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Friday, October 16, 2015
October 16, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:54 PM :: 3125 Views

VIDEO: US Has Given a lot to Hawaii

Video: A Visit with Duke Aiona

Honolulu Repaves 202 Lane-Miles of Roads

Federal Report: Hawaii Obamacare Exchange has Returned no Unspent Money

Kauai Overtime Expenditures Out of Taxpayer’s Pockets

Hawaii Tax Foundation to file lawsuit over state’s ‘administrative’ take on rail tax--Alternative to Tax Hike

KHON: ...The state’s share of the rail tax on Oahu could soon be facing a legal challenge.

Earlier this year, Always Investigating started digging into the tax.

We’ve tracked the administrative fee portion, and learned nearly $170 million of what’s collected has gone into the state’s general fund.

That’s money not going to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to build rail, as the tax was intended.

A tax watchdog group said that the state’s share was unconstitutional, and now we’ve learned they plan to file a lawsuit over it.

Since the tax started, the state has been taking 10 percent off the top....

Earlier this year, a lawmaker asked the attorney general’s office to weigh in on if the fee was unconstitutional.

Last month, a deputy attorney general wrote, in a response Always Investigating obtained, that it’s all legal. What’s more, the response said, the state has to take the full 10 percent instead of the actual costs because the law says they “shall” not just that they “may.”

read ... Rail Tax

Feds Push Council for Rail Tax Hike

KITV: For the 50.6 percent of Oahu voters who approved the city's rail project in 2008, the original price tag was estimated at $5.3 billion. Nearly seven years later, the cost of the elevated rail line has ballooned to more than $6.5 billion....

($6.5B - $5.3B = $1.2B which as the story above indicates would have been covered by the State's 'skim' on Rail.)

Hanabusa joined fellow board members Mike Formby and Damien Kim in voting against granting a change order of $8.3 million to Ansaldo Honolulu Joint Venture, which secured the project's $1.4 billion core systems contract in 2011. Hanabusa objected to awarding the Italian-based train builder the extra cash since a nine month delay was caused by a bid protest by Sumitomo Corporation of America, and the notice to proceed was not affected....

Meanwhile, in a letter received by Grabauskas from the Federal Transit Administration earlier this week, Acting Administrator Therese McMillan warns HART the FTA needs to see resolve by the city council to pass the five-year rail tax extension, a new project budget and a completion date.

"During the week of September 8th, our Project Management Oversight Contractor conducted its monthly oversight visit to the project and although some specific costs were updated, we are still awaiting for a realistic Estimate at Completion and Master Project Schedule," McMillan wrote. "This additional information is critical for the FTA to perform and support a risk assessment refresh task."

SA: Council’s Budget Committee is scheduled to take up Bill 23, giving authorization for the surcharge, at its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday

Oct 12: Rail Tax Hike Will Cost Family of Four $4000

read ... Tax Hike Coming

Council Sets Rail Tax Hike Vote, Public Hearings 

SA: The financial plan outline made public Thursday incorporates $1.524 billion that HART expects to receive from the five-year extension of the half-percent general excise tax surcharge to fund rail. That surcharge extension was approved by the state Legislature and Gov. David Ige this year but still needs the approval of the Honolulu City Council.

The Council’s Budget Committee is scheduled to take up Bill 23, giving authorization for the surcharge, at its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Council committee room.

The committee announced Thursday it will hold additional public hearings on the bill Nov. 5 at Kapolei Hale and Nov. 9 in the Washington Middle School cafeteria. Both of those meetings are scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

The Council would then take up the measure — if it passes out of committee — for the second of three required full Council votes.

read ... Hearings

Star-Adv: Back-room dealing and secrecy on Rail Votes

SA: So many things are off-kilter here — including the the back-room way the decision was made by, of all agencies, the city Ethics Commission — that it’s hard to know where to start....

The commission’s action was taken behind closed doors; two members had recused themselves; the chairwoman, Katy Chen, was traveling on the mainland.

Kobayashi, Anderson and Council Chairman Ernie Martin said that afternoon that the dismissal means the questionable votes on rail can stand.

But that’s not entirely clear, since the lawsuit, filed in Circuit Court by Campbell Estate heiress Abigail Kawananakoa, is still pending....

“The facts are the facts,” Morgan said. “The Ethics Commission’s attempt to sweep this under the rug didn’t change the fact that we have asked the courts to determine the consequences of the Council’s action.”

The commission heard from the three Council members’ attorney, Colleen Hanabusa, before making its decision.

Hanabusa, who also sits on the HART rail board, said her dual roles as legal defense and board member were cleared by city Corporation Counsel Donna Leong. (Yes.  It is ok to laugh now.)

But Leong is hardly a disinterested party, having argued against the need for the Council’s revotes in the first place. A more objective clearance should have been sought there.

The whole sequence of events reeks of back-room dealing and secrecy.

For a project that desperately needs to reinvigorate public trust, this was an abysmal way to proceed, wrong on every level.

read ... Ethics ruling poorly handled

Secretly Recorded Conversation Opens Window on Movie Mogul's Relations With Maui County Government 

Borreca: Brian Perry, Maui News city editor, reported the details in the paper’s Sunday edition of how back in 2013, the county managing director, the county communications director and the mayor’s chief of staff met at a Kahului Starbucks with former Maui Film Commissioner Harry Donenfeld to chew him out.

Donenfeld taped the meeting.

The meeting was to dress down Donenfeld, who the county brass thought was irritating Ryan Kavanaugh, a Hollywood billionaire, part-time Maui resident and avid supporter of Mayor Alan Arakawa, who was still pitching a scheme for the state to subsidize the local film industry.

The original plan also called for state tax credits and millions in other goodies to help filmmakers, which included building film studios on Maui and Oahu.

Donenfeld was helping in the effort but had been more successful getting another company, Maui Film Studios, to set up a 21,000- square-foot soundstage in a leased warehouse.

When The Maui News ran a 2013 story about the non-Kavanaugh film studio, the billionaire and his firm, Relativity Media, went ballistic.

read ... Appease

Ige Promises to Keep on Sweeping

KITV: “We were successful in placing more than 150, so more than half of the people in Kaka’ako who were homeless have been placed in shelters now,” said Gov. David Ige.

(For) The homeless (who avoided being forced into shelter) perspective is not as rosy. Some call the sweeps stressful (Yep.  That's the idea.) and rushed.

“It was rough not knowing where to go (in order to stay out of shelter), realizing that the State doesn’t have a solid solution (except the shelters, which I won't go to),” said Nao. He plans to stay in the park (and keep on avoiding shelter) until he’s forced to move again.

“We don’t want to go to Kewalos because if they’re going to come down there and sweep us there, what’s the point in going there? We might as well just get swept right here.”

That’s something Ige says could happen (Good!) as long as there’s some place (Like, you know, a shelter with lots of empty beds) to put the people who get displaced again.

read ... Gov. Ige defends Kaka'ako sweeps

Saddened over the Loss of their Precious Kakaako, Espero, Brower Want to Hand Aloha Stadium Over to Homeless 

DoH Policy Creates Pent-up Demand for Cronies' Medicated Marijuana

SA: Medical marijuana is coming to Hawaii — for real this time — and so are the regulations....

At some point, the long wait for medical marijuana in Hawaii needs to end.

The dispensaries are expected to open in July.

read ... Helping the Cronies Make More Money

Civil Beat: Is Gabbard Really a Democrat?

CB: If things keep going at this pace, “General” Gabbard will be a vice presidential candidate in 2016, or defense secretary in 2017, or senator in 2019.

Whether it will be as a Democrat or a Republican, we’ll have to find out....

Gabbard has consistently polled as the most popular member of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, and more popular than our governor and Honolulu’s mayor, too....

Gabbard might even eclipse the renown of Hawaii’s best-known national figure, politically speaking: the late Dan Inouye....

LOL: To Stop Mufi, Mrs Abercrombie Joins the Chris Butler Cult

read ... Find Out

SunRun Considers Legal Action Against PUC's Net Energy Metering Ruling

IM: The Commission issued a four part decision: end the existing net metering, promote a new and improved feed-in tariff mechanism, institute time-of-use rates and introduce a new self-supply contract.

The self-supply contract asserts that people should be able to plug in as much solar as they want to as long as it is used only within the customer’s establishment....

Robert Harris, Sunrun’s director of public policy, "This is a huge block of our economy and we're looking at a slowdown of that now."

“Harris said Sunrun is considering legal action against the PUC since the docket that led to the new rules was supposed to be investigative. He said an announcement by Sunrun would be forthcoming within the next few weeks.”

read ... SunRun Considers Legal Action Against PUC's Net Energy Metering Ruling

Gov. Ige still opposes NextEra Energy-Hawaiian Electric sale

PBN: Hawaii Gov. Ige is still opposed to NextEra Energy Inc.’s proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co., even after seeing more than 50 new commitments the Florida firm made in its updated sale application.

Ige, who made the remarks during a news conference Thursday where he spoke about his recent trip to Asia, follows the sentiments of his two departments, which both still oppose the sale despite the new commitments.

read ... Against

Shameless: UH Regents Demand $16M from Legislature, Give Arnold $700K

NCAA panel hears UH basketball case

SA: The NCAA Committee on Infractions spent about eight hours hearing the case against the University of Hawaii men’s basketball program Thursday.

But it could be January before UH knows the results, including whether it will be subject to a postseason ban.

The closed-door hearing into allegations of violations of seven NCAA rules against UH and its former coach Gib Arnold was held before a seven-member panel presided over by Greg Christopher, Xavier University athletic director, in a Dallas hotel....

UH, which self-imposed several penalties, including a $10,000 fine, scholarship reductions and practice hours, has been hoping to avoid a postseason ban.

read ... Postseason Ban

HPD Officer Still on Payroll After Pleading No Contest to Attempted Break-in of Woman's Home

SA: ...Staszyn was arrested allegedly trying to break into a Kaneohe home at 8:25 p.m. June 15 after a woman called police saying a man was trying to force his way in.

Ashford also granted Staszyn’s request that the offenses be stricken from his criminal record if he stays free of any other convictions during the next six months.

A restitution hearing will be held Dec. 16.

Following his arrest, Staszyn was placed on restricted desk duty. He is assigned to the HPD Records and Identification Division....

Background: Did off-duty officer arrested for trespassing get special treatment?

read ... Just another day in the nei

Is Police Misconduct a Secret in Hawaii?

WNYC: ...Under Section 92F-14 of Hawaii's Uniform Information Practices Act, records pertaining to minor discipline of a police officer are generally confidential. However, records pertaining to an officer's dismissal are public. Whether records pertaining to an officer's suspension are also public is the subject of a pending court case, Peer News LLC v City and County of Honolulu Police Department, which was argued before the Hawaii Supreme Court in June 2015....

read ... Police Secrecy

Hawaii health providers create cost estimation tools

PBN: The cost of medical services can vary — some up to thousands of dollars — depending on coverage and clinic. Because of this, multiple Hawaii health providers are building cost-estimator tools online to boost transparency.

Hawaii Pacific Health currently offers cost calculators on the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, and Straub Clinic & Hospital websites.

“The cost calculators provide estimates for select inpatient procedures, outpatient surgeries and diagnostic tests," said HPH Marketing Department's Kristen Bonilla. "There are three options available based on type of insurance coverage – 'Medicare,' 'Other Insurance,' which is modeled off of HMSA Commercial, and 'No Insurance.'” ...

Both HMSA and Kaiser Permanente Hawaii have plans to launch online cost-estimation tools for patients.

Elisa Yadao, HMSA senior vice president of consumer experience, says the HMSA tool will help "members determine if a medical service is covered by their health plan and give them a range of how much they’ll pay for the service." ...

Kaiser’s will be called the “Treatment Cost Calculator” and is slated to be available on kp.org by end of this year....

read ... Competition

'Organic' Stores Smell Profit During GMO-Free Month

HTH: This October, Abundant Life Natural Foods is joining more than 2,000 grocery retailers throughout North America participating in the sixth annual Non-GMO Month.

Created by the Non-GMO Project, this monthlong celebration puts a spotlight on a person’s right to choose food and products without genetically modified organisms.

“I talk to our customers every day and they are worried about the spread of GMOs in our food supply,” said Leslie Malulani Miki, owner and manager of Abundant Life Natural Foods in Hilo. “With GMOs present in up to 75 percent of conventional packaged foods, we are more committed than ever to helping people find safe, healthy non-GMO choices.”

2013: Organic Profiteers: 15% Sales Boost from Anti-GMO Hype

read ... 'Organic' Stores Smell Profit During GMO-Free Month

Hip bicycle lanes are not the answer on King Street

SA: ...Bike riders always have the moral high ground. They’re doing healthy things for themselves, and they aren’t harming the environment like the rest of us gasoline-powered slobs. But self-righteousness perched atop two skinny wheels is still so vulnerable. A driver doesn’t have to be careless or distracted to be a threat to them — not on King Street, where there are countless things a motorist has to look out for. Humans have their limitations. Automobile sensors have their limitations. A top-gun fighter pilot with the best instrumentation would be challenged to navigate that section of roadway....

Someday a future mayor of Honolulu will undo the multiuse madness of King Street and make it safer for everyone, and we will shake our heads and wonder why it took so long for common sense to win out over trendiness....

read ... Morally High

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