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Tuesday, April 24, 2012
April 24, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:19 PM :: 7372 Views :: Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Contractor Scores Hawaii RTTT Assessment Contract

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted April 23, 2012

Hawaii has no consumer advocates, national advocacy official says

WHT: Hawaii isn’t well-known for consumer advocacy, said Jack Gillis, public affairs director for the Consumer Federation of America.

The CFA has 280 members groups, representing state, local, national and special interest groups, from organizations with just one or two members to groups as large as AARP and Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine. Not one of those organizations is from Hawaii, Gillis said….

Hawaii’s residents who want more advocacy, or who are disappointed with the PUC, particularly people who feel the PUC is not giving adequate consideration to consumer concerns, have a few things they can do to incite change, he said.

“It is amazing how a small group of people can attract attention,” Gillis said. “Most people don’t want to see their company’s name being put in a bad light.”

Protests can attract such attention, as can media exposure. In fact, he added, in the absence of true consumer advocates, newspapers and television news programs can function as consumer advocates just by telling the stories of people having problems with businesses.

If those measures don’t work, Hawaii residents can always consider civil disobedience, Gillis said. That would probably require a large number of people if the protest was about something like electricity rates or a perceived lack of accountability by the PUC, he said.

read … Consumer Advocate?

Justice Reinvestment Preview: Zero-Tolerance Probation Used as Excuse to Let Quadruple Rapist Walk

SA: Thomas K. Kamaka Jr. had been charged with four counts of first-degree sexual assault and with beating the girl's brother. Under the terms of his plea deal, Kamaka, 43, pleaded no contest in February to four counts of second-degree sexual assault. The state dropped the charges involving the girl's brother.

Circuit Judge Karen Ahn said Monday she was surprised with the deal.

"That's why I asked the government to justify the agreement with the defendant. And based on what the deputy prosecuting attorney said, I, albeit reluctantly, am going to go along with that plea agreement," she said in court.

However, Ahn amended the agreement to state that the probation will be a zero-tolerance one and warned Kamaka that a violation of any of the terms of his release could be grounds for her to resentence him to up to 40 years in prison….

(Insert a couple of paragraphs of Michael Green defaming the victim and questioning her honesty after his defendant has been convicted.)

The girl submitted a letter to the court for Monday's sentencing. Demello read portions of the letter in court, including one passage in which she said Kamaka doesn't deserve another chance and should go to jail for even one violation of his probation….

Some of the girl's relatives showed up for Monday's sentencing. One of them told Kamaka, "We would just like you to know that we despise everything you did to this family, and we will never forgive you for it."

(And he is then released out onto the streets.)

Just the Beginning: Legislators Voting to Release 1,100 Criminals on Streets of Hawaii

read … Justice Reinvestment

1195 Hardened Criminals to be released onto streets of Hawaii, 48.8% expected to Reoffend

SA: But critics of Senate Bill 2776, the main bill for the initiative, and House Bill 2515, which addresses parole issues, warn the bills could compromise public safety because community treatment programs might not be immediately ready to handle an influx of inmates released once they have served their minimum sentence and are otherwise qualified for release….

The Justice Center plan calls for 410 prisoners to be brought back from the mainland in the first year, 384 in the second year, 257 in the third year, 111 in the fourth year, 29 in the fifth year and four in the sixth year, for a total decrease of 1,195 people over six years …. (But don’t worry, ‘only’ 48.8% will reoffend!)

One of the more controversial features of the Senate bill would require, with certain exceptions, that Class A felons be released 18 months before the expiration of their term, Class B felons released 12 months before their maximum sentence and Class C felons released six to nine months before the end of their sentence to allow for mandatory supervision and participation in re-entry programs and prevent prisoners from "maxing out."….

Kat Brady, coordinator of the Community Alliance on Prisons, an advocate for inmate treatment programs, said the recidivism rate for prisoners who "max out" and leave the system without supervision is 69.3 percent, compared with 48.8 for people assigned to probation and 48.5 percent for people on parole.

"If you just let people out after they serve their maximum, that's scary," Brady said. "Especially if it's a Class A felony where somebody's in for 20 years." (Soooo let let them out early! What a plan!)

read … Open the Prisons!

Teacher: Please Reject Race to the Top

Pahoa High School Teacher: The State of Hawaii and the Hawaii District is overwhelming teachers, under-paying them, and using evaluation tools as instruments of harassment and intimidation. This is creating a hostile workplace environment. This is also called workplace violence.

I am a teacher at Pahoa High and Intermediate School. I am quite familiar with America’s rural poor. I grew up attending Title One schools on the mainland; most notably: Nome (Alaska) Elementary School, Schurz Middle School on the Walker River Indian Reservation (Nevada), and Polson High on the Flathead Indian Reservation (Montana), places of America’s rural poor, yet, I am shocked at what is happening to me in Hawaii and the bullying of teachers that Hawaii students, their parents, and the community are all witnessing as a result of targeting teachers….

I want to share with you my experience teaching at a school which, for the past three years, has had no library access for students, no school librarian, and is in one of the poorest communities in the state replete with the problems of such. Students who do not work with encylopedias (sic), atlases, or browse the shelves for the latest young adult novels are being asked to evaluate my performance as a teacher. Scores of middle managers who do not teach are also evaluating my performance and to determine my pay, teaching line, and even if I keep my job in a community that is one of the poorest in the state of Hawaii.

…Please reject participation in Race To The Top and repeal the No Child Left Behind law mandating high test scores for teacher promotion, teacher retention, and teacher salary increases.

About the author: Susan Kay Anderson has worked as an archeologist, barista, book store clerk, farm hand, and septic tank service company as a receptionist, among other endeavors. Her writing can be found in: Eleventh Muse, Rain Bird, Square One, Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and on Tom Clark’s website (comments). She blogs at Hawaii Teacher Detective.

SA: Share concerns with BOE at meeting

read … Somebody Who isn’t Tempted by the $75M

HART Addition: Spend $119M to Build and Tear Down Rail, Avoid $22M in Delay Claims, Total Savings $194M

CB: HART chief Dan Grabauskas says it would cost only $5 million to tear down $114 million worth of work between now and Jan. 31, 2013. By contrast, waiting until that date to start construction would add $22 million in delay claims, $109 million in escalated materials costs and $68 million in staff costs because of the late end of construction, according to Grabauskas.

Together, that’s a difference of $194 million, which HART says makes starting construction now financially prudent. Here’s the full letter:

PDF: Cost To Tear Down

CB: [PHOTOS] Rail Column Digging Begins

read … Doesn't Add Up

They’re Baaaack! Film company trying to resurrect huge new tax credits

ILind: Remember Ryan Kavanagh and the folks from Relativity Media, LLC? They’re the ones who lobbied hard at the legislative last year for a huge new tax break to benefit themselves. In the process, they got in trouble for passing out expensive gift sets of DVDs to legislators and staff. The bills providing for their big tax breaks eventually got hung up and died in conference last year.

But Kavanagh and company are back in town. They’ve got a web site (HawaiiFilmIncentive.com), and a fancy new presentation touting their tax proposal, and have reportedly been making the rounds at the capitol seeking support from legislative leaders and folks in the governor’s office. It looks like they are hoping to slide in under the radar and have their tax break emerge from an obscure conference committee at the last minute.

The company had been pushing HB 1308 and SB 318 as their vehicles, but those appear dead. I’ve got my eye on HB1551, which in its House version included similar tax breaks for digital media and film production. I’m sure they have other possible legislative vehicles that could be used in a last minute move….

…while you’re at it, check out the news about the lawsuit filed in California accusing the Relativity Media of fraud.

Related: Relativity Media Using Hollywood Accounting to Sell Hawaii Film Incentive

read … They’re Baaaack! Film company trying to resurrect huge new tax credits

Solar Scammers Give One Last Push to Save their Illegal tax Credits

SA: The price of PV systems has dropped dramatically — some 50 percent over the past few years. So it is sensible to consider decreasing the state's share in incentivizing the systems. But it's essential that we maintain the right tax credit "nudge" to help more families and businesses put solar to work for them — with positive economic benefits for everyone. That's why Blue Planet Foundation supports proposed changes to the law that would decrease the tax credit while eliminating the "system" caps that have led to confusion and charges of "gaming" the credits.

The Senate Draft 2 of House Bill 2417 contains these changes, including decreasing the credit from 35 percent to 20 percent over the next three years.

What this is about: Why Stop at $500K? DoTAX Quietly Multiplies Hawaii Solar Tax Credit

read … Illegal Tax Credits

Socialists Give One Last Push for State Bank of Abercrombie founded on Toxic Mortgages

FACE: The mortgage foreclosure program in Senate Bill 2394 HD3 would do what the hedge funds are doing, but only with homeowners who can pay for a modified mortgage, not with those who have no way of paying for a mortgage no matter how discounted. The state would buy these mortgages at a discount where the lender cannot easily sell these mortgages, then sell them to the owners at a slightly higher rate in cases where the owner can pay a modified mortgage. The homeowner gets to keep his house, the state makes a small profit to keep the program going, and local banks can service the loans for a fee.

Reality: Tracing the Financial Outlines of Socialism in Hawaii

read … Socialist Bank Founded on Toxic Mortgages

Meeting in Secret, Legislature Decides How Many HGEA Make-Work Jobs To Create

PR: On Monday night, budget negotiators agreed to fund 20 positions in agriculture with general funds instead of special funds, freeing up the special fund money to help combat invasive species. Lawmakers will also use general funds to pay for nine other positions being financed with federal money.

Negotiators agreed to spend $5.2 million in general fund and special fund money for Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s watershed protection initiative. The amount is less than Abercrombie wanted but would help launch the initiative.

CB: The conference committee on the state budget bill recessed for a third time Monday night around 8 p.m. House and Senate members will reconvene tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 7.

Several insiders told me tonight that lawmakers are about 90 percent of the way there.

Committee co-chairs Rep. Marcus Oshiro and Sen. David Ige tonight read off close to two dozen agreements they’ve come to within the 182 pages of disagreements laid out in budget worksheets.

Usual Crooks, Cronies Lineup to back Maile Shimabukuro

CB: …Monday (April 23) evening at Mandalay Restaurant at $100 a head. That’s Day 54 of the 2012 Hawaii Legislature.

Maile Shimabukuro was appointed to fill a Senate vacancy last year.

Those giving to the former House representative in 2011 include HSTA, Outrigger, Altria Client Services, Hawaii Realtors, HMSA, Young Brothers, First Hawaiian Bank, the carpenters union, plumbers and pipefitters union, energy investor Roald Marth and developer Jeff Stone.

read … Bought n Paid For

Hawaii Lawmaker Voted on Bills Backed By His Employer — Oceanic Cable

CB: State Rep. James "Jimmy" Tokioka has voted nearly two dozen times on bills related to telecommunications, broadband and cable television in the 2012 Hawaii Legislature.

But Tokioka works for Oceanic Time Warner Cable and several of the measures were supported by his employer.

According to Tokioka's latest disclosure with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, the Kauai representative is paid between $50,000 and $100,000 annually as a business manager for Oceanic.

read … Conflict of Interest

Accreditors want public input on HPD's adherence to policies

SA: An on-site accreditation team from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies will take public comment from 6 p.m. Wednesday at the HPD Career Conference Center, 715 S. King St., Room 500. Limited street parking is available. Telephone comments will be accepted at 479-5675 from 3 to 5 p.m.

People may also submit written comments to the commission's national office at 13575 Heathcote Blvd., Suite 320, Gainesville, VA 20155; or at its website at www.calea.org.

Comments should address HPD's ability to comply with the commission's accreditation standards, not the performances or behavior of individual officers, which is the purview of the Hono­lulu Police Commission and HPD's Professional Standards Office.

read … Accreditors want public input on HPD's adherence to policies

Suffering Under Obama’s Earmark Ban, Inouye Delivers a Piddling $5.8M

Borreca: There it sits, a lone entry in the huge Washington, D.C. database: HI, $5,870,000, East-West Center.

It is the only listing for Hawaii in the Citizens Against Government Waste annual "Pig Book."

Back in 2010, before the GOP-led earmark moratorium, Hawaii had $326 million in nearly 150 earmarks.

There was money for the University of Hawaii to study plants, fish and geology; the EWC earmark was more than $11 million; and there was some $30 million for the city rail system.

Feeding at the public trough just isn't what it used to be.

The private group reports that its national tally shows pork projects decreased by 98.3 percent to 152 in 2012….

A moratorium is not the same as a permanent halt, so this February, Inouye reluctantly went along with a moratorium for another year, but he was not pleased, noting that what is not done with an earmark shall be done another way.

"In the end, the Congress will have to choose between an open and transparent method for allocating targeted funding, or one that is done with phone calls, conversations, winks and nods. One method allows for accountability and another leaves us all at the whim of unelected bureaucrats," Inouye said in a floor speech.

Yesterday Inouye's deputy chief of staff, Peter Boylan, said: "Senator Inouye remains a strong supporter of congressional initiatives and continues to work with his colleagues in the Congress to reinstate an open and transparent process for congressionally directed funding."

Even the Citizens Against Government Waste said the new system was "opaque."

read … About how Obama Gains More Power

Inouye’s DoA $250M for Rail Cited as Earmark Work Around

…prohibiting pork has not stopped lawmakers from asking the administration to protect their parochial interests. After the Senate Appropriations panel approved two spending bills last week, Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) issued a press release celebrating a $250 million railway project for Honolulu, (money which is not likely to be approved by the House) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) praised $65 million in funding for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, $15 million above President Barack Obama’s proposed budget….

read … Work Around is D. O. A.

Honolulu Council to Vote on Bag ban or Bag Tax Wednesday

CB: A ban on plastic bags. A fee on plastic bags paid by businesses. A ban on plastic bags and a fee on paper bags paid by customers. Or none of the above.

It's rare that a bill just days from a final vote by the Honolulu City Council would have so many potential outcomes. Usually, members and stakeholders have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen by this stage of the game. It's already passed two votes by the full body, had a hearing to take the pulse of the public and twice been referred to committee for refinement.

The debate has flown all but under the radar over the last two months, as environmentalists' and retailers' attention has been seemingly monopolized by a similar statewide proposal still technically alive across the street at the Hawaii Legislature.

But state lawmakers' efforts on the issue are floundering and time is running out in the 2012 session. Meanwhile, the council is on the verge of a single-use checkout bag ban, a fee or some combination of the two that would affect Oahu's 1 million residents and millions of annual visitors.

Members have floated three different sets of amendments that could be considered Wednesday in Kapolei, and there are three distinct visions of the legislation that could conceivably become law within a week….

CB Poll: Plurality of Oahu Voters Don’t Want any Bag Ban or Bag Tax (Even after years of brainwashing, 45% say leave it alone)

Poll Results: Plastic Poll Crosstabs

read … Harass the people More

City Moving On $10M H-POWER Sewage Burner

CB: The city expects no significant impacts from its plan to modify the expanded H-POWER facility to be able to handle truckloads of raw sewage sludge.

Its draft environmental assessment was accepted by the state Office of Environmental Quality Control and included in the new environmental notice published today.

read … City Moving On $10M H-POWER Sewage Burner

Usual Suspects Attempt to Block Construction of Haleakala Solar Telescope

CB: Opponents of a 14-story solar telescope planned for Haleakala are taking their case to court after a state board said last week that it was OK for the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy to begin work on the project.

The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, which represents Kilakila o Haleakala, says that the go-ahead for the project should have never been granted because a key permit is being challenged. The Board of Land and Natural Resources has yet to rule on that challenge but the university is moving ahead with construction anyway.

David Kimo Frankel, the group's attorney, told Civil Beat that it's a violation of the law to start construction before the hearing on the permit is over.

Deborah Ward, a spokeswoman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said it's not against the law to begin work on the project, and noted that the Land Board had only approved partial work on the observatory, not its full construction.

In addition to creating jobs on Maui, the Institute of Astronomy says the world-class telescope will allow astrophysicists to study solar wind and solar flares and their impact on Earth's climate. The telescope, the largest of its kind, is slated to be built on an 18-acre site known as "Science City," which includes about a half dozen other observatories.

Frankel has filed a motion in Circuit Court for a preliminary injunction that would prevent construction from proceeding. A June hearing date has been set, but Frankel hopes to expedite that because the institute plans to begin construction May 14.

read … Must not study the Sun

Full List of Honolulu City Employees Published

CB: …analysis of nearly 8,500 Honolulu government salaries found that Fire Fighter I is the most common job title, with 449 workers. For the second straight year, Lee is the most common surname, with 89 people with that last name working for the city. And Michael is the most common first name across city government — there are 146.

The full database of 8,467 names and salaries is missing some 2,000 police officers because the Honolulu Police Department says they could be undercover and their identities should be protected from disclosure. Taking that into account, here are the most common job titles and the pay ranges of those employees:

read … Honolulu Employees

Hawaii Residential Electric Bills up to $847 per Month

WHT: An average Hawaii Electric Light Co. customer doles out around $225 every month for 500 to 600 kilowatt hours of electricity, a far cry from the nation’s average of $63 for the same usage.

Depending on the household, some customers use 200 kilowatts while others, such as resort homes, can use upward of 2,000 kilowatt hours, said Curtis Beck, HELCO Energy Services manager. According to HELCO’s current tiered rates, that 2,000 kilowatt hours equates to $847, plus charges and fees.

HELCO’s per kilowatt hour electric rate that starts at 40.1 cents is higher than Oahu’s 32.3 cents and Maui’s 36.2 cents, Beck said. He noted HELCO’s parent company, Hawaiian Electric Industries, operates electric companies on all islands except Kauai. The more electricity you use, the higher your rate will be because HELCO operates on the tiered-rate system.

On Kauai, the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s rates are higher than the rest of the state at 45.8 cents per hour, according to its Public Utilities Commission-approved rate schedule effective April 1.

NorthWestern Energy, a mainland utility serving Western Montana, has a per kilowatt hour rate of 10.1 cents, said Claudia Rapcoch, the company’s communications director, who noted the state has various cheap energy sources, such as natural gas, to produce energy. Nevada Power Co., according to its effective rate schedule, charges 9.9 cents.

The average retail per kilowatt hour charge for electricity in the U.S. was 11.43 cents in January, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The administration also said the nation’s highest could be found in Hawaii at 36.25 cents while the lowest was 7.63 cents in South Dakota, which would equate to a $42 bill.

(The rest of the article consists of HELCO making excuses)

read … Dissect a HELCO bill

Hawaii’s Willoughby Eliminated in First Round of Utah GOP Voting

Utah GOP: Vote count, Round 1. The top nine candidates (bolded below) will progress to Round 2.

  • Bob Fuehr – 24 votes, 2.61 percent
  • Jason Buck – 42 votes, 4.56 percent
  • Cherilyn Eagar – 48 votes, 5.21 percent
  • Chris Stewart – 365 votes, 39.63 percent
  • Chuck Williams – 16 votes, 1.74 percent
  • John W. Willoughby – 6 votes, 0.66 percent
  • Howard Wallack – 51 votes, 5.52 percent
  • Edward Mayerhofer – 0 votes, 0 percent
  • Jeramey McElhaney – 14 votes, 1.52 percent
  • David Clark – 234 votes, 25 percent
  • Milton Ray Hanks – 121 votes, 13 percent

(Willoughby was the Hawaii Republican candidate for CD2 in 2010)

read … Election Results: Utah Congressional District 2

Legislation on air quality could close Nuuanu crematorium

SA: The only Oahu crematorium equipped to handle bodies of 300 pounds or more could be forced to close under terms of an air pollution control bill passed Monday by the Legislature, operators say.

Supporters of the measure, including community members who have long complained of the odor and sight of billowing smoke from the Oahu Cemetery in Nuuanu, say it is a long time in coming and a step toward bringing all such facilities into compliance with air quality standards.

House Bill 2656 requires all crematoriums operating without air pollution control permits and built before March 20, 1972, to submit permit applications to the state Department of Health by Dec. 31, 2013. Crematoriums built after 1972 already are required to submit the applications. Older facilities were exempted under a grandfather clause.

The Oahu Cemetery Association, the nonprofit corporation that owns the Nuuanu cemetery, says Oahu Cemetery's crematorium includes three 100-year-old units that are unlikely to meet the standards and approvals needed to obtain the proper permits.

"We anticipate that OCA's crematories will be unable to comply with the existing air quality standards," Nanette Napoleon, an association trustee, and Hal Lewis Jr., superintendent, said over the weekend in an email to House members. "Accordingly, the permits will be denied, and three of Oahu's seven crematories — almost one-half of the island's total crematory capacity — will be closed sometime in 2014."

The association is "actively pursuing" construction and installation of new units to bring the crematorium into compliance with clean air standards by no later than the end of 2018, the email said.

read … Closing Only Crematorium


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