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Thursday, February 14, 2013
February 14, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:36 PM :: 4919 Views

HART Becomes Nervous After Arrest of Rail Contractor CEO

Audit: DoE Burns $150M/year on Construction and Maintenance, Tosses Records in Trash

Audit: Teachers Stealing Cash Fees Collected at Adult Schools

Historic Preservation Division Offers Feds a Laundry List of Excuses

Antolini vs Callies: Moon Court Favored Public Participation, not Environmentalists

Beverage Tax Heads to Senate Ways and Means Committee

For the First Time Satellite Tracking Used to Knock Down Missile

Jones Act shackles Puerto Rico; No Jones Act frees Jamaica to grow its economy

What’s Wrong with Pay for Performance?

Crooks, Cronies among donors to Caldwell's transition committee

SA: Some of Hawaii’s most influential corporations, labor unions and individuals are among those who contributed $365,550 to help pay for Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s inaugural luau, swearing-in ceremony and a transition team that aided the mayor with selecting his Cabinet, according to information released by the committee today.

The Mayoral Transition Committee, registered by Caldwell supporters with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs as a tax-exempt organization, has so far spent $174,274.14, much of it on an inaugural luau that took place Saturday night at Moanalua Gardens.

Among the major contributors were Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii, Hilton Worldwide, Mitsunaga & Associates, Outrigger Enterprises and United Public Workers union.

KHON: List of Donors to Mayor’s Transition Committee

read … The Usual Suspects

Ethics agenda: Mayor Caldwell's donor fund

KHON: money raised by the entity "Mayoral Transition Committee," registered as a nonprofit with the state DCCA, has been used to pay for things including a $10,000-a-month cabinet-hiring advisor, Harry Mattson, for Mayor Kirk Caldwell. It also covered an inaugural luau. Because it is not a campaign account, campaign-related fundraising limits, as well as donor and spending disclosure rules, do not apply. The mayor's fund manager said last week they intend to release the donor names at some point.

The Ethics Commission has put the matter on its Wednesday, Feb. 13, agenda in executive session. They'll discuss whether private use of funds is a gift for the benefit of a city officer. Also on the agenda, the use of city resources or private funds for purposes of government transition between city administrations.

"In the past I think other administrations have gone all voluntary service for that particular function," said Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin, "so it's a little unusual and I think that's why the Ethics Commission is choosing to take this on."

Martin said anything defined as being city-related would have to be considered for acceptance as gifts to the city through resolutions before the council.

read … Ethics

Senate Panel Mandates HGEA, UPW Control, Advances bill that would allow hospital takeover

SA: A state Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday that would allow for the privatization of eight public hospitals operated by Hawaii Health Systems Corp.

Two-thirds of HHSC's 12 struggling "safety-net" facilities on Maui, Lanai and Hawaii island have been exploring a public-private partnership with Phoenix-based Banner Health, a nonprofit that generates $5 billion in annual revenue, to improve the quality of health care services on the neighbor islands.

Amendments were made to Senate Bill 1306 that now require the entire Legislature to approve any deal involving a private entity and also preserve workers' right to negotiate as state employees. The original bill would have removed the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers' authority to keep members as civil service employees….

Banner Executive Vice President Ron Bunnell said without legislation allowing the nonprofit mainland operator to take over multiple facilties, there is no vehicle for a deal to move forward.

The facilities are Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital, as well as Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital, Hale Ho‘ola Hamakua, Ka‘u Hospital and Kohala Hospital.

"We would really propose three regions as one single region. We need that level of scale to control costs and to improve quality," Bunnell told the senators. "Banner's position hasn't changed. From the very beginning we said we needed regional scale. We'd be willing to operate all of HHSC, but we need at least those three regions to move forward."

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce moved along a measure that would establish a task force to study the feasibility of a public-private partnership.

The facilities need roughly $400 million in capital improvements, half of which would need to come from the state, Bunnell said. In addition, Bunnell said, the state would need to continue to pay the more than $80 million in operating subsidies for at least three years. That would gradually phase out over 10 years.

read … Still Plenty of Time to Blow it

State's pension fund falls short $8.4 billion

SA: The state's largest public pension fund is in its worst shape since at least 1980 with an $8.4 billion shortfall, and a new report estimates that accumulating enough money in the system to pay all benefits due qualified recipients would take 30 years.….

FULL TEXT: REPORT

read … Sinkhole State

Anti-rail group will appeal federal court decision

SA: An anti-rail group will appeal a federal judge's ruling in late December refusing to halt construction on the city's $5.26 billion rail project.

The group that includes former Gov. Ben Cayetano notified the federal court this week that it will appeal to the U. S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the Dec. 27 ruling by visiting federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima.

The group will also contest Tashima's earlier rulings that threw out the group's environmental and historic preservation claims.

Honolulu – Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued the following statement today:

“This is not a surprise. The plaintiffs have said they intended to file an appeal ever since the federal court ruled in favor of the city and Federal Transit Administration on the key points last year.

“Everyone has a right to appeal. There are no benefits to this continued litigation. It only serves to drive up costs in legal fees and delays. This is taxpayer money. Already their legal challenges have cost the city over 2.1 million dollars in outside attorney’s fees, in addition to the many hours spent by staff attorneys in the Corporation Counsel’s office. The trial court rejected nearly all of their arguments.  

“The city will carefully review their appeal and respond accordingly.”

CB: Rail Opponents Appeal Federal Ruling on $5.26 Billion Project

read … Rail Suit

Soda Tax: Government is not a substitute for responsible parenting

MN: If Mom and Dad don't insist that Junior go out and play (and get a little exercise), will taxing soda pop keep Junior healthy?

Apparently the governor and some members of the Legislature think so. The Senate Health Committee will take a vote on Senate Bill 1085 Monday that would put a tax of 1 percent per ounce on sugar-sweetened drinks….

Does anyone really think that soda pop is as big a contributor to childhood obesity as the inactivity brought on by hour upon hour in front of computers and video games?

Sugary beverages are not new. They were certainly available in the mid-20th century, yet we did not have the obesity epidemic we have now….

There are some problems that only good parenting can solve. If Junior is drinking too much soda pop, only Mom and Dad can change that….

Government is not a substitute for responsible parenting.

GRIH: GRASSROOT PERSPECTIVE PODCAST: OBESITY, THE SODA TAX, AND THE NANNY-STATE

read … Taxing our way to health?

HB399: Mandate New Gay Sex Education Curriculum in DoE

SA: Sex education would be mandatory for Hawaii public school students under a bill advanced by House lawmakers Wednesday.

House Bill 399 also calls for a more "comprehensive approach" to Hawaii's sex education curriculum, beyond the Department of Education's current abstinence-based policy. That would include teaching students about healthy relationships, contraception and disease prevention, according to the bill.

Another component would ensure that lessons do not discriminate against a student's sexual orientation or gender identity.

DOE officials say its current sex education policy cannot be enforced, resulting in inconsistent lessons at schools.

"We cannot guarantee that every teacher does what they're supposed to do. And that's reality," Katherine Sakuda, an administrator with the DOE's curriculum branch, told the House Education Committee on Wednesday….

House Education Chairman Roy Takumi removed the original bill's effective date — which had been the 2014-2015 school year — citing concern over whether the DOE could implement the law within two years.

The bill next heads for a House floor vote and, if approved, would then cross over to the Senate.

Takumi said he plans to ask the Senate Education Committee to consider adding startup funding to the measure.

Judith Clark, executive director of Hawaii Youth Services Network, offered to partner and work with the DOE to develop curriculum and train teachers using a federal grant.

read … Gay Agenda

BoE Agenda Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hawaii Senate committee pushes forward wage hike

HNN: A Hawaii Senate committee is pushing to increase the state minimum wage by $2 to $9.25 per hour.

The move comes a day after President Barack Obama called for a federal wage hike from $7.25 to $9.00 in the State of the Union address.

read … Minimum

Higher Ed Committees Come Down Hard on UH

CB: Those bills include a package of high-profile measures that would crack down on the University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents, enhancing transparency and making regents more accountable to the public. Lawmakers have come down hard on the UH’s governing body in light of recent controversies involving university spending.

“When you have two separate sets of contentious bills ... that’s when you got a problem,” said community activist Shannon Wood, who’s testified at recent Higher Education hearings. “I’ve never seen this happen before.”

Both committees hold hearings on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The committees have already heard several related measures — including HB 1072, SB 1386, HB 1071 and SB 1384 — on the same days.

read … Come Down Hard

PLDC Stain Spreads to Other Abercrombie Initiatives

Oi: The black mark on the PLDC has already spread its stain to another of the Abercrombie administration’s initiatives, to set up an agency to develop the state’s harbors and parks through partnerships with private companies.

Though hardly the last words on the issues, two House committees’ unanimous approval of a bill to revoke the act that authorized the PLDC and rejection of the parks and harbors plan indicates lawmakers’ unwillingness to ignore public opposition.

Senate advancement of its repeal bill, however, provoked due skepticism. When the chairmen of two key committees, both of whom had championed tinkering with the broad land use and environmental exemptions of the PLDC law, instead moved ahead with repeal, members of their own caucus were suspicious. One senator who sought an explanation for the change of heart was told “things change,” and that leaders were simply “responding.”

The terse explanations do little to dispel the notion that something’s up, particularly because of the committee leaders’ earlier tactic to counter repeal by proposing revocation of regulatory exemptions for a number of other state agencies, such as the Hawaii Community Development Authority and the Agribusiness Development Corp.

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz and Sen. Malama Solomon surely do not want to open more cans of worms, especially with tenuous public support of some of HCDA’s ventures. Rather the idea seemed to be a peevish reaction designed to introduce more conflict.

Opposition to the PLDC is also clouding the future of another of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s proposals, this one labeled ostentatiously as the “21st century schools initiative.” What this entails is redevelopment of “underutilized” school land to reap money to pay for fixing and modernizing public schools.

The plan is that all the funds will go to that single purpose, but as has happened with other targeted revenue-raising initiatives — think transient accommodations tax, originally set up for a convention center and later to help counties pay for tourism impacts — the public cannot be assured cash won’t be diverted elsewhere.

read … Public trust further eroded by antagonism about PLDC

Lanai wind farm opponents take their case to lawmakers

HNN: People opposed to building a wind farm on the island of Lanai are trying to keep the pressure up to kill the project and some of them took their message to state lawmakers in Honolulu Wednesday.

Last week, the owners of Molokai Ranch ended talks with the developer that was trying to build a commercial-scale wind energy project on Molokai.

But opponents of big wind development on Lanai are still worried a large-scale project may be built on their small island ….

Lanai has just one aging power generating plant, supplemented by a solar energy farm that opened four years ago, in January of 2009.

Sheep are used to keep the grass and other foliage from growing tall and blocking the solar panels that generate about 10 percent of the island's electricity.

Ellison's people want to expand the solar farm or build a new one, something most residents support.

"We live in Hawaii and there's so much sun and I think solar is a really good idea," Preza said.

Lanai Resorts would like the explore the idea of expanding solar farms so much that they would be able to power the entire island.

The company also would like to build one or two water desalination plants.

Danger: Schatz is selected to chair Senate energy subcommittee

read … Lanai wind farm opponents take their case to lawmakers

GM Labeling Bill Facilitates Fear Mongers

TH: After the failure of California’s initiative, numerous states across the country, including Washington, New Mexico, Tennessee, Rhode Island, and of course, Hawaii, introduced their own bills calling for the labeling of GM foods.

Whether corporate agriculture will continue to fight label laws on a state by state basis remains to be seen, but thus far, no known large scale opposition to the Hawaii bill exists.

The Alliance for Better Foods, an advocate of biotechnology and GM products, said that labeling biotech foods differently may mislead consumers into thinking that biotech products have different health effects than organic food.

CB: House Resolution Unanimous ‘Legalize Hemp’ (Clue: Hemp fields are great place to hide marijuana crop.)

read … About the Damage Hawaii Luddites are Causing

Star Adv: Lack of Gay Marriage Will Destroy Tourism Industry LOL!

SA: The decision prevents potentially thousands of gay weddings in Hawaii and millions of dollars in tourist spending, according to a study by University of Hawaii economics professor Sumner La Croix and law student Lauren Gabriel.  (LOL!)

"We find that marriage equality is likely to lead to substantial increases in visitor arrivals, visitor spending and state and county general tax revenues," La Croix said.  (Any excuse)

Hawaii began allowing civil unions on Jan. 1, 2012. However, it is still one of seven states that has a statutory ban on marriage equality gay ‘marriage’….

La Croix estimated that up to 50 percent of the 2,262 self-declared same-sex couples who are cohabitating in Hawaii would marry or remain in a civil union by 2016….

In half of the 730 civil unions in Hawaii last year, at least one person was from out of state, said state Registrar of Vital Statistics Alvin Onaka….

read … Another Agenda-Driven ‘News’ Article

Pupus and Politics: It's That Time of Year at the Hawaii Capitol

CB: On Jan. 17, the day after the Hawaii Legislature kicked off its 2013 session, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii hosted lawmakers at Ferguson's Irish Pub in downtown Honolulu.

The soiree was the first of what's traditionally a string of lobbying efforts as the session gets under way. The "networking" events raise questions about whether special interests with money to burn are getting special access to lawmakers.

Over 100 business leaders registered to attend the chamber's "Meet & Greet with Legislators Pau Hana Reception," hoping to meet the 40 legislators the group said it expected to attend.

The pau hana followed a "Walk-Around at the State Capitol" earlier in the day, led by Sherry Menor-McNamara, the chamber's chief operating officer and senior vice president of government affairs.

In tow was Pono Chong, the former majority leader of the Hawaii House of Representatives, now the chamber's director of business advocacy and government affairs.

Chong and Menor-McNamara were also part of the pau hana (pictured on this page) where legislators like Sen.Will Espero and Rep. Romy Cachola talked story with chamber members, many of them business owners. Former Big Island representative Jerry Chang was also on hand.

read … Influence peddling

Crackdown on local vendors

KHON: Hundreds of vendors head to the swap meet every week hoping to make some money.

But lately it's seller beware.

KHON2's Action Line recently received complaints about the state taxation department cracking down on vendors who don't have a general excise license….

read … Taxes are for Little People

Pflueger Cheated on Taxes to Pay for Kaloko Manslaughter Defense, Los Angeles CPA testifies

SA: Prior to James Pflueger’s sale of an investment property in San Diego, the retired car dealer had racked up unpaid bills totaling more than $1 million from the lawyers, engineers and expert witnesses he hired after the 2006 Ka Loko Dam failure that killed seven people, Los Angeles certified public accountant Dennis Lawrence Duban said in U.S. District Court on Wednesday.

Duban said some of the people had been pressuring Pflueger for their money and some even called him to get the bills paid.

Duban is testifying as a prosecution witness in Pflueger’s federal conspiracy and tax fraud trial.

He said he falsified Pflueger’s tax returns to understate Pflueger’s capital gain and tax liability on the 2007 sale of the San Diego property because Pflueger needed the money.

“The money was very important to continue the defense. It was a bad decision but was done to protect the money,” Duban said.

read … Taxes are for Little People

SB358: Post Adult Care Home Inspection Reports Online

CB: Hawaii lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the state to post inspection reports of adult care homes online. The measure is intended to make it easier for patients and families to judge a facility, but a local caregivers' advocate says the move would drive many care homes out of business.

“The overregulation and extraordinary oversight of this industry has beaten it in the ground and has driven many legitimate operators out of business while driving up the costs of operations to the state,” Esther Pascual, president of the United Group of Home Operators, said in her testimony against Senate Bill 358….

The bill also covers nearly 1,500 assisted living facilities and community care foster family homes. Hawaii’s 51 nursing homes, which are federally regulated, already post online inspection reports showing whether there’s a history of violations and what's been done to fix the problems….

There are currently more than 501 licensed adult care facilities in Hawaii, a number that has stayed constant for at least the past decade….

The bill cleared the Senate Health Committee last month and was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The House companion bill, HB 120, had a public hearing on Wednesday.

read … Secrecy

Ethics controversy a standoff between current and former ethics directors

ILind: Civil Beat … described the latest go-around over SB893, which was notable for pitting testimony by former commission director Dan Mollway (who supported the bill) against the commission’s current director, Les Kondo, who strongly opposed the measure.

Click here to read the testimony as submitted.

Mollway says the commission’s interpretation of a key ethics provision is “clearly incorrect” and a “clear misunderstanding” of the law.

In his testimony, Mollway referred to my post here on August 29, 2011 (“Ethics Commission should take a second look at lobbying restriction“), as well as his subsequent comment.

read … Ethics?

Jeff Stone Development Scheme Causes Anger in Aina Haina

HNN: …longtime residents on Hao said the ground is unstable, sits on a steep slope, and floods when it rains.

"I've been here 33 years. This turns into a river, a raging river. and any house built here will get flooded out," Jack Gardner said.

People are against Stone's project for another reason. They believe it will disturb sacred sites.

"The whole valley back here is a nature preserve. We have Hawaiian cultural artifacts, Elepaio, endangered species on the endemic threatened species list," Danny Loui said.

The city said the property hasn't been flagged for archaeological sites, but has passed on community concerns to the State Historic Preservation Division. The city also believes the site is safe to build on. Last month it issued Stone two building permits.

But residents along Hao fear he has bigger plans and won't stop at just a couple of houses.

"Although he asked for two, his own documents over the last two years show eight homes are planned. An eight-home subdivision versus the two," Aina Haina Community Association president Wayson Chow said.

The city owns the 85 acres surrounding Stone's property. That land is zoned as a nature preserve. Stone's parcel is zoned as residential.

"We'd like to have the city purchase this and give it back to the people for all to enjoy," Loui said.

Chow said the Aina Haina Community Association has fought development on that land since the 1970s. Stone has owned it since 2004….

read … Jeff Stone

Worst roads: State embarks on projects to resurface highways and freeways

KITV: Councilman Stanley Chang has asked the Department of Facility Maintenance to generate a list of which roads in each council district fall below a pavement condition index score of 25. Last year, the city began a new pavement management system that scores all city roads from zero to 100.

"I wouldn't say that there's any area on the island that's really nice (and has) good roads throughout," said Chang. "I will say that the report confirmed a lot of what we've been hearing from our constituents, that Hawaii Kai (and) Kaimuki being two of the major hotspots for bad roads."

Cyndy Aylett, management analyst at DFM, said 8 percent of all city roads fall below a score of 25, which makes for miserable driving. Aylett said a report of each individual council district should be ready in a matter of days, not weeks.

On Wednesday, Chang's Committee on Public Works and Sustainability was briefed on a report about the Pavement Management System.

read … Worst Roads

HB66: Don’t Release DUI Suspects Until Sober

CB: That’s what House Bill 66 calls for….The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office testified that it supports “the intent of this bill” but that “it does present significant legal issues. Generally speaking, once someone has posted bail for release, due process requires that they be released, unless they violate the terms or conditions of bail, or commit another offense. …”

read … Drunk and Bailed

Star-Adv: Obama's goals match Hawaii's

Lets Just Skip to the Comments: Obama's goals match Hawaii's as does Obama's vision of a huge middle class making minimum wages, below, at or near the poverty level, and entirely dependent on a huge government doling out both entitlements and government jobs in order to curry the favor and approval of the masses. Of course this match also occurs in the economic realm where the government has no money to pay for either the jobs or entitlement programs it provides. This is accomplished by borrowing more and more and deferring the ever accruing liabilities until such time that the creditors will require greater reward for their risk and the house of credit cards used to pay the entitlements it has created will collapse under its own weight.

This fool is bankrupting our country. Is that the matching goal you had in mind?

Todays' other headline ."State's pension fund falls short $8.4 billion The unfunded liability for state and county workers' benefits will take 30 years to remedy" ..............so, yeah - that'd be the match their bragging about.

If you think it is bad enough already, just wait until Obama starts pushing his carbon cap and trade tax. It's going to double, triple and quintuple our taxes and cost of living!!!

read  ... The Star-Adv if you must

 

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