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Sunday, April 10, 2016
April 10, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:12 PM :: 3966 Views

Hawaii Fuel Tax: Schizophrenia in Motion

Another $800M Shortfall for Rail

KHON: …A manager with Hawaiian Electric pointed out safety concerns about utility placement and undergrounding along the rail route.

Those concerns, coupled with the spiraling cost of the project, have prompted the head of the city council to call for the leader of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) to be replaced.

HECO’s manager called out HART for pushing ahead with design and building despite major unresolved issues about power and safety for its crews.

Now, Always Investigating has uncovered a new surprise for landowners along the route.

Back in 2014, we revealed that the cost and source of power was still up in the air, and that major issues about line relocations, or undergrounding, posed time and cost problems.

The project’s federal monitor continues to call power issues the “most significant risk to the project.” Among those issues, was there even enough power? Is HECO or HART paying for an added substation? What will line relocations cost?

We’ve heard very little from HART since more than a year ago, when Always Investigating asked CEO Dan Grabauskas: “How much of that infrastructure do you have to pay for?”

“That’s an excellent question and not yet answered,” he replied.

Since then, HART penciled in about $120 million, but a federal monitor says that’s not enough.

A power company official has now come forward to the rail authority, saying critical clearance issues are not being addressed in upcoming segments, warning that de-energizing of lines to be moved can take up to a year, and saying the already built parts of the track don’t give enough safe working space for power company personnel.

HECO released the following statement Friday: “We are confident that by working with HART, we can develop a plan that will address these issues.”

We dug even deeper and found another surprise, as more property is going to be affected by the power problems.

One-hundred-forty-six public parcels will be crossed over, and about 100 more privately owned parcels have to have easement purchases to make way for power line undergrounding.

“There is a whole new batch of folks who are going to get notice letters and HART is going to have to inspect their properties and see what they find underground,” said Mark Murakami, an attorney with Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert. “There could be iwi. There could be a host of issues they don’t have right now, because they’re not digging in those areas.”

Negotiating the sales and details on each of those parcels will take time, and at what cost?

The federal monitor and that HECO letter both urge holding off on more design and construction until all these power problems are resolved….

Both Horner and Grabauskas are targeted by Honolulu City Council chair Ernie Martin, who wants them to be replaced.

Martin made the request in a letter to Caldwell, citing the rising cost of the project and the budget shortfall, which he says could reach $800 million….

Related: City Council Chose Near-Impossible Dillingham Blvd Rail Route

read … We Told You So

PUC is 2-1 In Favor of Next Era?

SA: …While (PUC Commissioner Michael) Champley’s term ends June 30, the HECO-NextEra deal has a June 3 drop-dead clause.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser energy reporter Kathryn Mykleseth reported in February that NextEra officials passed out industry analyst reports saying NextEra was serious about the June 3 date.

NextEra bidding “aloha” would bring a big smile to Ige’s face, because he has made dumping the HECO-NextEra merger a signature part of his administration’s energy policy.

Champley figures in all this because there are only three people voting on the fate of the multibillion dollar deal: Champley; fellow commissioner Lorraine Akiba, who was also appointed by Abercrombie; and Randy Iwase, the Ige appointee.

Although nobody is saying how they will vote, the speculation is that Iwase will follow the Ige lead, so Champley and Akiba can tip the balance either way.

At the same time, legislative leaders were signaling to Ige to not monkey around with the Champley appointment as a way to find another commissioner to kill the NextEra purchase deal. If Ige finds an opponent to the HECO deal to put on the PUC, the deal could die, even if both parties agree to extend past the June 3 date.

Adding to the pressure was an opinion piece in the April 3 Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial section, saying “should the PUC opt to not to rule in time, thereby allowing the merger agreement to expire and NextEra Energy to walk away, it would be a lasting black eye for Hawaii.”

The op-ed was signed by a gold-plated list of Hawaii heavy hitters, including Walter Dods, retired chairman/CEO of First Hawaiian Bank; Mitch D’Olier, retired CEO of Kaneohe Ranch Co.; and Ron Taketa, executive secretary-treasurer of the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters.

Playing politics with the PUC and the NextEra buyout might be tempting to Ige, but as one lawmaker said about the issue last week: “The governor doesn’t need another black eye.”…

IM: Honolulu Star-Advertiser sort of endorses NextEra merger

read … Another Ige Failure?

Ige has failed to lead state out of homelessness pickle

Shapiro: …Ige declared an extended state of emergency, but few major emergency actions have backed it up.

The breakup of a problematic homeless encampment in Kakaako was a short-lived victory, with many homeless moving their tents to other nearby public property.

A temporary shelter for homeless families discussed since August has been slow to materialize, and public housing units remain vacant because of maintenance backlogs.

The governor’s promised legislative initiative to make a big dent in homelessness has sputtered so far.

His request for $75 million in bonds to develop affordable rentals was cut to $25 million by the House, and a $25 million request to develop affordable homes for purchase was cut in half.

Modest requests of $2 million for homeless outreach, $3 million for Housing First and $2 million for rental subsidies were axed altogether by the House; a Senate measure setting a goal of 22,500 new affordable rental units in 10 years has no funding behind it.

Honolulu Hale is even more dysfunctional, with the bitter political rivalry between Caldwell and Martin making homelessness deliberations more a matter of fixing the blame than fixing the problem.

Caldwell too often communicates his homelessness plans to the Council by press conference, and the Council replies by shooting down the mayor’s budget requests to fund a proper city housing program.

The Council held up a badly needed low-income senior housing project in Chinatown because it didn’t like the feng shui, and now is threatening to stop funding for what is arguably the city’s one housing success: Caldwell’s 90-person Hale Mauliola temporary shelter at Sand Island.

The Council’s latest big idea is to establish tent cities in every Council district that wants one — an approach that national experts say only locks in chronic homelessness while providing little real help….

read … Ige has Failed

Homeless shelter occupancy rates a lousy measure of success

SA: …Homeless shelter occupancy has been given so much attention. Yet it is a lousy measure of whether a shelter is achieving success.

As an emergency shelter, the Institute for Human Services (IHS) regularly experiences a vacancy rate of about 20 percent among its 400 beds throughout the men, women and family shelters. This number does not reflect how we are constantly turning over beds as people leave almost every day. Wherever they go, they’ve benefited from a safe place to sleep for the time they have been with us.

The vacancy rate also fails to reflect the new referrals daily from local hospitals, the community, our outreach team, other service providers or people simply walking in.

If we were full, we would need to turn people away. But as a safety net for the community, we are glad that there is always some room for people who genuinely need help.

So what would be good indicators of a well-operated homeless shelter? …

The volume of people served in emergency shelters would be a good measure of whether they are serving as a safety net.

The length of stay before guests are transitioned into more stable housing, employment rates at exit and rates of increased income at exit are three solid outcomes that reflect success. These are standard measures emergency shelters already track across our system.

For transitional shelters, the same set of measures could apply except that exits into permanent housing would be the primary housing outcome indicator.

read … Homeless shelter occupancy rates a lousy measure of success

Sierra Club: Land Use Policy Must Serve Needs of Tourism Industry by Packing the Little People into the Smallest Possible Spaces

Aalto: We know Hawaii’s population is expanding by 14,000 people a year and that most of the new arrivals are local babies… The state Department of Business Economic Development & Tourism says we need 21,000 new affordable rentals in less than 10 years.

OK. But that doesn’t mean we throw our (Sierra Club) principles out the window….

…Our biggest industry depends on the beauty of our islands. A chief complaint from tourists is sprawl — the vastness of the conurbation they have to traverse to reach the North Shore and the unrelenting loss of green space. Ironically, the jobs the tourist industry generates are filled by the very people who most desperately need affordable housing — which is precisely why hospitality unions typically join us in opposing unfettered development….  (Translation: The Enviros are working for the tourism industry.  They are also working to keep YOU away from their luxury rural eco-estates.  You are just a ride-operator in the Hawaiiland Amusement Park.)

Our opposition to greenfield developments is balanced by an alternative strategy: building taller and denser in the urban core. It’s precisely because we understand the need for affordable housing that we support the rail project — a transit corridor around which to cluster dense housing. We have no patience for the building moratorium in parts of the city that the City Council is now considering.….

Is such housing more expensive than single family homes in the ’burbs? It doesn’t have to be, especially if you remove the requirement for two parking spaces per unit — each spot typically increases monthly rents by $100 to $200.  Encouraging people to walk, bike and use mass transit has major impacts on affordability. The average annual cost to own a car is $8,700. If a family moves to a unit near the rail and gets rid of one car, the savings would be $725 a month. Not to mention the nightmare commutes that are destroying family life. (Translation: Take cars away from the little people.)

Those who allege that environmentalists disrespect low-income folks by blocking suburban developments (have got us dead to rights, but I’ll never admit it) ….

It’s true that long, contentious permitting battles can add to costs. One solution might be to create special districts with a rapid approval process. I believe environmentalists could support such an idea, but only if the districts were in parts of the urban core where they belong: Moiliili, McCully, Iwilei, Kalihi, Waipahu ….

Why the Sierra Club is Scared: Hawaii’s land-use law violates the Fair Housing Act

read … Workers Must Bow to the Needs of Industry

New HMSA Plan – Pay Doctors More for Doing Less

SA: Hawaii Medical Service Association is making a major change in the way it pays primary care doctors, and many physicians say the new system will hurt patient care.

The new system will reimburse physicians a fixed monthly rate for each patient in a practice, whether or not the patient visits the doctor.

The state’s largest health insurer began using the new system on a limited basis April 1. In 2017 the pilot program will replace HMSA’s current fee-for-service model, which reimburses doctors based on the number of patient visits and type of service….

Many Hawaii doctors say the change will inevitably hurt patient care and is already driving some physicians out of business.

“It’s a system that rewards physicians for not doing what they’re supposed to do, which is taking care of patients. The less you do, the more you get paid and the bigger your bonuses. It is crazy,” said Dr. Richard DeJournett, an HMSA diagnostic radiologist. “If you can’t get what you need for your own health care because someone else is looking after their bottom line and their profits, it’s going to hurt your care. It can’t do anything but hurt patient care.” …

Payments will range between $20 and $80 per patient per month, depending on the complexity of the patients in a practice, said Dr. Scott Miscovich, a Kaneohe primary care doctor who is part of the pilot program.

“The hazard exists that you would then throw out all your complicated patients, or someone who needs a lot of care,” he said. “A perfect patient panel would be really healthy patients that don’t ever come to your office.” …

State Sen. Josh Green (D, Naalehu-Kailua-Kona), a Big Island emergency room doctor and head of the Hawaii Independent Physicians Association, said the new model could help (Yup.  He likes it.)

Dr. Christopher Flanders, executive director of the Hawaii Medical Association, the trade group representing 1,900 doctors.

“It was tried before back in the HMO (health maintenance organization) days, and it didn’t work. Essentially what that’s doing is passing the risk of insurance from insurance companies to the physicians,” he said. “The way those things are set up, the less you do, the more you make. The physician has no control over how often a patient comes in, so if you’ve got somebody who’s a frequent visitor to your clinic, you’re going to be spending more money than you’re bringing in. That means that you can’t see more than a quarter of your patients every month.”

read … Doctors blast new HMSA payment plan

With $1.7B on the Line, HSTA Cranks up Heat Hype Again

WHT: Fans were blowing, the door ajar and a wall of louver windows swung wide open. And yet by 11 a.m. on a recent Monday, the temperature inside Jacqueline Kubo Luna’s classroom had already climbed past 80 degrees.

“This whole wing, we just get it really bad,” Luna said later that morning, gesturing around her muggy room at Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary School. “Definitely the windows have to always be open. If they’re not, it’s just scorching in here.”

Luna, a longtime Kapiolani second-grade teacher, is well prepared. She’s got a roll of paper towels on hand to stop frequent, heat-triggered nose bleeds….

The problem with system wide AC, Suyama said, is the cost. Estimates show installing AC in every school in the state would run up a $1.7 billion price tag. The cost per classroom can run as high as $30,000. Meanwhile, the department’s yearly electric bill runs around $48 million, which increases each time new systems are added….

BEST COMMENT: "The cost per classroom can run as high as $30,000"

Typical government idiocy. Give me $2,500 and I'll install two or three 8,000 BTU window units that run off 15 amp circuits, and cost about $200 each. The rest is for whatever material is required for brackets, door sweeps, wood or plastic to mate the units to the windows, etc. I'd still make a nice profit.

Would those units work? Heck yes, they wouldn't turn a classroom size room into a meat locker, but they'd knock the temp down from 90 to 80 and dry out the air, combined with a ceiling fan, that's all you'd need. But the government can't do what's necessary, they have to do studies and hold hearings and panel commissions and then only a big ticket approach would be allowed. Governments don't do anything right.

KHON: Molokai student keeps promise to get schools cool

read … Government Idiocy

HECO Renewable Plan: Ratepayer Funded Smart Grid, Taxpayer Subsidized Electric Cars

SA: …The tone of the discussion has shifted, and the push for upgrades enabling a new “smart grid” is the most encouraging part of that change. Where HECO in the past has cast that development as indefinite, the company seems fully committed now.

And that’s key to the plan’s success. A smart grid enables more flexibility, allowing for greater penetration of solar and wind power with its variable loads, and it permits customer controls and choices for energy usage. Time-of-use rates provide an opportunity for saving money.

The utility also seems to have embraced the notion that the adoption of electric vehicles on Oahu could provide a way to shift more electrical usage to the midday, when solar energy is plentiful, enabling the grid to accommodate more of it.

Further, it could provide an alternative revenue stream for HECO, which desperately needs to transition to a business model that is less about producing electricity and more about managing and distributing it.

The PUC may hesitate on one aspect of the PSIP: HECO is holding fast to its blueprint calling for liquefied natural gas as a “bridge” fuel as it transitions to renewables….

read … Money Making Opportunities

Hawaii wind turbines kill petrel, shearwater, nene and bats

IM: …During FY 2015 there were twenty observed bird deaths:  Hawaiian petrel (2), Pueo (2), Nēnē (4), Gray francolin (3), White-tailed tropicbird (1), Eurasian skylark (1), Black francolin (1), Pacific golden plover (1), and the Ring-necked pheasant (5)….

The ownership of the wind facility has changed hands from Zond Pacific, Enron Wind, Kaheawa Wind Power, Makani Nui Associates, LLC, UPC Wind Partners, First Wind Energy, and SunEdison.

read … Hawai`i wind turbines kill petrel, shearwater, nēnē and bats

Bill to allow legislators to take jobs at UH goes to senators

SA: Lawmakers are advancing a bill to allow the University of Hawaii system to hire members of the state Legislature, a change that would reverse a university ban on employing lawmakers that has been in place at UH since at least 1966.

The current Board of Regents policy requires that an employee of the UH system take leave of absence without pay while campaigning for political office, and requires the employee to resign from university service before he or she takes office upon winning an election.

That policy doesn’t sit well with some lawmakers, including Rep. Andria Tupola, who was forced to go on unpaid leave while she campaigned for office in 2014, and step down from her position as a full-time music professor at Leeward Community College after she was elected to the state House.

Tupola, (R, Kalaeloa-Ko Olina-Maili) challenged the UH policy at the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, but her case was dismissed. In her first year as a lawmaker, Tupola introduced a measure that would allow candidates to continue in their UH jobs while they campaign, but the measure wasn’t passed.

House Higher Education Committee Chairman Isaac Choy now has taken up the issue because “to have any kind of discriminatory employment practices is bad,” he said.

Choy has introduced House Bill 1556, which would allow anyone elected to a non-statewide public office to work in nonexecutive or nonmanagerial roles at UH….

read … Bill to allow legislators to take jobs at UH goes to senators

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