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Tuesday, June 8, 2010
June 8, 2010 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:24 PM :: 10185 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development, World News, Hawaii History

Aiona visits 100 small businesses in 100 days

Abercrombie on Marijuana: “Of course it should be utilized”

Board of Education weighing fate of four rural schools targeted for closure on three islands

This summer, the Board of Education will be weighing the fates of four rural schools being considered for possible closure, a touchy prospect that communities are mobilizing to fight.

On tap are Kaaawa Elementary and Haleiwa Elementary on Oahu, Maunaloa Elementary on Molokai and Kohala Middle School on the Big Island. The school superintendent will make recommendations in each case, but the final decisions on whether to close each school will be up to the Board of Education.

Here’s what they’re not cutting: Hawaii DoE: Cost of waste, fraud, and corruption between $191M and $431M per year

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Honolulu Council to decide on city's $1.82B budget (tax hike)

This year's budget includes for the first time two separate property tax rates for homeowners.

If approved, the property tax rate for homeowners who do not live in their property would increase 16 cents to $3.58 per $1,000 of property value. The owner-occupant rate of $3.42 and all other tax rates would remain unchanged.

Although it was below the $3.72 rate Mayor Mufi Hannemann proposed, administration officials have supported the Council's proposal. Because of lower property value assessments, the administration contends those in the nonoccupant-owner class would see no change or even a drop in their tax bills.

To bring down the rate, Council members cut slightly deeper into the budgets of departments that already are facing a new fiscal year that includes two furlough days a month for employees.

Most departments would have expense budgets trimmed by 1.5 percent, while funding for vacant, funded positions would be reduced 10 percent. Exceptions were made for areas such as public safety.

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Hawaii Co. Council backs down from budget cuts (Kenoi wins tax increases)

HILO -- The Hawaii County Council is finding it more palatable to raise property taxes than cut spending.
In a marathon session that started at 7:30 a.m. Monday and stretched late into the night, the council beat back attempts to cut golf subsidies, travel, Kona meetings and other government expenditures. A council majority also opposed imposing bus fees.
The council hadn't finished by press time, but early budget-cutting attempts were dying by 3-6 or 4-5 margins….

Executive Assistant Kevin Dayton said he wasn't aware of a mass e-mail campaign, but he said "most of us up here did do some outreach to various groups we work with to let people know what's going on," since the council's budget amendments came in so late.

TOTALLY RELATED: 'Lost Malihini Tribe' and PASH Aim to Take Over County Council

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Hawaii Business: Education is Everybody’s Problem

You already know that annual tests rank Hawaii near the bottom of all the states. But did you realize the economic consequences of our schools’ failure? Here are just a few:

  • Public school graduates often fail union apprentice exams because they cannot understand something as fundamental as fractions.
  • According to University of Hawaii placement exams, 79 percent of public high school graduates need remediation in math and more than half in reading before they are ready for college-level courses offered at the community colleges.
  • Local companies say most high school graduates are unprepared even for entry-level jobs.

Full text: Six local leaders offer money-saving ideas and better teaching strategies for schools

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Lingle addresses Chamber in Shanghai

Lingle was welcomed by Brenda Lei Foster, a former Hawaii resident who now serves as executive director of the chamber. Foster had specialized in International Affairs for Govs. Ben Cayetano and John Waihee.

SA: Lingle draws more than 300 in Shanghai

Bloomberg:  Hawaii gov. begins official meetings on Asia trip

RELATED: Report from Shanghai: Hawaii Day in China

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Andy Winer: Responsible for Obama’s Gulf Oil Well disaster!

A Hawaii Democrat is given real responsibility and… 

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Schmidt resigning as insurance chief

Under Schmidt's leadership, the division said it improved efficiency while increasing consumer protection.

For instance, there was previously a backlog of 150 companies waiting for a license to do business in Hawaii. The process typically took six months to a year. As a result of improved procedures, the backlog was wiped out, and the time it took to get approval was reduced to between 60 and 90 days.

The Insurance Division also helped to find a buyer for Hawaiian Insurance & Guaranty Co. Ltd. in 2006 - the day nearly 30,000 local policies were to be canceled by the court in liquidation after its parent company, Vesta Insurance Group Inc., went insolvent.

Schmidt also helped increase competition in the health insurance market by helping to bring in Summerlin Life & Health Insurance Co. to the islands in 2004. Summerlin has since merged with HMAA.

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Ilind: Cam Cavasso apparently making another run against Dan Inouye

Progressives work out line of attack against Cavasso.  it goes something like this:

“This might be a ploy to raise $45K and retire his debt. Or another indication that extreme Christians are on the move….”

REALITY: Which kills more: ideology or religion?

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Hawaii's weather, high gasoline costs lure electric vehicles (Detroit Free Press)

The first car imported to Hawaii in 1899 was an electric vehicle.

The royal Iolani Palace, home to the former king, lays claim to having electricity installed less than seven years after Thomas Edison invented the first practical light bulb.

Now, state officials and business leaders want Hawaii to become the real-world test ground for a burgeoning electric and alternative-fuel car industry.

Hawaii’s goal is to have 50,000 electric cars on the road by 2015 — and perhaps as many as 200,000 by 2030 — and to establish a network of electric charging stations.

“It’s a very exciting time for us because we know we are well-positioned to be a place where these vehicles can work because we simply don’t drive that far in Hawaii,” Gov. Linda Lingle said.

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Several big properties are suffering from loan defaults that amount to more than $2 billion

the credit crisis virtually dried up lending, and that, along with the global economic downturn, put hotels in a difficult spot.

At least 10 Hawaii hotels have been in some stage of distress over the past year, with owners unable to pay their mortgages, refinance or sell in a down economy, according to a list compiled by Colliers. And more are expected to default as short-term interest-only mortgages expire within the next few years.

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Ilind: Former newspaper employees in 60-day limbo

The Star-Bulletin and Advertiser may be history, and hundreds of former employees now out of work, but those who didn’t get 60 days notice of their terminations apparently can’t just get on with their lives.

Federal law, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, requires a large employer like Oahu Publications to give employees 60 days notice if they are going to lose their jobs. Many, perhaps most, employees didn’t get the full 60 days. Maybe nobody did, for all I know.

But instead of just cutting them loose and making the required payments, Oahu Publications has apparently told employees they are considered “on call” for unspecified duties for the 60 days. And what this means is that they can’t take other jobs without forfeiting the pay and benefits they’re due.

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Curfew curbs violence--so it is cancelled

Residents at the 372-unit public housing project largely supported the curfew, and housing officials have said they were exploring the possibility of making it permanent.

But yesterday the Hawaii Public Housing Authority said the curfew—which several legal advocates and lawmakers had raised issue with—would be lifted before the state's Aug. 1 deadline to do so.

"We think things have calmed down," said Alan Sarhan, spokesman for the housing authority.

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Island teens increasingly aware of risks of methamphetamine use

The second Hawaii Meth Use & Attitudes Survey found that:

  • » 54 percent of Hawaii teens and 67 percent of young adults see great risk in taking meth once or twice, up 10 points for each group from one year ago.
  • » 87 percent of young adults strongly disapprove of trying meth even once or twice, up 6 points from last year.
  • » 67 percent of teenagers—up 11 points—and 82 percent of young adults—an increase of 7 points—say their friends would give them a hard time for using meth.
  • » 54 percent of teenagers have discussed meth with their parents in the past year, an increase of 6 points.

The four new television commercials that begin airing today can be found at www.hawaiimethproject.org.

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Hawaii Business: Illegal Sex, Drugs and Gambling (and tourism in Hawaii)

People come here anticipating this is an adult Disneyland. We are a never-ending marketplace. If you walk around Waikiki and you look like a tourist, you will be approached and asked if you want to buy sex or drugs.”

There’s one more theory about why the black economy is hard to measure: In some ways, the authorities are just not that interested.

Gordon Knowles, a professor of sociology at Hawaii Pacific University, has written extensively in academic and other journals on Hawaii’s drug, prostitution and gambling scene, and says there seems to be a “hands-off” approach to gambling, at least the casino-type operations that operate quietly behind closed doors.

Police move in when a complaint or other crimes draw their attention, he says. For instance, local and federal officials busted a major casino in Honolulu’s Sheridan area last year, which allegedly handled more than $10,000 in bets a day. A tax evasion charge led to that bust.

But Knowles says he believes there are close to a dozen “houses” operating on Oahu at any time, offering a variety of games from cards and baccarat to slot machines. The clientele includes visitors, mostly Asian, and a fair number of local betters, again mostly Asian.

By any measure, the Sheridan operation was one of Oahu’s larger gambling houses. Extrapolating from the authorities’ numbers on that operation, and assuming Knowles is correct about the overall number of gambling houses on Oahu, casino gambling alone is worth $20 million to $40 million or more a year.

(Now we know why there is so much resistance to the human trafficking bill.  And why they keep trying to legalize gambling.)

HB: Unreported cash-only deals add up to $1 billion a year in unpaid taxes

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Honolulu man indicted for sex trafficking teenage girl

The FBI says under the street name "Danger" he coerced at least one teenager into a life of prostitution. Hawaii News Now first profiled Watson last summer as a Wanted Wednesday fugitive on the run from Waikiki robbery charges.

In May he was found not guilty of that crime, but just last week he was picked up again on drug charges. The FBI took over custody on Friday.

SA: Ewa Beach man pleads not guilty to federal sex charges

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Workers Speak Out In Human Trafficking Case

Monday at Honolulu U.S. District Court 20 men came to court with the same story. They said that they were lied to by recruiters in Thailand to whom they paid $20,000, usually by mortgaging their family property. They ended up working for Aloun for much less than promised and for only a few months, living in what they said were crowded conditions with little freedom and poor food.

“These men had to continue to work for less than they were paid under the contract and were threatened to be sent back to Thailand with these huge mounting debts under their belts and so they had to continue to work they had no other choice,” said Melissa Vincenty, an attorney representing the workers in a civil case against the Sous. “This is a forced labor case lets not forget that,” she said.

But also gathering at court today were scores of Aloun farm workers wearing brand new farm hats. They said the Sous were generous, kind bosses.

(Or else they too would lose their homes in Thailand.)

TOTALLY UNRELATED: Green hypocrites: Case & Omidyar's Maui Land & Pine tied to human trafficking

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Compeltely Typical and Average Hawaii Progressive speaks up for Hawaii slavers

SA publishes a LTE from typical and average progressive activist Danielle Guion-Swenson:

“There is great trepidation for scores of us awaiting the outcome of the Honorable Judge Susan Oki Mollway's sentencing for farmers Alec and Mike Sou. Their disappearance from Aloun Farms would have repercussions beyond our understanding.”

When not asking for leniency on behalf of convicted slavers, Guion-Swenson is busy giving money to Dennis Kucinich and trying to ‘Save the Aina’.

TOTALLY UNRELATED: Green hypocrites: Case & Omidyar's Maui Land & Pine tied to human trafficking

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Contractor in tower collapse did not have required license

 

AG Transport owner Arthur Gersjes has told department investigators that his Los Angeles County-based business has done scores of demolition jobs.

But California Contractors License Board spokeswoman Venus Stromberg said AG Transport also has no contractor's license in its state.

AG Transport was in charge of the demolition of the 168-foot tower that collapsed prematurely on May 16, 2009, killing employee Juan Navarro.

SA: Union official wants safety law answers

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Hawaii 5-0 Filming begins mid-July, LOST to be followed by “Off the Map?”

CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 series is scheduled to start filming on Oahu July 15 while it continues to look for studio space….Hawaii crew have already been contacted about signing on to the series with pre productions expected to begin in mid June…Hawaii Five-0 stars Alex O’Loughlin as Five-0 head Steve McGarrett (below left) and Scott Caan as Danny “Danno” Williams…

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Negotiations Under Way To Move Stranded Trash

“I don't see how they can fulfill the terms of the contract for $100 a ton, and delivering it by the end of September. Physically it's just not possible.” Kobayashi said.

Kobayashi said it is a legal mess. Vendors rented containers to the company to store the trash, but have not been paid. They want their containers back.

Another council member told KITV4 News city attorneys are in confidential negotiations with Hawaiian Waste Systems, apparently trying to work out some way to get rid of the trash.

(The name “Mufi Hannemann” appears nowhere in this article.)   

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Hawaii Co. Geothermal working group organized

The 11-member working group was created under Senate Concurrent Resolution 99 (SCR 99), which asks the County to convene the group to evaluate the potential of geothermal to serve as the primary energy source for electricity in the County of Hawai`i….

In 2009, PGV’s Pohoiki power plant accounted for 13.9 percent of the electricity produced in the County of Hawai`i. Overall, about 30 percent of the electricity produced in the County in 2009 came from renewable sources including geothermal.

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Mamalahoa Bypass extends hours, opens two-way route

The northern portion of the Mamalahoa Bypass is now open to traffic in both directions for 12 hours a day, seven days. This new agreement was finalized and made last week between Hawaii County and Hokulia developer 1250 Oceanside Partners, said Mayor Billy Kenoi Sunday.

Starting today, the bypass will be open both ways from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. Prior the road was open for evening rush hour. The county undertook that southbound-only 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. weekday schedule on a trial basis a year ago.

About a third of the 400 to 500 motorists using the bypass are bound for Kealakekua and beyond South Kona and their drive time is cut in half, traffic surveys conducted last spring found.

RELATED: WSJ: Paradise Lost? A Project in Hawaii Stumbles

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Hawaii Part Of Honey Bee Decline Investigation

HONOLULU -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday announced it will conduct a survey of 13 states, including Hawaii, of honey bee pests and diseases.

The small hive beetle and Varroa mite are threatening Hawaii's $6 million queen bee export and honey industries.

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