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Sunday, February 22, 2015
February 22, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:58 PM :: 3639 Views

GMOs: How the Precautionary Principle Refutes Itself

Legislative Agenda: Pot, Parents and Privacy

SB473: Concealed Carry Gut and Replace

How Housing First Reduced Homelessness 72% in Utah

Our Best Export – Our Taxes!

Manoa Buyout Club: Gib Arnold Could be the Most Expensive Yet

SA: ...Arnold's "without cause" dismissal on Oct. 28 in the midst of an NCAA investigation is already on the way to costing the school upward of $200,000 even before the potentially biggest item, his grievance seeking more than $1.4 million, is addressed.

UH has already paid its outside counsel in the NCAA case — Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC of Birmingham, Ala. — $42,329 through January, according to information obtained last week by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser under the state's open records law.

In addition, UH has contracted to pay local attorney William McCorriston up to $100,000 to represent it in the matter....

Meanwhile, the school said it paid Arnold the balance of his $344,000 annual salary, approximately $200,000, on Jan 26. In addition, it is paying former associate coach Benjy Taylor an upgraded salary as Arnold's replacement.

Taylor, who had been receiving approximately $125,000 as associate, is being paid a prorated monthly salary equal to the lower levels on its salary range for the men's basketball head coach, UH said.

That range is listed at $185,000 to $400,000.

The most expensive termination chapter in UH athletics was $600,000 to buy football coach Greg McMackin out of the final year of his $1.1 million annual contract.

McMackin was contracted to receive $1.1 million for the 2012 season, but was said to have been pressured to accept $600,000....

the biggest settlement at the school remains the 2004 departure of then-UH President Evan Dobelle. What was originally a "for cause" firing was eventually rescinded and, following six weeks of talks, resulted in a settlement of approximately $2.3 million in direct costs to UH.

McCorriston, who was among the attorneys representing UH, said at the time that the school paid, "less than 50 cents on the dollar to get this guy (Dobelle) to resign."

In Arnold's case, the financial fallout apparently could have even been more substantial. A three-year contract extension with a reported $41,000 raise that would have taken Arnold to $385,000 per year, plus bonuses, through 2018 was said to be ready for signature by former Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple in August.

School policy, officials say, is for the athletic department to be charged for outside attorneys fees and, in the event of a settlement, other incurred costs. For example, UH was assessed more than $300,000 for costs arising from the ill-fated Stevie Wonder concert.

read ... Ferd's Words

GE Tax Hike: Will March 3 Rail Bids Stampede House of Representatives?

SA: City officials refuse to share their projections with state lawmakers....

In recent weeks, Honolulu's mayor has met with about half of the 76 legislators at the state Capitol, trying to persuade them that to keep Oahu rail construction moving they'll need to extend the rail tax — and they'll need to do it now.

Some of those lawmakers, along with Gov. David Ige's budget director, have cautioned against making any decision on the rail tax until they get more details on how much it might cost to finish building the project.

But Mayor Kirk Caldwell last week said he can't provide them with much more about rail's future costs other than what's already been made public.

Simply put, at this point it appears no one really knows how much the largest public works project in Hawaii's history will ultimately cost to complete.

The city does have its own internal cost projections, provided by rail officials, which gives ranges on how expensive they think each of the nine or so remaining major construction contracts might be. Caldwell said he can't share those cost projections with lawmakers or anyone else because (insert excuse here) ....

some legislators say the lack of detail is complicating things as they look to hash out a measure that would extend Oahu's 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge for a limited time — instead of lifting the tax's 2022 sunset in perpetuity, as Caldwell and other rail advocates have requested.  (But on March 3, they will receive some details.)

"The question that they (rail leaders) need to answer is why are they asking for perpetuity if they are in the hole for $900 million?" Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, said Thursday. "Then they should be asking for, at the most, (a) five-year extension."

She added, "We're still trying to get an idea of whether there's enough support from the membership" for a rail tax extension.  (Translation: I'm for the tax hike but I won't show my cards unless I can win the vote.)

So far the House hasn't held any hearings on bills to extend the half-percent general excise tax surcharge this session.  (House members are up for election every two years.)

A bill in the Senate to extend the rail tax, Senate Bill 19, has passed two readings. It's expected to go next before the Ways and Means Committee....  (This is the price the demos pays for not challenging Senators at election time.)

Signs that rail was heading toward a serious budget problem first emerged publicly in August, when bids to build the project's first nine stations came in at least 63 percent over budget.

Rail officials originally estimated those nine stations would cost about $184 million to build. Instead, the least expensive of the three bids that they received came in at $294.5 million and the most expensive one came in at $320.8 million.

HART canceled those bids and divided the stations into three packages. Bids on the first set of three stations are scheduled to open March 3.

Those nine stations, however, represent only a fraction of the construction work that remains....

(Question: Will contractors compete against each other and lower the costs --or--will they jack up their bids in order to push the GE Tax hike thru the Lege?  Check out this headline from last week....)

Feb 13:  Senate Transport Committee Votes for Rail Tax Extension, Admits it's to Build More Rail into Kapolei, Manoa 

(Therefore the contractors' March 3 Bid Calculation is as follows: Higher bids = Higher taxes, Higher taxes = More work on rail)

PDF: Caldwell GET Responses

read ... Tax Hike Con Game

Gas Tax Hike to Pay for Ige's $70.9M Boost in DoT Spending?

AP: Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser voiced his concerns about the plan.  “HB1486 is simply a way to increase taxes on Hawaii residents who are already struggling from our high cost of living,” said Hooser. “Increasing the cost of gasoline at the pump hurts all of us, but it hurts large families the worst.”  Hooser added, “I am hoping Sen. (Ron) Kouchi will kill this in the Senate.”

Rep. Gene Ward, R-Hawaii Kai, was the only member of the House Finance Committee to vote against the proposal.  “People who voted for it were voting for a blank check,” said Ward. “We keep talking about helping the middle class ... and we’re going to stick them with another fuel tax. It’s unfair.”

Aloha Petroleum Ltd. was among the companies that opposed the bill, saying they’re against “any attempt to increase taxes because they are ultimately passed on to consumers.”

The State Department of Transportation said in written testimony that it appreciates the intent of the bill, but that the proposed solution would create confusion for taxpayers and administrative challenges.

Meanwhile, the department plans to increase its budget for special maintenance projects by $70.9 million in both fiscal years 2016 and 2017, according to Gov. David Ige’s budget proposal. The majority of those maintenance funds are going to be used for road resurfacing projects, minor bridge repairs and major tree trimming, said Tim Sakahara, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, in an email.

HB1486: Text, Status

read ... $70.9M

Slammed by Auditor, Health Connector Cuts off Payments to 'Contractor of the Year'

SA: The Hawai‘i Health Connector has stopped paying one of its key vendors awarded more than $20 million in contracts to oversee the troubled Obama­care insurance exchange.

The Connector paid Mansha Consulting at least $14.7 million before cutting off payments and launching an investigation into the performance of the information technology vendor, said Jeff Kissel, the Connector's executive director.

Mansha's main role was project manager, supervising the work of the Connector's IT developer CGI Group Inc., which won $74.2 million in contracts but delivered a problem-plagued system that opened two weeks late in October 2013. It also was assigned to resolve data transfer problems between the Connector and Medicaid health insurance program for low-income residents.

Virginia-based Mansha, which rents space in a shared office in Hono­lulu's Waterfront Plaza, is listed in a state audit of the Connector as the second-highest-paid vendor with roughly $22 million in contracts....

Michelle Stawinski, a Maryland-based attorney for Mansha, told the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser that Mansha is owed $4.2 million for work it completed from July to December. Mansha laid off more than a dozen workers because it was not getting paid by the Connector, she said.

The Connector has never informed Mansha why it is withholding payments, Stawinski said. She defended Mansha's work, saying the firm provided monthly reports of its work to the Connector, some as long as 75 pages.

"The Connector has ignored us," Stawinski said. "If they are doing an investigation, they're doing it without us knowing. I don't know how they can do an investigation without talking to anyone. Nobody's even asked us for a copy of the contract." ...

Jan Yamane, the acting state auditor, said she is conducting a separate audit on Mansha. Yamane said she was unable to determine whether fees paid to Mansha were reasonable because the Connector didn't provide her with information requested.

"We are concerned about the Mansha contract because the Connector entered into a sole source (or no-bid) $12.4 million contract with Mansha to serve as systems integrator for the Connector system and the DHS system … despite serious concerns raised by the board," Yamane said in her recent audit.

In the audit, Yamane said the Connector's former executive director, Coral Andrews, originally hired Mansha for $56,000 to help the organization prepare for a design review of its IT system. It later amended the contract and increased the amount to $168,000. Another contract, for $12.4 million, was amended three times until reaching $21.9 million.

Kissel said he does not know how much money the Connector owes Mansha.

"The trouble is we are not exactly certain. That is why we have an independent investigation underway," Kissel said....

The state Office of Information Management and Technology recognized Mansha as Contractor of the Year in 2013, and several OIMT staff members were hired by Mansha after the company started its work with the Connector.

read ... Contractor of the Year

Ige land agency nominees: Ill Will and Bling, Just Ask Neil

Shapiro: The ill will Gov. David Ige generated by naming Castle and Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources is compounded by his adamant refusal to explain his rationale for turning over state lands — our precious jewels — to a guy known for making bling.

For good measure, as Ching's first deputy Ige named Kekoa Kaluhiwa, a lobbyist for Young Bros. and Horizon Lines who also has little experience managing natural resources.

The governor has blown off questions about his reasoning other than to say he likes Ching's heart and wants change at DLNR.

He won't specify what change he seeks, but it isn't hard to guess the change we can expect from former lobbyists for big-money special interests.

Ige seems confident he has the votes to power Ching through Senate confirmation, a good bet considering Ching's lobbyist work spreading Castle and Cooke's love to members of the Legislature.

But resorting to power politics over public transparency has a steep price in lost trust with key constituencies. Ask Neil Abercrombie.

read ... Ask Neil

Star-Adv: Big Island Electric Co-op Must be Heard

SA: One party that makes a persuasive case for inclusion is the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative, an entity that seeks to run the Big Island's power utility as a co-op, the same model already in operation by the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.

ACCORDING to its application announcement last week, HIEC "is not taking a position in favor of or opposition to the proposed merger at this time." Instead, its organizers said, the cooperative "seeks to bring to the proceedings its specific focus on the energy needs of Hawaii Island and its unique perspective on potential cooperative ownership structures."

Indeed, the island has a unique viewpoint that should be allowed to inform the process and enlighten the prospective buyers of the utility. Hawaii island has a particularly rich cache of natural energy resources, with its geothermal potential the most promising. According to the Hawaii State Energy Office, geothermal yields only about 2 percent of electricity generation statewide, but on Hawaii island it delivered about one-fourth of total electricity distributed, according to 2013 figures. For Hawaii island, energy self-sufficiency is a possibility, not a pipe dream.

It's not at all clear what the path forward is for this co-op. NextEra could insist that it retain control of the island subsidiary, Hawaii Electric Light Co. But it's smart that this county's leaders be on hand to present their perspective and expectations for their power utility. NextEra needs to hear them.

Related: Big Island Group Proposes Electric Co-Op

read ... Hear the Co-op

HGEA Negotiations Underway, Contract Expires June 30

PBN: HGEA has five contracts expiring on June 30 and is currently in negotiations for their successor contracts, which would become effective on July 1. The groups, or units, currently negotiating contracts include blue-collar supervisors, clerical, white-collar supervisors, non-faculty, administrative and technical employees within the UH system and registered nurses.

Negotiations slowed during the elections but picked up once Gov. David Ige's administration settled in. Perreira is hopeful, saying, "We don't anticipate contentious negotiations."

A new unit, which includes lifeguards and state law enforcement like sheriffs and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement officers, was created in the 2013 legislative session and is negotiating its first contract, which will go into effect on July 1.

The current UHPA contract expires this year on June 30. However, Musto negotiated a contract that was approved by then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Board of Regents which begins in July and lasts until June 2017. "It was my hope to negotiate a successor contract that would allow UH with the new president and UHPA organizationally in a period of transition," said Musto, who is retiring this August.

read ... State of Hawaii's labor unions

Pesticide Bill Targets Agriculture, Ignores other Users

SA: Mention the word "pesticides" in mixed company and you're likely to get mixed reactions.

What many do not realize is that pesticides are vitally necessary for our health, safety and well being, and that many of the fearful perceptions are actually misperceptions.

Consider what it would be like in Hawaii if we could not fumigate our homes for termites. Consider the first impression of visitors to our islands if they arrived at our beautiful resorts only to be greeted with landscaping overwhelmed by weeds or destroyed by insects. And what would it be like if we could not defend our crops and native plants from invasive species?

Whether we realize it or not, pesticides are used by all sectors of our community here in the islands.

A proposed legislative bill unfairly targets commercial agricultural use of pesticides.

Related: USDA: Pesticides, Chemicals, and Synthetic Ingredients Used in 'Organic' Food

read ... Target Agriculture

Affordable Housing Plan Will Take Decades, At the End the Problem will be Worse Than it is Now

SA: In 2011, a state report projected that more than 24,500 units would be needed to meet Oahu's affordable-housing shortage through 2016. Yet the number of affordable units built since then combined with what's in the pipeline through next year equals just 1,608 units, less than 7 percent of the projected need.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell's Islandwide Housing Strategy, which was introduced in September and is making its way into bills and rule changes, takes aim at the deficit through housing programs for the homeless, accessory dwelling units, development along the rail line and other plans. In calculating delivery rates for the new strategy late last year, administration officials determined that it would be 2029 before Oahu meets that estimated 2016 affordable-housing demand if all goes to plan and with help from the state.

"It took decades to build up the deficit, so it will take time to address the pent-up demand,"said Harrison Rue, administrator of the city's transit-oriented development program.

Rue estimated about 8,000 more affordable housing units, split between the city and state, could be made available on Oahu every five years if the government and private sector adopt the strategy crafted by Caldwell's administration. He also said the coming rail system will spur growth but will take decades to deliver.

Craig K. Hirai, executive director of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., said the state will work with the city to develop affordable housing along the rail line. Hirai said the state delivered 940 units statewide last year and will add 6,628 more over the next five years. However, he noted, the market isn't ready to meet the full demand.

"Zoned land, water, sewer, willing developers, financing, labor need to be in place," he said. "The housing market also is cyclical and tied to economic growth, which can be unpredictable."

Making matters worse, one recent estimate has the affordable housing hole only getting deeper.

Oahu-based real estate consultant Ricky Cassiday, who recently updated the 2011 Hawai‘i Housing Planning Study for the state, says Oahu's housing need could be as high as 33,100 affordable units through 2029.

read ... Government Planning Epitomized

Hawaii vets express skepticism over possible changes to retirement pay

HNN: The recommendations come from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which was established by Congress in 2013. Those recommendations would affect all military personnel, including the 120,000 veterans and 50,000 active military in Hawaii.

"Every category of service, every level of service, from retirees, active, National Guard and Reserve and families, and see if we could do something better," said Rep. Mark Takai (D-1st Congressional District).

Many veterans who spoke at a meeting Saturday at the Oahu Veterans Center expressed skepticism that the changes are better.

"The compensation committee was given the role of, 'How do you cut our retirement?' And they came up with fancy ways to cut our retirement," said veteran Caz Ross.

The recommended changes include having the government contribute to something similar to a 401(k) investment account. But critics say that unless active service members also contribute to the account, they risk having less money for retirement.

"You invest your money there and you'll get a whole bunch of money," said Ross. "We'll pay you less but in the long run, because you have a good manager, you'll make more. But that's not true."

A survey conducted by the Military Officers Association of America also registered opposition. "The active duty population, 71 percent prefer the current retirement model," said Mark Torreano, president of the association's Hawaii Chapter.

Overall, reaction to the 15 recommendations was mixed, with some concerned that it will harm the all-volunteer military.

Full Text: Report

read ... Skepticism

Kauai: Another Wave of Mass Hysteria

KE: Kauai is getting so, well, weird.

Or as a friend aptly described the creepy vibe:  The level of hysteria that buzzes like EMF around this rock.

Take the folks in Wailua Rise, who are already convinced a heinous neighbor is deliberately poisoning pets although Penny Cistaro, the Kauai Humane Society director, says:  “The thing with antifreeze is it doesn’t need to be intentional,” she said.  Vehicles leaking antifreeze are as deadly to pets as someone leaving it out in bowls to kill unwanted animals. Older vehicles that haven’t flushed the cooling systems are especially dangerous, she said.

Sure hope they don't string up a neighbor only to discover it's one of their own cars doing the deadly leak.

But that's Kauai. Jump to the worst possible conclusions first, then maybe ask questions and possibly even gather some evidence way later, after everybody is all freaked out.  And be sure to blame someone else, rather than take any personal responsibility....

read ... Democracy Devolves into Anarchy

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