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Tuesday, April 26, 2011
April 26, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:51 PM :: 17323 Views

Back to bargaining Table: HGEA Nurses Reject Contract, other 6 Units Ratify

Djou: Oahu has nation’s Highest Gas Taxes, City may raise higher

Honolulu Pacific Office Properties could be De-listed by Stock Exchange

HCR135: Special Interests hijack ALOHA Resolution

Abercrombie signs Eight More Bills into Law

Abercrombie announces Homeless Hotlines

Birthers vs. Truthers: The Double Standard on Conspiracy Theories

Panos for Mayor Again? Decision waits until after APEC in November

When Panos Prevedouros lost in his second bid for mayor last September, he said he would definitely run again in 2012. But at the city's ceremonial groundbreaking for the rail project in February, he was less certain.

The famously anti-rail Prevedouros said he wouldn't want to helm the city if the project's progress had reached a point of no return. Now, Prevedouros says he'll make the call in November.

"I expect to make a final go (or) no-go decision around APEC and announce my decision soon after the APEC dust settles," Prevedouros told Civil Beat.

Already, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle has started fundraising for his re-election campaign. Former Honolulu Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, who trailed Carlisle in the September special election, says he'll make a decision about whether he's running for mayor in the coming months. (Caldwell may also run for U.S. House if one of Hawaii's congresswomen vacates her seat to run for U.S. Senate.)

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Shapiro: Sam Slom moves to the fringe

Sam Slom, the only remaining Republican in the state Senate, seems to be dipping his toes deeper and deeper into the “birther” conspiracy about President Barack Obama’s Hawai‘i birth.

Slom says he’s not a true “birther” because he personally believes Obama was born here, but increasingly he’s been feeding into the “questions” about Obama’s birth being raised by loose cannons on the GOP fringe such as Donald Trump.

In a radio interview on WABC in New York reported April 24 by WorldNetDaily, Slom said questions about the president’s birth remain “a legitimate issue.”

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HSTA/DOE Join to Push Back against 180-day Law: Legislators want to fudge it

The president of Hawaii's teachers union will sit down with lawmakers in a closed-door meeting today as they try to reach a compromise on implementing a law that lengthens the school day.

Teachers fear the mandate could require them to give up sweet planning or other precious miscellaneous time and require them to spend more time with those disgusting kids, while the state Department of Education has warned that getting all public schools to comply with the law could cost $45 million to $55 million in next school year alone at a time when the department is facing increasingly dire budget constraints.  (Shakedown) …

Lawmakers are confident they will be able reach an agreement before the close of the legislative session, but at a conference committee hearing yesterday said all options were still on the table.

Teachers bombarded Tokuda's office with emails and calls last week after the union sent out an email raising concerns with the push to have schools comply with at least a portion of the instructional hours law.

The union said Tokuda had implied teachers would have to do more "without compensation."

Tokuda said she never suggested teachers work for free, but has said that perhaps some "miscellaneous time" in a teacher's day could be spent on instruction rather than planning, preparation or other activities.

Further complicating the issue is that instructional time for teachers is a collective-bargaining issue and must be approved by two-thirds of the teachers at each campus.  (We need their permission?)

Takumi said he doesn't plan to budge on one part of the law: the requirement that schools have at least 180 instructional days. This school year, students have 178 days of school. (Sez who?)

But he said the instructional-hours discussion gets more fuzzy, especially since the law doesn't define "instructional."

Lawmakers are trying to figure out whether homeroom and even after-school activities could be considered instructional.

He added that lawmakers are just "going to have to be a little creative" on making at least portions of the mandate work.

HR: Advertiser’s favorite Winged BoE Candidate backs delay in 180-day law

REALITY:  Killing the 180 Day School Year: HSTA caught in a lie

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Legislature resists governor's 'transformation of politics'

So far Abercrombie gets along with the majority Democrats in the Legislature, but he is unable to get much from them.

Yesterday, the Senate Education Committee rejected two of his Board of Regent nominees and Abercrombie has had to pull back the nominations of his health director and a Circuit Court judgeship given to a former Abercrombie staffer….

Right now, the Legislature's leaders don't see what he sees….To pay for Abercrombie's "we believe in government" budget, the governor wants to raise taxes, but the Abercrombie taxes are failing.

"The Legislature has struggled with many of the governor's controversial revenue proposals that are intended to bridge the budget gap. It is clear that public concern and legislative pragmatism will not permit the passage of a number of these measures in the form in which they were originally proposed," said the Senate Ways and Means Committee report.

The Senate then cut $300 million out of Abercrombie's budget, saving only $37 million for a delayed retirement system payment.

The WAM report said "many state programs are operating with skeleton crews and minimal resources, the current revenue picture has required a close evaluation of these requests and the exercise of constraint."

Instead of spending more, the Senate told Abercrombie he should "prudently use the economic downturn to take a long and hard look at the executive branch's organizational structure. Your committee stands ready to receive and evaluate his proposals."

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Conference Committees To Focus on Tax Hikes Today

Lawmakers have scheduled the first conference committee negotiations on many of the separate revenue-generating bills needed to balance the budget for Tuesday afternoon. The two biggest potential sources of new revenue — lifting general excise tax exemptions on business activities and diverting money from rental car surcharges — are among those being heard….

Lawmakers have to meet an internal deadline of midnight Friday to have bills ready for final votes next week.

“Hopefully, we’ll make a lot more progress tomorrow night. We’ve been meeting through the weekend. We’ll be meeting tonight,” said state Sen. David Ige (D, Aiea-Pearl City), the lead Senate negotiator on the budget. “Hopefully, the majority of the budget will be done and it’s just a couple of items (left to discuss). Typically, that’s kind of what happens.”

Ige said the talks on the revenue-generating bills will help determine whether further budget cuts to state programs are necessary.

Lobbyist: Fight over GE Tax is not over yet

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Lawmakers still assuming fantasy returns on Pension Investments

Hawaii lawmakers are close to approving changes to public employees' retirement benefits — a move to save money. But one proposal has us scratching our heads.

The state wants to downgrade the average rate of return the pension fund is expected to achieve each year. The Employees' Retirement System board invests the fund's roughly $10 billion worth of assets with the goal of an 8 percent annual return. House Bill 1038 would lower that assumed return rate to 7.75 percent.

It may seem like a prudent move on the surface, but keep in mind the fund has averaged only a 3 percent return over the last decade. (The ERS faces a $9 billion unfunded liability.)

The Real World: Governments consider cuts to once-untouchable pensions

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SA: Don't borrow to build rental-car facility  (Capital converted to operating!)

The proposal that would generate additional dollars from the rental-car industry — without adding to the bottom line paid by tourists — seems a lesser evil. Lawmakers should pass House Bill 1039, Senate Draft 2, but with one caveat.

The bill would pour the money yielded by the $4.50 daily airports facility surcharge into the general fund by combining it with a separate, $3 rental fee that does go to the general fund. To assure rental car companies that plans to build the improved facility will proceed, the bill would also authorize the state to float general obligation bonds to finance the project.

The bond sale should be avoided, if at all possible. The fund already established for the planned facility now holds about $29 million; that money should be used to underwrite the project's early stages, rather than borrowing money and adding to financing charges the state must pay.  (They’re gonna raid the fund and then sell bonds.  Capital converted to operating.)

This bill's creative financing would generate about $60 million annually for the general fund, (By raiding the fees and treating them as taxes!) the second-largest potential chunk of new revenue behind the temporary suspension of some businesses' general excise tax exemptions.

The bill also includes language that would give discretion to the state administration to adjust rental rates to concessionaires such as the rental companies who do not already have adjustment formulas built into the lease

Another example: Abercrombie, Legislators scheme to divert capital improvement money to General Fund

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7000 Join AARP tele-Town Hall, Protest Pension Tax

The AARP of Hawaii says more than 7,000 people participated in a "telephone town hall" meeting to discuss a proposal to start taxing pension income.

AARP State Director Barbara Kim Stanton said seniors on the hour-long call Monday were worried that the retirement income they counted on would be reduced if state lawmakers decide to tax it.

Stanton said many callers wanted business tax exemptions to be taken away rather than pensions taxed.

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Department of Taxation suddenly decides cutting GE Tax exemptions will produce $41M less

The Senate already advanced House Bill 793, which proposes temporarily halting 22 exemptions that benefit businesses including general contractors, sugarcane producers, petroleum refiners and tugboat operators. It would require them to pay the 4 percent general excise tax "on the previously exempt gross income or gross proceeds of sale derived from January 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015." The bill is being vetted by a conference committee.

The measure could potentially bring in a total of $214 million in fiscal 2012 and another $220 million in 2013, according to estimates from the state Department of Taxation.

But the department says the revenue figure for 2012 could be closer to $173 million because eliminating the exemption for contractors might result in less subcontracting work.

(In other words, the Abercrombie Admin is yet again pushing for more and more taxes by fudging the numbers.)


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Amazon will dump Hawaii Affiliates if Legislature imposes GE Tax for online purchases

Hawaii lawmakers are looking for creative ways to tax online shopping, either by requiring Internet sellers to hand over customer information to the government, or by enrolling in a multistate program in which websites voluntarily collect taxes.

Online retailer said Monday it would stop doing business with affiliate advertisers in Hawaii if the reporting requirement becomes law, but the company would comply with the voluntary tax collection scheme.

Legislation for both proposals was pending this week before state lawmakers desperate for money, with estimates of uncollected tax from electronic sales reaching $60 million in Hawaii alone next year, according to a University of Tennessee study. State tax officials said they expected to receive up to $30 million in new revenue annually under either measure.

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The Price Is Wrong: Legislative Disclosures Undervalue Real Estate by $100,000s

As required by state law, all politicians must include the address and value of any interests in real property that aren't considered their personal residence.

Civil Beat decided to compare the claimed values on the disclosure forms of all 76 members of the Hawaii Legislature with real property assessments. While some were off by a few thousand dollars, 14 were off by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Hawaii County Property Valuations better than anticipated

HILO -- Hawaii County real property valuations came in about 4 percent less than last year, good news for County Council members fearing losses as high as 10 percent.

The values will be plugged into a revised budget that Mayor Billy Kenoi will release May 5. The council plans a 5 p.m. May 16 public hearing on property values, and then it will start amending the budget at its May 18 meeting.

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Kokobun’s Pork Project: State purchase of slaughterhouse key to food security

If any department understands the impact of the budget crisis, it is the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. HDOA was cut by almost a third and we lost many employees who were dedicated to supporting agriculture in Hawaii.  (And yet we are willing to spend money on this pork project.)

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Morita, Coffman team up with HELCO to deny Homeowners Solar Funding

The proposal didn't get a green light from all concerned parties.

Late March testimony [pdf] opposing the proposal or expressing concerns about it came from many quarters: Hawaiian Electric Company, the state's largest electric utility; Hawaii Energy, the Public Benefits Fee Administrator in charge of rebates and other energy efficiency programs; and Public Utilities Commission Chair Hermina Morita, who had the rare opportunity to testify against a bill that she had personally introduced.1

Morita continued to oppose the measure even in its later forms, though HECO and Hawaii Energy came around to the intent of the proposal, according to testimony [pdf] and a Senate committee report. One of the changes that was made in the SD2 version — the one currently on the table — was adding a key word, "consider," to a sentence that now reads, "The public utilities commission shall consider implementing an on-bill financing program."

Still, Coffman expressed misgivings. He said the bill could be an unfunded mandate and might be worthy of further study before moving forward too quickly.

"I need to go through and read it because there's a lot of 'shalls' in there," he said.

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Slavery: Another supervisor pleads guilty, Cooperating with Feds?

Shane Germann was arrested last year in North Dakota after the managers of labor recruitment firm Global Horizons were indicted in what is being called the biggest agricultural labor trafficking case in American history.

A superseding grand jury indictment filed Jan. 12 gives more details about how Thai workers were allegedly threatened and imprisoned. It says Global Horizons paid cash for a Piper Aztec plane to fly workers between farms in Hawaii, including Maui Pineapple Co., where several dozen Thai nationals were employed.

Another Global Horizons supervisor, Bruce Schwartz, who worked primarily in Washington state, pleaded guilty last month in a plea bargain that could bring him a sentence of five years, perhaps to be reduced when he cooperates with authorities.

The notice of change of plea, from not guilty to guilty, by Germann does not say whether he is cooperating with authorities.

Germann is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway on May 4.

MORE: Green hypocrites: Case & Omidyar’s Maui Land & Pine tied to human trafficking case, Neil Abercrombie's slavery problem

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Kalapa: Nudging Government Toward Reform

The long and short of the story is that as a result of tepid revenue growth - or non growth as the case may be - hiring freezes have been imposed so positions go unfilled as public employees retire or move on to other jobs. Compound that attrition with the now infamous "furlough Fridays," and one can just imagine the back load of work that faces state workers as they return from the "three day weekends."

But does this have to be? How will lawmakers find the balance between downsizing state government while providing the level of services needed by the public that state workers serve? Obviously, the state government of the future will look very different if lawmakers and administrators are willing to make the changes necessary to meet the needs of the future. And that is the operative word here, "change."

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City & County of Honolulu Details Rail Bond Financing

I understand from speaking with council members that the city administration is asking the council for permission to float $2 billion in bonds to pay for the initial rail contracts.  Could you please confirm the timing on this request?

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Schatz: Homeless 90-day Plan all about APEC

Alexander said this year's sweep of dozens of homeless people living in Kakaako resulted in 1 out of 4 seeking some form of follow-up service. (Remember this: Abercrombie’s priest admits that homeless sweeps actually help push people into shelters.)

Yesterday's announcement came just seven months before President Ba­rack Obama hosts the leaders of 21 countries in Waikiki in November at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting.

The Abercrombie administration is working on helping homeless find services "because it's our moral obligation to solve this problem," Schatz said. "On the other hand, it's (APEC) a handy deadline. … We want to have some prog­ress to show our community and the international community."

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Failed former Senator Ron Menor still out there pushing Gas Cap

Former state Sen. Ron Menor, who took the lead on attempting to bring down the cost of gas in Hawaii back in 2005, appeared on Hawaii News Now last week to discuss the current state of gasoline in Hawaii:

“Well, I believe that there would be significant savings. Consumers could be saving, roughly 20 to 30 cents per gallon if we had gas pricing regulation.”

(What follows is 14 paragraphs and three charts which result is an claim that right now gas would be 10 cents cheaper if we adopted this ignorant socialist scheme and put anti-Superferry protester PUC Chair Morita in charge of setting your pump prices.  But the REAL gas cap drove prices through the roof.  And all Menor has are excuses.)

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Another Honolulu Police officer to be arraigned on another drunken-driving charge

A 40-year-old Honolulu police officer will be arraigned May 24 in Honolulu District Court on charges of drunken driving and leaving the scene after hitting a utility pole early Friday morning on Kona Street.

William Suarez is scheduled to appear at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 4B.

Suarez, a seven-year police veteran who had been assigned to the Waikiki district, was booked on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant and leaving the scene of an accident following the 5:30 a.m. incident. He has been reassigned to desk duty and relieved of his police powers.

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Former TSA screener admits to stealing

Former Transportation Security Administration screener Dawn Nikole Keka, who admitted stealing $200 from an undercover agent posing as a Japanese tourist, faces similar allegations, said federal prosecutor Michael Song.

The TSA's Office of Inspector General targeted Keka, who was lead TSA officer at Kona Airport, for a sting operation last month because it had received reports from five female Japanese tourists that Keka stole money from them in amounts ranging from $20 to $500, Song said.

Keka, 35, pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to misdemeanor theft and was hoping to get sentenced at the same time. The charge carries maximum penalties of one year in jail, one year of supervised release and $100,000 fine.

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Act221 Scammers look to China

…this month the Hawaii Venture Capital Association, ThinkTech and Pacific New Media are presenting a two-panel luncheon program on “Reciprocal Investment” with China – Hawaii investing in China, and China investing in Hawaii. The program is reciprocal in the sense that it will explore investment opportunities going in both directions, and the relationship of one to the other.

Sponsored by Hawaii Business Magazine, the program will take place this Thursday, April 28th, 2011, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Plaza Club, 900 Fort Street Mall.

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Stockbroker Kimura Pleads Guilty

Former Honolulu stockbroker has pleaded guilty to defrauding his in-laws out of millions.

The U.S. Attorney's Hawaii district office said Monday 42-year-old Ryan Kimura of Honolulu pleaded guilty to wire fraud, bank fraud, filing a false federal tax return and money laundering.

Prosecutors say that while working as a stockbroker at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in Honolulu, he induced members of his wife's family to deposit more than $2.1 million.

Kimura? Hmmmmm…..

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Hawaii Government Employees Association Negotiations Not Authentic

Such an opportunity has presented itself, and I feel it is my obligation to help inform the general public about what is really happening with the public unions in this state – especially the Hawaii Government Employees Association, of which I am a ...

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Abercrombie Rejected 2x: Selection Process for University of Hawaii Regents is Suddenly ‘Broken’

The process for selecting nominees for the University of Hawaii's Board of Regents is broken, Gov. Neil Abercrombie's office said Monday, after two of his nominees to the board were unanimously rejected by a Senate panel.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Jill Tokuda said she agreed and said she plans to work on a fix.

Tokuda observed that the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, which identifies and vets candidates before passing along their names to the governor, works better in theory than reality.

The advisory panel was originally created by the Democratic-controlled Legislature as a check on the powers of the governor — at that time Republican Linda Lingle.

While Tokuda originally voted in favor of establishing the advisory panel in 2007, said she plans to revisit the selection process and propose changes to it in next year's legislative session.

"It is really clear that the regents selection process does not give the governor the ability to put together a cohesive board," Tokuda said.

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Caesars CEO: Poker indictments present opportunity

Loveman said Tuesday in the opinion piece that federal legislation is the only way to create a well-regulated system

"Only federal legislation can clear up the current ambiguities in U.S. law and crack down on other online gambling like sports betting and casino games," Loveman said.

Precisely as Predicted:  Hawaii Internet Poker Bill part of nationwide effort by illegal Gambling Sites

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Judge halts foreclosure; others vulnerable?

Amid the many foreclosure actions and auctions on Maui, one has come to a halt, after a federal judge in Honolulu granted a temporary restraining order.

The order itself does not address the borrower's big argument - which is that the bank pursuing her cannot prove it has any real ownership interest in her Kihei home - but the restraining order was temporary. Since it expired a week ago, the lenders have not yet made any effort to resume the process of taking Watoshina Lynn Compton's house….

Compton had a fiberglass pool business. After October 2008, when the economy nose-dived, she understood that the pool business was going to suffer. Although she had not failed to make any of her $6,000-a-month payments, she initiated a request for a loan modification with Bank of America's BAC Home Loans Servicing.

After hundreds of frustrating phone calls, she got a modification approved - then had it rejected. She sued March 28 to enforce what Fosbinder argues is a valid contract, which would reduce her monthly payments by about a thousand dollars a month for five years.

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Stalinist Media Council still trying to seize HNN Broadcast License

The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that much of the documentation being filed in a challenge of the merger of the news operations of KGMB-TV, KHNL-TV and KFVE-TV cannot be made public.

The Media Council Hawaii, a media watchdog group (bunch of Stalinists), asked the FCC in October 2009 to stop the merger of three of the state's five largest television stations out of concern that it would reduce competition among news outlets (because the new owners are from Alabama). The three stations, which share the Hawaii News Now name, announced the merger of news and business operations in August 2009….

Conybeare (who played a key role in a failed effort to cover up the Frank Marshall Davis/Obama connection) said the information being submitted to the FCC, while shielded from public view, "will help them (the FCC) make the right decision — in our favor … to declare that this whole shared services agreement violates FCC rules, issue a cease and desist, or order them to show cause why they should continue to hold their broadcast licenses."

Full Text: FCC protective order

REALITY: Honolulu Community Media Council has its own issues with "media control"

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Plans for wave energy on Oregon Coast progressing

The World newspaper in Coos Bay reports that American Bridge Manufacturing in Reedsport and Sause Bros. in Coos Bay have won contracts related to the manufacture and deployment of wave energy-generating devices for New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies Inc.
After the device, called a PowerBuoy, is deployed and tested off the coast near Reedsport later this year, Ocean Power plans to construct what it says will be the first commercial-scale wave power station in the nation.

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Carter and other ex-leaders in North Korea on 3-day visit

Ex-President Jimmy Carter and three other former heads of state embarked Tuesday on a three-day mission to North Korea, where they plan to discuss dangerous food shortages and stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

Children presented flowers to Carter, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson at the airport, and the group was greeted by Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, according to Associated Press Television News in Pyongyang.

The U.S. State Department said last month that Carter would not be carrying any official messages.

South Korea reacted coolly to the trip.  "We don't have high expectations," South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told reporters Tuesday when asked if the Carter visit might change North Korea's attitude. "I don't think it's necessary for North Korea to talk to us through a third party."

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