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Tuesday, November 18, 2014
November 18, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:41 PM :: 4601 Views

UH Manoa Budget Protest Continues Overnight

Ige Names Fuchigami to Head DoT, Extends Application Deadline

State Retirement Funds Play Tricks on Retirees, Taxpayers

Lawyers Investigate Sale of Horizon Lines, Class Action Suit Possible

Hawaii's Largest Wind Farm Developer Sold for $2.4B

Conference: Change DoE into School-Centered System

A Year Later, Hawaii Health Connector Website Still Doesn't Work

SA: Kelli Lundgren tried Saturday to enroll in medical coverage on the Hawaii Health Connector but repeatedly got an "unexpected error" message.

The situation is familiar to the 54-year-old South Maui resident, who tried to sign up a year ago only to be left frustrated and looking elsewhere for coverage.

"I was so excited on Saturday to get back on and try. I was sure they got out all the bugs," said Lundgren, who's had an individual health insurance policy for 20 years. "I'm so excited about this system, but it's not working."....

"We are finding errors — I'm not going to tell you we're not. Anything this complicated is going to have errors," said Jeff Kissel, the Connector's executive director, adding that at last count programmers identified fewer than 20 defects. "When we find them, we have a process to log it and correct it."

Among the issues are log-in problems for returning consumers who applied last year but made a change this year to their accounts.

"If we have your Social Security number from last year and the same number this year, our system creates an error message that requires you to call in," he said. "It's fixed within a phone call in less than a minute."

There are about 18,000 to 20,000 old accounts that the Connector plans to "clean up" in about a week or so to address the problem, Kissel said, adding that he opted to defer data cleanup until he was sure the system was stable and fully functional.

Also over the weekend, people who were trying to call the Connector complained that they couldn't get through or the call center was closed, Kissel said....

Doug Levin, a 51-year-old Maui certified public accountant, also unsuccessfully tried to buy insurance on the exchange over the weekend and on Monday. After logging into the site, instead of acknowledging his username, the system would start all over again, he said....  "I figured they had nine months to get it together and solve their problems," he said. "I support the ACA and think it's absolutely necessary. It just sort of saddened me that the actual rollout of the website is so poor. If the programmer was in front of me right now, I'd be chewing him out. I just wonder where all that money went. That's a lot of money to be unable to build a basic, functioning website."

Kissel acknowledged that another obstacle to increasing enrollment is that the system is unable to accept applications via tablet or smartphone, an issue that will be fixed once "we're sure everything else is working."

As of noon Monday the Connector estimates it enrolled about 260 people. (10% of the 1000 per day projected)

read ... Hawaii Health Connector's problems persist at start of open enrollment

Abercrombie leaves Ige with union contracts to pay

Borreca: Abercrombie's claim this year that he was facing "the most challenging economic period since the Great Depression," was more hyperbole than fiscal fact....

As governor, Abercrombie repeatedly showered the public employees with perks, including an $18 million bonus in insurance payments for state workers in 2011.

Last year Abercrombie negotiated pay raises with public employees that critics said were overly generous and that the state could not afford. Two Hawaii governors, George Ariyoshi and Ben Cayetano, cited the new debt incurred by the Abercrombie agreements as reasons to oppose him for reelection.

Still, the money never bought Abercrombie a good relationship with any public employee union except the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

Public worker unions stayed out of the governor's race in the primary and were quick to support Ige in the general election. The public teachers union went against Abercrombie in the primary and were a big factor in Ige's final victory.

Now one of Ige's first challenges will be paying off those contracts.

At the same time, Ige faces new questions about the fate of the neighbor island state hospital system, which is looking for emergency relief and a resolution to its ongoing financial crisis.

The challenge is helping the hospitals without being blocked by the public worker unions, who fear that selling off the hospitals will cost them union members....

read ... Taxpayers Hold Your Wallet

$200M Loss--State pension fund declines 1.1 percent

SA: The state Employees' Retirement System's portfolio recorded a 1.1 percent investment loss in the quarter ended Sept. 30 and saw its assets decrease in value by $200 million to $13.9 billion, according to a report presented to ERS trustees Monday by Portland, Ore.-based Pension Consulting Alliance Inc., which advises the ERS trustees on investments.

It was the first losing quarter for the ERS since the fund fell 1.9 percent during the April-June quarter of 2012 and ended a streak of eight straight positive quarters.

"That's a long time to go without a negative quarter," said Neil Rue, managing director of PCA. "You'd expect negative quarters to occur a little bit more."

The fund, which provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to 118,466 active, retired and inactive state and county employees, targets an annual 7.75 percent fiscal-year return to help fulfill its pension obligations. It was a slow start to the fiscal year, which began July 1, after the ERS fund posted double-digit percentage gains — 17.4 percent and 12 percent — during the fiscal years that ended on June 30 in 2014 and 2013, respectively.

read ... Losing Money

Japan’s recession signals contraction of Hawaii tourism--Down 4.5% This Month

KITV:  Japan is officially in recession and here in Hawaii the expectation is the tourism industry will soften.

The exchange rate of yen to the U.S. dollar dropped to its lowest level in seven years, so Japanese visitors from lining up to change their money, aren't getting that much in return.

"Definitely this is a factor. It will impact Japanese spending in Hawaii. We expect that,"  said Eugene Tian, research administrator for the state’s department of Business and Economic Development.

A weaker yen means visitors may think carefully about their purchases in local stores.

The state already saw 2.6 percent fewer visitors in October and 4.5 percent fewer so far this month.

Tian says the data show Japanese tourists aren’t staying as long as they used to.

read ... Contraction

Military Cuts Could Remove 5% of Oahu Population

CB: The report discusses “Alternative 1,” the potential population loss of 3,800 from Fort Shafter and 16,000 from Schofield Barracks, representing an 83 percent cut in permanent party population. Imagine, for a second the impact on O’ahu from the potential reductions to Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks Scenario:

  • Loss of almost 50,000 people or 5.1 percent of our island’s population.
  • Loss of more than 25,000 jobs, which translates to 4.3 percent of all O’ahu’s jobs.
  • Loss of 1.35 billion in total economic impact is equal to 1.2 percent of our island’s income.

The impact island-wide is certainly troubling, yet, it is nothing compared to the potential impact on the surrounding communities which are so closely tied with the military bases. Now, imagine the likely effect to the neighborhoods – Wahiawa, Schofield, Mililani, Kunia and Waialua – immediately surrounding Schofield Barracks:

  • The five surrounding neighborhoods would likely lose close to 40,000 people, 38 percent of the population in the aforementioned areas.
  • Nearly 20,000 jobs could be lost. That’s equivalent to losing the State’s largest non-government employer more than three-times over.
  • Close to 9,000 spouses and more than 15,000 children would be affected.

SA: Pacific Air Forces will lose no one because of budget cuts

read ... The Military and Hawaii’s Economy

Maui News: Obama Should Stop Apologizing to Muslims

MN: There is a certain element in our society that has a guilt complex about the general success and goodness of the United States.

How else to explain why a U.S. delegation was sent last week to appear before the United Nations Committee Against Torture, meeting in Geneva.

According to the Huffington Post, the delegation was there to tell the committee that the Obama administration rejects the harsh practices of the Bush administration. The current president rejects the CIA's post 9/11 interrogation program. And, of course, the panel wasn't satisfied with the delegation's comments.

Really? We sent a delegation to this committee? The committee is talking about U.S. torture?

Gee, have they gotten around to the folks who shoot little girls in the face for wanting to go to school? How about the Islamic extremists who kidnap hundreds of little girls and sell them into slavery?

How about folks who like to make videos of beheadings? How about ISIS lining up the opposition next to ditches and then mowing them down with machine guns in Nazi Germany-revisited style?

Apparently, in the U.N.'s mind, those pale when compared to al-Qaida operatives being waterboarded to try to prevent another terror attack on our soil.

read ... About Reality

Up 22 Points, Hawaii a Top State for Hispanic Students

HW: As far as the state-wise statistics are concerned, top performing states in both 4th and 8th grade math score gains include Arizona, Indiana, Hawaii and New Jersey. In 4th grade scores, 21 states have recorded gains over the past ten years; among the more notable are Hawaii, up by 22 points, Rhode Island by 18 and Georgia, Colorado and Indiana by 16 points....

read ... Up 22 Points

Electricity cheaper thanks to lower fuel costs

SA: Oahu customers will see the lowest electrical rates in more than a year this month as residential bills dropped more than $10 due to reductions in fuel prices.

The bill for a typical household using 600 kilowatt-hours will be $203.79 in November, down $10.12 from October, according to Hawaiian Electric Co., the state's largest utility provider with service to Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island.

SA: Earthjustice Thrilled at Amount of Money Hawaii Funnels to Donors

read ... Bad News for Green Energy Scammers

Health department director appointed CEO of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation

PBN: Linda Rosen has been appointed the CEO of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation effective Dec. 16.

Rosen was appointed state health director in February after the death of Loretta Fuddy.

No word yet on who will replace Rosen.

SA: State's 12-hospital hui gets new CEO

read ... New CEO

Partnership Works for Queen's West Oahu Medical

PBN: Prior to Queen's West Oahu, the medical care out here was very important to the community and the doctors that were here are still in the community, still working hard. Now that we've opened up they're allowing their patients to come to us and keep up the legacy of medical care here on the West side.

Queen's West can succeed because we are linked to the entire system. We can provide emergency and general medical services, surgical and ICU services, but if the patient requires some specialist's attention, we can connect to the patients to the Queen's health care system of providers. The biggest advantage is the fact that we have access to all sub-specialists, [which] help drive quality and provide for patients out here.

read ... Partnership

Will Caldwell's Affordable Housing Mandate Work?

CB: Last summer, developers of seven new luxury condo buildings at Ala Moana held a groundbreaking for their $300 million project. Amid calls for more affordable developments in Kakaako, these “ultra luxury” towers are rising quietly without the need for public hearings or any units set aside for moderate or low-income people.

That’s because Honolulu’s existing affordable housing requirement only kicks in when developers are asking for zone changes, and all of those lots already had the proper zoning, said Curtis Lum, spokesman for the Department of Planning and Permitting.

“They can do whatever they want,” Lum said.

That wouldn’t happen under Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s proposed islandwide housing strategy. It would require that every residential development with more than 10 units — ranging from high-end subdivisions in Kailua to new towers in Ala Moana — set aside a certain percentage of housing for low- or moderate-income people....

Developers have attended eight coffee meetings with Caldwell so far, with some calling into question the length of time units would have to remain affordable or contending that the requirements should only apply to projects with at least 20 or 30 units.

One criticism concerns the effectiveness of affordable housing requirements, also known as inclusionary zoning. An analysis by Carl Bonham, an economist at the the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, concluded that such policies actually reduce housing supply and increase prices. Another study by the national Center for Housing Policy found that the results of inclusionary zoning varies by city....

read ... Affordable?

Antitrust fine and Jones Act help spell the end for debt-ridden Horizon

LS: The fallout from the demise of debt-ridden US domestic carrier Horizon Lines comes under the microscope of Alphaliner this week, along with the restrictions of a 1920 US law that was designed to protect the US maritime industry, but seems to have had a big hand in its fate.

The analyst said that Horizon’s exit will leave six carriers operating liner trades under the US Jones Act – a law requiring that all goods transported by water between US ports are carried on US-built and flagged ships crewed by US citizens....

The Alaska deal will see three 1987-built, 1660teu vessels transferred to Matson, which the company is to retrofit with scrubbers to comply with forthcoming low-sulphur regulations.

Pasha will acquire four vessels in the 2,400-2,600teu range, which entered service from 1979 to 1981....

Meanwhile, calls continue for the Jones Act – designed to protect the US maritime industry from competition – to be relaxed on the basis that the 1920 legislation actually harms business and the US economy.

In fact a 2013 report by the World Economic Forum described the Jones Act as “the most restrictive of global cabotage laws and an anomaly in an otherwise open market like the United States”.

read ... Load Star

UH grad students protest ‘poor oversight’ amid budget issues, TA cuts

KHON: Dozens of graduate students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa held a sit-in Monday to protest what some called “poor administrative oversight” regarding the school’s budget.

The protest was in response to cuts to the biology department’s teaching assistants (TAs), which students say leaked last Thursday in an email to faculty.

“The main thing that sort of spurred all of this on is that they were making sudden and drastic cuts to the TAs for the spring semester,” said organizer and UH graduate student Christie Wilcox. “We just found out about it last week.”

According to students, the cuts targeted roughly 50 students from major research initiatives, including the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology.

The problem, Wilcox says, is that the affected teaching assistants would lose $17,000 in tuition waivers and left with very little time to find another way to supplement their budgets.

“It’s past all of the deadlines for all of the things like financial aid,” she said. “Seventeen thousand dollars ain’t a whole lot to live off of, but it’s certainly harder when you don’t get it and you have to pay 20 grand in tuition.”

CB: Acting UH Manoa Chancellor Reed Dasenbrock issued a statement Monday afternoon that no teaching assistant positions in the College of Natural Sciences will be cut next spring.

KITV: UH students protest possible faculty cuts

Background: Manoa Graduate Students Spur Campus-Wide Protest

read ... Protest

Council Calls Prosecutor on Carpet After Investigation is Forgotten

KHON: Family members dealt a double tragedy will take their case to city hall Tuesday.

Last month, the family of Wallace Nakama contacted KHON2 after learning there would be no trial for Nakama’s death because of a mistake by the Honolulu city prosecutor.

In 2012, Nakama died from injuries he suffered after he was struck while he crossed Fort Weaver Road in Ewa Beach.

After KHON2 started asking questions, the prosecutor admitted to a lapse in procedure, including lost paperwork. A spokesman for the office apologized on behalf of city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and promised changes.

Now, one month later, the Honolulu City Council has asked that the prosecutor appear at a committee hearing to discuss the promised changes in procedure.

KHON2 contacted members of the Nakama family, and they agreed to share their story with the city council. They learned the details of the prosecutor’s lapse in procedure when KHON2 first sat down with them last month.

The prosecutor’s mistake allowed the statute of limitations to expire with no chance to take the case to criminal or even civil court.

read ... City council to review Ewa Beach tragedy, changes at prosecutor’s office

State's CPS efforts yield 'miracles,' judge asserts

SA: "What people don't see, though, are the hundreds-plus cases — and that's like 99.99 percent — in which the outcome is what it's supposed to be," said Brow­ning, who oversees the Oahu court where CPS cases are handled.

A Family Court judge for nearly two decades, Brow­ning said he believes the system has improved substantially over that period. He was particularly complimentary of Department of Human Services Director Pat Mc­Mana­man and her agency's workers, who oversee the CPS system.

"This particular director and her staff have been very proactive in their efforts to improve and continually strive to do better," Brow­ning said in an interview with the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser at his Kapo­lei office. "I would say also that I think — this is something really important that I would like to express — that the social workers who do these cases are amazing as individuals.

SA: Deficits plague system

read ... Miracles

Judiciary to Profit From Demolishing Juvenile Detention Facility, Building Condos

HNN: The development would be a mid rise building with 180 units.  The property at 902 Alder Street is owned by the State Judiciary. It already signed an agreement to build the residential complex, but it's not a done deal yet. 

Rotting wood and broken windows are a couple of the less appealing features at the former Juvenile Detention Center next to Piikoi Street....

All but a dozen low risk kids have been moved.  The building is still used for office space and juvenile programs.

The plan would be to build a 15 story building with about 180 residential apartments for rent.  Because it would be funded with taxpayer money all the units would go to low income people at 60 percent area median income.

read ... Judicial Profit

Another Alleged Homosexual Child Molester Busted in Honolulu

AP: ...McKee was charged in November 2013 with sexually assaulting a boy under the age of 13 in his hometown of Spring Valley, Illinois.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Matt Brophy says McKee was investigated in other sexual assault cases over three years.

Brophy says McKee was free on bail, and when he didn’t show up for a court appearance, a warrant was issued in June.

He says McKee was at the top of the list for the marshals task force because of the charges....

read ... They like 'em young

Alleged Arizona Molester-Teacher Gets Job in Hawaii, Then Gets Arrested

KITV: Police stormed a Waikiki condo early Tuesday morning to arrest an Arizona teacher accused of having sex with an 8th grade student. Only we were there as 45-year old Deborah Nicholson-Hoshiyama was arrested by Honolulu Police and U.S. Marshals about 5:15 a.m.

In a press release, a spokesman for the Hawaii Fugitive Task Force, says an arrest warrant was issued for Hoshiyama out of Maricopa County. She's accused of having a sexual relationship with a student for eight months between 2007 and 2008. But it wasn't until earlier this year, that she was indicted by a grand jury on five counts of sexual conduct with a minor.

She and her family moved to Hawaii in late August....

AP: Principal Jeff Vilardi says she began working as a special education teacher at the Voyager Public Charter School in Honolulu school on Nov. 7. She's suspended with pay.

read ... Another One

Falsified timecard scheme busted at TheBus

KHON: Honolulu city bus workers were involved in a long-time scheme to clock in and out for a staffer who barely showed up.

The timecard scheme is said to have taken place at a maintenance yard of TheBus and centers around a mechanic.

Upon hearing these allegations, Always Investigating went straight to Oahu Transit Services, which runs the bus. Only then did OTS alert the city.

“I appreciate you bringing this to our attention. We know about it now,” Mike Formby, the city’s transportation director, told KHON2. “If you hear that somebody is being paid for work they’re not doing, that’s just unacceptable, across the board.”

Later, OTS provided an update on the internal investigation.

“One of our employees, who is undergoing dialysis treatment, states that he would on occasion go to his car when he wasn’t feeling well and would lie down in his car,” said OTS president and general manager Roger Morton. “We’re disappointed in all of this, because we actually have policies for ill employees. We really don’t know why they would have taken advantage of the existing programs.”

Sources say the long-time bus mechanic had lots of help, even alleging higher-ups were in on the action, helping clock the guy in whether he was coming in later, after he left early, or even on days when he didn’t appear at all.

read ... Falsified timecard scheme busted at TheBus

Reports reveal broader ticket problems at Arizona Memorial

HNN: The Arizona Memorial ticket scandal has been brewing for a year but so far, the man at the center of the controversy, Frank Middleton, remains on the job.

Two internal reports by the National Park Service show that Middleton and other memorial officials were aware that tickets intended to be distributed to the public for free were being diverted to tour companies that charged visitors anywhere from $39 to $89.

"This is one of the most hallowed spots in the United States and it's the last place you've expect to be ripped off," said Jeff Ruch, executive director at the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which released the reports.

"They should consider changing management and cleaning house, literally cleaning house."

read ... Ticket Problems

CGL Natural gas technology could save Hawaii billions over LNG

PBN: SeaOne Maritime Corp., a company headed up by Forrest Hoglund, a former Exxon executive, is focusing its natural gas transportation efforts on Hawaii with estimates that it could save the state tens of billions of dollars over 20 years compared to the cost of importing oil or even liquefied natural gas....

"Liquefied natural gas is not the lowest cost option and Hawaii investors will be leaving a lot on the table in terms of their electricity bills and business costs if [stakeholders] don't talk to us," Michael Dee, an advisor for SeaOne Maritime, told PBN.

The Houston, Texas-based company has been developing a patented technology for the past decade, which it says, "will blow LNG out of the water."

"It will be far cheaper than anything [that's out there]," said Dee, who was an investment banker for Morgan Stanley for 26 years. "Our way is about 50 percent cheaper than the conventional way."

SeaOne Maritime's compressed gas liquid, or CGL system, conditions, liquefies, transports and delivers the fully produced gas stream from the field to markets, its website said....

"It's a new technology [and] there has to be someone to go first," he said. "Why not Hawaii?"  (Oh-oh.  We've heard that one before....)

Related: Cutting Energy Costs: Methanol Beats LNG for Hawaii?

read ... Billions

Maui: Tourism Industry Behind Anti-GMO Movement

MN: The CEO and founder of hotelexecutive.com, in a letter to hotel executives, said, "Unfortunately, Maui residents have been overrun by a huge amount of deceptive advertising that makes it seem as if the GMO industry was pivotal to Maui's well being. It is not, and it does not measure up to the employment and revenue of our tourism industry. We do not need an industry that is suspected of poisoning the environment nor one that has spent an inordinate amount of money to avoid independent testing.

"We do not want Maui to become a toxic dump, but we are finding out that it is happening right now."

read ... Smoking Gun

75% of Pesticide Licenses are Non-Agricultural

CB: About 1,600 people or companies have licenses to apply restricted-use pesticides, and only 25 percent of them are farm-related.  The rest include professional pesticide applicators, such as exterminators that fumigate homes to get rid of termites and other pests.“It’s misleading to only look at agriculture,” Kakesako said. “It shouldn’t be such a central focus if the conversation is truly about pesticides.”

read ... Reality

Anti-GMO Councilmember Attacks Aquarium Collectors

WHT: A perennial battle between aquarium fish collectors and conservationists will be played out in County Council chambers today, as a council committee takes up a measure regulating the transport of fish off-island.

Bill 318, sponsored by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, prohibits the withholding of food for more than 24 hours, requires fish to be transported in a minimum of one gallon of water per fish and prohibits “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently carrying or causing to be carried in or upon any vehicle or other conveyance aquarium life within the County in a manner that is likely to result in the injury or death of the aquarium life.”

“It’s not the same as it used to be,” said Mike Nakachi, pursuing his commercial interest as boat captain with Aloha Dive Co. in Kailua-Kona. “There are certainly less fish.” ...

Aquarium collectors say extra regulations aren’t necessary. They wouldn’t be in business long, they say, if they depleted the reef or if most of their fish die en route.

“Whoever wrote this bill knows absolutely nothing about aquarium fish,” said Ron Tubbs of R.T. Distributors. “I spend more time fighting stupid bills than taking care of my fish.”

Tubbs said fish on the reef often go weeks without eating, and overfeeding fish makes them less healthy. He added that the amount of oxygen put in the bag for transport is actually more important than the amount of seawater. His fish, he said, have room to swim in their bag, unlike human passengers on the plane, “who are packed in like sardines.”

Tubbs and David Dart, an aquarium collector and member of the West Hawaii Fisheries Council, point to reports this year of a “spawn of biblical proportions,” with reefs around the island teeming with young fish. Some divers attribute the fish bloom to conservation measures taken in West Hawaii in recent years.

Bill 318 is scheduled to be heard at 1:45 p.m. today by the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability. The committee meets at the West Hawaii Civic Center. The public can also participate by videoconference from Hilo council chambers, the Waimea council office, the county facility in Kohala, the Hawaiian Ocean View Estates Community Center or the Pahoa neighborhood facility.

Kauai: Last Blast for Defeated Anti-GMO Councilmembers

read ... More Profit-motivated Insanity

Animal Welfare Calls Not Handled After Humane Society Contract Cut

KHON: A Honolulu City Council member says animal welfare cases aren’t being addressed because of a gap in services.

According to Kymberly Pine, changes in the city’s contract with the Hawaiian Humane Society aren’t working. The new contract started over a year ago after the city cut the funding for the society.

“We’ve actually had numerous complaints of animal cruelty of violent animals in the community and nothing being done about it, because of the cuts that have been made to the humane society’s contract,” Pine said. “This is really becoming a very serious situation.”

Humane society services were cut back last year in August, so the pickup of stray animals and complaints about barking dogs were then transferred to Honolulu police.

Pine says that has led to many situations where people don’t know who to call.

HNN: Lawsuit claims dog care operators lied about dog's violent death

read ... No Service

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