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Wednesday, June 21, 2017
June 21, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:34 PM :: 4954 Views

After Pushing Bogus Coral Sunscreen Bills, Hawaii Surfrider Collects Payoff from Manufacturer

Pasha to Buy Four Mystery Ships?

10 Buildings With the Highest Honolulu Property Taxes in 2016

How Economically Independent is Hawaii?

Hawaii to Supreme Court: No need to review travel ban

‘Food Evolution’ movie could mark turning point in public GMO discussion

Mother Jones: World Health Organization called RoundUp a “probable carcinogen,” but it didn’t have all the facts

FBI probe investigating police chief now zeroing in on city prosecutor, too

HNN: …Hawaii News Now has learned that a fourth special prosecutor from California has been added to the team investigating alleged misconduct by people at Hawaii's highest levels of law enforcement.

Katherine Kealoha, formerly a high-ranking deputy prosecutor and the former police chief's wife, is already a target of the FBI case.

And now it appears her boss, city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, has also joined the list of those under scrutiny.

Sources say that the fourth special prosecutor was added to determine if Kaneshiro improperly used his office to cover up for Kealoha.

Kealoha was an FBI target over a family financial dispute, but these latest allegations have nothing to do with that. They stem from a speeding ticket issued to her electrician that Kealoha got tossed.

While federal authorities were trying to determine if she lied to a judge over it, the city prosecutor came up with multiple ways to justify her behavior, including questioning the integrity of the police officer who wrote the ticket.  …

So if the ghost ticket cases are real, where are those local prosecutions?

Kaneshiro had told us last year the federal grand jury threatened to derail his digging, and sources told us federal witnesses had been told not to talk to county authorities.

“Let me just say the federal prosecutor has been interfering with our investigation,” Kaneshiro said.

The Honolulu Police Department told us there is no investigation of a ghost ticket scam going on internally at HPD….

read … Zeroing in

Lawyers Begin Pretending Kealoha-Kaneshiro Ghost Ticketing Investigation is Real

KHON:  …Among the allegations under investigation, whether Katherine Kealoha fixed a traffic ticket for a friend by appearing in court and making a claim of mistaken identity.

Kaneshiro, her boss, told Always Investigating this past December: “It was not how it has been portrayed in the media that she gave a friend a benefit. That that did not occur. There is an ongoing investigation involving that case.”

The investigation was looking into whether HPD officers were trying to maximize pay for court appearances with “ghost” or excessive ticketing, or taking bribes to not appear in court, which helps cases get dismissed. The person Kealoha went to court for was among those affected by that alleged scam.

“As a result, that person agreed to cooperate with us and there’s a cooperation agreement that was done with that individual, signed by me,” Kaneshiro said.

His statement caught the ear of several defense attorneys around town, including DUI attorney Jonathan Burge, who began filing a slew of motions in dozens, if not hundreds, of cases, everything from speeding to drunk driving, to question the credibility of arresting officers in their cases.

Attorney David Fanelli has not used that approach, but sees it in court regularly lately.

“There’s a notion that there must be a bunch of cops involved in this, and so perhaps where some attorneys in the past wouldn’t have gotten so involved in filing motions, they are doing it now,” Fanelli said. “The idea is that if this officer was somehow engaged in some kind of ghost ticket thing and they lied in that fashion, then this same officer who pulled my guy over could be lying about his driving, his performance on the standardized field sobriety test.” ….

read … Investigation into ‘ghost ticketing’ allegations calls more cases into question

Universal Basic Income: Tax Hike to Pay Mainland Homeless to Come to Hawaii

HNN: …But former state lawmaker and fiscal conservative Sam Slom and other critics think basic income is a bad idea.

"I would rather see us concentrate on a more balanced economy, better jobs, more paying jobs, getting the cost of living down so that local people, young people can afford it. This idea does none of that," Slom said.

Hawaii Pacific University economist and Libertarian Party committee member Ken Schooland fears free money could be counterproductive.

"You see how many homeless people there are and how many help wanted signs there are. People don't see the incentive to work if they can get what they need without it," he said.

Rep Chris Lee said the dollars for a basic income system could come from taxpayers.…

Meanwhile: Employers struggle to find workers

read … More Homeless are needed

Lawsuit dismissed, clearing the way for transfer of hospitals

MN: …A last legal hurdle has been cleared to make way for the July 1 transfer of Maui Region hospitals from the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to Kaiser Permanente-affiliated Maui Health System.

On Tuesday afternoon, the state Department of the Attorney General announced that the Employees’ Retirement System and the HHSC had agreed to dismiss a lawsuit to block implementation of a 2016 law that provided for public Maui hospital employees a choice of a severance payment or a special retirement benefit following the transfer of the hospitals to Kaiser.

The lawsuit was filed because the employee deal threatened the tax-exempt status of the ERS fund, according to the announcement. Later, the law was repealed.

It was replaced by Act 18, which authorized the payment of state general funds for a one-time lump sum cash bonus severance package to Maui Region hospital employees. The severance is expected to cost the state $30.6 million.

The severance amount will be calculated at the rate of 5 percent of the employee’s annual base salary for each year of service up to and including July 20, 2016. It cannot exceed 10 years or total more than 50 percent of the employee’s annual base salary…..

read … Dismissed

Ige to Sign GEMS Rip-off Bill—Electric Ratepayers to Subsidize Failed Cool Schools Scam

SA: Gov. David Ige will sign a bill Thursday that pulls one-third of the money from the state’s dormant $150 million green energy loan program to help lower electric bills at Hawaii’s public schools.

Ige’s office said Tuesday the governor will sign House Bill 957, which gives the state Department of Education a $46.4 million, interest-free loan to improve energy efficiency at schools….

read … Stolen Money from Ratepayers

DoE Fails to Develop Even one Parcel of Land

SA: Board of Education members expressed frustration Tuesday that the Department of Education has yet to take advantage of a law passed four years ago authorizing development of underused public school lands to pay for campus upgrades.

The 2013 law, known as Act 155, was envisioned as a way to modernize public school facilities by allowing the DOE to monetize excess lands for public purposes — such as affordable housing — and use the money to build “21st century schools.” It established a pilot program requiring the DOE to lease up to three public school land sites; any proceeds can be spent only on construction and upgrades of new and existing school facilities.

The department to date has not recommended any pilot sites for the Board of Education’s approval. A bill awaiting Gov. David Ige’s signature would extend the deadline for the pilot program by five years, giving the department more time to implement the law….

One potential pilot site is near Diamond Head at 475 22nd Ave. The 6.5-acre parcel houses staff for the DOE’s central Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support in warehouse-type buildings across the street from the Hawaii National Guard Armory. It is valued for tax purposes at nearly $41.5 million…..

read … State DOE’s failure to tap land assets for school upgrades angers board

BoE Forwards HSTA-Ige ESSA Plan to Feds

CB: The Hawaii Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to qualify for federal funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Obama administration law that hands more control to the states for measuring student achievement.

Board approval of the plan was largely expected. The vote, taken during a packed state Board of Education meeting attended by principals and community members, comes amid a period of transition for the Hawaii public school system.

The newly-hired superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, starts her new job in just over a month. While a few community members voiced a preference to have the vote delayed until Kishimoto starts, they were clearly outnumbered….

The state ESSA plan has been criticized by some community members because it doesn’t go far enough in pushing more school innovation.  They say it focuses too heavily on student assessments — such as testing of proficiency levels in English language and math as accountability measures — that were used under No Child Left Behind, which ESSA replaced.

Board approval of the plan caps an 18-month-long drafting process that incorporates the state’s broad Strategic Plan for 2017 through 2020 and student accountability framework known as Strive HI.

It’s impossible to discuss the state ESSA plan without referencing an ESSA blueprint drafted by a task force hand-picked by Gov. David Ige in mid-2016…..

read … How Far Can They Go?

Emergency hires fill 38% of Leeward Teaching Positions

KHON: …Each school year, hundreds of unlicensed teachers are placed into Hawaii public school classrooms.

It’s part of the solution to the state’s teacher shortage problem.

The Hawaii Department of Education has struggled for years to fill vacancies using emergency hires, or teachers who don’t have a teaching license.

Right now, the Department of Education says it’s still hiring for the school year, which starts in two months.

Emergency hires are full-time teachers who are paid about $35,500 per year, compared to a licensed teacher with starting pay at over $45,000, according to the Hawaii State Teachers Association…..

many emergency hires are placed at schools in high-poverty areas, “especially out in our leeward coasts areas. You have 38 percent of teachers who are inexperienced, unqualified, or out of the field, which means on a daily basis, these kids are not getting an education that they deserve.”

The Department of Education declined our request for an interview, but said last school year (2016-2017), the DOE placed 389 emergency hires at schools across the state.

From 2015-2016, there were 396, and in the 2014 school year, there were 298.

The DOE added that emergency hires must earn their Hawaii teaching license within three years, or they’re out of a job….

HNN: New 4-year contract signed to secure pay increases for Hawaii's teachers

read … Teachers union: Unlicensed emergency hires could have negative, long-term effects

Student Loan Repayment Steers 25 MDs, Nurses to ‘Underserved Areas’

CB: The Legislature passed a bill, awaiting Gov. David Ige’s signature, that would help to provide loan repayment funding for those who work in underserved areas. Without this appropriation, matching federal funds would disappear. House Bill 916 is an effort to help, but does it go far enough?

Since 2012, 25 physicians, nurse practitioners and psychologists have benefited from this loan forgiveness/repayment model. Basically, by committing to working in an area of need for a certain number of years, the providers can have some of their school loans repaid through the fund, as managed by the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii….

read … Loan

HIDoT: Firing Sheriffs is Negotiating Tactic

KHON: …transportation officials notified the Hawaii Department of Public Safety of its intention to terminate the interdepartmental agreement in 180 calendar days.

The reason: the department believes the agreement, which began July 1, 2002, is out of date.

“The safety and security of the passengers, employees and the entire airport community continues to be of utmost importance,” said transportation director Ford Fuchigami. “As the contracting agency, HDOT is ultimately responsible for providing the best possible services and security at its facilities.”

That doesn’t mean deputy sheriffs would be gone for good. Transportation officials say they are willing to work with the public safety department to create a new agreement.

“The end of the current agreement is now the starting point for us to make operational, legal, and personnel related improvements that meet the HDOT Airport Division’s requirements,” said public safety director Nolan Espinda. “We understand we are on the clock to make the improvements before the end of the year and we are working to make the necessary adjustments.”

read … Negotiations

Soft on Crime Crowd Saddened to Learn that Criminals do not Have Eternal Life

CB: …Silva, who had only months to go after spending 17 years behind bars, had died an hour earlier in his cell, apparently from a drug overdose….

In a span of 19 months starting in April 2015, eight other Hawaii inmates have died behind bars — five from suicides, two from homicides and one from accidental “water intoxication” — according to Hawaii Department of Public Safety records obtained by Civil Beat through a public records request.

Two additional inmates were killed on the Big Island while they were on work furlough, the records show.

By contrast, a total of 30 Hawaii inmates died from unnatural causes between 2001 and 2014 — an average of a little more than two deaths per year, according to the latest data released in December by the U.S. Justice Department….

(Do the Math: Hawaii has 5,600 inmates.  The annual death rate for the entire state is 588.7 per 100K population.  This yields 33 deaths per 5600 civilian population per year from all causes.  How does this compare to 30 prison deaths out of 5600 population in 14 years form ‘unnatural’ causes.) 

read… Not Eternal

Opioid Overdoses Cost $110M/year in Hawaii

SA: …Hawaii’s opioid-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations doubled over the past decade as more patients overdosed on heroin or prescription drugs.

In 2016, state hospitals billed more than $110.7 million in charges for the treatment of 4,017 patients with opioid-related problems, compared with $48.7 million for 2,797 in 2010, according to the Hawaii Health Information Corp., an independent nonprofit that collects health care data to improve policymaking.

The problem, billed as a national epidemic, has gained significant attention with the latest report released Tuesday by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, citing 1.3 million U.S. emergency room visits or hospitalizations for opioid-related problems in 2014….

read … Opioid

Domestic Abuse Felony Cases Clog Courts

SA: …In an effort to shield kids from such trauma and break cycles of family violence, Hawaii enacted a law in 2014 that makes physical abuse a family or household member in the presence of another family or household member under age 14 a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

The impulse for a tougher penalty is laudable. But while House Bill 1993, signed into law as Act 117, looked good on paper, in practice it’s proving to create more problems than it solves. State lawmakers should rescind it and retool efforts aimed at thwarting domestic violence in the islands.

Previously, such a case of domestic abuse was a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Although tailored to deter abuse, it appears that the reclassification simply moved the matter from Family Court to Circuit Court. A resulting spike in felony cases has caused Circuit Court congestion. And that, in turn, is leading to a less-than-impressive conviction record, defeating the intent of the tougher law.

According to a report released last week by Honolulu’s city auditor, the tally of cases handled by Honolulu Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division jumped to an estimated 1,538 from 215 — a whopping 615 percent increase — over a three-year period ending last year. On the prosecutors’ side, the caseload assigned to each domestic violence attorney nearly doubled, increasing to 94 from 54.

Less than 14 percent of reclassified cases were accepted and charged as felonies. And many of those could not be prosecuted because victims and children were unwilling to testify. Also, overall, more than half of the new felony cases (53 percent) were reclassified or downgraded to misdemeanor cases by prosecutors.

Pointing out that the new law is creating a huge workload and little to show for it, the city’s audit rightly recommends that Honolulu Hale and others lobby the Legislature to amend it by reducing the felony to a misdemeanor. Also, it advises turning to state lawmakers and the state Judiciary for more judicial resources dedicated to domestic violence cases….

read … A clog in the works

Aquarium fishing limits wrong for Hawaii

HTH: For decades, many Hawaii residents have relied on aquarium fishing for their livelihood. This industry has created jobs in rural areas with few employment opportunities, such as on Hawaii Island and the Waianae Coast on Oahu.

It is these people who are now relying on Gov. David Ige to protect their jobs. The governor can do this by vetoing Senate Bill 1240, a bill with no positive benefits that will significantly harm individuals, families and businesses.

Advocates for SB 1240 contend the loss of jobs and educational opportunities is acceptable because the bill allegedly will protect our state’s coral reefs and prevent unsustainable fishing practices. This claim is not supported by 17 years’ worth of data — including nearly 7,000 underwater surveys — collected by the Department of Land and Natural Resources which clearly demonstrate the West Hawaii aquarium fishery is sustainable and economically valuable.

According to DLNR’s published studies, sustainable aquarium fishing is evidenced by the stability of yellow tang populations and the growth of other fish populations since the 1990s.

DLNR is not alone in this conclusion. A recent survey of coral reef biologists indicated aquarium fishing is among the least of many concerns regarding the health of Hawaii’s reefs…..

read … Aquarium fishing limits wrong for Hawaii

Surfrider to DoH: Give Us the Power to Shut Down Beaches, Farms

HNN: The Hawaii Department of Health will be gathering feedback during informational meetings about the signs. The next one is scheduled for June 21 at 6 p.m. at the Kauai District Health Office in Lihue.

"If we have funding, all the resources, definitely we want to do more, but right now I don't think we have enough funding and resources to do everywhere in the state, including the streams," explained Alec Wong, chief of the DOH's Clean Water Branch….  (‘Streams’ = Farms)

"It's an improvement, but it just needs to go further," said Coleman. "We want them to include citizen science groups which are popping up all over the place, like Surfrider, to include our testing results because if they're short-staffed, we can fill in some of the gaps." 

(And we can target resort owners who are not contributing to Surfrider.)

CB: Kaneohe Bay Kayak Rentals Continue Despite Order To Stop

read … Greenmail

Military Industrial Complex Compromising Hawaii Missile Defense for Profit

TH: Given the seriousness of the situation, the United States must deploy missile defense systems to counter the threat, and we must do so fast….

The U.S. defense arsenal currently contains numerous assets to defend against North Korean aggression, but some in Washington want to ignore years of readily available and cost-effective missile defense technology in favor of developing new technology known as the Homeland Discrimination Radar-Hawaii (HDR-HI), a costly system that is years away from being fielded. While the U.S. should use all means, both regional and homeland missile defense systems, at its disposal to counter North Korean aggression, we must do so smartly and not waste precious tax dollars in the process.

So why start at square one?

Design, engineering, development, testing and procurement of a completely new system like HDR-HI could take over a decade. This extended timetable clearly would not match the imminent North Korean threat. Furthermore, the interceptor that would be paired with the radar, Ground-Based Midcourse defense (GMD), is one of the most costly missiles in our arsenal at more than $800 million. While GMD serves an important role in our nation’s missile defenses and recently fielded a successful test, at a price tag for a single interceptor of over $100 million, we should explore other interceptor options if they are better suited to defend Hawaii.  

Conversely, years of development and millions of taxpayer dollars have already gone into programs such as Aegis Ashore and the SM-3. These systems have the ability to protect Hawaii at a fraction of the cost and can be deployed on a much shorter timetable than HDR-HI. The Aegis Ashore test facility in Hawaii could be brought online for $41 million, for example, and the SM-3 interceptors that pair with Aegis are estimated to cost a relatively modest few million dollars each. 

read … Military Industrial Complex




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