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Wednesday, January 26, 2011
January 26, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:37 PM :: 10891 Views

SB 232: Civil Unions passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Public Safety vs. Saving a Buck: SB47 allows early release of Felons

Epic Fail: After giving away $1.3B in Tax Credits, Hawaii ranks 36th in High Tech

Ceded Lands Decision Author Justice Samuel Alito to speak at Hawaii Supreme Court Wednesday

Governor Abercrombie Names Judge McKenna to State Supreme Court

Financial State of the State: Actual taxpayer burden is $18.2 Billion

BoE Member Lei Ahu Isa suddenly resigns

Full Text and Video: Obama’s State of the Union Speech

Full Text and Video: Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) response to State of the Union

Shapiro: Abercrombie judicial secrecy disregards lessons of Broken Trust

Abercrombie claims confidentiality is necessary to assure quality applicants, but that's nonsense; Moon and Recktenwald surely would have raised the concern if it was compelling.

This is about providing political cover for the governor and the state's power establishment as they maneuver to shape the legal system to their liking without the inconvenience of public scrutiny.

Without transparency — a word Abercrombie used a lot while campaigning — there is no accountability in filling some of Hawaii's most powerful positions, and we've seen the consequences of going down that dark road.

The similarly secretive judicial selections of previous administrations unraveled during the Bishop Estate scandal of the late 1990s, exposing an unholy system of back scratching and horse trading that corrupted the Judicial Selection Commission, the high court and our political institutions.

The late Senior U.S. District Judge Samuel King argued persuasively that the selection commission, which was supposed to remove the politics from picking judges, was instead used to conceal the politics.

Naming the candidates provided some protection against political manipulation, and Abercrombie disregards the painful lessons we learned by refusing to let the sunshine in.

There is no valid reason for this level of secrecy in filling positions with so much power over our lives, and we should be suspicious of what the governor is trying to hide.

RELATED: Transparency? Abercrombie administration brings secrecy back to Capitol

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Abercrombie’s Happy face disappears when asked about secrecy

…during the Q&A session following the announcement about Judge McKenna in executive chambers on Tuesday, Civil Beat asked Abercrombie if he would now release the names of the other names on the list provided by Judicial Selection Committee.

That's when the governor's happy face disappeared.

"No," he said icily, speaking to the cameras rather than to the reporter (i.e., me).

"Why not?"

Here's the governor's answer:

Because this is a situation in which you want to maximize the pool of talent and those who would be interested in presenting themselves for the possibility of being named to the highest court. In order to do that, I need to have a confidential capacity to maintain the confidentiality of those who make themselves available. Many people in the legal community belong to firms that have clients, have cases, under way, all of which could be affected be public perusal.

The public doesn't pick the judge, I do. The Senate determines whether or not through their advise and consent whether they approve of my pick. The public picks me, and the public picks the senators, to exercise our judgment on behalf of the common good.

"So who did you consult in terms of making this decision?" asked Darryl Huff of KITV. "If the public wasn't invited as they have been in the past to send their input on nominees, who did you consult?"

"Appropriate sources," the governor responded tersely.

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Pork Loss: Democrats yank Akaka from post as Veterans' Affairs chairman--Continues futile quest for Akaka Bill

Akaka, 86, has said he plans to run for re-election to a fifth six-year term in 2012. Former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, has said she will consider running for the Senate.

There has been talk privately in political circles that Akaka might be vulnerable to a challenge from Lingle or even a primary opponent. Akaka was able to hold off former U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the 2006 primary after receiving state and national help from the party's establishment and progressive wings.

"I think we're always concerned of vulnerability. Obviously, there are many, many good candidates of very many different stripes," said Dante Carpenter, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. "There's always competition, and in a way that makes it good, more challenging, and makes us much sharper."

Dylan Nonaka, executive director of the state GOP, believes Akaka is vulnerable. "He's been ineffective for years," he said. "And I think by a strong challenge, he would be vulnerable — definitely — in 2012."

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Army Times: Akaka Staffers “depressed” by loss of VA Chairmanship

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, an 86-year-old veteran of World War II, appears to have lost his seat as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Senate Democrats are expected to vote this week to give the veterans committee post to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a 60-year-old four-term senator who is part of the Democratic leadership and a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Akaka will become chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, according Senate and outside sources.

“This is not much of a secret,” said a consultant who works with many veterans groups. “Akaka’s staff was told about this some time ago.”

An Akaka spokesman said there would be no comment from Akaka’s office until the Senate approves the new organization.

But one aide called it “certainly a depressing situation.”

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Washington Post: Hawaii DoE puts the lie to Obama’s RTTT claims

In his speech, President Obama makes expansive claims about the impact of a $4.35 billion grant program known as Race to the Top. That program, which he launched in 2009, is at the core of his education agenda.

Is Race to the Top "the most meaningful reform" of schools in a generation? That's debatable. Some might argue that the 2002 No Child Left Behind law enacted under President George W. Bush should get the nod. That law required for the first time that public schools test all students in reading and math every year in grades three through eight and once in high school….

The winners included some surprises, among them Maryland, Ohio and Hawaii. Some analysts suggested that those states had done little to challenge the power of teachers unions. Lousiana and Colorado, among others, were cited as examples of states with bolder plans that were left out of the winner's circle. The bottom line is that there is still strong debate about which states deserved win.

Whether Race to the Top produces meaningful change depends in part on whether states follow through with their plans, which are just getting under way. If they don't, the administration could withhold the money. It is therefore somewhat early to gauge the impact of the awards for the winners.

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Science Scores: Failed Hawaii DoE beats only Mississippi

Half of Hawaii eighth-graders and nearly 40 percent of fourth-graders in public schools tested "below basic" proficiency in science on a national assessment, according to results released yesterday.

Their average scores were higher than those in only one other state: Mississippi.

Hawaii's below-average results are part of an overall disappointing showing for America's students on a revamped science portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card.

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Sierra Club’s David Frankel defends attack on DHHL

In 2004, the Hawaiian Homes Commission entered into a lease to allow a private developer to construct a resort on Hawaiian Homestead land in the coastal Honokohau area of Hawaii Island. (And this was part of the DHHL’s only successful decade in its entire history.  The Sierra Club can’t have the Hawaiians getting their leases because that is development.)

The commission believed that the lease — allowing tourists to live in timeshares on Hawaiian Homestead lands — was needed in order to raise sufficient money to run the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Because they did not believe that Hawaiian Home Lands should be leased to commercial interests (and were willing to make sure that )when thousands of native Hawaiians are (kept) waiting for their promised homesteads, a group of native Hawaiians (my pawns) sued.

(If commercial leasing is banned and DHHL becomes dependent on the Legislature for funding, it will return to failure.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is either a fool or a liar.  Who could possibly be stupid enough to fall for this hustle?)

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WSJ: Hawaii Timeshare Owners- The Governor Doesn't Think You Are Paying Enough in Fees!

For a state where many consider the tax code to already be stacked against timeshare owners, it looks like the governor is preparing to dig his sweaty palms a little deeper into vacationer's pockets! You have to really wonder when the annual cost of timeshare ownership in Hawaii will finally reach the breaking point. With annual fees at resorts ranging up to $2,500 for a two bedroom villa, Hawaii maintenance fees and taxes are among the highest in the world!

Abercrombie's message that “We need to ensure that our visitor industry is sustainable,” said the governor, “by bringing the impact fees paid by the increasing number of timeshare occupants into alignment with hotel room occupants who pay the transient accommodations tax." may be another indication that in the future, it may be much better to exchange into Hawaii than to own there!

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SA endorses Abercrombie’s $500M Aloha Stadium pipe dream 

Companies now are halfway through upgrades of Aloha Stadium, including roof replacement, strengthening pedestrian walkways, bridges, new seats and handrails at a cost of $71 million. Replacing synthethic turf in March will cost nearly $2 million — but Abercrombie will withhold an additional $59 million that had been planned for a new elevator and more bathrooms while the stadium's future is decided. He said in his State of the State address Monday that stadium repair funds will be diverted except for those needed for health and safety.

Building a new stadium is figured to cost close to $500 million…

Bubye: International soccer in Hawaii possible

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Abercrombie wants to pay less without furloughs

Furloughs won't fly under Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, but pay cuts for government workers might.

The Democratic governor will seek a 5 percent reduction in public employee labor costs, which is the equivalent of one furlough day a month, spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz confirmed Tuesday.

Abercrombie's plan would keep government employees working the same amount of time with less take-home pay, generating $88 million annually for a budget that's short a projected $844 million over the next 2½ years.

Most state government employees currently take two monthly furlough days, amounting to pay cuts of about 8 percent or 9 percent.

"The governor doesn't want services to the public disrupted as the furlough Friday situation clearly did," Dela Cruz said.

The proposal will have to be negotiated with public labor unions….

The wage reduction plan comes on top of Abercrombie's proposal to end state reimbursements for public workers in Medicare Part B, which would bring in $42 million annually to the state government.

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Hawaii House Republicans’ top 10 questions

From their home office in Room 318 of the state Capitol — with a hat tip to minority research on the fourth floor — comes the state House Republicans’ top 10 questions after listening to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s State of the State address on Monday….

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Abercrombie’s Gay Supreme Court Nominee Hopes To Inspire Youth

Judge Sabrina McKenna, 53, has also personally experienced discrimination because she is gay.  (Really?  What form of discrimination?  Denial of gay marriage?  Does this mean that this justice is pre-deciding a case that will come before her?)

The governor said Tuesday that McKenna’s appointment had everything to do with her intelligence, temperament and legal knowledge and nothing to do with her sexuality.  (No.  She was picked BECAUSE of her choice to identify herself as Lesbian.  This is how gay marriage will be created from gay civil unions.) McKenna said she believes her sexual orientation is important to talk about.

“I think the reason I am willing to have this interview is that I want the young people to know that it doesn't matter who you are,” McKenna said.

McKenna's three children and partner Denise Yamashiro were in the governor’s office Tuesday as the governor nominated to the state’s highest court.

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Gay Sex Tourism seen as boon to Hawaii

Steinmetz stated: "Besides giving a group of people equal civil rights, based on national population figures, the American gay and lesbian community represents a US$47.3 billion travel market, or about 10% of the US travel industry. But based on the results of our surveys, it represents an even larger percentage of the overall travel market in terms of actual gay and lesbian dollars invested in travel."

"The CVBs of Miami Beach, Key West, West Hollywood, and San Francisco are reaching out to the gay market for groups and conventions. Perhaps this could be expected, but so are Philadelphia; Washington, DC; and Minneapolis. The British Tourist Authority and the Australia Tourism Commission have participated in the advertising efforts of gay tour operators. The government tourism boards of France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Canada, Puerto Rico, and California exhibit at the International Gay & Lesbian World Travel Expo.

"Tourism Québec has stepped forth to sponsor an ongoing "Visit Gay-Friendly Quebec"

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Meet your new Rulers: Triumphal Mainland Homosexuals celebrate conquest of Hawaii

An uneasy peace on civil unions?

The fight over civil unions seems to have entered the battle-fatigue stage.

Despite extra security and high anxiety among some senators, the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on SB 232, the new vehicle to give gay couples the same legal rights as marrieds, was the most subdued ever on the emotional issue as senators heard divided testimony and then voted 3 to 2 to send the measure to the full Senate for approval.

Demonstrators were scarce, and a hearing that heard 18 hours of often-heated testimony last year was kept to a couple of hours this time, with arguments that were considerably milder in tone.

It seems the result of a strong sense on both sides that it’s a foregone conclusion….

The issue was pretty much settled in the November election, when sweeping victories by supporters of civil unions (who did not campaign as such) made it obvious that a good majority of voters have no serious problem with (this is different than “supported”) extending these rights to gay couples.

ILind: Election results key to civil unions, and criticism continues of secrecy in judicial nomination

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Hawaii Governor plans to juggle tourism dollars

The governor proposed diverting about US$10 million out of the US$72.8 million the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) receives in marketing funds.

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz of the privately-run Hawaii Tourism Association (HiTA), which is not affiliated with HTA, said:  “We do not take enough advantage of our unique global brand of the Aloha Spirit. HTA has not done enough to maintain this global trademark for Hawaii. I went to 72 tourism and travel trade shows last year - trade shows in 57 countries - and I failed to see Hawaii at 69 of these events. Hawaii is not represented in global discussions. I just learned Hawaii has not even one member in the International Hotel & Restaurant Association. The new Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association president, former Mayor Hannemann, did not respond to eTurboNews' and HiTA's repeated requests for communication. Hawaii is not represented at most global networking events. You won't find much of Hawaii to be involved at initiatives supported by UNWTO (UN World Tourism Organization, WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council), tourism investment forums, global tourism marketing events, meeting and incentive industry opportunities, airline and airport communication events, or international think tanks. Hawaii doesn't capitalize on the fact that people in Europe love Hawaiian music, that music and food are an important element to promote tourism for the Thai Tourism Authority. Hawaii has much to learn to take advantage of such media avenues and cost-effective ways to be part of a global stage.

“We have a unique global brand. It does not take a lot of money in today’s world of technology to cater to this.

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Perfesser: State can release lots of criminals

The decision by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Department of Public Safety Director Jodie Maesaka-Hirata to return Hawaii inmates to the state hopefully signals the end of a wasteful and dangerous experiment in mass incarceration, enabled by a deeply flawed policy of transferring prisoners to the mainland. Transfer increased our reliance on expensive prison beds rather than cost-effective community sanctions for non-serious offenders.

It wasn't always so.

In the 25 years between 1982 and 2007, the proportion of law breakers who were incarcerated versus those supervised in the community grew by 45 percent, according to the Pew Center. We do not have a corrections strategy; rather, we have a prison strategy.

(Oddly, the nation’s crime rates dropped dramatically between 1982 and 2007.  Just ignore that, OK?)

FBI crime rates:

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Kaneshiro Wants Stiffer Prostitution Penalties

Reforming prostitution charges isn't Kaneshiro's only focus this legislative session.

He also intends to toughen penalties for temporary restraining order violations if the person has a prior conviction for a violent crime against a family or household member.

He will add "killing" of a pet or animal without the consent of the owner to the list of acts that constitute cruelty to animals in the first degree. (Current law only addresses aspects like mutilation and torture.)

Kaneshiro will propose legislation to notify victims of an offender's status. For example, victims will know if the offender is fit to stand trial or moved within the state mental health system.

He'll also push for tougher sentences for elder abuse by upping penalties for crimes against the elderly.

Review a full list of all of the prosecutor department's legislative bills.

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Abercrombie’s DoH wrongly recalls 100 local food products based on website claims

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A rush to protect the public is hurting some Hawaii businesses. The state Department of Health is warning people not to eat more than a hundred local food brands, but the recall list isn't accurate. There have been no reports of illnesses linked to the products, but officials decided to issue the recall and order First Commercial Kitchen to suspend production due to different violations.

3660 on the Rise is at the top of the list for its lemon miso dressing, but Russell Siu said the company switched to a different manufacturer about 5 years ago.

"I think in people's minds they think that we put out some bad product so it kind of hurts us as far as business-wise like that," said Siu.

The restaurant isn't the only business that said the Department of Health made a mistake. The owner of Aloha Salads said a new manufacturer started producing its tropical fruit vinaigrettes more than a year ago.

"We're a mom and pop. We've worked hard to build our brand," said Chris Lufrano, owner of Aloha Salads. "Concerned, you know when you get recalls like this, it can bring businesses down."

Peter Kam from First Commercial Kitchen issued a statement that said, "This blanket recall implies that all products from my clients are an 'immediate and substantial hazard to the public health,' and unjustly tarnishes the good name and reputation of many innocent parties, without any evidence at all." Kam said the recall is premature. He also said the company would work with authorities to address any concerns.

The Department of Health said it wasn't able to get an accurate list of products from First Commercial Kitchen, so it used the list on the company's website.  (We must raise taxes immediately sol we can have even more of these dedicated public servants.) Officials said they acted out of caution. They also said that they would issue an update if they could get the information. Many businesses, however, are still upset about the negative publicity.

(Soon The Abercrombie will give another speech about “sustainability” and “food security” and local agriculture.)

SA: Processing company's products recalled

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State health department says testing shows water safe

It's all about numbers. The EWG uses California's target goal of getting the chemical under .06 parts per billion. In one sample taken, EWG found Honolulu has two ppb of chromium-6. In response, the Board of Water Supply checked 11 Oahu sites and found chromium-6 levels ranged from trace amounts to 4.8 ppb. The EPA level of safety is 100 parts per billion.

"The message is: 100, 4.8, .402, 0 - anything below 100 has been determined safe. We're way below that," says Dr. Neal Palafox, the state's interim health director.

RELATED: Honolulu is #2 on Erin Brockovich hexavalent chromium hit list

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"Gasification" plant eventually could supply electricity to 12,000 homes on Oahu, divert waste from PVT

The Public Utilities Commission approved a power purchase agreement last week under which HECO will buy electricity from Honua Power at a price ranging from 18 cents per kilowatt-hour for off-peak hours to 22 cents per kilowatt-hour for on-peak hours. The 20-year agreement will be adjusted annually for inflation. The price is comparable to the 19.9 cents per kilowatt-hour HECO will pay the developer of a wind farm in Kahuku that is scheduled to go online in the coming months….

Honua will initially fuel the plant with 200 tons a day of construction and demolition debris, most of which is currently being dumped in the Nanakuli Landfill operated by PVT Land Co. In Phase II of the project, Honua would take in an additional 200 tons a day of other waste products, such as used tires, nonrecyclable plastic and paper, and green waste.

When fully operational, the plant will eliminate about 124,000 tons of waste annually that otherwise would have gone to a landfill, Honua said. Oahu generates about 1.9 million tons of solid waste a year, according to estimates by the City and County of Honolulu. About 35 percent of that is incinerated and converted to electricity at the HPOWER facility in Campbell Industrial Park.

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EPA sets deadlines for landfill upgrades

The facility's operator is being given seven days to submit a plan to prevent future floods

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Treehugger: Hawaii Proposes Legislation to Bring Devastating Fish Farms Under Control

Food & Water Watch applauds Representatives Mele Carroll (D-13) and Faye Hanohano (D-4) for taking a firm stance against the expansion of ocean factory farms and for recognizing the toll this highly subsidized industry has taken on both state taxpayers and on the ocean ecosystem.

In addition, we commend State Senators Pohai Ryan (D-25) and Suzanne Chun Oakland (D-13) for introducing legislation (SB626) to hold fish farming corporations accountable by requiring they submit environmental impact statements. The popular bill, which already has broad Senate support with eight cosponsors, would finally close the loophole allowing offshore aquaculture operators to obtain permits without this thorough review.

REALITY: With federal law at stake, Paid activists attack Hawaii fish farmers

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DC enviros sue to demand harsher action against Hawaii fishermen

The Center for Biological Diversity filed Tuesday a notice intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for the agency's failure to protect 82 coral species.  The affected corals occur in waters ranging from Hawaii and Florida to U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific. They face numerous dangers, but (non existent) global warming and (non-existent) ocean acidification are the overarching threats to their survival….

(Here’s what this is really all about)

Montipora patula is one of the 14 coral species found where the state Department of Land and Natural Resources wants to improve the south end of the Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor. The project includes a boat ramp, gangway, mooring blocks, washdown area, parking, comfort station and wastewater system. It has been long delayed by DLNR's failure to fulfill environmental obligations and get a federal permit required for such work.

"Protection under the Endangered Species Act would require habitat protections and make it illegal to harm or kill corals. It would open the door to greater opportunities for coral reef conservation," Sakashita said. "Activities like fishing, dumping, dredging and offshore oil development would be subject to stricter regulation. The Act would also require federal agencies, as well as their local counterparts, to conserve and recover the coral species, create management plans, and evaluate the impacts of their actions on the listed corals."

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Panel wants more answers from Thompson

The state panel that oversees charter schools is summoning the head of Myron Thompson Academy's local school board to its meeting tomorrow to answer more questions over hiring practices, amid concern about nepotism and favoritism at the online school.

Thompson Academy Principal Diana Oshiro, who has four relatives on the payroll at her school, appeared at the Charter School Review Panel's last meeting on Jan. 13 and defended her staffing decisions. But the panel was not satisfied and wants to hear more from Malia Chow, chairwoman of Thompson's local school board.

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Friend of Abercrombie goes Birther, apologizes

Mike Evans told on Wednesday he was remorseful and embarrassed that he appeared to have given the impression that he had discussed the search for Obama’s birth certificate with Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Evans, who says he has been a close friend of Abercrombie since the 1980s, appeared on Minnesota’s KQRS radio last week and said he’d been told by the governor himself that Obama’s birth certificate was nowhere to be found. Evans told KQRS on Jan. 20:

"Yesterday, talking to Neil's office, Neil says that he searched everywhere using his powers as governor ..... there is no Barack Obama birth certificate in Hawaii.  Absolutely no proof at all that he was born in Hawaii."

But that’s no longer Evans’ story.

“Only this I can you tell you is 100 percent fact: that Neil never told me there was no birth certificate,” Evans told Fox News. “I never talked to him.”

AUDIO: Mike Evans Report

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