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Wednesday, July 22, 2015
July 22, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:50 PM :: 4893 Views

FULL TEXT: Ige Administration Testimony Against NextEra Merger

Video: Planned Parenthood Senior Executive Haggles Over Baby Parts Prices

Cities Americans are Leaving: Honolulu Ranks 4th

Nai Aupuni Bylaws Confirm it is Running a State Election

Caldwell Shuts Down Investigation of Hanabusa, Kealoha

HNN:  The administration of Mayor Kirk Caldwell has refused to renew the contract of the city Ethics Commission's only investigator, bringing some politically sensitive ethics cases to a halt at the end of June.  City Managing Director Roy Amemiya refused to extend an 89-day contract for Letha DeCaires, a retired HPD captain who is the commission’s only investigator, but then OK’d a shorter 59-day contract that still has not been signed and officially approved.

For the last three weeks, that means there’s been no investigator to handle the 17 city investigations involving 45 to 50 witnesses, according to a staff report from the Ethics Commission.

In May, Hawaii News Now revealed that Police Chief Louis Kealoha is the focus of an ethics investigation to determine whether he over stepped his authority when the police department had a homicide detective and two specialized HPD units investigate the case of a mailbox stolen from the chief's Kahala home.

Friday, HNN reported that former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa is representing Council members Ann Kobayashi and Ikaika Anderson as well as former Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz in an ethics probe of whether they illegally accepted lavish meals from lobbyists and failed to disclose them.

DeCaires, who used to run the police department’s Crimestoppers program, is the sole investigator working on those complex cases....

read ... Caldwell Saves 17 Crooks

Telescope Protesters Time Filings Around Giant Waikiki Astronomy Conference

SA: A request for a contested case hearing seeking to overturn the emergency rule limiting nighttime access on Mauna Kea will be considered by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Aug. 14. (Last day of giant astronomy conference in Waikiki)

But University of Hawaii law professor Williamson Chang said he might end up filing the case in state court sooner because the date assigned to the request is too far away.

Chang filed the petition on behalf of Hawaii island residents Kelii W. Iaone Jr. of Hilo and Hanalei Fergerstrom of Kurtistown, who object to the emergency rule approved by the Land Board on July 10 prohibiting nonvehicular traffic in the summit area between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., plus camping gear at any time.

In his filing, Chang also included petitions asking for a declaratory ruling and repeal of ruling that also seek to upend the emergency 120-day rule.

read ... Timing is Everything

Hawaiian Electric: Suddenly Everybody Wants to Defend their Monopoly

ILind: ...And then there are those social impacts of Hawaiian Electric that are highlighted by the Office of State Planning. Before the merger, these were seen, more often than not, as problems associated with the company’s monopoly position, and the power it derived from its impact on employment and politics, its interlocks with other parts of the local power structure, were widely considered problematic by many of the same interests that now oppose the merger with NextEra.

The rest of our economy has pretty much been taken over and integrated into the wide world of corporate ownership and finance. Local media? Out of state owners. Hotels? National and international owners. Retail chains? Largely national ownership. The days of the locally owned “Big Five” are long gone, and there really isn’t much nostalgia for those old days. So why the sudden outspoken fear that out of state ownership of the local utility will be a game changer, while outside ownership of other major parts of our island life now goes without comment? ...

SA: Multiple power outages reported around Oahu due to power surges

read ... Do criticisms of HEI-NextEra deal move us towards a desired energy future?

NextEra-Hawaiian Electric not backing down after Gov. David Ige, others oppose $4.3B sale

PBN: NextEra Energy Inc., which is proposing to buy Hawaiian Electric Co. for $4.3 billion, is not backing down after a majority of intervenors and Hawaii Gov. David Ige came out in opposition of the sale, a spokesman for the Florida energy giant told PBN Tuesday.

"NextEra Energy and the Hawaiian Electric Companies believe that this merger truly is in the best interest of the state of Hawaii, and in particular, Hawaiian Electric’s customers,” Rob Gould, spokesman for NextEra Energy, told PBN in an email. "That said, we know that the public interest is more than economic benefits. To that end, we have made commitments to employees, community causes and for the establishment of a local independent advisory board, and we will listen to and work with all stakeholders to achieve what’s best for the State of Hawaii and Hawaiian Electric’s customers.” ...

The County of Hawaii said that "there is significant lack of transparency with this transaction in terms of ‘what, how, and when things will be done.'"

"Further, the ratepayer is not guaranteed any cost-reductions," the County of Hawaii said in its preliminary statement of position....

The Hawaii Consumer Advocate, a party in the case, is expected to come out with its preliminary statement of position next month.

The sale, which was announced in December, still needs the approval of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. The deal could be finalized as early as the end of the year or as late as June 2016....

read ... Not Backing Down

Lawmakers looking at other alternatives over NextEra-HECO sale

PBN: Hawaii lawmakers are quietly looking at other alternatives should the NextEra Energy Inc. $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co. not go through, the state representative overseeing the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection told PBN Tuesday.

“Whether the NextEra deal is approved or not, that remains an open question, so until then, we have an obligation, as policymakers, to start to look at what the alternatives are, should the deal not go through,” State Rep. Chris Lee, D-Kailua-Waimanalo, (representing solar contractors) who heads up the aforementioned committee, told PBN. “Do we have suitors coming in, potentially wanting to take NextEra’s place? Does HECO have a transition plan, HECO 2.0, or do we want to move to public utilities to take a look at benefits that can be provided. All of these things, we have to start the conversation on to be prepared should NextEra be approved for not.” ...

Earlier this year, the Hawaii House of Representatives adopted House Resolution 158, urging the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to protect the public interest in reviewing the proposed acquisition, among other requests.

The resolution noted that after the two companies announced the acquisition in December, NextEra Energy has “acted in a manner that does not reflect the good faith that had been promised to ensure that the acquisition would benefit Hawaii’s ratepayers.”

IM: Hawaiian Electric Company's future without NextEra

read ... Alternatives

Squabbles over rail reflect divisions among legislators

Borreca: Gov. David Ige signed the rail-rescue bill, saying just that he approved this project and wouldn’t be distracted by talk of other plans.

Inside that story are layers and lawyers, machinations running from not just funding the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit’s plans, but also the future of the 76 lawmakers who voted for the extension.

Lawmakers now point out that Caldwell was less than forthcoming in his lobbying for more money for the controversial project....

Several things are happening within this drama. First, rail is still plowing forward, the city is still getting more money from taxpayers and Caldwell is expected to argue still for a permanent tax increase.

Second, rail is becoming a powerful target. Being in favor will not provide a smooth election. For a majority of this year’s Legislature, the tax bailout vote was their first public stand for or against rail. Only a handful of representatives and senators were around for the 2005 vote authorizing the rail tax.

Saiki and Luke held their noses and voted for the tax this time, but in 2005 they voted no and they are still not fans of either Caldwell or the rail plan. House Speaker Joe Souki, however, loves rail and was the real political muscle behind the bill passing this year.

In some legislative circles, attacking Caldwell also is seen as an attack on Souki....

The harsh words for Caldwell are interpreted by some in the Legislature as a move by Souki’s foes to distance themselves from Souki and give themselves room to maneuver. Saiki says no coup is underway and the House’s internal dynamics didn’t play a part in his lecturing Caldwell.

Either way, Honolulu’s rail will continue to make for perilous politics.

read ... Squabbles

Hawaii County Council Finally Finds a Way to pretend to do Something About P-Card Corruption Without Hurting their Precious Billy

HTH: Hawaii County Council members say they are prepared to take action on a recent audit recommendation that the nine-member body address gaps in the county’s purchasing card policy.

“I think it is incumbent upon the council to follow through with the recommendations of clarifying the county code to be in line with state (Hawaii Revised Statutes) in dealing with adjustments and exceptions,” Council Chairman Dru Kanuha said in an email. “It is also important that the rest of the recommendations be fulfilled.”

Doing so, Kanuha said, would ensure accountability throughout the county.

The audit, released Friday by Legislative Auditor Bonnie Nims, found that misuse of the county purchasing cards, or pCards, was limited to Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office and the Department of Liquor Control. It found 164 transactions totaling $29,961 that did not follow county policy, had a questionable public purpose and might have violated state law.

In the 27-page report, Nims made several recommendations, including that the council revise the language of the county code to “clarify that authorized exceptions for travel and other expenses are still required to follow state law requiring public funds to be used for a public purpose.”

SA: Questionable pCard spending tops $20,000

read ... Phony

SLATE Debunks Anti-GMO UH Professor

KE: Hector Valenzuela, a College of Tropical Ag professor, and The Hawaii Independent are perpetuating another con job, one in which they agree that poor Hector has been hectored by the University of Hawaii for his anti-biotech stance.

As proof, they reference an article written by Paul Koberstein — one of those paid by the Media Consortium to write anti-GMO articles in Hawaii — and printed in the misnamed Independent, whose publisher, Ikaika Hussey, is on the board of Gary Hooser's anti-GMO HAPA group.

Koberstein quotes Hector as saying: I am not an anti-GMO person, and I have never served as a spokesman for any anti-GMO group.

Yeah, I guess it's just a coincidence that for years Hector has been a prominent presence at just about every anti-GMO rally, meeting and march in the state; never missed an opportunity to utter anti-GMO quotes to the media, and offered “expert” testimony against biotech to both the Hawaii County Council and as a witness for SHAKA's anti-GMO moratorium.

The real problem with Hector is he has a tendency to play fast and loose with the truth, which doesn't endear to him to colleagues who value objectivity and scientific credibility. As a recent article in Slate reported:

Hector Valenzuela, a University of Hawaii crop specialist who also testified as an expert, said the same thing [as anti-GMO activist Jeffrey Smith]: that scientists hadn’t “conducted a single study” to assess the safety of GE papaya. Neither man mentioned the Chinese papaya feeding study in rats—published two months before the theoretical paper Smith had cited—which had found none of the harms Smith alleged.

As for Japan’s approval of the papaya, Valenzuela advised the council to look at U.S. government cables released by WikiLeaks. He said the cables showed “the lengths that the State Department goes to twist arms behind the scenes.” This was a clear insinuation that U.S. officials had coerced Japan’s decision. Smith mentioned the cables, too. But the cables showed no conspiracy. Nearly 6,000 of the leaked cables had been sent from U.S. embassies and consulates in Japan. They covered the years 2005 to 2010, during which Japanese regulators had debated and approved the GE papaya. Food & Water Watch, an environmental group, had searched the cables for references to pressure or lobbying by U.S. officials on behalf of GMOs. The group’s report, issued in May 2013, cited no cables that indicated any such activity in Japan.

Sadly, some 60 faculty members have bought into Hector's claim that his academic freedoms are being violated. After reading Koberstein's obviously biased article, they penned a letter to UH administrators, condemning the "academic freedom violations." Let's hope they employ a bit more discernment and critical thinking in their own classrooms, research and publications....

read ... Musings: Con Job Too

City Spends $750,000 a Year to Provide Trash Removal Services to Homeless Camps

CB: The biggest encampments are getting the most publicity as Honolulu grapples with (the mounds of trash associated with) homelessness, but it’s the smaller enclaves that a city crew clears away repeatedly in response to complaints. A Civil Beat analysis found 164 sweeps (clean-ups) occurred in the latest two-month period....

read ... Curbside Pickup

More Robberies, Assaults at Kakaako Homeless Camp

SA: ...Most recently, a homeless man was robbed by a gang wielding a metal pipe and a knife at about 11 a.m. Friday, court records say. The victim suffered cuts to his forehead, lip and forearm as well as scrapes to his knees and bruises and welts to his head from the attack at the intersection of Ohe and Ilalo streets.

According to a police affidavit, two teens approached the victim and asked to “sample” his bicycle, then attempted to take the bike when the victim declined. The victim told police that additional teens joined in, and someone with a metal pipe beat him while another cut him several times with a knife. The group eventually took the victim’s bicycle.

Minutes later an officer found suspect Filipo Faumuina, 22, shirtless and sweating heavily, walking away from the intersection.

The victim identified Faumuina as the man who asked to “sample” the bike and beat him with a metal pipe. Faumuina was arrested for investigation of robbery and nine warrants and charged Saturday with first-degree robbery. He is being held on $30,000 bail and has a preliminary hearing Wednesday. A source said both Faumuina and the victim live in the encampment.

In a separate incident at about 6 p.m. July 12, a 16-year-old girl approached a 41-year-old woman who was practicing Korean drumming at a Kakaako park and punched her several times in the face while attempting to take the woman’s $3,500 leather backpack, police said.

The girl ran away after a witness began honking her horn, but officers found the girl and arrested her for investigation of second-degree robbery.

Police said the girl was living at the homeless encampment....

read ... Mayhem

Questions about clearing Kakaako encampment

HNN: Outreach workers who serve that community tell Hawaii News Now they weren't included in any final decisions about how to effectively address the needs of the homeless who live there -- and they're hoping they will still get a chance to share their input before any action is taken.

Executive Director Scott Morishige of PHOCUSED (Protecting Hawai'i's Ohana Children Underserved Elderly and Disabled), an association of social service providers that has studied the homeless situation in Kaka'ako, says there is a general consesus among those non-profit organizations that displacing the people who live there without a permanent solution in place could make getting them off the streets tougher in the long run.

"What we've seen in Kaka'ako, I think, is that there was a pretty stable organized group of households there and I think within the past few months or so when you had new individuals moving into the area -- partly as a result of some of the recent city enforcements in the Downtown and Chinatown area --  that did have a destabilizing effect on the community," said Morishige.

45-year-old Bernandine Lalosin, who has lived in Kaka'ako for the last nine months after losing her apartment when she couldn't afford the increase in rent, says she has experienced that first-hand.

"When you get new faces coming in that's where it creates new problems. The more compact you are next to each other, the more pressure it is," described Lalosin, who likes the idea of a safe zone but says  ever-changing policies concern her.

"If there was a safe zone we would have been in it a long time ago.  When we got ticketed at Ala Moana park, the cops told us to come here where you can hitch up your tent and you don't have to worry, but now they're saying oh no you can't.  Instead they're making us leave by shoving us somewhere else -- I mean, that's not solving the problem," said Lalosin.

The Institute for Human Services Community Relations Director Kimo Carvalho says safe zones have proven effective when the rules are clear.

"A safe zone is a place that you can go to for refuge and to avoid criminal activity and violence and access services that guide you into a home or shelter setting that is ultimately the goal to access services to get off the street," said Carvalho. 

Hawaii News Now reached out to both the governor and Honolulu mayor's office for additional details, but none were provided.

The mayor and governor reportedly agreed on a plan to shut down the huge Kakaako homeless camp and move its residents to a managed 'safe zone' elsewhere in the area last week Friday. Sources tell Hawaii News Now that rising crime tied to homeless campers was one big reason for moving as soon as possible. The state is handing some law enforcement and land management jurisdiction over to the city.

The mayor met with social service providers last week to alert them that their help will be needed to address the problems of the camp, which is believed to have as many as 200 tents and structures. It developed as a result of tough enforcement by the city elsewhere and word among the homeless is that they would not be hassled in Kakaako.

Precisely as Predicted: Homeless tent cities: Seattle’s decade-long nightmare coming to Honolulu?

read ... Tent City

Honolulu home rents go through the roof

HNN: "It's really not paradise because I'm killing myself just to live here."

Ballard says she's sacrificing quality of life to have a roof over her head.   She says a move to the mainland might not be far off.

"I'm just thinking about the opportunities and the fact hat yeah I probably could get there an within a year or two get a home," said Ballard.

If Ballard moves out of her Moiliili studio apartment property manager Kawika Burgess says someone will take her place.  And he says they'll probably pay more.

"There is a strong demand for rental properties here on Oahu and Honolulu in particular,"  said Burgess.

Burgess' company, Real Property Management Alliance, shows a 3 bedroom home rental in Honolulu is now nearly $2,675 per month.    That's about $700 a month more than California and twice as much as the national average.   That's more than a 14-percent increase from last year...a trend far ahead of anywhere else.

" I think the demand is going to continue,." said Burgess.  "We read the population continues to grow faster than we are building homes here on the island of Oahu at least."

read ... Roof

Bird enthusiasts help defer Council bill

SA: A bill that would place strict rules on owners of birds in Oahu’s residential neighborhoods was deferred indefinitely to allow aviary groups and Kamehameha Heights residents time to work out a dispute with a man who has about 150 birds on his property.

The City Council Public Health, Safety and Welfare Committee shelved Bill 51 after more than a dozen bird enthusiasts and organizations spoke against it, calling it an unnecessary hardship on law-abiding pet owners since it appears the measure was targeted at a single bird owner.

read ... Birdbrain Council

Deadbeat Obamacare Connector Stiffs Two Contractors for $2.7M

PBN: Two vendors continue to seek a total of $2.7 million in reimbursement for services provided to the Hawaii Health Connector, the nonprofit health insurance exchanged confirmed Monday.

TurningPoint Global Solutions and Exeter Group have not received any payment for their work “performed at risk” without contracts since January, when federal funding was frozen, Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director Jeff Kissel said.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) froze the $70 million remainder of a $204 million federal grant early this year, after it found the Connector to be financially unsustainable. Nearly $130 million of the grant had been spent....

AP: Maryland health site contractor to pay $45M

read ... Deadbeat

The Queen's Medical Center, Kaiser rank best hospitals in Hawaii, U. S. News reports

PBN: The Queen’s Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente Hawaii have ranked as the best regional hospitals in the Islands, according to the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals 2015-16 report.

The two hospitals made eligibility requirements for the rankings because they provide a variety of clinical services and were found to be high performing in multiple arenas....

USNWR: Best Hospitals

read ... Best

Kauai veterans sound off on Trump’s controversial war hero remarks

KGI: Korean War veteran Steve Uyehara says Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “has no business talking about war heroes.”

“He himself stayed out of the Vietnam War because of exemptions,” he said. “He will never be a good U.S. president because all he does is open his mouth.”

Uyehara is referring to Trump’s comments during the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa on Saturday when the real estate mogul questioned Sen. John McCain’s, R-Arizona, status as a war hero.

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said. “I like people that weren’t captured.”

The GOP front-runner’s remarks have drawn criticism from the Republican establishment.

On top of that, military veterans like Uyehara interviewed by The Garden Island at the Kauai Veterans Center on Tuesday didn’t take too kindly to Trump’s criticism of McCain, who was a five-year prisoner of war in the infamous Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam.

read ... Sound Off

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