S&P Cuts US Bond Rating, More Downgrades Coming Monday
Fourth in Nation: Hawaii State Debt is $25,000 per taxpayer
WSJ Video: How US Debt Downgrade would affect States, Cities, Banks, Mortgage rates
Homosexual Rape went on for Years at DoE Blind and Deaf School
As KHON2 first reported, police have made several arrests of juvenile males suspected of sexual assault of classmates as young as preteens at Hawaii's only public school serving deaf and blind students.
"We're talking about instances where boys are sodomized, girls are raped," said attorney Michael Green. “We're talking about digital penetration, we're talking about oral sex, and it's all over the place, whether it's in school buses, it's in dorms. Some people who can't see so they cant be witnesses, we have people who can't hear so they can't hear outcries."
"There's no question that people in the highest places of D.O.E. knew about this,” Green said. “They knew about it at the very latest in 2009 and probably before."
Green reads from a 2009 letter from the Department of Education to a parent who tried to report abuse: “What they're told is that they took disciplinary action against the boys in accordance with student misconduct discipline, school searches and seizures, police interviews and arrests, which I don't believe,” Green said. “This is a 2009 letter, police are telling us it's 2011 they first learned about this."
Honolulu police confirm this current investigation began this year.
"There could be an obstruction of justice issue which are criminal, tampering with witnesses could be criminal, so there's a lot of stuff out there,” Green said, “and this is just the beginning of it. I think people will come forward."
“I have a concern that the police investigation was frustrated,” Green said. “We're also looking at who was doing the signing, who was doing the interpreting for the police investigation and finding out who they are and any relationships they've had to the school vis-à-vis teachers and other staff at the school. Unless the officer was versed in signing we want to make sure the story was told, and we'll find out.”
The parent who shared her child’s story from 2001 said she was discouraged from coming forward.
“They told me that my daughter would be retaliated against,” she alleges.
read … DOE knew about school rapes years before police
DoE Promises HSTA: No Teacher Accountability for 2011-2012
The state promised in its Race to the Top application that it would implement evaluations for all the state's 12,500 teachers by 2014. Toward that end, the Department of Education plans to pilot new teacher evaluation models in designated Zones of School Innovation this year. The problem is that the new teacher contract — already controversial in its own right — makes no mention of the evaluation trials.
The union says they should have been negotiated, and the department says negotiations were unnecessary because the teachers affected are already on board. The pilot will have no bearing on their official records anyway, the department says.
Union President Wil Okabe is disappointed, he wrote in a July 25 letter to Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, that the department plans to bypass the collective bargaining process in order to implement the pilot project. He said state law "requires that the terms of an evaluation system be collectively bargained," citing Chapter 89 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, and requested that she reconsider the decision to implement the trial evaluations without negotiations.
"An effective teacher evaluation system requires a collaborative process that is based on trust and fairness," he wrote.
Okabe told Civil Beat that the specific statute he had in mind when he wrote the letter was Section 89-10.8, part 3, which talks about the grievance procedure for employee failure to meet performance standards.
But Mataoyshi reassured him in her response, dated Aug. 2, that teachers participating in the pilot program will not face adverse actions.
"For school year 2011-12, we will not create a new evaluation system for the ZSI that will be part of the teachers' personnel record," she wrote. "We will continue to use the existing (model) under the current evaluation cycle."
Thai Workers to file Civil Suit
Despite the criminal case imploding, the Thai workers’ saga in Hawaii is far from over. Civil attorneys Clare Hanusz and Melissa Vincenty are representing 32 of the men in a civil case. The law partners are the ones who brought the case to the federal government on the workers’ behalf when they believed crimes against their clients had been committed.
In response to claims by the Sous’ attorneys that their clients had been proven innocent, Vincenty said that was untrue.
“The Sous are not innocent or guilty at this point – they were never tried.” She said in a civil case, the burden of proof different and there are different remedies. We will vigorously pursue these charges,” she said.
Vincenty said these men came forward after years of frustration of being ignored and felt that they had been abandoned first by the Sous and second by various government agencies. "They do not want to remain silent any further," she said.
read … American Nightmare
Borreca: Ed Case's problem is effrontery
Somehow, his impudent if not audacious nature has led him to believe he could run for the U.S. Senate with or without the permission of the Democratic establishment. This, of course, is not the first time this sort of brashness has caused Case to be written up by the suits. (Borreca, as always, is fronting for Inouye’s office.)
Back in 2006, Case ran an ill-considered campaign for the Senate seat against Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, who pretty much owns the moniker "beloved" and who trounced the former Democratic congressman in the primary….
Case then had the chutzpah of announcing that his polls show that while he would beat Lingle in a general election, Lingle would get more votes than Hirono.
His conclusion is that Democrats would be smart to elect him in the primary because he is stronger than Hirono, and Hirono is weaker than Lingle.
That drove the Democrats nuts, causing them to call Case names.
(The purpose of this column is to get Hanabusa into the Senate race.)
read ... Case just can't seem to get a break from fellow Dems
Reapportionment Commission Adds Hanabusa’s Home to CD1
The votes were split.
Four Republicans on one side. Four Democrats on the other.
So on Friday it came down to Hawaii Reapportionment Commission Chairwoman Victoria Marks to decide whether U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa's Ko Olina home would be in her district.
Her answer: Yes.
The boundaries of the 1st Congressional District would no longer be a source of embarrassment during political campaigns for the congresswoman who was elected in 2010 while living outside the area she sought to represent.
(And now the Dems have added 1000s of Republican voters to CD1. Congratulations!)
Maps: Six Incumbents could fight each other under newly released Hawaii Reapportionment Maps
read … Redistricting Panel OKs Plan to Include Ko Olina in 1st Congressional District
San Francisco Still Stuck with Ansaldo
San Francisco's transit agency needs to repair eight cars that have been damaged in various accidents — repairs that will cost a total of $33 million. The company hired to do the repairs? AnsaldoBreda.
The Italian company "owns the world's only jigs specifically shaped for straightening the frames of San Francisco's fleet of Breda light-rail cars," according to San Francisco Weekly. Read the full story here.
That's interesting for Honolulu because one of the arguments raised by the city in defending itself against Sumitomo's appeal this week is that it was appropriate to evaluate maintenance costs only for the 14 years covered by the contract, not the 30-year life of the cars. The city argued that after the contract expires, any company can be hired to continue maintaining the cars — including Sumitomo, if they'd really be cheaper in the long run.
The news out of San Francisco this week shows it might not be so easy to change horses midstream, and that Honolulu might be committing to Ansaldo for the next 30 years, even if it's only officially signing up for half of that.
read … Ansaldo Enlisted to Fix San Fran's Light Rail Cars
At Teachers Union/State Settlement Conference, Mum's The Word
The Hawaii State Teachers Association and state negotiation team went into a private meeting before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board Friday morning to see if they could settle their differences without a ruling from the board.
UPDATED: A dozen or so people emerged from the two-hour meeting with no settlement. Public hearings will continue as scheduled, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 15.
Members of the state's team assured Civil Beat they had no intention of sharing with the public what happened behind closed doors. Union president Wil Okabe, on the other hand, said he would be happy to talk afterward. He has not yet returned our calls.
read … HSTA negotiations
Abercrombie attacks Prepaid Healthcare Act Again
The governor said that the issue is not cost cutting because "spending is chasing costs." He said he feels we must address long-term care, sharing that his mother-in-law was in a nursing home for seven years, and proposed legislation that would double tax incentives for businesses that have offered such a program. However, he said, the legislation was rejected because of the projected revenue loss for the state. Yet, he said he felt that in the long term it would equate to a savings for the state.
While the governor said it pains him to have employees pay more than they are accustomed to paying, with a 50-50 percent cost share, he said the state simply cannot afford paying for coverage at the level previously paid.
We understand. For the business sector, it is even more of a challenge because private-sector businesses are covering 98.5 percent, versus the 50 percent government pays. As we move forward and our new health care transformation coordinator begins transforming the system, we ask that she work toward parity in the system for fair and equal representation of all and to help lower costs for businesses. (Translation: Gut the Prepaid Health Care Act)
Throughout his time with chamber members, the governor told stories to connect concepts and made us laugh. It was great to spend time with him and hear his thoughts. He asks that we help him by giving him the benefit of the doubt and holding him accountable for his words. He said he understands the extreme challenge businesses face with rising costs of health care and paying the lion's share. We look forward to an equitable solution.
Related: Health Insurance? No need: Abercrombie promises to dump Prepaid Health Care Act, GOP: Legislature putting Prepaid Health Care Act at risk, Abercrombie Signs HB1134
read … Governor visits the Chamber
Abercrombie Blocks Maui Nurses from Facebook Page
It seems the First Amendment right of free speech does not apply in relation to the Abercrombie administration. Abercrombie has a Facebook page that is "the official community page for the governor of the state of Hawaii." Yes, it is a community page, but only for those who support and agree with Abercrombie. Comments that disagree with Abercrombie's opinion, or comments that pose difficult questions are deleted and the user is blocked. Apparently, my right to free speech does not apply on official community pages. Public funds pay for the management of the site.
My question to Abercrombie related to how the new health commissioner and Abercrombie plan to ensure adequate numbers of qualified nurses to care for the residents and visitors of the state of Hawaii. The question was deleted from the Facebook page, and my access to comments was blocked.
Related: VIDEO: Abercrombie squares off with Maui Nurses
read ... Abercrombie’s Facebook page for supporters only
OHA Trustee Mossman Quits: Departure Presages Return to Bad Old Days?
Machado said that when Mossman came to the board, he was frustrated as a Native Hawaiian because there was too much bickering among trustees.
Mossman worked hard at keeping the board balanced and calm, she said.
He said he hopes his replacement will continue that legacy.
"I am hoping the board will appoint somebody that will carry on what I have worked toward for nine years," Mossman said Friday. "That the person will work well with the board and not create difficulties that were there when I first came on board." (Wanna bet?)
read … Maui trustee to resign his OHA post
Abercrombie snags PUC Commissioner
Carlito P. Caliboso on Friday resigned from his post as commissioner on Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission, effective Aug. 31,
Caliboso, an attorney, has served on the commission since he was appointed by Gov. Linda Lingle in 2003 and was the commission’s chairman until March, when Gov. Neil Abercrombie designated Hermina Morita chairperson.
read ... Caliboso resigns from Public Utilities Commission
Abercrombie Advisor quits to work on Case Campaign
Kate Stanley will start part-time Sept. 1 as a senior advisor to Neil Abercrombie and work full time beginning Jan. 1 and through at least the 2012 legislative session.
Stanley replaces Lloyd Nekoba, who stepped down in late May to help Ed Case in his U.S. Senate run.
Stanley is a former state House representative, majority floor leader and Judiciary chair and was a Hawaii delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. She contributed to the governor's 2010 campaign and helped with the transition.
read … Capitol Watch
Papaya farms offer $10,000 award
… past speculation has focused on eco-terrorists opposed to the use of transgenic (also known as genetically modified) papaya varieties, and competing farmers seeking to reduce supply in an oversaturated market.
Most of the papaya trees that were hacked were of the red-flesh SunUp and the Rainbow variety, both of which are resistant to the papaya ringspot virus.
Perry hopes someone will "come forward and give some information that can (reveal) who did this." The association is still accepting funds for the reward, he said.
"We'd love to accept donations from anybody that feels like we do," he said. Donations are not tax-deductible.
Anybody who may have information about the vandals should call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.
read … $10,000 award
Inspector General Probe Headed For HNL TSA (timed for APEC?)
Sources told KITV 4 News a team from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security -- which oversees the TSA -- will travel to Honolulu to conduct an audit of management oversight at Honolulu International Airport this fall.
TSA employees have been told the probe will last five or six months on and off, with teams flying in periodically from the mainland through early next year to conduct interviews and gather information at TSA's Honolulu office.
Six supervisors and managers are among 36 employees the TSA is trying to fire following a probe earlier this year that found screeners on the morning shift at HNL's Lobby 4 failed to screen thousands of checked bags for explosives over several months last year….
The probe will happen this fall just as thousands of dignitaries and their staffs from all over the world will be travelling through Honolulu International Airport to get to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in November, featuring the presidents and prime ministers of 21 countries.
read … Audit Follows Baggage Screening Scandal
SA: Compensate Prisoners released and deemed wrongly convicted
After nearly 20 years behind bars, Alvin F. Jardine III of Maui has been released thanks to a state judge ruling that newly examined DNA evidence raised doubts about his jury's guilty verdict on rape charges. The reversal was obtained by Hawaii Innocence Project, which has directed donations and energy to screen convictions and challenge guilty verdicts not supported by DNA evidence.
Hawaii legislators have changed the state law in recent years to recognize modern conviction review, allowing any person sentenced for a crime to apply for post-conviction DNA testing at any time and retain evidence in any case resulting in a conviction until incarceration, parole and probation have been completed. The Legislature next should require compensation to people who succeed in overturning their wrongful convictions.
read … Compensate the wrongly convicted
$10 Toll to drive in Downtown Honolulu?
The final item on the Transportation Committee today is a report evaluating the idea of creating a "cordon" around Downtown Honolulu that would charge drivers a toll of $5, $7.50 or $10 to enter the zone where traffic is the worst — the "central business district."
The report looked at the impact on traffic in 2035. Department of Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka told the committee that such a toll regime would discourage driving and encourage mass transit.
"This does hold some promise for travel demand management, but we need to think about waiting until we have the other mode in place before moving forward on this," he said, a reference to the city's planned high-capacity train system that would give travelers another option.
read … Congestion Tolls in Honolulu ... Someday
Commissary Needed in Hawaii
In its heyday, the commissary was busy because it was much cheaper than local chain supermarkets. I’m sorry to say that this isn’t the case anymore in Maine.
We recently moved to Hawaii. Now I understand, again, the need to shop at the commissary. Although my husband is active-duty, we receive a large monthly COLA (cost-of-living allowance) specifically for gas and grocery cost offsets. Although I work, it is necessary for us to shop at the commissary out here.
One example I can give is that my husband went to pick up a gallon of milk out in town at the local grocery store — which is a large chain throughout the U.S. — and it was $10 for one gallon of milk. That same gallon at the commissary was still about $5.35. We need a commissary out here.
read ... Another view on local commissary
Brian Ahakuelo to lead IBEW Local 1260
Ahakuelo, who defeated previous manager Lance Miyake in the election, will oversee a membership of 3,100 members spread across Hawaii and Guam.
In 1992, Ahakuelo became a local union representative and in 1996 was promoted to assistant business manager. In 2003, he accepted a position as an international representative at the IBEW 9th District Office in Sacramento, Calif., and in 2006 was named the IBEW’s director of organizing at the union’s international office in Washington D.C.
read ... IBEW elections
BioFools: AKP to Produce 140,000 tons of “Bio-Char” Every Year
My discussions with the principals of AKP tell me that about 140,000 tons of biochar will be produced annually at full production. At this scale, the distribution of biochar throughout agricultural fields in the state as well as in watershed ecosystems will have significant impact on agricultural productivity and the quality of our water supply.”
Adam Asquith testified on August 2, 2011: “The AKP proposal could be one of the first large-scale efforts of carbon sequestration through biochar and would make Hawaii a global leader in carbon management.”
The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at UH Manoa calls charcoal Hawaii's "Black Gold"
HNEI estimated in January 2007 that charcoal was worth $246/Ton. “In fact, charcoal is the only renewable fuel that is now cost competitive with fossil fuels. Remarkably, at its current price the production of charcoal is very profitable. This fact is well-known to charcoal producers, but not to the general public.”
On April 8, 2011, the Consumer Advocate asked HECO various questions about their application. None were focused on the biochar (charcoal) produced.
What then is the appropriate ratepayer subsidy for generating synthetic biodiesel for HELCO’s Keahole Generation Station?
Should HECO ratepayers subsidize the price of diesel so AKP can make a killing on biochar, their proposed Value Added By-Product?
read … Solar or Black Gold
Senate Leaders to Push Renewal of Wind Subsidies
Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid announcing that his first order of business when the Senate re-adjourns after its month long siesta will be to take up energy legislation under the guise of creating jobs. And just a day later, on August 3, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat from New Mexico and chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, announced that he planned on bringing as many as 14 energy related bills up for a vote….
read … Green Jobs Bigger Deficits
HTA’s McCartney: "You're not going to see a lot of our ads on CNN."
About 20 states have cut spending in the past year on advertising and other promotion and support to try to lure tourists and their vacation dollars, the U.S. Travel Association says.
That includes states that depend heavily on tourists' dollars such as Hawaii, Washington, New York, South Carolina and Arizona….
"Everybody has to figure out how to do more with less," says Mike McCartney, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which had its budget lowered and capped at $69 million each of the next four years compared with $81 million a year ago. "You're not going to see a lot of our ads on CNN."…
The Hawaii Tourism Authority has partnered with hotels to buy large newspaper ads in San Francisco.
read … States Cut Back on Efforts to Draw Tourists
They can’t get married there but Gays pick Australia as #1 spot for Honeymoons
THE Gold Coast has been named the world's top gay and lesbian honeymoon destination, beating Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Spain.
While gay couples can't get married in Australia, the sunny shores of the Coast have been recommended as the place to celebrate post-nuptials by website gaytravel.com.
The website, which has operated for 15 years, plugged the city as "one of the most romantic spots in the world".
"The flaxen, sun-kissed, golden sands nestled near the majestic rainforests will leave you breathless," the site reported.
Palm Springs in California came in second while Hawaii's Maui placed fifth.
read … Gold Coast world's top gay honeymoon spot