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Tuesday, May 28, 2019
May 28, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:53 PM :: 788 Views

Lyon Bribery: A Sewer Project on Chuuk

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted May 26, 2019

How spending hike rammed thru Council

MN: … As the Maui County Council’s $823.6 million budget comes down to a final reading today, the current and former budget chairs are at odds over whether the latest increase is the best move for the county.

Council Member Riki Hokama, the budget chairman last term, sent out a press release Thursday expressing his concerns about the budget, which would be about $65 million more than the current budget and $43 million more than the proposal put forward by Mayor Michael Victorino in March.

“Although I support some of the additions that were made by the committee, I am disappointed that we did not do a more comprehensive review to reduce the budget rather than just raise taxes to increase the spending,” said Hokama, who was known for significantly cutting the mayor’s budgets when he served as chairman….

This year’s budget process differed in that department heads no longer had to come before the committee for questioning, but rather had questions sent to them from the council….

meetings still ran late into the night, and the correspondence between departments and council were among the hundreds of unorganized documents posted on the council website, making it difficult to sort through for answers or a running total of the budget….

Hokama is looking for answers this year. He complained that on April 29, when the committee passed the budget out to the full council, the committee made changes to the revenues and operating budget but gave members no way to know “what the impact of the proposed changes were.”

“Without seeing any of the calculations or adjustments, I could not determine whether the amended budget was in balance,” Hokama said. “I requested a recess to allow for the calculations to occur, so the members could make an informed decision. However, the committee continued on without sufficient information to know what they were actually voting on. The committee voted on the amended bills without being provided a comprehensive list of changes.”

During the budget’s first reading on May 17, council members passed nearly a dozen amendments, and Hokama said there was still “no spreadsheet to identify the changes” from the mayor’s budget.

“A lack of information still exists on how the calculations were made for the estimated revenues and expenditures,” Hokama said….

As it stands, the budget would increase spending by 8.6 percent, and Maui County’s not the only one weighing a substantial increase. Hawaii County is looking at a budget increase of 12.7 percent, Kauai County 10.7 percent and the City and County of Honolulu 8.6 percent, according to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a nonprofit public policy think tank.

Joe Kent, executive vice president of the Grassroot Institute, thinks a “smart spending cap” would be a better way to bring the county’s spending in line with its income. The cap would be set “at less than the growth of the local gross domestic product,” Kent explained in a viewpoint on Page A9.

For example, from calendar years 2011 to 2017, Maui County’s private sector GDP grew by an average of 2.1 percent per year. If those rates stayed the same and the fiscal 2020 operating budget growth were capped at 2 percent, the county could see an operating surplus of $194 million by fiscal 2024, Kent said.

“Spending at a rate higher than private sector GDP growth, which the mayor and the County Council currently are proposing, is ultimately unsustainable because more of the economy has to be diverted to the political arena,” Kent said. “Flipping that trend would put the county on a more healthy trajectory, eliminating the need for tax increases to maintain solvency.”

A budget increase of more than 8 percent would be four times the county’s average GDP growth, and the biggest increase since 2015 when spending jumped 7.9 percent, Kent pointed out….

Related: Let’s get smart about government spending 

MN: Maui County Council OKs largest budget in memory Tuesday

MN: Maui Council confirms Lutey 7-2

read … Former, current budget heads disagree over spending hike

HSTA Members Discriminate Against Low Income Areas

CB: … at the Leeward Coast school where one-quarter of the teaching staff of 120 is emergency hires who don’t have a teaching license. There is also high turnover: just 45% of the teachers have been there five years or more, as of 2017-2018….

Civil Beat’s analysis of the 256 DOE public schools, excluding some small schools and the 36 public charter schools, found that the shortage of teachers, particularly experienced teachers, affects the school system unevenly.

Multi-level schools, typically K-12 and largely clustered on neighbor islands, are particularly hard hit, as are schools in remote, low-income areas. For instance, Paauilo Elementary and Intermediate and Kalanianaole Elementary & Intermediate on Hawaii Island saw five-year teacher retention levels of just 20% and 26%, respectively, in 2017-18.

Schools that relied on higher numbers of emergency hires — 20% or more of teaching staff — in 2017-18 include such rural Big Island schools as Konawaena Middle and Hookena Elementary. It also includes Leeward coast schools on Oahu like Waianae Intermediate and Waianae High.

By contrast, the statewide average in 2018 for emergency hires as a proportion of instructional staff was 4%.

Schools that see lower rates of teacher retention and greater numbers of emergency hires are all designated Title 1, where two-thirds to as much as 100% of the student population are low-income.

Elementary schools, on average, see higher five-year teacher retention rates and a lower percentage of emergency hires across the board. There’s also a higher percentage of fully licensed teachers at the elementary school level. For example, several elementary schools in the Honolulu district boasted the highest percentage of teachers staying five years or longer, including Lincoln Elementary in Makiki (88%) and Aina Haina Elementary (86%)….

The difficulty of finding and keeping qualified teachers persists as the state struggles with meeting national benchmarks. According to the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress results, known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” Hawaii’s eighth-grade math and reading scores and fourth-grade reading scores were “significantly lower” than the U.S. average….

(But don't worry.  The DoE has a solution—Stop taking tests.)

Waianae is particularly reliant on Teach For America — about 50 of its 120 teachers are TFA corps members or ex-corps members. Many are hired right out of college and have not gone through a state-approved teacher education program that is the first step to obtaining a teacher license…  (And that’s why they are more successful.)

read … Where Hawaii’s Chronic Teacher Shortage Hits Hardest

Critical testimony still to come in Kealoha trial

KHON: …We already saw several police officers take the stand last week. But legal expert Doug Chin says the officers who made a plea deal can offer more information on whether there was a conspiracy.

Detective Niall Silva was the first HPD officer to make a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Court documents say Lt. Derek Hahn, one of the co-defendants in the alleged conspiracy, told Silva to submit tainted surveillance footage into evidence to frame Gerard Puana for the mailbox theft.

Sgt. Daniel Sellers also struck a plea deal, and admitted in court that he gave Katherine Kealoha information that he accessed illegally. 
Chin points out that testimony from the two former officers will be critical.

"They were on the inside so they were in the conversations with some of these people that are potentially being accused of the conspiracy. So how they come across, what they talk about, the detail that they're able to go in is gonna be absolutely critical," said Chin….

Testimony is also expected from Florence Puana, the 99-year-old grandmother of Katherine Kealoha and Gerard's mother. She's in poor health so both sides have questioned her through a video deposition, which will be shown to the jury in the days ahead.

"There's also a compelling emotional point of having Florence Puana testify in this trial. Actually it would be even more emotional if she were there walking into the courtroom live, standing in front of them," said Chin.

Chin points out that the most critical testimony will come from Gerard Puana himself. Chin says a lot will depend on how the jury reacts to his credibility….

read … Critical testimony still to come in Kealoha trial

Kauai mayor wants island to be test site for controversial mental health plan

HNN: … Kauai's mayor wants psychologists to start prescribing drugs to the mentally ill on the Garden Isle.

It’s a controversial practice that’s legal only in five states.

Hawaii lawmakers have repeatedly shot down the idea, saying it’s too risky. But now the mayor’s doubling down ― and offering up Kauai as a test site.

Derek Kawakami says the mental health crisis on Kauai is driving people into homelessness and creating chaos in the community.

He says there aren’t enough psychiatrists to get a handle on the problem, and he wants to give psychologists the opportunity to help.

“On Kauai and many of the neighbor islands we have limited access to mental healthcare, where people can actually get prescribed the medications that can help them get back on their feet,” said Kawakami.

In an effort to get the upper hand on the island’s mental health crisis, Kawakami wants to give psychologists “limited prescriptive authority” so that they can treat the most severe cases of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. …

the mayor says he’s willing to take a calculated risk, adding what’s even more controversial is government does nothing.

“If nothing changes, nothing changes,” said Kawakami. “So let us be that pilot and let us show where we can find these pockets of success. We’re willing to.”

Koyanagi suggested another way to bring mental health treatment to the neighbor islands is through tele-medicine….

Meanwhile: O'ahu woman's campaign to clear-out Honolulu homeless comes with bus ticket to Wai'anae encampment and criticism

read … Kauai mayor wants island to be test site for controversial mental health plan

Homeless Tweeker Avoids Culpability Thanks to Supreme Court

SA: …A Honolulu police lieutenant stopped the man in April 2014 for riding a bicycle that did not have a tax decal. The Supreme Court says the lieutenant had the constitutional right to detain the man only long enough to confirm that the bicycle was unregistered and to write him a citation. The high court said that would have taken just a few minutes.

The lieutenant, instead, detained the man until he got back the results of a warrant check, which took 14 minutes. And the lieutenant never even issued the man a citation for riding a bicycle that had not been taxed.

The warrant check revealed that the man was wanted on a $100 bench warrant for failing to show up in court for being in a public park after hours. Police discovered the baggie with the suspected drugs and pipe during the man’s arrest on the warrant.….

read … Court throws out baggie and pipe in bicycle case

Former BWS employee says automated meter reading system is bogus

HNN: … Back in 2000, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply paid $30 million for an automated meter reading system to help it measure the monthly water use of its 170,000 residential and business customers.

But a former meter reader said the automated system has been flawed ever since its launch nearly two decades ago.

“I don’t know why they kept the system because the system screwed up most of the time," said Nathan Kau, who retired this year after 35 years as a meter reader and supervisor.

Kau said when the system was first being built, it was tested on 4,500 homes. It was unable to pick up signals from the meter on 1,500 homes, he said.

More recently, in 2014, the Honolulu City Auditor found that it could not read the meters nearly 15 percent of the time.

The Board of Water Supply did not respond to our questions about the accuracy of the meters. But in response to the City Auditor five years ago, it said it was able to reduce the no-reads to about 9 percent….

read … Former BWS employee says automated meter reading system is bogus

Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission Proceeding Stalled for 3,000+ Days

IM: … The Public Utilities Commission has taken no action on an open docket for more than eight (8) years. The issue of intra-governmental wheeling began more than 15 years ago.

The Public Utilities Commission instituted a proceeding to investigate distributed generation in Hawai`i in October 2003. Maui County proposed wheeling in May 2004.

The COUNTY recommends that a county-specific wheeling tariff be established to allow the COUNTY to wheel power from a county DG system to other county facilities. The ability to wheel power would allow the COUNTY to optimize the performance of DG systems, thereby allowing the optimized DG systems ... county-specific wheeling would create competitive opportunities for DG that would have not otherwise been available.”

The State Legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 180 in 2004.

The Legislature requested that the commission explore ways to implement intra-governmental wheeling to facilitate government wheeling of electricity, and other regulatory measures to support the development of renewable energy systems by federal, state, and county agencies.”…

The Hawai`i State Legislature considered eight bills on electric wheeling in 2017, two to require the Public Utilities Commission to implement the concept, and six bills to exempt specific entities from its provisions…..

read … Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission Proceeding Stalled for 3,000+ Days

Local Government Can Stop Crashing And Burning

CB: … we all act surprised when we find out female athletes in public schools haven’t had proper facilities for decades, or that the Honolulu rail project is over-budget, but deep down, most people in Hawaii expect local government to be dysfunctional or nonresponsive and have already emotionally disengaged from being part of the solution.

A litany of critical government audits tells the story over and over: “inadequate, improper, unsustainable”; “a culture of ambivalence which willfully ignores”; “failure to execute”; and my personal favorite, “stretched thin and frustrated.” ….

CB: Hawaii Has Too Often Failed To Plan Properly

read … Here’s How Local Government Can Stop Crashing And Burning

Pohakuloa vital site for training our military

SA: … The editorial, “All eyes on Pohakuloa” (Star-Advertiser, Our View, May 25), raises questions as to what authorizes the named Hawaiian cultural practitioners to speak for all of us Hawaiians, and what specific cultural practice do they need to do at Pohakuloa Training Area that cannot be done elsewhere.

Pohakuloa played an important role in preparing our military for combat during World War II — a war in which more than a 150,000 of our military died protecting our islands and people. We in Hawaii all supported their training there.

As for taking care of the training area, our military has always given it top priority to ensure our troops will be able to achieve the combat skills required. However, making the area completely safe from deeply embedded unexploded ammunition would be expensive and its success doubtful.

We, Hawaii’s Veterans of Foreign Wars, recommend awarding the Pohakuloa Training Area to the federal government….

read … Pohakuloa vital site for training our military

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