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Friday, December 09, 2011
December 9, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:43 PM :: 6372 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Hirono Camp: Case Unworthy of the People of Hawaii

Pay to Play Fines Unpaid: Hirono for Governor Campaign Closes Owing State Elections Fund Over $98,000

It Begins: Army to Cut 8,700 Civilian Jobs in 37 States

Nonaka Launches 'Hawaii Solutions' 

Gloves Come Off As Hawaii Senate Race Gets Going

CB: While Abercrombie has often found fault with Lingle's actions during her eight years in office, he ramped up his criticism in an interview with Civil Beat on Nov. 28. Among other things, Abercrombie said Lingle left him with a "fiscal disaster."

Lingle's former chief of staff, Barry Fukunaga, quickly fired back, arguing that fiscal accountability was one of the "hallmarks" of Lingle's two terms in office.

"The fact is, the Lingle Administration successfully guided the state through the 2008 global financial and economic collapse," Fukunaga wrote.

Abercrombie continued the war of words in his Dec. 1 announcement that the state completed the largest bond sale in its history.

The governor told reporters gathered for a press conference at the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii that his administration deserved credit for rescuing the state from Lingle's "fiscal nightmare."

The latest salvo came Thursday, when Fukunaga and two other former Lingle cabinet members penned an essay, widely distributed to the media: "Recent State Bond Sale Is Not All It Appears To Be."

"Taking a victory lap due to the success of this new borrowing is misleading if the underlying factors that made it possible are not considered," wrote Fukunaga, joined by former budget director, Georgina Kawamura, and former comptroller, Russ Saito.

MN: Lingle kept state afloat during economic downturn

SA: Governor signals openness on state spending

Related: Former State Administrators: Abercrombie’s Bond Sale Like setting up savings account by charging credit card, Lucky Hawaii: Bond Sale Benefits as Investors Flee Europe, Abercrombie Refusing to Accept Responsibility for his own Wreckage, Fiscal and Otherwise

read … Gloves Come Off

Abercrombie’s Health Czar Takes Aim at “High-Tech Services”

SA: So we have a system that rewards lots of procedures, lots of high-tech services. It really rewards growing the extent of the system, but it doesn't reward trying to improve the health of populations, trying to manage care in a more effective way. It doesn't reward primary care and the basic services that everybody needs….

I think it can be. It is going to be tough, and part of reason it's going to be tough is that we have population issues that, basically, we need people to take more responsibility for their health….

So right now we have an organization in Hawaii called the Hawaii Health Information Exchange, which is setting up the rules and policies for information exchange between providers, so those things can actually happen. ...

Reality: Healthcare: Do We Really Spend More and Get Less?

read … Controlling your life and death

City Audit: Only 3 of 21 Ambulances Meet Emergency Response Time Guidelines

KHON: Only a handful of ambulances met response time guidelines, and emergency responders made as much as two hundred thousand dollars each a year due to overtime.

Those and other findings are in a city audit of the city's ambulance fleet and operations.

The city's EMS division says many of the concerns have already been addressed, with overtime down by millions of dollars, and response times significantly faster thanks to additional ambulance units.

According to the audit, the EMS contract with the state expects the city operator to meet response time guidelines 90 percent of the time but found only 3 of 21 ambulance units did so between fiscal years 2008 through 2010.

It found excessive leave, staff vacancies, turnover and shortages resulted in others working so much that some made as much as 200,000 dollars a year but without breaks over extended periods. the audit said such a strained staffing level could impact critical patient care.

read … Slow, but well paid

Molokai business leader fears 'erosion of rule of law'

Chamber President Robert Stephenson said he worries when businesses are held to answer to special interests for actions that are legally permissible.

"There are well-established and clearly defined laws that should not be arbitrarily changed," Stephenson said.

"We all count on this to maintain orderly and peaceful conduct, which allows us to live the aloha spirit."

(In other words, where are the police? What does it take to get shake down operator Walter Ritte arrested for blocking public highways and public waterways?)

read … Arrest Ritte

Cruise line cancels a third Molokai call after protests

USA Today: The line says the 36-passenger Safari Explorer will skip a two-day visit to Molokai scheduled for Dec. 16-17 -- the third time the line has dropped a call at the island since the ship was blocked by protesters on boats and surfboards in late November.

The protesters have voiced concerns about the impact of cruise tourism on the little-visited island, and the line has been putting off further visits while it holds talks with local officials and protesters (figures out how much of a payoff is needed) to resolve the situation. American Safari officials also attended a community-wide meeting last week.

"We are continuing to work with state, federal and local representatives in Hawaii on concerns brought forth in the last community meeting on Molokai," CEO Dan Blanchard says in a statement sent to USA TODAY. "In respect for the continuing discussions, the Safari Explorer yacht will not visit Molokai as planned on its next voyage."

"We are committed to our vendors and supporters on Molokai," Blanchard says in the statement. "We look forward to reaching a mutually agreeable (cash payoff) resolution and our peaceful return to Molokai soon."

read … Walter Ritte still hasn’t been paid off

HSTA Blocks Laupahoehoe Charter for at Least One Year

SA: Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School cannot open as planned next fall because it failed to hold elections for a permanent school board, the Charter School Review Panel decided Thursday.

"The feeling of the majority of members is that we have given ample notice to the Laupahoehoe Interim Local School Board about the importance and the urgency of them conducting their Local School Board election," Panel Chairman Carl Takamura said. "And without them having done that, it really calls into question the future of the school."

Takamura spoke after the panel met in executive session with a deputy attorney general. Members voted 7-0, with two abstentions, on a motion against opening the charter school in the 2012-13 school year.

The move will keep 128-year-old Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School, on Hawaii island's Hamakua Coast, as a regular Department of Education school for at least another year. The panel said the action was necessary to ensure Laupahoehoe's financial, academic and organizational success and "for the sake of the students and staff."

The panel had previously rejected an application by a group of alumni and community members to convert Laupahoehoe School into a charter, saying the plan was not financially viable and did not have enough support in the school community. But the applicants persuaded the newly appointed Board of Education in a closed meeting to reverse that decision and award the charter on Aug. 3.

read … Big Victory for HSTA

$100M: Council faces tough choices on property tax exemptions

SA: The panel's recommendations, approved at a Wednesday meeting, were expected to be posted on the Council's website today, starting a 30-day period for the public to submit written comments. In early January the package will be forwarded to the Council, which will solicit more public feedback and can decide to embrace, ignore or change any of the proposals.

While Council members say they will seriously consider the recommendations, the most controversial one — eliminating the exemptions for more than 144,000 owner-occupants of homes — isn't likely to survive, especially in a year in which five of nine Council seats are up for election, political observers say….

The city forgoes about $100 million in revenue each year because of the tax breaks it gives for roughly 40 exemption categories. Many have been in place long before 1978, when responsibility for property taxes switched from the state to the counties.

The exemptions provide breaks to a range of landowners, including those operating cemeteries, slaughterhouses, crop shelters and for-profit child care centers.

Homeowner exemptions account for about half the $100 million in forgone revenue.

Related: Kalapa vs Property Tax Exemptions: Vitality of County Depends on Everyone Paying Their Share

read … Property tax

State prosecutors Continue to Harass DEA Agent over Arrest of Alleged Tweeker

SA: Moore had appeared twice in state court on the charge before federal prosecutors moved the case to federal court when they were unable to convince city prosecutors to drop the charge….

The state says Moore was not "acting under color of law" when he threw a 47-year-old woman down and pinned her to the ground in the parking lot of Kapolei Community Park after asking her to leave the park.

The woman told police she and her friends were hanging out under a tree at the park and were not happy that a soccer team had set up so close to them in an apparent attempt to force them to move.

Moore said he identified himself as a law enforcement officer and was trying to arrest the woman after she threatened to stab any soccer ball that ventured near her, and after she threatened and charged after one of the other coaches. Moore said he also saw her earlier sitting in a vehicle in the parking lot handling what he believes was methamphetamine, based on his 24 years of experience as a DEA special agent.

read … If an HPD officer had done this ….

$25 million offered for 2 St Francis hospitals

SA: Prime Healthcare Foundation Hawaii Inc. has offered a minimum bid of $25 million to purchase the bankrupt Hawaii Medical Centers in Liliha and Ewa.

HMC asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Wednesday to approve a sale to Prime Healthcare unless another bidder offers a significantly higher price.

Prime could become the new owner of the hospitals if there are no bids that are at least $875,000 more than Prime's $25 million offer, according to court documents filed this week. HMC is scheduled to update the court on the sales process on Dec. 16.

"If no one actually tries to qualify (as a bidder), then we have a hearing set on Jan. 9 to approve the sale to Prime," said Chris Muzzi, HMC's attorney. However, if there are other bidders, HMC will hold an auction on Jan. 5.

Prime, controlled by California hospital operator Prime Healthcare Services, also agreed to invest at least $15 million in capital improvements within five years, and has put down a $1 million deposit. If the company is outbid, Prime will be paid a $625,000 "break-up fee" for its work in preparing the deal, according to court filings….

Court records show that HMC's main creditor, St. Francis, is owed about $39 million, and unsecured creditors at least $19 million. If a sale is approved to Prime, St. Francis would receive just $11.3 million, while unsecured creditors would get $500,000, court documents show.

read … St Francis

Atheists Make Honolulu Manger a Non-Profit Responsibility

SA: Question: When I went to Honolulu Hale with a friend who is a missionary to Uganda, we looked for the manger scene and could not find one. We finally found a few displays with legal disclaimers saying the city did not pay for them. They were the only displays mentioning the reason for the season, which is Christ Jesus. How can I designate my tax money to support these displays, not the ones that don't honor the real reason we celebrate?

Answer: Taxpayer money doesn't go for any religious display.

The five private displays set up every year as part of the Honolulu City Lights festivities are paid for by nonprofit groups, and it's the luck of the draw who gets a space.

A lottery system was devised in 1998, after someone complained about a Nativity scene set up by the city as part of the holiday festivities.

Qualified nonprofit groups, religious or nonreligious, can apply for one of five display spots each year.

This year, 10 groups applied and the following five were picked: Boy Scouts of America, The Prayer Center of the Pacific, Blue Planet Foundation, Calvary Chapel West Oahu and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

read … Atheists

Obamas Not Staying at Illegal Vacation Rental This Year

CB: The Maryland-based owner of the Kailua estate where the first family has stayed each December since 2008 says that the Obamas are not renting the so-called Winter White House this year.

"They're not staying at my house," Glenn Weinberg told Civil Beat on Thursday. "If they're staying somewhere else, I don't know."

A White House spokesman would not offer information on how lodging arrangements for the president are made, and simply said that the first family "is looking forward to returning to Hawaii to spend the holidays with family and friends."

A Civil Beat investigation earlier this year found that the Obamas' two-week rental of the three-bedroom, five-and-a-half bath home in 2010 was illegal under a longstanding Honolulu ban on short-term rentals.

Borreca: Romney jab at Obama over vacation was cheap shot

read .. Illegal Obama

Marcus Oshiro to Travel to Israel

CB: State House Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro is part of a bipartisan delegation of state officials attending a seminar intended to provide them with a first-hand understanding of Israel’s “complicated reality.”

The seminar is being held by the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange. The delegation will visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Sderot to see Israel “beyond the headlines.”

read … The Anti-Semitic Comments at the Bottom of this Civil Beat Story

Pro-Rail Activist Files IRS Complaint Against Small Business Hawaii

A vocal rail supporter has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that Small Business Hawaii has improperly used donations to pay for a lawsuit against the project.

Hannah Miyamoto revealed the complaint yesterday and shared details on her website, AlohaTransit.com. Describing herself in a self-referential press release as a “non-profit organization expert,” Miyamoto says SBH is mixing tax-deductible donations with funds from other plaintiffs, which she claims is a violation of federal law.

Totally Related: July 16, 2010. Hannah Miyamoto, protesting $50 athletic fees, proposes new words for the UH fight song:

Let's go, to-day's Visitors! Smash up the Green and White!

Break their bones and faces. Crush them with all your might. Right! Right! Right!

Snap their fragile ankles. Infect them with disease

Then when the team is, completely cream-ed; Repeal the unfair fees!

read … Unhinged Ramblings

Hawaii About to Crack Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Roadblocks?

It is in deep tropic waters that OTEC offers the greatest possibilities, as it is there that the temperature differentials are highest, with surface waters often reaching up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while deep water can be as low as several degrees above water’s freezing temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat from the warm surface water is used to vaporize ammonia, which turns a turbine to drive a generator to produce electricity….

OTEC has the potential to offer global amounts of energy that are 10 to 100 times greater than other ocean energy options such as wave power and unlike solar and wind power, OTEC plants can operate continuously providing a base load supply for an electrical power generation system. Energy specialists estimated that that 10 OTEC plants producing 100 megawatts of electricity could power all of Oahu.

Related: Thielen: Federal Takeover of Hawaii Shorelines Would Endanger Clean Energy Projects

read … OTEC

PUC to Keep Using Outside Consultants to Drive Clean Energy Approvals

Public Utilities Commission Chairwoman Hermina Morita told PBN that the agency has the funding to fill its 25 openings, but it currently has enough space to hire only four of the positions.

In an effort not to fall even further behind an increasingly crowded caseload, Morita said the PUC will continue to use consultants (Supplied by whom? With what conflicts of interest?) to take up some of the slack while the state agency considers generating proposals that would allow it to lease or buy additional office space. Morita says the state currently has no additional space that can be used by the PUC.

read … And who are the consultants?

New energy sources fuel interest from Secretary of the Navy

Underscoring the importance of alternative energy for the military, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii Dec. 7 to learn about possible Department of the Navy-wide applications for Office of Naval Research (ONR)-funded fuel cell vehicles (FCV) and high-efficiency trash disposal technology.

Mabus, who also attended events marking the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, was updated on progress with General Motors Equinox FCVs sponsored by ONR, five of which are located in Hawaii….

The FCV program at Marine Corps Base Hawaii has increased the percentage of "green" vehicles at the base to 30. It is anticipated that by the end of 2012, more than 50 percent of the base vehicle fleet will use alternative fuels, with that number increasing to 70 percent by 2015….

A significant hurdle to making fuel cells widely available is the difficulty of cost-effectively producing and delivering hydrogen in large quantities. (Simple Solution: Skip Hydrogen and just use Natural Gas.)

read … Fuel Cells

Firm markets waste-to-ash technology to Hawaii hotels

Montreal-based Terragon Technologies’ Mico Auto Gasification System already is being tested by the U.S. Marines at Camp Smith. Officials at Outrigger Hotels and Resorts say they have seen the machine in action but have not yet been contacted by Terragon about its commercial applications. Terragon President Peter Tsantrizos and Vice President of Business Development Theodora Alexakis reportedly are setting up meetings with Hawaii hotel officials.

The system will sell for “less than $300,000” per unit, Alexakis said.

read … Auto Gasification

State to auction off forfeited property

On Saturday, December 10, a public auction consisting of property forfeited to the State of Hawaii will take place in the Pikake room at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.

For a list of the property, click here.

read … Auction

Land costs for Kona Judiciary complex range from $4.5M to $10.8M

The cost of acquiring and improving land for the Hawaii Judiciary’s Kona court complex on the Big Island varies from $4.5 million to $10.8 million, depending on which of seven sites the state chooses, according to a final environmental impact statement published Thursday in the state’s Environmental Notice.

The state estimates the entire cost of the project to be about $90.7 million, with the bulk of that, $72.9 million, going toward construction costs. The state estimates land acquisition costs to be about $4.5 million of the total.

News Release: Final EIS for Kona Judiciary Complex Published

read … Land Costs


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