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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
August 16, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 9:26 PM :: 8428 Views

Roll Call: Djou Expected to Try to Win Back House Seat

Duke Aiona: I will not run for Congress in 2012, will Decide on 2014 Gubernatorial Run

Newt Gingrich to Speak at Maui Event Saturday Aug 20

Barbers Point Museum to Host 9-11 Commemoration

Disney Halts Sales at Aulani, Fires top Execs

Abercrombie names Nakasone to First Circuit Court Bench

Country-Western Singer Lee Greenwood to Headline Hawaii GOP Fundraiser

One Week Until Teacher Evaluation Failure Sinks Race to the Top

The Abercrombie administration's decision to implement the terms of its "last, best and final" contract offer has both parties locking horns over a question that the Hawaii Labor Relations Board now must answer: Was the state's action prohibited under labor laws?

So the best way to deal with the evaluation test in this circumstance would be to do as state schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi suggests: Go ahead with the pilot program, even if the reforms result in an evaluation that, for now, will be nonbinding.

The reason there's such urgency around the issue is that bids are due next week for hiring a contractor to help overhaul teacher evaluations and make them more "performance-based." That reform element was a key component in Hawaii's winning a federal Race to the Top competitive grant. The aim of the pilot is to base 35 percent of a teacher's rating on student academic growth….

Matayoshi makes the rational case that HSTA approval is not required at this stage because any evaluations yielded in the pilot would not be part of a teacher's personnel record. Thus, she contended in a letter to the HSTA, the DOE is not implementing a new evaluation that bypasses collective bargaining. That seems fair: What is developed through this nonbinding pilot among select teachers could be used as a basis for later negotiations with the union over the evaluation's final form.

CB: Vote On New Hawaii Grad Requirements Postponed

read … New evaluations deserve a tryout

HSTA Claim that HLRB is not Impartial Leads to Hearing Thursday

"The board does not want members of the public and the parties to have the impression that the board's ability to hear this case or any other case has been compromised," labor board Chairman Jim Nicholson said. "We must hear this matter."

It is worth noting that the board's very makeup is designed not to be impartial, but to represent a balance of interests. Hawaii Revised Statutes, Chapter 89-5, mandates that one of the three members shall represent the interests of management, one shall represent the interests of labor unions, and the chairman shall represent the interests of the public.

Labor and ethics experts say they've never seen a situation like this before. Some aren't even sure the governor's letter is a big deal because it wasn't a secret, or "ex parte," correspondence. The union was copied on the letter.

read … Ethics Question A Snag In Union's Dispute With State

Collusion? School Bus Contractors Jack Up Prices 44%—after being compensated for fuel, labor

Hawaii depends more heavily on private contractors for its school bus services than any other state. It has roughly 800 bus routes that are divided among about 100 contracts, most of which last for six years. The contracts are granted through a public bid process. Twelve companies currently hold agreements with the Department of Education.

Contractual increases in labor costs and fluctuating fuel costs are accounted for in those contracts and the payments to providers are adjusted each year accordingly.

Yet in 82 out of 98 cases over the last five years, service providers chose to allow their agreements to expire instead of extending them up to four years. In many cases, they rebid for the same contract with an offer much higher than the fuel and labor increases would justify.

In at least one case this year, the incumbent and only bidding company asked 44 percent more for the same services it had rendered the previous year. That company was Roberts Hawaii

(Note the lack of competition. Is there illegal collusion going on?)

read … School Bus

ILind: Governor gives the public a one-finger salute, news media gives him a pass

Governor Abercrombie’s office issued a press release yesterday announcing his nomination of Karen Nakasone, a deputy public defender, to a seat on the First Circuit Court.

The press release, which failed to even mention that Nakasone’s name came from an undisclosed list of nominees forwarded to the governor by the Judicial Selection Commission, was also a single finger salute to the OIP and the public’s right to know. OIP has previously determined that state law requires the list of nominees to be made public once the governor makes his choice, but the governor has refused to comply, instead saying he would not obey the law unless directly ordered to comply by a court.

Unfortunately, the news media is not doing well in its watchdog role. The issue of the governor’s refusal to disclose the list of nominees was not mentioned in broadcast reports, and got only a passing mention in Honolulu’s daily newspaper….

Only long-time court reporter Ken Kobayashi, now writing for the Star-Advertiser, even mentioned the nomination process and the governor’s dissing of the law. He wrote:

It is unclear whether Abercrombie could have chosen prosecutors, because the governor is not releasing the names of the four to six candidates submitted to him by the Judicial Selection Commission for each judicial vacancy.

CB: Off The Beat: Another Judge Selected Without Public Input

read … One Finger Salute

Thanks to DDT Ban, Bed Bugs now Ruining Waikiki

Hotel personnel told us they comped the Kallfas entire 14 night stay. The Kallfas said they got $3,700 back, but that is still not enough to compensate them for sleeping with bed bugs.

"I'm having anxiety attacks every time I think about it. My mother keeps waking up. My father keeps waking up in the middle of the night. It's definitely not enough for the fact that the majority of our vacation was ruined," Evi Kallfa said.

Hawaii News Now has done stories in the past about bed bugs in other places including a restaurant. It is possible the bugs hitched a ride with the Kallfas or some other guest back to their room.

(Thank an environmentalist. DDT is the one effective way of permanently eliminating Bed Bugs.)

read … Bed Bugs

Heading for Federal Court, Bombardier Appeals Honolulu Rail Contract

Now we get to the real hearings….

read … Bombardier

Grifters seeking Money Grill Telescope Managers

The contested case hearing in Hilo featured the telescope's project manager and the principal author of the Conservation District Use Application. Both answered a fusillade of questions under oath from opponents regarding TMT's legal, economic, environmental, spiritual, visual, financial and cultural impacts.

Lost in the discussion was any mention of the telescope's scientific impacts; the telescope's 98-foot diameter primary mirror would be nine times larger than either of the Keck Observatory's twin mirrors and would be able to see with greater clarity than the Hubble Space Telescope.

read … Telescope's managers grilled

Sentencing postponed for Tam on theft, campaign spending charges

A sentencing hearing for former Honolulu Councilman Rod Tam for stealing money from the city by overcharging for meals and for violating state campaign spending laws has been postponed to Nov. 2.

Part-time District Judge Randal Shintani granted today the request for postponement made by Deputy Attorney General Debbie Tanakaya because of more study required on the amount Tam might have to pay in restitution in his city theft case.

Tam’s attorney, Nelson Goo, agreed to the postpoment.

read … Rod Tam

Senate Ways and Means Chair: Hawaii Working to Resolve Employee Retirement System's $7.1 Billion Deficit

Ige said while he is unsure of how the Institute compiled its data, "the State has taken steps to resolve this liability, which at its last official report for June 30, 2010 stood at $7.1 billion."

"During the 2011 regular session the Hawaii State Legislature addressed the funding shortfall of the ERS through the passage and enactment of Act 163, SLH 2011. This state law reduces the amount of pensions for new employees beginning on July 1, 2012 as well as increases the age at which these new employees can begin receiving their pensions. These changes combined with increased employer and member contributions and placing a moratorium on benefit enhancements (through Act 29, SLH 2011) are important steps in resolving the funding issues of the ERS over the next several decades. Monitoring the outcomes of these and future legislative initiatives by the ERS will continue to ensure the future stability and viability of the ERS," Ige said.

He added that "comparisons of Hawaii's unfunded liabilities with that of other states may not account for the fact that Hawaii's ERS and Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF) assume the liability for many employee groups not covered by most other states under a single fund or system."

These include teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other county employees, he said. "Nonetheless, the legislature looks forward to addressing the State's unfunded liabilities, notably that of the EUTF, in upcoming legislative sessions." Ige added.

read … ERS Deficit

Reward raised to $10,000 for information on destruction of papaya crops

Genetically modified papayas were developed in the mid-1990s in response to the ringspot virus that had wiped out papaya production on Oahu in the 1950s, forcing the papaya industry to develop on Hawaii island with its genetically engineered "SunUp" and "Rainbow" papayas.

While protests greeted the first genetically engineered papayas, the papaya industry grew to represent one of Hawaii's agricultural "bright spots" by developing export markets to the West Coast, Canada and Japan, said Myrone Murakami, president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation. Potential, new papaya markets are also being explored in China and South Korea, he said.

Asked whether he believes eco-terrorists are behind the rash of papaya destruction, Murakami said Monday, "It's possible. It is possible.

read … Papaya Reward

Copper cables stolen from abandoned South Point wind farm

Someone stole the cable from the old South Point wind farm on South Point Road. The multi-weave copper cables were about 40 feet long and 4 to 6 inches in diameter and coated with black plastic. The estimated value of the stolen cable is $50,000.

Photos: Wind Energy's Ghosts

read … Abandoned Wind Farm

HMSA, Kaiser make money, prepare to hike rates

Both insurers increased premiums in January — HMSA by an average 14.8 percent for large businesses and Kaiser by an average 12.6 percent.

HMSA said it will likely impose another round of rate hikes for members at the start of 2012. Kaiser would not comment on whether it intends to raise premiums again this January.

read … HMSA, Kaiser make money

Tokio Marine to Acquire All of Hawaii’s First Insurance for $165 Million

Tokio Marine Holdings, Inc. is to become the sole shareholder of the largest Hawaii-based property and casualty insurance carrier.

The Japanese insurer announced in Tokyo this week it has reached an agreement to acquire the remaining 50 percent ownership interest of First Insurance Company of Hawaii.

read … First Insurance

Permit changes for stream cleaning

The Army Corps of Engineers has announced a major change that should allow for a speedier response to clogged streams and rivers.

City and state agencies, and even homeowners, will no longer have to go through a lengthy permit process to use heavy machinery for stream clearing.

Instead, the Army Corps of Engineers has issued a general permit for all of Hawaii.

read … Stream Cleaning

Tourism propping up Honolulu Real Estate market

Tourism is up, and unemployment isn't so bad. Combined, they've helped keep the Honolulu housing market relatively healthy in a nation of ailing metro areas.

read … Tourism

Federal agency praises Hawaii and Honolulu for securing radiological material

The National Nuclear Security Administration said today that state and Honolulu county officials have completed voluntary security enhancements on all "high priority radiological materials." The agency did not give details on the radiological material but said the improvements were completed before November's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

Hawaii began working with the NNSA in April 2007, becoming the first state to volunteer for the agency's Global Threat Reduction Initiative….

read … Radiological

Honolulu rat lungworm disease workshop planned

An international scientific workshop about a parasitic infection known as rat lungworm disease is to be held in Honolulu.

The Wednesday and Thursday workshop led by University of Hawaii researchers brings together scientists and clinicians from countries including Brazil, Jamaica, China and Thailand.

read … Rat Lungworm

DoE Failures keep Hawaii cities off 'Best Places to Live' list

To make the list, CNN says the town must have good job opportunities, top-notch schools, safe streets and nice weather.

(In other words, the DoE is the entire reason Hawaii cities are not on that list.)

read … Best Places

Tropical Storm Fernanda heads toward Central Pacific

Fernanda, which was a tropical depression Monday, "is showing considerably more intensification," the National Hurricane Center in Miami said today. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and tropical storm force winds extend 35 mph from its center. It is moving west at about 8 mph, but it is expected to turn to the west-northwest.

Forecast models show Fernanda strengthening to near hurricane strength before entering the Central Pacific on Thursday, when monitoring of the system will switch to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center on Oahu. But it is then expected to weaken.

read … Fernanda

After Spending all the Money, Obama Goes After Military Retirees

CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports high-level, closely-held meetings are taking place at the Pentagon regarding a radical proposal to overhaul retirement for the nation's 1.4 million service members - a bedrock guarantee of military service.

The proposal comes from an influential panel of military advisors called the Defense Business Board. Their plan, laid out in a 24-page presentation "Modernizing the Military Retirement System," would eliminate the familiar system under which anyone who serves 20 years is eligible for retirement at half their salary. Instead, they'd get a 401k-style plan with government contributions.

They'd have to wait until normal retirement age. It would save $250 billion dollars over 20 years.

read … Radical overhaul of military retirement eyed


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