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Sunday, September 18, 2016
September 18, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:52 PM :: 3580 Views

Taxation Boards of Review: Facing Extinction

What are the Hawaii State and County Ballot questions?

Rail Contractor Loses Millions on Low Quality, High Cost Labor

SA: The work to build Honolulu rail’s first 10 miles of elevated pathway is costing Kiewit Infrastructure West at least $100 million, according to a former project consultant with knowledge of the situation.

Mark Swatta, an engineer who served until recently as a rail consultant with project subcontractor PGH Wong, said in a recent interview that Kiewit had hoped to see a profit of about $70 million on that work.

“They’re fed up with HART,” Swatta said of Kiewit. He said he was taken off the rail project this summer after about a year of work because he did not see eye to eye with Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation management….

HART has already approved $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.

However, HART and Kiewit continue to spar over additional, unresolved change orders whose value HART Deputy Director for Design and Construction Chris Takashige recently put at $65 million. The parties are at odds over changes to the sequencing and scheduling of construction work along the first 10 miles, and which entity is responsible for the costs….

because Hawaii has a relatively small construction labor pool to build it, Swatta said. Kiewit has had to “pull” workers from the mainland “just to get things done,” he added.

“You get the B and C players,” because Kiewit’s top workers are already committed to other projects and it’s difficult to attract the top labor to Hawaii for rail, Swatta said.

That trend of drawing from a secondary workforce in a hot market directly affects a contractor’s budget — and the price that they ultimately bid for a job, Nordic PCL Construction President Glen Kaneshige explained in July.

“Suddenly all their A players, their B players are on a high-rise or large retail project, so when the next tower comes up they’re down to their C, D players,” Kaneshige said while discussing firms that specialize in high-rise construction with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s editorial board.

“There’s a labor risk with that” because the contractor anticipates that those workers won’t be as productive as the primary ones, Kaneshige added. “If they’re going to have C, D players they may price it” more expensively because “that’s the quality of the labor.” ….

read … Low Quality, High Cost

It’s not too late to make right call on rail

SA: …neither the FTA nor the winner of the mayoral election will decide rail’s fate. Legislators and City Councilmembers will decide whether to raise taxes enough to cover the cost.

These decision-makers should address four questions:

>> How much more money is needed to finish rail?

>> Where will that money come from?

>> What will be accomplished?

>> What could be accomplished if the same amount of money is spent on something else?

We believe that they will reach the following conclusions:

>> Another $5.75 billion, over and above the non-recoverable $3.5 billion already spent, will be needed to reach Ala Moana Center (i.e., total construction costs of $10.8 billion, less $3.5 billion already spent or irretrievably committed, less $1.55 billion federal money yields $5.75 billion).

>> The chances of getting an additional federal grant are virtually nil.

>> The private sector will not provide more than an insignificant portion of the needed money.

>> The bulk of the new money will have to comefrom local residents, who will pay an average of $200 per person ($800 for each family of four) every year until construction ends.

>> The rest — roughly 15 percent of $5.75 billion — will come from tourists or other nonresidents….

Twenty years from now, traditional mass transit will be functionally obsolete for cities like Honolulu thanks to autonomous vehicles and ride-hailing apps…..

read … Do the right thing

PEW: Hawaii $7000 per person Pension Liability

HNN: Five states own $7,000 per person, including Illinois - $9,000 – and New Jersey, almost $11,000. Hawaii is seventh worst with more than $7,000 in pension liability per person. Pew says 62% of Hawaii pension liabilities are funded.

PEW: Fiscal 50 Sept, 2016

read … Liabilities

Most People Not Fooled by DoT Road Mileage Tax Hike Scheme

Big Q: Do you favor the state taxing motorists based on the number of miles they drive, to bolster the highway repair fund?

Aug 27, 2016: $4M for DoT to Study Ways to Raise Highway Taxes

2015: State Fails to Use $820M in Federal Highway Funds

2014: Hawaii $90K 'Administrative Cost' Per Mile of State Roads

Farmers: End the anti-GMO Ignorance

SA: …Hawaii farmers are struggling to meet new, unfunded federal and market-driven mandates, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). We may lose 30 to 40 percent of our small farms because they can’t afford to comply with that law. They’re likely going to need some state help to stay in business.

In recent years, Hawaii farmers have been discouraged by the gentrification and development of prime ag land, anti-agriculture activism and attempts to create divisiveness around conventional, organic and GMO production. We may be able to deal with insects, diseases, storms and droughts. But it’s very hard for us to constantly respond to complaints, demands and unfounded allegations from people with no real understanding of local production on a commercial scale.

We’ve got to end this divisiveness, which is largely driven by ignorance and ideology….

read … End the Ignorance

Co-op to Make $700M Offer for HELCO?

HTH: Marco Mangelsdorf, who represented HIEC at Thursday night’s meeting, said that if HIEC assumed control of the utility, an important shift would occur. Instead of an investor-owned utility, it would assume a cooperative model.

In other words, it would put the interests of customers and ratepayers first rather than concerning itself with investors in the utility and their profits.

Mangelsdorf wouldn’t elaborate on whether any discussions of a purchase were underway. He did indicate, however, that the price would run at least $700 million, but added that entities which support cooperatives throughout the U.S. have expressed interest in backing such a move by HIEC.

He explained that if a purchase were to happen, the cooperative would still be regulated by the Public Utilities Commission and employees from HELCO would be welcome additions to the new setup.

“There would not be some wholesale cleaning house where you would sweep out the old and bring in the new,” Mangelsdorf explained. “That would make no sense.”

read … Co-op

Five charter amendments on Maui ballot

MN:  …Two of the charter amendments are intended to improve the efficiency of the process for accepting "supplemental petitions."

The charter allows voters to initiate ordinances, charter amendments and the recall of the mayor and council members by petition. For a petition to be accepted, the county clerk must certify that the specific requirement for valid signatures has been satisfied. If an initially submitted petition fails to meet the applicable signature threshold, the petition proponents may submit a supplemental petition.

The council has placed the following questions on the ballot:

"Shall Sections 11-4 and 11-5 of the Charter be amended to correct clerical errors and to provide consistency within the Charter by allowing an individual to withdraw their signature from a supplemental petition?"

"Shall Section 11-5 of the Charter be amended to allow the County Clerk twenty (20) days to review a supplemental petition instead of ten (10) days?" ….

PDF: Maui Ballot Questions

read … Five charter amendments on ballot

Kenoi Burns Taxpayer Money to Rush Construction of Gym on top of Lava Tube

WHT: The screech of steel on steel echoed through the cavernous Ka‘u gym Saturday, as contractors worked overtime to meet an Oct. 4 deadline.

More than two years behind schedule and at least $228,000 over budget, the project is becoming the gunk on the track slowing Mayor Billy Kenoi’s sprint to untie as many maile lei as he can before leaving office in early December.

The ceremonial lei untying, Hawaii’s version of a ribbon-cutting, occurs as each public project is deemed ready for use. Kenoi has said it’s one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

The mayor is so intent on seeing the Ka‘u project finished during his tenure, the county has authorized overtime pay for contracted construction workers. That means taxpayers, not contractor Summit Construction Inc., will pick up the tab for the expedited work.

“The pending cost attributed directly to OT is approximately $97,000,” Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma said Wednesday in an emailed response to questions. “Please understand that the county is only paying for the overtime premium (the “half” in the “time-and-a-half”) as the contractor’s contract includes the straight-time cost component for the work.”

Honma said to the best of his knowledge, the Ka‘u project is the only one authorized for overtime, or at least, his department hasn’t authorized overtime for any other project. Other projects racing to a finish are the $17 million Hilo Municipal Golf Course improvements and $10.2 million in upgrades to Mauna Kea Park.

Public Works Director Warren Lee also was unaware of any other OT authorization.

The project was plagued with problems almost from the start. A lava tube and burial site caused delays in grading the site and then last year, the concrete flooring for the 21,069-square-foot gym portion of the 43,300-square-foot building had to be torn out at contractor’s expense and redone when it didn’t pass county inspection.

Kenoi’s frustration with delays escalated to the point that on Aug. 5, he called three Public Works engineers into his office and fired them on the spot, according to several sources within and closely aligned with county government who asked not to be identified because they feared retaliation.

The three employees were called back to work the following week, after being told no formal action was taken. West Hawaii Today is not naming the employees to preserve their privacy.

Kenoi, Lee and Human Resources Director Sharon Toriano declined comment on the grounds employee issues are confidential.

Shortly after that incident, management of the project was transferred from Public Works to Parks and Recreation.

“The Department of Public Works and Department of Parks and Recreation have been working closely together on this project since its inception through the planning and design stages as well as throughout its construction,” Honma said. “The principal administrative duties for the project recently transitioned from DPW to DPR in conjunction with the impending completion of the project in order to facilitate DPR’s occupancy and operation of the facilities.”

Summit Construction was paid an extra $166,069 in a June, 2015, change order that was added to the original $17.1 million contract. The change order was for “unanticipated changes not included in original design,” according to a report to the County Council.

Details of the change order include overhead costs associated with additional time to get State Historic Preservation burial treatment permits, drainage, grading, sidewalk and driveway relocation work, rerouting of telephone lines and other details not specified in the original contract. An earlier change order added $6,937 for the burial treatment plan and locker room material upgrade.

A third change order added 110 contract days to the project, without increasing the cost.

Mitsunaga &Associates Inc., the contractor for architectural and engineering services for the project, was granted an additional $55,091 to its $1 million contract in a Sept. 11, 2015 change order to “perform shelter quality assurance as required.”

Change orders reported to the County Council as of Aug. 31 total 5 percent over the original contract for engineering and 1 percent over the original $17.1 million construction contract. It’s not known if further change orders — such as the one authorizing overtime — still await the mayor’s signature. The administration has not yet responded to a Monday request for public records under the state’s Uniform Information Practices Act….

read … Loyalty Campaign

Expertise means nothing when everyone’s an expert

Cataluna: …With the “everyone’s an expert” movement comes the “let’s knit our own cars” movement — the thought that if we only got rid of industrial-scale production of things like food, energy, clothing and education we would somehow save money and learn to once again love our neighbors through bartering and sharing.

People want to make their own schools rather than rely on formalized educational institutions. Large-scale farming is viewed with skepticism or outright fear in favor of “yardens” and boutique farms, which are often run by newbie farmers….

Words like “artisanal” have been co-opted as a marketing tool for stuff that’s just basically “homemade.” (Or not. How exactly is bread made in an industrial kitchen artisanal?) ….

This empowerment of the individual to master all things is sweet elementary-school thinking, like somehow clumsy hands are more earnest and loving than the professional touch…..

read … Expert

Hawaii Legislature: Campaign Contributions Roll in as Oxycontin, Heroin Abuse Soars

SA: Drug overdose deaths in Hawaii increased by 83 percent from 2006 to 2014, a growth rate more than double the national average of 37 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Prescription opioids and heroin account for the majority of drug deaths, the CDC said….

A joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that drugmakers that produce opioid painkillers and allied advocacy groups spent more than $880 million on campaign contributions and lobbying over the past decade as they worked to influence state and federal policies. The groups have an array of political interests that include opioid advocacy, and their spending was eight times that of the gun lobby during the same period. By comparison, groups advocating for limits on opioid prescribing spent about $4 million.

The investigation comes as the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers has soared, claiming the lives of 165,000 people in the U.S. since 2000. Reporters analyzed campaign finance and lobbying data from 2006 through 2015, reviewed hundreds of documents and conducted more than 150 interviews. The AP and Center for Public Integrity found that drugmakers and allied groups employed an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in state capitals around the country and contributed to a total of 7,100 candidates for state-level office.

The groups spent far less money in Hawaii than in other states.  (Translation: Hawaii Legislators are easy to buy off.) Contributions to Hawaii candidates from companies that manufacture opioids amounted to less than $40,000 from 2009 to 2014…. 

State Sen. Josh Green, an emergency room doctor, introduced (for show) several bills (pretending to be) aimed at curtailing opioid abuse in recent years despite receiving campaign contributions from Pfizer, which manufactures opioids.

(IQ Test: Legislators sometimes introduce bills for show.)

It took several years for Hawaii lawmakers to pass legislation to limit opioid prescriptions. In 2013, Green’s bill that would have prohibited health care providers in emergency rooms from prescribing long-acting opioids died. An effort in 2015 to limit the number of times doctors could prescribe opioids also failed.

During that time, several lawmakers who led committees on health and consumer protection were receiving campaign donations from Pfizer and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America, a drug trade group….

Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill this year that in most cases prevents health care providers from prescribing more than a 30-day supply of opioids. The law, which went into effect July 1….

Rep. Della Au Belatti, chairwoman of the House Health Committee and also a donation recipient, said she wasn’t lobbied by the pharmaceutical industry. She said Hawaii is behind states with more aggressive laws, such as those that limit opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply, but she and others are pushing to catch up. 

(Translation: Until July 1 it was party time for pill pushers in Hawaii thanks to our cheaply bought-off legislators.  Now they are acting like heroes with the complicity of AP.)

For example, doctors in Hawaii are required to sign up for a database that tracks painkiller prescriptions, but they’re not required to enter information, an issue that could (have been dealt with long ago, but the money was too good to pass up) be addressed with future legislation, Green said.

2011: Oxycontin Contributions: Clayton Hee, Josh Green, Karl Rhoads and HB466

2012: Oxycontin Contributions: Josh Green Helps Pill Mills Loot Honolulu County Funds

CPI: Politics of pain: Drugmakers fought state opioid limits amid crisis

read … Whitewash

Corporate and PAC campaign contributions down since 1990

ILind: …Five of the top ten contributors in 1990 don’t exist today. And the ones that exist and still contribute to candidates give far less than they did then. At least two report giving 90% less to candidates than they did back in 1990. This seems to run counter to the public’s general perception.

I haven’t cleaned up the 2016 contributor list yet, so can’t confidently name the top current contributors.

However, IBEW Local Union 1186 PAC appears to be the top, or among the top contributors so far this year. But the pac’s total of $47,000 is 14% short of breaking into the 1990 Top 10, when compared in 2016 dollars….

ILind: Still mulling data showing declining corporate contributions

read … Down




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