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Sunday, February 12, 2017
February 12, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:01 PM :: 5850 Views

Most 2016 GEMS Loans Went to One Insider

UHERO Slams the Skim

Skin in the Game? Mayor Harry Kim says higher taxes not an option

HTH: …Kim said more than 90 percent of Ka‘u schoolchildren and more than 70 percent of Puna schoolchildren are on the free and reduced-cost lunch program for families in poverty.

“How can I raise taxes on these people?” he asked….

According to Kim, most people on the island are one or two paychecks away from being homeless. As homelessness grows, there’s even more of a strain on county services, he said.

One small change could be to return to free Hele-On bus service, a program he started in his last term that was reversed under Kenoi and a former County Council. Kim said he hasn’t finalized a decision, as the budget is still up in the air….

“We’re going to be cautious,” Okabe said. “We’re trying to give the best service for the money we have.”

read … Kim says higher taxes not an option to offset expected budget gap

Senator’s Wife Refuses Hush Money

SA: …At a public hearing on Wednesday, Wakai warned HTA board Chairman Rick Fried and Chief Executive Officer George Szigeti that “your business practices and your management decisions are to me very much in question.”

“That’s what I’m finding out as I dig through the numbers that you have reluctantly given me, and I’m sure I’m going to find a lot more questionable practices in the future,” he said.

Wakai, (D, Kalihi-Salt Lake-Aliamanu) said his public criticisms of HTA have nothing to do with his wife, Miki, leaving her job there, and pointed out that he challenged HTA about its lack of a sports marketing strategy last year while his wife still worked there.

“There is no connection whatsoever,” Wakai said. “My wife, because of decisions that were being made, wasn’t happy. They made her feel very uncomfortable for pointing out things that were very suspicious, and so she resigned in July of last year.”

As for any suggestion that Wakai is retaliating against HTA, Wakai replied that, “There is no retaliation whatsoever. My wife was doing the people’s work, pointed out flaws, they made her feel very uncomfortable, it was her decision to leave, and she has gone on to much bigger and better things.”

Miki Wakai worked at HTA as a “tourism brand manager” overseeing marketing efforts to Japan, which is Hawaii’s largest international market. Her responsibilities included making sure that marketing efforts by HTA contractor Hawaii Tourism Japan tracked with HTA’s strategic plan to drive demand for the state, according to the HTA web site.

She joined HTA in November 2013 and departed in August 2016, about a year after new management was installed at the tourism authority. A spokesman for HTA said Wakai made $72,456 a year in that position.

Before she left, the authority offered Miki Wakai a new job under a one-year contract for $85,000 that involved developing a program for evaluating HTA-sponsored festivals and events. The contract included an option for HTA to extend the agreement for up to three years, but Wakai declined the offer, according to an HTA spokesman.

Glenn Wakai said the contract included non-disclosure language that would have prevented his wife from ever disclosing what she knew about “questionable operations” at HTA, and described the offer as essentially “hush money.”

“My wife declined to be bought,” he said in a written statement….

Miki Wakai declined to be interviewed, but Glenn Wakai said his wife has since started a consulting company that is “growing quite well, where she is having to turn away business. She just pivoted, she didn’t want to be a part of all of that that was going on there.”

Miki Wakai also works in the office of state Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D, Makiki-Tantalus-Manoa), Wakai confirmed.

read … HTA probe not retaliation, senator says

Ige Blames Judicial Selection Commission for Appointment of Campaign Manager

KHON: On Thursday, we told you the governor appointed attorney Keith Hiraoka, a good friend of his who even served as his campaign chair. Hiraoka would fill the vacancy created by the retirement of former Circuit Judge Karen Ahn in June 2016.

The governor had to choose from a list provided to him by the judicial selection commission, so some question if Ige is being fair in choosing his buddy.

“I can certainly see how people feel that way,” the governor said.  (Yes.)  “I would just like to note the judicial selection commission is independent (and they know what I want). I’ve nominated one of nine members on the commission (and the other 8 still know which side the bread is buttered on). They felt he was qualified on all of the lists (just to help me make it look good by doing that ICA head-fake for me.  What a great bunch of guys.  I wonder if they’d like to score a cush judge gig too?  Its great for racking up those top three years.)”

Related: Choke or Head Fake? Ige Doesn’t Appoint Campaign Chair to ICA

read … Governor addresses controversial pick for Circuit Court bench

Ige: Get Rid of Matayoshi so HSTA can Achieve Nirvana

SA: Coding. Robotics. Digital media. International education exchanges. These programs weren’t offered when I attended public schools in Pearl City, and we can only imagine what fascinating opportunities await students in the world of tomorrow….

The board determined that renovating the system requires a fresh mindset and initiated a search for a new superintendent. I fully support this decision….

The Blueprint focuses on school empowerment. Specifically, this means that those who are closest to the students and understand best how they are motivated the HSTA will make many of the instructional decisions.

It means making teachers a part of reshaping eliminating the curriculum and instructional programs to ground students in the basics and get them ready for (so union members can’t be held accountable for) the (duration of the) 21st century.

It means schools are given time to collaborate, conduct research and analyze information (lots of vacation time, travel and sick leave). It means allowing decisions about expenditure of resources to be made at the school level (vacant positions). It means a central office that supports the schools rather than focusing on compliance (nobody supervising).

read … Unicorns and Rainbows

HGEA Strategic Incompetence Means Former state workers face long wait for payouts

KHON: …State workers who leave or retire often clock out for the last time with oodles of accrued time owed to them in the form of unused vacation and sick pay, even receipts pending repayment from the state.

Then the wait begins.

A former state worker on Hawaii Island, who wanted to remain anonymous, had one of the longest wait times we’d heard of when investigating the problem of delayed payments.

“It’s been over a year and initially, I was told that it would take approximately a few months for me to get my vacation payout,” he said.

He alone had more than $10,000 due to him.

“For my case, about two months pay. I’m sure other people have even more,” he said….

Randy Perreira, executive director of HGEA, the state’s largest public employees union, says it’s a longstanding problem.

“Much of it is attributed to the fact that the state is not up to par IT-wise (thanks to us here at HGEA resisting any improvements), and as a result everything has to be done manually, and there just aren’t enough employees to do the physical manual work necessary to do this in a timely fashion,” Perreira said.

That goes back to an Always Investigating story we told you about in 2015, when we found out that much of the state’s payroll system is done on pencil and paper, and stored in boxes and file cabinets in state office buildings….

“We get a lot of inquiries about when my OT will actually be paid,” Perreira said. “It’s unfair for employees to be treated as creditors of the state, and they’re not getting any interest for the time the state is ‘using their money.'”

It’s a double-edged sword for the public workers. Their union employees are affected by the delayed payments, and union workers have to audit and process them.

“It makes it tough for us,” Perreira said. “We don’t go and complain a lot to employees, because they’re understaffed and facing an ever-growing mountain of paper.”  (Translation: We are exploiting this situation in negotiations.) ….

“Roughly speaking, the retirement system will tell you, in December, they turn over on an average year like 1,000, up to 1,300, 1,400 people,” Perreira said. “In any given year, you can turn over 1,500 teachers.”

Not to mention many more state workers who leave early for the private sector or change jobs, which Perreira says has “got to be in the millions.”

Those millions of dollars, he says, are unbudgeted for, so for just about every departure, the payout is a scramble.  (Translation: We are exploiting this situatuin to negotiate for more ‘vacant positions.’)

KHON: State turns to mainland recruiting to fill hundreds of teacher vacancies (again)

read … Former state workers face long wait for payouts despite hefty payroll upgrade

SB534: $70/day, Then Organize Kupuna Caregivers into Union

SA: …Senate Bill 534 aims to establish a kupuna caregivers program to help such caregivers remain in the workforce. Eligible caregivers would get a voucher of $70 a day, which would be applied to bills for home care aids and others who can provide adult day care, transportation, personal care and various homemaking services. (This is the first step.  HGEA membership is the next step.)

The bill is a good idea — a good fit for Hawaii, which currently has the highest percentage of ohana households in the nation. According to a U.S. Census survey conducted a few years ago, 11.3 percent of all family households in the islands were multigenerational — three or more generations — while the national average was 5.8 percent.

According to SB 534, voucher recipients must be employed 30 or more hours a week and caring for a Hawaii resident who is at least 60 years old, contending with functional impairment and not residing in a skilled nursing, assisted-living or other adult residential care facility.

While assisting families in need is the right thing to do, the scope of a kupuna caregivers program should be carefully probed before launch because it has the potential to quickly drain public coffers.

Critics might say the program — which would start with about $600,000 from the state’s general fund for fiscal 2017-18 to draft a study of program logistics, gate-keeping rules and other matters, followed by $6 million in 2018-19 for implementation — adds up to a social services handout….

(How about a tax cut instead?)

read … HGEA Organizing Drive

Feds Still Grabbing for Control of Kona Water

WHT: …park rangers here fear that increased use of the island’s limited freshwater resources at current and proposed wells, combined with decreased rainfall and rising sea levels, could upset the delicate ecosystem that relies on the balance of fresh and salt water.

As a result, they’re asking the state Commission on Water Resource Management to step in and designate the Keauhou Aquifer, which covers a vast region from Makalawena Beach to north of Kealakekua Bay, a water management area.

Designation would give the Park Service a chance to weigh in on the future of water withdrawals in the area.

That would include for any applications by developers to build new wells mauka of the park’s boundary. By having a chance to challenge permits, park staff could officially voice their concerns about potential impacts those wells could have on the park’s ecosystems.

Not everyone is on board with the proposal though.

Opponents to designating the aquifer say the National Park Service hasn’t shown any evidence that there’s a problem. Commission staff have already filed a report recommending against the designation, instead offering several alternative recommendations.

A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center….

“All seven of the higher-elevation wells operated by the (Department of Water Supply) … are located closer to Kaloko-Honokohau than the Kahalu’u wellfield,” wrote the Park Service in their petition for designation.

That resulted in more groundwater being withdrawn from the four ahupuaa in which the park is situated.

The park said those wells threaten park resources because groundwater removal mauka from the park “will have a greater effect on fresh water discharge to coastal ecosystems within the park,” stated the petition.

A Commission on Water Resource Management staff report prepared in advance of Tuesday’s meeting though rejected that argument, saying data shows no increase in measurements that reflect salinity at park observation wells.

read … Federal Power grab

Tulsi Gabbard Syria Trip Just Like Patsy Mink Meeting with Viet Cong?

Borreca: …“We should be ready to follow the examples of Representative Patsy Mink, President Dwight Eisenhower, and our other leaders who were always willing to meet with adversaries if there is a possibility it would bring us closer to peace,” Gabbard said by email. “Patsy Mink met with Viet Cong and North Vietnamese leaders, despite the fact that they were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. President Eisenhower met with Nikita Khrushchev, the head of the Soviet Union, even though Khrushchev had threatened the United States with nuclear annihilation, exclaiming, ‘We will bury you! We will bury you!’” ….

Mink was a Hawaii member of Congress from 1965 until 1977, and from 1990 until her death in 2002. In 1972, she and fellow Congresswoman Bella Abzug met with U.S. delegates, North Vietnamese officials and Mme. Nguyen Thi Binh, foreign minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, during the mostly stalled Paris Peace Talks regarding the Vietnam War.

The mission was first to get information about the peace process, which Mink and Abzug thought was being blocked by the Nixon administration. The trip was part of Mink’s long-standing opposition to the Vietnam War. 

(The difference is that Gabbard’s trip might be seen as supporting the evil Trumpmonster whereas the sainted Mink was opposing the devil Nixon.  The dictators and communists are just stage props.)

read … Gabbard overreaches in lofty comparisons with Mink and Eisenhower

Years Later—Still Whining About Depleted Uranium

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