How Christmas Came to Hawaii
Lawsuit: State Gave Foster Boys to Bisexual Child Molester
HTA Study: Vacation Rental Units are 25% of Total Lodging
New report ranks Hawaii among worst places for business
Al Hee Hires Beverly Hills Lawyer, Claims to be Not Guilty, Posts $25K Bond
KITV: A businessman with political ties, accused of swindling $4 million, faced a Federal court Tuesday on alleged federal tax charges.
Albert Hee pleaded not guilty.
The U.S. attorney says from 2002 to 2012, Hee used Waimana Enterprises to pay more than $4 million of his personal expenses, not claimed on Hee’s personal tax return. Some of those expenses included $700,000 to pay for college tuition for his three children and more than $1 million on a house in California for his kids.
The U.S. attorney also says Hee instructed an employee of the company to pay some of these expenses and classify them as business educational expenses.
read ... Plea
HHSC to get less than half of funding it had sought
MN: The Hawaii Health Systems Corp. is slated to receive $86 million for the next fiscal year - less than half of what the state's public hospital system had requested - under Gov. David Ige's proposed biennium budget released Monday.
The HHSC system had initially requested about $203 million in its budget submittal this fall to run its 12 public hospitals statewide, administrators said.
The corporation's Maui region, which includes Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and the Lanai Community Hospital, will receive about 33 percent - or $28.3 million - of the $86 million budget. Hospital administrators say they need more than twice that amount just to "keep the status quo." ...
The situation is only going to get worse, Lo said, as the hospital faces heightened costs due to collective bargaining increases, depreciation and new federal regulations.
Salaries and wages at MMMC are expected to grow 8.3 percent to $147.4 million in the next fiscal year, according to a chart on expenses and revenue provided by hospital administrators last month. In addition, the hospital is expected to lose about $11.1 million of its revenue due to ICD-10, a new federal mandate that begins in October and requires hospitals to convert how they code hospital charges....
Kaiser Permanente and Hawaii Pacific Health have both expressed interest in partnering with MMMC, the only acute-care hospital on the island. Administrators have said that a public-private partnership would give the hospital and its patients access to more resources, up-to-date technology and specialized physicians. The Legislature would need to first pass legislation allowing such an arrangement to move forward. Privatization bills in the past two legislative sessions have died in conference committee.
read ... Less than Half
Court Rejects Tommy Waters Election Challenge for City Council Seat
SA: The decision clears the way for first-time candidate Ozawa to be sworn into office at the Jan. 2 Council meeting as scheduled.
Waters wanted the court to order either a recount by hand of the 4,455 "blank" votes recorded in the election - or a new election.
But the court rejected Waters arguments that enough uncertainty existed with the process that one could reasonably conclude a recount could alter the results....
PDF: Supreme Court decision in Tommy Waters election challenge
read .... A Moment of Silence ...
Kapolei: DHHL Gets $200M to Mismanage
SA: ...Ka Makana Alii would significantly transform West Oahu and, on balance, bring many positives.
One of those is the funds it would provide DHHL under a 65-year deal announced this month.
Though less than initially forecast, DeBartolo's lease for its 1.4 million-square-foot project will generate rent revenue of more than $200 million for DHHL, which can go toward construction of thousands of new homes for Hawaiian homesteaders. The fervent hope here is that DHHL, no stranger to land mismanagement and gallingly lax lease policies in parts of its operation, will use the money well to aid its beneficiaries.
Also in question is how much oversight will come to bear on this project regarding zoning issues such as building heights and density, since it sits on DHHL acreage, which brings unique advantages....
read ... Mismanage
New Family Court rule guarantees legal aid for kids hurt in the system
SA: Judge R. Mark Browning, who heads Oahu's Family Court, implemented the new tort protocol for that court Monday, and the family courts on the neighbor islands are expected to adopt the new procedures as well.
"This is a sea change in Hawaii for children's rights," said paralegal Steve Lane, who co-authored a similar proposal that was rejected by a Hawaii Supreme Court advisory committee earlier this year. "It's a big, big deal."
The protocol that Browning implemented requires those involved in the Child Protective Services system — from foster parents to attorneys and social workers — to notify the court if they become aware that a child has suffered a physical or psychological injury that could be grounds for a tort lawsuit.
The court would then consider whether to appoint an independent "master" to further investigate the matter and, if recommended by the master, whether an attorney with expertise in personal injury claims should be appointed for the child. That would lead to a decision on whether to file a lawsuit on behalf of the child.
Until the new process was adopted Monday, the courts had no formal system for dealing with such cases.
Although incidents of serious injury are not common in Hawaii's foster system, critics said some cases fell through the cracks, leaving children with no means for pursuing damages, especially when the harm was due to the negligence of the state or another party and the statute of limitations had lapsed....
Related: Lawsuit: State Gave Foster Boys to Bisexual Child Molester
read ... Protocol increases protection for injured children
23% Increase Licensing fees for nurses, realtors, others will Pay to Replace Decades old Wang Computers
HNN: In October, the state began charging 12,000 licensed real estate professionals and thousands of others such as physical and occupational therapists 23 percent more in license fees....
For instance, real estate sales people saw their 2-year license renewals go from $140 to $210 in October.
A second group of licensed professionals, including 27,000 nurses and 700 acupuncturists, will see similar 23 percent license hikes by June, Lopez said....
Lopez said her department's 1980's-era licensing computer software is based on old Wang computer technology and is antiquated, slow and cumbersome.
“We can't cut and paste data,” she said, referring to basic tasks that are routine in computers today.
The money from the license fee increases will pay for a badly needed computer upgrade, she said....
State Sen. Sam Slom, the State Senate's lone Republican who always opposes tax and fee increases, said this is one of few fee hikes he believes is reasonable.
"They've done a good job. As long as they continue a good job, they update and improve their computer system, I think it's a win-win," Slom said.
The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is self-sustaining, meaning it does not use tax dollars but relies on fees to cover all its operating costs.
The department plans to hold public hearings on making permanent fee renewal hikes for 130,000 licensees and should complete that process by the end of next year. The fees, which ranged from $35 to $200 for 2-year licenses, will be raised in varying amounts, Lopez said.
read ... Going Up
North Shore Kauai Nearly 40% of Homes are Illegal TVRs
KE: ...News flash — Hawaii has tens of thousands more transient vacation rentals (TVR) than anyone knew.
Well, except those of us who have been following this highly lucrative, frequently illicit and generally unenforced industry, which grew some 400 percent between 2006 and 2011.
Still, it took an internet survey by the Hawaii Tourism Authority to reveal that 22,238 vacation rental units were advertised online this year and in late 2013. That's four times more than the agency was aware of, and according to the report, “We strongly suspect that the current count is lower than the actual numbers of IVUs in Hawai’i.” The 2014 count is expected to be “notably higher.”
The survey identified 4,478 units on Oahu, 11,166 in Maui County, 3,948 on Kauai and 2,646 on Big Island.
On Kauai, the greatest concentration of these individually advertised units was found in Princeville, Kapaa and Koloa, followed by Hanalei. But the difference is this: Princeville, Kapaa and Koloa are designated visitor destination areas (VDAs), while Hanalei is not.
And when you look at the TVRs as a percentage of total housing units, Koloa registered 39.6 percent, Princeville 38.4 percent and Hanalei 37 percent. In other words, Hanalei is experiencing the same intensity of use as the designated VDAs, without any of the accompany infrastructure or other support....
read ... Musings: Why Pay When You Can Pimp?
Legal pot Makes Denver a Magnet for Homeless
AP: ...homeless centers say the influx they are seeing is straining their ability to meet the needs of the increasing population.
"The older ones are coming for medical (marijuana), the younger ones are coming just because it's legal," said Brett Van Sickle, director of Denver's Salvation Army Crossroads Shelter, which has more than doubled its staff to accommodate the increase.
The shelter did an informal survey of the roughly 500 new out-of-towners who stayed there between July and September and found as many as 30 percent had relocated for pot, he said....
The shelter has seen an increase from 730 people a day in 2013 to 780 people this year, and as many as 300 new faces a month. Not all of them are pot-smokers, Luehrs said, but many have said they were drawn to the state because of legal marijuana....
Van Sickle's shelter prohibits weed and other drugs, which means those who stay there have to leave the property to smoke. Van Sickle said he has been confiscating more pot and paraphernalia, though he doesn't keep track of how much....
Urban Peak, which provides services for those ages 15 to 25, says it saw 829 people between May and July at its drop-in center, up from 328 during the same time period a year earlier.
About a third of this year's newcomers cited legal weed as a factor in moving to Colorado, said Kim Easton, the director.
Many of the older men, like Easterling, live exclusively on disability benefits and use them to buy pot, since there's nothing to stop someone from using welfare benefits to obtain cash to use at pot shops.
"I'm staying here," he said, between puffs on an electronic smoking device filled with pot oil. "This is my home."
read ... Imagine What Would Happen in Hawaii
Hawaii Lowest Mortgage Default Risk in USA
DSN: No state was below the "stable market" index reading of 6 percent for November, according to the briefing. The states with the three lowest readings were Hawaii (8.9 percent), Vermont (9.1 percent), and Oregon (9.3 percent). The three states with the highest readings were Mississippi (14.5 percent), Louisiana (13.7 percent), and West Virginia (13.2 percent). Nineteen states had readings higher than the national average of 11.69 percent....
read ... Most Stable
DLNR cuts presidential security coverage
HNN: As hundreds of Hawaii law enforcement officer take part in President Obama's security detail on Christmas and New Year's day, one state agency will be conspicuously absent.
Hawaii News Now has learned that the Department of Land and Natural Resources has pulled back its ocean safety officers for those two key dates because it does not want to pay for overtime.
"There is no need to schedule POTUS support on these days as there will be no reimbursement," DLNR's acting enforcement chief Jason Redulla wrote in an email to senior managers.
"Therefore do not stand up POTUS support on Christmas and New Year's Day."
State Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and Senate Vice President, said he is urging Gov. David Ige to reverse the decision.
"I believe that decision by a management individual was the wrong decision and I'd like to hope that somebody higher up above him will overturn that decision." ...
"This situation reeks of the inability of setting priorities and place the importance that this situation would deserve," said environmental activist Carroll Cox....
read ... DLNR cuts presidential security coverage