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Tuesday, February 3, 2015
February 3, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:19 PM :: 4510 Views

HEI 'Solution'--Remotely Shut off Your Solar Panels

HB321: Marijuana on the Move in the Legislature

Hawaii Ranks 11th in World for Captive Insurance Domiciles

Hawaii 5th Lowest Financial Gap by Race

Jones Act: The little-discussed policy that's a major problem for international trade

Only 27% Support GE Tax Hike

HNN: 29% of those polled wanted to stop construction to solve the cost overruns. 27% of respondents favored extending Oahu's half-percent general excise tax surcharge past 2022. 25% wanted to trim the project by building fewer stops or shortening the length of the system. 12% preferred to take money from other city programs.

"We need to explain to the public what we're doing to control cost, maybe to reduce the size of stations, the right size, the value engineer - that means maybe we don't have to have all the pretty things," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

The strongest demand to halt the project -- 37% -- came from East Honolulu. Folks in Ewa were the least willing to stop the work with only 12% calling for a halt. As for continuing the rail surcharge, 42% of respondents in the Moanalua-Pearl City region favored the idea, compared to just 11% of those in Leeward Oahu.

read ... answers

HB420 Audit the PUC Bill on the Move

SA: A state House GOP measure requiring financial and managerial audits of the Public Utilities Commission (HB 420) is slated for a hearing Wednesday before the Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee. Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kai­lua-Kane­ohe) said the measure is an effort to try to see why many of the state's renewable energy initiatives are being held up.

Regarding HB 420, Chang said, "We often have these minority press conferences and we say, ‘Oh, we're probably going to get it heard.' But we are getting it heard." She added, "We already know that, so I think that's great."

... after the Republicans' briefing, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said his Demo­cratic colleagues in the chamber are working on their own measure to provide increased scrutiny of the PUC, particularly in light of the pending NextEra purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries.

read ... Audit the PUC

NextEra-HEI Merger Not Popular

Borreca: Politicians will not win votes by announcing their adoration for the $4.3 billion Hawaiian Electric deal.

If you go to the most politically important demographic subsections of the poll, it is easy to say campaigning against the merger makes smart politics.

Half of the registered voters who say they pick a Democratic ballot are against the merger. Even more of those from a union household, 56 percent, say the merger would be bad. And nearly half of those over 55 don't like the idea.

Among all the demographic groups, only those living in Hawaii for less than 10 years, those under 35 and those making less than $50,000 believe the merger means lower power bills.

This survey comes after one taken by the solar power industry that claims Hawaiian Electric has a "public image problem: an overwhelming number of Hawaii residents (94 percent) support more rooftop solar, and 90 percent believe that HECO is slowing rooftop solar to protect its profits."

read ... No Merger

HB825 tasks Hawaii state DCCA with licensing vacation rentals so they can be taxed

PBN:  House Bill 825, introduced by Scott Saiki, D-McCully-Downtown, gives authority to the DCCA director to license transient vacation rental owners, as well as fine and investigate the actions of any vacation rental owner without a license.

The bill would make it illegal to operate a vacation rental without a license. To apply, vacation rental owners would need to submit their own contact information as well as a local contact for the rental property. The local contact is defined as someone living on or "having a principal place of business" on the same island as the rental property and will be available on a 24/7 basis.

The bill also requires each owner to establish a client trust account at a federally insured financial institution in Hawaii where customers' payments will be deposited.

"The trust account shall be established and maintained for the protection of the consumers paying the money to the owner of the transient vacation rental," the bill said. The vacation rental owner would also have to maintain financial records that would be available for inspection and audit within three business days of a written request by the state or county.

In addition, the state would require the names of websites and apps where the vacation rental is being advertised.

read ... HB 825

Shocking cases of HPD officer misconduct highlighted in new report

KHON: ...Honolulu Police Department’s 2014 report of disciplinary action taken against officers who broke the rules. In the report, 39 officers were punished last year for misconduct.

The list of misconduct varies from assault, insurance fraud and even illegal cockfighting gambling operations–this being one of the more serious cases. The officer involved left the department.

There is also a case where an HPD officer struck a person numerous times while the person was detained in the backseat of the officer’s car. That officer was put on leave for 20 days.

There are also some cases that leave you scratching your head, like when an on-duty officer was caught surfing.

Overtime issues also came up. In one incident, an officer falsified subordinates’ overtime cards....

After looking through the report, KHON2 found that some officers were involved in multiple incidents.

In 2012, there were 30 officers disciplined. In 2013, there were 35 officers disciplined. This year’s number was 39.

Click here to read the full 2014 report.

Read previous years’ reports here: 2013 | 2012

read ... Misconduct

Prosecutors mum on overlooked sex assault cases

KHON: The prosecutors office said “no public record of these cases” exists, and rebuffed Always Investigating’s open records demands. It said state law prohibits prosecutors from sharing information about cases that don’t end in a conviction, unless it’s it with other law enforcement.

KHON2 asked the Honolulu Police Department for the list since arrest records are public and HPD detectives sent all those cases to prosecutors. HPD says it didn’t get the list and opted not to ask prosecutors....

Prosecutors say members of the sex assault unit examined each case to document any especially egregious acts. Because of the circumstances, deputies and victim advocates made efforts to contact the victims as well.

Always Investigating asked, “Were there any cases with the same suspect?” Both prosecutors and HPD said no.

“There’s no reason to think there’s a link or involved the same individual,” HPD said in a statement.

Always Investigating asked if kids were involved, if there was any geographic pattern, or anyone including law enforcement getting special protection?

Prosecutors only clarified that and none of the suspects was a police officer.

One attorney, Myles S. Breiner, thinks the stack of dropped cases is a sign of a systemic problem.

“They pick and choose the ones they want to proceed on. Sometimes it appears politics are driving the decisions they’re making,” he said.

Breiner told Always Investigating about a case in which HPD sent prosecutors a case of a female in custody who accused a former Department of Public Safety nurse of sex assault.

“When I contacted the prosecutors office in early 2014 to ask the status of the case, they apologized and said, ‘We don’t know what happened. We can’t explain. It was supposed to be assigned to someone. We’ll get on it immediately,'” said Breiner.

He eventually got a letter from the prosecutors office saying criminal charges would not be filed in part because the victim also filed a civil suit.

Neither the prosecutors office nor police would provide proof of how many victims in the forgotten pile were reached, how and when.

Always Investigating asked what should victims who may fall into these categories–who haven’t heard about their cases or the status–should do next.

“Demand answers,” said Breiner.

“I’d hate to have to call a legislative committee hearing, but this seems like a very serious problem. Who knows whether these individuals will commit another crime or sexual assault again,” said Espero.

The prosecutors office is now using a computer system to better track cases and remind deputies of key deadlines.

Always Investigating asked for data on how the case-charging rate has improved since it got started, and was told there’s not enough manpower to run programs to tally it.

Police say they don’t currently have a way to track the outcome of cases they refer for prosecution.

read ... Mum

Need $10K? Go See DAGS

CB: Hundreds of people have asked the state to give them millions of dollars over the past year to cover claims such as potholes damaging cars, students suffering from food poisoning, prison guards assaulting inmates and public employees sexually harassing co-workers.

But unlike larger claims that first go through the Attorney General’s Office and then to the Legislature where final approval is given during public hearings, claims settled for smaller amounts are quietly handled within the Department of Accounting and General Services.

The process lets the state comptroller write checks for up to $10,000, limiting the public’s ability to see where their tax dollars are going until the money appears in an annual report that merely itemizes the expenses....

One person claimed 'she' was born a hermaphrodite and was put into a male prison, Halawa Correctional Facility, where 'she' was assaulted. The state paid 'her' $10,000.

The state also paid $10,000 to settle a case involving a minor who suffered emotional distress as a result of how an investigation was handled by Mountain View Elementary. That was one of several claims involving students.

The state paid out $1,175 and $412 to settle two claims after children got food poisoning at Waipahu Elementary School one day in December 2013. The case of a student who was allegedly injured by an unsupervised student at Makawao Elementary ended in a $233 payment. Those three claims were handled by DAGS internally.

In some instances, DAGS gave final approval to payments for claims exclusively involving state employees. Such was the case when a Department of Human Services MedQuest employee was sexually harassed by a co-worker, resulting in a $7,500 settlement....

Potholes on state roads cost taxpayers $42,610 in claims last year. Weed whackers and mowers slinging rocks into vehicles cost $21,991 in claims for 2014.

One of the next highest categories for small claims was state hospitals — especially Maui Memorial — losing or damaging patients’ dentures. Those cost the state $10,917 last year.

State lawmakers are considering legislation that could raise the $10,000 limit on certain claims paid by DAGS. Bills are moving through the House and Senate that would require the comptroller to adjust for inflation the maximum amount that may be paid from the state risk management revolving fund for claims arbitrated, compromised or settled by the attorney general.

Link: List of Settlement Payments

read ... How to get $10K

HHSC, HPH, Castle, Queens, HMSA to share electronic medical records on state health info exchange

PBN: The Hawaii Health Information Exchange and Hawaii Health Systems Corp. have signed a data sharing agreement to make patient medical records available electronically to community health care providers and hospitals across the state.

Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which oversees 13 state medical facilities, will share secure and encrypted clinical data with HHIE, starting with its West Hawaii and Maui regions.

HHSC is joining HHIE partners that include Castle Medical Center, Hawaii Pacific Health, The Queen's Medical Center, and HMSA.

"The physicians and hospitals across the state have 30 different kinds of electronic health record systems," said HHIE executive director Christine Sakuda, noting that HHSC itself uses two different systems. "We help connect physicians on those different electronic systems."

As data is collected by the HHIE community health record, it will be made available to providers through its online based community health system, which is set to launch its first phase this month.

read ... Privacy?

Bill would keep employers out of workers' social media posts

SA: LoPresti's bill would keep employers from accessing their workers' social media accounts except under certain conditions. The bill passed out of the House Committee on Labor and Public Employment Tuesday.

The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce is against the bill. The group says it's unnecessary because as far as the Chamber knows, employers don't ask for that information.

But William Hoshijo of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission says he's heard of employers using social media to pre-screen potential applicants. He says young people suffer from this problem.

read ... Social Media

Poll: 73% Support Pushing Homeless into Shelters

HNN: From paving pot holes to showing his support for bicycling commuters and picking-up trash, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell appears to be everywhere, and that face time with the community has translated into a favorability rating of 64% -- according to our Hawai'i News Now - Star Advertiser poll....

"When I got elected I sat down with all the providers who provide shelter space and they told me, 'Kirk, if you allow people and make it easy for them to sleep on the streets and sidewalks and our parks then they will continue to do so and we want them to move into our shelters where we can treat them and help them get back on their feet and so you have to make it harder so they can get the help,' and so I adopted that approach," said Caldwell.

The mayor readily admits one of the most contentious initiatives is the city's sit-lie law, but according to our Hawai'i poll -- a clear majority at 73% approve of the city policy to discourage homelessness by not allowing unsheltered homeless to lie or sleep on public property such as city sidewalks or parks.

read ... 73%

SB328: Now that Atheists are Gone, Churches can Rent School Facilities Again

CB: A bill allowing schools to accept in-kind services in lieu of rent for use of their facilities was supported by Oahu pastors but opposed by the state Department of Education during a state Senate Education Committee hearing Monday afternoon.

The pastors said the rent can be too high for some congregations. But a DOE spokesman said the change could prove costly to taxpayers while burdening school principals.

Senate Bill 328 would give principals the option of accepting in-kind services instead of fees to rent public school facilities....

Currently an organization like a church business or government agency can expect to pay $135 to $262 per hour to rent a facility at a public school, according to the DOE website. The cost depends on the size of the space to be used, if it’s inside, and whether it’s air-conditioned. The fee covers the cost of custodial staff, utilities and adds a rental fee for organizations that are outside of the public school system.

Sen. Clarence Nishihara, a Democrat in Hawaii Senate District 17, compared the current DOE rental regulations to a straight-jacket. He said principals have no wiggle room, and they could be losing out on valuable community participation if schools can only accept rental fees for payment.

Nishihara said community participation in schools is critical to the success of students, and by charging fees, the DOE is pushing the community out of schools.

“The value of (community participation) is so much greater than rent,” he said....

read ... It's a cold day in Norton Shores, Michigan

HB555: Rep Ike Choy Proposes Eliminate All Academic Programs with Fewer than 10 Graduates/year

ILind: Rep Ike Choy's House Bill 555, scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday that would require shutting down any programs that graduate less than 10 majors per year.  You can find the hearing notice here.

The German program graduated 9 students last year.

If this decision went through, it would eliminate four of the five programs in our department: Classics, French, German and Russian.

But it would also have an impact university-wide, eliminating 24% of our Bachelors, 36% of our MA and 55% of our PhD programs.

SA: "Flawed" Cancer Center Business model creates unrealistic expectations regarding state funding, a task force finds

read ... Bill would eliminate many UH language programs and a quarter of all BA programs

Sources: UH strongly considering self-imposed sanctions in response to NCAA violations

HNN: ...Sources revealed to Hawaii News Now Monday afternoon that chances are 'very probable' UH will self-impose penalties in response to the seven charges levied by the NCAA over the weekend.

HNN has been told that any self-imposed sanctions would address those specific violations-- things like a possible reduction in practice time, a reduction in recruiting benefits and the possibility of trimming the team's scholarship allotment.

Also, the school took internal action before the season even started with the abrupt firings of former head coach Gib Arnold and assistant Brandyn Akana.

Both were named prominently in the investigation for lying to the NCAA and attempting to cover up any infractions....

Sources say star player Isaac Fotu and Davis Rozitis were both on the receiving end of illegal benefits during their time at UH.

As a result, UH would consider vacating the team's 37-wins acquired over the previous two seasons.

The university is currently in the middle of a 90-day response window to the NCAA....

HNN: UH Chancellor talks about NCAA probe

read ... Self-Imposed

Star-Adv: UH Admin Right to Give Arnold $200K

SA: ...That would be fair recompense for the UH decision to dismiss "without cause" former head coach Gib Arnold and former assistant coach Brandyn Akana on Oct. 28. That was a costly decision: Because of Arnold's contract terms and his $344,000 salary for 2014-15, terminating him "without cause" incurred the UH an additional payout of more than $200,000.

But it was a sound decision, ultimately, because it enabled UH to move on from this low point and get the current season underway without the worry about continuing litigation. And it ought to serve as demonstration that the university administration is not impeded by institutional problems handling the case....

read ... Gimme $200K too

GasCo Moving Forward with LNG Plan

PBN: Their plan involves having a tanker ship carrying liquefied natural gas cooled to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit moored off the coast of Oahu, either near Kalaeloa or Pearl Harbor. The gas would be transferred, as a gas, through a pipeline to the Hawaii Gas plant in West Oahu and then sent through the company's 1,000 miles of pipeline to customers.

Hawaii Gas officials estimate the cost of the project at between $150 million and $300 million.

The tanker would be owned and operated by another company and would be refilled by supply ships.

read ... LNG for Hawaii

Dim-Witted Anti-Superferry Activists Run Catamaran Aground

MTVN:  Passengers had been offloaded by the time rescue crews arrived, and County crews tethered the vessel to prevent further damage to the reef and – possibly – the shore should the vessel dislodge. The 65-foot vessel was still aground when safety crews left the area. it is also unknown how much fuel is onboard. Rescue crews say no fuel was visible in the water when they left the area.

The vessel operator, Pacific Whale Foundation, is cooperating with authorities from the County, State and the U.S. Coast Guard. State and federal agencies are remaining on the scene with the PWF whale watch boat.

read ... Pacific Whale

Savio to Launch Rent to Own Project

KITV: His newest concept is a sort of rent-to-own concept. He says he’s looking to purchase a building with 400-500 units that he will rent out.  The renters will be able to build equity and within seven-nine years take that equity out and purchase a property of their own.  He plans to get the project underway in March.

read ... Rent to Own

Anti-Pesticide Hype Produces Latest Crop of Buffer Zone Bills

CB: This year, the Legislature is considering a handful of bills that include the creation of buffer-zones around schools, distancing students and employees from the outdoor spraying of certain pesticides by large-scale, commercial entities. (See SB 1197, SB 800, SB 797, SB 793, HB 1514 and HB 693.)

read ... Pesticide Hype

Bronster: Anti-GMO Activists Have Conflict of Interest

HTH: In a Jan. 22 letter to the County Council, Bronster Hoshibata attorneys Margery S. Bronster and Rex Y. Fujichaku, representing Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association and other agriculture and biotechnology groups, urged council members not to allow Paul Achitoff to represent the county.

Achitoff, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s mid-Pacific regional office and former counsel of record for the Center for Food Safety, has offered to represent the county for free, with taxpayers on the hook for just the court costs. The County Council is scheduled to hold an executive session at its regular meeting Wednesday in Hilo to consider Achitoff’s offer, and budget up to $10,000 for court costs.

Bronster and Fujichaku contend Achitoff has a conflict of interest because the anti-GMO groups have a different agenda from the county.

“In addition to the differing interests of the county and the Center for Food Safety, … Earthjustice’s … interests in pursuing litigation for the sake of achieving favorable legal precedent create a conflict of interest barring legal representation,” they said in the letter. “These problems can be altogether avoided, however, if the County Council simply says no to Mr. Achitoff and permits the Office of the Corporation Council to continue to represent the county on appeal.”

Achitoff, along with Center for Food Safety’s George Kimbrell, fired back in a Jan. 27 letter against what they said was an attempt to “smear” (ie tell the truth about) Earthjustice.

read ... Conflict of Interest

Hawaii Polarized by Steamroller Activism

CS: Everything changed in January 2013 when mainland-based advocacy groups, including Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, began a campaign to use the Islands as a testing ground for laws regulating biotech crops.

In the two years that followed, those of us living in tiny rural towns on Kauai, Maui, Molokai and the Big Island experienced a type of steamroller activism unlike any our small, tight-knit communities had previously encountered.  Social media produced a relentless stream of memes and posts that viciously vilified seed company executives, field workers, conventional farmers, scientists and anyone who supported biotech, while amplifying and even fabricating health risks associated with pesticides and GE foods.

The steady drumbeat of fear had its desired effect.  People living near fields that had produced sugar and pineapple for decades suddenly began claiming that the seed companies were ruining their health and poisoning the land. Some citizens and politicians accepted these allegations as fact, though their scientific basis was slim to non-existent. No fact-finding process was conducted to assess the existence or extent of a public or environmental health problem.

Meanwhile, the climate of intimidation and retribution, reinforced by marches, extensive graffiti, unruly County Council meetings and the destruction of papaya crops, effectively stymied opposition and dissent. Citizens — some of them culturally adverse to conflict, others afraid of being targeted by activists — became increasingly reluctant to speak against or question the movement and its tactics.

The old dividing lines of race and length of residency were redrawn as “locals” — those born and raised in Hawaii — squared off against activists, many of them white newcomers....

While advocacy organizations may feel this strategy is useful, their fight has taken a heavy toll on those of us living in the war zones they orchestrated. Eventually, they'll move on to other battlefields, leaving residents of small-town Hawaii polarized, our communities fractured, old friendships torn apart, concerns still unaddressed and no process for healing in sight.

KGI: Separating facts from fears

RI: No consensus on genetic engineering safety? Depends on your definition of consensus.

read ... Cornell

Lawsuit: Former State Senator Steals Property from Elderly Mother

KGI: A former Kauai state senator and her siblings are defendants in a trust fraud case filed by their mother in 5th Circuit Court.

Evelyn Ohai Fernandes, 87, individually and as trustee of William Ernest Fernandes and Evelyn Ohai Fernandes Revocable Living Trust, is suing four of her children and grandchildren regarding five properties near old Kapaa town that were transferred into a trust.

The civil complaint filed by the firm Richards & Zenger, along with Robin Melchor of Honolulu, charges Lehua Fernandes with fraudulent inducement and misrepresentation, intentional negligence, undo influence, and breach of fiduciary duty and civil theft for misappropriating deed properties.

Lehua Fernandes was appointed a state senator for District 25 from 1982 to 1984, and won the District 7 seat in 1992 and 1994. She lost her bid for a third term in the 1998 primary election.

The complaint names 25 more defendants, either siblings or grandchildren, on charges of unjust enrichment, negligence, conspiracy and collusion to commit fraud, misrepresentation and conversion of a constructive trust or equitable lien.

The case dates back to 2011, when Evelyn Fernandes had surgery to have a pacemaker installed. She was recovering when her husband William “Billy” Fernandes, a former Territorial and state representative, senator, and county councilman, died at 88 on June 2, 2011.

read ... Like the Chief's Wife



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