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Monday, January 24, 2011
January 24, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:25 PM :: 7747 Views

Truth in Accounting: Hawaii hiding an additional $11.9B in debt

Transparency? Abercrombie administration brings secrecy back to Capitol

On second try, Abercrombie makes birtherism mainstream

Abercrombie delivering first State of the State

Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie is expected to reveal his priorities and his methods for getting the state's finances under control during his first State of the State address.

Abercrombie will speak Monday morning at the Capitol following weeks of anticipation over how he will balance program proposals with an $800 million deficit projected over the next two fiscal years.

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Akaka Bill Fails, Lobbyists Collect $3.2M from OHA

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs spent $3,192,547 on lobbyists for the Akaka bill — legislation that has failed to pass since it was first introduced 10 years ago.

OHA revealed the figure, which covers fiscal years 2003 through 2010, in a letter last month to the chairmen of the Hawaii Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Hawaii House Finance Committee.

Republican state Sen. Sam Slom had asked OHA for the lobbying amount at a budget briefing at the state Capitol Jan. 6. …

Sen. Slom told Civil Beat said he was not satisfied with OHA's lobbying figure "and Hawaii taxpayers should not be satisfied, either."

"I don't think that's the entire amount," Slom said of the $3.2 million. "When their budget comes up I will pursue this further."

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Shapiro finally notices that MRC Greenwood is a money grubber

I’m always troubled when public officials act entitled to place their personal interests ahead of those of the public they serve, and that’s the feeling I get about University of Hawai’i President M.R.C. Greenwood continuing to receive $5,000 a month to live in housing other than the College Hill mansion provided by the university.

When Greenwood was hired in 2009 at more than $400,000 a year, making her one of the highest-paid state employees, she was given the housing allowance because College Hill was undergoing major renovations.

It was presented at the time as a temporary arrangement until the work was finished, but when that time came, Greenwood still preferred to live elsewhere and said she expected the $5,000 allowance to continue.

The Board of Regents locked in the payment last week when it voted to extend Greenwood’s contract for three years until 2015 with little opportunity for comment by the public or university community.

HFP alone had this story when Greenwood was picked: 

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Hawaii Deserves Better Than Industrial Wind Power from 'Big Wind'

For Friends of Lana’i, this is so far from a fair trade — and not even a good deal for O’ahu residents, who should get much more energy for the taxpayer-funded costs of this project. This proposed project is too expensive for 10 percent of Oahu’s electric needs. Currently estimated at $3 billion dollars (which averages out to $2,300 for every person in Hawaii), the finished project may well wind up costing twice that.

Imagine a different scenario, where the State’s share alone of $1 billion instead provides 166,000 Oahu homes with solar hot water, or 28,500 Oahu homes with full photo-voltaic systems. We question the decision to have our state spend almost the same amount as its recently announced deficit on an intermittent source of power that would generate revenues of at least $150 million dollars annually — all of which will benefit one individual (Castle & Cooke is privately held by mainland developer David Murdock). This for an industrial power plant with a life expectancy of no more than 20 years.

And after 20 years, here’s what happens: Wind Energy's Ghosts

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Green Energy: Appearances can be Deceiving, rate hikes become easier

SA: The bright beacon of Hawaii's green energy future seems close at hand, but appearances can be deceiving….

But perhaps the most consequential step was the one taken at the end of last year, when the PUC issued its final decision allowing what's called "decoupling." This is a radical departure from the conventional business model in which HECO's earnings are tied directly to energy sales -- and that must change to encourage the move away from fossil fuels.

Decoupling allows a different mechanism for setting rates. The PUC approves HECO's plans for fixed costs and the revenue needed to cover them. If revenues decline below a certain point, HECO will be able to adjust (raise) what it charges ratepayers more easily than the former lengthy rate-changing process enabled. Conversely, if revenues rise, customers are due a rebate.

Critics of the decision say that an important component was lacking in the new scheme. Raising rates should have required HECO to meet performance standards -- efficiency improvement, perhaps, or progress toward green energy goals -- to ensure that the ratepayer isn't simply underwriting business as usual. The commission, however, was unable to settle on a metric for measuring performance.

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Mikulina unwittingly describes How Hawaiian Electric will go bankrupt

Further, adding substantial amounts of renewable energy and energy efficiency will render existing fossil generation facilities useless, leaving the utility holding the bag with “stranded” investments on its books. Finally, when the utility purchases power from independent power producers, like large solar farms, the utility is exposed to additional financial risk (something it can’t afford, given its current credit rating of triple-B minus, one notch ABOVE junk bond status). These institutional barriers — decreasing sales on top of increasing costs to enable a system that doesn’t help their bottom line — make change incredibly difficult for the utility.

What’s needed here is “institutional acupuncture.” The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should be directed to implement a “performance incentive mechanism” to reward the utility for achieving clean energy goals. This will give Wall Street reasons to invest in the utility and help fund Hawaii’s clean energy transition. The PUC should also be given guidance to adopt a policy allowing for the recovery of the utility’s “stranded assets,” preventing these facilities from becoming anchors that restrain clean energy progress.

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Chamber of Commerce: Hawaii will lose $10B/year if military cannot train

The negative spin posed by the Star-Advertiser's editorial on the Army's proposal to end live-fire maneuvers at its training range on Makua Valley ("Army's Makua move welcome," Jan. 14) could force the military to relocate to an area where training ranges are more accessible, thus compromising the gains made to restore stability in the region.

In looking at the Army and Marine Corps units based in Hawaii, legal actions temporarily closed the training range at Makua Valley and left the commanders, including Hawaii's Army National Guard, with no choice but to send their units to training centers on the mainland. This option is not financially sustainable because it adds hundreds of millions of dollars to training costs and has had heavy negative impacts on the welfare of military families.

Furthermore, in the post-Iraq/Afghanistan era, the troops based in Hawaii must be certified as combat ready at all times as armed conflicts or military actions could arise with little or no notice, leaving the military with insufficient time to train up its troops.

For Hawaii, the relocation of Army and Marine Corps units outside Hawaii would have a shattering effect on Hawaii's second major source of revenues. Defense expenditures have boosted Hawaii's economy by $10.2 billion annually and accounted for some 92,000 jobs that report annual household earnings of $6.4 billion.

The military's continued presence promises even greater economic and job growth by diversifying the economy with technology research and development. It has attracted to Hawaii the nation's top defense contractors such as BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. BAE alone employs more than 1,000 residents. These contractors mentor and provide incentives for our emerging research and development businesses such as Oceanit, Pukoa Scientific, Terasys Technologies, Archinotechs, and Williams Aerospace.

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Hawaii governor makes Obama birth controversy worse

New Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie made national news when he promised he'd lay to rest once and for all the question of whether President Barack Obama was actually born in Hawaii.
He said he'd find the president's birth certificate documents and release them.
Then he said he was having trouble finding them.
Then he said he had them.
And now he says
privacy laws prevent him from releasing them.
Nice job. Instead of helping clear up a faux controversy, this jackass of a governor made things worse.

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Brazil Times: Abercrombie stars in Fractured Fairytales

If this were an episode of Fractured Fairytales on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, it would have to be called "The Accidental Birther or Born in the U.S.A.?"

The new Governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, an ardent supporter of President Obama, has been worried about President Obama's coming bid for re-election. The concern: If President Obama didn't properly address his birth certificate issue, it would hurt his chances of re-election.

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Maui Man Faces Sentencing in China Military Secrets Case

Noshir Gowadia faces up to life in prison for his conviction in August on 14 counts, including conspiracy, communicating national defense information to aid a foreign nation, and violating the arms export control act.

Prosecutors say the 66-year-old helped China design a stealth cruise missile and showed his Chinese contacts how it would be effective against U.S. air-to-air missiles. They say he wanted money to pay the mortgage on his oceanfront Maui home.

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DNA test frees rape suspect

Jardine, who claimed to have been at home at the time of the attack, maintained his innocence through each of his trials and twice -- in 2002 and 2007 -- gave up the possibility of parole by refusing to enter sex-abuse treatment that would have required him to admit guilt.

The new DNA evidence was drawn from a tablecloth that had been covering a papa-san chair that the rapist sat on during and after the assault. All other evidence from the original trials had been destroyed.

The tablecloth was sent to Orchid Cellmark laboratory for testing. The laboratory was able to exclude Jardine as the source of three of the four samples drawn from the cloth; the other could not be determined.

Nationally, Innocence Project initiatives have resulted in the overturning of more than 260 convictions. Jardine's case marks the first time that action by the 5-year-old Hawaii Innocence Project has resulted in convictions being overturned, although prisoners have been released via other legal means.

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Audit finds lack of accountability in city grants

Audit of the Leeward Coast Community Benefits Program, Office of the City Auditor, Honolulu. Report No. 11-02, December 2010.

This low-key but barbed audit by the city auditor did a spot-check of expenditures that were part of a program started by the Hannemann administration in 2006. It was intended to compensate (buy off) the community following extension of the deadline for closing down the Waimanalo Gulch land fill. A total of about $7 million (in bribes) were spent over the three years tracked by this audit (FY 2006-2007, 2007-2008, and 2008-2009), including $3 million in grants (payoffs) to community organizations.

Why would the city burn $7M?  Because Waimanalo makes the City over $50M/year: Nanakuli Park: Hannemann pounds Hanabusa in proxy fight between Waimanalo Gulch and PVT landfill

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Trash accumulates with landfill closed

On the opposite end of the island, Ron Lockwood, chairman of the McCully/Moiliili Neighborhood Board, has seen mattresses piling up outside his condominium building since the landfill closed.

"There are two mattresses sitting out there right now because they were not picked up this week, and they'll be sitting there until the February pickup, if we do have a pickup then," Lockwood said yesterday. "It's a huge problem in Makiki. And Kaimuki's got a bunch of bulky items piling up."

Lockwood plans to attend this morning's joint hearings by the Council's Committee on Safety, Economic Development and Governmental Affairs and the Committee on Public Works and Sustainability.

Like others, Lockwood wants an explanation of why medical waste is even allowed at the city's landfill.

But he also wants answers to the bigger question of how Oahu will dispose of all of its trash.

"We've already tried shipping it off island, and that didn't work," Lockwood said. "I'd like to hear an open and honest discussion of where we go from this point."

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Green Police State: The Second Foot Falls on the Aquarium Trade in Maui County

From the Feeeel Goood Huffington Post: Maui County Council again challenged the largest wildlife exporter in Hawaii Friday, with a new law requiring humane treatment of reef fish captured for the aquarium trade. Finning, fizzing and starvation of colorful fish prior to shipment are now illegal, as the campaign to ban aquarium collecting from its most lucrative source, Hawaii, gains momentum.

Notable in the lead-up to Maui County Council's second reading and approval was the lobbying effort to derail the humane treatment bill following the November election, where 5 out of 9 Council seats got new members. The Maui Ocean Center, Maui's only public aquarium, became the client of record for a Honolulu legal firm that lobbied new Council members to vote against the humane treatment bill.

Other public aquaria have called for continuing carte blanche extraction from Hawaii reefs. The New England Aquarium's Michael Tlusty and aquarium trade groups demand "stakeholder" rights to Hawaii reefs -- a sensitive issue to Hawaii reef communities and Hawaiian cultural practitioners, and to reef tourism interests supporting reef recovery, against aquarium extraction. The same New England Aquarium staffers submitting testimony to Maui County Council have called for "a unified voice among stakeholders." Maui County Council members noted that Boston is 6,000 miles from Hawaii.

The aquarium trade also cries out for "sustainability," the hallmark phrase of a green-wash campaign. The most aggressive effort in "sustainable" aquarium extraction was recently shut down in Papua New Guinea, when costs went exponentially over-budget (60% to payroll), leaving aquarium traders demanding a new and more sustainable definition of "sustainable."

Hawaii is the most important source of reef fish to the aquarium trade. Hawaii gains nothing and gives up much. Aquarium collectors call themselves fishermen, but fishermen are speaking out on a vital link in the food chain, removed by extraction for an amusement industry.


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Investigators looking into the cause of another shark tour boat fire

Honolulu fire investigators are trying to determine if arson caused  a fire that damaged a shark tour boat in Haleiwa Harbor early this morning.

It's the second fire involving a North Shore Shark Adventures tour boat this month.

The cabin of the boat was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at about 12:11 a.m., said fire Capt. Robert Main.

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AtomicMonkey is back: The StarAdvertiser Puts Hawaii in the Crosshairs

After all the uproar about Sarah Palin using “crosshairs” on her website, which many in media (including the StarAdvertiser) claim helped push the mentally unstable attacker in Arizona over the edge, you’d think the paper would know better. Especially since the StarAdvertiser repeated the “crosshairs leads to lunatic attacks” theory over and over again:

“Sarah Palin’s targeted list.. has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action…” StarAdvertiser 1/8

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond…Palin’s decision to list Giffords’ seat as one of the top “targets” StarAdvertiser 1/9

“Palin has been criticized by some for using crosshairs…” StarAdvertiser 1/11

“Palin has been criticized for marking each district with the cross hairs of a gun sight.” StarAdvertiser 1/12

So, why print a giant gunsite (about one foot across) aimed at Hawaii,  on the front of your newspaper were certain Pacific regional, nuclear armed lunatics might get ideas?

Background:  Mufi’s Atomic Monkey Exposed: Website calls Abercrombie a “flailing gasbag”, wife “a witch”

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