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Wednesday, December 31, 2014
December 31, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:07 PM :: 4021 Views

Senator Calls on Feds to Block Electric 'Fixed Fees'

Congressmen Put Heat on ‘Deceptive’ Rooftop Solar Leases

Auditor: 26% of UH Special Funds out of Compliance

Auditor: Unclear What Glass Recycling Program is Supposed to Accomplish

Auditor: Regulation of Veterinary Technicians, Herbal Therapists not Warranted

HTA: Visitor Arrivals, Expenditures Up for November

Last Supporter of Disastrous Milk Price Controls May Sell Dairy

HNN : The only Hawaii-owned and operated large-scale diary left in the state is in the process of being sold to Ulupono Initiative, Hawaii News Now has learned....

Ulupono already plans to build a new dairy on Kaua'i at Maha'ulepu, near Koloa.

"Ulupono's goal is to increase supply of fresh, local affordable milk for all our island families," Datta said.

Ulupono has already received building permits but is conducting a voluntary environmental impact statement for the 578-acre Kaua'i project.

Forty years ago, there were 60 diaries spread throughout Hawaii, but now (after idiotic price supports were imposed) there are just two large-scale diaries on the Big Island. (Get it?) And there are no large dairies on Oahu or Maui. (Because price controls don't work.) 

Meanwhile, Big Island Diary won approval from state officials Tuesday to charge Meadow Gold less money for milk than what regulators previously allowed.

The diary won approval for a waiver from the Board of Agriculture to allow the dairy to sell its milk to Meadow Gold for lower prices after Meadow Gold threatened to stop buying milk from Hawaii dairies if they don't lower their prices.

CB: Ulupono Initiative Seeks to Buy Hawaii’s Last Locally Owned Dairy

SA: Local farmer pinned down by revamped milk prices

Big Q: Do you support the state Board of Agriculture’s decision to allow Meadow Gold to pay a lower price to local dairies for their milk?

read ... Price Controls Don't Work

Board approves new rules for Hawaii milk prices

WHT: Hawaii’s Board of Agriculture has voted to amend rules governing wholesale milk prices paid to island farmers.

Monday’s 7-0 vote at an emergency meeting comes after the state’s only processor, Meadow Gold, warned it would quit buying local milk unless it could pay less than what regulators allow, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Meadow Gold representatives met with agriculture officials two weeks ago and said they can’t keep buying local milk at the minimum price set by the state. They warned that the company, owned by Texas-based Dean Foods, would stop buying Hawaii milk on Thursday if minimum price relief wasn’t granted, state officials said.

“By legislating higher milk prices to subsidize local dairies, the state of Hawaii is only providing a false sense of security to dairy farmers and may ultimately lead to higher milk prices in the market,” said Jamaison Schuler, spokesman for Dean Foods....

Mainland milk accounts for about 80 percent of Hawaii’s supply....

read ... End of an Error

Selling Cancer Center Alternative to Tax Hike

SA: Only four years ago, the University of Hawaii Cancer Center launched a business plan that served as the foundation for constructing the state-of-the-art facility in Kakaako Makai that it now occupies. That plan was based on projections for a revenue stream that proved far rosier than the reality.

As the recent tumult at the center has made clear, the result is an institution in danger of losing its hard-won federal designation unless it turns around its fiscal fortunes at an uncommonly rapid pace. That designation from the National Cancer institute is the credential that provides access to research grants, a critical part of the revenue picture.

The center has high operational costs, as well as an $8 million annual mortgage payment for the $100 million facility that UH can't afford. This is largely because a principal source of revenue, a share of the state's cigarette tax funds, is insufficient. The projected allocation for 2015 is about $11 million — far short of the roughly $20 million a year forecast by the 2010 business plan. Grants also have been coming in below expectations.

With the departure of its embattled director, Dr. Michele Carbone, the center is now headed on an interim basis by Jerris Hedges, dean of the medical school. That may prove useful, because better efficiency and sharing of costs between the center and the adjacent school is a necessary part of any future budgetary adjustment.

A new business plan with a more sustainable source of revenue is in the works. State Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said he would introduce legislation to broaden the tobacco tax revenues to include sales of all tobacco, including loose and roll-your-own products. That would bring in more money, but many additional steps will be needed. Among the possibilities that should be explored:

» Draw funds from the state's tobacco master settlement agreement.

Hawaii is one of more than 40 states that receives payments in perpetuity from an endowment, and the cancer center could get a piece of the pie.

» Consider a tax on e-cigarettes to raise additional funds.

Electronic cigarettes produce a vapor that lacks the cancer-causing agents in tobacco smoke. But because the vapor contains nicotine, critics have said it can entice users to get their fix from tobacco products as well.

» Confer with the private hospitals that are part of a consortium conducting the clinical trials.

The trials produce revenue, a share of which comes to the center, but they've been falling off in number. Finding a way to turn this around should be a priority. The consortium was formed to compensate for the fact that UH lacks its own hospital to conduct the trials. The coordination required of such a system must be challenging, but that is the system we have.

There is another solution that's less than optimal, but it needs to be considered, too: selling the Cancer Center. There are many private cancer centers that do quite well without taxpayer help, but this could (commence weak excuse) diminish the broad access to a range of treatments in development (that's all they could come up with?).

read ... Cancer Center at crossroads

Potheads' Demand: 26 Pot Stores for Hawaii

KHON: The Medical (sic) Marijuana Dispensary Task Force has finished its work and recommended that the state establish dispensaries to make it easier for patients dopers with certain conditions stories like cancer, glaucoma and HIV, generalized 'pain' and a need to feel 'medicated' among others, to get the drug legally.

(Fascinating Factoid: Smoking Marijuana causes Lung Cancer.)

LINK: Potheads' Report

read ... Dopers want their dope

Kaneshiro sued for malicious prosecution

HNN: In a Circuit Court lawsuit filed today, Tracy Yoshimura accuses Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro of malicious prosecution. His suit also alleges that Kaneshiro placed the high-profile case in the hands of inexperienced deputies who not only bungled it but abused their authority.

"Clearly, assigning this case in our opinion to frankly incompetent prosecutors who did not do their homework ... is ridiculous," said attorney Myles Breiner.

"It's incumbent upon us to stop this, stop the abusive process, to stop Mr. Kaneshiro from further proceeding with abusive prosecution."

Breiner represents Yoshimura, who is one of nine defendants charged in a sweeping 414-count indictment for racketeering, gambling promotion and money laundering.

Yoshimura was hit with 250 of those counts because prosecutors said his company Game Zone Arcades distributed the sweepstakes gaming machines that were becoming popular at local arcades and local strip malls.

But the case quickly unraveled over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. During trial, defense attorneys were able to show that Yoshimura was in fact not the owner of Game Zone but that prosecutors didn't take steps to check that and went ahead and indicted him.

SA: City prosecutors gave false data to grand jury, suit says

read ... Malicious

Honolulu City Council to hold inauguration in council chamber this week

AP: Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna is scheduled to administer the oath of office on Friday....

read ... Inauguration

City to crack down on illegal vacation rentals, Collect $40M More Taxes

HNN: "This is fraud and they have to step up and pay," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

"We need to make sure everyone is in compliance. As mayor I want that. I want the DPP to use the resources they have to bring people into compliance."

The Department of Planning and Permitting tries to enforce the law but owners of illegal rentals are often able to hide from inspection.

"We're looking at greater subpoena power, we're looking at introducing legislation both in the county and the state legislature to give us that authority," Caldwell said.

Caldwell says he's even spoken with Gov. David Ige about combining forces, like sharing the city's property tax records with the state tax department.

"If we combine those two incredible data resources, I think its a way to crack down on those not paying the taxes," he said.

About 1,000 vacation rentals in Hawaii have the proper permits. The rest -- at least 22,000 -- aren't registered and don't pay the hotel room tax or general excise tax.

That's costing the city and state about $40 million a year.

PBN: Should home-based vacation rentals be subject to the same transient accommodations tax (TAT) levied on hotel rooms and time-shares?

read ... Crack down

703 Lane-Miles Repaved in 2 Years

SA: City officials are spending more than $100 million annually to dig out from years of road-repair neglect, and new data show that paving crews are sustaining their scheduled pace to fix the worst of the island's city-owned roads.

In 2014, those crews paved 305 lane miles (individual lanes of road — not the full width of the road), according to the latest report of completed and on­going road jobs released Tues­day. The tally, provided by the Department of Design and Construction, brings the total city lane miles repaved on Oahu to 703 since January 2013.

That puts Honolulu at nearly the halfway mark in Mayor Kirk Caldwell's push to repave the 1,500 worst lane-miles in a five-year period.

The city maintains more than 3,500 total lane miles across the island....

Honolulu's road woes date back years. A 2005 audit found that the city did not adequately fund its roadwork, lacked cohesive street maintenance policies, and failed to meet most of the industry's best practices. In 2002, the city budgeted about $6 million that year to maintain its then-3,000 lane-miles.

Some city roads have been neglected for as long as half a century, Caldwell said....

The total roadway paved during his administration's first two years shows promise. However, city officials acknowledged Tuesday that many of the tougher road projects to complete still remain on their checklist. In 2013, crews repaved a record 398 lane-miles, but they likely won't hit that number again any time soon.

read ... Less Next Year

HECO, NextEra Hiring Away More PUC Staff

IM: One way of “winning” is to steal all of the people who might regulate you. HECO is good at that. Over the past couple of years they have stolen key people from the small Public Utilities Commission staff. The exodus is large and continuing.

HECO is now taking one of the PUC’s two engineers. The negotiations to steal employees occur while the employees are working on regulatory dockets affecting all ratepayers. The ratepayers pay HECO the funds necessary to diminish regulation.

While PUC engineer Richard VanDrunen is headed to HECO, Maui County Energy Commissioner Doug McLeod has been hired by Nextera.

IM: Are utilities causing the Public Utilities Commission to implode?

read ... Winning

Chicago Obama library bids in trouble

CST: The Barack Obama Foundation has major problems with the University of Chicago bid for the Obama presidential library and museum and is uneasy about the bid from the University of Illinois at Chicago, leaving Columbia University in New York the front-runner for the project.

A source close to the foundation told me that the University of Chicago bid is in jeopardy because it does not own — and has no definite path to acquiring at present — any of the South Side sites the school proposed in its Dec. 11 bid. The land is owned by the Chicago Park District.

“There are major concerns with the three potential sites in the University of Chicago proposal given the fact that neither the school nor the City of Chicago control the sites,” the source said.

CB: Push for Kakaako Presidential Library Could be Boon to Homelessness Industry

read ... NYC is #1



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