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Sunday, November 2, 2014
November 2, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:27 PM :: 5063 Views

OHA Trustee Rowena Akana: Hawaiian Nation Not for Asians or Haole

The Great Pension Debate

Charles Djou Announces 30-Day Plan

Lava Flow Area Governed by 'War Tribunal' under Act 111

HTH: Just seven days before a lava flow erupted that’s now threatening a wide swath of lower Puna, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law a bill giving the state and counties broad new powers in emergencies and disasters.

The new law, known as Act 111, is hitting close to home for Puna residents, visitors, businesses and the media striving to report on a slowly unfolding natural disaster the likes of which is not often seen in the United States.

Residents closest to the path of the creeping lava are barred from ferrying guests past the roadblocks into their homes. The government is compiling lists of employees at Pahoa Village businesses, who are being issued permits to allow special access should the lava threat become more urgent.

Decals or windshield placards are being discussed for residents who need to use roadways into and out of the areas expected to be isolated once the lava flow resumes its slow slither to the sea. Nothing has been finalized, but just the discussion alarms some residents, who say they moved to rural Puna precisely because they don’t want to live in gated communities.

Working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the county instituted a no-fly zone over the lava flow area, irking commercial tour operators who make their living showing off the island’s lava to tourists.

Allowed by law to “restrict the congregation of the public in stricken or dangerous areas or under dangerous conditions,” the government has sent in 80 National Guard troops to help staff roadblocks and provide security.

And the government is cracking down on those crossing county or private property to get close to the lava flow on foot. The state of emergency allows for increased penalties against those trespassing or committing other crimes....

And if someone objects to these restrictions on constitutional or other grounds?

Act 111 makes that more difficult as well. Instead of going to a judge and asking for an injunction against the government activity, the aggrieved party must make a case before a three-judge panel and a majority of two judges must agree, after giving five days notice to the government.

“It is structured like a war tribunal,” said Elaine Dunbar of Lihue, Kauai, objecting to an early version of the bill, “unless it is Martial Law then you should just come out and say that.” ....

First Amendment attorneys remain concerned about the broad powers granted under the new law.

“This seems to give unbridled discretion under the emergency proclamation and makes it extraordinarily difficult to challenge,” said Honolulu attorney Jeff Portnoy, who often represents media in First Amendment questions. “The way it is worded, they just have tremendous powers.”

It passed the House with two of the 50 lawmakers voting no. The sole Republican in the 25-member Senate also voted no.

read ... Disaster

Massive Property Tax Hikes on Next Week's Agenda

SA: A tiered system of property rates for homeowners in the controversial new Residential A tax classification as well as owners of commercial property are among the more wide-ranging proposals that the city Real Property Tax Advisory Commission is poised to make when it meets for a final time next week.

Other recommendations expected in the final report include creating a new tax class for bed and breakfast and transient vacation units, raising the minimum tax on buildings owned by unions and other nonprofits not classified 501(c)3, and eliminating or reducing the tax breaks enjoyed by other entities....

Those in the Residential A category found themselves paying at a rate of $6 per $1,000 of assessed value this year, compared to $3.50 per $1,000 for those in the common residential tax class. That's a hike of about 71 percent....

the commission's draft recommendation calls for creating a tiered system of rates for commercial properties, which are all currently taxed at $12.40 per $1,000 of assessed value. As with its proposal for a tiered Residential A system, the commission draft calls for at least two rates based on the amount of a commercial property's value.

Also sure to garner heated discussion before the Council is the recommendation to create a new tax class for residential properties that are used for bed and breakfast establishments and other transient vacation units.

"We want to make sure that we tax these transient rental uses at an appropriate rate because these are different uses," Kamikawa said.

Such a rate would likely fall somewhere between the residential rate ($3.50 per $1,000) and the hotel-resort rate ($12.90 per $1,000)....

Angie Larson, a board member for the Hawaii Vacation Rental Owners Association, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that members of her group are leery of the recommendation. Any move to increase property tax rates on B&B and other TVU properties could make it infeasible for them to operate.

The Council should at least establish a way to license newer operators before considering raising rates on them, Larson said.

Other proposals expected to be part of the final recommendation:

» Eliminating the "break"in assessed value for property owners who choose to dedicate land for farm use for one year, but keeping the incentive for those who agree to dedicate their lands for five or 10 years.

» Reducing the exemption for newly designated historic residential homes to 50 percent of assessed value.

» Eliminating full exemptions for credit unions and for-profit child care centers.

» Retaining the $300 minimum tax for nonprofits except those classified by the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c)3 organizations, which the commission believes are those entities that most help governmental operations. They include schools and entities that assist the poor and underprivileged; advance religion, education and science; defend human and civil rights; and foster charity, public safety, sports, and the prevention of cruelty to children and animals.

» Increasing the minimum tax for all other nonprofits, including unions and cemeteries, to $1,000 from $300.

read ... Planned for Post Election, Natch

Star-Adv: HSTA Wanted Furloughs

SA: ...the NEA Advocacy Fund, a Super PAC of the National Education Association, parent union of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, laying Furlough Fridays at the feet of former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who is now running for governor, as if it was not Hawaii's public schoolteachers themselves who preferred furloughs to straight pay cuts or layoffs during the Great Recession....

read ... HSTA Furloughs Itself

National Democrats Pour $1.5M into Abortion Lies

AP: Aromas of fried chicken and fish sauce wafted through a high school library as state Sen. David Ige, laugh lines showing, shook hands with supporters and neighborhood residents on a quiet evening in Honolulu.

The tone of Ige's "stew-and-rice" event was a contrast to the attack ads outside super PACs have created, dominating Hawaii's airwaves as Democrats and Republicans fight over which party will control the governor's office.

"We cannot be complacent," Ige, a Democrat, said to the small crowd as polls showed him 12 points ahead of his Republican opponent, former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.

...the Democratic Governors Association has made Hawaii one of its priorities for the upcoming election, said spokesman Danny Kanner. It funneled money to the super PAC Hawaii Forward, which spent $1.5 million on the campaign.

"We're committed to keeping Hawaii a blue state and to ensuring voters understand that Duke Aiona ... shares the policies, priorities and values with the national Republican party," Kanner said.

One ad says Aiona wants to ban abortion, even in the case of rape or incest. Aiona says any notion that he is poised to change abortion laws is far from the truth.

"It's just a tactic that they're using to fire up their base, to form a wedge between myself and women," Aiona said.

He said the ads from the Republican Governors Association focus on policy issues like Ige's record on taxes and his role in developing the state's troubled health insurance exchange.

"They're not putting out things about his religious beliefs. Nothing like that is coming out from the RGA," Aiona said.

Republicans in Hawaii play down their party affiliation, so the Democratic ad focuses on Aiona's Republican values, said Neal Milner, a political commentator.

"The whole thrust of that ad is that he accepts values that are contrary to yours," Milner said.

read ... Founded on Lies

Omidyar Pours $855K Into Constitutional Amendments

Borreca: Hawaii's richest resident, Pierre Omidyar ($8.2 billion) through the Omidyar Family Trust, put in $350,000 of the Good Beginnings Alliance money.

Omidyar, through his Ulupono Initiative, was also the one to pony up the $505,400 to launch the Local Food Coalition, which is backing another constitutional amendment to permit state-authorized special purpose revenue bonds to be used for agricultural enterprises on any type of land.

read ... Unlimited big money goes into influencing big issues

Next Governor Will Remake PUC

IM: The new Governor must decide whether to re-appoint Hermina Morita to serve for another five years as a Commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission. The six-year term ended last June and Morita has been a hold-over.

Regardless of who is appointed as Commissioner, the newly elected Governor must decide which Commissioner will serve as Chair.

Each Commissioner has focused on different key issues and each Commissioner has a different energy stakeholder power base.

In addition to the three Commissioners, the PUC has two other powerful positions: the Chief Lawyer and the Chief Policy Analyst. These are not their titles but rather represent their positions. They both are hired by and report to the PUC Chair.

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission needs to fill two other critical positions.

The newly established position of the PUC Executive Officer must be filled.  The Executive Officer will handle the administrative functions: recruitment, procurement, contracts, finance, budget planning, strategic planning and administration.

The soon-to-be created position of the Hawaii Electricity Reliability Authority (HERA) Administrator will serve a key role. The Administrator will “monitor, enforce and analyze” reliability standards and interconnection agreements. This role has traditionally been handled by Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO).....

Several key regulatory issues may move forward within the next month or may wait until the new Governor takes office in December.

These includes what to do with HECO’s recently filed Smart Grid Roadmap & Business Case;  HECO’s Distributed Generation Interconnection Plan; and HECO’s, MECO’s and HELCO’s Power Supply Improvement Plans.

SA: Commission faces growing pressures

read ... Electric Rates

Elders' plush world comes at expense of youths' future

Shapiro: Our parents were called the Greatest Generation after they battled a long Depression, won a world war, built a robust postwar economy and launched the move for greater civil rights.

They prided themselves on making sacrifices to spare our generation the hardships they'd endured.

How did we pay it forward? By leaving our children and grandchildren nothing but hardship as they struggle to build their lives without so many of the advantages that we took for granted.

We've created an economy that often denies them the job opportunities, security, pay, cheap health insurance, defined-benefit pensions and affordable housing we enjoyed.

We've stuck them with massive public debt on the federal and local levels that we ran up without conscience or any plan to repay. We leave them crumbling infrastructure.

In Hawaii, we make the struggling young pay more in state income taxes so seniors can pay hardly any, whether we have the means or not....

We learned nothing from the mistakes of the Vietnam War we protested so mightily and bungled into an even deeper quagmire in the Middle East, pointlessly spilling the blood of our young and squandering a national fortune that could have bought them a brighter future....

We're surprised when the kids are ready to get over us only because we were never able to get over ourselves.

read ... Elders Plush World

North Korea launches upgraded Soviet-era ballistic missile submarine

YH: North Korea has launched a new submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles, military and government sources in Seoul said Sunday, raising further concerns over the North's evolving missile and nuclear threats.

The communist country "imported a Soviet-era Golf-class diesel submarine and modified it," a government source said on condition of anonymity. The Soviet vessel was built in 1958 and decommissioned in 1990.

The Russian 3,500-ton Golf II class submarine carries the R-21 SLBM, a single-stage, liquid-propellant missile with a 1,180-kilogram warhead and a maximum range of 1,420 kilometers.

read ... Heading for Hawaii

Puna Population, Businesses Already Leaving Ahead of Lava Flow

SA: Even if the Chain of Craters Road alternate route is reopened in December as expected, the crisis could throw the lives of thousands of residents in financial turmoil and cast a pall of uncertainty over the companies and farms doing business in the region.

In reality, the economic calamity has already started as some businesses have shut down, schools have closed, some major projects have been put on hold and people have moved away.

"The exodus is already happening," said Tiffany Edwards Hunt, a Pahoa merchant and a Hawaii County Council candidate who has watched a handful of businesses close their doors in recent weeks and residents relocate to Hilo and elsewhere.

HTH: Lava flow front remains unchanged

read ... Punatics Dissipate or Spread?

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