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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
May 19, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:21 AM :: 9065 Views :: Kauai County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development, World News

Hawaii governor orders departments to cut spending

Gov. Linda Lingle, anticipating that state revenues will decline when the state Council on Revenues updates its forecast next week, yesterday ordered state departments to make an additional 2 percent cut in discretionary spending to get through the fiscal year that ends in June.  The new cut would save an estimated $36.3 million. Lingle had imposed a 4 percent spending restriction last summer and a 2 percent trim in January to adjust to falling revenues.

SB: Lingle directs agencies to cut spending by $36 million

Kawamura: Gov. Lingle to Executive Branch Departments, Agencies: Additional 2 Percent Restriction Placed on FY09 Budgets

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Honolulu city council may ease proposed tax hikes

The latest budget proposal from the City Council's Budget Committee would give homeowners a $175 tax credit to help offset an expected increase in the property tax rate for residential property owners. 

The tax credit, which Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia said would cost the city about $14.2 million in tax revenues, is higher than the $75 tax credit offered by Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the budget he submitted in March.

Meanwhile, the committee also accepted Garcia's recommendation to retain Hannemann's proposal to increase the tax rate for residential properties from $3.29 per $1,000 of assessed value to $3.59 per $1,000....

Councilmen Charles Djou and Duke Bainum voted against eliminating implementation of what would be the final two phases of curbside recycling.

"We are going to go off-track on curbside recycling once again," Djou said.

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Let's not raise HI-5¢ fees in a recession

That's the case with the state's HI-5¢ container recycling program, run by the state Department of Health. In a relatively short time, the redemption of beverage containers — by individuals, school fund-raisers and others — has risen to a whopping 77 percent. That raises the possibility that the program's administrators may need more money to run it than the 1-cent-per-container administrative fee now provides.

Legislators anticipated this and enacted the law with a trigger to authorize an increase in the container fee — the 6 cents shoppers pay per container — when redemption rates hit 70 percent.

So far the health department has opted against raising the fee...

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Hawaii swine flu scaring off tourists (thanks, Biden)

The number of Japanese visitors arriving in Hawai'i plunged over the last two weeks amid swine-flu fears — even though Hawai'i cases have remained few and mild — and cancellations over the next few months are likely to cost the state millions more in lost revenue.

That's the assessment from several businesses that specialize in Japanese visitors. State tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said, "It is very concerning" to see a double-digit decline in arrivals that began on May 10 with a whopping 25 percent drop in daily arrivals.

"And that sharp decline is continuing today," Wienert added.

Hawai'i reported its first swine flu case on May 5, and since then the number of cases has grown to 26.

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SB: Boost access to ballots in digital voting (voting gets easier--so participation drops)

The push to conduct neighborhood board elections through strictly digital means — voting online and by phone — is a worthwhile experiment that can help Hawai'i move toward a more efficient, electronic polling system for all of its political contests.

But to get there from here, government leaders have to pay attention to the lessons that this grand experiment is already teaching.

In the city Neighborhood Board elections that continue through Friday, one lesson is that saving money by curbing access to ballots is a bad bargain.

Only 115,000 are eligible to vote in the elections — an appallingly low figure, given that there are approximately 420,000 registered voters.

The commission has mailed election passcodes — which entitle voters to an electronic ballot — only to those living in districts where there are contested board races, and only if they voted in the 2008 general election.

Almost half of the 33 boards have all uncontested races, which means that nearly half of those serving in this system of grassroots governance will do so without a single vote being cast for them. That seems singularly undemocratic.

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Another "solution' from the Advertiser: Voters shouldn't make all public decisions

Before long, you're going to be hearing the righteous indignation of all sorts of California pundits and policy types. They'll no doubt be shouting about an embarrassingly low turnout in today's statewide special election and the astonishing ignorance on the part of those who did vote. Though not completely without merit, their rantings also will be part and parcel of the problem they're condemning: Our political elites are burdening the public with too much democracy.  (Oh, THAT's the problem!)

In 1863, American psychiatrist Isaac Ray went so far as to suggest that participatory democracy was endangering our mental health.  (No, but you'd have to be crazy to believe this....) 

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Architects suggest building the rail system near ground level

He said elevating the rail allows the system to be fully automated and reduces the cost of operation tremendously.

At stake is a projected $5.4 billion rail transit system from East Kapolei to Ala Moana, $1.4 billion of which would be paid by the federal government and the remainder by the city.

The city plans to break ground for the project by the end of this year and is receiving comments about a draft environmental impact statement for the rail system.

Okino said the Council reviewed the alternatives along with advice from experts before the 2006 vote.

But Councilman Duke Bainum said the Council's vote in 2006 did not require an elevated rail system, and the time to make a decision on the height of the rail system is supposed to be during the review of the environmental impact statement.

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Regents starting talks on 2 finalists

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents will meet tomorrow afternoon to start discussing which of two finalists could become the next UH president.

But the decision is not likely to be made or announced just yet, board Chairman Allan Landon said last week.

Both finalists -- M.R.C. Greenwood of the University of California, Davis, and Robert Jones of the University of Minnesota -- visited UH campuses on four islands this month amid a busy schedule of public and private meetings.

A 14-member UH Advisory Presidential Selection Committee selected the finalists from among 600 applications and nominations. A third finalist, who was not named, dropped out because of the public search process.

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SB: Difficulty lingers with medical marijuana

The U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of two California counties' objections to the state's medical marijuana law removes barriers to systems there and in 12 other states with similar laws. A task force approved by this year's Hawaii Legislature should examine ways to make the program effective.

After the Bush administration raided medical dispensaries in California, the high court ruled in 2005 that the federal government could prosecute medical users of marijuana for violating federal drug laws despite state laws permitting that use. However, Attorney General Eric Holder said two months ago that the Obama administration would not interfere with states' medical marijuana laws....

Unfortunately, Hawaii Public Safety Director Clayton A. Frank, whose agency administers the state's medical marijuana system, has insisted on adhering to the federal law. Several of the task force's functions "seem to be aimed at ways to circumvent federal law," he testified to legislators.

"The use of marijuana, even medical marijuana, is still illegal under federal law," Frank insisted more than two weeks after Holder stated the Justice Department's hands-off policy. "Until that law is changed, it is inappropriate for the state of Hawaii law enforcement agencies to recommend ways to maintain, transport or increase the use of marijuana."

(wow.  read that last line again)

RELATED: KPD: Drugs prevalent at all parks

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Hawaii refinery assessed for shutdown by Chevron

HONOLULU (AP) - The owner of one of the two oil refineries in Hawaii is conducting a study to determine whether to cease refining operations.  Chevron Corp. will decide if its 54,000-barrel-a-day oil refinery at Campbell Industrial Park should be converted into a terminal for distribution of products shipped to Oahu.

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Maui News Polls Governor's race

LINK: http://www.mauinews.com/page/polls.detail/id/73.html


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