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Wednesday, December 17, 2014
December 17, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:10 PM :: 3872 Views

Only 3,500 Sign Up for Obamacare in Hawaii

114 Candidates File for Neighborhood Board Elections

Hawaii Family Forum: "Never, never, never give up."

Hawaii is Addressing Liabilities, but There’s a Long Way to Go

Feds Pay Hawaii to 'Test health care payment and service delivery models'

A&B CEO Elected Chair of Hawaii Nature Conservancy

Feds Pay Hawaii to 'Test health care payment and service delivery models'

Nanakuli: City to Update Homeless Project

With NextEra Coming, Media Suddenly Admits That New Solar Projects Increase Oahu Electricity Bills

CB: Seven proposed solar farms recently announced by Hawaiian Electric Co. are projected to raise Oahu residents’ electricity bills in the long run.

That’s in part because natural gas, which Hawaii is planning to import in coming years, is expected to drive down overall electricity rates, making the solar pricing less competitive.

The solar contracts submitted to Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission — five of them last week — could add as much as $19 a year to typical residential bills, according to 22-year cost analyses conducted by HECO.

Most of the solar projects, if approved by the PUC, would deliver power from 2017 through 2038.

If the contracts are approved by regulators, Hawaii residents would also be paying double what many mainland customers pay for solar energy. The average pricing for the solar farms, which take into account a federal subsidy, is about 14 cents per kilowatt hour, according to HECO. Prices for utility-scale solar on the mainland have been averaging about 7 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The contracts raise questions about whether HECO’s procurement process attracted the best solar prices. HECO was granted permission by state regulators to circumvent the competitive bidding process after utility officials argued that more direct negotiations with developers would allow it to more quickly obtain low-cost renewable energy.

The utility told developers that it was seeking renewable energy below 15.8 cents per kilowatt hour. Many developers submitted bids just below this benchmark....

(You may be wondering why Civil Beat has FINALLY decided to acknowledge these truths.  Here comes the answer....)

“It was frustrating to see developers bid just under that threshold number,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation, a Honolulu-based clean energy advocacy organization. He noted that some of the pricing came down during negotiations, but contended that competitive bidding is generally a better process. ...

(Translation: The current solar scammer are upset that a new gang of solar scammers are elbowing into their market and undercutting them.)

The contracts include the Ka La Nui solar project proposed by NextEra Energy, which earlier this month announced that it was in the process of buying Hawaiian Electric Industries, the parent company of HECO, in a $4.3 billion deal.

NextEra executives have said in recent weeks that they will focus on large-scale solar and wind projects to help drive down Hawaii’s electricity rates, which have been averaging three times the national average....  (The current gang is afraid.  Very afraid.)

read ... What they mean by 'Green'

NextEra/HECO transaction application to be filed with Hawaii regulators in six weeks

PBN: NextEra Energy Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.'s transaction approval application will be filed within the next six weeks with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, the head of HEI's subsidiary Hawaiian Electric Co. said in a recent letter to its customers.

HECO President and CEO Alan Oshima said that until the $4.3 billion transaction is completed, which it estimates to happen within 12 months, both companies will continue to operate as independent utilities.

The deal, which includes NextEra Energy buying HECO, is nowhere near a slam dunk.

Many announced electric utility mergers don't actually get completed because, along with making financial sense, as regulated monopolies the companies need the support of the local government and community as well as approval from regulators. In the NextEra/HECO deal, this includes the Hawaii PUC and the Consumer Advocate.

It's worth noting that NextEra has been involved in at least one failed merger attempt, including with Maryland-based Constellation Energy Group in 2005.

To approve the acquisition, industry sources tell me that the state and PUC should aggressively drive a grand bargain such as guaranteed immediate rate reductions/freeze for 10-plus years and maybe a commitment to 100 percent renewables on Oahu and the Neighbor Islands, building out electric vehicle charging infrastructure (A really, really dumb demand serving only special interests.) or under-grounding power poles and lines, as examples.

The state and key stakeholders, thus far, haven't been too vocal regarding their take on the sale of Hawaii's largest utility....

read ... Six Weeks

Police Commission Chair Already Convinced that Chief is Innocent

SA: ...But Honolulu Police Commission Chairman Ron Taketa said Tuesday that Kealoha called him right after the mistrial to say that he had made a mistake when he made the comment on the stand. Taketa said Kealoha told him he "blurted out something that should not have been said."

"I'm convinced that it was completely inadvertent," Taketa said. "He made a mistake and there was nothing intentional about the mistrial. I am positive that there was nothing intentional about that mistrial."

Taketa said Kealoha will brief the commission for the first time on the case on Wednesday, but his comments will be made behind closed doors during an executive session.

Also during Wednesday's commission meeting, members of the public will be allowed to testify about the chief after Taketa said room was made on the agenda because several citizens called the commission in the past couple of weeks wanting to express concerns. Taketa said the commission will listen to the testimony and ask the chief to respond to valid concerns in the executive session.

Information about Kealoha's briefing or his responses during the executive session will likely remain confidential, however, because it is a personnel matter, Taketa said.

Silvert said he met with prosecutors following the mistrial because he and Puana decided to put their faith and trust in the integrity of the U.S. Attorney's Office. "We presented our entire case, from top to bottom, to the prosecutors," Silvert said. He said that included evidence he and investigators from his office uncovered during their own investigation.

Silvert said he also told federal prosecutors what eight of the jurors told him after Kobayashi had discharged them.

"All eight had said to us that after they saw the videotape (of the theft), they had already decided (Puana) was not guilty," Silvert said....

Silvert said, "We're going to meet with the FBI like we did the U.S. Attorney's Office and present the evidence that we have to them."

Silvert had said the defense's investigation revealed misconduct at HPD and that he was able to reveal just a small bit of it to jurors before Kobayashi declared a mistrial. He said he cannot release any more information because of the pending FBI investigation....

read ... Doomed Chief

New DHHL permit process approved

SA: The Hawaiian Homes Commission on Tuesday approved sweeping changes to the basic framework for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands' controversial month-to-month land leasing program, authorizing reforms intended to make the process more transparent and more fair.

With no opposition, the commission gave the go-ahead for the staff to develop a permit system based on competitive bids rather than the first-come, first-serve one that had been used for decades and generated allegations of favoritism, mismanagement and inconsistent enforcement.

The department also will do away with annual automatic renewals for the so-called revocable permits, establish procedures for determining fair market rents, and allocate staff to conduct compliance reviews on an annual basis.

In addition, DHHL intends to review uses for the more than 38,000 acres in the program to determine whether some of the parcels should be placed in the pipeline for developing homestead lots or converted to general leases, which are 55- or 65-year agreements and generate much more income for the agency.

read ... New DHHL permit process approved

Mentally Ill Criminal Released, Stabs Kailua Woman

HNN: The homeless man accused of violently stabbing a 23-year-old Kailua woman has a history of mental illness and violence.

Chauncey Ingraham, 30, was charged Tuesday with attempted murder, kidnapping and burglary for the attack that left the victim with a number of stab wounds on her neck, back and arms.

"This is a person who is mentally unbalanced and shouldn't be out in the community and of course, is not safe for the community," said State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, (R) Kailua.

"He should be in a mental institution and he should be getting help."

A mental health exam conducted in a separate 2013 case concluded that Ingraham posed a "high risk for violence to self, others and property" and that he experienced occasional "auditory and visual hallucinations." ...

Attorney Eric Seitz sees a problem with the way the defense lawyers handled the case.

"They don't want to see them committed because typically that means they spend more time in the hospital than they would (in prison) if they were convicted," Seitz said.

"I believe that if you just release somebody he's going to go out and do what he apparently did."

Thielen says she hopes to introduce new legislation that would make it harder to release suspects believed to be mentally ill. She also plans to push for additional funding for treatment.

"We have a mental health problem and the end result is people are getting hurt," she said.... 

Background:

read ... Stabbing suspect has history of violence, mental illness

The Economist Looks at Hawaii Homelessness, Gets it Wrong

E: THE sun is setting on Waikiki Beach, and Koa still has a few hours before his 9pm shift cleaning the food court at the Ala Moana mall. “I’m trying to better myself,” he says, but being homeless makes this tough. He finishes work at 3am, well past curfew at most shelters, and police keep people off the beach from 2am to 5am....  (The homeless are working poor trying to better themselves?  Even the anonymous Economist writer doesn't believe his own phony lede--as we soon learn.)

On the island of Oahu, where three-quarters of Hawaii’s homeless live, sleeping rough has just got rougher. On December 2nd Honolulu’s mayor, Kirk Caldwell, signed a bill that bans people from sitting or lying on the busiest public pavements between 5am and 11pm. Those who do so can be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for up to 30 days. This is part of a plan that Mr Caldwell calls “compassionate disruption”. The aim, he says, is to get the homeless into shelters. 

(Skip two paragraphs of the usual whiny homeless industry justifications for keeping the homeless homeless, and then....)

Several cities have reduced homelessness by using a different approach, called Housing First. Whereas typical schemes aim to get homeless people “housing ready”—that is, off drugs and in work—before placing them in homes, Housing First provides the home up front and then delivers the support needed to stay there.  ("Off drugs and in work?"  Oooops!  The Economist quickly puts the lie to its own lede--and so blindly clings to homelessness industry dogma that it doesn't notice.  Good thing The Economist uses no bylines.  It sure would be embarrassing to have to admit that you wrote this drivel.)

DN: Usual Suspects Cheer Economist

2009: Defeating the "homelessness industry" before it gets a grip on Hawaii

read ... Economist Gets it Wrong

Star-Adv on Bike Lane:  Danger of 'Appalling Fatalities' is Greatest Now

SA Editorial IN SUPPORT of Bike Lane:  Based on the city's appalling statistics on traffic fatalities, especially where elderly pedestrians are concerned, it's safe to say that anyone in transit who is not encased in the steel of an automotive body is not currently very safe in Honolulu. Reversing that trend should be a paramount concern.

Ironically, it's at the beginning of this transition to greater safety that the danger is greatest. And that's why the city must monitor the cycle track and make adjustments continuously. Planners must improve visibility, signage and traffic movements at critical points along the two-mile route of the track, also known as a "protected bike lane." ....

The message for motorists should be: You're sharing the road with people who are moving more slowly and are more vulnerable to injury, so slow down. Lowering the speed limit officially might be necessary along the way, in the interest of safety.

For the pedestrians: More than ever, it's essential to look all around before entering a crosswalk now shared with cars and bikes.

And for the cyclists: Even if the signs instruct drivers to yield to cyclists in the track, relying on that could lead to an accident because drivers may not see bikers coming. The track is protected but not exclusive territory, and definitely not a speedway.

That protection comes from a parking lane occupied by cars during off-peak hours. It's a common design used successfully in other cities, but it could be tweaked as well. Formby said it was chosen as the means of insulating cyclists from traffic because at those community meetings, King Street businesses had urged strongly that as many spaces be preserved as possible for use by their customers.

That is probably the element that needs the strictest scrutiny in the coming months. Formby said parking is already curtailed at the approaches to intersections, but there may be spots where parking is still excessively obstructive to the line of sight between motorists and cyclists.

read ... An Editorial IN SUPPORT of the Bike Lane

University of Hawaii athletics must tackle fiscal woes

HR: The University of Hawaii Athletic Department has faced a series of fiscal and staffing troubles in recent months, leading legislators, administrators and regents to debate the future of the state’s only athletic program.

With an annual budget of around $30 million, the athletic department has operated in the red for 11 of the past 13 years, with a $3.5 million deficit this year. This is in addition to $13 million in debt accumulated since 2002, which regents waived earlier this year....

read ... University of Hawaii athletics must tackle fiscal woes

New calls for regulation as vacation rental popularity grows

HNN: For years people all over the state have been renting units to visitors under the table.  The state is losing tens of millions of dollars every year prompting a new push for more regulations.

There are nearly 200 vacation rentals available on Oahu right now on the website Airbnb. VRBO and Home Away are a couple of the other sites with listings available. They are examples of the sites online making it easy for people to rent out a room or their home on a short term basis.

"It is on the radar and I think our policy makers will definitely be looking at it this year," said George Szigeti, Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association President & CEO.

The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association is already meeting with lawmakers.  There are an estimated 25,000 illegal vacation rentals available in the state.  Fewer than a thousand are legal and permitted on Oahu.  Many are in residential neighborhoods.  However, the illegal rentals not paying an estimated $40 million in taxes a year to the state....

read ... Regulation

Schatz Booted off Energy Committee

ICN: Republicans named to the committee four newly elected senators who represent fossil fuel-driven electorates: Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Steve Daines of Montana and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. All four promised in their campaigns to fight Obama's climate action agenda, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency's strategy for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, known as the Clean Power Plan. Together, they pulled in more than $2.6 million in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks election finance.

The Democrats' new energy committee members are Senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Independent Angus King of Maine, who typically caucuses with the Democrats, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Former Democrat committee members Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin were reassigned to other panels and their seats not refilled as a result of the party losing its majority in the election.

The GOP made it clear after the November elections that Obama's climate strategy was one of the party's key targets for 2015. The Republican-led Energy and Natural Resources Committee will work alongside the Environment and Public Works Committee to produce legislation to dismantle many of the White House's programs. The Senate's most vocal climate denier, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, will probably lead the environment and public works panel.

(Translation: Don't send contributions to Schatz.  He can't steer the 'green' to you.)

read ... Useless Schatz

Mainland Anti-GMO Activists Admit they are Using Rural Hawaii Residents as pawns

KE: ...Buried in the second-to-last paragraph on the website hosting the petition, CFS states the real reason why it's here fomenting unrest in Hawaii. And it has nothing to do with protecting the Islands from poisons, and everything to do with advancing CFS's own national agenda (emphasis in the original):

The outcome of this case could affect all U.S. counties, because it is the first legal challenge to a county law of this kind. It is vital that the Hawai‘i County Council appeal the ruling and stand up for the rights of County to enact legislation to protect itself from the negative impact GE seed operations can have on agriculture and the environment.

CFS can't get any traction at the federal level, so it's trying to create case law in small, rural municipalities where gullible citizens are easily manipulated and misled using fear tactics and such “talking points” as “home rule." Never mind that they have no intention of granting such rights to the Molokai residents who overwhelming rejected the Maui County GMO moratorium initiative, which is also being challenged in the courts....

read ... Musings: Advancing an Agenda

Fishermen Get Meddling Outside Enviros Out of their Hair, Solve Fisheries Issues

SA: State and federal officials last weekend held the last of seven community meetings around the islands to discuss fish-related proposals that will be taken up separately next year by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.

They include:

  • increasing the minimum size of yellowfin and big-eye tuna that can be sold;
  • opening six of 12 deep-water fishing sites around the islands;
  • allowing retailers and wholesalers to sell deep-water fish after the season closes each year;
  • and changing or eliminating bag limits on noncommercial, deep-water fishermen.

Each matter affects fishermen and consumers differently. But collectively they could influence the size and health of species such as yellowfin and big-eye tuna, or ahi — and the price that wholesalers, retailers and ultimately customers pay for some of Hawaii's most popular fish.

"Any time you talk about tuna, it's a big deal that affects a lot of people," said Mark Mitsuyasu, fisheries program officer for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council who attended most of the meetings held across the state this month. "Certain markets would be impacted."

If approved, changes could be seen in late 2015 or sometime in 2016, said Mitsuyasu and state Land Board Chairman William Aila Jr.

read ... Solutions

Remark about ethnicity wins convict resentencing hearing

SA: ...A state jury found Peter David guilty of manslaughter in the January 2010 stabbing death of his 27-year-old cousin Santhony Albert.

Both men came to Hawaii from Chuuk, the most populous of the four Federated States of Micronesia....

At sentencing in 2012, Deputy City Prosecutor Darrell Wong urged Circuit Judge Randal K.O. Lee to impose the 20-year prison term to send a message to the Micronesian community, "mainly the males, who take it upon themselves the idea that they can just drink all they want and not be responsible for what happens after that."

According to trial testimony, both men had been drinking alcohol to celebrate the new year prior to the stabbing.

Albert's blood-alcohol content was 0.25, more than three times the legal threshold for drunken driving.

read ... Resentencing

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