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Sunday, February 26, 2012
February 26, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:00 PM :: 18851 Views

Secret Tax Breaks Fund Hawaii Film Production

Windfall of Tax Revenue to be Had Without Tax Increase

DBEDT Energy Update Projects 537MW of Industrial Wind

HB2874: DoE Laptop Bill Will Freeze Public Access TV Funding

Case, Hirono toe line: Lingle is the Anti-Rail Senate Choice

SA: Lingle's views on rail have changed over the years. As governor in 2003, she proposed a light rail transit system and an elevated highway to ease west side traffic congestion. In her State of the State address in 2005, she said she was a supporter of mass transit on Oahu and offered to work with then-Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann on a solution. Later that summer, she let a bill authorizing the City Council to add a general-excise tax surcharge for rail become law without her signature.

But by 2008, when rail went before Oahu voters, Lingle said she personally voted against the project. In 2010, the last year of her second term, she ordered an independent financial analysis and declined to sign the final environmental impact statement for rail until the analysis was completed. Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the final EIS for rail during his first month in office in December 2010.

Lingle said she has serious reservations about the financial impact of the rail project on Hawaii, including neighbor island residents who will not directly benefit. She said she doubts that annual ridership and associated fees will produce enough revenue to maintain the rail system, placing an unacceptable financial risk on the city and the state.

She added that the debt load for rail exceeds the city's budget guidelines. The city has suspended its debt service guidelines to allow for the additional borrowing necessary to build the rail project.

Lingle also said she has concerns with the city's over-reliance on the federal government for construction funding and warned that if all the federal money does not materialize, the financial burden would fall on Hawaii taxpayers.

"Simply building a rail system on Oahu is not the solution to Hawaii's transportation needs," Lingle said in a statement. "We must think and plan more broadly. In addition to mass transit, we must create jobs where people live. We must have a vision that includes not only our past problems, but our future goals. In summary, we need to take a step back, focus on the big picture and then decide if the current rail project is truly the right fit for Oahu's transportation needs, and we must make that decision considering the best interest of all of Hawaii's residents.

"For now, I have serious reservations with the City and County of Honolulu's proposed rail project and I cannot and will not, in good faith, support the project as it is presently being administered," Lingle added.

read … Lingle or Rail

Pensions: 14 Legislators Double Dipping—Abercrombie is Triple Dipping

SA: Six Hawaii senators — a quarter of the 25-member Senate — and eight representatives in the 51-member House make up the Legislature's double-dipping class, according to a Star-Advertiser review of their financial disclosure forms and data obtained from the ERS through a records request.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a retired state legislator, is a triple dipper, drawing not only a state pension of about $29,330 annually but also a federal one of $47,829 for his past service as a congressman, according to data provided by his office. Abercrombie's retirement pay is in addition to his annual salary of $117,312. (Investment income from socialist capital.)

As governor, Abercrombie decides whether to approve any legislation, including pension-related bills, passed by the Legislature.

One of the 14 legislative double dippers, Sen. Clayton Hee, also is a key player in determining what happens to pension proposals, including a controversial measure before the Legislature that would limit overtime use in calculating retirement benefits. Hee is chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, which handles pension legislation. He did not respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.

In all, the Star-Advertiser found at least 21 elected officials statewide who are double dipping, including city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and city Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who said she donates her nearly $30,000 pension each year to nonprofits. None of the double dippers are building on their retirement benefits, nor are they contributing any longer to the ERS system. That's because the period for enhancing their pensions stopped once they retired.

Elected officials who are not double dipping, however, still are afforded benefits or options generally not available to most other state or county workers, resulting in retirement packages more generous than almost everyone else's.

One of the more lucrative benefits involves what is called a multiplier, a number used to help determine pension amounts. For most state workers, the multiplier is 2 percent; it is multiplied by the employee's years of service and average final compensation to calculate retirement pay. For elected officials and judges, however, the multiplier is 3.5 percent, applied to the years in those positions.

read … Elected officials' pensions scrutinized

Exclusion of Military May Not Withstand Federal Constitutional Scrutiny

SA: Commission Chairwoman Victoria Marks said she expects to continue being warned about the state's departure from federal constitutional requirements of one person, one vote. "I think we have some risk there," she said. "We've been hearing rumors all over the place. Everybody that disagrees with us says they're going to sue us." ….

Essentially, Marks said in exasperation, the justices said that "you have to extract everybody who is a non-permanent resident, And they, by implication, said ‘everybody' means active-duty military who have declared a state other than Hawaii as their home state, all of those people's dependents, regardless of whether they own a house here, are licensed as nurses or doctors or teachers here, you know, forget looking at a factual basis.

If they're attached to an active-duty military person that's declared a state other than Hawaii as their home state, extract them, take them out."

The dramatic results today: The new proposed political maps shift a Senate seat from Oahu to Hawaii island, and leave two Demo­cratic incumbents to vie for the same Senate seat in Makiki-Moiliili….

Military personnel and out-of-state college students are counted by the Census Bureau among each state's population. All but two states — Hawaii and Kansas — accept those population figures in determining legislative districts.

The Kansas Constitution specifically requires that the number of nonresident military personnel and nonresident college students be subtracted from the census population in apportioning districts for state representatives and senators. Out of a population of 2.8 million, those total less than 120,000, of which fewer than 14,000 were subtracted from the Kansas census in determining district boundaries. Nonresident military in Hawaii also number about 120,000, in a population of 1.3 million….

…Marks suggested a federal challenge may be in the offing down the road. The 14th Amendment states that "representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state."

"I think if there's a federal lawsuit that's brought," she said, "there is some potential that the state constitutional position may not withstand federal constitutional scrutiny."

read … Unconstitutional Discrimination

David Chang: Key to material progress is making sure we have equality of opportunity

SA: Keeping the middle and lower classes competitive means leveling the playing field so that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. We can accomplish these goals through tax reforms like closing loopholes and lowering the overall tax burden. We can ensure that tax increases on the middle and lower classes, like increases in the general excise tax or a pension tax, don't become law. We can foster a pro-job and pro-growth environment instead of creating overly bureaucratic and regulated systems. We can strengthen our education system where our keiki have the tools necessary for future prosperity. We can do all of this together, without pitting one part of society against another.

It may be enticing to redistribute wealth and take from one group to give to another, but in the long run, everyone will be worse off. America's prosperity and world-changing innovations, such as our medical and technological advancements, may have never been achieved if we had penalized our visionaries. As a country, we have always fought for equality of opportunity, where anyone, regardless of their current lot, can benefit from their successes.

read … Equality of Opportunity

Star-Adv: Abercrombie Lacked ‘Courage’ on Gay Marriage in 2010 Campaign

SA: Abercrombie and Fuddy submitted separate legal responses to the federal suit on Tuesday, the health director stating that she would defend state law on all counts. The governor, by contrast, said essentially that he would side with the plaintiffs on the central U.S. constitutional point, while defending the state on allegations about violations of federal civil-rights law and against the state's liability for monetary damages.

The state's attorney general plans to have separate teams representing Abercrombie and Fuddy. It's unclear how exactly this will play out, but it's left the general public pretty confused about the state's position, and with good reason.

At some point in recent years, the governor's position must have changed. That's not surprising by itself: Opinion polls have shown a national migration on the issue, with many showing same-sex marriage in favor with a majority.

But it doesn't line up with what Abercrombie said during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, when he said he voted for the 1998 constitutional amendment because he believed the Legislature should have the prerogative to define marriage in law.

He should have done a better job squaring that with his current assertion, essentially that this legal heterosexuals-only definition violates equal-protection and due-process provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Instead, his office issued the following terse written statement:

"Under current law, a heterosexual couple can choose to enter into a marriage or a civil union. A same-sex couple, however, may only elect a civil union. My obligation as governor is to support equality under law. This is inequality, and I will not defend it."

It would have shown greater courage for him to make such a clear statement in 2010, when he seemed more intent to hew closely to his support of civil unions as distinct from marriage. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was more admirably straightforward with his position favoring marriage equality during his own campaign. (And yet incrementalism has ALWAYS been the strategy, as laid down in the Overhauling of Straight America.)

That said, few people who followed Abercrombie's career could have been surprised by his recent statement, given that he had a long legislative record while in Congress opposing the federal Defense of Marriage Act and co-sponsoring several measures seeking to safeguard rights for more same-sex couples.

In 2010, in an interview with Star-Advertiser writer Derrick DePledge, Abercrombie also said that he did not think the state should reopen the debate on same-sex marriage, as it may be bound for the nation's Supreme Court.

Related: Broken Trust Gang finally Imposes Gay Unions on Hawaii

read … Marriage issue ripe for courts

Gay Agenda: Bill Could Classify Workplace Bullying As Safety Violation

KITV: The Senate Ways and Means Committee said it will decide Monday whether to send Senate Bill 2487 to the full Senate for approval.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor recently held a hearing on the bill.

Two employees testified about the emotional distress they suffered because of an abusive supervisor. Although the employees got a restraining order, the abuse continued for another two years.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety defines workplace bullying as intimidation, slandering, social isolation or humiliation by one or more persons against another.

You Are Warned:

Read … Bill Could Classify Workplace Bullying As Safety Violation

Ex-T boss poised to land Hawaii gig

Boston Herald: Former MBTA chief Daniel Grabauskas, ousted in 2009 amid a feud with Gov. Deval Patrick, is poised to land a big-bucks transit job in Hawaii, overseeing the construction of Honolulu’s controversial and long-delayed elevated-rail system.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has named Grabauskas as the sole finalist for its CEO position, with a confirmation vote to take place Thursday. He would start in mid-April at a base salary of $245,000, with a $42,000 allowance for housing and transportation, and a possible $35,000 performance bonus, according to a statement from the agency.

He’ll also encounter huge opposition to the decades-old effort to build rail transit in the island metropolis.

“He faces some real difficulties; I hope he’s got a good contract,” said Cliff Slater, chairman of an anti-rail group that has sued to stop the project dead in its tracks. “This project is going to go down one way or the other.”

Other opponents include former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano, whose opposition to the $5.2 billion rail project is a key component to his current mayoral campaign.

Grabauskas, also a former state transportation secretary, was appointed by Mitt Romney and forced to resign from the T in 2009 — and given a $330,000 golden parachute — after a lengthy and bitter siege by the Patrick administration over safety and service problems.

read … Hawaii Gig

Honolulu Rail CEO Pick Comes With Track Record That Raises Concerns

CB: Massachusetts Democrats weren't the only ones to raise concerns about the MBTA under Grabauskas' direction. National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, blasted the MBTA for a "lack of safety culture" under Grabauskas' leadership.

At the time, Grabauskas dismissed Sumwalt's characterization as "blatantly false," according to the Associated Press.

Grabauskas couldn't be reached for comment on Saturday by Civil Beat.

Sumwalt's comments came after a fatal train crash in Boston that federal officials said could have been prevented.

Federal investigators blamed rusted wiring in the May 2008 collision that killed a 24-year-old train operator and injured seven others. The wiring problem prevented signal lights from working properly, they said. Operator error was also a contributing factor, but the MBTA lacked a "train control system that would have intervened to stop the train and prevent the collision," according to a 2009 NTSB report about the accident.

In that same report, federal officials pointed to the following aspects of the train system — known locally as the T — that they found to be "unacceptable:"

  • The absence of a control system that can automatically stop a train before a collision
  • The possibility of gaps in maintenance, since operators were not required to report broken signals
  • Failure to properly screen train operators for possible sleep disorders
  • Failure to adequately educate train operators about fatigue

The cash-strapped MBTA also faced a growing backlog of repairs and upgrades under Grabauskas' watch. The MBTA has suffered as a result of its heavy debt burden and waning sales-tax revenue, financial woes that have been decades in the making.

Attempts to curb debt and balance the MBTA budget under Grabauskas' leadership were a "failure," according to a 2009 independent review that found the agency's plan "unrealistic."

Grabauskas faced additional criticism for his handling of money during his time at the helm of the MBTA. For example, he backed a 9 percent pay increase for MBTA executives while he was also threatening a large fare hike, according to the Boston Globe. Under pressure from the governor, Grabauskas agreed to rescind the pay raise.

read … Safety?

Aila: Bag Tax Needed to ‘Save our Water’

SA: The Legislature is reviewing a $5 million allocation proposed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to dramatically increase on-the-ground protection of these irreplaceable forests. The governor's funding request would jump-start a bold initiative to protect Hawaii's watershed forests.

The Legislature is also hearing bills, introduced by Sen. Mike Gabbard and Rep. Denny Coffman, that would provide long-term funding for forest protection with a 10-cent fee on single-use bags, reducing the bags' damaging effects on Hawaii's environment.

The time has come to stop taking our water supply for granted.

And a bag tax will do what for the water supply? Oh that's right, it will allow us to exterminate lots of pigs, goats, and sheep. I guess "save our water" is a better slogan than "kill our sheep."

read … All Wet

Former Insurance Exec Continues to Claim Assisted Suicide Legal in Hawaii

MN: (Former HMO executive) Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, said her group's legal team believes that laws already on the books in Hawaii make it possible for a physician to legally prescribe a fatal dose of medication to a competent, terminally ill patient.

She said her organization was actively working to expand its reach in Hawaii, raise awareness about "aid-in-dying" and inform terminally ill patients about the resources available to them - including a network of five Hawaii physicians willing to write a prescription that could hasten their death.

"We want to build the visibility. We want to build the movement," Coombs Lee said. "People need to know that they have choices."

Coombs Lee spoke last week at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center as part of a presentation organized by Compassion & Choices, Hawaii, and the Hawaii Death With Dignity Society. The talk also featured physicians and advocates from Oregon speaking about the state's 14-year-old Death With Dignity law.

Compassion & Choices made headlines in October when Honolulu physician Dr. Robert "Nate" Nathanson announced that he was working with the group and was prepared to prescribe medication to help a terminally ill patient die.

The state Department of the Attorney General responded with an opinion that a 1909 statute cited by the organizations did not authorize physician-assisted suicide.

Walter Yoshimitsu, director of Hawaii Catholic Conference, questioned why the issue was being raised again after it had been laid to rest.

"What perplexes me is that the attorney general said that it's not legal," Yoshimitsu said. "They're going to be charged with manslaughter, and yet they're attempting to resurrect it."

read … About a great way to increase Insurer’s profitability

Carlisle's speech was another day in the same old brown shoes

Borreca: The best cities are about people. That's why Fasi knew Honolulu needed open markets, a ballet company and a library in Makiki.

This is preamble to the new interest in the race for mayor of Honolulu. Mayor Peter Carlisle issued a fairly tepid State of the City speech last week, listing some perfectly fine and sensible ideas and a predictable defense of the city's $5.27 billion heavy rail project.

There is so much more he or any other mayor could do with a subject as rich in history and ripe in potential as Honolulu….

The late Hawaii historian and city executive Robert Dye once described former Mayor Eileen Anderson of having the "heart of a plantation bookkeeper," as he prepared to run for her office. Anderson, Dye said, knew the business and was able to keep the books, but was the city something that excited her?

That year Anderson lost her re-election race and Fasi came back into office.

Carlisle's speech was another day in the same old brown shoes. The list of accomplishments would only be enviable if you have not gone to any other city in the past decade. His defense of rail was rote, not inspiring.

You would be disappointed if you were waiting for something like: "It's 2020 and I'm taking you along on our new rail route, to the left, a family is moving into their affordable apartment complex, next to that, teens are flocking to one of 12 new mini-parks along the route, and on the right, the first of 50 new businesses is opening its doors."

Or there could have been some expression of wonder at how the rail brought new organic change to the city, making it a landmark and a vital connection for all our citizens. Instead, Carlisle offered a list of permit approvals. Instead of new programs for innovations like green roofs, Carlisle announced new computers for city bureaucrats.

read … Brown Shoes

KIUC forums address community

KGI: Joanne Georgi: “Nuclear is the most cost-effective way to produce renewable energy,” Georgi said, “but because of what happened in Fukushima, it’s not going to happen right now. It’s about time we have board members who are looking at all solutions … Unfortunately, the current board is not making decisions everyone wants.”

Georgi said the co-op is wasteful with members’ money, citing KIUC calendars and the co-op’s Currents magazines as wasteful spending.

“There are lawsuits going on and people are supposedly getting sick,” Georgi said about smart meters. “I don’t want anybody tapping my information. We need to hold off and see what happens with the lawsuits in California.”

She believes vacancies should be filled with the candidate with the next most votes in the last election, and that committee meetings should be open to avoid “a rubber stamp sort of process.”

The last of the five candidate forums begins at 7:30 a.m. Thursday in Room 106 of the Office of Continuing Education and Training at Kaua‘i Community College. The forum will be hosted by the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce and Lihu‘e Business Association.

KIUC will mail member ballots on March 5. The deadline for members to cast their votes is March 24.

KGI: Committee-selected candidate Joel Guy

Read … KIUC

Volunteers Do the Work UPW Will Not, 150 Public Housing Units made Ready for Occupancy

KHON: A hundred and fifty families statewide are going to move into newly fixed and painted public housing apartments two years before deadline, thanks to hundreds of volunteers.

The State Housing Authority says the volunteers spent their Saturday painting and cleaning 150 public housing homes statewide.

HTH: Thousands await housing aid

read … Volunteers

Abercrombie approves EIS for new Kona courthouse

SA: The long-awaited Kona Judiciary Complex is a step closer to realization following Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s approval of the project’s final Environmental Impact Statement this week.

The FEIS will now go to Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, who will select from one of seven proposed sites for the complex. Groundbreaking is expected to commence early next year.

(Imagine that! An FEIS which considers seven alternative plans instead of only one.)

read … Seven Proposed Sites

E-W Center: US territories suffering due to debt crisis

RNZ: A Hawaii-based research organisation says the United States affiliated territories are suffering as a result of America’s debt crisis.

The LBJ hospital in American Samoa and the Marshall Islands main hospital in Majuro are among a number of organisations in the US territories facing major cash shortfalls.

read … E-W Center

Three Years of Hawaii Monitor Now Online

ILind: 1991/1992: Rail transit lobbyists evade public disclosure.

read … Monitor


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