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Sunday, January 15, 2012
January 15, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:38 PM :: 12150 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Gingrich Registers for March 13 Hawaii GOP Caucuses

Colette Machado: Assisted Suicide Activists ‘Hoodwinking Our Culture’

Full Text AG Louie: Assisted Suicide Not Legal in Hawaii

Honolulu March for Life Jan 22

Hilo March for Life January 23

Supreme Court Finds Excuse to Keep East Maui Water Case Alive

Using Exemptions to Shift the Burden of Taxes

Killing Rail may be Solution for HGEA, UPW Budget Woes

Borreca: Enter Democrat Cayetano, about to jump into the nominally nonpartisan race for mayor. If and when he goes, he will not have support from the Democratic Party, but what about the unions?

The building trade unions are solidly behind the $5.3 billion city rail project. Construction is still hurting, the trade unions are all on the bench and they will support either current Mayor Peter Carlisle or former acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who want to build the train project.

Public worker unions have a slightly different equation to solve. They work for a city or state government that continually doesn't have enough money. The state has a marginally balanced budget today, but two years from now it is projected to be hundreds of millions of dollars out of balance.

Every year Honolulu's train sucks about $350 million out of Honolulu taxpayers in increased general excise tax collections. Do teachers and white collar government workers and firefighters want to keep on worrying about ever getting a pay raise or do they want to get that extra $350 million a year?

Added to the public unions' fears are the completely unbalanced state payments to the state retirement system and the state worker medical insurance plan. Can the state continue to afford to pay the health insurance benefits for retired public employees?

So Cayetano, who left office as something less than the HGEA poster boy, can make an argument that putting the brakes on the train means there could be more money for public workers.

read … Cayetano to lead HGEA, UPW, HSTA, UHPA against Rail?

After Failing to Save HMC, Legislature Finally Getting Around to Tapping Federal Funds to Raise Medicare/Medicaid Reimbursement

SA: "We've been looking at not only the HMC situation, but we're trying to look at how to ensure that all our hospitals can stay open," said Ryan Yamane, House Health Committee chairman. "HMC made everyone realize that it's going to take a collaborative effort." (In other words, two hospitals had to close to wake me up. That’s how sleepy I am.)

Among the measures aimed at increasing cash flow for health providers is HB 594, which would require the state match $10 million in federal funds to cover hospital losses largely attributed to uninsured patients unable to pay for their care. The so-called DSH, or disproportionate share hospital, program to help facilities that care for a high number of uninsured would potentially distribute $20 million to hospitals this year. (Hawaii—a state founded on the grab for federal money, did not act to grab federal funds for its hospitals.)

Hospital losses due to bad debt and charity care totaled $115 million in 2010, according to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, representing hospitals and care agencies statewide.

Another pair of bills aims to increase Medicaid payments to acute and long-term care facilities without additional state funding. The bills would require hospitals and long-term care providers to pay a 3 percent fee on net revenue into a special fund. In turn, total collections would be matched by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and subsequently redistributed to Hawaii providers based on the number of Medicaid patients served. (So Hawaii has been leaving even more federal funds on the table for years. Amazing.)

"It's an all-or-nothing provision in Medicaid. All private hospitals will need to participate for the program to work," said Bruce Anderson, president and CEO of the state community hospital system, Hawaii Health Systems Corp. "The more Medicaid patients you serve, the more you receive. There isn't any impact on the cost of medical care for patients or insurance companies. It's basically the hospital system taxing itself. It really is one more way of getting reimbursed for uncompensated care."

Hawaii's Medicaid reimbursement rate is roughly 70 cents on the dollar, according to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. The program would boost reimbursements to between 85 and 87 cents on the dollar, closer to the national average of 89 cents.

Participating in the federal program could generate another $25 million to $50 million for local Medicaid providers, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii said.

"These bills are the most significant pieces of legislation that I have seen in recent history that would go to support the sustainability of our entire health care system," said George Greene, CEO of Healthcare Association of Hawaii. (And all we had to do is wait for inaction to destroy two hospitals.)

read … State bills would add cash flow to hospitals

ERS seeks to stem pension spiking by public workers

SA: When auditors recently reviewed payroll data for the city agency that operates ambulances, they discovered that the 10 highest-paid employees worked huge chunks of overtime, more than doubling their annual salaries on average.

The top-paid Emergency Medical Services worker, for instance, earned nearly $150,000 in non-holiday overtime pay in fiscal 2009, significantly boosting a base salary of $60,072. The previous year another EMS employee earned more than $116,000 in overtime -- at one stretch working 109 consecutive days -- to enhance a salary of $62,676, the auditors found.

Over three years through fiscal 2010, the 10 workers were each paid an average of nearly $140,000 annually, more than double their average base salary of $63,252, according to the December audit. The extra pay was due entirely to non-holiday overtime.

(Note: HSTA teachers and many HGEA members don’t get an opportunity to spike their pensions. So when are they going to take action to tamp down the abuses which are hurting their pension fund?)

Related: HGEA Parent Union Comes Out Against Pension Spiking, Act 100: How Hanabusa and Cayetano launched Hawaii Pension crisis

read … Pension Spiking

Legislators Plan to Raid Rental Car Fund, Block Refill of Hurricane Fund, Rainy Day Fund

SA: On the revenue side, lawmakers might divert money generated from a rental car surcharge into the general fund beyond this fiscal year. They might also delay Abercrombie's request to use proceeds from a recent bond sale to replenish the state's rainy day and hurricane relief funds, which were tapped to help close a deficit last year. On the state program side, lawmakers could scale back the governor's request for $188 million in new spending, a 1.7 percent increase that would take the state's budget to $11.1 billion next fiscal year.

read … All to pay for Abercrombie’s Bloated Budget

Tsutsui, Say: Gambling Not Likely to Pass Senate, House

SA: State House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) said gambling was rejected by the House last session.

“So I’ve said to a lot of advocates of gaming, `I’m not going to entertain it. I don’t have the votes. So why are you pushing the issue? if you want to push the issue, push the issue with the other chamber.’”

Say said he would consider a gambling bill if it came over from the state Senate.

State Senate President Shan Tsutsui (D, Wailuki-Kahului) said he would be surprised if gambling was not pushed by some senators this session. But he doubts a bill will advance.

“I honestly don’t think so. So if you asked me if I thought gambling was going to pass the Senate or not, I’d tell you `no.’”

read … Political Radar

Tsutsui: $500M in CIP and $200M OHA Settlement are Top Priorities

MN: "Getting the economy on track plain and simple is our top goal," said Senate President Shan Tsutsui, D-Central Maui-Paia.

The plan he's working on in conjunction with Hawaii economists, Tsutsui said, will pump $500 million into the state for capital improvement projects including road repairs, school improvements and upgrading government buildings to be more energy efficient - approved projects that had been deferred….

Other industries are rebounding, like tourism, "but construction is still holding us back" - one reason to focus on an infusion of capital improvement projects, he said.

"And politics won't play a role because this is exactly what we need now," he said. The Department of Education alone has projects totaling $372 million, he noted.

"You will have a project in every single campus in Hawaii (and on Maui) from Hana to Kahului," he said.

The other big issue, Tsutsui said, will be the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' $200 million proposed settlement with the state over ceded lands.

"We will have to look for a win-win situation," Tsutsui said. "It's going to take up a lot of time."

read … $700M

Kakaako Rail Line Burials: 300 Cultural Descendants and Counting

SA: Hinaleimoana Wong Kalu believes it's her duty, and that of many other Hawaiians, to speak for the dignity of those who have been long silent. Kalu chairs the Oahu Island Burial Council….

The effort here is to get a head start by drawing up the burials protocol well in advance. The protocol was a requirement set in the programmatic agreement signed to settle various concerns over historic preservation, aviation and other issues, and to gain federal approval of the project's environmental impact statement.

With the protocol in place, project crews have begun the archaeological inventory survey mandated by law before construction starts. Because many burials are known to be in the Kakaako area, completion of the survey must be done even before final design of that segment starts, so that plans can be drawn with the aim of avoiding burial disturbance in mind, said Jeanne Mariani-Belding, a spokesperson for the project.

"This is a collaborative effort based on a lot of coordination," said Faith Miyamoto, chief planner on the project. "We can't do anything contrary to what the law says. If we find iwi kupuna in the course of our archaeological survey, then they are deemed to be 'previously identified.'" This is a designation that mandates a more lengthy process of review and consultation among people who can show they are descendants of Native Hawaiians living to the area.

HART has compiled a growing list of such "cultural descendants," along with Native Hawaiian organizations and others the law says should be consulted -- 300 names in all, and the list is still growing, officials said….

THE protocol also carves out another category, that of remains "not situated in a burial context," which includes isolated bone fragments that may have been scattered as the result of previous disturbance of the soil in construction decades or even more than a century ago. Because Kakaako has been so long developed, Mariani-Belding said, this may be the case more often than not.

The treatment of bone fragments not classified as "burial sites" will be decided by SHPD on a case-by-case basis, Miyamoto said, but a less prescribed process of review may be involved.

It's that distinction that raised some eyebrows among Office of Hawaiian Affairs officials, who wrote a letter taking issue with the definition of burial sites.

OHA interprets the legal definitions "as clearly requiring that any human skeletal remains, regardless of context that are encountered during undertaking of construction activities be classified as an inadvertent discovery," wrote Clyde Namuo, then OHA administrator.

And projections -- or hopes -- that previously developed areas are free of intact burials have been spectacularly wrong before, as the dozens of burial sites unearthed at Walmart and Ward project sites demonstrated.

read … 300 Cultural Descendants

HART: 50% of Rail Contracts Signed, Construction is Well Under Way

SA: The planned construction is well under way, with $2.1 billion of our project cost contracted, representing 50 percent of the total construction costs, and our overall expenses are below budget to date, and we continue to have ample contingency funds of more than $800 million. The financial plan is sound and we remain confident that revenues will exceed our construction costs and the city will have no debt at project completion.

read .. Latest blast from Horner etal

Star-Adv: Sell Tesoro Refinery to BioFool Scammers

Star-Adv Editorial: Under state laws that aim to keep trade as open as possible, the state Office of the Attorney General could bring court actions to prevent a sale that may lessen competition or "tend to create a monopoly in any line of commerce."

It's clear that this office must monitor the situation carefully. The transaction could all go smoothly: This is not the first time this refinery has changed hands, most recently in 1998 from Pacific Resources International. Hawaii could resume business with two refineries competing for fuel sales.

Chevron executives are noncommittal about its own interest in purchasing the assets. But that would produce a monopoly, a single company producing the fuel the state needs, clearly not in consumers' best interest.

But if the state is serious about its clean-energy timetable -- and it should be -- the market will reach a point at which demand for oil is too low to support competing refineries. Competition will then need to come from alternative energy sources giving consumers a choice.

Hawaii is not prepared for that. Thanks to the Pentagon, which is concerned about energy security worldwide, the military has been increasing purchases of biofuels and is testing ways to use more of them in surface ships and aircraft.

But the civilian sector needs alternatives to petroleum fuels, too. The advent of electric vehicles is promising, but the electrical grid can't yet yield the energy that a wholesale conversion to EV cars would require. Liquid fuels will be needed. Biofuel production -- using locally produced feedstock -- must be ramped up. Storage and delivery systems for these fuels must be developed to prepare Hawaii for a rebalanced energy portfolio.

Various government and private experts who have tracked Hawaii's energy plans agree that tectonic shifts have long been expected. For example, the U.S. DOE funded a demonstration project on the Tesoro site to explore the possibility of converting one of the refineries to biofuel. That concept deserves further exploration.

read … Scammers on the prowl

 

Lingle: If you want to be a good tourist destination, take care of your residents

Guam PDN: Many years ago, well before she was governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle spoke to my students at the University of Guam. At the time, the conditions were so bad in the decaying Building B that it is hard to imagine today.

We were advised to wear hardhats in our offices because chunks of concrete would fall on a regular basis. I went to the safety store and bought a cowboy style hardhat because I thought it was cool and different.

Lingle's message was very appropriate, both then and now. If you want to be a good tourist location, like Maui, you have to take care of your residents. I loved that message for both its simplicity and relevance.

read … Lingle

Feds Say Senior Center Still Violating Grant Rules, Deadline in June

A Wahiawa senior center remains in violation of federal grants rules, according to a Jan. 12 letter to Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Federal officials are giving the city until the end of June 2012 to bring ORI into compliance with Community Development Block Grants requirements, or the city will have to repay a portion of the $7.9 million in federal funds that it gave to ORI over the course of a decade.

HUD is also giving the city until the end of January to report how much ORI charges for use of its facilities. The city was required to provide this information in October 2011, but missed the deadline, HUD says. The federal agency wants to know ORI's fee structures to determine whether the low-income clients that ORI's facilities were built to serve are being precluded from using it.

Full Text: January 12 letter

read … ORI

Hawaii Dead Last in School Maintenance Spending

HNN: "We've got 255 existing schools, a majority of which were built more than 50 years ago, and they are no longer adequate in terms of basic things like electricity," said Randy Moore, assistant school superintendent for facilities and support services.

That electricity is now used to power things like computers. Some classrooms in the past have had as few as four electrical outlets. Newer ones, like those at Kapolei High School or Ewa Makai Elementary, can have as many as 24 outlets.

"It's not simply running some wires around to put in the other 20, but you've got to get wires to the classroom. You get wires to the campus. And in some places you don't have enough electricity in the street to do it," said Moore.

At the same time, Hawaii ranks 50th among the states in the amount spent on school facilities in the last 15 years.

"You've spent about $300 a student on capital outlay," said Mary Filardo of the group 21st Century School Fund. "Nationally over four years, the average was a thousand."

(Simple: Cut corners on maintenance so you can splurge on capital improvements made necessary by the decay of the buildings you did not maintain. CIP is funded by bonds and guess who runs the DoE—a banker. Hawaii banks make big bucks as buyers of state and county bonds. The DoE and HART are projected to generate lots of bond sales. Do the math.)

KHON: Lawmakers and DOE leaders learn ways to create better learning environments

read … Contracts

Jonestown Followers ‘human beings with dreams’

MN: A Hawaii progressive tells the truth about his entire life. Must read.

read … From Jonestown to AIDS

Hearing set on lawsuit challenging corporate campaign disclosure requirements

ILind: ongoing lawsuit challenging Hawaii’s registration and reporting requirements for noncandidate committees that make independent campaign expenditures (Yamada et al. v. Kuramoto et al.). The case already resulted in throwing out spending limits for these committees.

So I checked the case docket in federal court, and a hearing is scheduled for February 6 before Judge Michael Seabright on cross motions for summary judgment. Both the plaintiffs and the state are asking the judge to rule their respective ways.

Full Text: plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment

read … Hearing set on lawsuit challenging corporate campaign disclosure requirements

Reapportionment: Discrimination against Military is Tough Task

KITV: He said it was a tough task from the get-go: using the latest census data, to draw-up political boundaries based on how many permanent residents now live in each area. “The problem is, we don't have data on where those people are. If you don't know where they are you can't take them out,” said Nonaka. He said that’s because the military doesn't give full addresses for active members.

Another problem, Nonaka said, is defining what "permanent resident" actually means. “Right now, the discussion is on the military and out of state students, but what about green card holders, or snowbirds that live here six months out of the year, or traveling nurses there are lots of those in the state,” he said. “Clearly the plan they came up with is unconstitutional,” said attorney Robert Kim, who represents several Big Island residents, relishing in their success, after the State Supreme Court agreed all military here should not be counted.

That made Hawaii the only state in the nation to do so.

read … Discrimination

Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair Jan 18

From Rep Kym Pine: January 18th is the Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Neal Blaisdell Center. The event is hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment. More details can be found here.

read … Hiring our Heroes

VIDEO: Dominic Yagong enters Hawaii County mayoral race

BIVN: Sitting in his Honokaa home with his family by his side, Council Chair Dominic Yagong announces that he will be running for Hawaii County Mayor in 2012, challenging incumbent Billy Kenoi for the seat.

WHT: Yagong enters mayoral race

Related: Billy Kenoi helped Pali Shooter Question posed by election contest to BI voters: Do you have any self-respect?

read … Yagong vs Kenoi

Hawaii County: Millions spent on garbage

HTH: Hawaii County is on its third Environmental Management director in as many years. It's on its second Solid Waste Division chief.

County taxpayers have spent nearly $3 million on consultants and studies over the past 11 years.

The County Council in 2006 opted for a waste-to-energy garbage incinerator, then two years later, after more than $1 million in studies, opted out.

County administration sold its landfill bulldozer, an essential piece of equipment in controlling the fast-growing Hilo landfill, then rented it back, wasting almost $1 million of taxpayer money. Attempting to stop the bleeding, the County Council last January voted to buy a new D8 bulldozer through a five-year lease-to-own agreement for $796,000, including interest and maintenance.

The county in 2003 began to build a reload facility to send Hilo garbage to West Hawaii, then changed its mind, leaving the $9.3 million white elephant vacant years later. Several private companies have recently expressed interest in using the facility in a public-private partnership, but the administration is reluctant, saying it wants to use government workers there instead….

The county let 33 private garbage haulers lag far behind paying their bills, resulting in more than $1.5 million in arrears taxpayers may never see….

The county envisions a day when the Solid Waste Division will become self-supporting. Indeed, the division this year is slated to receive $7.8 million from state grants and tipping fees. But that pales in comparison to the $18.2 million transferred from the taxpayer-subsidized general fund to run the division. An attempt to buffer that loss with a pay-to-throw system was quickly scrapped in the face of residents' opposition…..

Hawaii County’s … diversion rate for 2010, the most recent data available, is second in the state. Hawaii County diverted 35.9 percent of its garbage into recycling programs, compared to 41.5 percent on Oahu, 35.3 percent on Maui and 25 percent on Kauai, according to the state Department of Health Office of Solid Waste Management report to the 2011 Legislature….

HTH: It's not easy being green

read … Millions spent on garbage

At least 9 to run for KIUC board

KGI: At least nine Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative members will vie for three of nine seats on the board of directors in the upcoming election scheduled for March 24, the co-op announced Friday.

Running for re-election to the board are current directors Stewart“Stu” Burley and Steve M. Rapozo.

Returning candidates from last year’s election include Ken Stokes and Pat Gegen, who ran a close race but came up short with just over 2,000 votes each and finished fourth and fifth in the election to fill three seats.

New candidates include former KIUC senior legal counsel Karen S. Baldwin; Garden Isle Collision Repair owner Lesther Calipjo; Charter Review commissioner and president of the Hanalei to Ha‘ena Community Association Joel Guy; retired physician Dr. Gordon LaBedz, who is also a founder of the Surfrider Foundation; and retired judge Calvin Murashige.

But the candidate tally isn’t final yet. Co-op members in good standing have until 4 p.m. on Feb. 2 to submit a completed petition to appear on the March ballot.

Read … KIUC Board

Suit alleging MPD executed search warrant at wrong home

MN: April Freeland was 63 and Norman Freeland was 72 at the time of the incident.

Lutey said the Freelands' might have incorrectly interpreted the entry team's sweep of the house as a search.

"Obviously, they were confused over what was going on at their house, but no search was ever done," she said.

She also disputed that officers damaged property or deliberately made a mess of the home.

"If a chair got knocked down in the process of an entry, that might have happened, but it would not have been done purposely to damage any part of their home," she said.

Lutey said the Freelands apparently recognized that there was drug activity in the area, because they told the officers that they should have gone to the house next door.

read … Lawsuit

Monk Seal Remains from 1400s –1700s found on Maui

SA: The physical evidence is slim: A set of monk seal remains -- possibly from the 1400s to 1700s -- were discovered in an ancient Hawaiian trash heap in Wailuku that also contained the burial remains of three humans.

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

read … Monk Seals

Residents Give Officials An Earful Over Conditions At Oneula Beach Park

KITV: Ewa Beach residents spoke out with anger Saturday over the conditions at Oneula Beach park, at an unusual town hall meeting held at the park.

Leeward City Councilman Tom Berg said it was doubtful Ewa Beach residents would travel into town for an evening meeting at city hall, so he scheduled the town hall meeting on Saturday afternoon, in the park….

Residents complained, not just about the parking, but the loss of the main access road into the park, lost due to encroachment by development, and about the condition of the bathrooms.

Residents said they've put up with broken promises for more than a decade. On Saturday some of them shook with anger when they testified.

The main restroom is closed and boarded up. On Saturday, there was trash piled beside it and the area smelled of urine and feces.

Read … Oneula

Obama’s New Defense Plan: Is it right for a war weary America?

WT: Rather than promising our enemies that we will preemptively fight them anywhere, any time, the Obama Administration would do well to adopt a position of deterrence through an assurance that attacking the United States or her allies is not in the best interests of any aggressor.

Past experience suggests strongly that Obama’s new defense plan is destined to fail because it is a strategy for fighting everyone, everywhere. America needs time to rebuild her economy and recapitalize her military.

read … Daniel DeGracia in Wash Times

Luncheon to Raise Funds for Pregnancy Problem Center in Aiea

HICTV: Every year the Holy Name Society sponsors a Pro-life Luncheon to help the Pregnancy Problem Center in Aiea, which offers free pregnancy testing and counseling to women regardless of race, religion or ethnic origin.

This year’s luncheon will again be at Tree Tops Restaurant at 3737 Manoa Road on Saturday the 11th of February with registration beginning at 11:30 am for a donation of $25 per person.

read … Fundraiser


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