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Friday, December 27, 2013
December 27, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:20 PM :: 4580 Views

Hawaii Reapportionment: State's Exclusions not Rational

Think your state has Obamacare problems? They’re nothing compared to Guam

Ready to handle the Crazies? Psych Major to Head Agriculture Board

Abercrombie Releases $21.7M CIP for HHSC, Mostly for EHRs

Akaka Roll Padded to Overcome 'Registration Fatigue': 71,000 Names from Operation Ohana, Kau Inoa 

HTH: The Native Hawaiian Roll Commission plans to end its “outreach efforts” Jan. 19 but will continue to accept registrants afterward, according to its executive director.

Formed to set up the foundation of a Native Hawaiian government by creating a roll — a list of names of people of Hawaiian descent — the commission gathered 101,130 registrants as of Tuesday.

It started the effort with the goal of collecting 200,000 names by last July. That deadline was later extended, and executive director Clyde Namuo said earlier this month the commission will take steps to publish the list of names after Jan. 19 when its advertising and outreach efforts to the Hawaiian community will end.

Names will be accepted after that date, he said. But following Jan. 19, the commission will begin verifying names so the list can be published.

“We will publish the list of names by June,” Namuo said. “At the latest, 2014.”

Those who sign up will be eligible to participate in the selection of delegates for an eventual constitutional convention, he said.

Though the commission expects to fall short of its initial goal, Namuo said it still has enough to move forward.

“I think (we’re at) a critical mass,” he said. “100,000 is a critical mass of names.”

It was unclear how many signed up from the Big Island. The commission did not respond to a Dec. 16 request for that information by press time Tuesday.

More than 71,000 names were transferred from Kau Inoa and Operation Ohana, according to the commission.

Namuo acknowledged difficulty in gaining signatures, which he partially attributed to registration fatigue.

“Part of it was that people said, ‘We already signed up for Kau Inoa. Why do we need to sign up again?’” Namuo said.

People were allowed to opt out of having their names transferred.

Commission vice chair Naalehu Anthony said about 60 chose to opt out.

Background:

read ... Rolling Around

$88K per enrollment: Only 2,015 in isles sign up, 296 businesses apply for Obamacare

SA: Hawaii's online health insurance marketplace signed up only 2,015 individuals as of Tuesday's enrollment deadline for policies beginning Jan. 1.

In addition, a pathetic 296 businesses have applied for plans through the Hawaii Health Connector, created by President Barack Obama's signature health care law.  (2015 + 296 = 2311)

The Connector said it was desperately working on a case-by-case basis with those who started but did not complete the application process before the deadline to get coverage at the start of the year....

The nonprofit organization estimates there are 100,000 uninsured in Hawaii and earlier said it needed to sign up 50,000 people to be sustainable by the end of 2014, when $204.3 million in federal grants expires.

($204M / 2311 = $88K per enrollment)

read ... Miserable Failure

City Planning Zoning, Permitting Exemption for Development Along Rail Line

CB: Honolulu is in the process of developing new planning and zoning rules specifically for transit-oriented development, or TOD, as it is commonly referred.

But these rules won’t be completed for more than a year, and developers are getting antsy.

According to a report from the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting, a number of developers and landowners have already approached the city about possible TOD projects.

The only problem is the city’s current zoning rules are too restrictive, specifically when it comes to height, density and parking regulations.

This is why the city is creating a temporary set of rules to allow certain projects to move forward despite the fact they might otherwise be illegal under the current land use ordinance.

“Almost anybody we’ve talked to has said this would be a lot easier to do if the zoning were different,” said Harrison Rue, Honolulu’s TOD administrator.

“The idea of coming up with an interim (permitting system) is one that we proposed at the staff level to both keep control of the process and to let people know what we’re looking for.”

In general, the new rules, which must be approved by the Honolulu City Council, will double the allowable density in certain zoning districts around nearly all of the rail stations.

Height limits will also be increased in various areas to a maximum of 450 feet, although there are caps in specific neighborhoods that have already developed other TOD plans.

This means that in Kapolei buildings should not exceed 90 feet, but around Honolulu International Airport and Ala Moana Center, where community TOD plans have yet to be developed, buildings can soar hundreds of feet into the air so long as projects meet certain requirements....

the city’s report says officials won’t simply “give away flexibility for free.” Only the most “creative” and “catalytic” projects that are likely to stimulate more development will be considered....

the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which is the lead agency overseeing development in Kakaako, has created its own TOD plan in anticipation of the $5.26 billion rail line.

HCDA’s plan is even more ambitious, at least when it comes to building heights.  The tallest buildings under the proposed plans can reach as high as 700 feet.

PDF: TOD rules (proposed)

read ... Rail Lets Honolulu Grow Up

Chief of the city Ethics Commission says his staff must be independent

SA: Totto has been at odds with the person who heads that office, Donna Leong. Under the City Charter, the commission is administratively attached to Corporation Counsel, the agency that provides legal advice to city agencies. Leong and Totto essentially don't agree what those words should mean.

While he acknowledged there had been tension in past administrations, Totto said he's now dealing with the most contentious arguments yet. Meetings are being held to work things out, he said, but in recent weeks he's been pushing back against suggestions that Corporation Counsel direct the commission's budget cuts and pick up some of the duty in advising on ethical questions....

read ... Charles Totto

Visitor arrivals fall for the third consecutive month

SA: Visitor arrivals and spending has fallen over the same time last year for the third month in a row, an unwelcome trend that's expected to continue into 2014.

Total visitor expenditures in November declined 2.1 percent to $1.1 billion, while arrivals decreased 5.5 percent to 620,051, according to preliminary data released today by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The poor performance was largely due to a 7.3 percent drop in arrivals to 254,122 from the U.S. West, the state's largest market. The drop resulted in spending from that region falling 7.5 percent to $368 million. There also were 30.5 percent fewer cruise ship visitors last month.

U.S. East visitor expenditures also plunged 15 percent to $201 million due to 9.2 percent fewer arrivals to 105,834 and lower daily spending....

read ... On the Way Down

Hawaii Retailers Suffer Diminished Visitor Spending

SA: A shortened shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, diminishing visitor spending and economic uncertainty tied to a government shutdown earlier this year put a damper on holiday sales, said Mark Stor­fer, board chairman for the Retail Merchants of Hawaii trade group and chief operating officer for Hilo Hattie.

"It certainly has not lived up to the expectations of retailers, that's for sure," Stor­fer said. "What I'm hearing from my peers in the business and experiencing at Hilo Hattie is that some retailers are down, some have achieved comparable sales to last year but very few — if any — are honestly telling me that it's a better year than last year.

read ... Retail Down

Victims of Solar Scammers now Pay $705/mo for useless System

B: With bills for 1,600 square foot houses like these running as high as $400 a month, solar is seen as less a green statement than an economic no-brainer given state and federal tax credits for as much as 65 percent of installation costs. Almost every day since Walker and his wife Mi Chong moved in last April, solar installers came rapping on the door, hawking a rooftop system.

They finally bought one: an 18-panel, $35,000 installation producing 5.9 kilowatts of power financed for $305 a month. It would be connected to the grid under a system known as net metering that essentially lets residents deduct the value of their solar-produced electricity from their power bill and even be paid for electricity in excess of that....  ($400 + $305 = $705/mo electric bill)

Walker estimates his bill would have dropped most months to an $18 service charge -- offsetting that $305 loan payment. Anticipating his power bills would continue to rise, he figured the system could pay for itself in as little as five years; his electricity after that would be free.

That is until his utility, a subsidiary of Honolulu-based Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., told the Walkers they couldn’t connect their system to the grid. They aren’t alone. Solar installers here estimate that hundreds if not thousands of the state’s residents are being put in solar limbo by a virtual moratorium on new connections in many parts of the company’s service area....

Walkers, who say they got no advance notice of the shutdown, are now paying both their power bill and their monthly rooftop loan....

On the island of Oahu, HECO is “working really hard” to find a solution to oversaturated circuits caused by the rapid solar rollout, CEO Richard Rosenblum said. The utility’s engineering studies on solar are expected to be done by March, he said.

“We see ourselves as a trailblazer,” said Rosenblum. And one of the problems of being a trailblazer is sometimes the trail is not clear.’’

...escalating fossil fuel prices make it competitive -- even without subsidies -- with conventional electricity.

That’s already occurred “at a domestic level in many countries” with some U.S. states like Hawaii and California already at or near parity and others to follow soon, according to an Aug. 8 research report by Citigroup Inc. Parity will only escalate as fossil fuels get more expensive and solar gets cheaper....

read ... Fight Back

World's Dumbest Surfers Fight GMOs in Hawaii Protest

CB:  "All people have to do is look this shit up, and you will be pissed," said Mark Healey

GMO = Herpes

"Obviously, their track record of human rights is not fucking good. In fact, it's the worst of any company ever outside of a government regime. So, yeah, we're supposed to trust these guys unregulated to test things? Give me a break."

Dustin Barca grunts into a megaphone "Surfers are connected to Mother Nature probably more than anybody on earth," said Barca. "She gives us everything."

"I am here because I think that Dustin Barca has some MLK in him," said surfing and action sports commentator Sal Masekela.

"We feel like we have more to lose than other people, because it's relevant," said Healey.

He pauses and laughs. "Just another dumb surfer."

CB to Obama: "Talk GMOs on Kauai and the Big Island"

read ...  World's Dumbest Surfers

Tenacious McD: State Rep. Bob McDermott

CB: State Rep. Bob McDermott was easily among the most vocal opponents of the marriage equality bill during this year's Legislature's special session. He even filed a lawsuit arguing that the legislation was problematic from a constitutional perspective. It ultimately failed.

Despite being on the losing side of history, at least so far, McDermott launched an aggressive social media push beyond the state Capitol and TV airwaves. With the help of regular Civil Beat reader and commenter Keith Rollman, McDermott has become a far more visible presence in social media, carefully outlining his positions while simultaneously seeking donations.

The attention focused on the special session allowed the Republican representative to craft his message and find his voice.

read ... Who Were the Social Media Stars of Hawaii Politics in 2013?

Politico: Hawaii Senate Race one of Nation's Top Primaries

Politico: Hawaii Senate (Aug. 9) Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie picked his own lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, to succeed the late Sen. Daniel Inouye last winter instead of Inouye’s hand-picked successor, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. In the process, he set off what’s bound to be one of the most competitive Democratic primaries in the country.

Schatz, now an incumbent, has all the benefits of being in office, including a fundraising advantage and a team of seasoned D.C. operatives. But Hanabusa has the support of Inouye’s family and is tapping into his political network, which reaches across Hawaii.

The seat is seen as safe for Democrats, so whoever comes out of the August primary will almost certainly be the next senator from Hawaii. But given the nature of this race — between the now-incumbent senator and the protégée of a pol who was a Hawaii institution — it’s definitely one to keep an eye on this spring and summer.

Read ... Who Will Survive?

Gas Buddy: Hawaii Stands Alone

HR: It was not uncommon to find a dollars’ worth of difference between street prices in different states throughout all of 2013, and that state-by-state diversity will continue and even broaden in 2014. Many of the differences are attributable to tax treatment, but incredibly variable crude costs and wholesale gasoline prices accentuate the diversity.

Hawaii stands alone as the single U.S. state that moves according to specific global metrics, and it is the only state where GasBuddy projects a $4 gal or higher 2014 average. Fourteen states spent some time with statewide averages above $4 gal at some point in 2013, but we suspect that such moves will be rare or extraordinary in 2014. Seventeen state averages bottomed out below $3 gal in 2013, and we suspect that such trips to low latitude will be a much more regular occurrence next year. Note: Two states (Minnesota and Nebraska) had the unusual distinction in 2013 of achieving averages above $4 gal and below $3 gal.

PBN: Oil falls below $112 a barrel as strikes continue

read ... $4/gal predicted

Biofuel firm says HELCO contract not needed for plan to work

SA: Kenton Eldridge, co-founder and chairman of AKP, said the company will press ahead with the planned biofuel facility without a contract with HELCO.

"AKP is very disappointed with the PUC's decision but will continue to pursue our plan to produce both biofuels as well biochar. AKP still has an active contract with Mansfield Oil to produce up to 24 million gallons of biofuel to be used as transportation fuel," Eldridge said in an email.

read ... Not Needed

Par Petroleum ‘confident’ about Hawaii

PBN: Haywood, a former Tesoro executive in California, is confident that Par Petroleum will be here for the long term, reasoning that Hawaii is and will continue to be heavily dependent on imported crude oil for the foreseeable future.

Nearly 90 percent of Hawaii’s energy still comes from fossil fuels, and having on-island refining capacity mitigates some of the state’s energy security risk, company executives said.

Additionally, they say that although the popularity of renewable energy is increasing in the state as a result of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, the development of these alternative forms of energy has not yet reached a scale that will come close to allowing any of them to cost effectively displace fossil fuels.

And, besides Hawaii’s own energy needs, Hawaii Independent Energy executives say that its 94,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Kapolei is well configured to meet the needs for jet fuel for the international market.

“On-island refining is greatly needed here,” Hawaii Independent Energy Spokesman Lance Tanaka told PBN....

Haywood said the company is in the process of hiring as many as 40 employees in fields as diverse as engineering, maintenance and accounting....

A source familiar with Par Petroleum has a strong belief in the company’s long-term viability in Hawaii, especially with serial investor and billionaire Sam Zell’s involvement in Par Petroleum.

Zell, who is no stranger to Hawaii companies, also is board chairman of Covanta Energy Corp., which runs the City and County of Honolulu’s waste-to-energy plant called H-Power....

read ... Par Petroleum ‘confident’ about Hawaii

UH Regents: We're Serious Now

SA: Board policy has been amended so that the personnel committee's prior approval is required for salaries over $150,000, and personnel committee and board approval are required for all salaries or employment extensions above $150,000. A study of market salaries for comparable government and nonprofit positions is expected by end of January.

Administration is also, at the board's request, reviewing the positions in public, governmental and media relations and assessing cost efficiencies in centralizing key functions. A report will be forthcoming in the second quarter of 2014.

For further accountability, the Budget and Finance Committee has requested that the next biennium budget be determined by revenue and expenditures on an operating basis.

The university's successful implementation of the new financial system Kuali will enable the administration to provide revenue and expense statements for review and analysis.

In construction management and procurement, the administration is reorganizing the system Office of Capital Improvements and the Office of Facilities and Grounds at Manoa, with clear guidelines as to which office will be responsible for overseeing which projects.

OCI will oversee all new construction and renovation projects, and OFG at Manoa will oversee repair and maintenance projects and structural projects under $5 million.

Amended executive policies will require that all engineering and architectural plans be complete before a project is sent out to bid, leading to a reduction in change orders, and will stipulate that projects are to be managed according to budget. Construction contracts will contain meaningful liquidated damage provisions to reduce delays in completion. A project timetable will include tasks and responsibilities that must be completed prior to commencement of construction of a project, reducing cost overruns.

ThinkTech: We need to fund the maintenance at UH

read ... Seriously

UH Athletics Plan: Fewer Seats

SA: Squeezing ticket holders together in fewer sections should boost the energy of the crowd, increasing the home-field advantage and creating the illusion of a fuller stadium that will look better on TV.

Image, after all, is no small consideration in a department that relies on football advertisers and boosters to help fund diverse sports programs throughout the university system.

UH also could save a little money on cleaning fees after every home game because maintenance crews wouldn't be needed above the loge level. That savings is projected at more than $5,000 a game, although how much more hasn't been specified.

Every little bit counts as Athletics continues to operate at a deficit, despite a $14.7 million bailout by the UH-Manoa chancellor's office.

read ... Less is More

With 2 school leaders accused of crimes, charter schools face more oversight

HNN: "To prevent this kind of thing from occurring, we have a lot of safeguards that weren't in place even a year ago in our state," said Tom Hutton, executive director of the Hawaii Public Charter School Commission.

"This was all an outgrowth of concerns like this that something was not right in Charter-land," Hutton added.

So the legislature repealed the charter school law and replaced the charter school review panel, he said.

For the first time ever, starting with the fiscal year that began July 1, each of the state's 33 charter schools has signed an annual contract with the charter school commission to hold them accountable in three major areas: finances, organization and academics.

"There are requirements in the contract about submitting a range of what are your policies on hiring, on procurement, on personnel, conflict of interest," Hutton said. "Those sorts of things have to be reported to the commission so then we're in a position to evaluate them."

Hutton said both the State Attorney General's office and the State Ethics Commission have offered to train charter school officials, something that will happen as soon as they can set that up.

"There's a good deal more transparency in the system than there was.  All the schools have to do an annual audit that's then reported to the commission, we can take a look at that," Hutton said.

read ... Cleaning House?

Kauai County Considers Cat Tax

KGI: If passed, Bill 2517 would establish an annual and biennial cat licensing fee, as well as make it illegal for any person to own an unlicensed cat over four months old.

Annual license fees, according to a draft version of the bill, would be $10 for spayed or neutered cats and $30 for unneutered or unspayed cats. Residents could also opt to purchase biennial licenses at a reduced cost.

KHS workers will attempt to return all license-wearing cats turned into the humane society by contacting the owners through written and phone notices. If the cats are not picked up within nine days, the humane society may return them to whomever brought them in, offer it for adoption or euthanize it.

Unlicensed cats will be held for at least 48 hours.

All owners retrieving a cat from the humane society would also pay an impoundment fee of $12 per day.

The proposed law would also make it illegal for an owner to allow a cat over four months old to be at-large unless it has been sterilized by a veterinarian. If an impounded cat has not been sterilized, the cat’s owner will be charged a $25 redemption fee for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $75 for additional offenses.

read ... First they came for the dogs ...

2000 Big Island Check Card Customers Frozen over Target Data Breach

HTH: The Target data breach has reached the Big Island.

Numerous Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union members learned of the breach when they pulled out their credit union-issued Visa debit and credit cards while shopping and dining during the days leading up the Christmas holiday and it was returned “not authorized” or they were unable to get cash from one of the bank’s automatic teller machines.

Two-thousand — or about 5 percent — of the financial institution’s 42,000 members were affected by the recent Target data breach prompting the bank to close their Visa debit or credit cards “for safety” between Saturday and Tuesday, Tricia Buskirk, vice president of Corporate Development and Marketing, told Stephens Media Hawaii on Thursday. No unauthorized transactions have been found by the bank, which is actively monitoring the affected accounts.

read ... Breach hits home

911 Trooothers Drop Hawaii Ballot Suit

SA: The Justice Party and Hawaii resident (and 9/11 Trooother) Kristine Kubat filed the suit last year contending that state election laws requiring one-tenth of 1 percent of Hawaii registered voters to file a petition for a new party here are unconstitutionally too burdensome.

The party wanted its candidate, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, on Hawaii's 2012 ballot.

The dismissal approved by the federal court Thursday follows a recent opinion issued by the attorney general's office that said candidates' names can be on the presidential ballot regardless of whether their parties are recognized under state law.

The Justice Party agreed to the dismissal as a result of the attorney general's opinion....

The Justice Party contended that its volunteers obtained 3,000 signatures to be recognized as a new party here but did not have addresses and dates of births to meet the state law's requirement of about 691 valid signatures.

read ... 911 Trooothers

Hauula recycling center reopens After City Seizes Choon James Land

SA: Two months after being forced to shut down, the Reynolds Recycling center in Hau­ula reopened last week under a new arrangement with the city.

The center reopened Friday at 54-290 Kame­ha­meha Highway, also known as Lot 64. Reynolds had operated on the site when it was privately owned. After the city took over the property in 2010, officials told Reynolds that the recycling center could not remain there unless it went through a bidding process open to all recyclers.

Instead, Reynolds moved its Hau­ula operations to a property next door, known as Lot 65. The city is trying to acquire both lots for a proposed fire station.

Reynolds operations were shut down again Oct. 22 when city officials took possession of the 20,000-square-foot Lot 65, posted "no trespassing" signs and told Reynolds, along with property owner Choon James, that the center no longer had legal grounds to be there.

James, a licensed real estate broker, has refused to sell the property to the city. A lawsuit she brought against the city is scheduled to be heard in state Circuit Court in March....

James has repeatedly accused the city of prematurely taking control of Lot 65, her parcel. Because James refused to accept the city's $521,000 check for the land, she still retains the title to the property....

read ... Hauula

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