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Friday, March 18, 2011
March 18, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:30 PM :: 10945 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development, World News, Hawaii History

UN authorizes Military action against Gaddafi, airstrikes could begin within hours

Day One of Obama’s War, Airstrikes Don’t Begin: Gaddafi forces shell west Libya's Misrata, 25 dead

Hillary dumps Obama over refusal to act in Libya: “Not happy with dealing with a president who can’t decide if today is Tuesday or Wednesday”

The Future of the Grassroot Institute

HB1300: Legislature takes its time abolishing a law that it says is ‘devastating’ to business

House Republicans Introduce Welfare Reform Act of 2011

Hurricane Shelters: Hawaii Still Counting on a Lucky Miss

Abercrombie’s dismissal of nuclear fears tied to Mainland Tourism

The popular getaway has seen some Japanese tourists cancel trips in the wake of last week's massive earthquake and tsunami 4,000 miles (6,400 km) across the Pacific, which damaged a nuclear power plant, releasing harmful radiation.

 

But officials voice confidence that there will not be mass cancellations, especially from the US mainland, which provides 73 percent of visitors.

"We are open for business. Hawaii continues to be the world’s paradise," said Governor Neil Abercrombie. "Japan’s nuclear emergency presents no danger to Hawaii.

"Our ... monitoring systems have not detected any increase in radiation levels, and based on all available information, state and federal experts do not anticipate any risk of harmful radiation exposure to our islands."

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Japanese Arrivals drop 86%

Visitor arrivals from Japan, Hawaii's second-largest tourist market outside North America, dropped 86 percent last Friday, immediately following the 9.0 temblor, said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Most of the cancellations came from group tourism, including business meetings and incentive travel.

"The visitor industry was just starting to gain momentum, but that momentum doesn't make up for the loss that businesses are feeling now," McCartney said.

The duration and depth of the post-earthquake drop-off in Japanese travel remains to be seen, but it is expected to be significant, he told Reuters.

HNN: Hawaii residents cancel trips to Japan by the hundreds

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Hawaii Council on Revenues Can't Regroup for Another Month

While Gov. Neil Abercrombie says he's asked the Council on Revenues to re-evaluate its forecast to factor in the impact of the disaster in Japan and more unrest in the Middle East, the council's chairman said he hasn't heard from the governor's office.

"I have not seen a request," Paul Brewbaker, the council's chairman, told Civil Beat Thursday afternoon.

Brewbaker said the earliest the council's members — who are volunteers — could meet would be Wednesday, April 13. That would be about a month before the council's next scheduled meeting on May 26.

"If we were going to have another meeting, which I'm sure I'll be receiving a request about from what others are saying, the first time we can arrange a quorum of members is April 13," said Brewbaker, principal of TZ Economics.

On Wednesday, Abercrombie told reporters that his administration is working with the Council on Revenues to get a revised forecast….

(This is all Kabuki to pressure the Leg to increase taxes.)

HR: Council on Revenues Won’t Meet Until April ; Downward Revision in Forecast Probable

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Town hall meeting by Hawaii House Republicans to discuss proposal for state's 1st pension tax

Republicans in the Hawaii House are holding a meeting to tell residents why they can't afford proposed pension taxes.

The public town hall meeting will take place Friday afternoon at Kahala Nui Retirement Center in Honolulu.

RELATED: Marumoto: Pension Tax threshold could be dropped to $75K at end of session

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Oshiro Punts budget: “Now it's up to governor and unions”, hints at lower Pension Tax Threshold

In the budget bill passed by the House, we ended furloughs and provided for abused women, the handicapped, the aged and vulnerable children. Most of the increase in this fiscal year's budget pays for these essential services. It now falls to the governor and the labor unions to determine, through collective bargaining, whether furloughs will continue to be needed in the future.

Despite the cuts in government spending, there is still a need to increase revenue. (Which ONLY the Legislature can do) The bills we have passed out of the House will generate an estimated $300 million per year. When we looked at revenue-generating bills, however, we protected low- to middle- income residents who can least afford higher expenses.

One of the bills that has generated much debate is House Bill 1092, House Draft 1, which taxes the pension income of individuals with a federally adjusted gross income of $100,000 per year, and couples or surviving spouses with a federal adjusted gross income of $200,000 per year. About 4,000 of Hawaii's 555,000 tax filers would be affected, less than 1 percent of Hawaii taxpayers. (Obviously he is hinting that the $100K threshold will be lowered.)

(Oshiro is setting up to blame the Governor and the unions for his upcoming decision to lower the pension tax threshold.)

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Senate rushes $18M to pay for Abercrombie’s Government Union Giveaway

Wednesday the Senate fast-tracked HB 1034, SD1, an “emergency” appropriation bill to the Governor. I opposed this measure.

This bill originated from the Governor. There was no “emergency” to rush its passage other than the Governor and unions wanted it now.

The bill calls for taxpayers to pay $18 million-plus to the state employee health fund, EUTF, (in addition to another budget appropriation for the EUTF), to offset union medical premium increases because of the Governor’s promise to the labor unions on the day of his inauguration in December, 2010.

This was not the result of collective bargaining—there is currently a collective bargaining contract in effect—it was a political promise by the Governor to increase the taxpayer subsidy for union workers from 50% to 60% of their medical premiums.

MORE: $126M Giveaway: Abercrombie quietly boosts spending on Public Employees’ Insurance

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Abercrombie thinks Unions are going to give back $88M/year

Lloyd Nekoba has worked closely with Neil Abercrombie for decades, especially during Abercrombie's time in Washington. He was a key figure in the gubernatorial campaign and in helping with the transition into the governor's office.  (Nekoba worked for progressives Jean King and Ben Cayetano, and spent years on Abercrombie’s Cong staff.)

Now, Abercrombie has hired Nekoba, effective March 1, to be his senior adviser. Donalyn Dela Cruz tells Civil Beat the hire was made possible after the passage of emergency funding for the governor's office, and that Nekoba will work "with staff across the state, lawmakers, community and labor leaders, the Cabinet, etc."

Nekoba brings a seasoned perspective to the job, an insider who has seen it all and can provide frank counsel to the governor.

In related news, Neil Dietz, the governor's chief labor negotiator, doesn't officially start his job until March 24. But Dela Cruz says Dietz "has already been working on collective bargaining." Labor union contracts expire June 30, and the issues of salary and benefits are directly tied to the state budget. The governor has said he wants a 5 percent cut, totaling $88 million for each of the next two years.

Dietz, who was appointed in early February, has been a longtime employee of the Seafarers International Union in Honolulu, and was an early supporter of Abercrombie's campaign for governor. Dietz oversaw labor-management meetings between workers and NCL America management and served as vice-president of the Hawaii State AFL-CIO. (Fox, henhouse.) 

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HSTA, UPW Collective Bargaining Bills Hit Glitch

Due to an administrative misunderstanding on the part of Senate Judiciary and Labor, collective bargaining bills for the Hawaii State Teachers Association and United Public Workers did not cross over from the Senate to the House last week.  (This is prolly a scheme to quietly slip something in…stay tuned.)

Senate President Shan Tsutsui said the oversight was accidental and that the Senate is in discussions with the House to revive the measures by inserting the appropriate language from the union bills into other bills that did survive crossover.

"I got a call from HSTA asking, 'Can we have a meeting with you?'" Tsutsui told Civil Beat.

Collective bargaining bills are a standard part of a governor's legislative package, and the dozens of bills have companion bills that are heard in both chambers. Senate Judiciary and Labor was under the mistaken assumption that House Labor and Public Employment had passed its versions of the HSTA and UPW bills.

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Green Energy Scammers Claim they can provide 25% of Hawaii Electricity (Ratepayer Beware)

When combined with on-O'ahu wind farms and solar energy, the Interisland Wind project, which planned to bring 400 megawatts (MW) of wind power from Molokaʻi and Lana'i to O'ahu, can reliably supply more than 25% of Oʻahu’s projected electricity demand, according to the Oʻahu Wind Integration Study (OWIS). The OWIS was conducted by the Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, General Electric (GE) Company and the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO).  (No conflict of interest there, eh?)

The Oʻahu Wind Integration Study is now available on-line at www.hnei.hawaii.edu. More information on Hawaiian Electric’s progress in adding renewable energy can be found at www.heco.com.

SA: Undersea cable can pad Oahu's electricity cache

SA just laps it up: Wind and solar could supply 25% of Oahu's power by 2014

The study found that the Hawaiian Electric Co. grid on Oahu could accommodate 600 megawatts of renewable power, including 400 megawatts of wind power transmitted by undersea cable from Lanai and Molokai. The study also assumed the production of 100 megawatts of wind and 100 megawatts of solar power on Oahu.  (Is that actual production or name plate capacity????)

The renewable power, equal to 25 percent of Oahu’s electricity needs, would eliminate the need to burn 2.8 million barrels of oil and 132,000 tons of coal each year….

REALITY: Wind Energy's Ghosts

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Richard Lim confirmed as DBEDT Boss

Only three members of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's Cabinet haven't yet been confirmed by the Senate following the chamber's approval of Richard Lim as director for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

The Senate unanimously confirmed Lim on Thursday. It also confirmed Patricia McManaman as director for the Hawaii Department of Human Services on Monday.

Senators haven't decided on Abercrombie's nominations of David Louie as attorney general, Sunshine Topping as director for the Department of Human Resources Development and Loretta Fuddy as director for the Department of Health.

REALITY: Cayetano on DBEDT Pick: “Dobelle thought Richard Lim was trying to intimidate him”

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Honolulu City Council Battles Administration for Control of Rail Agency Budget

Honolulu City Council members say they feel blindsided by what they see as an attempt by the Carlisle administration to remove their authority over the budget of the new agency in charge of rail….

City Council members said the 48-minute executive session did not produce a resolution to the question. The fact that the issue required any discussion at all caught council members off guard because the charter amendment approved by voters in November creating the authority explicitly described the council's role when it comes to HART's budget.

The amendment read in part:

"The authority shall submit a line-item appropriation request for each of its proposed operating and capital budgets for the ensuing fiscal year to the council through the office of the mayor by December 1st of each year. The office of the mayor shall submit the authority’s line-item appropriation requests without alteration or amendment. The council shall, with or without amendments, approve the authority’s appropriation request."

Asked who will be responsible for approving HART's budget, Mayor Peter Carlisle referred Civil Beat to the city's lead attorney. Corporation Counsel Carrie Okinaga did not return a Thursday evening voicemail request for comment….

RELATED: Honolulu Neighborhood Board Elections to be Cancelled?

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Transparent? Mayor Makes $44M Disappear

Mayor Peter Carlisle is recommending setting aside more than $43 million to fund 1,095 vacant positions as part of his operating budget for next year.

But you won't know it from reading the spending plan he celebrated posting to a new city website nicknamed "Honolulu Transparency Portal."

The Carlisle administration changed the way the city reports vacant positions in its budget, and City Council members are criticizing the new approach as unnecessarily opaque.

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Anderson, Berg Speak Out Against Fuel Tax

It's only first reading for a resolution that would increase the fuel tax in Honolulu, but two City Council members said they've already decided to vote against it.

"I do not believe this is the right time to raise fuel taxes in this county," said City Council member Ikaika Anderson. "The fact that this administration is proposing to reduce the rehabilitation of streets line item by upwards of 40 percent and yet at the same time is asking our residents to dole out more monies to pay fuel taxes does not make logical sense to me."

Tom Berg also said he would vote against the measure….

City Council members are gathered at Honolulu Hale for a full council meeting. Among the items on their agenda: Resolution 11-73, which would increase the fuel tax.

Mayor Peter Carlisle has said he wants to raise fees and taxes as a way to fund projects like road improvements, rather than borrowing money to do so. Carlisle has said it's a priority to reduce the city's debt service.

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Hanabusa appeals to Congress in Hunt for “Sand Lady”

An e-mail from Hanabusa’s communications office to fellow press secretaries:

It’s bad luck to take lava rocks or volcanic sand from Hawaii. The other day we received a call from a woman from North Carolina who told us she was with her family on the Big Island in Hawaii and they took home a Ziploc bag of black sand. Since then, her family has experienced a lot of bad luck. She asked our office if we would take the sand back to Hawaii for her and my boss said yes.

Since the woman is in North Carolina, she asked her friend to bring the sand to our office. Her friend – the person who dropped the sand at our office today is a staffer – she is described as blonde, on the shorter side, and estimated to be in her mid-30s. We are trying to get a hold of her in order to get a hold of the North Carolina woman.

If this description sounds like anyone in your office – I would REALLY appreciate it if you asked her if she’s the sand lady. If you find her, please have contact me.

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SA: Close nepotism bill loophole

A Hawaii charter school principal's hiring of four relatives for the school's staff has prompted action in the Legislature to ban nepotism throughout state and county government. The hirings at Myron B. Thompson Academy demonstrate the need for such a prohibition, except in extraordinary situations. However, the bill being considered by the Legislature contains a potentially large loophole that should be closed.

Senate Bill 994, approved by the state Senate last week, allows the hiring of relatives under "circumstances where the relative is highly qualified for the position." That could mean just about anything from the standpoint of the person doing the hiring. The language needs to be more restrictive.

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CENSORSHIP: Aila threatens SA, KITV over photos of Pearl City graves

In a March 17, 2011 letter addressed to “all news agencies,” Aila threatened news media with fines up to $10,000 per violation for publishing, without prior state approval, any photographs showing human remains believed to be Native Hawaiian and more than 50 years old.

The letter refers to reporting earlier this week on remains found at Blaisdell Park in Pearl City by the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now.

A video clip from Hawaii News Now displayed along with the Star-Advertiser story online is now “unavailable,” and it no longer appears on the Hawaii News Now web site.

His only legal citation is to the authority to levy finds, found somewhere in HAR 13-300, and to the confidentiality requirements found in HAR 13-300-31.

So I went to look for the administrative rules Aila’s letter cites, Section HAR 13-300, and the specific rule 13-300-31.

Turns out there’s so much wrong with Aila’s letter….

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CENSORSHIP HB548: Civil Beat finally figures out that Hawaii is like Cuba

HB 548. The bill, which has already cleared the Hawaii House and is scheduled for a Senate Tourism Committee hearing Tuesday, proclaims that publishers "shall have a duty to warn" the public of dangerous conditions. Even if they do their duty, though, they'll still have to indemnify landowners and the state in case of lawsuits resulting from injury or death….

It's in places like Cuba and Venezuela where publishers are told they have "a duty" to report in a certain way. Not in America.

A "duty" to report is an over-the-top concept to begin with. Adding in the idea that private publishers would have to indemnify private landowners and the government in cases of lawsuits, makes HB 548 even weirder. The sponsors might want to look up a few court cases1 in our federal circuit before they waste their time.

What is truly disappointing about HB 548, though, is that it seemed like a different version of the bill in the Senate, SB 1207, had struck a reasonable, Hawaii compromise2. It just called for the creation of a task force involving all the parties who should have been talking with each other about the problem but weren't.

CB: In One-Newspaper Town, Star-Advertiser Confuses Advertising and News

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CENSORSHIP: Stalinist Media Council continues to harass HNN

On October 26, 2009, the news operations at KGMB, KHNL and KFVE were combined under the banner of Hawaii News Now as part of what amounts to a merger engineered by Raycom Media of Alabama.

Media Council Hawaii challenged the arrangement as a breach of the public trust and a violation of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that prevent one entity from owning or controlling two of the top four stations in a market. …

But a new national study (by our allies) of the deal between Raycom and MCG Capital, the parent company of HITV, confirms Media Council Hawai‘i’s worst fears greatest hopes.  The study concludes that the so-called “Shared Services Agreement” harms (whatever we determine) the public interest (to be). Evidence suggests that the Shared Services Agreement has had a negative impact on Hawai‘i news quality, diversity, and competition.

“The short answer is that the implementation of the Shared Services Agreement had a profound effect on the local news broadcasts in the market,” said Danilo Yanich, Ph.D., professor and director of the University of Delaware’s Local Television News Media Project.

REALITY: Honolulu Community Media Council has its own issues with "media control"

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Dissidents’ Bills shut out of Legislative Committees, but not as badly as Republicans’

Now, as lawmakers are a week into the second half of the 2011 Legislature, a Civil Beat investigation has found that dissidents have had much less success in passing legislation than their counterparts who supported the speaker all along.

And the lawmaker who spearheaded the revolt, Rep. Sylvia Luke, fared the worst of all dissidents. She was at the bottom of the heap, tied with a freshman Democrat and six Republicans, with no bills making it through the House.

Of legislators who have had the most success in getting their own bills passed, 13 of the top 14 are strong supporters of the speaker.

They include Rep. Pono Chong (50 percent); Rep. Isaac Choy (43 percent), who was Say's key negotiator with dissidents in the House reorganization; Majority Leader Blake Oshiro (39 percent); Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki (32 percent); Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro (31 percent); and Say himself (31 percent).

(In addition to Luke), Minority Leader Gene Ward also has a 0 percent rating,  (Its not what you know, its who you’re in bed with.)

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Foodstamps: 78% of eligible persons use them in Hawaii

The program found that 78 percent of people eligible for the food stamp program – formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP – used it in the state in 2008.

That was the 12th-highest rate of usage in the U.S. and well above the nationwide average of 66 percent. Maine possessed the highest rate of eligible people using food stamps at 94 percent while Wyoming was last at 46 percent.

The study notes the program is intended to help households maintain a more nutritious diet by increasing their purchasing power. One of the goals is to help working poor with their food budgets.

The study said there was a significant gap between overall usage by all low-income individuals and usage by those who were considered the working poor. In Hawaii, 58 percent of the people in the category used food stamps.

The report can be found here:  http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/FILES/Participation/Reaching2008.pdf

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Kauai Mayor delivers 3rd State of the County address, burns up Reserve Fund

But despite an unknown future for the Japanese — whose business on Kaua‘i has grown 42 percent since 2008 — Carvalho has proposed the highest-ever operation budget for Kaua‘i, topping the chart at $164.98 million.

“The responsible actions we’ve taken to conserve our finances over the past two years have brought us to a place today where we are relatively stable,” Carvalho told a crowd of approximately 150 attendees, plus Ho‘ike TV spectators.

Despite that nearly 25 percent of the proposed budget comes from the county’s reserve funds — leaving about $2 million in the fund — Carvalho said the county “must still be conservative.”

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HHSC has new CEO

The Hawaii Health Systems Corp. has named Dr. Bruce Anderson as the state community hospital system’s president and chief executive officer. His experience includes being director of health and science programs at Hawaii Pacific University, Oceanic Institute president, environmental health program director at the John A. Burns School of Medicine and former director of the state Department of Health.

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Owners of tsunami-damaged property should call 2-1-1

Hawaii State Civil Defense officials are encouraging people whose property, home or business was damaged by the March 11 tsunami to to report any losses through Aloha United Way's 2-1-1 information and referral service. Potential claimants include recreational boaters.

Operators at the 2-1-1 phone service will record damage reports and refer them to the appropriate agency. The 2-1-1 line takes calls weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Newly released tsunami video shows waves sweeping through Kailua-Kona store

KONA, Hawaii (NBC) -- Newly released video from a Kona, Hawaii store's security camera shows the power of Friday's Tsunami.

Powerful waves came crashing through the glass windows of "Beaches Resort Wear" before dawn Friday.

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Hawaii County's 32 hurricane shelters can withstand no more than Category 1 hurricane

RED CROSS SAYS PROBLEM EXTENDS STATEWIDE

HILO -- When last week's tsunami threatened the Big Island, more than 1,000 people easily found shelter at 18 evacuation centers ranging from county buildings to shopping malls.

But evacuating in advance of a major hurricane would have been an entirely different story. The state has rated buildings at 32 public schools as hurricane evacuation centers, yet none of them is built to handle more than a Category 1 hurricane, with sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph.

"It's a concern to me because you can always use more sheltering capacity, but who pays for it is always the question," said Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Quince Mento. "I'm very concerned, but it will cost a bundle of bucks to retrofit."

RELATED: Hurricane Shelters: Hawaii Still Counting on a Lucky Miss

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