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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
May 20, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:26 AM :: 7473 Views

Borreca: Batten the hatches, a perfect (political) storm is near

Next year is an election year with lots of open seats including governor, possibly mayor and perhaps a dozen council and legislative seats. Now is the time for plotting and slotting.

But, this year it appears that while half of the Legislature's Democratic majority was busily crafting scaffolding for a 2010 campaign, the rest of the Democrats were just as eagerly sawing through those timbers.

Civil unions is the best example because it is just the kind of wedge issue that is so easy to exploit.

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Paying more at the pump

The state Legislature quietly let expire a tax exemption on the sale of gasoline in Hawaii, meaning that drivers will pay an extra $40 million a year in state taxes starting July 1.  With the average price of a gallon of gas today costing $2.553 after fuel taxes are added, it will mean that on July 1 the gas will cost 9.6 cents more per gallon.  That would push the price of gas on Maui to more than $3 a gallon.

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Honolulu City Council considers raising property tax by 9%

The plan offered by council Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia and approved 3-2 by his committee Monday night calls for keeping Mayor Mufi Hannemann's March proposal to increase the residential tax rate from $3.29 per $1,000 in valuation to $3.59 per $1,000.

To help offset that increase, the committee voted 3-2 to offer owner-occupants a one-time $175 tax credit. Hannemann's proposal called for a $75 tax credit.

In a related development, the Sierra Club Hawai'i Chapter was joined by Bainum and Councilman Charles Djou in calling for the council to reconsider the Budget Committee's move to delay implementation of curbside recycling in 2010 from Waipi'o to Makua.

Bainum and Djou, as did Apo, said they would try to find the money to restore the service by, among other things, lowering the proposed $175 tax credit.

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Councilmen find allies to fight recycling cut

"I think there'll be a bunch of floor drafts (introduced), and I'm hoping we can work together to make sure it's adopted," said Councilman Duke Bainum.

Bainum and Councilman Charles Djou enlisted the help of the Sierra Club yesterday to emphasize the importance of the recycling program.

Robert Harris, executive director of the environmental group's Hawaii chapter, said deferment of funding is a shortsighted move that will wind up costing the city more in the long run.

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Police Commission may replace Correa rather than give him 1-year extension

With his contract set to expire in August, the Honolulu Police Commission will discuss the future of Police Chief Boisse P. Correa today and may decide to extend his contract or start looking for a new chief.

Christine H.H. Camp, commission chairwoman, said the city charter requires hiring police chiefs under five-year contracts. Correa has said he is not seeking to serve another full five-year term, she said.

Given dwindling tax revenues, the commission needs a chief who can commit to a five-year strategic financial plan and is ready to "roll up his sleeves" and dig into the budget mess, Camp said.

"We need to really look forward to someone who can commit to five years because the law requires us to appoint for five years. The discussion has always been that he doesn't want to stay for five years, he wants to stay for a year.

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Hawaii homeless down from 2007

The state appears to be making progress in its push to address the homeless crisis, according to a new homeless point-in-time count, which estimates the number of unsheltered homeless in the Islands is down about 25 percent compared with 2007.

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Senators seek local choice for UH post

Six state senators are asking the University of Hawaii Board of Regents to delay the selection of a new UH president and include "a native son or daughter of Hawaii" on the list of possible candidates.

In the letter sent to Board of Regents Chairman Allan Landon today, the senators said no other decision by the board "will have as profound an effect on the future of the University of Hawaii as the choice before you now."

The regents are meeting today to discuss, for the first time, the two finalists for the position. The Advisory Presidential Selection Committee is scheduled to brief the regents.

The finalists are M.R.C. Greenwood, 66, director of the Foods for Health Initiative at the University of California, Davis, and Robert J. Jones, 57, senior vice president for system administration for the University of Minnesota.

The senators signing the letter were Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa-North Shore ), Carol Fukunaga (D, Lower Makiki-Punchbowl), Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Kalihi-Liliha), Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe), Will Espero (D, Ewa-Ewa Beach-Kapolei) and Brickwood Galuteria (D, Downtown-Waikiki

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Hawaii County Council to look at county employment issues

There are 14.5 county employees for every 1,000 people living in Hawaii County. As resident population climbed 23 percent from 1995 to 2007, the number of employees grew almost 25 percent. The number now stands at 2,617, with another 542 positions vacant but budgeted, according to data provided by the county.
Bloated government is certainly nothing new to Hawaii.
The Aloha State leads the nation both in the number of government employees per capita and their payroll burden, according to an analysis of data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Hawaii had 43 full-time state, local and federal civilian government employees per 1,000 residents in 2006, four times that of the lowest state, Illinois, which had 10.
Those employees' gross payroll for one month, not including benefits, cost every man, woman and child in Hawaii $161.24, compared to just $36.32 for Florida, the lowest state.
Mainland counties also tend to have much lower ratios of employees to population, averaging in the five per thousand range. It's a rare county that goes into double digits.

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Hawaii County employees submit budget ideas

Among county employees' ideas:
- A four-day work week for all county employees except the police and the fire departments.
- Inventory controls should be put in for such departments as Public Works or others where supplies for various car repairs, road painting, etc. are purchased on a regular basis with no control.
- We need to see how man hours are allocated. I know you have heard any number of people ask why it takes four government employees to dig a ditch -- three to supervise and one to dig. Even though said in jest it is a good question based on fact. If we can't trust someone to dig a ditch (or whatever) without three others supervising then why did we hire him in the first place?
- If the county is so short on money it could sell the golf course and not only earn the value of that property, but also save the reputed $1 million that it costs to subsidize its operation each year.
- Surely in the set of over 2,500 county employees, there are some that could and should be encouraged to retire or otherwise be released with a net improvement in productivity and morale.
- If there is some unseen logic to having folks on their okoles all day, have them sit in their own private vehicles, not $30,000 county-owned trucks.
- Dedicate certain highways (like Saddle Road) as a toll road. This toll fee will be dedicated to that specific road for general maintenance.
Even more suggestions are being kept under wraps pending investigation, Yagong said.
"Confidential suggestions and concerns were made that are not included in this listing," Yagong said in his memo. "I was asked to keep those matters in strict confidence as it was directed toward a specific department or person. I will pursue those matters personally and with the proper authority."

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Legislative Session: Excuses from Morita

State Rep. Mina Morita, D-Kapa‘a-Hanalei, explained that, since certain state elected and appointed officials have their salaries set by members of a salary commission, it takes an act of the Legislature, becoming law either with or without the governor’s signature, for lawmakers to cut their own salaries.

Finally, the Hanalei Valley resident said she will run for re-election, despite persistent rumors that the recently completed session would be her last, and she was headed for retirement.
“I’ll take it a session at a time. I’m not running for Senate,” she said of the Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau state Senate seat currently held by Wailua’s Gary Hooser, the Democratic Senate majority leader who has announced he will run for lieutenant governor next year.

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Honolulu Holds Nation’s First All-Digital Online and Telephone Election

HONOLULU--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Everyone Counts, an election company that provides universal access voting solutions and consulting so that every ballot is reliably counted, and the City and County of Honolulu today announced the United States’ first all-digital election conducted entirely online and via telephone. Using Everyone Counts’ trusted and secure voting solution, the City and County of Honolulu aims to decrease costs and increase voter participation in its 2009 Neighborhood Board Election through Everyone Counts’ commitment to universal access. By offering an all-digital voting system, Everyone Counts provides voters who had difficulty using traditional voting methods, such as military and overseas voters, and voters with disabilities, access to a convenient, secure and reliably counted ballot. The voting period for the Neighborhood Board Election opened May 6 and will extend through May 22.

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Big Island Chevy Dealer Closing Doors (thanks, Obama)

HONOLULU -- Island Chevrolet is closing both of its Big Island dealerships on Wednesday, owner and General Manager Alan Clark told KITV. Monday was the last day of sales at Island Chevrolet's Kona and Hilo locations. Wednesday will be the last day for service, Clark said.

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Maui Divers bids for Hilo Hattie

Hilo Hattie, the Hawaii retailer popular for its aloha shirts and souvenirs, might not be liquidated if Maui Divers Jewelry is successful in its bid to buy the bankrupt company.

Maui Divers, the state's largest jewelry manufacturer and retailer, offered Monday to buy Hilo Hattie for $1 million. Under the terms of the deal, Maui Divers would rehire all or most of Hilo Hattie's employees and local vendors and put at least $2 million into store operations and merchandising.

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Abercrombie for Cosponsoring Fair Elections Now Act (latest gimmick for failed fundraiser)

Under Fair Elections, congressional candidates would have the option to qualify for a public funding grant and to see their small dollar contributions matched at a 4 to 1 rate if they agreed to not take contributions larger than $100 and raised a significant number of donations from their home state. (oh well)

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