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Wednesday, June 29, 2016
June 29, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:31 PM :: 3844 Views

Esther Kiaaina Cuts Micronesia Funding, Forcing Migrants to Come to USA

Sand Island Homeless Center Moves 61 Homeless into Permanent Housing

Single Payer Activists to Target Hawaii for Socialist Medicine?

HB2231: New law makes it easier to finance energy co-ops

Legislators Laugh at Idiot Mayor: We Will not Entertain Caldwell’s Rail Tax Hike—Don’t Even Try

SA: …Caldwell acknowledged that timing was a key reason why he’s asked the FTA to push rail’s recovery plan deadline to June 1.

“I picked the end of May because the Legislature is pau (done) in May,” he said during a news conference held in his office.

“I think we owe it to the people and the taxpayers of this island to exhaust every possible revenue source and get the money we need to complete the full 20 miles to Ala Moana,” he added.

Under the current Aug. 7 deadline, Caldwell and other rail officials say the best option they have is to submit to the FTA a plan that stops the cash-strapped project about 4 miles short, at Middle Street, at least for now.

“I hate giving that answer, but that is a truthful, honest, frank answer for a guy who wants to build rail to UH and to downtown Kapolei,” Caldwell said Tuesday of the Middle Street option. “I want the whole system, but we need the time to find the money.”

However, the Legislature’s top two finance leaders Tuesday indicated that rail officials should not return to the state for help next year after they underestimated project costs so badly last year. Rail leaders have been unable to present realistic estimates that keep pace with the skyrocketing costs, and public trust in the transit project has eroded, they said.

“They shouldn’t even try. They need to get their act together and figure this out for the sake of everyone who’s put some faith in them and wanted this to succeed,” state Sen. Jill Tokuda, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said Tuesday.

Tokuda (D, Kailua- Kaneohe) said she believes there’s no way the city or the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the semiautonomous agency that oversees rail, could get a handle on the situation in time for the 2017 legislative session, which starts in January.

Tokuda’s counterpart in the state House, Rep. Sylvia Luke (D, Punchbowl- Pauoa-Nuuanu), agreed.

“I would not entertain it,” said Luke, who chairs the House Finance Committee, said of authorizing another rail tax extension. “At this point in time it has become such a credibility issue. How do you know what they’re saying now is true? We cannot just give them a blank check.”

The 2015 TAX extension was supposed to provide HART with a buffer of at least $600 million for any unexpected costs. Since state lawmakers approved it last summer, rail’s cost projections have spiked dramatically, and the project now faces a new deficit of at least $1.5 billion, according to the latest official estimates.

Rail officials have pointed to the construction cost escalations that have driven up the cost to build all over Oahu. Nonetheless, it remains unclear how their estimates have been so dramatically off despite taking into consideration annual construction market growth.

HART hasn’t yet issued the contracts to build rail’s second 10 miles. The final price tag remains elusive….

read … They are laughing at Caldwell

Rail: “Never enough time to do it right, but lots of time to do it over”

SA: …Because of the decision to stop at Middle Street, the Federal Transit Administration could legally require the city to return nearly $0.5 billion already provided.

However, we believe the FTA will be extraordinarily flexible with this financial train wreck, partly because the FTA’s own hands are dirty. It knew very early on that city officials were neither competent nor honest.

We base this on interagency email in which FTA officials commented on the city’s “lousy practices of public manipulation,” willingness to “deceive with no remorse,” use of “inaccurate statements,” and having a culture of “never enough time to do it right, but lots of time to do it over.”

FTA officials also noted that the city had botched three projects and were “well on their way to a fourth,” started construction this time “without authority despite warnings that it would create an ineligibility for the project,” and put itself in a “pickle” by setting unrealistic start dates for construction.

We also know that FTA officials had the IMG report of independent experts hired by Gov. Linda Lingle to provide a second opinion on the likely cost of the proposed rail system.

The group’s bottom-line assessment should have alarmed the FTA: “A multibillion-dollar transportation improvement project, particularly one that is proposed to be operated in, and funded by, an urbanized area that is far smaller than the norm for such projects, should have its financial plan developed with methodologies that incorporate the highest professional and technical standards and techniques. As we demonstrate [in this report], the financial planning and modeling process for [this] Project fails this ‘best practices’ test in many ways.”

The FTA also aided the city in its dishonest efforts to convince people that rail would reduce the current level of traffic congestion.

For example, the FTA publicly expressed belief that “this project will bring much-needed relief from the suffocating congestion on the H-1 Freeway.”

This was contrary to the FTA-approved final environmental impact statement in which the city had acknowledged that “traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail.”

Despite these and many other indications that the city could never build rail “on time and on budget,” as Caldwell repeatedly promised, the FTA apparently buckled under political pressure when it entered into the Full Funding Grant Agreement….

CB: A Rail System Option That Offers The Best Fit For Honolulu

read … The Best

Star-Adv: Ige Should Veto $40M HGEA/UPW Payoff

SA:  …it’s never easy for an elected official to face off against legislation championed by one of the powerful public employee unions, but Ige has done so by including Senate Bill 2077 on Monday’s list of potential vetoes.

This measure seeks to expand the severance benefits for the state-run Maui and Lanai hospitals’ employees — most of whom will retain their jobs once the facilities are converted to private management.

The governor must follow through and spike the bill, guided by his tentative conclusion that SB 2077 would run counter to the fiscal principles he favored as a state senator himself. According to conservative estimates, it would cost the state $40 million and add to the state’s unfunded liability in benefits owed to its retired workforce, a deficit Ige has long sought to whittle back.

Supporting the bill are its beneficiaries — the United Public Workers, which is suing to block the transfer of the facilities to Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, and the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

read … SB2077

Cool Schools: 300-page Bid Sheets Behind High Costs

SA: …Contractors will bid to the specification provided by the DOE. The bids came in very high because DOE did not specify the $30,000 to $40,000 system. So why expect the same pricing?

You can’t compare a price of a bid package nearly 300 pages long and with all the extras to pricing derived from donated PV and air conditioning systems, with companies told to “just install it.”

June 25: School air-conditioning bids

read … Greed not reason for high AC bids

Oahu Homeless up by ‘Only’ 1%—Sister Isles up 9.7%

SA: …Hawaii’s homeless population, which is already the highest per capita rate in America, jumped 4 percent between January 2015 and January 2016, according to data to be released this morning, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser has learned.

Statewide, the numbers increased from 7,620 homeless people to 7,921, representing the fifth annual increase since 2011, according to Partners In Care, which is releasing the results of a survey conducted the week of Jan. 25.

Oahu’s homeless population increased by only 1 percent — from 4,903 last year to 4,940 this year….

Sister isles jump from 2,717 to 2,981—an increase of 264 or 9.7%….  37.6% of homeless are on sister isles….

Related: PIC Urges Governor Ige to Veto SB2559

read … Homeless

$9,000 Rent Assist Available to Homeless Who Have Jobs

SA:  …As many as 100 working-yet-homeless families across the islands will each be eligible for up to $9,000 over the next year, beginning July 15, with the funds aiming to get them off the street and into rental housing as fast as possible.

The new program will provide a total of $600,000 worth of rental assistance from Hawaii Public Housing Authority funds, which will reach needy families faster because of a series of emergency homeless proclamations signed by Gov. David Ige to combat the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the nation….

read … Get a Job

Homeless a Political Football on Maui, Too

MN: …(Maui) mayor (Arakawa) has been publicly critical of the council - Hokama and council Chairman Mike White in particular - for inaction on a set of laws and spending proposals he offered late last year to take advantage of Gov. David Ige's emergency proclamation that suspends some state and county rules, regulations and laws in order to help establish homeless shelters.

Ige made his initial emergency proclamation in October but has since extended it into mid-August….

Arakawa has offered bills calling for putting up reusable, expandable and connectable Spacemax Shelters (NO TENTS! SMART!) at the Maui Family Life Center in Kahului and Ka Hale A Ke Ola's sites in Wailuku and Lahaina, more funding for Maui nonprofits that already help the homeless, expanding workforce housing and establishing anti-nuisance laws.

The four budgetary bills before the committee Tuesday for the current fiscal year, which ends Thursday, total nearly $2 million….

The mayor … insinuated that Hokama and White were deferring the homeless bills on purpose and that the "people need to know about the games that (White) and (Hokama) are playing with the community." …

Honolulu: "Homelessness has become a political football

read … Political Football

The cost to house a prisoner in Hawaii may surprise you

KHON: …According to the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, the state spends about $140 per inmate per day, which includes program services, food, health care, and administrative costs.

When you add it up, that amounts to $51,100 per year per prisoner locked up in Hawaii.

The Vera Institute of Justice did a study several years ago and found the national average to be $31,286 a year.

According to that study, New York paid the most, spending an average of more than $60,000 a year per prison inmate.

Hawaii is saving some money by shipping some of our inmates to Arizona.

The estimated cost to house Hawaii inmates at Saguaro Correctional Center last fiscal year was $76.78 per inmate per day, which includes costs for transportation, health care, inmate work line wages, site inspections, and administrative costs.

That comes out to $28,024 a year, about half of what it costs to house our inmates here….

read … Cost of UPW

HB1739: Ige Threatens Veto of Social Media Privacy Bill

CB: Nearly half of the states in the U.S. have adopted laws to prevent employers from accessing their employees’ private social-media accounts. But Gov. David Ige this week announced his intent to veto such a bill for Hawaii.

House Bill 1739 would have prevented an employer from requiring, requesting or coercing an employee or applicant to hand over usernames and passwords for social-media accounts. The protections wouldn’t have applied to electronic devices or accounts provided by the employer.

In a press release Monday, Ige said he planned to veto the bill because it was unclear whether Hawaii employers ask for social-media account logins so frequently that the state should intervene. The release also noted that the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations wasn’t given the additional funding it would need to enforce the bill. …

read … Threatened Veto Baffles Social-Media Bill Advocates

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