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Wednesday, May 11, 2011
May 11, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:00 PM :: 12781 Views

Berg: Allow Mobile Home Parks to provide Affordable Housing?

Hawaii Nursing Home Care costs 58% more than National Average

VIDEO: Rep Gene Ward’s Sine Die Speech

SA on Hawaii ERS Debt?  Nothing to see here, just move along

The state Employees' Retirement System pension fund grew by 3.8 percent last quarter as assets increased to near-record levels and the nine-month return remained on track for the best fiscal year since 1997.

Assets in Hawaii's largest public pension fund climbed to their highest level in nearly four years at $11.5 billion during the fiscal third quarter that ended March 31, according to a report issued yesterday by Portland, Ore.-based Pension Consulting Alliance Inc., which advises the ERS board.

Despite global conflicts and the disaster in Japan, the fund's portfolio increased by $350.2 million last quarter and is approaching the fund's highest asset level ever on Sept. 30, 2007, when it stood at $11.7 billion.

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Harimoto on Rail: “There Will be Problems”

The Copenhagen rail line officials in Honolulu say they're emulating faced so many problems that it earned the nickname "Blunderground," according to a series of newspaper reports in the Copenhagen Post from 1999 to 2004.

City Council Transportation Chairman Breene Harimoto, who visited Copenhagen in late April, said he never heard anyone use that term for the metro system, but said Tuesday he was made aware of some of the early problems with the rail line.

"These kinds of big projects will have problems," Harimoto said. "No matter how much you plan, there will be problems."

The Copenhagen line is of particular interest locally because Honolulu officials in March announced they want to award a $1.1 billion contract to the same Italian rail manufacturer — Ansaldo — that handled the design, construction, operations and maintenance for the Copenhagen Metro.

(Breene Harimoto used to be on the BoE.  Now he chairs the Honolulu Council Transportation Committee.  Aren’t you filled with confidence?)

CB: Council Transportation Chair Gives Glimpse of Fact-Finding Trip

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Hawaii to limit Medicaid eligibility, reduce benefits to save $75M

Government-paid health services for low-income Hawaii residents will be reduced due to rising Medicaid costs, cutting about 4,500 people from the system, the state Department of Human Services announced Tuesday.

The plan calls for Medicaid eligibility requirements to be tightened by removing from the system healthy adults who earn more than $34,194 for a family of four in Hawaii. Currently, the limit is $51,420 for a family of four.

The change will focus Medicaid on the neediest people in the state, said Human Services Director Pat McManaman.

"It's a reduction that focuses on the core services that meet the most important needs of our recipients," said Dr. Kenny Fink, Med-QUEST Administrator for the department.

Medicaid services for the disabled, children and pregnant women would be maintained at current levels.

In addition, benefits for healthy adults under 65 would be trimmed, with the new services imposing limits of 20 outpatient visits, 10 inpatient days and three outpatient surgical procedures a year.

The new benefit levels affect about 100,000 Medicaid recipients, but Fink said they'll meet the needs of 99 percent of the people served by the state.

Medicaid costs to the state have increased, from $606 million in the current fiscal year to $800 million budgeted for the 2013 fiscal year.

By reducing about $75 million in costs to the state government, Hawaii officials would also lose at least as much money in federal matching funds. The Medicaid funding was cut in the new state budget passed last week by the Legislature.

The changes were planned to take effect Jan. 1, following community meetings and creation of new program rules.

RELATED: Medical Homes: Will Medicaid patients suffer to save HGEA, UPW?, Hawaii Nursing Home Care costs 58% more than National Average

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DoE Loses only $16M in budget

The Hawaii Department of Education's budget cuts for next year are smaller than Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi originally feared.

The department will lose $16.4 million per year from the state — less than one-third the $55 million annual cut Matayoshi anticipated in March. And about 1 percent of its $1.7 billion budget.

But more cuts are on the horizon: The department faces an almost inevitable further downsizing1 from Gov. Neil Abercrombie this year and an additional $20 million cut to its bus transportation allocation in the 2013 fiscal year.

(This shows that the DoE is the locus of corruption in Sate gov’t—hence the refusal to cut it.)

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AG Louie, ACLU team up to allow Delivery of Medicated Marijuana

The state Attorney General’s office has told the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii that doctors can make house calls to medical marijuana patients under state law.

The ACLU complained to the AG after the group said it learned that the state Department of Public Safety’s narcotics enforcement division, which administers the medical marijuana program, had told a doctor that house calls are prohibited.

The ACLU also claims that the department imposed special registration requirements for doctors who prescribe medical marijuana and had doctors register every location where they see medical marijuana patients.

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Their incompetence could give lawmakers a pay raise

Lawmakers say they'll come back in special session to correct the flaws if Abercrombie vetoes, but the veto deadline isn't until July 12 and they'll have pocketed the unfrozen step increases by then.

Even if the 5 percent cut is restored in special session, the step increases would result in a net raise of 7 percent for legislators, 12 percent for administrators and 23.5 percent for judges.

…they poisoned HB 575 with confusing amendments that created the constitutional questions.

The Senate didn't pass its version until late in the session, and the House was slow to appoint conferees to work out differences. Time ran out and the conference committee collapsed, its last scheduled meeting canceled when a quorum didn't show up.

Critics haven't presented a convincing case that a veto of HB 575 is necessary or that legal fixes can't wait until next year's legislative session.

As the governor and legislators untangle this, they should realize the public contempt they'd face if top leaders finagle more pay of any amount after demanding sacrifices from rank-and-file workers and hitting constituents with $600 million in tax and fee increases to balance the budget. Incompetence in crafting the pay bill wouldn't pass as an excuse.

Hanabusa: “Legislators work very hard and deserve the raise

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Abercrombie upset after Star-Advertiser identifies him as failure

That gave the Abercrombie the opportunity to respond critically to a recent article in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser titled "Initiative to help homeless falters."

The article noted:

A 2-week-old statewide effort to identify the homeless and give residents the opportunity to direct medical, mental and housing services their way has not led to getting a single person off the streets or beaches.

"The Star-Advertiser is very disappointed that we have not been able to solve the homeless challenge in two weeks," the governor said, sarcastically.

Continuing in that vein, he added, "We should be able to solve this (Medicaid challenges) in three and a half days — anything to appease editorial writers who don't have anything to do except to comment on what we should be doing."

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Federal Judge Calls Legislature’s Inaction “A Terrible Thing”

A federal judge today called the state Legislature’s failure to fund $2.67 million in legal settlements “a terrible thing” and urged state officials to resolve the matter.

“It’s never happened before,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren said in a court hearing.

“It really is a terrible thing” that “limits the state’s ability to negotiate” resolutions of legal disputes, Kurren said.

Lawmakers have routinely passed legal settlement bills in previous legislative sessions but this year’s measure, HB1001, was hung up in last minute maneuvering between the Senate and House of Representatives and was not approved before the 2011 legislative session ended last week.

It appropriated $2.67 million to resolve 17 pending cases in state and federal court and was recommended for passage by state Attorney General David Louie.

Attorney Eric Seitz, who represents plaintiffs in three of the cases, said the state could be liable for “millions of dollars” in damages and legal fees if the cases go to trial and the plaintiffs prevail.

But Deputy Attorney General Donna Kalama said the state might have to go to trial because of the Legislature’s inaction.

Political Radar: Collateral damage

KITV: Attorneys Protest Unpaid Claims

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Legislature Fails to fund settlement for DoE rape Victim

Another affected attorney, Dennis Potts, represents a former public high school special education student who was sexually assaulted by a school staffer.

The state has agreed to pay $250,000 into a trust fund for the girl.

“It’s very disturbing to me that this bill wasn’t passed,” Potts continued.

“My client and her guardian are very unsophisticated people,” said Potts.

“The money would help her to live and it’s very critical to her,” Potts continued.

“She’s an immigrant from Micronesia. She is moderately mentally retarded and was in the special ed class at McKinley High School when this terrible thing happened to her,” he said. “My hope is that the Legislature will reconvene and pass this bill.”

The girl’s attacker, Gregory Keau, was working at McKinley as a special education assistant when he assaulted the victim at least twice in 2007 and 2008, according to court files. Keau infected the victim with a sexually transmitted disease. Keau is now serving a 10-year prison sentence.

“He was working with all these special needs kids and he was the last person you would want to see in a position like that,” said Potts.

Case files show that the state denied responsibility for Keau’s actions, but Potts found that Keau had been arrested on school property in 2003 for assaulting his then-girlfriend.

“He started having a relationship with that girlfriend when she was 15 and he was 23,” said Potts. “The Department of Education never investigated that case and he kept his job.”

(Isn’t the DoE majestic?  We must send the legislature back into special session to raise taxes so we can give even more money to this glorious institution.) 

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CB: Hawaii Republicans Strike Out at Legislature

A Civil Beat analysis of the 122 bills introduced by House Republicans and the 62 introduced by the single Senate Republican shows that none passed.

Political affiliation would appear to be a factor in the GOP's failure.

The 62 bills that came from Sen. Sam Slom — he is both Minority Leader and Minority Floor Leader and serves on all 14 Senate committees — ranked him at No. 7 out of all 25 senators. Yet, each of the six Democrats who introduced more bills than Slom saw at least three of those bills passed.

However, six Democratic senators also failed to get any of their bills passed.

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Not dissuaded by rejection of Pension Tax  - Abercrombie

Abercrombie said he hopes to get more of his ideas passed into law eventually.

''The fact that we did not succeed to the degree I would have liked in getting a greater contribution from those who have the capacity to give it, in the immediate, doesn't bother me,'' Abercrombie said. ''The discussion is out there. We're in the game now. And we've defined where we need to go.''

The most significant defeat came against Abercrombie's proposal to begin taxing pensions in Hawaii….

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After dropping Vaccination Funding, Schatz tries to talk insurers into paying for it

Simple strategy.  The State saves money from kids health care in order to pay legislators more.  The insurers are then blackmailed into picking up the costs because they know that no vaccines=higher insurance payouts. And the State gets a free ride for HHSC.  This is the kind of demented ‘genius’ which has got an airhead like Schatz far in Hawaii politics.

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Isles' long-term care costs high, survey shows

Costs for long-term care in Hawaii continue to outpace the national rate in some cases by more than 50 percent, according to the latest survey by Genworth Financial Inc.

Genworth's 2011 Cost of Care Survey found that the price for a year of private-room nursing home care in Hawaii — $122,640 — is 58 percent higher than the national median of $77,745. Private-room nursing home costs in the state have risen 4.7 percent annually in the past six years compared with 4.4 percent nationally. The company projects local private-room nursing care will cost $199,768 in 10 years.

Genworth is a Richmond, Va.-based company that offers long-term care insurance and other financial products.

Hawaii's senior population is projected to balloon from 15 percent of all residents last year to 23 percent by 2030, according to the state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism. People age 65 and older are expected to account for one-fifth of the total population by 2020.

News Release: Hawaii Nursing Home Care costs 58% more than National Average

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Carlisle Admin repeats Hannemann and Harris Admin calls to divest Affordable Housing

The city loses about $3 million a year managing the properties, Moku said.  (And has been for years the only org capable of losing money in Hawaii real estate)

"We don't do a good job at managing these properties, and we are losing money," he said. "We want to make sure that the people who know how to do this work are able to provide good services for these families and the potential of good renovations for the affordable properties."

Moku said there is the possibility that private companies could raise housing rates, but that the companies would have to adhere to guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"We do want renovations to occur, because they are needed, and that will be part of the negotiations," Moku said.

KITV: Sales Could Impact Thousands In 1257 Units

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Berg: Put Zoo in Diamond Head Crater

City Council member Tom Berg wants the Honolulu Zoo to be relocated into Diamond Head crater. While that may solve the longstanding curiosity we've had about what would happen to animals in the event of a tsunami, it raises a whole host of other questions.

Berg says the city ought to get out of the zoo business, which isn't a core city service.

"The City’s Zoo functions can best be performed by outsourcing it to zoo professionals," Berg wrote in his proposed amendment. "The City should turn over the function to a private sector company or non profit for its operations and management. Then use the land for other revenue generating activities."

We're not sure what Berg has in mind, but he recently pitched the idea of a horse racetrack in Kapiolani Park.

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Crisis? Counties pour money into Swampland, Open Space, Vacant positions, Reserve Fund, Swinging bridge 

Kauai County auditor hampered by external delays, influences

Pasion states in his presentation that one of the most notable challenges the office faced in its first full year of operations was encountering “obstacles in procuring the work of outside experts to assist in the conduct of several audits.”

Some of the work the office needs to do to complete an audit requires expertise in particular areas, such as engineering or actuarial sciences. As such, the office needs to hire specialists, as its budget allows.

“However, when we sought to procure the use of such specialists, our procurement efforts were often hindered or obstructed by numerous externally-imposed delays or influences,” Pasion states in his presentation, without naming names.

“Government auditing standards also provide that audit organizations must be free from external impairments to independence,” Pasion states. “Such impairments occur when auditors are deterred from acting objectively and exercising professional skepticism by pressures from management and employees of the audited entity or oversight organization.”

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Kam Schools is top Spender on Lobbying

*Kamehameha Schools: $45,960
*Altria Client Services (tobacco): $44,820
*Hawaii State Teachers Association: $39,571
*Hawaii Association for Justice (trial lawyers): $32,467
*Hawaii Medical Service Association: $27,000

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Schatz prepares for APEC: 200,000 Japanese Hula Dancers showcase Hawaii’s legitimacy

Now both Hawaii and Japan are connected in myriad meaningful ways. Did you know there are more than 200,000 hula dancers in Japan? Did you know that more than 11,000 students come to Hawaii from Japan every year? Our relationship is deep, rich and mutual.

The organic outpouring of support through the Aloha for Japan and Kokua for Japan efforts, raising millions of dollars for tsunami relief, is proof of our enduring friendship.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to start building the kinds of relationships that Hawaii has with Japan across the Asia and Pacific region. President Barack Obama selected Hawaii as the location for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting this November.

We will have all of the heads of state and finance ministers from 21 countries in the Asia Pacific Region. With nearly 20,000 people in attendance and up to 3,000 members of the media, this is our best shot at showcasing our excellence in business and leisure travel, our growing legitimacy as a test bed for clean energy technology, and our excellent University of Hawaii system.

But the prospect that hasn't been talked about as much doesn't have much to do with how we market ourselves externally to the rest of the world. We can use APEC to create the "Pacific Century" of which Gov. John Waihee spoke.  (One delusional airhead quotes another.)

REALITY: FT: Complacent Honolulu out of its league, not ready for APEC

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Former Ag Bennett Defends State’s Manslaughter Case Against Jimmy Pflueger

Mark Bennett, who served as state attorney general under Gov. Linda Lingle, will return today on the state’s behalf to argue before the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

The case: James Pflueger, retired Hawaii automobile mogul, is appealing manslaughter charges brought against him by the state after his Ka Loko Dam breached in March 14, 2006, killing Kauai North Shore residents Alan Gareth Dingwall, Daniel Jay Arroyo, Rowan Grey Makana Fehring-Dingwall, Aurora Solveig Fehring, Christina Michelle McNees and her unborn child, Timothy Wendell Noonan, Jr. and Carl Wayne Rotstein.

A Kauai grand jury indicted Pflueger in November 2008 on 7 counts of manslaughter and one count of reckless endangerment.

(Pflueger’s strategy: Wait out the biological clock.)

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Honolulu is Only City in America with Increasing Home Prices

What does Honolulu have in common with Fort Meyers, Fla., and Champaign-Urbana, Ill.?

Very little, it would seem, except for this: They all showed an uptick in home values during the first quarter of the year. And, according to a report from the real estate firm Zillow, they were the only ones among the 132 metropolitan areas surveyed that did.

Further, Honolulu was the only metro showing price growth year-over-year.

(This is totally related to the next article.  Supply and demand.)

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Kakaako: Open Space preferred to Presidential Library

“It was really not on our radar screen when we were doing the master planning process,” said Wayne Takamine, chair of the council.

Takamine said apparently the library has now been included as an appendage to the Kakaako Makai masterplan.

“We are wondering what elements could be displaced if they put in this library,” said Takamine.

“I think it is 70 thousand square feet on the roof. So it is a quite a huge complex,”

Takamine, who, like the president, is a body surfer, wonders about ocean access.

“That area is slated for park expansion, and a lot of the ocean users want to make sure it's open space,” Takamine said.

Interestingly the news comes as CPAC members worry their voice is being marginalized. Lawmakers just passed a bill to weaken the council’s input in future development.

(Could that possibly be because the CPAC members are so reflexively anti-development that they would even oppose the Obama library?  Nah….)

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Cabanilla pushes Democrat Takeover of Public Housing Agency

I agree that public housing projects, such as Mayor Wright Homes, have lapsed into disrepair. The current situation must not and cannot be permitted to continue ("State owes Mayor Wright tenants," Our View, Star-Advertiser, April 25). However, the state Legislature is not to blame. For the past six years under the Lingle administration, there was no oversight and accountability of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA), which is responsible for the maintenance of public housing.

HPHA has consistently operated in violation of HRS 356D-43, which mandates that HPHA establish a rate of rent that will generate sufficient revenue to "pay all expenses of management, operation, and maintenance … to the end that the state low-income housing projects shall be and always remain self-supporting." It is because of severe mismanagement and non-conformity to the law that public housing projects are in the poor condition they are in now.

When HPHA was created in 2005, it was (filled up with Lingle appointees who must now be exorcised from the body politic….)

Cabanilla: Child molester back at work at Hawaii Legislature

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Facebook Post blows Liquor Inspectors’ Cover

The pictures were taken April 1, during a mock car crash at Castle High School that was meant to deter underage kids from drinking and driving.

The photos show liquor inspectors, some of them wearing their official "enforcement" shirts, at the event. Some liquor commission employees posed for a picture with Police Chief Louis Kealoha.

Law enforcement officials said they're dismayed because word on the street is that hostess bars and other establishments know about the photos and are using them to show their employees what liquor investigators look like.

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Dispute Over Hawaii Kai Marina Association’s Financial Management May Go to Court

Owners of the estimated 2,800 homes built on the marina must join the Hawaii Kai Marina Association and pay dues for upkeep of the marina.

Late last week, those 2,800 members received a 5-page letter detailing a dispute between Steve Carr, its former board president, and the Marina board, over his alleged misuse of association property and finances.

No one would go on the record, but those interviewed on background say it is a disagreement that has split the board of directors, angered its members and may soon lead to legal action because of Carr’s refusal to leave the board altogether.

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Coming to Hawaii Soon? Fishermen Attempt Suicide after “Catch-Share” Regulations Destroy Industry

The new regulations are known as "catch-share." The team said they are not there to look at possible changes to the rules but rather to see what effects they are having. (Coming to Hawaii soon?)

"What the economic challenges are and, maybe in the future, what the economic opportunities are for the community, and we're putting together a report some time in the summer based on what we hear, as far as the challenges and opportunities for economic development in the community," said Bryan Borlik of the Department of Commerce.

While the report won't produce short-term changes, local fishermen said they were glad to share their pain on the record.

"One of the fishermen from Rye had said that there had been three suicide attempts and a half dozen divorces during this first year of catch-shares," said Bob Campbell of the Yankee Fisherman's Cooperative. "Commercial fishermen are usually pretty tight-lipped, and for something this serious to come out, I mean, you know that the whole situation is grave."

Campbell said the cooperative has lost about $750,000 in business since the new regulations went into effect.

"We're off 1.1 million pounds of fish from last year, and over a million and a half pounds from the year before," he said.

Local fishermen said they were told by the federal team not to discuss the new regulations, just their effects.

ECOs Love Catch-Share: Catch Shares (LAPPs): A Promising Solution

Coming to Hawaii: NOAA Encourages Use of Catch Shares to End Overfishing, Rebuild Fisheries and Fishing Communities

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Alarming combo: Bedbugs with 'superbug' germ found

Canadian scientists detected drug-resistant staph bacteria in bedbugs from three hospital patients from a downtrodden Vancouver neighborhood.

Bedbugs have not been known to spread disease, and there's no clear evidence that the five bedbugs found on the patients or their belongings had spread the MRSA germ they were carrying or a second less dangerous drug-resistant bacteria.

However, bedbugs can cause itching that can lead to excessive scratching. That can cause breaks in the skin that make people more susceptible to these germs, noted Dr. Marc Romney, one of the study's authors.

(DDT is the only effective means of removing bedbugs and preventing their return.)

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