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Sunday, July 5, 2009
July 5, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:51 AM :: 7861 Views


Arakawa announces bid to re-take Maui Mayor's seat

WAILUKU - It's more than a year before the next round of Maui County elections, but former Mayor Alan Arakawa isn't waiting any longer.

In an interview with The Maui News on Friday, Arakawa said he will make an unofficial announcement today at the 44th annual Paniolo Parade in Makawao that he will run for mayor in 2010.

The one-term mayor, who lost his re-election bid in 2006 to then-Council Member Charmaine Tavares by 1,751 votes, said it's time to erase Maui's worldwide anti-business stigma.

"I've been asked by literally hundreds of people to run again," Arakawa said. "We're not looking at criticizing the mayor. I just think we can do a better job than what's being done now."

Arakawa said he will march today in the parade with about 30 supporters under the theme "Getting Maui Back on Track." Arakawa said his campaign fundraising committee never disbanded, but he can't make his run official until the first week of February.

Political rookie and lifelong Lahaina resident Elle Cochran, 44, will make her debut at the parade as the first candidate to announce an intention to run for the Maui County Council's West Maui residency seat, now held by Jo Anne Johnson.

Cochran said that she knows it will take a lot of parades, fundraisers, public meetings and door knocking to get her name out there if she expects a serious shot at succeeding Johnson, who can't seek re-election because of term limits.

Johnson has said that she is looking forward to a break from politics to care for her ailing husband.

One of Cochran's top issues will be sustainable practices, such as increased local farming and water and land preservation, she said.

She's got the support of Johnson, who often said that the Save Honolua volunteers are "her people." Johnson is listed as a reference for Cochran and although she hasn't officially endorsed Cochran, the County Council veteran plans to allow her to shadow her in order to learn the ropes.

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Finding new employment takes almost 23 weeks in Isles as jobless rate soars

As of May, out-of-work job seekers spent an average of 22.7 weeks finding new employment in Hawai'i. A year earlier, a Hawai'i job search took 11.4 weeks, according to federal Current Population Survey data. 

(And so the HGEA etal are demanding the Gov lay off their members?)

In May, there were 46,763 people unemployed in the state based on seasonally unadjusted numbers. That was more than twice the 22,250 a year earlier.

Of those who were unemployed, roughly a third, or 13,788, had been out of work for more than six months. That was more than four times the number of people in the same predicament in May 2008.

Making matters worse, many unemployed workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Less than half of the unemployed are filing for unemployment claims weekly, Boyd said. Currently, 26 weeks of state benefits and another 33 weeks of federal benefits are available.

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Governor repeats threat of layoffs

Unless circumstances change, Gov. Linda Lingle says she doesn't see how public employee layoffs can be avoided.

Labor unions tentatively expect to have a federal mediator present to resume contract talks tomorrow with the administration.

But Lingle said the administration team will only meet with union leaders if they give her a formal, on-the-record proposal. They have said they want an informal, off-the-record session, she said. "The ball is in the unions' court," she said yesterday after the Kailua Fourth of July parade. "We need a real proposal like we made to them."

Lingle said the unions presented "a false picture" in telling the news media that she wouldn't negotiate union contracts.

Union leaders did not return calls yesterday asking for comment.

Lingle said the state made a formal proposal to the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers June 16 and they've never responded. The mayors submitted proposals with the state's, some the same and some different, she said.

The state proposal covered wages, layoffs, overtime, vacations and the usual items included in a contract, she said. Furloughs weren't mentioned because the administration thought the governor had the authority to furlough workers for a "fiscal emergency." She still maintains she does.

Lingle said she is waiting for the final order from Judge Sakamoto before deciding whether to appeal his decision.

Lingle said she will submit a proposal tomorrow to the Hawaii State Teachers Association from the state, Board of Education and schools superintendent.

She said she hasn't yet received a proposal from University of Hawaii President David McClain and the Board of Regents that she can present to the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

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SB: Budget solution requires creativity raid on Hurricane Fund

A judge's rejection of Gov. Linda Lingle's "unilateral" attempt to order three-day-a-month furloughs of state employees for two years without pay in order to balance the budget should force her to look at other sources of revenue without raising taxes. She is not likely to find enough, forcing employees to accept reduced furloughs in negotiations that should meet the judge's requirement.

Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto said at the conclusion of a court hearing last week that the state administration "cannot implement changes on matters that are subject to mandatory bargaining" without violating the state Constitution. Essentially, that means the administration must consider transferring funds to offset actions such as furloughs.

The unions have asked Lingle to use the $180 million in the Hurricane Relief Fund and the $45 million in the state rainy-day fund to limit wage cuts of employees. Those are logical sources.

(Remember, your safety after a hurricane is less important than keeping 'workers' on the payroll full time.  Manufacturers of computer solitaire games everywhere are depending on you.  BTW what happens after we've burned both of these special funds on the altar of HGEA and the economy hasn't improved?  Then what?  Oh that's right.  That would be after the election.)

One of the ingredients of the state's collective-bargaining law sends unresolved issues to binding arbitration, and arbiters should be limited to consider existing and expected revenues under current taxes. The United Public Workers, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the Hawaii Government Employees Association have said they do not object to some furlough days.

The only way binding arbitration will be avoided will be through mutual creativity and cooperation between labor and management. 

(And why would we want to avoid binding arbitration?  The numbers are clear.)

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Rail revenue $80M short, but officials not worried

The city is falling more than $80 million a year short in revenues to build its 20-mile rail system between Kapolei and Ala Moana.

But city transportation officials say they expect construction bids will decrease during the recession, helping them to meet costs, and that revenue from the half-percent increase in the general excise tax on Oahu will rise once the economy rebounds.

City Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka said the decrease represents a "snapshot" of the economy and does not reflect rises expected eventually

"If you look at today, it is down, but collections ... should even out," he said. 

(We only have to keep this thing rolling until next November anyway.)

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SB gives Mufia space to pitch latest scheme to buy votes

Consequently, I will be reintroducing legislation to establish a homeowner real property classification. By doing so, we can separate investors and speculators from true homeowners, and we can set different property tax rates for the two groups. We could propose higher rates for residential properties owned by investors and speculators, and ensure they do not benefit off the backs of the true residential homeowners.

We would continue to grant the basic homeowner's exemption and multiple exemptions for the elderly. Furthermore, laws already in place provide for a circuit breaker to protect those on fixed incomes. Having the new homeowner classification would not preclude the mayor or Council from proposing a tax credit as an additional safeguard for our elderly and lower-income homeowners.

Our sister counties all have a homeowner class or something similar, and these have been in place since the 1990s. Only Oahu does not.

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Breeze of fresh air benefits Council race: (SB sez its Kobayashi vs Matsunaga)

Kobayashi will not enjoy an opponent-free contest what with 13 other hopefuls in the mix.

Among them is Matt Matsunaga, a former state senator. Like Kobayashi, Matsunaga has the name recognition, an inheritance from his late father, U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga. But the power of the elder's illustrious reputation has faded somewhat through the years as the voter demographic trends younger.

Political experts note that familiar faces have an advantage in quick-fire elections like this one, but other factors could turn their hands.

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UH Manoa Could Cut 500 Classes: Stimulus Funds To Be Divided Between UH, DOE

HONOLULU -- The University of Hawaii campus at Manoa is preparing for a 4 percent cut in its programs to deal with the state's budget shortfall.

About 500 classes for the fall could also be eliminated, although the school hopes some federal stimulus money could offset those cuts, Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw said.

This week, the federal government announced it will release $129 million to help offset the state's shortfall in education. That money has already been earmarked for the next two years, state officials said.

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Education board leader finds redemption in judge's ruling

State Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi said a court decision shows the school board was correct in not taking action on budget cuts based on state-proposed furloughs.

The board withheld action on budget cuts waiting for Gov. Linda Lingle's decision on the state budget measure. She signed the bill.

But Toguchi renewed his request to Lingle to use the state's hurricane relief and "rainy day" funds for education or for state legislators to temporarily raise the general excise tax to preserve education funds and avoid layoffs.

The board is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Queen Liliuokalani Building, 1390 Miller St., to discuss general fund budget cuts totaling about $468 million during the next two fiscal years.  (Think they'll actually make a decision this time?  Doesn't sound like it.)

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2 Hawaii female inmates allege sex assaults at Kentucky prison

Honolulu attorney Myles Breiner said he is representing the two women, who allege the sexual assaults occurred while they were in isolation in a medical unit at the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright, Ky.

One of the assaults was reported June 23 and allegedly involved a male corrections officer, Kentucky police said. The other incident, earlier this year, also allegedly involved a male corrections officer at the same prison, Breiner said.

Kentucky state police spokesman Mike Goble said last week that no arrests have been made in the June 23 case. He added that forensic tests have been conducted and that other evidence has been collected.

An October 2007 report of another sexual assault of a Hawai'i female inmate at Otter Creek by a corrections officer led to his firing.

There are 165 Hawai'i women at Otter Creek, a private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America. In an e-mailed statement, spokesman Steven Owen said, "CCA has a zero-tolerance policy for any form of sexual misconduct and takes any such allegations very seriously."

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"NK Missile" lands on Haleiwa beach

On Friday, North Korea launched ballistic missiles off its coast in defiance of UN resolutions.

None of them made it very far.

But something did land on Oahu's North Shore.

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