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Tuesday, May 01, 2012
May 1, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:26 PM :: 12807 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Hawaii Family Forum Wins Right to Intervene in Gay Marriage Case

SA Politics: The final vote on the interisland cable bill is scheduled in the Senate for Thursday, the last day of session.

Hanabusa, Pflueger, Thugs Fail in Effort to Drive Family off Kauai Kuleana Plot, Intimidate Lawyer

 

HR: In July 2005, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources fined Pflueger $4 million for damages to Pilaa from sediment runoff to the beach and coral reef. He appealed the case with the help of Colleen Hanabusa, then the state senator, and now a congresswoman….

Tico said it's been a long road to justice. “We filed a lawsuit against Mr. Pflueger in 2002 because he killed the Pilaa reef, and then he retaliated by blocking my client's access to their kuleana. Ten years later, justice prevailed when the Hawaii Supreme Court upheld Judge Watanabe's decision in favor of my clients' right to access their property,” Tico said. “My clients and I are deeply humbled and grateful to the Hawaii Supreme Court for upholding these fundamental property rights."

The Marvins, with Tico’s help, filed a civil lawsuit in 2002 against Pflueger, Marvin v. Pflueger, for their property losses. Because her involvement in the civil and criminal cases were so time consuming, Tico asked more than a dozen Hawaii law firms to act as co-counsel, but each declined saying Pflueger was too wealthy and too powerful to beat and there wasn’t enough money involved. The Public Justice Foundation notes, “Like David in the age-old story, Tico stood alone against her Goliath.”

The Public Justice Foundation, which recognized Tico for her work on the case, wrote “Pflueger retaliated with a SLAPP suit, blaming the Marvins for destroying the reef and hiring thugs to harass and intimidate the couple. Pflueger claimed that the Marvins had no legal access or water rights and his employees went so far as to bulldoze the Marvins’ access road and destroy their water lines. Tico was forced to hire her own attorney, at an expense of more than $10,000, to defend herself against Pflueger’s smear campaign. Her life was threatened twice.”

For 6 years, Pflueger refused to turn over his financials to Tico, even appealing the court order to the Hawaii Supreme Court. After losing his appeal, Pflueger complied. Tico, who had compiled several dozen pages of his financials through her own research of public record and media reports, including transfers of property to his family, was in the process of disproving Pflueger’s financial records when his attorneys quickly made a settlement offer that still remains confidential.

read … Pflueger, Hanabusa, Thugs

Lawsuit: Activist, Videographer Assaulted by Hanabusa’s Senate Security

CN: The bill now pending before the Senate acknowledges that "some sort of scuffle" occurred between Hughes, Kahle and Senate security personnel, and that it included Kahle's "remov[al] from the chamber by the Sergeant-at-Arms with the assistance of deputy sheriff personnel."

Hughes filmed the incident, and "in the melee, his camera was shoved into his face causing minor injuries and damaging the video camera," the bill states.

Kahle and Hughes called the "scuffle" a "gang-style attack" that landed Hughes in the emergency room. Kahle says he was also subjected to an unprovoked assault behind closed doors.

Villaflor, the sergeant at arms, is described as a former professional fighter and World Boxing Association champion. He allegedly beat Kahle with help from defendants Carabbacan, Naauao, Doyles Arakaki, Daniel Kwon, Raymond Schwartz and Betty Muraki.

Before the attack, "Kahle had not committed any violation of law and sheriff deputies did not have probable cause to arrest [him] for any crime," according to the complaint. But Kahle says the officers took him in handcuffs into a rotunda elevator, where they "slammed Kahle, face first, against the side wall of the elevator," and "took turns assaulting [him] ... giving him body blows."

When the elevator door opened, Kahle says, he was taken "down the hallway to a Public Safety Office, located in the basement (chamber level) of the Capitol." (Parentheses in original.) He says the assault resumed there, with officers "slamming Kahle to the floor so hard that he spun around and crashed into a cabinet, breaking the cabinet door."

read … Just another day in the Senate

Hirono Misses Vote on Student Loan Reduction Goes to Campaign Fundraiser Instead

CB: Rep. Mazie Hirono missed a high-profile vote on extending student loan interest rates, as DC808 pointed out last week. Asked about the absence, the Hirono campaign said the “last-minute scheduling of the vote conflicted with a previous commitment,” and that “unfortunately, it’s a fact of running for office that conflicts will sometimes arise.”…

We asked a spokeswoman repeatedly for details on where Hirono was at the time of the vote, but she wouldn’t divulge any specifics other than the congresswoman’s mode of transport (train).

(The use of a train means the campaign event was in the NE Corridor or DC Metro area somewhere and therefore was almost certainly a fundraiser.)

Related: Hawaii Congressional Delegation: How They Voted April 30, 2012

read … Money First, Students Last

Insurers Will Remain on Board of Hawaii Health Connector after Roz Baker Blocks Reform

SA: Senate lawmakers have shelved a controversial bill that would have banned health insurers from serving on the board of the state's new health insurance exchange.

Hawaii Health Connector, a nonprofit designed to provide residents access to affordable health insurance, is the first major piece of the federal health care reform. The Connector has a 15-member board, appointed by the governor, which includes three representatives from the insurance industry.

A bill that would have excluded health insurers from the board was not heard in conference committee before Friday's legislative deadline.

Several consumer advocacy groups -- fearful that insurance industry executives on the board might place their companies' interest above the public's -- were disappointed that the bill failed.

"It's a frustrating and disappointing situation when 20,000 emails, letters and calls to the legislators urging adoption of this bill falls on deaf ears," said Barbara Kim Stanton, AARP's state director. "The irony is that this pro-consumer bill is being blocked by the Senate Consumer Protection chair. If this bill dies, the public is the clear loser."

Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D, Maui), chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, said she doesn't believe there are any conflicts of interests with three out of 15 board members being from the health insurance industry….

The Kokua Council and the League of Women Voters filed complaints in March with Senate leadership about the way Baker conducted the confirmation hearing process.

"In the end, since (the insurers) are designing the basis of which all of us are mandated to buy insurance, we can never be sure that they're giving us the most favorable health plans," said Larry Geller, of the Kokua Council. "We'll always have a suspicion that they've set plans favorable for themselves."

SA: Bill To Ban Health Insurers From Exchange Board Fails in Hawaii

Democrats ‘Just don’t know who is going to vote’ in Primary

Borreca: This is a presidential election year, which historically bucks up Hawaii's lousy voter turnout numbers. But the primary election is not a major event.

In the 2008 primary, the last presidential election year, the statewide voter turnout was 36.9 percent. The numbers give a hint of what to expect this year.

There were 151,000 voters who went to the polls and 95,000 who voted early with an absentee ballot.

In total, almost 119,000 took a Democratic ballot on Election Day and another absentee 75,700 voters went Democrat.

So during the last presidential primary election year, the Democrats had almost 195,000 voters. That is a fairly small universe of voters.

"This year we just don't know who is going to vote, and who knows how many people will vote absentee," said one Democratic political consultant, who asked not to be identified.

Totally Related: Both Sides in Thielen Dispute Aim For Democrats-Only Primary Elections

read … Need a Democrats-Only Primary

Poll Voting, Cynicism Inversely Proportional

CB: Hawaii's non-voters are more likely than their voting counterparts to say the country is moving in the wrong direction and that the U.S. is unable to solve its challenges no matter who's put in charge, according to The Civil Beat Poll.

Most registered voters say politicians and officials don't understand them and work harder to benefit themselves and their campaign donors than their constituents. And the more cynical they are, the less likely they are to vote.

Poll Results: Voters On Government

read … More Cynical, Less Voting

Cost of Borrowing Could Rise: Non-Profits Score $11.6M, HMC Gets $80M in Bonds, Hurricane, Rainy Day Funds Gets Nothing

SA: In their last act under an extended deadline, state lawmakers agreed Monday to provide $11.6 million for social service programs, restoring some of the money that had been cut during the recession.

The grants would go to organizations such as Wahiawa General Hospital, the Kalihi-Palama Health Center, the Domestic Violence Action Center and the Hawaii Meth Proj­ect. Social service advocates also successfully obtained $4.9 million through a separate bill that would help seniors through programs such as Kupuna Care.

Lawmakers also agreed on $1 million for ambulance service on the Leeward coast in response to the shutdown of Hawaii Medical Center-West in Ewa Beach and $80 million in special-purpose revenue bonds for St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii, which controlled the bankrupt HMC hospitals in Ewa Beach and Li­liha and is searching for possible buyers.

Lawmakers agreed to increase by $2 million the amount the Hawaii Tourism Authority receives from hotel room taxes to help attract international visitors through visa programs and other incentives….

Young said credit-rating agencies will likely notice the state's low cash reserves when the state attempts to sell bonds. Lawmakers have said they intend to replenish the emergency funds, but chose to wait, a decision influenced in part by a desire to restore some of the social service funds.

"It's very disappointing that we're not going to be able to demonstrate financial fortitude," Young said…

read … Lawmakers restore some money cut in leaner times but do not replenish two emergency funds

Act 48: Legislators to vote on HB1875 foreclosure reform bill

SA: Conference committees in the state House and Senate agreed Friday on major modifications to the law intended to protect Hawaii homeowners from largely unregulated foreclosures conducted out of court. A vote by the full House and Senate is scheduled for today.

The law, Act 48, unintentionally led lenders to file all Hawaii foreclosures in court, leaving unused a new mediation process that aimed to give homeowners a better chance at avoiding foreclosure….

After Act 48 was adopted in May, foreclosures dropped to around 400 per month, down from nearly 1,000. All foreclosures since May have been filed in court. Previously, the vast majority of Hawaii foreclosures were nonjudicial because the process was quicker and cheaper than going through court….

The Rev. Bob Nakata, a representative of community advocacy group Faith Action for Community Equity who was involved in helping reform Hawaii’s foreclosure law last year, said he hopes the refinement prompts lenders to use the mediation service.

“We succeeded in plugging the (foreclosure deluge), but we didn’t succeed in helping the homeowners get a better deal,”

(Act 48 has done its job. The foreclosure market was stifled to avoid short-term sharp falls in property values. Now that the pressure is off, the Lege is simply undoing everything and returning to the status quo ante.)

read … Final Act

Ige Disappointed at Failure to Give Tax Credits to Billionaire Hollywood Movie Moguls

AP: Lawmakers will be voting on two measures to attract aerospace high technology companies to Hawaii for research and development, along with tourism. However, measures to use tax incentives to attract more film and digital media production to Hawaii stalled.

"The tax credit fell apart," said a disappointed Ige. "We'll keep working at it. We've been working at this area a long time. It brings the kind of jobs that we want, that our children want, and we really do believe the activity ends up being a net gain for our economy."

read … Too bad, so sad

Kobayashi Loses Vote on Restrictions of $450M Rail Line of Credit

KITV: A hotly debated bill that would give the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation a $450 million line of credit remained contentious Monday as the City Council's Legislative Matters Committee took up the measure.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi is demanding further safeguards should HART require the need to tap into the funds for completion of the city's $5.3 billion elevated rail project.

Under an amended version of the bill introduced by Kobayashi, HART would be limited to using only $100 million of the line of credit at one time. In addition, the transit authority could only access funds if the state or federal government declared a state of emergency in Honolulu County.

"The reason for the amendments is because I can't trust the people who have been working on this project," said Kobayashi. "Just think of lending someone $450 million and they don't have any money to pay back."

HART Executive Director and CEO Daniel Grabauskas testified the Federal Transit Administration found some of Kobayashi's conditions in the bill problematic.

SA: Panel advances bill to allow up to $450M in rail loans

read … Problematic

Cash Call! Sen. Kim Holds Fundraiser During Session

CB: It’s Monday evening (April 30), which is technically still Day 58 of the 2012 Hawaii Legislature, since lawmakers extended their session last Friday.

It’s at a place called M — I have no idea what or where that is, but that’s what it said on the disclosure form — and the asking donation is $150.

Those giving to Donna Mercado Kim in 2011 include Outrigger, Anheuser Busch, Ironworkers for Better Government, Walter Dods, First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaii Chamber PAC, Jeff Stone, Alexander & Baldwin, John Radcliffe and Red Morris, Charles Toguchi, Tim Johns, Street Bikers United Hawaii, Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, Hawaiian Telcom Good Government Club, Liberty Dialysis, ILWU Local 142, Dennis Mitsunaga and Mike McCartney.

read … Cash Call! Sen. Kim Holds Fundraiser During Session

UHM Ed Perfesser: Give Up or The Keiki Will be ‘hurt’ in “Most Destructive War’ over ‘Inane, Manini’ RTTT Grant

CB: Unfortunately, a manini U.S. federal grant — $75 million “Race to the Top” grant over three or four years inside a nearly $2 billion DOE annual budget – seems to be the cause of this strife. So much for, oh, so little! Has anyone asked why we here in Hawaii should be held hostage to the federal government for Hawaii's constitutional power over education? Why should a tiny federal initiative be driving educational policy in our islands? ….

Generally speaking, teachers themselves (apart from the HSTA) prefer not to exert power, nor are they power brokers. But when teachers are pushed to the wall – watch out!

We are now very close to the most destructive battle over education that this state has ever seen. The teachers will be leading the HSTA, rather than the opposite. It will be a battle that no one will win, and certainly no teachers want. And all will be hurt – especially our keiki. It is difficult to imagine that this is something that anyone could rationally desire.

So, is there a way forward? I think so.

First, the Hawaii powers have to give up on the inane insistence on including student test scores as a significant measure of teacher worthiness…..

Thus, we can either continue this power-centered war on teachers and the HSTA (now including Business Roundtable “gifted” iPads to the DOE pre-loaded with “teacher evaluation” software). Or we can step back, take a deep adult breath, and try to figure out the way forward for our children. Unfortunately, to date, that deep adult breadth (sic) is the one most missing in action.

Author David P. Ericson is a Professor of Philosophy of Education and Educational Policy Studies in the Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education, University of Hawaii at Manoa. (In other words, he trained all the morons running the DoE.)

(Obvious question: How many ‘Professional Services’ contracts has Ericson received from Hawaii DoE?)

read … Enemy Propaganda

Former school secretary charged with theft

HNN: A former employee at Fern Elementary in Kalihi is accused of stealing nearly $15,000 from the school. Williamina Muranaka worked as a secretary until she was fired in March 2011. According to authorities, the crimes started in 2007 and officials discovered the thefts in August 2010.

Sources said most of the school checks she wrote went to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to pay for her rent at Kuhio Park Terrace. Court documents indicated that the checks to the housing authority ranged from $642 to $1,743.

read … Another Day in the DoE

Land Use undermines Swapmeet? First Haleiwa, next Aloha Stadium

SA: Although the possibility of federal action may be "remote," Higa's audit asserts that the operation of the swap meet next to the stadium violates present terms of the city's purchase of the federal land in 1967. The city transferred the property to the state in 1970s, and the federal Interior Department approved it "for public recreational use." The audit cites a 2009 agreement between the state and the National Park Service asserting that "commercial purposes are not allowed" except for those "serving a public park and recreation purpose."

Oyadomari responded that the swap meet's "injection of revenue ensures that the stadium remains open and available to the public at affordable prices" so meets that criteria. That might be a stretch.

read … Swapmeet

Kollar Challenges Kauai Prosecutor over Unsolved Homicides

KGI: Another priority is to address unsolved homicides on the island. From Sandra Galas, to Amber Jackson and others since the early 1990s, Kollar said the department is challenged to spend resources on cold cases.

“That is something very important to the community,” he said.

related: Big Island Prosecutor Candidate Promises to Re-Open Peter Boy Case

Read … Unsolved Homicides

Head of Honolulu Air Traffic Control Retires After near-miss Hidden from FAA

HNN: A mistake by an air-traffic controller resulted in two jets being put on a collision course as they approached Honolulu International Airport in January. A Hawaii News Now investigation revealed the incident was never reported to higher ups at the Federal Aviation Administration, resulting in an FAA probe and the retirement of the longtime head of air traffic control in Hawaii.

Honolulu is the 27th busiest airport in the country, with about 265,000 takeoffs and landings last year. But Honolulu air-traffic controllers handled much more traffic – roughly 654,000 flights in 2011 -- many of them flying through Hawaii air space but not landing in Honolulu.

On Saturday, Jan. 14, at about 9:09 a.m., a close call happened between a Japan Airlines 767 jet arriving from Tokyo and a United Parcel Service MD11 jet when the planes were about 15 miles west of Honolulu, both approaching HNL for a landing.

read … Near-Miss

City Council committee considers bills to strengthen disclosure requirements, training

ILind: The Honolulu Ethics Commission is urging the City Council’s Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs to pass two ethics bill when it meets at 1 p.m. today.

Bill 39 (2012) closes a loophole in the city’s requirements for personal financial disclosures by elected and appointed officials. It requires certain employees and officials to file “complete” financial disclosures, and extends the commission’s power to impose civil fines….

Bill 40 (2012) would expand the city’s requirement to ethics training to extend to nearly 10,000 city workers. Currently, training is required only for about 2,000 elected officials, board and commission members, and management or supervisory personnel.

Testimony on these bills may be submitted by email.

read … City Council committee considers bills to strengthen disclosure requirements, training

Bill aims to amend tax incentive for historic homes

KHON: This bill was recently introduced by Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi.

She says they're looking at two options: either to reduce the exemption --meaning the historic home owners wouldn't get as big of a tax break -- or to increase the penalty for those who don't follow the rules.

There are more than two hundred homes on Oahu that are on the Hawaii Register of Historic Places.

Many of those homes are in the district represented by Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi….

Owners of historic homes only have to pay about $300 a year in property taxes.

read … Tax Break

Luddites Crushed as Federal Judge Allows Fish Farming in Federal Waters

SFS: A U.S. District Court judge in Honolulu will allow the U.S. government to grant Kona Blue Water Farms the first commercial open-ocean fish farm permit issued in U.S. waters.

The ruling came last week when Judge Susan Oki Mollway gave the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) the go-ahead to issue a “fishing” permit to Kona Blue, effectively rejecting Food & Water Watch’s argument that the agency lacks the statutory authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to issue such a permit because the activity qualifies as “aquaculture,” not “fishing.”

The Washington, D.C., environmental organization, which filed the lawsuit last August along with the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance (KAHEA), also claimed that NMFS acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in doing so, that NMFS failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of Kona Blue’s fish farm, and that a regional fishery management plan is required to issue the one-year permit.

read … Luddites Desperately Seeking Litigation

Labeling law and voluntary certification would help isle coffee growers

SA: House Bill 280 seeks to repeal mandatory coffee certification for quality standards while giving Hawaii's valuable coffee origins more protection.

Deep budget cuts in 2009 shrunk Hawaii's Department of Agriculture (HDOA) budget by 19 percent. Positions were eliminated, including coffee inspectors. The loss of all but one inspector position in Kona crippled the viability of inspection service. This year's growing season has been marked by increasing delays for inspection and certification. Coupled with impacts from the Coffee Berry Borer beetle, severe drought and increased shipping costs, the coffee industry has reached a tipping point. Delays of up to four weeks hurt the industry, crimping cash flows to farmers and producers alike.

The certification process has become a restrictive bottleneck, damaging the industry it was intended to protect. Inspector positions have not been restored. The pain will continue unless a remedy is found. Our primary competition is overseas, where our wage and benefit burdens don't exist. Long delays combined with relatively high production and shipping costs combine to make one of Hawaii's signature crops less competitive in the global marketplace.

There are two aspects of coffee certification that inspections address: minimum quality standards and origin. Currently, in order to sell coffee as of Hawaiian origin, minimum quality standards must be met. Sophisticated buyers who pay the prices that Hawaiian coffees command typically request samples in advance. These samples are evaluated to a much higher standard than HDOA's standards by panels of accredited cuppers with discerning palates. The ultimate arbiter of quality is the buyer. If coffee buyers are not demanding minimum quality certification by HDOA, HB 280 will make quality certification voluntary. If they are, it would continue to be available on a fee-for-service basis.

Second is certification for origin. This inspection helps ensure that the coffee is accurately represented by the seller with respect to where it is grown. Maximum penalties are currently a $1,000 maximum fine and up to one year in prison, or both. These penalties are not having the necessary deterrent effect. A $1,000 fine is less than the value of a single bag of quality Hawaiian green coffee and HDOA has never put anyone in jail.

Passage of HB 280 would make false labeling (counterfeiting) of Hawaii-grown coffee a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison. The bill provides for enhanced record-keeping and reporting and gives law enforcement statutory authority to enforce the laws. HB 280 gives Hawaii's valuable coffee origins more protection than they have ever had before. The ability for producers to opt out of minimum quality certification will reduce HDOA's workload, eliminate delays and help rural locations that have been historically underserved by inspectors.

read … HB280

Guam: 2000 Marines to be Stationed, 3000 to Rotate

GPDN: A higher-ranking Marine force most likely would have a more positive economic impact, Calvo said. When the buildup shrank from 8,600 Marines earlier this year, it seemed more likely the smaller Marine force would be led by a colonel, but the buildup announcement that came last week brought unexpected news, Calvo said.

The announcement said the renegotiated troop relocation plan will spread Okinawa Marines across the Pacific, but Guam will receive the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Headquarters, plus others.

"Now we are talking -- which is great news -- that the Marine Expeditionary Brigade is commanded by a one-star Marine Corps general," Calvo said. "And a significantly higher ranking group."

The 5,000 Guam-bound Marines also will include the 4th Marine Regiment, which Calvo said is commanded by a colonel, and aviation, ground and support units from the Marines who remain in Okinawa.

read … Guam

Hawaii Family Rescuing Child Trafficked Victims in Thailand Gives an Update on Their Mission Work

HR: The Boyer family from Hawaii, including Ron (former head of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs), his wife Cissy, and his children, Drake and Elli, are part of a mission in Thailand to save children from sex trafficking….

read … Human trafficking

1838 Hawaiian bible & map highlight antique collection

HNN: A Hawaiian language bible printed in 1838 that is in pristine condition.

A map so old there are only three originals like it in the entire world.

And an adze likely used to till fields on the North Shore of Oahu 170 years ago.

Those are among the items in a collection once owned by missionary Edwin Locke, moved to New Hampshire upon his death in 1843, and now back in Hawaii for sale to the highest bidder.

read … 1838 Bible

Occupy Activists Arrested in Plot to Blow Up Bridge

AP: Five men, at least three of them anarchists, plotted to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, but there was no danger to the public because the explosives were inoperable and were controlled by an undercover FBI employee, the agency said Tuesday in announcing the men's arrests.

The target of the plot was a bridge that carries a four-lane state highway over part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the Brecksville area, about 15 miles south of downtown Cleveland, the FBI said.

Authorities said three of the men were arrested Monday and are self-described anarchists, not tied to international terrorism.

Occupy Cleveland media coordinator Jacob Wagner said at least some of the suspects had attended the group's events but that they weren't affiliated with or representing the (insert excuses here)

Baxter, Wright and Hayne considered different plots over several months, including distracting law enforcement with smoke grenades while trying to bring down financial institution signs in downtown Cleveland, federal authorities alleged. The defendants finally settled on blowing up the bridge, authorities said.

"The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views," Special Agent Stephen D. Anthony, who oversees the FBI's Cleveland division, said in a statement. "The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international."

Some Occupy Cleveland members know the suspects, but (insert more excuses here)….

Meanwhile back in Hawaii: Occupy Honolulu: Waikiki Shooting was “Round One”

read … About Obama’s Base


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