MIT: KIUC Buys Batteries from Company Behind Kahuku Windfarm Fire and Surprisingly it is a Disaster
Accountability for Big Infrastructure Projects?
263 Candidates file for Neighborhood Board Elections
Anti-GMO Activists Stack Hearing: Why Bad Lawmaking Reigns in Hawaii Politics
Vaccination Refusal: Study Documents Rise of Ignorance in 'Progressive' Communities
Full Text: State of the Union Address
Full Text of Joni Ernst’s Republican Response to 2015 State of the Union
CNHA, Civic Clubs Team up to Lead Push for Fake Indian Tribe
US Senate Votes Unanimously to Recognize January 25-31 as National School Choice Week
Testimony: Felon Gives $70K Cash to Police Chief's Wife in Brown Paper Bag
KITV: The financial feud between Katherine Kealoha and her uncle and grandmother is two-fold.
First, (convicted felon) Gerard Puana, Kealoha's uncle, claimed he gave her $70,000 in cash.
"Gerard Puana asked for receipts for his cash but never got any receipts. The only thing Mr. Puana has is his calendar entries," said Gerald Hiroshi Kurashima, Puana's attorney.
However, Kealoha's attorney tried to discredit Puana's claim that he gave Kealoha the money.
"Gerard Puana on a disability income is claiming he managed to save $70,000 in cash which he managed to give to Kathy to invest with a promise to get 30 percent a year. The first payment was given to her a in a paper bag in Kahala Mall. No receipt. No witnesses," said Kevin Sumida, Kealoha's attorney....
The second issue includes the purchase of a condo in the Greenwood Apartments in Salt Lake.
Puana wanted to buy a condo he couldn't afford. Puana's mother, Florence, who is also Kealoha's grandmother, used a reverse mortgage on her house to cover the condo's cost.
Puana's attorney claims Kealoha was supposed to pay the reverse mortgage but instead took the money....
The federal public defender alleges the Kealohas framed Puana to discredit him in the civil case....
read ... Not a payoff. Really
Ige: I want to see Kakaako Redevelopment Continue
PBN: The redevelopment of Honolulu's growing neighborhood of Kakaako is something Hawaii Gov. David Ige wants to continue to see, although he noted that the focus should be more on building homes for local residents rather than outside investors....
He also addressed the future of the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which oversees the redevelopment of Kakaako, including that there will be new members on the nine-member board.
"We will be taking applications [for these board positions]," he said. "We are bringing in a list [of possible candidates]. I look forward to getting those recommendations from the various entities involved.
read ... Suuurrrprise!
Rail: Four Counties Plan GE Tax Hike Testimony for Big Day at Ways and Means
SA: Among of the biggest items to watch in this session, however, will be whether the Legislature opts to extend the Oahu half-percent surcharge on the general excise tax. That multibillion-dollar revenue stream funds most of the construction of Oahu's rail transit system. Lifting its expiration date would help rail officials address the project's current fiscal woes, with a projected budget deficit of $550 million to $700 million.
The GET issue is expected to take center stage early in the new session, when Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Hawaii island Mayor Billy Kenoi, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa testify Monday before a joint meeting of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Finance Committee. That meeting is scheduled for the same day as Ige's first State of the State address.
Caldwell "really needs to step up to the plate and justify the city's request to extend the rail tax," House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said Friday. "There are a lot of questions about the finances that have not been answered. So we'll give the city the opportunity to explain itself, but at this point we're pretty neutral on that request."
Caldwell, a former state House member who is in Washington, D.C., this week for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, has made a goal of meeting with all 76 state legislators on the GET matter. He's said it's urgent to lift the GET sunset now so that work to extend the rail line to the University of Hawaii at Manoa and west to Kapolei can pick up right after the initial line is finished.
However, Ige has asked whether it would even be necessary to lift the sunset during this session.
Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom — the chamber's lone Republican — outlined his session priorities via email Tuesday. They include changes to the state Public Utilities Commission and an analysis of the proposed Hawaiian Electric Industries merger with NextEra Energy.
"Our job is to restore and encourage the public's confidence in our process and to be more transparent and accountable ourselves," a copy of Slom's opening day remarks stated. "We have to do more than just talk or make speeches. We need appropriate action. We can do this."
read ... Grab Your Wallets
HART Claims it was Banking on Bus Fund Raid, Rail Deficit Now $910M
KITV: Now, KITV4 has learned the actual deficit for the controversial project could be as much as $910 million since Mayor Kirk Caldwell has already ruled out the use of $210 million in federal bus subsidies for construction. Known as 5307 bus funds under the Federal Transit Administration's Urbanized Area Formula Program, the subsidy goes directly toward the operation and maintenance of the city's bus and Handi-Van systems.
"I want to make it absolutely clear as mayor, none of that 5307 bus money will be used for rail," Caldwell said at a news conference last month about the project's finances. "As long as I'm mayor," he added, "that 5307 money will not be used for rail. It's going to be used for The Bus."
During a hearing before the City Council Budget Committee last Thursday, the transit authority listed a variety of factors that have contributed to project's overall cost. Among them were $190 million in delay claims, a west side station group contract that came in 63 percent more than expected and a cumulative rail surcharge deficit totaling $41 million.
However, officials with HART failed to mention that without the use of $210 million in 5307 bus funds, the projected deficit for rail grows by 30 to 38 percent, depending on how much the project actually goes over budget.
"The council was never told that we have a $900 and some odd million dollar shortfall for rail," said City Councilman Ikaika Anderson when approached by KITV4. "The council was told by HART that our shortfall is $700 million."
A city ordinance (07-001) approved in January 2007 states no money from the city's general fund can be used to build rail. Currently, the project is being financed through a half-percent surcharge to the state's general excise tax and a $1.55 billion federal grant. HART and the mayor are also seeking council approval to float as much as $350 million in general obligation bonds or tax-exempt commercial paper to help the project with short-term financing. Some council members say replacing federal bus subsidies with city money would run counter to the spirit of the ordinance passed eight years ago.
"The bonds to me is an end-run (and) using the bus money is an end-run," said city Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who chairs the Budget Committee. "This whole shell game of their financial plan is a big worry."
"If it's not outright illegal, at the very least it violates the spirit of that ordinance," Anderson said about the possibility of replacing federal bus subsidies with money from the city's general fund.
In a statement to KITV4, HART Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas admitted the rail project is another $210 million short if 5307 bus funds are not used for construction of the 20-mile route.
"If it is decided that the 5307 federal money included in the current financial plan is not to be used, then a substitute would need to be found to make up that difference," said Grabauskas.
read ... Illegal, Liars
DoE: Corrupt Solar Contract is a Big Disappointment
SA: Brian Kealoha, regional manager for OpTerra Energy, the contractor hired to carry out the Ka Hei program, said 30 schools have been selected for photovoltaics in areas where Hawaiian Electric Co. is allowing PV systems to connect to the grid.
He said HECO has been slow to approve applications, but added that OpTerra has done energy audits at the 30 schools in the meantime to find efficiencies and savings. The company expects to start construction within the next few months on the PV systems that will produce two megawatts of renewable energy by the end of the year.
“The No. 1 priority is the (savings), and we don’t see that,” BOE Chairman Don Horner told Kealoha at an update briefing Tuesday. “We paid you several million dollars’ worth of consulting fees, and as it sits here today, our utility costs, I don’t know how much it’s been impacted by your expertise.”
Horner and others questioned why the consultant hasn’t done energy audits of all schools, not just the photovoltaic candidates.
“Maybe we need to revisit what the contract says. I thought your job was to look at all the 255 schools, find a base line of where we are, what we can do in order to reduce our overall
$62 million in utility costs,” Horner said. “You’re the expert. That’s what I was expecting — to do the low-hanging fruit in each one of the schools because it hasn’t been done before. That’s why we hired you. I don’t see that here. I’m disappointed.”
De Lima said the board didn’t have an opportunity to vet the contract with OpTerra’s predecessor, Chevron Energy Solutions. He asked the DOE’s assistant superintendent for school facilities and support services, who’s been on the job two months, to come back to the committee next month with a breakdown of the contract terms and more clarity on how the department plans to reduce its utility bill.
Not Mentioned in Article: Auditor: DoE Rigged Billion Dollar Solar Contract to Favor Chevron
read ... Price of Corruption
Takai Appointed to Natural Resources Ctte, No Mention of Akaka Bill
CB: “I am excited to serve on such a crucial committee for our state,” Takai said in a statement Wednesday. “The Natural Resources Committee plays an important role in the preservation of our island home, and I look forward to forging real solutions for our citizens while on this committee.”
“I have long been a proponent of sustainability and ending our current dependence on fossil fuels,” Takai said. “While on this committee I want to support President Obama’s efforts to help us become greener in all aspects of our lives. This is especially important for Hawaii, where we import over $9 billion in food and energy each year.”
“Another critical component of the Natural Resources Committee’s work is jurisdiction over native affairs. I hope that I will be able to use this seat to continue my support for the Native Hawaiian community, in addition to advocating on behalf of all of our nation’s indigenous peoples,” Takai said.
read ... No Tribe on Agenda?
Ige's DLIR Pick Withdrawn as Unconstitutional
SA: Gov. David Ige has withdrawn his nomination of Elizabeth Kim to serve as state labor director after learning that under the Hawaii Constitution any officer he picks must have resided in the state for the year preceding appointment, a key Ige adviser said Tuesday.
The administration first learned of the language in the Constitution on Monday when the Honolulu Star-Advertiser asked Ige's communications director, Cindy McMillan, whether it would apply to Kim's nomination. The administration, with the help of the Department of the Attorney General, then researched the issue for about 24 hours before concluding her appointment would violate the Constitution, said Mike McCartney, Ige's chief of staff.
Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution, which discusses "executive and administrative offices and departments," states that any officer appointed by the governor to lead a state department or office "shall have been a resident of this (s)tate for at least one year immediately preceding that person's appointment."
read ... Unconstitutional
Hawaii Police Killed At Least 36 People in 20 Years
CB: Thousands more have gone to emergency rooms after encounters with officers, costing millions of dollars.
read ... 20 Years
HHSC Reform Tops West Hawaii Lawmakers' Agenda
WHT: Reforming the state public hospital system. Green anticipates legislation setting the framework for partnerships between the struggling Hawaii Health Systems Corp. and private hospitals....
Reapportionment. Inouye wants to change the makeup of the Reapportionment Commission, which sets legislative boundaries every 10 years after the census, to mandate a member of each neighbor island serve on the commission, instead of an advisory commission for neighbor island representatives....
Medical marijuana. Creagan wants to add anxiety (LOL!), insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder to the conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed. (Does anybody really believe this is medical?)
Aquarium fish collecting. Evans said now is the time for a ban on aquarium fish collecting in West Hawaii. She proposes dislocated worker funding to help the aquarium fishermen transition to new careers.
Hunting. Evans plans more legislation bringing the hunting community into the process of managing game animals, rather than the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ total eradication policy. One potential bill would ban the practice of killing animals and not taking the carcass for meat.
SA: They'll consider what many see as overdue reforms to the state's public hospital system....
read ... Agenda
Legislators want power to sway HECO decision
SA: Hawaiian Electric Co. said Tuesday it wants to double rooftop solar capacity while lowering the rate it pays solar customers for excess power, and state lawmakers said they'd like a say in whether to approve that plan.
The utility said it has asked the Public Utilities Commission to approve the plan within 60 days.
"Shouldn't you guys be introducing the bill (at the Legislature) and we would have the public involved?" said state Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kalaeloa-Makakilo), chairman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, at a Capitol briefing on energy policy.
If approved, the rate the utility pays solar customers on Oahu who feed excess power into the grid would fall to about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour from 29 cents.
Customers who already have rooftop solar or pending applications at the time of the proposal's approval will be grandfathered in, said Jim Alberts, senior vice president of customer service at HECO, at a news conference prior to the legislative hearing.
PBN: Do you think Hawaii ratepayers will benefit from the NextEra purchase of Hawaiian Electric? 60% "no", 21% "yes, but only if they're shareholders", 19% "yes"
read ... Power
Puna Reps Target Office of Elections after Nago's Latest Disaster
WHT: Puna representatives also are teaming up to improve elections following the closure of polling places in their districts during the last primary election following Tropical Storm Iselle.
San Buenaventura, D-Puna, said her bill will reduce the state chief elections officer’s term from four to two years. The freshman legislator said that will create more accountability.
Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, said his bills would require all-mail elections and that the state Election Commission hold hearings on neighbor islands.
read ... Wish Lists
Maui News: Hospitals Must be Protected from Liability in Home Care Training
MN: In last year's state legislative session, AARP backed Senate Bill 2264 - the CARE Act - that would have required hospitals to give volunteer caretakers training for care of a patient after discharge.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser pointed out in an editorial last weekend that the bill was successfully opposed by the Healthcare Association of Hawaii on behalf of hospitals. However, a working group was formed to study the issues. The Star-Advertiser reported, though, that no consensus was found and the group has no resolution to present to the Legislature regarding the CARE Act....
There are no easy answers. If the Legislature decides to move ahead with a version of the CARE Act, Point One will be giving health care facilities blanket protection from liability.
Point Two will be providing those institutions with some money to pay for this training.
read ... Liability
Bills to watch: Creating retail dispensaries for medical marijuana in Hawaii
PBN: Hawaii lawmakers will likely consider legislation to create medical marijuana dispensaries this legislative session, which begins Wednesday.
"We're hoping to establish a statewide medical marijuana dispensary system," Rep. Della Au Belatti, D-Makiki-Manoa....
Act 178, which was signed into law in June 2013, has mandated a couple of changes to the medical marijuana registration program, including an increased patient registration fee, a new informational website and hotline, and a new Department of Health registration card that includes the location of where the marijuana is grown and the name of the primary care physician.
Physicians have recommended that medical marijuana dispensary establishments be centralized....
read ... Keep the people Doped Up
New Sex Trafficking Legislation for 2015
HNN: Besides jail time, the new bill would slap a fine up to $50,000 on pimps guilty of sex trafficking in the first degree. The fine would be up to $25,000 for sex trafficking in the second degree....
State Rep. John Mizuno will introduce the measure as the centerpiece of a package of sex trafficking bills.
Coffield said there are 125 hostess bars, strip clubs and massage parlors in Hawaii that are fronts for sex trafficking. The bill goes after them too.
"Anytime a business or an individual who is operating a front business for prostitution or for trafficking is convicted of trafficking, they would automatically lose their business licenses," Coffield said.
read ... Sex Trafficking
Buffer Zone Bill for Pesticides?
HNN: ...State Senator Josh Green plans to introduce a bill on pesticide use and restrictions by February 1.
"All this bill does is it asks for us to have buffer zones around schools and health care facilities where we won't spray, and also transparency - who's using how much chemical," he said.
Green also said it'll be important to cleave the pesticide discussion from another polarizing topic; genetically modified organisms, or GMO's.
"I wanted to bring down the heat of the fight on GMO's. I wanted to find common ground and common sense legislation."
read ... Another Buffer Zone Bill
Hoopili, DR Horton Plant Article in Civil Beat
CB: Living Hawaii: Why Aren’t Renters Getting More Tax Relief?
Really Obvious question: "If housing developers DR Horton and Hoopili 'do not influence coverage' are we to assume that it is pure coincidence that their sponsorship supported a housing-related article? Really?"
read ... Planted
Punatic Screams for 45 Minutes Straight at Public Meeting
WHT: A community meeting on Puna Geothermal Venture’s plans to drill a new well ended with an arrest Monday evening.
Roxanne “RJ” Hampton, 62, of Pahoa was charged with disorderly conduct after she began shouting at PGV representatives and others in the crowd at Pahoa High School cafeteria, witnesses said.
Hampton, a former Hawaii County Council candidate, was released on $250 bail.
The interruption lasted for 45 minutes, said Mike Kaleikini, director of Hawaiian Affairs for Ormat Technologies, PGV’s parent company.
Kaleikini said about 50 people were present, and PGV officials began talking with the crowd in small groups about their drilling plans after the lengthy disruption began.
“I didn’t listen to her much,” he said.
read ... Another Day in the Nei
Kauai: Uncertified Judge Hears Cases for a Week before Anybody Notices
KE: ...a funny thing happened in the Kauai District Court last week: all the cases were decided not by a judge, but a regular citizen wearing a black robe. Yes, there is a very fine line between the two.
Seems the Judiciary had delayed the reappointment papers of Per Diem Judge Jonathan Chun, so he wasn't actually certified when he presided over court last Thursday. Oops. Big do-over.
Prosecutor Justin Kollar doesn't plan to retry the cases, though, so citizens are spared having to cast their fate upon the court a second time.
How many people, do you suppose, get fined, arrested, even imprisoned, for missing court deadlines. But when the Judiciary does it, oh, well, nevah mind.
One big winner that day was the the kanaka maoli who was acquitted of soliciting at a state park after he allowed tourists to give him donations for taking his picture in a helmet and malo. Turns out Punohu Kekaualua, who claimed religious and cultural rights, was actually right when he said Chun had no jurisdiction over him. But ironically, because this is America he won't have to go through another trial....
read ... Oooops
27% of Oahu Restaurants Get Yellow Placard--DOH Inspections Slowed by Incompetent Tech Vendor
HNN: The state is switching vendors after spending thousands of dollars on a flawed electronic system for food safety inspections. The Department of Health paid Paragon Bermuda $169,939 for the system that was supposed to cover billing, inspections, and online public access. After three years of problems, however, inspectors have gone back to manually filling out paperwork as the state starts the process to solicit bids from other vendors.
"One of the big problems was when the inspectors used the system in the field, it freezes up, it was very slow, and that was very frustrating for our staff," explained Peter Oshiro, DOH environmental health program manager.
The setback is slowing down color-coded signs going up in Hawaii's restaurants. The state finished inspecting 2,150 of Oahu's 6,000 food establishments by December 31, 2014. 27% of the eateries received a yellow conditional pass for two or more critical violations.
read ... DOH switching vendors after flawed food safety inspection system
UH Manoa Energy Efficiency Saves Campus $3.4M/year
UH: Across the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, energy efficiency measures are paying off. Since 2007, the campus has saved more than nine percent on its projected energy costs, representing $3.4 million in energy savings in 2014 alone. This was achieved through strategic air conditioning, lighting and building control retrofitting projects. A huge accomplishment, considering Mānoa has added 300,000 square feet in energy-intensive new buildings....
(They could save another $3.4M/year by removing all the dim bulbs from the administration.)
read ... News Release
Honolulu JPAC whistleblower suit headed to trial
SAS: While the nation’s POW/MIA accounting agencies begin a lengthy reorganization this month, the dysfunction that long plagued the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command continues to loom large over the effort. Court records surfacing now indicate that one of the agency’s high-profile whistleblowers has sued another, highlighting the infighting and turf battles that have become its legacy.
Documents filed in Hawaii’s First Circuit Court show that Paul Cole, a former Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education fellow, sued JPAC forensic anthropologist Jay Silverstein for defamation in January 2014 while Cole was still working at JPAC.
Cole is asking for more than $200,000 in damages, and the case looks to be headed to trial. In December, a judge denied Silverstein’s motion to dismiss. No trial date is listed on the court website....
read ... Stars and Stripes
Tulsi Gabbard only Member of Hawaii Delegation to Join 'No Labels' Campaign at SOTU
NR: 70 Members of Congress to Wear No Labels' Problem Solver Lapel Pins During Tonight's State of the Union, Signifying Support for Four Big Goals....
read ... News Release