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Tuesday, May 2, 2017
May 2, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:48 PM :: 3967 Views

Boom Over: Honolulu Construction Jobs Down 4%

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted May 1, 2017

Hawaii Republicans Postpone Lincoln Day Dinner

Floor Amendment: New rail deal slashes hotel tax increase—Brings Back GE Tax Hike

HNN: Details of the new deal to fund the Honolulu rail project have surfaced as a new floor amendment is circulating in the state Capitol.

The deal, to be announced Tuesday, addresses concerns raised by county leaders and the hotel industry in letters to Hawaii House and Senate leaders about an agreement reached Friday afternoon to raise the hotel tax to pay for rail and force Honolulu County to direct more of its general revenues to supporting the project.

Senators briefed on the plan said the deal includes a 10-year increase in the hotel room tax from 9.25 percent to 10.25 percent, starting next year. This is a decrease from the 12 percent tax that was originally proposed.

Under the plan, Honolulu must direct all of its TAT revenue – about $45 million a year – to the rail system. That money will no longer be available to the county for its general operating budget to pay for various county services and personnel costs.

The neighbor island counties will not lose their share of the hotel room tax.

The rail surcharge on Oahu’s excise tax will be extended for one year to coincide with the TAT increase.

The 10 percent state assessment for collecting the tax will be reduced to 1 percent.  This will provide more for the rail project, sources said.

The distribution to the public schools will be $25 million per year.

Sources say this proposal will direct about $1.6 billion to the Honolulu rail project, which currently has a shortfall of about $1.3 billion, excluding debt….

read … New rail deal slashes hotel tax increase

Caldwell Still Lobbying for GE Tax Hike: TAT Hike May Not Have Senate Votes

HNN: In a memo sent to State Senate President Ronald Kouchi on Monday afternoon, Caldwell said the city had identified "some serious Constitutional concerns" with the measure -- ones that, if not rectified, mean the legislature "could run the risk" of having the bill vetoed by Governor Ige.

Specifically, Caldwell objected to portions of the measure pertaining to the renovation of Blaisdell Center, the use of county funds to fund an alternative mass transit project, and the distribution of monies for the New Start Education Special Fund, which Caldwell says would increase the project's budget shortfall from $980 million to $2 billion.

Caldwell wasn't the only city leader to come out Monday in strong opposition to the plan, which relies on boosting hotel room taxes to afford the project.

City Council Chairman Ron Menor is demanding lawmakers do something rare -- use floor amendments to change the bill completely again.

State lawmakers are expected to vote on the controversial proposal Tuesday.

Menor's proposed floor amendment, which he is asking state lawmakers to accept, would change the bill -- from paying for rail by increasing hotel room taxes to instead extending the rail tax surcharge another 10 years, which Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell wanted.

On Monday afternoon, representatives from the visitor industry, construction, and affordable housing groups joined Menor and city budget Chairman Joey Manahan to oppose the deal being considered at the state Legislature, which increases the state's hotel room tax from 9.25 percent to 12 percent.

While lawmakers have said doing it this way will make visitors pay for the project, opponents say the bill would still hurt residents and the visitor industry. …

The Senate has been meeting for most of the day, and leaders are unsure if they have the votes to pass the measure.

But even if the proposal passes as is Tuesday, there are still challenges ahead.

Visitor industry leaders say they plan to urge the governor to veto the bill. If he doesn't, they could take the issue to court.

read … Caldwell Says Kill Rail Funding Bill

Rail recovery plan submitted to FTA, does not incorporate latest funding proposal

HNN: …HART says the budget is projected at $8.165 billion before financing costs, while projected resources to Dec. 31, 2027 are approximately $6.8 billion.

“In terms of recovery, as far as HART is concerned, that’s where we have done improvements to our management and the handling of the delay of the project, project controls, risk management, cost containment, all those things that we have to do. That’s all part of the recovery,” said Krishniah Murthy, HART interim CEO.

The feds also asked the rail authority to explore two options: a) completing rail all the way to Ala Moana, which HART says is still the plan, and b) cutting rail short, which officials say is a last resort and not a viable alternative.

“Plan B can be done as we say in our recovery plan. One of the challenges would be we are concerned it does not serve the number of people it was supposed to serve. Instead of carrying 120,000 people a day, it carries hardly about 50 percent less — 60 to 70 percent of that, basically,” said Murthy. “Also, it does not terminate in downtown where there is an easy transfer from rail to buses.”

Murthy notes that Plan B could open HART up to potential litigation from developments that were planned around rail, as well as the fact that HART did not conduct an environmental impact study for rail to stop in downtown Honolulu “so then it goes into a litigation on that. If we do that, it might drag us another two or three years in courts.”

The plan does not address new funding scenarios, such as the latest proposal to fund the rail project by increasing a tax on the hotel industry.

“Unfortunately all the legislative actions are still not complete yet, that are still undergoing,” Murthy noted, adding that the FTA “would not extend the deadline for the recovery plan, so we had to submit the plan.”

The plan itself notes that: “The Financial Plan will be amended and transmitted to the FTA after funding decisions are made.”

read … Not Needed

DoE to Steal 1/3 of GEMS Money

EH: a bill that made it to conference committee in this year’s Legislature would have allowed even that little bit of light to grow dimmer by removing Public Utilities Commission oversight over the HGIA and its Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) fund.

That bill did not make it over the finish line, but another that would allow the Department of Education to borrow a third of the entire GEMS fund, with no interest payments, was set for passage on the final day of the session.

IM: HB 957 HD1 SD2 CD1 authorizes the Department of Education to expedite and enable the cooling of all public school classrooms to a temperature conducive to student learning. The interest free loan of up to $46.4 million will comes from the Green Infrastructure Loan (GEMS) Program.

read … Stolen GEMS

What’s happening to dozens of vacated properties purchased for rail?

KHON: Long before Honolulu’s rail project reaches town, dozens of properties on the proposed route have already been bought and businesses moved out.

So with construction in that area still years away and far from a certainty, what is the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation doing with the vacant land in the meantime? …

So we looked into what HART is doing with the land that’s in limbo, and found out it’s looking for more folks willing to rent the property while they wait for the train to get there….

From all of the renters so far, they’ve been bringing in about $100,000 a year, give or take….

read … Vacated

Long-awaited Privatization of Maui public hospitals clears big hurdle

HNN: The long-awaited privatization of Maui County's three public hospitals recently cleared another huge hurdle. State lawmakers approved funds last week to complete the transfer of operations to Kaiser Permanente on July 1.

The state's budget bill contains roughly $73 million for operations, employee benefits and renovation work on the facilities.

Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lanai Community Hospital were all supposed to become private institutions on July 1, 2016, but union disputes pushed the transition date back an entire year.

During the delay, workers at Maui Memorial have endured staffing shortages and crowded facilities….

At one point, there were 400 personnel vacancies at Maui Memorial, according to hospital officials. Melnikoff said there are now 200 to 300 openings that need to be filled….

Employees will have to deal with training and a new computer system, while also caring for patients, but many are looking forward to the transformation in Maui County's health care.

"I can feel the energy as we get closer and it's just so good for our community," said Shitamoto…..

read … Long-awaited transition of Maui public hospitals clears big hurdle

Hawaii Unions Rally on Communist Holiday, Predict Many Members Would Quit of they Could

HNN: Hundreds of union members from across the island came together Monday night to march against what they've called anti-labor proposals before Congress.

It was the first ever rally of its kind in Hawaii on International Workers Day.

Members from 21 public and private unions converged at the state Capitol building to support workers' rights.

"We've got each other to depend on because the politicians have abandoned us," one union leader told the crowd. "We've got a federal government that's turned against us."

Attendees said they were most concerned about the National Right to Work bill, which would make union dues voluntary across the country.

"If that does happen I predict a lot of people will drop out just because it sounds great. Why not keep the money in my pocket?" said Hawaii Government Employees Association member Kehau Makaila.

Some 20 percent of Hawaii's workers are represented by unions. That's the second highest rate in the country behind New York….

read … Communist Holiday

Anti-GMO Losers: We Got Nothing, Legislators Gave Us Excuses

Hooser: …Failing to ban the restricted-use pesticide chlorpyrifos is an unconscionable act of neglect….  (Blablabla)

… instead of bold action we received the same excuses that are delivered at this same time year after year. The phrases are so predictable that journalists can pre-write their stories with “insert phrase here” and just drop in the appropriate “We ran out of time,” or “We didn’t have the votes,” or “We will keep working on this during the interim, ” or “It was a bad bill,” ad nauseam….

On the surface, the membership in the House and Senate appear to be completely dominated by the Democratic Party. But it is clear from their actions that a majority of those serving are essentially Democrats In Name Only. Most choose the Democrat label as a matter of convenience and give only lip service to party values and platform….

Somewhere along the way, Hawaii’s political leadership lost its way. There are solid progressive legislators in both the House and the Senate, but their effectiveness is hamstrung by a corporatist-centered leadership unwilling to buck the powers of Bishop Street.  (And I am hamstrung by the fact that Kauai voters rejected me.)

It’s time for a new political and policy revolution in Hawaii….  (yawn)

Please join with us Thursday from 7 to 8:30 a.m. along Miller Street to express our extreme disappointment with those at the Legislature who have failed us so miserably this year…. 

(Maybe they could pay some homeless people to stand there.)

read … 2017 Hawaii Legislature Deserves Failing Grades

Money Laundering: HCF Funnels Donations to Anti-GMO Operatives

KE: …The foundation's giving pattern also indicates a receptivity to funding organizations that talk about alternative approaches to farming, as opposed to actually advancing viable agriculture.

For example, it gave a whopping $476,670 to the Kohala Center — a Big Island group that reported income of $5.2 million in 2014, with little to show for it. The Center's School Garden Network is directed by anti-GMO activist Nancy Redfeather.

Malama Kauai, another do-nothing faux ag group, was awarded $100,000 by HCF — more than a third of the $274,846 the organization reported as income in 2015. The group spent $121,598 to deliver fruit and veggies to after-school programs and Kauai food banks, and $35,077 on its community garden and “food forest.” But what, pray tell, was the value of the food it actually produced?

Similarly, HCF gave $80,000 to the Center for Food Safety — ostensibly for “environmental” programs — while Gary Hooser's Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action was given a $52,500 grant for “public policy and advocacy.” Yet just today, Hooser published a Civil Beat column bemoaning HAPA's complete failure to advance any of its objectives in the state Legislature — while blaming lawmakers, of course.

HCF also gave $12,500 to the Kauai Community Cat Project (KCCP), which engaged in a vicious cyber-bullying campaign against former Kauai Humane Society Director Penny Cistaro and is now suing Kauai County to stymie its efforts to develop an ordinance aimed at controlling the island's feral cats. Furthermore, the KCCP spent $80,000 to manage just 510 cats.

And inexplicably, HCF gave $10,000 to SHAKA, which mounted an anti-GMO moratorium in Maui County that was later thrown out by the courts. Though SHAKA's 2015 tax return has not yet surfaced on Guidestar, its 2014 return showed income of $329,056. It ended that year with just $46,053, having spent $87,931 on “management,” another $84,243 on advertising and promotion and and $30,321 on legal fees. ….

Uh, so what, exactly, was the public charitable purpose that SHAKA provided with its money? And none of its funding sources were disclosed, either.

Why is HCF funding groups that are decidely opaque, and actively working to undermine agriculture and sow discord in Hawaii? Especially when its mission is “investing in community well-being” and “strengthening Hawaii's communities.”

Now compare the grants given to those self-serving groups with their very narrow agendas to the amounts awarded to organizations that serve a broad sector of the public: $116,295 to Aloha United Way; $62,000 to Big Brothers/Big Sisters; $78,600 to American Cancer Society; $85,403 to American Red Cross Hawaii Chapter; $50,000 to Polynesian Voyaging Society; $55,888 National Tropical Botanical Garden; $10,000 Hawaii Meth Project.

Something seems out of kilter here….

This represents a dramatically upward trend of undisclosed mainland philanthropists parking money at HCF, where they are allowed to discretely engage in donor-advised giving. In 2011, HCF reported gifts, grants and contributions of nearly $16.7 million. That figure increased to $23.9 million in 2012, $27.7 million in 2013 , $30.5 million in 2014 to $45.6 million in 2015.

However, HCF cut the total amount of grants it awarded by $573,897 between 2014 and 2015.

Overall, HCF spent $13.8 million to award grants of $29.4 million in 2015.

In 2015, HCF spent some $6.7 million on salaries, up $266,447 from the previous year. Kelvin Taketa, HCF president and CEO, was paid $359,792 plus $149,129 in additional compensation from HCF and related organizations, for a total of $508,921. HCF's top 11 employees, including Taketa, received compensation totaling $2.3 million in 2015.

read … Musings: Giving and Getting

Reassessing Assumptions About Organic Food

KE: …Organic farming is often idealized — and commercially promoted — as producing a better product and treading more lightly on the land. Indeed, folks pay a premium to indulge this perception.

But two recent articles are casting doubt on those beliefs.

The Washington Post has a lengthy piece on organic dairies, which may be much larger and less bucolic than some consumers imagine. It focuses on the Aurora Organic Dairy in Colorado, which has some 15,000 cows producing enough milk to supply Walmart, Costco and other big box retailers.

It was interesting to read that “the USDA allows farmers to hire and pay their own inspectors to certify them as “USDA Organic.” It was also ironic, considering how many of the Hawaii anti-ag folks dissed the seed companies' voluntary disclosure of restricted pesticide use as insufficient.

Basically, the article is saying that the coveted “organic seal,” which boosted annual sales from $6 billion in 2000 to $40 billion in 2015, is based on “an unusual system of inspections” that are pre-announced and funded by farmers.

You mean, it's really all kind of a sham/scam? As the article concludes:

The growth of mega-dairies that may fall short of organic standards and produce cheaper milk appears to be crushing many small dairies, some analysts said.

The mom and pop — the smaller traditional family dairies — who are following the pasture rules are seeing their prices erode,” said [Pete] Hardin, the Milkweed editor. “It is creating a heck of a mess.”

You mean, consumers who have bought the organic marketing speil, but balk at paying a premium, are undercutting the very system they claim to cherish?

read … Musings: Reassessing Assumptions

Pretend Politics: Honolulu fakes ‘sanctuary city’ for Criminal Illegal Aliens

SA: Honolulu City Council members have unanimously passed a resolution calling on Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration and the Honolulu Police Department to not spend city money assisting federal agencies tasked with enforcing President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

(Fake, Fake, Fake.  If they were for real, the would pass a bill, not a resolution.)

Authored by Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga and co-sponsored by three colleagues, Resolution 17-50 states that the Council and city have “a steadfast commitment to uphold Honolulu as a Haven of Aloha.”

“The Council believes that federal authorities should abide by the recent ruling of the U.S. District Court … regarding the rights of immigrants and refugees under the Constitution and laws of the United States,” the resolution states…

Big Q: Should Honolulu adopt a resolution to become a “sanctuary city”? No = 73%

(Be sure to check out the next story….)

read … Importing Criminals

Homeless Criminal from Mainland Moves to Hawaii, Allegedly Kills Kauai Girl After Stealing Truck

HNN: …The man accused of killing a 19-year-old woman in a head-on crash on Kauai last week appeared in court on Monday.

Cody Safadago, 46, was charged with 8 counts: first-degree negligent homicide, auto theft, driving drunk, reckless and without a license, inattention to driving, resisting arrest and failing to render aid.

Police say he was driving a truck he stole just moments before crashing head-on with a vehicle driven by Kayla Huddy-Lemn, 19, on Kuhio Highway in Kapaa. It happened around 10:45 p.m. Thursday.

"The investigators at the scene reported he smelled like alcohol and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol," said Justin Kollar, Kauai County's Prosecuting Attorney.

Police say Safadago fled the scene on foot, but was later caught and arrested near Wailua Shopping Center after a brief struggle with officers.

Huddy-Lemn was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Police say Safadago is originally from Washington State and had no local Hawaii address.

Hawaii criminal records show he was convicted for second degree theft in 2012 and sentenced to six months in prison with five years of probation.

Safadago was recently released from jail after posting bail for assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

"As we piece together his criminal background from the mainland, it appears he may have been recently in trouble with other places on the mainland," said Kollar.

A Belize newspaper reported Safadago illegally entered the country in 2014 and was wanted for parole violations.

He was arrested was handed over to U.S. Marshalls for return to the U.S.  (What?  No sanctuary for criminal illegal aliens in Belize???)

read … Imported Criminal

Schatz: ‘Hawaii Got Almost Everything We Sought’ In Trump’s Federal Budget

CB: Despite dismal expectations, the plan preserves spending levels for the Coast Guard, East-West Center and Native Hawaiian services while boosting defense spending.

read … Democrats Love President Donald J Trump

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