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Wednesday, August 16, 2017
August 16, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 10:28 PM :: 3534 Views

Telescope: OHA Sees Chance for Land and Money Grab

Jones Act: Matson and Pasha Seek Every Loophole

Compact Impact: DoI Launches Census of COFA Migrants

Honolulu Ethics Comm Seeks Comments on Draft Strategic Plan

Honolulu 2016 Citizen-Centric Report Released 

Audit: Bulky Pickup Schemes Generate Millions in Overtime

Rail Solution?  A new PR Campaign!

HNN: As lawmakers grapple with how to pay for a $3 billion shortfall for Honolulu's rail project, supporters are trying to influence them with a new survey and public relations campaign.

Two unions, the masons union and the laborers union, paid for the survey and are part of a new group called Friends of Rail that's pushing for support.

All this as lawmakers prepare for a possible special session on rail funding on August 28th.

Friends of Rail is launching a new multimedia ad campaign highlighting its survey, which says 71 percent of Oahu residents support completing the rail to Ala Moana Center….

PDF: 27 Pages of Absurd Rail Poll Results

read … Propaganda

Council committee to take up measure seeking rail audit

SA: A resolution calling on city Auditor Edwin Young to conduct an economy and efficiency audit of Honolulu’s troubled rail project is to be taken up during a special meeting of the City Council Budget Committee at 9 a.m. today.

Resolution 17-199 was introduced by Councilman Trevor Ozawa, who maintains previous audits did not adequately identify costs for the project’s overruns or whether the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation complied with applicable laws and regulations.

That Ozawa is the one calling for the audit is notable because the East Honolulu Council member was one of six votes necessary for a critical bond approval, after he initially had voted against it….

read … Council committee to take up measure seeking rail audit

State Surplus Becomes Deficit After Paying Wages, Benefits, Pension

SA: …Four years ago then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie publicly announced his administration had a “historically unprecedented” surplus of $844 million at the end of fiscal year 2013, and then proposed to tap some of that cash to help finance new initiatives such as Housing First programs to help the homeless and universal preschool.

By contrast, Ige said Tuesday he has no plans to launch any major new initiatives with this year’s surplus.

“As I’ve said before, I really do think that we need to be focused on making good on the promises we made in the past,” Ige said. “So, pension liabilities (and future health care costs), I really believe we need to get those better handled before we start talking about expanding into new areas.”

In the month after the state registered its $893 million surplus, Machida said, state officials paid out $1.132 billion to cover various kinds of expenses, including $400 million in pension contributions, $275 million in payments for health care coverage for public workers and retirees, and $105 million to cover the cost of Medicaid and other health costs.

The Ige administration has adopted a policy of making payments into the Employees Retirement System and the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund at the beginning of each fiscal year instead of throughout the year.

The money is then invested for the full year, which benefits the state in the long run, but the practice tends to drain money out of the general treasury early in the year. The treasury is then replenished with tax collections and other revenue later in the year.

However, Machida also said the latest round of collective bargaining increased the state’s wage and fringe benefit costs for the coming year by $103 million.

One factor that helped to accumulate the surplus is the budget restrictions imposed by the administration, Machida said. Ige has imposed 10 percent restrictions on discretionary spending by state departments each year, although departments can apply to have half of that restricted money released, Machida said. “Discretionary spending” excludes fixed costs such as debt payments, wages, health care costs or pension contributions….

read … No Money For Rail

Star-Adv: Only Days Left for Legislators to Come up with Tax Hike for Rail

SA: …there’s still this unknown: Will legislators be able to overcome the political stalemate barring an agreement, particularly if the solution relies on a hotel room-tax increase, even one that extends statewide? And could they break through in time to retain federal backing for the project, now approaching the $10 billion threshold? ….

Time is running out. The deadline is Sept. 15 for the city to submit a revised financial plan to the Federal Transit Administration; miss that, and the city may have to repay what it’s spent of the $1.55 billion federal subsidy, and forego what subsidy remains.

And there really are only days to reach some compromise ahead of the Legislature’s special session, Aug. 28-Sept. 1.

The regular session adjourned in May, with rail discussions breaking down and funding unresolved…..

read … Keep options open for financing rail

Obamacare Causing $68M in Losses for HMSA, Kaiser

SA: …“With the uncertainty around the federal health law, we’re more focused than ever on local health solutions like payment transformation, and (wellness programs) Sharecare and the Blue Zones Project that improve the health of Hawaii,” HMSA Chief Executive Officer Michael Gold said Tuesday in a news release.

HMSA is seeking ways to mitigate the effect of Obamacare after reporting losses of $48 million in 2015 and 2016 for Affordable Care Act individual plans and expecting another loss this year.

Kaiser, meanwhile, said it collected $45.5 million in premiums and spent $65.1 million on Obamacare claims in 2016.

Both companies are seeking to boost Obamacare health insurance rates next year — HMSA by an average 27.1 percent and Kaiser by 19.9 percent. Together that would affect nearly 33,000 residents. The health plans filed the proposed rate hikes with the federal government two weeks ago….

read … HMSA earnings fall while Kaiser posts loss

Hawaii AG to Oversee Kawananakoa Dispute

CB: … “We cannot at this point say that we are armed with all the relevant facts and information,” Jones wrote. “However, we understand that if Ms. Kawananakoa does lack legal capacity, her Delaware charitable foundation may have a vested interest in the bulk of her Estate.

“The Attorney General has the legal authority to protect charitable assets regardless of the form in which they are held and to take action to prevent the waste or diversion of charitable assets.”

Jones reiterated the Attorney General’s involvement in the case Tuesday, telling Civil Beat that it is not unusual for the agency take part in matters involving charities.

“The Attorney General has a very robust legal authority over charitable assets,” Jones said.

Kawananakoa’s attorney, Michael Lilly — a former Hawaii attorney general — did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

But in an email response to Jones, Lilly said that it’s his belief that Kawananakoa has legal “capacity.”

Wright, who he says was fired by Kawananakoa after Worth found out that he had taken over the trust, said that the fact that the Attorney General’s Office will likely be involved is a good sign.

“I’m delighted,” Wright said. “What’s needed here is third-party protection.”….

HNN: In ongoing estate battle, heiress Kawananakoa's partner accused of abuse

read … Stepping In

The state is spending a lot less on school buses. Here's how

HNN: …Since 2012, the DOE changed how it bid out the school bus contracts. The department said it dramatically reduced the student transportation bill.

"Bids came in substantially lower because of the competition in the market," DOE Facilities Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson said.

This year the department is paying nine bus companies $60 million, down $12 million from just a few years ago….

The DOE is utilizing another tool to trim the bus bill. Daily passenger counts show which routes can be consolidated.

"If I have two buses running side-by-side and they are both at 30% capacity it behooves us to combine those and make it into one route," Carlson said….

Last year, more than 31,000 public school students in the state rode a school bus every day. The DOE is still tabulating this year's ridership.

read …  The state is spending a lot less on school buses.

Mindless Bureaucracy: Housing Becomes Less Affordable on Oahu

SA: …Starting today, those seeking building permits on Oahu might need to pay additional fees and do additional work as new water quality rules take effect, according to a release issued by the Department of Planning and Permitting this week.

The rules, mandated by the state Department of Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are intended to protect the city’s streams and coral reefs from the effects of development. They affects developers, contractors, designers, businesses and homeowners planning to file building or grading permits.

The new rules say projects that require building permits and involve “ground disturbance” must include an erosion and sediment control plan detailing measures to prevent sediment and other pollutants from entering the city’s storm drain system. Among the things considered disturbances are digging, moving or storing soil on-site, and breaking up concrete or asphalt…..

read … Even More Unaffordable

Hawaii’s household debt per capita ranks highest among 50 states

PBN: ..Hawaii’s household debt per capita was $68,500 in 2016, the highest among the 50 states but lower than the District of Columbia, according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Hawaii’s figure was 2 percent higher than 2016’s debt per capita of $67,010, and 46 percent higher than the U.S. average of $46,950….

read … Debt

Analysis: Most renters in Hawaii are 'cost-burdened'

HNN: …The analysis, from rental site Hunt.com, said that 57 percent of renters in Hawaii and California are cost-burdened.

That's the second-highest percentage in the nation, just behind Florida.

The state with the lowest percentage of burdened renters was South Dakota.

The analysis found that the average college graduate who rents in Hawaii is "moderately burdened," spending 30 to 49 percent of their income on housing.

When considering student loan repayments in the mix, the average Hawaii renter is moderately to severely burdened….

read … Burden

Homeless Can Get Housing if they Walk Across The Street: Most Won’t

CB: …Taking over management of Pauahi Hale, a city-owed housing complex, presented its own set of difficulties.

Pauahi Hale was a “wild building” before the nonprofit took it over in 2015, said Bill Hanrahan, Safe Haven project director and property manager at Pauahi Hale. 

Bell said the new location in the heart of Chinatown near Maunakea Marketplace is a “den of target clients.”

The shelter’s new presence across the street from River of Life Mission’s soup kitchen will help with outreach efforts, she said, because Safe Haven staff will be closer to prospective clients who they can build relationships with.  

“It can be difficult to get people with mental illness to come to the shelter,” Bell said.

Chinatown’s small businesses have long bemoaned operating in an area with lots of mentally ill people living on the streets. Some were unhappy about the Safe Haven move….

HNN: Advocates have this message for state on opioid crisis: Act now

read … Den of Target Clients

Officer caught fighting with girlfriend on video expected to get six-figure payoff

HNN: …HPD fired him, but Cachola and the police union challenged the termination and on Tuesday, headed into arbitration.

The former sergeant is expected to be paid for more than two years of back pay and other lost benefits.

Sources say that amount will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  HPD refused to give Cachola his job back….

read … Termination

Gulliver, Lilliputians: Kona Spaceport Tied Down by Red Tape

WHT: …Space travel poses some significant logistical issues, especially when it takes the form of tourism.

The Office of Aerospace Development, a division of the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, has worked for years to obtain a spaceport certification for Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport.

If the airport is granted the certification, tourists in Kona could become quasi-astronauts for a day, boarding a space plane that, propelled by a rocket engine, would lift the aircraft into suborbit before returning to Kona roughly an hour later.

Jim Crisafulli — former state Office of Aerospace Development director, who recently retired — was hopeful an environmental assessment to clear the way for the burgeoning industry in West Hawaii might be completed by the summer of 2016.

But a year later, the assessment is still underway with no firm end in site.

“The timetable for completion of the Environmental Assessment document depends on the community, the State Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration,” DBEDT Deputy Director Mary Alice Evans wrote in an email.

She did not provide an approximate date….

read … Earth Bound

Fraud-Riddled Hawaii recycling program hit lowest rate in 2016

PBN: Hawaii’s bottle and beverage container deposit program that was launched in 2006 hit a low in 2016 with a redemption rate of 66.9 percent, though this doesn’t necessarily mean there has been a dropoff in recycling.

“The trend we have been seeing is there are more containers being sold, but about the same amount is being taken in,” Darren Park, coordinator of the Office of Solid Waste Management, told Pacific Business News. “One thing that could have contributed to the lower rate is the recent closures of redemption centers…”

Fraud: State Recycling Program: A Decade of Fraud (Part 6)

read …  lowest rate in 2016

Its Easy to Call Trump Racist 

HNN: "I don't think he's a racist. I'm certain he's not a racist. But it's easy to call him that," said Republican State Representative Bob McDermott….

(Yes.  Because Trump goes out of his way to make it as easy as possible.   Its what happens when your opponents pick your nominee.)

McDermott said President Trumps’ critics are overreacting.

"Racism is bad, it’s repugnant, we should all disown it, and I think he did that. The Democrats, if he doesn't tie his shoe right, he's making a mistake," McDermott said….

"With regard to senator Schatz saying, ‘He's not my president,’ if I were to say that about Obama, Schatz would say, ‘Racist,’” said McDermott.

McDermott, who is married to a Samoan woman and has eight multiracial children, said President Trump is simply misunderstood.

"I think if you're going to look for a fight, you're going to find it. I think both sides were looking for a fight, and they both found it,” McDermott said.

Hawaii State House Minority Leader Andria Tupola said in a statement, "...I fully condemn white supremacy, racism, and hate. What happened in Charlottesville is a tragedy and does not reflect the values of America and the people of Hawaii..."  

read … Easy

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