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Friday, June 17, 2016
June 17, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 9:33 PM :: 4436 Views

VIDEO: 9th Circuit Hears Akina Suit vs Fake Tribe

Court Lifts Stay—Allows Maui Hospital Privatization to Proceed

Fire Mayor, Not the Ethics Director

Flip Flop: Caldwell Suddenly Decides Rail Must End at Middle Street

Full Text: Caldwell statement on rail project

Ninth Circuit Digs In on Hawaii GMO Rules

VIDEO: Ninth Circuit Oral Arguments In Hawaii Anti-GMO Cases

Pay for Performance: AMA Softening Stand Against Assisted Suicide?

Caldwell’s Sad Little Zoo—More at Stake than Money

Hawaii #1 in Percentage of Transportation Costs Funded by Fuel Taxes, Registration Fees

Just Another Day in Honolulu: County Prosecutor Shields Police Chief’s Wife from FBI

KHON: It's not often that a prosecutor refuses to cooperate with another prosecutor, but that appears to be the case in the ongoing federal grand jury investigation into the police chief and his wife. 

(But this is Hawaii, last week a police officer and a sheriff’s deputy were charged in separate rapes and one prison guard was charged with kidnapping and murder, so what Kaneshiro is doing is barely noticeable.)

City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro was in court Thursday for a hearing to decide whether he has to turn over evidence a federal prosecutor has requested in the case against Police Chief Louis Kealoha and the chief's wife, deputy city prosecutor Katherine Kealoha.

Among the files Kaneshiro doesn't want to turn over: Personnel records for Katherine Kealoha, who he supervises, and files pertaining to a speeding ticket that she got dismissed years ago, sources say….

The speeding ticket Kealoha got dismissed was for a man Hawaii News Now is identifying as A.W. He was cited for driving 78 mph in a 35 mph zone on Likelike Highway, near the Wilson Tunnel….

Sources say she may have lied to the judge in order to get to the ticket dismissed.

At a September 2014 hearing on the ticket, Kealoha told the judge that a career criminal she was prosecuting stole A.W.'s identity and was using his license and pick-up truck. Kealoha is the head of the career criminal unit at the prosecutor's officer. A.W. is an electrician and apparently did work for the Kealohas.

On Thursday, in addition to Kaneshiro, the officer who wrote the ticket to A.W. was seen walking into the federal courthouse, also to testify before the federal grand jury….

(And amazingly, Kaneshiro faces no substantive opposition in the Aug 13 election.)

read … Court showdown as Kaneshiro fights federal attempt to compel testimony

City, State Operate in Ethics Vacuum

SA: As the rail project gets more expensive and complex, when money in pursuit of political influence will be coursing through the veins of this city even more rapidly than usual, Honolulu is devoid of adequate oversight on the ethics of government operations.

The departure of Chuck Totto from his post as executive director of the city Ethics Commission, along with key staffers, leaves a terrible vacuum that must be filled without delay.

The fact that this happens at a time when the state Ethics Commission is also without a chief after turnover only exacerbates the public concern.

Totto has been wearing the label of the “embattled” agency chief for a long time, due to skirmishes with the administration of Mayor Kirk Caldwell….

Jesse Broder Van Dyke, the mayor’s spokesman, dismissed as “completely false” (Translation: “Absolutely true”) allegations lodged Wednesday by mayoral candidate Charles Djou.

Djou, a former City Council member, praised Totto and said his departure “is the direct result of political pressure from the administration and was only made possible by Caldwell’s appointees.”

read … Don’t let city ethics work languish

HART: Caldwell Plan Would Cut Rail Ridership 43%

SA: …Critics of that plan say it undermines the point of building the rail in the first place: to offer West and Central Oahu commuters a more convenient way to get to town. It would significantly reduce ridership from the city’s longtime estimate of 119,000 daily rail trips and place a bigger burden on taxpayers to subsidize the line in place of lost fare revenues, they say.

Eliminating the eight stations past Middle Street could reduce rail’s ridership by at least 51,000 daily boardings, according to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation estimates. The move might solve some of the rail’s immediate money problems, but it could also leave city officials with more difficult long-term challenges as they try to pay for its operations, one key state lawmaker said….

If the rail line does end prematurely, officials say it would probably cost more to resume building later. In the current market, with some 12 percent annual construction cost escalation, it could cost as much as $10 million for every month delayed on a $1 billion contract, HART Deputy Executive Director Brennon Morioka said….

The news that both Caldwell and Martin agreed work should stop at Middle Street surprised some members of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, which also met Thursday. Kymberly Pine, who represents the Leeward Coast, was deeply frustrated.

“That’s pretty stupid,” Pine told HART staff after they briefed her. “As someone who’s stuck in traffic the longest … I can tell you, you need to look at the ridership numbers on all these plans.” HART officials say they’ve just begun to analyze how stopping at Middle Street would affect ridership and other factors.

“We’re just making a guess out of the air. We’re not using real numbers to make management and construction decisions,” and that’s been a core problem with rail, Pine added.

Shortly after the Council meeting ended, Pine appeared about a quarter-mile away at the HART board meeting, which ran all day. She pleaded that the rail agency keep considering other options.

HART Executive Director Dan Grabauskas said he would issue an addendum to the firms looking to build rail’s final four miles advising them to “stand down” on their work until rail officials have a clearer direction for the project.

In 2012 HART estimated it would cost about $528 million to build rail’s final four miles. In March it estimated it would cost $866 million. Now it estimates it could cost as much as $1.5 billion to complete that same stretch.

Last year state lawmakers authorized a five-year extension of a 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge to help the city finish the 20-mile project. Nothing in the law’s language prevents the city from building a shorter line using those dollars, state Sen. Jill Tokuda, Ways and Means Committee chairwoman, said Thursday.

When Caldwell and rail leaders testified before her committee, “there was never a discussion I recall (of) ‘Hey, we might not even make it,’” said Tokuda (D, Kailua- Kaneohe). Instead, the five-year extension was supposed to give the city a financial “cushion” to start planning line extensions, she said.

“It’s extremely disappointing to see us in this position,” Tokuda said. “Making the line shorter doesn’t make it easier.”

KHON: Pine: I don’t Like Caldwell’s Middle Street Plan

read … Set-up for a Tax Hike

What happens to already affected businesses if rail doesn’t reach town?

KHON: In a meeting with HART on Friday Councilmember Ann Kobayashi voiced her concerns about the businesses along the proposed route, “I was confused and concerned. I asked them if you’re going to stop at Middle Street, what about all those businesses that have to close that are beyond Middle street? What happens to them?” …

Ann Kobayashi says she doesn’t see how the businesses that have already been condemned or bought out along the route will be made whole, “I mean it’s bad enough they’re losing their businesses and have it to close down. Then to find out, well maybe the rail isn’t even going to come here. It’s like a double blow.”

read … Businesses

PUEO: Pro Telescope Hawaiians Gain Standing in Contested Case

HNN: Retired Judge Riki May Amano on Friday approved requests by the Thirty Meter Telescope and the group Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities to be parties in the contested case hearing over the permit for the controversial telescope.

Amano also approved 14 other groups and individuals who can file motions and call witnesses, and who are required to participate in any proceedings ahead of the hearing itself.

Amano offered those who applied to be parties to be witnesses instead. Five applicants chose that option.

There are now 20 parties involved in the hearing, including the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Mauna Kea Ainanahou, a group opposed to the $1.4 billion telescope and represented by attorney Richard Wurdeman.

Those parties indicated that they would call upwards of 150 witnesses.

Amano told the parties that with that number of witnesses, she expects the hearing to take three to four weeks. She said the hearings would be held on the Big Island….

VIDEO: Judge Amano Allows TMT, PUEO, Others Into Contested Case

VIDEO: Kanuha Joins TMT Contested Case Hearing

HTH: ‘Aloha for everyone’: Amano permits all parties to participate in TMT contested case

read … PUEO

Fed appeals court considers if Hawaiian election case moot

AP: …Plaintiffs argue that the lawsuit isn't moot because there's a fundraising effort underway for a ratification vote on a proposed constitution drafted at the gathering.

The lawsuit also claims the state improperly got involved with the election by allowing state agency Office of Hawaiian Affairs to fund the effort. The state denies involvement in the election.

In 2011, the state passed a law recognizing Hawaiians as the first people of Hawaii and laid the foundation for Native Hawaiians to establish their own government. The governor appointed a commission to produce a roll of qualified Native Hawaiians interested in participating in their own government.

The Office of Hawaiians Affairs must be prevented "from funneling millions of government dollars to another supposedly private entity under its de facto control for the purpose of holding a ratification vote using the race-based roll," the plaintiffs say in a court brief last month….

read … Court

Iwilei Unhinged Homeless: 626 Crimes, Couple of Murders

SA: Richard Gray, who has lived in Iwilei for 19 years, dominated Thursday’s meeting with a litany of complaints, including vandalism and having to clean up human feces every day.

“They’ve set fires in my building, deliberately broken into bathrooms,” Gray said. “So I’ve had doo-doo water spilling on my carpets. Yesterday we repaired a door they ripped off the hinges.” …

Homeless-related break-ins, vandalism and drug trafficking plague Iwilei, and residents and business owners complained Thursday that police do not respond fast enough, if at all….

Iwilei has already seen “a couple of murders” this year, and “one murder will take most of the officers to investigate that crime scene,” Fujioka said.

From the beginning of the year through May, there were 626 crimes committed within a half-mile radius of Alakawa Street, Cpl. Dennis Higa said….

(Councilmember Joey Manahan) favors a tent city in his district (even though the ones he already has several)….

read … Beyond Crisis

Judge repeals Ethics Commission opinion on teacher chaperone travel

SA: A 2015 ban on free travel for public school teachers who organize out-of-state field trips was essentially lifted Friday, after a Circuit Court judge invalidated advice given by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association, which represents 13,500 teachers, challenged the Ethics Commission opinion, arguing that the agency violated state law and the union’s constitutional rights when it said that under the state ethics code, teachers cannot accept free travel from tour companies in exchange for organizing trips.

It had been a decades-long practice for teachers to travel free while chaperoning students on field trips to the mainland and abroad. Typically, a free chaperone spot was provided for every six to 10 students booked….  

read … Judge voids ethics agency’s advisory on teachers’ travel

Demonstrators rally in support of Thirty Meter Telescope

HNN: More than 80 demonstrators waved signs in support of the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hilo on Thursday.

This comes just a day before DLNR is scheduled to hold a hearing in Hilo to decide whether or not to allow the telescope to be built atop Mauna Kea, land Native Hawaiians deem sacred.

"We really want to show how much support there is in the community for tmt," said Kirstin Kahaloa, Executive Director of the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce. "You know, I think the public often sees the controversial aspects and you know we want to show that tmt is about local jobs for local people."

Everybody should support the thirty meter telescope," Kahaloa added. "Native Hawaiians like myself and anyone because of the positive impact it will make on the community."

read … Support

Anti-GMO Activism by the Numbers

KE: Numbers don't tell the whole story, but they reveal a lot. Here are a few I've compiled that bear relevance to local and international issues, and topics frequently covered in this blog:

$196,469 – The amount, through April, that Kauai County has paid Honolulu attorney David Minkin to defend Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, not including costs and fees associated with Wednesday's appellate court hearing. His primary defense? The case should be sent to the Hawaii Supreme Court, where he'll presumably be able to rack up even more fees.

0 — Amount of those legal fees that will be charged back to Councilman Gary Hooser and the other red-shirts who pushed the bill.

$600 – Hourly rate that Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff charges taxpayers when he's suing governmental agencies….

read … Musings: By the Numbers

HEI: Wind Energy Driving Electric Rates Up Up Up

SA: The bill for a typical household using 500 kilowatt-hours on Oahu is $129.34 this month, $4.49 higher than what customers paid in May. The price per kilowatt-hour on Oahu was 23.8 cents, up from 22.9 cents in May….

Pai said bills are higher on Maui due to the combination of higher fuel costs and more use of wind energy. Pai said the wind energy is priced higher than the current cost of oil-based generation.

Wind makes up 22 percent of the energy mix in Maui County…

read … Rise in fuel cost is behind spike in bills

Hawaii Gas says its Oahu customers saved $50M in 2015

PBN: Oahu customers of Hawaii Gas, the state’s largest gas utility, saved about $50.8 million in 2015 by using gas energy instead of electricity generated from oil, according to the Honolulu-based company’s annual renewable energy report.

Had customers on Oahu used electricity from oil instead of gas energy, an additional 860,792 barrels of oil would have been needed….

In January, it revealed in its 18-month study that the use of LNG as a replacement for oil would have saved Oahu electric utility customers $132 million in fuel costs.

read … Saved Millions

23.2% of Hawaiian Electric is ‘Renewable’

PBN: Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc. and its subsidiaries, Hawaii Electric Light Co. and Maui Electric Co., used 23.2 percent renewable energy sources to generate power by the end of 2015, according to a recent report by the state’s largest utility.

The sources included biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, wind and biofuels….

The Big Island led the way with 48.7 percent renewable energy. It was followed by Maui County at 35.4 percent and Oahu at 17.2 percent.

The state’s current goal is achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

In 2015, new net energy metering installations, which consisted of rooftop solar, totaled 75.7 megawatts, according to the report. It also noted that the total amount of electrical energy generated using renewable energy sources increased by 39,153 megawatt-hours last year, nearly a 3 percent increase compared with 2014.

read … Hawaiian Electric reveals how much renewable energy it is using

Stock Market Betting Against NextEra merger

IM: …If the merger was approved tomorrow, each HEI shareholder would receive $38.67 a share.

Many believe that the Public Utilities Commission is imminent.

If an investor accurately predicted that the decision would be favorable to the merger, they could buy HEI shares at $33.66, and very quickly sell them at $38.67. The investor would make a 15 percent rate of return on a very short-term investment.

The fact that a wide margin exists, suggests that investors do not believe that the merger will be approved, or if approved, will not be on terms that NextEra can accept.

read … Do Not Believe

Nepotistic Charter School Suits Legacy of Pinky Thompson

SA: Pinky Thompson strongly believed that every child must have the very best chance for success in life and that education is the vehicle to achieve success. He knew that education must grow and evolve. He realized that this could only occur with innovative leadership and an intelligent mind of an exceptional educator and administrator.

Our family knew of Diana’s background as a courageous visionary, a just and caring principal who had risen in the ranks within the state Department of Education to be an assistant superintendent. Without hesitation, our family decided that day to name the school the Myron B. Thompson Academy in honor of Pinky’s legacy.

Diana also asked if a family member would join the school’s governing board in 2003, so 13 years ago, we began this journey.

I agreed to assume this responsibility to ensure that the legacy of my father be carried forward and continually work toward a better education model. I am currently the chairman of the governing board.

I am extremely proud of them both, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that if Pinky were here today, he would be very proud of them as well. He would also applaud them for their service to MBTA, our children, and our community.

Editor’s note: Diana Oshiro pleaded no contest to tampering with a government record; she was sentenced Wednesday to one year deferral supervision and 40 hours of community service. Kurumi Kaapani-Aki pleaded no contest to theft and to tampering with a government record; she was sentenced to four years and one year deferral supervision, respectively, and 75 hours of community service.

Related: Two Arrests: Corruption Bust Strikes at Heart of Drive for Fake Indian Tribe

read … Nepotism

Ka‘u Learning Academy to receive ‘notice of deficiency’

HTH: Ka‘u Learning Academy’s first year of operations was “very challenging” for the school and the state’s Public Charter School Commission, staff monitoring the school’s operations and finances said this week.

At least two employees at the Naalehu-based public charter school briefly lost health care coverage this past year — despite continued deductions from their paycheck — because the school either missed deadlines or improperly processed payroll and employee benefits. The school also did not properly pay or withhold union dues.

“Staff strongly recommends the school hire an accountant….”

CB: State, Teachers Union Air Concerns About Charter School On Big Island

read … Payroll

Voter registration in Hawaii has never been easier

Borreca: The state is making it increasingly easy to register to vote and, correspondingly, more difficult to say you didn’t have time to register.

Basically all it takes is online access and either a state driver’s license or state identification card.

Scott Nago, state chief election officer, explained in an interview this week that, basically, “it is on you.”

A new state law allows for qualified voters to register online. You can even go online via a smartphone to register.

Online registration has been available since last August, and since then the Elections Office has processed 30,000 transactions, Nago said.

Not all of the transactions were new voters, Nago said…

LINK: Register to Vote

read … Voter registration in Hawaii has never been easier

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