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Friday, January 30, 2015
January 30, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:49 PM :: 5310 Views

NextEra, HECO Formally Request PUC Approval of Merger

Clayton Hee's Wife Quits Cush Job at UH, Leaves State

2014: Record Visitors, Record Expenditures

OHA sets community meetings on Kaka‘ako Makai Master Plan

Shakedown: Politicians Demand NextEra Contribute to Democrats Only, NextEra Agrees

IM: Democrat Representative Chris Lee raised the issue of undue political influence contributions to Republicans.

“Stepping back to Florida for a minute. For all the conditions that could be placed upon this deal. For all the efforts to build a new model here in Hawai`i for NextEra to operate in a different manner, to reflect our values and our laws and our own energy goals (one party system).”

“Any protections we put in place, whether it’s energy goals, benchmarks for cost reduction, what have you, I worry that those would change, based on the practices of the Company in Florida, which has been to gain tremendous political access, and influence, and spending incredible amounts of money (on the other party).  Millions of dollars in campaign contributions (to Republicans) and everything else, in order to influence that process to get a desirable outcome for the utility.” ...

NextEra's Eric Gleason challenged that view.... We do business in the right way. In terms of coming to Hawai`i, as I’ve said, we’re very intent on doing the business the right way in Hawai`i as well." (Translation: We give money to Republicans in Florida, but in Hawaii we will give money only to you Democrats, OKAY?  Duh.  Whaddya think I'm stoopid or something?)

The Tampa Bay Times reported on the electric industries attempt to manipulate the legislative process in 2010. Their goal: influence legislation and grease the cogs of the state's political machine. (That's the goal in Hawaii, too.)

The money flowed in despite a fundraising ban that bars legislators — but not parties — from raising cash during the session. …

The electric utilities industry, which is fighting several contentious issues, was the second-largest industry contributor, giving $459,000 to the Republicans and $267,000 to the Democrats.

Florida Power & Light (owned by NextEra) gave $130,000 to Republicans and $75,000 to Democrats....  (Hence the need for questioning by Rep Lee.)

read ... Shakedown for Campaign Contributions

At Least $1.25B Has Been Spent on Rail So Far, But Where Has All the Money Gone?

CB: The rail project has been in the works for more than 10 years but city and HART officials still can't — or won't — say what the money has been spent on. Secrecy over tens of millions of dollars in payments to subcontractors is only one troubling aspect.

read ... Where?

Resolution calls for removal of U.S. bus funds from rail money plan

SA: Resolution 15-18, introduced Tuesday by Council Chairman Ernie Martin, directs the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to delete the 5307 dollars from rail's financial plan and the city's formal agreement with federal transit officials.  It looks to ensure the money is spent only on TheBus and Handi-Van systems....

May 6, 2012: Rail Finances Take $244.7M from TheBus 

read ... Resolution calls for removal of U.S. bus funds from rail money plan

Bait and Switch: HART Approves Another $4.4M in Cost Overruns

SA: While the public braces for the painful budget deficits ahead as rail moves forward, board members overseeing the Oahu project on Thursday approved $4.4 million in added costs to existing contracts.

More than half of those new costs, about $2.5 million, will go toward building a test track with automated controls at the rail operations center that's taking shape next to Leeward Community College.

It's the latest in a string of change orders to redesign the center after the contract to build it had already been awarded to the joint venture Kiewit Koba­ya­shi. In May the board approved a separate $22.5 million for the redesign....

HART board member William "Buzz" Hong compared the cost increases to a used-car dealer using bait-and-switch tactics and not revealing the full costs until after the sale....

The remaining costs brought forward Thursday, nearly $2 million, were slated to deliver four new modular buildings to Leeward Community College so the school can relocate some of its facilities and heavy equipment for trade classes during construction.

Originally, rail officials had planned to move existing modular buildings on the campus, but on Thursday they said they found those building to be too old to move.

George Atta, city planning and permitting director and a nonvoting HART board member, said he is worried other public agencies might view HART as a "money source" during rail's construction to complete improvements they would have needed to do anyway.

Hong, who has a lengthy background in the construction trade, questioned the $1.9 million price tag for the new modular buildings.

"The numbers don't add up," he said.

The board approved the request on the condition that HART officials first check whether local building firms could put together a cheaper, alternative offer.

read ... They Are Laughing at You

Chances high Legislature will sidetrack rail issue

Borreca: Rep. Cynthia Thielen, a Kailua Republican, was akamai to say in 2005: "We are the enablers; we absolutely cannot wash our hands of this. We are the first step, the enabling step that is going to allow the city to raise the general excise tax." ...

Bud Stonebreaker, who was a GOP House member a decade ago, was the only one in floor debate who pointed out, "There's nothing so permanent as a temporary government program."

Bingo! That is exactly how it turned out....

The 2005 vote had Rep. Sylvia Luke voting against the tax increase. Today she still describes herself as "a skeptic."

Luke said Caldwell's plea earlier in the week for money was "unimpressive," with many lawmakers saying the mayor didn't have enough details or information in his presentation.

"We need to take a step back," Ige said in a Wednesday interview.

In 2005, Ige was one of eight Democrats who voted "with reservations" on the final vote to approve the county tax option.

And Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, a senator back then, voted "No."

So this is not a "Go, Rail, Go" kind of administration.

State leaders lack both motivation and money this year, so watch for Honolulu's rail line to be put on a legislative side track.

read ... Sidetrack

Audit: Health Connector Funneled $21.9M to 'Mansha Consulting' Without Board Oversight

SA: Without mincing words, acting state Auditor Jan Yamane described Andrews as an "uncooperative executive director" who withheld information from board members on the Connector's budget and technological progress. She didn't trust the insurance company representatives and state department directors on the board and feared any information provided to the board would be leaked to the public, the audit said.

The report also says Andrews "misused" her authority and circumvented the procurement process, thereby eliminating open competition.

The Connector received $204.4 million in federal grants to establish Hawaii's state-based health insurance exchange. Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed the Connector's 15-member board of directors. The board named Andrews head of the Connector in November 2011. She resigned Dec. 6, 2013, less than two months after launch...

The audit reveals how much board members were in the dark about significant problems with the technology up until the day the Connector was to launch on Oct. 1, 2013. The launch had to be aborted due to computer problems, which were not resolved until two weeks later.

Several board members arrived at the Connector's offices on the start date ready with food to "celebrate the launch" only to find no one there.

"We thought things were OK up until the morning of the launch. We brought boxes of mana­pua for a celebration to an empty office," Yamane quoted an unnamed board member as saying. "Then it hit — boom — that there were some real issues with IT. We all expected there would be some glitches, but not like what happened."

The audit said Andrews handed out contracts for less than $100,000 to avoid scrutiny by the board, and, once issued, the value of the contract would increase dramatically. The board only reviewed contracts of $100,000 or more.

In one instance, Andrews hired IT consultant Mansha Consulting for $56,000 to help the organization prepare for a design review of its IT system. The contract was amended many times until reaching $21.9 million.

WaPo: Mansha CEO Sunny Raheja pops up in the Maryland Health Exchange Disaster Story

read ... Audit finds former Health Connector leader's inadequacies

Legislature to debate issuing bonds for Hawaii Health Connector

PBN: The state Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the Hawaii Health Connector to borrow money using state bonds until it becomes financially self-sustainable.

House Bill 1283 proposes to enable the Connector to issue up to $28 million in state bonds issued in its own name to support it on the path to financial self-sustainability over the next ten years.

Previous state and federal requirements mandated that the exchanges become independent by 2015. This bill would revise that requirement and recognizes the Connector may not achieve independence until 2023.

The legislation introduced by Rep. Angus McKelvey, D-Lahaina also proposes that the state's online health insurance exchange take on responsibility for enrollment, implementation, and benefit administration services for employers and their employees for non-qualified health plans or other ancillary products and services.

read ... Bonds

SB795: HHSC -- Adapt or be Left Behind

SA: Wesley Lo is Maui region chief executive officer for the state's Hawaii Health Systems Corp. and believes an agreement that his region has been negotiating with a potential private partner, Hawaii Pacific Health, could be a model for statewide application.

But the public hospitals system executive also acknowledges that Maui has had a substantial head start down this path. ...

Obamacare adds further demands that small hospitals lack the investment capital to meet.

"You need to cross the chasm to the new world," he said. "Unless you have the resources, both financial and intellectual to get there, the world passes you by. We need to change, we need to adapt."

Lo's current focus is Senate Bill 795, which would be the vehicle for a partnership with HPH....

They will not be state employees anymore but we are committed to work with HGEA and UPW, but in the private sector ...

I don't have any issue with the unions. The problem for hospitals in the state system is ... you need work rules that accommodate a 24/7, census-driven operation.

read ... Wes Lo

DoE Demands $13M Due to Failure of Corrupt Solar Contract

SA: DOE officials...will have a lot of explaining to do to lawmakers, who last session had reduced the DOE budget by $9 million, anticipating lower energy costs, and now will have to consider a supplemental allotment of $13 million.

The department's challenge there is complicated further by the messy history of this particular contract. It was announced with great fanfare in March that an estimated $1 billion in operating costs could be saved over 25 years through deployment of PV systems.

Under the deal, OpTerra (formerly known as Chevron Energy Solutions) would pay all the up-front costs, including the installation of 100 megawatts of renewable-energy generating capacity, and sell the electricity to the DOE at a fixed price below what the department pays for utility-provided power.

A rival proposal had been submitted by Prime Solutions Inc., which challenged the OpTerra award, delaying the start of the work.

Further, the conflict led to the filing of a state Circuit Court lawsuit in July 2013. Sarah McCann, employed by the DOE as an emergency hire in 2012 to audit the competing proposals, alleges in the complaint that she was terminated because she recommended that Prime Solutions be selected.

Otherwise, McCann's audit concluded, the project would cost the state $284 million in lost savings, according to the complaint.

Best Comment: "The supposed money saved is mostly the result of accounting gimmicks. Current monthly variable costs are converted to fixed capital investments, future increases from HECO are exaggerated, and ongoing maintenance expenses are either ignored or understated.  There is nothing "sustainable" about wasting money."

As Explained: Auditor: DoE Rigged Billion Dollar Solar Contract to Favor Chevron

read ... Cost of Solar Corruption

HB326: Calvin Say Pushes State-Run Bank for Subprime Lending

PBN: Hawaii lawmakers are proposing legislation to study state laws with the goal of creating a state-owned bank to assist homeowners who are having trouble making their mortgage payments.

Only one other state, North Dakota, has a state-owned bank.

House Bill 326 was introduced by Rep.Marcus Oshiro, D-Wahiawa-Whitmore Village; Rep. Isaac W. Choy, D-Manoa-Moiliili; Rep. Calvin Say, D-St. Louis Heights-Kaimuki; and Rep. Clift Tsuji, D-Hilo-Waiakea. It proposes that several state departments led by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Division of Financial Institutions study the state's laws and report back to the Legislature before the start of the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions.

The report would determine the amount of state money needed to be transferred to the state-owned bank, and include legislation to establish a short-term purchase program for residential properties with mortgage problems.

read ... Bank of Say

Youth Suicide and Anti-Bullying Programs

SA: The state's bipartisan Keiki Caucus announced at a state Capitol news conference Thursday the package of bills it supports this session includes measures on anti-bullying efforts, suicide prevention and establishing safe places for youth.

To address bullying, including cyberbullying, Senate Bill 865 would require all school and youth service agencies to create and implement anti-bullying policies. It also seeks to establish a task force to provide guidance in bullying prevention and require bullying prevention training for all employees and volunteers who work with youths.

The caucus also backs Senate Bill 978 to allocate funding to the Department of Education for anti-bullying and suicide prevention efforts. According to Nancy Deeley, suicide prevention coordinator of the Department of Health's Injury Prevention and Control Section, 49 suicides of young people ages 10 to 19 occurred from 2009 to 2013, making suicide the second leading cause of death in Hawaii for this age group after motor vehicle crashes....

Bill 979 says the program would provide a place and people for youth to seek immediate help from when faced with a threatening situation....

The caucus also supports appropriating $100,000 to the Health Department to expand screening and treatment services for breast and cervical cancer for underserved women.

"(Senate Bill 385's) modest investment will save suffering, health care costs and lives," Sen. Rosa­lyn Baker (D, West Maui-South Maui) said in a news release. The measure has a companion bill in the House.

Jan 23, 2015: Mainland Homosexuals Plan to Use Anti-Bullying Campaign to Penetrate Hawaii Schools

read ... The Agenda

HB92 Gambling at Any 'International Terminal'

WHT: Rep. Cindy Evans is proposing slot machines for international departure areas of airports.

Evans, D-North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala, is sponsoring HB 91, allowing the installation of slot machines, first at Honolulu Inter-national Airport, and later, once international flights return to West Hawaii, at Kona International Airport.

read ... Gambling

Keep Hawaii’s Heroes to hold community meetings

KHON: Dane Wicker of KHH told us, though no final decision has been made, base closures would be economically catastrophic for Hawaii. Not only would that take away 20,000 soldiers and civilians from Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks, but also another 30,000 of their family members. That represents about a third of the populations of the communities on the west side of Oahu around Schofield Barracks, with an approximate annual economic loss to the state of about $1.35 billion.

Army leadership is in Hawaii this week to hear what communities surrounding military installations have to say, and KHH says is critical community members show up to voice their opinions. Wicker encouraged the public to attend a Listening Session tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Leilehua High School. It’s your chance to share your thoughts on the topic. Details on this and future Listening Sessions at www.keephawaiisheroes.org.

read ... No More Dan Inouye

Mentally Ill Mainland Homeless Invades Home, Stabs Kailua Woman

HNN: As paramedics rushed Sarah into surgery, Honolulu police found Ingraham in a stolen vehicle at a gas station in Waimanalo. He's been in jail ever since.

Court records show the homeless man, who is from the mainland, has a history of mental illness, drug abuse, and violence. In the year before the attack, we've learned that Ingraham bounced between jail and the state mental hospital after throwing a rock through a store window.

During a mental health exam, a psychologist said he wore an Aloha shirt as a cape and spread his arms out "like an airplane" saying he was the "Red Baron.”

The report also revealed that Ingraham experienced occasional "auditory and visual hallucinations."

The evaluation indicated that he faced a sex assault charge in North Dakota in 2009. But it was dismissed in a plea agreement. He was convicted for carrying a concealed weapon, theft, and criminal mischief in Montana in 2005.

The doctor concluded he posed a “high risk for violence to self, others and property if he was released to an unstructured environment.”

However, the doctor couldn't determine if he was insane and he was deemed fit to stand trial. So Ingraham pleaded guilty to the criminal property damage charge and was released after being sentenced to ten days in jail, without being ordered to get mental health treatment.

Louis Erteschik is the executive director of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center and has been a lawyer for 40 years. He says pleading guilty is probably the best alternative for defense attorneys because their defendant can basically walk free.

"There was no basis for the court to order anybody, whether it's this person or anybody else, to the state hospital, no…that's not how the legal system works," Erteschik said.

Erteschik says part of the problem is the state mental hospital is full and there are simply not enough services for the mentally ill.

read ... Failure of Mental health System

Doctor Shortage to Lead to More Urgent Care Canters

CB: So what if urgent care and walk-in clinics became a type of basic care provider? The hours are great for patients, the locations convenient and, if someone needed more complex care, they could be referred to a primary care provider who spent all their time handling serious cases.

My current census of 2,000 patients could be increased to 2,500, or more. Multiply that increase by the numbers of primary care providers available now in the state and the access issue could be solved. There would be more than enough doctors to go around in Hawaii.

Now, of course, some people will say it doesn’t pay to see more complex patients and that it is easier to see more people with simple problems than to see fewer patients with serious illnesses.

Insurance companies would have to compensate those who agree to see more complicated cases and, logistically, there are a lot of roadblocks that would need to be resolved.

read ... Urgent

Hawaii solar groups want HECO's new rooftop solar plan to be rejected

PBN: A group of Hawaii solar industry trade groups is arguing that Hawaiian Electric Co.'s effort to ramp down the controversial net energy metering program, which credits rooftop solar customers at the full retail value of power, is "hasty, ill-conceived and unsupported."

The groups, which include The Alliance for Solar Choice, the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, the Hawaii PV Coalition and SunPower Corp., filed a complaint with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission this week, opposing the utility's new plan for the program.

read ... Rejected

Members Selected for Kauai GMO Study Group 

KGI: Nine individuals have been selected to serve as members on a joint fact-finding group tasked with looking into potential health and environmental impacts from pesticide use on Kauai.

The $100,000 study, funded by the County of Kauai and the state Department of Agriculture and facilitated by Honolulu planner and mediator Peter Adler’s ACCORD 3.0 Network, is expected to last a year.

“The issue of genetically modified (GM) agriculture production has generated many questions and considerable emotion,” Adler wrote. “One of the debates focuses on the possible adverse health and environmental impacts from pesticides used in conjunction with growing GM crops. Sorting out facts — what we know and can say with reasonable confidence, what we don’t know, and what we might reasonably need to know in the future — is challenging, but not impossible.”

read ... Members

Kona police sergeant charged with domestic abuse

SA: Police responded to a 1:50 a.m. call to a home on Kynnersley Road, where it was reported that Troutman had pulled the hair of a 62-year-old woman and then threatened her and an 18-year-old man, police said.

Troutman reportedly threatened a responding 44-year-old police officer.

He was arrested and taken to the Kona police cellblock while detectives continued the investigation.

KITV: Big Island sergeant arrested for abuse, threatening

read ... Another One

Trash workers’ payment system racks up major overtime

KHON: But a decades-old practice called “uku pau,” or getting paid for a task instead of by the hour, is one big roadblock and source of overtime.

“They could make big money on overtime, basically,” explained longtime refuse worker Jeff Kam, who recently retired after decades on the job.

Knock out a route in a couple hours, then check with the boss a bit later. If anyone is out that day, then take on that route, all on overtime.

“They would offer doubles, so you would do another route then you’d do your route,” Kam explained.

5 highest year-end overtime payouts for refuse workers:

  1. Refuse Collection Crew Leader: $74,891.18 (plus base salary of $47,268)
  2. Refuse Collection Equipment Operator: $66,436.50 (plus base salary of $49,068)
  3. Refuse Collector: $65,095.09 (plus base salary of $40,788)
  4. Refuse Collection Crew Leader: $62,972.13 (plus base salary of $47,268)
  5. Refuse Collection Equipment Operator: $61,320.21 (plus base salary of $49,068)

read ... Overtime

Darwin Laughs as Gay Gene Theory Peddled (again)

KITV:  More than 20 years ago geneticist and National Institutes of Health researcher Dean Hamer made a splash and created controversy when he released a study that pinpointed two chromosomes where a gay gene or genes could be located. But it was one chromosome in particular, Xq28, that held the most promise.  (But of course this is bs.  Evolution, duh.)

Essence: Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio’s wife Chirlane McCray, a former lesbian, opens up about falling in love with a man (No gene therapy required.)

Reality:  Psychologists dump 'Gay Gene' theory

read ... Gay Creationism

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