Declining Unions, Growing Churches Shape the Future of Hawaii Politics
France, Flights, and Free Cars: A Peek into a $10B Jones Act 'Union'
VIDEO: Molokai Voters' Guide to the Bizarre Rituals and Slippery Corridors of Hawaii Senate
Marx Nails Mufi, Tulsi on Rail
Court could erase map of new state legislative boundaries
SA: The lawsuit's overarching claim is that the plan is discriminatory and unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause. It seeks an injunction preventing the use of the current plan and asks for a new plan based on the actual 2010 U.S. Census population for Hawaii of 1,360,301 people.
"Every person in Hawaii who's in Hawaii on more than a transient basis is entitled, under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, to be represented equally in the Hawaii Legislature — regardless of where they pay taxes, regardless of where they vote, regardless if they vote at all," Thomas said.
The panel is scheduled to hear arguments Friday and could issue a decision soon after.
The decision will have an impact from Honolulu to Hilo, particularly for the state Senate. Using the actual census count would maintain the current allotment of 18 Senate seats on Oahu, three each in Hawaii and Maui counties and one for Kauai.
Removing the nonpermanent residents, as the commission has done since at least 1990, would remove a sizable chunk of residents from Oahu and give more weight to population growth that has occurred on Hawaii island during the past decade. Hawaii island would gain a state Senate seat while Oahu would lose one. The practical impact would be felt greatest in areas near military bases, where districts would have more people represented by a lawmaker with the same amount of resources as one with substantially fewer people.
"Constituents' needs are still constituents' needs," said Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson (R, Mapunapuna-Foster Village). "If they live in your district, they live in your district, and those needs don't necessarily go away just because they are counted or not counted for apportionment purposes."
Johanson said he has about 46,000 people physically living within his district, according to 2010 U.S. Census figures. Under the current reapportionment plan, which excludes most military members, the target number for each House district on Oahu is about 24,000.
"You have a disproportionately higher number of people to serve," he said….
"To me it's biased," said Brostrom, 59, a retired Army colonel. "It's prejudiced against the military here in Hawaii. … The military are a big part of this community. Why would you even want to think about saying we don't exist for representation?"
Plaintiffs' attorney Thomas … calls it unfair to blame the lawsuit for any election problems.
"Nobody said it was going to be easy," Thomas said. "Having painted themselves into this time corner, they're pointing the finger at us, saying, ‘You're the ones throwing us all off the tracks.'
"We didn't create the mess."
read … Redistricting
Big Cable Approval Sets off State Capitalist Feeding Frenzy
CB: Wind, solar and undersea cable developers, engineers and attorneys are just some of the dozens of stakeholders (a who’s who of people reaching into ratepayers’ pockets for $1B) who flocked to an informational meeting hosted by the utility and state officials in December. Since then, companies have been making the rounds talking to state and local officials.
“We are definitely seeing people coming in our doors talking about proposals that they are thinking of making,” said Doug McLeod, Maui’s energy commissioner….
One of the larger companies that has shown an interest is ESS Group, which has offices in Massachusetts, Virginia and Rhode Island. The company has developed 600 miles of land and underwater transmission lines and 1,500 mw of renewable energy. It is a consultant for the Cape Wind project, a 450 mw offshore wind farm on Nantucket Sound, according to the company website….
Lockheed Martin, the multi-billion dollar military contractor, is looking into wave energy projects and ocean thermal energy conversion, according to the company. …
Florida-based NextEra Energy, the largest generator of wind and solar energy in the country, also has at least checked out the landscape for projects. While the company sent a representative to Hawaii in December to learn more about the RFP, it is being tight lipped about any future plans….
Darren Kimura, CEO of Sopogy, a local solar thermal company, said that the company was looking to partner with other developers in combining energy sources…
First Wind, which spent several years on Molokai trying to negotiate a wind farm deal and made several failed offers to Molokai Ranch for land, also wasn't shy about its plans to bid.
And then there is the controversial Molokai wind project.
Last year, after First Wind missed its deadline, the CEO of Molokai Ranch announced that it would work with San Francisco-based Pattern Energy. The company formed a joint venture with Bio-Logical Capital called Molokai Renewables and company executives appear undaunted by the upwelling of local opposition to the project….
There's also a good chance that Castle & Cooke, the developer for the wind farm on Lanai, could bid on an extra 200 megawatts for that island. If successful, this would mean that the entire Big Wind project, about 140 wind turbines, would be built on Lanai…
When it comes to undersea cable developers, there are only a handful of companies in the country with the expertise, and Pattern Energy is one of them. Pattern developed San Francisco’s Trans Bay cable in San Francisco, which is similar in scope to the undersea cable project proposed for Molokai and Lanai.
Also a contender is Hawaii Infrastructure Partners, a joint venture of PowerBridge, Anbaric and HDBaker & Co. The company has said that it plans to submit a bid. PowerBridge was the developer of the Neptune Project, a 600 mw undersea cable project that transmits energy between New Jersey and Long Island. The company has other major cable projects under development on the east coast.
read … Hawaii's Biggest Clean Energy Contract Generating Big Interest
Cayetano: I Cut Income Taxes
CB: "When I was governor, I cut taxes," he said. "We cut the personal income tax rate from 10 to 8.25 (percent). I wanted to cut it more, but the Legislature did not agree because they knew it was more important to people like Kirk to hold the line. So I don't intend to raise the property taxes."…
Reports from the Tax Review Commission confirmed that personal income tax rates were 10 percent until Cayetano signed a law in 1998 reducing them to 8.25 percent over the next four years….
Cayetano, who was governor from 1994 to 2002, advocated for more cuts in 2001. He wanted to drop the income tax rate to 7.5 percent by 2005, but he lacked the votes in the Legislature to make it happen.
read … Tax Cut
PBN: 20.8% of Hawaii Workers Employed by Government – #7 in USA
597,000 total workers
124,300 gov’t workers
read … Governments employ 20 percent or more of workers in nine states
HB 1875 Will Likely Cause Complete Shutdown of Foreclosures in Hawaii
SA: protections in Hawaii's out-of-court foreclosure law last year, foreclosures fell sharply as lenders avoided the new rules and funneled a restrained volume of cases into the courts.
Now the number of foreclosure cases going through the courts could slow further or stop altogether because of another change the Legislature passed last month.
Attorneys representing mortgage lenders predict that part of House Bill 1875, which further overhauls the state's foreclosure law, will dramatically reduce or even halt home foreclosures statewide.
"The bill is likely to stop all judicial foreclosures," said David Rosen, a foreclosure attorney.
Steven Guttman, chairman of the Hawaii State Bar Association's Collection Law Section, also anticipates that what remains of foreclosures in Hawaii will dry up, at least in the short run.
Broadly, HB 1875 aims to improve the out-of-court foreclosure process shunned by lenders last year.
But a small piece of the bill — fewer than three of its 183 pages — requires that attorneys who file foreclosures in court on behalf of lenders research and affirm the accuracy of all case documents….
Rosen and other lawyers also believe that putting the responsibility on them to verify the accuracy of foreclosure documents initiated by financial institutions unfairly and unacceptably opens them to liabilities including court penalties and an opportunity to be sued.
"While it might seem as if the bringing of such a false claim against an innocent verifier would be uncommon, it is going to happen," the Bar Association's Collection Law Section said in written testimony on the bill. "Desperate borrowers, especially (ones without legal counsel) who are attempting to delay the loss of their home and who may be fueled by misleading advice from the Internet and other questionable sources, already are bringing such claims because they have nothing to lose."
The Bar Association as a whole raised concerns about the affirmation at the Legislature, saying it forces attorneys to reveal information relating to their representation, which compromises the attorney-client privilege….
In New York, where the state bar association welcomed the requirement, foreclosures fell by 80 percent shortly after the rule was implemented. Some observers said attorneys were fearful….
read … Onus
Principals offered One-Time $10K merit bonus
SA: Principals who attain high ratings under a performance-evaluation pilot program in 82 schools this fall will be eligible for a one-time $10,000 bonus in what officials are calling the first experiment of a merit pay system for public school educators in the islands.
Under a deal reached with the Hawaii Government Employees Association in April, details of which were released last week, 40 percent of the new evaluations will be based on student educational progress, and the rest will be based on a principal's rating as an effective school leader.
In the 2013-14 school year, when the program moves to all schools statewide, 50 percent of a principal's evaluation will be based on student growth outcomes.
Presumably, principals with the highest ratings — those deemed "highly effective" — would be eligible for the bonuses, but those details have not yet been ironed out….
(One-time bonus with unclear rules means no effect. This is just a handout.)
The state's new principal evaluation system will be tested in schools next school year where a revised teacher evaluation system (with no consequences) is also being tested….
In the evaluations, student growth outcomes will be determined by state test scores and at least one or two other indicators, which will be agreed upon by the principal and complex-area superintendent.
Those other indicators include such things as a school's dropout rate, graduation rate, college remediation rate, SAT results, ninth-grade retention rate or course grades.
The new principal evaluation system will initially supplement current evaluations for principals but will not yet replace them.
Matayoshi noted that a host of details on how the new rating system will work still have to be ironed out, including exactly how a principal would earn a $10,000 bonus.
Under the current evaluation system, principals are evaluated by their complex-area superintendent based on observations and how well they do on a "profile of effective school leaders" rubric. The complex area superintendents can take student achievement into account.
In the 2008-09 school year, under the current system, 64 percent of 220 public school principals were rated "excellent," and 32 percent were deemed "good." Just 4 percent were "satisfactory," and none was determined to be "marginal."
read … $10,000 Handout
Makaweli Poi: Three Years of OHA Mismanagement Undo Generations of Cultural Tradition
HNN: Fifteen people work mostly part-time at the mill. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs assisted Hi'ipoi LLC in buying the mill in 2008. Hi'ipoi sent those workers a notice last week, telling them that it all could end soon.
"The mill operations were being suspended, the employees were being laid off, and the equipment would be looked at by some people, and that there's a change of operations due primarily to financial reasons," said Bryna Storch about the notice's contents. Storch has been the mill's manager since January, but described herself as a longtime consumer of Makaweli Poi….
Hi'ipoi said it had plans to increase taro and poi production, and therefore increase employment. But Storch said taro farming has actually decreased 50 percent, partially because of more flooding that wiped out crops, but also because older farmers have retired and haven't been replaced. She says it's because the company didn't follow through on its mission.
"There was never any program implemented to educate and support the young farmers, or to support the ongoing farmers, or to really bring the company into a fiscally stable place," Storch said.
Hi'ipoi's chief operating officer, Mona Bernardino, said it costs $100,000 a year to run the mill. She also said that the company had explained to farmers and staff last year that it wouldn't be able to sustain operations…..
"It's amazing that in three years of mismanagement that has undone our cultural tradition for our community that has gone on for decades and generations," said Storch.
Supporters of the mill's workers have started a petition on the mill's Facebook page. There's also a community meeting planned Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the West Kauai Technology and Visitor Center in Waimea. Supporters also plan to attend an OHA community meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m. at King Kaumualii Elementary School in Hanamaulu.
KGI: OHA hosts forum, meeting this week
read … 3 years of OHA mismanagement
Kau Coffee: Resolute farmers and investors develop a fresh economy on acreage sugar left fallow
SA: Kau coffee farmer Lorie Obra has prized roasted coffees flying off the shelf at $80 a pound.
A few weeks ago Obra became one of three Kau coffee growers to place in the Specialty Coffee Association of America Roasters Guild Coffees of the Year Competition. She also is the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe's 2010 Outstanding Producer, as well as Grand Champion of the Hawaii Coffee Association's 2011 and 2010 statewide cupping contests.
"There are a lot of times that I have buyers lining up wanting to buy coffee, but no more coffee to sell," said Obra as she surveyed her coffee farm on the slopes of Mauna Loa, the world's largest volcano.
(Clue: These farmers aren’t looking for an OHA buyout.)
read … Private Sector
ILind: Fears about bill amending sunshine law and public records law are overblown
ILind: At the end of this year’s legislative session, SB2858 became a public rallying point for openness advocates who opposed its passage.
SB2858 had been proposed by the Office of Information Practices and incorporated into the Governor’s package. It was passed as SB2858, SD1, HD2, CD1.
From the bill’s official description: “Creates a process for an agency to obtain judicial review of a decision made by the Office of Information Practices relating to the Sunshine Law or the Uniform Information Practices Act, and clarifies standard of review.” ….
It should also be noted that the bill was amended to incorporate additional protections for the public suggested in testimony from the League of Women Voters.
It’s fair to say that this wasn’t a bill that independent openness advocates would have proposed. But, in the end, neither is it the “end of the world” measure portrayed in the closing days of the session, especially after looking more closely at arguments made against it.
read … Fears about bill amending sunshine law and public records law are overblown
Honoring our fallen police officers this week
KHON: Monday at 10 a.m. Mayor Peter Carlisle will hold a proclamation ceremony at Ala Moana Center stage. At 6:30 pm a candlelight vigil and memorial service will be held at the State Capitol. The public is invited to attend. The events end next Saturday
read … Honoring
UH graduates new doctors, hopes many will practice in the islands
HNN: The University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine welcomed 64 new doctors Sunday. But as the graduates move on, there are concerns about how many of them will return to practice in Hawaii.
JABSOM officials say the state is about 600 physicians short of what it should have. But the university is hoping that many from the latest crop of graduates will return home to make up that shortfall….
Of today's 64 graduates, only six are students from the mainland, so the probability of having more doctors returning home looks promising.
read … More MDs?
Kaiser reaches 3-year deal with 100,000 workers
FOX 5 San Diego: Kaiser Permanente and a coalition representing 100,000 employees in 28 different unions reached a new three-year contract at 3 a.m. Saturday, the healthcare organization and the unions announced.
The deal calls for 3 percent annual pay hikes for the 76,000 affected employees in California, and 2 percent in states ranging from Hawaii to Maryland, according to announcements made by the SEIU and Kaiser officials.
read … Kaiser
City’s Failure to Invest in Sewer Lines causes Four-Year Moratorium on new Construction
SA: At the site of the former Kam Drive-In theater, Robertson Properties Group is proposing five towers 150 to 350 feet high containing 1,500 residential units, along with 143,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a grocery store and 80,000 square feet of office space or a 150-room hotel.
That project is in the environmental impact study phase and is still a few years away from applying for a sewer permit, a spokesman said.
MW Group is planning to build its fourth senior living center under The Plaza brand at Pearl Highlands on a vacant 2-acre lot. The project includes a five-story, 100-unit building for assisted living in Phase I and a two-story, 34-unit structure for memory care in Phase II.
The developer's sewer permit application was denied last month, a few weeks before the city's memorandum was issued, said Steve Metter, chief executive officer of MW Group.
MW Group is working with the city to see whether a solution can be found to allow construction to continue.
Metter said one proposal would be to install a retention tank underground to catch all of the project's wastewater during the day. The wastewater would be connected to the sewer line but its contents released only between 2 and 5 a.m., when the line is at its lowest capacity.
"That's clearly a solution that should work," Metter said. "We're optimistic that we can make it happen."
read … Be patient, we’re building a railroad
SA: Give weekend ban at Kailua a chance
SA: In a hearing Wednesday on the proposed complete ban, three kayak rental companies said it would cause them to close up shop unless they are allowed to have permits for water sports operators, allowing them to bring and pick up kayaks at a designated spot, with restrictions. As one water sports businessman testified to the Council, "The city needs to regulate, limit and enforce … but this ‘all or nothing' attitude does not benefit anyone."
The issue of penalties also came up: Violators should not be punished by criminal penalties, as spelled out in regulations under the new law, but should face civil fines, suggested Waimanalo resident Laura Thielen
read … Lets Harass Some more small businesses
Maui Raising Bus Fares?
MN: Budget Director Sandy Baz said it's unclear whether the proposed daily and monthly passes would bring in more income from bus rider fares.
"We assume it will generate more revenue, but we don't know how much," he said last week. (If there is no more revenue, that means that ridership has dropped.)
Baz said that because riders currently pay $1 for each ride, a rider who gets on a bus and then transfers twice to other buses to get to a destination would pay $3 one way.
Although there is a current $2 daily pass, Baz said the county Department of Transportation determined that was a "little low" and recommended a $5 daily pass.
- * Fiscal 2007, $347,000 raised in bus fares; $3.2 million in operational costs.
- * Fiscal 2008, $788,000 in fares; $4.9 million in costs.
- * Fiscal 2009, $1 million in fares; $6.5 million in costs.
- * Fiscal 2010, $1.2 million in fares; $7.4 million in costs.
- * Fiscal 2011, $1.8 million in fares; $7.8 million in costs.
read … Cut Ridership
Time-share owners sue Diamond Resorts over fees
KGI: Time-share owners have filed a federal class-action lawsuit over an assessment fee they claim was forced by a management-based board without approval of the owners.
The suit, filed April 6 in U.S. District Court in Honolulu by attorneys William M. McKeon and Keri C. Mehling, is on behalf of five plaintiffs and is open to “all persons who were billed for the 2012 Water Intrusion Assessment by the Association of Apartment Owners of Po‘ipu Point,” a 219-room vacation time-share resort and hotel managed by Diamond Resorts International that sits on 22 acres on the South Shore.
The class action challenges the imposition of a $65,822,529 water intrusion assessment required of vacation time-share interests. The defendants allege that the $5,893.32 per weekly interval assessment to owners of 11,169 intervals annually is being used to renovate Po‘ipu Point and is not part of their obligation.
A similar situation occurred in 2009 with the Hanalei Bay Resort, a time share where owners sued to force out its management company, Celebrity Resorts. It is now managed by Trading Places.
A Fall 2010 article printed in TimeSharing Today, reported similar opposition and litigation to a Diamond Resorts property on Sint Maarten, the Dutch colony on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. Owners at the Royal Palm Beach Club and Flamingo Beach Resort were granted a court injunction against foreclosures resulting from not paying late fees associated with a 25 percent maintenance fee hike it ruled unreasonable, according to the report.
The court also ruled that management fee hikes be charged to developer and not the owners, said the article. It also ruled that maintenance fees and reserve accounts not be used for loans or channeled back to the United States.
read … It’s a Time Share
LGBT Story: NovaLei Gonzalez, ‘I’m from Hawaii’
More push on bullying in order to get gay recruitment into the schools.
watch … The Video
DLNR Hosts Meetings on Kaunakakai Ferry Improvements
MN: An informational meeting will be held on Molokai to discuss the planned construction activities and improvements for the Molokai to Maui commuter ferry.
The meeting, hosted by the Department of Land and Natural Resources will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, at the Mitchell Pau‘ole Center, and will also include information on impacts to harbor operations.
Related: Molokai Video: 160 Officers Outnumber 80 Protesters, Cruise Ship Enters Harbor
read … Molokai
Environmental groups collecting millions from federal agencies they sue, studies show
FOX: Deep-pocketed environmental groups are collecting millions of dollars from the federal agencies they regularly sue under a little-known federal law, and the government is not even keeping track of the payouts, according to two new studies.
Under the Equal Access to Justice Act, or EAJA — which was signed into law by President Carter in 1980 to help the little guy stand up to federal agencies — litigants with modest means who successfully show government agencies wronged them can get their legal fees back from the taxpayer.
But the act also covers 501(c)(3) nonprofits, including environmental groups that aggressively sue the feds to enforce land-use laws, the Clean Water and Clean Air acts and laws protecting endangered species. Their lawyers are getting reimbursed at rates as high as $750 an hour, sources tell FoxNews.com.
“It was intended for helping our nation's veterans, seniors and small business owners, but environmental groups have hijacked the so-called Equal Access to Justice Act and abused it to fund their own agenda,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told FoxNews.com
Read … No Kidding?
Big Cable: WindFarm Scammers Push for Giant Transmission Project in Maine
KJ: Considered the largest transmission investment ever in New England, the Maine Power Reliability Project is meant to modernize CMP's 40-year old bulk power lines to serve customers for decades to come. The work began in 2010 and is expected to be done in 2015. The cost is being shared among ratepayers across New England.
An important side benefit, CMP has said for years, is that the system would provide the infrastructure to send more power from the state's growing renewable energy industry to southern New England.
For projects in northern and eastern Maine, however, that benefit is now in question, as is perhaps millions of dollars in investment in an area targeted for major wind projects, according to documents reviewed by the Maine Sunday Telegram and interviews with key players in the energy industry.
"It has to cause every developer of a renewable project in Maine to sharpen their pencils," said Andrew Landry, a Portland attorney who represents some developers.
The new calculations come after the regional grid operator, ISO-New England, came to a preliminary conclusion that CMP's interconnection in Orrington has too little capacity to transfer large amounts of power south without risking "stability" problems. That instability could lead to regional blackouts.
In a March order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreed with ISO-New England, saying that some renewable energy developers in Maine misunderstood the benefits of CMP's project.
The initial fallout from this determination is that nine renewable power projects in Maine -- existing and planned -- weren't able to participate in an annual auction last month for future capacity payments. Generators that qualify for those special payments earn extra money for making power available if it's needed to meet demand.
read … Alternative energy projects at risk
Fate of Bahamas OTEC Project Unknown
NG: New leadership at Bahamas Electric places OTEC’s Nassau project at question ….
read … Hawaii OTEC’s Other Project