73 Candidates File for Neighborhood Board Elections
Education Reform: Kelii Akina Interviews Darrel Galera, Roberta May
Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted December 8, 2014
Legislation Lets States Cut Ties Between Common Core and Federal Grants
Man gets 33 months in prison after threatening to decapitate congresswoman
State Hospital, Public Defender Block Commitment of Mentally Ill Homeless Person
HNN: Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services, Hawaii's largest homeless shelter, got a lawyer and psychiatrist to ask a judge to force the woman into outpatient treatment, because the doctor said she would stabilize with just a monthly shot of anti-psychotic drugs....
The 2013 law, known as Act 221, allows family members or others to petition a family court judge to force a mentally ill person to undergo outpatient treatment for at least six months.
"We feel that the law is being used just to sweep homeless people off the streets,” said Chief Deputy Public Defender Tim Ho, whose office successfully challenged the case, saying the woman was being discriminated against because she's homeless.
A Family Court judge threw out the case, but not the law, after the State Hospital refused to disclose her records for medical privacy reasons. Evidence of hospitalization is required as one of several criteria under the new law.
"They should be able to refuse mental health treatment, if they are capable of making that decision," Ho said.
But mental health advocates said only the most mentally ill people are being targeted for forced treatment.
"It's really inhumane to quote -- give her her civil liberties -- and allow her to make a decision she's not capable of making. The decision not to have treatment," said Marya Grambs, executive director of Mental Health America of Hawaii. "She does not know she's ill. She literally does not know she's sick. So if you're not sick, you're not going to go in for treatment."
Mitchell said the State Hospital will now release records of treatment to IHS in similar cases in the future. She said attorney Diane Haar, who handled the case for free, will re-file the case of the woman in Chinatown in the weeks and months ahead....
read ... Will Re-File
Big Wind is Back--HECO's Inter-island Transmission Cable re-surfaces
IM: Although Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and Nextera Energy (NEE) profess to be in the process of aligning their very similar positions, there is at least one important area which they disagree.
After pushing an inter-island undersea high-voltage transmission power line for years, Hawaiian Electric Company has come to the conclusion that it does not pencil out from a financial perspective.
Nextera Energy continues to push for undersea transmission lines....
“For the past three years, since the Commission initiated Docket No. 2011 -0225, NextEra Energy, Inc. ("NextEra") has devoted substantial efforts to exploring and examining competitive solutions for undersea cable systems and other energy resources capable of dramatically advancing Hawaii's clean energy future.
NextEra's efforts have included development of a grid-tie undersea cable system to interconnect Oahu and Maui, and ultimately potentially Hawaii Island, which it refers to as "NextGrid Hawaii." NextEra formed NextEra Energy Hawaii, LLC ("NEEH") to further this initiative. …
Over the past three years, NEEH and its affiliates have invested over $10 million to assemble a strong local team, acquire site control, develop viable cable routes, undertake preliminary engineering, prepare for the environmental review process, and advance other critical path work-streams for NextGrid Hawaii.”
read ... Big Wind is Back --HECO's Inter-island Transmission Cable re-surfaces
NextEra Enticed by Ultra-High Wholesale Electricity Prices
HTH: ...The company has placed a major emphasis on expanding renewable energy in the state since announcing the deal last week.
And, according to Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Transmission, one of the company’s subsidiaries, there’s no better place to do that than the Big Island.
“Honestly, what gets my attention is the prolific, diverse, world-class renewable resources of all types (on the island),” he said. “If there is an island in the state that gets to 100 percent renewables first, it ought to be the Big Island.”
But how it could eventually get there remains to be seen.
Gleason said NextEra Energy hasn’t decided which renewable projects it will pursue, though wind, biomass, solar and geothermal all remain on the table.
He said the company’s plan is to displace the use of oil-burning power plants while also lowering costs for customers, goals also shared by HEI, the current owner of Hawaii Electric Light Co.
“The overall goals we support are cleaner energy, more affordable energy, and to get there as quickly as possible,” Gleason said.
He said he is confident renewable energy will contribute to lower energy costs, noting that the cost of producing power is about 17 cents per kilowatt on the Big Island.
That’s mainly attributed to the cost of oil.
“The price to beat for renewables is 17 cents,” Gleason said. “As long as you can integrate costs effectively … you can save customers money.”
(In other words, NextEra Can sell electricity wholesale in Hawaii for more than its Mainland customers pay to buy electricity retail.)
Borreca: What role will NextEra play in isles' economic future?
read ... Big Money
Bill 81, Bill 82 Tens of Thousands of Dollars per Lot in New Taxes
SA: ...a new tax ... to be adopted by the Honolulu City Council.
Two bills, which will have their first reading Wednesday, would enable such a change; they deserve swift consideration.
The first, Bill 81, enables the Council to create a new special improvement district for this purpose, adding a new category for "construction of shoreline improvement, restoration and protection projects."
The second, Bill 82, would create the Waikiki Beach Special Improvement District and set up the plan, which defines the district as encompassing Waikiki from the Ala Wai Canal to the sea and from the Ala Wai Boat Harbor to Kaimana Beach on Kalakaua Avenue.
A fund would be established to be managed by a nonprofit association, with the assessment to be collected from owners of Waikiki commercial properties. That would exclude residential dwellings unless it is legally certified as a "transient vacation unit."
Council sponsors of the bills and the other supporters of the initiative — primarily the Waikiki Improvement Association — project raising about $600,000 annually through the tax, amounting to 7.63 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Owners of the large beachfront parcels would pay in the tens of thousands of dollars per year, but the assessment would be under $100 for smaller off-beach lots....
read ... Another Honolulu tax Hike
ERS Funding Creeps Upward
SA: The Hawaii Employees' Retirement System still has 26 years to go before it's fully funded, but it continues to inch closer to that threshold.
Strong investment returns and steps taken over the past four years by the pension plan's trustees, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the state Legislature, helped increase the fund so as of June 30 it was at 61.4 percent of where it needs to be to pay all the pensions promised, according to an independent actuarial report by Dallas-based Gabriel Roeder Smith & Co. That's up from 60 percent as of June 2013 and 59.2 percent as of June 2012.
The fund finished the fiscal year that ended June 30 with a 17.8 percent investment gain, which followed on the heels of a 12.3 percent gain the previous year. The fund targets an annual 7.75 percent fiscal-year return to help fulfill its pension obligations.
"With a positive 17.8 percent return and the impact of previous legislation, it puts us in a positive direction toward becoming fully funded and a sustainable system," ERS Administrator Wes Machida said Monday.
The ERS pension plan provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to 118,466 active, retired and inactive state and county employees.
The retirement system is now expected to be 100 percent funded by June 30, 2040, rather than June 30, 2041, as was estimated last year, according to the actuary's report presented Monday to the ERS trustees.
AP: Hawaii's unfunded pension liability grows, but predicted time to pay it off shrinks slightly
read ... 26 years to go
Ben Jay to step down as Athletic Director at UH Manoa
HNN: University of Hawaii Athletic Director Ben Jay will resign from his position Tuesday, sources have confirmed with Hawaii News Now.
An official announcement will be made at noon at the Ed Wong hospitality room in the Stan Sheriff Center. Sources also confirmed Jay will announce that Norm Chow will return for his fourth season as head coach of the Rainbow Warrior football team.
Jay has more than a year remaining on his contract -- which he signed in December of 2012. It is unknown what, if any sort of financial compensation, he will receive.
When he was hired, Jay's contract had a $293,000 base salary, not including performance based bonuses. However, the former Associate Athletic Director from Ohio State could not help UH balance a budget that has been in the red for 11 of the past 13 years....
...his counterpart at Hawaii Pacific University, Vince Baldemor, told Hawaii News Now, "Ben came in with the right intentions and experience. He came in at a time of constant change and it takes more than one man to correct. In the past 10 years, there have been four UH presidents, four UHM chancellors, five ADs, and three football coaches. He did the best he could during a turbulent time."
read ... Quitting
Anti-Agriculture Activists Show True Colors
KE: The anti-agriculture movement in Hawaii is akin to a group of spoiled toddlers: give them what they beg for, and still they want more, throwing temper tantrums when things don't go exactly their way.
A perfect example is the Mahaulepu dairy on Kauai. Opponents demanded an EIS, even though none was required. Hawaii Dairy Farms acquiesced, despite having gotten the green light from the state Department of Health for its animal feeding operation, and county building permits.
As we all know, an EIS includes scientific studies and opportunities for public comment, as well as a process for revising the plan in response to those studies and comments. HDF even agreed to let the DOH serve as the reviewing agency for its EIS.
But no. That is not enough. Just two weeks after HDF agreed to the EIS, the opponents mounted another attack. This time, they've made it plain that their call for an EIS was just a delaying tactic, and they have no intention of accepting its findings (unless they're bad)....
KGI: Anti-dairy group hosts meeting Thursday
read ... Musings: Cry Babies
Kalapama Canal: Homeless Camp takes over Rail TOD Site
CB: Styrofoam, trash, even chairs float in the brown water of Kapalama Canal at the intersection of Dillingham Boulevard and King Street.
The Ewa side is lined with tents belonging to homeless families that are overflowing with shopping carts.
Honolulu planners think the canal could be a vibrant space with sidewalks, bike lanes and homes overlooking the water.
Cathy Camp, a development director at Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, said that the trust is considering developing as many as 2,000 housing units on 10 acres surrounding the canal, including two towers and mid-rise buildings....
Espiau said that the city is aiming to have construction underway at the canal by 2019 or 2020 to coincide with rail.
read ... Kalapama Canal
Plan to reduce Hawaii's use of oil in transportation to be revealed next summer
PBN: The Hawaii Energy Office expects to reveal a plan next summer that will include a number of strategies and tactics aimed at reducing the use of oil in the state's transportation sector, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the energy consumed in Hawaii, the state office told PBN.
While air transportation uses the largest portion — nearly 40 percent — trucks, buses and cars consume roughly 20 percent.
The key parts of the plan, or charrette, include engaging energy and transportation stakeholders, reviewing new transportation options and a renewed commitment on new goals and timelines....
"It's worth noting that electric vehicle sales in Hawaii continue to grow at a healthy pace without the benefit of tax incentives or rebates that are offered by other states trying to grow their EV markets," Larson said.
Link: State of Hawaii Energy Resources Coordinator’s Annual Report 2014
read ... Transportation
Airports, Highways Divisions Appointments Announced
SA: ...The state Department of Transportation announced Monday the appointments of former DOT interim director Ross Higashi as Airports Division deputy director and Ed Sniffen, current executive assistant to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, as Highways Division deputy director.
Higashi, who has previous experience as fiscal management officer for the Airports Division, will oversee 15 airports across the state. Higashi started his new position on Monday.
... Sniffen previously served as Highways Divisions administrator and technical design engineer in the Highways Division Design Branch.
Sniffen will begin his new post on Jan. 2....
read ... Appointments
Hawaii Journalists Do Not Respond to Survey on Political Corruption
WaPo: They received no responses from anyone in Louisiana, a state known for a historically high level of corruption, and they received relatively few responses from nine more states — Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, New Hampshire, South Carolina and South Dakota....
Harvard: Measuring Illegal and Legal Corruption in American States
read ... Corruption
Hawaii Allows Special Prosecutor to Handle Police Cases
AJ: ...Corey Rayburn Yung, criminal law professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, said that to avoid the conflict of interest of requiring prosecutors to pursue officers with whom they normally work, the case should simply be handled by a different prosecuting attorney.
“Having someone at the federal level or from another jurisdiction to handle the case [would be the best option],” Yung said.
Hawaii has a different solution, which removes the power of the local district attorney almost entirely.
According to the provisions of the Hawaiian state constitution, an independent counsel will “advise the members of the grand jury regarding matters brought before it,” and the members will be elected from “among those persons licensed to practice law by the supreme court of the State and shall not be a public employee.”
The intended effect of the state constitutional provisions is a more impartial investigation....
read ... Hawaii Alternative
Ordinary Criminal Dies Alone in Prison While Pflueger Walks
HNN: James Pflueger was sentenced to seven months behind bars for reckless endangerment for his role in the Ka Loko Dam tragedy where seven people died. After six weeks in custody he was released because of his poor health.
At the same time James Pflueger was being medically released from prison another inmate was dying of cancer and his mother wasn't allowed to visit him behind bars. Now the family is questioning why they didn't get the same treatment.
"In particular there is a perception of favoritism or at least wealth being able to get some favors that others may not be able to get," said State Senator Will Espero, (D) Senate Vice President and Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee Chair.
David Tautua died November 22. That day his own mother wasn't allowed to visit him because she wasn't on the schedule....
In Tautua's case he had stabbed his wife in the neck while she had a restraining order against him. She survived the attack. He also had a violent past.
Tautua had served six of his ten years for attempted murder and was eligible for parole. The prison says when he went to hospice they tried contacting his relatives and even searched social media but couldn't find the family.
"Because we couldn't find a suitable placement for him he died before we could even consider the case," said Sakai.
read ... Pflueger Precedent
Obama Contributes to Illegal TVR Problem
CB: Even President Barack Obama found out only after he returned to Washington, D.C., that the Kailua beachfront mansion he rented for Christmas visits in 2008, 2009 and 2010 was an illegal rental.
Glenn Weinberg, the owner of the $6.4 million estate, lacked the needed certification to rent his property for less than 30 days. But that did not stop Weinberg from boasting on real estate sites that his mansion was the “Winter White House.”
B: Obama Pal Declared Hostile Witness in Illinois Fraud Trial
read ... Thanks, Obama