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Tuesday, September 6, 2016
September 6, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:59 PM :: 5353 Views

Ethics: Sen Maile Shimabukuro Busted for Overnight Party with Lobbyists

Victory: NOAA removes humpback from endangered list

New Report Finds Hawaii's Obesity Rate is 22.7 Percent, Third Lowest

Poll: Hawaii 3rd Best State for Jill Stein

Kiewit Quits Working on Rail: Bad Blood, Broken Trust

SA: …In a lengthy Aug. 28 letter to rail board Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa and other rail leaders, former project consultant Bart Desai said that Kiewit doesn’t fully trust the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to properly settle cost disputes.

There’s a “lack of open communication” — and plenty of acrimony, he wrote.

The Omaha, Neb.-based firm is building rail’s first 10 miles under construction contracts worth more than $1 billion, and it had the equipment in place to keep building. Kiewit has never fully explained why it declined to bid on the next major stretch of construction work: 5.2 miles of guideway and four stations around the airport.

When asked in July why Kiewit didn’t compete for that work, former HART Executive Director Dan Grabauskas offered a short answer: “I don’t know.”

But Desai wrote that at HART “there is an unwarranted sense that Kiewit … is the enemy, a crook and a cheater.”

Desai served nearly six months as a change and claims manager for the rail agency through its contractor PGH Wong Engineering Inc. until he was terminated last month.

“It is no surprise to me that Kiewit did not bid on the recent HART projects,” he said.

At issue are about $65 million in unresolved change orders with Kiewit for the first half of rail’s elevated steel-and-concrete guideway.

The rail agency has already approved some $265 million in change orders to Kiewit and joint firm Kiewit/Kobayashi for the first 10 miles of guideway and the operations center in Pearl City, according to HART’s monthly reports. Construction delays contributed to much of that cost….

UPDATE: Full Text of Desai letter (PDF)

read … Broken trust between HART, Kiewit detailed

Luke, Tokuda: Why not use bonds to fund construction of rail project?

Borreca: …why does the city have to buy the entire project now?

State and city projects aren’t usually paid for upfront — government sells bonds, pays interest on the bonds and uses that money for the project.

Investors like bonds because they know government is good for the debt because they can always raise taxes if they need the money.

Besides fiscal reasons, there is also a philosophical reason. Rail is being sold as a legacy project: This is a Honolulu-defining project for the ages. Generations from now, commuters will salute the wisdom of 2016, they say.

Here’s what Caldwell said in June when he announced the city didn’t have the money to go any farther than Middle Street.

“Some kid 20 years from now will get on the train in Waipahu with a surfboard. … His mother and father will know that he is safe going to and from. … It’s your gift you’re giving to his community.”

So how do we get that kid and his buddies to pay for that glorious ride?

Long-term bonds.

Rep. Sylvia Luke, House Finance Committee chairwoman, and Sen. Jill Tokuda, Senate Ways and Means chairwoman, who both don’t want to use an excise tax increase to bail out rail, said bond financing makes a lot more sense.

“We bond large infrastructure because interest rates are so good and it’s a future investment. The city’s insistence on doing this with cash is puzzling,” said Luke.

“The city should look at all available funding options, including bonding,” said Tokuda. “They should be exploring alternative or innovative sources of financing that would more equitably raise revenue versus just relying on extending a very regressive tax like the GET.”

If it is possible to stretch out the payments, why doesn’t that make sense?

A legacy doesn’t have to be a free ride.

read … Why not use bonds to fund construction of rail project?

State struggles to keep teachers

HTH: …The teacher ed programs at UH-Hilo are longstanding, but faculty say many people on the island aren’t even aware they exist. Kahuawaiola is a graduate certificate program — part of the UH-Hilo College of Hawaiian Language — which trains budding teachers for statewide jobs in Hawaiian language immersion programs from preschool through secondary levels.

The other program — a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) — is offered through the School of Education. The first three semesters prepare students for licensure. Those who continue for another two semesters earn a Master of Arts in Teaching degree, according to the program’s website. About 24 students graduated from the program last year. Up to 95 percent of graduates each year remain and work on the island — and most find jobs quickly.

“There are several options for (teacher licensure) programs in Hawaii,” said Christopher Curry, a 31-year-old MAT student who moved to the island about 10 years ago. “I think what really drew me in was having the physical classes and also their hire rate is really encouraging — knowing that 90 percent of candidates are placed right out of the program. And for me, not being from here originally, having local connections here really helps to find that job as well.”

Statistics show the number of newly hired teachers with in-state certification has declined in recent years. A little more than 34 percent of new teachers hired statewide in 2014-15 were graduates of an in-state teacher education program, according to DOE employment records. About 44 percent had completed out-of-state programs, and 21.3 percent hadn’t completed a program.

That’s a decline from the 2012-13 school year, when 47.8 percent of new teachers held in-state degrees and 9.9 percent hadn’t completed a program. In 2010-11, those numbers were 52.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. Data from the 2015-16 school year is not yet available.

Each year when school starts, the state has hundreds of vacant teacher positions left to fill. As of Aug. 16 there were still 483 vacant teacher positions statewide, according to the DOE….

SA: 30 percent decline nationwide in enrollment in teacher preparation programs

read … State struggles to keep teachers

Harry Kim shows it takes more than money to win an election

HTH: …The analysis, looking at candidate spending in the race for mayor, county prosecutor and County Council, found the cost spent per vote received ranged from zero for a lesser-known mayoral candidate to $35.27 for a candidate in a three-way race for an open County Council seat.

The District 3 council candidate, Moana Kelii, managed to eke out a 16-vote last-minute lead over the third place candidate to survive to a Nov. 8 runoff against leader Susan Lee Loy, who spent $15.21 per vote.

The mayor’s race drew the next highest vote costs, with candidate Wally Lau spending $22.11 per vote, compared to fellow contestant Marlene Hapai’s $16.51 and Pete Hoffmann’s $8.49. Harry Kim, who bested the 13-candidate field without needing to go to a runoff, spent $1.06 per vote, according to the analysis.

Lau’s campaign coffers were bursting with money, much of it in large and off-island donations. But the money wasn’t enough to woo voters from former Mayor Harry Kim, well-known to the island and running on a campaign of ethics and transparency….

The next highest cost per vote came from the District 9 council race, where challenger Tim Richards spent $17.61 per vote and bested incumbent Margaret Wille by 77 votes. Wille, who was seeking re-election to a third term, spent $9.82 per vote….

in the race for county prosecutor, where incumbent Mitch Roth and challenger Mike Kagami spent about the same, but Roth ended up with more than twice the votes, taking his spending to $1.67 per vote, compared to Kagami’s $3.50….

read … Analysis shows it takes more than money to win an election

HPD Chief Kealoha Lawsuit Could Cost City $300K

CB:  City Council is being asked to approve hiring three law firms to defend the city and the ethics commission in the Kealoha case….

CB: Do Honolulu Police Have Something To Hide?

read … $300K

OCCC Prison Rebuild Contractor is Experienced With Crime

CB: … in a brief message, Nardi explained he was reaching out to Shirota and other “key stakeholders” on behalf of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety to talk about an “important project” — the plan to replace the crumbling Oahu Community Correctional Center.

Shirota, who once examined the for-profit prison industry as a fellow at the Open Society Foundations (George Soros), was familiar with the OCCC project. But how come, she wondered, an East Coast company was contacting her about it?

Puzzled, Shirota looked up Louis Berger online and found something disturbing: In recent years, the company has been mired in legal troubles, stemming from a series of corrupt practices that resulted in criminal convictions of five top executives, including its former CEO, and more than $90 million in fines….

(Translation: The activists are afraid that UPW, Inc will continue to lose influence over the prison industrial complex in favor of other players.)

read … Experienced

Caldwell Overrules Council, Goes With Dumb Overpriced Parking Meters

SA: …IPS won a five-year contract, through a competitive request for proposals process, to install the meters and administer the credit card payments. The contract runs through April 23, Garrity said.

The city is paying IPS $641 for each of the brand-new Smart Meters and $126 for the ones that need only to be retrofitted, he said.

Additionally, the city pays IPS $15 a month per machine for handling credit and debit card processing, which includes what the bank charges IPS.

The pilot program began in 2013 when the city installed Smart Meters at 333 of the city’s most heavily used stalls in the downtown-Chinatown area.

Garrity updated the City Council Transportation Committee about the new Smart Meters last week after Councilman Trevor Ozawa introduced Resolution 16-212, which calls on the administration to convert all of the city’s parking meters to Smart Meters, except for 10-cent-an-hour meters in the Salt Lake municipal parking lot.

Ozawa said drivers are more likely to feed their meters when they can use a credit card. Resolution 16-212 is slated for a final vote Wednesday.

City transportation officials are looking at other ways of making street parking more fair, equitable, accommodating and profitable, Garrity said.

“We want to think about, overall, how we manage our on-street parking,” he said. “So we’re likely to look at other options as well. You look at other cities, they do a much better job of managing their on-street parking.”

For instance, in Seattle, motorists pay for parking at pay stations placed on each block that dispense receipts that are to be displayed on vehicle dashboards, he said.

“It’s a much simpler system,” Garrity said. “And they charge more money for longer periods of time, so it generates more revenue for them. I think we could do a better job here of managing our parking resource.” ….

read … Certain parking meters to receive upgrades

New online tax system will nail Tax-Cheating TVRs

HNN: "They can go online and actually look at their accounts and not only see their information but if there are any letters that we've sent to them… any correspondence … they can see if there are any payments due they can make payments online," says Maria Zielinski, the State Tax Director.

While the system, Hawaii Tax Online, is designed to make paying easier, it will eventually help the state keep better track of those who may not be paying their fair share.  The next phase of the $59M system is expected to help investigations find illegal vacation rentals that have been operating off the radar.

"So they can do their job better so they can identify vacation fraud, you know, people renting houses out and not paying their taxes," says Zielinski.

If all goes as planned, investigators will be able to cross check the information that rental owners input with IRS forms to see if there are any discrepancies.

By the year 2018, all Hawaii taxpayers will be able to use the automated system.

read … Online

Enviros Paying Humans to Move Out?

IM: …you know, we have backward traditional people who want all the benefits for fighting for their culture. But honestly, there`s no money to be made from culture and those spiritual notices.

The thing with the culture is that you cannot make money from it, and nobody wants to pay for that. They do not think it is worth anything, because, it does not make any financial sense.

For who used to get everything for living, but now Umoja helps us with direct benefits in hard cash.

We don`t understand why some people are still complaining. We are now able to make money from this land anyway, so now they are being re-located to houses near the town and they are getting paid to move out….

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) was founded in 1948, has annual revenues of just over $100 million, focuses on science, and has been accused, and rightly so, for being too cozy with big business….

read … Delegates in Hawaii Discuss the Monetary Value

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