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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
October 26, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:42 PM :: 9396 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development

Mainland Suicide Activists Push Agenda on Hawaii

AMA: Hawaii 5th Least Competitive Health Insurance Market

Honolulu 16th Worst City to Be Young

 

Akaka Bill Sneak Attack: Inouye Slips Akaka Tribe Recognition into Appropriations Bill

HR: A provision in the draft fiscal year 2012 Interior appropriations bill would put Native Hawaiians in the same category as federally recognized tribes.

The draft was released on October 14. Section 420 reads:

HAWAIIAN RECOGNITION
SEC. 420. Now and hereafter, in exercise of the authority delegated under sections 441, 442, 463 and 465 of the Revised Statutes (43 U.S.C. 1457, 25 U.S.C. 2 and 9), the community recognized by and enrolled pursuant to Act 195 (26th Haw. Leg. Sess. (2011)) may be recognized and listed under section 104 of Public Law 103–454 but not entitled to programs and services available to entities thereunder unless a statute governing such a program or service expressly provides otherwise.

The provision allows the Interior Department to include a Native Hawaiian entity on the list of federally recognized tribes. However, the Native Hawaiian entity won't be able to access the same programs and services as tribes except where provided by another federal law.

For example, Native Hawaiians are included in certain housing laws. But they wouldn't be entitled to receive Housing Improvement Program funds just by being placed on the list.

The bill has not been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Political Radar: Recognize

read … Inouye, Akaka Push Federal Indian Tribe Recognition for Native Hawaiians in New Interior Bill

Tax Credits Targeted by Pono Chong, Solar Industry on Defense

CB: Hawaii’s solar companies could be in for a difficult legislative session as state auditors dig into whether state tax credits are being abused — financial incentives that have propped up the state’s fast-growing photovoltaic industry.

Recently, the state Department of Taxation said that it would be auditing homeowners who stretched single solar systems into multiple installations, allowing them to claim multiple refunds. Solar companies have been blamed for perpetuating the unscrupulous practice.

Concerns have also been raised about companies oversizing customers’ systems for financial gain and not informing them of energy efficiency measures and the importance of installing solar hot water heaters, which can greatly reduce the overall cost of photovoltaic systems.

Rep. Pono Chong, who proposed legislation last year that would cap state expenditures on renewable energy credits, said that the credits would likely be under review this session as part of the state's budget priorities….

Solar executives argue that under some circumstances, installing multiple systems is permitted and that any abuse is likely minimal.

“I don’t think it is pervasive,” said Alex Tiller, CEO of Sunetric. “I don’t think there are people out there intentionally trying to do things wrong.”

Mallory Fujitani, spokeswoman for the tax department, said that she couldn’t say how many homeowners may be audited or when.

“The impacts of that investigation are going to linger throughout the session,” said Darren Kimura, CEO of Sopogy, a solar thermal company that doesn’t do photovoltaic installations, but could be impacted if the credits are repealed. “The industry is playing defense right now and the economy is still not back yet, so it’s definitely still tight from a broader standpoint.”

Related:

read … Residential Audits Threaten Future of Hawaii Solar Industry

Full Text: Hawaii Completes 2010 Financials 16 Months Later

CB: Lack of staff, furloughs and an antiquated accounting system set back the state's annual financial report for fiscal year 2010 more than 16 months after the end of the budget year.

It's a critical lapse. State officials have said the delayed report — which details the state's revenues, assets, liabilities and expenses — prevented it from selling new bonds earlier this year.

The 160-page Comprehensive Annual Financial Report was issued this month for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2010. Ideally, the report is supposed to be issued six months after the close of the fiscal year. Work on the 2010 report has pushed back work on the fiscal 2011 report.

Kalbert Young, the state's budget chief, said the CAFR contains data intended to help the state make informed decisions, but the information becomes quickly outdated once the fiscal year ends. ….

One example of how antiquated the system is: Accounting staff had to manually adjust financial data from a cash-based format to an accrual-based format for all departments…. (The State of Hawaii, epitomized.)

Along with the CAFR, Higa's office this month released more than a dozen department-level audits covering fiscal 2010. While some of the audits were completed in March and July of this year, the office held off on releasing them piecemeal until the CAFR was completed.

read … Just in Time to Borrow More Money

SA: Poll is wake-up call for governor

After less than a year as governor, Abercrombie has made numerous mistakes in rhetoric and decision-making. His popularity has sunk well below the water line among state executives in the nation and now, profound changes -- beyond staff makeup -- are needed to guide the governor's metaphorical canoe toward recovery….

FINALLY, even Abercrombie's four top young advisers -- including his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff -- had had enough, and their mass departure earlier this month is troubling.

Whether Abercrombie can deliver on his election-landslide potential remains a key question, especially with the new Legislature a mere three months away. His broad campaign slogans have not resulted in focused public policies openly shared with, let alone supported by, the people.

Best Comment: A New Day in Hawaii begins when Abercrombie resigns.

read … Haole Hippie Know it All Cannot Change at this late Date

Democrat Media Desperately Flailing Around, Seeking Angle of Attack against Lingle

CD2 Race breaks down to Hannemann vs Gabbard

Esther Kiaaina, chief advocate for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, raised just $22,000 in the past quarter for her Democratic primary campaign in the 2nd Congressional District. The total includes her own $10,000 donation.

Rafael del Castillo, a patients’ rights attorney, reported no contributions during the past quarter.

Related: NRCC: Esther Kiaaina Handpicked by DC Insiders for CD2

read … And no Republican

Hawaii’s Taxpayers Owe $25,000 for Past Debt

HR: According to Weinberg’s audit of the state’s 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the state’s reported budget surplus of $ 6.4 billion does not include the state’s $11.5 billion of deferred liabilities relating to the state’s employee retirement and post-employment benefit plans.

The difference between the state and Weinberg’s assessment is reflected by the state’s current use of antiquated accounting standards, which fail to recognize the future payments for the state’s retirement and post-employment benefit plans.

However, since the retirement and post-employment benefit plans are currently the largest expense that the state incurs on an annual basis, the reported liabilities on the state’s financial statements are significantly understated and create in an imbalance between short-term political decision-making and the long-term financial stability of Hawaii. In fact, Weinberg assessment shows that as of 2009 each taxpayer in Hawaii already owns the state $25,000 for previously incurred costs that have been pushed into the future.

read … $25,000

Weak Dollar Drives Japanese, Canadian Tourist influx

Abercrombie leaves the state and visitor spending jumps 20%!

But Takes Credit Anyway: Abercrombie statement on increased visitor numbers

read … Weak dollar

HSTA renews push for Teacher’s Tax Credit

The Hawaii State Teachers Association wants to collect 50,000 signatures to take to lawmakers and the governor to help persuade them to adopt a tax credit.

Walk around a classroom and it's easy to find items the teacher bought.

"This chart I bought, all the magnets with my own money," said Jennifer Mizumura, Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher, from inside her classroom. "I actually bought all the white boards for the kids to use."

(Can you imagine HGEA DoTax workers checking the receipts of HSTA DoE teachers? No? Neither can I.)

read … Negotiations by Another Means

P-20 Pushes for More DoE Spending

We cannot put our children's future at risk and watch another generation struggle with the achievement gap. In 1943, Hawaii had the moral courage -- in the midst of World War II and a tight economy -- to offer full-day kindergarten to all children who turned 5 years old in a calendar year. We can't stop now and let these late-born 5,500 children go by the wayside in 2013.

Facing a continued economic challenge, the Legislature has tough decisions to make. However, cuts to these kinds of educational programs will cost Hawaii a lot more in the future. In fact, many well-respected economists and scientists throughout the country have concluded that investing in high-quality, early childhood programs will result in astounding economic and social benefits for our children, families, states and nation.

Hawaii must step forward and be the voice for our keiki who cannot speak for themselves. Thus, we have launched a public campaign, "Be My Voice! Hawaii," to elevate issues such as delayed school entry to our families and communities. They can then directly communicate their priorities to elected leaders. Unless we do something now, our children will continue to pay the price.

read … P-20

1999 Hawaii Brain Drain Still True 12 years Later

Shapiro: Her email sent me digging for a 1999 Star-Bulletin series, "Hawaii's Brain Drain," by Lavonne Leong, then an Oxford student from Hawaii (archives.starbulletin.com/specials/braindrain.html).

Leong's stories and the responses from Hawaii expatriates struck themes we still see today: They want to come home but are frustrated by a stifling two-industry economy of tourism and government employment, a gaping divide between rich and poor, rampant parochialism, a substandard public school system, a lackluster state university and a political system that keeps rewarding those who don't get the job done….

Who knows if Velasco and others like her will be part of the answer or if they'll become frustrated and end up back on the mainland, but I choose to be optimistic that our young people have what it takes.

Velasco's blog on the brain drain is at why-hawaii.tumblr.com.

Beast: Honolulu 16th Worst City to be Young

read … Brain Drain

Malama Solomon Busted for Bulldozing Six Hawaiian Archeological Sites, May Get off Scot-Free

HTH: Solomon's property is at the top of Lihau Street, which runs mauka of Mamalahoa Highway in North Kona. According to the report, the bulldozer Solomon hired crossed unencumbered state lands without a permit to reach her property.

"Specifically, damage was noted to the rock wall of the cart path along portions of your south boundary and the makai habitation complex," DLNR Deputy Director Guy Kaulukukui wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to Solomon. "An additional five historic features on adjacent state land was similarly impacted."

Kaulukukui's letter said he inspected the property and verified the damage. He did not respond to requests earlier this month seeking information about the situation, nor did he respond to a message left Monday.

Gayle Ching, one of Solomon's neighbors, was the second person to file a complaint about the bulldozing. Ching contacted SHPD in mid-September and learned there was already an investigation under way. Ching tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain copies of investigative reports and was initially worried the situation would be ignored because of Solomon's position in the state Legislature.

She was glad to learn Monday the department was taking action on the complaints.

"A public official should be held to the highest standards and set an example for the rest of us," she said.

Fines for damaging archaeological sites may be as high as $10,000 per violation, according to state law.

An example for the rest of us: Malama Solomon’s meth connection

read … Solomon may escape BLNR fine

Upgraded units thrill residents of Kuhio Park

Some residents also opted to stay with family or friends. Officials with Michaels Development said the pace of the project has been efficient as tenants are moving back into their apartments after 33 days.

On a recent afternoon, Davis, a special-education paraprofessional teacher at Linapuni Elementary School, was unfazed by piercing, drilling noises by workers right outside of her 792-square-foot apartment as she stood in her expanded kitchen, motioning toward her new full-size refrigerator and gas stove. Contractors removed a counter and a set of cabinets that boxed in the kitchen, leaving little elbow room.

"Everything is a lot more open, more inviting, more welcoming," said Davis, who lives with her 13-year-old son, Jesse, on the 14th floor.

Corian veneer kitchen counter tops replaced the stainless-steel, school cafeteria-like counters that were installed when the buildings were built in 1963. Varnished wood cabinets replaced old ones that were falling off the hinges.

Contractors are also enclosing lanais, extending living room space by five feet. Residents like Kainoa Talamoa and his wife, Timena Alualu-Talamoa, who live in a three-bedroom apartment a couple of doors away from Davis, say the enclosure keeps cigarette butts and trash from landing on their balcony from higher floors. More important, the enclosure gives the couple, who have three young children, ages 1, 4 and 6, a sense of safety.

The Talamoas are grateful for their new kitchen and appliances in their 944-square foot apartment, noting they only had one workable burner on their old compact stove for the past two years.

Framed family photos are displayed on their entertainment center, which is where the lanai used to be. It now feels like home, said Alualu-Talamoa.

"It's way better than before. I love the changes," she added as she held her youngest child, Jahzariyah, in her arms as she stood near her glass dining table, which exceeds the width of their old kitchen. We've been waiting for these changes for a long time."

Related: Tax on ‘Tax-Free’ Bonds still alive in Congress: Hawaii Public Housing At Risk

read … Upgraded units

School to become Prison: Kulani plan moves ahead

HTH: The state is moving ahead with plans to reopen Kulani Correctional Facility and relocate the Hawaii National Guard's program for troubled youths closer to Hilo.

Before that can happen, a complex series of steps must be undertaken -- beginning with a Board of Land and Natural Resources vote in Honolulu on Friday -- to undo former Gov. Linda Lingle's actions in 2009 when she ordered a closure of the prison. Inmates were transferred to other prisons, employees were laid off and the site was turned over to the state Department of Defense to operate a Hawaii National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academy for at-risk youth.

In one of her final acts as governor, in November 2010, Lingle canceled the executive orders that had originally established the medium-security prison and set aside 622 acres to the state Department of Defense.

The Youth ChalleNGe Academy's first class entered the former prison site on Mauna Loa's eastern slope last January and graduated in June. The second class began in July and will graduate in December.

read … School to become Prison

AG: State land Development Corp has all the Power

CB: A new and controversial agency tasked with developing state lands through public-private partnerships will not be grinding to a halt as some state officials had cautioned.

The Public Land Development Corporation has all the powers it needs to develop state lands in concert with private developers, despite concerns raised earlier this month by officials from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The attorney general’s office had also questioned the PLDC's authority and feared potential lawsuits if the process were to proceed.

Those officials said ambiguity in the law establishing the PLDC could mean the state did not have the legal authority to transfer all the necessary land rights to the corporation.

At a hearing recently, DLNR officials briefed legislators on the status of the corporation and said that the law may need to be amended this legislative session.

That incensed Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz who had sponsored the legislation and is a strong supporter of the PLDC. He began meeting privately with the governor's staff and other top officials.

And last week, the attorney general's office sent a memo to Dela Cruz clarifying the PLDC's powers, and stating — unequivocally — that the law was fine and no amendments would be needed.

Link: PLDC_AG memo

read … AG, DLNR Back Pedal On Problems With Land Development Corp

ERS Director: Boldness needed to fix workers' funds

SA: Hawaii's public sector fiscal problems demand dramatic action now.

Why? For more than a decade we incurred increasing levels of deferred liabilities without setting aside sufficient reserves to address them. A generation of Hawaii's citizens enjoyed the benefits of government services without paying their true cost.

The deferred liabilities and public debt of the state and counties stand at an all-time high level and continue to grow at an alarming rate. Combined, they exceed 50 percent of Hawaii's gross domestic product and are equivalent to a $20,000 debt obligation for each man, woman and child. This is why Moody's downgraded the rating of our state bonds in May. It was a warning signal, and we need to take immediate heed.

The Hawaii Employees Retirement System (ERS) last year announced that the pension fund for public employees was underfunded by $7.1 billion as of 2010. That reflected a funded ratio of 61 percent, a decline from 2000 when the funded ratio stood at 95 percent. Preliminary analysis indicates the level of underfunding continued to deteriorate and fell well below 60 percent in 2011, putting the ERS in the bottom tier of public pension funds nationwide.

As alarming as that may sound, even more disturbing are disclosures by the Employer-Union Trust Fund (EUTF), charged with administering public employee retirement health benefits.

A recent actuarial study showed the EUTF was underfunded by $10.3 billion as of 2007. Only two years later, that deferred liability had grown to $14.7 billion. The study warns that if the health care cost trend increases by just 1 percent, the unfunded liability would escalate to $17 billion.

To prudently deal with the deferred liability, the state and counties need to contribute to the EUTF more than $1.1 billion annually for the next 30 years. Unable to do so, they instead attempt to meet their retiree health benefit obligations with "pay-as-you go" contributions, which totaled $390 million in 2011.

Related: Act 100: How Hanabusa and Cayetano launched Hawaii Pension crisis

read … Boldness needed to fix workers' funds

Plenty of litigation, not so much Boldness: EUTF Losing $1.4M on CVS Pharmacy Contract, Extends for 6 mos

HR: The EUTF told members in an email:

"If the protest is denied, EUTF plans to move forward with the transition to CVS. Even if the protest is denied within a month, the EUTF will not be able to transition the participants to CVS/Caremark by January 1, 2012. As a result, a six-month extension of the informedRx contract was approved by the EUTF board at their meeting on October 18, 2011. The extension also provides the EUTF with the right to terminate the contract with a 60-day notice without cause."

"The EUTF’s consultant estimates that the EUTF will be losing approximately $1.4 million per month under this extension, which represents the difference between the CVS/Caremark and informedRx pricing on projected prescription drug utilization. The board also decided at their meeting to: 1) maintain the prescription drug premium rates as posted on the EUTF website that utilizes the CVS/Caremark pricing and 2) fund any resultant loses with reserves."

read … No boldness here

Did Honolulu Council Members Violate Sunshine Law at Rail Conference?

ILind: A five-member majority of the Honolulu City Council may have violated the state’s sunshine law by taking part in a lobbyist-paid trip to a rail transit conference in Washington, D.C. last week.

In addition, the attendance of the five council members and other city officials at a lobbyist-sponsored reception may have stumbled over ethics guidelines.

The travel expenses of at least two council members and several administration officials, including air fare, hotel, ground transportation and conference fee for Rail-Volution 2011, were paid for by a $22,000 gift from Pacific Resource Partnership, a pro-development lobby supported by the Hawaii Carpenters Union and its signatory contractors.

One additional council member was to join the group in Denver to view several examples of transit oriented development along its rail system, council minutes show. The gift of travel expenses was officially accepted and is treated as a gift to the city, rather than the individuals making the trip.

But Civil Beat’s Adrienne LaFrance reported last week that five council members, including council chair Ernie Martin, were at the PRP-sponsored reception in Washington during the conference.

The five were Martin, Ikaika Anderson, Romy Cachola, Breene Harimoto, and Ann Kobayashi.

The sunshine law prohibits more than two members of any public agency from meeting to discuss pending matters outside of a formally-declared public meeting. It specifically bars most informal gatherings at which issues pending before the agency are discussed.

ILind: Sunshine law issues not resolved by city council’s permitted interaction group

Berg: Ansaldo penalty 'slap on the wrist'

read … Sunshine Law

Surprise, Surprise: After a year of Hype about “puppy mills” State proposes higher fees

KITV: But under the proposed regulations, with an estimated 30 operations around the state, Hawaii breeders would have to pay the highest licensing fees in the nation $1,300 each year.

read … But what is the solution for abused taxpayers?

State Pays Steep Price Increase For New Maui Housing Contract

The state will pay considerably more for property management services at a troubled Maui affordable housing project under a six-month non-bid contract that took effect last week, according to procurement records.

The Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. will pay Hawaii Affordable Properties, Inc. $375,000 to oversee the 184-unit Honokowai Kauhale complex, according to a procurement form. The state would have paid some $247,000 for the same work under an earlier contract held by a competing firm, Realty Laua LLC.

HHFDC terminated Realty Laua October 17, informing the company that it was “not in compliance” with the terms of its contract, according to state records.

read … State Pays Steep Price Increase For New Maui Housing Contract

No Drug Test for Welfare, but Public Housing May Ban Tobacco Smoking

State housing officials said they are in the “development phase” of a smoking policy for public housing.

Daria Fand she said she wears a carbon-lined face mask up to 75 percent of the time inside her apartment at Kalakaua Homes in Honolulu.

"I have to put this on my face, and use this much of the time, whenever I'm in my apartment and whenever the smell hits," Fand said.

She suffers from what she called "multiple chemical sensitivities," so second-hand smoke, even from an apartment a few floors away, affects her drastically:

"It's actually totally incapacitating, to where I have headaches, I have nausea. I get dizzy. I can't drive my car when I'm in that condition," Fand said.

Totally Related: Federal judge temporarily bars Florida's welfare drug-test law

Read … Psychosomatic Byproduct of Chemophobia Scams

UH Manoa Global Warming Propaganda Center may be Cut in Budget negotiations

CB: Ask Hawaii climate scientists what they'd do with an extra $3 million in federal funding, and you'll get a long list of answers.

They say they'd hire more researchers to study eroding coasts, rising sea levels and imperiled coral reefs. They'd study how changing bird and mosquito habitats could affect avian-borne diseases.

“One important thing for us to focus on is water resources,” said Chip Fletcher, the associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Hawaii's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “Basically, how will climate change affect the generation of rainwater?”

Scientists at UH Manoa, UH Hilo and the University of Guam could start crossing things off their million-dollar bucket list — if debt negotiations in Congress go the way they hope. The proposed Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is another example of a Hawaii program facing an uncertain future as Congress tries to slim down the federal deficit. (Budget cuts increase value by eliminating sources of falsehood and ignorance.)

read … Good News!

Salmonella vs Eco-Religion: Local, organic foods not always safer

Shoppers nervous about foodborne illnesses may turn to foods produced at smaller farms or labeled "local," ''organic" or "natural" in the hopes that such products are safer. But a small outbreak of salmonella in organic eggs from Minnesota shows that no food is immune to contamination.

While sales for food produced on smaller operations have exploded, partially fueled by a consumer backlash to food produced by larger companies, a new set of food safety challenges has emerged….

"Labels like organic or local don't translate into necessarily safer products," says Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "They are capturing different values (it’s a religion) but not ensuring safety."

read … A ‘taste’ of reality

KHON: Sweep pushes homeless off of Chinatown sidewalk

Too bad this is only for APEC. Once the show is over, the homelessness industry will be back in action….

read … A temporary reprieve

Federal court remands Lui case back to state

The hearing before Judge Alan C. Kay in U.S. District Court in Honolulu follows a petition from the landowner, the Edmund C. Olson Trust, to expunge several deeds and a genealogy affidavit filed by Abel Simeona Lui (convicted of 1976 manslaughter) and family members that clouded title to the land Olson is selling to the county. The federal court will likely rule on the issue of the deeds in January, said Olson attorney Paul Alston.

"We're gratified that the federal court agreed with the position taken by the county and Olson that this was not a matter of federal court," Alston told West Hawaii Today. "The state court was and remains the court with jurisdiction over this particular issue."

read … Typical Sovereignty Activist/Felon

Census: More Asians in Texas than Hawaii

The report shows the largest Asian-American populations have remained in California and New York, but traditionally smaller communities shot up between 2000 and 2010, more than doubling in Nevada and growing 95 percent in Arizona.

Over the decade, Asian-Americans grew 72 percent to more than 1.1 million in Texas, giving the state more Asian-Americans than Hawaii, according to a report released by the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, a coalition of four Asian-American advocacy groups.

William H. Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said much of the growth was spurred by the draw of the suburbs during the middle of the decade and a rising number of South Asians, including many highly-educated workers who took jobs in technology hubs such as Austin, Texas, or followed relatives who had success here….

read … All roads lead to Texas

Matson Celebrates Guam Shipping Monopoly

Its good to be A&B….

read … After Feds Puerto Rico Prosecution Generously Knocked Horizon out of the Way

APEC News Roundup:


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