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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
August 20, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:46 PM :: 6310 Views

The Incompetence of HART: Cheapest Bid for 9 Stations Comes 75% Over Budget

Yakuza? Triads? Technicalities Shred $50M Racketeering Suit Against Pro-Rail Hawaiian Stabilization Fund

No Lawsuit: Hanabusa Calls for Legislative Investigation of Election, Does not Endorse Schatz

ACT Score Report: Hawaii Students Least Ready for College

Hawaii’s path to a constitutional republic

Consuming Chemicals is a What We Do on a Daily Basis

Death Threats from Anti-GMO Nuts

Still Blogging A Year Later!

Schatz wins U.S. Senate primary in political battle that divided Hawaii’s Democratic party

Accountability: DoE Identifies Almost All Teachers as Effective

City to Discuss Ala Moana TOD Plan

DHS Fraud Investigator Allegedly Worked for TSA on State Time

Abercrombie Cutout Marks Ige for Defeat by Aiona

SA: (Written by UH Prof Manfred Henningsen, who has served as a cutout for Abercrombie in the past.) ...there are still voices that suggest the old-time AJA power network that launched the mostly unknown Ige as candidate against Abercrombie has somehow come through in punishing the governor for not listening to the dying shogun.  Some had the déjà-vu feeling of revisiting 1974 when the outspoken, liberal and charismatic haole Tom Gill was defeated by George Ariyoshi, who has played a major role in promoting Ige....

This seemingly irrational political behavior of the electorate may actually reflect some longing for more direct participation of citizens in the governance of democratic societies....

Ironically, this turn of politics in Hawaii started with the death of the most powerful politician in the history of the state. Inouye's death enabled Abercrombie to make the two appointments that will be his political legacy.

Brian Schatz and Shan Tsutsui are two new faces that will eclipse the legacy of Inouye's influence. Abercrombie initiated with these appointments the beginning of the renewal of the Democratic Party. The unintended consequence of his own premature political death may actually accelerate this process.

However, the real political test will come in November in the three-way race for governor. If Ige fails to successfully reach out to the disenchanted Abercrombie voters, he may find himself losing to the Republican James "Duke" Aiona. The overwhelming sense of triumph in the Ige campaign over the primary might turn in November into a deep depression....

Henningsen as Cutout: Neil Abercrombie Conspiracy Theory Claims Inouye Letter Conspiracy

read ... A signal from Abercrombie to his supporters

After Abercrombie Defeat, Feds Suddenly Allow Health Exchange Funding Extension

SA: The Hawaii Health Connector, which was expecting its funding to end on Dec. 31, now says it can continue using federal grant money throughout 2015.

Tom Matsuda, interim executive director of the Connector, said the nonprofit had approximately $75 million of its original $204.3 million grant remaining as of June.

The Connector is the online marketplace for health insurance created by the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the exchange, recently approved the extension, giving the Connector money for at least another year of operations.

Here's Why: Congressional Delegation Blocks Obamacare Exemption to Avoid “Awkward Political Narrative”

read ... Health exchange gets extension to tap fund

Rail overbids force reappraisal

SA: This wasn't just sticker shock. Three bids were opened last week for a large contract to build nine of the 20 stations being planned as part of the city's elevated rail project, and even the lowest bid -- $294.5 million, from Nan Inc. -- came in 60 percent higher than anticipated.

This raises alarm bells, not merely that costs are rising in an accelerating construction market but real fears that they're doing so at a pace that will burn through even the generous contingency fund set aside for such overruns.

There's enormous urgency for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to learn some lessons from the distressing results of this episode and reform the bidding process going forward to save money....

Additional factors include the complexity of the work required and the "compressed" schedule — time lost in court is being recouped through an accelerated timeline, he said, a schedule that may be forcing prospective bidders to increase projections of both labor and equipment costs.

The construction calendar was shortened in an effort to make a 2017 deadline to open part of the system, roughly the first 10 miles. However, officials ought to consider pushing that off if it means significant savings can be achieved.

The Ironclad deadline for the start of operation, under the federal full-funding agreement, is Jan. 1, 2020, which is why HART proposed a 2019 end date. That is the deadline that remains paramount. If the "soft" opening allows at least adequate system testing to happen in advance of 2019, HART shouldn't be wedded to the 2017 date now circled in red on its calendar....

If adjusting the financial planning means the trial run will have to start a year or so later, most taxpayers would see that as preferable to landing in a sea of red ink.

Reality: Not Red Hot: Hawaii Construction Employment Drops 1.4%

read ... Rail Overbids Force Reappraisal

Mililani Trask Falsifies Financial Disclosure Reports

ILind: ...Trask’s financial disclosure, required because she is a candidate, omits her financial ties to the geothermal industry.

Trask reports earning between $50,000 and $100,000 from Indigenous Consultants LLC for legal advice, lobbying, and community advocacy.

She also reports representing both Innovations Development Group and geothermal developer Huena Power LLLP before four state agencies, including OHA.

She does not, however, disclose her ownership of Indigenous Consultants, instead responding “None” when asked to disclose her “ownership or beneficial interests in businesses” valued at $5,000 or more, or representing at least a 10% ownership interest.

State business registration records show Trask is the agent and manager for Indigenous Consultants, and the company is registered at her Big Island addresses.

Business registration records also show Trask’s connections with two other companies.

She is listed as president of KG Assets, Inc., described as “general partner of geothermal development company,” KG Assets LLLP.

A New Zealand government registry lists KG Assets LLLP as having been approved to acquire “40.0% of the Te Ahi O Maui Limited Partnership (TAOM LP) which owns or controls a leasehold interest in 171.4700 hectares of land at Kawerau.”

State records also list Trask as a member of Taupo Development Group LLC. Other members of this LLC include Innovations Development Group and several of its officers.

read ... Rep. Chris Lee drawn into pre-election exchange with Mililaini Trask, OHA candidate

Trask: Energy costs rise, solar industry crashes, in Hawaii under Rep. Chris Lee's dismal legislative leadership

HR: In his letter to Hawaii Reporter refuting my initial editorial, State Rep. Chris Lee is unable to address his actions as Chair of the House Energy Committee, to refute the letter sent to by Mr. Isibashi, West Hawaii Planning Commissioner regarding Lee’s lengthy and unnecessary amendments, nor has Lee explained his preferential treatment for the Seaview Estates exemption from all state and county regulations for geothermal development.

Yes, there has been an underhanded effort to “fast track” geothermal development for a few people w/political connections.

I refer to Senate Bill 2274 (2014) introduced as ‘Special Legislation’ by Senator Russell Ruderman for the subdivision, Seaview Estates, in Puna, which I consider to be illegal.

This measure granted Seaview Estates an exemption from all state and county regulations when it developed geothermal resources.

Lee prevented a public hearing on this measure before the House Energy Committee by waiving the hearing and passing the bill without a public or House review.

This was the only geothermal measure “fast tracked” in the last three years, all other geothermal projects and developers, including the IDG, are participating in the PUC process as it drags on into its fourth year.

read ... Energy costs rise, solar industry crashes, in Hawaii under Rep. Chris Lee's dismal legislative leadership

Boylan: How The Real Abercrombie Was Hidden for 20 Years

MW: In 1988 he won an open seat on the Honolulu City Council. Two years into his term, Saiki announced for the Senate. Abercrombie, Senate president Norman Mizuguchi and Matt Matsunaga ran for the vacant House seat.

The latter two split the local vote, and Neil Abercrombie went back to Washington, this time for 20 years.

He was out of sight and out of mind. Neither daily newspaper of the day maintained a Washington bureau. Neither did any of the television stations. Neil’s rhetorical flourishes and pitch-perfect sound bites seldom went anywhere but into the dull, gray Congressional Record.

When he did return to Hawaii during congressional recesses, Abercrombie’s volubility was restricted to Rotary Club speeches few attended, public television shows few watched, or Democratic state party conventions full of only the faithful.

But then he came home for good, to become governor in the midst of the Great Recession. He brought with him a “New Day Plan” full of promises that the state’s treasury and the Legislature’s reticence about raising taxes could not keep.

Worse, everyone listened to every word Gov. Abercrombie said, whether dressing down nurses, proposing to tax the pensions of retirees, suggesting Dan Inouye didn’t ask him to appoint Colleen Hanabusa to the Senate, calling for a special session to pass a same-sex marriage bill, or telling Hawaii’s teachers that this was the state’s “last and best offer.”

And Abercrombie’s torrent of words, his “bullying and bluster,” as one critic put it, wore thin very fast.

read ... Boylan

Spinning Out of Control: Some UH faculty call for no confidence vote after Apple's firing

HNN: ...Catherine Fulford, a UH Manoa Senate member and Education Technology professor, said: "How many administrators have we churned through, not just at the president level, but at the chancellor level? I mean, we're not giving these people a chance."

"We didn't vote him (Apple) out, folks. And now he's being taken away from us. And I think we had a real good shot with him and I'm so disappointed. I really, I'm just stunned," Fulford said.

Several faculty members want the UH Manoa Faculty Senate to conduct a no-confidence vote against Lassner and the regents, upset at the way they handled Apple's termination.

"It was done blatantly in the summer time when there's nobody around to stop it. Everything about it stinks,” said UH Communicology professor Kelly Aune. “It was corrupt. Nothing short of corrupt. And so, yeah, I think a no-confidence vote is the way to go."

The chair of the Faculty Senate, Ron Bontekoe, said the Senate will poll UH Manoa's approximately 1,600 faculty members not about whether they are against Apple's firing, but will ask them if the administration improperly failed to seek student and professors' input before making the controversial decision to terminate Apple.

"But it's an expression, I think, at this point, of how much frustration we're feeling with the lack of shared governance in a decision that affects Manoa in a very big way," said Bontekoe, who chairs UH's Philosophy Department and has been at UH Manoa for 25 years....

David Duffy, a UH Botany professor and president of the UH faculty union, told his colleagues Tuesday they need to be more politically active, working on and donating to politicians' campaigns, lobbying lawmakers and pressing their case to the unpaid regents who run the university.

"Unless we sort of make the regents afraid of us, they won't be. And we'll be here in two years for the next chancellor," Duffy said....

read ... No Confidence in Lassner

Hawaii School Board Members Unhappy as HSTA Continues to Chisel Away at Teacher Evaluations

CB: ...Williams and a number of other state school board members also criticized changes being made to the system. Some board members also challenged the integrity of the first-year data and raised questions about parent and student involvement. ...

The evaluation system was implemented statewide last school year but without any major stakes attached. Moving forward, the evaluations factor into teachers’ pay. For example, teachers who get a “marginal” rating this school year will not receive a pay increase the following year.

The 1,800 or so teachers who got a “highly effective” rating can carry over their 2013-14 scores and are exempt from many of the evaluations’ requirements this year.

The changes reflect the recommendations of an eight-member joint committee consisting of department officials and teachers union representatives who met over the past year, along with feedback from past years....

A joint DOE-Hawaii State Teachers Association survey conducted among a few thousand teachers this spring revealed that nearly two-thirds of them “strongly disagreed” that their students would put thought and effort into their survey answers. (About 92 percent of teachers ended up scoring in the top two tiers for the surveys.)

Now the surveys are being eliminated for teachers who oversee grades kindergarten through two and factored into a separate component — “Core Professionalism,” which rates teachers’ contributions outside of the classroom — for the remaining ones.

A number of board members, including Williams, sharply criticized this change.

“That’s hard for me to process,” Williams said, noting that many other school districts use survey responses from young children. “It’s reducing the impact of student perception, and the clarity of that by incorporating it into the other measure … I think it’s a step backward.”

Board member Patricia Halagao agreed, also questioning how the DOE is giving parents an opportunity to chime in on evaluations. As of now they have little say in teachers’ scores.

Williams also criticized the DOE for reducing the number of required “Student Learning Objectives” — customized goals set by teachers for each class — from two to one for most teachers. For the SLOs, a teacher sets a goal for a class of students and develops plans for how to assess and achieve that objective.

Feedback on the first version of the evaluation system contended that the two SLOs were too time-consuming and had little return on investment.

But Williams said the change could do more harm than good, and that it’s the board and department’s job to prevent that from happening.

“It makes it more high risk, all in the interest of ‘it’s too much work to do two,’” he said. “But now I only got one to hang my hat on.”

One of the biggest controversies surrounding teacher accountability — locally as well as nationally — involves the use of student test scores. The issue also came up at Tuesday’s BOE meeting, particularly because the state this school year is using a new Common Core-aligned student assessment that is replacing former ones.

Background: Accountability: DoE Identifies Almost All Teachers as Effective

read ... Exactly as Predicted

Hawaii DOE Proposes Saving Central Office Staff by Cutting $9.2M from Special Education

CB: Hawaii Department of Education officials told school board members Tuesday that they want to cut $9.15 million from the roughly $326 million in general-fund special education spending because of a likely reduction in state tax revenues.

The proposed cut represents a 2.8 percent reduction.

The plan contradicts recommendations from the Department of Budget and Finance, which encourages specific reductions to various DOE programs in anticipation of the state’s Council on Revenues projection. The budget office says that the DOE shouldn’t make any cuts to special education.

But the DOE plan proposes a different distribution of the cuts, such as a 2.84 percent reduction to the central DOE administration budget rather than the 10 percent recommended by the budget office.

More details are available in this presentation.

SA: Special education could lose $9M  

read ... Hawaii DOE Proposes Cutting $9.2M from Special Education

Schmidt: Loosen Prepaid Health Care Requirements to Allow Bronze, Silver Plans

PBN: The head of Family Health Hawaii says local companies are largely unhappy with the Hawaii Health Connector's small business section, or SHOP, because it offers few plan options and tax credits that don’t go far enough.

J.P. Schmidt, president and CEO of the new health insurer and former state insurance commissioner, said the small businesses he’s worked with don’t like SHOP because the tax credits offered are too small for the expensive plans offered, while the cheaper plan options, such as silver and bronze plans, aren’t listed at all....

“It seems to me that the only way that the [Hawaii] Health Connector can work is if they offer all four plans,” said Schmidt, whose company does not offer plans in the state’s online health care exchange.

The lower-priced bronze and silver plans aren’t displayed because of provisions in the Hawaii Prepaid Health Act, which require employers to purchase plans that offer a higher percentage of benefits covered to full-time employees. The only two that meet these requirements are gold and platinum plans.

read ... Family Health Hawaii CEO

Papayas Hard Hit: 60% of Hawaii Co Farm Production Wiped out by Iselle

KHON: “60 percent of the industry got hit. 60 percent of the production got affected. Iselle hit Puna pretty bad. Many farmers live there and farm in that district and the aftermath is pretty devastating. A lot of the trees got snapped in half. There are cases of the entire field, 90 percent of the field just being blown down,” Hawaii Papaya Industry Association President Ross Sibucao said.

The President of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association says it could take two to three years to get back to production levels prior to Iselle.

read ... Farmers gather to learn about recovery resources

Big rise in Hawaii’s average wage is deceptive

HB: The average annual wage in Hawaii grew by 631 percent from 1969 to 2012. But when inflation is taken into account, the average wage in 2012 (latest data available) was actually slightly lower than in 1969.

read ... Deceptive 

Hawaii Has Fewest Completed Foreclosures, Largest backlog

CL: The five states (including the District of Columbia) with the lowest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in June 2014 were: the District of Columbia (83), North Dakota (324), West Virginia (543), Wyoming (718) and Hawaii (836).

The five states with the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes were: New Jersey (5.7 percent), Florida (5.0 percent), New York (4.3 percent), Hawaii (3.1 percent) and Maine (2.7 percent).

read ... CoreLogic

DHS Fraud Investigator Allegedly Defrauds DHS Five Years Running 

SA: ...an investigation revealed that during the work hours in which Wise was being paid by DHS to conduct criminal fraud investigations, she was employed and working for the Federal Transportation Security Administration at Lihue Airport.

From 2008 through 2012, Wise allegedly received over $10,000 for work she didn't perform, according to the news release.

Wise's trial date is set for Oct. 6 at Fifth Circuit Court on Kauai.

KGI: Roselani Wise, STSO, received the Innovation Officer of the Year award, 2012

read ... Former DHS investigator charged with employment-related theft

New HPD policy sounds like a quota

HNN: Hawaii News Now has learned that an email was sent to about 20 Honolulu police officers listing how many citations need to be issued.

The warning was sent by a sergeant to members of one traffic unit last week.

It says, "Some of you are consistently lagging in your stats!"... "If you are not bringing in your citations - 2 per hour"... "and a drunk driving arrest, 2 to 3 per week"... "your take home car will remain at the station… the keys given to me at the end of your shift."

Members of the unit are among the few allowed the privilege of taking home marked, blue-and-white patrol cars....

Quotas are illegal in some states, but not in Hawaii....

ILind:  Locating complaint procedures & info on the HPD website

read ... Ticket Quota

Norks Promise to Nuke Hawaii , Guam

TASS: According KCNA, the North Korean “deterrence for self-defense is fully ready to react to US nuclear blackmail with merciless nuclear attack and to a war of aggression with an all-out just war.”

According to KCNA, if a conflict starts, the DPRK Korean People’s Army (KPA) “is ready to strike military bases in the US mainland, the citadel of aggression, and Hawaii, Guam and other operational theatres in the Pacific, US military bases in south Korea and protect the dignity and sovereignty of the country and the nation, should the US recklessly start a war with huge strategic forces involved.”

read ... Nuke Hawaii

CB: Sen. Mazie Hirono Takes On VA Over Hawaii Vet Problems

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