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Wednesday, March 28, 2012
March 28, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:45 PM :: 10993 Views :: Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Lingle Commends US Chamber for Tourism-Focused Senate Testimony

Life of the Land Releases Hawaii Energy Report

State, County Projects Exempt from Environmental Review? Thielen, Rivere Rip SB755

Teacher: DoE Allows Students to Take and Re-Take Tests until they Pass

…there are a number of initiatives already in use in Hawaii public schools that the state Board of Education and state Department of Education seem to have embraced, and that may help them meet the Legislature's mandate. Here are a few common ones:

» Don't assign homework, even in high school.

Those kids with problems at home, or whose parents don't take an active role in their children's education, won't do it anyway. This, in turn, leads the student to feel bad and to low self-esteem and school avoidance. Students who do their homework are really academic bullies, and their parents elitists, racists and snobs.

» Allow students to retake tests and other assessments as many times as they need to pass.

Eventually, they will pass. This is an especially popular option in Hawaii middle schools, where the kids, and even their parents, still actually think this means they learned something, and helps build their self-esteem.

Look for principals who say, "Failure is not an option," and you know you have found such an enlightened administrator.

HNN: Hawaii still at risk of losing $75m as federal educators evaluate the State DOE

as Explained: Hawaii DoE Cheating Scandal: Teachers blocked from Prompting Answers, Proficiency drops from 62% to 4%, DoE Boosts Test Scores by Giving Answers to Students

read … Teacher

SB1332: Kobayashi UH Exemption to be Continued?

SA: Gov. Neil Abercrombie supports the UH exemption, which is to sunset in June unless lawmakers extend it under Senate Bill 1332.

The top beneficiary of design-assist has been Albert C. Kobayashi Inc., which won the $113 million UH-West Oahu project, the $119 million Cancer Research Center of Hawaii job and a $22.5 million research building through its association with the Research Corp. of UH. This month, Kobayashi was given the design contract for a UH-Hilo dormitory.

Several contractors who have done business with UH told the Star-Advertiser's Rob Perez they are rethinking whether to invest the time and resources to pursue design-assist projects at UH because the selection process is too subjective and favors a single company. Without their competition in bidding for construction projects, there is real concern about whether reasonable costs are achieved.

Kobayashi did not respond to Perez's repeated requests for comment, a disappointing silence heavy with either apathy or arrogance. The company's recent receipt of the three sizable UH jobs totaling $254.5 million of taxpayer money, which has raised industry and public eyebrows, warrants an explanation.

UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said such complaints that the procedures are unfair are "a little premature," (because she isn’t quite done doling out the loot) since only one UH design-assist project has been completed -- the more than $6 million School of Nursing facility. However, more than $500 million worth of construction projects have been started under the new system.

Tim Lyons, president of the Subcontractors Association of Hawaii, testified to legislators a year ago that "the new way of doing business at UH" may leave "some people screaming that it is unfair and (it) would seem to us that the Legislature would want to exert its oversight function" on the procurement process. The group consists of nine separate subcontracting organizations.

Lax oversight is another questionable aspect of the exemption: The UH gets to decide the merits of procurement protests filed against it, a self-policing power few other isle government agencies enjoy. The university has denied all six procurement complaints filed against it since this pilot began. A losing contract bidder must file a lawsuit to challenge a UH contract award to a competitor, which can be expensive and cumbersome.

Any talk of extending the UH exemption must include provision of a third-party contract appeals process.

read … Premature

Is Honolulu Rail Debt Causing Budget Cuts?

CB: Rail debt is going up, and spending on other capital projects is coming down. Case closed?

To hear Ben Cayetano and his "truth squad" tell it, yes.

Cayetano, the former state governor now running for mayor, called a press conference Tuesday afternoon where former city government leaders made the case that ballooning debt to construct the controversial $5.2 billion rail transit system is handcuffing Honolulu Hale. They said rail has made Mayor Peter Carlisle gun shy about incurring additional debt for other projects like police equipment, flood control improvements and road repairs.

"As more of the city's financial resources are diverted to rail, the city is forced to change its spending priorities," former Honolulu Finance Director Toy Arre, who served under Mayor Frank Fasi, announced to reporters. "In the proposed Fiscal 2013 budget alone, approximately $17 million in public health and safety projects are on the chopping block. More cuts are slated in forthcoming years."

Later, Jeremy Harris' former deputy managing director, Malcolm Tom, said: "HART is impacting the city's ability to fund general obligation bond-funded CIP projects."

News Release: Final press release cip cuts 3-27-12

Shapiro: The pressure to "show progress" has been more about local politics than federal requirements.

SA: Carlisle rejects Cayetano's slam of city rail costs

read … Is Honolulu Rail Debt Causing Budget Cuts?

Grabuskas: Rail Funding not Guaranteed

CB: Extending Honolulu's line of credit is the "big piece that's outstanding" before officials can formally ask for funding from the federal government to help pay for Honolulu's $5.2 billion rail project, incoming HART CEO Daniel Grabauskas told Civil Beat in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

Grabauskas was in Washington for a series of meetings about the Honolulu rail project with Federal Transit Administration officials and Hawaii's congressional delegates.

While Grabauskas told Civil Beat that the meetings were mostly a way of introducing him to key players and educating him about the project, he also said he participated in discussions about what needs to be done before the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation can file an application to enter into a Full Funding Grant Agreement in early May. Honolulu is counting on $1.55 billion in federal funding.

"There's one final piece that's currently pending, or will be pending before the City Council relative to the creditor guarantee that the FTA has advised would strengthen the application," Grabauskas said. "They're aware that that's currently being worked out, and the hope is that HART and the City Council can come to a resolution on mutually agreeable language between the city and the FTA."

Link: Hart release 3 27-12

read … Line of Credit 'Big Piece' Outstanding in Federal Rail Funding

Sen. Roz Baker Blasted Over Hearing Conduct

CB: Baker's committee hearing was on 11 gubernatorial nominees to the board of the Hawaii Health Connector, a nonprofit established by the state to help uninsured individuals and small businesses buy health coverage beginning in 2014. The council, the league, AARP Hawaii and others oppose three of the nominees because they represent insurance companies.

Janet Mason, the league's vice president, said Baker failed to conduct the hearing "in an open and acceptable way," did not call on every person who submitted written testimony for each nominee and behaved rudely.

"There was not adequate opportunity for public input in this hearing," said Mason. "The entire hearing took less than 2 hours, so the League believes more testimony could have been taken without jeopardizing efficiency and economy."

Larry Geller, president of Kokua Council, echoed Mason's concerns but went further. His testimony includes this statement:

The implications of this conduct go beyond the particular hearing and call into question the democratic process as practiced at the Hawaii State Legislature. For whatever reason, the Governor chose to appoint, looking specifically at the case of HMSA, the organization's chief lobbyist to the Board rather than someone else with particular skills relevant to the provision of health care. HMSA and other insurers and lobbyists make significant and regular contributions to the campaigns of Senator Baker and other members of the Hawaii legislature, as do other corporations, organizations and wealthy individuals.

Geller told Civil Beat Monday that Baker "barred oral testimony and was hostile to consumer advocates who wanted to testify and not to others."

Larry Geller: How to report on Hawaii Health Connector issues I’m involved in as an advocate?

read … Sen. Roz Baker Blasted Over Hearing Conduct

Slom: Health Exchange Lacks Sunshine, Ethics

Hawaii Connectors. Despite conflicts of interest, lack of Sunshine, and ethics exemptions, the Hawaii Senate Commerce & Consumer Protection (Sen. Roz Baker) rushed last Friday to approve all of the Governor's nominees to the new Hawaii Health Connector-where you will be forced to purchase medical insurance under Obamacare. AARP, League of Women Voters, and several other groups raised serious concerns about several of the nominees' conflicts of interest (HMSA, Kaiser, Hawaii Dental) but the Committee voted 5-1 to approve all. I said it wasn't about character, experience or integrity of the candidates but the process of force itself, and cast the lone no vote.

read … Your Medical Future

HMSA seeks rate boost

SA: Hawaii Medical Service Association plans to raise health insurance premiums for roughly 84,000 small-business members by 3.8 percent after posting a more than eightfold profit to $43.8 million in 2011.

The rate increase on July 1 applies to the bulk of HMSA members in its predominant preferred provider plan. The state's largest health insurer also is raising premiums for members in its Health Plan Hawaii managed-care line by 4 percent and by 3.8 percent for CompMed, a program that features higher deductibles and lower benefits.

The proposed increase is the lowest since 1997, when the insurer sought a 3.4 percent raise. Last year the state Insurance Division reduced the company's 4.2 percent request to 3.7 percent.

read … Imagine how much easier this will be when HMSA appeals to itself

HB2175: Task-Force Lobbyists to be Exempted from Ethics Code

CB: House Bill 2175 would exempt people — unless they are state employees — serving on government-appointed task forces from the State Ethics Code.

That includes lobbyists, even though they may have clear conflicts of interest. Lawmakers say they need their expert advice and don’t want to scare them away from serving.

read … No Ethics

Hawaii Adds 1,200 Gov’t Jobs, Loses 33,800 Private Sector Jobs

PBN: Hawaii had 124,300 government jobs in January 2008, one month after the Great Recession officially began, according to an analysis of raw numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by On Numbers, a Pacific Business News affiliate.

That count grew by 1,200 jobs to 125,500 in January of this year, which ranked Hawaii at No. 19 in the nation for number of jobs, On Numbers found. Hawaii was ranked No. 16 for the percentage change, which was just under 1 percent.

A previous report by On Numbers found that Hawaii lost 33,800 private-sector jobs during the same period. (That’s a 28-to-1 ratio)

read … Exchange Ratio

Paid Sick Leave Mandate on Today’s legislative Agenda

CB: House Finance will meet to, among other things, consider measures designed to alleviate Hawaii’s overcrowded criminal justice system.

Senate Judiciary and Labor will meet to hear a bill that would require employers to provide a minimum amount of paid sick and safe leave to employees “to be used to care for themselves or a family member who is ill or a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.”

Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection will meet to take up a measure requiring non-residential owners of vacation rentals to retain local agent contact information.

read … Today’s Agenda

Young Brothers’ President Nominated to Board of Ag

CB: He faces a Senate confirmation hearing on April 12. The governor had previously appointed Hong to the state water commission — which has a highly-charged political history. But Hong resigned last month amid controversy over whether he was qualified for the position.

read … Young Brothers’ President Nominated to Board of Ag

Hawaii GOP 'Still Looking' for Candidate to Run in Congressional Race

CB: March is almost over and still no Republican candidate in the open 2nd Congressional District race.

Hawaii GOP Chair David Chang told Civil Beat in January, “As we get closer, people will pop up.”

Two months later and this has yet to happen.

“We’re still looking,” Chang said Thursday.

The primary is Aug. 11, but candidates only have until June 5 to file nomination papers.

read … CD2

New guns for Hawaii sheriffs packed up & shipped back to Smith & Wesson

HNN: Under an even-swap agreement, sheriffs received the weapons package valued at $185,500 in exchange for their old guns and some excess inventory. The firearms deal was brokered in 2010 under the previous administration.

"When we came into office, myself and a deputy for law enforcement, it was brought to our attention," Maesaka-Hirata said. "We immediately began an investigation in working with the Attorney General's office."

Since state procurement laws may have been violated, public safety officials are having to bite to bullet and return the goods. Hawaii taxpayers will foot the $8,000 shipping cost….

The internal investigation into the controversial gun deal continues.

read … Who got the Commission on this sale?

Horizon Lines' debt restructuring puts future in limbo

SA: Horizon Lines, the second-largest shipper serving Hawaii (Matson is first), announced Tuesday that it needs more time to file its annual financial report because of an "extremely complicated" debt restructuring under way that could affect the company's ability to continue operations.

The North Carolina-based ocean cargo transportation company restructured significant debts last year but is still working to complete a tentative restructuring of another $228 million of debt. That's contingent on restructuring charter obligations for five ships after terminating service between the mainland, Guam and China in November.

Horizon said it expects it will complete the transactions. But if it can't, the company said, it expects an independent auditor will express substantial doubt about Horizon's ability to continue operations.

read … Horizon?

Gay Waikiki Murder Trail Continues

SA: McCormick told the mental health examiners that he met Henderson, 51, in Waikiki. He said they drank together at several bars before Henderson invited him to his Ilikai condominium for more drinks.

He said Henderson talked about his interest in younger guys and asked him if he knew where to find young boys who would fool around for money, the reports say.

McCormick said Henderson touched him on his lower back, his shoulder, then the front of his body. When he turned around, he said, he saw Henderson was undressed. That's when he snapped, he said.

"When he touched me I felt scared, and I reacted," he said.

McCormick told police the incident reminded him of being molested by his stepfather when he was 2 or 3 years old.

He said he rejected thoughts of throwing Henderson off the balcony for fear of drawing attention, or rendering him unconscious through a wrestling maneuver because he wanted to hurt him. He said put Henderson in a chokehold and snapped his neck. After killing Henderson, McCormick said, he washed the wineglasses they had used, took two Rolex watches from the apartment and left the building being careful to avoid security cameras.

Police found Henderson's nude, decomposing body in his 14th-floor apartment July 17, 1996. The Hono­lulu Medical Examiner said Henderson was hanged or strangled.

The autopsy says the phrase "I rape little boys so I must die" was written on Henderson's buttocks. It also says a ballpoint pen was stuck in the back of Henderson's left thigh….

He said that over the next 12 years he plummeted into alcoholism ….

read … a slice of reality

State says condo funds must be deposited locally

ILind: Here’s a quick follow-up on the story of theft from condominiums managed by Certified Management.

A tipster pointed me back to a story by Lynn Nakagawa in Pacific Business News last month (“Bankers want clarification from Mutual of Omaha“).

The story describes a complaint by the Hawaii Bankers Association that Certified Hawaii and Hawaii First, both property management firms owned by the Texas-based Associa, were depositing funds of Hawaii condominium and community associations in Mutual of Omaha Bank, which has a Honolulu office but no local bank branch….

Hawaii First, the state’s third largest property management firm, moved its accounts to Mutual of Omaha at the beginning of 2010, according to a company newsletter. At the time, the company said it expected “a significant saving in banking costs.”

Hawaii First was then acquired by Associa in 2011.

Clients of Certified Management, also owned by Associa, were told the “the new banking relationship between Certified Hawaii and Mutual of Omaha Bank” would begin in January 2012.

read … State says condo funds must be deposited locally

Vandals strike Honolulu Zoo, exotic birds missing

HNN: Three exotic birds are on the loose after vandals cut holes in wire cages at the Honolulu Zoo. Authorities are now searching for the birds and the suspects. According to the zoo, the crime happened sometime between 6:30 p.m. on Monday and 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday. A groundskeeper spotted the holes and started stuffing them with trash bags to prevent more birds from flying away.

(Animal liberation nuts?)

read … Vandals strike Honolulu Zoo, exotic birds missing


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