing fixed-rate loan, which has a current balance of $1.3 billion. That mortgage was originally slated to expire four months ago, but the maturity date was extended to 2018 as part of General Growth’s emergence from bankruptcy two years ago.

The rate on the existing debt is 5.6%. General Growth presumably is moving to refinance now because it can get a lower rate.

read … Mortgaging Ala Moana

Land and Power: Case Family’s Nature Conservancy Grabs for Wet Forests, Reefs

SA: Lately Case has been a vocal advocate for the protection of watershed forests, the places where native trees and plants have thrived and provided the perfect surface of condensation for moisture-laden clouds drifting over the ocean. That water drips down to mosses, which act like sponges and ultimately feed the island aquifers, she said….

What we do is we work with communities in their specific places to try to identify what the threats are. It may be some kind of unsustainable fishing. ... We have amazingly little protection in Hawaii; it's like 1 percent of our coastline has any form of protection.

read … What they are grabbing for

Price of Pelosi: $61K

HR: Marshall Kanehailua, Assistant Chief with the Hawaii Police Department in Hilo, confirmed local police escorted Pelosi during her vacation at a cost of $27,127.

Over the last three years, Hawaii county taxpayers paid $61,127 for local police to escort Pelosi. That money is not reimbursed.

read … Worth it?

$34M for Kapolei National Guard Maintenance Shop

BCP Construction of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, was awarded a $34,835,245 firm-fixed-price contract. The award will provide for the construction services for a combine support maintenance shop. Work will be performed in Kapolei, Hawaii, with an estimated completion date of June 8, 2013. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with four bids received. The National Guard Bureau, Kapolei, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (W912J6-11-C-0003).

read … Military Contractors

Strange Doings in East Oahu Cemetery

KHON: The city and state approved plans for the new cemetery in 2001 and 2005 respectively, but there are no immediate plans to begin construction. A conglomerate of landowners under the name Hawaii Kai Memorial Park LLC hopes to eventually build Oahu’s first cemetery in nearly sixty years. The cemetery would be constructed in several phases and contain 60,000 burial plots when finished.

Since mid-December up to twenty large trucks have been using Kaiwi Road every weekday morning to haul aggregate material to the 69-acre parcel of land where the cemetery may be built….

Royal Contracting Company, which has a stake in the land, told Khon2 the stockpiled asphalt would eventually be used to build roads in and out of the future cemetery. The company has a stockpiling permit from the city that has been renewed annually….

On January 3 the city issued a notice of violation to Royal Contracting after the company began building an unpaved road in the area without a permit. The company was told to immediately stop all work or face fines of $50 per day.

“We didn’t realize we had to get a permit for something that was grubbed six years ago,” said Royal Contracting Vice President Leonard Leong.

read … Bone Yard

University of Hawaii Head Football Coach's Contract Secrecy Called "Orwellian"

HR: UH Professor Gerald Kato, an advocate for government transparency, said “it is sort of Orwellian” for the university “to cite an opinion requiring the release of salary information as the basis for not releasing salary information.”

Kato continued: “The university is privatizing public functions under the guise of privacy.”

In an email Tuesday to UH Athletics Media Relations Director Derek Inouchi, Hawaii Reporter protested UH’s decision to withhold Chow’s salary and cited the 2003 OIP opinion as precedent for full disclosure.

read … Orwell

Hawaii saw record-high gasoline prices in 2011

PBN: The average price of a gallon of gasoline topped the $4 mark in 2011, coming in at a record $4.10, according to AAA Hawaii.

The previous record for the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded was $3.76, set in 2008, followed by $3.49 in 2010, according to AAA Hawaii’s Weekend Gas Watch.

Nationally, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in 2011 was a record $3.51.

read .. In case you didn’t notice

Kihei Woman selected for IRS Taxpayer Advisory Council

News Release: The Internal Revenue Service has announced the selection of 26 new members to serve on the nationwide Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP).

The Hawaii representative is Susan Bentley of Kihei, Maui.

read … Advise the IRS to …

Police cameras going up on Big isle

HTH: In 2008, the Hawaii Tourism Authority awarded a $488,948 grant to the Police Department to install the cameras. Police Maj. Larry Weber told the Tribune-Herald in 2010 that 16 of the cameras would be in downtown Hilo, 15 in Kailua-Kona, eight in Pahoa and one at Akaka Falls.

The high-definition cameras can record and transmit video and see in the dark. They can identify license plates and capture faces.

read … Big Island


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