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Wednesday, January 25, 2012
January 25, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:37 PM :: 10243 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Lingle Raises $1.7M for Senate Run

Abercrombie to Tesoro: Drop Dead

DoE: Legislature Could Impose Teacher Evaluation Rejected by HSTA

Hawaii College Debt Lowest in Nation

Ted Liu Elected to Republican National Committee

Sea Level Projections to Determine Oceanfront Setbacks?

Okabe Apologizes after Teachers Reject Contract by 2-1 Margin

New Name: Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives

Heritage Foundation to Tour Honolulu, Laie, Kona, Hilo Jan 31-Feb 2

Hawaii March 13 Republican Presidential Caucus Locations

Legislature Must Act: Teachers Bad Faith Must Have Consequences

The endless labor drama with teachers is tiresome.

In the Cayetano administration they disagreed after a contract was signed about what had been agreed to.

With the Lingle administration, teachers agreed to drug testing to gain an 11 percent pay raise, then reneged on the tests after the raise was in hand.

They engineered the Furlough Friday crisis by insisting every single furlough day be on an instructional day, maximizing the negative impact on their students.

Bad faith must have consequences.

If teachers' flip-flopping is in any way responsible for costing the state $75 million, it should be reflected in their future compensation.

No future contract should pay them a penny more unless it includes a meaningful move to fair evaluations of their work and performance-based pay. Teachers should do well when their students do well.

The teachers don't own the public schools and can't be allowed to stand in the way of reforms that just about everybody but them agrees are needed to help Hawaii schools improve their last-in-the-nation performance.

Abercrombie rightly pledged in his State of the State to pursue every administrative, legislative and judicial remedy with or without the cooperation of teachers.

One of the things lawmakers could do now would be to follow some other states by writing into law the Race to the Top requirements -- including teacher evaluations -- so compliance would be legally mandated in future contracts.

Related: DoE: Legislature Could Impose Teacher Evaluation Rejected by HSTA

Two Teachers Write:

read … Teachers have lost respect in drama over labor talks

Carlisle: $740M Tax Hike Needed to Secure Federal Funds for rail

SA: One tactic for raising extra money to deal with any unexpected contingencies would be to extend the half-percent excise tax surcharge, which is the primary source of funding for the rail project.

The excise tax surcharge on Oahu residents and visitors is expected to raise $3.154 billion to help pay for rail and is scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2022.

The city notes in its rail financial plan that extending the half-percent surcharge by two additional years would raise an extra $740 million to help pay for the rail project.

Carlisle specifically cited that portion of the rail financial plan to reporters and confirmed that an excise tax extension is "a possibility, and it's only under the worst set of circumstances."

read … Mayor to seek 'contingency plan' to ensure rail funding

Carlisle: Even if Rail is not Built, You’re Not Getting that Money Back

CB: “You can’t take these funds that were dedicated to rail and start pawning them off to somewhere else. They’re only dedicated to rail,” he said. “By the time we’re through dealing with the legal problems that would occur with that, it would cost us just as much as does to create the rail, but we wouldn’t have a train.”

Carlisle said he anticipates that he’ll work with both the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and the Honolulu City Council on ways to shore up what he referred to as the “contingency plan” that the Federal Transit Administration wants to see strengthened. He said he doesn’t intend to go to the Hawaii Legislature to ask for an extension on the General Excise Tax surcharge.

read … Money, money, money

Jobless rate up to highest in 15 months

SA: The rate in Hawaii rose to 6.6 percent in December, counter to a nationwide trend …

Hawaii was one of only three states in which the unemployment rate was higher in December than in November.

And Hawaii's rate is on track to rise again in January because of the shutdown of Hawaii Medical Center's two hospitals on Oahu and subsequent layoffs, according to researchers at the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization. The medical center laid off nearly 1,000 workers in late December and early January.

The number of unemployed rose by a net 400 in December to 41,900, not including the medical center's layoffs.

read … Thanks, Neil!

Isle bone marrow transplant program also deserves rescue

SA: There is a crisis in health care in Hawaii for cancer patients. Sadly, the closure of Hawaii Medical Center (HMC) created a critical hole in health care in Hawaii.

Many people are not aware that there were two transplant programs at HMC: One was for solid organ (liver and kidney), and the other was for bone marrow for cancers (leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma).

Thus far, only the solid organ transplant program is being saved.

Since Dr. Livingston Wong pioneered the first bone marrow transplant in 1978, more than 250 men, women and children have gotten a second chance at life.

Bone marrow or blood stem cell transplants were performed at the HMC. Pediatric transplants are performed at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children; Hawaii Pacific Health has committed to continue it in the future. However, the adult bone marrow program has nowhere else to go….

Of the 11 patients on the bone marrow transplant list before HMC abruptly closed in December, six have been urgently referred to transplant centers on the West Coast. When someone has leukemia and needs a transplant, time is of the essence.

read … Leukemia

ERS: 674 Employees Spike Pensions Costing $39M

CB: The examples identified by the City Auditor, while extreme, are not isolated incidents. A review of employees who retired during 2008, 2009, and 2010 revealed that 674 had earned additional non-base pay earnings during their “high three” to increase their pension benefits. These additional benefits increased the ERS’ unfunded liability by approximately $39 million primarily because of the impact of overtime.

Related: HGEA Parent Union Comes Out Against Pension Spiking

read … Pension Spiking

Over Past 10 Years, Hawaii Pension Investments At Bottom of Pack

CB: The report, issued by Northern Trust, compared 12 funds with investments of more than $1 billion for the 10-year period ending Sept. 30, 2011. Northern Trust is the so-called bank custodian for the Hawaii Employees' Retirement System's securities, safekeeping its assets and tracking the plan's performance. It compared Hawaii's performance with that of 11 other client funds it handled over the same 10 years.

The report shows that the average annual percentage return for Hawaii's fund over the past 10 years was 5.44 percent. That's critical to the health of the fund because until last year, the plan was based on earning investment returns of 8 percent annually. The target was lowered last session by lawmakers to 7.75 percent for the financial year ending June 30, 2011.

Meeting that target would mean the system would be adequately funded over 30 years. Any gap between earnings and contributions would have to be made up by employees and taxpayers.

Missing the 7.75 return rate translated into the system being more than $3 billion below target over the 10 years, according to Rod June, chief investment officer for the ERS. Today, that would break down to about $161 million for each percentage point the pension system misses its target in a single year, he said.

Here's the current list of fund managers, showing the ERS paid out $39.8 million in fees to investment fund managers in fiscal 2011: ERS investment manager fees

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

read … ERS Does Not Find Alpha

Hawaii GOP Still Looking For CD2 Candidate

CB: "We are actively searching for one, but we haven't found that person yet," said GOP Chair David Chang. "As we get closer, people will pop up."….

While the CD1 race is again competitive (it's a rematch between Djou and incumbent Colleen Hanabusa) and former Gov. Linda Lingle is attracting national attention in her Senate bid, CD2 is still seen as solidly in the "blue" camp. Barring a credible COP candidate, it will stay that way….

But Chang says he's got feelers out, maybe for a candidate from Oahu's North Shore or Kailua, both part of the rural 2nd District.

He said he didn't think Jonah Kaauwai, a former GOP chair and Kauai native, would run, as had been rumored. Kaauwai did not immediately respond to Civil Beat's inquiry.

However, Chang also made it clear that his party has a lot of other priorities….

read … CD2

Cachola, Mizuno, Manahan Play Musical Chairs

CB: Romy Cachola is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in the Honolulu City Council. So what’s next for the Council veteran?

He told Inside Honolulu minutes ago that he’s “99 percent” sure he’s going to try to return to the Hawaii House of Representatives, where he spent more than a decade as a Democrat before coming across the street.

Cachola’s home, near the corner of Kalihi and King, sits in the 29th House District currently represented by Vice Speaker Joey Manahan. If, however, redistricting changes the boundaries, Cachola could instead end up in the 30th District, represented by John Mizuno.

Mizuno and Manahan, perhaps not coincidentally, are already talking about running for Cachola’s Council seat.

read … Cachola

BoE Rejects HSTA Sabotage, Laupahoehoe Allowed Charter Conversion

SA: The state Board of Education overruled the Charter School Review Panel for a second time Tuesday and ordered that Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School open as a charter school for the 2012-13 academic year.

"It seems like the reports of our doom were premature," said Steven Strauss, spokesman for the interim local school board for Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School. "We're hopeful that the Charter School Review Panel and the Department of Education will take the board's instructions to heart."

The drive to convert the 128-year-old campus on the Hamakua Coast to a charter school has run into major hurdles in the past year. Twenty out of 21 teachers at Laupahoehoe have asked to be allowed to transfer to other public schools in the district if it becomes a charter….

But the Board of Education, in a written decision signed by Vice Chairman Brian De Lima, concluded that the review panel was wrong. Such elections need not take place until the school opens as a charter and its staff, students and parents are identified, the ruling said. The ruling was supported by all board members attending the Jan. 17 appeal hearing: Jim Williams, Charlene Cuaresma, Wesley Lo, Nancy Budd and Kimberly Gennaula.

The review panel's determination that the "current principal, instructional staff, support staff, parents and students of Laupahoehoe School qualify as the stakeholder groups for purposes of an election of a conversion charter local school board is not supported by law, and therefore was clearly erroneous," De Lima wrote. He also noted that the charter group could lose $250,000 remaining in a federal grant if it didn't open this fall….

Strauss expressed confidence that despite the potential mass exodus of teachers, the school will be ready for students by the time it opens.

"We've invited teachers at the current school and other teachers to submit letters of interest," Strauss said. "We've also had communications with Teach for America. We expect to have a full slate of teachers when we open."

read … Laupahoehoe Liberation

State DOD investigates toxic work environment

ILind: The DOD is in the process of hiring two consultants to conduct confidential, one-on-one interviews with up to 70 employees “to obtain comprehensive, genuine, and sincere feedback on their feelings about their work environment.”

The interviews will be analyzed to identify “issues, concerns and problems that prevent the development of a positive and wholesome work environment.”

The DOD proposes splitting the work between Dr. Neal Milner, Emeritus Professor at UH Manoa and former campus ombudsman, and Mr. Henry Kanda, an experienced personnel manager, each being paid $7,500.

The proposed investigation into the DOD’s workplace environment was disclosed in a request filed last week to exempt the contracts from standard procurement requirements.

I wonder how many of these investigations into toxic office atmosphere would have to be done if employees could request them on an “as needed” basis?

read … Harassment, retaliation

Fontaine Factor Sex Trafficking in Hawaii

 

Representative George Fontaine speaks with Kathy Xian - Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS) and Kalei about Sex Trafficking in Hawaii.
National Human Trafficking resource center 888-3737-888 Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery 808-343-5056 Email:
repfontaine@capitol.hawaii.gov

LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QEtOd7jSkI

Non-Profits Push Back Against Property Tax Hike

SA: Among the commission's proposals were limiting exemptions for nonprofits and basing reductions on a percentage of the property's value; providing breaks to historic homeowners based on a percentage of the property's value while allowing qualified maintenance expenses to lower the tax bill; and repealing exemptions for credit unions and owners of so-called kuleana lands.

Members of the public, nonprofits, historic home owners and others urged the Council to carefully consider any changes, saying rescinding some exemptions could have unintended consequences.

"Credit unions have not taken our tax-exemption, nonprofit status lightly," said Sylvia Young of Hawaii USA Federal Credit Union. "We live our philosophy of people helping people."

Many churches and other nonprofits pay a flat rate of $300 in property tax versus the standard rate of $3.50 per $1,000 of property value.

Walter Yoshimitsu, executive director of the Hawaii Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii, noted that the church is a large landowner but that it also provides community services.

"If church is taxed on a percentage of value of our property, we just can't afford to pay all of that and also provide all of the services that we do," he said.

read … Property Taxes

NFL flags Hawaii governor’s Pro Bowl comments

PBN: “We are aware of the comments of the governor,” Ray Anderson, the NFL executive vice president of football operations, answered.

When pushed by another reporter about what comments he was referring to, Anderson delicately sidestepped the question.

But anyone with half a brain in the room could have figured it out that Anderson was referencing an incident last June when Gov. Neil Abercrombie was at an education event and had some pretty hard words for the NFL and Pro Bowl.

“You can’t do things like give four million bucks to a $9 billion football industry and not give any money to children,” Abercrombie said, according to The Associated Press. “You’ve got this spectacle of these multimillionaires and billionaires out there arguing about how they’re going to divide it up, and then they come and ask us to bribe them with $4 million to have a scrimmage out here in paradise.”

“We’ve got to get our values straight and our priorities straight,” he said.

Abercrombie showed up to the press conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, but he just missed Anderson’s answer.

Abercrombie called the relationship between Hawaii and the NFL “solid” and categorized the ongoing talks to keep the Pro Bowl here as “conversations between friends.” (Translation: “I think you idiots in the audience don’t have half a brain.”)

KITV: Abercrombie Explains Pro Bowl, Education Comparison (He didn’t get to the part about gay civil unions.)

read … Bye-Bye Pro Bowl

Obama, Hanabusa, Inouye: Navy to Shovel Money to Green Energy Scammers

CB: Obama announced on Tuesday that the Navy plans to make "one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history," by buying enough clean energy to power a quarter of a million homes per year.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, senior Obama administration officials called it the single largest renewable energy purchase in history.

"That's clearly where we're going to make the greatest inroads, through defense," Rep. Colleen Hanabusa told Civil Beat. "I don't see how it wouldn't mean job opportunities for Hawaii. Not only are we great for being a place that has the alternative energies but we're a great incubator for those kinds of activities as well."

Sen. Daniel Inouye said that the money for the Navy to pursue biofuel development and other alternative energies is already available.

"We have set aside in excess of $150 million," Inouye told Civil Beat. "It's in the appropriations (bill) that we passed. It's not just on the wish list."

Just Ignore This: 49% Waste: Inspector General Slams Hawaii Navy Solar Projects

read … How to Sink the Navy

Spinning Reserve: Big Cable Would Increase Pollution from Oil Burning Plants

Henry Curtis: …The O`ahu grid is currently configured to be able to handle the sudden loss of the single largest generator on the island – the AES 200 MW coal plant in Campbell Industrial Park. When that plant suddenly shuts down the grid survives and continues to provide power for HECO’s ratepayers.

Interconnecting the O`ahu grid with a single inter-island transmission line carrying significantly more than 200 MW of power would require HECO to be able to survive a sudden loss of 500-1000 MW of power. This would require HECO to have a dozen of their smaller generators operating in a low power generation mode to handle this potential sudden loss.

This process of operating generators at below their efficient design -- increases the amount of oil needed for each kWh of electricity produced, increases the pollution for each kWh produced, and makes the electricity more costly. It would mean that the Governor’s call for levelizing electric rates between islands would occur by increasing O`ahu’s rates rather than by lowering Neighbor Island rates….

Assume that the Hilo International Airport, the Hilo Harbor and the University of Hawai`i at Hilo are all underutilized. Geothermal power can produce firm, continuous, baseload renewable energy at cheaper rates than any other Hawai`i option except coal. Hilo has plenty of land. Geothermal steam comes out of the earth, powers generators, and is returned to the earth in a closed cycle without air emissions….

read … The Hilo Geothermal Industrial Park

State Pushes Back Against Federal Monk Seal Protections

CB: A proposal to expand federal protections for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal is facing major push back from the state.

In documents filed with the federal government, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources says that plans to designate large swaths of the state’s coastlines as critical habitat for the mammals would create an unnecessary layer of bureaucratic red tape and do little if anything to promote the species’ survival.

The stance puts DLNR at odds with environmental groups that have pushed for the designation, arguing it’s a critical step for a seal population that is heading toward extinction.

And it leaves the federal officials in charge of making a final determination on the proposed rule walking a legal tight rope. If the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration bows to state pressure to significantly amend or discard the designation, it could be sued by environmental groups who have not hesitated to use the courts elsewhere to win protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Pdf: Dlnr testimony

Related: Monk Seals Dying in NW Hawaiian Isles Because of Fishing Ban

read … Monk Seal

Abercrombie Bond Sale Handled by Same Crew Which Stuck Hawaii With Deadbeat Student Loans

CB: Budget Director Kalbert Young came under fire for his decision to allow a financial company with a bad track record to benefit from Hawaii’s recent $1.3 billion bond sale.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim blasted Young’s hiring of CitiGroup to be a co-manager on the transaction.

Ring a bell? CitiGroup was behind the controversial $1 billion in “SLARS” investments that became illiquid during the recession. The state eventually reached an agreement with Citigroup to get back the nearly $869 million it invested, but that hasn’t materialized just yet.

“I am just appalled by this,” Kim told Young. “We’re still waiting to be paid on SLARS and you’re telling me that we’re still doing business with CitiGroup?”

Young kept his cool despite harsh criticism from Kim. He explained that he weighed CitiGroup’s history with their experience and familiarity with Hawaii’s bonds.

History: UH Manoa activist sold Hawaii controversial Student Loan Bonds

read … SLARS Redux?

Hawaii Minimum Wage to be Tied to Federal Poverty Level

KHON: Lawmakers advanced a measure that could raise the Hawaii minimum wage for the first time since 2007.

The base would go up 12 percent in 2013 to $8.14 cents an hour. Supporters say it's about time. But opponents say hard-hit employers can't afford it.

Lawmakers deferred a measure that would have raised the minimum wage two steps -- to $7.75 this year and $8.25 next year.

Instead, the House Labor Committee moved forward a measure to raise the minimum to the federal poverty level for Hawaii for a two-person family, starting January 2013 and adjusting it every year thereafter….

Opponents say pushing up the base causes an incremental increase at every employment level, saying job providers have been hard hit by the recession and can't afford a change right now in the recovery.

They say every dollar in added wages is actually $1.40 in costs once benefits, taxes and insurance are considered.

About 10,000 people in Hawaii are paid minimum wage -- that's 1.7 percent of wage earners.

read … 10,000 workers

Medical Dope Pushers Take Aim at Returning Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans

CB: Fortunately, there is something that the State of Hawaii can do to improve the treatment options that are available to our stricken veterans. A new bill, SB 2406, was recently introduced into the Senate, which would add PTSD as a qualifying medical condition under Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Program. Such an addition would make it possible for registered physicians to recommend Cannabis to their PTSD patients… (And even better it will make perfectly good veterans lazy and paranoid—in essence turning them into liberals.)

Read the bill: SB 2406: Adding PTSD to Hawai`i’s Medical Marijuana Program

read … Dopers aim at Veterans

Invasive Species: Snowy Owl Exterminated in Hawaii

CB: It was Thanksgiving Day and a white Snowy Owl from the Arctic was fluttering around the runways at Honolulu International Airport.

How it made its way from its native habitat is unknown, but the day would not end well for the owl that local officials say could be the first to grace Hawaii’s shores.

By mid-day it lay dead, felled by a gunshot wound from an official working for the USDA’s Wildlife Services Division.

The incident was reported in the NYTimes over the weekend in a story about an unusually high number of the owls swooping across shorelines and fields of the continental U.S., delighting bird watchers.

read … Invasive Species

FWS Seeks Comments on Petition to List`I`iwi as Threatened or Endangered

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it will be taking comments and seeking information on a petition to list the `i`iwi as threatened or endangered. The FWS found that the petition, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Life Net, may be warranted for several reasons, including disease threats, predation, habitat destruction or degradation, climate change impacts, and the fact that `i`iwi occur in such small, isolated populations. Please see the first item in the EH-xtra column of our webpage for more information….

read … www.environment-hawaii.org


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