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Wednesday, August 3, 2011
August 3, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:19 PM :: 11436 Views

Farmers send 5000lbs of Kona Coffee to the Troops

Djou: Rail Authority tone deaf on Fiscal Affairs

Hawaii Congressional Delegation: How they voted August 2

State: New EUTF Contracts To Save Millions

ILWU, HSTA Picket as Abercrombie bickers with Retired Teachers at Hilo Events

He also got a little taste of Big Isle stink eye from groups angered by the state's handling of the recently aborted contract negotiations with the public school teachers' union.

The governor was in town to attend a number of celebrations at locations around Hilo, including Keaukaha Elementary School, Hilo Medical Center, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, 'Imiloa Astronomy Center and the East Hawaii State Building. At each stop, he was confronted by groups of between half a dozen to 25 sign-waving members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association and HSTA-Retired, as well as supporters from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

"Don't tax our pension," read one sign. "Support us, don't betray us!" urged another. "Shame on you! Taking from kupuna" stated a third.

Their presence wasn't overly disruptive of the planned ceremonies Abercrombie attended, with the protests generally being confined to the sides of the roadways in front of the events. Nonetheless, the teachers' unhappiness with the governor was clearly on his mind as he spoke.

"Despite what you've read in the newspapers and other media lately, I think cooperation and collaboration in Hawaii could not be more perfect," Abercrombie said ….

….At the conclusion of the meeting, Abercrombie spoke with HSTA-Retired members….

"Why did you send somebody to negotiate with me that shook hands, came to a deal, but somebody else was gonna do the actual negotiating?" Abercrombie asked.

"I have never, to this day, to this moment, heard a counter offer or anything coming back from the union, despite the fact that I've asked for it, again and again and again. So, it's not me that has changed anything with regard to collective bargaining.

"Look, bargaining isn't endless. Somebody shakes my hand and tells me we have a deal: At a minimum, the people on whose behalf they bargained ought to be able to vote on it. Your union kept you from voting on it, not me."

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Shapiro: Dump Ansaldo

the bigger issue is whether transit officials did competent due diligence on a hugely important contract.

If the new Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is going to provide the independent and professional rail management and accountability it promises, it needs to get to the bottom of the city's shoddy vetting and set it right.

HART Chairwoman Carrie Okinaga and Vice Chairman Ivan Lui-Kwan, both attorneys, wouldn't hire legal secretaries without reference checks. Finance Chairman Don Horner wouldn't hire a teller at his bank that way.

We don't need Ansaldo's drama clouding public confidence that we've got control of rail costs and contractor performance.

If the company's long-term reliability can't be established without a lot of waiting and seeing, we should move on.

Shapiro: Rail car snag will show what HART is made of

Related: After years of losses, slush fund investigation, Honolulu Rail Contractor Ansaldo may be closed down or sold

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Hawaii Senators go all out to defend opportunity to profit from Influence Peddling

Leslie Kondo, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, has determined that members of task forces are state employees subject to ethics code restrictions on conflicts of interest. He has warned that task force members are prohibited from being paid by private interests to lobby the Legislature on task force-related matters.

Kondo first issued the guidance in a May memo to members of a mortgage foreclosure task force after some members had lobbied the Legislature last session. His advice has since been applied to working groups on urban development and a Hawaii-based stock exchange.

Kondo said Tuesday that the purpose of the ethics code is to prevent "influence peddling."

"You're not supposed to be able to profit from the privilege of serving," he said….

"How dare he tell us we can't do that," said state Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D, Honokohau-Makena), chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, who was behind the mortgage foreclosure task force and the stock exchange working group….

"How do we expect to move Hawaii forward if we can't do something like this?" Dela Cruz asked….

A legal memo from the Senate Majority Research Office, prepared for Baker, contends that task force members are not state employees and should not be subject to the ethics code. Kondo's interpretations, the memo argues, "violate public policy and usurp the power of the Legislature to convene these types of task forces."

Senate Majority Attorney Richard Wada has met with Kondo to inform him about the Senate's legal position. State Senate President Shan Tsutsui (D, Wailuku-Kahului) is scheduled to speak with Kondo on Wednesday afternoon.

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Prosecutor removed from Hawaii forced labor trial, Health Problem Cited

French was suffering from an unspecified health issue, and she was removed from the government's prosecution team indefinitely. French hurriedly left the courtroom after Mollway called off the trial for the day.

Attorney Kevonne Small for the U.S. government said new lawyers were needed because of French's health problems, not because of concerns about the trial.

"The substitution of counsel was never intended because the case wasn't going our way," Small said.

Mollway ordered the trial to resume Wednesday with other members of the federal prosecution team taking control of the case until help from Washington arrives Friday.

Before the jury entered court Tuesday, Mollway ordered that federal prosecutors must not claim that recruitment fees were illegal under the foreign guest worker program the Sous used to bring the Thai workers in 2004 to Aloun Farms, where they grew a variety of fruits and vegetables including melons, onions, lettuce and pumpkins.

Steep recruitment fees paid by the Thai laborers were a significant part of prosecutors' case as they tried to prove the Sou brothers used them as part of a scheme to economically entrap the workers.

The workers paid between $16,000 and $20,000 each in recruitment fees — some of which went to the Sous — to land jobs on the Hawaii farm that paid a promised $9.60 an hour wage for three years, prosecutors wrote in a pretrial brief. But when the laborers arrived in Hawaii, they learned they would be paid much less, and their visas would only last for a few months.

The workers were told that if they complained about wages or living conditions, they'd be deported to Thailand with no way to repay their debts, prosecutors wrote. The result would be they'd lose their family land and homes.

The recruitment fee issue arose before Matee Chowsanitphon testified Tuesday about his role as a middleman for the Sous in the business deal to import cheap labor from Thailand. Chowsanitphon reached a deal with prosecutors in 2009 to plead guilty to visa fraud and serve five years' probation.

Before a grand jury indicted the Sou brothers, prosecutors asked Chowsanitphon if he knew workers couldn't be charged recruitment fees, and he responded that he knew it was wrong.

That question and answer misinformed the grand jury, said Mike Sou's attorney, Thomas Otake.

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U.S. District Judge Releases Global Horizons CEO to Leave State

Despite pleas to multiple U.S. District judges based here, Orian has been forced to stay in Hawaii with an electronic bracelet monitoring his every move. Prosecutors have successfully argued that Orian, an Israeli national with international ties, is a flight risk. Orian said that was a ridiculous accusation and that he only wanted to go home to California to his wife and three kids and manage his businesses.

Today, Orian, who has his family visiting in Hawaii this week, finally got his way on Tuesday in court. The judge will allow him to go home to California but he still must wear the electronic ankle bracelet.

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National Democratic committee frothing at mouth, suffers nervous breakdown over Case poll

"I understand the nature of primaries, but I don't believe Mr. Case is being honest with this poll," Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement. "It exaggerates support for him and for Lingle. It also contradicts (the bogus Ward Research) polling we have done in this race that shows Hirono leading Lingle by 19 points."…

"Hyper-partisan Linda Lingle is trying to hide her long record as a partisan bomb thrower in order to go to Washington and rubber stamp the extreme Republican agenda that would end Medicare and give tax breaks to oil companies," Matt Canter, a DSCC spokesman, said in a statement. "Lingle has a long history of carrying water for national Republicans like Sarah Palin and spreading their hyper-partisan attacks against President Obama. Lingle even accused President Obama of palling around with terrorists in the 2008 campaign. Now, Lingle is paying lip-service to 'bipartisanship' as she prepares for a U.S. Senate run in President Obama's native state."

Canter then bolted for the door chased by his psychiatrist and hospital security.

Best Comment on Discussion Board:

Let's take that quote from the DSCC and flip it into an alter universe where the GOP threw out baseless accusations for there shock effect. And the news actually quoted it without having a counter statement from the opposition:

"Hyper-partisan Mazie Hirono is trying to hide her long record as a partisan bomb thrower in order to go to Washington and rubber stamp the extreme Democrat agenda that would supercharge wasteful spending, end our ability to defend ourselves and give tax breaks to big unions," Bill Blah, said in a statement. "Hirono has a long history of carrying water for national Democrats like Al Gore and spreading their hyper-partisan attacks against President Bush. Hirono even accused President Bush of palling around with terrorists. Now, Hirono is paying lip-service to 'bipartisanship' as she prepares for a U.S. Senate run."

More of the same: Progressives at PPP join Chorus Denouncing Ed Case Poll

Why they are panicking so much: Poll shows Lingle beating Hirono: Inouye’s Senate Democrats outraged by “dishonest” Ed Case

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Case Pollster defends Methodology

(From the Hirono lovin’ Civil Beat) Amid accusations from the national Democratic Party that former Congressman Ed Case released dishonest poll results, Merriman River Group is standing by its work for the U.S. Senate candidate.

The poll showed Case far surpassing U.S. Senate opponent and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono. Case’s showing was so good that Matthew Fitch, Merriman River Group’s executive director said he advised the former congressman to keep the results to himself.

“He is using his positive results as a campaign weapon,” Fitch said in a phone interview with DC808 on Tuesday afternoon. “That’s his right. I actually advised him not to release the results because they are so good, why do you want to change the dynamic of the race? But he did. Apparently it rattled some people. As of now, those are the numbers. What he announced was correct.”

Hirono pollster Pete Brodnitz argued that the poll had questionable methodology, a claim that Fitch rebuts.

Reality: Poll shows Lingle beating Hirono: Inouye’s Senate Democrats outraged by “dishonest” Ed Case

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Nonprofit ORI Opts Not To Fight HUD Findings

The report was due to HUD this week, days ahead of a City Council Budget Committee hearing in which discussion of ORI's funding issues is planned. The committee meets on the issue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Some of the key findings from HUD's investigation included:

  • ORI overstated how many clients it has
  • ORI rented cabins meant only for elderly clients to corporate events and other outside groups
  • ORI did not cooperate with a federal investigator seeking information about clients
  • ORI used monies meant for senior activities to pay workers' salaries
  • Lack of oversight by the city

Full Text: City/ORI Report to HUD: August 1, 2011

CB: Senior Center at Heart of Federal Probe Falls Short

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Senate matchups: Nestor Garcia to Challenge Mike Gabbard? Cachola vs Oakland?

Honolulu City Council members Nestor Garcia and Romy Cachola are exploring potential bids for the state Senate, according to their latest campaign finance reports.

Neither City Council member has collected contributions, but they've identified state Senate districts on their campaign reports, covering the period from Jan. 1 to June 30. Garcia's and Cachola's terms end next year — which is also when all Senate and House seats are up for reelection.

Both districts are occupied by political veterans of the same party.

According to Garcia's campaign committee report, he listed Senate District 19 as the "office sought." That seat is held by Sen. Mike Gabbard, and covers the areas from Waikele to Ko Olina. Garcia represents City Council District 9, which covers Waikele to Mililani Town.

Cachola told Civil Beat Monday "there's a possibility" he'll seek Senate District 13. That seat is currently held by Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, and covers Sand Island to Puunui, including Kalihi and Liliha. Cachola currently represents City Council District 7, which covers upper Kalihi to Halawa Valley Estates, including Sand Island and Salt Lake.

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Hee Builds $300K War Chest, Tsutsui Has $100K

Sen. Clayton Hee has more money in his political war chest than the mayor of Honolulu and the governor, according to his latest campaign finance report.

Hee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pulled in $71,875 in contributions during the first six months of the year, leaving his campaign with $310,669 cash on hand as of June 30. He spent just $8,483 during the same period.

That compares to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who collected $4,195 in contributions between Jan. 1 and June 30 and spent $53,801, leaving his campaign more than $30,000 in the red. Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle pulled in more than $280,000 in campaign contributions and reported having $259,314 cash on hand as of June 30.

The size of Hee's war chest hints at the possibility that he might seek a higher office than re-election to the Hawaii Senate. He previously ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor and U.S. Congress.

Hawaii campaign finance laws would allow him to transfer money from one state race to another state race. However, federal campaign finance laws would not allow Hee to transfer state funds to a federal campaign.

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BioFools: Big Isle ratepayers could see electric bills jump $10 or more

The state Public Utilities Commission got an earful Tuesday when it held a public hearing on an application to spread the cost of a proposed Ka'u biofuel refinery to electricity customers on Oahu and the Big Island….

Of the 32 people giving testimony, 21 spoke in opposition….

Mayor Billy Kenoi, who submitted written testimony, said: "The approval of the biofuel surcharge is necessary to allow renewable energy to succeed. The sharing of the surcharge between HELCO and HECO customers will help to mitigate the cost of this project and help to protect Hawaii Island ratepayers."

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Health insurance rates jump 10% for Hawaii public workers

Hawaii's public workers will see a 10 percent hike in medical insurance rates as of Jan. 1 on top of paying a larger share of their monthly health premiums.

The Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund said rates for active employees will jump 10 percent over current rates and will be in effect for 18 months.

Most state and county workers in Hawaii already saw a $45 to $250 drop in take-home pay last month since they are now paying a larger share of their health insurance costs under a new contract that took effect on July 1.

More than 36,000 workers in the Hawaii Government Employees Association, University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and Hawaii State Teachers Association have a new collective bargaining agreement that calls for workers to now pay 50 percent of their health insurance premiums, up from 40 percent or less.

SA: Public workers' premium rates rise

Reality: $126M Giveaway: Abercrombie quietly boosts spending on Public Employees’ Insurance

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Thousands more may need flood insurance

When identifying which of those coastal areas are susceptible to flooding, FEMA will switch from using tsunami inundation data to hurricane storm surges, Romero said.

Changes to flood plain boundaries could affect "thousands" of Big Island landowners, said Noelani Whittington, spokeswoman for the county's Department of Public Works, which is helping with the effort.

Flood insurance may be required of owners whose properties are located within a newly mapped flood zone, according to FEMA's website.

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Act 221 Scammers: Spend money on Surveys Pushing Windfarms, not on Water Board Lobbying

If government is going to spend money dealing with government and public opinion, it should spend that money on impartial surveys by which it can accurately determine what the silent majority is really thinking. That would be helpful, assuming the surveys aren't manipulated.

I attended a talk at UH by Jeremy Firestone of the University of Delaware. He conducts surveys about the views of local residents on energy projects on the mainland. It’d be well worth it, for example, to find out how the residents of Molokai and Lanai really feel about Big Wind. It’s better to spend public money to understand public opinion than to create it.

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Hawaii Ed Board Rethinks School Impact Fees

Some worry it will yield insignificant revenue while discouraging new land development and discriminating against residents in certain areas. Instead of taxing residents, the department should make use of its existing assets to generate revenue for new schools, suggested the board chairman.

Having the fee at all is unfair, testified Bobby Command on behalf of Hawaii Mayor Billy Kenoi.

"We are strongly against the imposition of any fees by a statewide system that only targets a small portion of the state," wrote the mayor in a letter Command presented to the board.

Command requested that board members postpone implementation "until we can design a fair proposal for the whole state."

Committee member Brian DeLima echoed the sentiment, saying that it seems unfair that only a few geographic areas have been singled out for the fee. Committee member Don Horner agreed, and also predicted that the amount collected will be insufficient.

"The amount of housing that's being built and the money being generated isn't significant in the context of our overall financial needs for new school facilities," Horner said.

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Former teaching assistant indicted in child sex abuse case

Cody Onizuka, 25, was charged Tuesday with promoting child abuse and violating a restraining order.

According to the indictment, Onizuka tried to establish an intimate and sexual relationship with a 12-year-old female student at Niu Valley Middle School in early 2010.

Prosecutors say Onizuka convinced the girl to take nude photographs of herself and send them to him via text messaging.

The girl's mother learned what was going on and called police. A search warrant was executed last September….

Onizuka has since been fired from his job with the Department of Education.

Promoting child abuse, which includes possession of child pornography, is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

KHON: Principal: Former employee had multiple complaints before "sexting" allegation

SA: Former tutor is accused of cajoling a girl into sending nude photos of herself

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Kailua teacher accused in hammer assault may lose job

Kailua High School has recommended the teacher accused of throwing a hammer that hit a student in the head be fired.

David Izumi is appealing that decision and on Monday he pleaded no contest to the assault charge against him.

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Micronesian in Hawaii

Josefa Munez remembers the first time she realized that not everyone wanted her in Hawaii. It was a Sunday, and she had called for a taxi to take her and her children from Kuhio Park Terrace to Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, downtown. After the driver picked them up, he started making comments about a nearby group of Micronesian women, also waiting to go to church. “He said, ‘See, all these Micronesians, everywhere you see so many Micronesians. How come they wear those dresses like that? Why they come here and wear that?’ He talked so bad,” she remembers.
Munez was wearing an American-style outfit that day, and the last name with which she reserved the cab was courtesy of her Filipino husband—the combo was apparently enough to escape the driver’s notice that she was Micronesian herself.

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Obama’s Pet Misanthrope: US poet laureate says humans failing themselves by not failing themselves

Humans aren't being true to themselves and are cutting back on their own chances for survival by failing to take care of other life and the planet (cut back on their choices), the nation's poet laureate said Tuesday.

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Hawaii among best places to protect wildlife

From sea otters to blue whales, marine mammals are under stress from (non-existent) climate change, ocean acidification, hunting and other threats. Researchers have identified 20 important sites where they say conservation efforts should concentrate.

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Hawaii Cancer Research lets Lawyers hope North Dakota erionite will lead to mesothelioma lawsuit epidemic

Michele Carbone of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center (which recently received $3.6 million from an anonymous donor lawyer, to support mesothelioma research) has spent much of his career working with three mesothelioma-stricken towns in Turkey (where, tragically, there just isn’t that much money in tort litigation.)

“Airborne erionite concentrations measured in ND along roadsides, indoors, and inside vehicles, including school buses, equaled or exceeded concentrations in Boyali [an erionite-rich town in Turkey], where 6.25% of all deaths are caused by MM [malignant mesothelioma].”

However, there was some good bad news:

“With the exception of outdoor samples along roadsides, ND concentrations were lower than those measured in Turkish villages with MM mortality ranging from 20 to 50%.” This does not mean that North Dakotans should assume they are safe, however—the physical and chemical properties of erionite from Turkey and ND are “very similar, and they showed identical biological activities.”

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