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Sunday, December 17, 2017
December 17, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:53 PM :: 3015 Views

Defense Department to Investigate Chinese Aid to Micronesia

Gamers of the World Unite: You have nothing to lose but your micro-transactions

State Highways Program Update

Increase in Snorkel deaths in Hawaii needs to be addressed by the state of Hawaii Legislature

State, county retirement system needs reform

KGI: …ERS’s annual pension payouts for the 2016 fiscal year were $1.25 billion, estimated to increase to more than $3.5 billion in the next 30 years. The average annual pension is $27,108, and nearly 14,000 active employees are eligible to retire today.

Data provided by Williams indicated that accrued liabilities during its previous fiscal year were $27.44 billion, while funded assets (invested in stocks, bonds, real estate, private equity and cash) totaled just $15 billion, a shortfall of $12.44 billion….

For FY2016, employer contributions totaled $756.5 million, and as of July 2017, police/fire made up 42 percent of the yearly total, while all others made up 18 percent.

In 2015, the annual salary increase for police and fire department employees was nearly 15 percent, while salaries rose 5 percent for general employees and 3 percent for teachers.

The ERS’s total expected pensionable payroll for FY2018 is about $4.3 billion, with police/fire making up $493 million. A proposed 1 percent increase in contribution rate could bring an additional $43.5 million increase.

Excess county costs due to pension spiking reached nearly $900,000 in FY2017, with 12 spiking retirees. Pension spiking occurs when salaries are inflated close to retirement to boost pension amounts….

Possible pension reforms could include lower benefit multipliers, higher vesting and age requirements, higher member contributions, lower post-retirement benefits, employer payments for spiking, and no overtime in compensation, according to Williams.

Potential legislative proposals include separating accounts for employer advance contribution payments, retaining unclaimed member benefits, exempting ERS investment professionals, implementing Hawaii Domestic Relations Orders after July 2020, and other technical amendments….

March, 2016: How to fix Hawaii’s pension problem

VIDEO: Maui Co Council Dec 12 Discusses Pension Reform

read … Retire Already

Hawaii’s lackluster politics in 2017 – Big Winner Public Employee Unions 

Borreca: …If there was a winner this year, it was the public employees, who with little turmoil won pay raises from the taxpayers….

Ige … ended 2017 swatting down another crisis in the state Tax Department….

So far, Ige has been left to carry on without much criticism from his principal political opponent, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

The Waianae Democrat confirmed rumors that she will leave Congress a second time to try for another political office, but then has been mostly silent. Hanabusa reports that she has been quietly campaigning and organ- izing on the neighbor islands, but at year’s end she has done little publicly to expand a gubernatorial platform or offer specifics regarding a Hanabusa governorship. 

(Translation: She’s trying to get the HGEA endorsement.)

read … Hawaii’s lackluster politics in 2017

Ige: Tent Cities Keep People Homeless

SA: …Lawmakers, including the chairmen of the House and Senate housing committees, assert that government-sanctioned safe zones, sometimes referred to as tent cities, need to be part of the effort to eventually transition homeless individuals off the streets.

But the governor isn’t sold on the idea, and preliminary recommendations from a working group headed by the governor’s coordinator on homelessness do not include any proposals for creating safe zones on Oahu.

“The philosophy is that if we can focus on permanent housing and placing people in permanent housing, that’s the most effective use of our dollars,” Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “These safe zones end up costing you almost the same amount of money per person, and so if we could focus that on just placing them into permanent housing, we would be better off.”…

The proposed safe zone legislation was watered down to instead direct the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness to form a working group to “examine and develop recommendations” for creating safe zones. Ige allowed the bill to become law as Act 212 over the summer without his signature, citing concerns that the council previously opposed safe zones.

Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness, serves as chairman of the working group, which conducted public meetings and accepted public testimony over the past two months. A report is due to the Legislature this month….

“At the end of the day, the only thing that’s going to end their situation of homelessness is getting them into housing,” Morishige said. “That’s what we want to continue to focus on, is really look at what we can do to help people get into housing faster so that they can be more stable and have more of a long-term place to go.” …

“The best practices and the current thinking now in homelessness is that we really should be focused on the end game, which is to place people in permanent housing,” Ige said.

Ige said that as the state has increased enforcement to keep public spaces clear of illegal campsites, his administration is actively offering services to the homeless and moving some of them directly into rental housing.

By contrast, Morishige said, data on safe zone campsites in Oregon and Washington state show residents tend to remain in encampments long-term.

“There’s no movement out. So people still remain in the situation of homelessness,” he said.

Morishige said the state’s Family Assessment Center, adjacent to Kakaako Waterfront Park, on the other hand, has a 93 percent housing-placement rate. Families have been moving out of the temporary shelter space on average 79 days from when they enter the center, which is run under contract by Catholic Charities Hawaii.

Similar results, he said, are being seen at Hale Mauliola, a transitional housing site with units made from converted shipping containers. It sits on state-owned land and is run by the Institute for Human Services and the city….

read … No Tent Cities

Tweekers Now Control Hawaii County Homeless Tent City, Will State Contribute $25K to Pay for It?

SA: …Hawaii’s only government-sanctioned “safe zone” — Camp Kikaha in Kailua-Kona that grew out of a crisis in August — quickly burned through Hawaii County’s homeless budget while state officials continue to decide whether the approach to reducing homelessness should be part of an overall strategy.

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development insist that government-sanctioned tent cities — rebranded in Hawaii as safe zones — don’t work.

The USICH says communities typically promise that so-called pop-up shelters will be only temporary, but rarely are. At the same time, communities spend time arguing over where to put them instead of focusing on providing permanent housing.

“While it’s important to provide a place for people to be safe and stable, we have to create these pathways out of homelessness,” said Katy Miller, the Seattle-based regional coordinator for USICH. “Spending all of our energy on safe zones can be a distraction from the real work of finding housing.”…

…the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness on Monday is scheduled to consider providing $25,000 to Hawaii County to see if Camp Kikaha will actually lead homeless people into permanent housing….

Camp Kikaha originally cost Hawaii County $21,207 per month — or $706 to $848 per month per resident, Morishige said….

At first, Camp Kikaha came with 24-hour security — at a cost of $15,400 per month. But the county has only $60,000 in its entire homeless budget, Niimi said. So security was reduced to the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the first half of November, then cut back to midnight to 4 a.m. for the rest of November.

“As of Dec. 1 we have no security,” Niimi said. “Now we ask the residents (tweekers) to do four hours of (unpaid) camp monitoring. There’s no security costs now (since they can make money selling meth).”

With no paid staff and with volunteers enforcing rules (selling meth) Camp Kikaha now likely costs Hawaii County $2,500 per month for food and portable toilets, Morishige said.

The residents have elected five council members to lead them. Eight people who were “heavy substance abusers and mental health guys” repeatedly caused difficulties, “so we asked them to leave,” Niimi said.

Asked where they went, Niimi said, “Some place outside, in Kona.”

In September 2015, residents of Seattle’s government-sanctioned tent cities told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that they also quickly kick out residents who don’t follow the rules.

Asked where they go, resident leaders of Seattle’s Nickelsville homeless camp pointed to an outlaw encampment in direct sight across the Interstate 5 freeway called “The Jungle.”

Four months later, two people were killed and three others were wounded during a shooting at The Jungle…..

Precisely as Explained: Homeless tent cities: Seattle’s decade-long nightmare coming to Honolulu?

read … No Security

Title IX—Latest Excuse for Salary Hikes at UH

SA: …She might have been even more effusive in her comments had she been in the room later when athletic department officials told regents they are reviewing department’s salary ranges for head coaches with an eye toward the likelihood of readjusting them to better “ensure men’s and women’s teams are staffed by coaches of equitable quality,” as the “Gender Equity/Title IX Update” report put it.

As athletic director David Matlin acknowledged afterward, the trend would likely be in an upward, not downward, direction.

The Mink Act mandates equality in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Salaries for coaches of women’s teams, along with long-lagging facilities upgrades, are among the key areas UH said it is addressing in coming months. The $9.3 million renovation of the 35-year old practice Gyms I and II is scheduled to begin in 2018 as is the $2 million resurfacing of the well-worn track at the Clarence T. C. Ching Athletic Complex.

Women’s basketball is one of the areas with the widest disparity of salary ranges, listing ($185,000-$400,000) for the head coach of the men’s team and ($118,488-$209,784) for the women’s team under ranges established in 2014….

Meanwhile: Raises for UH staffers: Many at UH-Hilo, HCC earn more than $100K per year

read … Tuition Hike Coming

Gas company asks PUC for 15 percent average statewide utility rate increase

MN: …The Gas Co., doing business as Hawaii Gas, has asked the state Public Utilities Commission for an average statewide increase of about 15 percent in utility rates, which the company hopes will generate $15 million more in revenue.

That means a typical residential utility bill would increase by $14.50 per month on Maui and $4.55 on Molokai, while decreasing by an average of $4.15 per month on Lanai….

read … rate hike

Will Gasoline Ban Hype Morph into a Tax Credit for EV Purchasers?

SA: …government cannot control what vehicles consumers buy….

… A scheme of this sort could be forthcoming when Hawaiian Electric Industries presents its “electrification of transportation” plan in the spring, as scheduled, before the Public Utilities Commission.

Hawaii is one of the few states that does not fund tax credits for EV purchases, he added, to pair with the federal subsidy. That is not necessarily a failing: Hawaii comes with its own incentives to persuade buyers to make the EV purchase. Fuel costs are high, and generally short commutes make the cars a practical choice.

There are subsidies in the form of free EV parking and other perks that are an easier sell, politically. Someday even these will need to go, but Hawaii has not reached that tipping point quite yet….

Related: Hawaii Mayors commit to Ban Gasoline, Diesel Vehicles by 2045

read … Tithe to the Eco-Priests

Enviros Can’t Make up their mind-- Now Claim Sonar is Killing Coral

KGI: …Kauai biologist Katherine Muzik submitted 534 pages of written testimony to the Navy on its plan, detailing her concern for coral and other marine life, mainly due to the use of sonar and munitions testing.

“Coral polyps are sensitive animals,” she wrote in her testimony. “They cannot escape the injurious impacts of sonar. Continuous sonar day and night, for five years, will cause coral polyps to continually contract, not feed or reproduce, and to die.”

She continued: “I invite the Navy to listen to the voices of Hawaii youth, to the voices of whales, dolphins, seals and turtles, to the silence of deep sea corals, and all of us who understand the terrible significance of your crippling and noisy attacks on these innocent creatures.”….

Reality: Scientists: Whales and Dolphins can Cover Their Ears to Protect Against Loud Noise such as Sonar

read … Free-Floating Anxiety

Maui Council wasting time considering suntan lotion

MN: …I hope the taxpayers are not paying for the research on the reef and suntan lotion. Better to find a solution for the homeless situation on Maui. Where are these surveys taking place, Kalama Park, Olowalu? What about sewage runoff and injection wells close to the beach?

The County Council should be penalized for wasting taxpayers’ money…..

read … Council wasting time considering suntan lotion

Inouye got behind Pentagon’s Secret Search for UFOs to funnel money to Harry Reid Campaign Contributor

P: …“After a while the consensus was we really couldn’t find anything of substance,” he recalled. “They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find. It all pretty much dissolved from that reason alone—and the interest level was losing steam. We only did it a couple years.”

“There was really nothing there that we could justify using taxpayer money,” he added….

Reid enlisted the support of Inouye, then chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, as well as Stevens…

…Reid initiated the program, which ultimately spent more than $20 million, through an earmark after he was persuaded in part by aerospace titan and hotel chain founder Bob Bigelow, a friend and fellow Nevadan who owns Bigelow Aerospace, a space technology company and government contractor. Bigelow, whose company received some of the research contracts, was also a regular contributor to Reid’s reelection campaigns, campaign finance records show, at least $10,000 from 1998 to 2008. Bigelow has spoken openly in recent years about his views that extraterrestrial visitors frequently travel to Earth. He also purchased the Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, the subject of intense interest among believers in UFOs. Reid and Bigelow did not respond to multiple requests for comment….

read … Politico

Usual Suspects: Lets Close OCCC and Let all the Criminals Run Loose 

SA: …In 2010, the state spent over $14 million to build a new jail complex on Maui, then suddenly stopped when the community raised concerns and advocated for alternatives to incarceration (us soft-on-crime types told them to).  Now the state is spending $5.3 million for Architects Hawaii, New Jersey Consultant Louis Berger U.S., Inc., and other subcontractors to plan for a new jail to replace the Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC)…(we will soon order them to stop this as well)…..

read … Soft on Crime Crap

Officials hope dillydallying will resolve Natatorium

Shapiro: …Mayor Kirk Caldwell, in his latest pronouncement on the long-neglected memorial for Hawaii soldiers who died in World War I, said doing nothing is not an option.

But in fact, doing nothing has been the city’s go-to option for nearly 40 years since the state shut down the Natatorium because of water quality concerns.

Former Mayor Jeremy Harris vowed to restore the swim stadium to its former glory, but couldn’t get it done.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann leaned toward razing the Natatorium to make a public beach, but it languished under study during his term and that of his successor, Peter Carlisle.

Caldwell proclaimed in 2013 that he was “committed 100 percent” to tearing down the pool and grandstand to create a beach park, leaving only the Natatorium’s archway as a war memorial.

But it turns out that a 100 percent commitment on the Natatorium is about as solid as an “on time and on budget” promise on rail.

Caldwell said last week the city is now studying a third option — partial restoration that would keep the grandstand, but replace the enclosed pool with a more open swimming area surrounded by a “perimeter deck.”

The only constant is rising costs.

In 1998, Harris pegged the cost of a full Natatorium restoration at $11 million; now the city estimates $40 million to $60 million.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in 2009 it would cost between $1.7 million and $6.3 million to tear down the Natatorium and restore a beach, depending on the size of the beach.

This cost is now estimated at between $20 million and $30 million, the same as the proposed partial restoration….

read … Officials hope dillydallying will resolve Natatorium

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