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Tuesday, May 24, 2011
May 24, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:03 PM :: 11959 Views

Hirono launches Campaign by misleading public on education reform, clean energy

DoD raises Worldwide Force Protection Condition to Bravo

Abercrombie first few months: Anger, secrecy, waffling, and the birther distraction

Shapiro: The next few months will tell whether the Abercrombie administration is going to give us a new day in Hawai‘i or a lot of same old-same old.

Even Gov. Neil Abercrombie admits his administration is off to a slow start, telling an O’ahu Democratic Party group that he and the 2011 Legislature didn’t live up to the high expectations many voters had when Democrats regained control of the executive branch as well as the Legislature.

It’s partly the governor’s own fault. He called for shared sacrifice, but the specifics didn’t seem spread very evenly. His waffling on a general excise tax increase angered both constituents and some lawmakers. He got off message with distractions he created on Barack Obama’s birth certificate and his ill-advised move to shroud judicial appointments in secrecy.

Abercrombie was surprisingly inarticulate in explaining himself to the public….

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AARP: Pension Tax flawed, would balance budget on backs of Seniors

AARP is also leading the effort to strengthen Social Security and promote other retirement savings efforts to help residents achieve lifetime financial security. Our opposition of the flawed pension tax proposal is a part of our ongoing work in this area….

AARP’s volunteer advocates successfully opposed the flawed pension tax bill, a bill that would have placed a disproportionate share of the burden for closing the state’s budget shortfall on the shoulders of Hawaii seniors. The taxation of pensions represented a major change in tax policy in Hawaii, but was introduced with virtually no discussion of its potential impact on seniors’ retirement security….

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Inouye to Micros: Get Lost

The request, made in a May 12 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, is signed by Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka and Reps. Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa.

The lawmakers say the policy that allows migrants from the three nations covered under COFA — the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau — "is unsustainable" due to recent trends.

The migrants' "increasing reliance" on social services and associated costs "is greater than was anticipated" and "well exceeds" the $30 million provided annually by Congress to defray the costs, the letter states. Approximately $10 million goes to Hawaii, though it's estimated the state spends 10 times that amount on services….

A 2008 Census report determined that there were 12,215 COFA migrants residing in the state.

A bill requiring DHS to provide medical assistance for dialysis, chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, inpatient and outpatient physician visits, and drug prescriptions for immigrants and non-citizens from COFA nations did not receive a hearing at the 2011 Legislature.

But non-binding Senate resolutions and identical House resolutions urging increased federal aid for dialysis and chemotherapy centers in the region passed.

The resolutions state that Hawaii spent $101 million on state services for the COFA migrants, $10 million more than it spent in 2006.

A May 23 article in Marianas Variety said that Marshall Islands Foreign Minister John Silk expressed his concern at the move, saying the Marshall Islands "will object to any system that imposes a de facto visa requirement on our citizens in the U.S. That could violate both the letter and spirit of the Compact."

Noting that the U.S. "operates an important missile testing base in the country," Marianas Variety reported that the May 12 letter "was issued two days after an agreement was signed by Marshall Islands landowners cementing use of the Kwajalein missile testing range by the U.S. Defense Department" through 2066

COFA letter, 05.12.2011

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Progressives Continue to Obsess over Redistricting

Bart Dame, a progressive activist who serves on the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s state central committee, recommends a clever way to help understand reapportionment.

The folks at the University of Southern California’s game innovation lab came up with an online redistricting game. The game allows participants to see exactly how redrawing political boundaries after each census can influence elections.

The Redistricting Game is designed to educate, engage, and empower citizens around the issue of political redistricting. Currently, the political system in most states allows the state legislators themselves to draw the lines. This system is subject to a wide range of abuses and manipulations that encourage incumbents to draw districts which protect their seats rather than risk an open contest.

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Hawaii Finance Director: Moody’s GO Bond Downgrade Will Cost Hawaii Taxpayers

For example, for $1 million in bonds, with 10 basis point difference (0.1%), taxpayers would see an increase of $1,000/year. On $1 million worth of bonds with 20 basis points difference, taxpayers would see a $2,000 increase for every million dollars worth of GO bonds issued, he said.

The next GO bond that the state plans to issue in August or September 2011 could cost the state between $1 million to $2.5 million more. Historically, over the last 10 years, the State plans to issue GO bonds twice a year for anywhere between $250M to $450M for each issue, Young said. These GO bond issues also will be impacted.

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Parents Fume over DoE Response to Campus Shooting

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNows)- Many parents are fuming over Monday's gun incident at Highlands Intermediate. They want to know why they weren't notified right away by the school of the accidental firing in the morning, nor did the campus go into 'lockdown' mode.

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Child Abuser heads Small DoE Charter School

Administrator Hedy Sullivan said that she and the board work closely together, and "we're all related because we're all from Niihau," but she has no close relatives on the board. In response to the auditor's concerns, the board is seeking a new member who has an accounting background to help exert fiscal oversight.

In 2005 the board made headlines when it kept Sullivan on the job as head of the school even after she had pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree assault for tying up her 11-year-old son and beating him with a bat. Police found the boy with his hands tied behind his back, a black eye, bruises all over his body and rope marks around his neck.

Sullivan lost custody of the child, whom she had adopted. She was later sentenced to a year in prison for the crime, and her husband filled in for her as administrator. Upon her release in 2006, she went back to her position at the school, and completed five years of probation last June.

(But the DoE remains grateful that this small school has sopped up one of the precious start-up licenses, thus preventing a disaster such as a Charter school serving all 10,000 military dependents.)

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Legislation seeks to shed light on operations and spending as DoE Starves Charters of Funding

The state Legislature took small steps this session to enhance oversight and public disclosure for charter schools, and lawmakers plan to work with the charter community on big-picture changes for the system.  (While refusing any effort to AUDIT THE DOE.)

The main piece of legislation that passed this session, SB 1174, would help shed light on who is serving on those 31 boards and what they are doing by requiring online disclosure….

Ironically, charter schools are in some ways victims of their own success being played off against each other by the criminal DoE. As more charters open, they compete with each other for scarce state dollars. Alvin Parker, who headed the Charter School Review Panel when it approved Hawaii's three newest startup schools in 2008, said some charter leaders objected because it meant less money for their campuses.

"I got a lot of flak for that," said Parker, a principal whose own charter school stood to lose money because of the vote. "It would have been real easy for me to deny the expansion of charter schools, but that wouldn't have been ethical."

Other would-be charters are waiting in the wings, vying for more than 40 open slots for conversions and startups. The panel has been wary of approving any application without a solid financial plan and a high-quality curriculum that offers something different from what's already available. One new applicant was turned down this month, and two others are scheduled for a vote on Thursday.

The Legislature just approved $5,867 in per-pupil funds for the coming school year, with $228 per child for facilities. The forecast for the following year calls for a smaller per-pupil amount as enrollment is expected to grow.

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Rail Supporters spread Conspiracy Theories about Lawsuit

Cayetano says he can personally account for about $35,000 of the $120,000 that's been raised toward a $200,000 goal. He and his wife donated $5,000, he says.

"And then I raised about $30,000," Cayetano said. "None of that came from outside groups. I've seen the ledger, and it's all from people who call Hawaii home. I think that's the primary misconception, that there's some kind of special interest behind it."

But Cayetano and other rail opponents — while they're adamant that their support is local — will not back up their claim by making public the list of people who donated to pay for the lawsuit, in part out of a concern over any possible political backlash.

A spokesman for the IRS told Civil Beat that tax-exempt organizations are generally not required to disclose the names of contributors.

Links between the highway lobby – oil, tire and auto interests – and the Honolulu rail opposition have long been a topic of speculation. The issue exploded in a public battle between former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and former Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President Jamie Story in 2008. (Read Hawaii News Now's coverage of the fight.)

Rail supporters still today revive those arguments, pointing out that anti-rail leader Cliff Slater is on the board of the institute, but rail opponents dismiss them as conspiracy theory.

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SA: Kalihi rentals revamp right way to go

The long-delayed $50 million renovation of the buildings, which will be owned by Michaels Development Co., should begin a new, more sustainable operation for families who for many years have complained about persistent leaks, dysfunctional elevators and myriad other problems. And the top three floors of Tower B will serve as a "hotel," housing residents while their units are redone, with final project completion set for the end of 2012.

(The SA AGAIN writes about Kuhio without even once mentioning that the work started under the Lingle Admin.  Excellent work Star-Advertiser!)

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PVT Launches Waste-to-Energy to power 12,000 homes

A new solid waste permit means PVT Land Co. — the Nanakuli landfill that accepts waste from construction and demolition sites — will start recycling debris for energy production.

PVT officials said in a statement that the new recycling initiative will allow 60 percent of its debris to be converted to energy, rather than simply dumped. The private landfill takes in about 140,000 tons of debris each year.

Through gasification, PVT says it would be able to deliver enough energy to power 12,000 Oahu homes. The conversion process would take place at the Honua Power, a gasification facility at Campbell Industrial Park.

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KIUC Sets meeting for Luddites to Destroy Hydropower proposal

“KIUC welcomes this opportunity to meet with members of the cooperative to discuss the potential development of small hydropower projects on Kaua‘i,” KIUC CEO David Bissell said in a news release. “It is important for our members to understand the ramifications of the petition process, which requires a vote on whether or not KIUC can continue to engage Free Flow Power to provide expertise in our review of hydropower opportunities on Kaua‘i.

Bissell said KIUC is asking the people of Kaua‘i to support the recommendation of KIUC’s Board of Directors to continue the investigation of hydropower with the goal of developing new small hydropower projects. These would be owned by the people of Kaua‘i, and should be a lowest-cost source of renewable generation.

“It will be unfortunate if we are not allowed to continue the board endorsed process, which will allow significant community input on how projects are designed and whether they move forward to completion,” he said.

(But it IS destiny.)

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Queen’s MD: Stressed Caregivers abandon Elderly at Emergency Room

As medical director of Psychiatric Emergency Services at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, Brett Lu, MD, has observed an upsurge in exhausted caregivers dropping off elderly individuals at a hospital’s emergency department, a rise in the numbers of elderly homeless persons being reported for socially inappropriate behavior, and a two-fold increase in 911 calls concerning elderly relatives with dementia who are attacking family members and caregivers.

These scenarios may portend a mental health crisis facing the nation’s aging population, Lu said during a press conference at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting.

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Guam Vets: "For major surgery we would much rather go to the Philippines than Hawaii"

Aside from coming to cut the ribbon on the $5.4 million clinic, veterans like Mesa are hoping secretary Shinseki will address four major areas of concern: access to care off-island, staffing issues at the clinic such as the need for mental health professionals, expansion of the current clinic and adequate outreach, especially for homebound vets. "For major surgery we would much rather go to the Philippines than Hawaii," Mesa added.

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Hawaii Planned Parenthood Celebrates Teen Pregnancy by demanding more taxpayer dollars for Abortion Mill

During the 2011 legislative session, bills were introduced to require Hawaii's public schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education. Unfortunately, the legislation did not progress through the session. Over the past several months, we've seen proposed cuts to federally funded teen pregnancy and sexual health education programs. We saw the threatened elimination of Title X Family Planning Programs, the main source for basic health care and pregnancy prevention for low-income, uninsured and underinsured women and adolescents. We saw attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, which in Hawaii serves more than 8,000 women every year.

(They wrote the entire column without saying “abortion” even once.)

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911 tape for Fireworks blast reveals disdain

Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said the department is regretful not only for the curt responses by the dispatcher to the caller, but to everyone who hears the remark with an obscenity after the call ended.

The 911 tape, released to Hawaii News Now and "The Carroll Cox Show," contains desperate pleas from the supervisor of the men working for Donaldson Enterprises at the Waikele bunker, which blew up April 8. Five men died as a result of the blast….

The caller hangs up.  The 911 operator says, "What a f——g idiot."

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Maui Charter panel eyes voting powers of County Council

"I say it's very odd that two bodies can make recommendations to the charter," said commission member and retired 2nd Circuit Judge Artemio Baxa.

A few charter commission members suggested that perhaps what might come out of their review of the charter would be a proposed amendment to remove the council's power to put amendments before voters.

Now, with a vote of six members, the County Council can vote to put proposed charter amendments on the ballot. Council members face election every two years.

The charter commission meets every 10 years. Its members are appointed, not elected.

If the council can put something on the ballot, "why have a charter commission at all?" asked commission member Frank DeRego Jr.

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Hawaii's Best High School: Mililani High School

Mililani High School serves one of the largest communities in Hawaii, and, with an enrollment of nearly 2,500 students, the campus is one of the largest public schools in state. This year, it’s also the top-ranked public high school on our “Grading the Public Schools” chart. It edged out its Central Oahu rival, Moanalua High School, by less than 1 percent, ending Moanalua’s longtime reign.

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Native Hawaiian educational programs to receive more than $41M in federal funding

Educational programs for Native Hawaiians are to receive more than $41 million in federal funding this fiscal year.

According to a news release from U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye's office on Monday, the programs include early and pre-school education, Hawaiian language immersion curriculum, higher education scholarships and culturally targeted drug prevention.

The funds are to be awarded on a competitive basis to institutions serving Native Hawaiians in Hawaii.

(Did you make YOUR campaign contribution yet?)

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Charges against HPD officers dismissed

Sgts. Duke Zoller and Aaron M. Bernal and officers Christopher and Patrick Bugarin were scheduled to stand trial later this week for tampering with a government record, theft and accomplice to theft.

However, Circuit Judge Edward H. Kubo, Jr. dismissed the charges because the state took too long to bring the cases to trial. He will decide next week whether or not the state can refile the charges.

Two other police officers went to trial earlier this month and were found not guilty.

A seventh officer pleaded guilty in March and is awaiting sentencing.

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National Veterans Golden Age Games are coming to Hawaii this week for the first time in 25 years

The National Veterans Golden Age Games are coming to Hawaii this week for the first time in 25 years, drawing more than 900 competitors and scoring big points with the island's economy.

A record 933 participants were signed up as of Monday for the games, a Veterans Affairs official said.

The VA games run Thursday through Tuesday and include swimming, cycling, golf, shot put, discus, 10-meter air rifle, table tennis, dominoes, shuffleboard, horseshoes, nine-ball pool, bowling, checkers and croquet for veterans 55 and older.

A news release from the Hawai‘i Convention Center said participants and family members add up to more than 1,400 individuals, translating into more than $6.6 million in anticipated state revenue.

Hotels will benefit from more than 11,200 room nights with events being held at the convention center, Waikiki Beach, the University of Hawaii and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, among other locations.

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Noreen Yamane new chancellor of Hawaii Community College

Noreen Yamane will be the permanent chancellor of Hawaii Community College, effective July 1st, 2011.

Last week, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents approved the appointment of Yamane, who had been serving as interim chancellor of Hawaii CC since July 2010.

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UH Manoa: Feral Cat Count In Progress (Your tax dollars at work)

At the time the university’s Facilities Director David Hafner took on the project, the cat population was around 500. Follow-up surveys saw the count drop to 225, and then down to 122 last year For years students complained about the smells and noise. “You walk around campus you don’t want to see 10- 20-30 cats running around at night,” said volunteer Mark Chynowith.

The feral cat issue isn’t limited to just Manoa. Volunteer Mike Lohr said in Maikiki, he saw colonies of feral cats where feeding became a chronic problem.

“When the caregivers were out feeding the cats, they would put the food under the cars and some people would have flat tires running over the cans,” said volunteer Mike Lohr.

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Why is America the 'no-vacation nation'?

A big reason for the difference is that paid time off is mandated by law in many parts of the world.

Germany is among more than two dozen industrialized countries -- from Australia to Slovenia to Japan -- that require employers to offer four weeks or more of paid vacation to their workers, according to a 2009 study by the human resources consulting company Mercer.

Finland, Brazil and France are the champs, guaranteeing six weeks of time off.

But employers in the United States are not obligated under federal law to offer any paid vacation, so about a quarter of all American workers don't have access to it, government figures show.

That makes the U.S. the only advanced nation in the world that doesn't guarantee its workers annual leave, according to a report titled "No-Vacation Nation" by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal policy group.

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