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Sunday, October 14, 2012
October 14, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:31 PM :: 4643 Views

Flexibility Lost, Tax Increases Guaranteed with Earmarking

Berg: Bus Cuts May be Civil Rights Violation

Dawn: Survey Shows Djou up 61-33% 

Rasmussen: R 49% O 47%

Gallup: R 49% O 47%

DM: Global warming stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report quietly released

Feds: Honolulu Rail has No Capacity for Additional Cost Increases

Borreca: The proposal today is estimated to cost $5.2 billion. A new report prepared by Porter & Associates for the Federal Transit Administration points out that if the economy or city finances get even slightly twitchy, Honolulu will not be able to afford rail unless it cuts its budget, raises taxes or figures out new ways to charge for services or zoning….

The Porter report says if costs increase or tax collections waver, the only thing the city of Honolulu can do is continue the half of 1 percent excise tax surcharge past its 2022 expiration, or create special tax districts to extract more money.

"It is unclear how much political support exists or would exist to gain the necessary approvals," the report notes for either suggestion.

HART officials took the report to mean the glass was still half full. Don Horner, HART finance committee chairman, said it shows the "financial plan is reasonable when compared to other projects around the U.S." (We’re the sanest inmate in the asylum.)

Not mentioned, however, is the recent news reported by Kevin Dayton in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. That story said delays are already costing the city at least an extra $114 million. The construction was halted when the city lost a state Supreme Court decision that stopped construction….

…the rail line is not built, the land for the rail is not purchased, the route through downtown is not even settled, but the city has already spent 17 percent of the contingency fund. (And obligated most of the rest.)

As the Porter report notes: "At this time, there is no additional capacity in the project financing plan to fund project cost increases or mitigate other adverse events."

Caldwell: A growing Honolulu demands a high-capacity system of rail and bus

Cayetano: A FAST bus system, including a Nimitz flyover, makes fiscal sense

read … High time Council answers tough questions on rail tab

Usual Assortment of Crooks, Cronies Give to Hirono, but Lingle has most cash

SA: Lingle has $1.1 million in cash at the end of September. Hirono has $688,800.

Hirono raised more than $1.2 million, her best fundraising performance, and pushed her total to $4.7 million. Lingle raised more than $822,700, her worst mark over a comparable period, bringing her total to $5.2 million.

The campaign finance figures, which were released Saturday by the Hirono and Lingle campaigns and cover the period from late July through September, are the first since the August primary….

National interest groups have not spent as heavily in Hawaii as expected, an indicator that other Senate campaigns are considered more competitive. The Campaign Finance Institute, a nonpartisan research group based in Washington, D.C., tracked party and nonparty independent spending in the past week alone that topped the $1 million threshold in 10 states.

  • In Hawaii, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent $311,000 on behalf of Lingle since the primary and more than $1 million overall, the most of any single interest group.
  • District Council 50, which represents union painters and other local trades, has spent about $140,000 on behalf of Hirono.
  • Emily's List, which supports Democratic women who favor abortion rights, has spent about $75,000 to help Hirono.
  • The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has spent about $71,200 to help Hirono.
  • Working Families for Hawaii, an AFSCME-financed labor group, has spent more than $135,000 to help Hirono.
  • Pacific Resource Partnership, the union carpenters and contractors interest group, has spent more than $14,750 for Hirono.

read … The usual crooks and cronies pile in

Lingle has long record of public service

MN: One afternoon in 1980, she walked into Su-Su's Boutique, handed each of us a lollipop with this oration, "I am Linda Lingle and I'm running for the Maui County Council - Please vote for me." With no further comment, she turned and left. That was the beginning of my admiration and lasting friendship with Linda Lingle.

She won her council seat and proved to be about the best legislator I've known. Although a Republican in a council that included eight Democrats, the challenge seemed to energize her work ethic and determination. By the sheer force of her character and perseverance she became a very productive member of that body.

After 10 years on the council, she successfully ran for mayor. Her eight years in that position were some of the best for Maui County. Among the Lingle administration's undertakings and improvements were developing Keopuolani Park and building swimming pools in Kihei, Pukalani and Lahaina. Her administration created the "circuit breaker" program for longtime homeowners so that they wouldn't be taxed out of their homes. The administration also upgraded the wastewater sewage treatment system.

These accomplishments were done with little or no tax increases. It is worthy of mention, Maui County was in excellent financial condition when Linda left the Mayor's Office.

Linda Lingle is the most honorable person I've ever known. Her integrity, charm and character mark her as being well suited to represent Hawaii, as well as America, in the United States Senate.

read … Lingle has long record of public service

University Goes First Class in Every Way Except Accomplishment

Shapiro: » UCLA physicists using the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea found a fast-orbiting star that will help them study the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. They'll employ the same methodology economists use to study Hawaii's state debt.

» In Jim Donovan's tenure as University of Hawaii athletic director, he and his staff spent more than $800,000 on such perks as trips to NCAA festivities, entertaining themselves and dignitaries, and limo rides. Our university goes first-class in every way except accomplishment.

» State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim asked embattled UH-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple to "clarify" statements he made at her hearing on the botched Stevie Wonder concert. Kim's political philosophy is that when you see a guy hanging himself, give him more rope.

read … UCLA studies a black hole, UH fills a money pit

Enviros Show Forest City How to Siphon Millions from Military Families

SA: The program, which includes a bill for overages and a rebate for reduced use, resulted in $1.5 million in savings as of July in Navy housing in Hawaii, and $1 million in electricity savings in Marine Corps housing here, the Navy said.

The Navy side of the pilot, which began Jan. 1, 2011, saved 7,775 megawatt-hours of electricity and more than 5,300 tons of greenhouse gases, according to the service.

The electricity billing remains controversial, however, because military families already pay for utilities in their rent, which comes from substantial housing allowances that are turned over to housing manager Forest City Military Communities.

"I'm sure they are" happy about the electricity program, "because they are spending our money out of our pocket on top of the money we already gave them," said Jamie Williams, whose husband has been in the Army for nearly 28 years.

The couple and their son live in Navy housing run by Forest City and have had monthly electric bills of more than $100, Williams said.

The Navy until recently determined an average electricity use per neighborhood and made families pay only if their power use was more than 20 percent of that average. Usage 20 percent or more below that benchmark earned a rebate. Usage in between resulted in no bill.

As of Oct. 1, however, the buffer was reduced to 10 percent on each side, and the Navy in Hawaii increased the electricity rate from 20 cents per kilowatt-hour to 26 cents — which is still below the civilian residential rate charged by Hawaiian Electric Co.

"My (electric) bill's going to be over $250 this month," Williams said.

The Navy said it has lost money on the electricity rate passed along to military families, and it needed to increase the rate 30 percent to make up the difference.

The Navy notes that with the 10 percent buffer, there's a greater chance of receiving a rebate.

Navy Region Hawaii said it has received "very few complaints" about the electricity billing, known as the Resident Energy Conservation Program.

A Sept. 28 notice of the electricity rate increase on Forest City's Facebook page drew 51 comments — most of them critical of the billing program.

"Our buffer decreases AND our rates are going up!? Grrrrrrrrrr," Melissa Morton said.

(If the enviros keep showing the path to profit, nobody will need old boys anymore.)

read … You're Next

Media Ignores Guilty Pleas by Sovereignty Scammers

ILind: there were the guilty pleas entered by two defendants in a Maui fraud case tied to members of a Hawaiian sovereignty group which were reported here two weeks ago (“Two sovereignty activists plead guilty to fraud and conspiracy in Maui bond scam“).

The original indictments were widely reported due to the high visibility of the defendants, with stories in the Star-Advertiser, Maui News, Hawaii News Now, KHON, and elsewhere.

But the admission by two defendants that their whole debt relief scheme was a scam has so far not been reported elsewhere. I’ve searched the Star-Advertiser archives, as well as Google and Bing, and failed to turn up anything.

Related: Naming names: Who are the alleged Sovereignty-mortgage scammers?

Next: Sovereignty Mortgage Scammer Keanu Sai at it again with help from Legislators, Maui Council, University

read … Politically Incorrect News 

37,000 Pay Serious Money to Escape DoE: Private School Enrollment is down 8% since 2007

SA: Educators and others blame rough economic times for a decline in pupils lasting five consecutive years. According to the HAIS report, 37,097 Hawaii children are attending private schools this school year, down 1.6 percent (or by 598 students) from 2011.

LINK: Sister Isles, Honolulu

read … Enrollment

Matayoshi: Charter Schools not part of DoE

HTH: Matayoshi was more circumspect however when discussing charter schools, not knowing how many there are in the state, for example. A new commission has been formed to revamp charter school laws, however. “They are not part of the DOE,” she said. “They have autonomy to pursue their own goals.”

read … And I don’t know how many there are

Jump in credit and debit card transactions shows the isles' economy is on a rebound

SA: Card sales at businesses open at least a year rose 9.4 percent in the third quarter, according to a business activity report set for release today by First Hawaiian Bank, the state's largest local card processor of merchant services. Hawaii merchants working with First Hawaiian rang up $748.8 million in card sales during the period compared with $684.2 million in the year-earlier quarter. Card sales have climbed in each of the 11 quarters since First Hawaiian began issuing the reports in 2010….

Hotel card transactions last quarter jumped 19.3 percent — the largest percentage gain of any of the 16 sectors tracked — and transaction volume for hotels exceeded $151 million, also the most of any sector. It was the highest year-over-year percentage gain for hotels in any quarter since First Hawaiian began tracking the sectors.

read … Paradise Now

Hawaii County hires geothermal mediator to Negotiate Payoffs for Activists

WHT: After months of political sparring and passionate testimony, opponents and supporters of geothermal energy may soon find themselves sitting at the same table.

Peter Adler, a mediator from Honolulu, has been hired by Hawaii County to help sort out fact from fiction regarding the health impacts of geothermal energy, a process that could influence policy on the issue for years to come….

Over 20 years ago, he acted as a mediator for the PGV permitting process, which led to the creation of a geothermal relocation fund.

read … Time for Payoffs

Hula Mae Starts Giving Away Down payment Loans to Unqualified Borrowers

SA: A state program offering home loans and down payment assistance to residents with low to moderate incomes has been expanded to provide mortgages backed by the federal government.

The state program known as Hula Mae offers 30-year mortgages at a 3.45 percent interest rate plus down payment assistance for up to 3 percent of a home's purchase price at a 3.8 percent interest rate.

The Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., the state agency administering the program, recently expanded Hula Mae to include three federally insured types of loans — from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs — through the federal government's Ginnie Mae program.

About $34 million is in the Hula Mae program and available through participating lenders.

There are also income and home price limits. Annual gross income may not exceed $123,600 for a family of two or fewer, or $144,200 for a family of three or more, on Oahu.

Purchase price limits are $732,692 on Oahu, $729,230 on Maui, $714,231 on Kauai and $571,153 on Hawaii island.

read … History Repeats itself

Kakaako plan for 22 towers holds promise

SA: By the end of 15 years, the $7.5 billion Hughes Corp. redevelopment plan will consist of 4,300 residential units.

Nearby, Kamehameha Schools may build 2,750 homes over seven towers and commercial development on its nine blocks between Restaurant Row and Ward Centers. The state and Office of Hawaiian Affairs expect to take part in the area's renovation. It will include restaurants and shops in a central plaza.

Such activity is supported by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who proclaimed a year ago that "the key to ending urban sprawl, ending arguments about where we're going to build, is to have urban density in the urban core that makes sense in community terms. And Kakaako is the ideal laboratory for the project."…

As with all recent developments, including the rail project, designers must deal sensitively with the presence of historic Native Hawaiian burials. Contractors excavating a foundation for a 43-story condominium at Kakaako recently unearthed 19 sets of human remains, or iwi, that appear to include royalty.

Realizing the likelihood of ancient graves in that entire district, developers will be wise to work proactively and collaboratively with the Oahu Island Burial Council to either preserve such iwi where they are discovered — as was the case when Alexander & Baldwin Inc. redesigned part of its Waihonua building footprint — or compromise on reburial.

Hughes Corp.'s impending Ward Village redevelopment, together with present Kakaako projects, are an ambitious undertaking that should result in a broad transformation that has been the main goal of HCDA since it was created by the state Legislature nearly 37 years ago.

read … Kakaako plan for 22 towers holds promise

Kawaiahao: Historic preservation and burial laws would work fine if they were followed

SA: Had an archaeological inventory survey been done — and it could have been done regardless of whether it was required by SHPD — it might have been designed along the lines of one done several years ago in a corner of the cemetery.

Using a technique that has been applied successfully elsewhere in Kakaako, the archaeologists stripped off the sod and cleaned the surface of the dirt. The tops of several grave shafts appeared as dark rectangles in the brown soil. Archaeologists completed that inventory survey by counting the graves. They didn't disturb a single coffin.

We believe that an inventory survey like this could have yielded a reliable estimate of how many graves in each family plot were going to be disturbed by the construction. It could also have guided the archaeologists in their search for pre-cemetery Hawaiian remains outside the cemetery grave shafts. Project planners and state regulators would have known what construction would unearth, and the church could have consulted more effectively with the families.

All of this could have happened within the framework of existing laws and regulations.

Hawaii's historic preservation and burial laws are not broken. The troubles faced by HART and Kawaiahao Church came about because the existing historic preservation laws were not followed or honored. The courts' focus on SHPD and its failure to follow its own rules correctly emphasizes that agency's crucial role.

read … Burials

Cancellation of Maui Co Veterans Day parade is shameful

MN: This past spring, an enthusiastic group of veterans and other interested folks on Maui with a "can do" attitude began planning for a Veterans Day parade on Maui under the auspices of the Maui Veterans Council. The parade was to honor all veterans, especially those recently returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

This group put in a lot of time and effort to line up parade participants; to plan the parade route, sequence, events and reviewing stand; to set up a budget; to contact sponsors; and to raise money to support the effort.

Despite all this hard work and effort, the parade has been canceled.

It seems there were foot-draggers and naysayers, individuals and groups who decided not to participate and to oppose the efforts.

read … Naysayers allowed to win

After a long and frustrating journey, Molokai Veterans Center nears completion

MN: By the time Mike Victorino and the rest of the water subcommittee rejected the change in authority for an eighth time, the veterans had had enough. “That’s when I felt they (Maui County) had another agenda,” said Helm.

Helm believes the “agenda,” or plan from the county, involved a state harbor project. Evidence points to Maui County officials withholding the building permit as a way to get local authorities to approve the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Kaunakakai Harbor Improvement project. The proposal includes a 12-inch water main. By claiming that the county and state could help the veterans if the project was approved, county officials were attempting to influence the Molokai Planning Commission to look favorably upon this project. The MoPC had previously criticized the project in public and had considered rejecting it.

In effect, the county held the veterans hostage in order to get support for the DLNR project, Helm said.

A suit was filed in U.S. District Court that named Tavares, Martin and Silva personally liable for the delays and the trauma caused to Helm and other veterans as a result of these delays….

The veterans had found a prefabricated building — pre-constructed on the Big Island — that could be purchased for under $100,000. Another $150,000 would cover the transportation and labor costs….

Even still, the Molokai vets have found ways to cut expenses to make the project work. A roof that would have cost $10,000 to $15,000 was donated and will cost the veterans $200. A $10,000 drywall job was donated for $900, said Helm.

After all this drama, Helm believes anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000 was wasted on this project when you take into consideration legal expenses and the time spent by community members. Not considering legal expenses, the veterans’ center will end up costing around $600,000.

read … After a long and frustrating journey, Molokai Veterans Center nears completion

Kauai Prosecutor Beats Campaign Spending Rap

KGI: The state Campaign Spending Commission at its meeting Wednesday dismissed a complaint against the re-election campaign of Kaua‘i County Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.

The decision was confirmed by a phone call from the commission Thursday. The message said the formal order is pending.

The complaint alleging that Iseri-Carvalho has failed to report in-kind contributions was filed by Diana Gausepohl-White, a victim witness counselor at the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. She has reportedly been on administrative leave since late February.

The commission conducted an initial determination of the complaint and voted to summarily dismiss the complaint.

read … Dismissed

Hawaii Co. Charter amendments take on land, elections, hunting

WHT: Hawaii County voters will consider whether county redistricting commission members should be able to run for council office the year after they redraw the council district lines.

Voters will also consider amending the County Charter to allow the County Council to create special funds without obtaining the mayor’s recommendation.

Two measures are on the ballot relating to the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund, which was itself created through a ballot initiative several years ago. The first measure re-establishes the minimum percentage of property tax revenues to be set aside for the county to use to purchase land at 2 percent. A ballot initiative two years ago lowered that to 1 percent minimum. The measure would also add language creating a restrictive covenant on the deed of any land the fund purchases. The language states the land “shall be held in perpetuity for the use and enjoyment of the people of Hawaii County and may not be sold, mortgaged, traded or transferred.” Finally, the measure makes clear the funds may only be used to purchase land or easements.

The second measure would require .25 percent of real property tax revenue be deposited into a Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund. The fund would be capped at $3 million and would create a stewardship grant program to help nonprofits maintain and preserve lands the county purchased with the preservation fund.

The discovery of axis deer on Hawaii Island, as well as ongoing complaints about how the state conducts aerial hunts of game animals in remote locations around the island, are two of the issues behind Council Chairman Dominic Yagong’s introduction of a charter amendment creating a Game Management Advisory Commission. Hunters from around the island testified in favor of the measure, which they said would give a voice to hunters during decisions impacting the island’s hunting areas.

The final county measure up for voters’ consideration would change how the council and other county boards and commissions provide notice of upcoming meetings. The charter now requires six days’ notice, even for emergency meetings. The change would implement language removing the requirement for the meeting to be announced online or by radio. The change would not affect notice for regular meetings.

Two amendments to the state constitution are on the ballot. The first would authorize the state to issue special purpose revenue bonds, the proceeds of which would be used to assist dam and reservoir owners to bring those dams and reservoirs up to current safety standards.

The second measure would allow the state Supreme Court chief justice to appoint retired judges older than 70, the age at which they are now required to retire, as emeritus judges. They could then serve as temporary judges for as long as three months per appointment.

read … Charter

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