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Wednesday, October 7, 2015
October 7, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:14 PM :: 3868 Views

Why was 40-Year Old Ship Sent into Path of Hurricane?

Hawaii: Child Care Costs More than College Tuition

‘Know GMO’ documentary challenges anti-GM scare campaign

Oct 15 Last Day to Register for 'Hawaiian' Tribal Election

Video: Free Market Solutions to Homelessness with Victor Geminiani

New Assisted Suicide Law Could Especially Hurt the Poor

Corporations Buying Influence? Native Hawaiian Election Throws Out All the Rules

CB: Imagine a sudden announcement that all existing laws providing for transparency and accountability would be repealed prior to the next statewide election.

The move would mean that all laws adopted over the past 40 years to limit and control the influence of special interest money on elections would be wiped off the books, along with those ethics laws that have applied to candidates, elected officials and those who seek to influence them.

No more laws regulating campaign spending or elections, no more ethical standards for the winning candidates, and no restrictions on the efforts of lobbyists to sway policies in favor of their special interest clients.

From the point of view of special interests, it would mean a free-for-all where anything goes.

From the public’s perspective, on the other hand, it would be a disaster, and I think most people would recognize it as such.

Not likely to happen, you say? At least as far as regular state and local elections go, certainly not.

But it is precisely the case for the current election of Hawaiian delegates who will convene early in 2016 for an eight-week convention, or aha, “to decide whether or not to create a document or constitution for a nation and its governance.”

The outcome of the convention process will potentially have a profound impact not only on those of Hawaiian descent, but on all residents of Hawaii.

Unlike regular state and local elections, this election of delegates is being carried out by Nai Aupuni, a private organization set up for this specific purpose, and elected delegates will not be considered government officials. As a result, the laws that regulate election campaigns, ethics and lobbying do not apply.

Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Kristin E. Izumi-Nitao confirmed this week that the state’s campaign spending law does not apply to the privately operated Hawaiian election.

There will be no limits on contributions to candidates from individual supporters, organizations or corporations....

read ... Ian Lind

Full sovereignty: It's just a daydream

MW: "This would balkanize Hawaii, dividing the islands into separate racial and ethnic enclaves. It would also undo “the political bargain through which Hawaii secured its admission into the Union … when native Hawaiians themselves voted for statehood, thus voluntarily and democratically relinquishing any residual sovereignty to the United States.” ...

Even the sympathetic Gov Lingle backed off because, she said, that would create immunity from some of our laws....

...only 34% of Native Hawaiians favor sovereignty....

"A third alternative of unity, equality and aloha for all gets almost no media attention, but is by far the most popular with all ethnic groups."

read ... Bob Jones

Lawsuit: Ansaldo Padding Rail Contract

HNN: John McCaughey quit as the head of Ansaldo Honolulu's construction safety program in July because he thought the company was jeopardizing workers' safety.

In a lawsuit filed last week, McCaughey said the company -- which is being paid $1.4 billion to build the trains and operate them -- cut corners by not hiring the required safety experts.

"It's absolutely prevalent throughout Ansaldo joint venture. They do not have adequate staffing to meeting the requirements of this project," said McCaughey....

McCaughey also says the company required him to do thousand of hours of work for Ansaldo's Italian parent -- work unrelated to safety on Honolulu's rail line....

Joseph Rosenbaum, McCaughey's attorney, questions whether some taxpayer money meant for the rail project is being diverted to other Ansaldo divisions outside of Hawaii.

"It's clear that they were not staffing the project. So therefore where is that money going? Where is that money going that should have been spent on the safety and personnel," he said.

read ... Whistleblower

High Tech Tax credits: State Gave Away $1.7B to Rich Scammers

SA: The price tag of special tax credits lawmakers approved almost 15 years ago to spur growth in the state’s tech sector could reach $1.7 billion, according to state Department of Taxation figures. Unfortunately, a new report from the state auditor suggests the return on that investment is anyone’s guess.

It’s unacceptable that the state would hand out tax credits and forego revenue without being able to evaluate whether the credits are working as intended.

The state auditor’s office contends that even as businesses continue to claim the tax breaks, state lawmakers “have not been provided a true picture of the costs and benefits” of the high-tech tax credit and other credits.

And what’s worse, one of the residual effects of the tax credits is that the state tax department auditors are spending “all their time addressing complaints and inquiries about various high-dollar tax credit refunds,” an auditor’s report said. Ultimately, auditors “are not performing a core function — auditing tax returns,” according to the report. The tax department’s 20 auditors “currently have a backlog of hundreds of tax returns targeted for audit; however, the department lacks the resources to carry them out.” ...

the Tax Foundation of Hawaii says the tax credits in Act 221 were among the most expensive the state has ever enacted.

The high-tech tax credit seemed to benefit a wide range of companies. The report showed that performing arts companies invested $659.9 million in time to qualify for the credit; software companies invested $236 million; and “multiple activities and others” invested $440 million. It’s unclear whether the companies that have benefited from the high-tech credits still exist or will stay in the state after maxing out their credits....

read ... Tax credits need closer review

Taxpayers will pay more as 'Arbitration' Forces more UPW Make-Work Jobs

HNN: The state is phasing out the use of private contractors for highway landscaping and other maintenance work, costing taxpayers more money and settling two long-time class-action grievances filed by one of the state's most powerful unions, the United Public Workers.

Across Hawaii, landscape workers who are employed by private contractors do routine maintenance of state highway medians and shoulders. The UPW alleged the state unlawfully privatized services that were historically performed by state workers who were unionized employees.

As a result of court-ordered mediation in the case, the state settled grievances filed by the UPW. On July 1, state Labor Director James Nishimoto sent out a memo to state departments saying those private contracts will "…not be automatically renewed at their contract end date."

read ... Will Pay More

OHA Pohakuloa Suit Faces October 16 Deadline

ILind: The trial in a lawsuit against the State of Hawaii over its stewardship of nearly 23,000 acres of land leased to the Department of Defense as part of the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island wrapped up at the end of last week. The case, which proceeded without a jury, took only four days. Attorneys for both sides were given until October 16 to file their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, and a decision by Circuit Court Judge Gary Chang will follow.

At issue is a lease of the area by the state for use for military training, and whether the state has done enough to enforce provisions requiring the clean-up of unexploded bullets and bombs following training exercises. The lawsuit seeks to block the state from extending the lease beyond its 2029 expiration (unless OHA gets a cut of the lease money).

HI: Ching v. Aila: protecting public trust lands at Pohakuloa

read ... OHA Money Grab

Hawaii Board of Education set to vote on new school calendar

HNN: For the first time, the Hawaii Department of Education is recommending a multi-year school calendar covering the next three school years to allow for better planning by schools and families. After a sizzling summer, some parents and lawmakers urged the state to consider starting the school year after Labor Day, but the proposal released by the DOE at a meeting on Tuesday won't help students beat the heat.

read ... Calendar

Hawaiian Electric’s Big Island utility may be worth $727M, expert says

PBN: Hawaii Electric Light Co., the Big Island subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Co., which is involved in a $4.3 billion sale with NextEra Energy Inc., is valued at just over $700 million, the head of the state’s Division of Consumer Advocacy confirmed to PBN Tuesday.

Jeffrey Ono, executive director of the state agency, which is a party in the regulatory review process regarding the Florida firm’s proposed acquisition of the Honolulu-based utility and its subsidiaries, told PBN that the value of the net asset of HELCO is $727 million....

read ... Coop Cost

Drug use down, use of synthetic urine up in Hawaii workplaces

PBN: There was an initial drop in the use of synthetic urine in 2010, when the lab first began to test for it. However, the use of the substance is at its highest rate since 2012. The rate of use rose from 0.8 percent in the third quarter of last year to 1 percent during the third quarter of 2015....

While the use of amphetamines and marijuana in the workforce is on the decline, Hawaii’s workforce ice, or methamphetamine, usage is four times that of the Mainland average, Linden said....

This quarter, use of amphetamines in workforce testing dropped 22 percent compared to the same quarter last year. Cocaine use remained at a steady rate, and marijuana use has fluctuated, Linden said.

“Use of methamphetamine is still about four times the national average,” Linden added. “You don’t want to forget about it because it’s such an insidious drug. We don’t know if the drop this last quarter is a trend, and won’t know until next quarter. It was consistently at 0.9 percent for a year and half and dropped to 0.7 percent this quarter.”

KGI: Tweeker Beats Felony Rap

read ... Drugs

UH students going to class in unsafe, unsanitary College of Education buildings

HNN: "If anyone wants to use the bathroom they have to go across to another building," said Elementary Science Methods Instructor Tracey Matsui....

Outside her door the hallway is blocked where the ceiling collapsed.

"It scares me to come in the door," said Associate Specialist Jennifer Herring.

Herring had to abandon the classroom where she taught art.

"Right after I finished getting the room prepared for our classes the ceiling fell in this area.  Later in the summer the other parts of the ceiling fell on the other side of the room," said Herring.

Weeks later it's still on the ground.  Along with rodent feces.

"I wear my dusk mask and my plastic gloves and do the best we can to clean up the areas that students are going to be using," said Herring.

read ... Deferred Maintenance

Strengthening families leads to lifelong success

SA: A recently published study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has added to the mounting evidence that growing up in severe poverty affects the way children’s brains develop, potentially putting them at lifelong disadvantage. The study found that the parts of the brain tied to academic performance were 8 percent to 10 percent smaller for children who grow up in very poor households.

The study, published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Pediatrics, combined the expertise of neuroscientists and economists and suggests that poverty affects parts of the brain tied to self-control, attention, planning and other traits important for success in school. The children often receive less nurturing from parents and live in environments characterized by increased stress from crowded housing, instability, poor nutrition, limited stimulation and greater exposure to violence.

As a nonprofit organization, Child & Family Service (CFS) works to strengthen thousands of families in Hawaii each year, providing them the tools to change their lives for the better and to sustain those changes for the long term. From crisis hotlines for families affected by domestic violence, to Healthy Families programs that reduce the potential for neglect and abuse, we recognize that families, especially children who are most vulnerable, cannot move beyond survival unless their basic needs are met.

Our family centers — also known as Neighborhood Places, on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii island — are one-stop shops where families often come for basic supplies such as clothing and diapers but will also find nurturing parenting classes, learn financial and independent living skills and gain access to a wide range of community resources available to them. Experience has taught us that families make tremendous strides when they are able to focus their energies, talents and hopes beyond daily survival.

read ... Strengthening families leads to lifelong success

Hawaii Judge Spent Decades Re-Ordering Family Structures

MN: When state Associate Judge Dan Foley agreed to represent three same-sex couples who had been denied marriage licenses in 1991, no states had laws allowing same-sex marriage.

"It wasn't about gay rights. It was about access to justice," Foley said Tuesday during an "Access to Justice" program at Hoapili Hale. "Being heard - that's what it was about.

"This was a case nobody would touch not even the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)," Foley told about 50 attorneys attending the program in the courtroom of 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo. "But that's pro bono. That's a lawyer saying somebody deserves their day in court, somebody deserved to be heard, and what phenomenal things can happen." 

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said Foley's volunteer work on what became a landmark case was an example "of the profound impact pro bono attorneys can have." ...

When Foley argued the case before the state Supreme Court, substitute Judge Jim Burns noted that a man and a woman who apply for a marriage license receive one from the same state department that didn't issue a marriage license when a man and man applied.

"He said, 'That's discrimination,' '' Foley said....

His last pro bono case was in the summer of 2000, when he helped a same-sex couple adopt an infant girl.

He was with Recktenwald when Foley saw the couple with their by then pre-teenage daughter. They told the girl, "Dear, this is the man that helped make our family," Foley recalled. "And she said, 'Thank you.'''...

read ... Judge: Pro bono attorneys can have a profound impact

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