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Thursday, December 27, 2018
December 27, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:18 PM :: 1726 Views

The Latest Bad Joke for Hawaiians

Hirono Demands Judicial Nominee Quit Knights of Columbus

Ed Case Congressional Staff Includes Ethically Challenged Rail-Monger Nestor Garcia

Ige Reappoints Directors at Six Departments

LifeSmarts: Four High Schools Head to Finals

State Robotics Championship Set for January

Navy Approves EIS for Hawaii-So Cal Training

November: Visitor Arrivals Up, Spending Flat

Report: Airguns once again dominate ‘firearm’ violations at public schools

HNN: … Some 26 Hawaii students were expelled in the 2017-18 school year for violating the state’s zero-tolerance firearms policy, according to a newly-released report to the Legislature.

The vast majority of one-year expulsions were for students bringing airguns to school.

But there were two instances of students bringing actual handguns to school. And one student was expelled for bringing an explosive on campus.

The figures are included in the Department of Education’s annual report on its mandatory firearms expulsion policy.

The number of students expelled for firearms is up slightly from the previous year, but down from a high of 42 in 2011-12. And some 63 percent of all firearm incidents happened at middle and high schools….

For the full report, click here.

read … Report: Airguns once again dominate ‘firearm’ violations at public schools

Hospital patients in Hawaii soon to be able to price compare health care online

KITV: … In less than a week, hospital patients in Hawaii will be able to compare hospital prices online before seeking treatment. It's all because of a new federal mandate starting January 1st.

The rule requires all hospitals across the nation, including Hawaii, to post costs of standard care online. KITV4 is told that could be anything from x-rays to splints and casts.

It's meant to improve competition and help educate consumers. 

Chair of the House Health Committee, Representative John Mizuno says this puts more power in the hands of patients.

"Transparency, accountability, comparing costs, and choice. those two are key. if you can get a lower cost for the same medical procedure at hospital a vs hospital b then it gives you that choice and the ability to compare prices," said Mizuno….

read … Hospital patients in Hawaii soon to be able to price compare health care online

Hawaii Low Tip Credit Obstacle to Raising Minimum Wage

HB: … “For Hawaii restaurants, raising the minimum wage to $15 will have significant unintended consequences,” says Monica Toguchi Ryan, president and CEO of Highway Inn Cos. “To compensate for the increased labor costs, restaurants will raise menu prices 20 to 30 percent. When prices rise, customer demand falls. This leads to less GET collected, fewer labor hours, lower restaurant profits, lower state tax receipts and more business closures. Restaurants and their supply chains will suffer disproportionally.”

Adding to the stress: Hawai‘i’s low tip credit. The tip credit is part of federal and state law, a mechanism to legally balance the wage disparity between the “back-of-house” (BOH) kitchen employees and the “front of house” (FOH) waitstaff who often take home much more money because they collect tips. In Hawai‘i if an employee regularly makes at least $20 a month in tips, an employer can use a tip credit of 75 cents. So instead of the current minimum wage of $10.10, a tipped employee can be paid a minimum of $9.35 an hour. Tip credits vary across the country: California, Alaska and five other states have no tip credit for many or all tipped employees, while Oklahoma’s tip credit is $5.12.

“We want our employees to receive a fair market wage, and we also want our kitchen staff and waitstaff to be compensated equitably,” says Toguchi Ryan. “The latter is extremely difficult when raising the floor for minimum wage is required for all employees. …

As Explained:  How Hawaii Minimum Wage Workers Earn $24.24 per hour

read … Minimum Wage Dilemma

State House GOP agrees with many against ‘gut and replace’

SA: … The House Republican Caucus strongly believes in a healthy democracy which relies on open debate and public involvement. However, there are elected legislators who continue to injure the trust of the public when they shortcut the legislative process to pass an agenda.

As the House Republican Caucus, we agree that the practice of “gut and replace” at the Legislature incapacitates good rule-making, and we further align with the efforts made by Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters of Hawaii who are exposing this questionable method of legislating.

Gut-and-replace is the repeated practice we see each legislative session where a committee deletes the contents of a bill and replaces it with the contents of another. We have seen various forms of it, and unfortunately, the public is left playing a game of whack-a-mole — a bill that died in one committee that somehow pops up later in another bill, either replacing a bill completely or getting crammed in….

read … State House GOP agrees with many against ‘gut and replace’

HUD Sec 8 Official Faces Federal Charges for Self-Dealing

SA: …A former U.S. Housing and Urban Development employee accused of collecting Section 8 rental assistance on properties she and her husband managed and controlled pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court Wednesday to five counts of wire fraud.

Chun Mei Tong, 42, a former HUD financial analyst, also pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated identity theft. She was accused of signing Section 8 owner authorization forms under the alias Debbie Kim for three rentals even though somebody else owned the properties.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard L. Puglisi scheduled Tong to stand trial on the charges in February. He also ordered Tong released on a $50,000 unsecured signature bond….

According to the federal indictment against her, Tong was the primary HUD contact for Oahu and Maui local public housing authorities that administer the Section 8 program on behalf of HUD and distribute the HUD funds.

Federal conflict-of-interest regulations prohibited Tong and her husband from participating in the Section 8 program and required them to divest any financial interest they had in any Section 8 properties.

The indictment accuses Tong and her husband, through their property management company Affordable Housing LLC, of convincing owners of properties in foreclosure or in mortgage distress to move out. They then took control of the properties and rented them out to tenants through the Section 8 program. The indictment says the Tongs carried out the scheme from September 2014 to about August 2017….

read … Former HUD employee accused of housing fraud

Fraud alleged in local trash company bankruptcy

SA: … A commercial refuse hauler that stiffed the city on $3 million in garbage disposal fees may not have actually dumped that debt obligation through bankruptcy two years ago.

Rolloffs Hawaii, which had served Oahu for more than 40 years, ceased business after being sold at a January 2017 bankruptcy auction where proceeds were primarily used to repay a bank and other creditors were left with little to no recovery.

But earlier this month, a trustee in the bankruptcy case filed a complaint in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Honolulu alleging that the former owners of Rolloffs, primarily two mainland private equity firms, defrauded creditors, including the city — and hence taxpayers — by running up debts that Rolloffs couldn’t repay while they also collected advisory fees from Rolloffs as the trash company struggled….

read … Fraud alleged in local trash company bankruptcy

$5M for jail study looks wasteful

SA Editorial:  … as leading lawmakers already have pointed out, postponing any serious investigation of financing options, at least until the state corrections agency knows what it’s financing would make much more sense than budgeting for it ahead of that decision.

Even at that point, the state would need to justify what it wants to spend on such a study. Setting aside $5 million for a financing study without pursuing standard procurement procedures certainly isn’t the way to get competitive bidding on it.

There’s no evident rationale for that estimate, which seems very high when compared to the $325,000 pricetag for a study on public-private partnership options for the last four miles of the city’s rail project. The two projects might well be apples and oranges, but if anything, the jail project, which would sit on state-owned land, seems far less complicated.

Finally, when Honolulu Star-Advertiser writer Sophie Cocke reported about the budget request, the state Department of Accounting and General Services, the agency that would help to manage the project, was not aware of the request….

read … $5M for jail study looks wasteful

Activists Spend $500K to get Poor to Buy $45K Worth of Fresh Fruit and Veggies

CB: … Now in its second year, the DA BUX program is financed with a $500,000 grant that The Food Basket Inc., a Big Island food bank, got from the USDA and leveraged to obtain additional funding from other sources, Kristin Frost Albrecht, Food Basket executive director, said in an email.

Partnering with KTA Superstores resulted in 20 varieties of locally grown produce being offered at two of the Big Island chain’s grocery stores under a pilot expansion launched earlier this year, she said.

“KTA’s discounting method at the POS (point of sale) was the first of its type in the nation,” Frost Albrecht said, adding it soon will be expanded to all KTA stores to help low-income working families.

The DA BUX program generated approximately $45,000 in customer savings and income to farmers during its first year that ended last July, Koran Munafo, a private consultant the Food Basket hired to evaluate its produce programs, said in an email….

read … Big Island: Making Food More Affordable For The Hungry

Hawaii Failing to Exploit Natural Attractions

CB: …Laniakea (aka) Turtle Beach has become a major destination for tourist who want to see sea turtles. As the beach has grown in popularity, the number of visitors has completely overwhelmed the infrastructure, creating a major headache for locals.

Tourists park along Kamehameha Highway and cross the road wherever they can. As a result, “turtle traffic” can be backed up for miles in either direction, adding 20-30 minutes to a trip for North Shore residents. In December 2013, the state put up barriers to prevent all parking. In 2015, in response to a lawsuit from local surfers, a judge determined that the state had not yet developed a plan to permanently address the issue and ordered the barriers removed.

Currently, the problem remains unaddressed. Perhaps, from the perspective of the Department of Transportation, the cost of the proposed modification is not worth it for the number of residents on the North Shore. What this assumptions fails to take into account is the extent to which the North Shore is an essential piece of Oahu’s appeal as a tourist destination and a natural resource for the entire island. Thus the problem inflicted on this community is a direct result of other benefits accrued to the rest of the state.

Haiku Stairs…is a world-class hike, comparable to Half Dome in Yosemite, or Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park — a hike that people would visit Oahu just to have to the opportunity to do.

And yet, instead of figuring out how to provide access, the Board of Water Supply, which owns the land beneath the stairs, is proposing to remove them so it does not have to manage them. This is despite the fact that the Friends of Haiku Stairs, a nonprofit organization dedicated to their preservation, has offered to manage the Haiku Stairs for the state….

read … Why Doesn’t Hawaii Prioritize Its Natural Resources?

Forced out of Business, Dairy Has a Special X-Mas Gift for Ookala TVR Owners

WHT: … “(There’s) nothing like having the dairy say ‘Merry Christmas’ to the community by releasing close to a million gallons of effluent into the community,” said resident Charlene Nishida….

read … Revenge

Court Cases Open Window Into Marshallese Adoptions

CB: … A lawsuit by a Kentucky couple alleges that an Arkansas attorney offered to fly a Marshallese birth mother to the U.S. despite a treaty that bars such travel ….

read … Court Cases Open Window Into Marshallese Adoptions

How UH Professors Get Away With Sex Assault

CB: … In 1990, I was one of two students who had ever filed a sexual harassment charge at the University of Hawaii. As a graduate assistant, I worked at an office where the director had grabbed me and, once, he even pushed me down on the floor, but, thanks to someone walking in, he jumped up and left quickly. But later still, I had to put up with months of his belittling me in front of the staff since I stayed on, because I did not want to jeopardize my tuition waiver and job.

I waited until my last semester before I filed the complaint. The campus equal opportunity officer investigated this case and found no direct evidence in support of sexual harassment but did identify a hostile work environment. That director was protected by the faculty union: He took a sabbatical….

read … A Mother-To-Daughter Letter In The #MeToo Era

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