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Thursday, January 12, 2012
January 12, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:01 PM :: 10253 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, World News, Hawaii History

Hawaii County SHOPO Endorses Lingle

Full Text: HSTA Synopsis of Contract

$30,000 Reward in Monk Seal Killings

TPM: Hawaii Kai Lesbian B&B Suit Part of Larger Effort to Quash Religious Freedom

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor to visit UH Richardson Law School

California company lobbies lawmakers for online gambling

KHON: A representative from Beverly Hills based U.S. Digital Gaming has been making the rounds at the state Capitol in recent days to inform lawmakers about the huge revenue potential of online gambling.
They turn out to be really large numbers that can really benefit in funding essential services for the state of Hawaii,” said Melissa Riahei, executive vice president and general counsel for USDG.
According to a power point presentation being shown to state lawmakers, projected revenues for online poker alone would reach $19.6 million in the first year, with the state retaining $2.5 million as profit. By the fifth year estimated revenues balloon to $103.9 million with $78.8 million set aside for the state.
“It is a very significant sum,” said Riahei. “What we were doing is basically just informing the senators and the representatives of what's going on across the country right now in the digital gaming world and what different states are doing.”
The push for state sponsored or state approved online gambling web sites comes after a December 23 ruling by the U.S. Justice Department that said the federal Wire Act of 1961 only applies to sports betting. The new interpretation opened the door for state governments to provide intrastate gambling on the internet.

On April 15 of last year, the Justice Department shut down three online poker web sites, accusing operators of money laundering, fraud, and violating the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The DOJ action against PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker devastated the online poker industry as well as millions of players.
Donalyn Dela Cruz, a spokesperson for Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, said Tuesday the governor would entertain any gambling bill that crosses his desk.
“Whatever is formulated and it actually survives the session and it gets to the governor’s desk, then he’ll look at it.”

Full Text: US DoJ Memo Suddenly Legalizes In-State Online Gaming

read … Gaming

 

Hawaii taxes have yet to meet projected revenue forecasts

KHON: Halfway through the fiscal year, the tax department says general fund deposits are up by 6 per cent.

The council on revenues expects an increase of 11.5 per cent by the end of the fiscal year in June.

PBN: Hawaii collects 6 percent more state tax revenue

read … 50% short

Star-Adv: Senate Should Focus on Raising Taxes

…state senators should pause before embarking on new borrowing to finance supposedly quick construction as a method of stimulating job creation in projects that should be paid for as routine repairs and maintenance on a budgetary basis. Instead, lawmakers should work on flattening a notoriously bureaucratic process that compounds project backlog…. (Yes, this pitch for higher taxes is couched in the language of ‘small government’. Who could possibly be fooled?)

To be sure, it's tempting to eye new bond-financing for construction now, at favorable interest rates and with so many people seeking jobs. But it's a delicate balance that Gov. Neil Abercrombie and his budget team already seem to be striking: The administration is asking $300 million in bond money for shovel-ready projects and has the authority to limit the financing to that, regardless of any larger amount approved by the Legislature.

At a time when senators will be considering their half-billion dollars in bond financing to stimulate repair and maintenance projects at schools, hospitals and state buildings, legislators also will be asked to approve tax increases and other measures aimed at facing a shortfall expected to exceed $164 million in fiscal year 2014.

They should think twice before simultaneously increasing the state's debt during what economists expect to be a slow economic recovery. (That’s the pitch for higher taxes. The editors remove the other option, leaving only one. Did you catch it? They write this way in order to be able to tell themselves that they told he public what was coming and the public did not protest.)

At some point during an unpredictable economy, the loan will come due…..

read … More Taxes

 

Not Worth It: Hirono's Senate campaign raises piddling $624,000 in three months

SA: The campaign's performance since October was double the amount Hirono raised in the previous quarter. Hirono, who faces former congressman Ed Case in the primary to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, has collected about $1.5 million in total.

The quarterly reports are due at the end of January, but Hirono released her report early.

Former Gov. Linda Lingle, the leading Republican candidate, has said she could raise $8 million to $10 million.

read … Hirono Unworthy

Reapportionment Puts Candidate Filings On Hold

CB: Hawaii Elections commissioners are beginning to worry that new election district boundaries will still be tied up in court when candidates are able to begin filing nomination papers Feb. 1.

But Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago told commissioners there's nothing to do but wait.

And in the meantime, he's looking ahead to 2014. Nago plans to ask the Legislature this session to put in place new laws that would improve the elections process, including an online voter registration program….

Another bill will ask the Legislature to grant the Elections Office the discretion to require voters in "pocket precincts" to vote absentee rather than visit a voting precinct in a school or community center.

"Pocket precincts" refers to sections of districts that overlap, placing a small group of voters outside of established precincts. Nago said it is impractical to staff a precinct that serves only a handful of voters.

"I'm not sure how many people are in these districts, but the bill would give the chief elections officer the discretion to make them vote by mail," he said.

read … Reapportionment

 

Senators Angered by Difficulty in Receiving Bribes from Lobbyists

Political Radar: State senators — and more than a few House lawmakers — have bristled by what they see as an overreach by Kondo on several ethics-related issues since he took over as executive director.

Two members of the Ethics Commission — chairwoman Maria Sullivan and Jackie Kido — met privately with Senate leaders this afternoon in the conference room of Senate President Shan Tsutsui’s fourth-floor office suite.

Kido, who described it as a “good discussion,” said the commission has to draw a line somewhere on gifts, and they have chosen $25 as the threshold value, with exceptions when there is a state benefit.

“There has to be a bright line somewhere,” she said.

State Sen. Will Espero (D, Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach), who attended the meeting with Sullivan and Kido, said the state ethics code has not changed, but the interpretation of the law has since Kondo took over.

Asked whether Kondo had gone too far, Espero said: “Some of his decisions are questionable.”

Espero and other senators also get frustrated when good government advocates and others suggest that they can be bought off by free food and drink at events like “A Taste of Ag.”

CB: Ethics Commission Says Lawmakers Can Pay to Attend 'Taste of Ag'

read … Political Radar

Experts Give Kudos To Proposed Charter School System Overhaul

CB: Hawaii's recommendations to revamp the state charter school system would go a long way toward correcting accountability problems, four national experts told legislators at a briefing Wednesday.

But there's still room for improvement, they say, including finding a way to make sure charter schools get the same funding as regular public schools.

A state task force on charter school governance in December made 16 recommendations that would tighten regulations and provide a new way to oversee the schools that, while public, operate independently under charters with the state.

"All of these things, we think, are tremendous steps forward," said Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

"The idea behind charter schools is that autonomy and accountability will produce better results," he said.

SA: Proposed charter school fix given an A by experts

read … Charters

DoE Officials Head for DC to Beg for RTTT Money

  • Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi
  • Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe
  • Assistant Superintendent of Strategic Reform Stephen Schatz
  • Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support Joyce Bellino
  • Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s education policy advisor and liaison, Tammi Chun

No word yet on how this might affect Hawaii’s imminent visit from the feds (week of Jan. 23) to discuss — you guessed it — Race to the Top.

read … Race to the Top

Vilsack: Military Budget Can be Substitute for Biofool Tax Credits

Video: Vilsack was asked about the expiration of the biodiesel tax credit at the end of 2011 and whether it will hurt the industry again as it did in 2010 if Congress fails to renew it.“First and foremost, our approach is to figure out ways to build demand for the product,” Vilsack responded, noting that they can use loan programs to produce more biodiesel while the commitment by the Navy to increase use of biofuel will help increase demand. “So, I don’t think that we need to rely solely on tax credits.”

read … Vilsack Comments on RFS and Biodiesel Tax Credit

 

Local Oil Expert Questions Hawaii’s Renewable Energy Market

KITV: One of Hawaii’s two oil refineries is up for sale after Tesoro backs out of the island market. Experts suspect Hawaii’s push toward renewable energy is one of several factors affecting the market.

International oil consultant Fereidun Fesharaki says he was not surprised by Tesoro’s announcement to sell its refinery and 32 local stations.

It’s a move he expected first by Chevron, which owns the state's other oil refinery….

Fesharaki says there's a problem.

“Often people in Hawaii think if you use sun, wind or ocean it's free. It's not free,” he says.

He says, right now, renewable energy costs are even higher than oil costs: about 100 dollars a barrel for oil and up to 200 for renewable energy….

In the meantime, he believes another alternative is in order and within our reach.

The federal government has already labeled natural gas as what they call a "transition fuel."

That definition allows natural gas companies to take advantage of tax breaks and incentives, which are reasons to do business and bring business to Hawaii.

Read … Renewable Energy

HECO Concerned that Slight Drop in Utility Bills Will Affect Ability to Stampede Legislature

SA: Residential electric rates fell on Oahu in January for the first time in four months, but Hawaiian Electric Co. cautioned customers that high fuel prices will keep upward pressure on electric rates in the near term.

The residential rate charged by HECO fell to 32.6 cents per kilowatt-hour from a record-high 35.1 cents per kilowatt-hour in December. That translates into a drop to $204.17 from $219.03 in the typical bill for customers using 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month….

historically high levels in October and November, Rosegg said. Because of fuel inventories, there is a lag between fuel purchases and when they show up in rates.

"Overall, rates remain high, creating a difficult burden for families and businesses," Rosegg said. "The long-term solution is to continue to pursue local renewable electricity and fuel sources that can be purchased with long-term fixed-price contracts. "

Before January's decline, HECO's residential rates reached record highs for three consecutive months. The price hikes prompted HECO last month to launch its first-ever public awareness campaign telling customers to brace for an extended period of high electricity prices.

The campaign includes a series of television commercials explaining the forces behind the rising fuel prices and what consumers and businesses can do to help manage the impact both in the short and long term.

As Predicted: Big Wind, Big Cable: To Stampede Legislature, HECO Trumpets High Rates

read … Electric rates pull back slightly in January after setting record

2011 law has lenders opting to foreclose in court

SA: A controversial law drawn up by the state Legislature last May helped cut in half the number of foreclosures against Hawaii homeowners last year, but proceedings to repossess homes this year are forecast to pick up.

The number of homes statewide involved in foreclosure last year plummeted by 52 percent to 6,012 from 12,425 the year before, according to figures released Wednesday by real estate research firm RealtyTrac.

The sharp reduction has helped many residents who are delinquent on their mortgages avoid, at least temporarily, losing their homes.

However, opinions differ on whether this is helping the local housing market and economy improve after a prolonged downturn and slow recovery. (In other words, it did its job and now they will change it back.)

PBN: RealtyTrac: Hawaii foreclosures cut in half in 2011

read … Time to Amend it

Open Records Agency Proposes Changes To Hawaii Sunshine Law

CB: 'Modernizing' public meetings law would enhance public discussion, watchdog agency says.

read … Open Records Agency Proposes Changes To Hawaii Sunshine Law

Fight Over Waimanalo Gulch Landfill Brewing

CB: The city and Ko Olina Resort are headed for a showdown this year over plans to keep the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill open past July.

Resort owners have pushed for years to close down the landfill because they are concerned that it's hurting business and is a public health hazard. The state Land Use Commission agreed and ordered the landfill to be closed in July.

Debate over the landfill has dragged on for at least a decade, with the city repeatedly requesting extensions to keep it open. The city says there is nowhere else to put the trash. The controversy peaked last year when pounding rains sent trash and medical waste from the landfill flowing into the ocean and onto nearby leeward beaches.

read … Waimanalo Gulch

Hee, Prevedouros Step Aside to make Way for Cayetano Mayoral Run

CB: Other potential anti-rail candidates have bowed out of the race for 2012, clearing the way for Cayetano to court every Honolulu citizen with doubts about the project.

Engineering professor Panos Prevedouros, who ran for mayor in 2008 and 2010 and previously said on his website that he intended to run in 2012, informed supporters last month that he won't run this year.

And Hawaii Sen. Clayton Hee, who has voiced concerns about the rail project in his opposition to the Hoopili development, said he intends to support his longtime friend's mayoral campaign rather than run himself.

"I've had a lot of discussion with a lot of people about that. But I believe Gov. Cayetano will run for mayor, and that being so, I intend to support him," Hee told Civil Beat Wednesday.

What if Cayetano doesn't run for mayor? Would Hee reconsider?

"It's a possibility, but I'm confident enough that he's going to run that I feel that I can give you that statement," said Hee, who has already raised more than $300,000 that could be used for a mayoral run and held another fundraiser Tuesday in Chinatown. "I know he hasn't announced, but I feel like he will run based on the way I've seen him behave."

Cayetano said becoming mayor wasn't something he had expected to be considering.

"I never thought I'd be running for this office. I was hoping that someone else would run, but he decided against it." Cayetano declined to answer whether he was talking about Hee or Prevedouros.

SA: 3 choices for mayor might vex city voters

read … Could Honolulu's Mayor Stop Rail Project?

Caldwell to formally announce candidacy for Honolulu mayor

SA: Caldwell has scheduled a news conference tomorrow to announce his political plans. The former state lawmaker and city managing director already has been raising money for a potential mayoral bid but has not formally declared his candidacy.

Gov. Ben Cayetano also has been mulling a potential mayoral run and said today that the prospects for him entering the race look "pretty good."

CB: Hee Won't Run For Mayor, Will Support Ben

read … Captain Kirk

Democrat Margaret Wille to run for District 9 County Council seat

A number of months ago, Councilman Pete Hoffmann called and asked me to stop to discuss some proposed ordinance he was drafting. As the conversation about the ordinance was coming to a close, Pete turned to me and said – I think you should run for my seat on the County Council next year.

Before that I had not considered running for this legislative office. I told him I would give him my answer by the end of the month. And my answer was yes.

Read … News Release

County fires four workers over election scandal

HTH: Hawaii County has fired four elections workers, including the program administrator, following an investigation into alcohol storage and private business activities allegedly conducted at a Hilo elections warehouse.

"They have received termination notices already," County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong said of three letters dated Friday.

A separate notice had been sent earlier to another employee, whose termination appeal is now at the arbitration level, he said.

The infractions dealt with "violations of county policy," the Hamakua councilman said Wednesday.

read … County fires four workers over election scandal

 

CARLISLE TO ATTEND U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS

News Release: Mayor Peter Carlisle will attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors 80th Winter Meeting next week in Washington D.C. to discuss job creation, economic development, visa waivers for visiting tourists, environmental protection, workforce housing, transportation, criminal justice and other subjects with mayors from throughout the nation.

Carlisle will also meet in Washington with Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff to discuss the continued progress of Honolulu’s rail transit project.

On the way to Washington, the mayor will meet in Los Angeles on Friday with studio executives from Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Television, 20th Century Fox Television and film industry decision-makers to promote Oahu as a premiere location for film and television production. The industry is a proven job-creator that’s important to Hawaii’s economy, Carlisle said.

He will attend the 17th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards, which has honored made-in-Hawaii film “The Descendants” with seven nominations, and will meet with the Association of Film Commissioners International board of directors to discuss issues to consider at the Conference of Mayors meeting.

Carlisle will return on Friday, January 20.

read … Another Junket

Abercrombie Crony pushes NAACP to pull King dinner from boycotted Hyatt

SA: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's cancellation of the Saturday event was the first at the hotel since contract negotiations stalled, said Jerry Westenhaver, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa.

"(Local 5) convinced the national (NAACP) who convinced the local (NAACP) that they should not have the event," Westenhaver said. "They have to pay a cancellation fee so the hotel is not affected, but our employees lose out because they won't get a chance to work."

Alphonso Braggs, president of the Honolulu-Hawaii NAACP Branch, said the King banquet has been held at the Hyatt for five of the past six years and the contract renewal for the event took place a year ago.

"It was prior to the boycott," Braggs said. "That particular scenario escalated and in the interest of all parties, we agreed to change."

Local 5 Spokesman Cade Watanabe said that union and community supporters requested that the NAACP move its event on behalf of workers.

"Workers voted to go on strike twice and to endorse a consumer boycott knowing it was against their immediate economic interests, but that it would help secure a good contract," Watanabe said. "They are pleased that the event has been moved."

(Abercrombie crony) Amy Agbayani, director of the University of Hawaii's Student Equity Excellence and Diversity department and former chairwoman of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, said she was among many community leaders who felt that it would be inconsistent with NAACP's values to hold an event which honors King's memory at a property mired in a labor dispute.

"I always support the NAACP. But I told them that I would not attend if it were not moved," said Agbayani, who was among the community leaders arrested with workers in 2010 during a union-led civil disobedience action in front of the Hyatt.

read … Local 5 Cost Us $8000

Stolen Motorcycles: Twins Ran Chop-Shop for 3 years, Get Probation

KHON: Nguyen faced ten years in prison, but was sentenced to much less by Judge Colette Garibaldi.

"I am going to place Mr. Nguyen on probation,” said Judge Garibaldi.

Nguyen's reaction was one of obvious relief, having run a chop shop for three years, and only getting an 18 month jail term.

"We charged that there were over 60 victims, who either had their motorcycles stolen, or who were sold stolen motorcycles. They lost nearly $300,000,” said Van Marter.

The twins two girlfriends who pleaded no contest to a number of felony charges received deferred acceptance pleas, which means if they remain trouble free for five years their record will be wiped clean.

"In our view this sentence provides no deterrence to others who would operate chop shops. So we're very, very disappointed with the sentence that the court imposed,” said Van Marter.

The other twin and another mastermind in the criminal operation will be sentenced on January 23rd.

read … Get out of Jail Free

DBEDT, Budget and Finance to be Kicked out of No. 1 Capitol District Building

KHON: An historic downtown building with a storied past may have a new chapter ahead in the arts, and it could have State departments on the move.

The Departments of Budget and Finance, and of Business Economic Development and Tourism could be on the move out of the No. 1 Capitol District building, the governor announced at a State Foundation on Culture and the Arts Meeting.

"DBEDT and others who are currently in the building, who love being in the building by the way, they're not going to be happy to hear me say it, but we want to have the entire building to meet its original purpose," says the governor.

The purpose of the building, he says, is for the arts….

The art museum occupies the second floor, the ground floor hosts a restaurant and gift shop, and the State departments take up the other floors. It's a major capitol improvement measure the governor's office plans to put before the legislature could put those departments elsewhere, like the Kamamalu building.

"It's a block or two from here, that would be a natural place for some of the agencies that are here now, so the first step clearly is getting the Kamamalu building back in use. It's sitting there boarded up now," says Rosegg.

That process and the department relocation is likely to take years.

read … Pie in the sky

Improve society to help beat cancer, experts say

SA: Despite increased efforts to prevent and treat cancer, the state must address the core drivers of the disease: poverty and low education.

That was a key message Wednesday at an annual meeting of the Hawaii Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition, which brought together nearly a dozen cancer advocacy, education and prevention groups statewide.

"The most basic cause of the illness is societal elements," said Neal Palafox, professor at the University of Hawaii Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. "Education and poverty have a huge influence on the cause of illness. In order to get a hold of that you have to deal with that first. If you don't, what you're left with is trying to use medicines and preventive things to stop it."

(In other words, if people didn’t get cancer, there would be no cancer. And all we have to do is change human nature.)

Same thing, different condition: Obesity epidemic must be addressed at societal level

read … Cancer

Recktenwald, Foley Kick Off Justice Briefings

CB: Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald and Associate Judge Dan Foley will be on hand at the Parish of St. Clement (1515 Wilder Avenue) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

read … Recktenwald

Adm. Patrick Walsh to retire as U.S. Pacific Fleet head

SA: Adm. Patrick Walsh, head of U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, will be retiring following a 34-year Navy career and after he passes the command to Adm. Cecil D. Haney, officials said.

Haney, former deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., will take over U.S. Pacific Fleet in a change-of-command ceremony at 10 a.m. Jan. 20 at Pearl Harbor's Kilo Pier.

read … Retirement

Young Brothers selling two barges to Canadian firm

PBN: Young Brothers, in papers filed with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday, is seeking permission to sell the Kakela and Makoa to Canada-based Amix Marine Holding Co.

read … Barges

China, India to jump forward with Hawaii telescope

AP: Their participation in the Thirty Meter Telescope will catapult the two nations to the forefront of astronomy research. It's the first time either nation has participated in such an advance telescoped anywhere.

As partners, China and India will pay a share of the construction cost, which is expected to top $1 billion. They will have a share of the observation time.

 

read … Telescope

Growers to send "Rainbow" papayas to Japan

KHON: Japan is set to once again be a major market for Hawaii grown papayas.

"We're so excited because that's 127million more people that will have a chance to sample our rainbow papayas which we feel is the best papayas in the world," says Rickie Deniz, Diversified AG Products Inc., a papaya distributor.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that for the first time the Japanese government will allow rainbow papaya to be imported into the country.

read … GMO Accepted


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