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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
June 29, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:40 PM :: 3654 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development
 

Victory for Civil Rights: All Persons shall be counted for Hawaii reapportionment

Victory: Obama Admin cancels stealth survey of Hawaii MDs

Molokai Wind Developer: “We will pack up and leave.”

Abercrombie announces plan to let more criminals out onto the streets

Rep Michelle Bachmann: “We want to win Hawaii”

Kos: Will Hanabusa let Case beat Hirono?

Hawaii 2011 Pork Report points to DoE Embezzlement

CNBC: Hawaii #1 in cost of living, 48th in Business Climate

KS claims it is not grabbing for Juicy Affordable Housing Credits

On June 7, Kamehameha Schools communicated to Mr. Stone that we are ready to sign an agreement accepting his generous gift of 67 acres of Makaha Valley land, containing the same stipulations that all parties agreed to in March 2010: KS would name the learning center after the Stone family; KS commits to a spending floor of $10 million over five years or $25 million over 10 years; and the land use will be restricted to activities that fulfill our educational mission. The only difference between this agreement and the agreement reached in March 2010 was to address that KS lands would be deeded over without the accompanying transfer of 230 acres to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, in return for Mr. Stone's receipt of affordable housing credits.

Your editorial incorrectly suggests that KS is pursuing an "Option B" that contemplates a purchase of all 300 acres of Makaha Valley lands. As we explained to the Star-Advertiser last week, at some point during the protracted negotiation with Mr. Stone, we discussed the possibility of a land purchase as a way to move forward with planning and build-out for the learning center. We shared that this option was discussed and discarded months ago, but the article did not reflect any of that context. Your editorial perpetuates that inaccuracy. To be clear: "Option B" is not part of the current discussion.

(Yeah, KS and JS both claim they don’t want the tax credits.  Solution, let DHHL keep them in order to help reduce the cost of DHHL homes.)

RELATED: Ka Pua Makaha: Multi-million dollar giveaway of DHHL assets disguised as “gift”

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UPW gets 8% Raise on Friday (and still getting 60-40 on Health Care)

Come Friday, some state and county government workers (mostly UPW) could see their salaries revert to pre-furlough levels if new labor contracts aren't in place. But the state's budget director cautions that the state can't afford to pay the 2009 salary rates for long and that ultimately, 5 percent labor savings would have to be achieved for the entire fiscal year.

Existing contracts expire Thursday for thousands of members of the United Public Workers union, Hawaii State Teachers Association and professional nurses represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association. The furlough days agreed to in those contracts are equivalent to about an 8 percent pay cut.  (Ending them is an 8% pay hike)

Lawmakers built in 5-percent labor savings across its unionized work force — totaling $88.2 million — into the state's operating budget for fiscal 2012, which starts Friday.  (So they are now off by 13%)

"For those who think they'll get a bounce back in pay, it's just setting the state up for increasing the complexity of negotiating because there is not enough money to make it through the fiscal year paying full wages and a 60-40 split for health coverage," Kalbert Young, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, told Civil Beat Tuesday.  (Abercrombie could chop the 60-40 any time they want but he isn’t….) "Whatever labor savings get negotiated into the contracts, they'll have to basically make sure that amount will equal out to a 5 percent labor savings — at minimum — for the entire year."  (In other words, the longer they ride high, the lower the Administration is going to have to cut them to break even.)

AP: State to put final offer to teachers into effect

Why are they getting 60-40 on health care?  $126M Giveaway: Abercrombie quietly boosts spending on Public Employees’ Insurance

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HSTA Contract: Imposing a pact that a labor union has not agreed to is unusual

Hawaii State Teachers Association officials said Tuesday they were still exploring options on how to respond, and reiterated their interest in returning to the negotiating table.

The "last, best" contract for Hawaii's 12,700 public school teachers includes pay cuts and furloughs equal to a 5 percent wage reduction in each of the next two years.  Teachers would also pay 50 percent of their health insurance premiums, up from 40 percent now.

HSTA's board has already rejected the offer, and officials said the union would not take the proposal to its membership for a vote.  The existing two-year contract for teachers expires Thursday.

Current and former public employee union leaders and others said in interviews Tuesday that HSTA could try to block the department from implementing the contract through the courts or the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, but it is unclear whether the union would prevail.

Federal labor law allows a private employer to implement its "last, best" offer if the employer believes contract talks are at an impasse.

But applying that to public-sector negotiations in Hawaii, governed by state labor laws, is uncharted territory.  (This assertion is contradicted in third sentence below….)

"Neither the state nor the counties have ever imposed their last, best offer unilaterally, (though) they've threatened it," said Joan Husted, who retired as executive director and chief negotiator for HSTA in 2007.

Husted said if the Department of Education is given the go-ahead to impose its "last, best" offer, it could dramatically change public employee contract bargaining in Hawaii.

Last year, in negotiations with professors, the University of Hawaii tried to implement its "last, best" offer, which included pay cuts, but that effort crumbled in the courts.

J.N. Musto, executive director of the UH Professional Assembly… said besides seeking legal remedies, HSTA members could vote to strike.

ILind: Reporting still lacking on labor issues

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Honolulu Takes Steps to Avoid Paying Back $7.9M

Carlisle transmitted a 13-page plan to HUD on Monday, the deadline day for responding to an investigation that found the city may have turned a blind eye to a nonprofit's misuse of millions of dollars in federal Community Development Block Grants. The investigation came as part of HUD's routine monitoring of the city's grant use….

Federal investigators said the city turned its back on monitoring ORI. Their investigation came six months after (Ernie Martin) Honolulu forgave $1.2 million in old loans to the nonprofit, converting the money into a grant so that ORI wouldn't have to pay it back. HUD's regional spokeswoman told Civil Beat that investigators did not know about the loan forgiveness at the time of the monitoring.

"It is not an entirely unusual practice," HUD's Gibson wrote in an email to Civil Beat. "The City should have in place a prescribed process/policy when 'forgiving' the loans to insure transparency and full disclosure in the process. Additionally, the City should then identify information about the 'forgiven' loan in its annual report."

PDF: June 27 Letter to HUD

RELATED: Resignation call after Audit reveals “ward heeler’s slush fund” overseen by Honolulu Councilman

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Mayor should step off the train and let HART do the steering

While arguing that key rail decisions should be left to HART, his administration has done the opposite by rushing through major actions to lock in HART before it officially comes into being on Friday.

The administration signed a $372 million construction contract for the project's second phase well over a year before construction can begin on the first phase and recently pushed a $104 million bond authorization through the Council more than a year before the money is needed.

The city signed a $574 contract to buy 80 rail cars from the Italian company Ansaldo years before any cars will be needed and despite the company's history of troubles in other cities.

Competing bidders have filed protests claiming that the contract was structured with the true costs hidden to favor Ansaldo. The administration officially rejected the protests last week in an attempt to seal the deal before HART takes control of the process.

There's no reason these decisions couldn't have waited for HART if Carlisle was sincere in his desire to have the big decisions on rail made by "a professional board of directors whose single-minded focus is to build and operate the rail transit project honestly, transparently, on time, and within budget."

To gain credibility, HART needs to assert its independence early by hiring an executive director with no ties to the city administration and taking a fresh look at whether the bidding process for the rail cars needs to be started over.

Heen: Charter is clear on Council's authority over HART

RELATED: Resignation call after Audit reveals “ward heeler’s slush fund” overseen by Honolulu Councilman

KHON: James Campbell Company purchases 100 acres in Kapolei

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Enterprise Zone Tax Benefits end Friday

One of the program’s main incentives was the 100-percent exemption from general excise tax for participants each year. Another was a 100-percent GET exemption for licensed contractors and subcontractors who do work within an Enterprise Zone or for an EZ-qualified business. Those savings also would be realized by the eligible landlord or EZ business that contracted the work.

But because of Act 105, which was signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, those benefits will be suspended effective Friday through June 30, 2013, for businesses not enrolled in the EZ program by Thursday. Existing EZ businesses will not be affected by the benefit suspension, providing they continue to meet certain program requirements, officials said at the workshop.

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Mauians decline Abercrombie’s request to resign

Jerry Edlao and David Goode, two Mauians serving on the Board of Land and Natural Resources, have sent letters to Gov. Neil Abercrombie declining his request that they resign. He had asked 28 members of boards and commissions who had been appointed by former Gov. Linda Lingle to quit before their terms expired.

Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said that, as of late Tuesday, Abercrombie had received responses from five Lingle appointees. Only one agreed to resign.

Edlao took pains in a lengthy letter to explain to the governor that he takes his job seriously.

"Maui district managers have monthly meetings and I do my best to attend," he wrote. "When I first attended, they were really surprised that a board member had shown interest.

"I do take my charge very seriously and if I can get information regarding DLNR issues here on Maui, what better place than to meet with these guys."

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HGEA Nurses Reach Impasse with Contract Negotiations

Contract talks are at an impasse between the state and the approximately 900 professional nurses covered by the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Six of the seven HGEA bargaining units approved a new two-year contract in April, with the nurses holding out for a better deal. Their existing contract expires Thursday.

The state's largest union sent a letter last week to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, informing the board that negotiations have stalled, an HGEA spokeswoman said.

Within 20 days of receiving the request, which was dated June 21, an arbitration panel would be selected. Once the panel is formed, a hearing would be held within 30 days.

RELATED: VIDEO: Abercrombie squares off with Maui Nurses

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Abercrombie gets lots of window dressing for plan to let criminals out on streets

Justice Reinvestment works as an inter-branch, bipartisan working group staffed by state and local leaders, which will receive technical assistance from the Justice Center, as well as the Pew Center on the States.

The working group will include Abercrombie, Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Senate President Shan Tsutsui, House Speaker Calvin Say and Department of Public Safety Director Jodie Maesaka-Hirata, among others.

"This is an exciting day for the people of Hawaii," said Recktenwald. "We have all three branches of government coming together to ask a simple, yet fundamental question, which is how can we retain better results from our criminal justice system in a time of economic challenge?"

Abercrombie could not give a timeline on when citizens could expect to see changes within the justice system.

"It has much less to do with a timetable than it does with a game plan," Abercrombie said. "Once we get a game plan, we can start working on timetables."

(The real story is who Abercrombie has appointed to the Hawaii Paroling Authority)

More Window Dressing from HR: New Hawaii Taskforce Tackles Cost of Crime

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Maui Judge: “Prison best place” for racist lunatic with multiple convictions

In sentencing Wilfred Kin Choy Sr., 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said he considered factors including the seriousness of the crime, the need to protect the public and the likelihood that Kin Choy would reoffend.

Cardoza said Kin Choy has a "significant" criminal record that now includes felony convictions in three cases, although he had stayed out of trouble with the law for a while before his latest arrest.

Earlier this year, a jury found Kin Choy, 56, guilty of second-degree assault of Victor Garcia on Jan. 16.

At about 10 a.m. that day, Garcia testified he was walking on the sidewalk fronting Times Supermarket when he felt a sharp blow from behind and was knocked to the ground. He later identified Kin Choy as the attacker who stood over Garcia, laughing and screaming obscenities. Garcia, who has since moved to Maui from Alaska, said his attacker called him a "haole" and said he was "responsible for everything."

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Reform victim restitution program

For its part, 13 years after a scathing state auditor's report, the Judiciary is finally set to replace its old computer system. Around June 2012, the Judiciary Information Management System (JIMS) will include restitution information for traffic and misdemeanor cases. Restitution for Circuit Court criminal and Family Court cases will be phased into JIMS through 2015. This should go a long way toward payback.

Meanwhile, the state Crime Victim Compensation Commission provides to victims compensation fees or reimbursements assessed by judges in cases where the offender's payments have fallen short. The commission's revenue comes entirely from court-ordered restitution and 10 percent of prison inmates' wages of 25 cents an hour, bolstered by a 60 percent federal match through the 1984 Victims of Crime Act.

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Info about Wahiawa escapees delayed 12 hours because “problems with our cabling and some of the faxing”

Prisons officials alerted police, sheriffs and others involved in the search for the escapees. It was not until noon, 12 hours after the escapes, that the public safety department released the inmates' names and pictures to the media and public.

"As you know, Wahiawa sits in a very rainy area. We had some problems with our cabling and some of the faxing, some of the wiring because of the rain in Wahiawa," Booker said.

SA: Escapees jumped fences

 

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Hawaii visitor spending increases 15 percent

Visitor spending in Hawaii increased 15.3 percent to $5 billion in the first five months of the year, compared with the same period of 2010, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority statistics released Tuesday.

For the month of May, total visitor spending grew 5.9 percent to $912.3 million. Arrivals increased by 0.6 percent to 553,505 visitors and average daily spending rose to $185 per person, from $175 in May 2010.

May was the 13th consecutive month of increased visitor spending, said Mike McCartney, the tourism authority's president and CEO.

"We were also pleased to see an increase of 70 percent in the meetings, conventions and incentives market compared to May 2010," he said in a statement. The annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association May 14-18 brought 9,547 delegates to the islands.

SA: Visitor spending up $50.9 million in May

Shapiro tries to walk back Abercrombie’s Pro-Bowl Gaffe: The chicken and egg of tourism promotion

HTA: press release

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WSJ: Mogul Digs Hawaii Hotels Out of Debt, Disaster

Market Crashed, Then the Tsunami; Now, Michael Dell's MSD Puts Empire Back in Order—Paying Bills, Thatching Huts

MSD Capital LP, which oversees some $12 billion in assets for Mr. Dell, has brought its payments up to date on its $425 million mortgage on the Four Seasons Maui resort, likely signaling a restructuring of the loan. MSD had been delinquent for roughly 16 months on the debt after the investment manager quit covering the property's debt-payment shortfalls early last year.

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Activists, Legislators upset because Fannie Mae goes to Courts with Foreclosures

The company, which operates in the secondary mortgage market, announced that it would convert all of its non-judicial foreclosures in Hawaii to judicial foreclosures, (How dare they use the judicial system!) meaning homeowners facing financial troubles would face a judge rather than a mediator in resolving their loans.  (A move which many attorneys predicted.)

The move generated criticism from lawmakers and advocates, who said Fannie was skirting the intent of what some have (foolishly) said is the nation's strongest foreclosure law, just passed by the state Legislature.

Given the size of the company, the decision raised questions about whether a 100-page law had really taken into account how to address the foreclosure problem. (Duh!)

In fact, a spokesman for Fannie says it opted to go to court in response to the legislation….

On Wednesday, lawmakers will hold an informational briefing on Act 48.  (And boy are they feeing stupid.)

Announcement: Fannie Mae ends use of non-judicial foreclosure in Hawaii

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Police Save Women from Forced Prostitution Scam

Big Island police say two women answered an online ad, and were coaxed into coming to Oahu with the promise of lucrative modeling contracts.

After a couple days of picture taking, the women were told they'd be going out of state.

One of the women got suspicious, left and notified authorities.

The second was found by Honolulu Police, as she, the photographer and so-called "modeling agent" were checking out of their hotel.

Police believe the women would've been forced into prostitution.

SA:  Big Island police uncover operation to lure women into prostitution

KITV: Hawaii Police Warn Of 'Modeling' Scams

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Transsexual Leader complains Human Trafficking Law is hard on Pimps 

by Mr Tracy Ahn Ryan -- HB 240 that aimed at cracking down at “sex trafficking” may be the worst bill I have seen signed into law in the seventeen years I have been following the legislature. It is an example of finding the scariest example of some activity and improperly generalizing it to create fear.

Then that fear allows a wide sweep of legislation that attacks many harmless people. Jim Dooley’s report (Hawaii Reporter June 24) skims lightly over the “lesser related” offenses that are now class B felonies. These include managing or supervising more than two sex workers who are adults and under no threat of coercion. It also includes receiving a tip from a sex worker for sending her a client.

REALITY: Board of Education: the Transsexual-Libertarian Connection,

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Bacteria: Hawaii Beaches dirtier than New Jersey

A report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council says 3 percent of reported Hawaii beach monitoring samples in 2010 exceeded the state's daily maximum bacterial standards.

Kauai County beaches had the highest contamination rate at 8 percent, followed by 2 percent on Maui and the Big Island.

One percent of Honolulu's samples exceeded standards.

The highest ranking went to New Hampshire, followed by New Jersey and Oregon.

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$1.6M in fines over 2 years for Hawaii drivers violating cellphone ban

Hawaii drivers who violate county cell phone laws have paid more than $1.6 million in fines over nearly two years.  The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday the number of violators on Oahu has increased over time….

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Kauai Luddites panicking, try to cancel election because Hydropower may win

A man completely off of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s electric grid is circulating a petition to recall member ballots and redo the member vote on the Board of Directors’May 9 decision to contract with Free Flow Power.

Jonathan Jay, a program host at KKCR, said even though he is not a co-op member and lives (as a caricature of a Luddite) in a little shack in a citrus grove on the edge of a jungle in Kalaheo, he started the petition because he wants “to be a member of a community in which there are vibrant democratic institutions.” (Because he wants to kill hydro)

In recent weeks, community members and organizations have criticized KIUC for not providing its members with fair and balanced information in voter materials begun to panic as their propaganda is not working this time. The co-op has strongly advocated in support of its board’s decision, urging members to vote “yes” on the ballot while implying that a “no” vote may mean the end of any future hydropower development on Kaua‘i.

“I don’t want to debate anymore whether or not they did the right thing with the Voters Guide,” Jay said. “This is an opportunity for KIUC to get it right by putting the kibosh on the first election. I’ve taken steps to involve members and make the board accountable.”  (And, pray tell, what would those steps be…just keep reading….)

At KIUC’s monthly board meeting on Tuesday, he passed out lemons to each of the directors to “let them know that this is their opportunity to make lemonade.” He added that the same rains that go into hydropower also water the citrus trees he tends.  (Sounds like recycling, but he’s against it.)

Jay’s petition says that by requiring members to return their ballots by July 8, “the earliest possible date,” the board is“severely limiting the time available for its member-owners to become informed brainwashed.

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US Supreme Court Decision kills Big Island’s “Public Owned Elections” giveaway to candidates

Publicly financed candidates for Hawaii County Council (ie those running against Guy Enriques in 2010) will likely no longer be eligible for extra money to compete against big-spending opponents after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Monday struck down a similar law in Arizona.

The court, in a 5-4 decision, held that an Arizona law which provided publicly funded candidates with matching funds to compete against privately financed candidates and independent interest groups “substantially burdens political speech” protected by the First Amendment.

A Hawaii County pilot project offers similar equalizing funds to publicly financed candidates who are outspent by privately financed opponents, a provision modeled after the Arizona law.

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Maui Voters to Consider Council Power over Appointments

WAILUKU - Proposed charter amendments would require incoming finance and planning directors to go before the Maui County Council for approval.

Council Chairman Danny Mateo introduced the proposal, which is pending before the council's Policy Committee. If passed by the council, the proposed charter amendment would be placed on the 2012 ballot for Maui County voters to decide.

Currently, only the county's water director, corporation counsel and prosecuting attorney require council approval, while the mayor can fill all other positions in his Cabinet without review.

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Hawaii GM papaya featured at BIO 2011

Ken Kamiya has a great story to tell about his genetically modified papaya, and that's what he's doing this week at the 2011 BIO International Convention being held in Washington, DC.

Kamiya has grown GM papaya for a decade on his farm in Hawaii. The fruit is immune from the ringworm virus that had decimated his trees and the Hawaiian papaya industry. The papaya industry and Kamiya's farm have come back strong, so he's at the BIO convention telling his story and offering up sample of his delicious fruit for attendees to taste.

Check out the interview with Kamiya, Hawaiian Farmer Saved By Genetically Modified Papaya, by WUSA 9 News, a local television station in Washington, DC. The station also mentions him in Cool Inventions at the BIO 2011 Convention (June 28, 2011).

Kamiya is a member of TATT's Global Farmer Network and attended the 2007 Global Farmer Roundtable.

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Lennon was a closet Republican: Assistant

Fred Seaman worked alongside the music legend from 1979 to Lennon's death at the end of 1980 and he reveals the star was a Ronald Reagan fan who enjoyed arguing with left-wing radicals who reminded him of his former self.

In new documentary Beatles Stories, Seaman tells filmmaker Seth Swirsky Lennon wasn't the peace-loving militant fans thought he was while he was his assistant.

He says, "John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter….

"I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who's an old-time communist... He enjoyed really provoking my uncle... Maybe he was being provocative... but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.

"He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he'd been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy's naivete."

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