Why You Should Mahalo the Grassroot Institute
HSTA Launches Push for 25% GE Tax Hike
Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative would deliver transformation better, faster and cheaper
National Report: Hawaii Ranks 6th in Protecting Kids from Tobacco
Gambling with our health in 2016
Report: Hawaii Ranks #1 in Overall Health
Christmas Comes Early for Teachers’ Unions With No Child Left Behind Rewrite
Sugar Subsidies to be Cut in Budget Bill?
Another Muslim Makes Unsubstantiated Claims of Honolulu Harassment
SA: Shereen El-Kadi (claims) the man sang a profanity-laced song around 8:15 a.m. Tuesday that included the lyrics, “We’re going to hang a Muslim in the White House today. … We’re going to hang a terrorist Muslim in the White House today.”
As they stood at a downtown intersection, El-Kadi (claimed) an unidentified “brave woman behind me” asked the man to stop, but he responded with more profanities and the phrase, “I’m an American.”
El-Kadi, who often promotes events at her mosque, did not contact police “because (insert excuse here).”
But she described her experience on Facebook, “where I have a lot of Muslim friends….”
Lets just skip to the comments:
“This is known as “Taqiyya”, which is an acceptable policy to believers of this system. Get used to it. I seem to have missed any corroboration by anyone else that this actually occurred.”
“Nonsense story. Never happened.”
“How would an American be treated in the Middle East building a church and walking the streets? Instead of harassment, the American would be dead.”
“Maybe if more Muslims would acclimate better and report their fellow criminal fanatic Muslims.”
“Front page, second section for this? One incident, uncorroborated? I am sure it happened but the press used to need two sources.”
“I am not sure that I find this woman’s claim to be credible. There is no evidence that this alleged incident occurred. My suspicion is that this was fabricated.”
read … A few fight, the rest make excuses and demands
Muslim Leaves Suspicious Package at Honolulu Airport, Then Retrieves it, Escapes
SA: There was a substantial delay in reporting a potential security incident to the lead law enforcement agency at Honolulu International Airport on Tuesday, sources told Hawaii News Now.
The delay comes as security is heightened following terrorist attacks around the world in recent months.
The incident happened amid a growing mistrust between the state Sheriffs Division, the lead law enforcement jurisdiction at the airport, and Securitas, the private company that provides security guards at airports across the state.
Sources said a man described as being of Middle Eastern descent put a package behind a sign Tuesday morning near the elevators just outside the Transportation Security Administration screening area on the second floor of the Hawaiian Airlines inter-island terminal.
Witnesses reported the man was acting suspicious, saw people looking at him and walked away from the package, but then he walked back and picked it up and walked away, sources said.
Securitas private security officers were notified at the scene and sources said they reported the incident to their dispatch office which notified state airport officials. But the lead law enforcement agency at the airport, the state Sheriffs Division, was not notified for roughly an hour and a half to two hours, sources told Hawaii News Now….
Officials involved in security at the airport said privately they're concerned about this incident because it could be terrorists "testing out" security at Honolulu airport, but they said they're also worried that a turf war among some of the agencies there could lead to a delayed response the next time there's a terrorist threat….
read … Nobody Harassed this Muslim so He Got Away
Don’t increase GET to fund HSTA plan
SA: …the simple formula proposed by the state teachers’ union — a 1 percentage point increase in the general excise tax (GET) to fund a specific education agenda — is likely to stall out in the coming legislative session.
That’s the probable outcome because a tax increase in an election year is an extremely heavy lift. But it’s also the best outcome for this session, because an open-ended increase in such a broad-based tax for a restricted purpose is not a wise approach to budget planning….
Rosenlee told Kalani he acknowledges that “the biggest negative of an increase is that the GET is regressive.” It tends to disproportionately affect lower-income residents because it increases the cost of items that represent a relatively large share of their household budgets….
the bill would revive an income tax on those earning over $300,000 annually — a provision of Act 60, which expired last year.
What’s missing here is that the GET not only affects the poor. It also puts a strain on business, because it’s applied at every transactional stage of commerce, compounding costs.
That’s the same complaint raised about the GET surcharge underwriting the rail project on Oahu. The difference is that there’s a sunset date for that tax….
HSTA’s proposal sets out specific policy and operational fixes that the teachers favor, some of which could be enabled by the estimated $750 million the tax increase would yield each year.
It specifies: more competitive salaries for teachers; capping class sizes; ending high-stakes testing that links test results with teacher evaluations; expanding public preschool; improving facilities; increasing time spent teaching the arts; and increasing supports for special-education teachers.
Each of those items merits a separate discussion. Although financing more-competitive teacher salaries enjoys wide support, other ideas, such as the notion of de-linking testing and teacher evaluations, would draw opposition.
Above all, many of these constitute policy changes that are the jurisdiction of the state Board of Education, not lawmakers….
A permanent increase in a tax that affects everyone should pay for the full range of public needs, rather than be sequestered for an agenda lacking in true public consensus.
80% NO -- Should the general excise tax be raised to 5% from the current 4% to get more funding for public education, as proposed by the teachers union?
News Release: HSTA Launches Push for 25% GE Tax Hike
read … No GE Tax Hike
Honolulu Council Approves Massive GE Tax Hike for Rail
SA: The Honolulu City Council on Wednesday moved a step closer to approving a bill requiring consumers on Oahu to pay a 0.5 percent surcharge on the general excise tax for five more years to help finance the city’s $6.57 billion rail project.
And while, at least on the surface, there appear to be enough votes to give final approval to Bill 23 next month, a division among Council members over whether to cap the amount of surcharge dollars going to the project could unhinge support for the extension.
The Council voted 7-2 to give second reading approval to Bill 23, leaving in place language that caps the amount of new revenues going to rail at $910 million of the $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion estimated to be raised during the extra five years.
The bill now goes back to the Budget Committee on Jan. 13 for another review. If the bill is approved there, a final vote of the Council would likely take place two weeks later, on Jan. 27.
Members Ikaika Anderson and Ann Kobayashi voted against the bill. Kobayashi has consistently voted against legislation for the rail project.
Rail supporter Anderson, the Council’s vice chairman, said he will not vote for a bill that includes a cap….
Meanwhile: Star-Adv says “Approve rail tax without cap”
read … Will Get Worse before Finalized
Hawaii Internet access tax will end under bill expected to pass Congress—Consumers to Save $20M
AP: House and Senate negotiators announced today that they reached agreement on bipartisan legislation to make permanent a moratorium that prevents states from taxing access to the Internet.
(The bill would end an Internet access charge that Hawaii consumers now pay.)
Jurisdictions in seven states — Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin — tax access to the Internet, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Together they would lose “several hundred million dollars annually” if they were no longer allowed to collect the taxes.
(The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which opposes the measure, estimates that Hawaii’s state government would lose about $20 million in tax revenue, based on 2012 figures, when the tax is phased out.)
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the measure means that small businesses and individuals will “finally be free from the threat of hundreds of dollars in new taxes each year, just to access the Internet.”
CNET: The legislation would also phase out taxes over four years in seven states -- Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin -- where local taxes were imposed on Internet access before a federal moratorium was passed in 1998.
read … The End
Ige: Opposing NextEra is a Key Achievement of My First Year in Office
HNN: Among his first-year successes, Ige says prisons have reduced overtime by 16 percent, saving $1 million. The state's bond outlook is up. Ige says improving tax collection has saved $20 million this year. Eventually he says it'll bring in hundreds of millions. That will ramp up soon when the state cracks down on off-the-books vacation rentals and businesses.
“We definitely are focused on ensuring everyone pays their fair share of taxes,” Ige said.
The governor says he's also restructured payments to the pension and health funds to save more than $1 billion over 20 years.
But if you think that's a lot, Ige also believes Hawaii can save $6 billion a year by generating all of our own energy. That's why he's steadfastly opposed to the HECO merger….
HNN: PUC voices doubts about NextEra’s pledges for change
read … Gov. David Ige reflects on first year in office
Schatz--Talking to an Empty Chair
MSO: Take this guy Brian Schatz, the Senator from Hawaii. He did his shtick, lobbed a softball at his witness, Rear Admiral Titley, and stood up to leave. I said I'd like to respond, and he demurred on the grounds that he was outta there, he had to get back to washing his hair or whatever. I said I'd still like to respond to what he said, and so I did - to an empty chair. A pseudo-parliament is a fine place in which to debate pseudo-science, but "decorum" has nothing to do with it.
read … Schatz Rude
As deadline looms most have yet to re-enroll in Obamacare
SA: Only about a quarter of the residents covered under Obamacare have re-enrolled on the federal health insurance exchange with a week left until their coverage expires on Jan. 1.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the U.S. agency in charge of Obamacare, said 5,911 people in Hawaii signed up for coverage through the federal marketplace, healthcare.gov. The state said there are 24,000 residents currently on Obamacare plans. The deadline to keep coverage active at the start of the new year is Dec. 15….
“Having health insurance when you can afford it is now the law. If someone chooses not to buy health insurance and could afford to do so, they are at risk of paying a fee of $695 or more,” Burwell added.
DC: Republicans Demand Answers On Failed State Obamacare Exchanges Fee Collection
read … As deadline looms most have yet to re-enroll in Obamacare
Kaiser, HMSA Hike Rates, Cut Coverage for 20,000 Seniors
SA: About 15,000 Kaiser Permanente Hawaii Medicare plan members will see an increase in their monthly out-of-pocket premiums on Jan. 1.
The state’s largest health maintenance organization — both a medical provider and health insurer — notified Medicare members of the increases this week. Premiums will rise from zero to $38 for the Senior Advantage Basic plan; $144 to $180 for the Senior Advantage Enhanced; $39 to $63 for the Senior Advantage Essential policy; and $160 to $202 for the Senior Advantage Essential Plus.
That’s on top of the $104.90 price most seniors (with an income of $85,000 or less) pay for Medicare Part B medical coverage, which goes up to $121.80 in 2016. It is also in addition to co-pays and co-insurance for prescription drugs….
Meanwhile, Hawaii Medical Service Association notified 5,000 senior members that they will have to pay an additional fee as of Jan. 1 when seeing a doctor at a medical facility or hospital-based clinic, though premiums for its Medicare policies are virtually unchanged next year. HMSA said it used to cover 100 percent of the facility fee, but next year will cover only 80 percent. The portion members pay could range from $20 to $50 per doctor visit….
read … Thanks, Obama
U.S. Bids A Not-So-Fond Farewell To ‘No Child Left Behind’
CB: Yet, in Hawaii, little actually may change as a result of the new law, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Hawaii is one of more than three dozen states that received a waiver in recent years from most of NCLB’s requirements. Hawaii’s most recent waiver was approved because of the state’s progress implementing its own accountability system, known as Strive HI.
Without a state waiver, schools that failed to meet student-proficiency goals under NCLB would have been subject to sanctions….
im Shon, director of the Hawaii Educational Policy Center at the University of Hawaii, said he is still reading through the 1,059-page Every Child Succeeds Act, but he doesn’t see it as having a huge or immediate impact on Hawaii.
“Culturally, we love test numbers as the easy way to judge whether we are doing well in education,” Shon said. “So the tests are going to continue.”
Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono both voted for ESSA, sending out press releases on Wednesday touting their support for the legislation.
According to the releases, the ESSA creates a new grant initiative for establishing or expanding Native language immersion programs, and allows charter schools to apply directly for more federal grants.
Many of the other elements of ESSA highlighted by the senators maintain existing programs such as Federal Impact Aid (which subsidizes schools with high numbers of military dependents) and Preschool Development Grants.
The Department of Education is monitoring the progress of ESSA and the impact it will have on Hawaii, Deputy Superintendent Stephen Schatz said in an email statement.
“It reaffirms the direction of HIDOE with regard to education flexibility and accountability,” Schatz said….
Related: Christmas Comes Early for Teachers’ Unions With No Child Left Behind Rewrite
read … Little Change
Kakaako Sweeps to Begin Again--110 Tents Put up by Homeless Refusing to Accept Shelter
CB: …The nighttime closure rules have not been strictly enforced there by the Hawaii Department of Public Safety since the city’s weeks-long cleanup effort on nearby streets — the epicenter of what had become Honolulu’s biggest homeless community near the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center — ended in October.
The homeless populations have since skyrocketed: The most recent count by the state found 110 tents at the parks — 29 at Kewalo Basin Park and 81 at Kakaako Waterfront Park, according to Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness.
The parks are supposed to be closed from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. at Kewalo Basin Park and from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Kakaako Waterfront Park.
The protocol adopted Wednesday is modeled after the city’s stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances, which allow the city’s maintenance crews to remove property left on sidewalks — either after issuing a 24-hour notice or immediately if the items are deemed “nuisances.”
Under the new rules, HCDA can remove any “abandoned property” that remains in HCDA-controlled parks during the park closure hours after its owner is provided a “reasonable opportunity” to move it.
HCDA defines “abandoned property” as any personal property including “clothing, personal care items such as personal hygiene products and medicines (meth), household items, materials, containers, cardboard, camping items, furniture, equipment, fixtures, bicycle or moped or motorcycle (probably stolen).”
read … Sweeps
Kenoi not doing his job but Won’t Resign
HNN: Kenoi … has been noticeably absent from public service since allegations of county credit card abuse surfaced eight months ago….
it’s hard to miss Kenoi’s absence from public life -- and that has some constituents concerned.
In the first six years of his administration, Kenoi was seemingly everywhere. Front and center.
Constituents say that's no longer the case.
And they question why he hasn’t been publicly involved on major Hawaii Island issues, like 15 near-miss hurricanes this year and the controversial Thirty-Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea.
Hawaii Island residents say one of Kenoi's most glaring absences was last week's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention news conference on dengue fever….
the mayor that used to be everywhere is near impossible to find these days…
The state's investigation into Kenoi's credit card use has no timeframe, but it could lead to criminal charges, administrative discipline or no action. Kenoi has not been charged with a crime….
read … Kenoi responds to critics who say he's not doing his job
Bobby Bunda Raising Money to Succeed Ernie Martin—in 2016?
CB: The former Hawaii Senate president asked for contributions of $500 in a bid for the District 2 seat on the Honolulu City Council.
The district… is currently represented by Ernie Martin, the council chair. Martin’s second and final term is up in 2018. (Unless Martin resigns to run for mayor in 2016.)
Bunda’s campaign treasurer is Laura Figueira, who is Martin’s executive assistant….
In May, Bunda resigned as a board member for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, saying he wanted to spend time with his family.
read … 2018 or 2016?
Shutting Down rail project Would Save Billions
HNN: …Only a quarter of the rail project has been completed and cost of construction has already soared by $1.5 billion.
But rail officials said shutting down the project could cost taxpayers billions.
Dan Grabauskas, CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, said dismantling the existing structures along the five miles already built would cost $150 million alone. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
"(The cost) would be pretty tremendous because we have already spent $1.5 billion to get where we are today. So the design and all of the construction we have done would be wasted," he said.
HART officials provided Councilman Ikaika Anderson a breakdown of the cost to liquidate the project. Besides the $150 million to dismantle the guideway, the costs to liquidate the project could include:
$450 million in refunds to the Federal Transit Administration;
another $450 million in other federal funds spent on rail;
and, more than $1.4 billion to terminate existing contracts and pay for potential legal claims.
But critics said taxpayers could actually save money if construction were stopped.
"Do we use that kind of money to stop the project but save in the long run. Because if we continue the project, the costs are going into the billions," said City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi.
read … Shutting down rail project now could cost taxpayers billions
HPD Officer Arrested After Allegedly Beating Trucker
KHON: Keoki Duarte, 32, was arrested Monday for terroristic threatening, criminal property damage, and unauthorized entry into a vehicle. He was released pending investigation without being charged.
Jonard Escalante told us Duarte punched, choked and kicked him.
Escalante says he was driving his semi-trailer on Farrington Highway when he hit Duarte’s car. Duarte was off-duty at the time.
Escalante says he never saw the car, so he pulled over and so did Duarte. He said Duarte then rushed to his truck in a rage.
“He was really angry, just come outside, I’m going to kick you, punch you,” Escalante said. “I was so scared. I said I’m sorry, it’s an accident.”
Escalante opened the door and says that’s when Duarte pulled him out and started beating him.
“He punched me and he kicked me. He dropped me on the ground and he choked me really tight and I couldn’t breathe. I almost passed out,” Escalante said.
He says he probably would not have survived if other drivers had not stopped to help. Nathan Jones was among them and called 911.
“He was hitting him multiple times on the hood of the truck and then he threw him off of the truck, jumped down himself and was pushing him and punching him some more,” Jones said….
This is not the first beating incident that involved Duarte. There was another one three years ago that wound up costing the city a lot of money.
read … Another One
Video: Police Officer Takes Down Monk Seal Harasser
SA: An Oahu grand jury could take up the case of a Honolulu police officer repeatedly beating a man with his baton — an act caught on video, the prosecutor’s office said.
Deputy prosecutors initially declined to pursue charges against the officer, Ming Wang, a 10-year veteran of the department.
But Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro has ordered his staff to review the case further. Spokesman Dave Koga said that could include presenting the case to a grand jury.
The video was shot Sept. 11, 2014, by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration volunteers Barbara and Robert Billand, who had put up warning signs to keep people away from a monk seal on a Nanakuli beach.
read … Take Down
City council considers stricter rules for taxis, rideshare companies
KHON: A new bill aims to tighten rules for taxi cabs on Oahu and require those who offer a similar service to follow the same laws.
Rideshare programs, like Uber and Lyft, continue to grow in popularity by allowing people to use their own cars to give rides.
A bill that would have required those drivers to buy more insurance failed this past legislative session. Now, councilmembers are trying to level the playing field for those companies and taxi cabs.
read … Dengue