Mythbusting HART, Part 1
Hospital deal is stalled, roadblocked and obstructed in every way
The Average American Family Pays More Money in Regulations Than in Taxes
Emails: Kenoi Conspired with Reporters, Next Mayoral Candidate after Hostess Bar Expose?
HTH: …County attorneys are seeking to keep the contents of 40 emails, most of them sent in the month after Big Island newspapers reported Mayor Billy Kenoi’s misuse of his county-issued credit card, secret.
The Corporation Counsel Office has refused to turn over the contents of the emails to the state attorney general, invoking attorney-client privilege. (Translation: They are covering up the cover up.)
Deputy Corporation Counsel Steve Strauss filed a motion Aug. 30 to quash a subpoena by the attorney general demanding the emails. Kenoi’s theft trial is scheduled to start Oct. 10 in Hilo.
Kenoi’s pCard charges became the focus of a criminal investigation after Big Island newspapers reported on March 29, 2015, that he used the county credit card at a Honolulu hostess bar….
According to a document dated June 10, 2015, titled “Attorney/Client Privilege Log,” the emails, which date from Dec. 17, 2009, to April 21, 2015, contain correspondence between Corporation Counsel Molly Stebbins and her predecessor, Lincoln Ashida, with numerous county officials, including Kenoi, Managing Director Randy Kurohara and his predecessors, Wally Lau (failed Mayoral candidate) and Bill Takaba, Finance Director Deanna Sako and her predecessor, Nancy Crawford, and current and former Kenoi executive assistants Paulette Wilson, formerly known as Paulette Cainglit, Clarysse Nunokawa, Kevin Dayton (now a Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter) and Peter Boylan (former Hon Adv reporter).
(And all of these people are covered under attorney-client priv????)
Most of the subject lines on the disputed emails have to do with pCard procedures and processing and media requests for records.
The earliest email the county is seeking to keep confidential was authored a week after the first documented request by West Hawaii Today reporter Nancy Cook Lauer seeking pCard statements.
(Remember: There is no Democratic Machine. Just La Cosa Nostra.)
read … Hillary for Mayor?
Honolulu rail is being built on politics and melodrama instead of sound engineering and honest accounting
Shapiro: …The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, led by Colleen Hanabusa, pursued possible options that, in addition to stopping at Middle Street or Aloha Tower, included raising private capital, eliminating some of the 21 stations to save money, building part of the line at ground-level and avoiding Dillingham Boulevard and its costly utility relocations.
Then in San Francisco, hopes of more responsible leadership went “poof.”
The FTA reversed itself on flexibility, demanding that the city either build straight to Ala Moana or forfeit the federal share.
Caldwell abandoned pausing at Middle Street and begged to delay writing a rail recovery plan until the city can lobby next year’s Legislature for another tax increase.
Martin dropped his pledge not to ask the Legislature for further tax extensions, saying he’s seen the light and it’s the “only way.”
Hanabusa cheered the political orchestration that reduced the range of options to only two: Either the Legislature writes another blank check without a credible plan to stop the bleeding, or rail is left hanging unfinished somewhere over Halawa.
Key legislators say it’s a nonstarter, but the city and FTA are betting they’ll cave in to the theatrics just as they did in 2015, when they gave a five-year tax extension that was promised to be enough to finish, only to see the rail deficit triple within months.
So after 10 years of deceit, mismanagement and failure, little has changed; Honolulu rail is being built on politics and melodrama instead of sound engineering and honest accounting.
Cries to stay the course at any price carry a steep cost for the community.
Our tax base is only so deep, and billions squandered on rail cost overruns are billions lost for addressing homelessness, massive pension debt, decaying infrastructure and climate change.
read … Politics and Melodrama
Trading cash for waivers not serving housing needs
SA: Money buys a lot of things, but not always what is needed…. (For instance, these developers are not being asked to pay for rail.)
One recent example of a project where the city has allowed a monetary payout in lieu of the affordable units themselves is a 36-story hotel-condominium tower at Kapiolani Boulevard and Atkinson Drive.
The Mana‘olana Place Hotel and Residential Condominium Project proposes 109 apartment units, 125 hotel rooms, retail and restaurant space.
It also would include a street-level public plaza at the street level fronting the prime location, across from the Hawaii Convention Center.
But disappointingly, the developer, Mana‘olana Partners II, is paying a $2.4 million fee in lieu of delivering the affordable-housing units required of the project, part of its total offering of $7 million in community benefits….
It’s clear enough that a $2.4 million payment will not produce housing, with the added value of being built near a transportation hub, equivalent to units being built on site….
City officials also should resolve to drive a hard bargain for the best affordable-housing deal they can get on another Salem project at an earlier planning stage, to be located next to the Walgreens store fronting Kapiolani Boulevard.
At about 35 stories of condominium and hotel units, this project, like the one at Atkinson Drive, would be near the rail line terminus at Ala Moana Center and would be governed by TOD rules….
Keep Ignoring This: Savio: Rail Can be Built Without Any Taxpayer Dollars
read … Trading cash for waivers not serving housing needs
Lawsuit Responsible for 0.1% of Rail Cost Increases
Roth: …The federal lawsuit briefly affected the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s ability to buy land in the downtown segment, but never affected rail construction or construction bidding.
That lawsuit increased rail costs by less than one-tenth of 1 percent, according to HART.
The other lawsuit ended with the Hawaii Supreme Court unanimously ordering construction stopped until the city completed an archaeological study. Blaming the plaintiff for the 13-month delay would be comparable to blaming an innocent crime victim for seeking justice.
Federal Transit Administration officials noted in interoffice email that the city started construction “without authority despite warnings that it would create an ineligibility for the project.”
FTA officials also commented on the city’s “lousy practices of public manipulation,” willingness to “deceive with no remorse,” and culture of “never enough time to do it right, but lots of time to do it over.”
read … Randall Roth
Union-Caused delays hamstring Maui hospital privatization
Borreca: …Just when it appeared that all the legal blockades between the state and the United Public Workers union were cleared, all the parties started saying the entire deal was at impasse and nothing was moving.
Now Maui Memorial Hospital is looking at cutting its service and patient beds by 10 percent after Kaiser Permanente said it couldn’t complete the hospital takeover until July of 2017.
Left in the lurch are the 155,000 citizens of Maui County, who until last week thought Kaiser was taking over the state-run hospital right now….
(Theme: Lets all pretend we don’t know the unions and their bought-n-paid for politicians to blame so we can dissipate the anger.)
Reportedly Kaiser delayed because UPW had asked for more time to mull over the deal — this after nearly a year of negotiations, lawsuits and general blustering and the unions making big-body.
Last week, Avery Chumbley, chairman of the state board now running the Maui hospitals, said the hospital now has to figure out what to do if it is still running the hospital and paying the bills until July.
Plans are not pretty. They include closing eight intensive care beds and a dozen medical and surgical beds. After that, another 30 beds and various services would go, according to published reports.
Chumbley said all the uncertainty makes it difficult to get the trained staff to stick around. Medical specialists, doctors, nurses and other health care workers are educated and in demand.
Government stumbling and a passive-aggressive union cannot deliver a health care deal to keep Maui safe….
Meanwhile, Gov. Ige has ratcheted up his sustainability pitch, calling for Hawaii to double its own food production by 2020 and to produce all its own energy by 2045. How about if he just works to ensure hospitals on all islands are sustainable and all citizens can be treated without a flight to Oahu?
Missing Detail: Sen Green: Unions Torpedoed Maui Hospital Negotiations after $1B Surplus Announcement
read … Not 'Puzzling' at all
Union Clout: Keep Salaries Low and Membership Roll High
SA: The state’s drawn-out struggle to privatize Maui’s failing public hospitals is a telling gauge of how much influence public sector labor unions wield in Hawaii: It’s a formidable amount that, on members’ behalf, will be used readily as needed to embroil the state Legislature, the governor, the courts and even their retirees’ investment fund.
Politically, the notion that public sector unions here are excessively strong doesn’t necessarily hold weight, Puette said.
“If that were the case the salaries would be remarkably higher,” he said. “I don’t see evidence — as many people politically will try to make hay — that Hawaii’s high unionization has created a situation where the elected officials have to kowtow to the unions.” (LOLROTF)
(Reality: Union bosses don’t negotiate for highy wages because that might mean fewer union members. Instead they negotiate for work rules which allow some of their members to bump up their pay and make those members that much more dependent on the union.)
Reality: Hospital Crisis: How to Use Union Work Rules for Fun and Profit
But former Gov. Ben Cayetano offers an opposing view, noting that when it comes to the public unions, “we’ve gotten to the point right now where they’re very, very powerful … the HGEA (Hawaii Government Employees Association) is very influential.” Further, public and private sector unions have a strong alliance, and there is power in numbers, he said.
Cayetano, who drew the ire of unions in the mid-1990s when he cut several hundred positions and laid off more than 100 state workers during a budget crisis, said the way to offset the power of labor unions is to elect “public-minded people in the state Legislature and the governor’s office.” ….
Perreira said. “For people to suggest that we act contrary to the public interest, to me, that’s crap.” …
Perreira said HGEA benefits from the fact that “government employees in particular are strong and consistent voters.” The current administration’s actions over the next two years will determine whether HGEA will throw its weight behind Ige, he said….
Looming large are contract negotiations with public worker unions, whose contracts expire June 30 — just as the state finds itself with a record-setting $1 billion surplus….
As for Perreira, he said that the average wage for an HGEA member about a year ago was $45,000. “We do not represent a highly paid workforce,” he said. “We are representing middle class workers. … if we controlled things, salaries would be much higher.”
(Translation: We union bosses use our membership for our own political power, not to help them afford Hawaii.)
read … Unions still wield clout
Voters getting say on surpluses: How to use ‘excess revenues’ on November ballot
HTH: Probably of most interest is a proposed amendment to the state constitution to allow two new uses for budget surpluses: prepayment of bond debt and prepayment of employee pensions and post-retirement benefits.
Until 2010, the constitution required state government to give refunds when there was a 5 percent or more budget surplus for two consecutive years. After a 2010 constitutional amendment passed, the state could chose between the refunds and depositing the money in special “rainy day,” or budget reserve accounts. Five percent of the current budget is about a $250 million surplus….
The state Legislature will decide where the money will be spent.
But Wesley Machida, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, has concerns with expanding the allowed uses for what is known as “excess revenues.”
“We believe that expanding options for relief from excess revenues to include pre-payment of general obligation debt service, pension or other post-employment benefit liabilities would dilute and diminish the effect of Article VII, Section 6,” Machida said in Feb. 11 testimony to the Legislature.
The second proposed constitutional amendment will raise the value in dispute in a civil lawsuit in order to get a jury trial from $5,000 to $10,000. Proponents say it will lessen the burden on circuit courts for matters not involving large sums of money….
(For Big Island voters a) third ballot amendment is a county charter amendment relating to the Hawaii county General Plan. Proposed by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, the amendment would expand the scope of the General Plan, which governs all development on the island.
The plan currently sets policy for “the long-range comprehensive physical development of the county.”
New language would add long-range policy for matters related to the economic, environmental and socio-cultural well-being of the county and expand matters promoted by the General Plan to include the health of the people of the county. (Translation: Ban GMOs and whatever else the hypesters deem unhealthful.)
“These words may seem very theoretical,” said Wille, “but they are important.” (Yes. This would establish the Eco-Socialist Utopia.)
read … Return to Taxpayers
Grab for Billion Dollar Surplus, Tax Hikes, Labor Negotiations Top counties’ 2017 Legislative Wish-List
MN: The Maui County Council's Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee will consider state bills to include in the Hawaii State Association of Counties' 2017 legislative package on Tuesday at 9 a.m….
A bill that would return to the counties a fair share of revenue from the transient accommodations tax is on the agenda. As recently reported in The Maui News ("State has record $1 billion surplus," Aug. 28), the state government has an unprecedented cash surplus, which strengthens the case for the counties to receive more TAT revenue.
Another bill would give council members a seat at the table in negotiations for new labor contracts with county workers. With most collective-bargaining agreements expiring next year, a new round of negotiations is already underway….
Sunshine Law reform is again being contemplated. The committee will consider the reintroduction of a bill from the 2016 HSAC package to allow council members to attend public educational meetings, while another bill would allow council members to transmit government records to their colleagues without legal risk.
The committee will also debate whether HSAC should formally seek $250,000 in state funding to help identify important agricultural lands. Another bill proposed for the HSAC package would encourage the state Land Use Commission to work with the counties after general plan updates to promote consistency in land use designations.
A proposal to allow individuals to indicate their disabilities on driver's licenses or state identification cards was part of the 2016 HSAC package. A revised version of the bill - incorporating suggestions contained in testimony submitted to the Legislature - may be included in the counties' package of bills again….
Other possible HSAC package bills would allow for automatic voter registration for driver's license applicants for driver's licenses and fund counties' affordable-housing programs through a 1 percent conveyance tax on residential properties sold for more than $700,000….
Testimony for Tuesday morning's meeting may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
read … Legislative Package
Only 390 acres of Experimental Crops Replace Sugar
SA: In one field, rows of sorghum sway in place of the sugar cane that HC&S has planted and harvested for 146 years.
In another field, sunflowers bask in the sun.
And in another, cattle graze on glycine, signalgrass and crotelaria.
…the steps have been relatively small and the company has faced some frustrating setbacks….
So far, one crop standing out is sorghum, a tall grass with some similarities to sugar cane….
On Maui, HC&S has four varieties of sorghum growing on 182 acres.
The company started with 1-acre plots, and after four harvests its largest field trial covers 140 acres….
big challenges remain. For instance, HC&S isn’t sure how the costs to grow, harvest and process sorghum will align with potential revenue.
“This is still R&D,” Volner explained, referring to research and development….
One piece of this puzzle that HC&S is exploring for sorghum and other crops deals with one of the company’s biggest input costs: irrigation….
(OHA will grab for money here.)
As it stands after early trials, HC&S has 182 acres of sorghum, 3 acres of soybeans, 2 acres of sunflower, close to 5 acres of corn, 8 acres of purple bana grass and nearly 10 acres of energy cane….
There are also about 180 acres of grasses and legumes in pastures through which roughly 100 cattle move in groups so that they spend 24 hours on one field that then is left to regenerate for 48 days….
read … Sorghum