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Wednesday, June 3, 2009
June 3, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:58 AM :: 6710 Views

Greenwood now only candidate for University of Hawaii president

Greenwood was one of two finalists until yesterday when the other, Robert Jones, withdrew his name. Jones, a senior vice president at the University of Minnesota, said he concluded the UH job was "not a good time or fit" for him.

The UH Board of Regents plans to meet tomorrow to decide what to do, but it's unlikely they will choose to start the search over, said chairman Al Landon.

"We have one highly qualified candidate remaining," Landon said.

(Greenwood is allegedly Inouye's candidate and the BoR is the one that was formed by the ouster of the Governor's allies last year.)

SB: UH presidential finalist pulls out

RELATED: MRC Greenwood and "A Powerful Coterie of larcenous. . . ." (UH's next system President?)

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Unprecedented furloughs raise doubts about legality

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, a labor lawyer, called the furlough plan a "negotiation ploy" on Lingle's part to extract compromises from the four public employees unions that are deadlocked with Lingle over a new contract.

Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) said Lingle "is not on solid legal ground" with her plan to furlough state workers for three days a month for two years.

When House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) asked earlier this year whether Lingle had the power to furlough state workers without union negotiation, the attorney general's office said on Feb. 17 that the governor would have to negotiate the terms of the furlough.

But then on Friday, Deputy Attorney General James Halvorson amended his opinion, saying, "We conclude that furlough procedures are not subject to any type of mandatory negotiations."

In his Feb. 17 opinion, Halvorson said state law indicated that both consultation, then negotiation with the union must be done before any furloughs.

And the state attorney warned in his first letter that "if a furlough is implemented, it is probable such action will be challenged by one or more of the unions."

"The outcome in litigating the issues is not certain," Halvorson said.

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Door to governor's seat may hinge on furloughs

Hawaii's economy has finally become an issue in the 2010 governor's race.

The question all the candidates will have to answer is: How much will you pay state workers? Will you restore the pay cuts taken by the Lingle furloughs, will you make public workers whole, or are you going to continue to pay them 13.8 percent less?

If Gov. Linda Lingle's sweeping furlough plan stands, it means less money for an important political class. If you are a state worker making $50,000 a year, the two-year pay cut amounts to $12,847, certainly enough to make you vote for someone who promises to give it back.

As of right now Aiona's options are limited to continuing the course plotted by Lingle, meaning the state keeps the money, or announce that he has struck oil in Makakilo and everybody is getting paid.

The Lingle furloughs could split voters into two groups: Those who want their pay restored and those who want the tax increases to stop.

SB: State furloughs preferable to layoffs

Advertiser: (Phony) pay cuts signed into law (after Leg gets giant increase)

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State's 'Cadillac' health package can sustain cuts, director says

Children's benefits and Medicaid eligibility for adults and children will not be affected, Koller said.

But about 112,000 adults are receiving "Cadillac" Medicaid benefits -- more than most other states with no limit on utilization, she said.

"It's a package of benefits we can't afford to maintain anymore," she said, adding that this is "an opportunity to do some right-sizing of the program so it is more sustainable over time" and more in line with other states and commercial health plans.

The total Medicaid budget for the next two years is $2.7 billion in federal and state funds, Koller said. "We really have a lot of room (for reductions) because our benefit package is so rich, so over-the-top rich."

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DoE: Hard-won school days are on the chopping block

But with Gov. Linda Lingle ordering the Department of Education to cut another $110 million from next year's budget and telling other state departments to furlough workers for three days each month, every cost-saving option is on the table. Teachers work a nine-month schedule, which translates to 27 furlough days a year, under Lingle's proposal.

Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi said cutting that deep was simply unacceptable and urged Lingle and the state Legislature to raise the general excise tax to help close the budget gap.

If the Department of Education is forced to furlough teachers and principals, it should look first at professional development days or other waiver days when students are not on campus, said BOE Vice Chairwoman Karen Knudsen, a board member since 1990, who has long pushed for more instructional time and recalls how past teacher contracts hinged on the issue. (But , but , but then how would we push this tax hike???)

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Common standards could help local students

Of course, creating the common core standards, expected by the end of the year, is only the first step.

Implementation would require adjusting classroom curricula and replacing the current Hawai'i State Assessment with a test to measure student performance based on the new standards. Even so, the move could save money; participating states can use economies of scale to lower costs by adopting a common assessment test and the same teaching materials.

Full participation in the program remains voluntary. And there's enough flexibility in the initiative to allow for some local customization.  (Just wait til the BoE gets a hold of this....)

Hawai'i's education officials will need to closely study the common core standards concept as it develops and decide if it makes sense here.  (Knives sharpened by HSTA, ACLU, and Mr Kim Coco Iwamoto to gut this curriculum before it gets started....)

RELATED: Governor: DoE to establish curriculum

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New election set for laborers union (elected felon last time)

The 3,500-member Laborers' International Union Local 368 will begin mailing ballots June 18 to elect a new president, recording secretary and business manager and will count the votes on July 24.

Oliver Kupau III was elected as the union's business manager last year but the vote was set aside when one of Kupau's opponents challenged his eligibility because of a criminal conviction.

Kupau was convicted in 2002 of money laundering in connection with an illegal cockfighting operation.

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How Business Friendly is Your Hawaii Lawmaker?

business ratings are based upon: (1) key business votes involving tax and fee Increases; (2) efforts to increase or decrease government size and spending; (3) employer mandates (e.g., workers' compensation, UI, prepaid health, etc.), labor bills affecting business (minimum wage, "union card," etc.) and regulations; (4) conduct in hearings, accessibility, and response of the legislator, and (3) active sponsorship, introduction and advocacy of better business climate positions.

Each lawmaker is rated, regardless of political party, from 1, "most supportive and outspoken advocate for a better business climate," to 5, "least supportive of small business and an improved Hawaii business climate."

Ratings may be helpful at election time.

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May home prices on Oahu down 15.3%

The nearly $100,000 drop, reported by the Honolulu Board of Realtors, continues a slide in O'ahu median home resale prices that began as a small one last year but has grown close to 10 percent this year through May. For all of last year, the median price dipped just 3 percent.

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Isle economy grew only 0.7 percent last year

The state's gross domestic product rose by 0.7 percent last year when adjusted for inflation. The last time growth was lower was 10 years ago, when the economy was coming out of the economic doldrums that afflicted Hawai'i during the 1990s.

RELATED: Big Isle project is pushed into court

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'Great father', 'loving kid' killed in motorcycle crash (Activists blocking installation of traffic light)

PAHOA -- The deaths of a Pahoa man and his 7-year-old son on Sunday night sent the community here reeling. A day later, the shock had not yet worn off...."There should be some kind of light there at that intersection," said Linda Callahan, an aunt of Thomas Sr.

Hilinai Jose lives at the intersection of the highway and Ainaloa Boulevard. He declined to describe the scene of the crash, but indicated he had seen far too many accidents.

"They got to put a light over here, or something. A traffic light," Jose said.

The Keaau-Pahoa Advisory Group, which was tasked with finding a traffic solution for Highway 130, found that over a three-year span the Ainaloa Boulevard intersection has been the most dangerous, with an average of 1.56 accidents per million vehicles.


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Hawaii County releases pot data

With little fanfare, the county has released its first-ever public report on marijuana arrests and prosecutions.

County Clerk Ken Goodenow finalized the report late Monday afternoon as directed by county ordinance 08-181, also known as "Peaceful Sky." The law, which makes adult personal use of marijuana the lowest law-enforcement priority, started as a ballot initiative Hawaii County voters passed by a 53 percent to 38 percent margin Nov. 4.

Of the 197 adults ages 21 and older who have been arrested for 291 marijuana-related offenses in that time, 106 are Caucasian, while Hawaiians were the second-most arrested ethnicity, with 45.

"No real surprises there," said marijuana advocate Roger Christie, who noted he sent a copy of a similar report from the municipal government of Seattle to Goodenow and all council members.

"If you've seen Seattle's report, you'll note that almost all kinds of crime went down when police there made marijuana enforcement their lowest priority. It's been a rousing success."

Christie noted that newly appointed Obama "drug czar" Gil Kerlikowske was Seattle's police chief when that city's "lowest law-enforcement priority" law was enacted in 2003. Christie is hoping that Kerlikowske will accept an invitation to visit the Big Island.

Said Goodenow: "Our report is going to look somewhat different than Seattle's. The way (Hawaii County's) ordinance was written is pretty vague."

A further breakdown of the police numbers shows 27 arrests for first-degree commercial promotion of marijuana, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison; 20 arrests for second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison; 30 arrests for first-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, a Class - felony punishable by up to five years in prison; 35 arrests for second-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail; and 189 arrests for third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.

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Developer seeks 'do over' after project fails requirements

A Nevada-based developer is asking the state Land Use Commission for another chance to comply with reclassification requirements.
The commission in April voted unanimously to revert about 1,000 acres in South Kohala owned by Bridge Aina Lea from urban to agricultural, after Bridge failed to show any progress towards the requirement to build 385 affordable homes on the property by fall 2010.

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Yagong, Kenoi battle over cost-savings move

Yagong sent letters April 30 to county landlords reminding them that the county is a good tenant, pays its rent on time and needs a break during the sour economy.
"The Hawaii County Council does not negotiate leases with our landlords; however we are the governing body that approves or rejects leases negotiated by the administration," Yagong said in his letter.
"We realize the administration is very busy with the current budget and has not had time to contact you directly in regards to a possible rent reduction as requested by my office," Yagong added. "That is why I am writing directly to you."
But county administrators, bristling at Yagong's treading into their responsibilities, have rebuffed the councilman's attempts and sent letters to the property owners telling them not to bother.
"We recognize that the contract we have with you is legal and binding, and you are under no obligation to modify any of its conditions," said Finance Director Nancy Crawford in a May 11 letter.

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