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Thursday, April 26, 2012
April 26, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:53 PM :: 11477 Views

Hilarious Video: I Aloha Molokai Rips Civil Beat ‘Fact’ Check

Hawaii is #2 in Nation for Mortgage Scams

HMA Warns Against 'Imminent Storm' Caused by Obamacare Implementation

Feds Begin Forcing Hawaii Island MDs into 'Medical Homes'

NMI Medicaid Cases “Circulate in Hawaii Like Hot Potatoes”

Hatch Act Violation: Scandalous GSA Official Starred in Inouye Campaign Ad

City 'Error': Kahuku is #1 Landfill Site, not Ameron

Dog the Bounty Hunter, Wife Lobby Against Hawaii Justice Reform Initiative

CB: the Chapmans were seeking to derail the Abercrombie administration's "Justice Reinvestment" initiative, a data-driven approach to reforming Hawaii's criminal justice system, which would include freeing up prison space.

The Chapmans testified against Senate Bill 2776, the major Justice Reinvestment legislation before lawmakers.

Among other things, the bill would limit the length of incarceration for first-time parole violators and require pre-trial risk assessment of adult offenders to be conducted within three days of their admission to a correctional facility.

Supporters say this would help reduce recidivism and keep nonviolent drug offenders out of prison. But the Chapmans argue that SB 2776 would put more criminals out on the streets.

"It's dangerous and not very well-thought out," Beth Chapman told Civil Beat.

Dog Chapman agreed, calling SB 2776 "a threat to public safety."

Both believe the Justice Reinvestment is "a scam."

The Chapmans added, "If the intent of this bill is to reduce overcrowding in our prisons, there are other ways to achieve this, including passing bills like Senate Bill 2158, which allows bail on weekends and holidays."

read … Justice Reinvestment Scam

Star-Adv: Legislators Should give Cronies $300M in Pork Projects, not $500M

SA: Some state legislators have gone beyond what the Abercrombie administration has suggested is needed to kick-start the economy through shovel-ready public construction projects. The Legislature should opt for bond-financed construction spending at the prudent level suggested by the governor and backed by the state House Finance chairman.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in his State of the State address in January that the state's economy had begun to turn the corner. To keep the recovery going, he asked legislators to approve about $300 million in new general obligation bond-financed state construction spending. Senators, though, called for even more borrowing: $500 million for the repair and maintenance of schools, hospitals and other public buildings.

That much in expenditures is unnecessary, given a recovering economy and the continuing need for fiscal discipline.

read … Build prudently to boost economy

SB2858: Freedom Of Information At Stake In Legislature

CB: More than a dozen community, media and open-government organizations are waging a desperate fight today to save Hawaii’s Freedom of Information Law from its most serious erosion in its 24-year history.

Acting urgently before the Thursday afternoon deadline at the Legislature, the groups are petitioning House and Senate members sitting on a key committee to develop and agree to a new compromise Conference Draft on Senate Bill 2858. Gov. Abercrombie’s administration originated this bill.

The broad-based organizations ask that a new compromise draft delete portions of the bill that would permit a government agency to go to court to contest an official agency’s decision compelling disclosure to the public of a record to which the law entitles it. The 17 organizations petitioning the legislators as of late yesterday range from Common Cause Hawaii, the Sierra Club, AARP and the Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists; the full list is included below.

By making this deletion in today’s overly broad bill, legislators would preserve the provision expressed in the legislative history of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that “the legislative intent for expediency and uniformity in providing access to government records would be frustrated by agencies suing each other.”

This key language is overturned in the current draft by calling for a complex, cumbersome process allowing a government agency to appeal to already overburdened courts an official decision mandating disclosure of a record to which the public is entitled.

read … SB2858

House to vote on Senate's version of highway safety bill

SA: Failure to slow down and take appropriate caution when approaching a roadway emergency could result in civil fines under a measure advanced Wednesday by state lawmakers.

The "move over" legislation was prompted by the deaths of two Honolulu police officers in a five-month period while they were stopped on Oahu highways.

House Bill 2030 faces a final vote in the House, where approval is expected, before going to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for consideration.

read … Move Over

$25 million for student transit still falls short of Colluding Bus Contractors Wishes, Matayoshi Searches for Pain Plan

SA: Lawmakers are poised to include $25 million for student transportation in the supplemental budget bill for next fiscal year, $17 million shy of what the Department of Education said it needed to preserve school bus services statewide.

Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said Wednesday she's grateful for the funding and (that unlike the DoE/BoE/HSTA games over furloughs, she) will work to come up with "the least painful plan" for addressing the funding shortfall for school buses. She said she hopes to present recommendations for tackling the shortfall to the Board of Education before the end of the school year.

The student transportation appropriation was agreed to in a House-Senate conference committee Tuesday, and is higher than what both the House and Senate had earlier proposed.

Previously, the department has said that a $17 million shortfall could result in student transportation services being eliminated on Oahu.

read … Shortfall

DoE Slashes $6M from Adult Ed Classes

SA: We recognize the value of life-long learning and have statutes that require the state Department of Education to provide adult education services. In 2010-11, the 11 Community Schools for Adults received $8.5 million. In the 2012-13 school year, there will be two schools with a combined budget of $2.5 million.

McKinley and Waipahu Community Schools will coordinate all services on Oahu and the neighbor islands. While some classes will continue, the reductions will have a devastating effect on many who have no other educational alternatives.

There is a perception that the adult schools offer frivolous programs that can easily be abandoned as beyond the scope of public education. There are cultural and other special interest classes that are fully covered by tuition; however, the majority of students are studying basic education and English as a Second Language, and preparing for the General Education Diploma or the Competency Based Diploma.

read … Adult Ed

Abercrombie Scores Big Victory -- Pro Bowl Likely Ending

ESPN: Only the players can save the Pro Bowl. If they do, it will continue. But for it to continue, the NFLPA must give the league assurances that fewer players will pull out of the game and provide a plan to improve the quality of play. For their part, players will probably ask that Hawaii be a permanent site.

However, establishing Hawaii as a permanent site may not be that easy. The league is still in talks with Hawaii about future games there. Attendance has been poor. Revenues are down. Costs are higher. Some government officials in Hawaii seem unwilling to make the concessions the NFL is seeking.

AP sources: Suspending Pro Bowl an option

read … Great Work, Neil! Now lets get that gay marriage fashion show you promised us

DoE TA Pleads Guilty to Sexting, Stalking 12-yr old Girl

KITV: Cody Onizuka,26, stood before a judge to admit his guilt in stalking and harassing a 12-year-old girl who was a sixth-grade student at Niu Valley Middle School where he worked as a teaching assistant.

"He knew how old she was. In fact, they had discussed that in many of their text messages back and forth," said deputy prosecutor Chris Van Marter.

read … Just another Day in the DoE

Made Desperate by Hirono’s Weakness, National Democrats Target Lingle

10) Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, tied former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (who?) at an EMILY's List event honoring Gabrielle Giffords on Tuesday night.

"My Republican opponent's first vote -- should she get elected to the U.S. Senate -- will be to make Mitch McConnell the leader of the Senate, and all that represents to the people of Hawaii."

There is an ongoing battle in Hawaii: Democrats want to paint Lingle as a partisan Republican who is too far to the right of the state's constituents while Republicans are aiming to pitch her as a moderate, a la Olympia Snowe.

read … Hotline

HART: Nearly Half of Rail Jobs Have Gone to Mainlanders

CB: Of 278 jobs they’ve identified, 148 were filled by Hawaii residents, seven more by returning residents, and 123 by folks from elsewhere.

read … HART: More Than Half of Rail Jobs Have Gone to Hawaii Residents

Gabbard Votes for $450M Rail Debt

SA: Council members Tulsi Gabbard and Ann Kobayashi questioned HART Executive Director Daniel Grabauskas about how HART would repay the city if the project needed to draw on the line of credit.

HART is funded primarily from a half-percent excise tax surcharge, but almost all of that is already committed to pay for construction, and the surcharge ends in 2022.

Fare collections from rail passengers are expected to cover only 40 percent of the cost of operating the system, so it isn't clear where HART would get the money to repay the line of credit.

Grabauskas suggested a number of alternatives for raising money, including fare revenue, federal funding, advertising revenue and rent from space that the system could lease to businesses.

Gabbard said those possibilities aren't enough.

"If you're going to come here and ask us to approve this, you've got to be real about what kinds of sources of funds you're actually proposing you're going to use to pay this back, not just pie in the sky," Gabbard said. "I think the fare box is not a common-sense answer on how this will be paid back."

Despite her reservations, Gabbard joined Council members Harimoto, Ernie Martin, Romy Cachola, Ikaika Anderson and Nestor Garcia in approving the measure. Members Kobayashi and Tom Berg voted against it. Councilman Stanley Chang was absent.

read … Bill for $450M rail loan gets OK

Plastic Bag Ban: Honolulu Council votes to Cut Lots of Timber for Paper Bags

KITV: A much-debated ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags was passed Wednesday by the Honolulu City Council, but if signed into law by Mayor Peter Carlisle, the ban would not take effect until July 1, 2015. The vote was 7-1, with Councilman Nestor Garcia the sole vote against the measure….

The proposed ban does not include a fee on consumers who choose to use biodegradable plastic bags. Councilman Garcia lobbied for a version of the bill that would have charged consumers five cents for each biodegradable bag, with three cents going toward to a single-use checkout bag fee program to support recycling initiatives.

However, some members of the Council and city attorneys believe a fee on any type of plastic bag may have been ruled a tax if challenged in court. Under state law, counties have the power to levy fees only if it's to implement an official service.

To read the text of the bag ban bill click here.

(Not one council member speaks for the majority which wants no action against bags.)

read … Tree huggers become tree choppers

After 58 Years of Democrat Rule, Hawaii Women Suffer 20% ‘Pay Gap’

CB: More than two-thirds of government employees are men, Mayor Peter Carlisle's cabinet is predominantly male, and women working in Honolulu government make 80 to 85 cents on the dollar overall.

The 15 to 20 percent gender pay gap in city government is about the same as the statewide average, according to a report released earlier this month by the American Association of University Women. Hawaii ranks 16th nationally, and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono said island women "deserve better."

read … Its all Bush’s Fault

Obamacare Bribes Distributed in Swing States: Hawaii Gets Nothing

AP: Consumers and businesses in every state but Hawaii are expected to share in $1.3 billion in rebates from health insurers under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found.

The rebates will amount to anywhere from a few dollars to more than $150 for about 15 million consumers nationwide, the new report found.

The insurers spent more on administrative expenses and profits than allowed by the Affordable Care Act, according to the Kaiser analysis.

The largest checks based on the national average, $127 each, will go to consumers and employers in Texas ($186 million) and Florida ($149 million). Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have been among the staunchest opponents of the federal law. Both states applied for waivers from the 80-percent requirement and were turned down.

Obama's health care law requires insurers to spend a minimum portion of customers' premiums on medical care, a provision championed by consumer groups concerned that companies were hiking premiums to pay for executive salaries, shareholder dividends and other expenses unrelated to their customers' care.

Starting last year, if insurers did not meet these targets — known as medical loss ratios — they had to pay rebates this year to people enrolled in their plans.

Hawaii is the only state where no one will receive a rebate, Kaiser said.

NYT: Rebates for Some Who Buy Own Health Insurance

read … You Support Obama too Much So you Don’t Get Any Bribe

Obama Admin Redirects $8.3B to Put off Collapse of Medicare Advantage Until After the Election

NYP: The most oppressive aspects of the ObamaCare law don’t kick in until after the 2012 election, when the president will no longer be answerable to voters. More “flexibility,” he recently explained to the Russians.

Postponing the pain: The administration is temporarily restoring funds to Medicare Advantage so seniors don’t lose coverage before the election.

But certain voters would surely notice one highly painful part of the law before then — namely, the way it guts the popular Medicare Advantage program.

For years, 12 million seniors have relied on these policies, a more market-oriented alternative to traditional Medicare, without the aggravating gaps in coverage.

But as part of its hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts, the Obama one-size-fits-all plan slashes reimbursement rates for Medicare Advantage starting next year — herding many seniors back into the government-run program.

Under federal “open-enrollment” guidelines, seniors must pick their Medicare coverage program for next year by the end of this year — which means they should be finding out before Election Day.

Nothing is more politically volatile than monkeying with the health insurance of seniors, who aren’t too keen on confusing upheavals in their health care and are the most diligent voters in the land. This could make the Tea Party look like a tea party.

Making matters even more politically dangerous for Obama is that open enrollment begins Oct. 15, less than three weeks before voters go to the polls.

It’s hard to imagine a bigger electoral disaster for a president than seniors in crucial states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio discovering that he’s taken away their beloved Medicare Advantage just weeks before an election.

This political ticking time bomb could become the biggest “October Surprise” in US political history.

But the administration’s devised a way to postpone the pain one more year, getting Obama past his last election; it plans to spend $8 billion to temporarily restore Medicare Advantage funds so that seniors in key markets don’t lose their trusted insurance program in the middle of Obama’s re-election bid.

WSJ: GAO Report: Medicare Advantage Bonuses Should Be Curtailed

Read … More Flexibility After the Elections

Hawaii Gets OK to Reduce Medicaid Income Eligibility

CB: The change — which reduces the income limit to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or $16,678 a year for a single adult — could result in an estimated 3,500 people losing health coverage on July 1, the state Department of Human Services said.

The Med-QUEST division, with a $1.8 billion budget, administers coverage for 285,000 clients, an increase of 35 percent compared to four years ago. The tightened eligibility requirements were sought to help address a $150 million budget cut over the biennium, the department said.

“We have options for those who lose eligibility,” DHS Director Patricia McManaman said in a statement. “Affected individuals can purchase an individual health policy or receive services on a sliding scale from a federally qualified health center.”

read … Hawaii Gets OK to Reduce Medicaid Income Eligibility

Hawaii Politicians Received $2.2 Million in Illegal Campaign Contributions

HR: Former Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris: Harris was told to escheat $1,061,707, his campaign paid $146,275 and his campaign did not pay $915,432;

Former City Council Member Arnold Morgado: Morgado’s campaign owed $97,934.99, he repaid $684.99, leaving a balance of $97,250;

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii: Hirono’s gubernatorial campaign owed $164,265 to the Commission, she paid $95,073.58, and still has a balance of $69,191.42;

Former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano: Cayetano’s gubernatorial campaign was told to escheat $540,625, he paid $8,655.68, and the remaining balance was $531,969.32;

2006: Pay to Play Fines Unpaid: Hirono for Governor Campaign Closes Owing State Elections Fund Over $98,000

read … Hawaii Politicians Received $2.2 Million in Illegal Campaign Contributions

Big Island Newspaper Publisher Was Actually Coke Dealer Eugene Esposito—Escaped from Lompoc

On the Big Island of Hawaii he's known as a prominent businessman, restaurant owner and newspaper publisher who went by the name of Jim Sargent. Police say his real name is Eugene Esposito and he has been on the run after escaping from prison in 1990.

Espotisto lived in Santa Cruz when he was arrested back in the late 1980's and sent to Lompoc Federal Prison for his role in a cocaine trafficking operation, said police. Esposito escaped from Lompoc Prison in 1990 just before they upgraded the facility from low to high security detention. …

Esposito apparently fled to Thailand where his tourist visa has been revoked and he's currently back in the United States at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Los Angeles.

read … Back to Lompoc

Ethics: Secret Target of Secret Commission Gets Anonymous Reprimand

CB: …the advisory opinion issued Wednesday (April 25) by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission doesn’t name names.

The commission charges the former state board member — a female — with several violations of the State Ethics Code.

It concerns her unspecified employment after she left the unnamed board, and her representation of an unnamed individual before the unnamed state agency governed by her unnamed board.

read … Ethics

Old Geothermal Site Up For New Lease

HN: Geothermal development in Hawaii could be returning to where it began – next door to the Puna Geothermal Venture plant in Pohoiki.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday will consider whether to grant a new geothermal mining lease for the state property in Pohoiki where the first producing well was drilled in the 1970s.

The experimental HGP-A well went on-line in 1982, generating approximately 3 megawatts, roughly enough to power 1,500 homes.

Originally developed through a private-public partnership under the leadership of the US Department of Energy, in 1986 HGP-A was transferred to the state Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii.

Although it was designed to run for only two years, HGP-A continued producing electricity for eight years….

Aila’s recommendation is for the land board to find that the issuance of the lease “for geothermal purposes is exempt from Chapter 343, HRS, as it will probably have minimal or no significant effect on the environment and is presumed to be exempt from the preparation of an environmental assessment.”

That last statement has caught the eye of anti-geothermal activists, who say (insert excuse here) ….

read … Geothermal

Anti-Geothermal Meeting in Pahoa

BIVN: Tuesday’s hearing, opponents of geothermal had a chance to present their side of the story. The Pele Defense Fund was given over an hour of time at the start of the hearing to make their presentation. After the video Pele’s apeal was shown, Robert Petricci shared this power point presentation with the council members and the huge audience at the Pahoa High School cafeteria.

Petricci detailed the history of geothermal in the Puna area, starting with the HGPA Experimental Well, and then Ormat.

Then, Aurora Martinovitch talked about the health concerns.

read … Drugs

Big Island Tea retails for $4800/lb at Harrods

HM: Big Island Tea just sold its first crop of tea to Harrods, the luxury retailer in London. The Harrod's retail price for this Hawaii grown tea? 6,500 English pounds per kilogram. That's about $4,800/lb. (As a point of reference, the most expensive tea at Tea Farm Cafe tops out at around $100/lb).

It's a lot to pay for tea, but Lalani and Co., a London tea company that "discovered" Big Island Tea, thinks it's worth it. "Stunning and distinctive," read Lalani and Co.'s tasting notes. "Rose-honey-nectar sweetness and intense heady florals. Perhaps the finest black I’ve tasted."

The leaves are hand-picked, hand-rolled and hand-fired by Eliah Halpenny….

read … Pricey Herb

Lower foreclosure rate helps Honolulu rise in U.S. ranking

SA: Honolulu improved its foreclosure rate ranking among major U.S. metropolitan areas in the first quarter, in part due to constraints state lawmakers imposed last May for how foreclosure cases may be initiated in Hawaii.

Real estate research firm RealtyTrac said the rate of foreclosure cases in Ho­no­lulu, or Oahu, was 64th lowest out of 212 metro areas with populations of at least 200,000.

That means 147 other metro areas had worse foreclosure rates.

In the first quarter of 2011, Honolulu was 13 places lower with the 77th best rate, based on 1,025 foreclosure cases that equated to one case for every 330 households.

Honolulu's rate in the recent quarter was one foreclosure for every 490 households based on 687 total cases.

SA: Personal income on Kauai outpaces other Hawaii counties

read … Foreclosures

Civil Beat Bases Evaluation of Hawaii ERS on George Berish’s Opinion

CB: There are plenty of people managing the state-run pension funds, but they don't work, according to retired actuary George Berish. "They have plenty of staff and resources, but what they don't have is competent management," Berish said.

read … Is Hawaii's Pension Fund Managed Transparently?

Sen. Hee, Rep. Jordan Hold Fundraisers During Session

CB: Jordan, who was appointed to fill a House seat last year, received money in 2011 from Calvin Say’s PAC, Altria Client Services (aka Philip Morris), HSTA, HMSA, Hawaii Association of Realtors, John Radcliffe and Red Morris, UPW and First Hawaiian Bank….

In 2011, Hee received money from Altria, HMSA, First Hawaiian Bank, Radcliffe and Morris, HGEA, ILWU, the firefighters PAC and many other unions, HEMIC, Kualoa Ranch, Tesoro, Young Brothers, Hawaiian Telcom, Monsanto, Alexander & Baldwin, Castle & Cooke, Marriott International, Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank, Oceanic Time Warner Cable, Outrigger, Anheuser-Busch, a lot of well-known attorneys, Stanford Carr, Stanley Kuriyama, Kim Coco Iwamoto, JN Musto, Melissa Pavlicek, Ann Botticelli, Don Horner, Dee Jay Mailer, Ernest Nishizaki and Bert Kobayashi.

read … Sen. Hee, Rep. Jordan Hold Fundraisers During Session

Hawaii's Chief Securities Enforcement Lawyer Resigns

HR: Peter Hsieh has resigned as chief attorney in the state Securities Enforcement Branch after the state began an investigation of his past professional and financial problems.

“He submitted his resignation yesterday,” said Brent Suyama, spokesman for the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

The resignation is effective in three weeks, said Suyama.

DCCA began an investigation of Hsieh after Hawaii Reporter disclosed earlier this month that he had reported some $900,000 in unpaid tax and child support obligations in bankruptcy papers filed last year.

Hsieh did not disclose those issues to DCCA director Keali’I Lopez before he was hired in February, Suyama said.

After Hsieh was hired, a former business associate filed a civil fraud complaint against him that is pending in federal Bankruptcy Court.

Lopez was unaware of the fraud allegation, which Hsieh has denied.

Hsieh told Lopez before he was hired that the state Supreme Court reprimanded him last year for mishandling client trust funds in his legal practice in 2006.

Lopez said through Suyama that Hsieh explained the circumstances surrounding that reprimand before the state decided to hire him.

read … Bye-Bye

Hawaii Senate confirms Krieg as state Department of Human Resources and Development director

AP: Barbara Krieg has been confirmed as the director of the state Department of Human Resources and Development.

The Hawaii Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve Krieg's appointment.

Krieg, formerly the department's deputy director, takes the position formerly held by Sunshine Topping. Topping resigned in September.

read … Krieg Tops Topping?

Students get a sneak peak at hospitality industry through lens of development program

KHON: Students from across Oahu spent the day in Waikiki learning the ins and outs of the hospitality industry as part of LEI day, or Leadership, Exploration and Inspiration.

"We are going to learn about Hawaii tourism and we are going to go behind the scenes and see what it's like to run and manage a hotel," said Queenie Kamana, a freshman from Kamaile Academy.

The free workforce development program hand picked students from ten Oahu schools with the hope of inspiring them to start planning their career path.

SA: Visitor industry reaches out to high schoolers

read … Students get a sneak peak at hospitality industry through lens of development program


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