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Friday, February 12, 2016
February 12, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:07 PM :: 4549 Views

HB2733: 25% Hike in GE Tax

Federal Court: Unions Can't Stop Maui Hospital Privatization

Shenanigans continue—House Waives 48 hour notice for Hearings

Hawaii Consumers Will Save $20M/Year Thanks to Internet Tax Abolition

Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas to Host Panel on Self Determination

Oahu Girls Court Celebrates Strength Through Adversity

Plan B: TMT would relocate if permit not secured soon

WHT: The TMT International Observatory’s decision to consider locations other than Mauna Kea for its next-generation telescope didn’t come as much of a surprise to supporters of the project, given the hurdles it still faces.

But the announcement is nonetheless increasing anxiety that Hawaii Island could lose out on the jobs and funding for education that comes with the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope.

“I think we put it in a precarious situation,” said Bill Walter, Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce vice president.

“You get the sense that the investing countries are getting very restive.” …

In addition to seeing more than 13 billion light years away, the telescope — which has faced strong opposition from some Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain sacred — is expected to create 300 construction jobs and 140 long-term jobs, earning it support of business groups and organized labor.

TMT also is contributing $1 million a year for science, technology, engineering and math education on the island, which supporters note would be lost if the project goes elsewhere.

Ed Stone, TMT executive director, told Honolulu media outlets Wednesday that the telescope’s board decided last week to get a “Plan B” ready should the project not regain its construction permit for the mountain.

In an interview with the Tribune-Herald, he reiterated they are not pulling the plug yet, but might end up doing so if they don’t receive assurances the project can proceed by September 2017. That will allow it to begin construction again no later than April 2018….

(NOTE: Because all Hawaii development issues are resolved in the courts, it is not possible for anybody in Hawaii to honestly give any assurance of a permit date to TMT or any other project.)

(PREDICTION: In years to come, politicians will campaign to ‘get the telescopes back’ just as they do no to ‘get the Superferry back.’)

Big Q: Will the Thirty Meter Telescope be built in Hawaii, given setbacks and an internal September 2017 permit deadline?

read … No Rent Money for OHA

Puna Geothermal: Door Open to OHA-Connected Company Selling Overpriced Electricity

IM: …Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) originally expressed the desire for up to 50 megawatts of new geothermal energy in the County of Hawai`i (Big Island).

HELCO published a request for information (RFI) in June 2011 and a request for proposal (RFP) in February 2013.

After years of delay HELCO announced that the winner was Ormat, the owner of the existing Puna Geothermal Ventures (PGV) facility. This month Ormat withdrew from the negotiations.

A losing bidder, Hu`ena Power, the development arm of Innovations Development Group, proposed building a 25 megawatt geothermal facility on the Kealoha Estate in Puna on the Big Island in the vicinity of the existing PGV facility. Hu`ena Power received funding from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Hu'ena Power Inc., General Partner of Hu’ena Power, LLLP filed a “Petition for Declaratory Order” and Complaints against Hawai`i Electric Light Company (HELCO) on February 9, 2016. The deadline to file a motion to intervene in Docket Number 2016-0027 is Leap Day, February 29.

“HU’ENA respectfully requests that the Commission also take into consideration that geothermal is the only indigenous renewable energy resource in Hawaii that pays royalties to  the State, County of Hawaii, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. …

One of the major issues is, What is a reasonable price? Hu`ena proposed 21.48 cents per kilowatt-hour….

read …. Big Connections, Big Cable

Judge Seizes A&B Water, Transfers Control to EarthJustice

SA: In January, Maui Circuit Judge Rhonda Nishimura declared four permits held by A&B on Maui invalid. The month-to-month revocable permits are not supposed to exceed a year, but since 2001 the state Board of Land and Natural Resources had been renewing the permits or maintaining them on a “holdover basis” while it resolved legal challenges.

Nishimura said the permits are intended to be “temporary” and that allowing A&B uninterrupted use of the land for more than a dozen years defied the meaning of the word.

The Maui court ruling was a major setback for A&B, which for more than a decade has been entangled in a contentious legal battle with taro farmers and environmentalists over the diversion of millions of gallons of water a day from dozens of East Maui streams flowing through state lands. A&B has backed two bills in the Legislature this year that would allow it to hold on to its water rights.

The court ruling focused only on A&B, but local attorneys say it has implications for other companies, including the local electrical utilities, farmers and developers who also hold revocable permits that give them access to water on state lands. Some of the permits date from the mid-1990s.

The month-to-month permits have allowed the companies to circumvent stringent requirements for obtaining long-term leases, including completing an environmental impact statement; consulting with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to see whether beneficiaries need the water for customary practices; and in some cases obtaining a conservation district use permit. Long-term leases also have to be competitively bid.

read … Meet the new Luna

Newspaper demands pot panelists’ names be released

SA: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser told the state Health Department on Thursday it will file a lawsuit if the agency does not release by the close of business today the names of committee members who will award Hawaii’s first medical marijuana dispensary licenses.

Jeff Portnoy, attorney for the Star-Advertiser’s parent company, Oahu Publications Inc., delivered the notice to the Department of Health demanding it disclose the names.

“Be warned that unless those names are released by the close of business tomorrow (Friday), Oahu Publications will seek immediate relief from the state courts, including a court order that the names be released,” Portnoy wrote in the letter. “We strongly urge the DOH to avoid the inevitable public ridicule and suspicion that would accompany your continued refusal to make the names public.”

PDF: Portnoy letter to Pressler & J Okubo (Feb. 11)

SA: Ditch the secrecy on pot licenses

read … Lawsuit

Hawaii’s Charter School Overseers ‘Under Assault’ by Corrupt Charter School Operators

CB: “I think there’s a lot of confusion in the state about what an authorizer is,” Mitch D’Olier, a member of the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission, said at a Thursday commission meeting.

The 3-year-old commission’s work has been consistent with the role of charter school authorizers across the United States, whose primary task is holding charter schools academically and financially accountable, D’Olier said.

“Maybe we don’t want an authorizer in Hawaii and that’s a whole (different) question,” D’Olier said….

Hutton has been “under siege” for some time, Commission Chair Catherine Payne said, bearing the brunt of frustration from school leaders who say they are being “regulated to the max.”

Commissioners praised the work of Hutton and his staff Thursday, while also expressing regret at not having been able to protect them from what Payne described as abusive treatment.

Charter school employees curse at Hutton and commission staff on the phone, she said. During a meeting leading up to the closure of Halau Lokahi Charter School, Payne said an employee of the now-shuttered school threw salt on Hutton as a “sign of disgust.” …

Hutton — a lawyer who helped found a successful charter school in Washington, D.C. — said he overestimated the level of “common understanding” about the work of charter school authorizers and the new direction for charter schools in the state.  (Translation: Corruption has a lot of support here.)

SA: Chief of charter schools quits post amid criticism

read … Hawaii’s Charter School Overseers Are Feeling ‘Under Assault’

Hawaii fantasy sports bill could create loophole

AP: Opponents of a Hawaii bill that would outlaw fantasy sports in certain circumstances say it could instead create a loophole to legalize the contests….

…Some worried that if passed, those not included in the bill — for instance, those over 21 who aren’t professional athletes — could be subject to stricter penalties under Hawaii’s current gambling laws. Meanwhile, others worried it would create a loophole to legalize fantasy contests for people not included in the bill.

“This only creates a violation for this small group of individuals, so everyone else is allowed to do that,” Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Tom said. “It just creates a niche in our gambling laws to allow for fantasy competitions.”

The Honolulu Police Department, Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling and the League of Women Voters were among those who opposed the bill, saying fantasy sports are a form of gambling, not a game of skill….

read … Trick

Only 53% of Hawaii Visitors Stay in Hotel

PBN: There were approximately 212,953 visitors in Hawaii on any given day in 2015, and approximately 53 percent of them, or 113,203 visitors, stayed in a Hawaii hotel last year, according to a new report by Hospitality Advisors and STR, Inc. That's the equivalent of the entire population of Shreveport, La., or Akron, Ohio, showing up at the same time.

read … and the 47%?

Mililani: Homeless Invade Preschool, Demand Service

SA: I belong to a Mililani church with a preschool that is experiencing an increase in homeless people in the area.

They come onto our property to sleep, wash their clothes, go to the bathroom and seek food and clothing.

We also had a recent break-in that we believe is related to our homeless situation.

The homeless we are now seeing choose not to seek or accept a longer- term solution to their situation. On many occasions, they have become confrontational, if we do not cater to their demands.

read … Confrontational

Police transparency gaining momentum as political issue

Borreca: News item: A Honolulu Police Department internal investigation starts after reports of a cheating scandal at the police department’s training academy.

News item: FBI arrests former Kauai Police “Officer of the Year.”

News item: HPD sergeant pulled over, smelling of alcohol, given “courtesy ride home.” Later arrested for DUI.

And last year, a bill regarding police misconduct described another aspect of police problems.

“Between May 2013 and September 2014, the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women received approximately 38 separate complaints from women who said officers with the Honolulu Police Department did not respond appropriately to allegations of abuse,” Senate Bill 497 read.

The bill, which did not pass, would repeal the prohibition on revealing the names of police officers guilty of misconduct….

read … Police

Soft on Crime: Legal Aid Society Among Hawaii’s Top Lobbyists

CPI: Hawaii: HEALTHCARE ASSOCIATION OF HAWAII, HAWAII ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS, CASTLE & COOK INC., LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF HAWAII, MONSANTO CO.

read … Legal Aid Society

Legislators Consider Releasing 200 Criminals on to Streets

CB: Under House Bill 2391, introduced as part of Gov. David Ige’s legislative package, the director of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety would have discretion to order the release of those (most recently) charged with, or convicted on, a misdemeanor (but their other 32 convictions will not be considered).

But no inmates who have been involved in a “serious crime” (this time) or those who have had bail denied or set at more than $5,000, would be eligible for the release.

read … Soft on Crime

Senators grill HPD over claims department meets 'gold standard' for operations

HNN: State senators grilled a police major – whose division faces an internal cheating investigation – when he said the department has a “gold standard” rating for its operations.

Hawaii is the only state in the country without a statewide law enforcement training and standards board. On Thursday, HPD sent Major Gordon Shiraishi, head of its training division, to testify against a proposal to create such a panel. Shiraishi told senators from the Senate Public Safety and Consumer Protection committees that HPD already has achieved a "gold standard" assessment from a national accreditation commission.

Two senate committees approved the statewide standards board measure (SB2755) Thursday, but rejected a tougher measure (SB2325) that would allow the board to revoke the certification of an officer found to have committed serious wrongdoing.

One critic who has studied accountability at HPD said that creates a toothless standard that cannot be enforced.

"The committees really missed out on an opportunity today to create that agency, instead creating a bureaucratic agency that has no mechanism to enforce any type of standards," said Aaron Hunger, a former police officer in Florida and California who is now a criminal justice instructor at UH Manoa and Remington College in Honolulu.

While HPD opposed the standards proposal, state law enforcement agencies supported it.

“The public and the state would be well served with the institution of a recognized and open standard for the training and certification of law enforcement officers in all jurisdictions statewide,” said written testimony submitted by Nolan Espinda, director of the state Public Safety Department, which oversees the Sheriffs Division that protects state facilities including the state Capitol and Honolulu Airport.

The Public Safety Department opposed the more stringent measure that would revoke certification of officers who misbehave….

CB: Hawaii Closer To Implementing Statewide Police Standards

read … Gold?

Internal probe targets alleged cheating at police academy

HNN: A cheating scandal at the Honolulu Police Department's training academy has resulted in an internal investigation, officials said.

Some recruits in the current class at HPD's training academy in Waipahu are under investigation because of allegations that some of them received answers to questions on tests in advance, allowing them to cheat, sources told Hawaii News Now.

It's not clear how widespread the alleged cheating is, but the police department is taking the situation seriously, and might temporarily re-assigning both the captain and major in charge of training. 

Sources said those commanders are under scrutiny because the alleged cheating happened on their watch and they received anonymous complaints about cheating for a while but failed to take immediate action.

Sources said training academy instructors are having to re-write all their tests.

"This is an academy that's supposed to be training police officers that have a higher ethical standard than the public," said Aaron Hunger, a UH and Remington College criminal justice instructor.

Hunger served as a field training officer at sheriff departments in California and Florida before moving to Hawaii, where he is working on his dissertation about accountability at HPD….

There are 64 HPD recruits currently in the classroom phase of instruction and since they're all on probation, it's much easier to fire them because unlike police officers, they cannot appeal or file grievances over any disciplinary action.

Sources said there have been other problems at the police academy in the last couple of years, when trainers wanted to flunk several recruits, but were overruled by their superiors, who allowed them to graduate.

Sources said at least one of those questionable officers ended up quitting the first day on the job.

read … Start off Crooked

Zika in Micronesia?

MJ: …although the Centers for Disease Control says Samoa is the only Pacific nation where the Zika virus has been confirmed, this dangerous virus could already be in Majuro. A visitor who was in Majuro in November, and tested positive for the virus soon after leaving the RMI, told a local resident that reviewing when the symptoms began, ‘I definitely would have caught it in Majuro.'” ….

HTH: Schatz Pressures Ige over Dengue, Zika

read … Zika in Micronesia

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