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Saturday, August 1, 2015
August 1, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:04 PM :: 3507 Views

Over 80% of Hawaiians Excluded -- Tribal 'Notice of Election' to be Mailed Monday

Travel Taxes: The Hidden Trifecta

Assault: HPD Officer Pleads Not Guilty, Asks for Jury Trial

DoTax Admits Manipulating Rail Tax Revenues, HART Promises New Financial Plan to justify more Tax Hikes

SA: The latest $38.9M shortfall almost wipes out the promising gains made in the previous two quarters, when the project's GET revenues came in more than $1 million and $9 million above what the financial plan projected, respectively. It continues a pattern of fluctuation that the project has seen from quarter to quarter, leaving rail officials generally confounded at what to expect.

State Department of Taxation officials have pointed to a lag in processing tax returns as a key reason for the swings. (Translation: DoTax is playing games with the numbers for political effect.) But HART officials (desperate to keep the charade alive) say that still doesn't fully explain why their revenues remain behind.

Last December, when rail leaders announced that the project faced as much as a $910 million shortfall, they cited a trend of lagging revenues as a key reason for the problem, along with rising construction costs in one of the most competitive markets in the U.S.

At that time, rail was about $41 million behind what it was supposed to have collected in GET revenues. The most recent updates put rail about $38.9 million behind.

To date the project has taken in more than $1.52 billion in GET revenues — after the state's 10 percent administrative skim off the top — and is tracking about 1.2 percent below the projections established under rail's financial plan, HART numbers show.

At Thursday's HART board meeting, incoming Chairman Don Horner said he was irked by "stale" budget numbers and financial figures being used to drive the project.

"I'm a little frustrated, I'm the type of person that needs a plan in front of me," Horner said during his opening remarks as the new chair. He succeeded Ivan Lui-Kwan, who had completed his term. "We've overpromised and underdelivered, as we sit here today. We need to correct that," Horner said.

HART expects to release an updated financial plan sometime this fall.  (Just in time to make the case for more tax hikes.)

KHON: $38.9M Short

read ... Hold Your Wallet

Rail Conflict of Interest Votes? Caldwell's Pet Lawyer Claims Nothing to See Here

SA: Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, in a written response to questions from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, said the advisory opinions issued by the city Ethics Commission to settle cases against Cachola and former Councilman Nestor Garcia made "no findings of misconduct or ethical violations."

As a result, "there is no reason to review any vote of the City Council," Leong said.

Further, "I decline to opine on this very important issue when there is no definite set of facts presented," Leong said. "A court's decision on this issue will likely turn on the specific facts of the case."

Council Chairman Ernie Martin, who had sought Leong's advice about whether votes need to be retaken in light of Cachola's charges, said he will schedule a closed-door meeting between Council members and Leong in the coming weeks.

Cachola caused a stir in comments to the media after he signed off on an agreement last September requiring him to pay a $50,000 fine, but not admit guilt, to settle a case before the Ethics Commission that accused him of ethical breaches. Specifically, he was accused of not disclosing that he had received prohibited gifts from lobbyists who would benefit from favorable votes he made that cleared the way for rail and several West Oahu land use developments.

The lobbyists involved were Aina Nui Corp., the master developer of Kapolei, and its predecessor, the former Campbell Estate, as well as Pacific Resource Partnership, the pro-rail political action group that spent millions to support pro-rail candidates.

The commission, in its advisory opinion on the Cachola charges, cited a 1983 case and said "a vote by a Council member is null and void if the member had a conflict of interest that it had not disclosed." Further, the opinion said, failure to disclose a conflict "will invalidate the Council action if, after discounting the void vote, there are no longer sufficient votes for the measure to pass."

The opinion pointed out, however, that a review of 100 measures Cachola voted on that may have benefited the lobbyists showed all would still have passed if his vote were not counted.

But Cachola told reporters that while his vote, by itself, may not have changed the outcome of some measures, he had the Excel worksheets — extrapolated from information provided by the commission staff as they investigated him — showing that up to five former colleagues also accepted the same gifts in at least 11 instances.

read ... Rail votes OK, lawyer says

Council on Revenues Boosts projection for personal income growth

SA: Last November, the council projected 3.5 percent personal income growth for Hawaii residents for 2015, but on Thursday the panel boosted that projection to 4 percent.

Carl Bonham, a University of Hawaii professor of economics, said the second half of 2015 likely will continue to be characterized by record tourism arrivals and continued growth in construction.

read ... No Need Tax Hikes

After Wasting $130M, Health Connector RFP for Dismantlement

PBN:  The Hawaii Health Connector insurance exchange has issued a request for proposals for an IT vendor to archive its data and dismantle its system as it winds down operations.

After spending approximately $130 million on the Connector system build-out, the state has opted to move to the federal healthcare.gov exchange, instead of the Hawaii Health Connector, which was established as a nonprofit entity in 2011.

The RFP is part of the “transition plan,” Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director Jeff Kissel told PBN.

read ... Waste

HECO Has Conflicts of Interest Everywhere

IM: There are numerous conflict of interests between the HECO Companies and Enterprise Honolulu.

Enterprise Honolulu receives funding from Hawaii Energy Industries (HEI).

Former HECO Senior Vice President Robbie Alm is Chair of the Enterprise Honolulu Board of Directors, and is still receiving severance pay from HEI.

David J. Reber is a member of the Enterprise Honolulu Board of Directors and is a partner with Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel. Currently, and for the last three decades, the Goodsill law firm provides legal representation to the HECO Companies in regulatory matters before the Public Utilities Commission.

Other Enterprise Honolulu board members are James Ajello who currently serves as the HEI executive vice president and chief financial officer; Mike McCartney, Governor Ige's Chief of Staff; and Murray Clay, the Managing Partner of merger intervenor Ulupono Initiative.

Enterprise Honolulu lists several "partner organizations." Several of these partners are intertwined with the HECO Companies, including the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i, Honolulu Chamber of Commerce, Maui Chamber of Commerce, Hawai'i Island Chamber of Commerce, Kauai Chamber of Commerce, and the Molokai Chamber of Commerce

Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i include HECO Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Tayne S. Y. Sekimura, former HECO CEO (1995-2009) T Michael May, and Hawai`i Gas President and Chief Executive OfficerAlicia Moy.

MECO's Mahina Martin is a director of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.

HELCO President Jay Ignacio serves as a director of the Hawai'i Island Chamber of Commerce.

read ... Conflicts

Protesters mull next move after Arrests

HTH: An encampment Thirty Meter Telescope opponents built four months ago on Mauna Kea remained intact Friday following the nighttime arrest of seven men....

Lanakila Mangauil, one of the protest leaders, said the self-described “protectors” expect nighttime arrests to continue, though it would be up to individuals to decide if they want to stay during restricted hours.

He said the main issue remains stopping construction crews from reaching the TMT site near Mauna Kea’s summit, but it wasn’t clear if protesters would continue to stay on the mountain after 10 p.m. if no ground was being disturbed....

A video of the arrests released by DLNR showed protesters being led away from the camp in handcuffs. Some chanted loudly and questioned why they were being arrested.

“This is our church, you guys,” Bronson Kobayashi, one of those arrested, tells the officers in the video while being removed from a traditional hale. “This is our church.”

“You guys have no jurisdiction here,” he added....

Asked if the department planned to enforce the rules again Friday night, DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison said law enforcement plans and operations will not be announced in advance and can continue at anytime while the 120-day temporary rule is in effect.

read ... Next Move

Great News: Mainland Anti-Telescope Protesters Promise not to Visit or Move to Hawaii

DN: "If TMT and GovHawaii make further effort steal sacred Mauna Kea, Tourism Boycott Certain."

read ... Great News

Star-Adv: DLNR unwise to hide behind media blackout

SA: Mauna Kea “protectors” have succeeded for many months in stalling construction with their nonviolent protests, which at times blocked the road to the building site.

It is a grave mistake for the DLNR to fuel mistrust among the broader population now by creating the perception that it has something to hide, especially when enforcement officers generally have shown restraint during this saga and just as more protesters are being arrested.

The media restrictions feed just that perception, and prevent unbiased, responsible coverage of a controversial issue that is of major concern in Hawaii and throughout the world. As a state government agency funded by the taxpayers, the DLNR must uphold higher standards of transparency and accountability.

The fact that the DLNR is controlling the flow of public information by limiting the media, and therefore trying to control the message about Mauna Kea, should be of great concern not only to reporters, news photographers and editors, but to anyone who believes in the democratic principles of a free, open government.

The few photos and limited video that the DLNR produced itself of arrests on the mountain early Friday are no substitute for independent, comprehensive coverage. That this tactic could be applied to any controversial enforcement action should give all Hawaii residents pause, no matter how they feel about the TMT, Mauna Kea or the protesters who have held a vigil there for months....

Prediction: Civil Beat will crib this Editorial on Monday

read ... Unwise

Robotics Competition Disrupted by Telescope Protests

HTH: A second annual international robotics competition hosted on the Big Island became a nonevent this year after only the team from University of Hawaii at Hilo showed up.

Six teams from Hawaii, the mainland and Colombia were expected to participate in the competition that was scheduled to run from last Saturday through Thursday....

The conflict of Mauna Kea over the Thirty Meter Telescope and reports of PISCES being underfunded might have been contributing factors to the cancellations, Hamilton said.

The event was to be held less than a mile from the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, the site of ongoing protests against the TMT, but PISCES couldn’t get a permit due to new emergency rules on the mountain.

The competition instead got a permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources to use Puu Nene near Saddle Road.

read ... Competition

Farmers say Turtle Bay Ag 'Preservation Plan' Will drive them out of business

HNN: A plan to preserve agricultural lands on the North Shore is backfiring on some Kahuku farmers.

Several farmers said Turtle Bay Resort wants to charge them between $40,000 and $100,000 for a new road and other improvements. And they said these new fees will drive them out of business.

"If they insist on us paying $40,000, I might as well quit," said Virgilio Tomas, who has grown garlic, shallots and jicama on 18.5 acres on Turtle Bay's mauka lands since 1990.  "They are doing all of these things to get us out of our farms."

Added fellow farmer Chue Outtaphone: "It's going to hurt. How are you going to even pay your rent and then come up with $45,000.

The farmers said the road and other improvements will cost about $1 million, or roughly $2,700 for each acre they farm.

Ironically, those improvements are part of Turtle Bay's plan to help preserve ag and conservation lands under a deal stuck this year with the state.  The developer said the improvements are needed to bring the farmlands up to city and state codes.

read ... I'm from the Government and I'm here to help

Old technology blamed for more than $1M over payment to state employees and vendors

HNN: Hawaii lawmakers say aging technology at the state government is costing you millions.  A state sponsored steering committee will meet next month to design a blueprint to replace old computers and information systems.  Meantime state agencies, schools and hospitals are susceptible to system failure.

In our high tech world the dozens of IBM mainframes at Hawaii's Department of Accounting an General Services are living dinosaurs....

Processing the more than 80-thousand payroll checks Hawaii's cuts each month is just an example.   Each needs to be manually typed into the state system using code that was first developed in the 1950s.

"It's costing us a lot of money," said State Senator Donna Mercado Kim, (D) Kapalama-'Alewa-Kalihi Valley....

Meantime Kim says the state is attempting to recover the over payment to employees and vendors.   However, with the old technology even that is not easy.

read ... Overpayment, never underpayment

New EMS Schedule Cuts Service to Ewa

KHON: critics say the new agreement could put you at risk, depending on where you live.

They say it’s not so bad in Makiki, where other ambulances are nearby. But in Ewa Beach, some say cutting back the hours puts lives in danger.

The Ewa Beach ambulance unit is stationed just outside Ewa Villages Golf Course. Normal hours of operation are 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., but starting Aug. 30, the hours will be noon to midnight.

It’s enough to make some area residents a little uneasy, “because I heard that most heart attacks happen in the morning and I think that’s when you need the ambulance,” said Ewa Beach resident Terry Corrigan.

SA: Labor pact shows flexibility possible

read ... Morning

Kapahulu homeless to receive Waste Removal Service in August

KHON: Officials have posted signs, alerting people to remove their structures and belongings, or they’ll take them away.

The cleanup is scheduled for the middle of August.

read ... Take out the trash

Military housing allowance and the rental market

HNN: Rental housing rates are on the rise in Hawaii.

Active duty military members can be somewhat insulated, given the Basic Allowance for Housing they receive. Depending on the pay grade and whether or not they have dependents, the monthly allotment is anywhere from $2,000 to more than $4,000 in Hawaii.

That’s a lot of money, and some believe it’s the cause of the increase, but one noted local economist disagrees.

"The fact of the matter is, we don't have enough housing," said Carl Bonham, Executive Director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, or UHERO. "People's incomes are rising, the population is growing. It puts upward pressure on goods that you're not producing."

The army also says it’s not responsible. It actually says it doesn’t set the rate for the BAH, the market does.

read ... Chicken or Egg?

Hawaii County Council to Consider Ban on Pesticide Use on County Property

BIVN: The Hawaii County Council will consider a bill next week that will ban certain pesticides from being sprayed on government grounds.

Bill 71, introduced by Kohala councilwoman Margaret Wille, “prohibits toxic herbicides in all County owned or maintained public parks and along all County owned or maintained roads, bikeways, sidewalks, trails, and waterways.”

The Council Committee on Environmental Management will hold a hearing on the bill during its 2:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, August 4th in Hilo.

read ... Pesticide Ban To Be Considered In Hawaii County

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