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Wednesday, October 21, 2015
October 21, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:02 PM :: 4031 Views

FCC Commissioner: Disgrace that Feds Turned Blind Eye to Criminal Al Hee for So Long

Strive HI Test Results--How Did your School Do?

Relativity Media Issues Statement on Behalf of Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa

Union Reverses Itself: Now Backs NextEra Merger

"Second most scientifically productive telescope in the world" to be Shut Down to Satisfy Protesters, OHA

HTH: The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope will become the third observatory removed from Mauna Kea by the time the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope is complete.

Guenther Hasinger, director of University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, said there is no timeline yet for its decommissioning but noted the 36-year-old observatory could be studying the universe for another “six or seven years.”  ...

In response to protests that have stalled construction, Gov. David Ige called for a quarter of the 12 telescopes on the summit to be removed prior to TMT’s completion.

The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Hoku Kea telescope were the other two identified for decommissioning.

CSO stopped operating in September and could be gone in about two years, Hasinger said. It already was expected to be removed by 2018 prior to Ige’s announcement.

The Hoku Kea structure, which houses a broken 0.9-meter teaching telescope, likely will be removed earlier. UH-Hilo officials are currently seeking a location off the mountain to build its replacement.

UH took over UKIRT from the U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council last year following the agency’s announcement it would cease funding its operations. While owned by the university, operational costs are covered by the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin, which uses the telescope to study space debris.

The university also took over ownership of another former Great Britain observatory, the James Clerk Maxwell telescope. It’s now operated by East Asian Observatory.

While he considers UKIRT to be the second most scientifically productive telescope in the world (the Keck telescopes would be the first), Hasinger said it was selected as the third observatory to come down because it already was expected to be removed sometime before UH’s master lease for the mountain expires in 2033.

Still, he said it wasn’t an easy decision for him or others at the university to make.

“We really bent over backwards to keep those alive,” Hasinger said, regarding UKIRT and JCMT. “For us, it’s an extremely hard decision to let one of them go.”

Reality for those who can bear it: Telescope: For OHA, it’s all About the Rent Money

read ... Sacrifice to OHA Rent Seeking Behavior

Ernie Martin Proposal Would Force Legislature into Election-Year Re-Vote on Rail Tax Hike

CB:  Council Chairman Ernie Martin has proposed his own draft extension ordinance that would cap the amount of money to go toward rail at $4.58 billion. He said he believes that would be enough to cover the initial $910 million shortfall that was announced by HART officials in December.

Martin also proposed a resolution to use any money collected above $4.58 billion to build affordable housing on Oahu. Martin said while he understands that his proposal wouldn’t cover the current cost estimates for the project, it should be up to HART and city officials to figure it out.

Martin’s ordinance also would require HART to submit quarterly reports on its project status and cash balances and to provide detailed annual reports on all amounts billed by and paid to project contractors, including breakdowns of amounts paid to subcontractors.

Budget Committee Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi called Martin’s proposal interesting, saying it adds a new dimension to upcoming discussions. For instance, if the council goes along with Martin, the extension would have to go back to the Legislature for approval.

Capping revenues also poses significant questions for council members about how they expect to pay for the project or push for modifications — such as a shorter route and fewer stations — that might make it less expensive.

“No matter what we do it’s never going to be enough, and that’s what I think the chair is worried about,” Kobayashi said. “We just have to stop the bleeding.”

At the same time, committee members will consider an ordinance, discussed by the full council last week, designed to address the conflict-of-interest issues raised in Kawananakoa’s lawsuit. The measure would repeal its questioned 2012 borrowing ordinance and authorize a new commercial paper and bond program.

The Honolulu Ethics Commission last week ended its investigation of council members Ann Kobayashi, who chairs the budget committee, Ikaika Anderson and their former colleague Donovan Dela Cruz, who is now a state senator.

According to the commission, Anderson, Kobayashi and Dela Cruz did not violate city ethics rules by accepting free meals and drinks from lobbyists pushing the city’s rail project forward.

It’s unclear how the Ethics Commission decision might affect the Kawananakoa lawsuit, since former City Councilman Todd Apo is still subject to the investigation. Kawananakoa’s attorney, Bridget Morgan, says the Ethics Commission’s decision to dismiss its complaints against Kobayashi, Anderson and Dela Cruz will not affect the lawsuit, since it’s her view that ethics codes were violated.

“These are legal issues that a court should decide,” Morgan said, noting that there are dozens of other measures that can be called into question. “The fact that the Ethics Commission decided to dismiss its own complaints does not change the potential ramifications for these ethics violations.”

read ... Honolulu Rail’s Big Cash Problem

Council Uses 400 Empty Public Housing Units as Excuse for more money

CB: A group of Honolulu City Council members want the state Legislature to appropriate enough money for public housing to renovate hundreds of empty units, according to a resolution approved Tuesday.

According to the state Public Housing Authority, more than 400 public housing units are sitting empty, largely because they’re old and need repairs. Despite the need, the Legislature vastly underfunded the agency this year, setting aside less than $5 million despite an immediate repair and maintenance backlog of $180 million....

The city’s program has housed 165 people over the past year, a tiny fraction of the estimated more than 4,903 homeless people in the city.

The panel also passed a resolution by Council members Joey Manahan and Ernie Martin requesting an audit of the city’s Section 8 rental-housing subsidy program. Statewide, many residents have had a hard time finding a place to rent, even with the vouchers, because of a relative lack of affordable rental housing.

The resolution asks the city auditor to figure out whether city staffing levels are sufficient, what’s preventing property owners from participating in the subsidy program, how to prevent fraud and what Section 8 best practices are in other cities.

Additional resolutions approved Tuesday ask the city to consider establishing mobile health services and hygiene centers for homeless people.

The measures now go to the full Council for further consideration.

HNN: Local Connection: Governor's emergency proclamation addressing homeless issue

read ... Just an excuse for more money

Judge to Rule on Na'i Aupuni Suit Friday

CB: The lawsuit criticizes the election on several grounds. First, it argues that Hawaiians who declined to affirm several statements that were part of the registration process, including the “unrelinquished sovereignty” of the Native Hawaiian people, were illegally barred from registering to vote simply due to their political beliefs.

Second, the lawsuit alleges that the election violates the U.S. Constitution by limiting voting to those of Hawaiian descent.

And, finally, the lawsuit argues that the First Amendment rights of some Hawaiians were violated when they were placed on the voter rolls without their affirmative consent....

Seabright said he will rule on the injunction and scheduled another hearing for 10:30 a.m. Friday to explain the basis for it. A full written ruling is unlikely be ready before the election. Mail-in voting is currently scheduled to continue through the month of November.

The judge did not indicate which way he is leaning, although the commitment to a decision this week likely means he has at least tentatively made up his mind.

read ... Is the Hawaiian Election a Public or Private Affair?

Hawaii's Real Unemployment Rate 10.1%

SA: There’s more than one way to look at unemployment, beyond Hawaii’s low 3.4 percent rate.

Government also measures “labor underutilization,” a more nuanced view. By the most comprehensive of these measures, Hawaii has an underutilization rate of 10.1 percent. That rate folds in the total unemployed; the “discouraged workers,” those who’ve given up looking for work; “marginally attached” workers, who are generally job seekers but didn’t look in the month before the survey; and those employed part-time because of the economy.

Yesterday: Hawaii Loses 8,100 Jobs in September, but Unemployment Drops

read ... 10.1%

Knock knock. Who’s there? Your accountant, and it’s time for the company to leave Hawaii

DN: Hawaii wastes money dreaming of a high-tech future

Instead of growing a high-tech economy with living-wage jobs, Hawaii taxpayers, due to the ineptitude of its lawmakers, have ended up perpetually subsidizing businesses that may not be viable here without taxpayer support....

This morning’s Tech View column in the Star-Advertiser is a perfect illustration of what typically (not occasionally) happens to startups and established tech companies alike when they realize that they can’t grow here, or their market or suppliers are elsewhere.

SA: Isle ground fertile, but some opt to go elsewhere to grow

read ... Time to Leave

Police commissioners' lack of law enforcement experience a concern

HNN: ...The Honolulu Police Commission has the power to hire and fire the police chief and also investigates citizen complaints against the police department and its officers.

Its chair is Ron Taketa, a longtime union leader. Its vice chair is Cha Thompson, who runs the Polynesian entertainment company Tihati productions with her husband.

Another police commissioner is Eddie Flores, better known as president of L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

"That's not the kind of background you expect to see if, again, you're going to talk about credible and robust accountability," Chesney-Lind said.

She is concerned that not one of the seven police commissioners has a professional background in law enforcement or criminal justice. That's in contrast to other commissions, like the board that oversees complaints against the New York City Police Department....

Sources have told Hawaii News Now that Kealoha, the police chief, and his wife Katherine, a high-ranking city prosecutor, are the focus of a federal criminal probe. The FBI is investigating whether they framed Katherine Kealoha’s uncle in the alleged theft of a mailbox from their home and had Honolulu police officers assist in the frame job.

Sources said subpoenas are expected to go out shortly and a federal grand jury will begin meeting in November as part of the probe that’s being coordinated by a special federal prosecutor brought in by the Justice Department from San Diego.

Kealoha has remained on the job, angering police officers who said any other officer would immediately be put on paid leave if they were under federal investigation, with their badge, gun and police powers suspended during the investigation.

read ... No Experience

Hawaii Family Sues Police, City Over Stun Gun-Related Death

AP: The lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday on behalf of the family of Sheldon Haleck, the 38-year-old father who died in March. The complaint says that police officers used excessive force and that authorities covered up the events surrounding Haleck's death....

Methamphetamine was found in Haleck's blood and urine, according to an autopsy report from the Honolulu Department of the Medical Examiner. The cause of death was multiple metabolic and cardiac complications because of a physical altercation with police by an individual acutely intoxicated with methamphetamine, and the death was ruled as a homicide because of the actions performed by police, the report said....

read ... Hawaii Family Sues Police

Enviro Nuts Hope to use Coral Bleaching as latest Excuse to Attack Aquarium Fishers

CB:  Sixteen environmental groups and two state agencies are asking Gov. David Ige and Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case to issue an emergency moratorium on the collection of reef wildlife for aquarium purposes due to the effects of climate change.

The head of the Hawaii Office of Environmental Quality Control and members of the state Environmental Council have underscored the dramatic changes Hawaii’s nearshore waters are experiencing from record high temperatures, ocean acidification and massive coral bleaching.

Outgoing OEQC Director (and anti-GMO activist) Jessica Wooley sent Case a letter Monday that highlights how a temporary ban on collecting reef wildlife can help combat the effects that climate change is having on nearshore waters.

Inga Gibson, Hawaii state director of The Humane Society, said in a release Tuesday that the environmental and cultural impacts of the aquarium trade have never been assessed in its 50-year history, as required by the Hawaii Environmental Protection Act.

Reality: Sunscreen ingredient toxic to coral, killing off reefs, research shows

read ... Again with The Aquarium Fish

Caldwell Bike Plan Would Clog City's Busiest Roads

KHON: “We already know Kalakaua in Waikiki is extremely congested,” Ozawa said. “There’s another planned for Ala Wai Boulevard and that’s another congested area in the morning.”

He said businesses on Kapiolani Boulevard have contacted him, worried the city will do what they did on King Street, which was to take away one lane.

“If they take out one lane, it’s going to be tough for people to come in to get into the plaza,” said Charlie Chang, owner of Tea Boss....

“I meet with the hotel owners and business owners on Kalakaua. I know they have significant reservations. The Waikiki Improvement Association has reservations. We’re not just going to put it down and then tell people you have to live with it.”

read ... Businesses express concern over city’s developing bike lane plan

UH College of Ed professors say facilities cramped, lacking key equipment

HNN: Two weeks ago, the University of Hawaii shuttered Building 1 at the College of Education following a Hawaii News Now investigation that found students were learning in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.  Now, COE professors are raising concerns about the space they’ve been moved to, which lacks crucial laboratory space and other equipment needed to teach Hawaii’s soon-to-be teachers....

There is a plan to tear down the building that was recently closed and the one next to it.

But when that will happen is unclear. The university has (drumroll please) asked the state Legislature to provide the money (clash cymbals) for the demolition.

read ... Excuse for more money

Hawaii County Still Trying to Decide if it has any Ethics

HTH: The Hawaii County Council on Tuesday mulled a trio of ethics bills covering everything from official travel and pCard use to county contracts to the composition of the Board of Ethics itself.

The council voted 9-0 for Bill 78, tightening the county code on travel and purchasing card use.

The bill, sponsored by Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan and amended by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, clarifies public money must be spent for a public purpose. It also requires an authorized exception for purchases of alcohol and all gifts more than $100. The Finance Department director must keep a record of all authorized exceptions available to the public.

“We’re adding some sunlight to this,” Wille said. “The public is going to know how we’re spending the money in these areas.”

Ilagan sponsored the bill after a well-publicized lapse by Mayor Billy Kenoi in his pCard use resulted in an ongoing criminal investigation by the state attorney general. The bill now goes to Kenoi for signature, veto or approval without his signature.

The contracting measure, Bill 37, sponsored by Wille, received a 9-0 stamp of approval on its first of two readings. A similar bill sponsored by Kenoi in 2009 bounced for months between the County Council and Board of Ethics, without winning approval by either.

The bill, in its fifth draft after months of discussion, started with an absolute ban on county employees or their families holding county contracts for outside work. In subsequent drafts, the bill stepped back to become a ban on contracts more than $10,000, then on contracts more than $50,000, and, finally, allowing the contracts as long as the county employee first clears it with the Board of Ethics.

Contracts would be void if the employee doesn’t get clearance from the Ethics Board. The bill also expands the definition of immediate family to include the employee’s spouse, siblings, children, grandparents and parents.

Other parts of the bill prohibit county officers or employees from representing private interests against the county or appearing on behalf of private interests before county agencies. And, the bill clarifies county property, facilities, time, equipment and personnel only can be used for a public purpose and not private business or campaign purposes.

The third bill, Bill 101, remained in the Finance Committee after a protracted discussion by seven of the nine council members. Council Chairman Dru Kanuha and Council Vice Chairwoman Valerie Poindexter were absent, having left for a mainland trip. The bill now will be taken up Nov. 17.

Bill 101 would place a charter amendment on the 2016 ballot asking voters if the current five-member Board of Ethics should be expanded to a nine-member board, with board members selected from each of the nine council districts.

read ... Ethics

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