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Tuesday, February 05, 2013
February 5, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:00 PM :: 5229 Views

Gallup: Hawaii Ranks Third in 'Economic Confidence'

Gun Buyback Bill Re-Scheduled to be Heard in Senate Committee this Thursday

Secret Donors fund Secret high-level assistant for mayor

KHON: Undisclosed donors have paid for a position helping influence the direction of the city for the next four years.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell says issues related to a tax conviction kept top advisor Harry Mattson off city payroll. Now, the administration has rescinded the offer to hire him, once the cabinet is fully staffed. (Uh-huh)

"After the election I asked him to join our team," Caldwell told KHON2, "and in full disclosure he told me and others that he had this unpaid excise tax judgment outstanding."

Convicted on state charges of willful failure to file taxes, Mattson is supposed to pay restitution. A state motion to revoke probation over the pace of repayment was denied last summer, in the heat of the mayoral campaign.

"Bottom line was, unless the judgment was paid off, he could not join," Caldwell said.

(And Mattson is now getting some help with the payments….)

Not join city payroll, that is. Mattson has nonetheless been at work for the mayor, paid for via private funds donated to an entity called "Mayoral Transition Committee." He has become known around Honolulu Hale to some as "chief of staff,"…. Mattson has been collecting $10,000 a month since November according to Caldwell.

The "Mayoral Transition Committee" paying Mattson's wages since the election is an IRS-501c4-designation-pending nonprofit registered with the state DCCA on Dec. 4, 2012…..

Kobayashi said there was a case of an untraceable fund that paid for some travel for a past mayor.

"I remember Mayor Jeremy Harris had a 'friends of city hall' or 'friends of Honolulu hale' and I asked where is this fund registered, list the donors, and we never got any answers," Kobayashi said, "and finally it was disbanded because they couldn't give any answers."

Caldwell says he does not intend to disclose the donors to the registered entity "Mayoral Transition Committee" registered with the DCCA Dec. 4th, 2012….

Mattson's job among other things has been to help select 24 cabinet directors and 24 deputies. Caldwell says Mattson's job will now be done as soon as the budget and technology posts are filled, the offer to join the staff has been rescinded.

Mattson told KHON2 in a statement: "I am, of course, very disappointed to not be able to serve in an administration and with a mayor that I believe in and can contribute to. I have made mistakes, and am doing my best to pay back debt and continue to be a productive and positive citizen. Hopefully, there will be other opportunities."

This is the same Harry Mattson who had to answer grand jury questions during a 2002 investigation of Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign money. Neither he nor his partner in that campaign consultancy business also called to testify were indicted.

Background: Caldwell Secretly Appoints ‘Chief of Staff’--Convicted Criminal Harry Mattson

Hilarious: Civil Beat covers Caldwell Cabinet, no mention of Mattson

read … KHON Follows up on our story

Homosexual Rape Gang May Have Claimed 35 Victims at Blind-Deaf School

SA: The lawsuit, filed in 2011 by Hono­lulu attorney Michael Green, alleged that a group of students "bullied, terrorized, assaulted, robbed, sodomized (and) raped"younger students at the school. It also claimed that school employees and state Department of Education officials knew of the assaults but looked the other way for years.

Named in the lawsuit along with the DOE were the school's longtime principal, Sydney Dickerson, and Scott O'Neal, identified as a school counselor in the suit. O'Neal is required to pay $750,000 as part of the deal….

The agreement requires the state to also work with the Sex Abuse Treatment Center to address bullying and harassment through the school's curriculum. (Hmmmmm…)

The lawsuit said as many as 35 students were believed to have been sexually abused.

read … Homosexual Rape

Solar Scammers Resigned to Reduced Tax Credits, Focus on On-Bill Financing

SA: "The sudden change in tax code stranded a number of large-scale projects that have long development cycles and complicated financing structures. These big solar farm deals will likely die on the vine as investors and lenders seek other solar opportunities with less incentive volatility in other markets," he said. (Clue: The ‘stranded’ projects do not belong to political insiders.)

Several bills have been introduced at the Legislature this session aimed at addressing the equity issue, said Jeff Miku­lina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, a Hono­lulu-based nonprofit working to end the use of fossil fuels.

One of the most promising measures (HB 856) would finally bring to fruition the concept of "on-bill financing,"

read … The insiders got theirs

25% Pay Hike: Method of legislative raises is 'ingenious political move'

Borreca: Thanks to a state constitutional amendment that set up the state salary commission, all the Legislature has to do is look at but not touch the recommendations by the 2012 state Salary Commission….lawmakers now getting $46,272 in January will see their pay jump 25 percent to $57,852.

Besides their salary, legislators also get pay for expenses. They get $150 a day for members living outside Oahu during session; $120 a day for members living outside Oahu during interim while conducting legislative business; $10 a day for members living on Oahu during the interim while conducting official legislative business….

This year the legislative sleight-of-hand was criticized by GOP Sen. Sam Slom, who said in an interview that "my biggest gripe is there are no public hearings; there is no vote unless there is a vote to deny it."

2010: Hawaii Legislators’ pay tops nation

read … Method of legislative raises is 'ingenious political move'

Solomon Reneges on Repeal PLDC Bill

HR: Senator Malama Solomon, despite promising to hear SB 1 (a bill to repeal the Public Lands Development Corporation), publicly changed her mind today and said she wouldn't hear it. She claims she's waiting for a bill to come from the House, perhaps hoping the House would not send one over and she'd be off the hook.

read … Repeal?

DoE, Dela Cruz, Tokuda Challenge Governor’s Plan to Develop School Lands

CB: State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz peppered Gov. Neil Abercrombie with questions this afternoon over his plan to make money for education needs off of underutilized school lands through private-public partnerships….

The governor said Senate Bill 1096 will give the Hawaii Community Development Authority the responsibility to facilitate the redevelopment of public school lands.

The DOE supports a different bill that uses a different mechanism other than HCDA to make the projects happen….

Dela Cruz went back and forth with Abercrombie over the makeup and qualifications of whatever board approves the projects….

Senate Education Chair Jill Tokuda said, the devil is in the details….

read … Abercrombie Sets up Turf Battle

HSTA Teacher, Boycott Standardized Testing

CB: I was excited to read the following headline: “Teacher boycott of standardized test in Seattle spreads” (Valerie Strauss, 1/26/13, The Washington Post, online).

I even whooped as loud as I do at basketball games to read, “A boycott of Washington State’s mandated standardized test by teachers at a Seattle school is spreading to other schools and winning support across the country, including from the two largest teachers’ unions, parents, students, researchers and educators.”

Hawaii should follow suit and dump the Hawaii State Assessment….

The students who are terrible test takers ... well, I just don’t have time….

I wonder if Hawaii teachers, with the support of the union, could organize boycott. Maybe lawmakers could do what Texas has done and not fund testing mandates for next year.

read  … No testing, no failure

Hawaii Teachers Talk Strike

HNN: Standing in the way of a teachers strike is a ruling by the state Labor Board on an appeal of the state's imposed pay cuts.

However, once that's in, unless a deal is struck, a strike becomes a real possibility.

read … HLRB Holds the Keys

Senate President: 'Bloated' Bureaucracy at University of Hawaii is Making Tuition Unaffordable

HR: The institution’s top-paid administrators are the highest paid employees on the state’s payroll.

UH President MRC Greenwood makes $475,000 a year plus a $60,000 annual housing allowance and other perks and travel; UH-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple is paid $440,000 a year; and Athletic Director Ben Jay makes $293,000 a year and up to $127,000 in bonuses.

The University is home to the most well-compensated state employee – head football coach Norm Chow - whose contract has him making over $550,000 despite a dismal 3-9 record last year, with the possibility of up to another $500,000 in bonuses if the team gets better results.

The University employees 6 staff attorneys and several public relations personnel who make over $100,000 annually, which is in addition to contracting with private attorneys and public relations companies outside of the institution.

Some of the personnel have been awarded more than they are entitled in benefits and perks, Senators learned during the Friday hearing.

For example, when UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Henshaw stepped down last year, she requested and was granted a 10-month professional improvement paid leave, instead of the five months she was entitled to.

Her replacement, Tom Apple, was granted a 5-year contract, even though the standard contract is three years.

read … Bloated

Hawaii lawmakers mull over unfunded liabilities

AP: More than a dozen bills addressing the issue have been introduced in the House.

A special House committee charged with addressing unfunded liabilities learned about the future cost of the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Trust Fund and ways to finance it during an informational briefing Monday.

Rep. Cindy Evans, a Democrat, says the state needs to consider setting tighter parameters for the program given an aging population and costs rising in the future.

read … Mull

Plan now for future of long-term care

SA: Several pieces of legislation suggest credible courses to take in pursuit of these aims. Following an earlier recommendation of the state Long Term Care Commission, Senate Bill 104 would authorize a study for a proposed mandatory public long-term care insurance plan for working adults….

For families already embarked on securing long-term care for their elders, the Legislature is also taking some necessary steps. A pair of bills — SB 358 and House Bill 120 — propose a requirement that long-term care facilities put their inspection reports online.

Hawaii is one of the minority of states that doesn't provide easy access to such important information….

Senate Bill 103 calls on the state Executive Office on Aging to administer a public education campaign on the need for long-term care financing by households.

Finally, SB 106 would allot $9 million for the state's Kupuna Care program, which helps elderly residents not on Medicaid and assists current seniors with the challenges of self-care within their own homes. The additional $1.8 million for the state's Aging and Disability Resource Center will help with locating senior services.

read … No Real Solutions

Lawmakers Say no to Ethics Again and Again

CB: The state Ethics Commission submitted eight bills this year in its legislative package.

The bills are aimed at strengthening state laws on nepotism, lobbying and financial relationships. Three of the bills have received hearings and cleared important committees.

The commission submitted almost the same package of eight bills in 2011 and 2012.

None of the legislation passed either chamber. And only one bill — requiring mandatory ethics training — received a hearing each year, according to a review of the archives. The others died in the first committee they were referred to.

read … Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Legislators: Gambling Has no Chance this Year

HNN: "His rise to being speaker again had nothing to do with whether his supporters gambling or not," said State Senator Will Espero, (D) Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe. "Right now I don't get the feeling the legislature is ready to pass any gambling bills."

"I think you got a better chance of the 49ers getting a 5th quarter yesterday and putting up 60 points than you do of these measures ever reaching the governor's desk," said State Representative Angus McKelvey, (D) West Maui, North Kihei. "You need 26 people (in the House) at the end of the day no matter who the speaker is and given how people responded during the campaign in forums when this question was asked I don't see the support being there."

Lawmakers say if ever there was a time gambling would have been approved it was the last few years, but now that the economy is turning around and Hawaii is coming off a record tourism year there's less incentive to resort to gambling.

SA: Legalized-gambling bills have low priority

read … No Bet

Fire Department Buys Faulty Defibrillators, Covers it up – 2 Dead

HNN: The Cardiac Science brand of defibrillators HFD uses has been plagued with failures nationwide and the department said its machines malfunctioned while on emergency calls five times in the last six years, sometimes shutting down and failing to shock patients. 

In a written statement, the fire department said: "During each event, HFD firefighters followed medical protocols and continued to administer CPR and then worked under the direction of EMS paramedics to care for the patient." In each case, HFD said it immediately removed the faulty AED unit from service and replaced it with a backup. 

The fire department claimed the AED problems did not cause any deaths, but HFD did not tell Hawaii News Now how many of those five patients died. 

Memos reviewed by Hawaii News Now show at least two of those patients died after separate AED failures last April. 

A fire department spokesman said the manufacturer replaced the recalled AEDs at no cost to city taxpayers, but the city received new models of the same brand that's continued to have problems and a nationwide recall. 

In April of 2010, Cardiac Science was forced by the FDA to recall about 280,000 of its AED devices around the country because they failed to work in some cases. 

HFD said the department notified both the FDA as soon as possible and the manufacturer "immediately" after each incident, but the paper trail Hawaii News Now found showed otherwise.

Internal memos show Thomas, the fire department's medical director, said in early May that lawyers at the city's Corporation Counsel's office resisted efforts to notify both the manufacturer and the FDA of the two failures last April 8 and 19.

read … Some HFD defibrillators fail, even after recalled devices are replaced

83% Higher in Hawaii -- Adding up the cost of incarceration

KHON: According to State Public Safety Director Ted Sakai, the cost to care for each prisoner, like Francis Kekona, is more than $46,000 a year, or $127 per day, per in-state inmate.

That is more than what some local residents earn. It costs the state a little less for inmates who are sent to Arizona: about $75 a day….  (UPW costs 83% more)

There are about 4,000 prisoners in seven facilities statewide, and nearly 1,500 Hawaii inmates on the Mainland. In addition, the state plans to reopen Kulani Correctional Facility on the Big Island, next year.

"Our facilities are very old and inefficient and very, very staff intensive and staffing is the biggest cost component in our operation," said Sakai.

For example, there are nearly 500 people who work at Oahu Community Correctional  Center, which is the state's largest jail facility.

read … UPW Job Trust

Outreach finds rental units for the chronically homeless

SA: Social workers found Higuchi living on a grimy patch of Hotel Street in Chinatown last year during registry week for 100,000 Homes Oahu, a communitywide effort to get 100 of the isle's most chronic homeless people off the streets by 2014. Higuchi's turbulent personal history and ill health marked her as someone in danger of dying if she stayed on the street, where she had spent more than four years.

"Christie was the No. 1 client on our 100,000 Homes list," said Waikiki Health Center caseworker Heddy Cortijo. "Our clients are listed in order of their vulnerabilities, like time on the street, mental health, substance abuse and medical conditions. She was the only one that had four out of the five vulnerabilities."

The program, modeled after federal and state Housing First initiatives, aims to get people like Higuchi into housing and then provide services that will keep them there, said state Homeless Coordinator Colin Kippen….

The program has funding to house 16 more clients, said Oshiro, adding, "We're asking landlords to come forward because it's the humane thing to do."

How LA did this: http://www.srohousing.org

read … Housing First

Consumer education, Not Taxes: How to encourage healthier choices

SA: The United Health Foundation has ranked Hawaii as the second-healthiest state in the nation….

Taxing beverages won't teach our young people to respect their bodies and minds by eating the right foods and exercising. This is a disappointing outcome from a task force that could have productively focused on the broader picture to encourage healthy eating and an active lifestyle. Instead, a "tax grab" is proposed that would collect revenue for the state coffers and ultimately affect our grocery bills.

Aside from being an ineffective way to address obesity, beverage tax policies hurt businesses, workers and an industry that serves as an important part of the economy, both nationally and here in Hawaii. The state's beverage industry provides more than 1,200 jobs across the islands and helps support many thousands more workers in restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses that depend, in part, on beverage sales for their livelihood. Taxing beverages puts many of these local jobs at risk.

Finally, there is a dangerous precedent being set. Once the government reaches its long arm into people's grocery carts, it won't stop. There will be a parade of other food and beverages deemed "unhealthy," and eventually, we could see taxes and limitations on those items as well. Just last year, legislation was proposed in the state Legislature that targeted juice drinks, sports drinks, teas and nearly all beverages with sugar in it.

read … Hawaii Restaurant Assn

North Korea 'preparing for two nuclear tests'

UKT: North Korea is preparing to carry out two nuclear tests, either simultaneously or in rapid succession, to demonstrate to the world the advances it has made in its weapons programme, according to intelligence reports….

TG: North Korea video shows US city in flames after missile attack

read … Boom boom

Feds launch criminal probe into landfill runoff

HNN: Sources familiar with the probe say that a federal grand jury is looking at how Waste Management Inc. handled the storm water discharges at the Waimanalo Gulch landfill in Nanakuli….

The investigation was disclosed by Houston-based Waste Management in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In those filings, the company said the Office of the U.S. Attorney is looking into potential violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

read … Feds Help Jeff Stone

Bill aims to label all genetically modified food

HNN: farmers came down on both sides of the issue, not only on the safety of the GMO products, but also the cost.

House Bill 174 wants any food product that is produced or sold in Hawaii to have a label saying it contains or was made using genetically engineered material or GMO….

farmers warn that the bill puts too much burden on them because it asks that any food raised with GMO fertilizer or other GMO products must be labeled. That could be up to 80 percent of the food in the market.

"If you label the other 20 percent of foods GMO-free, then that's a cost that is born. And if they have to regulate it, it's not going to be such a burden to the rest of the 80 percent of food. Economically, it just makes more sense, " said Alicia Maluafiti, Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.

Another Luddite:  Label GMO’s in Hawaii So We Can Avoid Eating Them

Reality: California Voters Reject GMO Labeling Scheme

read … Enabling Luddite Boycott Tactics

Hawaii Home Prices up 12.5%--5th fastest increase in USA

BI: The five states with the highest increase in home prices including distressed sales were Arizona at 20.2 percent, Nevada at 15.3 percent, Idaho at 14.6 percent, California at 12.6 percent, and Hawaii at 12.5 percent. 

Meanwhile only Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania saw decline in home prices.

Excluding distressed sales the Arizona, California, Nevada and Hawaii again saw the highest increase in prices, and North Dakota rounded off the top five with a 10.8 percent increase. Ex-distressed sales only Delaware, Alabama, and New Jersey saw home price declines.

Read … Business Insider

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