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Sunday, April 16, 2017
April 16, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:27 PM :: 1633 Views

Tax Casualty? Maui County Carnival

Poll: Rail Tax Hike Rejected 57-41%

SA: And property tax hikes are rejected 83-17% 

The latest Hawaii Poll by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser suggests a majority of likely Oahu voters want the city’s rail project to reach Ala Moana Center but are reluctant to pay more taxes to do so.

A clear majority of those polled oppose extending the Oahu-only general excise tax surcharge for rail construction beyond 2027, and they are even less supportive of paying more property taxes to fund it.

But by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, those polled also said they want the rail line to stretch from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center as proposed, a scenario Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other city officials say won’t happen unless either the surcharge is extended an additional 10 years or property taxes go up.

One in four respondents said construction on the $10 billion rail line should be halted immediately…..

PDF: Ward Poll on Rail Tax

read … ‘Finish rail but don’t tax more,’ residents say in new poll

Rail Tax: ‘They Think We’re Liars’

Borreca: Back in February, Mayor Kirk Caldwell concluded his legislative pleading for more money for his costly, over-budget rail project by whimpering, “You did give us a little bit of a scorching.”

Perhaps he was singed, but no richer. The Senate gave Caldwell no new money. Instead, Sen. Jill Tokuda, Ways and Means chairwoman, let the city keep most of the subsidy the state awarded itself to administer the rail tax, slapped Caldwell around a bit and closed the piggy bank.

“If this is your No. 1 priority, then you make hard (choices); you make cuts,” Tokuda said in a Star-Advertiser report.

“Oahu residents don’t want us to break our promise again,” she said, referring to the state’s 2015 approval of a rail tax extension after Caldwell and Company said that would likely be enough.

“They think we’re liars,” Tokuda said….

If the state Legislature holds the line on rail tax increases or just allows Luke’s increase to survive, then the decision of more money or less rail comes down to Caldwell and the Council.

How they vote will do much in deciding their political futures. Few songs are sung about politicians voting for tax increases for a project with wavering public support.

read … Rail-financing controversy sure to take politicians’ futures for a ride

Rail Tax Extension: Will Conference Committee Bow to Caldwell’s Cheap Theatrics

Shapiro: As the Legislature nears its crunch, key lawmakers are showing signs they finally mean what they say about holding Honolulu rail accountable for incessant mismanagement and budget deficits.

The Senate refused any extension of the half-percent rail excise tax to cover massive cost overruns, and the House was only slightly more generous with a two-year extension — well short of what Mayor Kirk Caldwell says is needed to finish the 20-mile line from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.

If the two legislative money committee chairwomen stand firm, the mayor’s chances remain grim when the houses resolve their differences in conference committee….

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Jill Tokuda said the city must manage its own finances competently before getting further state bailouts.

The long-overdue hard line has the city in drama mode; Caldwell threatened to raise Oahu property taxes by 8 percent to 14 percent if he’s not given at least a 10-year tax extension, and Councilwoman Kymberly Pine warned other city services will be cut to the bone to clear money for rail.

Luke dismissed it as cheap blackmail, saying, “Threatening the public with property tax increase is doing a disservice to our citizens. The city must first do whatever they can do instill confidence and trust in this project.”

That’s the nut of the problem; the city endlessly pursues rail funding with tiresome theatrics instead of sound planning and honest numbers.

Caldwell won’t say how much he thinks rail will end up costing and keeps shifting how much of an excise tax extension the city needs to finish, starting with a plea to make the tax permanent before falling back 20 years and now 10 years.

The city has offered the Legislature nothing new in terms of meaningful cost-cutting initiatives or funding options other than raising taxes.

Caldwell and rail officials have no Plan B; their only plan is to keep throwing good money after bad in the hope they’ll eventually stumble to the finish line.

And this is just rail construction costs, with discussions barely begun on how the city will pay more than $100 million in annual operating and maintenance costs….

read … No New Taxes

Bill 41: Eliminate ‘Residential A’ Property Tax

SA: …Bill 41, introduced by members Ernie Martin and Ikaika Anderson, would wipe out the Residential A category altogether and place its estimated 8,100 properties back in the standard residential class. There are about 250,000 residential properties in all on Oahu….

Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration has not formally issued a position on Bill 41 but is warning that such a move could cost the city tens of millions of dollars annually.

Bill 41: Text, Status

read … City looks at redoing home tax categories

Hawaii: 48% Support Trump Travel ban

SA: Despite assertions of widespread consensus, Hawaii appears to be divided over whether the state should be spending money challenging President Donald Trump’s revised ban on travel to the United States by individuals from certain countries.

The latest Hawaii Poll found that a slim majority of respondents — 51 percent — feel it’s a good idea for Hawaii to spend $150,000 to fund its lawsuit against the ban, while 48 percent do not think it’s a good idea and 1 percent didn’t know or refused to answer.

The results, compiled from a survey taken over six days ending April 8, don’t exactly back up statements by state Attorney General Douglas Chin that a vast majority of Hawaii residents support the state’s legal challenge.

Contacted following the poll, however, Chin said he wasn’t surprised.

“Spending tax dollars is always an important concern,” he said in a statement. “Under the contract the state will not pay more than $150,000 and there are no plans to increase that.”

read … Fake Consensus

Gabbard faces questions about Syria and Trump

SA: …Roughly 400 people poured into a hot auditorium at Kainalu Elementary School to hear Gabbard speak and ask her questions. Foremost on the minds of many were the conflict in Syria, in which Gabbard has taken some controversial stances, and President Donald Trump, whom she met with shortly after his election.

While Gabbard faced some tough questions, with a portion of the crowd at times turning hostile over her stances on Syria in particular, much of the crowd also cheered her enthusiastically and toted signs that read, “We Love Tulsi” and “Tulsi = Integrity.”

In opening comments, Gabbard criticized the Republicans’ failed health care proposal, calling it a “corporate giveaway bill rather than a health care bill.” She took aim at Trump’s proposed budget for slashing funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, social services and education, and talked about her long-standing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea escalate.

But when the community meeting was opened up to questions, the subject matter quickly turned to Syria, where Gabbard traveled earlier this year and met with Syrian President Bashar Assad….

read … Gabbard faces questions about Syria and Trump

Airport Incompetence

HNN: Out of complete frustration, Hawaiian Airlines has now finally stepped in to manage construction of the huge new hanger facility at the airport.

It's the latest evidence that the state is not competent to handle big projects. The stalled airport modernization plan is an embarrassment, obvious to millions of visitors, and more than inconvenient and uncomfortable to residents.

The legislature is strongly considering setting up an airport authority with an expert CEO.  That should reduce the red tape for construction and ensure people who know about airports are in charge. But the main benefit to an airport authority would be removing this essential facility from the whims of politicians.

Construction of the Hawaiian Airlines' hanger has spanned the tenure of three governors with each administration demanding a fresh look, causing delays. 

Projects are also often stalled waiting for approval by our part-time legislators. Politicians are also very reluctant to fire their appointees who make multi-million dollar mistakes, because that would require them having to admit they made a mistake.

Assuming the airport authority gets past the opposition of public worker unions, a concept similar to this could be worth using for other big projects.

Related: Public-Private Partnerships: Study Examines New Options

read … Airport Incompetence

Kauai police chief wants to change public perception with transparency

KHON: Transparency: Kauai Police Department’s promise to the community.

Chief Darryl Perry wants to change the public’s perception of police officers.

Perry invited several media outlets to Kauai to experience real-life scenarios that law enforcement deal with, including the controversial topic of “use of force.”

Officers are often forced to make split second decisions in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.

Sometimes, the decisions aren’t popular, which is why Perry wanted to open the curtain to the public so they could get a glimpse of their training procedures.

“There’s this negative – and it’s nationwide – perception of police officers,” explained Perry. “That we’re a closed society. That we’re trying to hide, and nothing could be further from the truth. We’re here to serve the people. Sometimes we get a bad rep from a few individuals who does something not appropriate.”….

Related: Darryl Perry for HPD Chief?

read … Kauai police chief wants to change public perception with transparency

Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth Ended Timidity of Prosecutors, Solved Peter Boy Case

HNN: …Peter Boy was let down by both the child protection and criminal justice systems. Child protection workers apparently ignored warnings about his abusive father and returned Peter and his siblings to their parents.

But that tragedy was made worse by successive Hawaii County prosecutors who were too timid to take the challenging case to court.

Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth and Deputy Rick Dammerville were not timid. Their clever and dogged strategy put steady pressure on the parents and ultimately negotiated the truth out of them….   

read … Timidity Over

In Medicare, states are far from equal

MH: …In 2015, Hawaii spent $6,608 per traditional Medicare beneficiary, but Mississippi spent $10,700. Nationwide, Medicare per capita costs amounted to $9,582, CMS data released Tuesday show. Why the difference?…

Medicare spending, utilization and quality vary widely across states, a phenomenon that is longstanding but remains poorly understood. These fluctuations by geography do not seem to reflect beneficiaries' health….

a committee convened by the Institute of Medicine attributed most of the variation to differences in the use of post-acute care and inpatient services….

Data analysis published in a 1999 article in Health Care Financing Review showed variations in per capita spending measures that were notable for their parallels to today, two decades later. Hawaii spent $2,289 per Medicare enrollee in 1995, the least of all states. Louisiana -- as opposed to Mississippi in 2015 -- was the top spender with nearly twice the per capita expenditures of Hawaii, at $5,481 per fee-for-service beneficiary, in 1995….

read … In Medicare, states are far from equal

Another Big Money Cash Giveaway for Hawaii Hi Tech Schemers

SA: Six Hawaii technology companies will share almost $800,000 in federal grants distributed through a state agency that helps facilitate tech industry growth locally.

The High Technology Development Corp. announced the Small Business Innovation Research grant awards Thursday and said the money will help expand research and development work.

Six companies received awards for early-stage development work: Adnoviv LLC ($79,000), Forever Oceans ($57,906), Hawaii Biotech ($100,000), Jun Innovations ($49,700), Kampachi Farms ($59,000) and Oceanit ($135,000). Two other grants for accelerating development work went to Hawaii Biotech ($191,425) and Kampachi Farms ($100,000).

read … 6 Hawaii tech firms share $800K in grants

Tests find no DU threat (Again)

HTH: (Because a Republican is President,) Four Hawaii Island residents filed petitions challenging the radiation monitoring plan for Pohakuloa Training Area.  (There was no radiation during the 8 years of Obama, but radiation was a problem when Bush was President.  It comes and goes.)

The plan is the result of the U.S. Army’s use of depleted uranium — a dense, weakly radioactive metal alloy — in spotting rounds fired 50 years ago at PTA, Schofield Barracks on Oahu and mainland installations. It requires sampling of an intermittent stream bed downslope of the impact area.

Studies and monitoring efforts done over the past decade haven’t shown a health risk to Hawaii Island residents as a result of depleted uranium use and ongoing training. But petitioners say they want to see more monitoring, including continued air sampling, a citizen advisory panel or cleanup of the impact area at PTA.

“I am deeply concerned by the potential contamination of our air, fresh water resources, and food sources,” Hawane Rios of Waikii Ranch (who should check with her own community association) said in her request for a hearing to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “… As a kanaka maoli and Kia‘i Mauna (mountain guardian), it is my responsibility and birthright to show up, stand up and speak up when my lands and ancestors are calling me to do so. (But only when a Republican is President.)”

The NRC issued the Army a license to possess depleted uranium in 2013 to cover its use of the spotting rounds for the Davy Crockett tripod-mounted gun in the 1960s. The metal was used to give the rounds sufficient weight to simulate the projectile’s trajectory. The monitoring plan is a requirement of the license….

PDF: Lab Report Commissioned by Waikii Ranch Homeowners Assn Debunks anti-DU Nonsense

read … Tests find no DU threat

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