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Wednesday, May 11, 2016
May 11, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:53 PM :: 4821 Views

Wikileaks: Japan refused Obama Hiroshima Apology

Danner Sisters in DC to Lobby for Fake Indian Tribe Based on Nai Aupuni ‘Constitution’

The Plan to Rescue Hawaii’s Birds with Genetic Engineering

Obesity Rate Lowest in Hawaii, Highest in West Virginia

Honolulu has 3rd-Lowest Mortgage Write Off Rate Nationwide

Hawaii Ranks Third in Nationwide Access to Justice Study

Will Feds Withhold a Third Year of Financing Before HART Gets Around to Writing Financial Plan?

KHON: The head of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation says he hopes to have an updated financial plan by the end of the year.

That plan is something that’s keeping HART from getting a lot of federal money.

It’s an issue Always Investigating uncovered last week, when the Federal Transit Administration told us it was withholding $500 million until it gets some answers from HART about its financial plan….

“So would you say by the end of this fiscal year, would that be a confident date? You have two more months,” Martin said.

“Again, I have to talk to the administrator,” Grabauskas said.

“So you can provide no assurances that it can be done with the next 60 days?” Martin asked.

“I’ll ask the administrator tomorrow,” Grabauskas said.

KHON2 found out the federal government is doing a risk refresh, which happens every year or two. They reset the project schedule and budget, depending on what has happened.

Grabauskas said once that’s done, they will complete the financial update, which he hopes to have submitted and accepted by the FTA in December.

(Remember that HART said it was going broke without the GE Tax extension?  Remember?  This proves the GE Tax sales pitch was pure bs.)

read … We Really Don’t Need that $750M anytime soon anyway

Telescope turmoil expected to restart Monday

SA: …Three days after being officially handed the job of hearings officer, Amano on Monday scheduled the hearing to discuss issues regarding the upcoming replay of the Mauna Kea project’s contested case hearing.

The pre-conference hearing will be held at noon Monday at the state Board of Land and Natural Resources building on Punchbowl Street. It’s unclear whether it will be open to the public.

The contested case hearing, ordered anew after the state Supreme Court nullified the project’s construction permit over due-process issues in December, is supposed to be held on Hawaii island.

But this particular pre-conference hearing is scheduled on Oahu “for efficiency since all counsels appear to practice in Honolulu,” according to Amano’s order.

At the top of the agenda: the location of the pre-conference hearing. If Amano deems any objections appropriate, the conference might be relocated to Hilo, the order said.

Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman, attorney for the petitioners Mauna Kea Hui, said he was surprised to receive the latest order so soon.

“We haven’t even had an opportunity to appear before the Land Board,” he said. “It’s a very unique way of proceeding in any tribunal.”

Wurdeman filed a response to Amano, informing her that he is expected to begin a trial Monday. But she replied in a filing Tuesday that the meeting will be short, during lunch, and there might be a little flexibility on the start time, if necessary.

“I intentionally set the conference for the noon hour hoping that any possible conflicts in calendaring might accommodate a short meeting to help me get on track with the contested case hearing process,” Amano said.

Wurdeman previously filed objections to the way the contested case is being handled, among other things, saying the board is violating the state’s open-meeting law in making decisions behind closed doors. But state attorneys have countered that the law does not apply to this particular proceeding….

CB: ‘Contested Case’ Changes May Speed Up TMT Ruling

read … Turmoil

Obama cuts funds to programs for homeless with HIV/AIDS, mental illness

SA: …Eight programs on Oahu that serve 282 homeless teenagers and homeless adults with HIV/AIDS and mental illness have begun losing their federal Housing and Urban Development funding as the agency changes its approach to homelessness.

The $1.3 million in cuts will affect some of the most vulnerable homeless people on the island. And the biggest chunk — $335,489 — will hit Gregory House programs the hardest.

The organization currently houses 20 formerly homeless clients with HIV/AIDS, who typically are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions and often have mental health problems.

Today, Executive Director Jonathon Berliner plans to tell the patients living in lower Makiki that there is no plan for where they’ll live as of Sept. 1.

“It’s baffling that HUD would do something like this when we have the highest (per capita) rate of homelessness” in the country, Berliner said. “These are people who have nowhere else to go. We’re doing what we can to not just dump our clients out on the street.”

The cuts will affect homeless programs only on Oahu. Two neighbor island programs will receive the same amount of HUD funding they got in the last fiscal year, as will two programs on Guam, according to HUD.

The Oahu cuts are part of a nationwide sea change in which HUD is pushing the country’s 398 local community groups — known as a Continuum of Care — to emphasize so-called “permanent supportive housing” over transitional programs such as Gregory House.

“Permanent supportive housing” is often called Housing First, which maintains that it’s more effective and cost-efficient to first put homeless people into fair-market rental units, then deal with problems that can include mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse….

Related: $43M for city sewage projects being withheld pending drug treatment solution

Star-Adv: Keep momentum going for housing

read … Thanks, Obama 

Planning to Dump Matayoshi: Ige Blocks State Superintendent from education task force

HNN: A task force in charge of overhauling Hawai'i's public school standards and testing does not include the state Department of Education's superintendent, Kathryn Matayoshi. 

The team was selected by Governor Ige based on recommendations and applications. It's job is to develop a blue print for a new national requirement that will significantly change how Hawai'i public schools measure success. "Every Student Succeeds Act", or ESSA, replaces "No Child Left Behind".

Officials say it will "transform" Hawai'i education by giving more control back to the state to determine curriculum and accountability.

"It's a big change and it's a lot more responsibility for the states, including Hawai'i, and that's why I think this ESSA task force is so hugely important," explained appointee Rep. Takashi Ohno, (D - Nuuanu, Liliha, Puunui, Alewa Heights) who is also the Vice Chair of the House committee on Education.  (And he’s lived in Hawaii for 7 years now, so he should know.)

Considering how critical it will be in guiding the direction of public education, lawmakers say it doesn't make sense to exclude the state's Superintendent
from the Governor's task force.

Critics of Matayoshi say they've heard the Ige administration plans to replace her when her contract is up in a year.

"I think the Governor, if he didn't appoint her, is doing the right thing because he's turning the page, turning the chapter and moving towards the future. We need educators on there. We have great teachers, great principals. We don't need another attorney, which is what she is by trade. She's an attorney," said Rep. Bob McDermott, (R - Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Iroquois Point)….

KHON: Department of Education asks for public input to improve schools

read … Ige Serves HSTA

Lawsuit: Nepotistic Union Boss Tried to Hire Hit-man to Kill Critics

SA: …A hearing to decide how long the trusteeship will last is scheduled for May 23.

In recent years Ahakuelo has been criticized by subordinates for his spending of union dues, including the hiring of four immediate family members.

Ahakuelo earned $201,712 in 2015, while his wife, Marilyn, director of community services, was paid $105,119, according to the union’s most recent financial report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. Their son, Brandon, the union’s chief of staff, received $143,274, while daughter-in-law Neiani, executive assistant, earned $77,656. Ahakuelo’s sister-in-law, Jennifer Estencion, senior executive assistant, had a salary of $101,855, the filing shows.

“There’s nothing that I have done wrong or, as far as I know, my staff has done wrong in the local union office,” Ahakuelo said. “There’s no complaint or charge filed against me. I feel very confident the local union has always been run correctly under my leadership. All we’ve done is raise the standard for our membership to have the abilities today to live a middle-class lifestyle in the state of Hawaii.”

Ahakuelo, who was elected in 2011, said he paid his family members less than what Local 1260 bylaws allow.

Marilyn Ahakuelo, who was appointed in 2011, could have been paid $145,000, he said. As senior assistant to the business manager, Brandon Ahakuelo — who started at the union in 2012 — should have earned $170,000, while Estencion, who started the same year, was supposed to be making $140,000, according to Brian Ahakuelo. Neani Ahakuelo’s position called for $92,000. She joined the union in 2014.

“I paid (much) lower rates to them for the benefit of members and to make sure I wasn’t paying my family members too much,” Brian Akahuelo said. “The salaries are approved in the bylaws by the members. Even after members approved it, the international has to approve it, too, so it goes through so many checks and balances.”

Ahakuelo said there are other employees at Local 1260 with family members working for the union. They include former TV news broadcaster Russell Yamanoha, director of media, who earned $142,654 last year and whose wife, Tammy, financial serv­ice representative, had a salary of $76,026.

In 2012 UNION organizer Thomas Decano Jr. sued Ahakuelo, claiming that he ordered Decano to “hurt or kill” six union members critical of his spending. The lawsuit states the union leader hired his wife at a salary of $70,272 to be his secretary when she had limited work experience; paid himself $1,000 per month to drive his personal vehicle; and purchased five new automobiles….

read … Nepotism

Hawaiian Electric Stockholders Betting on Approval of Merger

IM: “…If you view markets as able to accurately assess risk, there is a pretty good argument to be made that the market thinks the merger is going through.  Stock is about to hit 34 again right back at the all-time high after the initial merger `euphoria`.”

A share of HEI stock traded at less than $28 in mid-January 2016 but is now trading at close to $34 per share. So why the sudden rise? Many analysts believe that the price should be around $28 a share.

The issue was raised by Hawaiian Electric Industries CEO Connie Lau at the annual HEI shareholders meeting earlier this month. Lau noted the change in share value over the past 17 months.

The original deal between HEI and NextEra, announced on December 3, 2014, called for NextEra to exchange each share of HEI stock with 0.2413 shares of NextEra Energy stock.

In addition, each HEI shareholder would receive a one-time special dividend of 50 cents and one share in American Savings Bank to be initially valued at $8.00.

On December 5, 2014 a share of NextEra Energy was priced at $102.93. Thus the total value to shareholders for each share was $33.84.

The current value of an HEI share is roughly equivalent to the original proposed merger price. But two things have changed since the merger was announced.

The value of NextEra stock has risen over the past 17 months, and is now valued at $119.60.

Thus a 0.2413 value is now worth an additional $4.02. If the merger was approved tomorrow, each HEI shareholder would receive just over $37 a share….

read … HEI Shares Heading Up, Up and Away

State could close fiscal year with retirement fund deficit

SA: …The state Employees’ Retirement System fund eked out a 0.6 percent gain in the first three months of 2016 but is in danger of finishing the fiscal year ending June 30 with its first loss since 2012, according to a report presented to ERS trustees Tuesday by Portland, Ore.-based Pension Consulting Alliance Inc.

Hawaii’s ERS pension fund, which provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to 118,993 active, retired and inactive state and county employees, was down 2.5 percent through the first nine months of the fiscal year. The last time the pension fund finished with a fiscal-year deficit was four years ago when it lost 0.6 percent. Before that the pension fund hadn’t incurred a loss since 2008 when it declined 3.4 percent.

Despite the investment gain last quarter, the market value of the ERS fund dipped by approximately $135 million, to $14 billion from $14.1 billion as of Dec. 31, because of benefit distributions.

“We had one of the worst starts for equity markets in any calendar year,” ERS Chief Investment Officer Vijoy “Paul” Chattergy said. “The markets were off and the ERS portfolio was down. In February the markets calmed down a bit, and we had a very flattish type of occurrence. And in March equity markets really started to perform well, so we made up basically all the ground we lost in January and ended up basically flat for the quarter.”

Chattergy acknowledged that it’s unlikely the portfolio will meet its assumed rate of return this fiscal year of 7.65 percent. The assumed rate of return is one of the factors that the actuary uses to calculate how long it will take before the pension plan is fully funded. Other factors include employer and employee contributions, mortality tables and reduced overall benefits for newer members. Dallas-based actuary Gabriel Roeder Smith &Co. said in its report in December that it expects the ERS fund to be 100 percent funded by June 30, 2041.

As of June 30 the ERS pension fund was underfunded by $8.77 billion, according to the actuary. The portfolio had a funded ratio of 62.2 percent. If it was fully funded, the ratio would be 100 percent….

read … Stock Market

Ethics? Kenoi Cronies Continue to Stall for Time

HTH: The Hawaii County Board of Ethics remained no closer Tuesday to hearing an ethics complaint regarding Mayor Billy Kenoi’s misuse of a county purchasing card a year after it deferred the issue.

The board chose to reconsider the matter at the request of Kapaau resident Lanric Hyland, who filed the complaint in April 2015 following local newspaper reports of Kenoi using the pCard to cover an $892 tab at a Honolulu hostess bar and other personal expenses.

But the members’ 2-2 vote on whether to proceed with the complaint left it officially in deferral. Chairwoman Ku Kahakalau was absent because of an (alleged) illness.

Vice Chairman Ken Goodenow said the board will vote again at its next meeting in June.  (Translation: We need to run down the clock until Kenoi is out of office, then we can call this case moot.)

read … Cronies Stalling for Time

Priced Out of Paradise: Rising college tuition leaves more grads with big loan debt

HNN: Maggie Orellana racked up $60,000 in federal and private student loans while earning her bachelor's degree in education at the University of Hawaii.

Six years after graduating, at 26, she still owes about $45,000….

"If you pay the minimum, it will take you 20 years to pay it off," said Eric Fujimoto, an advisoe at Ameriprise Financial. "Then on a $37,000 student debt, you would have paid close to $34,000 of interest on top of the debt."

read … Debt

Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial finished, six years in making

KHON: It’s been six years in the making, but the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial is finally finished, just in time for Police Week next week.

The memorial is located on the Civic Center grounds in downtown Honolulu. It honors 65 law enforcement officers throughout the state who died in the line of duty.

The state contributed $600,000 towards building this memorial and the rest came from fundraising efforts….

read … Finished

Soft on Crime: Maui Man accused of slashing wife's throat was arrested after 1991 shooting, but never prosecuted

HNN: The man accused of slashing his wife's throat in a Maui supermarket was arrested after a shooting in 1991, but was never brought to trial.

Schmidt was accused of threatening a man and firing shots in the middle of the day at a shopping mall in Nanakuli, according to a heavily-redacted 21-page Honolulu Police Department document.

According to the report from the Feb. 28, 1991 incident, Schmidt pulled out a gun, stuck it in a man's face and said, "Leave me alone or I will blow you away." After a brief struggle, the victim said Schmidt pointed the gun at him again, raised it above his head and fired twice.

Documents show Schmidt turned himself in the next day and he was arrested for attempted murder, terroristic threatening, and reckless endangerment. He was released the next day.

In 1994, the Honolulu Police Department changed the case from attempted murder to a second-degree assault with no explanation.

The final document said, “Per Section 701-108 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, prosecution for any other felony (except for murder, attempted murder, and class A felonies) must be commenced within three years after it is committed.”….

Meanwhile, Schmidt’s former roommate from the 1990s said Schmidt was also accused of stabbing his girlfriend back then.

The roommate said HPD officers showed up at their Nanakuli home searching for evidence. That case was never prosecuted either….

Puna: Triple Homicide Suspect works on Insanity Defense

read … Soft on Crime

Hawaii public schools struggle to provide athletes with top-rated helmets

KHON: Only half of Hawaii’s public high schools with football teams have access to the top-rated helmets, and even at the campuses with the best helmets available, your child may still be handed a lower-rated piece of equipment….

So where does your kid’s school rank? Click here for the full breakdown using data provided by the DOE.

Nanakuli has access to only three-star helmets, called “good” by Virginia Tech. Kailua has twos and threes, with two stars being “adequate” in the rankings.

There are a lot of two-star helmets lingering in the equipment bins at schools that also have a sprinkling of three- through five-star rated helmets.

At Mililani and Waipahu, your kid might draw a two, three, or four. At Castle, Kaimuki, Kalaheo, Kauai, and Leilehua, ratings range from the top five all the way down to two….

(Clue: First player to be injured will sue blaming the DoE for not buying the best helmets.  That lawsuit will cost more than the money which is being saved by not upgrading now.)

LINK: Football Helmet Ratings

read … Hawaii public schools struggle to provide athletes with top-rated helmets

Lifeguards: Maui Council vs. HGEA

CB: …State lawmakers voted unanimously last week to approve paying for the state’s $8.4 million share, which includes the fiscal 2017 increases in wages and benefits for deputy sheriffs, harbor enforcement officers and the conservation officers.

Honolulu City Council members have signed off on the $2.3 million increase for lifeguards on Oahu, and Kauai and Hawaii counties have also approved budget increases to pay for the raises.

So it’s down to Maui.

Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration submitted the approval of the arbitration award and money for the pay raises for lifeguards in its proposed fiscal 2017 budget.

But the Council has yet to decide. Some members are frustrated that they have to find money in the budget for pay raises even though they weren’t part of the negotiations.

Each county had a deputy attorney involved in the bargaining process, but that’s about the extent of the counties’ official representation.

“As much as I support the ocean safety folks, this is a huge chunk,” White told his colleagues at their March 29 meeting. “I’m not ready to support it today.”

The matter was deferred, which set off a campaign by lifeguards and others pressuring the Council members to take it up again and approve it….

read … Maui Council

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