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Sunday, May 24, 2009
May 24, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:43 AM :: 4820 Views :: Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Telescope: ‘House of the Sun’ getting crowded?

PUKALANI - For nearly a decade, the "line in the lava" - as Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. put it recently - has been clearly delineated over the National Science Foundation's proposed 143-foot-tall solar telescope near the summit of Haleakala.

Native cultural preservationists and Haleakala purists oppose the $161 million Advanced Technology Solar Telescope as sacrilegious, unnecessary and flat-out insensitive and ugly.

Meanwhile, astronomers and others view it not only as an opportunity to expand the world's nascent knowledge about the sun, but as a pragmatic tool to help predict and prepare for disasters caused here and in orbit by radioactive "coronal mass ejections" that disable electronics and endanger the lives of astronauts and air travelers.

(Does this mean that they will fight the telescope tooth and nail?  Well not exactly....)

Last week, Maxwell stood in Pukalani and dismissively waved a hand toward the top of Haleakala, which was literally clouded from view, and declared that although he is a cultural con$ultant to Science City, he opposes its very existence.  Expert$ such as Maxwell are hired to educate Science City workers so they know they are working in a $acred place, like a church, Maberry said.

(So the scope is safe and this is just for show.  If this is news to you, you haven't been paying attention.)

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Honolulu's Internet vote considered 1st in nation

HONOLULU – Voting has ended in what is being touted as the nation's first all-digital election, and city officials say it has been a success.

Some 115,000 voters in Honolulu's neighborhood council election were able to pick winners entirely online or via telephone. The voting, which started May 6, ended Friday.

City officials say the experiment appears to have generated few problems; it has even saved the financially strapped city around $100,000.

"It is kind of the wave of the future," said Bryan Mick, a community relations specialist with the city Neighborhood Commission, "so we're kind of glad in a way that we got to be the ones who initiated it."

Web voting, which produces no paper record, cannot be used in city council or state elections because state law bars voting systems that do not include a vote verification process, said Warren Stewart, legislative policy director for Verified Voting Foundation, a nonpartisan advocacy group.

Lori Steele, head of Everyone Counts, the San Diego-based firm chosen by the commission to run the election, said Web voting will make it easier for civilian and military voters who live overseas or those who just don't have time in their busy days to visit a polling place.

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9-11 Troothers win one as 'Clean elections' law takes effect

The save Bob Jacobson bill, pushed by the 9-11 Troothers of the UH Hilo "Global Hope Club' has survived the Legislative session and became law without the signature of Governor Lingle.  Here's a look at the mess they created: 

"We have a long way to go," said commission Executive Director Barbara U. Wong. "There's a lot of questions that need to be asked as we've gone through the law."
The commission's first deadline will come Sept. 1, when it must determine whether the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund has at least $3.5 million. At last report, the fund has about $5.5 million, more than enough to proceed.
"We hope to be able, by November, to go to the Big Island to give classes in the program," Wong said.
Under the law, County Council candidates may declare their intent to use public funds beginning Feb. 1 by submitting 200 signatures and 200 $5 donations each from registered voters in that candidate's council district. Within 10 days, the commission must determine whether the candidate is eligible.
When a candidate is certified to receive public funds, he cannot accept any outside money and must rely solely on the amount granted to him, unless the public funding program reaches its cap of $300,000 for all races combined.
How much each candidate gets in "base funds" is determined by a formula that considers the average amount spent by winning candidates in the last two County Council elections, minus 10 percent.
According to this formula, candidates running for the council seats now held by J Yoshimoto and Guy Enriques would be eligible for more than $37,000 each in a contested primary election.
Meanwhile, thanks to the low-budget campaigns of 8th District Councilmen K. Angel Pilago and Kelly Greenwell, candidates for that seat would get just $752 in base funds.
Should Greenwell run for re-election as a publicly financed candidate, and if his opponent, who did not accept public funds, outspent him, the commission is allowed to release additional "equalizing funds" up to the base amount.
That is, unless it reaches the $300,000 spending limit, at which point the commission cannot give out any more money. Wong said this was likely.
She estimated the program would cost the state $100,000 in administrative costs, in addition to the $300,000 to be disbursed.

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Legislators have put specific programs in financial jeopardy

Then there are the raids on numerous other special funds like the emergency medical services special fund, which is funded in part through $5 of your car registration fee. This fund was established to pay for ambulance services throughout the state, but instead lawmakers will tap it for $4 million for the state general fund. Another $750,000 will be taken from the neurotrauma special fund, which is funded, in part, from surcharges on all motor vehicle moving violations. The fund is supposed to provide research and assistance for victims of brain injuries.

Finally, one of the raids the Legislature authorized just may preclude Hawaii from accessing federal funds. The Legislature has proposed taking $16 million from the "Enhanced 911" fund that was established a few years ago to build a system of telecommunications that would pinpoint the location of a cellular telephone when an emergency 911 call was being placed.

With this program comes a $43.5 million grant. But the federal law will disqualify any jurisdiction that diverts funds originally raised for the enhanced 911 system to some other use. Thus, Hawaii could be missing out on some valuable federal grants thanks to the legislative raid of the Hawaii fund.
Oh, well, it's just money that lawmakers have now put in jeopardy.

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Honolulu police firing range $5M over budget, 3 years off schedule

Construction of the facility, which is being built at the Honolulu Police Training Academy in Waipahu, started in October 2004 and was to be completed in April 2006 at a cost of $5.9 million. Today, the facility's total cost has soared to nearly $10.4 million and the range hasn't opened because of ventilation problems, according to city budget documents and testimony.  (That's only $447 per square foot, cheaper than the $1000 per square foot Bond Library being built in Kapaau.)

Despite those cost overruns, the bill for the firing range is likely to rise further. The city has identified $2.8 million more in costs to cover construction of classrooms, office space and other features that were supposed to be included at the facility.

Whenever it opens, the 22,325-square-foot range is expected to provide the agency with a more convenient and efficient alternative to the outdoor range near Koko Head. HPD shares a portion of that range with the public and other law enforcement agencies. However, the Koko Head range, which is about 30 miles from Waipahu, can't be used at night or in inclement weather.  (Officer: "Stop or I'll shoot!"  Crook: "You can't shoot me, it's raining.")

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Hanabusa vs Hannemann: Landfill future contested

A contested case already has been pending before the state Land Use Commission, and on Wednesday, the Ko Olina Community Association (Hanabusa's home) was allowed to challenge the city's special use permit application before the city Planning Commission.

The association is represented by state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, who both live in and represent the Leeward Coast district, where the landfill is located.

"A contested case hearing is necessary to question the assumptions made by the city and to ask the fundamental question: Why, after promising to close the dump so many times, we're now in the position of a 15-year expansion," Hanabusa said.

The hearing before the Planning Commission is set for June 22.

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War on coqui pau

"There is still some coqui eradication going on, but that's the existing budget. The new budget doesn't have any money for coqui eradication," Hunter Bishop, public relations specialist for Mayor Billy Kenoi, said of Kenoi's proposed spending package for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
What had been a $300,000 yearly allocation is now being diverted for other uses. "That was one of the areas we decided to cut," Bishop said.
In 2006, then-Mayor Harry Kim identified coqui infestations as one of four Big Island crises that included the drug crystal methamphetamine or "ice," housing and health care. A reporting hotline was established, classes were held and even an international coqui conference was convened in February 2008.  (Billy Kenoi was in charge of both efforts.  Both failed so now he's Mayor.)
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Building bust

The Hawaii Carpenters Union, Local 745, the state's largest building trade union, has declined to 7,300 members from 7,800 a year ago, and of those, 45 percent are out of work, said Ron Taketa, HCU financial secretary and business representative. 

The situation has become so desperate that some members have turned off their cell phones to save money, Chock said.  "We can't find them to tell them about open jobs," he said.

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