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Monday, September 25, 2017
September 25, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:26 PM :: 4106 Views

Hawaii Pregnancy Centers Go to Court Over Law Requiring They Promote Abortions

Congresswoman calls for yearlong Puerto Rico Jones Act waiver

Hawaii Lowest Teacher Salaries in USA

Unions Stood by as Kenoi Violated Civil Service Laws—100s Illegally Bypassed to hire ‘POI’

HTH: It’s just a three-letter acronym on a sticky note affixed to an official Hawaii County hiring document.

But for some county job seekers, the word “POI” — short for “person of interest” — represents their worst fears come true. The acronym on a request-to-fill form means there’s already a preferred candidate for the job, even before the position is advertised in an open recruitment.

Such was the case for the position of van driver for the county Department of Parks and Recreation. The $40,000 annual job was advertised in early 2015, despite the designation that a POI was slated to fill it.

In fact, Human Resources Director Sharon Toriano, in the undated note attached to the form, directed that a list of 273 available job seekers, which had another six months before it expired, be reopened for recruitment to allow new candidates, presumably including her POI. 

(Are you one of the 273?  Want a year or two of salary? Get a lawyer and sue them till they bleed.)

Pre-selecting the winning candidate before a recruitment is announced seems to run afoul of state hiring law, which requires each jurisdiction to establish and maintain a separately administered civil service system based on the merit principle…..

The POI designation for years has been the source of conjecture and complaint inside and outside government corridors. The newspaper has heard it; County Council members have heard it; the legislative auditor has heard it; the mayor has heard it.

“At first, I thought it was just a joke, poi,” Mayor Harry Kim said last week, referring to the pounded taro root that’s a food staple in Hawaiian culture. “Then it was explained to me. I would find it very disappointing if any of it was true.”

A Sept. 7 audit report of county hiring practices made no mention of POI when it criticized how the county solicited and hired employees. But it pinpointed several other problems in an audit that covered just a few positions in three county departments.

“We found numerous questionable hiring practices including how applicants were identified to be interviewed, how applicants were assessed and how departments were using (the Department of Human Resources’) referred list of eligible applicants,” Auditor Bonnie Nims said in a cover letter to the County Council….

“HGEA was aware of complaints and concerns about hiring and promotion practices during the prior mayoral administration,” Executive Director Randy Perreira said in a statement. “The audit is a step in the right direction — HGEA is reviewing the report and will be monitoring the implementation of the auditor’s recommendations.”  (Translation: I knew this was happening and was fine with it.  I wanted Billy to be governor and that is far more important than providing good union representation to my members.)

Representatives for United Public Workers, the union representing many of the rank-and-file workers, didn’t return repeated calls for comment last week. (Translation: We were fine with this.  We wanted Billy to be governor and that is far more important than providing good union representation to my members.)

read … ‘POI’ creates sticky situation for HR: Merit Appeals Board to take up critical audit

Chief: Police Commission to Winnow out Non-Corrupt Contenders This Week

SA: …The semifinalist list has not been made public, and commission Chairman Max Sword insisted that neither he nor any of his fellow commissioners know who’s on the list.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser has confirmed the names of six of the nine semifinalists: retired FBI agent Thomas Aiu, current HPD Maj. Susan Ballard, retired HPD Maj. Kurt Kendro, retired Assistant Chief Kevin Lima, current Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry and former Chicago Police Department Commander Gary Yamashiroya.

Neither Acting Police Chief Cary Okimoto, who applied for the post after taking over in an interim capacity in December, nor any current deputy or acting chief made the cut.

The commission received applications from 34 qualified candidates, but only 24 took the essay test late last month.

The candidates are to take part Tuesday and Wednesday in what is described as an assessment center, where they will encounter another written test and undergo face-to-face interviews with Jacobs officials as well as a locally based psychologist.

Thursday’s agenda includes the item “decision making on finalists.” Sword said that when the finalist list is agreed to, the public will have the chance to offer testimony to the commission in person at its Oct. 4 meeting.

A chief will then likely be picked from the finalist list by the end of October, Sword said…..

Shapiro: Commissioners say even they don’t know the identities of the applicants at this point.

read … Keep Corruption Alive

DoE Starts Semester with 531 Teacher Vacancies

SA: …On the first day of the 2016-17 school year, there were 531 teacher vacancies in the islands. The state Department of Education (DOE), which employs some 12,600 teachers and typically recruits 1,100 to 1,200 new hires every year, scrambled to fill the gap with emergency hires — either non-credentialed instructors working toward a teaching degree or substitute teachers. It’s concerning that the scramble is becoming a back-to-school routine.

What’s more, while substitutes are required to hold a bachelor’s degree, exceptions are made for hard-to-staff schools in rural areas such as Nanakuli-Waianae and Hana, on Lanai and Molokai as well as for Hawaiian immersion schools. The upshot is inequality. The overall teaching lineup at hard-to-staff schools is less qualified, with instructors more likely to make a quick exit. ….

The DOE’s five-year retention rate for teachers hovers at about 50 percent, resulting in a sort of revolving-door….

according to the most recent exit survey for teachers of all tenure lengths, from the 2015-16 school year, “leaving Hawaii” was cited as the top departure reason, accounting for 28 percent of slightly more than 1,200 teachers polled. Retirement, which had historically ranked as No. 1, followed, with 24 percent of responses…..

read … Clear the path for more teachers

Doctor shortage worsens

SA: Hawaii’s doctor shortage is worsening, except on the island of Kauai, according to the most recent data by the University of Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment.

By county and specialty, the total shortage has grown to 769, compared with 707 in 2016….

Oahu needs 381 physicians, up from 339 last year, while the Big Island is short 196 providers, compared with 183, the latest study shows. Maui County has a deficit of 139, up from 125, while Kauai needs 53 doctors, down from 62.

Primary care providers are the largest group in short supply, followed by infectious disease specialists on Oahu and Kauai, colorectal surgeons on the Big Island and geriatric doctors in Maui County….

Even though there are more than 9,000 licensed physicians, only 3,551 are practicing in the islands. The latest data show that the shortage of primary care doctors has grown to 282.5 from 228 a year ago.

That’s largely due to the state’s high cost of living and lower pay for medical providers compared with the mainland, among other social issues such as quality of schools, Withy added.

“We still have no neurosurgeon. Any head or spinal trauma is immediately medevaced to Oahu,” said Dr. Edward Gutteling, an orthopedic surgeon in Hilo. “We haven’t had a neurosurgeon in 15 years or more. One of our top cardiologists died; one cardiologist actually had a heart attack. We have hard time keeping them here. But the bottom line is, Why is it so hard to keep doctors here of any specialization? We work too hard and get paid too little, compounded by rules and regulations, which have become increasingly onerous.”….

“Many have given up practices to work for hospitals, and many private practices have closed because of that,” Gutteling said. “Other doctors that are coming out are scared of private practices. They all want to get jobs and have a paycheck, so private practice is dying.”

Gutteling added that the state should invest in an emergency medevac system and designated referral center that has the capability to take patients around the clock.

“The community as a whole thinks they can go to Hilo Medical Center and they will be taken care of. That is their assumption but it’s not true,” he said. “They pretend to have a trauma system. If we are short of specialists … we should put people on a helicopter or plane and get them out of here, instead of pretending that the community hospitals on the neighbor islands can take care of anybody at all times, because they can’t and they never will because we don’t have the population to support it.”

Link: 2017 Medical Workforce Report

read … Doctor shortage worsens

Revitalizing Mayor Wright Homes could cost $1 billion

SA: Ten years and $1 billion.

That’s what it likely will take to replace the state’s aging Mayor Wright Homes low-income public housing complex in Kalihi with seven times as many rental apartments in a new high-rise community for residents earning a broad range of incomes.

The construction timetable and cost estimate are in a draft environmental impact statement published earlier this month by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, a state agency that selected Texas- based developer Hunt Cos. in 2014 to replace Mayor Wright’s 364 homes with 2,500 new apartments.

($1B / 2500 = $400K per unit with no land costs)

SA: Big “ifs,” of course

read … Revitalizing Mayor Wright Homes could cost $1 billion

Tax Review Commission: A $700M Money Grab 

SA: …The state Tax Review Commission hired PFM Group Consulting, ostensibly to find ways to rebalance the state tax system. But even an optimal result represents only half the job: A real balancing act would require an adjustment in spending, not just tapping new funding sources.

The consultants have produced a draft of a plan that proposes several new revenue streams….

some would represent a mere money grab, initiatives not complemented by proposals to reduce state spending….

when these ideas surface again before decisionmakers at the state Capitol, the taxpayers themselves must make their voices heard, to drive the point home.

HERE ARE some of the ideas the commission will discuss Oct. 3:

>> Taxing sugary beverages at the rate of 1.5 cents per ounce, raising an estimated $48 million a year and, theoretically, enabling weight loss and better health.

But the surcharge by itself would not drive a change in eating habits and would merely pad the grocery bill. It also ignores the ubiquitous sources of sugar in many other “junk” foods. If it is to achieve anything comparable to the success of the cigarette tax in deterring smoking, it would have to be a pretty steep fee, and that would be a tough sell….

>> The top-dollar idea — with a projected annual yield of $365 million — is the proposal for a new carbon tax on products, an assessment based on how much carbon combustion of the product emits….the tax would add to the cost of products and would be a politically heavy lift…..

Related: Carbon Tax Heads $700M in Tax Hikes Proposed for Next Legislative Session

read … Adjust spending, not just taxation

Hawaii Electric Rates up 9% in Year

AJOT: …Retail electricity rates paid by U.S. residential customers averaged 12.8 cents per kilowatthour (kWh) during the first six months of 2017, an increase of about 3% compared to the same period in 2016. First half of 2017 average electricity prices are higher than last year in most areas of the country, with only six states experiencing lower prices.

The Pacific noncontiguous states of Alaska and Hawaii have the highest electricity residential prices in the nation. Hawaii’s retail price averaged 23.3 cents/kWh in the first half of 2017, and Alaska’s average price was 18.1 cents/kWh, which were 9% and 5% higher, respectively, than in the same period in 2016….

read … Residential electricity prices up

Sierra Club Still Working Hard to Destroy Farmers

CB:…When LBD Coffee requested a permit to build a facility to sell cigars and coffee on its Kapaa agriculture land in 2014, it might have seemed like a straightforward request.

Two years before, the Legislature had adopted a state law to economically boost agriculture by letting farmers do just what the company was proposing: operate a retail establishment selling farm products on agriculture land.

Although the law left room for the counties to pass ordinances tweaking their rules for such so-called accessory agriculture uses, Kauai County hasn’t adopted one.

To LBD, that meant the company could move ahead with plans for a retail shop selling coffee and cigars made from Hawaii-grown tobacco and coffee beans. But the matter has proved to be anything but simple.

Three years later, Kauai County still hasn’t issued LBD’s requested zoning permit, and LBD has filed a lawsuit asking a state court essentially to require the county to permit the retail operation.

“All we’re looking for here is for enforcement of the law the Legislature passed; we want it to mean something,” said Jake Delaplane, LBD’s attorney. “It doesn’t appear the county’s respecting state law.”…

Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, said the organization has concerns about the 2012 statute both in terms of county sovereignty, or “home rule,” and the conservation of farmland….  (Translation: We will crush you.)

(read … Retail Shops On Hawaii Farmland: Kauai Dispute Could Set A Precedent

Nuclear attack sirens? Try wait

SA: The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency had wanted to test the attack warning sirens on Nov. 1, part of a preparedness plan for the unlikely event of a North Korean launch. But testing is now postponed indefinitely, due to concerns from neighbor island counties about the potential of fear, panic and confusion that the wailing might create.

Civil Beat: Trump and Kim are Equally Dangerous (Yawn)

read … Nuclear attack sirens? Try wait




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