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Monday, April 25, 2011
April 25, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:09 PM :: 13662 Views

Hawaii, Other States, Form Caucus to Oppose TSA Intrusions

Will legislators share in the pay sacrifices?

After being widely criticized in 2009 for taking 36 percent raises for themselves while demanding sacrifices from everybody else in one of the worse years of the recession, lawmakers voted to take a 5 percent cut along with administrators and judges.

But that pay freeze expires June 30 unless legislators extend it before they adjourn May 5.

Measures to extend the legislative freeze until Dec. 1, 2013, have passed both the House and Senate, but language differences must be worked out in conference committee. The Senate has named conferees led by Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee, but the House has not named conferees and no meetings are set with time running out.

Under the latest version of the extension bill, HB 575, all of the lost pay — a total of 22.5 percent — would be restored to legislators on Jan. 1, 2014, increasing their current pay of $46,272 to more than $56,600.

RELATED: Hawaii Legislators’ pay tops nation

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Taxes On Plastic Bags, Rental Cars, State Pensions, Alcohol Considered

It's decision time at the Hawaii Capitol, where lawmakers enter their final days scrounging for money to keep the state running with a full slate of proposed tax increases and spending cuts.

They'll be voting next week on new taxes on businesses, rental cars, online purchases, plastic bags, pensions, alcohol and timeshares while also deciding on a budget expected to slash hundreds of millions from government services….

Final votes would occur the following week before this year's legislative session adjourns May 5.

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A User's Guide to Hawaii Conference Committees

The Hawaii Legislature is in conference committee mode, the final hurdle for legislation before heading to state House and Senate floor votes on May 3.

Conference committees work out the disagreements between the House and Senate. But once a bill gets to this stage, it can be very hard to follow what's happening with it.

While there are public hearings for conference committee, they are often short and meaningless — a sort of kabuki dance involving stylized gestures and language. The public is not allowed to testify, and the real decision making is done before senators and representatives sit down at the same table.

As one grizzled veteran of the Capitol told Civil Beat when asked how conference committee works, "Good luck with that one!"

Still, there are ways for citizens to keep track of events and even weigh in on bills of interest….

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Hawaii Disclosure Law For Government Officials Not Transparent

More than 90 percent of financial disclosures — documents required to be filed by Hawaii public employees and politicians to enhance government transparency — are not visible to the public.

And the people charged with reviewing them don't have the training, funding or time to review them, except to make sure they're filled out properly.

No one scrutinizes the disclosures for accuracy or possible conflicts of interest — and if a conflict were to arise, the only way the public would know is if the official disclosed it or someone else raised a concern.

Hawaii State Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo says the filings are a means to improve transparency in government, but the intent of the law has been undermined.

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Honolulu Department's OT Jumps 49 Percent, Director Won't Talk About It

A Honolulu department that saw overtime spending spike 49 percent last year says it can't readily determine which employees are responsible for the increase.

Records detailing overtime paid to individual staffers of the Honolulu Department of Enterprise Services are "not readily retrievable" and would "require extensive agency efforts to search, review and segregate," according to city officials.

Enterprise Services runs the Honolulu Zoo, city golf courses, as well as the Neal Blaisdell Center and the Waikiki Shell….

Enterprise Services Administrative Services Officer Kimberly Hashiro told Civil Beat that the department said it could retrieve redacted versions of the requested overtime records for a fee of $665.25 (lowered from her original estimate of $825.25).

But in a strange development, a staffer in the city's Budget and Fiscal Services department emailed Civil Beat a day later, outright rejecting the request.

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Real ID:  Unfunded federal mandate to increase county costs

The federal Real ID Act of 2005 mandates that by Dec. 1, 2014, a specially made ID will be required to board airplanes or carry federal government business.

“If you want to fly on a commercial aircraft or enter a federal building you are going to have to have this Real ID, either a driver’s license or a state ID,” County Treasurer David Spanski told Kaua‘i County Council members during a budget review session Thursday.

Spanski is asking the council for $35,000 to fill a dollar-funded position that would provide assistance in the implementation of the mandate. Hawai‘i is the only state in the nation where the state government issues state IDs, and county governments issue drivers’ licenses.

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Will Animal Liberation Nuts Torpedo Hawaii’s Collectivized Pork Slaughterhouse?

State Sen. Mike Gabbard is a lone ranger when it comes to voting against SB 249 in the Senate. His was the sole no vote.

“Given our budget crisis, the last thing our state should be doing is buying a slaughterhouse,” he told Civil Beat. “We've just got to be more careful. We should be putting that $1.6 million into worthy causes, like schools, instead of raising the GET or cutting basic services. If we do invest this funding, we’re going to have to keep investing. Look at the track record. If it was a thriving business, not so much in the hole, then maybe, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

The “Oahu Slaughterhouse” bill also doesn’t make any sense to organizations like Animal Advocate Inc., Animal Rights Hawaii, PETA and other national organizations. It has sparked so much interest that a few weeks ago it jammed up the email system at the Capitol.

“No other state owns slaughterhouses,” Animal Rights Hawaii President Cathy Goegell said in an email. “With so many public services being cut, the last place we should be spending taxpayer dollars is on acquiring an unnecessary slaughterhouse.”

Mark Fergusson, CEO of Hawaii’s all-vegetarian, organic and natural food chain store, Down To Earth, agrees with Goegell. Fergusson points out “it’s interesting that in testimony to the Legislature, even the cattle industry states that the slaughterhouse is not needed for the beef industry, even though the preamble to the bill states the purpose is to benefit the beef industry.”

(So intelligent people make a sane argument that the State should not be in the slaughterhouse business.  They are ignored but when some lunatics speak up, suddenly they have the media and Legislature’s attention.  This is just another Democrat scam to demoralize their opponents.) 

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Do Native Hawaiians Have The Right To Break Rules?

Lloyd "Ikaika" Pratt was cited three different times in 2004 for camping in the Kalalau Valley, part of Kauai's Na Pali State Park, in violation of state rules [pdf]. He argued that when he set up a camp, cleared land and planted crops, he was protected by the state's constitutional promise that Native Hawaiians have the right to practice their culture and religion.

His argument was rejected by the trial court.

The judge agreed Pratt was Native Hawaiian and was exercising customary rights on undeveloped state land after hearing expert testimony from University of Hawaii Ethnic and Hawaiian Studies Professor Davianna McGregor. That was enough to establish that Pratt had satisfied the three-prong test established in State v. Hanapi and Public Access Shoreline Hawaii v. Hawaii County Planning Commission.

But the judge added another barrier: The traditional practices must be "reasonable" and must be balanced against the state's rights to protect, preserve and regulate its lands.

Judge Katherine Leonard, whose nomination to be Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice was rejected after the Hawaii State Bar Association deemed her unqualified for the post (specifically because of decisions like this one)authored the lead opinion [pdf]. In it, she threw out the findings of fact from the lower court and said Pratt's practices didn't qualify as traditional or customary.

The Hawaii Supreme Court on Thursday scheduled oral arguments for Hawaii v. Pratt for Thursday, May 19.

(Duh! Everybody knows that PASH rights only matter when they are being used to shake down a developer.)

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Schools use Financial Aid to replace Family  with Government

"Interestingly, a lot of families feel they shouldn't be asking for money," she added. "Local families tend to expect grandparents or aunties or uncles to help pitch in. The federal government is here to do that for you."

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Do it for the children: Hawaii's Sex Abuse Treatment Center is truly a lifeline for child victims

Now our top priority is to keep this critically important program alive. Unless funding can be secured, our teacher training and consultation will end in nine months. We look to the community to recognize the incalculable value of this program for our young people and to fund it. It is truly a lifeline for child victims and an immensely important tool to teach the young how to navigate life safely and respectfully.

(Conference Committees Still in Session.)

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Abercrombie plans new initiative to finance Homelessness Industry

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie and his point man on homeless issues are scheduled to announce a new initiative to help people without shelter.

The governor plans to hold a news conference with his homelessness coordinator, Marc Alexander, on Monday. Darlene Hein, the Waikiki Health Center's director of community services, is also due to attend.

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On-bill Financing Would Make Clean Energy Accessible to Everyone

In spite of the overwhelming benefits and extreme practicality of this policy, some key decision makers are balking, citing vague concerns about on-bill financing’s “cost-effectiveness.”

(Under “decoupling” HELL-CO is guaranteed a profit on its otherwise idiotic investments in wind energy and billion dollar cables.  But there is a limit of about 15% ‘intermittent’ sources on the grid.  So the more that individuals put solar on their roofs, the less room there is for Big Wind and Big Profits.)

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Queen Lil Trust pays $100 Tax on $9.9M property

The Queen Liliuokalani Trust is getting quite a tax break on a $9.9 million commercial parcel it owns at a prime Kona crossroads.

The trust is slated to pay absolutely nothing in taxes on the land this year. That's after paying $90,356.63 in taxes and an additional $4,517.83 penalty and $496.96 in interest for a late payment last year, according to tax records.

The 25.9 acre parcel fronts Palani Road. It's bordered on the north by under-construction Ane Keohokalole Highway and the south by a planned extension of Kamakaeha Avenue.

County Real Property Tax Division Administrator Stan Sitko said he is investigating the change from $9.9 million to a nominal $100 assessed value that was made by a new commercial appraiser in the office. He said the commercial designation was changed to archaeological/historical because of a 2000 reclassification.

But the land has retained its commercial zoning in the Tax Office online database.

"The question is, is it true archaeology? How much of the property is covered by archaeology?" Sitko said, adding the trust wants to conserve the land and build an interpretative center there in the future.

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Indicted Scammer makes one last sales pitch … in Hawaii

The government soon indicted Aldridge on six counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting wire fraud. Before trial, Aldridge was released on bond and allowed to attend a seminar in Hawaii. In an affidavit submitted to the court, Aldridge stated that he planned to travel to Hawaii as a "prospective employee" of the "Seoul Christian Assembly" to discuss serving "as a liaison in California for a project to assist Korean immigrants with cultural assimilation." That story, too, was hogwash. In a video of his meeting, Aldridge was shown making a familiar pitch to potential investors in Hawaii. The district court understandably revoked his bond.

The district court acknowledged, however, that Aldridge's behavior in Hawaii was disturbing. In the end, the court sentenced Aldridge to 144 months.

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Sun Country Airlines is Making Profit – Looking at Hawaii

They made headlines when announcing they would start flying from Minneapolis to London with a stopover in Gander using a Boeing 737 and once again when their owner Tom Petters turned out to be running a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme….  (THIS is a company that will be a PERFECT fit in Hawaii!)

Godek stated that Sun Country is looking at the possibility of flying to Hawaii, but they are not fully committed yet. The airline is also hoping to expand their charter flights especially with the military.

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'Spice' traps troops

Synthetic cannabinoids, including Spice and K2, and so-called "Bath Salts" laced with drugs that cause effects similar to cocaine and meth­am­pheta­mine, are being increasingly abused by military members looking to beat tests that screen for traditional drugs but not synthetics, officials say.

Despite the lack of random testing, the Navy Region Hawaii Criminal Investigation Division has handled seven synthetic drug-related investigations involving at least 40 suspected users in Hawaii in the past year.

The Air Force recently became the first service to start randomly screening for designer drugs in urinalysis tests, officials in Hawaii said….

In the four months before his statement, 72 Pacific Fleet sailors had been accused of using or possessing the drugs. The Navy said in February that it was discharging 16 sailors on the Norfolk, Va.-based amphibious assault ship Bataan for using or dealing in Spice.

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Forty-Four Years Later: Worthless dope smoking Bums not welcome at Haight-Ashbury

On a street corner in the iconic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, traveling troubadours "Stinkin" Pete Irving and his wife Charlie — freshly arrived from Seattle — squatted on the sidewalk and began strumming a guitar and bending a steel saw for eerie accompaniment. And for spare change.

Warned that they were risking possible police citations and arrest, Pete Irving responded defiantly.

"This is as much of a job as I have," he said. "I'll take my chances."

Just about then a police cruiser appeared and an officer pointed at the couple and told them in no uncertain terms to move on.

Move on they did, at least for the time being.

A year after a controversial ordinance prohibiting sitting or lying on San Francisco sidewalks was first proposed, police are now enforcing the new law along the city's most famous thoroughfares.

Yet, vigorous squabbling continues between supporters who claim the "sit-lie" law is working and opponents who argue it unfairly targets the homeless, day laborers and mentally ill (such as themselves). 

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Why The "Birther" Conspiracy Is Great For Obama

Various people have called on Barack Obama to resolve the issue of his birth certificate by using his power as President of The United States to compel the state of Hawaii to find it and make it public. 

The question is: why doesn't he do that?  The answer is: why would he?"

The "birther" issue is a political godsend for the otherwise beleaguered president.

It makes the Republican Party look like a bunch of loons.  It attracts huge media attention, thus amplifying the impression that the Republican Party is populated by a bunch of loons. And the longer President Obama refrains from doing anything that might resolve the issue once and for all, the loonier his opponents become.  That's a win for the president every which way.

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Human Events: Birthers are Best thing Obama Has going for Him

Barack Obama was born here. Get over it—or America may never get over a second Obama administration. The best thing the president has going for him are shiny-eyed adversaries.

The economy does its best ’70s impersonation, debt approaches GDP, the Nobel-Peace-Prize-winner-in-chief launches another war—and the issue GOP presidential candidates run on is Obama’s birthplace? Somebody cue The Twilight Zone music.

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Hawaii senator questions Obama's true birth father

Hawaii State Sen. Sam Slom further told the host of "Aaron Klein Investigative Radio" on WABC 770 AM in New York City that so long as Obama refuses to be transparent about his past, questions about the president's birth remain "a legitimate issue."

"My particular point of view – and why I haven't identified myself as a 'birther,' per se – is that [Obama] probably was born [in Hawaii] and that the real issue is not the birth certificate, but what's on the birth certificate," Slom told Klein.

Asked what that could be, Slom said, "It could have to do with what his name is on the birth certificate, who is actually listed as his father, the citizenship of the father."

ILind: Slom joins the Birthers

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Blessed Marianne Cope Returns to Molokai

Mother Marianne spent the last thirty years of her life in Kalaupapa taking care of those exiled there, never having a chance to return to her home in New York before dying of natural causes.
During her time there, she helped start the construction of the Bishop Home in Kalaupapa for homeless women and girls affected with Hansen’s disease. She also opened the Kapiolani Home on Oahu for daughters of Hansen’s disease patients….

Mother Marianne’s efforts on Oahu earned her the Royal Medal of Kapiolani. Upon arrival in 1883, the Sister’s first task was to take care of newly diagnosed Hansen’s disease patients at Branch Hospital. A year later, she founded Malulani Hospital, the first hospital on Maui.

Mother Marianne met St. Damien two years before he was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, in 1884. He was so satisfied with her and her Sisters’ work, he requested that they take over for him in Kalaupapa after he died….

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Christians save Students from latest DoE Mess, 75% to graduate

Staff worked to match students with tutors. The school has offered a number of online credit recovery options. One Love Ministries, a church that meets at the school on the weekends, also rallied its members to help tutor the kids trying to catch up. (Full disclosure: Your reporter attends One Love but did not participate in the tutoring.)

Now, thanks to the credit recovery classes, weekend library hours and tutoring, about 75 percent of Kaimuki's seniors are on track to graduate — up from 60 percent in January. Because Hawaii does not keep data on the percentage of seniors who graduate — neither number can be compared with last year's recorded graduation rate or the statewide rate. Hawaii only tracks the number of ninth-graders who graduate four years later.

This is just one school's experience with curriculum changes. Each school handles changes differently. But Kaimuki faculty and administrators have already gone extra lengths to make sure 11th-graders are better prepared for next year.

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