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Tuesday, May 19, 2015
May 19, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:52 PM :: 3828 Views

Stirring the Hysteria Pot

Hawaii’s health care collapse a bad omen for state Obamacare exchanges

Out of Reach 2015: Hawaii Most Unaffordable Rentals in USA

Study: Hawaii 12th Best State for Military Retirees

Kicked out of Public Housing, 1 in 12 COFA Migrants now Homeless

SA: ...The 1996 act was part of a major overhaul of the welfare system, which left many low-income COFA migrants — in the U.S. legally, working and paying taxes — without access to health care coverage available to qualified immigrants. For sound policy reasons, states like Hawaii did not want to deny legal residents access to basic medical care. So they got the bill.

Until recently, the cost to Hawaii was about $58.3 million a year to cover COFA individuals, according to the state Department of Human Services. Over the years, the state has tried to reduce its costs by reducing coverage, efforts that met with protests and legal challenges. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the state was under no obligation to fill the gaping hole left by the federal government; but given that the migrants weren't just going to leave, the state prudently chose to provide an alternative solution.

On March 1, DHS transferred 7,617 adult able-bodied COFA individuals to the Hawaii Health Connector, the local conduit to federally subsidized Affordable Care Act health insurance plans. The state continues to provide the most vulnerable COFA migrants, including the aged, blind, disabled, children and pregnant women, with full state-funded Medicaid coverage.

Because of these changes, the state managed to reduce its costs to provide medical assistance to COFA individuals from $58.3 million to a projected $29.1 million. This may be a better deal for the state, but it's no bargain.

Unlike Medicaid, COFA migrants must pay certain costs with the Connector, itself a troubled program whose survival is threatened because of non-compliance with federal rules. For some, even the ACA plans may prove too burdensome — the insured must cover such costs as co-payments, deductibles and premiums. DHS' Premium Assistance Program helps, by paying the premiums for eligible COFA migrants and legally permanent residents who have incomes less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

But additional out-of-pocket costs could discourage those already living hand-to-mouth from going to the doctor, leading to much more expensive medical care to correct undiagnosed or untreated ailments.

This is especially disconcerting when so many are living in squalor on the streets, as can be seen in Kakaako's tent cities, where a vast majority of those homeless appear to be from Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. It's been estimated that of the 12,000 COFA migrants in Hawaii, more than 1,000 of them are homeless. And there is no end in sight: Residents of COFA nations will continue to establish residency in the U.S. — as is their legal right. As city and state officials continue to dither, the tent cities grow and harden. Without more federal help, the state's costs undoubtedly will increase....

Background: "They're getting kicked out of public housing and they're ending up on the streets"

read ... Homelessness

Okabe Makes Excuses for Union Election Re-Vote

KHON: A decision by the Hawaii State Teachers Association to throw out the results of a statewide election raised some eyebrows, but the union clarified on Monday that ballot distribution issues were to blame.

HSTA president Wil Okabe wrote in an email that many teachers as well as board members reported not receiving ballots, either email or mailed ballots. In addition, the email said, issues were raised about possible campaign violations in the distribution of campaign materials at schools and HSTA events as well as regarding candidates asking faculty to place campaign materials in areas of the school that are prohibited by law.

Okabe added the company responsible for distributing and counting the votes made a number of errors, including releasing the email ballot count before the actual count date and not providing a visual count of ballots for observers and candidates as required.

According to the email, 21 out of 29 of the board members – comprised of public school teachers who all serve as elected volunteers – voted for a re-vote. However, there was no specific information on when the re-vote would take place.

CB: Hawaii Teachers Deserve better from their Leadership

read ... Okabe's Team Lost so they're trying again

HART's 'Tough Year' Behind Resignations?

SA: Robert Bunda, the former state senator who has been serving on the board of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, is relinquishing his spot three years early, indicating family reasons. Fellow board member Carrie Okinaga also will step down if the University of Hawaii Board of Regents approves her hiring as general counsel for the UH system.

It's been a tough year for HART, a very tough year. High construction bids, unexpected costs, fights for expanded tax financing, all that.

Drawing any link between the stress and the departures would be just conjecture, of course. But you've got to wonder if there's some connection.

read ... Stress

As HCDA board changes, so does the discussion

Borreca: Some of Kakaako's severest critics are noticing changes in how the Hawaii Community Development Authority is working.

In a nutshell, they say the HCDA board is working and not rubber-stamping.

Rep. Scott Saiki, the House Democratic leader who represents Kakaako, said his plans to change the makeup of the HCDA board appear to be working.

"The board members are independent. They have studied the applications, they ask questions and they deliberate," Saiki said in an interview.

"The board is meeting with interested community groups; that had not really happened before," Saiki said, explaining that in the past, while the HCDA executive director met with concerned community members, the board was not involved in the meetings. ...

John Whalen, the former Honolulu director of land utilization and an urban planner with 40 years experience, replaced union official Brian Lee as chairman of the HCDA.

Whalen is one of five new members appointed by Gov. David Ige, under the new guidelines in Saiki's legislation.

The veteran planner wants to work on three major changes in the HCDA culture.

First, Whalen is looking for some recognition of the problems with low-cost housing requirements. Whalen said he thinks that saying lower-cost units have to stay affordable for only 15 years is not realistic.

"It will disappear in 15 years and the prices will soar. We have to think long-term, that's my obsession," Whalen said in an interview.

That worry is already showing up as the HCDA has had four hearings on Howard Hughes Corp.'s plan for the corner of Ward Avenue and Halekauwila Street, which would feature a 424-unit, 43-story condominium called 988 Halekauwila. The debate is over how much of it would be affordable and for how long. The developer wants 15 years; some HCDA board members want 30 years.

Whalen also is looking at the relationship between the Kakaako Makai lands, Kakaako Waterfront Park and Ala Moana Park. Thinking that this entire area should be planned, organized and dedicated for park purposes, Whalen wants "really quality open spaces for recreation."

read ... HCDA

Will Congressional Delegation Let Obamacare Punish Hawaii?

MN ...Almost exactly a year ago, state legislators were assailing Michael Gold, president of the Hawaii Medical Service Association, for suggesting that Hawaii didn't need a health insurance exchange because the state's Prepaid Health Care Act worked so well there wasn't a big enough market to support it.

Gold suggested that Hawaii should ask for a waiver "to get out from under" the Hawaii Health Connector. While waivers under the federal Affordable Care Act are not supposed to be allowed until 2017, Gold argued the state should have formally asked for one because Hawaii's 40-year-old Prepaid Health Care Act could easily be expanded to take care of the relatively few uninsured.

Without the expense of the Hawaii Health Connector.

Gold may have been asking the impossible: requesting the federal government to use common sense to allow a system that works to expand into the one small sector it missed.

Now, here we are a year later and, guess what - the Hawaii Health Connector is not in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. The chief reason? Because it is not financially sustainable.

The noncompliance puts federal funds for Medicaid at risk. Medicaid is the program that covers medical costs for the poor.

Gov. David Ige should seek help from Hawaii's federal congressional delegation to convince the federal government that fixing a nation's health care problems doesn't have to mean punishing a state that already has a working system.

read ... Common sense and health care

View from Mauna Kea: Looking Forward or Looking Back?

CB: “The THINK fund helps our kids not fortunate enough to have gotten a Kamehameha Schools education. They are the ones who need help. Once you get an education, no one can take it away.” — Richard Ha

Higher education is the great equalizer, the best weapon against racism and injustice, and the key to righting past wrongs. Education and economic opportunity are a one-way ticket to a better life. Yet, too many of Hawaii’s best and brightest go to the mainland to study or find better paying jobs and more affordable homes everywhere but here. This brain drain hurts local communities, especially on the Big Island where there’s a shortage of doctors, health care practitioners, professional services and skilled trades.

Lack of opportunity for professional growth in the islands limit options for entrepreneurship and creating a technically literate, knowledge-based economy. Hawaii County has the lowest median family income in the state, and Puna District schools are in the top four for free/subsidized lunches. Isn’t a modern society and strong middle class a more solid foundation on which to rebuild a nation?

“Our ancestors cherished knowledge and prioritized the future of their children.” — Alexis Acohido

The Kingdom of Hawaii valued education, literacy, innovation — and adventure.  The TMT is not only in line with these values, it would be a giant monument to the sacred quest for knowledge and daring exploration that led the original Hawaiians to discover new worlds.

“Mauna Kea is the celestial portal into the universe. Mauna Kea, like life, is sacred, and we need to proceed with the important work of ensuring our future.” — Chad Kalepa Baybayan

read ... Telescope

Dates Set for Third Hawaii Teachers Union Election This Year

CB: The third election this year for leadership of the Hawaii State Teachers Association will be held June 2 — the day before classes end at many campuses.

Unlike the previous two elections, this time teachers will be asked to cast their vote in person. Teachers who are unable to do so will have until May 26 to request an absentee ballot from the HSTA office.

The new election is being held after the union’s Board of Directors voted Saturday to toss out the previous results because of “voting irregularities.” The decision has been criticized on social media by a number of teachers who want more information about the vote count and the irregularities.

Related: HSTA Refuses to Certify Union Election after Insurgents Win

read ... Third

Worthless Election Commission retains embattled election chief Scott Nago for another 4 Years

HNN: After an hour-long executive session, the State of Hawaii Election Commission announced a vote of confidence for Scott Nago.

"The Commission has voted today to retain Scott Nago as Chief Election Officer," commission chairman William Marston said.

The vote was 6 to 3. Nago gets another four-year term.

"I'm grateful but we still gotta do the election," Nago said.

"When I needed clarifications of processes because the elections process we deal with is overwhelming, the Chief Election Officer was there," Maui County clerk Danny Mateo told commission members.

"My experience compared to other states, we have somebody who really cares" election observer Cindy Vaillancourt said.

Some believe a bill before Gov. David Ige makes it easier for the Commission to fire the Election Chief. Marston disagrees.

read ... Just Another Worthless Commission

Work furlough, prison ‘escapes’ don’t always lead to charges

KHON: Inmate escapes have nearly tripled in Hawaii over the past few years and every time it happens, officials say there will be consequences.

So why are there so many if the punishment is supposedly so stiff? Always Investigating found some surprising breakdowns in the system.

There are dozens of felons who have escaped from prison and work furlough — some of them years ago — who have not had the often-promised escape charges tacked on to their records and sentences. So who is to blame?

It may sound like old news every time we report another jail escape or furlough walkway. It’s almost a weekly pace. The number has nearly tripled in just a few years, from 19 in 2012 to 54 last year and 22 so far this year alone.

This follows a doubling of inmates given work furlough privileges in the same period, and most of the escapes are people in that program....

Always Investigating found cases across the state stalled just about every step of the way, from corrections workers unresponsive to police, to police not referring cases to prosecutors yet, files found in prosecutors’ offices after we called, some stalled without explanation yet somewhere along the line, and many others where the agencies are debating who is responsible.

Sometimes during all this back and forth, some people are going outright free, including a registered sex offender who didn’t get charged with escape, served his other time and got out....

Just under half of the 129 escapes since 2012 have been convicted for it....  even those five years are usually not tacked to the end of their other time. Instead, they’re handed out concurrently and judges are giving getting credit for time served. Always Investigating found some who walked out of jail free as soon as a year and a half after their escape.

As for those charged but not yet convicted, about 16 pending cases, some escaped back in 2013.

read ... Furlough

How Will We Restore Trust in Hawaii’s Police?

CB:  The senator who killed most reform measures this session says he doesn't want to punish all police officers for the actions of a few bad actors.

read ... Trust?

Honolulu Prosecutor to Hawaii Governor: Veto the Sex Trafficking Bill

CB: Senate Bill 265 received unanimous support in the Legislature, and was lauded by advocates as a paradigm shift for a state that’s known for lenient enforcement of prostitution and sex trafficking. The bill’s main goal was to treat those forced into prostitution as victims instead of criminals, in part by providing them with witness protection services and the ability to collect damages.

But Kaneshiro told Civil Beat that SB265 adds several new provisions to the state’s “promoting prostitution” statute that will effectively limit his ability to gain convictions in sex trafficking cases....

read ... Veto

Caldwell signs bills creating Waikiki Tax Hike district

SA: Property and business owners in Waikiki will be required to pay into the district under Bills 81 (2014) and 82 (2014). The plan was backed by the Waikiki Improvement Association and the Hawai’i Lodging & Tourism Association.

Advocates for Kapiolani Park, the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium and Kaimana Beach all initially opposed the bill because they worried about the potential impact on those facilities.

As a result, the City Council stopped the border of the district from going further east than Kapahulu Avenue....

Initial plans call for the owners of commercial properties to pay $7.63 per $1,000 of assessed value of their land. The goal is to collect $600,000 annually.

Link: Ordinances

read ... Tax Hike

Hawaii Foster Children More Likely to be Placed with Extended Family

SA: ...Children in foster care in Hawaii are far likelier than those in other states to live with a family, rather than in a group setting, and to be placed with relatives, new data show.

When kids are removed from their homes in Hawaii because of abuse or neglect, 92 percent are placed in families, well above the national average of 84 percent, according to a Kids Count report, "Every Kid Needs a Family," released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The ratio ranges from a low of 64 percent in Colo­rado to a high of 94 percent in Oregon, Washington state, Nevada and Maine.

"As a state, we are ahead of the curve in terms of placement with family, and we're ahead of the curve in terms of a low rate of re-abuse," said Laurie Tochiki, executive director of EPIC Ohana, a nonprofit that works to strengthen families and support foster youth.

"Honestly, I think a big part of that is that Hawaii is ahead in terms of really bringing in the extended ohana to support the families when they're in trouble."

The Kids Count report said group placements, including institutions, are the least favorable setting for children in foster care. Nationally, on any given day, 1 in 7 foster children are living in group placements. For teens the ratio jumps to 1 out of every 3, the report said....

CB: Gays Attack Hawaiian Culture, ‘Multi-Generational Families’ Use Feds to Pressure Hawaii DoE Bullying Programs

read ... Extended Family 

Pro-Life Rally at UH Manoa

CP: The University of Hawaii has been conducting research testing if oxytocin can reduce bleeding in mothers during and after abortions. The researchers conduct testing on girls as young as 14-years old, on second trimester abortions, where the child has a fetal anomaly.

Students for Life of America is particularly troubled by how no information has been given on who is funding the study.

Kristina Hernandez, of Students for Life of America mentioned that "[m]ore than a half dozen pro-life leaders and students spoke at the rally on the campus of the University of Hawaii-Manoa." She also points out that "Hawaii has some of the most lenient abortion laws in the entire country, and a majority of legislators are pro-abortion."

Despite the state's sentiment on abortion, the group is calling on Hawaii to investigate the research study.

read ... Pro-Life

Advocacy group: Wind turbine rules needed to protect birds in Hawaii

PO: A new analysis by the American Bird Conservancy said more than 30,000 of the existing 48,000 turbines are in places that government agencies or nonprofit organizations such as the National Audubon Society describe as having special significance to birds. More than 50,000 others are planned for construction in such locations—about half of all turbines on the drawing board nationwide, according to the study, which the conservancy provided to The Associated Press.

Locations that the group considers sensitive range from the Prairie Pothole region of the Great Plains, home to the threatened piping plover, to the entire state of Hawaii, where 32 bird species that exist only there are listed as endangered or threatened. Another is Huron County, at the tip of Michigan's Thumb, where 328 turbines already generate power and local officials have approved 50 more.

"Wind turbines are among the fastest-growing threats to our nation's birds," said Michael Hutchins, coordinator of a conservancy program that encourages "bird smart" wind energy production.

The AP produced similar results after independently calculating data on which the conservancy based its report. The group used data from the U.S. Geological Survey, which keeps records of existing turbines, and the Federal Aviation Administration, which developers are required to notify before building new ones.

The conservancy said more than 96,000 planned turbines nationwide were listed in the FAA database

read ... Bird Killers

EPA Creates Fake 'Public Comments' to Back its Initiatives

AP: Gina McCarthy, the agency's administrator, told a Senate committee in March that the agency had received more than 1 million comments, and nearly 90 percent favored the agency's proposal. McCarthy is expected to cite those comments to justify the final rule, which the agency plans to unveil this week.

But critics say there is a reason for the overwhelming result: The EPA had a hand in manufacturing it....

At minimum, the actions of the agency are highly unusual. "The agency is supposed to be more of an honest broker, not a partisan advocate in this process," said Jeffrey W. Lubbers, a professor of practice in administrative law at the American University Washington College of Law and the author of the book "A Guide to Federal Agency Rulemaking."

"I have not seen before from a federal agency this stark of an effort to generate endorsements of a proposal during the open comment period," he said....

The most contentious part of the EPA's campaign was deploying Thunderclap, a social media tool that spread the agency's message to hundreds of thousands of people — a "virtual flash mob," in the words of Travis Loop, the head of communications for EPA's water division.

The architect of the EPA's new public outreach strategy is Thomas Reynolds, a former Obama campaign aide who was appointed in 2013 as an associate administrator. "We are just borrowing new methods that have proven themselves as being effective," he said.

But industry critics said the agency's actions might be violating federal lobbying laws.

read ... Fake Support

1985: Democrats Punish Three For Switching to Republican

SA: George Akahane, Toraki Matsumoto and Rudy Pacarro became household names on Oahu when the three Demo­crats, in the middle of their Council terms, chose to switch to the Republican Party with the backing of the late Mayor Frank Fasi, who had also switched to an "R" from a "D."

According to a New York Times story, enraged Demo­cratic leaders led by former Council Chairwoman Patsy Mink, U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Ino­uye and Gov. George Ari­yo­shi launched a recall campaign against all three men. Despite heavy lobbying from Republicans, which included taped radio and television commercials by the most famous of all Demo­crat-turned-Republican politicians, President Ronald Reagan, the three men were turned out of office.

Matsumoto lost 8,854-7,896. An attempt to regain the seat in the following year's election, as a Republican, was also unsuccessful.

read ... One Party System



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