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Wednesday, June 1, 2016
June 1, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:22 PM :: 3756 Views

Duke Aiona Legislative Wrapup

Petition: Save Hawaii Fisheries

Interior Dept. Worsening Bad Situation for COFA Migrants

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted May 31, 2016

Honolulu Third-Fastest Construction Job Growth

Take The Robin Danner DC Tour

Will Hawaii Democratic Party let itself be ruled by witch-hunting vigilantes?

KE: …The Garden Island has been running a poll with a loaded question that reflects the “guilty until proven innocent” mentality that underlines so many discussions about agriculture:  “Do you think there will ever be enough data collected to show that the use of pesticides is harmful to the health and environment of Kauai?”

It's the same skewed mindset that drives today's Civil Beat editorial, which urges the state to spend whatever it takes to find the elusive smoking gun that will prove nasty ag is poisoning the citizenry of Hawaii.

But then, what do you expect from a publication funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar, who bankrolls the same activists who launched the anti-GMO/anti-pesticide/anti-ag movement in Hawaii and just hijacked the Islands' Democratic Party?

The question now is, will the Hawaii Democratic Party let itself be ruled by the self-same group of witch-hunting vigilantes who have relentlessly pursued an anti-ag agenda these past several years? Lest it's tempted, remember that by its own admission, this movement comprises just 1 percent of the state's population.

And will Gov. Ige, state Ag Director Scott Enright and lawmakers let a billionaire's vanity press pull their their strings? Lest they're tempted, remember that Civil Beat has achieved only 2 percent market penetration….

MN: Rich Person Explains Quest for Utopia

read … Musings: Pesticides, Politics and Power

Star-Adv: Socialists Take over Hawaii Democratic Party—Nothing to See Here

SA: …Only a few years ago, this likely would not have happened. A relative outsider to the state’s perennially dominant party has emerged as its chairman, following the Hawaii Democratic Party convention over the weekend.  (He still speaks with a Texas accent.)

Tim Vandeveer, one of many Hawaii supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, beat out three contenders representing the more traditional party constituency to be elected chairman.

It won’t be clear exactly how this may change the political landscape in this state, where historical patterns are deeply etched. That will depend on where the surge of new party members ends up.  (Translation: They’ll be quitting soon.)

To leave a lasting impact, they will have to get engaged in the gritty work of local politics, running for office or otherwise working to ensure their voice is heard and their agenda gets attention.  (They won’t do the work.)

And among the other caveats: Vandeveer was elected narrowly, aided by the fact that the more establishment candidates for the party helm were splitting the powerful union vote among them. (Almost 3/4 of the Party is against him.)

The prevalent power blocs in the state are likely to remain for some time; the unions and the business interests that have supported campaigns for public office will still be there….  (The more things change, the more they stay the same.)

read … Nothing to see here

Pesticide Report Written by ‘True Believers’

SA: …The JFF members betrayed themselves as true believers. Several of them have said that although they looked very hard and found nothing, they really believe there must be problems with pesticide use.

And they recommend that we be at least as heavily regulated as any state in the union.

They seek to test the blood and urine of pesticide applicators, field workers, and the blood and urine of school children.

They want to expand new regulatory oversight to “any farm that produces food products.” Yes, that includes organic farms, taro farmers, beekeepers and livestock operators.

They want to add new fees on all pesticide use by everybody.

They want the state Department of Health to monitor surface waters for pesticide contamination, and also want the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to conduct surface water monitoring at wetland habitats.

You might reasonably wonder at having two different organizations, funded by the same taxpayers, doing the same kind of testing.

They want the state Department of Health to conduct general air monitoring, and the state Department of Education to also conduct school air monitoring.

You might once again reasonably wonder at having two different organizations, funded by the same taxpayers doing the same kind of testing.

They also want testing of feral animals, birds and marine life.

The state has already agreed to do some new testing, monitoring, pesticide use disclosure statewide and so on, but the JFF report seeks even more….

Does it make sense to set up a whole list of mandatory, permanent, costly, sometimes duplicative government regulatory programs where there is no evidence of a problem?

JK: Anti-GMO groups hurting farmers

read … Obsessive-Compulsive

Mufi: Loss of Pro Bowl Another Black Eye for Hawaii

AP: …Mufi Hannemann said it will be difficult to get the game to return. The former mayor of Honolulu said the state should have leveraged its longtime Pro Bowl relationship to bring a preseason game to the islands, he said.

"We lost a partnership with a major sports organization that helped us to be able to say to the world that we can and we do hold major sports attractions in Hawaii. This is just another black eye that adds to the shortcomings of late," Hannemann said.

He listed the cancellation of a U.S. women's soccer game after the players complained of poor field conditions at Aloha Stadium and the loss of professional golf tournaments as examples of setbacks.

Keeping the game in Hawaii would have helped the state give people another reason to visit, he said. The industry is always looking to give people a reason to travel here, not just for the weather and the culture, he said….

SA: How much will losing Pro Bowl hurt tourism?

read ... Hawaii tourism leaders lament loss of Pro Bowl to Florida

Dozens seek to intervene in TMT case

HTH: More than two dozen people and groups filed to intervene in the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case by Tuesday’s deadline.

The motions are scheduled to be considered during a June 17 hearing in Hilo.

Those that are approved would join the existing six petitioners who challenged the project’s land use permit for Mauna Kea during the previous contested case four years ago….

read … TMT Case

Hawaii Superferry to Launch Service June 15—In Nova Scotia

ME: Bay Ferries of Canada has announced completion of the refit of the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command fast ferry Alakai (USNS Puerto Rico) at Detyens Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Alakai is now in sea trials before she departs for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Portland, Maine. She is scheduled to begin service between the two ports from June 15; her name will remain unchanged but she will be marketed as "The CAT" on the service. The catamaran ro/pax can carry up to 850 passengers, 20 trucks and 90 cars per run (or a larger number of smaller vehicles). Her service speed is 35 knots, cutting the crossing time on her new route to 5.5 hours.

The Alakai's history dates back to the Hawaii Superferry operation. She was built by Austal USA's Mobile, Alabama yard in 2007 for use on a daily mail service between Oahu and Maui, but in 2009 her operations were permanently cancelled when Hawaii's Supreme Court ruled that she would require an environmental review. The Alakai and her sister ship Huakai were purchased at auction by the Maritime Administration in 2010, then transferred to the Navy in 2012 and renamed. Huakai is being retrofitted by a Navy contractor for use on the Westpac Express run to Guam, and Bay Ferries secured an agreement for a multi-year charter for the Alakai in March 2016 (with assistance from Maine's elected officials)….

read … Thank a Judge

Multi-Billion Dollar Pension Lawsuit Heads for Supreme Court

CB:  The former state employees’ lawsuit is back before the Supreme Court, whose five justices are all recusing themselves from the case….

For the second time in just six years, a class action lawsuit brought by a group of retired state and county employees challenging what they say were unconstitutional cuts to their health benefits upon retirement is back before the Hawaii Supreme Court.

At issue in the case, Dannenberg et. al. vs. State of Hawaii, is whether or not the Hawaii Medical Service Association health plan offered to more than 51,000 retired workers and their dependents through the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund, or EUTF, violates a provision of the state constitution prohibiting accrued retirement benefits from being “diminished or impaired.”

The key questions posed in this appeal are at what point public employees’ health benefits vest and accrue, and are then considered constitutionally protected, and what level of benefits are protected….

The case has bounced up and down through proceedings at various layers of the the legal system like a slow motion yo-yo for the past decade. And it’s unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

But it’s a case with very real consequences.

Plaintiffs say they pay an ongoing price because they are getting health benefits which are less than what they earned during their working careers and were repeatedly promised would continue. To them, it’s a matter of equity, receiving what they believe they have earned and deserve to receive after their years of service.

The public also has a stake in the outcome.

The EUTF already faced a deficit, or unfunded liability, estimated at just over $9 billion as of July 1, 2015, according to an actuarial study prepared for the EUTF Board of Trustees, and a ruling in favor of the retirees’ claims could potentially add significantly to that figure. Those billions will eventually have to be paid by taxpayers one way or another in the decades ahead….

read … Lawsuit

DHHL contract flap could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars

HNN: …They told owner Santos Pico that it was an emergency job that would allow the DHHL could build a water pipeline. The verbal agreement called for $15,000 up front -- and the promise of more later.

But when it came time to pay, DHHL balked, forcing Pico to sue.

"I was mad, I kept calling the guys on Oahu, every day, every week and they kept putting me off and giving me run around," he said. "They kept blowing me off, blowing me off like they don't have to pay me."

Contract disputes like this are commonplace.

What's unusual here is that the DHHL's Molokai supervisor Edward Ayau authorized the work, but the department's Oahu managers said he shouldn't have.

"Mr. Ayau ... had no authority to contract on behalf of DHHL," said state deputy Attorney General Matthew Dvonch. Because of that, he argued, "The state is immune from suit for money damages."

Pico's attorney says the state's arguments are nonsense.

"They've stolen my client's services. He built a road for them at their request and they're turning around and claiming sovereign immunity," said attorney Eric Seitz.

A state judge agreed.

On Thursday, the judge not only awarded Pico $15,000, but also ordered the DHHL to pay the amount the road is worth.

Seitz said that could be 20 to 40 times the original amount….

read … DHHL Contract

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Bankrupt Taxpayer-Funded Hi-Tech Site Taken over by Subsidized Solar Heating of Rocks

PBN: Edisun Heliostats, which uses rocks as energy storage, is taking over the space left by Hawaii serial entrepreneur Darren Kimura’s (bankrupt) solar energy company Sopogy Inc., which shut down operations in 2014, Pacific Business News has learned.  (And so we at PBN will shamelessly hype this just like we hyped Sopogy.)

Greg Barbour, executive director of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, which oversees the Hawaii Ocean Science & Technology Park in Kailua-Kong on the Big Island, told PBN that Edisun Heliostats received board approval to lease Sopogy’s former site.

Edisun Heliostats, an Idealab and Energy Excelerator company, develops low-cost concentrated solar power with built-in storage use rocks as a storage medium.

The Pasadena, California-based company is expected to install its combined solar and storage installation demonstration project on the Big Island, according to the Energy Excelerator.

read … You better believe taxpayers are paying for this nonsense

Hawaii’s Ice Age Never Really Went Away

CB: The state’s long-ago war on crystal methamphetamine has faltered amid official fatigue, but the drug remains a scourge….

HPR: Crystal Meth in Hawaii: Demand, Supply and Local Culture

read … Ice Age

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