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Tuesday, February 19, 2013
February 19, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:04 PM :: 4826 Views

Gays Threaten Expulsion of 11 Democrat Legislators

Mitsunaga Names Names, Slams UH for Favoritism Towards Kobayashi

Lingle: Hawaii Republican Party is Thriving

Wells Fargo: Hawaii to be Hardest Hit by Defense Cuts

Bipartisan Bills present opportunity for Hawaii Jones Act LNG Ship Exemption

$45B Project: Alaska Plans 800 Mile LNG Pipeline

Residences at Aina Haina: Jeff Stone's Plans in Wailupe Valley Opposed

Six States Consider Assisted Suicide

HawaiiFreePress: 20,001 Tweets -- 5,001 Followers

Navy Saves $35M By Cancelling Pearl Harbor Work

SA: The Russell left Pearl Harbor for the last time Jan. 3, and its Hawaii-based crew finished taking over the Halsey in San Diego in late January. The crew pulled into Pearl Harbor with the replacement destroyer last week.

Halsey's arrival at Pearl Harbor, a key location in the Navy's re-balance of forces to the Pacific, comes at a time of planned surface ship retirements here.

The Navy recently announced it was canceling at least 24 ship repair jobs across the country — the Russell among them — because Congress hasn't approved an appropriation bill for the 2013 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The Defense Department said it has operated at lower 2012 funding levels under a continuing resolution, leaving a budget shortfall for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The Navy said it was also canceling a $35 million repair of the destroyer USS Chafee at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

Sequestration, meanwhile, would force the military to make $500 billion in additional cuts through 2021 if Congress doesn't take any steps by March 1….

The $200 million modernization of the Russell had been planned for this fiscal year at Pearl Harbor, but because the work could be done for $35 million less in San Diego, the ship was moved there, officials said.

read … Budget shortage blocks ship's renovation

Looking for Campaign Cash, Schatz names executives as ‘community liaisons’ for Senate office

PBN: • Kauai: Clyde Kodani, president and CEO of Kodani & Associates Engineers LLC;

• East Hawaii: Marlena Castro Dixon, epidemiological specialist for the Hawaii Department of Health Disease Investigation Branch;

• Maui: Kari Luna Nunokawa, director of the Pai Ka Mana student support services program at the University of Hawaii Maui College;

• Maui: Helen Nielsen, commercial property owner and manager and founding member of the Maui Coastal Land Trust;

• Oahu: Bryan Andaya, vice president and chief operating officer of L&L Franchise Inc.

Schatz is also in the process of naming a field representative for the West Hawaii area on the Big Island.

read … Campaign Money Sources

Heenan: Akaka Should Have Left in 2006

Borreca: The Akaka lesson is half about leaving on top and half about leaving because you just stepped on a trap door.

"Regrettably, Hawaii's ‘true ambassador of Aloha,' as Inouye has called him, could have left office on a high note —saving face instead, as some see it, of having egg on it.

"The beloved, but reluctant, elder statesman would have been well-advised to have followed the old social axiom: Leave the party when you are still having a good time," Heenan writes in his book.

Unfortunately, part of Akaka's legacy will be that from 2006 to his departure in the first days of this year, much of the debate about Akaka was about his age and effectiveness.

Beloved by his constituents, Akaka defended his Senate post from then-U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who in 2006 challenged Akaka, arguing that a new, younger senator could build up seniority.

Case's chancy position was not accepted and he has been repeatedly punished for forcing voters to choose between the well-liked Akaka and the brash newcomer.

As much as Inouye defended Akaka in the 2006 campaign, it was Inouye's two remarks in 2011 — that Akaka did not have enough money to run a successful campaign and that he would not be able to help Akaka raise the needed money for his 2012 campaign — that were interpreted as a strong signal for Akaka to go.

Heenan writes of Akaka that by early 2011, "the increasingly frail lawmaker was beginning to feel the strains of his diminishing standing in the Senate and the prospect of a difficult and bruising re-election campaign. In the end, health and a family trumped politics.

"To most elected officials, their entire identity is tied up in politics. To re-pot, to go from 100 to zero, is unthinkable. Yet to his credit, Akaka bears no trace of the sadness and lack of purpose that hang over many once-powerful men in their later years," Heenan wrote.

For Hawaii, it may not have turned out as well.

Case's worst case scenario has come to pass. With Akaka's retirement and Inouye's death, a delegation that measured its seniority in decades now has less than six months ranking.

read … Closing the Barn Door After Hearse Bolts

UH researchers and solar industry lobbyists duke it out over tax credits

PBN: Let the solar wars begin. The Hawaii Solar Energy Association on Friday denounced the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization’s recently released report on the controversial solar photovoltaic tax credits.

A hotly contested debate is currently going on at the state Legislature, which should bring some clarity to this issue once the dust settles.

The UHERO report noted that the existing solar PV tax credits could cost the state $1.4 billion in lost revenue based on 1,100-megawatts of installed PV.

Reality: UHERO: Solar Tax Credits Could Cost $1.4B

HR: Solar Scammers Push Back Against UHERO

CB: Even One Person's Testimony Can Make A Difference

SA: A&B said its profit last year benefitted from "solid" real estate leasing activity, agriculture operations and a new solar farm on Kauai

read … Duke it out

HB856/SB1087 State Loan Giveaways for Solar, Wind Scammers

SA: Under the legislation being drafted — House Bill 856 and Senate Bill 1087 — the Public Utilities Commission would issue a financing order that would spell out the terms of a green infrastructure loan program, including the lending criteria, the type of equipment that would be financed and conditions for repayment.

The state would issue revenue bonds backed by an existing public benefits fee that consumers pay on their electrical bills. The proceeds from the bond sales would go into a special fund controlled by a new green infrastructure authority that could make loans to consumers interested in solar. Consumers would repay the loans from the energy savings on their electrical bills.

The PUC announced earlier this month that an on-bill financing program is viable for Hawaii.

Cisco DeVries, president of Renewable Funding, an Oakland, Calif., firm that specializes in financing tools for renewable energy, said Hawaii could be the first to use the bond structure to finance a consumer lending program for solar. He likened the concept of combining the two strategies to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich….

Cindy McMillan, project manager for strategic initiatives at the Pacific Resource Partnership, the advocacy group for contractors and union carpenters, said the somewhat unusual alliance between construction and environmental groups in favor of the concept shows its importance.

"Investing in green infrastructure projects will dramatically increase our capacity to harness renewable energy, lower the cost of energy for working families, and provide construction jobs for years to come," she said in an email. "It's a good bill, and we are standing together to encourage lawmakers to make it happen."

Legislators have been torn about how to contain a solar tax credit that cost the state an estimated $174 million last year, up from about $35 million in 2010, while not interrupting the growth of a solar industry responsible for 26 percent of construction spending last year.

A bond-financed loan program for solar could help sustain the solar industry while tax incentives are slowly phased out….

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Kahala-Hawaii Kai) is one of the few lawmakers who have raised red flags, questioning whether it is the government's role to provide loans for solar.

"The government's record of loan programs is abysmal," he told fellow senators. "And, in fact, this is not a function of government."

read … State loans urged to help residents install solar gear

CB: Bills at the Legislature Feb 19

SB4: Seat Belts for all Passengers—including commercial vehicles

read … Bills at the Legislature

In Swipe at HSTA, UHPA to Vote on Leaving NEA

SA: The 26-member UHPA board of directors, which is scheduled to vote on the matter Saturday, is roughly split on whether to disaffiliate from the NEA.

Adrienne Valdez, president of UHPA, does not support breaking from the NEA. She says the cost of affiliating with the national teachers union is a "terrific value for what we are receiving."

She said the NEA provides the UH union with guidance, consultation and financial support for specific efforts.

Her most prominent opponent on the issue is UHPA Executive Director J.N. Musto, who wrote an 11-page memo to members on why UHPA should disaffiliate from the NEA.

Musto said the NEA is not providing anything to the UH union that it couldn't do on its own "at the same, or less, cost."

Musto also argues that the NEA's views do not represent the interests of higher education.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association is the state affiliate for the NEA, and Musto said it should be noted that there is a "continuing divergence" between the HSTA's approaches to collective bargaining versus those of UHPA.

"Although I have nothing but sympathy for the plight of public elementary and secondary education … the simple fact is that they want nothing to do with us. Our mutual affiliation with the NEA has no meaning," Musto wrote in his memo to members.

Disaffiliating from the NEA would save UHPA about $350,000 a year.

The discussion comes as the faculty union is gearing up for contract negotiations, which will begin in 2014. The current UHPA contract ends June 30, 2015.

read … Dump NEA

With more retirees, EUTF becomes a ticking time bomb

Colbert Matsumoto: The recent story on the $8.4 billion unfunded liability of the Employees Retirement System highlights a most critical problem facing our community. But an even bigger fiscal challenge we face is with the Employer-Union Trust Fund (EUTF) and its role in administering retirement health benefits for public employees. The most recent actuarial study reported the unfunded liability of the EUTF as of July 1, 2011, at $18.2 billion.

That liability increased by 75 percent, or $8 billion, from just four years earlier when it was $10.3 billion. To put this in perspective, the total annual state of Hawaii general fund budget is $5.5 billion. No other cost center funded by the state and the counties grows at the rate the EUTF's deferred liability rises. It is unsustainable and will continue to worsen as the number of retirees and the cost of post-employment health care benefits continues to escalate.

This ticking time bomb is fast approaching a point of detonation with explosive consequences. Despite the looming financial catastrophe, there is no meaningful plan to fill this gaping hole in the financial health of the state and the counties….

Hawaii has not yet reached the crisis point beleaguering other states. We have a small window of opportunity to act before we are left without choices.

read … So lets give money to solar scammers instead

USA Today: Hawaii should walk away from Steven Tyler Act

USAT: The law would prohibit recording someone "in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person," while that person is "engaging in a personal or familial activity." The Steven Tyler Act not only departs from a century's worth of privacy laws, but does so at a huge cost to the First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom of speech.

There are several significant constitutional defects.  First, the bill offers no exceptions for newsworthy content….

…courts would have the authority not only to stop the initial publication of a photograph, but to issue orders against future reproductions of the same photograph. This type of authority is called "prior restraint," which is highly suspect in First Amendment jurisprudence and allowed only in certain exceedingly rare cases with uniquely compelling interests.

Prior restraints will rarely survive scrutiny even when national security concerns are raised. Perhaps most famously, in 1971 the Supreme Court found that the government couldn't stop the New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers

read … USA Today

State Shuts Down Dozens of Small Businesses

SA: After issuing 15 cease-and-desist orders to illegal mobile food vendors Saturday around Oahu, the state Department of Health cited three illegal vendors Sunday and did not find any doing business Monday.

"It had to have been all the media attention that knocked it down that fast, and hopefully they're smart enough to stay out," said Peter Oshiro, manager of the department's Environmental Health Program.

Teams of food inspectors participated in a weekend and holiday sweep for the first time in at least seven years, Oshiro said. He said state budget cuts had not allowed for his employees to work weekend overtime hours to search for roadside food sellers operating without valid permits. The Abercrombie administration provided funding for this effort.

"Between 7:45 (a.m.) and 4:30 (p.m.) you're not going to find anybody (selling) Monday through Friday because that's when our people are in the field," Oshiro said Saturday. "After hours … they crop up all over because they know we don't stop (them)."

Oshiro said he is pleased with the outcome of the weekend's sweep and attributed it to the wide media coverage it received.

read … Mobile food sellers lacking permits vanish after crackdown

Star-Adv: Don’t Give Granma a Free Ride, We Need the Money for Rail

SA: Increasing labor and fuel costs for TheBus have forced the city to deal with more than $10 million in annual operating costs, which makes a proposal to eliminate bus fees entirely for seniors and disabled absurd. These folks already get a great deal for taking TheBus, as many of them acknowledge; being offered free rides, as proposed before the City Council, should be out of the question.

Adults now pay $2.50 per ride, $60 for a monthly pass and $660 for an annual pass. Seniors 65 or older and disabled passengers pay only $10 a month or $30 for a full year, including those who take TheHandi-Van. Bill 58 would eliminate those charges entirely. Turning those into freebies would eliminate $2 million in revenues, according to Nelson Koyanagi, acting director of the city Budget and Fiscal Services Department. That's revenue that the city can ill afford to lose, especially with Mayor Kirk Caldwell's promise to restore some routes soon after last year's rider outcry.

read … Make the Kupuna Pay!

Should Hawaii Residents Filing Their Taxes Online Pay an Extra Fee?

CB: UPDATED State suspends new fee for filing tax returns online after opposition from tax preparers….

read … Taxing the Tax

 

$200,000 County Gun Buy Back Program is Bad Deal for Taxpayers

 

HR: Senate Bill 69, the police gun buyback program, passed the Public Safety (PSM) Committee last week and is radically amended by Chair Will Espero and his committee members, Senators Galuteria and Green.  Sen. Slom voted no.   It is now a “Gun safety and Education” bill with a $200,000 price tag.

The new version, termed SB69, Senate Draft 1 (SD-1), requires the county police departments to run a background check….

read … Hawaii Rifle Association

More Funds Needed for Long term Care for Mentally Ill Homeless

SA: The Waikiki Health Center, Hono­lulu's largest homeless service provider and operator of the city's biggest emergency shelter, has opted out of a plan to get some of Oahu's most mentally ill homeless off the street.

The center, which was the sole bidder for a city housing program called Pathways, pulled its proposal because the city's 18-month subsidy would have paid for the building but would not have provided operational funding, said Sheila Beckham, the Waikiki Health Center's chief executive officer.

"The idea was to focus on adults with mental illness because these individuals often have the toughest time on the streets," Beckham said. "We were considering putting in a proposal for a medical and dental clinic on the ground floor and long-term housing for up to 30 clients.

"However, without operational funding, I was concerned that this program could be sustainable. We are not looking to house the mentally ill and then throw them back on the street."…

Waikiki Neighborhood Board President Robert Finley said Waikiki's frustration is mounting. "It has gotten to be a very heated issue," Finley said. "We live here and we can't walk down the street without guys yelling at us or panhandling or lying down in our paths." 

Pathways might have alleviated some of the district's complaints and saved tax dollars, he said.

"We have these people here now who are using up a lot of resources and ambulances," Finley said. "If we can provide a housing area and provide security for their neighbors, I have no problem with it. I'm a not a NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) guy."

Beckham said the center would reconsider Pathways if government, businesses and concerned citizens stepped up to assist with operational funds.

"I am more than happy to move forward, but I need 10 years of operational funds," Beckham said. "If the business community feels so strongly about getting the homeless out of their front yard, maybe they can kick in some money. We need partners and financing." 

read … Mental

Kaiser workers: “A Strike is very Likely”

SA: About 100 Kaiser Permanente Hawaii workers have authorized their union to move forward with preparations, including a potential strike, over layoffs due to the planned closure of Kaiser's Hono­lulu Clinic Urgent Care Center.

Kaiser plans to lay off 13 clerical and emergency tech employees when it shutters the Urgent Care Center at 1010 Pensacola St. on March 16. The Hono­lulu Clinic will continue to see patients with appointments after March 16 but will not take urgent-care cases.

Kaiser defines urgent care as an illness that needs prompt medical attention, usually within 24 to 48 hours, but is not an emergency medical condition. Urgent care includes minor injuries, sore throats and upper respiratory symptoms, earaches, coughs and backaches.

"(A strike is) very likely. I cannot stress how disappointed we are in Kaiser not dealing or addressing the impact on workers," said Cade Wata­nabe, spokes­man for Unite Here Local 5, which represents 1,900 Kaiser workers statewide. "It's enough of a concern for us that we are now going to move forward with preparations … including a potential strike down the road."

The 100 workers are part of Local 5's bargaining committee that met on Friday.

The union also plans to hold a rally at the Hono­lulu Clinic on March 6 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. to object to the elimination of jobs.

read … Strike Vote Next?

James Pflueger, One of Hawaii's Wealthiest Residents, is on Trial for Tax Fraud After Hiding Assets in Switzerland

HR: After the Ka Loko Dam breached in the early morning hours of March 14, 2006, in Kilauea, Kauai, releasing 400 million gallons on the community below, retired automobile mogul James Pflueger knew he was going to have to pay….

Very few people knew that even before the breach starting in 2005, the IRS was conducting a civil audit of James Pflueger, his son Charles Alan Pflueger and the Pflueger dealerships - a case that would be transferred to the criminal division in 2008….

Pflueger told Duban he wanted to “protect his assets” and shield the money from the families suing him over the breach.

“I understood there were techniques available to protect assets. I told him to contact an attorney, develop a plan and implement the strategies,” Duban said.

Aurora Fehring Dingwall, Alan Dingwall and their son Rowan were killed in the dam breach on March 14, 2006, along with four other people and an unborn child.

Pflueger put the $15 million into his newly created foreignVista Pacifica Trust in the Wegelin Bank in Switzerland. All of the documents were signed by Pflueger and notarized….

read … Pflueger

North Korea Plans More Nuclear Tests

Reuters: Since the North tested a nuclear bomb last week in defiance of U.N. resolutions, its southern neighbor has warned it could strike the isolated state if it believed an attack was imminent.

Pyongyang said the aim of the test was to bolster its defenses given the hostility of the United States, which has led a push to impose sanctions on North Korea.

"Our current nuclear test is the primary countermeasure taken by the DPRK in which it exercised its maximum self-restraint," said the North Korean diplomat Jon.

"If the U.S. takes a hostile approach toward the DPRK to the last, rendering the situation complicated, it (North Korea) will be left with no option but to take the second and third stronger steps in succession," he said, without indicating what that might entail.

North Korea has already told key ally China that it is prepared to stage one or two more tests this year to force the United States into diplomatic talks, a source with direct knowledge of the message told Reuters last week….

U.S. Ambassador Laura Kennedy said she found North Korea's threat on Tuesday profoundly disturbing and later tweeted that it was "offensive".  (That’ll show them!)

CB: The Rising East: North Korea Defies Everyone from Seoul to Sri Lanka

Meanwhile: Pink slips being printed as Congress vacations, defense industry likely to cut thousands of jobs

read … About the Price of American Weakness

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