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Friday, October 2, 2015
October 2, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:11 PM :: 4053 Views

EPA, State, Navy Agree to upgrade Red Hill storage tanks

AG Charges Third Waianae Homeless Shelter Employee With Embezzlement

U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Voter Registration Drive

‘Smart Growth’ Drives up Housing Costs

New Hawaii Endangered Species Listings Set Stage for Federal Ecosystem Control

Interior Department Tribal Shakedown Grabs for Rail Project Money

SA: Workers are almost done building the rail system’s Pearl City-based high-tech operations center — a milestone that rail leaders touted Thursday — but the deal for the city to own the land under that site still isn’t done and at least one key rail official is concerned about how that might affect the project.

The 43-acre facility, next to Waipahu High School, Leeward Community College and Pearl Harbor, will serve as a state-of-the-art nerve center of sorts, where rail employees will control and take care of the elevated rail system’s driverless trains, guiding the cars on automated tracks into a large hangar bay for inspection and repair.

It sits on what’s known as the former Navy Drum site, owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands....

The city doesn’t yet own the land underneath the operations center that’s taking shape, however. Officials say they’ve agreed with DHHL terms on a land-swap deal in which the city would get the Navy Drum site in exchange for land at Varona Village and in Ewa Beach, but that the U.S. Department of Interior will have to give final approval. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation doesn’t know when that might happen.

In the meantime, HART finally secured last year a detailed licensing agreement with DHHL giving the city control of that property after federal officials had pressed HART for about three years to execute such a deal.

“Everything’s been concluded, but the final step is with the Department of Interior,” HART Executive Director Dan Grabauskas said of the land-swap deal Thursday while helping to guide the media through one of the operations center’s four buildings. The licensing agreement gives the city a 65-year occupancy permit, he said. The deal to eventually own the land “is going to close, but it’s just taking more time,” he said, adding, “But we do have a lease for 65 years to be here. … All thumbs are up. It’s just a matter of process.”...

However, former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who joined HART’s board of directors last summer, said she doesn’t think it’s a sure thing that federal officials will approve the land swap. The Interior Department is considering adding two new rules pertaining to the Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act of 1995 that would have federal authorities weigh whether certain land exchanges are in the best interests of DHHL beneficiaries, she said.

If the Interior Department adopts those rules, Hanabusa added, it would directly affect the city’s pending land swap with DHHL.

“It’s not necessarily a slam dunk that they’re going to find this in the best interest of the beneficiaries,” Hanabusa said. The Navy Drum site that DHHL would relinquish, overlooking Pearl Harbor, is scenic, she pointed out. If the Interior Department doesn’t approve, DHHL would likely have to be compensated in some other way, although she wasn’t sure how....

Hanabusa said the Interior Department likely would not decide on those pending rules before December....

Background: Hawaiian Homes Commission: Proposed Federal Rules Inappropriate

read ... Indian Tribe is Already Here--and you're already paying for it

Caldwell: Council Must Approve $1.8B Rail Tax Hike Before Legislature Reconvenes

HNN: Bill 23, the five year extension of the general excise tax surcharge, still hasn’t been passed by the City Council.

"We really do need that funding to complete the whole project," said Grabauskas.

"You have bidders who are starting to look to bid on the last 10 miles and the last 5 miles, and we need that surcharge to be extended or there won't be money to pay them," added Caldwell.

Despite their pleas for action, Council Chair Ernie Martin says the council is skeptical of the project, given the inflating cost projections and mounting delays.

"Before we proceed we want to make sure we have everything before us before we decide on the surcharge…I think the level of confidence the members have in the project has waned, significantly."

Martin is considering a proposal to cap the surcharge revenues to the rail deficit only.  He says a timeline for the council to make a decision could last into the new year, something that doesn't sit well with the mayor.

"If we're into the opening of the legislature and we have not yet authorized the extension of the surcharge, and I'm very troubled by that," said Caldwell.

"At what point is somebody going to step in and hold those who need to be held accountable for the project?" responded Martin.

The City Council has until June 30, 2016 to make a decision on Bill 23.

read ... Tax Hike

Hawaii has feds’ attention, and that’s not a good thing

Borreca: 2015 marks the year Hawaii was rediscovered by the federal bureaucracy.

The first big slip-up was detailed in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser report by Kevin Dayton noting that the state government was not spending all the federal transportation money allocated. Transportation money is a big deal, because it translates into roads and bridges and improvements that if your state doesn’t want, the feds are pleased to give to another state. 

Hawaii in 2010, according to federal government reports, had not spent nearly a billion in federal funds....

The state is also being watched by the federal Environmental Protection Agency because Hawaii is not spending some $100 million in federal money. Specifically, the state has not used its “Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund” money in a “sound, efficient and prudent manner, due to lack of adequate personnel and effective tools and processes.”....

So the feds are recommending that the EPA withhold the last $8 million of the grant until the state can do as instructed.

Finally, the state is being watched by the federal Inspector General because of concerns with the state-run Medicaid fraud unit. The feds say Hawaii’s fraud unit got nearly $4 million in federal funds between fiscal 2011 and 2013, but generated just 18 patient abuse convictions, six fraud convictions and $330,000 in criminal fraud recoveries....

read ... Not a Good Thing

Who Should Own Hawaiian Electric?

HB: “Without exaggeration, we can say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What’s the likelihood of another change in ownership of (HEI), one of the oldest, largest and most venerable companies in the state?” — Marco Mangelsdorf, Owner of ProVision Solar and spokesman for Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative

IM: NextEra Questions U.S. Department of Defense

read ... Co-op

Regressively Progressive

KE: ...two nasty-grams — and others I've received since I began challenging the dogma of the anti-GMO “green” crowd — did get me thinking about the concept of a political “progressive,” and what it's come to represent in some circles in Hawaii.

First, to be considered a true Hawaii “progressive,” one must never, ever speak up against the lock-step, bootjack group-think/group-speak. Questions and criticisms, most especially about the revered “leaders,” must never be publicly voiced.

Second, one must engage in the kind of regressive rhetoric and tactics that have endured for centuries. Like using women's scantily-clad bodies to attract attention. Fear-mongering. Witch hunts. Lies and deception. Shaming. A "with me or against me" mentality.

Third, one must shame and denounce all farmers, save for those who produce food organically and/or as inefficiently as possibly.

Fourth, one must embrace all the latest technology on one's phone, while working feverishly to stop its employment in agriculture.

Fifth, one must fetishize one's food, while turning a blind eye to the malnourished and hungry in the developing world. Or better yet, one must say quietly (because it's not yet PC to say it publicly) to one's “progressive” friends, “Why should we worry about the starving [fill in the blank]? We have enough of 'those people' already.”

Sixth, one must always use the word “industrial” when discussing any farm larger than a few acres, “factory” when describing any animal feeding operation, “drench” when referencing a pesticide application and “shill” when describing someone with a different point of view.

Seventh, one must pontificate, march, post madly on Facebook, yammer on KKCR and stage publicity stunts in Swizerland, but never actually do anything concrete to address the problems, much less get one's hands dirty.

Eighth, one must believe fervently that anyone who doesn't share one's world view is wrong, evil, or to use the words of another recent critic, “damaged.”

Ninth, one must adopt an attitude of sanctimonious self-righteousness, which prompts one to (always anonymously) write things like, “Much love and light to you Joan Conrow! I hope you soon can catch a clue, and finally begin your much needed healing. The world will be a much better place when you finally resolve your inner demons. May your savaged soul soon be soothed." 

Oh, and one must always sign hateful missives with “alohas.”

Tenth, one must worship ego- and greed-driven demagogues as political saviors who will make everything all-G — just as soon as they can accumulate enough of your cash to get elected.

Eleventh, one must eschew all forms of introspection, and doggedly refuse to change one's mind, no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary.

Yes, this is the kind of “progressivism” that has taken hold in Hawaii, eclipsing the work of good people who are doing good things to bring about positive change....

read ... Musings: Regressively Progressive

Outside Audit of IT Incompetence Demonstrates OIMT's Incompetence

SA: It’s understandable that state lawmakers want to get a handle on what is being spent on information technology in each state department. But is it really necessary to spend $150,000 for a private company to perform work that should have been done years ago by the state Office of Information Management and Technology?

The state auditor has awarded the $150,000 contract to Accuity LLP to review and compile IT expenditures in all state departments over the past four years. Lawmakers ordered the audit under Senate Concurrent Resolution 162, which observed that the state’s information technology infrastructure is “both dilapidated and decentralized.”

There is no question such an audit is necessary. The list of IT projects that have devoured millions of state dollars but yielded few results continues to grow: the state Department of Transportation’s “FAST” project, in which $13.88 million was spent on a defunct system before the project was canceled in March; the Department of Taxation’s faulty $87.5 million computerized tax system that was outdated at completion and already needs replacing.

Lawmakers would be hard-pressed to make educated funding decisions without knowing the current state and future needs of IT within the departments. But what does it say about the confidence lawmakers have in the Office of Information Management and Technology when they want another source to complete the audit? Even the OIMT testified in favor of the audit because it lacks the proper resources to complete the project, said OIMT spokesman Keith DeMello.

read ... Incompetence

Department of Public Safety names new state sheriff

KHON: The Department of Public Safety (PSD) announced the appointment of Renee Sonobe Hong as State Sheriff Division Administrator. Sonobe Hong will lead the department’s Sheriff Division, effective Oct. 16.

“Renee will bring valuable experience in her new role as Sheriff,” said PSD Director Nolan Espinda. “She adds a wealth of criminal justice experience to our department. Her experience in criminal prosecution will be an invaluable asset in widening and professionalizing the scope of law enforcement actions routinely performed by our deputy sheriffs statewide. She will provide effective leadership, accountability, and she will ensure that the division operates efficiently.”

Former sheriff Robin Nagamine and first deputy Patrick Lee were placed on unspecified leave back in July. The department would not explain why, but said it was to “ensure the integrity of our administrative policies and procedures.”

Officials say they have since returned to their civil service positions as lieutenants in the Sheriff Division.

Sonobe Hong most recently served as a Deputy Attorney General for the Public Safety Department, Hawaiian Home Lands and the Housing Division of the Attorney General’s Office....

read ... Sheriff

Hawaii Gun Ownership Soars, Gun Crimes Drop

KITV: ... However, the latest statistics show crimes committed with guns are at an all-time low. It’s been the lowest in the past 30 years.

There are two opposite trends happening across the U.S. – Hawaii included.

The number of guns purchased and registered by private citizens has gone way up in past 15 years. At same time, the number of firearms crimes reported has gone down.

When it comes to these mass shootings, an official with our state Department of the Attorney General says we're looking at two different groups of people.

“Good guys exercising constitutional rights and bad guys committing crimes, people that probably were prohibited from owning firearms in the first place,” said Paul Perrone, Department of the Attorney General. “So just having one alone is both a federal and state felony versus a law abiding citizen engaging in perfectly lawful conduct – two really different things.”

In Hawaii, back in 2000, there were just over 13,000 registered firearms in our state. 266 crimes committed with firearms were reported.

Fast forward to 2013, those 13,000 guns registered shot up to more than 60,000 firearms accounted for in our state. The amount of crimes committed with them – 262....

read ... Guns don't Kill People, People Do

Homeless: More Murder and Mayhem

So-Called 'Innocence' Project will help Even More Guilty People Than Before

CB: ...Gordon Cordeiro was 24 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the 1994 murder of Timothy Blaisdell on a remote dirt road around Pukalani, Maui.

Cordeiro was accused of shooting Blaisdell in the head during a drug deal and then plotting to have jailhouse snitches murder the only witness to the crime.

But for more than 20 years, Cordeiro and his family have said he was innocent, the victim of shoddy police science and overzealous prosecution. Cordeiro’s father, Denis, said the family has spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting for his son’s freedom, but to no avail.

“When you’re doing battle in the courts if you’re not knowledgeable about the legal system, you’re at a tremendous disadvantage,” Denis Cordeiro said. “Overturning anything is a monster of a mountain to climb.”

But now the Cordeiros have the backing of the Hawaii Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic run by University of Hawaii law students, college professors and volunteer attorneys.

The Cordeiros had applied to the Innocence Project for help before. But they were rebuffed by the program’s former director, who told them Gordon’s case just didn’t have the right mix of facts. New directors were appointed this spring, however, and one of their first moves was to tell Denis Cordeiro that they were taking up his son’s case....

read ... Guilty

Schatz Committee Assignment Means Campaign Cash will flow from High Tech Schemers

CB: ...as a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is in a position to help the continued growth of our Internet ecosystem.

In a recent letter to Schatz, a group of local business and technology leaders — myself included — applauded his “continued leadership in overseeing and crafting technology and communications policies as the Internet reshapes communications, the economy and numerous other industries.”

read ... Obsequious Toadies

UH Plans $16M 'Ask' From Legislature

SA: The Board is being asked to endorse a request for $3.5 million in supplemental funds — $3 million for Manoa and $560,000 for UH-Hilo — to be sent to the governor this month.

It is part of an overall $16 million "ask" for the UH system that the regents have been asked to approve....

Manoa is expected to close its books on the 2015 fiscal year with a $4.2 million to $4.4 million deficit and is seeking ways to help find Cost of Attendance stipends for athletes and other issues including travel, meals and recruiting for its $32 million program.

Hilo is seeking the funds for travel costs and student-athlete academic programs.

read ... Ferd's Words

UH Cancer Center Deadlock

SA: Members of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents Budget and Finance Committee couldn’t agree Thursday on how much money to seek from the state Legislature for the financially troubled UH Cancer Center, and instead passed out a budget proposal omitting the $5 million university officials had wanted.

read ... Deadlock

100s of Oahu Parks Abandoned by Caldwell Administration

KHON: With its white sandy beach and million-dollar view, Oneula Beach Park should be a gem of a property, but the county public park in Ewa Beach looks more like a forgotten backroad.

“This particular park has had a closed bathroom for many, many years, and it has been really frustrating to the residents,” said Honolulu City Councilmember Kymberly Pine, chairwoman of the parks committee. “We really need to start making basic necessities in our parks a top priority.”

Whether it’s at Oneula or at many of the other hundreds of county parks across Oahu, basic fixes at parks can stall for years or never seem to get off the ground. Money will be approved and rolled over time and again.

Always Investigating asked, how can action be taken more quickly on that?

“That’s all about staffing,” Pine said. “It’s being able to achieve these projects in a timely manner.”

It’s something the city administration and council are trying to tackle. The parks director recently told the council they have nearly 100 vacancies, mostly for basic maintenance.

Always Investigating wanted more answers about both the routine upkeep and the bigger projects on all parks islandwide. Which are ones getting what city-funded improvements and how soon?

Even that turned out not to be an easy answer, because Parks has to defer to a whole other department, Design and Construction, for timing of the big jobs.

We asked the director that department how he keeps parks a priority when there are so many competing departments as well looking for getting things done.

“I’m not sure we would just say parks is a priority,” Department of Design and Construction director Robert Kroning said. “We would go with administration’s vision, and the mayor’s priorities, parks being a priority right now keeps us focused on that.”

Always Investigating found 80 parks projects slated to start within the next two years, ranging in cost from the hundreds of thousands for a comfort station in Maili to more than $5 million to fix the sewers at Kualoa.

View the full list here (.pdf)

read ... Why some parks get priority while others look forgotten

Man who embezzled funds from nonprofit nets 2-year prison term

MN: Keawe pleaded guilty in June to one count of embezzlement and theft from the nonprofit of more than $153,643 between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013. As part of his plea deal, he had to acknowledge in court the total amount he stole -$179,222 from Oct. 4, 2011, to Dec. 20, 2013....

Former HCIL employee Nani Watanabe told The Maui News early last year that she and others had suspected financial mismanagement after Keawe closed the Maui office in June 2013 because he said the nonprofit had run out of funds before the end of the federal fiscal year. Keawe had similarly closed Neighbor Island offices in 2011 and 2012 until the new fiscal year began in October....

read ... Prison

Police department internal investigations lead to 5 suspensions

MN: Suspensions ranging from one to three days were ordered for five Maui Police Department employees as part of internal investigations concluded in June and July, police reported....

read ... Suspensions

Transsexual Bullying Aims at DoE

MN: The Hawaii State Public Library System will present "A Place in the Middle," a Hawaii-made anti-bullying film at the heart of a new culturally centered campaign for safe and inclusive schools, in a series of free community screenings.

Created by transsexual Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu and directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, "A Place in the Middle" tells the true-life (sure, OK) story of a young Hawaiian girl who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her Honolulu school, and an inspiring teacher who uses traditional culture to empower her.

Following the screenings, the team will talk story with the audience about the film and educational campaign, which have been supported by Pacific Islanders in Communications, Hawai'i People's Fund, Ford Foundation and PBS LearningMedia.

read ... Trans-Forming your Kids

Invest $2,000 in Solar Farm, Cut Your Electric Bill

SA: ...For an initial investment of $2,071 in a smaller project, the customer could get a discount of 12.33 cents per kilowatt-hour on his or her bill, HECO said. For the typical household that uses 500 kilowatt-hours per month, that means a $61.65 reduction in the monthly electrical bill. It would take a typical ratepayer less than three years to earn back the initial $2,071 investment. Customers could invest more to get a larger reduction on their bills.

The ratepayer does not get a federal tax credit for the investment in renewable energy, as do homeowners who pay for rooftop solar. The 30 percent federal tax credit would go to the developer of the project. It was unclear Thursday whether a customer could get the 35 percent state tax credit.

HECO said up to 8,540 residents of Oahu, Maui County and Hawaii island could participate in the program. Participants must select a renewable-energy project on their island from a list approved by HECO.

HECO wants to cap the community renewable projects at 32 megawatts.

Blue Planet Foundation, a clean-energy organization based in Hawaii, said the 32-megawatt cap for the whole state is too low.

read ... Buy Your Way Out

Dumbest 'Clean' Energy Scheme Ever Coming to Big Island--Still not Approved by FAA

WHT: A massive energy kite being developed in California could be deployed for testing near Waimea by early next year.

Before the experimental devise can begin spinning 1,100 feet above the ground, the Google-owned development company behind the initiative must receive clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration and a building permit from Hawaii County. Following a year of flight and testing, representatives of the R&D company Makani are hopeful that they’ll be closer to having a commercially viable product that is up to 50 percent more efficient at generating electricity than a conventional wind turbine.

“Our goal is to demonstrate safe and reliable operation,” project manager Alden Woodrow said.

The 85-foot airfoil with eight wind generation rotors — and the 50-foot tower from which it will be launched and controlled — is essentially finished, Woodrow said.

Makani had been hopeful it could launch the kite this past summer, but a team of researchers are still fine-tuning the technology. Meantime, a team here has done preliminary grading at the test site located five miles south of the Waimea Airport and has made improvements to an access road to the site.

The device loops in the sky at the end of a tether in a motion that allows the kite to mimic the most energy efficient part of a conventional wind turbine blade — the tip — without the need for the massive windmill of concrete, steel and fiberglass infrastructure of a conventional windmill. The energy generated will feed down the 1,400-foot carbon fiber tether, which will be attached to a giant drum used to reel the kite in an out. The top of the kite’s loop will reach twice the height of a conventional turbine.

“We’re (still) waiting for a determination of no hazard from the FAA,” Woodrow said. “We have to go through the same regulatory process that a wind turbine goes through.”

The company would like to operate the kite around the clock (LOL!) and is working with the FAA to gain clearance to fly the machine at night (LOLROTF!), Woodrow said. The project will be constantly monitored by at least one staff member at all times (that's nice).

Makani chose the stretch of Parker Ranch land for several reasons. North Hawaii’s powerful winds are a world-class resource for power generation, Woodrow said. The open land is favorable for testing, and Hawaii’s high energy costs and its drive for renewable sources were also draws, he said.

read ... Dumbest

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