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Thursday, June 21, 2012
June 21, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:20 PM :: 17094 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

FULL TEXT: Application for PUC Approval of Ellison Lanai Buy

Justice Reinvestment: Abercrombie Signs Bills Releasing Hundreds of Criminals from Prison

Dues Used for Political Activism: Hotel Workers Sue Local 5

Panos Schools Caldwell on Rail, BRT

BoE Issues First Year Report, Abercrombie Signs Education Bills

Murdock will keep Residence on Lanai and keep rights to develop Windfarm

SA: Castle & Cooke owner David Murdock said Wednesday afternoon that he'll keep his residence on Lanai and the rights to the farm as part of the deal….

MN: "The Ellison people made it clear to me, he did not want to get involved in this issue," Hokama said referring to the wind farm. "I think Larry Ellison is showing some very good business sense in that he wants to listen."

read … Murdock will keep Residence on Lanai and keep rights to develop Windfarm

Tax Lien: State Claims Billionaire's Company Owes $333,824 In Back Taxes

HR: Larry Ellison’s Oracle Corp. owes the state of Hawaii $333,824 in back taxes, according to a lien filed against the company here last year.

The lien asserts that the California-based software and technology giant failed to pay $180,566 in state general excise taxes in 2003, $63,450 in 2004, and $89,824 in 2005.

The lien is filed against the company and not against chief executive Ellison, who is in the process of buying the island of Lanai in Maui County.

read … Tax Lien: State Claims Billionaire's Company Owes $333,824 In Back Taxes

Hawaii Senators Vote ‘Nay’ on Closing USDA Loopholes for Millionaires

CB: Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka voted on the losing side of a 63-36 vote in the U.S. Senate Wednesday (June 20) on an amendment ”closing a loophole allowing the United States Department of Agriculture to give conservation payments to millionaires.”

Here is a report from The Hill on the vote. No Republicans opposed it, and nearly every Democrat did.

read … Hawaii Senators Vote ‘Nay’ on Closing USDA Loopholes for Millionaires

Consumers, Retailers to Take Hit Over Bottle Recycling Fee Hike

SA: The state Department of Health has indicated its intent to raise the deposit beverage container handling fee from 1 cent to 1½ cents in the fall of this year. This fee is in addition to the 5 cent deposit, which is fixed by law.

So, who takes the hit?

At the top of the list are Hawaii's consumers. Prices for beverages falling under this regulation — including juices, waters, sports drinks, sodas and beer — will increase. The deposit beverage container fees for a six-pack will increase to 39 cents; for a 12-pack, 78 cents, and for a 24-pack, $1.56. Redeeming and recycling 24 containers will recover $1.20, but the additional 36-cent fee belongs to the government.

Second are Hawaii's small retailers and convenience store operators, whose beverage sales are primarily single units or containers. On a bottle of water, for example, the deposit fee remains at 5 cents; the handling fee will rise to 1½ cents. But there is no half-cent currency! The small retailer will have to "eat" the half-cent on every single unit he sells. In this mandated business model, the more the retailer sells, the more money he loses.

read … Another Tax Hike

Star-Adv Blames Messenger: Cayetano’s Pay-to-Play Fines Need ‘Context’

SA: The most indulgent assessment is that the state has allotted too few resources to its regulatory duty; the most cynical one is that those in control of government have no interest in doing so.

Still, justifiable public unease remains about the potential for influence peddling, and that's evidently what a political action committee is trying to tap in its advertising blitz against former Gov. Cayetano in his current bid to be Honolulu's next mayor.

The PAC, ReadBensRecord.com, was launched this week by Pacific Resource Partnership, a group that advocates for the construction industry and is a vigorous supporter of the proposed elevated rail system, a $5.27 billion project Cayetano has vowed to defeat.

Its site makes the charge that Cayetano's gubernatorial re-election campaign in 1998 benefited from more than a half-million dollars in campaign donations that were in excess of legal limits, were given by donors under a false name, or both.

That much is factual, but a clear understanding of the situation requires context that is hard if not impossible to find in the PAC presentation.

Please Ignore This, too: Pay to Play Fines Unpaid: Hirono for Governor Campaign Closes Owing State Elections Fund Over $98,000

read … Nuance, Context, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

BoE Gives Money to Bus Contractors Without Asking What is Being Sacrificed

CB: The DOE is $17 million shy of what it says it needs to maintain the current level of bus service. Officials initially said about 17,000 kids would lose service, practically decimating service on Oahu.

The board and district officials have been meeting since March and have whittled the deficit down to about $5.5 million as of Tuesday. Most of the money used to cover the shortfall comes from federal funds that go for a variety of programs, including to pay for substitute teachers.

But what is the money being shifted away from in order to pay school bus costs? As Williams pointed out, the board is making decisions about how to plug the transportation hole without knowing the other half of the equation. What is being lost?

…For years, the district has unblinkingly paid the bus companies whatever they have asked.

read … And the Tradition Continues

Soft-on-Crime Lobby: Justice Reinvestment is Just the Beginning

CB: Abercrombie was vague on whether JRI would be part of his 2013 package — other JRI bills did not make it through session — a key state senator said the Hawaii Legislature would continue to work on criminal justice reform.

"This is just the beginning," said Will Espero, chair of the state Senate committee that oversees public safety, including state prison. "You never get everything you want the first time. And this, as the governor said, sets the foundation, and from here we are going to be able to do other things and improve the system, and at the end of the day, at the end of the administration, you will see that this is probably one of the most important measures and efforts that the Abercrombie administration will be embarking on."

The ACLU of Hawaii, which is suing the state and the company that runs the Arizona prisons where Hawaii inmates are held despite allegations of mismanagement and abuse, welcomed the new laws. The ACLU has said the state has not moved fast enough to implement reform that could have prevented conditions it believes contributed to the deaths of two Hawaii inmates in 2010.

"The two Justice Reinvestment Initiative Bills signed today are a strong step in the right direction," staff attorney Laurie Temple said in a statement. "We hope that the Legislature and the Governor will continue to build upon these efforts in the years to come."

SA: Governor signs new law to reduce prison terms

read … Not Enough Criminals Free

Is Gary Rodrigues Still in Prison?

ILind: Gary Rodrigues, former state director of the United Public Workers, is scheduled to be released from a federal correctional facility in Sacramento on August 27, 2012, after serving most of a five-year sentence, according to the online “inmate locator” maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

However, his attorney told the Star-Advertiser in March that Rodrigues had already been released.

A federal jury in Honolulu had convicted the former union leader of fifty counts of “theft of honest services” from the UPW and its members, as well as conspiracy, embezzlement, money laundering, and health care fraud.

Here’s a summary of the criminal case taken from a recent 9th Circuit Court order. You might also want to skim some of my reporting that preceded his indictment and conviction.

Majestic Union: Communist Party Mourns UPW Co-Founder Avelino ‘Abba’ Ramos

read … UPW Criminal Boss Still Trying

A Look at Honolulu's Sidewalk Ban Six Months and at Least $100K Later

CB: The McCully/Moiliili area is a popular spot for homeless, and was the site of the city's first Stored Property Ordinance enforcement effort back on Jan. 9. Cuadra, a realtor and appliance repairman, lives in the area and said some of his neighbors are happy with the "marginal" improvements because now they can walk along King Street, where a large homeless encampment was broken up.

"When the bill was first introduced and all started, I was all for it. The first time they did their sweep, we saw immediate results," Cuadra said.

He thinks the city isn't serious about getting people off the streets.

"I would like to see them enforce this law the way I think it was intended to be enforced," he said. "Just tell them: 'You can't come back.' I just think the enforcement part isn't going far enough."

Morikawa said there's been a concerted effort to coordinate with homeless service providers like Waikiki Health Center at least two weeks before impounding homeless people's belongings. Also, the Institute for Human Services (IHS) tags along about 80 percent of the time.

"So that way, for us, we at least know that they're getting a double shot of people trying to do outreach to them, and then if we see somebody in crisis, then we'll call either one of them and they'll come and help immediately if we see somebody that really needs help right away," Morikawa said. "I think (the ordinance) is helping. I don't think there's any way it couldn't help. Because besides us, the outreach is coming with us while we're putting them in crisis.

"Sometimes people are yelling and screaming, a lot of times it's mental health issues or drug issues, but the majority of the time the people are telling us thank you," she said. "It's hard. It's sad. But the people are there offering them help and they're choosing not to take it. ... So it's a little less hard if they're getting the help right there and they won't take it."

read … Toss the Bums Out

City picks firm to buy, manage 12 affordable housing complexes

SA: The city has selected Honolulu Affordable Housing Partners LLC to buy and manage its 12 affordable housing complexes to relieve the city of more than $6 million in annual management costs….

Honolulu Affordable Housing Partners is comprised of Highland Property Development LLC of Auburn, Calif.; Richard Gushman of Honolulu, who has over 40 years of real estate experience in Hawaii and on the mainland; and Stephen Gelber, a Honolulu real estate and tax attorney.

read … City Picks Firm

As state investigates case, a principal gets paid leave

Question: Whatever happened to the principal of August Ahrens Elementary School in Waipahu, who was put on administrative leave following allegations of financial impropriety?

Answer: Six months after she was placed on paid administrative leave, August Ahrens Principal Florentina Smith is still not back at work, as the state investigates the allegations against her.

Department of Education spokeswoman Sandy Goya said she could not comment on the specifics of the investigation because it is ongoing, but said the DOE “continues to process this case as per our procedures and in accordance with collective bargaining.”

Sources have told the Star-Advertiser that Smith is being investigated for allegedly directing a teacher to file a per diem reimbursement claim for training that did not occur.

Officials have not said how much money was involved.

read … Just another Day in the DoE

HMSA Exec Whines About Hospital Ratings

SA: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser recently reported that more than half of Hawaii's hospitals were rated average or worse in the Hospital Safety Scores published by a national organization known as the Leapfrog Group ("Isle facilities rank low in patient safety," Star-Advertiser, June 6).

While Straub Clinic & Hospital and Kaiser Foundation Hospital earned well-deserved A ratings from Leapfrog, we believe the study's methods shortchanged the performance of other Hawaii hospitals….

Leapfrog: How Safe are Hawaii Hospitals?

read … Because it Favored Kaiser

Lt Gov’s Sister sentenced for conspiring to steal AmeriCorps funds in American Samoa

AP: The sister of American Samoa's lieutenant governor has been sentenced to 14 months in prison for conspiracy to steal more than $325,000 in AmeriCorps grant funds.

Mine Pase is the younger sister of Lt. Gov. Faoa Aitofele Sunia and former executive director of the territory's Special Services Commission. She was also ordered to pay the money back at her sentencing Wednesday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

read … About Somewhere Even More Corrupt than Hawaii

HOPE Probation Comes to Lompoc, CA

LR: Players in the justice system in Lompoc — courts, police, the probation office, prosecutors and defense lawyers —are teaming up in an experimental program aimed at breaking the predictable cycle of repeat offenders.

Five men and women convicted of drug and alcohol offenses, and theft, were some of the first chosen to participate last week in the program, called Hope. The program, which originated in Hawaii, will reward repeat criminal offenders with reduced sentences for following a rigorous routine of probation compliance, but punish those who don’t comply with a quick return to jail.

The program received the support of Judge James Iwasko, who explained the rules to the first group. The judge discarded his black robe in favor of casual clothes when he greeted the participants in his courtroom at the Lompoc branch of the Santa Barbara Superior Courthouse. He addressed them a few feet from the jury box rather than the podium to highlight that this wasn’t like any of the previous court hearings they had been called to.

Iwasko told the men and women that they were chosen not because of their merits, but they were identified as likely to be incarcerated in the future.

Read … Lompoc HOPE

Airline's parent sheds less-than-sleek name and returns to 'go!'

SA: Ornstein said, however, that go! still has a code-sharing agreement with Mokulele that allows the two carriers to sell each other's tickets.

"We didn't want to do the name change abruptly and hurt them with recognition, but they've got their website up and are doing fine," Ornstein said.

In fact, Mokulele CEO Ron Hansen said the airline is expanding and will be taking delivery of a fifth Caravan in Kona on Friday. Last month, Mokulele announced it would return service between Honolulu and Kapalua Airport in West Maui for the first time in three years beginning July 1. Mokulele primarily serves Hawaii's smaller markets.

read … Just Go!

AG’s office questions Na Koa’s status

The UH football booster club is not registered as a nonprofit, the deputy attorney general says

read … Football?

Star-Adv Shack Closure Article: 23 Paragraphs to the Fight Scene

SA: "We are closing due to a 40 to 50 percent decrease in gross sales over the last two years," said owner Brendan Burchfiel, an 18-year veteran of The Shack chain. "We will continue to stay open as long as possible."

(22 paragraphs until you find out why The Shack is closing) "They want an environment where they don't have to worry about bar fights," he said.

While The Shack Waikiki had strong appeal among local customers, some of it may have dissipated because of negative publicity, Sofos said. Since its opening, the bar has been plagued by several well-publicized bar fights and lawsuits, she said.

"They have had major fight issues, and when that happens two to three times, that gets people nervous and they don't want to hang out there," Sofos said.

read … Nothing to See Here, Just Move Along

Council passes bill to prepay county’s retirement fund; Kenoi threatens veto

WHT: Lawmakers late Tuesday night approved by a 5-4 vote a bill requiring the county to put any leftover fund balance in excess of $5 million into the account for GASB-45 payments until 50 percent of the actuary recommended payment has been made, or the full fund balance in excess of $5 million has been appropriated.

But the fight over GASB goes beyond county retiree benefits. It allows Council Chairman Dominic Yagong to highlight his differences with the Kenoi administration as Yagong kicks his own campaign into gear.

Yagong introduced the bill to avoid a repeat of last year’s lengthy budget battle, when the chairman saw millions of dollars in budget amendments defeated because he was unable to muster the six votes required to overcome Kenoi’s veto.

Because Yagong still lacks the six votes needed to override Kenoi’s veto, the bill is likely dead.

read … Fiduciary Duty

DoH: HPP’s Dirt Roads are a Dust Violation

HTH: The state Department of Health on June 14 issued an informal notice of violation to the Hawaiian Paradise Park Owners Association over its dirt roads, saying that the dust produced by passing vehicles on dry days violates air quality regulations.

While it may not sound menacing, association President June Conant worries that the warning could have huge implications for the neighborhood that has long struggled to pave its 137-mile road network, especially if it leads to fines.

“If we get fined, we’re gone,” she said.

read … Nanny State

Kapa‘a resident files complaint with PUC against KIUC Smart Meter Program

KGI: Kapa‘a resident Mark Naea filed on Monday a formal complaint with the state Public Utilities Commission, claiming discrimination by Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative against its own members.

“The continued rollout of smart meters … on Kaua‘i by KIUC is in direct violation of PUC regulations and state law, as well as undermining the federal court approved settlement with Adam Asquith,” Naea said in the complaint.

Asquith filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against KIUC on March 16, asking for an injunction to prevent the co-op from installing a smart meter on his property.

On May 31 (filed in court June 4), KIUC agreed it will not install or seek a permission to install a smart meter on Asquith’s property, and that it must have a court order or an order of determination from PUC to install any smart meter on Asquith’s property without his permission.

Following the agreement between Asquith and KIUC, Naea said that he expects the rights of each co-op member to be equally upheld.

Read … Dumb Meters

26,000 to Receive $15 Obamacare Bribe

KHON: More than 26,000 Hawaii residents will be getting a rebate from health insurance companies this summer, because of the Affordable Care Act's 80/20 rule.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says about $195,000 in rebates. These rebates will average $15 for the 13,400 Hawaii families covered by a policy.

The health care law generally requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of consumers' premium dollars on medical care and quality improvement.

read … Can’t Come up with 30 Pieces of Silver?


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