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Thursday, August 28, 2014
August 28, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:53 PM :: 4510 Views

Voting Issues Scrutinized at Election Commission Meeting

Eminent Domain: City Seizure of Protest Signs Illegal?

Report: Hawaii Ranks in Top 6 States for Open Data

Should OHA representatives be appointed?

A Canoe Paddled by One Can’t Get Very Far

The Problem with Ideology in Politics

Abercrombie Appoints Three to LUC

DLIR Snapshot of State's 662,150 Workers

HTA: Arrivals, Spending Up

Caldwell: TOD Bigger than Japanese Bubble

HNN: "While rail is going to be a $5.2 billion construction project, TOD over the decades ... could generate $20 billion worth of projects," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Caldwell cited a recent report by local economist Paul Brewbaker, who looked at the potential economic impact of the proposed developments along the 23-mile transit line.

Based on those estimates, TOD would be the largest construction boom since statehood, exceeding the $18 billion Japanese investment bubble of the late 1980s and 1990s.

But Caldwell cautions that all of that development won't happen overnight but could take 20 to 30 years. He said the city's task is to help plan each of those projects wisely, avoiding the planning debacles of past building booms. (LOL!)

Fewer cars, more bike lanes.... (Yup.  More condos and fewer cars.  No geniuses, these, eh?)

SA: Council Continues to Tinker With Massive Property Tax Increase on $1M properties

read ... Bubble to Pop

HART: Next Contract $750M Plus Cost Overruns

CB: Honolulu’s top rail executive told members of the City Council Budget Committee on Wednesday that the project has a “healthy contingency fund” despite the fact that recent construction bids came in more than $100 million higher than expected.

Dan Grabauskas provided this rosy view based on the historical drawdown of the set-aside fund, which was put in place to deal with unexpected cost increases related to the $5.26 billion project....

HART has yet to sign the contract for the rail stations, and is currently reviewing the bids to find out exactly why the proposals came in so much higher than anticipated.

No decisions have been made yet as to whether any work will be scaled back to reduce costs. The agency also has the option to go back out to bid.

Grabauskas told the council members that HART is now revising its estimates for upcoming contracts to get a better idea of what to expect in the future.

The agency expects to open bids this fall for the construction of a 10-mile leg of the project that will include guideway construction past Pearl Harbor, through the Honolulu International Airport and to the Ala Moana Center.

Officials have said the contract was estimated to cost about $750 million.

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

read ... Nothing to See Here

Hart considering smaller contracts in hopes of creating competition

HNN:  The rail CEO says one of the things they are considering is breaking up future bids into smaller contracts in order to create more competition among construction companies.

"The question is you don't want to have it so small, or so many contracts that it's a nightmare to manage all of these different companies working along the guideway but there is probably some happy medium," said Dan Grabauskas, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) CEO.

Grabauskas also told the council the steel is getting worked on.  Workers have been certified and the first steel for the tracks is being welded together.

read ... Smaller Contracts

Here’s how we can move forward together on the GMO issue

KGI: This string of refreshing defeats for a so-called movement that once fancied itself as the embodiment of political thought on Kauai makes it possible to go in a new direction that addresses honestly and meaningfully the controversies of genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered crops and potential risks related to pesticide use on the island.

If we embrace this opportunity, it’s an opportunity for everyone on Kauai to come together about two most critical issues. It won’t be easy. It is, after all, an election year, and one in which residents and voters should try to do what so often seems impossible on our island: speak with (more or less) one voice....

The County Council should realize that the county attorney has, twice now this year, offered up well-researched, well-reasoned legal opinions on how to approach the GMO political controversy. The council has ignored this advice once and been jerked back to reality by a federal judge as a consequence. The council, fortunately, accepted (albeit belatedly) the advice of the county counsel on the alleged “charter amendment” to illegally restrict GMO agriculture.

Finally, the people of Kauai should realize that much of what’s happened in the last 18 months of the GMO controversy has been driven not even by ideology, but by a cynical conspiracy to make the voting public believe that what has really, all along, been an effort to realize personal political gain was really about an issue of honest political philosophy. By that I mean the performance of the two Councilmembers, Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum, who nearly got away with selling the public the idea that passing a bill that allowed them to put another notch on their partisan pistols was more important than enacting law that would stand up in court and actually accomplish something.

To be sure, this prescription foresees continuation of a difficult political debate on our island. But it is a debate we must now take to its conclusion.

read ... Allan Parachini

DoE Doesn't Notice 1/3 of Students Missing for a Year

MN: Question: When is a 13 percent school student absentee rate considered good?

Answer: When it is down from 32 percent a year earlier.

It doesn't take an expert in standardized testing to realize that Kula Elementary School had a crisis situation on its hands in the 2012-2013 year when almost a third of its students were absent on any given day.

What is surprising is that the general public didn't hear about this crisis until Kula Elementary was recognized by the Strive HI Performance System as the most improved school in the state for attendance in the 2013-2014 school year.

The principal was quoted in a Maui News story as saying, "It really was an awareness issue. You've got your systems and routines, and no one was watching the ball in terms of schoolwide attendance."

Wait a minute. Is he saying the teachers didn't notice for a whole year that on most days a third of their classes was missing? The administration didn't notice that one out of every three desks was empty?

MN: Kula Elementary makes dramatic cuts to absentee rate — Strive HI

read ... Missing in Action

Judge quashes Souki subpoena in Say residency challenge

SA: State House Speaker Joseph Souki will not have to testify this week about when he first heard of a legal challenge to state Rep. Calvin Say's residency, a state Circuit Court judge ruled Wednesday.

Lance Collins, an attorney for six Palolo voters who allege Say does not live in the Palolo state House district he has represented since 1976, had subpoenaed Souki. Collins said outside of court that he wanted to ask Souki about a conversation the attorney and Keiko Bonk, a Green Party activist running against Say in the November general election, say they had with Souki about Say's residency a few years ago.

Collins had sought Souki's testimony to help defeat the state House's attempt to intervene in the legal challenge, which will be heard by the court on Friday. The attorney had hoped to show that Souki was aware of the legal question about Say's residency for some time and that the House waited too long to try to intervene.

read ... Quash

Voter fraud alleged: Police to look into complaint against Puna council candidate

WHT: Police will investigate a complaint alleging Hawaii County Council District 5 candidate Tiffany Edwards Hunt committed voter fraud by registering to vote from her husband’s surf shop in Pahoa rather than her home in Hawaiian Acres during the 2012 election.

County Clerk Stewart Maeda, who first sent the complaint to the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, said he forwarded the matter to the Hawaii Police Department after the prosecutor’s office said it needed an investigation to be done before it could review the issue.

Police Capt. Robert Wagner said the complaint will be investigated and a report will be sent to prosecutors.

read ... Alleged Fraud

Undersea power cable project not part of Hawaiian Electric's new plan

PBN: “It’s an analysis within the ‘Power Supply Improvement Plan,’ and based on analysis done, we think we can get sufficient amount of renewables on Oahu,” Hawaiian Electric Vice President of Corporate Planning and Business Development Shelee Kimura told PBN on Wednesday. “We don’t think [the cost] will be as low as it needs to be to make economic sense.”

The utility noted that it appears that the state’s goal of 40 percent renewable energy by 2030 can be met with a combination of additional wind, utility-scale solar and biofuels without the need to import renewables from other islands.

The undersea cable project, had major support from Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who recently lost the Democratic primary to state Sen. David Ige, but is unlikely to get much support from either Ige or former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann[the Independent Party nominee] if either is elected to the state’s top public office.

But Republican nominee, James “Duke” Aiona, who was lieutenant governor under former Gov. Linda Lingle, said he is all for the undersea cable project, provided that it is cost-efficient and sensitive to the environment.

read ... Bye bye Big Cable?

Solar Scammers Angered by Plan to Lower Rates

KITV: Hawaiian Electric Company has released details of its vision for the state’s energy future, and part of the plan calls for 65 percent of all electricity generated on Oahu, the Big Island and Maui County to come from renewable sources. However, the company is being criticized by environmental groups like the Blue Planet Foundation for relying too heavily on liquefied natural gas, or LNG.

"We've been here before with importing fossil fuel and we don't think that's the way to power our future," said Blue Planet Executive Director Jeff Mikulina. "We have every clean energy opportunity here in Hawaii and that's one thing we see missing in the plan is really expanding that opportunity and capitalizing on our natural resource base.”

Still, HECO maintains LNG is the best way to lower costs for rate payers, and has set the goal of lowering its customers’ electricity bills by 20 percent within the next 15 years adjusted to inflation.

Read ... Grubbing for Money

HECO $55 monthly fee offset by Lower Rates?

SA: HECO proposed a $55 monthly fee for each residential customer — solar and non-solar — starting in 2017 and an additional charge of about $16 for new photovoltaic customers. To offset the $55 fee HECO would lower its charge per kilowatt-hour, which would benefit non-solar customers the most. It would also charge a connection fee to new solar customers and decrease what it pays for solar power sent into the grid from rooftop systems.

read ... Solar Contractors Cry

Council Drops Move to ban Biobags, Styrofoam

SA: A measure exempting compostable products from an upcoming Oahu plastic bag ban won key approval from a Honolulu City Council committee Wednesday while a bill requiring takeout containers to be more environmentally friendly was shelved in favor of more study.

The actions came after lengthy discussion before the Council's Public Works and Sustainability Committee.

Bill 38 initially sought to add biodegradable bags to the list of items that would not be allowed under the plastic bag ban set to begin next July 1. But it has gone through several iterations.

After the Department of Environmental Services said it was having difficulty coming up with a definition for a biodegradable bag, bill author Breene Harimoto had the measure amended to cover all plastic bags.

But the version that advanced Wednesday, introduced by Council Chairman Ernie Martin, allows what are defined and labeled as "compostable plastic bags" to be distributed at retail counters.

The latest draft, which now goes to the full Council for a final vote, was applauded as a common sense compromise by plastic bag manufacturers, the Hawaii Retailers Association and the Hawaii Food Industry Association, and retailers.

read ... Victory for Common Sense

H Power $20M Worth of Garbage?

CB: It’s not often a company gets publicly slammed for making a donation that amounts to a $20 million dollar benefit, but the August 26 article on PVT Land Company managed to do so. In the article, Civil Beat readers were led to erroneous conclusions about PVT and the benefits it would supposedly receive from Bill 47. Let’s start with the headline, which states PVT would save millions of dollars if Council Bill 47 passes.

SA: City might owe HPOWER $2M

read ... No good deed goes unpunished

Kauai Imposes $3.5M Garbage Tax

SA: The Council voted 7-0 Wednesday on Bill 2551, which proposes a "Pay as You Throw" program and offers residents the choice of using 64-gallon or 96-gallon trash carts.

At the meeting, Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said Kauai would be the first county in the state to institute the program. "I hope we can see this bill to passage and implementation," she said.

Under the bill, residents who opt for the smaller cart would continue to pay $12 a month for refuse collection. Customers who continue to use the standard 96-gallon cart would be charged $21 a month. The county currently issues residents one 96-gallon cart or allows them to set out up to three 32-gallon bins.

The program could generate about $3.51 million, or an additional $770,000 in revenue, officials said.

SA: 'Pay as you throw' good for the 'aina

read ... Garbage Tax

City Unveils Plan to Make Traffic Worse by Closing Off Lanes

KHON: While Councilmember Ann Kobayashi supports the project, she has heard from motorists and businesses who are worried about having to watch for bicyclists crossing the numerous drive-ways and intersections along the test track on King Street. “Because coming out of a drive-way, you certainly do not want to hit someone,” said Kobayashi. “And then someone else brought up if cars have to have headlights and taillights, what about bicycles? So that they be visible.”

Councilmember Breene Harimoto is the chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “We hear push back from drivers who say you’re taking away our roads,” said Harimoto, who enthusiastically supports the cycle track. “But roads are for everyone, not just for cars.”

The City will mark so-called conflict zones – drive-ways and intersections- with green paint to help motorists and bicyclists to look out for each other. Cyclist Mark Humke, had advice for those who will take their bikes to the cycle track. “You need to be very visible – good rear and front lights are important,” said Humke. “And a mirror system, so you can see what’s going on behind you.”

The City will hold an informational meeting on the cycle track Thursday night in the Hawaii Suite of the Neal Blaisdell Center at 6:30 p.m.

Plans are also moving ahead to create bicycle lanes on Waialae Avenue in the Kaimuki area.

read ... Traffic to get even worse

Federal Judge Orders EEOC to Hold News Conference, Stop Lying

SA: A federal judge in Hawaii says she won't consider approving $2.4 million in settlements for hundreds of Thai farm workers until the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission holds a press conference clarifying that the agreements are still subject to court approval.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi is ordering the agency to hold the press conference by Friday. She says the EEOC didn't follow rules when they filed the agreements. EEOC Regional Attorney Anna Park says it was a procedural oversight.

read ... EEOC Lies?

Council panel advances bill to raise smoking age to 21

SA: Kawika Crowley, Republican House candidate in the 2nd Congressional District (rural Oahu-neighbor islands), said young soldiers coming back from war without limbs may have picked up smoking elsewhere where it is legal for older teens to smoke. They would now be told they cannot buy a pack of cigarettes, he said. "These people have given up their limbs and everything."

read ... Age 21

Hawaii ERS gains 17.4% for fiscal year

PO: Hawaii Employees' Retirement System, Honolulu, returned 17.4% for the fiscal year ended June 30, slightly below its policy benchmark of 17.5%, said Vijoy Chattergy, chief investment officer....

read ... Shortfall

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