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Friday, May 22, 2009
May 22, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:43 AM :: 7631 Views

HECO scales back Oahu rate hike request to "only" 6.2%

Hawaiian Electric Co. has agreed to scale back its request for a rate increase, in a deal that could save consumers at least $10 million a year. 

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday, HECO said it has reached a settlement with the state Consumer Advocate and the Department of Defense for a 6.2 percent rate increase for its 295,000 customers on O'ahu.  The increase compares with a 7.5 percent rate hike previously sought by HECO.

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Flu discourages travel to Hawaii by Japanese

State Tourism Liaison Marsha Weinert said officials are certain the drop in Japanese visitors is related to the H1N1 virus rather than the economy because of recent cancellations. Japanese passenger arrivals increased in April from the same month a year ago, and officials had expected that to continue into May.

But it didn't. Many travelers from Japan changed their mind.

"Based on the number of cancellations ... all of it has been attributed to the H1N1 concerns," Weinert said. Cancellations have stretched into June, showing Japanese arrivals will continue to remain flat, she added.

Since May 10, daily Japanese passenger arrivals declined by 22 to 36 percent compared with a year ago.

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UHERO: Neighbor Islands Bear Brunt of Recession

Hawai'i's counties face the most challenging economic environment in many years. The severe U.S. and global recessions will last through much of 2009, and when recovery does begin it is likely to be anemic by historical standards.

This means a long and deep downturn for the Hawai'i visitor industry. Construction activity will continue to decline for the next several years, acting as a further drag on the economy.

The downturns in tourism and construction are most severe on the Neighbor Islands

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Hawaii County Audit money preserved (2% fund frozen)

"We are tampering with the independence of the Auditor's Office," said South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford.  Voters created the Office of the Legislative Auditor in a Nov. 4 referendum, formalizing and giving more autonomy to a position that had been held by Auditor Colleen Schrandt for the past two years.

"The whole point of independence of this office was so I would not be kept from doing what I do, so I would not be influenced in doing what I do," Schrandt said, objecting to a move by Ikeda to have her come to the council whenever she needs money for specific audits. "I do not have to come and ask for permission to do my job properly."
Perched on their seats in the front row during the debate were eight diminutive white-haired grannies, brought to the meeting by the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council -- the very nonprofit transportation provider seeking the money. When asked prior to the meeting, the women didn't know why they were there, only that they didn't plan to testify.

George Yokoyama, (Democrat Political operative and) director of the nonprofit, said the county has been providing $625,000, the same amount of money every year, even though gas and other expenses have risen. Other sources of funding have dried up as well, he said.
"That's why I looked for other money, but this year the state is broke," Yokoyama said.

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SB cries: NIMBY mires Gitmo

Creating and then responding to public jitters about the notion of terrorists being set loose in the United States,  (Editors of the Star-Bulletin have graciously agreed to open their homes to released GTMO detainees) senators have handed President Barack Obama a severe setback by refusing to approve funds to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Hawaii's U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who sponsored the rebuff, and others say Guantanamo should be shut down — but seem to expect the detainees to disappear into thin air.

Inouye said he earlier had considered that funding be provided with the stipulation that it "would not have allowed prisoners to be relocated to the United States or released." Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid went even further: "Part of what we don't want is them be put in prisons in the United States. We don't want them around the United States."

In Senate floor remarks, Inouye said the Guantanamo prison "is a symbol of the wrongdoings that have occurred, and we must eliminate that connection." The fact that it "remains open today serves as a powerful recruiting tool for al-Qaeda" (WRONG, Releasing them would be a powerful recruiting tool which demonstrates the weakness of the US) and "a sign to many in the Arab and Muslim world of the insensitivities that some under our command demonstrated at the Abu Ghraib prison."  (Since facts don't matter to anyone who could make such a statement, why would changing the facts matter?) 

The president pledged to help devise "clear, defensible and lawful standards" for dealing with those detainees with deep hatred of the United States. How those standards can be balanced against unfounded NIMBY emotions stirred up by senators remains to be seen.  (Which leads us back the the SB Editors' very generous offer.  Maybe the detainees can come over to Honolulu and celebrate "Islam Day" this September.)

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Property tax rates hold steady, assessments vary

LIHU‘E — Depending on current assessments, some people’s property tax bills will rise, some will fall, based on rates approved Thursday by the Kaua‘i County Council’s Budget and Finance Committee.

The rate of $3.44 per $1,000 of assessed value for buildings and $4 per $1,000 of assessed value for land in the homestead class means a house and lot assessed at a total of $587,600 (after a $48,000 basic home exemption as a sole full-time residence for a Kaua‘i resident) will have an RPT bill of just under $2,112 for the 2009-10 fiscal year (ending June 30, 2010).
In this real-life case, the county assessment on the land (9,083 square feet) dropped to $300,000 from $331,600 last year, and the assessment on the building (around 2,100 square feet, five-bedroom, three-bath) in Puhi rose from $304,000 last year to $313,100 this year.
Officials with the county Department of Finance Real Property Assessment Division said some property owners’ assessments rose this year compared to last year and some fell.

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Hundreds celebrate ability to say ‘No!’ (Joe Bertram wants to shut them down)

D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and has proven so successful that it is now being implemented in 75 percent of our nation’s school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world.
It is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug- and violence-free lives, states the D.A.R.E. Web site.
“Right now we only work with the fifth-grade students, but we have lesson plans from kindergarten,” said Mark Ozaki, a D.A.R.E. officer and coordinator for the Kaua‘i Police Activities League.

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Recording Could Bring Back Voice Of King Kalakaua

There is a chance the only known audio recording of King David Kalakaua can be brought to life more than 100 years after his death.  A recording of his voice is on an old and fragile wax cylinder.  Four days after recording the short but historic message in San Francisco in 1871, Kalakaua died.

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